Businesses of all sizes benefit from having a presence online. A website will likely be at the centre of this marketing strategy. For part three of the ‘Content is Crucial’ blog series, web designer and developer Sue Fernandes shares her thoughts on creating impact online and her tips for small businesses looking to develop their first website.
Why is content crucial to the success of a website?
A successful website must do two things: engage your audience and be found by Google. To achieve both of these, you need to have relevant and recent content on your site. If your content is out of date, for example, you have a blog and haven’t posted for months (believe me, a lot of people do!), this reflects badly on your reputation. A customer might think you’ve gone out of business, your authority on your subject diminishes and Google won’t be interested in your pages.
What are the main challenges you experience working with client content?
The main pressure is time. Many clients want to write their own content and on average it takes around six months for them to come up with the goods. One client has taken two years and I’m still waiting! The problem is people think it’s easy to write for the web. The reality is clients are too close to the business and write copy that tells the audience something, rather than what they actually need to know.
What comes first - web design or copy?
In an ideal world the copy should come first. I prefer to design a website around the content rather than shoehorn the content in after I’ve built it. It’s also much easier to edit copy than it is to change the page design. I work with the client to design a sitemap and agree the page structure, which then informs the page content.
What are the key elements of great web copy?
Solve pain – understand your audience’s need, problem or challenge and demonstrate how you can solve it.
Make it easy to read – people read online by skimming the text. You have around three seconds to capture your reader and draw them in. That’s not a lot of time!
Make it visually interesting – use graphics, bullets, short paragraphs and strong headlines.
Incorporate plenty of calls to action – use buttons and links, and make them highly visible.
Besides text, what other types of content would you recommend having on your website?
Quality images – use real people and genuine shots of your products or services. Avoid stock images if possible. Good quality images taken by a professional photographer give your site personality and will offer you good return on investment.
Video - but only if it’s relevant to your business and your audience.
Infographics – if you have lots of data or statistics, presenting them visually will make the information more engaging.
Free downloads and ebooks – people love to get something for free and this is a great way of collecting data too.
Technical specifications – so clients can easily refer back to important information without needing to contact you.
Any tips for small business owners creating their first business website?
Start by developing your key messages. Think of all the questions your audience may have and answer them on your website in a simple, straightforward manner. Provide your developer with a rough outline of content to help them work up a sitemap and some concepts.
Share your aims and objectives with your web designer. Is it to provide information, generate referrals or increase enquiries through the site? Perhaps it’s a combination of all three!
Think about the tone and personality you’d like your site to convey. Share this with your web designer so they can build a site to match.
As your site develops, keep your target audience front of mind and ask yourself “Will they find this helpful and relevant?”
Anything we should avoid?
Pop ups – to the majority of people, these are very annoying!
Auto-play video is considered rude.
Ticker tapes are very old-fashioned.
Avoid Flash as it’s not supported by mobile devices.
What are the benefits of appointing a web copywriter?
A good copywriter will provide the information the user needs in a clear and engaging way. They bring objectivity, perhaps challenge your thinking and always deliver to deadlines, helping to keep the project on track. Websites written by a third party tend to have a more professional feel and tone as well as a better user experience. Google recognises well-written content so if SEO is an important consideration for your business, ask a professional to write your content.
Sue Fernandes is a specialist WordPress web designer and developer, based in Stockport, Cheshire. She builds websites with the perfect balance of great graphic design, up-to-date technology and relevant Search Engine Optimisation. All her sites are bespoke, based on the client needs, hand-coded and structured using the latest in semantic HTML and CSS techniques.
Visit www.suefernandes.co.uk to find out more.