Having an online presence is important for nearly every business. Yet, it's an unfortunate reality that most small business websites amount to no more than online brochures with little traffic. Why? The number one reason that a website fails is because it lacks sufficient interesting or original content.
It seems simple enough to write a few pages of text for a website. But, few business owners have extra time to create compelling online content on a regular basis. Others simply get tripped up finding just the right words to use. With Google placing more and more importance on content quality and originality, a literal content crunch has developed affecting countless small business owners who are watching their online marketing efforts fail simply because they don't have the capabilities of producing content.
This problem is coupled with the reality that greater volumes of content are needed to be found by search engines. Large companies now have content managers, teams of writers, and content strategists who keep the matrix of content development organized and consistently flowing. However, for small business owners with limited resources, this isn't typically a possibility.
The only way to compete in the increasingly challenging world of online marketing is to first realize that content is essential and to incorporate a few key strategies that can be relied upon to create the necessary content to achieve success online.
Make Content Creation an Ongoing Priority
Long gone are the days of writing a few pages for a website and calling it a day. Recent Google updates like Panda and Penguin have changed the way we all have to think about online content. It's not a one-time project for a small business. Producing and publishing content should be considered an ongoing, essential task.
By prioritizing it like you would other necessary aspects of business that require regular attention like accounting or customer service, you can set up a plan and schedule for its development. Treat it as an essential part of your marketing plan.
Evaluate Your Competition
Do your competitors rank above or below you in Google searches of keywords that describes your business? Are businesses within your industry actively using Facebook, Twitter, Youtube or other social media tools to reach out to their customers? How large are their websites? These are all important questions to ask.
It's equally as important to evaluate the type, style, and tone of your competitors' content. From conducting this preliminary research, you'll be able to determine what you need to do to be competitive and how you can improve upon what is already being done. Next, it's time to develop your plan of action!
Develop a Content Plan
You definitely don't want to sit down and start churning out content without a thoughtful plan in place. As the old carpenter's adage goes, measure twice and cut once.
Take the time to map out a game plan for your content. This should include making decisions on how to tell your business's story, where your content needs to be placed, and a schedule for getting it developed. If you're at a loss as to where to begin, don't just throw in the towel. There is help available!
Hire a Strategist/Writer
A growing number of consultants now specialize in content strategy and creation. Some are writers. Others are marketing, SEO, or social media experts. The key is to find a provider who has specific experience in helping businesses like yours improve their online marketing through content. This isn't typically the person who only writes brochures or articles. It's more likely going to be someone who has clear cut online marketing strategies and success stories.
When you've found a quality content strategist/writer, hang on to them! They can be worth their weight in gold by serving as the voice of your business and helping to tell the story of your brand. When you consider that your online success is contingent on producing quality content, you quickly discover why this person should be considered a valuable partner for your business.
Implement Content Quality Control
Content can make or break a business. A page on a website with a glaring typo or outdated information can give off a terrible first impression to a potential buyer of your products or services. A Facebook page or Twitter feed that hasn't been updated in weeks or months can send a signal that your business is struggling. These are not the message you can afford to communicate!
Every bit of content that is published by your business should be consistent with your brand, free of errors, and interesting to your customers. Don't underestimate the importance of content quality control. If you work with an outside provider, make sure that there is a regular review of their work. Stay up to speed on what's being published, and by all means, remove or update any content that you're not absolutely proud of.
Yes, there are cheap providers of content who will gladly sell you articles, press releases, and website pages at ridiculously inexpensive prices. However, you typically get what you pay for. Being penny wise and pound foolish can cost you dearly in the world of online content. You wouldn't rely on an under-qualified accountant to handle your books. So, don't place your content development into the hands of someone who can seriously damage your online reputation!
The Future of Online Content?
The content crunch is quickly becoming a content crisis due to search engines' and customers' increasing demand for content. Online marketing for any size business is now all about producing content that tells your brand story on an ongoing basis.
If you make this a priority for your business, you'll dramatically increase your business's ability to relate to customers while improving your site's search engine rankings. How you decide to create content for your business is up to you, but, at the end of the day, it's all about balancing quality and quantity and making it a priority.
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Don is President of Expand2Web, where he writes about WordPress for business and local search marketing. He also created GetFiveStars - a tool for business owners to encourage feedback and positive reviews from their customers.