A Fresh Destination

About a year ago, Alta Vista announced their "freshness guarantee". Their "freshness guarantee" states that their index will be updated every 28 days with the most relevant up to date web sites. When you perform a search on AltaVista, the results will now display the date the listed web pages were last updated.

How fresh is your Web Site?

Many new businesses to the Internet may think that they only need to post a web site and wait for the orders to roll in. If they are a well know national or international chain they may very well receive a fair number of visitors to their new web site. This however will be incidental to their business and not a generator of new customers. For a new unknown web business, simply posting a web site will probably have little or no success.

When deciding to open a new retail store, the motto you will often hear is "location, location, location". A good location for a retail outlet can often generate a significant amount of walk in traffic. If your products and services are good, these customers will then generate more business through word of mouth.

A new Internet web site only has one location. It is the equivalent of the basement of an unknown building in a back alley that nobody new existed. If a visitor does arrive there they are almost certainly lost and looking for a way back to the street.

A web site must be destination driven.

What does this mean? In simple terms it means that people must want to visit your site and not simply stumble upon it. The first time visitor requires a significant effort in advertising, promoting, strategic alliances and everything else that is common to making a business successful. You can actually assign these visitors a cost by dividing your advertising and promotion expenses by the number of new visitors you get.

Once you have 'paid' for your new visitor, you must find every reason you can to make them want to return. To do this your site must be 'fresh'. It must contain relevant up to date, constantly changing content. The visitor must want to return expecting to find something new.

What can you do to make your web site "fresh". Many of the specifics will vary depending upon the type of product or service you are offering.

One thing every Web Manager should do is to post updates for the web pages at least once a month. Use the opportunity to fine-tune your Meta Tags and contents with the intent of improving your search engine rankings. Use a good Visitor Analysis application to determine what is or is not working about your site. See our article at: issue8top2.htm for more info on Site Analysis.

Although frequent updates are a good method for maintaining the 'freshness' of your site with the search engines, they will not by themselves make your site a 'A Dynamic Frequent Destination'. To do that, your site must also be 'fresh' for your visitors. This means frequent updates to your web site's content.

Frequently changing your site's content can be problematic. For one thing, simply changing the look, feel and logic on your web site will not give anyone a reason to return. It could actually cause problems for your frequent visitors that have already learned your layout scheme. In addition, web design is a labor-intensive process. Frequent updates can be expensive and infringe on the time you need for your other daily business activities. High cost and lack of time are the primary reasons a web site will become stale.

There are other options. The effort required in setting these up may vary depending upon the purpose of your site. A little effort up front however, may produce some significant returns in the future. Better still, once set up they may require little or no additional effort to maintain.

For example, last week I discussed a hypothetical on-line wine store and the value of getting their visitors to return frequently. What could they do to encourage the visitors to return?

For one, they can offer frequent promotions on different selections of wine. Maybe they could offer a 'Pick of the Week' that they sell at cost. This is a pretty standard retail technique that will also work on a web site that sells this type of commodity.

Another possibility that will work for a wider range of products and services is to include constantly updated articles on topics of particular interest to your demographic. For our wine merchant, this may be a weekly article on wine tasting, on harvest news, discoveries of cases of wine from sunken treasure ships and so on.

Where do you get these articles? Writing them is no trivial task and simply taking them will infringe on copyright laws. Fortunately, Internet innovation provides the solution here too in the form of daily, weekly and monthly online periodicals and newsletters such as this one. You may find that the copyright owner will be more than happy to grant republishing permission either for a small fee or in many cases for free.

If you cannot find a publication to approach directly, you can look at a re-distributor or syndicator of published content. This newsletter for example is syndicated by iSyndicate. In addition to these articles they include hourly, daily, weekly and monthly news feeds from all the major publications on just about every topic imaginable. You are bound to find one that will fit with your content. See below.

Another form of dynamic content is to add a Bulletin Board to your site. This will not be appropriate for all sites and will require a significant amount of effort to set up. If you can establish yourself as a destination for your visitors to communicate with each other, then a Bulletin Board can be a great generator of traffic.

Finally, constantly updated link lists to relevant sites with comments and recommendations may be appropriate for some sites. These are the equivalent of highly targeted pre qualified search lists. They are quick to set up but will require a greater effort to maintain.

Over the next few weeks I will look at some of these options in more detail.

To find a syndicated article on almost any topic try iSyndicate.