Writing content for your website is hard. Trust me. You think it’ll be easy, that you can do it in half a day but it’ll be the bane of your life for weeks.
At least it should be if you’re doing it right. You see, as much as the design is most likely the part you’re looking forward to the most, it’s no where near as important as what your website says. (That’s a weird sentence coming from a designer, right?)
People don’t come to your website for the design, they come to find something out, do a task or buy something. It’s your content they’re interested in, not how it looks.
So I’m going to give you some tips for writing your content and making it the best it can be.
Don’t write for you, write for me
Ok maybe not me personally, but write for your audience. It sounds obvious and you may think you’re already doing this but I want you to take a step back and really think about whether you’re truly writing for your audience, or for yourself.
We like to imagine our users sitting at their computers, with a hot cup of tea, reading our websites word for word. No distractions, nothing but whale music in the background because their focus is on us.
Let’s think about the realities of someone reading your website. They’re either at work, at home or in between. There will be things going on around them and they’ll most likely be multitasking, whether that’s watching TV, looking out for their bus—or their boss.
So we need to anticipate why they’re really on your website, and what they’re looking for. Help them get there as quickly as possible. Which leads nicely onto my next point.
Make it scannable
Web users don’t read websites, they scan them. So when you write your content try to keep paragraphs very short (between 2-3 sentences) and make good use of visual markers like sub-headings and bullet points to break the content up a bit.
Ideally you should be able to skim down the page quickly and get the gist of what you’re trying to say. Then people can decide whether they want to go back and read in more detail.
Essentially what you’re trying to do is move away from having a block of text on your website and turn it into something more engaging.
Change your ‘We’s’ and ‘I’s’ to ‘You’s’
The most useful trick you can use to make sure you’re writing for your audience is making sure there are more ‘You’s’ in your text than ‘I’s’ or ‘We’s’
Every time you hear yourself saying something like “We’ve been established in the industry for 5 years” try to change it around to something like “You will be working with someone you can trust, we’ve been around for 5 years so we'll be there for you when you need us”
There will still be a time and a place for saying We but make sure the focus of the sentence is around You.
Remember, us humans like talking about ourselves. We’re all guilty of it (I’m doing it right now!) If you can be one of the few who really talks to your customers and not at them, you’ll stand out a mile.
Write before the design starts
Most people think that they need to see their website designed before they can add content to it. After all, how do you know what to write unless you can see where it’s going?
The problem with writing your content after the design has been completed is that you’re not going to write what’s best for your website, or worse, what you write won’t fit into the template and you’ll need to get the whole page redesigned.
You’ll get a far better result by supplying your designer with content before they get to work. They’ll be able to use your wording as inspiration for the designs. Maybe they’ll read it and think it’ll work better as an infographic or an illustration. They’ll be able to design for your content rather than creating generic templates.
Organising your content
Let's say I've convinced you to write your content before the design starts. That's great! Let's now go into how you can begin organising your content for your website.
1. List your pages
The first thing you need to do is write a list of the pages you need to write content for. Don't forget any sub pages or less obvious content.
2. Set one goal
Then for each page write out the main goal. So what is the most important thing you want visitors to do or know after visiting the page.
An example could be:
- Home page: Spark interest and encourage visitors to keep browsing.
- About us: Build trust with visitors by showing our human side.
- Services: Persuade to hire us.
This is a great way to ensure that as you’re writing your content you know what you’re aiming towards and stop you going off track.
3. Bullet point your content
Now just write out a list of bullet points that you’d like to cover on each page. This doesn’t have to just be text related, you could list out images you’d like to see too.
For example: About us could be:
- Summary of who we are and who we work with
- Photo of us and our office
- Our story
- Collage of images of our offices/things we like
- Our values
- Call to action to hire us
If you struggle with this feel free to use other websites as inspiration. See what your competitors say and pick out the bits you like (of course, don’t copy and paste their content into yours). And try to add your own unique personality.
4. Flesh it out
Now you’ve got your list, flesh out the content for each section. Doing it this way helps keep it organised and stops you from rambling too much.
Psst. I made a free template that you can download and use to help write out your content. You can either type directly into them or print off as many copies as you need and start filling them out the old school way. Download them here.
5. Don't write for Google
Google is pretty smart these days. And it’s only going to get smarter. It knows when you’re ‘writing for SEO’ and may actually penalise you for stuffing your content with keywords—even if they’re relevant.
Just write what you want your visitors to read and you can’t go wrong. There are many other things you can do if you want to help people find you through search engines and I go into them here
But for now, just write for your audience, not Google.
6. Don't be too clever
Finally, try to write in the most basic way possible. Don’t try to be clever.
People read pretty quickly on the web. So if they have to decode what you’re trying to say, they’re not going to stick around for long.
When you’re writing your content, pretend you’re at a party and you’re trying to explain it to someone who’s had a couple of glasses of wine/beer/schnapps.
Sell your house within 1 month or your money back
is a lot easier to understand then:
Close the deal on your place of residence within a 1 month time period or we shall refund your money
Basically, if you find yourself reaching for the thesaurus, don’t. Everybody likes to sound smart but don’t make the mistake of alienating your customers.
Writing your content is going to be tough. But don’t worry about making it perfect first time, you can always go back and tweak when your website is live.
So go find somewhere without distractions, make yourself a cup of strong coffee and get writing that content!