The art of writing effective website content

Many people make the mistake of writing copy for their website in the same way that they would write for a journal or general sales literature. This is a big mistake, as the audience for websites are very different to those of printed media.

Imagine if your company brochure has been added to a huge pile of hundreds of other brochures by similar companies, scattered all over the floor, and people are trying to find just the right business for them. How will they do it when they only have a few minutes before they have to go for their next appointment?

They first scan the pile looking for something that catches their eye, or for a snip of large text that matches what they are looking for. They may toss the brochures around, scanning a few at a time, but never reading any of them in detail. They may then select a few that appear to match their requirements and put them to one side. Then they will look at these selections in a little more detail, scanning the first page for hints that this is what they are looking for. If they don't find it they drop it and try the next one... and so it goes.

This is how visitors view websites. They have limited time and patience, and will quickly bypass any website that does not appear to present a solution to their problem on the first page. The problem could be anything from looking for a new watch, replacement windows, or a plumber. So how do you compel these impatient visitors to enter your website and stay-a-while?

Keep it Simple and Concise

Your home page is not the place to ramble on with long winded paragraphs of prose about the benefits of your service or products. Visitors will only see the title and the first sentence before moving on, so it is essential to get your main message into the first paragraph of each text block, with a keyword that grabs their attention added into the title. This is even more relevant to your mobile visitors as they scan your site while sipping their latte during a break. Time is of the essence, so using up their time is not recommended.

Visitors to websites have limited time and patience, so make sure you get your message across quickly and concisely to avoid losing them.

Always keep in mind that people are searching the web for information (or gratification) which equates to solving a problem. In other words, everyone has a problem, and they are looking for someone to solve it. Even if the problem is simply finding a supplier of crumbly cheese; if you supply cheese then make it clear from the home page that you stock the crumbly variety, and don't ramble on about the history of cheese or the breed of cows that supply the milk (add that into a separate page or blog post for those who may be interested).

How Many Pages?

The minimum pages that you would need is a home page, a services page and a contact page. In other words, a page that introduces your service, another page (or pages) that detail each of your services, and a page that allows visitors to contact you (send you an email or call you, or find out where you are). This would be a very basic starter site, but it would at least be enough to get your message on the web.

Most business websites will need extra pages to cover their full range of services and products, perhaps including technical specification sheets, product slide shows, customer reviews, after sales warranties, private access pages for members and customers, terms & conditions, privacy policy, about the company, faq's, industry news pages, blog articles etc etc.

You could add everything including the kitchen sink, but you would then run the risk of generating bloat - content for content's sake. Then you end up with a massive site with complex and confusing menus to all those pages, and you lose visitors as they struggle to find the solution to their original problem. In other words, you could end up creating more problems for them.

Keep in mind that the primary reason for having a website is to attract more customers, so only add pages and content that will help achieve that ultimate goal.

Remember the Search Engines

Never forget that you also have to write your content in a way that will make it easier for the search engines to decide what your page is about, based on the choice of keywords in the title, text and even the images 'alt' text (hover text). This means that you should always keep each page focussed on one topic, and don't branch out to discuss mixed subjects on the same page.

Search engines can identify the main subject of your website from the use of keywords, and it expects to find each page containing text relevant to the core subject. If your business covers a wide range of unrelated services then you may also find it more effective to separate them into multiple websites, each one focussed on their specific subject. This makes it easier for people to find the solution to their problem, and helps the search engines identify the core subject of your site.

When people visit a business website they generally looking for a solution to their problem, so make sure you attend to that problem as soon as possible before they look elsewhere.

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