IS YOUR SITE still up to scratch?
Here ARE some tips for reviewing your site’s content.
So you need to review your content. It’s something our clients ask us to do for them from time to time. We’ve built up a list of the characteristics we look at, and look for. And because we’re thoroughly nice people, we’ve decided to share it with you. You might not look at all of these traits as part of your review but they should give you a healthy choice of options.
1. Overall tone
Is your site copy right for your audience? Do your readers want to be gently reassured, briskly informed or something else? Start with what they need, then create a tone of voice to meet those needs.
Generally speaking, try to avoid jargon on consumer sites, but explain it on business sites. Then again, if you're helping first time buyers through the housing maze, you probably want to guide them through all the nasty language they'll have to negotiate.
If you think this one’s hard to judge, just take an honest view on whether the copy is friendly, positive, informative, compelling, and close to plain English. These always seem like good measures to us.
2. To the point
There’s a very simple maxim when you’re writing copy for an online audience – get to the point as quickly as you can. Tell your audience what you really want them to know in the first sentence. People don’t come to your site to read well-paced stories leading to a heart-pounding conclusion. They want the information now.
3. Page structure
As web copywriters, we work to push the key information straight to the user's retinas. However, layouts can get in the way. Features such as anchor points ('back to top' and generally navigating you within the page) and accordions (expand/collapse) can help you keep your key messages near the top of a page – offering more if the user wants it.
Maybe this heading should be 'lack of emphasis'. Take bullets – we often see lists that are simply far too long. As a general rule we try to limit our lists to six points, and put the key ones at the top of the list. We use bold to bring out the key point and expand or explain it further in regular text. If you have too many bullet points, combine points that complement each other, or split the single list into a number of shorter ones.
We see many companies describing themselves with words like 'expertise', 'innovation' and 'solutions'. Oh dear. This approach fails because it tells the reader absolutely nothing about the company, other than it's boastful, dull and not really interested in helping customers. Long sentences are also a problem – unless you're Jane Austen.
We aim for an average of 19 words per sentence and three sentences per paragraph. If your sentences are too long, break them up.
6. Good information
Does your content actually impart information that will answer the user’s questions or give them the knowledge they need to move on to the next step? If it’s information that users don’t really need to know, cut it back or cut it out.
7. What about SEO?
Are you using keywords, and are they the right keywords?
If your site's been live for a while, we guarantee that you'll need to research your keywords from scratch and look at the technical aspects of SEO in a bit of depth. The SEO advice on the Moz website (opens in a new window) is a pretty good place to start. And are you using them effectively in your headings and sub-heads, or are you still guilty of keyword stuffing? If the copy is bloated with keywords, it will have a negative influence on your SEO performance. Oh, and your users will hate you.
Don’t forget your page titles and page descriptions either. We still see sites which have the same page title for every page.
8. Usability and accessibility
Accessible copy means understanding how users with a disability will use your site. So it’s about simple things like making sure your images have alt tags and avoiding describing on-screen elements as being 'above', 'below', or 'to the right'.
Is there anything that’s obviously out of date? For example, stats that haven’t been updated for a year or longer, or a news page that hasn’t been refreshed for a while. Most of these things are easy to spot. Less obvious examples might be projections for future years, or references to forthcoming events, which have now passed. Little things, for sure – but they can add up to erode your reputation.
Are you saying the same thing in different parts of the site? If the exact same content is appearing on multiple pages it’s worth reviewing your IA. The bigger danger with duplicate content though is when its contradictory – which page should the user trust?
Does your site give users the information they’re looking for? Think about the task-based approach. Users visit sites to find answers. If your site doesn’t provide these answers, they'll go somewhere else.
We see far too many sites where pages are filled with boasting and superlatives and really don’t give much information at all. Ask yourself if the pages of your site are relevant, improve the user’s knowledge, or give them a clear action point.
12. Are the calls to action clear?
What should people do next? Visit another page, sign up for your newsletter, watch a video, make a booking? Whatever you want them to do, paint clear signposts to help them on their way. Like the one just coming up.
Want to know a bit more?
Call Alan on 0203 603 7740, or email firstname.lastname@example.org