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How to write effective content for your website

Producing effective text for your web site starts with a clear understanding of the goals and objectives of your web site. (See articles titled “What makes a good website” & “9 Reasons why every business needs a website”). The more specific you are at this stage, the more focused will be the final result.

Follow these steps:

1. Create a profile of your ideal customer & a Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

  • Define your customers’ needs and desires. Ask yourself the Who, How, What, Why, Where, When questions. Try to get inside their minds. Brainstorm a list of topics that might interest your target audience.
  • Think about how you will build a relationship with someone who has never met you and has no reason to trust you.
  • Work out what is unique about your business. Write a short paragraph (2 or 3 sentences) that explains how you are different from others in your industry. Include reasons why people should visit (& re-visit) your site rather than your competitors. This is what sets you apart from your competition. It becomes one of the first things your visitor should see when they arrive on your home page.

2. Customer Focused website

Your First page must focus on benefits. People want to know how they will benefit from buying your product or service. They think ‘What’s in it for me? Only after you have fired their imagination can you start talking about the features.

Most Internet users want to find the information about the product or service they need as fast as possible. You only have a max 15 seconds to capture their attention after they land on your site. Any longer and they will be off (possibly to a competitor).

3. Writing the text

Use the ‘Big Information First’ principle ( say the most important, the most critical, the biggest thing FIRST and then progress to the 2nd most important item & so on ).

Start with a short summary/introduction paragraph then use informative headings and subheadings with a paragraph of 4 to 5 lines that supports them. Remember, you only have a few seconds to grab your visitor’s attention. Most will simply scan for the information they are seeking so you have to display your text in a scan-friendly way. When you have written your text, go back to the top of the page and create an attention-grabbing headline.

  • Use bulleted or numbered lists, bold or italic fonts to emphasize your points.
  • Never use underlining except where you are providing a link.
  • Include links at the end of your paragraph to direct visitors to other pages of your site for more in-depth information.
  • Stay with either black or dark blue text on a plain white or light coloured background.
  • Break the text into short bites & lay them out to produce visual variety – nothing turns people off more than big blocky chunks of text.

4. Write in an informal, personal style

You don't need to be elaborate or super-creative. Do not try to be overly subtle because your viewers don’t have the time or inclination to try to work out what you are saying. Your writing style contributes to grabbing the attention of your visitors.

5. Keep your sentences simple

You are not writing to impress. Pitch your text as if you were talking to a 13 year old. (There are exceptions – e.g. where you are publishing technical, scientific or legal information.)

  • Don't use large words but opt for strong verbs over weak ones.
  • Keep your phrases active rather than passive: e.g. Instead of "a good time was had by all"...say, "We all had a good time".
  • Keep your sentences short and snappy. 
SPECIAL TIP - Use customers focused words (you, you’re etc) 3 times as often as you use a self-focused word (We, us, I etc).

 

6. Include keywords

Brainstorm the words & phrases that people are likely to use in search engines & wherever possible include these targeted keywords in your text. Your webdesigner should include these keywords in your Metatags, links and file names etc.

7. Proof read, Proof read, Proof read

Don't waffle on in your writing. Eliminate the irrelevant If you bore your visitors and they will give up & go elsewhere. Think ‘short & to the point’.

Errors mean that you are unprofessional or sloppy. Read the text aloud to yourself. Get someone else to proof read it. Often they will find more errors or bring a new perspective.

Use the spell checker but don't rely on it. Often it doesn't pick up all incorrectly spelled words. Print a copy of your content. It's easier to find grammatical or spelling errors on a hard copy.

SPECIAL TIP - Spell with your audience in mind. If you are targeting an international audience use US English, otherwise use UK English. Don’t abbreviate dates as this can lead to confusion.

8. STOP

Take a break for a few hours or even overnight (I like to sleep on it! ). This allows you to see your subject from a different standpoint. You may find a better way to say something or realise that you need to appeal to you audience in a different way. 

9. Images & Navigation

Think about the images you want to use. They should be used support & illustrate your website content. Use images to help break up the ‘blockiness’ of your text. But beware - too many images can be a distraction & slow down the time it takes to load your site.

Don’t try to be clever with your Navigation. Say what you mean in plain English – one of the cardinal rules of website design is that it must be easy to use.

Finally

Writing effective text for your web site is the key to converting Internet surfers into buyers. You will have provided a reason for people to trust that you can provide the solution to their needs in a clear concise no-nonsense way. Now work with your web designer to present all this in a visually enticing way and you are ready to go live.

Need content? You may use this article at your website, or in your newsletter.
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Article by Barry Ekins of Webdzinz Limited, www.webdzinz.co.nz