Before making a purchase online, the majority of your customers read content first. And not only will your website visitors read what’s written on your site, that content—those words on each page, will determine how your page ranks on search engines. Something as simple as what’s written on your site will either help or hurt your traffic and impact sales.
I'm not going to lie to you, writing website copy can be far from “simple.” With over a decade's worth of experience writing for small businesses, including my own, every page is a challenge. However, although I recommend working with an experienced website writer, I’ve created this guide to help you do it yourself, and to make it as easy as possible.
Here are 9 steps to help you conquer writing compelling website content for your website. Let's get started!
Step 1: Put Yourself in Your Customer's Shoes
One of the toughest challenges when writing website content as a writer is understanding the customers and what they want to know and see when visiting that website. Believe it or not, this can be even harder for you as the owner of a business.
You know your business better than anyone and have spent years, if not decades, in your specific business and industry. However, your customers want simple and easy to understand information so they can make a quick decision and go on with their life. They do not want to hear your life story or have to be an expert in your industry just to figure out what to do on your site.
Tip: To put yourself in your customer’s shoes, write down answers to the following questions:
- What are the characteristics of your ideal customer (sex, age, occupation, location, annual income, etc.)?
- Why would they want your product or service (ex: a local homeowner’s furnace breaks, so they need the help of an HVAC company, which is the help we provide)?
- What all will they consider when making their decision (ex: price, availability, timing (when can it be delivered?)?
- What’s most important to the customer in this process and why (ex: customer service, price, speed of delivery)?
- List other things that may be important to your customer when seeking out your product or service.
Step 2: Scrutinize Your Current Website Content
Note: If you don’t have a current website, skip to step 3.
After you write down some of the basics about your customer and what they are going to want from your website, next, you need to go over what’s on your current website carefully. But, do not go over your current website as the owner of your business – go over it as a customer would and take notes.
Tip: You want to make sure you can answer these questions with a “yes” when reading over your website, if not, take notes so you can avoid these mistakes when reading the new content:
- Is the site free of spelling and grammar mistakes?
- Would you as a customer know exactly what to do next when visiting and reading through each page?
- Are there clear headlines and do you know what the next paragraph is going to be about before reading it?
- Is the content short and to the point?
- Is the content directed to your customer instead of just talking about your business (ex: does it explain why they should use your product or service and what benefits they will receive)?
Step 3: Scout the Competition
You should never copy what your competitors are doing – you should always do it better. The same is true with what’s on your website, from the images to what’s written there. Since most of the people you are trying to sell to will also look at and read your competitor’s website, you want to know exactly what’s on each of your main competitor’s sites, and understand why they wrote it that way. Take notes and think about how you could make what they’ve written better for your customers.
Tip: This is simply to learn and to make sure that your customers will connect with what you write more than your competitors. Don’t use any of the same taglines or content that is on any of your competitors' website. You want it to be better, not the same.
Step 4: Create New Sitemap
Your sitemap is simply a quick layout of what pages will be included on your website. If you already have your website finalized or plan to keep your current layout, skip to step 5.
Writing out your sitemap quickly and detailing what will be on each page helps make writing the content much easier. Here’s an example of a simple sitemap for a service-based company.
- Homepage (Image and short tagline, introduction, call to action, services offered graphic, 2nd call to action)
- About (Tagline, description of how we help customers, meet our team, call to action)
- Services (Introduction to services, listing and short description and link to each, call to action)
- Service 1
- Service 2
- Service 3
- Contact Us (Short message, contact information)
Step 5: Interview Yourself
When writing what will go on your website, details matter. I interview each business owner before writing a single sentence because they have important information that I need. Make sure that you type out this information because it will be a starting point for a lot of what you end up writing for your site.
Here are the main questions I ask during an interview, write (use a Word document) out detailed responses to each:
- How would you describe your business to a 10-year-old?
- Tell me about your customers, what are they like?
- Explain how the company started, why you created it, and what has happened since (important for the about page)?
- How would you describe the personality of the business?
- Why do your customers go to you instead of a competitor (list reasons)?
- What else is important to your customers?
- What else should a customer know about your products/services and/or business?
Step 6: Collect Needed Information
You’re getting so close! At this point, you may have what you need to get started, but there are several important pieces of information I would still need as a writer, including:
- Product or service descriptions and specs
- Pictures and bios of the founder and employees for the about page (if including a bio/team section)
- Additional information based on the sitemap (Ex: If adding a partners page, you would want to list all of your partners and possibly include their logos and website links).
- Documents or resources you would like to include on the site or link to.
Step 7: Write It!
It’s now time to get started writing the pages of your website using your sitemap, knowledge of your customer and company, and all of the information you’ve put together through this process.
Here are the steps I recommend taking when writing the copy for your website.
- Create a Microsoft Word Document or Google Doc for each of the pages you plan to write content for.
- Add relevant notes to the bottom of each of those docs (Ex: Add employee bios at the bottom of the about page document.
- Start with the homepage, which will likely link to many of the other pages on your website.
- Next, write the about page.
- Continue until you have drafts of each page.
When writing each page, remember to keep it short and sweet and make sure that your content speaks to your customer. At the very least, you want to explain the value your business will provide to their lives (or their business if you are targeting other businesses).
Step 8: Have Someone Else Edit It
After you’ve finished drafts of each page, I would ask for help from several trusted people for two purposes:
- Get feedback by people who are current customers or are in your target market.
Just make sure that anyone who is editing your work is clear on the basics of your business and your approach to speak in an attractive manner to your customers instead of just explaining every detail about your company.
Step 9: Self Edit & Publish
Once you get feedback and edits, it’s time to carefully go over each page yourself. Read them out loud and make changes as needed. When you’re satisfied with how what you wrote looks, sounds, and feels on your website, publish!
Congratulations! You’ve just written the content for your new website! Over the next couple of months, make sure to track your website traffic to see how they are interacting with your site and adjust your content as needed.
If you would like to learn more about how to write good content for your website, I recommend reading Donald Miller’s book, “Building a Story Brand.”
Want help with your website content? Contact Mavidea today.