How to Write Content for a Website
Writing great content is arguably the biggest challenge every content marketer faces and yet, it’s one of the key elements of a good website. When building your website, whether it’s through a website builder or by hand-coding, you have to think about the messaging you want to get across to your audience.
You can have a great idea, the energy to write, and all the notes necessary to execute it … but you still can’t quite turn it into a great webpage or blog post. No matter what you try, something is missing.
Unfortunately, having something to write doesn’t necessarily mean it will turn out to be a great piece of content. You have to know your brand, your target audience, what works in your market, and you have to write it so that Google will love it.
Sound like a headache? Don’t worry, this article will help you turn your great idea into rock-solid content your readers will love. Read on to learn how to write great content for your website.
Know Your Brand
Every website, whether it’s a small business website or personal website, has an identity. The stronger this identity, the more readers will connect with it, share the content, and come back for more.
The weaker this identity, the more your content will get a lackluster response, and fail to build you an audience of die-hard fans.
This is why the first step of any content creation is knowing your website’s identity inside and out. This identity will form your brand, influencing everything from website design to deciding which products to sell most profitably, and will have a great effect on the content you produce.
The reason this is so important is that once you’ve developed your brand, you have to make sure your content is on-brand. If it doesn’t fit with your established identity, your website visitors will become confused and things won’t “feel right.” With this in mind, your entire content strategy, right down to the writing process must be filtered through your brand.
But how do you develop your brand?
Think of your brand as your ‘why?’. Why does this business exist? Why am I putting so much effort into it? Why do I believe in it? Why do my customers need it?
For example, Nike’s path to profit began with an understanding that people use sport shoes not just to run but to achieve things that are challenging and aren’t always easy to do (i.e. marathons). By branding themselves with ‘Just do it,’ they became synonymous with the ambitions of their customers and the motivation they needed to get out the door and start running.
Know Your Audience
You must always remember that your content isn’t just going to be read by you. It’s going to be read by hundreds, thousands, maybe even millions of people. Understanding who these people are is essential as it helps guide your style of content so that it connects with them more powerfully than your competitors.
When researching your target audience, you want to find out:
- What problem are they trying to solve? The most important element of great content is that it solves the reader’s problem. Whether they’re trying to learn how to cook, code, or just be entertained, your content MUST solve their problem. If you can do this better than your competitors, you’ll have a new reader.
- How familiar/skilled are they on this topic? Your writing should reflect the expertise of your site visitors. If it’s too advanced or dumbed-down it will fail to connect and leave your audience looking elsewhere.
- What are they interested in? They may be interested in your topic of choice, but what else are they interested in? Does it link to your content? Can you make yourself a one-stop-shop for all their interests?
- How will they find you? Have they been linked to you? Have they arrived from a google search? From a Facebook ad? Do they know where they are? Do they need to be orientated? Understanding where your audience has come from can help you let your content orientate them on arrival.
You can research your audience by looking at your analytics for common traits, sending out surveys to your email list, or by digging into your competitors’ audiences and content and seeing who they’re appealing to.
Know Your Competitors
Your content should reflect an awareness of your competitors’ content but also exceed it. Your competitors’ content gives you an idea of what your audience is looking for and how well that need is being catered to. If you can serve that need better, make sure you do. Alternatively, you could present a different stance to distinguish yourself.
Researching your competitors also gives you an insight into what is trending in your industry and what new techniques your competition is trying out – an insight which you can turn into fresh content. It will also give you a sense of who is sharing your content and/or linking back to it which will assist in your content promotion efforts down the line.
Create Your Content Plan
A website needs to be easy to read and navigate. Pages, categories, and menus must make sense to your audience. This can apply to your website as a whole with weekly content plans.
A wireframe can help you build your entire website plan, but for week-by-week content, you’ll need to research your audience and your competitors. You’ll want to plan a variety of content styles — from long-form content, to listicles, to how-to’s, to sales pages, and so on.
You will want to give your audience a variety so you can see which they respond to most. Some websites thrive on short content (i.e. Buzzfeed) while other websites like The Intercept provide longer-form journalism. In each case, they’re working from a content plan that is tailored to the audience.
Begin Your Writing Prep
Now that you’ve got the prep work done, you can get into the actual writing. I know, it’s taken a LONG time to get here, but after doing the boring back end work, this part will be a breeze.
No matter the page, there are two things you always want to achieve. These are:
- Stick to your brand
- Know your goal
First, you want to stick to your brand regardless of which page you’re writing. Unless it’s a Terms of Conditions page littered with legalese, your web pages should always reflect your brand identity. Just look at this About page from Mark Manson’s site. He takes every opportunity to fill what would normally be a standard about page with his trademark extreme honesty and self-deprecating humor.
Second, you want to know what the goal of the page is. If it’s a sales page, the goal is conversions and sales. Without the accompanying positive cash flow, you’re running a charity instead of a profitable business. That means If it’s a how-to post, the goal is to solve the readers’ problem or it won’t convert. You want your page to achieve its goal in the clearest, most complete way possible. This sounds obvious but countless writers forget this and instead focus on what they want to write, rather than what they need to write to secure potential customers.
Both these points will come together on your home page. This is the first introduction readers will have to your website and your brand. Therefore it needs to simultaneously give the reader clear orientation and calls to action (i.e. Learn More or Click Here) and succinctly introduce them to your brand.
Your content will also have additional goals to consider. For example, while a homepage may have to orientate a reader, a blog post will have to remain competitive on search engines. Therefore writing it in an evergreen, SEO-rich way will be essential for at least a few of your posts.
Find Good Keywords
Your webpages have to be tied to the right keywords for SEO purposes. Now, what is SEO and what do these keywords do to help? These keywords will help your pages rank on google and guide your audience to your site.
Knowing which keywords to target comes down to performing keyword research, which can be done using several tools and techniques.
- Keyword research tools. Countless keyword research tools will help you find high ranking keywords in your niche. Many of these are paid plans (such as Ahrefs or Moz) and require practice to use, but they will give you the widest range of results.
- Find the keywords your competitors are targeting. If one of your competitors is ranking highly on google for a few pages, check which keywords those pages are hitting. They will almost always be in the title, the first paragraph and peppered throughout the article.
- Brainstorming all the various keywords linked to your site. For example, if your website is on Forex trading, then topics like ‘Trading Psychology’ will apply, and that, in turn, will come with subtopics like ‘discipline’, ‘patience’, and ‘trading mistakes’. Each will carry its own keyword.
How Have Your Competitors Written Content?
No matter what your topic is, and no matter your expertise, you should take a look and see how your competitors have addressed the same topic. If a search on google for Abraham Lincoln brings up 20 pages with word counts over 3000 words, it shows you that longer content is ranking higher on google for the query ‘Abraham Lincoln’.
Also, pay attention to formatting. Are your competitors relaying the information on the page in a certain way? Is it cut up with subheadings? Is it a wall of text? Do they use images? Do they use a listicle style? Are there infographics? Videos? A table of contents? All of this information will help you structure your content competitively.
Write a Clear Outline
Great content needs a great outline. Once you have undertaken the prior steps, you will have a huge amount of information — alongside any research you’ve done — to populate an outline with.
As outline ideas often require input and planning from multiple people, I find it useful to use tools like Google Docs and Monday.com, both of which are popular thanks to their collaboration-by-default features. Doing so allows everyone involved to populate the outline with ideas as they come up.
Make sure your outline is clear and concise, guiding your reader so that they are satisfied, your brand is honored, and your page’s goal is clear.
You also want to hit key SEO page elements and make sure these are included in your outline. You will want them on-page to help you rank in search engines. For now, these are:
- Page title.
- One or more H2, H3 or H4 subheadings.
(Finally,) Start Writing
You are (finally) here. This is where all your hard work pays off and you can start diving into writing about the topic you love. Here are some pointers to keep in mind:
- Be concise. Don’t lose your reader by over-explaining certain elements or by going on unnecessary tangents.
- People skim read. Internet users generally have short attention spans. If possible, make it possible for your article to be skim read. Or, invert the pyramid and stack all your most important information at the top of the article.
- Make it easy to understand. Avoid using any unnecessary jargon, technical phrases, or buzzwords.
- Make it legal. You don’t want to be saying slanderous things or plagiarising content that could get you sued. Likewise, you don’t want to be creating content that isn’t safe for kids (unless it’s flagged in advance).
- Use tools to give it a facelift. Free apps or sites like Grammarly and Hemmingway help to keep your first draft sharp, efficient, and error-free.
- Keep the goal, audience, and brand in mind. You know the drill by now. This one point alone is the key to this entire guide.
- End with a call to action. If you want your page to be shared, or you want someone to go to the checkout page or subscribe, make sure there is a clear call to action at the end that encourages them to do so. Don’t underestimate how much a strong CTA can help with your online marketing goals.
- Redo your headline as many times as you can. If your piece of content is an article or blog post then it will live or die by its headline. You want to make sure your headline connects with the reader’s problem, arouses their curiosity, and motivates them to click. I recommend writing at least 50 versions.
Include UI/UX Page Elements
You’d think with the writing done, you’d be finished, right? Not exactly. Knowing how to design a website properly can help your content flourish online.
Writing web content involves more than just getting the meat of your article down. It needs to include elements outside of the body of text that guides the reader, assists the article in its goal, and helps pace the reader.
Examples of these elements are:
- Charts, graphs, and infographics
- Horizontal lines
Edit, Edit, Edit
The first draft of a site or blog post is far from the finished product. Once you’re done writing and threading your non-copy elements in, let your writing sit for an hour or so. Get your brain off it and do something else, then, later in the day, come back and give it a read through.
During your read through make sure you check for passages that don’t read well or are unclear. Take note of any typos or missing words and once you’ve made your corrections put your article through Grammarly or Hemingway another time to check for clarity and spelling.
Repeat this process until you’re 100% satisfied with your writing.
Search Engine Optimization
As stated before, you want your page to rank on search engines, which will, in turn, stop your digital marketing budget from exploding. This means you’re going to want to make sure you use your primary keyword (or words) throughout in a natural way.
You want to aim for a keyword density between 1-2%. That will help tell the search engine what your content is about and who should find it. If you use a higher density than this your page can become overstuffed and get penalized.
You also want to double-check that the SEO page elements you put in your outline are all included here. Make sure you also add:
- Title tag.
- Meta description.
- Image alt tags.
- Internal links (outgoing and incoming).
Tools like YOAST can be extremely helpful here. They will tell you if your keyword density isn’t high enough, if you’re missing alt tags, or if your meta description isn’t high enough.
Keep it Fresh
The needs of your readers are always changing — so must your content.
If new information, studies, or news have come out that pertains to your topic, make sure this is reflected in your content. In this instance, it may be useful to include ‘updated 2020’ in your headline. This is something regularly done by travel blogs to ensure their readers that their listed prices and guides reflect the reality of the country in question.
If your content is more of a sales page, consider updating the copy or creating A/B test pages to see which converts more.
Now that you’ve read through this guide on how to write content for a website, if you follow it step-by-step, you will slowly turn your ideas into content that connects with your readers, promotes your brand, and competes on search engines.
Now get writing!