This week, I got really, really frustrated with a web designer. Not by the work she does, but by her website: the website for HER business.
Her website is beautiful and she has lots of really great, informative articles. The content of her site wasn’t the problem.
No, the problem was that she forgot the purpose behind the content.
See, what happened was that I had found a great article on her site by following some links from another article. You know how that goes online…. Read something here that links to something else, which links to something else… and pretty soon, you are very far from where you started.
This part is good: interlinking articles keeps visitors on your site longer.
But a few days later, I wanted to go back to that article that I had found…. The one that took me 10 minutes of following links to land on. And I couldn’t.
I knew the article existed. I even knew the subject and the title. But that wasn’t enough to locate it on her website.
The purpose of writing and publishing great content is to make others see you as an authority.
The purpose of writing and publishing great, informative content is to build your credibility, to make others see you as an authority.
This part the web designer got. But she forgot the most important piece: People have to be able to find your content!
I couldn’t find that article again. As a result, I didn’t reference it in the article I was writing. So, instead, I referenced someone else’s article that wasn’t as well written, but was easier to find.
One of the most important components of being an authority is that it is easy for people to reference you — to return to your content later, either for their own purposes or to reference you to someone else.
Without an organizational system behind your content, your content becomes just a bunch of worthless noise. It is the organization that makes your content valuable. (Imagine trying to find a book in a library without the card catalog or Dewey Decimal system, but just by picking up books randomly until you found what you were looking for. How long would you keep trying?)
There are three main ways to organize your web content for your visitor. Which way you choose depends to some extent on your preferences and to some extent on the preferences of your web visitors.
1. Category List
The simplest organization system is your category (or subject matter) list. This can be a simple list, or if you have lots of categories and little space, you can use a drop down menu. WordPress comes with a Category Widget already installed; all you have to do it place it in your sidebar, add a title, and Save it.
If you’d like more control over how your categories are displayed, consider the AVH Extended Categories Widgets Plugin. It’s what I use to create the dropbox menu of Article Categories in my sidebar.
The benefit to your site visitor is that they can easily navigate to other subjects of interest, without relying on complicated linking structures.
2. Index Page
An Index Page is like a Table of Contents in a book – it lists all of the content on your website (by subject or title) in one place. Use a plugin to create your Index for you and all you have to do is set it up; it will automatically update it as you add new content. The one I use is called WP Sitemap Page (See a sample).
In the world before computers and the Internet, a Table of Contents was the closest thing we had to being able to search a long document for the content we wanted. So, if your market is comprised of older folks – those who remember BI (Before the Internet) – creating an Index Page will likely help your visitors find what they are looking for.
3. Site Search
Site Search brings the power of Internet Search to your personal website. Many WordPress Themes include a Search Box. If yours doesn’t, you can add it to your sidebar with a standard Search Box Widget included in WordPress; place it in your sidebar, hit SAVE, and you are done.
If you want to ratchet up your website search, install Relevanssi. Your standard WordPress search will be replaced with relevance-sorted results, instead of results based only on date. Relevanssi has a lot of other great features as well, but my favorite is that it stores a list of user searches. This information is easy market research – just look at it once in a while and make sure that you are providing the content people are really looking for. (Use the search box on this page to try it for yourself.)
On the Internet, people expect to be able to use a search function to find what they are looking for. Make it easy for them to search Your Site by having your own search box.
It isn’t enough to just create great content: you also have to organize it and make it easy to find. Make sure you have at least one of these tools on your website so that your visitors can find what they are looking for. Ideally, have all three. It would take an investment of less than an hour to install all three – even if you don’t know WordPress well – and will pay off in happier visitors who are more likely to refer to you when looking for information on your topic of expertise. After all, that is what it means to be an authority.