How do I keep my Web site fresh, alive and interesting?
Shirley Kaiser, Editor
Volume 1, No. 3
Copyright © 2000. Shirley E. Kaiser, M.A. All rights reserved.
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I hope this newsletter finds each of you enjoying a wonderful autumn. Here in northern California, we're definitely feeling the fall, and the Sierra Nevada mountains even have snow already for a delightfully early ski season this year.
I'm also thrilled to have been asked to be a guest columnist for WebReference.com's Graphics Experts section for this week, so those interested in learning some graphics tips, feel free to check out my latest article,
On to the newsletter!
In the last issue, we discussed online promotion of your Web site. One of the important ingredients in maintaining interest at your site is to keep your site fresh and alive. You don't want your visitors to take one look at your front page, yawn, and click to move on to another site.
While one means of capturing interest is to provide ongoing fresh content, there are many ingredients to keep your Web site appearing current and interesting.
- What if adding new content sounds OK but you don't have any ideas or a clue about what might work?
- What if you don't have new information to add, or you don't have time to add new content?
- What if you're on a limited budget and don't have the funds to pay a writer or designer to add content on an ongoing basis?
- What if you don't write but may have other skills, services, or talents that could be used to help build your site?
Brainstorm and consider how your talents and gifts could be tapped into for a win-win situation. What excites you? What do you enjoy in life? Figure out ways to share that, whether or not it's directly related to your business.
We'll explore all of this in this month's newsletter.
Must you provide ongoing fresh content?
Have you been to Web sites that contain dead links, the information is outdated, missing graphics abound, load time is slow, or have other problems? Do you even bother to stay, or do you immediately leave for something else that sparks your interest?
Web sites that are kept up to date, load quickly, and have engaging content have a better chance to be successful.
First, though, maybe you think your Web site isn't one that will have or need ongoing, fresh content. Perhaps you've provided information about your business, yourself, and how to contact you, so there isn't new content to be added. In that case, the following suggestions will still apply, as there are tips to keep your Web site up to date, whether or not you add new content regularly.
I continue to feel that part of promoting your Web site must include thinking creatively to figure out ways to bring in visitors and encourage them to return, to bookmark your site, and to tell others about your site.
So, must you provide fresh, new content?
No need to run, kicking and screaming here. That answer can actually depend on the goals and purpose of your Web site. Many Web site owners have no idea what they can really do to improve their traffic to help produce income for their businesses. There are at least as many answers to that as there are Web sites, and that's where brainstorming, investigating, and using your imagination can come into play. There are endless possibilities.
A Web site's foundation must include quality, accurate, and current information. Building on that foundation is one of the keys.
Some ways to keep your content fresh, interesting, and alive:
- Keep information up-to-date, such as product prices and descriptions of your products, services or applicable information for your Web site.
- Do careful proofreading to eliminate typos and awkward grammar.
- Include illustrations, photos, or other graphical elements to enhance your content. If you have products, provide recent photos or images of them.
- Stay accessible. Make sure your visitors can easily see how to contact you by email especially, but also by phone, fax, or snail mail. Let them know you're there, interested, and ready to answer questions as needed.
- Provide feature articles, news updates, a newsletter, or other appropriate new and growing content, with archives at your Web site. This will bring visitors back to your site, too. (There are also Web sites out there that offer free content, offer syndicated content, or offer writing services to provide professional content for you.)
- Provide announcements that you can send out to let people know of news, changes, promotions, or updates. This will remind people that you're there and invites them to drop by for a visit.
Notice that the above list doesn't include adding fancy bells and whistles, blinking lights, or artwork by Michaelangelo. While bells and whistles definitely have their place, they should be used with a solid purpose in mind and be implemented appropriately to enhance your content.
Let's pretend you have a small business that creates ski equipment. You've had a strong, solid, loyal clientele for over 50 years, and you think you must have a Web site to keep up with your competitors. So you have someone design your site for you, list some products and contact information, and leave it at that. Is that enough?
One of your competitors has a very active, busy Web site that has become quite successful.
- They offer a regular newsletter sent out once a week just prior to and throughout ski season that provides the latest news about ski resorts and ski conditions, coupons, and package deals.
- During the off-season they still send out monthly newsletters with latest news and reminders of what's coming up in the next ski season and what's available at ski resorts during the off-season.
- They also offer links to other Web sites for ski resorts, ski information, travel clubs, and various sports. They even recently added a message forum that's gaining in popularity.
- In time they've even gotten advertisers for their newsletter and their Web site so they're more than offsetting the monthly costs of maintaining the Web site.
- As a result of this service, their sales are steadily increasing, too, their reputation has continued to grow, and they've become the local online "hangout" for skiers.
- They even organize ski packages for their Web site visitors now.
Back to your own pretend Web site. Two years later your ski equipment site still has the same information. It's up to date but not generating much traffic, and you think that having a Web site is a waste of time and money. You don't have a newsletter or a mailing list, as you're busy just trying to keep your business going. Hmmm.... so what now? Is it worth the time and effort to do the kinds of things that the competitor has done? You've got a Web site but they haven't come. Look at the difference it made to implement some creative ideas.
In the pretend examples above, I've illustrated the difference it can make to think and act creatively and to use the benefits of the Web to your advantage. The time and effort can truly pay off.
I had a conversation recently with one of my colleagues and good friends, recommending that he share his expertise as one way of getting his name out there more, generating more traffic flow, and ultimately resulting in more sales. He's an excellent writer, so I suggested that he tap into that and use that gift. I mention this in this newsletter because I've seen the results of this first hand as well as with so many other Web sites. I wholeheartedly recommend providing free information or free services, sharing what you know, giving something away for free. The rewards are limitless.
I do practice what I preach, and I do a variety of things to promote my Web sites (I own and maintain several of my own). One of the things that I do is offer linkware graphics and low cost music graphics. Some of you know that I'm also a professional musician in addition to running my Web site design and development business. Joining these two loves has been tremendously rewarding. Musicians from all over the world, especially educational institutions, appreciate having high quality music graphics and music-themed Web site sets to use, and I feel great about providing this service to the world community. Does it help my Web development business? It certainly does, and in a variety of ways.
I've also authored dozens of tutorials and tips that are freely available at WebsiteTips.com, WebReference.com, Wise-women.org, and elsewhere, and I've developed a huge annotated resource of links for Web site owners and developers, primarily via WebsiteTips.com. I've always loved research, so this has evolved quite naturally and is a win-win since it's proving to be a helpful resource for others, too.
These are just a few examples of what I've done and continue to do to promote my Web sites and my business. None of this has happened overnight. It's taken time, energy, and planning. Every moment has been immensely rewarding and has paid off.
So I do practice what I preach, and I'm continuing to see the rewards and benefits of tapping into my passions and sharing. That's why I feel totally comfortable encouraging others in this regard.
Maybe you don't want to write but you have other skills that you could somehow use to bring in traffic and promote your Web site or your business. Consider unimagined possibilities. Brainstorm. Get some feedback. As I mention above, tap into what sparks your interest, share what you're passionate about, and open your mind to whatever possibilities that may flow in while you brainstorm. I've repeatedly seen businesses become successful because of their owners' creative imaginations.
Part of the uniqueness of the Web is its fantastic ability to add and change pages, including up-to-the-minute content to your Web site. Taking advantage of that can be one of the keys to your Web site's success.
That's all for this edition. I hope you've found this information helpful. If you have questions, let me know. I'd also be happy to address them in future issues! I invite and encourage your feedback.
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