by Susan Shoemaker, Principal-Project Manager, Peninsula Web Design
The single most common challenge for creating a website is writing good content. Why is this an issue? We encounter this speed bump with almost every website project.
The written content of your website impacts the performance of your website. This is how both the search engines and users find you, and determine if you have what they want. For your website to produce results for your business it first has to be found, and then it must connect with the user, in order for that person to be inspired to reach out to you.
Why is writing so hard??
When we talk about “writing”, commonly it’s considered one singular activity. Nope. This is not the case. Writing is a series of different activities that require a variety of efforts and competencies. And there are a bunch of challenges that get in the way of good website writing:
- Stage Fright—Everybody experiences this to some degree. Essentially, we don’t want to be wrong or appear foolish. All our grumpy, judgmental inner dialogue starts to holler super loud, and drowns outs the good information we should be putting down in writing. This is the first hard part: ignore the opposition to getting the words.
- Writing is thinking—Writing is a process of organizing our thoughts into logical order, which our random ponderings resist. It’s like the proverbial herding of cats: just when you think you have them all heading in the right direction, a random issue pops up, and they all start to protest at once.
- Writing is emotional—The creative part of thinking engages emotions, which then ask to be processed. Creativity is necessary to have words connect with the readers attention, so emotion is part of what we are delivering.
- Writing is selling—You want the reader to agree and join in what you are presenting. The content has to be of more value than all the other distractions for attention in order to keep the attention of your reader. … and there’s just no easy way to say this: selling is hard. You either put tons of effort into creating your product or service, or you put tons of effort into presenting your product or service, … or a huge amount of effort into both.
- Writing is not reading—When we write, the content originates from the creative area of our brain, and is driven by our thoughts. Thoughts are random, most commonly spoken, and the phrase “stream of thought” describes the jerky, non-sequential order of ideas, intermittently broken up with a sub-thought, or two, … or three. When we listen, our brains can handle this. It’s called a fun conversation, and we easily follow along with the speaker.
- Writing is editing—Just when I say it is “not reading”, it’s time to read your writing! Time to switch hats from the person disseminating information, to pretend you are just now encountering the content. Do you understand what you wrote? Can you imagine what questions your content has inspired for your uninitiated reader? Did you leave something out? Just because you thought it does not mean you captured your brilliance with words on a screen. Does the information flow logically as you read? Should you break the sentences into a different paragraph grouping? How’s the grammar and spelling (so grateful for online checkers)? Take a breath, and step back to assess how to edit to make the writing better for everyone.
- Readers are brutal—Readers bail out quickly, if the writing is not meaningful to them. If the written content is not organized, or has errors, or lacks helpful details, we’re out. We quickly lose patience with disorganized written content. When we read, our brains take in the information through our eyes, and process the content in the area of our brains which requires order and logic. If we lose the reader, we lose the sale.
- Writing is cyclical—It requires a series of different thinking processes. First creativity; got to come up with the topic and be brilliant! Then organize parts of the topic into sections. Write each section. Then it’s time to read what you wrote. Fix the obvious errors. Review your intentions. Read again. Write more to complete the thoughts that got stuck in your brain and have not yet made it into the writing. Review again. What are you presuming of your reader? Have you left unanswered questions?
And it burns up brain power, so there’s that aspect… Take your supplements. Keep your brain fed with good nutrition.
So, all that being said, why put in the effort?? Because this is how you can effectively reach BUYERS!!
The written content is serving two different audiences.
Writing for Search Engines
You are competing for attention from search engines. Make really well thought out pages with organized information for more attention. If this page has more and/or better content than that page, then this page is more likely to get a higher ranking: appear listed before that other page with lesser quality content. All the pretty images and fancy moving pieces on the page are not yet helping. The volume and organization of the written content is used by search engines to compare to other potential pages, and you want to win that competition! You want to have the best page content that may fit as a good response to the searcher. Get higher on the list of search engine results.
There is an entire industry surrounding the sleuthing out of the “algorithms” used for ranking website pages in the search engine results. We are not claiming to know more than the basics of how to get the attention of the search engines. However, your website is the “product sold” for search engines. Make every page high in good quality information. For almost everyone: you need more words; 600-1,000 words presented in logical paragraphs with subtitles as section headings. Being concise is good when you are speaking, but works against you for website page ranking. Say it all.
Writing for Users
People tend to scan first, to determine if the information is worthy of their attention. We start searching with a collection of motivations, and we are on a hunt for answers.
So break it up. Identify the key pieces of your topic, and assign them a subtitle. Introduce your topic with why it is relevant to the reader, what you think about it, and the parts you will present. Write each subtopic as a separate paragraph or two. Summarize what you presented and invite your reader to do something. Invite them to use your service, contact you, share with a friend. We all like to be included. Say nice things to the reader, and tell them how important they are to you.
There are a lot of websites out there that exude a sense of “We are important to ourselves. We are impressed with ourselves. You should be, too!” …this is a fail.
There are a lot of websites that “sound/look” to the reader as if “We are bored with our business. We don’t expect anyone to read this.” …this is a fail.
There are a lot of websites that try to make everything on every page the “most important thing!!!” This translates to the reader that they are being shouted at. …this is a fail.
…then there are websites that answer all the pertinent questions about themselves, and offer convenient invitations to contact, leaving the reader feeling as if they have been welcomed and greeted with hospitality. Good manners and a warm reception go a long way towards making users welcome in your online place of business.
Getting a balance of presenting complete information, making it appear visually engaging, inspiring the user to get involved takes practice and effort.
Buyers are Online
…and here’s the rub: in today’s economy it is estimated that almost all, like 80-95%, of the decision to purchase is completed online, before you get a human-to-human chance to participate in convincing the user that you are the place for them to spend their money. We live in a time when people presume they can learn anything about anybody or service, any time, anywhere, because—internet. It matters a lot what your website says.
At Peninsula Web Design, we are good at this. We know the parts. We know the steps. We know why it matters. Let us work with you to make the written content of your website bring results for you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Susan has been working with businesses to attract customers for over 25 years. With a passion for great customer presentation, Susan helps businesses show the best of what they offer. Susan has sold directly to customers, business to business, and created effective marketing and systems for bringing in happy customers.