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Creating a Content-Rich Website

Six tips for creating a compelling site your customers will buy from

Want to know what makes one website a stand-out when others fail? In a word, it's content. Visitors to your website want to find a clean, readable design that has the right fonts and colors and quick downloads--but then they want the design to "get out of the way." Web users are voracious consumers of information. In fact, today's web surfers are looking at more web pages in a single session than ever, but are spending less time per page. So for your site to deliver customer satisfaction and build sales, effective content is of paramount importance.

Follow these six important tips to make your site compellingly content-rich:

1. Specialize and Focus
Major brick-and-mortar retailers with strong online sales, such as Target and JCPenney, can excel by being generalists, but successful small-business sites tend to become recognized resources in one arena. They specialize in a broader selection within a particular product or service category and sell products that are a step up in quality or price or that can't be found elsewhere. For example, the successful small-business website, GoldenOakStables.com , focuses its content exclusively on collectible Breyer horses. And projected sales for this new business, co-founded by Stephen Marder of Duluth, Minnesota, were $1 million in 2005.

2. Build Confidence
If you can't differentiate your site based on what you sell, try capitalizing on how you sell. Customers are keenly interested in the ownership experience and will consider every aspect of your business, from your return policy and company background to the quality of your customer service, when visiting your website. Don't skimp on content devoted to building customer confidence. First and foremost, your site must be "outer directed." That means the copy should focus on what the customer gets, not on what you offer, and the single most important word should be "you," not "us." If what you market has intangible benefits, such as looking good or feeling well, include testimonials as well as any association approvals, memberships and endorsements.

3. Go Deep
Content-rich sites give readers what they need and more. Why present merely a picture of a product and a simple description when you can also provide its dimensions, applicable size charts, customer ratings and feedback, expert reviews, warranty information, shipping rates, expected delivery timetables, or additional product or service suggestions? You get the idea. Since the vast majority of shoppers do their research online before buying on the web or in brick-and-mortar stores, if your site doesn't have all the information they need in order to quickly and confidently complete a purchase, they'll simply move on.

4. Get Organized
Can you guess one of the chief complaints voiced by web users about the sites they visit? It's that they can't find what they're looking for. Never expect prospects to wade through page after page searching for a single item. Set up your site according to the three-click rule, with no page being farther than three clicks away from the main page of your site. Organize your content into specialized areas, and add an on-site search facility so customers who know what they're looking for can find it immediately.

5. Get Customers Talking
For many types of sites, creating a forum for customer interaction provides an opportunity for deeper, richer content. Message boards, posted customer feedback or reviews, a question-and-answer forum, or a blog can add dimension to your site that encourages customer involvement. And the longer customers spend on your site, the more likely they are to be fully engaged in a positive way with your company.

6. Keep Information Safe
As you can see, sharing information on your content-rich site is a two-way street. One of the best ways to build sales along with customer confidence is to have an established privacy policy. Prospective customers want to know what you plan to do with the information they give you, and need the reassurance that they'll not be spammed or have their confidential information shared. So prove that working with you is safe by publishing your privacy policy, and stand by your promises.

Kim Gordon is the owner of National Marketing Federation and is a multifaceted marketing expert, speaker, author and media spokesperson. Her latest book is Maximum Marketing, Minimum Dollars.
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