How to plan the content for your next business website

Man and child doing sight test

Website Planning Guide #7

Content is King: How to fill your new business website with content that people want to read.

Whilst a good website agency will do a lot of the heavy lifting on your business website project, the content you want to fill that beautiful new site with is likely to be down to you and your marketing team to curate, or create. By filling your new site with content that excites and engages, folk are more likely to stick around long enough to realise they want to buy your product.

Don’t lose the good stuff, by feeling you need to create new words.

Just because you’re building a shiny new website, it doesn’t mean you need to get rid of all your old content. Make sure you complete a thorough audit of what you’ve got, so you can keep the good stuff, remove the bad stuff and maybe uncover a few unexpected gems in the process. Much of this can then be moved over to your new site, giving you an instant catalogue of content to kick things off.

Are there campaign landing pages, event microsites, SEO focused articles, or other content that needs to be moved to the new site? Not all content will be linked for the main navigation, so it’s all worth checking. Also look at Google Analytics funnels, goals or events tracking that may have been set up for your current site. These will need considering again for the new website. Before you start planning your shiny new website, be careful to make sure you’re not throwing out the good with the bad. Despite your fatigue with the old, the website may still be performing well in parts. Work out what needs to be protected before you do anything else and have a good look at user journeys and conversion rates. It might be worth polling a segment of your audience and you may find that your customers have insights that you haven’t considered.

  1. Create an XML sitemap of your current site (here’s a handy tool: Turn this into a spreadsheet and use it to rank and review your existing content. Use a traffic light system for Keep (green), Review/Improve (amber), Replace/Bin (red). This is a handy document to share with your agency at the start of a project
  2. Check out your website’s analytics. Are there any pages that are drawing in good Search traffic?
  3. Don’t forget to review content that is attached to your website pages. Such as PDF downloads.
  4. Review your content in a new place. Sometimes we get jaded by seeing old words on an old website. And the visual lack of appeal and make us dismiss what could actually be powerful and succinct sales words. Try copying your words into a new document away from the website pages, and then review them

Review what you’ve got, and use it as a starting point for your new content plan. 

Writing Smashing Sales Content

Prospective customers are smart. They have at their disposal a near-infinite reservoir of choice about the products they buy and how they buy them. The trick with website copy is to write honestly and authentically. Don’t try to choke people with fluff. It’s about keeping it simple and entertaining. We tend to suggest the following method:

  1. Write down in simple plain English what you are selling – be brutally factual. Then ask yourself, ‘so what?’
  2. Then write a new version that adds meaning and reasoning
  3. Then ask yourself ‘so what?’
  4. Rinse and repeat

This works well as a mini-workshop with your marketing and sales team. Keep going as long as you can. Try not to over analyse before you write each new ‘so what’. Just write and go. I suggest starting this way because it removes the temptation to get bogged down in flowery words and sales nonsense. You are the interface between the business and the customer and what you are doing is simply translating that into a concise and emotive headline.

You can find more helpful advice in this handy little document I’ve written – download it here.

A Sitemap for Success

Planning a sitemap is closely related to content planning. A sitemap organises your content in a logical way and broadly describes the relationship between content and pages.

Your agency will help you organise content and consider user journeys as part of the Discovery and Design phases of the project, but by creating a basic sitemap yourself you can speed things up. Your sitemap can be a simple bullet point list or a full visual layout; do what works for you.

Here is a good selection of visual sitemap tools:

However, nothing beats an Excel spreadsheet for simplicity, flexibility and immediacy. Simply open a new sheet, start putting the key section pages into column one, then nest the child pages into column two, and so on.

Build out what you know. Don’t try and be clever and second guess any user-journey stuff right now. You are not creating your final sitemap at this point. That’s for your agency to do. All you are doing is making sure you create the sitemap as part of the content landscape for your new website. Pile it all up. Make sure you don’t miss anything and prepare a good starting point for your chosen agency to decipher and play with.

What are your Customers Looking For?

Okay, so when looking at your website’s sitemap we are suggesting you don’t think too much about user journeys. Fine. However, it doesn’t mean you should ignore them altogether at this point. Users behave in different ways, often over different visit sessions. Perhaps you have thought about personas for your products already – this is a great exercise to extend to user behaviour. Record and gather anything that you do have. Talk to Product, talk to Sales, talk to your Customer Service team. You don’t need chapter and verse right now, but start to paint a picture of your audience’s needs alongside your content planning. 

Your customers are going to be your stake in the ground for much of your project success. If you want more detail on this now, please check out our specific article on Understanding your customers, working out what they want, and building it for them.

The Never-ending Story

The demand for content never stops, I’m sorry to tell you. Plus, your audience is likely to grow and change over time, particularly when it comes to SEO optimisation. Keywords, and the search terms people use shift frequently. This means you’ve got to keep a close eye on how your content is going down with your audience. Websites can also become bloated over time, so regular reviews and audits are a must.

One of the most important actions you can take is optimising your site for search engines. Good SEO will drive the right kind of traffic to you and help you stand out against your competition. There are a few questions to ask yourself: 

  • Does my content contain keywords that my audience are actually using?
  • What topics excite our social media followers the most?
  • Is my internal linking up to scratch?
  • Which pages do visitors use the most?
  • Which pages perform the best in terms of user experience?

The answers to these questions will help you define what needs to be done to improve the performance of your website, and tailor content to support this. More content on topics your audiences love, with keywords that they are most likely to use, will help you get where you need to go. Think about getting your team together to look at the state of play regularly and define what it is you want to achieve. Once you have a clear sense of where you are and what you want, you can integrate this knowledge into an action plan: 

  1. What SMART objectives do you want to achieve?
  2. What content do you already have?
  3. Measure and analyse your data
  4. Agree actions to meet your objectives
  5. Update your content marketing plan
  6. Do it!

Telling your story is important for so many reasons. By keeping content fresh and relevant, potential customers feel reassured that your finger is on the pulse and you can be trusted to deliver the products you offer. It also means they will look to you as experts in your field, which is important for developing a successful brand. So don’t be shy about creating content from the heart; it’s exactly what your customers want to see.

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