Do You Have Remarkable Featured Content?

Click costs keep rising as more advertisers enter search marketing and streamline their sales process. At the same time the value of traditional ads (not tied to search) keep dropping as more and more web users are becoming aware of advertising. One of the easiest ways to increase user satisfaction, visitor value, and make more money from your site is by featuring your best content.

Featured News

Whenever a big news story in the search space happens Danny Sullivan covers it in depth. When Microsoft offered to buy Yahoo! Danny responded by covering the news, the conference call, and even doing a follow up interview with Microsoft. With Danny owning the search news field him publishing the latest news regularly (and in depth when important events happen) that is featured content.

It is hard to become well known in a market that is already saturated with people like Danny. How do you compete in a marketplace where guys like Danny have more knowledge, experience, social connections, and mindshare? You probably can't enter the market late and just decide that you want to own the search news topic. Instead you must compete by targeting one idea at a time, and do it more comprehensively and better than anyone else in the field by creating featured content. Evoke emotional responses that associate you and your company with ideas.

Featured Content

Most successful publishing businesses offer content of various levels of depth and quality. If you are new to your field and every page on your site is just like the next, and you are cranking out many pages a day, you probably are not creating featured content.

It is hard to take marketshare or mindshare from other people in your market unless you have something worth talking about, and something people associate you with. You need to own an idea. Everyone who is well known is remembered for something.

  • Seth Godin highlights his wide array of top selling marketing books in his sidebar.
  • Hugh MacLeod frequently posts cartoons to his blog, offers his How to Be Creative Series, and gave us the Hughtrain Manifesto.
  • This site offers SEO for Firefox, The Blogger's Guide to SEO, the SEO Book Keyword Tool, 101 Link Building Tips, a glossary, many other tools, and a comparison of search engine relevancy algorithms.

Selling ads to Yourself

In a rush to monetize many businesses plaster ads all over their site, only to get marginal returns, and have many people assume they are a fly by night operation not in it for the long run. If your site is new, one of the biggest things you can do to gain momentum is to avoid aggressive ad placements on your site and find ways to advertise yourself and your best content until you build market momentum and a great business model.

I tested placing an affiliate ad on my blog's sidebar recently, and made about 1 conversion a day for the featured offer. That might sound like a quick and easy passive revenue stream, but I get a lot of traffic to this site. What would happen if I featured some of my own best content in the same position?

I recently put that question to the test by pushing my keyword tool on the sidebar of my site. Many more people are using the keyword tool, and my affiliate link to Wordtracker on the keyword tool page is converting about twice as often, offsetting any loss I had from removing the other sidebar ad.

Rather than running a broadly matching ad I am advertising some of my own featured content and introducing many more people to my keyword tool. That usage will lead to greater user trust, more links, higher rankings, and more affiliate commissions. If I had to try to buy the links I am getting naturally how much would that cost? If I had to buy traffic to my keyword tool how much would that cost? Much more than it is costing me to advertise my own featured content.

Make sure you highlight featured content in your sidebar to drive link equity and mindshare toward it. Your featured content is what builds trust and keeps people coming back.

Blog Homepage vs Static Home Page

For years I featured my blog on my site's homepage. But that design probably scared off thousands of visitors new to the field of SEO who thought I was writing over their heads. Late last year I changed my homepage to a page which featured my best content and guided users through my site. Before I made that change, if I stopped blogging I saw sales drop. And when I started blogging sales would pick back up.

When I arrived in the Philippines for my wedding I went a week without blogging and did not notice a drop off in sales. Your brand lovers are willing to navigate to wherever your frequently updated content is. Your homepage should be optimized to capture the hearts and minds of people new to your field.

Published: February 13, 2008 by Aaron Wall in publishing & media


February 13, 2008 - 3:32am

"me too" posts kind of annoy me, but let me make one here - I totally agree regarding featured content and the home page.

I develop websites, and I've seen a few of my customers go down the affiliate route. Their sites are full of iFrames and javascript, all deep-linking to affiliate products. To be honest, their sites look so spammy and low quality, I'm surprised they make much money. For sure though, their rankings drop, and they do not attract much repeat visitors.

You have to have unique, interesting content/services/products to succeed, and succeed in style. This is too high a hurdle for many, who are attracted by the temptation of quick money for no work - advertising / affiliate linking. They pretty much are killing their online businesses in the process.

Getting repeat visitors is a big key to success online. You can do that with interesting content that's updated regularly (like here!), or with some web tools that can be used daily (a hard one for the average Joe, but you would not believe how many web developers miss this trick).

The home page - there's just one principle here - Keep It Simple. First time visitors are likely to either land here from the search engine, or it will be their 2nd page they visit after landing on another page for the first time (to find out what you're about). I keep this fairly static, with a sidebar alerting regular visitors of the latest news.

Anyway, great post Aaron.

February 13, 2008 - 8:03am

Another great post, Aaron. I've thought a lot myself about the homepage. Currently my most successful site has a blog format on home featuring most articles, newsletter and beginner guides at the top. But you make me think again, I would probably try putting a more clear homepage and move the latest blog posts to another.

However I think when one has a young blog without much good content yet, it would be better to keep it blog-like until he builds content.

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