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Creating Great Content to Improve Site Engagement
Sunday, February 19, 2012
Your single greatest asset as a website owner is your content.  Most of us would agree with this statement, yet why do so many site owners struggle with the need to develop content and them promote this content via social media?  I think that one of the main reasons for this is that quite often marketers spending too much time "marketing" and not enough time listening.  You really need to gain an understanding of what your audience or target demographic is looking for in order to deliver the proper content they seek..

There is still merit in  the old saying that "content is king", but this statement should be refined to read "quality content is king".  There is no question that the Web is polluted with rubbish and "thin" content.  So much so that when Google opened up their index with the Caffeine update in 2009 and in 2010, that they were not prepared for the sheer volume of scraped content, duplicate content and overall thin content that being populating their search results.  The amount of thin content that was being produced, crawled, indexed and ranked by Google formed the genesis of the Google Panda algorithm update where Google begin devaluing sites that they perceived as having thin content.  There was a lot of collateral damage in the process, as organizing the world's information is no easy thing to accomplish.  A number of sites experienced a pretty dramatic loss in traffic.   There were (and still are) a lot of site owners who began to question Google's motives.  You have to give Google credit for even attempting to organize the world's information.  In fact no one else has come close to what Google has done with their massive index of web results.

So knowing that Google began to devalue sites with low quality content, two trends have started to emerge:
  1. People are creating even more fluff in terms of web content
  2. People are revisiting their overall approach to content creation and promotion.
One type of content that some sites were devalued for included sites that used a set formula to produce articles.  You know the ones that I am talking about.  The sites that produced a high volume of articles that had a set formula of 300 to 400 words that were often over-SEO'd and really featured little value.  Some of these sites post-Panda have simply tweaked their formula and instead of 400 word articles we are seeing longer articles that still provide little value to the user.  Herein lies the issue, that it is not about how much content you have, it is about the quality of that content and how people engage with it.

Creating Great Content to Improve Site Engagement

You can have the greatest writers in the world, but while they can produce some great material, it must be engaging for the web audience.  Creating great content should improve site engagement and keep users coming back for more.  So how do you create this type of content that your audience will engage with?

Best Practices for Improving Site Engagement with High Quality Content
  1. There is no magical formula - first you should know that there is not set rule for how you should present your content.  Depending on the subject matter, content that is 100-300 words that answers a common question may prove highly engaging.  An in-depth article that is 1500-2000 words may provide the level of detail that users are looking for.  At the end of the day there is no specific content template that you can use to create high quality content.  One thing can be stated about this however is that richer, deeper content will perform better in the search results.

  2. Optimizing your content for relevant keyword is still important - each piece of content that you produce should focus on a primary key phrase and be supported with a couple of secondary phrases to help communicate the topicality of the page.  What you need to remember is that "over-optimizing" your content can also work against you.  Write for the users first and search engines second.

  3. Allow users to share/promote your content - you spend so much time and resources producing high quality content, yet people are still not engaging with it.  Is it simply a matter that people do not know about your content?  You need to promote your content and there is no better way than word of mouth.  Use social sharing and social bookmarking options to let people promote your content for you.  If your content is truly of value, users may link to it, tweet it, Like it or share it via a social book marking options such as StumbleUpon or Delicious.  Both Google and Bing are factoring social signals into their ranking algorithms.  Ensure that these options are  available on your site's content.

  4. Revisit your old content - the idea of repurposing your content to become more up to date can help make your content more engaging and useful to both repeat and new visitors to your website.  Pay attention to engagement metrics such as time spent and bounce rates as these items can provide great insight into how users are actually engaging with your website.

  5. Pay Attention to your top content -  regardless of which analytics platform your are using, understanding which content on your site is performing well with users and which content is not can illustrate important things such as the type of content to deploy, the page dynamic to deliver and whether you possibly have too much of the same type of content.  Each and every page on your site is a landing page that users may enter your site on, make sure that they find what they are looking for.

  6.  Content Freshness - timeliness of content can prove highly engaging.  Keep in mind that Internet is a very competitive place, so try to make your content stand out from the rest.  If you are lucky enough to be the first to present a new release, a new piece of content or a news story, be sure that it is communicated as such via mechanism such the rel=author tag to let the engines know that you are the original creator of the content.  Consider adding to the content after the original release so that on subsequent crawls from the search engines, they crawl, index and hopefully rank the content accordingly.

  7. Listen to you users- pay attention to any areas that users can provide feedback.  This could be a forum or blog comment, this could be a testimonial, this could be in your social channels such as Google+, Facebook or Twitter.  Review the search terms that they are using from the internal search functionality on your site.  Ultimately it is your users who will determine what content should be featured on your website.  Pay close attention to their needs and what they are looking for.  Do not just focus on yourself and your own products and solutions, make reference to other industry happenings to build trust with your audience.

It is not longer about creating content, optimizing it and trying to convert your website traffic.  You really have to build a relationship with your audience.  You need to listen first and reply second.  Great content is stuff that everyone wants but is not readily available.  The majority of people are not looking for promotional marketing jargon about  your company, they are looking for a solution to their needs.  They are looking to progress further through the research funnel, or if you are luck they are looking to make a purchase or follow up with a conversion.  They are looking to gain insight into something.  If your content is too thin you will not be successful in engaging your site visitors.  If your repeats visits are down or are plateauing, there may be a reason for it. Your content is not doing it for them.  Remember who the content is for, it is not for you, it is for your audience.  Make it easy for your audience to engage with your content.  Make the content compelling and useful.  Work on improving engagement by creating high quality content.

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posted by Jody @ Sunday, February 19, 2012  
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Home: Kelowna, BC, Canada
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