With only minor editing … we actually wrote this blog post 10 years ago! As much as things change, they also stay the same. A decade later, the content that you produce and distribute remains one of the most crucial elements of your online marketing strategy.
Ok so you've built your website .... but now you find yourself wondering where are all the visitors? Why is it that you can't find your website when you go to your favorite search engine and search on industry specific keywords? The truth is building and marketing a website are two distinct phases that both require serious effort. And when it comes to search engines, there are literally hundreds of variables that must be considered and employed within your website in order to be found. However, one variable is more important than all of the others . . . the content of your website.
Content is king for a couple of reasons. Search engines seek to rank higher those website that offer good, up-to-date information. Additionally, once a visitor finds your website, it is imperative that the content be appealing to a "real" reader as well as the search engine. The following are specific ideas we have found work well for our clients. These techniques not only will help raise the overall ranking of your website, but also help convert visitors into sales.
Writing for the web is totally different than writing for print. Website visitors tend to scan content on the web, hunting for the information they are after, as opposed to reading word-for-word. As a result, there are a few guidelines to follow when writing copy for your website:
Reading from computer screens is tiring for the eyes and about 25% slower than reading from printed material. As such, the easier the style of writing, the easier it is for website visitors to absorb your words of wisdom.
Limiting each paragraph to just one idea is especially effective when combined with front-loading paragraph content.
Front-loading content means putting the conclusion first, followed by the what, how, where, when and why. The first line of each paragraph should contain the conclusion for that paragraph, so website visitors can:
KEYNOTE: Front-loading also applies to the entire web page, as well as paragraphs. The opening paragraph on every page should always contain the conclusion of that page. This way, website visitors can instantly gain an understanding of what the page is about and decide whether they want to read the page or not.
Unfortunately many websites don't adhere to this guideline and end up writing page content in a story-format. On each page there's an introduction, middle and conclusion, in that order. When scanning through web content website visitors don't tend to read all the text nor read all the way to the bottom of the screen. As such, website visitors may easily miss the conclusion if it's left until the end.
So remember, conclusion first, everything else second! For a great example of front-loaded content, just read any newspaper article. The opening paragraph is generally the conclusion of the article.
Breaking up text with descriptive sub-headings allows website visitors to easily see what each section of the page is about. The main heading on the page provides a brief overall view of what page is about, and the opening paragraph gives a brief conclusion of the page (because you've front-loaded the page content). Within the page though, there are various sub-themes which can be easily identified by using sub-headings.
There is no hard and fast rule for how frequently to use sub-headings, but you should probably be roughly aiming for one sub-heading every two to four paragraphs. More importantly the sub-headings should group page content into logical groups, to allow website visitors to easily find the information that they are seeking.
Another way to help website visitors locate information quickly and easily is to bold important words in some paragraphs. When site visitors scan through the screen this text stands out to them, so do make sure the text that you bold makes sense out of context (or by itself).
Bold two to three words which describe the main point of the paragraph, and not words on which you're placing emphasis. By seeing these bold words website visitors can instantly gain understandings of what the paragraph is about and decide whether or not they want to read it.
In the same way that bold text stands out to screen-scanning website visitors, so does link text. Link text such as ‘click here’ makes no sense whatsoever out of context, so it is useless to site visitors scanning web pages. To find out the destination of the link, site visitors have to hunt through the text both before and after the link text. It is better to use descriptive text that will tell the website visitor where the page will link to, as opposed to using words or phrases such as “click here”.
Lists are preferable to long paragraphs because they:
Left-aligned text is easier to read than justified text, which in turn is easier to read than center- or right-aligned text.
When reading through justified text the spacing between each word is different so our eyes have to search for the next word. This slows down our reading speed. Right- and center-aligned paragraphs slow down reading speed even more because each time you finish reading one line your eye has to search for the beginning of the next line.
KEYNOTE: Each webpage should focus on ONE primary topic or main idea. Separate different ideas into different pages of your website. Defining your website with this rule allows the website to more easily be optimized for search engines. Additionally, it will be easier for the specific traffic you want to find you, to be driven to your website in the future.
In short, following these simple guidelines will improve the overall content of your website. But most importantly, search engines AND website visitors will find your site more attractive, easy to use. Search engines will rank you higher, and website visitors will stay on your website longer and your sales conversion rate should increase.