Content that people will want to read
Writing good website content is not easy. The same rules that apply to blogs, advertisements, journalism and the printed medium simply do not apply to website content. It is an entirely different discipline. Let’s take a look at some simple rules for writing engaging/killer website content.
The importance of website content
We talk a lot about the importance of website content, and often use the analogy of your website being your top salesperson. This is true for many businesses. Most recently I ran an event consumables business whose websites generated upwards of 15 orders and 30 enquiries daily. Find me a sales person who achieves those kind of numbers, and I’ll show you a letter of offer!
But its true, your website is your top salesperson. “Dressing” your salesperson with poor content is akin to sending them out prospecting in shorts and sandals without any product training. Sure, they might get through the door, but the meeting probably won’t last very long.
Website content is what draws your prospects in. It tells them what they need to know and achieves the ultimate goal – of which there are only really three:
1. Generate a sale
2. Generate an enquiry
3. Sign them up
Principle 1: Understanding website content vs other content
Website content is not like other forms of content. The rules are different, driven primarily by the nature of the reader, as well as the goals of the reader. Whilst a reader of a blog (like this one), or a magazine article might spend a solid 5-10 minutes reading one page of content, the chances of a reader on your website doing the same are slim to none.
In essence, readers of websites are searching for products or services. Like a first impression on a blind date, we make snap judgements (whether we should or shouldn’t) that just can’t be helped. The first snap judgement a user on your website will make is whether they can IMMEDIATELY (and I mean immediately) find what they want without spending more than a few seconds.
If they can’t, guess what? They have already moved on to the next website Google presented in their search. If they can, well that’s great. We can now try to keep them on your site and to achieve our goal.
Principle 2: Understand your own goals
As with all marketing activities, we must determine what our goals are. Without goals, we lack direction. Without direction, any marketing activity will be a waste of time. What are you trying to achieve with your website? The answer should be one of the three core objectives we outlined above, or a combination of them. Keep these goals in mind when writing your content, and keep coming back to them when you get stuck.
Principle 3: Understand your own sales process
Many organisations fail to understand their own sales process. What this really comes down to is understanding HOW your prospects make a decision to engage the services or your business, or to buy a product from your business. Do your prospects normally require samples? Would they like a comparison of your product vs others in the market? What USP (unique selling point) most often turns prospects in to customers? Can you obtain a sale quickly, or does it require time? What objections can you overcome, and do you need to overcome them immediately? When can the website tag out and your sales people tag in?
It may have been a while since you answered some of these questions. Get the team together and look at your sales processes with fresh eyes. Your website content will be influenced by the answers to these questions.
Principle 4: Find someone who can write
Writing is not for everyone. I have hired salespeople in the past who were absolutely exceptional on the phone but who could not write to save their lives. Likewise, we all know incredible writers who couldn’t sell their way out of a paper bag. That’s ok, we all have different skills. What you need to do is determine WHO should be writing your website content. Be honest with yourself, and be honest with the team around you – is anyone truly capable of writing all your website content. If so, and if they won’t be missed from their regular role, fantastic. If not, find some help. A small investment now can mean a great return down the road.
Principle 5: Get your website structure and navigation right
Website content is only as good as the structure and navigation your website allows. The structure and navigation should also be heavily influenced by your goals and your sales process. Remember, you have seconds to keep someone on your website, not minutes. Your structure should be simple. Your core products and services should be prominent. If you feel that your current website may be beyond repair, it might be worth considering building a new website. It is now often cheaper and easier to start from scratch and develop a brand new website rather than asking your previous developer to start making changes at $180/hour. In fact, I can guarantee it will be cheaper!
Principle 6: Nail down your writing style
Whilst we despise marketing jargon like what is about to follow, it does have some merit. Try and associate a personality to your customers and write down the thoughts and feelings they might have when determining whether they should engage with you. Write TO THEM on your website and address their concerns as you know them. Sell to them as a real prospect, which they are!
Principle 7: Clarity wins the day
Keeping in mind the limited time people spend on websites, don’t try to be cute, funny or clever with your website content. Clear, concise sentences, short paragraphs. In fact, your goal should be to write your website as though you are writing for a 12 year old. Use headings, use bold, use underline, use bullet points. All these are simple tricks to attract the eyes of the reader.
The best trick? Images, infographs and diagrams. 80% of you will already have noticed your eyes flicking to the big colourful image below. That is not by accident.
Place your most important content first. In this way, website content mirrors the procedures used in news journalism. Get the crux of the matter across first, and then flesh out the headline.
Principle 8: Grammar and punctuation go a long way
Spelling mistakes and poor grammar do not endear you to your prospects. They make your entire business look unprofessional. Go through your website with a fine tooth comb and eliminate all spelling errors and grammatical mistakes. Do not try and be clever with punctuation (I am looking at you here semi colon)!, just keep your writing simple and concise.
Principle 9: Write, read, write, read, repeat
Everyone has a different writing style, but here is one that has served us well here at the Lab for a long time. Once you have nailed down some of the core principles at the start of this article, write. Just write. Your first draft is never your final draft. So just write. Then read. They write again. Try new ways of phrasing certain points. Experiment with content that focuses on different selling points. The one central rule of writing is that if you don’t write, you won’t have written anything!
Website content is important for your business. It draws people in, attracts them to your offering, and achieves the goals you have set down. Write short, clear content that addresses the points you know your prospects need to understand. Direct them towards the goal with engaging content and calls to action.
Stuart Blott is the Founder of the Content Marketing Lab. The Lab produces quality marketing content in the form of blogs, articles and website content, along with social media management and marketing growth strategies. To contact Stuart directly, email firstname.lastname@example.org.