Over the years of developing websites for clients, I’ve learned that the age-old adage, “If you want it done right, you gotta do it yourself,” can be a two-way street.
Of course, there are companies out there that have great web writers internally, but most don’t. And the thought of a company turning a great website strategy (that we slaved over) into an ineffective “brochure site” gives me heartburn. But sometimes you have to pick your battles.
In cases where we give in and let the client take the content reins, we at least want to make sure they are equipped with a template that gives them a fighting chance to produce effective webpage content that drives action. Here is a template we like to use, and an explanation of what’s included.
Website content template components
Pre-writing questions: Before starting any given page, you really need to wrap your heads around the primary goal of the page and to whom this page is targeted. What’s their pain? What’s in it for them? Where are they in their buying process? And what keywords or phrases would they most likely use to search for your solution? The best writers are those who can put themselves in the buyer’s shoes and write as if they are having a one-on-one conversation with that buyer.
Typical web page structure and formatting guidelines
After years of experimenting, most of us web folks have the best practices of website content nailed down, and we feel like this template covers the bases. Here are a few key elements:
- Headlines: As with most media, a great headline or page title can make or break a page. But specific to web content, it’s important to remember the SEO aspects. Integrating a major keyword/phrase into a headline and programming the page title with a relevant <h1> tag can add some nice Google juice.
- Sub-headlines: Visitors scan before they read, so creating enticing, benefits-focused sub-headlines can really boost the odds that your page will be read. I like to run a “scan test” on every page to see if I can get the gist of page by just scanning the page title, subheads, and call to action.
- Images: I’ve always had an interest in neuropsychology, and I couldn’t help but devour Susan Weinschenk’s book, Neuro Web Design back in 2009. Throughout the book she talks about how we subconsciously process everything we see on a website, but she summarizes that “stories and pictures are the most powerful ways to get and hold our attention and persuade us to take action.”Let’s not forget about Google. Optimizing your image’s file name and alt tag with a keyword/phrase provides the context Google needs and validates the relevance of your page.
- Bulleted and numbered lists: I love bulleted lists, and evidently you do too since you’re still reading this! Lists make content much easier to digest. Even the slightest indention and bullet will draw the reader’s eye. Oh, and Google likes these too.
- Calls to action: Despite the intelligence level of your site visitors, people don’t want to have to think when they are browsing websites. Obvious command-oriented calls to action are key in moving visitors through your website. And don’t be scared to make the call to action a BIG BUTTON. Bigger is better, but don’t make it look like a banner.
Finally, the template includes a checklist of items and reminders you can use to ensure your page is good to go. Of these items, I think the most important one is to just get another set of eyeballs on it. If you’re writing the page, you’re now too close to it and no longer qualified to edit it.
If you start using this template, realize that not every page on your site has to follow this exact format. Modify your content structure and formatting so that it accomplishes the goals of the page. When in doubt, test.
If we’ve missed anything that you feel needs to be included in this template, please tell me in the comments.