Writing content is usually the most time consuming process in developing a website. This is a surprise to most people, and what is even more surprising to others is that a lot of times your web developer doesn’t write your content for you.
The fact is that you know your business the best, and while it may be helpful to hire outside help, that can get expensive. Below is a helpful guide to know how to write content for your website.
What are your goals?
The first step of the writing process is determining the goals of your website. This is so easy to overlook but is very important. What is the purpose of the website? What are your goals? More specifically, "What action do you want visitors to your website to take?" This may seem obvious at first but websites can specialize in many different things. Some common goals are listed below:
"I want people visiting to my website to..."
- Get information about me, and call me
- Get information about me, and fill out an online form which will come to me in an email
- Buy my products
- View upcoming events with my online calendar
- Download my brochure so I don’t have to mail it to them
- Find directions to my store
- Make an online donation
- Stay updated on what’s new with my company
- Register for upcoming events
- View my portfolio
As you can see, you can have multiple goals for your website. When you write your content, remember to constantly drive people to take these actions.
Who is my audience?
Think about who your typical customer is. How old are they? How computer savvy are they? What is their education level? These are good questions to ask. Remember that web users do not read words on a website, they scan them. Therefore you will want to write your content in a style somewhat similar to a newspaper. Short paragraphs, headlines and lists are the best way to allow your user to easily scan your pages.
A very common mistake made in content writing for websites is to make it too informal. While you don’t want to sound like a college textbook, you also want to sound professional. If you are a small business you want your website to appear "top of the line" to compete with the larger companies. A website is a way to enhance your image. Take advantage of that and make your web content as professional as you can without being stuffy.
What information do I want on my website?
The next step of the writing process is creating a site map. A site map is simply an outline of what the information on your website will look like. Each item on a site map represents a single webpage. It usually consists of 5-7 main categories, with sub-categories falling underneath. The reason for sub-categories is to organize the content in a way that is easy for the web user to quickly glance over and comprehend.
Example Site Map:
- Home page
- About Us
- Our Staff
- Board of Directors
- For Your Home
- For Your Business
- Press Room
- News Articles
- Press Releases
- Photo Gallery
- Contact Us
Some sections such as "Events" may not have sub-categories under them. Whatever makes the most logical, intuitive sense to your web users is what you will want to do. You should do your best in creating an easy to follow site map, but keep in mind that a good web design firm will also guide you in creating the best possible solution for your sitemap and website.
There are three different, unique ways to write your content for your website. Usually you will want a balance between the three. If you focus too much on one you will neglect the others, so do your best to keep all three in mind once you start your actual writing.
1. Write Succinctly for Web Users – In web development, we have a motto when creating websites. It goes like this: "Give me what I want, and don’t make me think". When writing web content, make sure that you are not long winded. Make things as easy and simple as possible. Use lists and short paragraphs, and occasionally use bolded text. Too much bold and it doesn’t stand out anymore, it’s just a distraction.
2. Write Professionally to Build up Your Image – One of the great things about the internet is that it can make a very small business appear to be quite large and accomplished. So give the readers some good facts, figures, and data that will keep them impressed with your organization. Remind them of your accolades. Keep this balanced of course with writing succinctly…while you want to be somewhat brief you don’t want to leave out important details.
3. Write Sneaky for Search Engines – I say sneaky because you don't want to make it too obvious to the person reading your website that you're writing specifically for the search engines. This is probably the hardest thing to keep in mind when writing because we are not used to writing with a Search Engine as our audience. But in reality, writing for search engines will go a very long way in your search engine rankings, and ultimately your website popularity.
How do you write for search engines? Search engines scan all the text on a website on a regular basis. You want any word that people may search for in a search engine to appear in your web content. These words are called "Keywords".
For example, Fresh Look Web Design has the following keywords (among others) on our website:
web design, graphic design, hampton roads websites, hampton e-commerce grant, shopping carts, search engine optimization
These words appear on our website very frequently. If we wanted to promote our e-commerce grant on our website we could say:
"Many of our clients take advantage of our grant."
...but this is too general. There are no specific keywords. The user gets the idea, but there's nothing for search engines to pick up on.
Instead, we should say:
"Our Hampton small business owners take advantage of our e-commerce grant."
See the difference? It's not as succinct, but the user still gets the message, and the keywords are much more present in the second example.
Keep in mind that there's a trade-off involved with the other two writing styles. You don't want to focus too much on search engines, because then your text might be too wordy for users. But you also don't want to be too succinct because you won't rank as well with the search engines. The best thing to do is keep a balance.
We hope this helps you in writing your website content. If you're interested in getting assistance with your content writing, don't hesitate to let us know and we'll be happy to help. Content writing can be a daunting task at times but once you get started you'll find that a lot of it comes naturally.