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Interactive Content - Blogs, Forums and Feedback - what does your web site need?

Both search engines and customers love fresh, updated information. Nothing promotes a business online better than staying in touch with prospects. The more interactive the continued contact, the better the relationship that is built with a potential client. But there's no need to groan at the thought of having to work hard at adding new content to your web site, it's not as complicated as you might think.

For more information about how to get interactive with your customers, take a look at our guide "Building Online Relationships" available here: http://www.enable-uk.co.uk/html/book_4.html

The business principle of continued contact and online relationship building has given rise to the popularity of online business blogs, forums and feedback opportunities. Interactive online communication define the web site owners as experts in the eyes of visitors, and serve as a promotional vehicle for other products and services that the business seeks to sell. Continued, interactive contact can bring many benefits, such as:

·You'll find out what type of content visitors want to see at your web site. This will attract your visitors to revisit and read the content.

·You'll find out how to improve existing products or services. This will attract new customers to buy from your business.

·You'll find out which products or services your customers would like to see you sell in the future. This will increase your back end product sales.

·You'll find out how to improve your customer service. This will cut down on customer complaints and how to better resolve problems.

·You'll find out how to improve your sales letters or adverts. This will increase your sales, traffic or subscribers.

·You'll find out how to design your web site to fit your visitors' needs and wants. This will increase the time your visitors spend on your web site.

·You'll find out what kind of non-related products or services your customers would buy. This will help your business easily move into a different market.

·You'll find out how to better price your products. This will help you sell your products or services at a price that will pull the most orders.

·You'll find out the interests of your potential customers. This will inform you where to market and promote your products.

Getting Started So where do you start? Do you need a weblog , a forum, or a feedback form? All have different uses and your selection will depend on the needs of your particular business and your limitation with regard to time and/or budget. Below are some of the options and some ideas for adding interactive and fresh content to your web site.

For more information about how to establish and maintain online relationships with your viewers and customers, get a copy of our guide "Building Online Relationships" available here: http://www.enable-uk.co.uk/html/book_4.html

Weblogs or Blogs A weblog is basically a series of posts that appear by the date posted like an online journal. Setup is minimal and the interface is easy to learn- if you can use a word processing package, you can write a weblog ! Services like Moveable Type and Blogger make it incredibly easy for anyone to publish on the web.

Blogs can be integrated seamlessly into your site so that they have the same look and feel. You can use a weblog to publish an events calendar or comment on developments and news from your industry. A weblog can be strictly professional, announcing special offers or new product info or it can be casual and create a "personality" for your company.

What can a weblog do for your business? Think about what your customers want to know.

To add interactivity, several weblog programs come with a "comment" ability built in. This allows general users to create an account and post their comments to your weblog . This is something to be careful of as you can get negative comments along with the positive.

Forums While online forums are popular and the perfect method of relationship building, starting a forum and maintaining one can be challenging, especially in the beginning when members can be few and far between. The challenge for most new forum owners is to get beyond the initial start up phase and move onto a phase where the forum members themselves promote the forum simply by posting.

Forums have become a common feature in many web sites. With good free scripts available, and paid scripts being relatively cheap, it seems that every new web site has its own forum(s).

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But is it wise to add forums to your web site?

On the pro side, large, active forums generate content for your web site. They add a "sticky" element as most people come back, at least to monitor developments on their threads. Some forum software allows members to opt to receive an email whenever someone replies to their thread. Most people use it and that automated email sends them right back to the forum and therefore, your web site.

However, forums can take a long time to pick up and an empty forum can actually drive new visitors away. You need to constantly monitor your forums to make sure that they are clean of spam, troll posts, and just keep everything in order. In addition, forums are database-type applications that generate web pages on the fly. Every time a user views a page, it's being created from scratch. As the forums become more active, this can take a heavy load on the web server's resources and ultimately increase your hosting costs.

A forum is an incredible tool for building content and a community but it's not a task to be undertaken lightly; it requires a lot of time and energy and some technical knowledge (or a tech budget!)

If your industry has a need, or your product has a loyal following, a forum is a great tool to build content while drawing like-minded individuals together. A forum is great for market research, technical support, building a fan base, trading ideas and knowledge, and many, many other benefits. Try to get a base of people from similar business or industry experts to post at your forum. It's exposure for them and helps to build a solid foundation for your information.

If you decide to start a forum, be sure to use one that is search-friendly, such as www.InvisionBoard.com or www.phpbb.com, and set aside a good chunk of time to promote it and administer it.

For more information about how to establish and maintain online relationships with your viewers and customers, get a copy of our guide "Building Online Relationships" available here: http://www.enable-uk.co.uk/html/book_4.html

Feedback Unsolicited feedback is a powerful and convincing tool! Let your customers tell other customers why they love you. It's much more compelling than your own claims. Unfortunately, customers normally need to be asked for their opinion. You can ask for feedback on any area of your business, your web site, your ordering process, your levels of customer service, your delivery service, etc.

The easiest way is to simply set up a form to allow customers to submit their feedback. Keep it fairly brief and allow a space for comments. You can then use the information provided to improve your customer experience, and with permission, publish the ones you choose.

Often other web site owners that are also customers of users of your web site can be enticed to write a review or testimonial for your site in return for a link back to theirs. This helps them with link popularity but it helps your site as well it shows a real person wrote that review.

Ask The Expert This is a great way of not only interacting with potential customers but also establishing your business as an expert in its field. Using a simple question form or forum software, users submit questions and someone at your company answers them. The Q&A are both published on the site for users to read once they are answered in a "knowledge database" or "FAQ" section. This is less time-intensive than a full-blown forum but a great way to keep a finger on the pulse of what customers want to know while still adding content on a regular basis.

Summary If you are interested in building loyalty and interest in your company as well as repeat business and you want to get increased traffic from the editorial or free listings in search engines, you have to offer more than just sales information to your users. If you create a plan for content that offers value and interest to your customers, you can have a site that is built to sell AND drive repeat business.

For more information about how to establish and maintain online relationships with your viewers and customers, download a copy of our guide "Building Online Relationships" available here: http://www.enable-uk.co.uk/html/book_4.html

Related: Web Site Content - Public Domain Content

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Is your web site driving high quality, targeted customers to your business? Our proven Internet Marketing solutions make your web site work harder for you. For a complete range of Internet marketing and advertising resources to improve search engine positions visit Enable UK. Stop losing customers to your competitors and make more money from your web site TODAY. www.enable-uk.co.uk

Content Is King

Over the past few years, there have been many debates about different search engine optimisation strategies, though it is highly important that a range of strategies are pulled together as one to form the best optimisation program possible. There is one particular factor that is becoming ever more important when it comes to reaching number one in the search engine results pages. That factor is "content". It seems search engines in their quest to provide ever more relevant results are giving site content more and more weight in their ranking algorithms. These days we are seeing web pages packed full of relevant text as opposed to the wonderful, graphical pages that used to adorn many a company's web sites.

Though of course page content is only one aspect of a good optimisation campaign, it is important to follow a few simple guidelines when constructing that content in order to get it right:

1. Research - before you write a single word about a particular product, group of products or service, it is important that you know as much as possible about your subject. Good research will allow you to construct factual, relevant content. If you decide to merely copy content already out there, then be very careful. It is advisable to approach the owner of such content first and ask their permission. For example if you need to write about a product and your supplier already has a good description of it on their site, then it may be the case that they will let you use it for promotional purposes. Again you need to seek their approval first. Even if you intend to re-write someone else's content it is a good idea to check with them first. In general a good rule of thumb is "if in doubt, don't do it". Your own original content is always best.

2. Spelling and Grammar - you should always seek to maintain a high level of spelling and grammar. Always assume anyone reading your content is looking for mistakes. Buyers look for reasons not only to buy, but also not to buy. Good spelling and grammar portrays a confident and professional image.

3. Layout - page content needs to be laid out correctly in order to appear more pleasing to the eye. Keep paragraphs short and to the point. Any keywords and key phrases need to be worked into the content naturally and read correctly. Titles and headings should be in bold and the first letter of each word should be capitalised. Always use a plain, easy to read font. Fancy fonts may look nice to you, but don't forget your content is going to be read by the masses and needs to have a general appearance, that can be read by everyone. Any important words or references should be highlighted using quotation marks or again bold text.

By using the three basic guidelines outlined above, you will be able to write good, relevant page content, that is straight to the point, pleasing to the eye, and professionally written, as well as keyword rich. Never forget the search engine spiders love content, but be careful not to over do it, otherwise you will lose your readers attention, which ultimately means lost sales.

About the Writer of this Article

Jason Morris is co-author, search engine optimization and marketing consultant of Business Phone Systems Direct. Specialists in the supply and installation of business phone systems and accessories

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