Creating Sticky Websites

Interview with me by Chris Lee originally published on 1st July at www.nmk.co.uk

Quality engaging content is crucial to the success of any company’s online marketing strategy. But even quality content’s impact is limited if the website is not engineered to make purchasing decisions simple for visitors thereafter. New Media Knowledge spoke to one expert to learn how to create engaging corporate websites in the age of the Social Web.

There is a well-used saying in Internet marketing circles: “content is king”. Optimised content draws in search traffic; engaging content is shared on social networks and retweeted on Twitter, yet many companies are at a loss as to what kind of content to create and how to seed it. NMK caught up with Dominic Duffy, executive vice president of Platform and Marketing at interactive content marketing platform Ceros, to learn more about content marketing best practice.

What are the challenges site owners are facing right now in attracting visitors and – moreover – encouraging them to come back?

As more and more brands acknowledge the value of content, they’re faced with three key challenges. Firstly, they need to create content that will engage users and encourage them to recommend it to others. Secondly they need to provide that content in a way that will make users want to return regularly. And finally they need to do all that in an efficient and cost-effective way. That’s no mean feat, which is why you’ll often see dated content tarnishing otherwise excellent websites. Equally great content can get lost in a badly designed website.

Does it all come down to design? If so, what makes a website really effective?

Design is extremely important but its application is often confined simply to the ‘look and feel’ rather than creating a connection with the user. As well as design, site owners need to think about how they will engage users. The best way that they can do this is with well thought out content.

Think of a ‘traditional’ website. How do you know what content has changed since you last visited? How do you know what content is new? In fact, if it is the first time you’ve visited the site; do you even know how to navigate it? ‘Traditional’ websites actually stand alone in breaking the pattern for every other form of media: They have no distinct beginning, middle and end. As a consequence, there is an inherent difficulty in using them to convey a clear message; a clear story.

Brands must provide good, exclusive content that is regularly refreshed and conveyed in a format that needs no familiarisation and has an inherently clear beginning, middle and end. Following this formula will engage users at level way beyond that of a conventional website.

How much of a role does social media play in customer retention and does it vary by sector?

Social media is extremely important and whilst its relevance is perhaps greater in B2C (business-to-consumer) at the moment, it’s fast becoming applicable in B2B (business-to-business) as well. After all, social media is effectively earned media – and therefore aspirational to brands.

Twitter is a powerful tool for brands but it’s confined to providing recommendation and referral, whereas Facebook can be used to convey content. However, Facebook pages can present brands with the same challenges as websites in terms of attracting a high volume of visitors on a regular basis. Aside from the usual offers and promotions for which Facebook has become a default location for many companies, brands struggle to provide fans with sufficiently engaging, regular content that will retain attention outside of special promotions.

What’s a great example of what you would cite as an effective website and why?

I think women’s fashion retailer Net-a-porter is one of the best examples of an effective ecommerce website. The website is a very impressive and well-executed blend of magazine-like editorial content and online shopping. It’s much more of an experience than a simple shopping site.

One of the most powerful parts of the site’s design is that upon first visiting the website, the user is presented with messaging that clearly states the content has a lifespan: “In this week’s magazine..” This might seems like a minor detail, but highlighting fresh content in this way can encourage users to keep coming back and make it easier to navigate the site and discover new content.

Original Interview can be found here

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