Planning and developing your new website’s content can be a very difficult task. Whether you have three pages or 100, deciding what content you place on your site is crucial to its overall success. Content includes not only the written copy on the page but also includes any images, charts or downloadable files. Ensuring that you have the right content for your users and collaborating with others can be hard. With a little content planning and strategy, the process can be much easier.
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 at materials like existing brochures to establish what content is already available. You’ll need to ask yourself three questions: Is the content correct or still accurate? Is there anything missing? Is it useful to my readers? Making sure things are correct ensures you have no outdated pricing or incorrect information. Your business has most likely changed since you first created your site, and there may be additional services that need to be included. By defining a clear and specific purpose for each piece of content, it will help to ensure that you are giving people something of value to read.
Establish Your Target Audience
Before deciding on what content to include on your site you need to establish 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 are considering all of your visitors and their individual needs.
Sitemaps are Copy Blueprints
If creating a website is like building a house, your sitemap is like an architect’s blueprint. Without it, you might be planning a house that doesn’t have enough bathrooms or closets. There are many different programs and software suites designed to organize this information. You can use something like Microsoft Word’s Organization Chart function or, for more detailed plans, something like 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.
Collaboration is Key
Even if you are the sole person in a business, you will want to include others in the review and editing process to not only ensure your copy is grammatically correct, but also that it makes sense to others. If you do work in an organization that requires other stakeholders to weigh in or contribute, there are several 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 is an 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.
Storytelling vs. Storyselling
Many businesses feel that their website is a chance to “tell their story” when you website should really tell the stories about others who have used your product or services. Avoid going on and on about how wonderful you business is, and give evidence or results. Use language that is familiar to them and not your specialized 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. By making your content user-centered, it meets real users’ needs and desires and tells their story instead of just yours.
Writing for Humans and Robots
For those of you who already 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 to the user. By naturally including your terms throughout the copy, you’ll ensure once someone actually gets to your site that 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 you don’t need to say “divorce lawyer” every few words but could discuss related words like family law or child custody. This will help to vary your content while allowing you to keep words that support your search efforts.
Don’t forget that you are trying to have people take action once they read your copy. Whether you want them to call you, message your for more information or buy a product online, make sure to tell them what their next step is at the end of your copy. After reading how you can help their business, they should learn how to get in touch with you right away. By providing email links, or links to your contact page, it gives them an easy action while you are still top of mind.
Make it Visually Appealing
Make sure to break your copy up with images, charts or illustrations that support your copy. Most people will not read all of your copy but will scan through. Knowing this, make sure to break up the copy with larger pull quotes or testimonials, as well as bulleted lists. Keep your paragraphs short and use sub-headings to break up sections.
Choosing the correct typeface likewise plays a large 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. All of these techniques can help to make sure that your copy looks as good as it is useful.
Although it’s easier than ever to edit your own website copy with a CMS, this can be the enemy of actually completing and launching your new website. You will need to set concrete deadlines to make sure your project stays on task. By breaking your content into relevant chunks it ensures that things will be completed 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. Make sure to set initial copy deadlines for your team, schedule reviews by all stakeholders and, finally, when to input all copy into the site.
Put It All Together
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. In the end, all of your content and beautiful imagery won’t be read unless you have kept your users in mind throughout the process. By doing that, you can tell how your story is ultimately the solution to their problem.