Your website's content is vital for not only your customers, but also for SEO.
Let's explore some best practices, pitfalls, and some of the common challenges we face when creating web content.
Maybe not so obvious?
My opening comments are likely to sound so obvious that you might wonder whether it’s worth reading on, but I think that’s half the problem... some people with websites find it so obvious what to say that it doesn’t need much thought. Right?
Or maybe there isn’t much to say. I could speak to a professional tiler and he could tell me that it’s obvious what he does, so what else is there to say?
Well as an expert in your field, what might be obvious to you might not be obvious to your target audience. And they might have a question which to you should have obvious answer.
So let your web content deal with that upfront. Tell them and show them what you do, and help them to understand why you or your business is the one they should buy from.
I will cover this in more detail shortly.
Publish meaningful content, not spam!
This piece is about
Meaningful and Relevant Content for a reason, as it can be mutually beneficial to you, your potential customers, and also to your success with the search engines.
Way back in the 1990’s when I first started building websites, the most popular search engines included AltaVista, Yahoo, InfoSeek, Excite, HotBot, Lycos and several others. Google arrived a few years later.
To rank high in search results it was important to include keywords and keyphrases on your web pages. But in some cases it became ridiculous, because a lot of the content on web pages looked like nonsense due to attempts to cram in as many keywords and keyphrases as possible.
Keyphrases are also known as
long tail keywords
Avoid keyword stuffing
The idea behind keyword stuffing (also referred to as keyword cramming or keyword saturation) was that if you managed to get more keywords onto your page then your competitors, you stood a greater chance of ranking higher in search results.
But it didn’t look good. An example might have read something like this:
Aardvark Kitchens of Cambridge install top quality kitchens in Cambridge and around the Cambridge area. So if you need a new kitchen in Cambridge, check out Aardvark Kitchens.
Thankfully for everyone’s sake, things have changed. Search engines, including Google, place a huge amount of value on websites which are aimed at their intended audience and not aimed at manipulating search engines.
Well designed websites which contain well written content which communicates, informs and advises tend to rank higher than those which are just thrown together with vague or poorly written content. They're considered to be of value, and are more likely to attract backlinks (another factor in successful search engine rankings)
From a content perspective images are important too, but I will cover images for websites separately.
Let’s focus a little more closely on what we mean by Meaning and Relevant Content.
What does relevant content mean?
Let's say that you run a gas boiler installation company in Kettering, and you also cover other areas in Northamptonshire. Your website content should make it clear to potential customers what services you offer, and where you operate. You should therefore aim to be successful in search results for related terms such as:
gas boiler installation in Kettering
central heating engineer in Rushton
boiler installer in Burton Latimer
gas safe engineer in Desborough
That might sound obvious, but also bear in mind that dedicated pages could be worth having for any additional services you offer, combined with any neighbouring towns and villages within reach of Kettering which you also provide services in.
There might also be advice you can provide. For a gas boiler installation company this might be advice on different types of boilers, and how often a boiler needs to be serviced. Then you could include details of any periodice services you offer, and provide an easy way for potential customers to book an appointment with you.
That approach will certainly be beneficial to your SEO efforts and help you reach more potential customers.
What does meaningful content mean?
Does your website portray your company as being experts in your field? And from all of the other options of similar companies in your area, will potential customers get the sense that YOUR company is the one which is most suited to their needs?
Google tries to determine just that, by evaluating the nature and content of a website against criteria which assesses the credibility of a website and its owners. Google calls this process
E-A-T which stands for
Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness
E-A-T is derived from Google's Search Quality Rating Guidelines.
Speak the right language
Be aware of who your target audience is. Do you intend to reach a technically aware audience who are likely to already be familiar with industry jargon, or is your target audience typical of the general public who expect to see things explained in everyday language?
Put yourself in your customer's shoes
It’s also important not to be patronising and dumb things down so much that your target audience could feel insulted by the over simplification of what you have to say. So just try to see things from their perspective. Put yourself in their shoes.
Here’s an example.
If you’re an electrician and provide services which include testing and inspection of existing electrical installations, you might refer to these in a number of ways.
- Electrical Condition Inspection Report
- Periodic Inspection Report
- Landlord Safety Certificates
- Fixed Wire Testing
Your target audience might not be familiar with these terms, but what they do know is that they need to have the electrics in their home tested. So help them to understand that you’re the electrician they need by speaking their language.
If you still feel
too close to what you have written and are unable to see it from a laymans perspective, get someone else to have a casual read through. Maybe a family member, or a friend. We all know someone who would be willing to spend a few minutes to read our latest prose. Just ask for some honest feedback!
How do you decide what to write?
I get asked this a lot. It depends...
You know your field or profession better than I do, and better than your customers. So I can't tell you what to write, but I can usually advise people how to approach the task.
Let me give an example of one of my clients who does car repairs. Like many people he’s very good at what he does, but he doesn’t find it quite so easy to write about.
So I asked him what he did last week, starting with Monday.
Alloy wheel repairs in Sutton Bridge.
And on Tuesday?
Repairing a dented car wing and bumper in Crowland.
So we went through his entire range of skills and services, and the list of areas he covers. He is also mobile (visits clients at their home), is fully insured, and can save his customers money because he is not VAT registered.
That gave us some information to work with, and along with a selection of before and after photos, some information about how long he has been in business, etc., we were able to put some usable content together for his website.
How much content do I need?
This is subjective. If you search for how many words a blog post should contain, most responses advise upwards of 1000 words, but many posts contain between 1500 and 2500 words. More in some cases.
The most important thing that you say what you need to say. If your post is around 2000 words, start the page with an introduction which will help someone tell within the first few seconds whether or not they're in the right place, and then you can expand on the subjects once you have their attention.
It might also help if you can make it easy for someone to navigate within the page so that they can jump straight to a specific section if they want to.
An example of a content plan in action
When I was asked to take over the management of an existing website, I did an evaluation on it before speaking with the potential client. He had been with his existing web designer for several years, but he got to hear about me and we began discussing the best way forward for him.
The guy who built his website had advised him that writing regular content is important in order to get his website to rank higher in search engine results.
This was good advice, and I also agree with that approach. But within reason.
He, the customer, had written a number of quarterly posts during over a couple of years. But then he stopped writing, and hasn’t written another post since.
He didn’t feel it was time well spent. Coming up with new content wasn't easy, and he felt that he had better things to do. And although his website was on WordPress and he wrote the content for the posts himself, he paid his web designer to new create and upload a new page to his website every time new content quarterly content was written.
The posts were actually very well written, but how many people actually read the posts?
In reality very few. So was the effort and cost rewarded with extra sales?
Directly, perhaps not. But his website does rank well in search engine results, which in turn could result in more visits. And those visitors can see that his business, himself and his employees are experts in their field, so on that basis they could very well become clients.
A balance is needed, but what I found most concerning wasn't that there had been no recent content added. It was that those quarterly posts showed when they were published, and the most recent one was in September 2016.
Be careful of content with a date stamp
In the absence of any new content since then, having a date stamp of 2016 could make it look to someone visiting his website that his company is no longer in business!
So bearing those points in mind, make sure that you understand why you’re writing new content (or updating existing content), and be careful when creating content with date stamps!
What if I'm not good at writing web content?
I realise how much of a burden coming up with good quality web content can be, so feel free to reach out if you need some help.
- You might be suffering from writer’s block and don’t know where to start.
- You might not feel confident in writing web content which will be published for the world to see.
- You simply might not have the time.
Whatever the reason, feel free to contact me if you feel I can help.
Want to know more?
In separate posts I'll be covering other aspects of web content, the use and preparation of images, linking within your website, external links to and from your website, website structure, etc.
Get in Touch
If you would like to discuss anything further, feel free to reach us by email or phone as follows:
About the author: Having begun building websites back in 1996, Daron Harvey has been a leader in website design best practices for over 26 years. Since 2000, he has been focused on eCommerce, Product Management and maintaining the global, multi-lingual websites of some of the world's largest corporations. During the global pandemic, Daron left the corporate world behind and founded Targa, specialising in Website Design, User Experience (UX/UI) and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).