Succeeding online isn’t a magic trick and having great web content for your website will definitely help point you in the right direction, but you have to do it right!  In part three of my How to Succeed Online series I am going to discuss how to determine content for your website and how to structure your website’s content into logical groups.

I’m going to assume that by now you have read the first two articles in my How to Succeed Online series, “How to Succeed Online – What’s your Plan?” and “Succeed Online – Leave Your Crayons at Home“.  If you haven’t, you should go back and read them really quick to get up to speed!

Once you’ve established a plan for your new web business (yes, a website is a business) and you have found your professional web developer or have your own resources in place, it is time to start working on putting together your site’s content.  After developing hundreds of websites, this is typically the place where people have difficulty.  Including me.

If you run a service related business or a blog this is going to be a little more difficult for you to accomplish. Most people find it difficult to talk about themselves or don’t know what to say. If you sell products, it will be quite a bit easier because the resources already exist.  We’ll cover this more in depth during my next article.

Step One to Killer Content : Organize Your Thoughts

Remember high school English class when they made you write an outline for your papers?  Ugh!  I hated those things!  But as it turns out, they actually serve a purpose in real life, unlike quadratic formulas which I still haven’t found a useful purpose for.

The first step in determining content for your website is to put your thoughts down on paper and organize them into logical sections and pages.

What do you need to talk about or say on your website?

Chances are that you will need content for your homepage, your “About Us” page and your contact page.  I’ll give you those three as a freebie.  But what about the rest of it?  Does your website offer services or products?  Figure out what those products or services are and what you need to say about each of them.  Is your website a blog?  Figure out the topics of discussion you’re going to write about, plan a category for each topic area and some “starter articles” for each topic.

Don’t forget the supplemental or ancillary pages!  Does your website need a terms of service or privacy policy?  Do you want your customers to submit product warranties to your website?  What about testimonials, press coverage, or product returns?  You really have to spend some time thinking this through!

How can your content be organized into groups or categories?

Organizing your content into logical groups is very important for a website’s structure.  Think of it like folders on your computer.  You have your “My Documents” folder and inside of there you have a bunch of other folders that organize your life into logical groups.  When you build a website it’s a good idea to do the same thing.  Besides keeping your website’s files organized it gives us some help with search engine optimization by allowing for additional keywords in your URIs (file addresses and names) and it can also help us avoid some canonicalization (c14n) issues down the road by naming files correctly and establishing a standard for your website.

Web geek stuff aside, break your content into logical groups.  You might determine that your “about us” page needs to be an “about us” section which contains several pages such as Company History, Our Staff, etc.  Organize your products or services into groups too!  Naming your categories something such as: ‘Widgets’, ‘Gadgets’, ‘thingy-ma-bobs’ and ‘doohickeys’ will make it much easier to organize your products or services and make it much easier for your site’s visitors to find what they’re looking for.

Think, Analyze and Rethink Your Website Content

Once you have your content laid out for your new website, sit and think about it awhile.  Did you miss anything?  Are you trying to do too much to start with and maybe you can cut back and keep adding over time?

Can each page stand on its own?  Depending on the website, only about half of your traffic will actually come in through your homepage!  If someone were to access your Red Widget or Company History page first, could it stand alone and support itself?  Does that content maybe need to be moved to another page or can you give it a boost with some links to supporting pages?

Depending on the purpose of your website, you want to shoot for around 400 words per page (give or take 200).  Does each page have enough wording or supporting images, videos, etc. to mandate its own page and if you’re going to move it, will it make the other page too long?

Keep in mind that internet users have a steadily decreasing attention span and if you put too much content on your page without telling them what they want to know, they’re probably going to leave.  Do you need to be concise or thoroughly informative?

And with that, I think we’ll call it a day.  My next article will cover gathering and writing content for your website in, how to find time to write, various resources where you can find or create content for your website and how to keep it fresh!

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