People sometimes think that the website design is the most important part and that the content is simply a sideline, something to fill the page. It’s true that the design and layout provides a broad impression of your company and what you offer. But it’s what’s written that leads people to buy your products, contact for more information or subscribe to your services.
When it comes to web projects (and even blogs), some businesses don’t write much of the content themselves (or at all). Either because it doesn’t take priority over other tasks or because they don’t see any value in well-crafted content.
This should be a priority, not everyone can design a great looking website, but there are many people who can write the content for it. Even if they don’t believe they are writers, with a little guidance on where to get started it becomes much easier.
However, before we go into what the steps/techniques are, we first need to understand why your web content is so important to your website and overall marketing strategy.
Why content is important
93% of online experiences start with a search engine. The reason we start with a search engine is we are looking for answers and the easiest way to get these is to ask our favourite search engine. Questions can be as simple as obtaining an answer from a single source, such as when the next series of Stranger Things starts on Netflix. Or they can be more complex, like when searching for services or products, where multiple results will need to be examined.
So when a search engine returns these results, it wants to show the most relevant ones that will satisfy the searchers intent. There are a number of different elements that make up what’s relevant, but one of the biggest and most important, is content.
Without content, how would anyone know what you do. How would you demonstrate your expertise and show you have to offer?
The content on your website is where you educate and explain what you do. This content is what will persuade (or not) the reader to take action. It needs to build trust and demonstrate the value of your company. This can then lead to someone taking an action such as purchasing a product, contacting about your services or signing up for a trial.
The website design provides the first impression, makes the website easy to use and find what you’re looking for. The content is what turns visitors into sales, leads and results.
So now we’ve got more of an idea as to why you need content, then the question that arises is: how to write great content.
How to write great content
This is a little more tricky to answer. Some will say that they are not writers and don’t believe they can create content. However, the majority of the times, this isn’t the case. It’s not that they can’t write, but they’re not sure where to start or how to structure their writing.
Everyone’s technique for writing will be different. Some will write a complete product or service page’s worth of content in one go as a first draft, then update and amend from there. Others will make notes on the key points they want to get across and then build paragraphs/sections of the content from key points.
But regardless of your technique for getting content together, everyone will need to do the following when writing content.
Determine who you’re writing for
Before you write a single word, you need to know who’s going to be reading it. Depending on who your customer and target audience is will influence not only what you include, but the tone of voice.
To do this, you need to create your customer personas. This simply is the personification of your ideal customer. You’ll need to consider what they’re looking for, what they’ll want from your service or product, what their hesitations might be. All this will help you know what you should include in your content.
Research what your customers are searching
Now you’ve defined your ideal customer (and who’ll you be targeting), it’s time to research what they’re actually searching for. So, with the customer persona, and knowing what the people you’re going to be targeting actually value from your service, will help to pin down what they are really searching for.
There are multiple tools to run these searches through to see how often they’re used, tools such as Google Ads keyword planner, Ubersuggest, related searches on Google. You’ll also want to check competitor’s websites to see what they’re saying, the subjects they cover, the important points they emphasise.
This can be used to ensure that you’re covering the aspects that are important to your customers
Note: don’t copy exactly what your competitors have written (also the issue of copyright), just use it as another base for what you should be covering and then write it in your own words.
Make a list of the searches and key points, these will be the topics you want to cover. Set these against the most relevant pages, you may find certain topics fit on multiple pages, which is fine. Just make sure that each page has a central focus and that you don’t duplicate what you’re saying.
Make it concise and easy to read
Now it’s time to start writing the content and one of the most important things is to make it clear and readable. We’re not talking about correct capitalisation, punctuation and sentence structure (though these are still super important). What we’re saying is to break your content down into short, easy to digest sentences and paragraphs.
People aren’t necessarily going to read all the content on the page, they’re more likely to skim through it. If they land on a page that’s a big wall of text, it’s going to be more difficult to scan and see the key points you want to get across.
You can use sub-headings to break up the content sections. The sub-headings make it even easier to highlight your offerings and unique selling points (USP’s) at a glance.
And one final thing, try to avoid using too many buzzwords. People are reading this content to understand what you’re offering and meaningless filler words merely pad out the content without saying anything. Write content that’s meaningful, educates and tells people what you have to offer.
Don’t list the features, outline the benefits
Features and benefits aren’t the same (though there is some overlap). What your company offers, isn’t the same as to how it helps your customers. People are more interested in how it improves their lives or job.
For example, at isev, one of the services we offer is website design. We could split different sub-sections of the page with sub-headings (as we talked about earlier), where we highlight the features of what we’re offering, such as.
- Built using WordPress
- Bespoke designed website
But these don’t relay any benefit. They merely state what we do, a better way of showing the benefits would be:
- Built in an easy to use system
- Stand out from your competitors
This is a much better way of communicating the benefits to potential customers. Not everyone is going to know what WordPress is, but knowing that the system is easy to use does give them a clearer understanding of what it will provide for them. Bespoke design is great, but on its own doesn’t mean much, standing out from the competition, however, can be a game-changer, especially in a competitive marketplace.
So before you write down what you have to offer, think about how it will improve your customers’ lives.
Don’t be restricted by word counts
We’d generally advise a minimum of 300-500 words for a service or product page.
However, don’t think that this is set in stone and that you have to reach this. Similarly, don’t cut yourself short of saying all you need, to stay within a set word count.
Write as if someone asked about your service or product, then put that answer into words. After all, that’s what a search engine is, a way of asking a question and it’s the websites that returns the answers. So make sure that you’re providing the best solution for the person searching.
If the answer can be fully explained in 500 words, that’s all you need. On the other hand, if it takes 1,000+ words to fully cover everything, then make sure you’re the one providing the full answer to the question.
Write for people, not search engines
Some people, when approaching web content writing, get into the mindset that they need to write content for search engines. That it needs to be optimised for search engines to understand, which can result in them trying to fit a specific word or phrase into every sentence, believing this makes the content “relevant”.
However, it does not.
Search engines have become sophisticated, enough to know what the content on the page is about, without this forced phrase insertion. They also understand what reads naturally and when someone has attempted to over-optimise their content for a specific word or phrase.
Write as if you were speaking about your service or product to another person. Once you’ve written it, read it aloud and think about if this would sound natural or strange if said to another person.
When to write the content yourself
The final element to be discussed is who should write your content, should write your onw content or might it be better to outsource?
The main upsides of doing it yourself are:
- You know how your company works and operates.
- You know best what you can offer to customers.
- What your customers are looking for and value most.
- What your USP’s are and what makes you different.
In essence, you are the experts of how your business operates and the market you’re in. This puts you in the prime position to best relay what your brand is about and what you have to offer.
However, when it comes down to it, this isn’t always the ideal. This isn’t a fantasy world where everything works in perfect synchronicity. We’re all people, with limited resources and writing your own web content might not always be the best use of those precious resources. The most common issues that arise include:
- Not having anyone that can write well (even with the advice above).
- Not physically having the time to research and write all the content.
These are genuine concerns felt by many businesses. When they do try to write their own content with these limitations it can result in rushed, unfinished content being created or taking so long, it delays the project going live. Neither of which helps your brand.
In these situations, it is likely best to outsource your copywriting (not to be confused with copyrighting). If you do outsource, you’ll want to create a brief of what your company does, the minimum being: The subject for each topic/page and the key points to include, the style and tone of the content and any defining USP’s.
All this should then help you decide if your business will write its own web content, using the suggestions above, or hand it over to a team of experienced copywriters.