Promoting Content

To at least some extent, every web site is a publication in that every site wants people to visit and read some of its content. It’s important to understand how people behave in relation to publications.

People want two major things from a publication:

  1. To be able to find content quickly. In a newspaper, it might be the day’s TV schedule. On a web site, it might be a telephone number for the organization the site represents.

  2. To be presented with an opinion, a view of what they should be reading each day.

If you visited the Microsoft home page on October 5, you would have seen the following lead article: “Microsoft Introduces .NET Enterprise Servers.” This is what Microsoft felt was the “story of the day.”

Promoting key content is the central function of a home page. There’s so much content out there and so little time. Readers who come to your web site expect you to give them some editorial guidance on what they should be reading.

There are other ways to promote content within your web site. These include:

  • Internal banner advertising

  • Email newsletter advertising
  • Email signatures
  • Breaking-news boxes
  • Search engine registration
  • Offline promotion

Flip a banner advertising system on its head, and you can turn it into a device for promoting important stories or sections within your web site. For example, let’s say you want to promote Java training programs on your company’s intranet. A banner ad can inform and remind your staff of these programs.

Any web site worth its salt should have at least one email newsletter. But remember to promote what’s important on your web site when you’re sending out your newsletter.

That signature at the bottom of your email can become an effective way to promote important content on your web site. If you have a staff of one thousand and each staff member sends 10 emails per day, that’s a lot of potential promotion. Remember to keep your email signatures short (approximately five lines or so).

In exceptional circumstances, you may want to inform as many people as quickly as possible of some essential breaking news. Sure, you’ll use phone, email, and fax. However, a facility on your web site whereby a box can appear with that essential information on every single web page can help spread the message.

With regard to search engine registration, it’s not about simply registering your URL. It’s about defining what you consider to be your best content by using keywords and regularly updating your search engine listings. If you move into a new area of content or change your content focus, make sure you update the search engines to reflect those changes.

By offline promotion, I don’t mean taking out ads in newspapers. Let’s look at the intranet example again. Many company intranets have huge quantities of content that staff members don’t know about. Creating simple posters and/or flyers informing staff members of new or interesting content and placing those posters and/or flyers in hallways, cafeterias, etc., can prove to be a useful way of promoting that content.

As information overload bites deeper and as people’s time becomes scarcer and their attention spans get shorter, the need to promote content effectively will become even more critical. It’s not enough to create content anymore — you’ve got to get out there and promote it.

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