Web Content Guidelines
In order to drive qualified traffic to your website preliminary work must be done WITHIN your site itself. The focus of these suggestions revolves around the website's content.
The content (textual and graphic) of your site is key to your site's success for two reasons:
- it is what your prospect is after
- it is also what search engines use to determine what each page in your site is about.
What the website has to offer, the information it presents, must be both current and useful. The only thing that drives qualified prospects away - and search engine spiders - more quickly than out-of-date information is not enough information.
People use the Web to obtain information they would otherwise have to get by making a series of phone calls. By using the Web as a research tool, people can work at their own speed, in their own time and do so anonymously. Search engine spiders visit your site, either on their own or at your request, periodically. Should the spider not find changes made reflecting new or updated content it will not re-index the site. Over time this lack of updating will lead to a falling in keyword rankings. Failure to recognize these realities will doom your site.
It is our experience that site visitors want to know as much as possible about you before they respond or become prospects. Before time and money is spent marketing the site, we suggest attention be given to the following content issues:
Content: more is always better than less, as long as it's effectively organized.
- A commercial website is read, not experienced. Therefore it requires plenty of useful, well written and organized content.
- Textual content should be organized in layers with each main page having a meaningful headline, a bulleted summary of topics followed by detail. In this way the visitor who prefers to skim is able to glean the important information, while the visitor who prefers in depth research is not disappointed. Topics that require much detail can be broken into multiple pages for ease of use.
- Images should be illustrative of the associated content. They should be small enough, in both dimension and file size, so as not to disrupt the flow of the site. Images that must be viewed in greater detail can offer a link to a larger version.
Navigation: should be introduced on the homepage and appear in the same place on all subsequent pages.
- Navigation elements should always appear "above the fold" (that part of each page visible without scrolling) and as text links at the bottom of the page.
- Website visitors expect to find the navigation elements either across the top of the page or down the left hand side or both.
- A deep site might require sub-navigation. This can be handled in several different ways, depending on the website owner's preference. Learn more about web design.
Design: clean, uncluttered and, for best results, dark text on a light background.
- There should be a consistent and recognizable "header" on each page. The header can include logo, one or more images, contact information and primary navigation links. While small elements of the header can change from page to page, the important information (identity and navigation) should remain the same.
- Avoid blinking, scrolling and waving images as they tend to distract the eye, thus making it difficult for the visitor to focus on the important elements of the page.
- Any animation should cycle through once and then stop (i.e. a slide show displaying multiple images one after the other).
- The purposes of the homepage are: introduce your business, allow the visitor to qualify himself, highlight your most important content and demonstrate your content's freshness.
- Primary content elements are: headline, description of purpose, main image, topical or timely information and promotable content elements.
- Layout should be akin to a magazine's table of contents with key information "above the fold." Keep scrolling on the homepage to a minimum.
- Avoid "splash pages" and "designer-centric technologies" like pages done in Flash, which cannot be indexed by search engines. Remember that many search engines only index the homepage, so you need enough text to satisfy their appetite.
- The headline is the single most important element on the home page. But forget clever. Your homepage is not a full page magazine ad that a reader is going to take his time to "get." The headline needs to be descriptive of your business.
- A section of the home page should be set aside for content that can be changed monthly (news, new services, client announcements, etc.). This is something that both search engines and visitors find important.
- The homepage is your opportunity to promote the content of your site. Like a store window the homepage is place for merchandising.
In addition to these specific rules there are several common sense content suggestions you should note.
Once you've got your site in shape start thinking about how to convert visitors into customers.