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Sometimes you have to feel sorry for a fellow entrepreneur. Imagine what it would be like to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a beautifully designed company website, and figuring it was worth every penny because it reflected your brand perfectly. But then imagine how you’d feel when you realized that the site wasn’t drawing anywhere near the traffic you had hoped.

The hard truth is that great web design won’t attract traffic to your site. And, as I wrote in a previous column, attracting visitors is the essential first phase in a four-step approach to doing inbound marketing in a way that will win over today’s digitally driven buyers. The key to that is quality content. Without that, you’ll be among the losers in the new marketing war.

Fine, but what the heck is quality content? To understand that, you first have to understand the most common ways people find websites these days. A research study by Forrester revealed that search engines and social networking top the list:

Here’s how the quality of the content on your website can influence the two most popular ways that companies are found online:

Search engines: Their job is to deliver answers to search-engine users’ questions as quickly and efficiently as possible. Search engines understand that when people search, they have a question and are looking for answers, even if it doesn’t seem like that’s what they’re doing. The search queries may not be phrased to make it obvious, but they really are questions. So, for instance, if someone types “Honda dealership Burnaby,” they’re really asking the question “Where are the Honda dealerships in Burnaby?”

The better the quality of the answers a search engine delivers relative to its rival, the more often people will use that search engine. Accordingly, Google has let it be known that “Google ranks content…not companies.” The leading search engine doesn’t care if your company’s name appears in the search results, unless it’s in response to a branded term in the search query. So if you want your company to rank highly in the search results for a given term, you need to offer better answers to common questions than most other websites do.

Social media: At my company, we consider social media “word of mouth enabled by technology.” This essentially means that social media is merely a more powerful way of sharing information. And there are two primary types of information that people share: experiences and content. The better the quality of a piece of content, the more likely it is to be shared. And most people are far more willing to share great content online than their personal experience.

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