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Interactive Website Content - A Total Makeover (or Just Some Makeup) For Your Webpage

By Peter Ramsey

CONTENT, CONTENT, CONTENT - Website Real Estate Needs Unique, High-Quality Content

This article is for anyone who uses the web - I assume that includes you since you are reading this.

Webmasters, website builders, and website owners will learn why the type of content is becoming more important and how to find content that is more than just text.

Website users will learn what types of content are available. You can use this knowledge to evaluate sites and waste less time deciding if a site has what you need. You can also add or recommend some new interactive content tools to your personal, company, or favorite websites.

An Introduction to Content: What exactly IS content?

The short answer to that is - it's EVERYTHING you see on the web! Each web page IS content that is, itself, made up of different types of content. All content is not written and it's not created equal. Much content certainly is the written word, but content is taking on many forms on the web these days.

Web 2.0 sites like Squidoo, MySpace, Flickr, YouTube, Digg, and Bloglines (to name just a very few) allow users to create, submit and manage their own content. Look at these exciting sites and ask yourself, "What different kinds of content is on here?" You should quickly notice images, photos, video, music, and text to capture and hold your attention. A little deeper look and you'll probably find articles, ebooks, or RSS feeds.

Have you noticed more and more sites beginning to bring you interactive content? Users don't necessarily create their own interactive content, rather they use interactive tools on these websites to educate themselves, prequalify themselves, answer their obvious questions, or just have fun. Examples of these interactive tools are online games, online calculators, blogs, maps, journals, voting, and comment boxes. Interactive content is best when it's colorful, easy to use and engaging while still managing to be useful, helpful and informative.

Website visitors LOVE exciting and high quality content. That's pretty obvious from the success of some of the sites listed above. What makes high quality content? Users have to have a reason to really like it. That may be because the message it portrays is ease of use, better quality, more relevant, more complete, more fun, more unique - more SOMETHING.

The SEO Dilemma: What is going on with the search engines?

Every website is trying to provide information to people - for different reasons to be sure. Observant website owners know that people want quality information from their sites - not just optimized, keyword laden verbage - and they give it to them.

For many of us, the buzzword SEO (Search Engine Optimization) conjures up this frenzied image of millions of websites competing for page rank and keyword position, which ultimately leads to web traffic and income of some kind. There are books, articles, and companies dedicated to helping you make your site "search engine friendly". Everyone seems to have advice for how to succeed in this race. Too much focus, however, on high rankings and search position has created huge numbers of unfriendly sites, making it tedious and painfully time-consuming to find even 1 or 2 truly useful sites. Even the most targeted search usually turns up tens of thousands of results. Do these search engine companies really think that's what we want?

How many searches have you done where the top results are unmaintained sites as evidenced by many broken links, nonworking contact forms and such? Search results are often flooded with misleading descriptions that go nowhere but an ad page or directory listing. (I don't have anything against directories, just the misleading ads/descriptions that keep taking me there. If it's a directory TELL me it's a directory.) Or, worse still, the link takes me to a page full of unorganized links where it's all but impossible to find anything.

So, how have these dead or ineffective sites floated to the top of the search engine results? A good questions to be sure and I certainly don't know the answer. They have apparently figured out the SEO formula, but I hate to play that game because I know I'm providing my visitors with quality information. But what good is my high quality site if no one can find it? I believe these search engines want to display the highest quality and most relevant sites, but until they figure out how to evaluate them more effectively, we all have to compromise our standards to please them. A dilemma to be sure!

The Future of Content: What will your site need to stay competitive?

It's obvious the search engines like Google, Yahoo, and MSN are working to solve this dilemma, but there's still a ways to go. In the meantime, content will continue to evolve, with new types of content introduced every day. Some of the most popular sites on the web are adding interactive content to get and keep people's attention.

To remain competitive every site will likely be required to do something unique - offer something different, make it look better, make it better organized, make it more fun - something. If you're not creating or overhauling your site into a totally web 2.0 site, I believe interactive content is a great way to start. Interactive content is easy to add to your site and can give your visitors the tools they need to prequalify themselves, answer their obvious questions, understand what to expect when they use your service and more.

In the future, it will be even more important that your website be able to quickly establish you or your company as an authority in your field. Interactive tools let people experience your authority through site and touch, not just reading your PhD-sounding articles.

I believe interactive content is a great way to start. Interactive content is easy to add to your site and can give your visitors the tools they need to prequalify themselves, answer their obvious questions, understand what to expect when they use your service and more. An interactive agency can help develop more strategies to remain competitive.

In Conclusion

Hopefully, you are now more aware of the actual types of content you've been using and you'll continue to develop a sense of how these different types of content can be used for different purposes. We've discussed the dilemma the search engines have caused site builders. Hopefully in the near future, we can build sites that meet the needs of our visitors and know that if we provide a quality site the search engines will reward us.

For now, we all have to play the search engine game, but let's give our visitors a reason to stay and return by giving them good quality content. Provide this type of content and your visitors will return again and again, if only to use your useful, interactive tools. In the meantime, your brand and service is being seen over and over (and proudly shared). They'll be back when they're ready for your product or service.

Start Finding the Right Interactive Content

I invite you now to visit the links in this section and search for other interesting content. Then visit your favorite sites and make suggestions about the content you'd like to see. These sites are all providing content that you can use on your own site - some of it is free, others you'll pay a very low price for great quality content. Lots of places offer RSS feeds too. You may not find anything related to you in this list, but be assured there's high quality, interactive content out there for everyone who's looking. Start exploring and good luck! - Online Calculators & Assessments
This site offers interactive, online calculators and self help health and parenting assessments. Calculator groups include Mortgage, Loan, Auto, Debt, Health, Exercise, Fitness, and Nutrition. Assessment groups include Physical Health, Mental Health, Addictions & Behaviors, and 5 Parenting groups covering pre-schoolers through young adult children. You add them to your site by just copying the links they generate. An entire group costs less than $150 per year and they use your logo and name for advertising. Best of all they're fun, easy, colorful, and fully interactive! - Google Gadgets
People are creating new google gadgets every day. Some make great interactive tools for a business site while others are just for fun. Each one can be syndicated and put onto your website (although some may not function properly, depending on how they were created).

From the igoogle home page, click the "Add Stuff" link. Type in some keywords and click the "Search Homepage Content" button. (For example, type "BizCalcs" in the big box to find gadgets for some of the calculators and assessments found at WebCalcSolutions mentioned above. Click the name of any gadget listed there to get more information about that gadget. Click the "Embed this Gadget" link, then click the "Get the Code" button near the bottom. Highlight and copy the code in the box then paste it wherever you want in your own site. (They change stuff on there constantly so hopefully these instructions won't change too much.) - Coolest Gadgets On The Web
Your source for the Coolest Gadgets on the Web! LabPixies creates quality gadgets for the personalized environment. Add a cool gadget to your personalized homepage or website in one click! - Ezine Article Submission allows ezine or email list publishers to upload or download free expert content that can be used within email newsletters or websites. - An Index of Free Web Site Content
A comprehensive index of free content providers and self publishing resources for webmasters and ezine publishers including news feeds, financial content, and more.
Note: This site has some neat free stuff, but it seems to be down a lot. - Online Dictionary, Encyclopedia and Thesaurus.
Free access. Go to their "Free Content for Websites" page to see their content that you can add to your own site.

Peter Ramsey has worked in the computer industry for over 25 years. Throughout those years he has worked on practically all platforms - starting with mainframes, mini-computers, personal computers, and now internet. He has worked with many operating systems and has experience in a vast number of industries. He is currently the webmaster in charge of these two sites: - offers subscriptions to calculators for mortgage, auto, loan, debt, health, fitness, and nutrition websites, as well as assessments for medical, mental health, addictions and behaviors, and parents for children pre-school through young adult ages. Customized colors, logo, and business name for effective subtle advertising. - featuring the same calculators and assessments as a free service to the general internet surfers.