I get a lot of questions about writing website content.
Getting a great website design, creating amazing products, taking professional pictures of your products or getting great images for your website… These are all things clients spend a lot of time and energy on.
But too often, I see clients investing so much in their website software and marketing tools, but not focusing much energy on creating amazing website content.
Images, colors, font choices, logo… all this is really important at creating that first impression by visitors.
But what about getting them to stick around for a bit? To consider contacting you, or making a purchase, or signing up for your newsletter?
To get people to take action, you need really great website content.
Creating amazing website content can seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be.
I’ve got some best practices you can follow when writing the text for your website, or if you want to update what you’ve already got.
What you need to know to write killer website content:
1. Focus on your headers.
The truth is, most people don’t read all the content on your page. Their goal is to find what they’re looking for as quickly as possible. They’re not here to read a novel. They want info, and they want it fast.
Well-written headers are the first step in helping people find what they need fast.
How do you write great headers?
Headers should be descriptive.
Don’t get too clever with your headers. You don’t want to risk confusing your visitors. Each header should be a good summary of the content below the header. You can include power words, or words that will grab attention. But they should be easy to read quickly, and not too long.
Headers should tell the entire story.
Visitors to your website should be able to summarize the content on your website JUST FROM READING YOUR HEADERS. Don’t make them read the small print if they don’t want to. Write headers that can tell the entire story of your website. The paragraphs between the headers should only elaborate on the story your headers are summarizing.
Watch as I scroll down the page of our client Clar8ty's QSPA website. Each header is clearly answering a question potential customers might ask, and telling the reader what exactly is contained within each section.
2. Communicate your Unique Selling Proposition immediately.
What is your unique selling proposition (USP)? A USP is what sets your products or services apart from the competition. Why should a visitor choose your company over the other options available?
One popular USP you may have seen in use is the concept of doing good. “Buy one, give one”. You buy a pair of shoes from Amazing Shoe Company, and they donate a pair to someone in need. That is a great incentive, and should be communicated right away. For example, Amazing Shoe Company’s top header should be “You get a pair, She gets a pair” with an image of a happy child receiving her free pair of shoes.
3. Be a storyteller.
Don’t just write marketing copy. You need to become a storyteller. Just like I said your headers should tell the entire story, your website itself should tell a story.
Let’s go back to our Amazing Shoe Company example. They have a great story to tell – not the story of them doing good, but that story of the girl receiving a free pair of shoes. That is the kind of story you need to tell in your website content.
Check out this video for CryptoComics.com that Andrew Frey and I put together (ok, it was mostly Andrew, I just wrote the content). We are relying heavily on storytelling to encourage comic book creators and fans to sign up:
4. Focus on the Why, not the What.
When writing your content, you shouldn’t tell visitors what is so amazing about your product or service. Tell them how you are going to solve their problem, or make their life better.
People don’t want to buy ¼ inch drill bits.
They want ¼ inch holes.
People don’t want to buy great smelling laundry detergent.
They want great-smelling clothes.
Your content should tell them how their life is going to be better if they take action on your website. Our client, Green Kids Club
, communicates that very well with the header "Our books teach children to "grow up green!"
Parents who value teaching their children about this important concept will know right away they are in the right place, and purchasing a book or becoming a member will help them accomplish this important goal.
People don't want to buy children's books.
People want their children to learn and 'grow up right'.
5. Be brief.
Having a lot of content isn’t a bad thing. When I say “be brief”, I mean your headers should be short, and your paragraphs tiny and easy to skim.
Make it simple for people to find what they’re looking for, then skim it, or read it in more detail. Lots of headers, small paragraphs, bold sections, and variations in font size are all ways you can help the reader find the information they are looking for quickly by skimming.
For example, let’s consider the content-rich Services page on the ApogeeINVENT website. There is a lot of content on this page, describing our custom software product development services. I wrote the content to be easy to skim. Each header is clear and concise, summarizing each section. I bolded the most important parts of each section, and made sure all the paragraphs were small.
6. Use lots of white space.
If you look at the example above, what is something else you notice about my content? Notice where it isn’t. It doesn’t fill the page. When people are trying to absorb information, their eyes need a place to rest. Plenty of white space, or blank space, on your web pages will help visitors feel less anxious about reading your content. It makes the page easier to skim, and the content easier to comprehend.
It will also look less overwhelming overall, which means they will stay on the page longer and be more likely to attempt to read it.
7. It’s ok to get personal.
The more personable the content on your site, the more people are going to trust it. Let your personality show through your content. If it doesn’t make sense to tie your personal branding to your site (or you’re writing content for someone else), then create a company persona and stick to it with your writing “voice”.
When we talk about a voice as writers, each person has a certain tone that comes through in their writing. If you’ve been reading my blog for a long time, you may have become familiar with mine. (Yes, I tend to write too long of sentences, overuse commas, and always write in threes, like I just did here). But a little idiosyncrasy is ok, as long as it helps you to better connect with your audience.
A great example of this is on the web page of our partner company CryptoComics
. They ask me to help proofread their content from time to time, and I need to be careful about how much editing I do.
One of the co-founders, Jared, has written a lot of the content, and he has a very strong “voice” that I believe does a great job at personalizing the content. Even if it isn’t always grammatically correct. But I think keeping personal tone is more important than having textbook perfect content.
8. Where to put content on your website
Wondering what should go where?
Sometimes knowing what content should go on the homepage, and what to relegate to the depths of your interior pages can be difficult.
I’m going to give you the answer everyone hates: It depends on you. What is the goal of your website, and what kind of business / industry you’re in.
However, I can tell you this: Your goal should be to get people to take action on your website, and to remain on your website as long as possible. Both of these will increase the likelihood of that user becoming a customer.
How can you do that?
On your homepage, the most frequent entrance page to page of most websites, you should include your USP at the top, a Call to Action (like signing up for your newsletter or signing up for some cool free stuff you’re offering), and access to more content.
Show snippets of your most popular blogs, your best-selling products, or recognizable brand testimonials.
If we go back to the example I used in #s 1 and 2, our Awesome Shoe Company, you probably want to have a link to a page that goes into detail about the amazing things you’re doing with your free shoes. How you’re helping, who you’re helping, etc.
Your homepage is the teaser with a really great call to action, and the rest of your website will lay out the whole story in more detail – About you, Your Products, Pricing if relevant, Resources or Free stuff, Portfolio / Testimonials, Blog, and any other great information you’re sharing. Sometimes behind the scenes stuff can go a long way to building trust in potential customers.
9. Tell visitors what to do.
Don’t be afraid of telling visitors exactly what to do on your website. They might arrive with a goal in mind: “I’m looking for pricing.” Or they might just want to learn more about your business before committing to making a purchase. “Want to learn more about us? You can do that here.”
Use the content you’re writing to tell them what step they should take next, whether that be click on your button: “Join thousands of other businesses looking for marketing answers”.
Our Awesome Shoe Company might tell people: “See how you can make a difference by making a purchase today”, or if you want them to buy: “Browse the amazing shoes that are changing the world”.
10. Use emotion to make connections.
This ties into a few of the others points, but I wanted to talk about this by itself. Studies have shown that people make buying decisions, even major ones, by using emotion. Now, we might love when reason matches our emotional choice, but everyone is an emotional buyer.
Images, videos, and other media are great ways to connect emotionally with visitors on your website. But you can use text, too.
Sometimes, we use simple power words like “Now, Instantly” to appeal to the need for immediate gratification in many of us.
Writing great content is about making a connection.
Your text should be clear and concise, and should tell the story of your business. Make it story worth telling!