Mar 23, 2009 by Marissa Berger
Coming up with content for a website can be the hardest part of the development process and most often the cause of schedule delays. Even if you are using a professional writer, there is a lot to think about and prepare. Here are some general guidelines to help you.
1. Gather all of the marketing materials you have (and like) where you can get content from.
2. Define your audience or audiences. You need to put yourself in the shoes of your site’s visitors. What information do they need and how might they look for it?
3. Work on your site’s structure or site map. Organize the site into sections that speak to your audience. Avoid the common mistake of organizing content to match your internal organization. The site and its content is not for you… it’s for your audience.
4. Label your sections and pages so they are short, intuitive, and appropriate. Stay away from cute or clever labels. You don’t want to make your visitors think too hard about where to go on your site. If your navigation is not clear, you will lose them for good.
5. Write each page so you provide a description, a few examples of how the content of this page applies to your visitors, and links to where they can find more information on the topic.
6. Write for the web… meaning short pages (400-700 words), bullet points or numbered lists, and bold or highlighted text. Site visitors don’t read every word; they scan the page.
7. Have a clear call to action on each page. A call to action can be a phone number, and email address, a link to subscribe to your newsletter, a link to download a white paper, or an actual “add to cart” button.
8. Write your copy so it’s customer focused. Talk about their needs and how you can help them fulfill those needs instead of taking about your company on and on.
9. Borrow from the materials you gathered so you can come up with a quick first draft. Then go back and look at each page in detail. Make sure you have a consistent voice.
10. Put your content to the test. Share your content with 2-3 people and ask them to read each page and answer: 1. what’s the gist? 2. can they relate to it? 3. do they know what to do next? Evaluate their answers with the message you are trying to convey. If it doesn’t match yet, revise.
Web developers will want to receive your content in digital format and clearly labeled. We recommend one Word document per web page. Name the document to match it’s page name (per the site map) and add “v1″ or “v2″ to indicate the version number.