Fiona Cole explains the value of content on your website and how to make a lot of information look good.

Why you need more words, not less, on key pages of your website

We all want two things from our websites:

  1. Look professional and appealing to our audience
  2. Do their job, which is attracting the right visitors and converting them into enquiries or sales

Looking good is easy if you don’t care too much about how well your site performs. All you need is a professional looking site with a visually striking design, right?

Performance – how well your site delivers in converting visitors into sales or enquiries – is another matter altogether. Getting your site to do a good job is not always straightforward. Worse, with all the mixed messages about online marketing, engagement factors and SEO being bandied about, how are you to know what is the right course of action?

Rather than getting into the complexities of Conversion Rate Optimisation, lets focus on the most fundamental aspect of your website: the presentation of the page content.

The search engine factor

There is a tendency to go for less words and more visuals on a website, especially when social media engagement is increasingly about visual media.

However, the downside of using mainly images or video and little to no words is, there is nothing there for the search engines to index and rank.

Words are needed to match searches with content

Whether by desktop or mobile using typed or voice searches, people must use words to search the internet. If your target audience can’t find you using key search terms for what you are selling, solving or supplying, your site is simply not getting in front of people.

On the other hand, you don’t want to present a Homepage or landing page filled with screeds and screeds of text. The trick is to strike the right balance; having enough text on your web pages to achieve optimal page ranking without making it unappealing to visitors.

So how do you make the text on your site less ‘texty’?

The human factor

People are fickle. They are busy, easily distracted, prone to impulsive and unpredictable behaviour. Their choices are affected by emotions and external influences.

If your content is not presented well, the message can easily be lost.

The information on your website needs to be accessible and appealing on multiple levels, or you will lose your audience before they have taken in enough to get them to take the next step in your website’s conversion pathway.

The F-shaped layout

Readability and ease of use are among the key factors in the visual appeal of your web pages: good design and layout should also incorporate clear indicators for where to go and to quickly and easily access information.

Reading something on a screen is usually harder – and slower – than reading the same thing on a printed page. That’s where the F=shaped layout comes in.

The eyes of most readers tend to look down the left-hand margin, and then out along subheadings. You need to use this to your advantage. Here’s how:

  • Divide your page into sections using subheadings
  • Check whether your subheadings make sense on their own
  • Frontload each section with the key information
  • Use white space
  • Apply bullet points to lists
  • Use bolding judiciously

Sections with subheadings

Make sure your page isn’t a solid wall of text. Break it up into sections that make logical, intuitive sense. And then write a clear, accurate subheading for each section.

Subheadings that make sense on their own

Some readers glance through subheadings without initially reading the copy that follows each one. Your subheadings need to make sense on their own, signposting key content that your readers will be scanning for on the page.

Frontloading key information by section

Make it easy for folks who do read beyond the subheadings by talking about the benefits they’ll get from each section in the first sentence.

Using white space with confidence

Don’t be afraid to leave sections of white space or empty sections between blocks of content. If everything is divided by images and other graphics, things can look cluttered.

Use bullet points wherever you can

Readers’ eyes are drawn to bulleted lists, as they are easy to scan. Whenever you have a list of three or more items in a sentence, format them as bullet points. It will break up your text and draw your reader’s attention.

Use bolding judiciously

Bolding a phrase (or even an entire sentence) will emphasise the words and make them “pop” for your reader. Just be aware that when you emphasise too much nothing stands out, so limit your bolding to the stuff that really needs it.

Know what your audience is looking for

Now you have an idea of how the F in layout of your content should look.

However, to put the information people are looking for in the right place, you still need to know what they’re looking for first.