How to write effective content for your website

This article is aimed at helping you to write better content for your website. If you follow the steps below you will increase the amount of traffic to your website, maintain user interest for a greater period of time and be far more likely to communicate your message effectively. 

    • Have a clear SEO plan
    • Structure your content around the user behavior
    • Start with your summary / conclusion
    • Don’t rely on users having read other pages first
    • Signpost frequently using informative links
    • Cover only one item per paragraph
    • Make Headings and sub-headings meaningful
    • Write all content from the third OR first person
    • If in doubt, leave it out!

 

A little history lesson …

The internet has been in existence since around 1982, and a big part of our lives since the 1990s. At the start only experts had the knowledge and experience to use it. In the early years visual and audio content were seen to be far more important than text and little consideration was given to the quality of written content. But in the late 1990s researchers realised text was actually considered the most important component of web content by audiences. These days any organisation, big or small, must have strong website content if it is serious about engaging with the users.

Modern websites …

Since the 1990s it has become increasingly common and progressively easier for the less IT savvy person to have their own website. With the advent of open source CMS solutions like WordPress, Joomla and Drupal, all of which use WYSIWYG (WhatYouSeeIsWhatYouGet) editors the non savvy user can even keep their website content up-to-date without any knowledge of HTML, CSS or any other coding techniques.

However, it is not easy to run a successful website. Many website owners aren’t interested in the technologies, only the result of a successful implementation.

According to Neilsen (2008) “On the average Web page, users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit; 20% is more likely”. Kent (2008) builds on this by saying that “almost 50% of readers come through a search engine. They don’t come in through a home page and read pages in a particular order.”

We can make some easy decisions as a result of this research …

Have a clear SEO plan

SEO is a huge topic in it’s own right but it is really important to have a basic SEO plan for your website. The most basic option is to create a list of the main keywords and phrases that are relevant to your website topic. You should aim to incorporate these key words and phrases throughout the content. It is important to make sure the words and phrases you use are relevant to the website as a whole but also to the particular page for which you are writing in order to deliver more traffic to the right place within your site.

Structure your content around the user behavior

Nielsen (2006) conducted some fascinating research tracking the eye movements of a large group of users to see which items on a webpage attract users. The research found conclusively that user’s read pages in a F-shaped pattern paying most attention to the top and left area of the page. You can use this to your advantage and make sure your important content is at the top of your page, which conveniently leads me into the next point …

Start with your summary / conclusion

During our school education most of us are taught to write as follows:

Introduction -> Exploration -> Conclusion

However, in order to write an effective webpage you should actually start with your page conclusion. By doing this you are conveying your message quickly. Users who read a small percentage of the page will still get the complete message and those seeking further information or some more evidence to support your conclusion will read on.

Don’t rely on users having read other pages first

As we already know from Kent (2008) “almost 50% of readers come through a search engine. They don’t come in through a home page and read pages in a particular order.”

You may have heard the term “bounce rate” before. Bouncing refers to users who hit a page within a website and then leave without viewing any other pages of the same website. You can hugely reduce your bounce rate by using well written text with clear signposting  to encourage the user to continue their journey on your website.

Signpost frequently using informative links

Signposting is simply directing the user to other places. Used effectively it can hugely improve the user experience of your website and reduce your bounce rate. Using informative links within your page content is a very important aspect of signposting. No doubt you will have seen links like “click here” and “more information” all over the web which are very ineffective. “View my @wnplummer Twitter page.” is far better than “To have a look at my Twitter page click here“. Using meaningful links also provides more information to search engines when they index your links as well as improving the user experience for those using screen readers to browse your website.

Cover only one item per paragraph

This one is pretty simple but often overlooked. As a user you’re far more likely to skim read a paragraph if you can see it is long and covers multiple topic items.

Make Headings and sub-headings meaningful

The headings on your page show a clear breakdown of the content of each paragraph or section. Make them meaningful to allow the user to easily locate areas of interest and try to build in keywords and phrases from your SEO plan where possible.

Write content from the third OR first person

Be consistent! It shows lack of attention to detail when one area of a page is written from third person perspective and another area is written from the first person perspective. Keep the same perspective when writing to give the user a consistent experience.

If in doubt, leave it out!

Short concise content achieves a lot more than lengthy prose. If you have any doubt about a paragraph or sentence then leave it out.

If you would like further advice  then make an enquiry about authoring effective content for your website.

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2 Comments

  1. Bernice 02/23/2012, 04:49 Reply

    Good blogging!

  2. Eddy 02/28/2012, 07:58 Reply

    Great read, interesting and highly informative. Massive help, thanks!

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