Last updated: 14 January 2020
A website is a multi-dimensional beast and unlike a novel, a reader might arrive on any page. It's therefore important that each page grabs and holds the readers' attention. Different pages also serve different purposes, so writing for the web requires a range of different skills - a more sales based approach for product pages, a more educational approach for blogs, particularly for service companies, and somewhere in between for 'about us' pages.
Writing content for the web is also different as you are writing for both search engines, and for human visitors; for example each page has a Metatag Title and Description which appear in Google’s search results and summarise that page. Though the Metatags aren’t visible on the site itself, these short lines of text are crucial in determining how many people will click to visit your site.
Finally, visitors will view your site on monitors, tablets and mobile devices, meaning the design has to be responsive and content won’t always appear in the same pre-defined structure (watch out for phrases like, "See the image on your left").
Of course, not all elements are unique to the web. Writing engaging, well-research content that's thoroughly proofread and is original are essential regardless of whether you're writing on-line or off.
What does every web page need?
Even though the average time spent on a page is over 2 minutes, the majority of users spend less than 15 seconds viewing a web page. If you don’t grab visitors’ attention immediately, in this world of short attention spans, you will lose them.
To grab visitors’ attention, start with a clear title (use a single h1 title for best SEO practice) and an introduction that summarises what the page is about. Anyone glancing at the page and reading the first couple of sentences should have a general idea of the whole page content.
Avoid waffle and generalities. If your first couple of paragraphs don’t tell visitors anything they don’t already know, they won’t read further. If you’re selling a product, start by identifying what is unique about your product and mention it at the outset. If you’re writing a blog, identify what unique information you can provide, so your readers know they’re going to learn something useful.
It’s particularly important that you apply best content marketing practices to your landing pages (those pages that you expect visitors to arrive on your site at). These include:
- Your home page
- Product listing pages
- Best-selling products or web pages on important services
- Popular blog pages
- Your ‘about us’ page
Every page needs a well-written Metatag Title and Description that include unique selling points and relevant keywords. See our tips on writing Metatags, plus a Metatag Generator for more information. Not only do Metatags appear in Google’s search results, they are also appear when someone shares your website on Facebook, LinkedIn, or other social media platforms.
This guide is specifically about writing content, however it goes without saying that each page also needs to be attractively laid out on both monitors and mobile devices and include attractive images. In a 2019 survey of content marketing, 63% of companies reported an increase in their use of images, infographics and charts as part of their content marketing campaign.
How do you retain interest?
One trick to retain interest is to ask a question in a single short sentence, then start a new paragraph with the answer.
The question should mirror your readers’ thought process. Make sure that your answer is sufficiently detailed that it helps solve their issue.
User-experience is also crucial. We offer a service where we ask 10 potential customers to review a website and provide feedback on what works and what could be improved. If you’re struggling to generate conversions, or increase the time visitors spend on your site, this is an excellent way of spotting issues.
Asking people for their opinion also helps identify whether you need to improve the content, add images or videos to your site, whether there is a technical issue that only crops up on certain browsers, or what other factors can be refined to improve your website.
Creating your home page
The home, or landing page of your website is critical and determines whether your visitors will stay long enough to consider the rest of the site. It is the flagship for your overall content marketing.
Google tends to place web pages with more content on them higher in the search results, but only if visitors spend time on that content. To achieve this, use a balance of informative text and interesting images and split your home page up into multiple easily identifiable categories, separated with sub-headings or images, so that visitors can:
- Find out what you sell.
- Find out what credentials you have (that you’ve been established since 19xx, have won awards, have testimonials, etc.)
- Find out details about specific product ranges or services.
- Share your site on social media.
- See how to contact you.
For more information read our guide on designing a website’s home page.
How to write memorable marketing pages
If you run an ecommerce site, or have sales orientated pages, then how do you write these pages so as to maximise sales?
One way is to make your content, and therefore your product, memorable.
Use broken sentences
Ignore what you were taught in school. Long sentences, or paragraphs that run on for miles will turn off your reader. You’re not writing an academic text, but something that visitors will skim over.
Use sound bites
Use short, catchy sound bites as sub-headings, or text on images that are fun or unique and which imply your unique selling points.
Divide content into 3 to 7 items
On average we retain 7 items in our short-term memory. If you have a dozen key features in a long list, no-one will read it, instead break it up into 2 or 3 smaller sections that customers can easily digest.
Similarly show 3 to 7 ‘Related Products’ at the bottom of each page. This helps upsell and is good for SEO too.
Structure content to mirror the buying process
Structure content to mirror your reader’s decision making process.
One model that works well for this is AIDA - Attention, Interest, Desire, Action.
At first grab the reader’s attention and give them an evocative image, or engaging catchphrase. Next, meet their interest with a general overview of a product – its core benefits and unique selling points. If appropriate include more in-depth information, like a technical specification, or answers to common questions. Include testimonials and stories to increase their desire and make it easy to buy the product, or get in touch with a call to action.
Include reviews or testimonials
Positive reviews and testimonials are a huge selling point and having a range of reviews for different products will increase the overall trustworthiness of your site as a whole, even if some of the reviews of individual products are negative.
If you’re a service provider with positive reviews, then don’t keep all the reviews on one page, instead include different, relevant reviews at the bottom of every page on your site and put a ‘read more client testimonials’ link to your main review page too.
It’s also essential to write with local culture in mind and if you’re writing for an international audience, this has additional challenges that must be overcome.
Writing a business blog that helps win customers
For a business blog to help win customers it has to be relevant and engaging, however there’s a delicate balance between being too promotional in content that the reader expects to be helpful and forgetting to mention your service at all.
For small and medium businesses, when writing an informative blog article, I recommend starting with content that is as useful as you can possibly make it to any reader, whether they use your product or not and only later in the article include the occasional link to a product or service page.
For larger businesses who have an established brand, a mix of article types works well, as more of your visitors will be looking for information specifically about you or your product.
Writing a business blog is an art form in itself, therefore we've created a dedicated guide on how to write a business blog.
What to avoid in content marketing
One of the worst things for any content marketing campaign is the accidental inclusion of things that put people off. The following must be avoided:
- Excessively long paragraphs of text, poor grammar, or poor spelling.
- Keyword stuffing – once upon a time you needed to include every possible keyword variant on a page for SEO. Luckily this strategy is no longer effective and stuffing your page with keywords will now hinder your SEO and irritate your reader.
- Navigational links or a site structure that is hard to follow. For small sites, this is simple to avoid by ensuring that your most important pages are linked to in your main menu. For larger sites, this can take some thought.
- Another irritant is music or a voice-over that starts as soon as your site opens. Give visitors the option to listen to videos only if they choose to.
- Spinning or flashing adverts, or other images that scream ‘look at me’, that make it difficult for visitors to actually read the content near it.
- Pop-up boxes. Google penalise sites that use pop-up boxes for newsletter subscriptions and the like on mobile devices and you should consider carefully whether they’re essential for legal reasons (e.g. cookie notices), or for your marketing message, or whether a less dominating message is acceptable.
In general to avoid content marketing mistakes, ask yourself what your website’s visitors are looking for and prioritise creating a positive user-experience.
Where to start?
Look at your Google Analytics or webmaster reports, or do some keyword research to identify pages that are already performing well and receiving plenty of visitors.
I recommend starting with these pages, or with your best-selling products and asking yourself how you can improve them further. This will in all likelihood give you a better return on investment than starting with pages that no-one ever visits, unless you’re willing to give those pages a complete overhaul.
Keep in mind whether the content is primarily for marketing purposes, or for informative purposes and guide visitors through the AIDA process – grab their Attention, maintain Interest, stimulate their Desire, then call them to take Action.
If you would like us to have a look over your site and provide some recommendations and a no obligation quote, then please get in touch.