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A Thing

Creating Web Site Content

Editor's Note: This is the third article in a series on creating an effective Web site.

In previous articles, we outlined the process of establishing a Web site's domain name and deciding what the site should accomplish. This installment will address "putting some meat on the bones," that is, adding content that people will not only want to read but will also make them want to return to the site.

Take a moment to think about why you return to certain Web sites, whether it's GS Online, your favorite news aggregator or even a joke-of-the-day site. The sites all provide something in which you are interested that is maintained and frequently refreshed.

Web site content begins to get dusty if it's not updated at least once month. When people visit your company's Web site and find that the content never changes, over time this lack of change will diminish the important aspects of your offerings.

An editorial or public relations staff can help provide you with most of the content. Let them know what you intend to do with the site and who you want to attract, and their contributions will be significant to your Web development team. Half the battle of creating an effective site is providing content that pleases viewers. If viewers are pleased, they will return to the site and tell others about it. Positive word spreads like wildfire, and even the most humble site can grow to be very popular.

Most Web visitors do not want to read a novel when viewing a Web site. Keep in mind that you have their eyes for only 10 - 15 seconds. However, if they stay longer, on average they will remain on the site for up to 30 minutes. Some people might stay hours or even all day if the content is juicy enough.

It is important to remember whom you want to attract to your site and be sensitive to things that would offend viewers. The Web site is intended to be a member of your team; if a team member is obnoxious, rude or simply doesn't work you'd fire them, right?

The same applies to your Web presence. Most of our industry is a mixed bag of nationalities, creeds and genders. Your outlook on what's funny, attractive or tongue-in-cheek might alienate new and existing clients.

As you develop the site, remain focused on the overall corporate image. If your company's reputation is based on integrity, provide resources and information that will help employees and customers succeed and enjoy their work or lives. Or, use the site to promote new products, sales tips, and tools such as software downloads and technical manuals.

Avoid content with crass humor and sexual innuendo. Just because you can put pictures of bikini-clad women on your site to get noticed doesn't mean you should. The company will appear sexist, and this will sacrifice relationships for the sake of shock value.

The new buzzword in content management is the "RSS feed." RSS feeds are essentially syndicated news links you can embed in a site that another server will write and refresh frequently. Usually, a cost is involved in using these, but considering the positive attention your Web site will receive, it's worth it. Keeping the site fresh and valuable will ensure return visitors. Consider selling ads to post to the site; it's another way to make the site a robust offering and will subsidize the cost of hosting and maintenance.

The substance of the Web site will keep people returning more than glitz and flashy graphics. The key to having a successful online presence is achieving a balance of a nice looking site and well-planned content. The next article will focus on tracking how many people visit your Web site by collecting and monitoring statistics.

Notice to readers: These are archived articles. Contact names or information may be out of date. We regret any inconvenience.
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