Written by Linda Forshaw
The majority of creative professionals and freelancers will have their own website to showcase their creations and capabilities. They might even have gone so far as to set up a blog. In order to use either of those things to their full potential, it’s necessary for a freelancer to wear a number of different hats – writer, webmaster, analyst. Nothing new about that, huh? Here’s our top tips for creating engaging web content that will keep your customers coming back for more.
Let’s kick off with a definition of what web content actually is. Sorry if this seems obvious, but we like to cater to all levels of knowledge. Web content quite simply refers to “the text, images and videos placed on a website, social media page or blog for consumption by its visitors”. The part that isn’t covered there is the fact that the content should be unique and interesting. Not only is this a prerequisite if you want to have any sway on organic search engine rankings, it’s also a must if you want to keep your visitors engaged.
So, how exactly do you create engaging content?
- You might have heard the saying “content is king”. It’s bandied about a lot, but it was first declared back in 1996 by the American entrepreneur and philanthropist Bill Gates. He was right. Boring, unoriginal text, stuffed full of unrelated keywords, is not the way to go. Great web content is lively on the page, it’s fluid, it draws the reader in. Although no-one knows the specifics of the Google search algorithms (although plenty of so-called SEO gurus have hazarded a guess), it appears on the surface at least that the shareability of content has a much greater weighting than how many times a particular keyword appears in a piece of text.
- That brings us nice to our next point about shareability. If the content you provide ticks all the boxes, it’s more likely to be shared across the various social media platforms (thus extending its reach to a seemingly endless audience). The trick to making this happen is to make it easy for visitors to share your content in the first place. It sounds fairly basic, but you might be surprised at just how many freelancers fail to include basic social media interaction buttons alongside their content. Whether you opt for “Share This”, “Tweet This”, “+1 This”, “Pin This” or all of them (recommended), it’s crucial that you allow your content to be distributed in this manner.
- In the same vein, you need to open yourself up to your visitors; to promote and engage in the “conversation” so to speak. This can be as simple as allowing comments to be made on your individual blog posts. Yes, you will get spam comments, but you’ll also get some great ones – comments that you can respond to, thus making that particular customer feel important and more likely to share what you can offer with their own social network. Incidentally, Akismet is a fabulous piece of software that can filter out spam before your eyes are even subjected to it. Apparently its power is down to some kind of secret sauce. Either way, it works, and it’s cheap. Use it.
- Much like a loaf of bread that isn’t stored properly goes stale and past its best, a blog that doesn’t benefit from fresh content will quickly go stagnant. By failing to provide regular fresh content, you might as well be telling your hard earned visitors to start looking elsewhere. To use the bread analogy again – just like there are several ways to keep a loaf fresh, there are a number of ways to keep your content fresh (and it doesn’t all rely on the manic posting of new content every morning). Regularly reviewing existing content (with the help of a free tool like Google Analytics) can help you identify opportunities to optimise past titles for SEO and provide updates to posts that have proved popular with visitors. You can check out the different ways in which fresh content can influence rankings over at SEOmoz.
- What if you’re an awesome graphic designer, but your attempts at writing are a bit woeful? It happens. Just like many writers wouldn’t be able to find their way around Adobe Illustrator or the like, the same applies in reverse. Banging your head against your desk while trying to come up with some engaging web content that’s a delight to read is not going to do you any favours. It could, of course, be as simple as you not having the time to write (along with everything else your working week throws at you). If the whole writing thing is not working out for you – don’t despair. The simple answer is to hire a professional writer. There are several online writing agencies where you can post work. If you’re lucky, you might just find a keeper. Building up a relationship with a good writer can help you overcome the problem of not having the time or skill set to tackle it yourself.
If you want to engage with your customers, keep them coming back, and attract lots of new ones while you’re at it, content marketing is the way to go. Try it!
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