Of Content and Visitors

In this SEO Chat double feature, authors Wayne Hurlbert and Subha Subramanian discuss how to create content that gets visitors (Article Swapping and the Art of Visitor Acquisition), and how to make sure that content is nothing short of excellent (Color Story). Note that these are excerpts of previous editions of Plug In magazine.

Article Swapping and the Art of Visitor Acquisition

by Wayne Hurlbert, as featured in the August 2004 edition of Plug In.

Adding new visitor traffic to your website is always a challenge. Finding fresh and innovative promotional techniques is often as difficult as creating fresh content.

Why not accomplish both goals at the same time? By working with your current link exchange partners and other website owners with businesses that complement yours, both goals are achievable.

Every website requires new content to provide interesting information for your site visitors. The same old stale articles won’t bring in much in the way of return traffic, and search engines give extra credit for site freshness and incoming links.

Every article provided to other webmasters supplies them with new content. It assists your site with a themed incoming link. The same holds true for guest articles hosted on your site.

Trading articles with other webmasters will provide fresh content, along with more incoming links. Both help your online business and those of your article partners to reach their desired goals.

Finding the Article Partners

The first step to finding article trading partners is to contact your current link exchange partners. With a suspected decline in the value of link swaps, it’s a great time to upgrade those link relationships. The existing links are probably on a non-themed links page. They probably have weak link anchor text. They are not getting the job done in the search engines or from visitor clicks. Guest articles strengthen every one of those weaknesses.

Another group of ideal article swappers are webmasters in businesses that relate to yours, but who are not direct competitors. For example, if a site specializes in wedding gowns, then flower sites, limousine services, and men’s formal wear sites would make ideal article exchange sites. Columns on weddings in general, touching on the site’s main topic, would add themed content and incoming links. Both sites benefit as a result.

Checking with friends who have unrelated sites or blogs can also provide guest article opportunities. Friends are very likely to swap articles with one another, gaining a link in the process. Bloggers are constantly in search of blog posting ideas, and they are usually prolific writers. Many blogs have huge and loyal followings, providing a large and diverse fresh traffic influx to your site.

Many good article exchange sites already exist on the Internet. Placement of your newly written article and use of another already posted article provides several positives. Besides the fresh content, the authors are introduced to one another, opening up more possible exchanges in the future. After all, the swap is made with a writer of an already known quantity. That fact bodes well for future transactions.

{mospagebreak title=Writing the Article}

It’s important the exchanged articles are relevant to both websites without being blatantly self promotional. The best traded content fits seamlessly with the information already appearing on the receiving site.

Returning to our example travel site can contribute information on honeymoon trip planning to a wedding site. The returned article can recommend techniques of working with newlyweds as a target travel market. Both websites receive important fresh relevant content, with value for both their visitors and for the search engines.

Be sure to add a brief author’s biography, and a short unbiased description of the home website. Providing impartial information, along with the article, provides more credibility than marketing copy. There is plenty of opportunity to convert the visitor traffic to customers when they click on the link to your site.

Be sure to remember to add that link back to your website. As with all incoming links, it’s expected the link anchor text contains your most important keyword phrases. There is another possible benefit available in this situation, however. Within the link text itself, there is an opportunity to aim directly at the target market segment reading the article.

Alternative anchor text gives you another set of important keywords, to attract potential customers and gain added search engine value. Remember, the goal of the article is primarily visitor traffic, with the search engines only a secondary concern.

Trading articles is a great way for two webmasters to help one another, and receive some very tangible benefits. It’s a true win-win situation for everyone.

{mospagebreak title=Color Story: Article Writing Tips}

Color Story

by Subha Subramanian, as featured in the July 2004 edition of Plug In Magazine.

Writing content for the Web is very different from writing content for print. You have to deal with low attention spans, slow connections, browser eccentricities, and whether people even visit your site. So it is imperative that when people do find you on the Web, you give them a reason to stay awhile. The key to creating captivating and persuasive content for your Website is to follow the golden rules for writing for the Web:

1) Help Search Engines find you

It is no secret that most Web users are search engine happy, preferring to let the search engines take them to their destination instead of typing it in or randomly browsing to it. With that in mind, it is essential to write Web content that will increase your chances of being found by search engines. Looking at your competitors’ meta tags will give you an idea of the keywords people use to locate services and products in your industry. Add keywords that are unique to your company and write content that focuses on the keywords.

2) Write non-self serving informative text

In order to write content that is helpful, you’ll need to find out as much as you can about your average reader. Focus on that reader, for example the single woman in her late twenties looking to invest her money. Imagine talking to that reader, not giving a speech, about your service and/or product, and how she will benefit from it. Leave the marketing spiel at the door, and talk from the heart.

3) People should be able to get the gist by scanning

Research by Jakob Nielsen tells us that reading from a computer screen is about 25% slower than reading from paper. We all know that from personal experience. No wonder people read very differently on the Web, scanning content instead of reading line by line. Bullet points and bold keywords assist readers in analyzing Web content faster. Keep paragraphs short, with headings that are clearly understood. Less is definitely more.

4) Keep it simple

Information should be should be timely and contextual. For example, provide users with specific information on how to subscribe to the newsletter and what to expect from it on the newsletter registration page, not elsewhere on the Website. On the other hand, don’t hide information that users need – such as customer service information – and make them dig through your site in frustration.

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5) Focus on the user

Identify the reason you sell your product. Then identify why people buy it; how do they use it? (For example, Arm & Hammer baking soda was originally meant for baking but is actually used to reduce odors in refrigerators.) Suggest these on your Website. What other needs/wants do they associate with it? If I am interested in candles, chances are I might be interested in a candleholder. If you don’t also sell those, provide your customers with a link to someone who does.

6) Create a need

Cosmetics companies have long known that a pretty brochure of a beautiful woman lounging in Hawaii will sell makeup. They call it the ‘color story’ – these fantasies they weave. Ralph Lauren has been quoted as saying, “I do not sell clothes. I sell dreams.” Why not apply this thinking to your business?

As Mary Lisa Gavenas tells us in “Color Stories: Behind the Scenes of America’s Billion-Dollar Beauty Industry”, create a story around your product. In what way will it provide an escape from the mundane? Buying a product should not only satisfy a need; in many cases, the need is not yet present. I already have dozens of candles lying around unused. But if you promise me that your brand has special aromatherapy associated with the red candle that is sure to spark romance, well – I’ll take two of those.

7) Edit, edit once more, then edit again

Poorly written content or content riddled with grammatical errors reduces the credibility of your Website. Go through your copy with a magnifying glass in hand; don’t simply rely on spell check. Edit the tone of your content. Is the information on your Website simple and easy to understand? Have someone else, preferably a lay person, read through the text on your Website and point out portions that are ambiguous or confusing.  Finally, edit for brevity.

8) Frequently update content

Nothing spells doom for a Website faster than stagnating content. If your site is not updated on a regular basis, users will stop visiting and eventually forget about it altogether. Give people a reason to visit your Website again and again. Like at the mall, if they browse a while, chances are they will buy.

So, find your story but don’t stick to it. Hit them on all their weak spots. Excite all their senses. Introduce new colors. Write captivating text. Changing the story ever so slightly is what keeps customers coming back for more.

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