Imagine we’re not actually in The Business Kitchen. Whereas some of your workshops will be the business equivalent of The Ritz kitchen or a stylish Cheltenham bistro, mine’s as simple as picking and eating something delicious from a hedgerow. No props: just me and some lessons from eight years as a freelance copywriter specialising in website content…
This session isn’t about the big picture of strategic content development or its integration with your marketing plans. For that, I’d recommend books such as Content Strategy for the Web by Halvorson and Rach, or McGovern and Norton’s Content Critical. Instead, I’m going to share some pro tips for effective written web content.
Content is King
For websites to engage humans and search engines, content is (and always was) king. Good content is relevant and meaningful to your site visitors, well written and consistent with your brand. Google’s recent algorithm changes have made content’s importance topical, almost as if content is a newly discovered recipe for online success. In reality, since Bill Gates’ prophetic 1996 ‘Content is King’ essay, the smart money has always been on creating content that helps your site visitors solve problems – in alignment with Google’s guiding principles.
Whether you just want content to read well, or you want it to help your search engine optimisation (SEO), good content writing matters. When SEO performance is important, the difference is that you’ll need to integrate properly researched page keyword sets into your content. More on that later.
Write as you speak
So if we take relevance as a given, what does ‘good’ website writing look like? Firstly, it’s about writing for humans – and writing as we speak (including use of ‘you’ and ‘I/we’ to make it more personal and direct). Whether your content is informal, or has a higher register, writing as you’d speak to readers is a great start – remember that as someone reads your website content an inner dialogue is going on. I’m constantly amazed how people who converse quite ‘normally’ face-to-face lapse into the stuffiest, over-formal, ‘corporate speak’ for their website content.
Page layout matters
Page layout and correct use of formatting also helps your content shine. Even if you aren’t consciously including keywords, certain techniques make content less intimidating. That increases the likelihood of successful communication. Here are some ideas:
Later, we’ll talk about including researched keywords into your content. If you’ve applied the basic principles of web writing, the framework’s there for placing keywords in the prominent places mentioned above: your main (H1) heading, introduction, bullet points, final paragraph and so on… And in the Title and Description meta tags that describe the page content to search engines.
The right amount of content
So how much content should you put in a web page? Google likes content (and the latest thinking is that, providing content is relevant and well written, more is better – up to 1000 words or so, provided it is relevant and useful). As a guide, about 350 words per page is a good starting point. But surely, you’re thinking, lots of copy makes hard reading. And besides, you want a nice minimalist website... The good news is that two content techniques give the best of both worlds – and allow you to have a sufficient volume of copy to carry a decent page keyword set.
Firstly, there’s user-revealed content where brief lead-in copy tempts you to click and reveal more content – but still on the same page. Because most of your page content is user-revealed it doesn’t have to fill your page at first glance. And if coded correctly, it won’t upset Google.
Another technique is simply to front-load the most important parts of your content ‘story’ into a first paragraph and call to action – followed by a longer ‘More About’ section further down the page. Visitors wanting quick information find it in the first paragraph, while someone wanting more can read on.
Properly researched page keyword sets
All these techniques apply to unoptimised website content, but what if your content must help search engines find you? I say ‘help’ because optimised content is just one of many components of successful SEO. From experience, effective SEO requires more than just writing page content around one keyword. And it certainly doesn’t mean keyword stuffing.
Google likes to see page content built around a set of related words: synonyms; alternative spellings; singular and plural forms; and words that, for reasons known to itself, Google expects to see together. That’s why a properly researched, discrete, page keyword set is a vital foundation for each page of optimised website copy.
Unfortunately, many business owners and webmasters don’t do this – or know exactly how people search for content in their marketplace. From experience, the answer often lies in professional independent research by a reputable SEO expert. They will research the search environment for your business, identify keywords, then combine optimal sets of words and phrases into page keyword sets to underpin your content writing. It’s not a service I offer, but I’ve worked with enough SEO experts to know the wisdom of doing so – and the profound implications keyword research has for site design, navigation, content writing and, ultimately, websites’ success – or failure.
So here again are five guiding principles for writing good website content.
Of course, it goes without saying that you have to have something meaningful about your product or service. And then there’s the challenge of writing the content you need, especially if you don’t have the time, specialist writing skills or the inclination to do it. These ideas will make your content writing easier and more effective – alternatively, you could entrust your copy to a skilled website content writer, while you focus on what you do best to add value to your business
For more information and your free quotation, please call 01242 520 573 or email me
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