Getting Your Business Online: Developing Content
In my first post on this subject, I made the argument that every Canadian business should have an online presence. In an era where most consumers turn to the web to find the companies from which they want to buy goods and services, you simply can’t afford not to be there. My second post laid out a step-by-step process you can easily follow to register your own domain name, find a hosting service, and build the framework of your new website.
Today, it’s all about content. Your website content won’t write itself; somebody has to create it, and the quality of the content on your website will largely contribute to the overall user experience. If you feel up to the task of creating your own content, wonderful — this is the most economical option to develop content for your site. The alternative is to hire an outside copywriter – preferably one with search engine optimization (SEO) experience – to help you develop your site’s content.
Whichever way you go, here are some of the things every business website should include:
1. Who you are and what you do
Everybody landing on your site, either by accident or as the result of a deliberate search, should be able to tell almost instantaneously what you’re all about. Your home page is the obvious place for a quick and straightforward description of your company and what it offers. But your home page will often not be the first place visitors land, so every page should immediately convey, through words and images, exactly what business you’re in.
In previous posts, we met the owner of Celine’s Bakery, a retail outlet on the main street of a mid-sized Canadian town. The home page of Celine’s website should make it clear that this is the website of a bakery, not a paint store, and the same should be obvious on every other page of the site.
2. Easy-to-find contact information
Nobody should have to work hard to find out how to get in touch with you. Your contact information should be clearly visible, preferably at the top-right or top-left of the home page. You can also include contact information in the footer of every page. If you don’t, every page should at least include top-level navigation that links back to a page of contact information.
The contact details for Celine’s Bakery would certainly include both a telephone number and the physical location of the bakery, and probably her hours of operation. She’s in retail, selling a physical product that most people will want to come to the store to buy. Even if you intend to do nearly all your business online, it still makes sense to list your physical location if you sell things from it; nobody may ever go there but it adds credibility and trust.
Finally, list several different ways people can contact you, including by phone, email and in person as well as through social media channels.
3. Customer testimonials
Nothing makes us as willing to buy from a business that we’ve never tried before quite so much as hearing about the positive experiences of other customers. So be sure to include these on your site, especially if they help differentiate you from your competition. It would be great if Celine’s Bakery site included testimonials about how tasty her various products are. But it would be even better if there was a customer testimonial that talked enthusiastically about how Celine went above and beyond the call of duty, such as saving a wedding day by making an emergency cake delivery.
4. A call to action
You want visitors to your website to actually do something as a result of their visit. You might want them to contact you for a quote, call to place an order, or sign up for a newsletter. Whatever it is, ask for the outcome you desire in clear and certain terms, using highlighted text or special buttons to do so.
Celine’s Bakery has no shortage of potential calls to action. “Call us today to order a cake for the special occasion.” “Drop by on Tuesdays for our two-for-one special on cupcakes.” “Click here to download a coupon for a free cookie.” “Subscribe to our newsletter and be the first to hear about new products and special promotions.”
5. Keep it fresh
Search engines, which I will discuss in more detail in a future post, love fresh content. So, too, do your visitors. Fortunately, today’s content management systems, which I covered in my last post, make it pretty easy to regularly add fresh new content to your website.
Celine’s Bakery could write about new products being introduced, or about that special cake that was baked for a customer, or how the bakery is going to celebrate Halloween or Christmas.
6. Content consists of more than just words
The most attractive websites today have lots of images and many also feature the ability to download or stream video and audio. Celine, for example, would certainly have no problem populating her site with a video slideshow of all her yummy baked goods. Unless you’re really handy with a camera, though, it’s probably a good idea to get some professional help with this.
Bottom line: Content is king
Great content makes for a great website, which, in turn, makes for great engagement with your customers and potential customers. Your website content should reflect the personality of your business while still telling your story in a clear and simple fashion. Copywriting is a skill, though, so consider getting a professional writer to help you out, at least at the beginning.
Is there something you think should be on every business website that I haven’t covered here? If so, please share it with us in the comments section.
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