I thought it might be a good idea to go over some of the ways to add value to your site. In particullar for those of you who are new to web design, but im sure some of the seasoned pro's can pick up a thing or two as well as the thread progresses! :)
1. Content is King
It's been said many a time, that content is the key to a successful site.
It holds benefits for your users and the search engines! Everybody is a happy bunny! ;) But its not that easy to "just create content", so here are some tips:
>An articles section is a good feature to have. You can easily organise your content on different areas as well as giving the SEīs lots of juicy text to crawl!
It also adds value to your site - by writing articles on niche areas, you (or at least your site) are viewed as being an expert on the subject area.
Also, having lots of nice original content means that people are more likely to link to you.
>Contributed content gives your users a variety of opinion and adds value to your site by covering an area that you cannot.
Contributed content can come from article submissions, product reviews, forum postings, message boards, etc. It also has the added bonus of users feeling that they have played a part in the development of the site and they are more likely to return.
>Links pages are particullarly useful if your site is information based, as they act as a resource for users (who will return to your site and use it as a reference base).
For business sites, links pages can be used to give the user more information about what you are selling (dont send them to competitors sites though!)
2. Keep it fresh!
We all know that google like to crawl new pages and a regularly updated site will have its changes reflected in the SERPīs sooner - so keep on adding!
Also users like new stuff - theres no point in building and optimising a site if visitors will arrive and see all there is to see in one visit. If they come back and nothing has been added - they wont come back again!
3. Content Feeds
Content feeds (news headlines, articles, virus definitions, etc, etc) are a good supplement for your site.
Do not rely on these to form the bulk of your site as the SEīs wont like it and the chances are that your users will just go to the source of the information and stay there.
4. User Interaction
Forums, message boards, tag boards, competitions, surveys, games, etc etc.
Anything that your user can interact with. Most of these things can be found free on the internet somewhere and are pretty easy to integrate into your site.
Forums are particullarly good for reasons you all know (ref: webmasterworld addictions ;))
A user will percieve a site to be of greater value than others if he or she can navigate it easily. They are more likely to find what they want quicker, so they are also more likely to come back again.
A unique brand will (in the long term) add value to your site.
It will mean that your users can find your site easier (by remembering the URL, bookmarking it or searching for your brand name).
There are several differect views on website name branding, which i think is for another post.
Personally I think www.brand-keyword.com is a good combination as it is unique enough for users to remember and also informs them straight away of your service or product type.
Basic web design - have some method of contact on your site.
If you openly encourage feedback and actually act on it, then users will be more inclined to return. Its good customer service to listen to what your customers are telling you and an invaluable form of research.
If your users feel that their suggestions or comments are taken on board, then they are more likely to return (how many business sites actually listen to what their customers say?).
One point though - have in place detailed guidlines for contacting you and update your FAQ section (you have one dont you?) so you arent inundated in emails! ;)
Well thats me for the time being - i have a feeling ive probably missed a lot of important stuff, but if going to apply what Ive just written to my own sites, then im going to have to do some actual work now! :)