Websites have evolved significantly over the past few years and the expectations of both surfers and spiders is driving much of what it takes to make a site work for your business today.
In fact, while content is still what gets people to your site, and long term, what it takes to draw links and return visits, it is heightened functionality that kicks off the process of engagement – the new must-have metric.
It’s not enough for your content to simply lay there, flat and uninviting. It has to stand up and practically beg people to interact with it. Your website must be more web app-like than browser-like.
But what does this mean for the typical site owner and builder you ask?
Use blog software as the engine.
Blog software, such as WordPress, is essentially content management software with SEO, community and syndication built in. While most associate blogging software with the journal style feature so frequently used by bloggers, the software is built to run almost any type of page you can imagine building, such as contact, product and even a static looking home page.
By using today’s themes such as Headway and Builder, you can use the WordPress foundation to create multiple page themes with plugins and widgets that allow you to perform most of the things I plan to explore in the rest of this article.
I can think of very few instances where it would not make sense for a small business to use a tool like WordPress to run their entire site. If setting up a self-hosted version of WordPress seems like it’s above you technically, you can try out one of the hosting service providers like Page.ly that offer one button installs with themes and support built in for a monthly fee.
Don’t forget the use of polls as a device to create engagement. Routinely adding simple polls by using a WordPress plugin or SurveyGizmo for WordPress can add an inviting layer of content and give users a reason to return.
Beef up the forms of content.
In terms of traffic, Google is the number one search engine, but YouTube is number two. Adding video and audio content has become a must, as visitors expect it and consume it in ways that keep them on your site much longer than sites that feature only static text.
Video allows you to tell a story with emotion and lets the visitor connect with the person telling the story. Research by SearchEngineWatch shows video increases landing page conversion by over 300 percent.
The use of video and audio is also a great way to reinforce a message and help visitors understand what to do next or what to expect.
Adding Facebook Like buttons that allow visitors to share your content with their friends is an effective way to allow Facebook visitors to interact with your site. Using plugins like Sociable make it very easy for people to share, subscribe and bookmark content found on your web pages.
Bringing your social media participation on sites like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook to your site with tools such as a Facebook Fanbox or Twitter Tools Widget is a great way to create interaction with your social profiles from your site and create a viral effect when visitors share or like something on your site.
Amplify for awareness.
A final important aspect is to find ways to amplify your content so that people can interact with it. This includes promoting your site and all the online ways people can find more in your offline communication. Adding your social profiles to business cards and printed literature is a good place to start.
Make your advertising much more about creating awareness for your online content and ways that people can interact and less about selling.
Image credit: Richard Mason
John Jantsch is a marketing coach, award winning social media publisher, and author of Duct Tape Marketing and The Referral Engine.