Before I became a Wedding and Event Planner I was worked as a freelance copywriter. When I have the time I still do some copywriting and writing in general is a passion of mine.
For several years, the focus of my freelance writing business was writing content for small business websites. However, rather than being asked to do ‘start-up’ copy for these websites, I was, almost always hired to ‘re-write’ content for my clients. Very often the client had launched their website with high expectations, later to find that business was not knocking their virtual door down. Recognising that not having a website is ‘business suicide’ in this era, the business owners generally referred the ‘non-success’ of their site back to their website designer.
This is where I came in. Often, when a website is not performing business owners determine that something must be wrong with the style of the site and rarely do they consider that what is actually missing is ‘compelling’ content. A website can be spectacular to look at, but if the content is uninspiring, out of date, or copied from your competitor, (a BIG no, no!) it won’t do its job for you – regardless of how pretty your colours look online.
Many of my clients were referred to me by website designers who wanted to help their clients achieve more out their sites. And here is a big note for those of you looking to launch a website. Website designers are not always the best people to help you with content and in fact many of them will tell you that you need to hire a professional to assist you with copy, or use one of their ‘in-house’ content developers. Often customers opt not to take this advice, because they believe that they can develop content themselves (often to save money). A quick surf of the Internet will tell you that not everyone can develop website content and just as you may feel you need a graphic designer to assist you with designing a logo, you may need a copywriter or content developer to help you with this task.
But let’s take a step back, what is content? Loosely defined, content is the words, images and video that fill the pages of your website and they are just as important (if not more so) than the colours, banner and logo featured on your site. Why? Well simply, whilst the design of your site may attract someone to take a second look at your site, it is the content which will move viewers through the site and compel them to take action (i.e. buy products or use services).
Whilst I believe that most people do need some professional assistance when it comes to developing content, there are things that you can do yourself, even if you are going to out-source the writing to someone else. With this in mind here are my basic steps for creating compelling content for your website.
Determine who your target audience is?
Your target audience is the group of people you want to attract to your site. They are your potential customers. So for example, for my new website, my target audience is brides (and of course grooms); for a home-garden business it would be property owners.
Defining your target audience can be a little tricky. Here at the Academy our target audience is not just one group of people, so we must keep a much broader definition of our audience in mind when designing content for our websites. To define your target audience start by profiling your customer, considering;
• Demographics (age, sex, employment, nationality etc)
• Education level
• Interests and hobbies
By defining your target audience you will be guided towards the type of content you need to feature on your website
What do you want from your Content?
Again, make a list of what you want your content to communicate to your visitors. Are you looking to communicate information, sell goods and services online, encourage enquiries or appointments or simply collect leads. Or is your goal a combination of all of these things?
For example, if you want to engage with your visitors a blog is a great tool. If you want to provide support for your customers, online guides and manuals may be appropriate. If you want to sell goods you may wish to consider offering your visitors an online option for purchasing from you.
This is also where you want to consider the tone of your website; funky, fun, informative, authoritative – use content to convey your style and create a relationship between you and your viewer.
Your next step is to set a budget. This will have a huge bearing on what content goes into your website. Images, professionally written copy, videos, etc can all cost money. There are certainly ways of getting these things for free, but by setting your budget first you will know your restrictions/limitations early.
As part of this step you should develop a list of what content you need for your site. For e.g. Manuals, Photographs, Testimonials, Articles, Video, Blogs, Checkout.
Once you have a list of the content needed for the site you can work out what things you already have and what you need to outsource/purchase. For e.g. if you intend putting manuals onto your website you may be able to produce electronic copies from what you already have. If you want a video message on the site you may have to factor the cost of producing this into your budget. Do you need to hire a blogger to create copy for your site, or are you able to write this yourself?
Laying your Content out
The last step in the process is making decisions about where your content goes. Unless you are designing your own website, your website designer will probably do this for you. However so that you are in control of the process it is a good idea to understand what works in layout and what does not. Most important is to produce a site that makes sense. If a viewer cannot navigate their way easily around the site and find important information with a click of the mouse – they will leave your site and search somewhere else. Here are some things to consider when it comes to layout:
• Less is best (people do not want to read large amounts of information on the web – if you have large files of information consider putting them into an e-book or offering them as a download)
• Put essential information first (make it easy for your visitors – put yourself in your viewers shoes and consider where you would look for information first)
• Use clear headings (this guides your viewers around the site)
• Don’t forget images and graphics (these must look professional and convey the goals of your business).