This guest blog post was written by John Murray, head of the content team at Engage Web.
One of the biggest difficulties in creating content for your website is that, quite simply, you may find that you run out of ideas.
The obvious approach might be to simply talk about yourself and your products or services, but there’s a danger that doing this might make you come across as narcissistic, repetitive, and not an interesting place to head to for readable, shareable content. Thinking about it, would you keep coming back to a website if all it offered was one piece of self-promotion after another?
For your franchise’s site to perform well in search engine rankings, it’s of paramount importance that you’re constantly refreshing it with content, but Google and Co. are no mugs these days. There was a time when quality of content was not of great importance and search engines were just happy to see new material being added.
However, algorithm changes over recent years mean Google has wised up to old-fashioned search engine optimization tactics like ‘keyword stuffing’ (repeatedly using popular search terms in unnatural fashion) and even inserting tiny, barely readable text on pages that search engines can pick up but human readers are unlikely to notice. These sneaky and lazy approaches once worked but, thankfully, they’re becoming more or less useless and therefore extinct.
So, what can you do to not just keep the search engines happy, but engage with human visitors to your site too? Here are four ideas for content that’s a cut above the rest:
Anyone who uses Facebook will have seen the often shared articles that float about and consist of ’10 things that do this’, or ‘5 reasons why that happens.’ These are hugely popular as they make for light reading and a great way to break information down into manageable chunks. They also spark discussions like “I can’t believe you didn’t mention this one!”
You’ll know your sector well enough to know what makes people tick within it, so have a think about what kind of list articles could generate a buzz and get shared on social media. For franchises especially, consider your location and what people are talking about, as nothing resonates more with locals than the sights and sounds they experience every day in their hometown.
All in all, lists are a great idea – so much so that you’ve probably noticed that I’m writing one now!
Google has recognized in recent years that a lot of its users search in questions. Start typing ‘why’ into Google, and its suggested searches include ‘why is the sky blue’ and ‘why do we yawn.’ What’s more, Google is more and more often trying to answer your question by plucking the information from a relevant website, saving you the trouble of even visiting a site to find out what you’re looking for. It’s almost a reversion to some of the Internet’s earliest search facilities like Ask Jeeves.
For a basic example, try Googling “what time is it.” You’ll find that, while the results brought up will give you many sites you can head to and find out the time, the search engine will actually find your local time for you and display it at the top of your results. Similarly, if you Google something like ‘2+2,’ Google Calculator will work out that you’re trying to do a sum and will provide the answer for you.
How can this help your business? Have a think about what questions you get asked on a day-to-day basis. It might be something quirky about something you sell, or perhaps you’re regularly asked how one of your food products is made. If people are asking it, they’re probably Googling it too, so why not write an article about it? It may come to be that every time a user searches for that question, Google will recognize that your site has the perfect answer and will direct them to you.
You might think that it seems a bit dry to simply add news articles to a blog section on your site, but people love being up to date on what’s going on. For a franchise, your location is your identity, so reporting on what’s happening in your area will really show that you have your finger on the pulse and are immersed in your local community.
Best of all, news never runs out, so there will always be fresh material for you. It’s worth doing a bit of reading up on how to write news pieces in a neutral way, and be sure to familiarize yourself with libel laws, but once you’ve got the hang of it you’ll probably find that news is a relatively quick and easy way to refresh your site.
If you fancy yourself as a bit of a graphics whiz, an infographic is a fantastic way to project information in a stylish, modern way. The key is to find the balance between eye-catching graphics and interesting facts, as one is no use without the other.
Also, try not to be too niche, as you want something shareable among a wide audience. For example, if you’re a company that sells paint, it may be a little boring to create an infographic about how we use paint, or how much of it we go through in a day. Alternatively, perhaps create something about a popular medium that integrates paint, like DIY or art, as this will probably have a wider reach.
As you can see, there’s a lot more franchises can do to keep their site rich in content than simply drone on about what they sell, so why not make an increased effort to bring your online content out of the box in 2016?
John Murray is the Content Team Leader at Engage Web, a UK online marketing agency specializing in the franchise industry. John heads up a team of journalist trained editors and a global network of writers based across the U.S., Canada, Australia and the UK.