You’ve likely heard that people don’t read on the web, they scan – but what does that mean? Does that mean that you can’t have more than a few words at a time on your site? Well, yes & no…

It means that while people are *looking for something* they’re scanning. And, most of the time, people are looking for something when they’re surfing the internet.

For this reason, writing website content isn’t the same as writing prose. Writing for websites, and leveraging targeted keywords while you’re doing it, takes a little practice & finesse, but isn’t out of anyone’s reach. Try to go about it as if you were the person visiting your site.

This may be the first time a visitor arrives at your site & they’re trying to figure out if they’re in the right place and if they want to spend more time there – what will help that person feel confident? It also might be that they know they’re in the right place but are looking for a particular type of information – what will help them get to it?

The solution is a mixture of drawing the right people to your site using targeted key words/phrases, keeping them there by telling them right away what you’re offering to them and how it will help them, and then giving them easy/clear access to take action on it.

It’s challenging to create the right text content for your site – you want to make sure you’re providing all the important information to your site visitors, but you don’t want to scare them away with too much. Let’s break it down into three stages:

  1. Getting the right people there in the first place. No matter how brilliant your site is, if your target audience/market isn’t finding it, it doesn’t matter what you do. There are lots of solutions out there to bring lots of traffic to your website, but if that traffic isn’t targeted to your niche, they won’t stay on your site. So the first thing is to figure out how to be sure you’re targeting the right market. If you’ll be using ads, get down to the nitty gritty of choosing the right places for your ads to go. This may mean targeting specific websites to buy ad space rather than using something like Google AdWords. Or, if you are using AdWords or another ad-placement service, getting down into the nitty gritty of what’s paying off for you and what’s not. Just like with your retirement investments, if it’s not paying off within a certain amount of time, you need to unload it and consider it a learning experience while you invest in something that works. It’s a mistake to think that signing up for an ad service will be the answer to your lack of website sales – it’s the FIRST STEP in a process to find a way to bring the right people to you to make a sale. If your ad is bringing thousands of new people to your site, but your sales aren’t increasing, it’s time to rethink who you’re targeting.In addition to ads, you need to think objectively & strategically about what key words will work best for you & what’s special about your business. For example, if you’re business is creating boutique dog treats, you don’t want to go head-to-head with the likes of Purina in the search results. So, “dog biscuits” probably isn’t the right key word for you. It’s too broad. Thinking of key words always reminds me of the big fish, small pond theory. If you’re a small fish in a big pond, it’s very hard to get noticed. However, if you’re a big fish in a small pond, it’s hard not to notice you. So, what’s your niche? If your dog biscuits are especially good at promoting healthy teeth, you’ve got a a niche market to explore. Don’t go after a saturated market, go after a market where you can actually make a difference. This theory was proven by the company Greenies – they make dental chews for dogs. You can now find them in just about every pet store in the country, and they come in a variety of shapes & flavors. Greenies didn’t start out as just another dog treat company – they figured out that there was a gap in the market for what they were offering, and then became THE company to fill the gap. This is what your key words are all about. Think about what your specific keywords are, and then sprinkle them on every page of your site, especially your landing page(s) in a human-readable way. Be sure they’re used straight away on your landing/Home page, and that they’re linked back to your site when you’re referenced elsewhere on the internet. Do your research – what comes up when you search for the keywords you’re thinking of using?
  2. Yay! People are visiting my site, how do I keep them there?! First, be sure that it’s immediately obvious what your site is about, and what it will do for them. Tell people clearly and right away. I see websites all the time that force me to dig for information about what they’re actually offering. I don’t need to know the history of your company before I know, very clearly, what your company does and what it can do for me. Then, lead them through your site to find out more information about what you offer and make it really easy to get ahold of it. Your design can be beautiful, but it should never obscure the mission of the site – rather, it should enhance it and set the tone. Make sure you’re not overtly selling to your visitor, but offering them solutions. No one likes to be talked AT, and no one wants to sit through your hard sales pitch. Be honest & clear about what you offer, enumerate the benefits, then tell them how to take action on that information. Also, think about offering an incentive to your visitor to help them get hooked – like a free offer of some kind, or a newsletter, etc… Be careful about how your phrase your offer – people are wary of the classic infomercial “no risk!” approach.
  3. Okay, they’re on the site, they’re interested, now what?! The goal of a landing page (most likely your Home page) is to explain what you’re offering and how it will benefit the site visitor, then lead them through the site to a place where you provide more detailed information to turn them into a customer. You can do this by placing links in your text that naturally lead to more specific information, creating call-to-action buttons, by making your navigation really easy to use and clear, and featuring specific information in the form of an internal ad. For example, if you’re calling attention to a new offering, make a little “ad” for it for your Home page, and link that to the page where more specific information can be found. Just like your grocery store brings its featured products & baking-bread-smell right to you when you walk through the door, you can do the same for your site visitors. Be careful not to overwhelm them with information here – keep it clear and clean. Whitespace on your page actually serves the purpose to leaving some breathing room for people to digest information while scanning. It also helps to break up the page into logical groupings. Think of it this way: If you pushed all your living room furniture to the center of the room, it would be hard to make it functional for your family. And, if you brought all your furniture to the living room just in case you might need it there some day, it would be really hard to find your way to the thing you really need/want in the moment. Categorize your site content in ways that make sense. It’s good to provide an easy way to get from A to B if there’s a connection between A & B. A great exercise to help you with this is to create post-it notes for the different categories of content you have on your site, then draw lines between the ones that are most logically connected, or the ones your site visitors are likely to connect. Remember that your site navigation should always be available in the same configuration, so this is more about featuring information within a page that lives on another page. You don’t want to hit people over the head with it, it’s more about prompting people with what you think they might need in the moment they need it. Your site content steers people through your site with little markers along the way – treat it as such and you increase your usability, and therefore your site visitor satisfaction.In the course of figuring this out you find your single site is going in too many directions, consider breaking it up into different sites targeted at different things. This may benefit your business by making sure the right people are finding just what they need without having to wade through all the rest. When the average attention span lasts about as long as you can hold your breath, this may be a great solution to serve your various offerings.

To recap: Make sure you’re setting yourself up for success by targeting people with whom your website will resonate, and ensure you’re going to be the big fish in a small pond. When they reach your site, make sure your site visitor knows what you’re offering to them, how it will benefit them, how to get it, and lead them into the rest of the site for additional information. And finally, make sure you’re tracking your success. If you don’t follow up on what’s working and what’s not by mining your Google Analytics data, you’re missing out on a huge factor in your success!