Firstly, it is important not to underestimate this task. Planning and executing the content for a new site is a significant commitment. Often once the build has begun, marketers return to their day job until two weeks before the site is live only to realise the enormity of the task ahead of them.
Your marketing agency should be highlighting the importance of your website content upfront. Not only because it’s a large task but also because content is probably the most important aspect to get right.
Content affects every part of the web build, from sitemap creation, to how your customers browse your product range, to what information can be downloaded and perhaps most importantly, how your site is found in search.
Because the content stage is entwined into all the different stages it is the most difficult process to define as well as the most difficult to carry out.
If you have not read my article on how to define a sitemap, have a read before starting to define your content. In practice, the content should be thought about as the sitemap is being created which I cover in more detail in the sitemap post.
The content stage spans and overlaps many other stages of the web build from the initial sitemap discussions right through to planning, optimizing, population and internal linking.
1. Define your product range
To recap briefly my thoughts from How to define a sitemap, the most important part is to get the product/service pages and structure right. This is because the product pages are often the pages that the user demands most of and are typically where we want the user to end up to access the information they need.
A new site gives you a great opportunity to redefine your offering. Define your product range with search and usability in mind. URL structures should be defined using the most commonly searched or most relevant searches.
For example if you offer a number of services which can be categorised into flat roofing services, and flat roofing is a key offering for the business and a key search term for the website, then use this term as one of your category page titles.
This will allow the relevancy of the sub pages to be defined more clearly to search engines for flat roofing searches.
It’s important not to over complicate the user journey by creating pages for the sake of pages to optimise. Pages should serve a purpose and be unique in their content. Refer to section 3 of the Sitemap post to understand more about product page structures.
Tip – Do this stage right up front alongside the sitemap.
2. Plan out the downloadable content
It might sound like a jump forward to be planning downloadable content before planning on page content, but it’s a really key to thing to get right early.
This is because, the content that needs to be available for download, firstly effects page layout and design and secondly if new artwork is required it’s best to start early.
Too often downloads are not prioritised as they should be up front. The results of which end up with a website that has a downloads area that simply doesn’t work for the user.
The downloads section is often the end of the journey for a user, or a page that visitors want to access and use regularly, so it’s important that this is planned out properly.
The third and most obvious reason to get this section correct, is that downloads are a key performance indicator in measuring the effectiveness of your website. If this page fails, the effectiveness of the rest of the site could be in vain.
When reviewing your downloadable content, think from the user’s perspective. Many times, the answer is “yes” we have all the downloads we need. However, often downloads have evolved over time and are therefore inconsistent, have been bolted together, don’t match products, have old branding, incorrect information etc etc.
As a user, I want to find a relevant product or service and then come away with the information specific to my reason for being there. For product manufacturers this might mean various downlaodable documents.
If a user is at early research stage about your company and services, they may want to come away with a brochure. If they are in early product research stage, they may want to come away with product detail. If they are at late research or specification stage, they will need datasheets, CAD drawings and BIM files.
The user doesn’t want to download your entire BIM library and have to hunt through 10’s of files to find the corresponding object of the product they are interested in.
Equally a user doesn’t want to have to download 10 files in order to create a system that you offer.
Try to match all documents to the product offering and structure laid out in your sitemap.
For example, for Product X, create a downlodable datasheet, BIM file and CAD Drawing. It’s important in this example of course that Product X can be used in isolation.
If Product X forms part of a System Y, structure the documentation for System Y. In this scenario, I would assume that the product/service page would have been defined in the site map as System Y.
In an ideal scenario, each product or service page will have a specific set of documents, and the downloads section should mirror this format. This makes is easy for users to research a product or service and download the correct information quickly and efficiently.
Tip – Match all documents to your product or service offering.
3. Categorise pages by the action required
Now that we have defined the product offering and downloadable content, we can move onto page content itself.
The most important pages to get working are the product pages and any application type pages that you have. This is because product pages are the reason most users are looking at your site, and application pages attract highly relevant traffic if they are set up and optimised correctly.
The chances are that every page needs rewriting in order to consolidate information, make consistent the tone of voice, update out of date information and to structure it for search. To get an idea of the amount of work to be done, expect this to be the case and work back from here.
Create a simple spreadsheet detailing every page in the new site map. Then assign a status against each page as one of the three categories, Valid, Needs updating, New Content. In the 3rd column, enter the url of the current page or pages that can be used as a starting point for the content team. In the 4th column add a required estimated word count for the new page. Defining word count is important because it will allow your agency to design the page accordingly.
Identify any other pages that exist on the current site, that do not correlate to a page in the new site map, and list these underneath. Assign these old pages a status of Include, No longer required. If any are set to include, see if you can work these into the new sitemap. If so, great, if not, it’s worth deciding if the information is important enough to include, and if so reviewing the sitemap to see where this content best fits in.
This covers all your new content and all your existing content in one spreadsheet and will be nice and organised in order to brief in to the content team, as well as to be used a management tool to assess progress on the task.
Tip – Work on product and application pages first.
4. Define a tone of voice
Tone of voice is something that you may not have considered when you undertook a new web build.
It’s an important aspect of the project, because your website will act as the first point of contact for many existing customers and the majority of potential and new customers.
You may already have tone of voice defined in your brand guidelines. The topic is too wide to cover in this blog post however, defining this before you start the writing process is important in order to retain consistency in all communications so that it feels like it’s coming from a single source.
If a team of content writers are being asked to work on a number of pages each, they need to have a set of guidelines to adhere to. Consistency in tone helps to define the company personality, builds familiarity and trust.
If you are working with a copywriting agency or you have in house copywriters, they should be able to help you shape a tone that is right for your company. Consider your companies core values and your audience when defining your style.
Tip – Create a tone of voice document that every team member can use as a guide.
5. Brief a content writer or content writing team
The next stage is to brief the content into a team of writers. You will have already done most of the ground work, having created your sitemap, content plan and tone of voice.
The final piece of the brief is define what needs to go on the pages. Again I’m going to focus on product or services sections as we often get asked at this point…what makes a good product page? What information should it contain?
Here are some basic rules to follow for a product page:
- Don’t assume the audience understand you or your products.
- Include what the product is and what it does in the first sentence if possible.
- Include key selling points early (things that make it different to other products).
- Say where the product works best. What application is it most suitable for? What problem does it solve?
- Highlight key features and benefits. Note a ‘feature’ and a ‘benefit’ are two different things. A feature is for example the thickness range of an insulation. A benefit might be achieves building regulations requirements.
- Include BS standards codes or any other regulatory standards that will reassure the customer and also capture search.
A while back we wrote a post on what makes a good manufacturer product page. Have a read of that for further explanation or if you. Here are some examples of great product pages.
Throughout all your pages, you need to be weaving in your key corporate messages and key product messages. If you don’t have these defined, work with your PR and content team to do so.
In addition to giving the content team links to existing page content on your current website, its also vitally important to evolve the content.
You may have better quality content in brochures or other printed materials, or hidden in blog posts, case studies or press releases. Make sure you make all this material available to your content team upfront so that have a good range of content with which to draw knowledge from.
It’s also very important to relay all your content through the technical and legal teams. If possible, have a member of the technical team be actively involved in the writing process to advise and ensure all the messages are present and the content does not misrepresent the products.
Finally your content writers must have an understanding of search optimisation. Without this element woven into the content the pages will struggle to rank well.
If you are using a separate content team and seo team, there must be collaboration between them. Your seo team will be able to provide insights into key search terminology that will help to shape the text. The search strategy will stem from insights that are identified up front during the digital audit process and should reflect the business aims and goal of the website.
Tip – Refer back to your business goals and priority search phrases to help define your content.
To brighten the site up and break up content, use images and useful diagrams. These should be thought about during the design process. Most of the creative element will dictate where and how images will be used, but its important not to just ignore grey placeholder images with a, “I’l sort that out later” response.
Good images can make or break a website, and planning for them early will allow you identify the need and create or source imagery and photography. If you are going down the photography route, get going with this project as soon as wireframes and an initial design are agreed.
This will leave plenty of time to get things shot and supplied in the right format before you launch.
Tip – Get going with photography as soon as wireframes and an initial design are agreed.
The final part of the process is to populate the site with your newly created site content. The structure of the content matters.
When I say structure, I mean the layout of the content on the page. It’s important to get key terminology into the first sentence for example. It’s important to mark up the page correctly with headings and heading tags in the right place. Your content writers and seo team should have worked together on this during the creation stage. Don’t just paste your content into an editor and press save.
Content population is an item that can be missed off a web brief with the view that it can be done in house by anyone. It can’t. This task needs to be implemented correctly, by someone with seo experience.
There is nothing worse when nearing the end of a project to realise that content all needs to be entered again. If you don’t have on page SEO knowledge, to avoid having to do it twice, either ask your agency to include it in their cost, or ask for some training on how to do it right first time. We also have a great post on what does good seo look like for you to read if you want to learn more about on page seo.
Similar to page content, when uploading images and files, everything matters, from size to filename to optimisation, to physical location on the server. Refer to our post on how to optimise images for your product manufacturer website. Uploading files and linking them to the correct places is a time consuming task. Doing it twice is simply not an option at the back end of a web build.
In summary, you need to make early decisions about the product structure and the downloads section. Identify what content you have and what content you need. Rewrite your content in a consistent format with a tone and voice and seo in mind right from the off. Get started with any photography requirement as soon as the initial design and wireframes are signed off. Optimise your images and populate your site in the correct way first time to ensure you stay on track with your project.