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How to create great content

March, 2014

At the recent Digital in Kent conference Andrew Metcalf hosted a workshop about writing great content. Here, he sums up the main points from his speech.

Great content counts for nothing if the website it’s on isn’t well designed or can’t be found, so it’s important to consider the bigger picture, but with search engines getting cleverer by the day the written word is a vital part of getting your message across.

The internet is not a book

When it comes to the web, users don’t read every word. They skim and scan and have a short attention span. A lot of this depends on the look of your site, but if the words aren’t  interesting fast the reader will swiftly move on. Taking a little time to understand how surfers use the internet will help you to write in a style that makes it easy for them to keep reading.

Know your audience

Who are you writing for? What are their needs? What is their level of experience? Why will they visit your website? Build a profile of your audience and allow these questions to direct your content.

Don’t write for a technical audience if you’re aiming to appeal to the man in the street, but do remember your readers are not idiots. The language you use will have a big effect on whether or not they stay, and where experts will welcome acronyms laymen will prefer simple, clear explanations.

Your website is for your visitors and should be focused around their needs, not your own.

Be human

When trying to be professional and explain a lot of technical information it can be easy to become rather dull. Remember that – just like you – your readers are human, but unlike you they may not understand what you mean when talking about the latest specification of your product. Imagine you’re talking to your neighbour, what words would you use to help them grasp the subject?

Keep it simple

Don’t try to be clever. Where once the headline was used to sell a story now it has to tell the story – not just to your audience but also to the search engines bringing that audience in. Direct and relevant headlines, subheadings, cross heads and quotes will help with your search rankings and with keeping the interest of visitors when they reach the page.

Be consistent

The voice your website uses can set the tone for your company. Where some will be conversational others will prefer to be more formal, but make the decision early and be sure to stick to it as you continue to add content.

Short and sweet

Pages should be concise and avoid repetition.

Keep it fresh

Nobody wants to read an out-dated website. Initially, create content that is topical and with a long lifespan, then set targets of adding a couple of new items (or more) a month.  This keeps the site fresh and encourages your audience to return and find more reasons to choose you over your competitors.

Be accurate

Check your facts and figures, tell the truth and proof read what you write. Verify any links you include – and regularly revisit to ensure they work. If your website is incorrect how will customers be able to trust the accuracy of your work?

Answer questions

Don’t just tell people your service is great, prove it. Offering opinions and posting advice and solutions to the issues in your industry will help people to trust you.

And be generous in this, it will encourage engagement with and – importantly – sharing of your information and brand and help to cement your position as a leader in the field. If advertising is preaching, content is teaching.

How can you be contacted?

Don’t force customers to hunt around 20 web pages for a phone number. At the very minimum have this on every page, but also clearly mark a link for contacts and offer a variety of methods. Just because someone is on a website does not mean they are happy to communicate by email and you want to be contacted.

Andrew Metcalf - Director

Andrew Metcalf

Maxim / Director

posted in: advice, digital, marketing,

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