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Website Content Preparation Checklist

Thanhtu Dao // Last Updated: 31 August 2015

Website Content Preparation - What Sections Do I Need?

The most important ingredient for a successful website is the website's content. Website visitors arrive looking for information, products or services and all of it has a name, descriptions and details.

The top priority is to prepare all of the website's content as if it is the single most important part of the website either before development begins or as soon as possible in the process. Ideally, your web developers can help you discover what content you may need that you may not realize, and in some cases a web or marketing agency can be assigned a role to help create and write the content in addition to the website design and development. But at the core the content comes from the client as an extension of their strategy and goals for having the website in the first place. No one knows the business better than the client.

How to write the Website's Content

You may already have an existing website or marketing materials and the details of your products and services and they will all be useful. If you are making a new website as part of an effort to reinvigorate your brand you may use this opportunity to refresh some of this material.

Writing for web content is particular from other media, in some instances it needs to be more succinct and targeted, and in some places the freedom of more space compared to print affords the chance to provide lengthier content that could be useful and appreciated by visitors.

Consider and Follow These Steps:

> Who are your target audiences? Write them down, especially if you have a variety of potential visitors with varying needs from your website and company. These are your User Personas. For example, if you are an industrial engineering company three User Personas might be potential clients, potential suppliers and partners and potential employee engineers.

  1. Write a sentence speaking towards each of the potential visitor User Personas - saying exactly what you do and offer them, in as plain and simple language as possible. You should have a simple, matter of fact sentence directed toward each User Persona with little hyperbole or grand marketing speech.
  2. For each value offer you created above per User Persona, create a detailed bullet point list of the top reasons why they should choose your company/ website to satisfy this need. We can refer to these lists as 'Why Us' lists.
  3. With these several targeted Why Us lists in hand, distinguish any common themes among them. When you recognize that you refer to the quality of your services, the quality of your products, and the breadth of your extensive history, testimonials, and certifications, you can begin to note main categories you should present on your website. Make a list of all of these Categories.
  4. From this list of Categories, which ones align together? Ideally in your website, you want to provide plenty of navigational choice to your visitors at all times, but not too much choice. Twenty main navigation categories would be too many but there isn't a right number for too few, it very much depends on your company's activity. Some companies with a very specific scope only need one or a few main navigation channels, and a broadly focused e-commerce site would maybe benefit from many more. The idea is to consolidate where possible to help ease the engagement process for your visitors to get them clicking and making choices on your website and to ease their pathway to the information they need. Align the Categories that go together. Your extensive history, certifications, testimonials, and impressive management team could all fall under 'About Us' for example.
  5. Now write across a paper or spreadsheet these top main titles that summarize your categories and they become your initial Main Navigation items. Below each, add the subcategories that together complete that section. Make sure that each Category / Main Navigation title is clear and understood on its own without supporting context. 'Precision' would be too abstract as a top navigation choice, for example, whereas 'Gear Component Engineering' might be appropriately specific. If you engineer many parts, determine the higher encompassing category for them, etc.
  6. To continue the Main Navigation let us conduct a next exercise. Consider your company and its services from the perspective of each of your potential site visitor User Personas. What are the questions and concerns they usually already ask you when they already currently call or email you? What are the top things they want to know? Search through your emails and notes, and make a list of each of their concerns. Everything from the seemingly mundane such as your opening hours or your location or bigger topics such as your price range are all critically important. Many visitors' experiences to your website will make or break solely on their ability to find this information.
  7. Again, we consolidate all of these potential visitor queries from their perspective looking for patterns. Distinguish top Main Nav potential headers like Contact or Pricing, and place under them appropriate subcategories such as Location which can probably work well under Contact.
  8. Now, it is time for your perspective as the Site Owner! With your main base services and qualities categorized and your visitors most common queries accounted for, it is time to think again of your website's goals. Your mission, after all, is to gain conversions - either phone calls, emails, in-person visits, or online purchases. List these goals, what are the top things you want your visitors to do, in order? Would you like them to call? Purchase some products, order some service, or start a conversation via email? You are now determining your critical Call to Action elements which most probably need to be promoted or at least easily accessible in every area of your website in one form or another. Depending on the nature of your business, there is an appropriate level of prominence for these Calls to Action of course. List these goals, and then write some corresponding Call to Action text that lead to or identify them, potentially as buttons, links or suggestions.

> Now that you have organically and originally determined a framework of your main site navigation, categories, content areas and calls to action it is time to take a look at your competition. You probably already have a good idea who your competition is, but it is an essential exercise to also search online to find your competitors in the same manner your potential clients would. If you were a potential visitor to your own website, a User Persona looking for you, what would you search for in Google or Bing? Searching online, using a variety of search terms, will often enlighten you to competitors you may not have been aware of. Bookmark all competitors that catch your eye, either for the seeming quality of their business, content or design.

It is essential to get other person's assistance for this exercise as well, people who do not work directly in your business and have them repeat this process. People who do not know your company and services in the same way you do, or even customers as opposed to the providers of the service will often search for the service using different terms. When getting help from others for alternative searching patterns have them:

  1. List all of the search terms they used to hypothetically find your services.
  2. Bookmark the competition that most catches their eye both positively and negatively
  3. Note details about why some businesses make the positive impression and what negatively impressed them.

This information is critical in developing content and a website that will differentiate you from the competition. This process may enlighten you to content categories that you may have missed, such as the impact of a Latest News section has on visitors because it helps them see the company they are considering is active and successful.

> Finding your Voice. With the framework for your site's content complete and a clear view of the competition, it is time to find and embolden your company's online identity and personality. It is a good idea to both brainstorm and plan your approach here in any order. Choose exactly the tone that best matches your industry and product category, your desired clientele, and your niche in the market. Who are you catering to, and how do you fit into the scale of competing products and services? Your niche or desired niche helps determine your tone and language.

Imagine you are meeting your several User Personas for the first time and shaking their hand. What is the first thing you would say about your company to each of them, what do you do and offer? You have your bullet point lists about why they should choose to work with you, but what would you actually say, sitting there in person in one line or the proverbial elevator statement? Write these down specifically, they can be the 'Hero statements' in your initial home page 'above the fold' area.

Repeat this exercise for every one of your main categories, your Main Nav elements. How do you summarize your Products, your Services, your Contact page?

Do not try to sound like an advertising pitch man in a fast-paced radio commercial. Use your professional voice, directly to your User Personas. Write down exactly what you would say when sitting with them describing the category in question. How does your service differ from the competition?  What is the extent and scope of your Product range and why?

> Finding your Facts. Now that you are prepared to speak about your company online and have considered the tone and niche of your online personality, you can really begin to do so, either from the top down or the bottom up. From the bottom up, you can compile the specific info about each product or service you provide and all of their specifics.  You can prepare a spreadsheet, and one by one fill in every detail for every service, creating logical subcategories as necessary. You can work from your smallest units upward, determining groupings and associations between them.

From the top down, you can choose among your bullet point lists and declarative statements directed to your different User Personas messages that would be most appropriate for prominent positions on your home page.  It is a good idea to use a word document and a piece of paper or large board to brainstorm and place these major elements. On a piece of paper, you can sketch a very generic home page layout, its specifics barely matter, and on this paper write numbers that will correspond to key components. For example a #1 up by the usual logo area, a #2 in the main central area where sliders often go, a #3 next to that, a #4 for a statement area below that, and a 5, 6 and 7 below this main area for subpage elements, and some 8, 9 and 10's for further information down the page.

As they come to you, on your word document or spreadsheet you can begin to write and match up potential elements for the page. Maybe your company tagline in space #1,, the main service offerings declared to your User Personas in space #2, perhaps some Latest News headlines for space #3,  a main company mission statement in #4, opening hours and contact info, bullet point lists detailing your services or qualities, testimonials, awards, certifications, and any top importance relevant info can be listed for the others.

Consider the perspective of your potential User Persona visitors and their needs. Remember the notes of those that helped you research your competition and what impressed them about other sites or turned them off. From the top down, answer their questions and provide information that will catch their interest. What do you offer and do, exactly? Declare this clearly, high up or prominently in the page. How does it compare to others in your industry? Write that down there. Who 'is' your company? Present that soon.

With all their questions answered on the page, imagine some appropriate calls to action that lead the visitor closer to our desired results and circle them onto the page. Make them clear and unambiguous.

This process is an exercise to get down potential content for the home page, and should then be repeated for all other of your main and sub pages for your main categories. Think about what info should and needs to be there minimally and make attempts to fill in every black, mapped to the pages.

This content can either then become literal declarative instructions for your web designer, or a starting point for them to work with and grow your ideas. Web designers have experience in website usability and should be aware of latest trends and expectations of websites, and will help you shape your content for your audience. By providing them with this initial content, you take a step towards ensuring your voice influences the site structure, tone and style.

> At some point in this process, SEO concerns and strategies will be coming to mind. You will notice your top search engine ranking competition speaking to their audiences in a declarative fashion that also leaves no ambiguity for Google.

It is important to specifically use the terms describing exactly what you do and these become your keywords, that is certain. If you sell carbon sprockets your website will definitely need to lead mentioning that, and a good web developer will keep an eye out to make sure that you do.

It is equally important however to be aware of how advanced Google and other search engines have become with their latest algorithm updates, including significant leaps and bounds in the last year alone. Their advancement is focused as always on improving search results for human visitors, and what they filter and prioritize for is quality and authoritative content and company relevance. The end result is an attempt to reduce spammy irrelevant content from top positions and the takeaway for site owners is that it is best to not be spammy. So no keyword stuffing or shortcut tomfoolery, Google knows all the tricks you could ever think of and penalizes accordingly.

So quality content is key. Relevant, up to date and thorough information is key, and consistently new blogging or latest news on your business area is a bonus. This on-site focus is the first most important step; afterwards will come off-page promotion, spreading the word about your company and website across the net including links back to your site as an ongoing process.

> Conclusion. Writing content is hard, it is the homework we don't feel like doing, the book report we procrastinate on until the end. Take note from the best students in the class though, the more time you give yourself for the assignment the better the results. The key is to get started early getting words, lists, bullet points, brainstormed catch phrases and all the little facts and microtext down. When you have started the process, it gets easier and easier and each step elevates you to the position to climb higher up.

Also, critically, the content is absolutely key for your web designers and developers to work with. Without it they are at best guessing at should be the tone and voice of the website, what actual content should be prioritized where and what the information architecture should be. Without content and direction being provided, they are determining the tone and niche for your website more than you, and it may not be exactly what you had in mind. No one knows your business better than you. For best results and success, write your content now!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thanhtu
Dao

Focusing on SEO since 2012, Tu has a rich experience in online marketing she employs for the great benefit of Seirim's clients. Adding to that role she now also assists with Project Management and leads Website Quality Testing, including User Experience and Performance testing.

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