Friday 22 May 2009

How to...Write Website Content (Part 4 - Quickstart Guide)

This is a quick guide that brings together everything mentioned in Parts 1 to 3.

Where To Start

  1. Make a cup of tea (or coffee).
  2. Make a list of all the pages on your website.
  3. Write the name of each page at the top of a new sheet or paper, or page if you're using a computer.
  4. Makes notes and lists on each page about what you want to include. Don't forget to include links and images you'd like to see too.

Define Your Audience

  1. Write a list of everyone that will visit your website. (See Part 3 if you get stuck for ideas)
  2. Make notes on what your audience will want from your website.
  3. Make notes on what you want your audience to do on your website.
  4. Review your Content Notes (from Where to Start).
    • Will they find what they need?
    • Is it where they'd expect it?
    • Have you left anyone out?
    • Are they drawn to where you want them to go?

Expand Your Content

  1. From all of the notes expand your bullet points into sentences.
  2. Review Part 3 - What to Write About if you are still stuck for the type of information to include.
  3. Add page titles, sub-headings and emphasis where needed.

Skim Read Your Content

Quickly skim read through your content, don’t take in too much detail! Do you get the main gist?

Review Your Content

Read through what you have written and answer the questions below.

  1. Have you started and ended each page with the most important points?
  2. Do page headings clearly tell you what the page is about?
  3. Do sub-headings give you the main point of paragraphs?
  4. Does key text stand out?
  5. Are sentences short?
  6. Do paragraphs stick to one main point?
  7. Are acronyms expanded?
  8. Is the text clear and easy to read?

Get Someone Else Involved

Now you have done all the hard work find someone else who can read the text. Get them to answer the following questions:

  1. If you skim read, do you get the main point of the page?
  2. What keywords stand out? (Are these the ones you want to stand out?)
  3. Is the text clear and easy to understand?
  4. Is the information you want available? Is it easy to find?

Hand it Over

Finally, you can now hand it over to your web design team! Please make sure it is typed up, proof read and spell checked to make life a little bit easier for us.Now, sit back and relax!

Friday 15 May 2009

How to....Write Website Content (Part 3)

What to Write About

Now you know why you need to write content and how to make it good for the web. But what exactly do people want to know? What should you talk about? Here is an idea of the kind of content to include – some of it may seem obvious but is often left out.

What do visitors want?

This is the million dollar question! Sometimes it’s obvious – people visiting a hotel website want to know if rooms are available, what facilities there are and how much the room will cost. Sometimes it’s more difficult. Should you mention the history of the company? Do visitors want to know what computer software you use? And this varies so much depending on your target audience and their aims.

Who are your visitors?

This has been looked at briefly in the other parts, but lets have a look at different types of visitors and what they want.

Prospective Clients

These are the people you most want to come to the website and the ones you most want to impress. They need to know straight away that:

  • You can help them – you provide the service or product they are looking for
  • You are professional
  • They want to buy or deal with you

They will need to be able to get to a contact firm or contact details easily and that all product and service information is quick to find and easy to understand.

Yet even in this group you will have a number of different audiences to please. Including the person who will have to pay (will want to see prices), the technical person (will like to see lots of detail – how, why and what), and others.

Existing Customers

They know you and have already decided to deal with you, so the chances are they are coming to repeat a purchase, or are looking for a phone number or address. You need to keep current customers in mind as they are likely to refer you to their friends, colleagues, family etc. This is also an ideal opportunity to let them know about other services and products you provide, to let them know how well you are doing and confirm that they have made the right choice dealing with you.


Everyone checks out the competition every now and then, so don’t let them have the satisfaction of thinking their site is better than yours! Make sure your content is up to date, publicise your achievements when you get them – but don’t lie. You will always get caught out in the end.

Other Visitors

Other examples of people visiting your website may be:

  • Job hunters
  • Members of the press
  • Casual browsers
  • Stakeholders
  • Your staff
  • An enthusiast

Each one will have a different reason for visiting, you need to determine which audiences are most important for you and target the content to suit.

A Guide for Standard Pages

What to Write on Your Home Page

Every website needs a home page. It should give each visitor an overview of who you are and what you do, allowing them to decide if your site is of interest to them. The ultimate job of the home page is to draw people into the site by providing points of entry that will appeal to each target audience.

Contact Us

This page should be easily accessible from every other page on your website. It should provide all of your contact details, including address, phone number, and email address. Yu could also include a contact form to make sure you get specific details from a customer enquiry.

A map and directions should also be available if you expect visitors to visit you. The map could either be an image accompanied by text-based directions, or a link provided by Google Maps or Multimap.

About Us

This could either be a page or group of pages depending on how much information you want to provide. This shoudl establish your business credibility by giving customers reasons why they should deal with you It may include:

  • Company History
  • Information about your Team or Staff
  • Customer Testimonials
  • Where you work
  • Your Values
  • How you Work
  • Company Accreditations or Associations

Basically anything that you feel would be of interest to the customer. If you can break this up into a number of smaller, manageable paragraphs visitors will be able to skim the content and pick up on the bits that interest them the most.

What We Do - Your Products & Services

This could also be a group of pages with one dedicated to each product or service, and will vary greatly depending on your company. If you're selling online maybe you'll want to write about specific brands, new products or best sellers. If you are providing services explain how they work and what the customer gets.

You should try and incldue the following if you can:

  • Product/Service Description
  • Features
  • Specifications
  • Images
  • Case Studies
  • Downloadable brochures or leaflets

Latest or Company News

A news section on a website gives visitors a reason to return to your site. It can include whatever you want, from welcoming new members of the team to general industry news.

Other Pages

You can add as many or as few pages to your website as you like - the possibilities are endless. Other examples of what you could include on your website are:

  • Blog - similar to news, but tends to be less formal and can comment on anything you like.
  • Resources - links to related articles or partners, downloads and more.
  • Gallery - photographs of your products, your hotel, golf course, restaurant or whatever else you are advertising.
  • Frequently Asked Questions - answers to questions visitors may have.
  • Guides and 'How To' - give visitors information on how to use your product.

Friday 1 May 2009

How to....Write Website Content (Part 2)

So what is Good Content? In my opinion it is content that gives the user exactly what they are looking for. It is clear and concise, easy to understand, accessible and, from a more technical point of view, optimised for search engines. Writing content for your website is not the same as writing content for a company brochure or leaflet because people read differently on-line – they scan the content and don’t read each individual word. It needs to grab their attention and they must be able to quickly find the information they are looking for. Once you have their attention the chances are they will stay to read the detail.

Your competitors are only two clicks away

When you are searching for a supplier, how long does it take you to go from one to another? You search Google and click on the first result, decide straight away you don’t like it, so how many clicks does it take for you to get onto the next website? Two. One back to Google and one on the link below. People everywhere are doing this all the time – so what if they are searching for you? Your website must tell them what you do instantly, it should look professional and make it easy for them to get to the content they need. Your content must grab their attention and encourage them to read about you, which in turn will encourage them to get in touch, which leads to sales, which leads to profit...well, you get the idea! So how do you write good content?

Your target audience needs the answers...

You need to determine who your target audience is and what they would like to achieve from visiting your site. Whether this is getting a phone number, looking for information, filling in a form or buying something. Once you have decided you can aim your content at the various audiences (as you may have more than one!) What will they be looking for? Is it easily accessible? Will they understand it? Will it make them purchase or get in touch?

..and they want them quickly

People will spend about 3 seconds scanning your website before reading anything. You have 3 seconds to grab their attention and entice them to read more. So don’t waste time using clever, meaningless headings, concentrate instead on easy to scan content. Our top tips for writing text are:

• Start and finish with the most important points (the postscript is the second most-read section of a letter!)
• Use sub-headings to highlight the point of each paragraph
• Use bold or highlighted text for key points
• Use lists to break up the text
• Stick to one idea for each paragraph so when users scan a paragraph there’s only one idea for them to grasp.

Don’t try to confuse your audience

People are bombarded by adverts everywhere they go and tend to ignore anything considered ‘marketing speak’. Keep your content objective and back it up with evidence where you can, for example facts and figures or customer testimonials.

Make sure that any acronyms are expanded at least in the first instance and that any specialist terms are explained, but make sure you don’t patronise your audience. It can be difficult to get the balance right as you may have a number of different audiences visiting your site, from those who will know every technical term in the book to those who are looking to learn.

Be Friendly

Friendly, clear and simple language is much easier to read and understand, and enables visitors to quickly scan text. Write as if you are talking to your visitors in person. Keep your content direct and to the point without adding too much “fluff” - make sure your visitors can tell exactly what you do! Keep lines and paragraphs short and use simple sentence structures.

What to do now

It can sound a lot, but I promise you it is easier than it sounds!

In Part 1 we ended with a document containing a list of all of your pages with outline notes, bullets or paragraphs on what to include. Now expand (if you haven’t already) each bullet point or note into a sentence or small paragraph. If you already have paragraphs make sure that they only contain one point and separate out those that contain more. Don’t worry too much at this stage about the fluff, long sentences and language.

When you have your paragraphs - read through them. Now is the time to focus on removing the fluff, making sure sentences aren’t too long and revising the language. Imagine you are a visitor to your website and ask yourself:

• Do you know what this company does and what they can offer you?
• Is the point of each paragraph immediately clear?
• Do you need to read a sentence several times to understand it?
• Would you be happy to deal with these people?

When you are happy, find someone else to read through it and ask them the same questions.
You should now have your content written! Or at least know how to do it!