Your website is only as good as the content on it. This is the single most important principle that you will have to always remember when starting and growing your online business. In fact, a website is worthless without content. But it’s not just about content, the key is quality content.
First let’s understand what content means. On the internet, content refers to text, images, videos and any other element that captures the interest of your website visitors. For example, an online game would technically be the content on a gaming website.
Second let’s look at the two most important influencers of your website’s success. People who are potential customers are one. But the other is Google. Yes, whether you like it or not Google can make or break your business to some extent and so can other search engines like Yahoo.
The Google Factor
People throughout the world conduct over 200 million searches a day on Google. We have come to accept Google as a part of our world. When we need information we tend to turn first to Google rather than asking other people, visiting the library or asking a figure of authority.
Although we may not admit it, we are now living in a world where many people feel that Google knows just about everything. And these people are also your customers who will turn to Google first. So you cannot ignore Google’s influence in the success of your online business.
Therefore your content not only has to be shaped for humans, but it also has to be optimized for Google. And when it comes to content, Google tends to have one preference over any other – it prefers text content in the form of articles.
Creating Content for your Website
Content creation should start before your website is even live. In other words if you are planning to start a website tomorrow or next week, your content should be ready and waiting. Not all of us are proficient writers or have the funds to hire freelance writers.
But whether we can write or not, content is essential for your website’s success. Fortunately quality text content is not dependent on the flowery writing style of a fiction writer. Google does not give you any additional credit if you use more adjectives.
Let’s not forget the human component here. It is people who read content. And people want to hear from people. So your content needs to relate to your customers even if you cannot write the most captivating sales copy.
Start simple. Write the same manner as you speak. Imagine that you are telling your customer about your product or service in person. Think about what questions most customers ask. Structure your content accordingly. By adopting a question and answer format, you will find that can quickly put together content that does what it needs to do, which is to capture the interest of your customer and possibly even lead to a sale.
What does Google see and read?
Despite the hundreds of people who work at Google, the fact of the matter is that the search engine is not human. It is an algorithm that uses the data to deliver relevant information to its users. So technically it cannot read content like how you and I read.
But Google does something interesting when it scans your content. It looks for signals in your content that tells it what it may be.
For example, when Google crawls your website the system first looks at the title of the article. It then scans all the words to see which is the most commonly used words. It then matches these common words, also known as keywords, with one or more words in the title.
Based on its analysis, Google will decide whether you article is about sports cars or brown dogs. Why is this relevant? Simply because Google will list your article on sports cars to people search for sports cars. Or it will list your article on brown dogs to people searching for brown dogs.
Google will NOT list dog articles to people looking for cars, and vice versa. This is a highly simplified explanation of how Google works but it helps you understand where the human element comes in and where Google is involved.
To filter out good from bad quality articles, Google will look at various other signals. Spelling is important. Yes, Google understands the correct spelling of various words. Grammar is also important. Yes, Google has a basic understanding of grammar.
With this in mind, it is obvious why you will need to be meticulous when creating your content. Many misspelled words or poor grammar can harm your websites reputation in Google’s eyes. As a result Google will not want to list you high on its search results, which means that you will reach fewer customers. Take your time. Write your content carefully. Read and proofread before publishing.
Starting with your Website Content
So now that you have an idea of what is important in website content, where exactly do you start?
The About Page
Most prospective customers will at some time or the other look at your About page. They want to know more about you and your business before deciding whether to buy your product or use your service.
An About page is essential but it need not be complicated. A simple guideline when writing an About page is to start from the beginning just as you would inform a person about your business. Here is how each paragraph of your About page should be structured:
- State what your business is called and what it does or offers. Keep it short.
- Tell the customer when and how the business started. Everybody likes a good story.
- Explain why your business is the better choice for acquiring the product or service.
- Inform customers about your commitment to them through after sales service and support.
There are many guidelines on the internet on how to write an outstanding About page. It is one of the few pages on your website that you may want to update and rewrite many times over in the months and years to come.
The Contact Page
Ever bought something from somebody who you cannot contact ever again? Well, most of us have when it comes to a roadside vendor or door-to-door salesman. But these are usually small purchases of a few Rands. People become more cautious when they have to part with larger sums of money.
Customers will want to ensure that the business can be reached through email, telephone or even by a personal visit. Your contact page does not have to be complicated but it should contain the relevant contact details.
These days most customers are comfortable with just filling out a contact form on your website and waiting for you to respond. You will not need to divulge your telephone number or business address in every case, especially if your product is not expensive.
The fact that your website is hosted on your own domain like www.yourname.co.za is also comforting compared to a free service like WozaOnline or Weebly which have been the source of many scams.
The Home Page
As the saying goes, first impressions last forever. Marketers will tell you that a large proportion of customers will make a decision to buy or not within the first 5 seconds. Internet users are no different.
A website that is vague, complicated or unprofessional will cause customers to click away and never even look at your product or service. But just as important is what your homepage says.
It needs to get straight to the point, contain elements of your About page, some basic information about your product or service and give a customer an idea about the prices that they may have to pay.
The point is that the homepage needs to tell the customer just about everything they need to know at a glance. You can save the sales pitch for dedicate product/service pages. Just keep the homepage short and simple.
The Product/Service Page
Products or services may be spread over several pages but you should have a single page where all products or services are listed. One of the biggest mistakes that businesses make is to be vague about product/service details and price in order for customers to contact them.
Do not waste your time hiding prices and product details on your website. Chances are the customer may never contact you.
Your product or service page has to clearly tell the customer what you have on offer in detail. It also has to clearly indicate the price or at least an estimate. Start with a single page of products and services with prices or estimate and then expand to a dedicated page for each product or service.
It is your product/service page that sells so structure it carefully. Most online customers already know what they want to buy and why they want to buy it. Your product/service page needs to convince them to buy it from you.
In the information age, customers buy based on how well you inform them and not just by sales talk. Sometimes they may even overlook the price factor. Keep your content focussed on educating and informing your customer about your product/service and it will sell itself at times.
There are two other important aspects to website content, namely a business blog and content marketing. We will cover these topics in future lessons.