What makes a good website?
This is the second in a new series of posts that provide tips on content marketing. Over the years, I have read a lot of information on this topic and applied them in my career as a communications professional.
Although you can find content marketing tips in books and courses, the purpose of this series is to give you some very quick tips on what you can do today to make your content shine. If successful, it will help you to reach and generate loyal customers and make writing content much more fun and simple.
We’ve probably all been there: you put together a website because you’re told you need to. But you have no idea what to include, how to write the copy or what doo-dads it needs so that swarms of people come to your site and want nothing better than to work with you.
The answer to the question: “what makes a good website?” depends on what you want the site to do. However, for all businesses there are key components that make a good website. There are so many books and articles written about this topic, so I’ll just distill the best advice I’ve heard from my almost 20 years of writing for websites and helping to build them.
The number 1 thing most websites lack
A strategy. More specifically: a content strategy.
The book “Content Strategy for the Web” (Halverson & Rach, 2012) spells it out:
Generally speaking, content is more or less worthless unless it does one or both of the following:
- Supports a key business objective
- Fulfills your users’ needs
When I worked at a company writing copy for private school websites, I found that what a school tended to do was take its printed admissions brochure and copy it word-for-word onto its Web pages.
Those folks weren’t thinking page-length, the lack of attention people have when searching the Web, or that many words can almost guarantee the copy won’t be read.
The Web needs short and sweet content. It’s important to get to the point. Make it fun to engage with the website. We strongly encouraged the schools to have interactive material, whether it was a photo gallery, a slide show, a video or a cool map or timeline that people could click on and get tiny bite-sized pieces of data. It showed that the school took the time and effort to make its site unique and showcase its most interesting features.
By thinking about what its audience would find most interesting and cool about the school, the client was able to make choices — even when there was push-back from departments who wanted 50 pages filled with long lengths of copy on the site — that would turn visitors into applicants or alumni into donors.
To devise a content strategy, you need to:
do a content audit; review the content you have and make decisions: keep, toss, revise or start over?
do an analysis; what pages are visited most, least, drive visitors to make a purchase?
learn how to listen to your colleagues and clients about what is most important to them
put someone in charge, preferably someone with marketing experience
ask yourself why you’re doing this, what is the result you’re looking for, then take action based on that.
The number 2 thing your website should have
The second most important thing all digital marketers are talking about these days is creating killer content. What does that mean?
What all killer content has in common is that it builds clout. In the book, “Clout: The Art and Science of Influential Web Content” (Jones, 2011), the author talks about making your content influence results. Clout is simply that factor which makes YOU uniquely positioned to solve your audience’s problem. Again, it’s what turns visitors into customers. But it doesn’t happen overnight. The author warns: you can either do things the old and easy way or you can take the road that is “harder and higher but promises remarkable results.”
Along with the number 1 item above, creating “better” content is all about which messages and types of content make the most sense for YOUR audience.
Honestly, all the technical and gadgety things that SEO experts and other folks are trying to sell you are today’s equivalent of snake oil. They don’t work. Neither does fancy design.
So what IS killer content? It’s content that engages your audience and builds trust over time. It’s speaking your audience’s language. It’s giving them more than what they ever expected to receive. It’s showing them you care about them and will never do anything to ruin their trust and belief in you. The book “Clout” spells it out:
“Clout is influence or pull. On the Web, clout allows you (or your organization) to attract the right people, and at the right time, change what they think or do. Clout isn’t achieved with only a quick trick, a personalization feature, a sexy design, a tweet, or a campaign blast. Rather, clout is the outcome of publishing influential web content during lasting relationships with people.”
And web content is the key to clout. Web content speaks for your organization. It is a public conversation you are having with your audience. Everything you publish online influences. Only you can decide if you want it to persuade them to build a relationship with you or not.
Be a trusted advisor, a consultant. Stop selling and start helping. Build a strong reputation.
The number 3 most important thing you should have for your website
Ways that lead your audience to you.
You may think Facebook is the devil incarnate, but many social media platforms are now being used by organizations to have those conversations I’m talking about in number 2 above.
You may think: I’ll just build my website and they will eventually come. That’s not going to go well, trust me on that. Just because you have a website and content on there that’s written really well, doesn’t always mean that your audience is going to find you.
There are so many touch points that can guide users back to your site where they can purchase your product or service. Pick a few, perhaps starting with two, social media platforms.
Think about your audience and where they hang out. If it’s on video-gaming forums, be there. If it’s on Twitter, post there and start conversations. If they like to watch videos, put a channel up on YouTube. Always make sure they can find your website from there.
And it doesn’t all have to be online. Maybe you do a lot of speaking gigs. Make sure to always share your website name and any social media you post to. What do you do there? Do you have Facebook Live video chats? What do you chat about? Tell your audience so they can continue to engage with you.
Do you show up in person at certain events? How can you capitalize on that audience and what they’re there for? Tweet while attending that event.
There are so many ways you can be in front of the audience you’re looking to engage with. Have several big tips or how-to’s that you can share and impress them with. Leave them with some curiosity, perhaps about how you do what you do. Again, be a mentor, consultant, advisor, big-brother or big-sister.
Has this been helpful? If so, please comment and share. I’d love to know what else I can provide in this space that will make writing content that much easier for you.