Many Web sites offer a resource library for visitors—an area filled with articles covering relevant topics to the industry with which the site is connected. The articles may cover how to do something, or they may define an aspect of the industry, but they do not usually directly sell the company's products or services.
Benefits of a Resource Library
While it's true that a resource library, on the surface, exists to benefit site visitors, it doesn't end there; it also provides benefits that can have a direct impact on any business.
First, they spread goodwill among a business's prospect base—and its non-prospect base. Visitors see the site as offering free information about important subject matter, and that makes it a more attractive site to return to in the future, when a purchase will be made or a service established.
Second, with a solid resource library, the site puts itself in a great position to organically attract important inbound links. Outside sites will notice the offerings of important and unbiased information and link to individual articles or to the resource library as a whole—boosting traffic and rankings overall.
Third, if the articles in the section are optimized properly, they will also boost rankings for popular and competitive keyphrases, driving additional targeted traffic to the site. The traffic may enter the site at the articles, but visitors are then likely to click for further information about the site itself.
A Common Objection
The most common objection a search engine optimization company hears when recommending that a site add a resource library is "I want to sell my product, not educate." However, that is shortsighted.
It is important to reach buyers at all stages of the sales cycle. For example, if someone is just starting to investigate a product or service, a site with an appropriate informational article will reach him or her at this critical early stage. The prospect will then likely remember the experience when he or she is ready to buy and will return to the site.
In addition, a site with a resource library can help a salesperson save valuable time. With quality articles freely available on the site, the salesperson will no longer need to take the time to explain the basics to a prospect—the site will have already taken care of that. Instead, the salesperson can focus on speaking to the people who are ready to make a purchase.
Examples of Successful Resource Libraries
Several sites serve as great examples of this approach. Let's look at three of them—Bed Bath & Beyond; Lowe's; and Step Two Designs (an Australian consulting firm).
Bed Bath & Beyond opens its resource library with a friendly "Need help shopping?" and follows it up by telling visitors that they can "browse through the sections below for helpful shopping hints on a variety of topics." There is no mention of specific sales at any point on this page.
Taking a deeper look, one will find that the targeted phrase "window treatments" brings up Bed Bath & Beyond's guide on the subject on the first page of Google. This phrase has the impressive monthly search estimate (using data from WordTracker) of 55,304. Note that this page, which is an unbiased article offering tips on choosing different types of window treatments—and not a retail sales page—is what achieves the rankings.
Home-improvement chain Lowe's actually has several resource libraries on its site, from buying guides to an extensive how-to library. Its buying guide page notes, "Work Smarter: We'll help you find the right equipment and tools you need for all of your projects." And the company's article on choosing floor tiles appears on the first page of Google for the targeted phrase "tile floor," which has a monthly search estimate of 2,046. Again, it's an informational page, and not a product page, that gets the great rankings.
Both of the above examples are great, but you don't need to be selling a product online—or even in the retail business at all—to use a resource library to your benefit. Step Two Designs is a consulting firm that offers a resource library of whitepapers on its site. Its "How to Evaluate a Content Management System" article, for example, establishes its usefulness right at the top, stating that "No vendors or products are mentioned in this article: this is not a survey of current commercial solutions. Instead, it provides tools to assist you to conduct a review of suitable products."
This article appears on the first page of Google for the targeted phrase "content management systems," which has a monthly search estimate of 2,356. While this may be a lower number than the Bed Bath & Beyond example, a consulting firm's average sale will likely be greater than that of a single purchase from a retail outlet, and so these visitors are potentially more valuable. Even in this type of business, a resource library will quickly prove its value.
Resource libraries clearly offer something of value for everyone involved. Prospects appreciate their existence, search engines reward sites that have them, and salespeople are relieved of the burden of explaining basic concepts to early prospects.
You can create your articles in-house or, if you're not sure where to start, hire a search engine optimization company to help you with everything from idea generation to writing. In either case, with just a little bit of effort, your site can realize the benefits of establishing this type of section.