How many times have you visited a beautifully designed website only to struggle to locate the information you need? A poorly written website is a disaster for businesses – the equivalent of a huge billboard advert with the potential to reach 1000s, only the most important panel is missing. Or misspelt.
When creating useful content for your website it’s important to remember these ten tips:
1. Plan what you’re writing
It’s never a good idea to publish the first thing you write. Structure your ideas on paper before typing them up, otherwise your customers will just be staring into the workings of your brain. This will prevent them finding out why using your business can improve their life. Work out the goals of your content, who you’re aiming at and what you want your readers to do once they’ve read it.
2. Decide who is writing it
“We are proud to present our new range of services. Get in touch with XYZ Services now to work together” Who wrote that sentence? The ‘we’ suggests the company themselves have written the content, but the second sentence changes the perspective of the protagonist – this is confusing and off-putting for customers. Decide whose perspective you’re writing from before you even start and keep this consistent throughout.
3. Establish your style
It’s important to write ‘in character’. If you’re a professional company offering professional services to other professionals it’s fair to say you want to sound professional – but that doesn’t have to mean stuffy and old-fashioned. Avoid smilies, abbreviations like LOL and pop culture references – but by all means use informal language, established ‘slang’ terms and unusual sentence structures. Make sure your writing projects the correct personality – it’s another vital element of your businesses brand. And make sure it’s consistent throughout the whole site.
4. Write backwards!
No doubt everyone can remember English lessons at school. Your writing has to be structured – introduction, message, conclusion. Not so on the web! Start with your conclusion – e.g. “Buy our services because we are the best / cheapest / longest-serving”, then work backwards from there. Establishing your main selling points at the outset is a surefire way to make sure a website visitor with no time on their hands knows they’re already in the right place.
5. Keep it short… and simple
Remember, web users rarely invest the same amount of time into reading a website as they would a brochure or letter. You have a small window to capture their attention and imagination so make it count. Only talk about the most important points, any extra information can be gleaned further down the line – if they need more they can contact you, which is a perfect selling opportunity. Also remember that your website won’t just be seen by people with the same level of education as you, or even in the same country as you – so don’t overcomplicate your language. Use straightforward English and keep it concise.
6. Be authoritative but understandable
Someone has visited your website because they need what you do. It’s not a huge leap of faith to assume they have some knowledge on the subject, but they’re almost certainly not at your level of expertise. Therefore it’s a good idea to avoid overusing jargon and technical terms. Keep your writing controlled and straightforward, you want the reader to improve their understanding by reading your copy, without giving them the tools to do your job themselves. Similarly, unless you’re selling online there’s little need to list every single facet of every single product or service you provide – informative summaries are much more useful than 43 PDF files of technical specifications.
7. Write for people, not robots
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is everywhere so I won’t bore you with it, but it is vital to consider when building your website. You want your site to show up on Google – who doesn’t? But there’s no point getting to the top of Google if anyone who clicks your page can’t make sense of the keyword filled gibberish that greets them. By all means, get your keywords in there – but think about the context. It needs to make sense to human beings and Google is increasingly punishing poorly written copy used to exploit search rankings.
8. Use lists whenever you can
Lists are easily scanned and as such a perfect method of communicating information online. Quite often, site visitors will scan a page before reading anything – if you have main points, features or benefits in a well laid out, nicely styled list you grab their eyeline straight away.
9. Keep it current
Fresh content is essential. Not only will it help keep your Google ranking from free-falling, it’ll also serve your site users well. By all means, talk about future plans and past achievements, but avoid phrases like ‘next year we will expand into 120 foreign markets’ or ‘2 years ago we won some prize or other’ as these can look out of date almost as soon as they are written. Every few months why not check over your site, see if there are bits on there that are no longer relevant and look for any gaps you can fill with more recent events and plans.
10. Check it, check it again, and then check it again.
It’s amazing how many people spend £1000’s on a new website, only to put people off with basic spelling and grammatical errors. Make sure you know when (or, more importantly, when not) to use an apostrophe, when to capitalise words and the difference between ‘there’ and ‘their’. It doesn’t take much time to re-read what you’ve written and check it for mistakes. Then give it to someone you trust to read over, and then give it to another person you trust. Remember – a web designers job is not to provide your copy or proofreading services unless you’ve actually engaged them to do that, so the responsibility is on you to make sure your content looks like it was written by someone who finished primary school.