First, what is website content?
What gives it pulling and selling power? What makes people want to read and share it? How should you go about creating and using it?
Website content consists of the written words, audio and visual and background aspects of a website, as well as the creative aspects – graphic design, writing style, voice, attitude or tonality that are in play on a site. Web content also refers to all text, applications, blog posts, archived PDFs and email messages, embedded code, data, ecommerce-related services, etc. present on a website.
Web content is what drives, or doesn’t drive, traffic to a website. Having high-quality website content that clicks with both human minds and robot algorithms, organized into categories for easy discovery and navigation are collectively what makes your website successful. Finally, to do its job well, web content must be optimized to appeal to search engines, aka search engine optimization (SEO), so as to best respond to keywords people use when searching.
What makes good website content?
Website content writing done right shows knowledge of, and ability to speak to, your audiences. What brings readers and customers to your web page is the richness and usefulness of content, along with the manner in which it’s presented and organized. Before they begin, good web content writers ask, “Who is my main audience? Is there a secondary audience that may hold influence over, and possibly inform, my main audience? How will these folks find my site online?”
They’re not asking, “How do I impress with my fierce intellect and prodigious vocabulary?” This should be noted by writers prone to eloquence; your erudition is no bot magnet, and less and less so a human one.
Years ago, you needed to fluff up text and media content with keywords associated with your offering. That’s no longer really the case – assuming your SEO people know what they’re doing.
Since humans seem to like reading less and less, due to ever-shortening attention spans and mediocre adult literacy levels, there’s been a shift to video as a means to tell stories – embraced even by major newspapers like the New York Times. You should do this too.
There’s text content and there’s media content
Text is what’s on your web page, in text form – paragraphs and text blocks – and embedded into images. From an SEO standpoint, the best textual web content has been written to suit how the web functions, not derived from a print source. This explains why most website writing “feels” and reads differently to text found on a paper page.
Years ago, you needed to fluff up text and media content with keywords associated with your offering. That’s no longer so much the case – assuming your SEO’s know what they’re doing.
Strong textual web content should however possess enough keywords (and key-phrases) to be found, and enough internal links to enable visitors to dig deeply into that content at will. But it should not overdo keyword usage, because those ever-cleverer search engines will see through that and punish you by dropping your search rank.
Your text should be written for a worldwide audience, in simple, clear language, since all non-password-protected website pages can be accessed from anywhere.
How to use media web content?
This includes animation, images, sound and video. Web page images need to be optimized to download and load fast. They are used liberally to attract and retain visitors, as opposed to a wall of text, which few people will tolerate.
Since most other humans seem to like reading less and less due to ever-shortening attention spans and, sadly, middle-school literacy levels in adults in the developed world, everyone’s turning to video to tell stories – including major newspapers like the New York Times. You should to too.
So how to write good content?
Say you’re writing a website for a motorcycle dealership that wants to be seen as a leading authority on the entire subject of bikes. Your main audience is riders who own bikes and are curious about new models coming out, upgrades and modifications, racing, touring, etc.
Your secondary audiences will be wider, and might include new motorcycle licence-holders and wannabe riders researching what to buy and upgrade to, competitive motorcycle dealers, aftermarket businesses, moto-journalists and bloggers, insurance companies, gear and apparel makers, moto-mechanics, etc. In short anyone who might need a bike, bike gear, care about anything bike or new and useful information on them.
To win all these audiences…
Your content writing must be interesting, understandable and relevant to all. Ask yourself what questions members of these different groups might ask about a new model, an industry trend, such as new performance goodies or safety features and so on. Also think about where these people are going online now. What information or advice do they need that they can’t get elsewhere?
Your audiences find web content through shared links on social media, links at other sites, emails/messages from friends, through subscriptions and search engines. This means that when writing for the web, keeping search optimization top of mind is of the utmost importance.
Think like a search engine
Though your text might be great reading and extremely useful, if it ain’t optimized for search engines, search engine users won’t find it in any great numbers. So ask yourself what search terms and keywords your audiences use when on Google, then use them in your headlines and subheads and the lesser ones in your paragraphs.
If you’re not delivering the content a search engine expects to be there, all formatted into decent quality content, your visitors will leave and look elsewhere.
Much as we in the industry are sick of saying, hearing and writing it, content is king. It still rules. It will always rule, especially on business websites. But content well-written and correctly salted with keywords, that is the king of kings.
Why good website content is gold
To a guy like me who spends much of his life writing original content for demanding business clients, good web content is what brings visitors, gets them interested in your brand, product or service, makes them share and starts relationships.
Yet even though everything written above is common knowledge among web-savvy developers and writers, most business websites are as boring as watching air circulate. They read like they were written by jargon-generating robots trying to seduce SEO robots.
And that is no way to inhabit a modern online presence.
A good web content developer will know how to bring you the SEO robots human searchers are using, without resorting to keyword stuffing in your content. A good web content writer knows how to keep the humans interested once there.
But what if you’re the content writer?
You don’t need to be the classical definition of a great writer to attract an audience on the web. But you need to be cognizant of the online and SEO variables in play, and also able to create a tone, a personality that runs consistently through all your text.
One easy way is to jot down all points you need to get across, in order of importance. Just write them as bullets. Then decide on a tone, something real, sustainable and a reasonable reflection of you or your organization. Then start making your bullets into sentences, and make those connect into a narrative with a beginning, middle and end. If it’s a business, you might want to add a call to action (more on those in a moment).
Vary sentence length from one word to no more than 2.5 lines. Keep paragraphs short, between 4-7 lines. Add a bold subhead to summarize, or tease visitors into reading, the paragraph or two below it.
The Call To Action
What do you expect readers to do after reading or experiencing the content on your site? Before any writing starts, you need to define your call to action, and make it so compelling that a goodly proportion of readers can’t resist clicking. That’s the magical pairing of content writing to marketing goals and what delivers return on investment into your mix.
What Call To Action to use?
I’ve included some CTAs that can be applied to virtually any website. The bold text shows what you want visitors to do; the non-bold text is how to get them to do it:
- Buy something: Click here and be sure use our offer code “(something related to your site and easy to remember)” to knock 20% on your first purchase
- Arrange a demo: Schedule your free, no-obligations demonstration of (your product) and see how much money you can save weekly
- Subscribe to our weekly digest: Sign up to receive a batch of insider secrets in your inbox weekly
- Download something: Click here for our free handbook of useful tips on navigating the world of (your area of expertise)
- Share this on social channels: Know somebody who could use this info? Share this post and tag that person
Time to walk the walk
Take a tour of my portfolio
page. You’ll (hopefully) see some examples of how clean, pithy content using humour, wit, original thinking and unusual language can work to make people want to get to know you better, buy your stuff and tell their friends to do the same.