Writing website content = a nightmare?
Many are surprised to learn that the main thing that holds up a website build is a delay in the delivery of content. Honestly, you should see the surprised faces we get at the mere suggestion that a lack of written content is likely to hold up your website completion over a nuclear disaster in the backend. Yes, project delays occur for all sorts of reasons — sometimes there are delays in getting a photographer on site to take pictures of your business or product, or maybe you need to do some research before submitting written content to your developer.
But more often than not, it’s none of those things.
It’s that writing website content, unless you’re someone who is paid to do that kind of thing, absolutely sucks.
I am not going to lie to you here. I didn’t even want to write this article, because I don’t particularly enjoy writing either. I knew I needed to though, because almost every timeline attached to every site we build gets held up on this one thing: no one really likes writing about themselves, their expertise or their business.
I will tell you all the things I did after writing the title of this article, but before starting on the actual content of it:
– I checked Instagram
— I replied to an email that really did not require a reply today, or even tomorrow.
— I went on LinkedIn, just for the hell of it.
— I ate half a bag of Tyrrell’s new lentil crisps (they’re delicious, dammit)
— I went on Facebook
— I checked my business bank balance
— I put on lip balm
So here we are. You don’t want to be here, and quite frankly, neither do I. But we have to talk about this, because your business’s survival is based on you being able to “sell” it in the written word.
Some cultures have an easier time than others with this sort of thing. I have found our American clients struggle a little bit less than our British clients when it comes to writing website content. Why is this? I mean, the British love affair with self-deprecation doesn’t get an invitation in an elevator pitch or a mission statement, which tends to put a brake on things.
Americans on the other hand, often think you need to write a dissertation on your business, which is also an incorrect assumption, and become overwhelmed at the prospect of this daunting task, making procrastination an art form like no other.
The good news
I’m about to rock your world. The good news is, no one wants to read a lot of text anymore. We have become a world where being verbose is only cool if you’re an English major. There’s a reason “TLDR” has become such a popular phrase in our lexicon.
Your audience wants you to do the following: say what you need to say, cut the fat, and pull the train into the damn station.
So given that the trend with websites is that less is more, why are so many people still finding it impossible to write content for them?
“I don’t want to sound braggy.”
If you were looking to buy a car and the sales pitch you were delivered said, “Runs just like a car that is 10 years old and has x thousand miles on it. Ride smoothness is average. Miles to gallon is average” would you be wowed by this car? Of course not. While you did deliver the facts, a much more vibrant “10 years old but runs like a car of half that age and mileage” and “delivers an efficient miles to gallon ratio,” gets you noticed a bit more — pretty important when gasoline costs a billion bucks at the moment.
That sort of sales pitch would be more likely to attract your attention, right?
You made the decision to become a business owner or to sell your brand. You already think you’ve got something that is better than your competition, otherwise you’d be working for them. So, get over that whole “braggy” bit right now. You have the cajones to be an entrepreneur. Go ahead and brag a bit.
“No one cares what I write.”
This is true and also not true. When I was writing the written content for Star Mountain’s website (a task I would describe to be about as fun as a pap smear), I kept saying to myself, “is anyone really going to read this shit?” The answer is a vague “some will and some won’t.” I really don’t think anyone cares about the history of Star Mountain when their business urgently needed a website yesterday, but there may be people who want to know you’re legit and have a backstory.
The compromise — say what you need to say in a few lines for those who want to read it.
“I don’t know what to write.”
Ding ding ding! We have hit the nail squarely on the head. You are not alone. Most of our clients feel this way. They could have delivered a million elevator pitches, written a business plan, and told their friends and family all about their entrepreneurial endeavour, but somehow, writing the part their prospective clientele will read is terrifying to them.
“Don’t I need content for SEO?”
You do. That hasn’t changed. But instead of writing website content that has lots of excessive crap, you can focus on writing strong, focussed content that utilises keywords that are crucial in your industry. In addition, for optimal SEO (search engine optimisation), you should use headings to break up text, images, and inbound and outbound links. Sometimes I find that introducing your headings early in the writing process helps to organise the content and make it easier to know what to write.
So how do we fix this?
Think back to times you have shopped online with a small business (take a seat, Apple) and ask yourself what kinds of things you found important to know from their website. Did you want to know where they were based? How they came about? How long they had been in business?
Surely there were a number of things you wanted to know before inputting your credit card information into their payment form.
These are the things you should consider when writing website content.
What will your customers want to know about your business?
Let’s start with your homepage
Think of your homepage as the summary, or perhaps the cover letter of your business. You want to get the most important bits of information on it. Why? Because sometimes, your potential customers won’t go beyond that homepage before either popping over to your contact page (yay!) or moving on to your competition (boo!).
Your strongest sales pitch has to be right on that first page. It should include:
1) What your business is
2) What your business does/services it provides
3) What your mission is
4) What sets you apart
5) How to contact you
6) A link to a transaction page (if applicable)
Everything else can safely go on other pages, and, in addition, what you put on your home page should be emphasised on your other pages as well. Continuity is important and also good for SEO.
Your “About”/ “Who We Are” page
This is where you really can shine. Here, you can talk about:
1) Your business in depth
2) The history of your business (or you, if you’re a blogger, influencer, etc)
3) Your/your business’s expertise
4) Your qualifications
5) Awards you or your business have won
6) Reiterate or expand upon your mission statement
Your “Services” page
Here is where you can describe in some depth what services your business provides. Things you might want to include here, but it doesn’t have to be all of these points:
– The name of the service or service package
— A brief description of the service (think Twitter length)
— Any service includes (training, free warranty, etc)
— The cost (totally optional, not every business wants to list that)
Your “Blog” / “Articles” page
We expect that if you request a blog for your site, then this is something you plan to keep updated long after the build is over. Having a blog is great for your website — articles can be shared from it, posted on social media, featured by influencers — and it gives you a chance to shine as an expert in your field.
You can also use social media and Google trends to inform what you want to write about. During the COVID pandemic, for an example, a hot topic was how to create the perfect home working environment, because a lot of people had to do it. It was timely and people wanted expert advice.
In addition, having an updated blog keeps your website updated too — something that makes Google tingle in all the right places.
Your other pages can follow the guidelines I set above — at the end of the day, if hardly anyone reads what you wrote but you still get clients that came through your website, you’re already winning. Writing website content doesn’t have to be hell. Even if people don’t want the whole song and dance about how your company started, search engines care — and they will be the ones who reward your hard work by hanging your website content on the search engine refrigerator, so the whole internet can see, and of course admire, it.