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Don't neglect your site's content

Many today make the mistake of writing for SEO, key-wording the content for Google. Don't, says John Loudon who makes the case for well-written content

During my time building web applications, blogs and many other forms of media I have witnessed a neglect, a misunderstanding about the importance of the written word. It is said that ‘content is king’ but do business owners and indeed their employees grasp the weight that content holds?

I was recently asked by a client to design several web pages prior to being sent content. This troubled me for several reasons:

  1. It meant that the client thought I could predict what the ‘core’ intention of the page was, and while that is possible it’s an oversight. Content can never work for the end user if the designers are ‘guessing’ their way through it
  2. It also meant they did not give the site any value for selling the product
  3. It displays an oversight or worse ‘assumption’ that the customers who will be looking at the site are too stupid to see beyond the pretty pictures

Content has to be not only well written, but also be structured with the right language and tone. It has to do the selling work for the site. I would put forward the following as a few key drivers to outlaying ‘great’ content.

  1. Treat your content like a phone call – short, snappy, jargon free and to the point. Like phone calls content should have a ‘purpose’ – what are your trying to tell me?
  2. Before you write anything ‘think’ – it seems obvious but so many don’t think it out before they start typing. This content is one of the main points of sale; a chance to explain. The content should direct the users where to go, let them know what to do and set the expectations for them. It should NOT baffle them, confuse or frustrate them. So plan your content, write out what you would like it to achieve, one or two tasks per block - no more. Then write your first draft. This next bit is important:
  3. Forget what you know about your company, imagine yourself as a new user and read what you have just written from that point of view, think about it as another business if it helps. Then ask yourself the following:

    a) Is it easy to understand what’s being said?
    b) Is it interesting? Do you want to read more?
    c) Does it carry a down to earth tone, but importantly does it still remain professional?
    d) Lastly if your job depended on this one page of content would you risk publishing it?

If you can answer all of these with ‘yes’ and you can tweak the content, then you have decent if not great content. Remember – clients are people like you, they like sensible, down to earth content and language – no one likes waffle. If it's realms of text, they will switch off. Make it interesting.

Many today make the mistake of writing for SEO, key wording the content for Google – don’t! The site may get to number one but the content will look like it’s been written by a five year old. Instead write it for humans. If it's good content to read and keeps to a set topic, it will still perform well but more importantly it will be far more likely to convert into a subscription or sale.

Conclusion

Write the sort of content you like to read yourself. Ensure you read and then reread your work. Don’t rush/skim it. Think about it from a new user's point of view. Make it engaging. Short and snappy beats academic lecture. Get creative, break your content up with ideas (the designer can easily build on this if there is a well thought-out concept/content strategy).

Finally be yourself – you are not a robot or some keyword happy lunatic when you speak (I hope), so you should be like this when you write.

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