When you do something for a while, patterns emerge. One of the things I’ve seen over and over is how challenging it is to create web content. Of all the different things that go into building a website, creating content often causes the most headaches.
If you’re working on your own website, maybe you can relate! When I was re-branding my business this year I found myself in the very same situation as all the clients I work with – starting fresh, with a veritable sea of notes and little bits of writing, scribbled ideas and a very long document that I was slowly chopping up into pages.
Even armed with the solid plan for content creation that I use with my own clients, I still agonized over how things sounded and made dozens upon dozens or maybe even hundreds of revisions. From what I have learned by listening to other writers, this sounds about par for the course when working on a large project like a website!
Sometimes it’s a good idea to knock out that shitty first draft, and edit from there. And keep editing until it sounds about right.
I hope that what you’ll find below will help you in creating your own web content. The one thing I can’t help with is your unique voice – that’s where you bring your true self to the table and no one can tell you how be yourself better than you can. Let me know how it goes!
I love using the Hero’s Journey as a way to show who the players are in a customer journey. (You can read all about the Hero’s Journey in another post over here.) Many business owners think that they are the hero of the story, when in fact the customer is actually the hero. You can tell if a business thinks that they are the hero because the web copy revolves around them; they brag about their awards and corner offices and all of the language revolves around ‘us’ or ‘our’.
Imagine you’re at a party and most people are talking with each other, but a few people are standing up on chairs with megaphones announcing how awesome they are. This is what you’ll look like online if all you do is focus on yourself. Your chances of someone wanting to have a drink and chat with you aren’t super high.
A major shift in perspective happens when we take the focus off of ourselves, and see that the website actually exists for the benefit of the customer.
Knowing who the website is for involves taking stock – listening to what our customer’s problems are, what challenges they face, what questions they have, where there is a knowledge gap and so on. Part of the website’s job is to act like an amazing employee. This is the difference between an employee being up on a chair with a megaphone, and somebody who is ready with answers and solutions and a real conversation.
It can be challenging to create web copy if you’re fuzzy on your brand. (For more info on what a brand is, grab a copy of my free eBook over here.) I know that lots of us fall into business, and don’t really know what we’re doing when we get started. Maybe like me you got asked to make some things for some people and all of a sudden there you are, in the game. For others, perhaps it was a more deliberate move, but sufficed to say, it’s ok if you don’t have all the parts of branding figured out yet. This comes with time. There are a few places however, where clarity helps a lot.
One of the reasons it can be so hard to write web content is that you’re also trying to work out what your brand actually stands for at the same time. I have found in working with business owners that if we can do a bit of brand development first, the words flow much easier.
Getting clear on why you do what you do, what it is you do (your unique offer) and how it all works is something that should ideally happen before you start writing web copy. The why, what and how will help form the foundation for much of your content.
Brand development also includes things like knowing what you stand for, how you would like to be perceived in the marketplace, what customers can expect from you, and why you’re different. Armed with these details, it will be much easier to know what to blog about, write about and prioritize.
I start most web projects by making a master list of all the pages we’ll need, aka a site map. Each page should serve the purpose of helping to solve your customer’s problem. Your info pages educate, your contact page gives them a way to get in touch or hire you, your about page allows them to get to know, like and trust you and your home page announces your offer.
It’s also a good idea to give each page a goal. This often comes in the form of a call to action, or a next step to take. A goal might be to send someone to the contact page to book an appointment, or to direct them to your opt-in so you can collect their email address. This is known as conversion.
Each page needs a title. These titles should be optimized for keywords without being spammy, and should be interesting! What do most About pages say at the top of the page? About Us, right? What if it said, Why We Traveled to 23 Countries Searching for the Perfect Cup of Coffee. That’s more intriguing.
Each page also needs the right info. I have found that making an outline of the most important points, turning those into sub headings, and filling in the rest with interesting, helpful content to be the easiest and most effective way to write web pages. Also try using bullets and shorter paragraphs. The painful truth is that most people will not read your content – they will skim it. If you’ve pulled the key points out as sub headings, at least some of the meaning will have been transferred. In web terms, this is success!
Authenticity isn’t something we can design + manufacture, although some businesses do try. It isn’t a marketing game we play – it’s standing up with your own voice, vision and opinions and keeping it real. There’s no need to set your personality aside in favor of jumping on a trend’s band wagon. You’ll end up looking fake to your audience, and feeling like a fraud yourself.
Just because everybody else is doing something doesn’t necessarily make it a good idea.
In the online business coaching world, it’s a pretty common trend to end your emails or web pages with Love, _______ or xoxox, ________. If that honestly feels like you, well go for it! But if not, don’t do it!
There is an art to being aware of trends without being trendy.
Finding your own unique writing voice takes a long time, so don’t worry about making it perfect when you first start out. Keep blogging and writing consistently, and it will become more polished and clear as you go. All great writers put in the time, day after day, to hone their voice. Just do yourself a favor, and start your journey being authentic.
This is what I consider to be the most important thing when it comes to creating content. We have a maximum of 5-7 seconds to get our message across before someone decides to leave our website or stay and look around. If there is any confusion around who you are or what you do, you’ll lose the visitor immediately. Being clear is vitally important.
In those first few seconds, it should be clear who you are (logo/business name), what you do (problem you solve) and how it will benefit the customer. This might come in the form of a tag line and a few points, or a sentence like We do __________ so you can ___________ (or, Delicious healthy meal plans for busy working parents). I’ll have another blog post coming soon on how to craft this important message.
It’s good to get a little ruthless in your editing – cut whatever you feel doesn’t really matter. Remember, people care way more about themselves and how your product or service relates to them than they do about your awards and corner offices. We can fluff our own feathers a bit on the About page but always try to keep the hero in mind when writing the rest of your site content.
Until next time,