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Content for the web is like fruit at a buffet

Web content is our online 5-a-day but for too long designers and clients alike have focused on the superficial – the visual aspects of a website that satisfy a temporary craving but will in the long term leave your website unhealthy.

If you have ever commissioned or managed a website I’m sure you’ll be familiar with this pattern:

  • We need a new website
  • This is so exciting! We should add all these cool features
  • Launch: this is the best thing ever!
  • 2 months later: the hard work is done, let’s do something else
  • 1 year later: The website isn’t bringing any business in
  • Let’s start again – I have more ideas for cool features!

This pattern is usually due to an absence of any sort of content strategy. Without thinking about why people are visiting your website the chances are you won’t be providing them with a reason to stay. People don’t visit your website for the ambiance, in most cases they have a specific goal in mind; once they satisfy that goal they’re off somewhere else. Content is what gets them to where they need to be so common sense dictates that your website should be built around the content that your users need.

The key is to get the balance right between what you are trying to achieve as a business and what your customers are trying to achieve when on your website. These are not always the same things but striking a balance is often what turns a website into a successful web presence.

Getting content healthy
Start by looking at what content you already have. Every piece of content on your website should either satisfy a business goal or help a user to complete a task. If it doesn’t then why is it on your website? Be strict here – every piece of unnecessary content is getting in the way of your users and preventing them from becoming customers.

Next, try and put yourself in your customer’s shoes – or better yet, speak to your existing customers. What are their reasons for visiting your website? Be specific here. Rather than simply stating that potential customers visit your website to learn about your products, try and focus on the why. Customers visit your website to learn how the products (or services) that you offer can solve a particular problem that they have. Does the current content make the advantages of choosing your company clear? If not, how can it be improved? Repeat this process for every goal that your customers may have.

Don’t forget about yourselves as a company. What do you need to get out of your website? Again, it’s best to be specific here. “More sales!” would be great but that’s the end result – break this into small, achievable tasks like “increase product enquiries through the website submission form”. Look at the submission form itself – remember, this a type of content and should be treated as such. Is the form too long? Are the questions on the form easy to understand? Does the form help keep a user’s mistakes to a minimum (email validation etc)? Attention to detail in these areas can make a big difference when it comes to creating a valuable website.

Smaller waistlines for websites
The benefits of eating fruit are obvious but what about the benefits of developing a content strategy?

Satisfied visitors
Users get frustrated when they can’t find what they are looking for. A good content strategy will establish what your customers need and give it to them.

Turn visitors into customers
Every person that visits your website won’t necessarily become a customer. A good content strategy can help you increase this conversion rate by making the advantages you offer clear and reducing a potential customer’s uncertainty when making a purchase decision.

Healthier search rankings
Search engines scan web pages to determine if the page content is relevant to a user’s search term. Because you will have researched your customer’s goals and provided them appropriate content as part of your content strategy your pages will rank highly.

Put your user’s needs first through relevant content. Users are customers, customers are good for business. Everyone wins.

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