Winning at Writing Websites:
5 Things to Do Before You Write a Word of Content for Your New Website
Writing new content for an entire website can be an intimidating process. We've all stared at our computer screen with no idea what to write.
You want to be sure that your website is powerful in its ability to attract prospects but achieving that goal is not always easy.
But we've found that the content-writing process will flow more smoothly if you devote sufficient time to a few preliminary steps before you sit down to write.
Here are 5 things to do before you write
1 Create a sitemap for your new website and prioritize key pages
A sitemap is useful because it provides an organized framework for your new website. A sitemap is a systematic way to break up the overwhelming task of writing new content for an entire site into manageable pieces.
In many ways, a sitemap is like a table of contents for your new website, with each page of the website resembling a chapter within a book. Your sitemap helps:
- Provide a visual summary of your website’s content
- Establish a hierarchy of pages on your website
- Clarify exactly how many pages will require content
After refining your sitemap, you should prioritize your key pages according to their significance. Below are the pages which typically serve as the foundation of a website:
- About us
- Contact us
By prioritizing the pages of your new website, you will have a clearly defined starting point and path as you begin your content writing.
2 Conduct a content audit of your existing site and materials.
A content audit of your existing website will yield valuable information about the material that is most interesting to your audience. During a content audit, your website’s content is reviewed in detail to identify the strongest and weakest areas. Many people are resistant to conducting a content audit because content audits are time consuming, particularly when larger websites are involved. If your existing site is content-rich, you may wish to tackle small sections of your site at a time. Conducting a content audit before you begin writing new content will help you identify the following:
- Outdated information
- Gaps in content
- Areas that require improvement
- Content errors
In addition to identifying strengths and weaknesses, a carefully structured content audit will help you increase your website's search ranking and overall effectiveness.
3 Communicate with your team regarding the best language to use.
This strategy addresses the need to know your customer base before writing content. In particular, your content should reflect the language and phrases that your customers use to refer to a product or service. Below are some suggestions that will help you determine the best language to use in your content:
- Ask each member of your sales team to share a story that illustrates how the choice of language can impact content
- Make a list of key phrases and questions commonly used by prospects
- Contact existing clients and ask them to suggest some key phrases to include in order to better attract prospects
- Strive to continually learn the natural language of your prospects as you communicate with them
When considering a prospect's natural language, it is important to remember that people may use different words or phrases to describe the same product or concept. For instance, consider the simple phrase, “make payment”. There is a host of other terms used to describe this same phrase, including the following:
- Transfer funds
- Complete the transaction
- Finalize the order
- Wire the balance
Much of the variation with this phrase occurs with geographical location. Unless you purposely want to exclude an entire segment of your customer base, you should consider incorporating all of these terms into the content for your new website. This is especially the case for companies that are creating content to help their businesses expand into emerging markets.
It is up to you to communicate with your team of experts and identify the top phrases on your existing website. These phrases should then be mapped onto the most appropriate pages for optimal effectiveness.
4 Perform keyword research to create the most effective headlines.
Creating effective headlines for your new website requires you to combine creativity with keyword research. Conducting keyword research is one of the most vital steps that you can perform as you prepare to create headlines and write content for your new site.
Ideally, you should strive to create headlines that contain keywords which are:
- Relevant for your target audience
- Specific enough to rank well with search engines
- Related to your website’s content
To illustrate the impact that keywords can have on a headline, it is often helpful to compare an effective headline with a headline that is not effective. For instance, compare these two headlines for a talent management agency:
- Headline 1: “Our Staffing Solution”
- Headline 2: “Our Solution to Your Short-Term Need for Light Industrial Workers”
Headline 2 provides the specificity (a short-term need for light industrial employees) and relevance (geared toward manufacturing companies) that are both lacking in Headline 1. Additionally, the second headline is a more search engine-friendly headline. Finally, the second headline more effectively illustrates that the "solution" is a pool of workers with light industrial work experience.
5 Generate a list of links to include in your new site.
The inclusion of internal and external links in your content is an excellent means by which you can attract the attention of search engines. While mapping internal links is a strategy that is usually well-received by content writers, some people are reluctant to include external links because they worry about the negative impact of linking away from their website. However, mapping to both external and internal links is a strategic way to provide prospects with more information on a subject while providing valuable link juice for search engines. As in the case of keywords, links should connect users to information and sites that are both relevant to the users’ needs and related to your website content.
By creating a list of links to include on your site before you prepare your content, you will not have to interrupt your writing process to collect links. The ability to write content in an uninterrupted fashion will enable you to maximize your creativity and efficiency.
How These Tips Will Help You Create Great Content
Clearly, the task of writing content for a new website is a labor-intensive process that can be overwhelming to even the most talented content writers. However, by undertaking the steps above prior to writing your content, you will be able to begin the writing process in an organized fashion and with a clear vision in mind. With much of the initial research and planning completed, you will be able to focus on creating outstanding content.