(This article was originally written and published in May 2014)
OK, so you’ve paid your fancy web designer a small fortune and you’ve got the whizziest website on the World Wide Web, but your sales haven’t increased and your boss thinks you’re crazy for wasting all that money. Don’t panic! There’s one simple thing you can change to instantly improve your snazzy new website; the content.
Whether it’s content or copywriting, it needs to be good and it needs to be plentiful. Yes, a website needs to look good and it always helps to be innovative, but what you say on your website is even more important than how it looks. As the research is now proving, without well written, relevant and regularly updated content your website will fail to climb in the rankings or to produce those all important conversations.
The Importance of an Effective Website
Unfortunately, many businesses fail to recognize the importance of quality content and, as a consequence, fail to take full advantage of this now crucial aspect of business. According to recent studies, the ‘internet economy’ is now bigger in Britain than either the healthcare, education or construction sectors and it is estimated that a massive 23% of all sales will be conducted online by 2016.
Your business has acknowledged the importance of an internet profile and has invested time and money in it, but without an effective website generating targeted and productive traffic you will throw good money after bad and waste a lot of lucrative potential.
The initial cost of the design and construction of your company’s website can seem daunting but it is not sufficient to simply build it and set it free; your website is often a customer’s first port of call so it needs to be constantly updated to provide a detailed and relevant representation of your business and what it offers. Think of it as your virtual shop front; you wouldn’t be enticed into a shop with an ancient, faded and dusty display that hasn’t been changed for years and neither will your customers.
The Importance of Content
Several studies have recently been carried out to gauge the importance or otherwise of web content and design and the results have been fairly consistent; given the choice, people prefer a plain website with quality content over a well designed website with little or no content.
Moreover, the populous is not alone in its preference, as all of Google’s recent algorithm updates prove undoubtedly that Google also favours content rich websites; not because Google believes that content rich sites are more valuable, but purely because the statistical evidence proves that this is what users prefer. As we all know, what’s good for Google is good for us!
The explanation for this is simple; people don’t go online to search for pretty websites, they go online because they have a specific item or service in mind that they desire. Think about your own browsing habits; a fancy website may catch your eye initially but your next action is to read what the website has to say about the business in question. If you don’t like what you read, you’ll move on to the next business offering the same or a similar thing.
This does apply in retail, although price is often a major contributor here too, but it is particularly true for the service industries. Thus, even if your website is the number 1 ranking in Google for a particular search term, if your content is poor then people will simply move on to number 2, resulting in potential customers and revenue being lost.
Why Quality Content?
The importance of good content can never be overstated and it serves several purposes;
- It sets out clearly what your business offers and why customers should choose you.
- It demonstrates to your potential customers and competitors that you have an extensive knowledge of and expertise in your chosen field.
- It helps potential customers make educated decisions about their purchases.
- It establishes you as an experienced voice for advice in your profession.
- It increases the likelihood of visitors returning to your website and thus increases traffic.
- It encourages other websites and businesses to link to your site, thereby boosting your rankings.
- It increases traffic from so called ‘long-tail’ searches.
If some of that sounds like psycho-babble then don’t worry, I’ll explain some of them further.
Isn’t It Counter Productive?
One of the most frequent contentions that I hear from my clients is ‘why should I write content that gives customers the answers when I want them to come to me for the answers?’. It’s an understandable concern, although it is erroneous in this instance.
Resource has proved time and again that content rich websites do not deter customers from eventually making contact with that business, quite the opposite in fact. Effective copywriting has a large role to play here and, if written well and tactically, great web content will advise and inform the reader whilst simultaneously encouraging them to engage with the business.
What’s more, the benefits of having a content rich website far outweigh any potential or perceived disadvantages, so failing to fill your website with great content will only be detrimental to you.
Content Reaps Benefits
As mentioned previously, Google clearly favours content rich websites in its search result rankings; the average content length for a top ten ranking website on Google is 2000 words and, the higher up the rankings you go, the higher the word count gets. Thus, if you want your website to be up there at the top, you need to get writing.
Moreover, it is now clear that those who use search engines are getting more specific in their searches; whereas people used to search using two or three keywords, they are now using specific phrases or more detailed descriptions in their search engines. These are the so called ‘long tail’ searches and often involve an average of seven or eight words.
Whilst the ‘long tail’ search terms don’t occur in such great numbers as individual keywords used to, they are much more specific and therefore result in much higher conversion rates. By increasing your content length you increase the likelihood of incorporating ‘long tail’ search terms and thus your content is more productive and your website works harder for its money.
Links, Links and more Links
Another key component in getting your website to the top of the search engine rankings is the building of links. In order to rank anywhere near the top for your chosen keywords, the average website needs anything up to 250 external links from other websites. The best way to achieve these is to make your website appealing and interesting enough for others to want to link to it without being coerced into doing so.
Lively, informed and authoritative content that is both relevant and current is the best way of doing this. Spread the word about your business and what you offer; explain why you are the best, sell yourself and enthuse about your business and your passion for it.
It can also be useful to offer opinion or comment on recent developments in your profession or current matters relating to it and a quick and easy way of doing this is through a regularly updated blog. Publicise your content via email and social media and invite people to read it and comment upon it; their views may not always agree with your own but you will generate increased volumes of traffic and people will link back to your site in return.
Here again, the content needs to be interesting and it needs to be plentiful; research has shown that there is a direct correlation between the length of content and the number of links it generates. Short, pithy statements have their places but people will generally tend to just paraphrase these for themselves. If your content is in-depth and exciting, then people will be more inclined to refer and link to it directly rather than re-write it for themselves.
What Is Quality Content?
We’ve established that your website needs to have content and lots of it, but copious amounts of rambling babble is counter-productive and renders your content rich website more or less redundant. Yes, you need a high word count, but those words need to matter and need to make an impact.
The goal is to have content that people want to read so don’t ramble and fluff just to increase the word count; make it comprehensive but concise. The key is to tailor it to your target market and sell your business without penning a blatant advertisement that will put readers off; it needs to build a rapport and create trust between your business and your customers. This is not as easy as it sounds and often requires an experienced hand to get the balance just right.
Don’t Copy Your Copy
One of the most tempting ways to fill all of those blank web pages is to copy what someone else has already written but please don’t do it! It may only take seconds to copy and paste something that suits your needs but it is a waste of time and effort and may result in your website disappearing from the rankings all together.
Despite commonly held beliefs, text on the internet is governed by the same copyright laws as printed text; if you plagiarize someone’s work it is not only unfair, but it is also highly likely that they will find out via a simple search engine query.
Moreover, Google doesn’t approve of pages of copied text and their algorithms are programmed to distinguish between them. At worst, if Google deems that the majority of your content is plagiarized, it will close down your website: at best, it will drop your site from the search results. The end result in either case is a drop to the bottom of the rankings and up to a 90% reduction in traffic.
Call In the Experts
If, after all this, you feel inspired to channel your inner author and feel confident enough to pen your own content, then please bear in mind the pointers above and write on! If however, on the other hand, you find the task of writing volumes of scintillating content a little daunting, or if running your successful business doesn’t leave you with oodles of spare time to become a copywriter, then don’t despair.
There are many copywriting companies or freelance copywriters out there who are willing to provide tailored content and it doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. After all, having already outlaid the sometimes hefty initial costs of setting up your website, it is financially prudent to continue to make a small ongoing contribution to the upkeep and renewal of your site. A word to the wise though; do your research first and only work with a recommended copywriter who can show you informed and well-written examples of their work. Reams of penny-per-page copy from a factory in the far flung corners of the globe may seem temptingly cheap but, if the writing is poor and the text irrelevant, you’ll be straight back to square one.
Above all, whether you write it yourself or call in the experts, make sure your content is well researched, well written with correct spelling and punctuation and, most importantly, fresh and original.