Building Web Content

You sit down in front of your computer and put your hands on the keyboard. A blank monitor screen stares back at you. You want to write some copy for your new website, but where do you start? Lucky for you, website content has coalesced from a random collection of information into a cohesive set of standardized pages that web surfers are not only accustomed to, but expect. Follow this basic formula for sure-fire success:

Home Page

Think of the home page as a storefront window. Here, surfers will peer in at your contents and decide whether to enter your site or keep on walking by. Weigh that choice in your favor by making your home page visually appealing and easy to comprehend. Surfers want to find out about your product or service, and they want to do it with a minimum of effort. They’ll be asking themselves, “What kind of site is this?” and “What can I do here” along with the most important, “How do I contact this company?” Make it easy for them! Provide links to each major area of your site, much like a table of contents. But don’t clutter up the home page with too many elements. Keep it simple and allow your page (and the people looking at it) a chance to breathe.

Products or Services

This page is probably the most important one after the home page. Here you will describe for your customers what types of products and services you offer along with prices or rates. Don’t just list them randomly – categorize and subcategorize to make the information more user-friendly. For example, a garden center might categorize its services as Landscaping Design/Build; Retail Sales; Garden Maintenance; and Planting Services, with a short description of each and links to a separate page of more detailed information.

News

Use this page to post relevant content about your business. If you are expanding your business, tell about it here. Sales or special promotions can go here as well. Post informational articles related to your products or services here. For example, if you run a yoga studio, including an article about proper breathing techniques can go a long way toward keeping surfers on your site AND coming back. Informative, well-written, interesting articles will build your company’s reputation by positioning you as an expert in your field.

Company History/About Us

Potential customers who are uncertain whether to buy from you will be reassured by a short company history emphasizing your solidity as a business. This is your chance to establish your reliable reputation and your company’s worth. Familiarize visitors with your qualifications, describe how your business has grown, and to provide a human face for your organization.

Just remember two points when writing this page:

  1. Forget the word history. Avoid droning on and on about the founding CEO’s childhood or the fact that your deliveries were once made by horse and buggy. Think CliffsNotes rather than encyclopedia.
  2. Promote a professional appearance and profile. Get a professional photographer to take your picture instead of posting that snapshot of yourself in a Hawaiian shirt at the beach. Keep the focus on professional accomplishments. Nobody cares about your favorite pet cat Fluffymittens needing a flea dip. Save this for your personal blog.

Testimonials

How many times have you wanted to try a product or service, but were unsure of its worth? What do you do? Ask your friends! In an online environment, people want reassurance when buying items they cannot see in person or when engaging services from an unknown business. The customer who hesitates decreases your sales margin, but increases your bandwidth by returning to your site again and again as she makes up her mind. Tip the balance in your favor by providing her with testimonials to help her feel confident and ready to buy. Testimonials are statements, written by a third party, that endorse your product or service. There are many ways to collect these; the simplest is to ask for permission to quote when a customer compliments your business. Put your testimonials on a separate page linked to from the bottom of your company history page.

FAQ

If you find yourself repeatedly answering the same types of customer questions (Where are you located? Do you take credit cards? Do you deliver?), you might need a Frequently Asked Questions page. Ask the people who answer the phones and those at the front desk at your business what questions are asked most often. Don’t get carried away with this, however. Nobody wants to scroll through hundreds of lines of text to find the answer to a single question. Perversely, if your FAQ is too extensive, people will simply give up and call you, exactly what you were trying to minimize in the first place.

Contact Page

Usually composed of an email link or form that permits users to contact you, your contact page allows visitors to find out how to get in touch with your business. But don’t make it the only place. Your business address and phone should be posted on every page of your website. Make it easy for your valuable potential customers to find and contact you. Include a street address, even if you don’t use it for mailing. A physical location reassures customers that you have a permanent business presence and aren’t just some fly-by-night charlatan. Driving directions and business hours can also be posted to the contact page.

While each business is different and has its own set of requirements for a website, these 7 basic pages will ensure that you are off to a good start. If the task still seems unmanageable, try jotting down the information using bullet points. Once you have listed all your facts, it will be easier to combine the phrases into complete sentences. (That’s how this article was written!) As you shape your rough copy into sparkling web content, keep in mind some of the following guidelines for good writing.

Effective Writing

Reading text on a monitor screen for long periods of time creates eye fatigue. People will be reluctant to read reams of information at your site. Attention spans are short, so keep your copy short and to the point. Break up large blocks of content with subheaders. Use bullet points to allow readers to quickly scan for the item of interest. Provide “find out more…” links that point to additional content. Put the most important information at the top of the page where it will most readily be seen. Use good grammar and correct spelling or hire a proof reader or copy editor. Write in the active voice. Instead of: “The passive voice should not be used,” try “Don’t use the passive voice,” or better yet, make it a positive statement, “Write in the active voice.” Revise, revise, revise.

Once you have completed your text and posted it to your site, you may be tempted to check off that task and forget about it. Instead, be sure to return periodically and reread your web content with a critical eye. Refresh your site with new photographs and revised text. Good content is worth every minute you spend on it. Communicating effectively to your customers will ensure good long-term business relationships. So get those fingers typing and fill up that blank screen!

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