Article - Building your Site: Does Your Website Need Content?
Five years ago when I first put my simple website online there were few choices. Techonology was putting us in cyberspace, gathering newbies by dialing up through AOL or local ISP servers and the internet offered simple html pages for the most part.
Flash wasn't used much since our browsers couldn't handle it. Our 386 machines chugged across the pages while we went to the kitchen, poured ourselves a cup of coffee while a new page loaded.
Back then, content was king. Albeit, slowly changing content. Websites created were simple company sites with local phone information, a rehash of today's headlines on the local News website, personal geocities pages contained photos and hobby pages with simple graphics created on Adobe Photoshop 3. Free Guestbooks for your website were offered with advertising banners attached.
Back in 1998, I put up a website with static content on my free AOL space. I updated the pages frequently at first, rarely a few months later. My site had a guestbook and some articles, a traffic tracker and little else. At the end of my first year, I was amazed and thrilled with 100 unique visitors visiting the site daily to read the articles. I was impressed.
Taking a look at the guestbook revealed that the visitors were attempting to communicate with each other. Asking questions about content. Asking if anybody was there. They answered and added to the guestbook until I realized I had to find a message board system for my visitors. Maybe my guests would like it and use it.
I found a simple threaded message board system that was simple to register and use. Within a few days it had crashed and I was booted off. I found another board to use (Inside the Web) and put it up. Within hours there were so many posts I couldn't answer them all. I called my online friends from an AOL message board to help.
Within a few months I had added several of these message boards to my website with separate categories to help organize the threads and within a few months we found the newly created EZ Board community and settled in.
Traffic was still finding my website because of the content on my site. I was well placed in search engines as Yahoo! had picked my site up freely and added me to the directory.
Traffic was staying because of the community discussions. It was a great combination that continues to be the mainstay of my website which has 36,000+ members today and a database of articles and resources for content housed on a dedicated server using Jelsoft's vBulletin forum software.
I've often wondered if it was the content subject of my site that caused its success or the manner in which the site developed and grew. If I had the message boards first, would it have grown and be what it is today? If my site was online a discussion community only, would it be listed as well with search engines?
I'm sure the answer lies in the combination of factors for each site.
I've seen sites grow wildly fast with a forum as its website. One of my favorites: Fans of Reality TV (http://www.fansofrealitytv.com/forums/index.php?) is a website that centers itself around the forum while providing links to the content of the television shows discussed. They have developed wonderful content within their forums by prolific authors who's creativity seem to know no bounds. Their traffic returns to read the "Recaps" or "Pre-Caps" and other articles written by their staff.
Niche websites which seem to grow and bring their traffic back seem to balance well between the discussion forums and added content and features, articles, photo galleries, reviews and such.
The question then should be, where can the website administrator find content that might help grow a website built on a message board alone?
First, consider writing content yourself. You've invested money, energy and passion into a subject you must know something about. Write about it!
Second, look in your forums for content. Find members who write well, are well-versed in the subject matter and ask them to write an article for you to use on your site.
Find websites with content and partner with them. You provide "latest posts" on their website from your forum while you get content from them. (Give them copyright credit of course).
Find articles already posted and email for permission to post on your site (with copyright credit attached and an link attached.) Most authors will approve and love to get added exposure for their website as well.
Consider growing your forums by adding content around your message boards content. It should help with search engine placement and might bring in added traffic which is looking specifically for content and might stay for discussions.
And even though the internet now offers flash, movies online, music on demand, DSL connections as we speed from page to page, I think fresh content is still king.
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