Website content creation is often approached as a list of topics or pages which must be worked through and ticked off. However this approach misses several key steps which actually make the job simpler and the results more effective.
Managing hundreds of website projects and content workshops over the last 17 years, I realised that a simple model was needed to structure content development and make it more clearly focused on guiding visitors through the key stages of the website user journey and buying cycle.
A more effective approach is to start by looking at the six key stages where your website should make it easy for visitors to find, choose, buy, use, recommend and rate your products and services.
Understanding how these stages work flow means means you can develop more focused content to clearly address each step of the journey.
Content for the “suggestive” stage addresses the time when people are searching for something or perhaps have a latent need which can be triggered by seeing your off site content.
This stage is all about content which is either off your website or is picked up from your website by search engines, scraped off and then used to index your site. Displaying your web address or a link to your site at exactly the right time and in the right place is your first signal to buyers that you can solve their problem better than your competitors.
The scope of suggestive content is almost limitless but here are some of the most commonly used strategies:
- Organic search engine listings
- Paid search engine listings
- Social media posts with links to your website
- Blog posts on other platforms (guest posts)
- Business cards
- Promotional items such as mugs or mouse mats
- Building or vehicle signage with your website address
- YouTube videos
- Brochures or flyers
- Links from directories or other websites
Once someone visits your website the suggestive phase has been fulfilled and its time to create an “impression”.
This is your opportunity to reassure people that they have landed on the right website and that you can indeed solve their problem better than your competitors.
Firstly your website needs to load fast (especially on mobile devices) as people will soon tire of waiting and go to a more professionally built website which is fast and responsive.
The next thing that needs to happen is they get the wow factor almost immediately, understand exactly what you are offering, and why it solves their problem better.
This is a judgement that will probably happen in 5 to 10 seconds, so any content which influences this decision should be a top priority. The overall design of the site, the brand, the home page content and the headline messages are key here.
A hero or banner image with overlaid headers and strap-lines can tick a lot of boxes which is why they are so popular. This content which starts with the home page and forms almost the entirety of the user journey includes the following:
- Hero image or banner
- Product descriptions
- Headlines and strap-lines
Once they have consumed the home page content, visitors will move around the site to find as much information as they need to decide if you are a good fit for them.
The journey and the content should build their confidence in your offer and aim to answer as many of their questions as possible - using proof and testimonials from others to back up your claims wherever possible.
The amount of content needed to gain someone’s confidence will vary, but what is critical is that they have a convenient jumping off point to take action when persuaded of your credentials. This is the all important “mobilisation” phase.
Mobilisation is when a user takes action which results in them connecting with your organisation and transacting or taking a step towards transacting with you. It’s important that content to mobilise customers is prominent at any stage when you might expect them to take that next step. Common mobilisation content includes:
- Calls to action
- Contact button
- Buy now button
- Booking form button
- Telephone number
- Encouragement to visit premises
Limited time offers are a great way to help mobilise buyers.
Once you have mobilised or converted someone the website still has several important tasks to fulfil.
Firstly if your customer receives confirmation or other messages from your website they need to be friendly, accurate, informative and on brand.
This moment is also the best opportunity to persuade someone to keep engaging with your website and to consume your “publications” (for example as part of a landing page or email confirmation).
Publication serves a number of key functions especially following the first time someone buys from you or contacts you.
The in-depth articles you publish on your blog, your portfolio or your help and support areas all serve to reassure customers that you are there for them as part of the long haul - that they have made the right decision buying from you. This content can include:
- Blog posts
- Case studies
- Knowledge base articles
- White papers
- Notifications (although not strictly in depth)
Helpful and informative content which helps your buyers get the most out of your products or services and which helps solve their day to day problems will help build credibility and crucially make sure they don’t flip to your competitors.
Google recognises companies who regularly provide helpful content and gives them a better search ranking.
Perhaps most importantly of all, good content can help you “leverage” your credibility so that existing customers are more likely to recommend you to their friends, family and colleagues.
Content to help leverage your reputation can be as simple or complicated as you want to make it. I have seen some really great messages in email footers asking for referrals and some amazingly sophisticated referral functionality offering discounts and bonuses for giving referrals. Examples include:
- Email footers
- Sign-up forms
- Share links
- Calls to action
They key thing here is to use something which works for you and to build on the content and your customer’s “evaluations” painstakingly nurtured during the earlier phases of the buying cycle.
Asking customers to evaluate you can be as straightforward as asking for a Google review, testimonial, Facebook or LinkedIn recommendation. A stage on from this we have the feedback form, and right at the top of the pyramid a full blown customer survey or focus groups.
Positive feedback from all of these sources should where possible be displayed on your website or your off site listings. Graphs showing your customer satisfaction ratings are incredibly valuable but so are stories about how customers have asked for improvements, new features or services which you have delivered or are working on. Some of the most commonly used evaluation tools include:
- Google review
- Ratings sites
- Facebook review
- LinkedIn recommendation
- Survey results
- Actions from survey results
Considering and developing your content to work for you within each of these stages will provide a much more effective content strategy and mean the work required becomes more enjoyable, more focused and more effective.
Start by prioritising which type of content will work best for each stage and develop and implement those first. In some cases one or two key phrases or actions will be enough to get you started.
I will be publishing a series of articles looking in more detail at each of these stages as well as highlighting cost effective or free tools, techniques and templates to help you get the job done efficiently and cost effectively.
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