- Read time: 3 mins
- Tech level: low
- Key point: great web content will result in a better customer experience.
Web content lies at the foundation of building engaging conversations between your organisation and its customers. Great content will always work to build quality traffic, generate leads and achieve success because it will improve the customer experience.
Building brand value and trust are just some of the benefits to come from improving the customer experience of your website.
But creating killer web content is not easy or straight forward. That’s why we have created a ‘cheat sheet’ of seven key high level steps that will result in effective web pages for a winning website.
This post won’t cover the general principles of writing for the web. A more comprehensive style guide or branding guidelines document would cover key content components such as tone of voice, language and style. That’s a different blog post.
This post is more of a practical guide to the essential steps that should be carried out as the content for each webpage is created.
Seven key high level steps to complete for each web page
Review the persona for each page
It’s critical that web content is tailored to the people you want to read it. A common trap is to write content that appeals to internal stakeholders, but not necessarily the ideal audiences of your website. Personas help you to focus your creative efforts on the reader.
What is a persona?
A persona is a reliable representation of your key audience segments. Personas are always based on observed behaviours of real users. They are customer profiles based on both qualitative and quantitative research in conjunction with data derived from web analytics. Personas should be developed at the beginning of the web project to help maximise functionality, identify weaknesses and expand on strengths. Personas will guide the content, feature set and design decisions of each page. This will work to optimise the user experience as they navigate through the content.
Review the character limits detailed in the relevant wireframe
It’s important for a content writer to know where they are going and why before they start writing any copy. Wireframes give content writers text limits in how they can communicate key messages to users– even down to the last character in many instances. They provide structure in the formation of content because the writers have essentially been given a map. Reviewing the wireframes for each webpage means content can be created in sympathy with the page design. This will assist in the creation of a website that is easier to navigate, making it user friendly.
Document what you want your audience to think, feel or do after reading your content
Good web content is effective content i.e. it will have some sort of effect on the reader after they have read it. Whether it be to influence their opinion of your organisation, feel compelled to buy your product or to take an action like making content.
So, it’s your job to think about and define what you want your audience to think, feel or do after reading your content.
Content that fails to hit the mark means you’re failing to connect with the needs of your customers. If you want to create content that inspires your audience to action, it’s a great idea to create a document that outlines what you want them to think, feel and do after they have read each page.
- Do you want your users to think your organisation is unique in the marketplace? Then write content that describes how your offering is different and why it benefits your customers.
- Do you want them to feel inspired? Provide stories of how your organisation has improved the quality of life for its audience.
- Is there a specific action you want them to take after reading a page? Outline a scenario that details the steps they need to take to experience the key benefits of your offering.
Write the content while following the typical guidelines for writing for the web
There are a multitude of books, blogs and YouTube videos that provide detailed guidelines on how to write great content for the web. We have condensed the non-negotiables elements here to make it easier for you.
The key elements for great content include:
- Write user-friendly content. Include keywords that your users actually use, as this will help them understand the copy
- Use an active voice. “The politicians proposed the new laws” not “The new laws were proposed by the politicians”
- Use short sentences and paragraphs – ideally no more than 20 words per sentence. Aim to keep sentences to a maximum of five per paragraph
- Remember that good content is complemented by great photos and imagery. Beautiful visuals should work to visually represent and communicate the key components of the text – not distract from them.
- Use headlines and subheads to break up information.
- Posing questions to the reader can be effective in sparking a thought in the reader’s mind
- Use the ‘inverted pyramid’ or a hierarchy of importance for information. Start with the content that is most important to your audience, and then provide additional details
The title tag should characterise what the page is about.
An enterprise class CMS can automate the population of the title tag field so that the format is something like: <Name of page> <Org name>. Ideally though, each page would have a title tag and a description tag specifically written in a consistent tone and style. Keep in mind that there are character limitations and Google typically displays the first 50-60 characters of a title tag (as of October 2017).
This is an opportunity to write compelling content that will entice the reader to click through to see more. Ideally the description tag would end with a call to action that would encourage them to click through to see the full webpage. Search engines generally truncate snippets longer than 160 characters (as of October 2017)
This field is usually important for the internal search tool and is great for entering synonyms and potential search queries that people would use when looking for specific content in the page. It’s a good idea to populate the keywords field with relevant keywords. Review your web analytics on a regular basis to see what terms people are already typing into your internal search field.
In Google Analytics you can find these search queries here: “Behaviour > Site Search > Search Terms” (as of October 2017).
Web content creation template
Google Sheets is a useful tool for managing templates of this type
Example of a website creation template
|Page name||About us||Another webpage|
|Location within the IA||Home > About us||Home > About us > Another webpage|
|Corresponding persona||Alice - the motivated Marketing Officer||Tom - the Website Manager|
|Title tag||We're experts in helping large organisations create great web content
||Get focussed and effective web content by using personas
|Description tag||Our experts support large organisations strategically manage their website content and set up content maintenance calendars. See what we've done for large organisations.
||We can help you create web content that converts - by using personas that will focus your marketing efforts on what really counts - your customer. See some sample personas.|
|Keywords||website content, website strategy, website maintenance
||personas, effective website content|
|Subject matter expert||Marketing Manager (currently Jane Doe)
||User Experience Manager (currently John Doe)|
|Role responsible for maintenance||Website Producer (currently Jane Doe)
||Website Producer (currently Jane Doe)
|Frequency of updating||Monthly||Weekly|