Well-produced, valuable content on a website has a gravity that can suck users in with great force. When people find something on the Web that’s exciting, they love to be the first to introduce others to it. Perhaps it’s ego, or maybe it’s altruism. Combine this fact of human nature with the inherent connectivity of the Web, and you have a recipe to unite a large number of people around your website.
The Story of Tom
Let’s examine a scenario of an eCommerce site that provides users with content that’s exceptionally valuable.
A user named Tom wants to buy a home theater system, but he’s unsure what equipment he’ll need and how to set it up properly. Naturally, he turns to the Web to find answers to his questions. Using one of the major search engines, he types in the key phrase "home theater system advice" and runs across a site that matches his search criteria. The site is for a small retail chain that sells high-quality home theater paraphernalia. Beyond the typical online store, this website has expert- and user-authored reviews about equipment, as well as articles discussing the requirements and setup of a top-notch system. The site also provides links to other useful sites that cover home theater culture. The welcoming voice of the content makes Tom feel like this otherwise very complex task is achievable even for a novice. Links within the articles and reviews make it easy for Tom to connect his new knowledge to the various products that the site sells.
Because Tom is able to learn all he needs to know from a site that also sells the products he needs, he makes all of his purchases for his home theater on this site. Once his order arrives at his home, Tom returns to the website to get guidance on the setup process.
Because Tom’s experience was so positive, he recommends the site to his friends and family. He returns to the website again to write his own reviews of the products he’s purchased. Finally, Tom posts on his personal blog about the new home theater he’s so excited about, and mentions the wonderful information he found on the original site, providing a link.
All three of the goals of "findability"—help people find your site, help people find what they’re looking for within your site, encourage repeat traffic—were realized in this scenario because of the presence of quality content on the site.
Let’s examine more closely how the content served the goals of findability:
- Keywords and phrases in the articles and reviews created a search engine referral.
- The user was able to find the products he needed for his home theater through the links in the articles and reviews.
- The user returned to the site multiple times to reread useful content and created more valuable content for the site in the form of user-generated product reviews.
- The user was so satisfied that he helped others find the site and created a link on his blog.
Not only was findability improved for Tom’s experience by including relevant, well-produced content on the site—it actually caused Tom to improve the findability of the site for future users. The great content turned Tom into an evangelist for the site. He told his friends and family, and created a link to the site from his blog. Tom actually generated more traffic himself! His inbound link to the site will also help to boost search engine rankings, because inbound links are an indicator of the trustworthiness of a site.
The product reviews that Tom wrote also increased the amount of useful content on the site that could turn other visitors into customers. Keywords within his reviews could help to foster more search traffic referrals.
The moral of Tom’s story is this: When you create quality content that serves the needs of your audience, you will be rewarded. Your reward might be increased sales, better brand awareness, more user involvement, or simply more traffic on your site that could make any business or communication goal a reality. This story speaks to the beauty of the Web. If you solve a problem for people, provide something that’s useful, create something entertaining, or produce something unique, your good deeds come back to you.