Your business needs a website and I know you don't have the time to go through hundreds of blog posts and read a dozen books just to get a few pages and a price list up and running.
The good news is you don't have to, the perfect website doesn't exist because your customer's needs are always changing, websites grow and change, so today you are going to learn what you need to get a great website started. Tomorrow you start nurturing your baby, today is about the birth and getting it right.
The big three elements to get right
Thinking about these three things first will give you a better website than most small businesses will ever achieve, and they can all be accomplished in a weekend, so get this stuff sorted now.
What are your goals? Establishing what you want from a website helps you to define your content. A lot of clients come to me with the idea that they need a website, but not a clear vision of what it will do. Here are some common examples:
- Showing examples of your product or service so clients know what to expect
- Information about how your operate i.e. how mush you charge, how long you take to do what you do
- Getting to know your customers better and showing them more about yourselves
- Answering queries with information rather than taking phone calls or writing loads of emails
Lets take one of the example purposes from above, "Getting to know your customers better and showing them more about yourselves". We can create topics which help us to achieve this purpose. Once we have the topics, we can create the content for them. Remember to define a goal for each topic, everything you do needs to have a goal, otherwise what is the point in it?
I am not obliged to make pages for each of these topics, I can start with one or two and grow it with experiments to see what works. Your website will have different purposes and so different topics to those above, but you get the idea.
To recap, you have decided on your purposes, and you have generated topics, each with a goal, now we can create the content for those topics.
Notice we are talking about content, not pages, why is this important? The major mistake people often make is decided they need an 'About Us' page and a 'News' page, a 'Blog' page and a this page and a that page. Then they go about filling those pages up, usually with unfocussed rambling walls of meaningless text as they search for words to fill up the page.
We are deciding on worthwhile content, and will focus on what it should say and how it should say it. Once we know what we want to say we can decide on where to put it.
Let's take the News topic from the above table and explore the content we would like to create that fulfils the purpose:
You can see that most of the methods for creating this content fit nicely into a single page, what we would probably end up calling the News page, but a few things would be better as small elements on a different page. The top method on the list is a running summary of recent news, this would undoubtedly work well on the homepage and perhaps on a blog page too.
You can see how by deciding on content first and pages afterwards that the pages kind of make themselves. We will end up with a long list of content delivery methods and then must decide how best to organise them.
Let's pretend that we have gone through and done the following:
- Established the main purposes for our site
- Created topics which fulfil these purposes and established the goals associated with each topic
- Identified a method of achieving these goals
The next bit is really fun, we are going to take our long list of methods and decide on which ones are the most important, which ones go together and which ones we really don't need and were not sure why we put them in at all.
When you start grouping methods and goals together you will start making pages in an organic and meaningful way. For example, the blog, the news and the forum topics are very similar, first off are they all necessary? If they are, could they all have the same landing page? Perhaps you call that page the Community Hub! Maybe Blog and News are similar enough to be combined into one method.
Once you have grouped methods and goals together and defined then with a name like Community relations, Products and services, Tutorials, Our ethos and ways of working etc you have really made pages.
You need to give these pages good descriptive names that mean something to your users, and then decide on which pages are the most important and so will go in the main navigation, which are just links present in the content or sidebar of pages, which topics can be grouped into landing pages (Like our community hub) and which methods are so important they deserve space on the homepage.
Sketch this out on a piece of paper, think boxes with page headings and lists of methods/content, then organise them hierarchically so that the most important pages are on top, these are the pages with the big links.
Done this way your pages will grow like a flower into something meaningful. Best of all you need worry less about Search Engine Optimisation as your authentic content will reflect your purpose and garner you with Google results with little effort.
Tips for writing the best content you can
- Refer to your goal often, stay on track, if it doesn't fit the goal, get rid of it or put it elsewhere
- Write like you talk, its a conversation with a customer, not a lecture
- Keep it short and simple, break information up and edit it down
- Use headings and paragraphs, walls of text are too much effort to read
- People love good quality and relevant images, so add loads, but make sure they are sourced legally and don't slow down your page load time
- Always leave the user with an action to take at the end of the content
I have saved the best to last, the point of the user being there at all is to contribute in some way, either by adding a comment, calling you up, sending an email, subscribing to a newsletter. Whatever your goal is, don't forget it. Have a link at the bottom of your blog post linking to the product you mention, have an email form right there and tell them to email you for a free quote. Whatever it is, make sire you direct the user to an action, in the business we call this a Call To Action.
- Click here for more news items
- Speak to an online advisor now
- Add your comment here
- Subscribe to our videos/newsletter
- Like this post
- Recommend to a friend
- Share this on Facebook
- Phone us for more information
The art to the Call To Action is in working out what the user wants or needs after they have read your content. If you have written with your goal in mind then this should be easier, but you still have to get into the head of your users and imagine what it is they want from a given situation.
Using the above you can improve your content and website organisation, how do you go about refining and growing your site to reflect your business growth?
- Get into analytics - You can learn how people use your site and change it to benefit them and you more
- Ask more questions of your clients such as what do they want? Why do they do what they do?
- Look at the competition - What successful businesses do what you do and how do they present themselves differently to you online? Copy and steal their good ideas, imitation is the highest form of flattery!