Somewhere between ever more sophisticated graphic design and more complicated CSS, many designers are starting to forget one of the ground rules of the web. This rule is arguably the most important rule to follow at all times; one that you should always keep in mind when you're designing your site.

So what is it? It's simple. Your visitors are at your website to get information. Content is King.

The Search-Driven Web.

Studies show that well over 90% of users now have a search engine as their homepage, and use it for around half of everything they do on the web. Unless you're advertising your site heavily, most of your users are likely to arrive through a search engine.
However, they're relatively unlikely to be searching for a description of your products. What are they looking for? Information. There's a reason why the web was once referred to as the ‘information superhighway' while some people might be actively looking to buy things, most of them are just looking for information.

Relevant Articles.

So, if you're selling products, you need to provide articles that your potential customers are likely to want to read. The bigger the audience you can build for your articles, the more conversions you're going to have to sales. It can't be emphasised enough just how important your content is: if it's badly-written, or not useful, your visitors are likely to just go back to their search results page and try another link. If you give them good information, though, you instantly create the kind of loyalty that no number of advertising dollars can buy.

What many practitioners of techniques like ‘search engine optimisation' don't realise is this: you can't fake good content. However many keywords you might stick into it, you'll fool search engines, but not the visitors they bring in all you're doing is costing yourself money in bandwidth and wasting people's time.

No Time to Write?

The most common objection I hear when I tell people they should write great content is that they have no time to write the amounts that would be needed and, yes, writing can be very time-consuming. What you have to realise, though, is that there are plenty of ways around this, such as hiring a freelance writer to do some of the work for you, or using speech recognition software.

You might also consider buying in content from people who resell it, or even getting your users to write the content there's nothing better than getting visitors to write their own content and then getting more visitors from search engines where people have found it. There are even sites offering content for free in exchange for a link back to them at the bottom of the article, although you should be cautious about reviewing the quality of content offered this way.

Keep it Updated.

Here's something that many people don't realise: it's better to write a little occasionally than to write a lot all at once. This means that, even if you have written hundreds of articles, you should release them one by one on a regular timescale. Both visitors and search engines prefer sites that are updated often to ones that have a big pile of content dumped on them once and then aren't touched for years.

Content Makes Money.

Nowadays, it's once again possible to make money from good content without even having anything to sell. Plenty of businesses were based on advertising back in the dot-com boom, but ad prices eventually dipped too low for this to be sustainable. Ad prices have now recovered, however, thanks to text advertising.

You can sign up with most of the big search engines now for context-sensitive ads for your site that are chosen automatically Google AdSense runs the most popular service. This kind of advertising eliminates human ‘ad editors' altogether, while producing ads that are targeted enough to give far better returns than they ever used to. Purely content-driven websites with ads are once again a viable revenue stream, and content is as much King as it's ever been.

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