Writing effective web content
You’ve got a beautiful, shiny, new website just waiting to go live. How are you going to get the best return on your investment? It’s all in the content. Here are my 10 top tips.
Think about how you use the internet.
You usually want to either solve a problem, find information, read news, buy a specific item, or decide between two competing suppliers. What does your reader want from your business?
Does he already know about you or do you need to grab his attention? Best to assume the latter. On average you have 7 seconds to hook him before he exits your site. So keep your copy punchy and to the point.
People read differently on the internet
They scan, so you need plenty of sub-headings to give them the gist as they go. They’re looking for key words, so you need to get them in, preferably a couple of times per page, without cramming the text. If you put important words in bold it helps them stand out as your reader scans.
You can find out what terms people are using to find your service or product by Googling “keyword tools”; there are plenty to choose from. Many of them will also suggest other words or phrases that have been searched for, so you can mix and match the keywords in your text.
Don’t put too many keywords in, though – people are looking for answers, not a muddle of keywords, and the search engines don’t like keyword-stuffed text either.
Write as though you’re talking to your reader
The web’s not the place for business-speak or gobbledygook unless you’re writing technical stuff for technical readers. And write to one person: only one person is reading your limpid prose at any one time (or so she likes to think), so talk to her directly rather than saying things like “those of you who’ve been to our premises”.
Clarity is everything. Make life easy for readers and they’re more likely to stick around.
Write about what your reader wants to know
… not about your fabulous premises or 65-year history. If your premises were designed by a famous architect, or your company history goes back to 1345, by all means mention the fact on your About page as it may be useful to some student doing a project.
Otherwise, unless it’s relevant to the quality of your widgets or will help you sell your services, leave it out.
Do have a page for staff details (About Us, Meet the Team)
People buy from people, not corporations. Also one reason people look up companies online is to find out who to contact with a particular problem or proposition, so make it easy for them. You won’t get that many time-wasters.
This is also the page where you can crow a bit about your wonderful training scheme, how many people have gained qualifications this year and so on. Make your company sound like a great place to work.
Remember to update the details when staff move on!
Refresh your content regularly.
Not only does it keep the site interesting for your readers, it’s also good for SEO.
And there’s nothing more likely to make readers distrust the rest of your site than reading about events that were due to happen 2 years ago: they think “Is this company still in business?” and look elsewhere.
You can’t make the mistake of thinking, “I’ve got a website, so that’s dealt with”. Make updating it a priority, so interested readers will come back. It will help you win the battle for customer retention.
Have one page per product or service
For example, a travel agent could have pages for winter sun, cruises, sun-sea-and-sangria jaunts, specialist holidays, flights-only offers, last-minute deals, hen- and stag-party cheapos and so on.
Each page should have a minimum of 300 words, though. If you can’t write enough about one product, combine it with a similar one.
A Home page needn’t be about your company
In fact that’s a liability because it’s where people feel they should have the stuff about “Our company was founded in 1923 and is still run by the same family”.
Much better to have your best-selling product on your front page, where you can sell it, and tuck the history onto the About us page.
The most important thing on your website is the reader
Everything should be designed for him or her first.
What does she need from us?
How will it help her?
Why is that important to her?
Get an outsider to read it for you as though they were a prospect. [Better still of course, get an outsider to write it for you (just saying)!]
Get someone who hasn’t written it to proofread it for you.
Far too many websites are completely ruined by glaring typos, wrongly-used words and grammatical mistakes.
It’s very hard to spot your own mistakes – you see what you expect to be there, not what actually is – so get fresh eyes to look it over for you.