Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Web Marketing Today. Practical Ecommerce acquired Web Marketing Today in 2012. In 2016, we merged the two sites, leaving Practical Ecommerce as the successor.
Planning and developing your website’s content can be a difficult task. Whether you have three pages or 100, deciding what content to place on your site is crucial to its overall success. Content not only includes the written copy but images, charts, or downloadable files as well.
Making sure that you have the right content for your users and collaborating with others in your business can be hard. A little planning and strategy that includes these nine steps will make it much easier.
1. Evaluate Your Current Copy
The first thing to do when creating your new website is to evaluate your current copy. If this is your first website, look for materials like existing brochures to establish what content is already available.
Ask yourself three questions.
- Is the content correct or still accurate?
- Is anything missing?
- Is it useful to my readers?
Making sure things are correct will help guarantee you have no outdated pricing or incorrect information.
Your business has most likely changed since you first created your site, and you may need to include additional services. Defining a clear and specific purpose for each piece of content will help ensure that you are giving people something of value to read. (See the resource section at the end of the article for a spreadsheet that can help in this process.)
2. Determine Your Target Audience
Before deciding on what content to include on your site, establish who constitutes your website’s target audience. Understanding, or at least identifying, who you are speaking to will help provide clarity as you plan the remainder of your content.
This will also allow you to gauge whether or not information is clear or even necessary. It may help to develop primary, secondary, and even tertiary audiences to make sure that you take into account all of your visitors and their individual needs.
3. Use Sitemaps as Copy Blueprints
If you compare creating a website to building a house, your sitemap is like the architect’s blueprint. Without it, you might plan a house that doesn’t have enough bathrooms or closets.
There are many different programs and software suites designed to organize the information. You can use a tool like Microsoft Word’s Organization Chart function or, for more detailed plans, the free cross-platform tool XMind.
Start by thinking of the big buckets of content before getting too detailed. Can one page convey everything needed, or do you need subpages to give more detail? Short, succinct page titles do better in navigations than long phrases. By taking this step, you can rearrange and prioritize your content before writing begins.
4. Collaborate with Others
Even if you are the sole person in a business, you will want to include others in the review and editing process to ensure your copy is grammatically correct and that it makes sense to others.
If you work in an organization that requires other stakeholders to weigh in or contribute, there are a variety of methods that can help ease this pain. Try to avoid using one single file for all of your content, as this doesn’t allow for easy collaboration.
Using Google Docs makes it easy to share a document for joint editing. Another service for website content collaboration is JumpChart, which allows multiple users to provide feedback and features versioning for easier management of historical edits.
5. Use Storytelling Versus ‘Storyselling’
You may feel that your website is a chance to “tell your story.” Instead, it should tell the stories of others who have benefitted from using your products or services.
Avoid going on and on about how wonderful your business is. Instead, provide evidence or results. Use language that is familiar to your target audience, not industry-specific terminology.
Appeal to their problems by explaining your product or service as a solution. Provide clear benefits in easy-to-read bullets instead of verbose paragraphs. Making your content user-centered meets users’ needs and tells their story instead of just yours.
6. Write for Humans and Search Engines
For those of you who know the importance of writing your copy for SEO, don’t become too focused on injecting your key search terms so many times that the content becomes unreadable. By naturally including your terms throughout the copy on the site, you ensure that once someone gets there, you don’t sound like a robot.
Also, by using “semantic keywords” you can develop a variety of words that provide the same meaning around your core keywords.
If you are a divorce lawyer, for example, don’t say “divorce lawyer” every few words. Instead, use related terms like “family law” or “child custody.” This will help vary your content while allowing you to keep words that support your search efforts.
7. Make the Copy Action Oriented
Encourage people to take action once they read your copy. Whether you want them to call you, message you for more information, or buy a product online, tell them what their next step is at the end of your copy. Providing an email address or links to your contact page gives them an easy action to take while your business is still top of mind.
8. Give the Copy Visual Appeal
Break up your text up with supporting images, charts, or illustrations. Also, because most people will not read all of your copy but will scan through instead, separate it using larger pull quotes or testimonials, as well as bulleted lists. In addition, keep your paragraphs short and use sub-headings to divide sections.
Choosing the correct typeface plays a significant role in your copy’s legibility. Most web designers recommend using a sans-serif typeface for body copy and a slightly larger serif for headlines. Use of these techniques can help ensure that your copy looks as good as it is useful.
9. Set Deadlines
Although it’s easier than ever to edit your own website copy with a content management system like WordPress, this can be the enemy of completing and launching your new website. You will need to set concrete deadlines to make sure your project stays on track. Grouping content creation activities into relevant chunks ensures that you complete tasks on time.
Starting with the about section helps set the tone for your copy and assists in determining what key differentiators to focus on throughout the site. Save the smaller, less copy-heavy pages like contact and locations for the end.
Set initial copy deadlines for your team, schedule reviews by all stakeholders, and, finally, determine when to input all copy into the site.
Planning your website content doesn’t have to be as burdensome as it may seem. By investing time in pre-planning and strategy, the process can be much easier.