The following is an excerpt from Content Is King: The Complete Guide to Writing Website Content That Sells by Laura Briggs, available now at Entrepreneur Bookstore, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Bookshop.
The no. 1 job of your website is to engage your reader. That reader is ultimately the person who connects with your product or service, so you want to have a strong, conversational and consistent voice throughout. Review these principles every time you prepare to write new content or update existing content to be sure you are being as effective as possible.
Tip 1: Educate Rather Than Sell
You might assume that the primary function of your website and its content is to sell your services or products. An underlying element of sales does run through a comprehensive website. But the primary focus of all content you create should be to educate and support your target customer.
When you tell people helpful information that answers a question or fear they have, you build a trusting relationship as a person or company of authority. Although ultimately your goal is to convert that reader into a paying client or customer, start by giving first. Most readers can tell when they are being sold to and may resist trusting your expertise if you lean into a hard sell too early.
Tip 2: Be Relatable in Your Content
One of the most important components of engaging content is relatability. Even if you are a professional services provider whose education or expertise is important to your story, you still need to be relatable and accessible to your audience.
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To be more relatable, it’s OK to talk about mistakes and to demystify complex processes. Never assume that your reader is stupid or doesn’t have some context of the topic, so you want to strike a balance between giving helpful information without being too complex or high-level for your content to resonate with the reader.
Tip 3: Don’t Use All Caps
This one is relatively simple, but it’s powerful. All caps is visually distracting and difficult to read, so use formatting tools such as bold, underline, or italics instead.
Tip 4: Check Your Content for Duplication
Whether intentionally or by accident, you might wind up with copy on your website that matches another person’s page. This is known as duplicate content and it’s not only plagiarism; it can be harmful to your efforts to rank your website for chosen keywords.
Content writers should do proper research to ensure their work is original. Use tools such as Copyscape.com to pay pennies per 500 words searched. This will give you peace of mind that your content has not been stolen. Content should always be 100 percent original.
Tip 5: Make Sure Each Website Page Has a Clear Beginning, Middle, and End
The material in each section of your website pages should be balanced between the introduction and conclusion. For most pages, the middle is where you’ll have the bulk of the content. In this case, do a final review of every page you create to make sure it’s clear from a reader’s perspective what the beginning, middle, and end of every single page is.
As you review pages, pay attention to the journey you take your reader through. Does the end of the piece deliver on the promise made in the title? If you told someone they’d learn a six-step process, did you cover all six steps clearly? Did you include images or other explanations to help make that process easier to digest?
[Click image to buy]
Tip 6: Always Check for Grammar and Spelling Errors
This one should be obvious, but it’s also hard to fit into your strategy if you don’t have the right people or tools to make it happen. Errors can and do slip by, and they can cost you some credibility points.
Thankfully, simple routes exist to solve this problem. The first is to hire a proofreader. If you’re not producing ongoing content, your proofreader can help you with a one-time project. You can deliver all your completed website content pages to them after you’ve written the drafts, and then after the proofreading, you’ll publish all those pages together. Frankly, whether you write your content yourself or hire a freelance writer to craft it for you, consider proofreading your final step of the publishing process.
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You can also use tools such as Grammarly or the Hemingway App to spot-check your work if you’re not working with a proofreader. They both provide helpful tips to make sure your finished work is as polished as possible.
Tip 7: Edit for Conciseness, and Then Edit Again
Resist the temptation to assume that having more words is better. All too often, websites are too long, meaning many readers will not scroll past the part of the page that first appears on their screen. Factor in the impact of mobile viewing and this becomes even more important. Get the words on the page for an initial first draft, and then go back later with fresh eyes to cut and then cut again. Always look for opportunities to be more concise with your writing.
Tip 8: Go Easy on Promotion
If everything feels like clickbait these days, it’s because a lot of it is. But the last thing you want is for a reader to feel like they’re being pushed to buy, buy, buy the minute they click over to your website.
Tip 9: Don’t Oversell Results
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. You might feel like your product or service can change your reader’s life. But unless that’s actually the case for 80 percent of your clientele, leave those grandiose claims out of the picture.
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Tip 10: Focus on Quality, Not Quantity
It’s easy to get caught up in the pressure to produce something new every week or every other week. If you don’t have a good system for content creation, your work gets sloppy. It’s tempting to push out something that seems good enough but always err on the side of quality rather than quantity. Yes, it’s important to teach search engines how regularly you post things, but you don’t want to lose all the hard work you’ve already put in by pushing out content that doesn’t meet your basic quality standards.