By Lexie Lu

You can spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars expertly channeling website traffic, but it will all be for naught if your visitors have no cause to stay. The entire reason you go after traffic is to subsequently increase conversion rates, sales and revenue. But guess what? If no one is sticking around, then none of those things are going to benefit, no matter how much traffic you reel in.

It all boils down to one crucial element: content. You absolutely must deliver engaging and compelling content. Otherwise, no one is going to hang about, and no one is going to come back after they’ve left either.

Want some proof?

A remarkable 90 percent of customers are fond of custom content from brands, indicating they prefer to engage with businesses this way. A further 89% believe custom content is a way for brands to differentiate themselves from the competition.

You’ll also want to know that content marketing leaders bring in about 7.8 times more site traffic than non-leaders.

What type of content is most effective, though? Luckily, HubSpot Research did the work for us already. According to a recent report they published, the top content types include that of social media, news-style articles — not the same as blogs — videos and online classes or educational games. Those content types are followed up by research, blogs, long-form content, podcasts and a few others. Audiences tend to chase after a specific form of content or experience, and HubSpot’s report showcases that gloriously.

What Content Do Visitors Actually Want to See?

You’re probably already brainstorming ways you can leverage or take advantage of this information, which is commendable. But allow us to help. We’re going to outline the most prevalent forms of content, which can and will carry weight with your audience.

Let’s get started.

1. Visuals

This one is priority numero uno, or the big Kahuna, if you will. Rather than bog down your audience and new visitors with a wall of text — though keep in mind, web copy is still necessary — let your beautiful imagery do the talking.

Videos are the most common form of visual content used today, but they are not the only one. You can also publish animated GIFs and cinemagraphs, images, icons or animated elements, hand-drawn artwork, infographics, memes, presentations, screenshots and even live broadcasts. Essentially, anything that invokes visual stimulation is the way to go.

A study of over 30,000 Facebook pages revealed that 87% of user interactions happen on posts that contain photos or images. On Twitter, posts that include photos and images get retweeted 150% more than those without. And that’s just photos.

Up to 85% of customers are more likely to follow through with a product purchase after viewing a related video on it.

Visuals are the “killer app” of the content marketing world, so make sure you incorporate them wherever and whenever possible.

2. Keep It Original and Authentic

Whether you’re creating something text-, video- or image-based, the core focus should always be the same. Come up with something authentic and genuine, but most importantly, unique to your brand. Don’t just copy and paste what everyone else around you is doing — and certainly not your rivals.

This may seem difficult because you probably think you’ve seen it all — and maybe your consumers do too — but that’s not true. There is an infinite number of possibilities for the ways you can create, deliver and push content to your audience.

Check out Rafael Derolez’s professional portfolio and web resume. It’s eccentric, modern and appealing, and most importantly, informative. You can’t help but admire his use of fonts, subtle animations and parallax scrolling.

3. Guides, Tutorials or Advice

The best type of content is the kind that gives back to your audience. When they reach the end or slide into the conclusion, they are rewarded somehow. That doesn’t mean you have to show up at their door with a giant check and hand them free money. It just means giving them something in return for their time, which could just as easily be advice or guidance as a tangible good.

That explains why guides and tutorials are some of the most engaging set pieces you can have published or visible on your site. Own a small restaurant and want to share with your customers? Why not publish a quick and easy recipe for a great meal? Sell hardware products and tools? Publish a tutorial or guide on doing a DIY project or simply how to use the goods you offer. Animated or detailed “explainer” videos can increase conversion rates by as much as 20%.

Take this Cliffside Industries guide, for example. Cliffside offers cabinetry components such as cupboard latches, hinges and even knobs. But they have published a guide that explains how you can find the ideal finish for your cabinets. It’s seemingly unrelated, yet it speaks volumes to their audience, and it certainly gives something back. Be more like Cliffside — you won’t regret it.

4. Who Are You?

You have to realize that even the biggest brands in the world have new people discovering their business on a regular basis. Guess what? You’re no exception to that rule.

You need to do something special for the folks who just landed on your page for the first time. You need to explain who you are and what you stand for. Just showcasing your products, testimonials and marketing copy is not good enough. They want to know when your company was established, who was involved, why you even created it and what you’re looking to achieve. No, standard practice is not to include all this information — in full detail anyway — on your landing page(s). It usually gets tucked away on an “about us” or “bio” page of some kind.

If you have a website, which you definitely do, then you must have some form of this content already. The point we’re trying to make is simply that it’s effective, so make sure you have it.

Another important thing to understand is that just because the page is technically about you and your brand, that doesn’t mean you should be talking about yourself the entire time. Nearly every page on your site is a celebration of your audience and customers, working to contribute to the overall experience they will have with your brand. Start by talking about them, and don’t forget about them along the way.

5. Omni-Platform

You and your audience don’t exist in a vacuum. Your website and official portals are not the only platforms where you will be sharing a relationship and levels of engagement. You’ll also want to consider any social media, mobile app, email and even real-world channels.

Bridge the gap between all of your channels by offering omni-channel, cross-platform content that spans multiple devices and mediums. Retailers do this best by allowing customers to order products online and pick them up in-store and in-person. It still affects your website content and the digital experience you offer, which is why it’s being discussed here. Find a way to incorporate and sync up all your channels and platforms through the content you deliver.

Thanks to big data and modern analytics, Neiman Marcus — and similar brands — is doing some amazing things with their omni-channel strategy. The webstore will remember apparel sizes a customer views, and will then use this information on a return visit to make further suggestions or even make local brick-and-mortar suggestions.

Without Compelling Content, You Got Nothin’

Content is the key to capturing and preserving the attention of your audience — new and old. Don’t mess things up by delivering sub-par content or web copy. Invest the necessary time and resources to really nail down the right mechanics. If you don’t have the knowledge or skills to do it yourself, then outsource the work — there’s nothing wrong with that.

Ultimately, content should be your core focus and number-one concern when it comes to building engagement on your website.

Lexie Lu is a freelance graphic designer and blogger. She keeps up with the latest design news and always has some coffee in close proximity. She writes on Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.