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Seven Essential Principles for Writing Effective Website Content

A website can greatly influence how potential clients evaluate a company. Even in an industry where new business often comes from referrals, most prospects conduct due diligence online before reaching out to you for more information. Content is the key to making your website one of your firm’s greatest marketing assets.

Whether you are due for a website upgrade or want to enhance the effectiveness of your existing site, implementing these seven essential principles can help you create compelling website content that turns visitors into leads.

  1. Take a Content-First Approach

While the look and feel of your website matters, effective content helps visitors find the information they need, engages their interest, and guides them toward your desired actions. It also helps your firm make decisions about the purpose of each page on your website, the most impactful messages you want to get across to potential clients and/or employees, and how visitors navigate and consume information on your site. Think of website content as your product, and website design as the packaging.

  1. Make Your Unique Value Proposition Clear

Creating audience-focused content throughout your website helps you qualify prospects. Think of your homepage as a virtual billboard for telling visitors upfront what you do, who you work with, the problems you help them solve, the results you get, and what practices or characteristics set your firm apart from the competition. Visitors who clearly see on your homepage why they should do business with you and the benefit to them are more likely to contact you.

  1. Create Rapport with Visitors

The best way to create rapport with website visitors is to write content in a voice and tone that represents your brand and connects with your audience. Voice is the way a business communicates. Tone represents the mood that aligns with your specific audience and focuses on word choice and the way you structure those words for your audience. Before drafting content for your site, think about how clients speak with you. What words do they use? Are your conversations friendly and fun or more formal and direct? What is the personality of your brand? If your website content doesn’t reflect how team members naturally interact with a specific audience, you risk putting off visitors with the wrong tone. Authenticity, in voice and content, is crucial.

  1. Be Concise and Clear

The purpose of your website is to help visitors decide whether they want to know more about your firm and, if so, what they need to do next. Refrain from sharing unnecessary details and writing large chunks of content that are not relevant to this stage of the relationship. Instead, use crisp sentences, short paragraphs, specific benefit-oriented headlines, and clear calls to action on each page of your site. Use lists to deliver key supporting messages and infographics to convey more complex information like processes, systems, or locations.

Even if your writing is short and punchy, don’t overlook search engine optimization (SEO) to improve search engine rankings and drive traffic to your website. Search engines provide higher rankings to data-rich content that address audience needs, so the strategic use of relevant keywords should be included to further boost your PR messages. Just don’t overdo it in shorter text: “keyword stuffing” can actually decrease your SEO ranking.

  1. Write to pass the mobile-friendly test

More and more people consume content on mobile devices, so remember to keep your writing mobile-friendly. If your text isn’t optimized for mobile devices, users won’t be able to see or interact with your content. Google provides several tools that evaluate web pages and fix mobile usability issues, so be sure you’re creating content accessible from any device.

  1. Use visuals to enhance your writing

The words and visuals on your website should complement each other in order to create a solid and engaging online presence. Use photos, videos, graphics, and other media to tell the story of the people in your firm (team), the solutions you provide (services) and the results of the solutions (projects). Great photography pulls people into your site, gets them clicking and makes their online experience a memorable one.

  1. Make your About page – about you!

Your firm’s About page is one of the top visited pages on your website and the one page where people expect to hear more about you. This is where you want to express your firm’s culture, personality and story on a deeper level in a way that is relevant to your audience. To create an engaging About page, use a personal tone of voice, include inviting headshots of key team members, and highlight accomplishments. Awards your firm has won, high-profile publications your firm has been featured in, and causes that your firm supports provide a mix of credibility and relatability. Use a variety of content on your About page to show visitors that your firm is qualified, passionate and easy to work with.

Several marketing studies have attempted to answer the question of how many words you need on a web page to achieve the best SEO. The answer? It depends. Conventional wisdom used to say that every web page should have at least 250 words, yet current best practices indicate 400 words per average page is the sweet spot. Today, the trend in website design is toward fewer words, attention-grabbing headers, and engaging graphics on an uncluttered web page. Still, we also know that longer web content, like blog posts of 1,500 to 2,000 words, can boost SEO rankings. So, don’t write your website content with a particular word count in mind. Aim to write clearly in easy-to-understand language and write enough words to answer a reader’s question about your topic. Compelling and engaging website content never goes out of style.

Susan Shelby, FSMPS, CPSM

Author

Susan Shelby, FSMPS, CPSM is the president and CEO of Rhino Public Relations, a full-service PR and marketing agency focused on meeting the unique needs of professional services firms and offering customized services based on each individual client’s goals and budget. Susan received the 2016 SMPS Boston Marketing Professional of the Year Award, which honors marketing excellence in the A/E/C industry. Follow her @RhinoPRBoston or visit www.rhinopr.com for more information about how Rhino can help you take charge of your PR.

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