Content is the basis of an effective website

Posted on by Craig Loftus

  • Businesses are increasingly using a range of online media to communicate with their customers, and generating large amounts of content in the process.
  • Low quality content negatively impacts customers' perceptions of a business and reduces conversion rates.
  • Businesses should develop a content strategy that is tailored for their target audience and focuses on generating high quality content that is genuinely useful.

Communicating effectively online is a key requirement for any business today. There are many factors that determine effectiveness, chief among which is content. Whether you are selling products and services online, or just providing information about your services, the content you publish online needs to be carefully considered.

A glossy design packed with high resolution images and elaborate animations might look attractive, but will do little for your business if it does not provide meaningful content.

What is content?

Every piece of information you put in front of a customer feeds into their impression of your organisation. From the images and descriptions of your products, to the photos and videos posted on your Facebook page, it all counts.

Developing a content strategy is important for creating content that addresses your businesses objectives.

With a wide range of media available for businesses to disseminate content, the first step in developing a content strategy is to narrow down the content to focus your efforts on. For example, an e-commerce website should focus on informative product pages, checkout instructions, and emails. An organisation trying to promote its brand and connect with an audience might focus on more social content posted via Twitter and Facebook.

The second step is understanding the audience you are producing content for.

Knowing your audience

Good content is content that effectively communicates to your target audience. This means that knowing your audience is vital to having an effective content strategy.

Take Kava, for example, a company aiming to change the way we buy insurance. They make use of Kenyan slang on the front page of their website, in a deliberate attempt to communicate in an informal tone:

... we do all in our power to pay your claims chap chap. Coz we know how it is ...

Kava uses deliberately informal language to try and appeal to their target audience.

Kava have assessed their audience and the image they want to present, and have deliberately chosen to use casual language. This is effective content for their audience.

Notwithstanding this example, the majority of businesses should be careful to use properly written English on their website, and avoid spelling and grammatical mistakes which can be severely detrimental to the effectiveness of the site.

Understanding your audience is also important when choosing what reading level to create your content for. Someone should not need a university degree to read and understand the description for a fridge they want to buy, but, equally, technical articles should not be dumbed down.

Producing content reliably

Once you have put in place a content strategy, the next step is employing it consistently. There are a number of things to keep in mind:

  • Take it seriously. Too often, content generation is trivialised and left to junior staff who have little incentive to produce high quality work. We have observed numerous cases where this results in extremely poor quality content that is littered with errors and inconsistencies including spelling errors, factual errors, poor English and poor quality images. All of these damage the visitor's perception of the business and will reduce conversions. The team creating your content and providing customer support should have a good understanding of your products and services, and training in how to create high quality content.
  • Do it yourself. The people best placed to create content are the people that know your business and are passionate about it. We have seen many cases where content generation is outsourced to third parties (e.g., marketing agencies) in the belief that they will produce better quality content. While this approach may seem attractive, it fails to recognise that nobody knows your business better than you do.
  • Keep it up to date. Content that is out of date is worse than no content at all. If your site has a news or blog section, make sure that you post something on a regular basis. Many businesses start a blog and then leave it untouched for many months. In such cases, it is better not to have a blog at all, because the impression made on users seeing old content is invariably negative.

    Placeholder content is another faux-pas that will damage your site's credibility. Again, it is preferable not to display any content at all than to have placeholder text that is suggestive of an incomplete or unmaintained website.

    An example of poor quality content from the Kenya Association of Manufacturers

    This screenshot from the Kenya Association of Manufacturers shows an example of placeholder content, which was never populated. This one page lowers the credibility of the whole organisation.

  • Create unique content. In an attempt to minimise effort, many businesses use a copy-and-paste approach to generating content. If a news item relevant to their business appears online, they will simply copy the content of the article and paste it into their own blog. This approach does not add any value to the original content (the visitor may as well have read it on a news site). Worse still, search engines like Google penalise sites for such behaviour. Linking to relevant news articles is fine, but in order to create effective content, you must add value, e.g., provide some helpful commentary, insight or advice on relevant news.

Conclusion

  • Good content is far more important than SEO. Google advises that “Provid[ing] high-quality content… is the single most important thing to do” to make your site Google-friendly and improve its performance in search rankings.
  • Businesses should create a content strategy to focus their efforts on generating carefully crafted content tailored for their target audience.
  • Building your internal capability is the best to way to consistently produce good content.