How to Write Great Web Content
I’m afraid we have some bad news for you. There is a very strong chance your website content is bad. It could even be really bad. So bad that when someone comes to your website, after a 5-second scan, they give up and move on. That means your chances of selling your services are dead. Not because you aren’t fabulous or that your services are lacking. It’s because they had a question about you (or your company) that didn’t get answered – and moving on seemed like a better option than staying put and digging deeper.
What Not to Do:
It’s not that you didn’t try hard, or that you are a poor writer. It’s that you possibly fell into one of these common traps.
- Writing exclusively from your own perspective, for your own pleasure. (“I love this and I think that…”)
- Using existing materials and repurposing them as your web content. (“I’ll use my resume and this old company brochure to tell the story of me and my company.”)
- Discovering content creation is so difficult, you shifted your strategy to extreme minimalism (“…just call me.” Or “…most of my clients are word of mouth anyway…)
- Paying someone else to write your copy without much of your own contribution, and now it is strangely foreign. (“Who put the word, “Indubitably“ on my website? LOL)
- Sheepishly copying someone else’s content and changing out the details. (“I hope this isn’t considered illegal, but her site is really good so I’ll do that…”)
Same Grocer, Different Message: Brand is in the Details
Meet Diane. Diane created her own business, “Greenleaf” just last year. She was super excited to build a website to tell everyone all about her new organic produce business. From her perspective, it was her very personal story that set her apart from her competitors. She believed by mentioning her journey from the East Coast, and identifying herself as an organic eater, she would be bonding with other healthy eaters who might also have traveled to the West seeking a new start. From Diane’s perspective, her business was an expression of herself. She felt proud of her accomplishments and loved sharing them through her website. Because of this, she put her personal story front and center on the home page, and wrote exclusively from her own perspective.
Now, let’s take a look at Greenleaf from the perspective of a visitor who happened to pick up Diane’s business card at the local coffee shop. Let’s assume this potential customer was motivated enough to visit Diane’s website. They are probably going to spend seconds searching her home page to answer the following buyer questions:
- What do they sell?
- Is it any good?
- Is it worth the extra effort to shop outside of my big grocery store?
- Where can I buy this produce?
- Will this relationship bring me something good that I want?
Sadly, Diane offered answers to those questions deep within the website pages, instead of offering that information right up front. Her visitors never contacted her, because they never got to the point of trying her produce.
Does that mean there is no place to include Diane’s personal journey story? Of course not! Different locations within your website serve different purposes. Also, depending on the marketing piece, your content will vary. The key to creating great web content is to know your audience and your unique selling proposition – and then with that knowledge, crafting content your users want. Here is part of Diane’s home page, reimagined to serve the interests of her ideal customer.
How to Write Great Web Content: The Content Audit Template
The “Content Audit Template*” [shown below] helps us all to think critically about what information makes it into a website. At Arise, we use this tool on every project! The content template visualizes another way of looking at crafting your site’s content to delight your visitors. Best of all, it helps you avoid the common traps that lead to weak web copy. All of the content you produce falls into these three categories. Shrinking or killing off the content that users don’t want, and dishing up tasty content they do want, is a sure fire way to turbo charge your awesome website.
What TO Do:
Kill most of the “Content that Exists.” This includes old web copy, corporate brochures and sales pages. If that content was so fabulous, why is it getting replaced? If you want to keep some of it, you might need to “polish” it to be suitable for reuse… but beware. Recycling content carries a risk. Be sure it is fresh/relevant content users want!
Shrink “Content You [the business owner] Want.” Actually, if you can read the fine print, the template says if you can’t kill it, than just pick the very best items. This category includes all the information you are saying about yourself that begins with “I…” A few items in this category are going to be very good for SEO, but beyond that, watch where you place that information and pair it down to the essential, best bits filled with personality and relevance.
Focus on “Content Users (Customers) Want” Make this content your up front, top-level share. If you don’t actually know what your users want to know, don’t guess! Ask them! Your marketing and sales materials, along with your brand, exist for them. If you provide clear and concise information they want to hear in a quick to read format, you will be providing content that works!
*Thanks to John McCrory for the Venn diagram! We love that you shared this with the world to improve content everywhere. Really, thanks.
For more on Writing Great Copy for the Web:
Quick Course On Effective Website Copywriting By Peep Laja
How to Write Effective Copy for Your Website By Kyra Kuik
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