Friday, July 1, 2011

6 Ways To Improve Your Company's Online Content

Content creation is very important even if your business is not an online business. When referring to "content," we mean websites, blogs, videos, audio podcasts and even Twitter and Facebook updates.

Search engines have changed the way your customers and buyers are looking for product information online, and fresh content is a great way to ensure that your website or blog stays relevant and places higher in search results. Content creation tools and technology has made it easy for you create and distribute your content online. According to eMarketer, the number of blog readers in the U.S. will reach 122.6 million in 2011, representing 53.5 percent of Internet users. This is indeed a huge audience, but remember that you have to compete with millions of other blogs and websites out there.

So, how can you distinguish yourself and and gain the attention of this massive online audience? It is no longer enough to create content about your business and products to gain audience attention. Expand the horizons of content creation and talk about your customers like you talk about your business.

Here are some tips:

1. Become a storyteller

Storytelling is the best form of communication. Your audience likes to be fascinated and will remember the key elements of a story very vividly. For example, if you are a chef in a restaurant, talk about what you pack in your kid's lunch box. A human story transforms you from being just a business to being a person. Share your customer success stories and let people see behind the curtain.

2. Write for the customer

Think about the small-talk and conversations you have with your customers as they walk into your business. You talk about tax time, holiday gift giving, challenges of the economy. You can add these same topics to your content calendar and converse about them with all of your customers on the Web. You can write the posts yourself, or you can ask experts for helpful tips.

3.Engage a community

Small businesses in particular depend on the local community to succeed. People in certain industries, like realtors and insurance agents, have the pulse on the goings-on of the community and often participate in local events, but owners of any business can get involved in the community. Move this conversation online and write about community events, such as high school football games, local fundraisers, community walks and county fairs. Be sure to broadcast the content on your website, blog and Facebook Page for maximum reach. A great example of this kind of content can be found on the Bates Nut Farm Facebook Page, where you see the community discussing events, like neighborhood yard sales.

Another good way to build community is to guest-write on other community blogs. Your local community organizations have websites and blogs that could probably use some more content, so get your name out there by writing articles for them or for community news sites like This is also a great networking opportunity—you could meet people whom you could invite to post on your website or blog, too.

4. Include multimedia

Offline events are a great opportunity for content—you can post videos or podcast interviews of attendees sharing their top takeaways from the event. Use the opportunity to post a recap mentioning the people you meet and takeaways from the conference. The beauty of multimedia is that it ranks higher in search, giving your content a better chance to be seen than if it were just plain text. Make sure you let your subjects and sources know that you've mentioned them in a multimedia post on your blog or website—then they can share the post within their networks and expand your audience.

5. Consult others

Create a small business advisory board with friends and acquaintances who can help you choose new tools and technology. Use their advice to inform your audience of tips and trends that you've learned. Also, look for websites or blogs that have higher search rank and/or greater traffic than yours and approach the owners to see if you can guest-post there.

6. Play on pop culture

Another content tip is to look at pop culture topics and see if you can weigh in on them, or at least draw on them in a relevant way. For instance, back in January, the U.S. Census Bureau put out facts and figures on the Packers and Steelers, who were playing in the Super Bowl. Look at data and figure out what is relevant to you—a merchant might find interesting statistics about customers paying with cash versus credit cards. Choose topics wisely and try not to tread on controversy, but have fun publishing varied content that will entertain, enlighten and grow your audience.

Measuring your results

For every action you take on your website or blog, you should measure the results to see what is working. You should look for three things in the data:

1. Referral traffic

Are you getting visitors from new sites? Who is referring more traffic to you? Knowing this helps you focus your content so you can get more "link love" from those referring sites.

2. Top content

Which content got the biggest audience? Sometimes this bigger trend builds up over time, so make sure you check your analytics at long intervals, like month-to-date and year-to-date.

3. Keywords

What keywords are people searching for when they land on your blog/website? If you see any keywords for which you don't have much content yet, you should add those subjects to your content calendar.

Thanks to Shashi Bellamkonda (Mashable) / Open Forum / American Express Company

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