Whether you use your website as an online storefront or as your own personal soapbox, your goal is the same: Create a rewarding experience for your audience. In many cases, the best way to achieve this is to add value by encouraging your readers and customers to interact with your brand, products and services through your website. Here are some of the most popular, effective means of engaging Internet users.
You may think of search engines as the vehicle that delivers would-be customers to your door, but Google, Bing and Yahoo! are just as useful to users as they explore your site. If you provide tons of information in multiple categories and pages, you should provide the option to search for keywords within the site. Google offers a small search window that can be placed on each page of your site; simply copy the HTML code and insert it into the body of your website.
Sometimes it takes a taste of the goods to win skeptics’ admiration. This creates an excellent opportunity to establish yourself as an expert and add further value to the online experience. For example, you might write a brief how-to guide or informational resource, then allow your visitors to download it free of charge. If your website sells children’s furniture, for example, you might provide an eBook about child safety in the home or a guide to making a small kid’s room seem more spacious.
Creating a message board or online discussion board accessible through your site is one of the most effective ways to carry on a dialogue with your customers and monitor their impressions of your brand. However, be advised that this tool is appropriate only if you have the resources to moderate all public exchanges. Someone must be available to respond to all customer inquiries — good and bad — in a timely, professional manner. It may also be necessary to delete posts that are explicit, untrue or offensive.
When you have a great product or service, you need a little extra space to tell others about. A blog is perfect for this purpose. For example, you might want to elaborate on the simplicity and ease of use customers can expect with your latest gadget. Dedicate a blog post to the product, including things like customer testimonials, a step-by-step demonstration on video or customer-submitted images of the product in action. You can also use a blog to create a more personal connection with your customers. Offer insights into your company’s values, history and vision, or show people how your design process delivers incredible products to the marketplace.
When it comes to websites, pretty is as pretty does. The most beautiful website in the world will surely fail if it fails to provide anything of value to online visitors. Including interactive features is the best way to ensure that your existing and potential customers know where to find answers, make their voice heard and create a strong, lifelong relationship with your brand and its people, products and services. The best online experiences are equal parts Give and Take!