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Website Decisions VI - Content

Dustin Schwerman
 


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If you've been reading a number of articles about website design you have, no doubt, encountered the importance of content. It never hurts, however, to remember what is fast becoming a golden rule of website design: content is critical. Being useful to both visitors and the search engines, it would not be a stretch to say that you can never have too much content in your site.

But you can very easily have too much on one page. And it is, if anything, just as easy to misuse content as to misuse animations. Content is incredibly valuable, but as with all things, it is only valuable when used in the ideal manner. Just as a car is an exceptionally useful tool when used for its proper purpose and a significant hindrance when used to, say, iron your clothes, so too with content. When deciding what to write, you need to know what sort of content will be most advantageous to your site.

So let’s examine the value of content. In considering the benefits it provides, you will see the purposes it is best used for. In seeing the limitations inherent in the tool, you can stop yourself from using content to hinder your overall goals.

First, content is a key part of SEO. What happens is that the search engines examine a page and use the content to determine which keywords are critical to the site. Naturally, there are certain places—title, headers, emphasized text—that rate higher than standard text, but core content matters.

This fact provides us with a useful tool. Of course you will want to sprinkle your best keywords in your content, but you don’t want to stuff them to the extent that the search engines believe you are attempting to spam the keyword; that will only reduce your ranking. However, with a page of well-written content, you can establish several other useful keywords that develop naturally from the information provided.

Additionally, by writing about specific topics, you can optimize individual pages for choice keywords. When a visitor arrives at such a page from the search engines, it is automatically greeted by information most relevant to them, increasing the chance that it will remain on your site.

Which leads into the second function of content, informing the visitor. No one is going to purchase a product that they know nothing about. Since large corporations and well-known stores dominate the top pages of the search engines, smaller companies need more than just a picture and a price to establish credibility and convince the reader to purchase their products.

This is the function of content with regards to site visitors. You should have a number of pages explaining the benefits of your product and service, how your company works, and other useful, relevant information about your field. The goal is to establish yourself as knowledgeable of and skilled in your field, convincing those who come to your site that you can fulfill their needs just as effectively as a massive corporation.

You do, however, have to be careful about using content in this way, because people are impatient. They don’t want to have to read through a massive wall of text to get to the information they want. Divide your content up into clear, succinct portions, each with a separate page. You want to thoroughly answer any given question a user may have, not provide an overwhelming overview of all possible queries.

Looked at as a whole, the goal becomes clear. Use content to provide more pages for your site. Optimize each page for a specific question, a specific bit of information. Explain each one thoroughly, in a manner related to how the question would be asked. It’s classic paper writing, following all the same rules as you followed all throughout school. Stay on topic, provide all necessary information in an succinct format, and use your website’s content to optimize for both the search engines and the human visitors to your site.

Copyright © 2007 Dustin Schwerman.

Dustin Schwerman is the primary web designer at Truly Unique Website Design Truly Unique specializes in impressive, custom sites designed to capture the essence of the businesses they represent, as well as creating useful web-based programs to improve and simplify some of the tasks of running a business.

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