How to Get Your Visitors to Create Content for Your Website
An ongoing challenge for webmasters today is to provide fresh content that gives visitors a reason to return to their site. Unless you have a full-time staff dedicated to creating regular content, the time involved can be crippling.
Wouldn't it be great if someone else would write timely, relevant content for you? Sure, but what are the odds of that happening? Well, many webmasters are already enjoying this phenomenon, and I'm happy to count myself among them.
Set it up.
Whether your site has a catalog of products or a collection of articles, you can design your pages to allow visitors to post reviews of whatever is featured on the page. They can share their experiences with items they've bought or post comments on the information in your site. Don't confuse this powerful tool with a discussion forum. You create the topic of each page, and encourage visitors to post updates with the latest information in this area.
The more information you provide on your site, the better service you are providing to your visitors; but they aren't the only ones who benefit from including reviews. It's also a boon to you as a webmaster. Even if you never wrote another line of new copy, your pages will continue to grow with relevant content. Granted you still have to spend a little time reading the reviews and moderating what appears on your site, but the time required is much less than you would spend writing original content.
Why someone else will create content for you:
While the advantages to the webmaster and reader may be obvious, you are probably wondering what incentives exist for the reviewer. A few lucky souls have enough free time to share their opinions online for the mere satisfaction of seeing their own words, but most will need something more tangible before they invest the time to write a useful review. The onus is on you, the webmaster, to create an appropriate incentive. The importance of link popularity in search engine rankings provides a powerful clue. At AffiliateScreen.com, I allow my visitors to post reviews of their experiences with online affiliate programs. At the bottom of their review, they have the option of including a link to another page that supports what they've written (or they can simply include their affiliate link for the program). AffiliateScreen.com gives them the additional credibility of their expertise appearing on a third-party site.
Look at this from the reviewer's perspective. Here's a unique opportunity to gain an external link pointing to the reviewer's website, but this is far more valuable than a random reciprocal link. Search engines are determining link popularity by examining both the quantity and relevance of links. The page with their link is loaded with keywords related to the product or service, and the reviewer can include additional relevant keywords in their post. The reviewer actually has a hand in creating the page that will link to their site. This is extremely powerful! Can you begin to see how anyone looking to increase traffic to their site would jump at the opportunity to create content for your website?
Now you may have some concerns that allowing anyone to add content and links to your site is inviting your competitors to steal your traffic. If your site has detailed reviews of products on your site, anyone who leaves your site to visit a competitor won't spend much time there before realizing that your site has useful, original content that they can't find anywhere else. If that doesn't put your mind at ease, though, there's nothing to stop you from including a disclaimer when someone submits a review. Explain in this disclaimer that direct references to your competitors will be removed to keep the reviews informative and to avoid marketing hype. You are the webmaster, after all.
You can draw even more traffic by allowing visitors to rate the usefulness of each review. Many reviewers will encourage people to visit your site so they can read and rate the review. More important than just being a gimmick to increase traffic, rating reviews allows you to sort them by quality and expose your average visitors to the best possible content first.
Once you've got the code in place, it's important to publicize this new feature of your website. If you have experience or know someone with experience writing press releases, you may be able to garner attention from news and niche media. Another highly effective form of publicity is to mention the new feature above the fold on the main page of your site.
If you have a newsletter, promote the review process in your next issue. In fact, as you begin to accumulate reviews, they can serve as great additional content for your newsletter. Simply include the best reviews in each issue. As with the reviews on your website, you are providing valuable content for your audience, giving your reviewer great exposure, and saving time for yourself. It's a win-win-win situation.
Copyright (c) 2003-2004 Clay Mabbitt.
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