Focus on Content and Code
While many other guides might start with tactics for building traffic, we will start by discussing your content. After all, why make a herculean effort to drive people to your site if, when they get there, it’s a dud? You’ve got to deliver value and make the most of each visitor. So let’s start by analyzing the site you’re driving traffic to in terms of content and code.
Give Your Customers Value
Writing good content for your site is about giving your customers value. By providing true, relevant content, you are doing two things:
- Respecting the time and energy of both your customers and non-customers by allowing them to quickly judge the relevancy of your site to their needs.
- Providing your customers and/or readers with a good value for their time when they are reading your site, blog, or newsletter.
Giving site visitors relevant and non-disposable content with a long shelf life has many additional benefits for you as well, including:
- increasing your readership.
- getting people to link and/or talk about you.
- creating “stickiness”, which is getting readers to come back.
- building a brand for your company.
- marketing your company as a respectable, trustworthy source.
- promoting yourself as an intelligent and sincere person.
Format Your Content
Formatting your content is an important part of engaging your readers and encouraging them to read on. It’s not just the content of your website, newsletter, or blog that matters: the formatting of this content determines how much your content is read and absorbed. Current research using eyetracking software shows us exactly how visitors read and scan through material to determine which items are worth their time. A page with a huge block of text is an eyesore to anyone trying to read it. Breaking up your pages and formatting your content is crucial to maximizing your site’s readability.
After writing your content using the hallmarks of good copywriting, follow these guidelines to format your content for the web:
- Use bullet points
Bullet points are a great way to list your ideas in a concise format.
- Edit your material for relevance and brevity
Don’t create an emotional attachment to your business writing—snip at will to keep your information on task!
- Use typography and font hierarchy
In your style guides or stylesheets, designate different font treatments for headings, subsections, body text, and links.
- Write, rewrite, and really focus on your headings and subheadings
Your section titles can make or break the information that comes after them. Being precise and clear will help you to get more readers for the rest of your information.
- Write in an easy-to-understand, conversational tone
Using too much technical jargon or writing text that doesn’t flow will only help you lose your readers.
- Increase your line height
Increasing the line height in your code increases the white space between lines and makes the text easer to read.
- Break up your text with paragraphs and punctuation
Providing content in bite-sized amounts can be easier for a visitor to process and absorb than long-winded, endless paragraphs. Don’t be shy about breaking things up with punctuation and new paragraphs.
To learn more about creating quality content and writing for the web, check out these links:
- Dartmouth Web Teaching Articles: Writing for the Web
- Email Newsletters: Surviving Inbox Congestion by Dr. Jakob Nielsen
- Scannable Content from ProBlogger
- Web Writing Basics
- Writing Articles from A List Apart
- Writing on the Web by Dr. Jakob Nielsen
- Writing Well for the Web: Webreference’s Quick and Easy Tips for Non-writers
By using widgets, you can add functionality to your site to increase user interactivity without any programming knowledge. Widgets also allow you to add additional value to your site through content and other information pieces, such as headlines, news, audio and video, and games.
To get started with widgets, browse through these sources:
Don’t overdo it though—too many widgets can increase your load time and add clutter. White space generally increases readability (which is why you should increase your line height as mentioned previously), so choose your widgets carefully.
Create Clean Code
A well-built site has benefits for both your readers and search engines. For your readers, a site built according to web standards:
- makes your site accessible to those with disabilities, those using non-standard browsers such as browsers on mobile devices and those using browsers other than Internet Explorer, which represents roughly 40% of the market.
- considers the visitor first and engages your customer in the content.
For the search engines, a quality web site:
- helps the crawler-bots to find all of your content through linking.
- helps the search engine index all of your content properly for search purposes.
Make Your Site Search-Engine Friendly
Here are some coding and content rules to follow when making your site search-engine friendly:
- Use CSS wisely
Use CSS (stylesheets) to replace text with an image if it contains important information, or at least use alt tags on your images, so that search engines will not skip over your graphics. (Better yet: don’t put important information in your graphics!)
- Submit your site to the top search engines
See Step 5 in this series to learn how. You can also go a step farther by creating a site map of your site and giving it to the major search engines so they can index you.
- Write for humans first and computers second
As search engine algorithms get more and more complex, relevant content will score higher, and sites employing “search engine tricks” will score lower. This is why you should use natural language when writing your content.
- Optimize for search engines last
See Step 8: Optimize Your Site for Search Engines in the 11 Steps to Create a Successful Website series for optimization tips.