One of the most difficult parts of a web site project is to write the content. If you're not a professional copy writer, there's a lot of new concepts and tensions to consider.
1. Make a template
Whether you are managing a CMS or writing content for a static website, the structure of your page content is going to be relatively consistent, and there are certain elements that should be in any web page.
Creating a word processor template with those items as headings and working to that will help you ensure that nothing gets forgotten and that key phrases are properly placed.
Every web page should have the following elements as a minimum:
Probably the most important part of the page from an SEO perspective, it's vital that this contains your primary key phrase.
One of the often misused 'META' tags, the description is used by some of the major search engines as a excerpt when listing pages. It gives very little SEO strength, but should still include key phrases.
Almost entirely ignored by the major search engines it's still worth completing this element, even if only as an aide memoir for you as to what phrases a page is targeting.
- Page heading ( <h1> )
Every web page should have a primary heading, and ideally only one.
- Structured body content
This is the 'meat' of the page. The important thing to note here is that it is text, not just images.
2. Write the main body content for scanning
The vast majority of people scan web pages before reading the detail. For that reason you should structure your content accordingly.
Use sub-headings, bullet lists and bold text to provide visual emphasis for 'hooks' that will entice visitors to read the whole page.
3. Do your key phrase research
One of the most important aspects of a successful web site is targeting the right key phrases. You can be the best copy writer in the world, but if you target the wrong key phrases you'll waste your time, get no traffic and no sales.
It's well worth considering hiring someone to do your keyword research for you. They will be able to judge the effectiveness of a key phrase and may well achieve results faster.
4. Investigate the competition
Unless you are operating in an extremely niche market, there will be a good reason that a site ranks number 1 for your target key phrases.
Look at how they have included those phrases, how they have structured their content and what the 'hooks' are. Don't plagiarise, but you will be able to see what structure is working.
5. Set aside time specifically for writing your content
It's impossible to write your web site content in 'the odd 5 minutes' between other jobs. If your web site is a serious part of your marketing, take the content seriously and devote the time to it.
6. Brainstorm together, write alone
If you have a team around you that can help with creative ideas for the outline of your pages use them. Set aside a couple of hours (or more if your web site is large) to get everyone together in a relaxed meeting with whiteboard, flip chart, PostIts, etc and generate some ideas for your pages.
However, once you have the outlines (usually a set of bullet points or a couple of sentences) give yourself some peace and quiet to sit down and thrash out the first draft.
7. 3rd party review
No matter how much time, or how careful we are, we will always make the odd mistake or typo. We'll also never get the phraseology perfect first time.
Always get someone to review your content. There are two aspects to this:
- Proof reading
poor spelling, grammar and punctuation will always make you and your site look amateur, even if your are the world's best at what you do.
Professional proof readers can often be cost effective for this, but it should be the very last thing that you do.
- Message checking
Get a colleague, or someone who knows you and your business to read the document and offer comment on your phrasing and message.
I've found the best way to do this is to let them read the content at their own pace, then have a meeting specifically to review their feedback.
8. Write for your audience, not yourself
A common mistake, even on larger corporate sites, is to write the site for the seller, rather than the buyer. While this can work, if your clients are similar types of people, it will severely limit the number of people who respond positively to your site.
Profile your client base and analyse the messages to which they will respond. For example, it's no good selling a piece of software to corporate CEOs based on the features and functionality, they are interested in the business benefits and rely on their technical team to recommend systems that fulfil their requirements.
By writing content aimed at your specific client areas, even if that means expanding your site, you will greatly increase your conversion rate.
9. Call to action!
Every web site has a purpose. It may be to generate leads for a sales team, or directly generate sales (e-commerce), or simply increase brand awareness.
Wherever possible every page should contain an obvious, effective and relevant call to action. That is, something that you want the visitor to do after reading the page. For example, at the end of a page talking about the business benefits of your product, add a link inviting them to contact your sales team to get more information about how easy your product is to use or how much more efficient their team will become as a result of using it.
Note: I find it useful to add a 'Call to Action' section to my page templates when writing content, just so that I don't forget to think about it.
10. Links are for content, not just for navigation
This is as much about SEO as it is about writing content, but worth noting during the writing process and even phrasing certain points to provide an opportunity to link to another page.
By creating links within your content you make it easier for both users and search engines to traverse your site and find your pages. You also improve the rankings of other pages by creating links that use their key phrases. Search Engines will see this and 'note' the page's relevance for that phrase.