How To Take Your Website Content To The Bank

The graphics and the technology are a minor part of web success. The content is the hard part, and it is also what will make your website a success or failure.
Gerry McGovern, author of Killer Website Content

It’s hard to go wrong when your website offers, well-organised, well-written, customer-focused content. But from my experience few companies heed Gerry McGovern’s advice for creating a successful website.

They focus all their effort on creating an eye-catching design. The content is usually an afterthought – a badly organised mish-mash of brochure copy, old press releases and stale marketing clichés.

Websites like this are rarely profitable. They fail to deliver enquiries, leads and sales. In fact, a website without high-quality content can easily drive potential customers away and erode hard-earned brand equity.

If your website isn’t getting the results you would like, don’t spend any more money on a prettier look and feel. Rather, make the content on your site a priority. Here are five reasons why:

1. People read on the web… but differently

Think about it for a moment. What’s the number one activity that everyone on the Web does? They read! The World Wide Web is made of words.

Now consider this: if you took all the images off your website, would it still work? Most likely. If you took all the words off your website, would it still work? I doubt it.

It’s the words that do the selling on your site. The words build relationships, drive actions and keep your customers happy. So if you want to be a success on the web you need to make words the hero of your site.

But keep in mind people read websites differently than printed pages. They scan, skim and scroll, looking for relevant information. Therefore your website content must be written for scanners.

Write meaningful and descriptive headlines and sub-headings. Online text should have roughly 50% of the words you would use for print. Include lots of bullets, lists and meaningful sub-headings. Use links to break longer information up into parts.

Don’t think you can just plonk your brochure text onto your website and people will read it. Because they won’t be bothered! But if you write you content for scanners, you empower visitors to find information quickly, improve their memory recall and add credibility to your site.

2. Content persuades visitors to take action

The web is not a passive medium like TV. When people go online, they’re active. That’s the nature of “interactivity”. High quality content persuades website visitors to take action in your favour.

Good website content is a lot like good direct response marketing (such as direct mail or infomercials) because it motivates the reader to take action. Sign up for our newsletter, view our product range, download this report, ring us for a quote, click here, and so on.

If you’re marketing on the web you’re relying on the responsiveness of your website. If nobody clicks your links you get no customer enquiries, no sales and no business. So your website content must guide your visitors to the actions you want them to take. People want and need clear instructions, so make sure you give them.

3. Content builds trust and credibility

People don’t go online looking for advertising. What they are seeking is information. Rather than the hard sell, your website content should provide the information visitors need to make an informed purchase decision.

Your website is an opportunity to communicate your expertise in solving your customers’ problems. By sharing this knowledge you show you’re credible and begin building relationships with prospective customers. Their desire to do business with you will increase as you keep supply them with more useful information.

After you’ve demonstrated expertise in your market and knowledge about solving your customers’ problems, then you can introduce your products and services.

It’s a simple fact: customers’ do business with people they like. And they’ll like you a lot better if your website content is filled with relevant facts and helpful information.

4. Content increases your visibility in the search engine rankings

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a process of developing a website so that it gets high rankings in search engine results pages. High search engine rankings are essential to helping people find your site.

Search engines are all about relevance. When you type in a search query the search engine aims to deliver a list of web pages which contain content that’s relevant to your query.

Search engines use a combination of many factors to determine relevance. But two of the most important factors are key words and incoming links. Both of these factors rely on good content.

Key words – These are the phrases people enter into a search engine e.g. “laptop computer”. Effective use of key words tells the search engines what your content is about, thus helping to attract targeted traffic to your site.

First you have to know the key words customers use most frequently when they search for the type of products or services you sell e.g. do they enter “laptop computer” or “notebook computer”? Then you have to sprinkle these keywords in strategic places in your website content.

But it’s not just a matter of stuffing your web pages full of key words. You have to create key word rich content that also informs, motivates and delights your target audience.

Incoming links – Search engines count incoming links as votes of confidence for your website. So, generally speaking, the more links you have, the better your rankings. And if you get links from high quality sites, that’s better still.

Obviously, having great content helps you attract links. Because if people find your content valuable they’ll want to share it with others by way of a link. No one wants to link to a site filled with empty sales hype.

5. Content gives you a competitive edge

Quality writing is the best way to make your site stand out from the millions of others on the web. Why? Because the average website is poorly written. Most sites are full of clichés, hyperbole and generic marketing blather, and the information is poorly organised. Great writing gives you the edge.

High-quality content is an asset

In summary, well-written web content that anticipates and satisfies customers’ needs is a valuable asset to a business. High-quality content:

  • Entices prospects to give you their contact details
  • Drives sales and helps qualify prospects
  • Increases sales conversions by keeping prospects on the site and giving them all the purchase information they need
  • Provides customer service (often reducing costs in the process)
  • Differentiates your business from your competitors, and
  • Is essential for getting high ranking in search engines and attracting qualified traffic.

A Simple Yet Effective Website Strategy

Failing to plan is planning to fail.
Alan Lakein, author and time management expert

A simple and clear strategy is the foundation of a successful website. Unfortunately, creating an effective strategy is the most difficult part of building your site. You need to do a bit of research and give the matter some deep thought. Perhaps that’s why so many business owners skip this crucial step.

But rest assured, the difference between success and failure often comes down to website strategy. It’s far better to have a solid strategy with mediocre execution, than a poor strategy that’s brilliantly executed.

Strategy is about aligning your website with the needs of your target market. Developing a strategy forces you to consider what result you want and how you’ll get it. It guides the design and content of your website, without hampering creativity. And it ensures the site meets your most important business objectives.

So how do you develop a strategy? By answering the following five questions:

1. What’s the target audience for your website?

Websites should be tailored for the audiences they’re trying to reach. Who is your website for? Be specific. Trying to be all things to all people is a marketing mistake that’s made frequently online.

2. What’s your unique competitive advantage?

All your prospective customers are asking themselves, “Why should I choose you and not one of your competitors?” The answer to this question is your “unique competitive advantage” or UCA.

Your UCA is a clear and concise statement of what makes you a better alternative than all your competitors. It helps customers understand what makes you different, and how that difference benefits them.

Here’s a famous example of the power of a UCA: Domino’s dominated the home delivery pizza market by adopting the UCA of fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less or it’s free.

Your UCA is the nucleus around which you build your website content. So it’s worth putting in the time and effort to create one that’s right for your business and your customers.

3. What benefits do you offer?

Benefits are the building blocks of all successful marketing materials. Yet few businesses take the time to identify, articulate and document the benefits customers get from using their products and services.

By simply adding benefit-rich content to their websites, many companies could get a significant edge over their competition.

4. What is your most wanted response?

The term “most wanted response” or MWR was coined by e-commerce guru Ken McEvoy. It refers to the one action you most want website visitors to do. Examples of MWRs include order a product, subscribe to an e-newsletter, call to arrange a free consultation or download your special report.

Just ask yourself, “What is the ONE thing I want my website visitors to do?” You need to be very clear on this. Once you’ve set your MWR you design your entire site around encouraging visitors to take that one action that moves them a step closer to the sale.

5. What is the personality of your company?

Your website is often the first point of contact for your potential customers. It’s where you start building a relationship with them. So you should let the best personality traits of your company shine through.

Your strategy guides development

In the process of building a website many decisions must be made. Designers will present various options for the look and feel of the site. And you can choose from dozens of different tactics for bringing traffic to the site and converting it into customers.

Use your website strategy to guide you through these decisions. Because your website strategy shows how your site supports the objectives of your business. It’s the yardstick for judging all your website efforts.

Step One to a Profitable Website: Set Your Goals

My first job after uni was working at a small publishing company. One of my boss’s favourite sayings was, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” It was a reminder to his staff that the first step in any project is to establish what you want to achieve i.e. setting goals or targets.

In my experience few websites have any goals. Often they’re built on the reasoning, “We’ve gotta have a website because everyone else has one.” Even now, many people think a website is a kind of marketing panacea. They think that by simply putting a website up they’ll be deluged with sales enquiries. Unfortunately it ain’t so.

Realistic and achievable goals for a website fall into the following categories:

Sales lead generation

A website can deliver sales leads directly (e.g. by prospects emailing you to arrange a consultation or providing their contact details in exchange for a white paper or special report) or indirectly (e.g. by prospects visiting your showroom after finding out about your products online).

E-commerce
Making sales directly from your website.

Customer service
You can serve your customers better by providing customer service online. This can range from FAQs on common customer queries to a 24/7 online help desk.

Process automation
You can cut costs by automating processes online e.g. online billing, data gathering, delivering information, and human resources procedures.

One, or a combination, of these goals should be the primary focus of your website. Once you’ve selected your goals you can develop strategies to achieve them. don’t even think about calling a website developer until you’re clear about what you’d like to achieve with your website.

7 Website Myths That Stop You Attracting More Customers

How do you avoid having one of the 90% of business websites that don’t bring in more business? By understanding and avoiding these seven common website myths that stop your website being profitable:

Myth 1: If you build it, they will come

The idea that “if you build it, they will come” worked for Kevin Costner in the movie “Field of Dreams”, but it doesn’t work for websites. Yet this is the most persistent and dangerous website myth.

Many people assume that if they put a site up on the web they’ll be swamped with customer enquiries and new business. They won’t.

Customers don’t just magically appear at your site. You must have cost-effective ways of generating targeted traffic. And you have to use proven strategies and techniques to convert browsers into customer enquiries and sales.

Myth 2: I don’t need a website because I don’t sell anything online

For a long time the media touted e-commerce as the ultimate goal of a website. But for most businesses, customer enquiries or sales leads is the best goal to aim for. That’s because many people now use Google like an online phone book.

The number one activity on the internet is gathering information about things to buy – both on- and off-line. People are searching for everything from carpenters to cosmetic surgeons. If your website doesn’t appear when people “Google” the types of products and services you sell, you’re leaking customers to the competition.

Myth 3: You only need a website if you want to sell globally

One benefit of a website is that it can introduce your business to a global market. But a website is a great tool for growing local businesses too.

That’s because 73% of consumers use search engines to find local businesses to buy from. In fact, a survey in 2007 showed searching for local businesses was the second most popular activity on the Internet after email.

Myth 4: The key to a successful website is a first page listing in Google

Search engine optimisation (SEO) firms would have you think that getting to number one in Google is the key to a successful website. Sure, high search engine rankings help bring traffic to your site. But what’s more important, and more profitable, is converting your website visitors into paying customers.

Myth 5: Snazzy design is the most important part of a website

Most businesses put the majority of their website budget into creating a good-looking design. The content – the part that actually sells – is usually an afterthought. Don’t underestimate the importance of good website design. But without high quality content your website will fail. Your priorities should be: good design, great content.

Myth 6: A website is just an online brochure

Done properly a business website can be an automatic marketing system that delivers customer enquiries and highly qualified sales leads. It can be a 24/7 salesperson that never forgets a sales point, answers every objection and always goes for the close. It can be so much more than just an online brochure.

Myth 7: Websites don’t work

Only 10% of websites bring in more business, so statistically speaking this is correct. But perhaps you’re wondering how your site can be amongst the successful ones. The answer is by applying proven online marketing strategies and principles. It won’t happen overnight, but it can happen.

How to Create an Effective Home Page

The home page is usually the most popular page on your website. But most first-time visitors will spend less than 30 seconds reviewing it. So you don’t have long to convince them to stick around and explore the rest of your content.

A home page has several important jobs. It must communicate who owns the site and what it’s for. It must establish credibility and trust. And, most importantly, it must convince visitors not to leave the site.

Here are five tips for creating an effective home page that sets the scene for first-time visitors:

1. Welcome visitors with a positioning statement

Your home page is your introduction to first-time visitors. And usually the first thing they want to know is, “What do you do?” So don’t make them guess. The opening paragraph of your website should give a concise description of what you do and who you do it for.

But whatever you do, don’t actually write “Welcome to…” These cheerful salutations are old hat and a waste of valuable space. A prominent statement of who you are and why people should do business with you will work much better.

2. Emphasise priority content with feature links

Your home page should not be a site map giving equal emphasis to all content. It’s more like a magazine cover that draws readers in with enticing cover lines highlighting the best stories inside.

The 80/20 rule applies to website content. This means the majority of visitors will only visit a few key pages of your site (e.g. pages about your best selling products). These are the pages you should emphasise on the home page.

Feature links are like signposts to your best content. Their job is to present a compelling summary of the most interesting and important content that makes the reader want to click for more. They communicate the essence of what’s on offer and provide visitors quick access to what they need.

There are three ways to determine what your most interesting and important content is:

  1. Use web analytics data to see which pages are most popular
  2. Review sales figures to establish your best-selling products, and
  3. Editorially select the best pages.

One-line short cut links to your site’s most popular content are also helpful on the home page.

3, Minimise options

Often many interests compete for space on the home page (especially in bigger companies). This can lead to bloated pages with an array of buttons, banners, links and other tid bits scattered about.

But too many options confuse readers. They can’t decide where to click. A good home page usually contains only a few visually prominent feature links to the most important content.

Anything with a prominent home page link is guaranteed to get more traffic. But you dilute this effect with every additional link. So remove any information that doesn’t need to be on the home page and restrict feature links to the most important content.

You also should keep your home page as short as possible to minimise scrolling. Only 50% of readers will scroll below the first screen.

4. Tell them what’s new

A latest news section on your home page gives your site a sign of life. It can include links to new products, your latest article or case study, a favourable media mention, or your new downloadable special report or white paper.

This is also a good place to highlight special promotions and sales. A news section doesn’t have to be long. A couple of descriptive sentences with links to more information is adequate.

5. Group company information

Group links to company information – such as media releases, job vacancies, stock prices, mission statement, about us, etc. – in one small section.

Build Your Website Around Your Most Wanted Response

The single most important element of your website is the “most wanted response”.

The term “most wanted response” or MWR was coined by e-commerce guru Ken Evoy. It refers to the one action you most want website visitors to do. Examples of MWRs include order a product, subscribe to an e-newsletter, call you to arrange a consultation, fill out a form, or send you an email.

Determining your MWR should be the very first task when you plan your website. Just ask yourself, “What is the ONE thing I want my website visitors to do?” You need to be very clear on this. Once you’ve set your MWR you should design your entire site around encouraging visitors to take that one action.

For some companies making a direct sale from their website is their MWR. Especially if they’re selling products that are commonly bought online such as computer hardware and software, travel and accommodation, clothing and accessories or information products.

However, most businesses don’t want to make sales online. The goal of most business websites is to generate customer enquiries and/or qualified leads that the sales team can follow up. If this is the case a sensible MWR is to get visitors to register their email addresses.

Ideally you’d love people to pick up the phone after they’re viewed your website. But most buyers use the web when they’re in research mode. Usually they’re not ready to pick up the phone yet. But they’re often willing to exchange their email address for some useful information.

So you should encourage visitors to register their contact details in exchange for a valuable freebie such as a report, newsletter or trial. Once you have prospects’ email addresses, you can follow them up to maximise sales conversions.

A well thought out MWR is the NUMBER ONE tactic for creating a profitable website.

Make Links Obvious

Some website design schemes make it impossible to know what’s a link and what isn’t. So visitors end up mousing over text and graphic elements hunting for a link, before they give up in frustration.

Here are three important guidelines for links:

  • Make it obvious what’s clickable. Use coloured, underlined text for text links. Don’t underline non-link text.
  • Change the colour of visited links so people know what they’ve already seen.
  • Don’t open pages in new windows.

Charles CuninghameFreelance Copywriter

Related posts:

  1. The Best Headlines and Links are “Brutal and To-the-Point”
  2. The 4 Principles of Profitable Website Design

How To Get More Of Your Website Content Read

Most people go to a lot of effort to make their home page a welcoming entrance for first-time visitors. But in reality many – if not most – visitors will bypass your home page and enter your website on an interior page via a link in a search engine listing.

When you consider every page on your website is an entrance, you start to view your pages differently. You start to think of every page as a “home” page which must entice the reader to stick around, read the page and, hopefully, click a link to explore your site further.

Here are six tips to stop first-time visitors hitting the back button when they arrive at your site:

1. Answer visitors’ questions upfront

A visitor to your website will decide whether to stay or hit the back button in less than 10 seconds. In that short time they have to decide:

  • Am I in the right place?
  • Does this page have the information I’m looking for?
  • Should I bother reading more?

As many as 50% of visitors will bail after a quick glance.

To prevent visitors bailing immediately you have to answer their questions ASAP. The content at the top of the page – such as the page header, headline and first paragraph – must work together to communicate quickly and clearly what the page is about and why a visitor should keep reading.

2. Create stand alone pages

When a visitor arrives via a link they have very little context for your website. So make sure every page is self-explanatory and can be understood without having to read any other pages on your site. It’s OK to repeat some information found on other pages if it helps the reader understand the page.

And be sure to put some links to related information at the end of the page. Because every page must be a starting point for further exploration, not an end point.

3. Have an informative page header

The page header is an important sign post that helps visitors orient themselves to your website. It should include:

  • Your company name and/or logo in the top left-hand corner
  • A link to the home page from your company name/logo
  • A brief and descriptive website tagline that explains what your site is about.

Avoid large header graphics as they reduce the usable space above the fold (see below).

4. Put important information above the fold

Above the fold” refers to the portion of a web page a reader can see without scrolling. Readers will only scroll down if you’ve successfully captured their attention and aroused enough curiosity to read on.

So don’t bury your lead. Don’t make visitors read a load of background information before they get to the point. A good tactic is to write a summary of the page in the first paragraph – just like a newspaper article. And don’t forget to include your most compelling benefits.

5. Ensure global navigation is clear and intuitive

Global navigation appears on every page of a site, usually under the page header and/or in the left hand column. For visitors who arrive through a link and decide to continue browsing your site, clear, concise and intuitive navigation labels are a must.

6. Link to related pages

When someone arrives at your page from a search engine you know they’re interested in the page’s topic. So it makes sense to link to relevant information on the same topic, such as articles and products. You can add a list of related links in a side bar or at the end of the page.

Above The Fold

A good rule of thumb for web pages is to put the most important content “above the fold”. But what does this mean?

The term “above the fold” comes from the newspaper industry. Visualise a stack of broadsheet newspapers at a news stand. Because the paper is folded, all you can see is the top half of the first page. This section became known as “above the fold”.

Editors realised that in order to sell more papers they had to put the most interesting stories above the fold to attract people’s attention.

In website terms “above the fold” refers to the top part of the web page that readers can see without scrolling. Most users will not scroll unless they find something of interest above the fold.

Charles Cuninghame – Freelance Copywriter

Related posts:

  1. How To Get More Of Your Website Content Read
  2. Answer First-Time Visitor Questions Quickly

Deep Linking

Deep linking is creating a link to an interior page of a website, rather than the home page. Deep links can be found on websites, search engine listings, pay per click ads, and in emails.

Unlike generic links to a home page, a deep link points to a page containing specific information. They are designed to direct readers to additional information that’s relevant to the page they’re reading.

For example, an article comparing various cars would link directly to each model’s information page, rather than the car manufacturers’ home pages. This linking of information is central to the philosophy of the World Wide Web.

The implication of deep linking for website owners is that visitors can enter their site on any page.

From my experience many business owners don’t realise search engines index individual web pages (not websites) and deliver a list of pages that are most relevant to the searcher’s query. Thus, a lot of search engine traffic bypasses your home page.

Charles CuninghameWebsite Copywriter

Related posts:

  1. How To Get More Of Your Website Content Read
  2. The Top 3 Strategies To Create Targeted Website Traffic
  3. How to Create an Effective Home Page
  4. Why Every Web Page is a Home Page