What Content Do I Need For My Website?

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Note: Although "content" refers to everything included in your website--text as well as graphics, this article focuses on text content. See my article "What About Graphics" for information on developing graphical content.

Because the content of a website helps shape the design, it's important to develop basic outline of web content before the actual design process begins. Deciding on content for your website can be an overwhelming task and sometimes it's hard to know where to begin.

To help you get started, I've developed a list of content items that have proved to be valuable and useful additions to many websites. You'll want to tweak the list to your own site's needs, but it should help you begin to clarify content priorities for your own site.

Generic Content

Certain information is standard and expected on every website. Even the most artsy, anti-establishment sites manage to include the following information in some fashion.

Company Name, Logo, and Motto

This information tells the visitor where they are, the company, the type of service, and the professional tone of the company the site represents.

In planning this area of the content, consider items you may already have developed for your business. Perhaps you've got a logo or you've already established a font or a particular graphic for your company name. In most cases, you'll want to continue using these items to take advantage of any name recognition or branding you've already established.

Company Info, History, and Mission Statement

This information might include the size of the company, number of employees, and annual sales. The history of the company might be reduced to a couple of sentences with a date of establishment, or it could include a hyperlink to a well-developed story, complete with major characters and timelines. The mission statement should be clear, concise, and preferably short. Ideally, all of this information incorporates a liberal use of key words that visitors might use in a search.

While this information may not be terribly important on some sites, it can be valueable in helping to establish credibility for online storefronts and small business sites.

General Description of Products and Services

Because it's important to quickly introduce your visitors to the type information and products they'll encounter as they explore the site further, a general description of the products and services offered typically comprises the homepage content. Again, this information ideally incorporates a liberal use of key words visitors might use in a search.

Product or Service Categories

This information is typically the bread and butter of your site and is usually prominently represented in the navigation menu. Each category in the menu links to a page that offers more detailed information—perhaps a catalog of products or services, or a directory of sales representatives. If you already have brochures and other marketing tools for your business, you might already have a head start on this content.

If you have an online store, catalog and product pages are the real meat of your site. You'll probably update these seasonally at a minimum. Keep a fresh inventory of products for your visitors to browse to keep them coming back.

Contact Info

Websites that don't include contact information shouldn't be on the web, in my humble opinion. But amazingly, such sites do exist. Of all the information offered on a site, contact info should be the easiest to locate. It's a good idea to offer links to this information in several areas of each page so that visitors simply cannot miss it.

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Additional Content

Once you've decided upon the generic information for your site, you'll want include additional information to enrich users' experience of your site and to boost the quality of service and information visitors require.

Location/ Driving Directions

This can be as important as contact information if your business relies on walk-in business. In addition to written directions from major routes, you might also want to include a map. Maps are available from sources like mapquest.com and Google Maps.Some sources are listed on the links page. Make sure you comply with use requirements when using such maps on your site.

Articles

Articles can obviously keep visitors on your site longer. (wink wink) In addition to the articles you may create for your site in-house, many articles are available for free on the internet. Try typing "free content" into Google or other popular search engines. Of course, there are drawbacks to using free articles, such as compliance with use requirements, or simply sub-standard quality writing or fact-checking. The best articles for your site are those you develop in-house so that you can focus the article to your target audience.

You can find links to sites that offer free content on the links page.

Calendars and Event Pages

Perhaps you have a seasonal sale with a theme for each season. You'll want to let your visitors know about it well in advance. These pages can be an easy way to incorporate fresh content in your site and keep customers checking the site regularly. You can find information for free web calendars on the links page.

Newsletters

Why not use content from your newsletter on your website? Website newsletters are an ideal format for your customers who are trying to reduce paper pile-up. This is an easy way to keep web content fresh and keep visitors checking your site. Again, remember to enrich those newsletter items with key words that visitors might use in a web search.

Featured Specials or Limited-time Offers

These items can add visual excitement to your pages and encourage visitors to check the site often for new offers or specials.

Guarantee and Return Policy

A clear statement of your guarantee and return policy can save a lot of time and headaches, especially on a high-volume site. It can also be used as a strong selling point, giving your customers confidence in your products and your attention to service.

Shipping Information

This information lets customers estimate shipping costs, and can be a great selling point if you offer special deals for shipping with a minimum order. This can also save you time answering emails and phone calls. You can add a link to the Postal Service or other shipping services that can help customers track their orders.

Links and Ads

A links page is where you list links to sites that will benefit your audience and to sites you've exchanged links with. The more links you exchange, the better you rank in some search engines. But make sure the links are relevant, useful to you and especially your audience. In addition to links, you can also benefit from ads on your site. Ads are usually included on content pages. You can sell ads on your pages or you can participate in ad exchange programs or revenue programs like Google's AdSense. You can also include ads for affiliate programs in which you participate.

Reviews & Testimonials

This information can be very valuable to you as you build trust with your customers. Save glowing comments you receive from customers' email and letters. Be sure to ask permission to use comments. Usually satisfied customers are only too happy to let people know how they value your service or products. They're also glad to let people know when you disappoint them, so always strive to wow them with excellent products and service.

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