Note: this is another great guest post by Brad Shorr. See his bio at the end.
Have you ever visited a website that looked like a teenager’s bedroom – content strewn about everywhere, overflowing with information yet impossible to find what you’re looking for? This often happens when a firm fails to make a long-term content development plan a component of its new site launch.
The consequences of haphazard content development are quite serious:
- Interested prospects can’t find what they are looking for, so they click off the site.
- Prospects who are ready to buy get confused, frustrated, or lost on the site – and fail to convert.
- All visitors leave with an impression that the firm is as disorganized as its site.
Here are ways to prevent these things from happening.
1. Long-term Focus
Most Web development projects are obsessed with the immediate future: We have to get the site launched on time; we have to get it done within budget.
In terms of content, avoid the very strong temptation to cram everything you want to say into the initial launch. You won’t have enough time, and you won’t have enough money. Instead, identify the content you must have for launch, and then schedule the content you want to have for future phases of the project.
2. Go from General to Specific over Time
The most important content to present on the initial launch of a business site is the overview. Give prospects and customers the big picture: what you do, what problems you solve, what benefits you offer, and why people should buy from you.
If you do nothing more than get those simple points across, you’ll have a manageable number of pages to produce for the launch, and you won’t obscure the message with distracting details. And as a consequence of that, you’ll have a site with content that effectively supports lead generation.
3. Logically Layer On the Details
Develop a more detailed picture of your firm over time by adding new layers of content. For instance, consider a restaurant supply business. A simple, long-term content plan for its products could look something like this:
- Launch Phase: One Products Overview page with a brief summary of all product groups.
- Second Phase: Build out Product Group pages with more detail on Furniture, Bar Supplies, Kitchen Supplies, etc.
- Third Phase: Build out detailed Item pages for the 10 most popular items in each Product Group.
- Fourth Phase: Build out detailed Item pages for the next 25 most popular items in each Product Group.
4. Content Categories and Subcategories
The above tip refers to content depth, but let’s take a minute to consider content breadth. For a launch phase, these content categories are generally indispensible:
From here, much can be added in future project phases. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking about the possibilities.
- Category: Testimonials
- Category: Case Studies
- Category: Careers
- Subcategory of Products: FAQs
- Subcategory of Services: Important Resources
- Subcategory of About: Charitable Giving
Creating these additional content sections requires a lot of time and creativity. If information is thrown together at the launch phase to meet a tight deadline or budget, entire sections may well come off looking extremely lame. Again, it’s preferable to think long-term and patiently roll out new content based on a plan.
By mapping all this out in advance, not only will content be delivered to visitors in logically organized and digestible chunks, designers and programmers will be able to build proper layouts and navigation into the site from the beginning. Over the long-term, your site will be as clean as the bedroom you see to the right.
This point cannot be overemphasized. Content should drive any web development project! If designers and programmers don’t know where the content is heading, they can only guess at how much room to allocate for future navigational links, where those links should go, and what they should look like.
Quite often, this is why a mature site has navigation that appears haphazard and cramped, that has crucial call to action blocks hidden in obscure corners of the page. The firm boxed itself into a corner as it added content and did not have the resources to rebuild the site from the ground up. Not a good situation to be in, but one that is all too common.
About the Author
Brad Shorr is Director of Content & Social Media for Straight North, a Chicago Internet marketing firm. They specialize in niche, middle market B2B industries such as video broadcast equipment and gloves for electrical work. Brad is an experienced content strategist, SEO copywriter and blogger.
(Image Credits: Image 1, © Iriana Shiyan #39382212; Image 2, © Joseph Helfenberger #1106456 – Fotolia.)