Developing engaging content in 5 minutes
How can you develop engaging content in five minutes? Seriously, you can’t but it should only take you five minutes to read this straight forward overview.
When considering developing content for your company website for the first time you’d be forgiven for thinking that that it’s like developing a company brochure – after all you are looking to showcase your products and services to an interested party. Unfortunately you’d be wrong.
Of course you are looking to showcase your products and services but there are two fundamental differences. Firstly the majority of first time visitors will not be interested in you yet – they don’t know you, they’ve never met you. And secondly a competitor is only one or two clicks away.
When someone picks up a brochure, nine times out of ten they will have already had some contact with the company making them warm and interested so they’re already on side to some degree. The job of the brochure becomes that of confirmation. With your website the context is somewhat different and so you need a different approach.
Your site is one in 2.9 million
You think of your website in isolation because it’s the only one you’ve got – a visitor thinks of your website as one of
About 2,910,000 results (0.29 seconds)
In other words one of many results in a list returned from a search engine. Granted some visitors will come straight to your site because you’ve referred them and they need to be kept in mind when developing content. In the main your site will be one of many that are being clicked in and out of in quick succession until the visitor’s attention is grabbed and held.
When someone lands on your website it is likely to be their first encounter with you or your organisation. The job of your site, particularly your home page is to empathise, assure and then to confirm. It is your substitute or ambassador in an opening dialogue. If your visitor doesn’t find what they want then they’ll be out of there in a flash – they’ll have bounced.
How visitors behave
The behaviour of the visitor to a website is different to that of someone thumbing through a brochure. Once you have their attention the principles of engagement are similar. But it’s getting their attention and holding it long enough for them to make the decision you want them to make that is the trick. What do you want them to do? Well that would be to contact you or buy from you or thirdly to share you.
Let’s look at those behaviours so that we can start to understand how best to approach the task of developing engaging copy.
When a visitor lands on a web page he will quickly scan looking for general visual clues that confirm that he is in the right place. Your site name, taglines, headline text and navigation will help him. Use contrast and imagery to attract his attention and guide his focus.
Assured that he is in the right place he will start to look for clues that this site has what he is looking for in terms of the specifics of his needs. Here we help him with sharp, needs-focused introductory text and order of navigation.
Your job as a content developer is to quickly and easily convey the message or vibe that you have the type of service and quality of workmanship that he wants. Once he’s picked up the vibe you keep his attention by making it really easy for him to know what to do next to get to his goal. This is achieved with clear and unambiguous calls to action.
Once you have directed him to more detail about the service or product then you’re in the realms of expanding to give him more of what he came for so that he can confirm in his mind that you are the person he wants to do business with. Make it really easy for him to contact you or move to a purchase.
If you have products to sell then the purchasing process has to make him feel safe and secure, it has to be easy and free of distractions so that he will continue through to commitment – a visitor isn’t a customer until the payment has been confirmed; he can bounce at any stage along the way.
Profiling visitors helps to shape content
Now we understand how the visitor behaves in general terms that will help us to shape our content so that we meet his goals whilst meeting our own.
Before we put pen to paper it is worth spending some time considering the visitor in some more detail within the context of your service(s).
For example a visitor looking for commercial photography to support their next campaign will have very different questions and needs than that of a bride-to-be looking for the right guy to immortalise the best day of her life.
At a superficial level they are both looking for someone with a decent camera that’s going to take great shots. But consider that the tone and meter of the content needs to be different for each type of visitor. This is where the empathy comes in. We need to empathise with the visitor’s position or situation so that we can assure them that they are in good hands and confirm that we have the solution.
A good exercise is to imagine two or three different clients for each type of service or product range – write down some basic facts about them as though they were going to be characters in a story that you’re about to write. Then create scenarios where each of them comes to you for that particular service or product – what questions or concerns might they have? What sensibilities have to be taken into account?
You can’t satisfy everyone so look for the common ground and patterns will start to emerge. Combine the common characteristics and needs into one persona.
That’s the person you are writing for.
Do this for each of your services and you will be producing copy that resonates with your visitors and it is resonance that will encourage them to stick around and convert.