By Brody Dorland published July 26, 2011

A Template for Killer Website Content

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 content 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 website content that drives action. Here is a template we like to use, and an explanation of what’s included.

 Download the Template

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:

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.

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.

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. 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.

Post-writing checklist

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 web 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.

Looking to score big points with your target audience? CMI’s 2016 Content Marketing Playbook has tips, insights, and ideas that can help increase your success with 24 of the top content marketing tactics.

Author: Brody Dorland

Brody is an online marketing consultant, blogger, podcaster, and co-creator of DivvyHQ, a cloud-based editorial calendar application that helps you manage your content, ideas, editorial teams and production schedules all in one place. Follow Brody on Twitter @brodydorland.

Other posts by Brody Dorland

  • Mick Dickinson

    Excellent and just what I needed as I embark on a web content project — thanks!

  • Dave Fiore

    Brody — thanks for the great info. Most of my content development has been for client emails, but I am being asked to do more and more web content. This will serve as my template to ensure I am not leaving anything out. Writing for the readers with an eye to Google will be easier now. Thanks again.

  • Antonius

    Good stuff, thank you

  • James3122

    dumb-ass suggestion

  • Firstcupsitecreator

    I just stumbled upon your site.  Wow, what great resources.  I don’t know where to begin.  What i appreciate about your site is you are not (overtly anyway) trying to “sell” me something ior charging several hundred dollars a month for some service.  it’s pretty transparent stuff – but a lot of reading.  Thabk you for the free templates.

  • Sarah

    I am loving the opportunity to get my mitts on your free organising samples, thank you! So useful.

  • Amber James

    Hi Brody,

    Thanks for sharing your template with us. I love seeing how my peers work.

    I’m wondering what sort of response you’ve received from sharing this template with non-content creatives. The template looks straight-forward to me, but for someone who’s an expert in their field and doesn’t know much about the Internet, how easy is this template for them to follow? And then, do they do it well?

    Amber James

  • Christina Meehan

    I can’t seem to get this template to download – keep getting an error message?

    • Matmi

      Same here.

  • Clay Myers-Bowman

    Stumbled on this article while learning about content strategies and realized you were a K-State PR grad. Small world. I was a JMC instructor and grad student back in 1999-2001. Very helpful article: wish I’d had it back then!

    I also like the Powercat on your Twitter page. Very nice touch.

    • Brody Dorland

      Hey Clay! Just noticed your comment…We probably crossed paths a few times in the halls of Kedzie. I graduated in 2000. Thanks for reaching out. Go Wildcats!

  • Tema Frank

    Very useful template. I’ll share it with my readers.

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  • Grant

    I can’t seem to download the template, would you be able to check it is still available. Thanks

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    pdf version but no word doc? I wasn’t planning on printing it out and doing it by hand.

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