Since man first learned the need to communicate, words have been used to record, predict, influence, educate and create. They have helped to shape society into what it is today and been used as a powerful tool by some of the greatest (and most infamous) political, religious and human rights leaders in history.
“We shall fight on the beaches.“ Six little words that uplifted a country.
“I have a dream“. Four little words that changed the lives of millions.
“Yes, we can.“ Three little words that rallied a nation.
In much the same way (though obviously not on quite the same historical scale) using engaging, relevant and well-written words on your website is crucial if you want to succeed – which obviously you do, or you wouldn’t be reading this article.
Having great web content is so important, it probably ranks up there as the top 3 priorities to be taken into consideration when building a successful website – way ahead of flashy intros, arty photography and complicated navigational systems. In fact, it’s probably safe to say that ‘content’ is as essential on the Web as ‘Location’ is to the property market. And we know how important that is don’t we. Just ask Phil and Kirsty.
So why are the ‘words’ so important?
Whilst the initial ‘wow’ factor of a well-designed site can still grab a surfer’s attention, it is the ‘words’ that might provide enough of a lure to prevent them from moving swiftly on. Or at least they will if they are written in such a way as to provide is easy to find, relevant and interesting information – something that is sadly missing on so many websites out there today.
When the Web was first ‘born’, flashing logos, rollover graphics and animated icons were often enough to impress. But times and expectations have changed and Internet users are now a much more sophisticated and tougher audience to crack. They’ve all seen enough dodgy sites to know that appearances can be deceptive and many fancy websites really are only ‘screen deep’.
So now if you have a hope of succeeding, not only must your content be king, it must be the country and whole continent to. Web content needs to be provided and written with two very different kinds of audience in mind.
The first audience is the surfer, the Web window shopper and the potential customer. Gaining customer loyalty goes along way in this game. It can take years to establish trust, but only a minute to lose it, so whether you are there to sell, to service or just to inform, you must not only meet the visitor’s expectations, you must surpass them.
So if, for example, your sites sole purpose is to sell ‘the worlds smallest, most technologically advanced fishing rod’ then make sure that your content gives the visitor all the information they might need. If you’ve managed to get that interested fisherman to your site, now is not the time to be burying the technical specifications in 3 page of irrelevant sales spiel. Or having an animated Billy Bass greeting them as they arrive and singing along in the background. This is it the time for guessing games and complicated menus. A site that is too hard to fathom or simply lacking in the expected content will quickly be left with a click of the mouse and replaced with a hundred others all selling ‘the worlds smallest, most technologically advanced fishing rod’.
Whenever you decide what content you’re going to put on your website, its important to remember that the right ‘words’ can lead to your visitor feeling interested, educated, inspired by whatever it is that you offer. And if they are impressed with your website they are more likely to bookmark and return to buy.
The second audience to bear in mind when writing content for the web are the search engines. They send out their ‘spiders’ to give your site the quick ‘once over’ before deciding on its suitability to be ranked. Now anyone who’s ever used Google will know that achieving a high place on the first few pages of the major search engines is like stumbling across the Holy Grail. It can certainly open you up to a whole host of new possibilities be instrumental in supplying you with a large percentage of your client base.
Years ago web designers tried to trick the search engines, by overloading the meta keyword lists or repeating relevant keywords in the background colours. Needless to say, these methods no longer work and such tricks should never be employed. And this brings us nicely back to that question of why the ‘words’ so are important.
Search engines are now heavily influenced by the content of a site. They are looking for quality and relevance over ‘copy fodder’ and excessive linking. Of course clever patter or witty play on words won’t sway these visiting robots. They won’t even care whether you go for the hard sell or the emotive soft sale. What they do care about however are the right combination of words and phrases that reflect the purpose of your site. They are looking for effective SEO – Search Engine Optimisation.
So to sum up: To achieve a successful website you need to provide well-written content that appeals to both human visitors and search engines a like. The ‘words’ must attract and sustain attention. They must interest, inform and engage. They must satisfy the requirements of search engines. They must portray the product or service with persuasive sincerity. They must position the company in a positive light. They must send out a convincing call to sales.
And one last thing, just remember you only have one chance to make a good impression, so if in doubt, use spell check. Or better still, ask a copywriter to give you a helping hand…