What to Expect From Web Text
For any start-up or established business, your website is your shop window. The perfect opportunity for you to connect with your audience and sell your services or products. The design, the images and the content are essential pieces of the jigsaw but so often it’s the content that gets the short straw. Yes, we live in a digital age where people don’t really read stuff anymore but that’s precisely why it’s so essential for content to take first place in the order of importance.
There is no perfect formula, and anyone telling you otherwise is wrong, but there are a number of steps you can take to manage your content and your beliefs around it.
Lower Your Expectations on Quantity
It’s a common problem; you have amazing products/services and you want to tell people everything possible. This leads to pages and pages of text that reads more like an essay than web content. You don’t have to tell people everything, you just have to tell them enough that they’re interested. Sometimes, during the process of condensing text you’re convinced that the message is lost; no one will possibly understand your business without what you’ve written. Even if that were true, which it isn’t, no one is actually going to read what you’ve put in those long sentences – recent research by Tony Haile of Chartbeat says that you’ve only got 15 seconds to get people’s attention. Still think they’re reading all that text? The art is excluding the grey bits around the outside and getting straight to the point. Can you reduce your chunky pieces of text into bullet points? Can you use sub-headers to break it up? Quantity does not necessarily equal quality.
It Won’t Read Like A Novel
Because your quantity is reduced, and as such the density of information is condensed, it’s never going to read like a beautiful novel that moves seamlessly from page to page. Web text is bitty and chunky, bite size if you like. And you probably won’t like that if you’re taking time to create text for your business that you’ve spent years investing in. But, as we’ve just seen, that’s how people are digesting content on the internet – it won’t read like a book because people aren’t going to read it like one. As much as you want the content to reflect you and your business, its primary goal is to appeal to your audience so you need to give them what they want – and that’s speed and digestibility. By shifting your focus to your consumer it will give your content a purpose that means something to the reader.
You Won’t Please Everybody
Tone of voice is something that often becomes a messy process when creating web text. Consulting staff at the beginning of the process is a great way of determining tone of voice – people can contribute their ideas and thoughts around direction and provide a clear focus. But be warned, consulting with too many people once this process has been completed will only muddy the waters. The best way to create your content is to have one person who is dedicated to overseeing the process and has the final sign-off. Once web text starts bouncing around numerous people for feedback, the messaging will become muddled and focus will get lost. Writing is a matter of personal preference, which is why this happens. What one person likes, another will dislike even if you are in the same business, sharing the same goals. You won’t please everyone within the business, but to keep your message clear make sure that your content is protected from too many voices.
Don’t Ignore Your Selling Points
It’s a common difficulty for any business, to talk about your best bits; what makes you different. But this is the one piece of information that the reader is looking for. Why should they choose you above anyone else? What’s in it for them? No one, especially British people, likes talking about themselves and why they’re so great but this bit is kind of essential if you want people to recognise the value of your business and services. You don’t have to do it in a bold or brash way, but you should never ignore aspects of your business that make you stand out from your competition. It might be hard for you to even see what these aspects are, so make a point of asking current customers what they appreciate about your business to help tease this information out. Don’t be shy about blowing your own trumpet as there are plenty of businesses out there that will be.
Give It a Realistic Timescale
Website content should never be rushed. Setting unrealistic timescales will only lead to content that you, and the writer, is not entirely happy with. If you’ve never done it before, establishing a timescale can be hard but planning for it carefully will smooth the process over. Take a look at the amount of pages you have or need, what the product/service offering on each of these is. Creating a schematic of the website is essential to knowing what content you need and where – it’s also essential for the person writing the content. You will have to go through the painful process of talking about every aspect of the business – but it’s worth it. Out of these discussions comes clarity of message and an understanding of what direction the content needs to take and you will begin to see the need for a sensible and realistic timescale. If you find yourself saying “I need this web content asap” then take a step back and remember that your content is how you will sell your business – you wouldn’t take a product to market until it was perfect, so don’t take the risk with your content.