How to create a great website, pt 3: Writing contentApr 30, 2009
Accurate and easy to digest
When writing a piece of text, try to think like your readers. Write your customers and visitors of your site. Use appropriate wording. Straight-to-the-point texts and descriptive short menu items work best. Cut corporate gibberish and simply talk like your customers would. Otherwise they won't find you in the first place. And if they somehow stumbled upon your site, they still wouldn't understand your language. That's why they don't stay.
People don't read websites. They "scan" the screen until they
find a relevant phrase. If there is too much text to scan or they don't
see what they are expecting they move on. To avoid this issue, break
your texts up into short sentences and small paragraphs.
Choose headlines carefully. Any headline should say as much as necessary and as little as possible about the page it summarizes. Again, choosing the right language is important. "How to make paper flowers" -- for a children's origami site, but "Origami folding instructions: rose" -- for specialist series. "10 fresh typefaces" -- for typophiles, but "10 cool new fonts" -- for everyone else.
Use relevant imagery. A picture is worth a thousand words. So if possible, leave some paragraphs unwritten and use an appropriate picture or a video instead. Pictures give people space to think and process the information you're giving in a different way.
Organize your site structure wisely. Use common menu item names (Home, Products, Services, News, About Us, etc). Limit site menus to a maximum of 6-8 items on each level. The standard human brain just can't get a hold of more at a time. No, you don't have to reorganize your business because of that- just group your 25 products into 4 sections. Whether you do it by product line, target group, year or something else doesn't matter much.
Interesting and memorable
To get people to link to you and to get your visitors to return, the site must be adding value. Instead of pushing your marketing message, provide your visitors with something that draws them back for more. A blog where you speak your mind
openly is a good start. Detail rich product description is another solution. The more content you provide, the bigger the chance someone will find it helpful. Of course, only if it's well organized and easy to digest.
Be memorable. Transform your core message into a slogan to build your brand. It should be something that is easily remembered, sounds unique, and is short and clear. "Books for the enlightened few" -- for an arrogant science publisher. "Slow life with mozzarella" -- for a small Italian cafeteria. "Frogs meet children" -- for nature classes. Learn from advertising, but don't complicate things.
Use illustrations to colorize the rather dull-looking blocks of texts and video / audio to grab the wider audience. Not everyone likes to read these days.
Don't speak alone. Collect customer cases or testimonials if your business is about offering a service. Collect product reviews if it's about selling products. But be cautious because there's a fine line between helpful user opinions and silly praise.
Works with search engines
About 40-50% visitors of a well organized website is driven by search engines. The other half of the traffic is made up of direct visitors and those coming from sites linking to yours. Therefore it's crucial for any site to appear in the search results and be interesting enough for others to link to it.
Search engines are still not good at indexing video, audio and picture content. First and foremost you need to have textual content which Google would show in its search results. You need to include appropriate keywords in your texts that would match search terms of your potential customers.
Texts that are interesting and appropriate in the eyes of your potential customers, work similarly well for the search engines. Write interesting content so that people link to your site. This both increases the traffic from linking sites and improves your placement in Google results.
More on this topic in a separate post on May 21st (Growing traffic).
Fresh and updatedEngage your visitors with the content so they want to return -- content must not only be interesting, but it must also be fresh and up to date. Include an engaging blog, an ever-evolving product section, links to new reviews, etc. The site must be lively. It must feel as if someone is working on it constantly with passion. So do it. Care!
Fresh content also helps gain better placement in search results.