It’s all well and good having a shiny website with lots of products and fancy images but if you don’t have the right content running throughout the website, the success of it will be seriously hindered not least by its inability to surge up natural search engine results. From the moment a website is launched, content plays the key role in ensuring your website evolves into a successful presence on the World Wide Web. However, content writing is often an afterthought – something you ‘retro fit’ to your website after it has been built, or been live for a long period of time. So I’ve taken a look at some of the mistakes people make when it comes to website content and the best ways to get the most out of it.
Getting the right message across
It seems like an obvious thing to say but never has this been more true than when it comes to website content. Get it wrong and your website and business can suffer greatly.
The fundamental mistake that many sites make is to write for the web as you would for print media. In reality, the process is vastly different and so a different approach is needed to convey your message in a way that is going to be appealing to the reader. The fact that the average reader can absorb about 240 words per minutes (wpm) on paper but only about 200 wpm on screen says it all.
It is therefore fair to say that long, verbose sentences are not going to have the readers scrambling for their mouse to scroll the page. Instead you should write in a way that summarises your message in a clear, concise and creative manner. A strong and flexible tone of voice is one that should ultimately convert the reader’s interest into a sale. Passivity, on the other hand, has no place in web selling. Think ‘buy now!’, ‘click here!’, and ‘try now!’.
Although that deals with how to write, the next question to ask is what to write. If you’re struggling to think of content, just remember that the website is often the first place potential customers go to find out information about your business. Of course, the content on a brochure site will differ greatly from an ecommerce site – so while a tight writing style may work on one, more compulsive copy may be beneficial on another. Versatility is therefore the key so if you can approach each page as an individual case, you won’t go far wrong.
Along with effective content, you still need to combine this with an effortless text layout so that people can skim read the page (which, let’s face it, we all do online) while still absorbing the information. Bullet points, numbering, images and text colour are consequently all important assets to enable you to get your message across.
Feed the Search Engines
We have established that content is crucial to a successful website but it also plays another equally important role. So just as ineffective content will affect how responsive people are to your site, it will also damage your website’s standing on the search engines.
That is because search engines, such as Google and Yahoo, use ‘spiders’ or ‘robots’ to crawl the internet in order to organise and extract the data found. The more pro-active you are on your website, the more the search engines will reward you – which is why regularly updated and keyword heavy content is so important. The more you update your website, the more frequently these spiders will return, so make sure when they do come and visit you’ve got loads of fresh content for it to guzzle up (think more five course meal than finger food buffet).
This is not limited to the actual words on the page. Even something as seemingly trivial as the address of a page (the URL) is an important piece of content on your website as the Google spider is going to be far more responsive to a URL which says:
After all, if someone is wanting to find a product online, they are more likely to put ‘n830′ into a search engine or your product name? Exactly.
Search engine optimisation is something I value extremely highly, which is why Chapter Eight’s content management system is designed specifically to help our clients optimise each page of their website. By having the capabilities of updating your website on a daily basis, it not only engages the reader with up-to-date communications, but also encourages the Google spiders to make more regular repeat visits. This can only increase your natural search engine listings and improve your Google PageRank.
It’s the term that is forever being bandied about in the online world, often accompanied with blank expressions and furrowed brows. But just what is Meta Data and how important is it to a website?
As I mentioned in the previous section, decent content is integral to maintaining a successful website. But in addition to the text that we read on various pages of a site, there is also invisible content – Meta Data – which sits behind the page and helps search engines locate the site through the use of descriptions and keywords. It is this which provides the link between the information creator and the information user.
I therefore like to think of it as a website’s unsung heroes. The mysterious éminence grise that works behind the scenes to help get your website up the search engine rankings. So for every page on the site, it pays dividends to fill in the Meta Data section of your content management system – usually consisting of a title, brief description, 20-30 keywords related to the visible content and depending on the facilities of your search engine any number of other ‘meta fields’. If you’re struggling to think what to put in, just imagine what phrases potential customers seeking your products or services would put in a search engine. Then those crazy spiders will do the rest.
So with a bit of self discipline, creativity and lots and lots of patience, you will soon see the huge benefits that content brings to a website. I’m afraid it’s true: content is very much King.