If you've been following this column for awhile, you already know how important it is to drive qualified prospects to your Web site. What's even more important, though, is finding ways to keep them there once they've arrived.

After all, what's the use of spending all that time and money on securing top rankings on search engines, setting up a network of affiliates and building a 200-page site if nobody stays once they arrive? That's the hard way to learn the value of "sticky" content. The easy way is to keep reading. The information I'm about to share with you will show you how to use content to turn visitors into shoppers...and shoppers into repeat buyers!

We've boiled it down to seven simple ways to keep your visitors coming back for more. Put these tips into practice, and watch your sales start climbing almost immediately.

1. Take charge of your content. It's important to spend a few minutes thinking about how often you really need to update your content. If your site sells reports on housing trends, your visitors may expect new content about the housing market on a fairly regular basis. If you're selling nails and screws, your content probably won't need updating nearly as often.

If your site isn't going to need content changes on a regular basis, think about writing the content yourself. Nobody knows your product as well as you do, so who better to write about it? Of course, you'll want the content to have a strong focus on the features and benefits of your product or service, so here are a few ideas for articles you could post on your site:

  • Three ways your product can save your customers time
  • Five ways your product has saved your customers money
  • Interesting or unique applications for your product

Ok, ok... I can already hear some of you saying "I'm an entrepreneur--I'm not a writer!" My answer? Why not give it a try? You'll probably surprise yourself. Even if your writing isn't as clear and flowing as something crafted by a professional copywriter, your enthusiasm for your product will go a really long way.

There are a few situations where I would recommend hiring the services of a professional writer. If you simply aren't comfortable writing your own content, then this is definitely the way to go. You'll also probably want to look into the services of a professional if your site is going to require frequent content updates. Writing can be very time-consuming, and as a business owner, you'll need to decide on the most profitable way to spend your time.

Here are a few of the better resources I've found for tracking down copywriters:

Also note: Top-notch copywriters can charge up to $250 per hour, so you won't want to hire one just to proofread your site. A writer, editor or proofreader can be hired for between $17 and $75 per hour. Just be sure to check references and establish deadlines!

2. Tell your visitors "What's New." Let's face it . . . nobody spends even close to as much time hanging around your web site as you do. In fact, your visitors may spend just a few minutes a month at your site, so you'd better be sure their attention is immediately drawn to where you want it.

If you're introducing a new product or service, it's important to make sure your visitors know it's new. Remember, people scan Web pages, they don't read them. They're more likely to pay attention to an item with a "NEW" icon beside it, or something labeled with the current date.

Unless you label new content as being special or important, your customers have no way of knowing they should bother paying attention to it. But keep in mind that it's just as important to remove those "NEW" labels every so often. Your customers won't be very impressed by a flashing "NEW" banner next to an item about last year's Super Bowl.

Want a great way to tell your customers what's new while building your opt-in e-mail list and customer base at the same time? Offer to e-mail your customers new content on a monthly basis in the form of a newsletter. (You'll want to include information about new products, upcoming specials and current sale-priced items.) Place a box somewhere on your front page with a small blurb explaining that, by entering their e-mail address in the space provided, they'll be e-mailed exciting new content on a monthly basis, along with exclusive offers available only to subscribers.

The best part is, it's much easier than you might think to set up this kind of monthly newsletter. You've already got the content, since it's up on web site, so it's just a matter of making a few formatting changes and then mailing it out to your customers.

3. Get your visitors involved. It's a proven fact that the more your visitors interact with your site, the more comfortable they become. And the more comfortable they become, the more likely they are to make purchases. Here are three tried-and-true ways to get your visitors to interact with your site:

  • Set up an online suggestion box. This is a great way to get your customers involved with your products or services. Let them suggest products they'd like to see featured, recommend ways to improve your product, or tell you know what they think of your merchandise.
  • Run a contest. Ask your customers to submit a short blurb about why they love your product, and offer a cash or merchandise prize to the weekly or monthly winners. Not only will you be getting your customers involved, you'll be collecting testimonials to post on your site.
  • Conduct an online survey. They'll be able to voice their opinions about your business, and you'll learn a lot about what they like (and don't like) about your products or service. (More about this later.)

4. Check all of your content. Remember, when we talk about content, we're not just talking about the text on your site. We're talking about every single word, image, link, logo and e-mail address.

One of the most important things you can do to keep your site current (and drive sales) is to rotate your features and specials. Is your best-selling product featured prominently on your site? If not, visitors won't find what they came for... and that's costing you profits!

Always keep your catalog up-to-date. Nothing will drive customers away faster than receiving an e-mail from your company saying that the product they ordered yesterday is no longer available. It never ceases to amaze me how often I come across sites with outdated, unavailable products still posted online.

Check all of your links, every last one of them--even that one at the very bottom that links to your privacy policy. If the link through to your "Satisfied Customers" page isn't working, how comfortable is a customer going to be entering their credit card number?

And while you're at it, make sure that anything labeled "Coming Soon" will be actually coming soon. If it's not going to be ready within a week, take it down.

I'd also highly recommend that you go through your site on a computer other than your own. It's amazing what you'll learn. That image that looks so great on your computer may actually be broken when viewed on someone else's! Make sure you take note of how long content and images are taking to come up. If it takes more than 10 seconds for the image of your product to appear, you're probably losing customers by the truckload!

The idea here is to make your visitors comfortable enough to make a purchase from you. There is a direct correlation between how comfortable people are and how likely they are to make a purchase. And a site where everything works is a comfortable place to be.

5. Check out free content providers. Believe it or not, there are actually a number of places to find content on just about every topic imaginable that you can post on your site at no cost. Of course, the quality of this content varies tremendously, so be sure to choose carefully.

You should be aware that some free content providers will try to take visitors away from your site. You may find, for example, that the news headlines you've posted on your site whisk visitors away as soon as they click on them. Obviously, this is not what you want.

If you want to look into free content for your site, here are a few good places to start:

6. Never throw anything away. Want to know an almost effortless way to make your site 50 percent more useful to visitors? Archive your content. A study by online usability guru Jakob Nielsen showed that an archive of past content increases a site's usefulness by about 50 percent. And since you've already produced the content, it's no hassle to simply index all those articles in an archive. And, believe me, your customers will be glad you did.

As your archive grows, you'll add credibility to your business, because your customers will be able to see how long you've been around. With all those extra pages, your customers should be hanging out at your site a little longer--making them more comfortable and more likely to buy.

7. Look, listen and learn. So now that you've spent all this time getting your site as current as it should be, you need to find out what kind of impact you've made. Of course, if you've done everything right, you'll start seeing results right where it counts--in your bankbook!

There are, however, a few other great ways to judge the success of all your hard work. Invest some time in going through your server logs (provided by your Web host), and see how much time people are actually spending looking at your content. If, for whatever reason, people aren't using your "Weekly Updates" page, you probably shouldn't waste too much time writing content for it.

The online suggestion box that you set up is also a great way to measure the usefulness of your content. If nobody EVER comments on your "Monthly News" section, it's probably not worth your while to slave over it at the beginning of every month.

Having fresh content isn't about having today's news headlines scrolling across the top of your homepage. As always, keep your eye on the bottom line and ask yourself, "Is this content helping my sales"? If the answer is yes, you know you're on the right track.

Remember: Marketing a product online means that your site is probably the only way your customers will ever interact with you. What you have posted on your site will speak volumes about the kind of company you're running: A site with relevant and current information will deliver instant credibility to you and your products.

Keep your site current and your content relevant, and I guarantee your visitors will start spending more time there. And the longer they stay, the more dramatic the impact will be on your profits!


Internet marketing expert Corey Rudl has gained popularity because what he teaches are not theoretical approaches to online marketing but real examples of what works when it comes to having a successful business on the Internet. He's also the author of the bestselling how-to guide, Insider Secrets to Marketing Your Business on the Internet. For free tips and resources, please contact questions@marketingtips.com.