Writing web content for other people’s businesses is second nature for me. However, I know from experience how hard it is to write content for your own business. When I was having this website developed, I got more and more excited about seeing the design come together and realised really rather late in the process that I was going to need to write content for it at some point.
Writing content for your website is a sizeable job, but a bit of planning at the start will make the process feel more manageable.
Here’s my advice for getting started.
What is the purpose of your website?
Start by thinking about the bigger picture of your website. Where does it fit into your overall marketing and business strategy? For example, is it going to be the core of your marketing and communications activity? Or is it simply an online business card so you can say you’ve got an online presence? This will help you get an idea of the size of website you need to be thinking about. It’s likely that the more central the website is to all your other activity, the more information and pages you’ll need to include.
Think too about who will be reading your website and ask yourself what tone of voice will be most appropriate. This blog has more on this.
Capture this information as the start of a briefing document you can use to make sure everyone is ‘singing from the same songsheet’ throughout the process. If needs be, get the brief signed off by the relevant people at this stage so you know you’re setting off on the right track.
What pages are you going to need?
Once you’re clear on where your website sits in terms of the bigger picture, you’ll have more of an idea of the pages you’re going to need. I wrote a blog a little while ago that talked you through this process and the process of putting together a sitemap. You can read it here.
How are the website design and the content going to fit together?
Now is the time to start to think about how the content you write and the design of the website will fit together. A bit of collaboration here saves a lot of heartache later because you can ensure design and content are in harmony and the left hand knows what the right is doing.
Is the website going to be designed first and the content written to fit it? If so, you’ll need to think about how the content on the page will come together. For example, the content may be broken up into chunks and you may need to think about how many words you include in each element of the page.
If the content is going to come first and the design created around it, you have more flexibility in terms of what you write. However, it’s worth thinking about the design and having a conversation with the designers to get their input. A wodge of undifferentiated text on each page, however well written, may not look as appealing as you’d like.
Whatever the case, it’s useful to share your sitemap with the design team so they know what to expect.
What keywords are important?
Now you’ve thought about the bigger picture, it’s time to start drilling down to the details. What keywords will people be using to find your website? Here’s an introductory guide to choosing your keywords I wrote as a guest blog post for web development agency Rigorous. One addition to the advice I’d offer is to check out answerthepublic.com. It’s an invaluable way to find out the things your customers and prospective customers really want to know about rather than the stuff you think they want to know.
Where is all the information going to come from?
Next, ask yourself where all the information for the site is going to come from. Take each page in turn and think about what you need to include and what you want people to do once they’ve finished reading it. It may be simply to browse to another page or it may be to make contact with you. (This blog has more on calls to action.)
Are you going to need input from other people to get hold of the facts you need for each page? Does marketing (or any other type of material for that matter) exist that has the detail you need, even if it’s going to need to be rewritten or restructured?
Who’s going to write the website content?
Now we’re getting down to brass tacks. The thinking you’ve done so far will be a huge help when it comes to writing the content, but it is going to take time if you’re going to do it properly and give it the attention it needs and deserves.
Are you going to be responsible for writing the content? Have you got a team to delegate to? Is there enough capacity in-house to get the content written in anything approaching a reasonable timescale? Do you or your team have the writing skills required? If the answers to any of these questions fill you with a sense of dread or alarm, it may be worth considering outsourcing the content writing process.
Who’s going to sign off the website content?
Who will have the final say on your content? My advice is to keep the sign off process as brief as possible. When there are too many people involved it takes a long time. You also increase the risk of ending up with incoherent content where everyone has felt the need to add their own two penn’orth (although having a clear written brief helps to reduce this risk because you can turn down changes or additions that don’t answer the brief.)
What’s the timescale for all this?
Finally, in my experience, when you’re already busy, website content creation can very easily turn into one of those jobs that will be done tomorrow. I’m frequently called in to work on web content where the client’s original intention had been to write the content in-house but after six months (and often more) of not being able to find the time, they decided they needed to outsource the work if it was ever going get done. If you’re writing the content in-house, put together a schedule and set aside time in the diary, whether it’s in one big block or little and often. The reality may not always match up to the schedule, but at least you’re doing what you can to make sure it happens.
Good luck! Remember to try to enjoy the process – and remember to take time to celebrate the finished result!
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