If you started your business as a freelancer or single business owner, you may have initially grown through social media or a seller marketplace like Etsy. However, as your business has grown you’ve realized these platforms haven’t met all your needs or allowed you to scale enough.
These growing pains mean it’s time for you to launch a website for your business. Before you do that, you need a clear website content strategy!
A content strategy is simply a plan for using content — whether it be visual, written, or even audio — to represent and grow your business. It’s a way of engaging with your ideal audience in an organic and authentic way, showing them who you are and what your business is all about. An effective content strategy is what takes you from business to brand.
Why You Need a Website for Your Business
A website is one of the best investments you can make for the online presence of your business. Because the shelf life of blogs and other web content is much longer than the typical social media post, websites withstand the test of time better than your Instagram account ever will.
You have so much more control over a website than you do over your social media profiles as well. When you own a website, you control the branding, the messaging, and the story from start to finish. A website is essential for building a real brand that appeals to your target audience.
Most people spend time researching and Googling before making any sort of financial commitment, so you need to make sure you’re showing up in those search results! By having your own website, you’re creating a one-stop-shop for people to learn everything there is to know about your business and making that information easily accessible to potential customers or clients.
There is no niche or industry in which a website isn’t beneficial. If you own a local business, a website acts as a virtual sampling of what it feels like to enter your storefront. If you’re not a brick-and-mortar company, then a website is your physical location.
Having a website isn’t enough on its own. You need to be intentional and put in the work to make it a high-quality website that represents your business well.
Why You Need a Website Content Strategy
Have you ever visited a business’s website only to be immediately turned off by it? A website can deter just as quickly as it attracts, which is why you need a deliberate content strategy to set your site up for success. An effective content strategy that takes into consideration the user experience will have much higher retention and conversion rates than websites just thrown together without regard for strategy.
A strong content strategy can also benefit your website’s ranking in search engine results. Search engines like Google value well-crafted content, because they’re crawling the web to find the most relevant and trustworthy pages for each search query. Your content tells Google what your website is about and who to share it with, so it needs to be intentionally and strategically curated!
The Basics of a Website Content Strategy
Good website content should be approachable and seen as high-quality by both users and search engines. In order to achieve that, your content strategy should include these key elements: an on-brand home page, site mapping, and three or more core web pages. The structure of your site will depend on your specific business and needs, and should seamlessly address the user experience, your website’s core purpose, and your brand vision. Oh, and don’t forget that your content should be optimized for search engines!
An Aesthetic Home Page
Being the first page many users will visit on your site, your home page should represent your business well with a clean, on-brand, easily navigable design. A visually appealing website will work much better than one that looks like a middle school student made it.
A sitemap is basically a guide for navigating your website. Most web hosting platforms will have this built in well enough that you won’t need to do anything extra to help Google index your web pages, but you may need to create a sitemap to list all of the relevant URLs living on your website.
Once your website is complete and live, Google will crawl and index it. You can check the Index Coverage Report in Google Search Console to see what pages have been indexed and if there are any issues, and use the URL Inspection Tool to take a closer look at a specific page. Use these tools periodically to see how your website is doing!
If you find issues with your site’s index status, this may be an issue with your sitemap. If your site is built on a CMS (content management system) like Wix, WordPress, or Squarespace, you should contact their support team to address this issue. CMS platforms automatically generate sitemaps, and they should be able to locate the problem and get your website indexing properly. If your website isn’t built on a CMS, you can create and submit a sitemap yourself. This is relatively easy to do if you have a small, simple website. You can also use a free tool like Screaming Frog’s sitemap generator.
The specific pages your website needs will vary based on your business and industry, but in general you’ll need an About page, Contact page, Blog, and Shop if you sell any sort of product.
Branding & SEO
Beyond these basic elements, your web content strategy should follow SEO best practices and have a clear brand style and voice.
How to Create a Content Strategy for Your Website
If you’re starting from scratch creating a website content strategy, follow these steps to form a content strategy that will represent your brand well and help your business thrive!
Step 1: Establish Your Goals
What are you selling or offering? What purpose will this website serve? What value can users hope to gain from your website, both paid and free? Answering these questions will help you define clear goals and a purpose for your website, which is a must before you create any content.
These goals are what ultimately will inform your strategy. A few examples of content strategy goals include:
- Building brand awareness
- Increasing leads and turning them into conversions
- Building community and supporting your customers
- Educating your audience on your niche or industry
- Growing your email list
- Establishing brand authority
Although you may want to ultimately achieve all of these goals, keep your content strategy focused on the one or two most important ones that your website exists to achieve.
Step 2: Research Your Target Audience
If you haven’t done this already for your business, now is the time! You should spend a significant amount of time identifying your target audience so you can craft website content that speaks to them. Think about their interests, their problems, their questions, their desires. Get to know them intimately so you can write to them personally.
Step 3: Scope Out the Competition
Yes, you should be taking the time to research your competition in your industry. No, you should not plagiarize their web content strategy. Your ultimate goal is to make yourself stand out, not blend in. Users may go to this competitor website too when searching for answers to their problems, so you don’t want to look like a copycat.
Research your competitors so you can find your own voice in the space and stand out from the masses. Look at what they’re doing well and find your own spin on it. Figure out how you’re different and highlight those differences to showcase the unique value of your business.
Step 4: Create a Brand Guide
If you don’t already have a brand guide, it’s worth making one before getting into the actual content of your website (I promise, we’re getting to that!). A brand guide is more than just fonts and colors, although that’s part of it. Your brand guide should also include who you’re speaking to (see Step 2) and what your writing style is.
Your brand’s voice should be the most intentionally represented in your website’s copy. Whether your style is more casual and personal or formal and professional, make a conscious decision about your brand’s writing style. You can choose to prescribe to a style guide, like AP, or create your own set of rules. Having an understanding of your brand’s voice will help keep your messaging consistent and trustworthy across your site.
Step 5: Outline Your Website
Now that you know your goals, your audience, your competition, and your branding, outlining your website should be much easier! List all the pages you need, what purpose each page will serve, and how those pages should link to and interact with one another.
Step 6: Design Your Website
You don’t need to be a designer to have a beautiful website these days. Web hosting platforms like Wix, Squarespace and WordPress have large libraries of templates to make designing a website on your own totally doable until budget allows for something more custom from a professional web designer.
Designing your website before writing the website copy is recommended. This way, you’ll know each and every slot on your website that will need copy, from short phrases and buzzwords to longer form copy like your About page. If you prefer to lead with copy, however, you can swap steps 6 and 7.
Step 7: Write Content for Your Website
Now it’s time to get writing! Since you spent so much time on your target audience and brand guide (high fives for that!), it should be fairly easy to outsource this to a copywriter if you don’t have the capacity or skill to do this yourself. If you are continuing to do all the work yourself, however, then you’ll want to go page-by-page, keeping in mind what the goals and purpose are for each page.
This is also where SEO comes into play. SEO is all about content creation based on thorough research, not just keyword targeting. Each page of your website should have a specific goal and intent that will lead users to it from search results. Determine the main intent for which a page is aiming to be relevant, and target that intent with the content thereon.
To further optimize each webpage for SEO, write copy for each of these core SEO elements:
- Headline or page title
- Subheadings (each page should have at least one H2 subheading)
- Meta description (This is what shows up under the page title in search results. Keep it 150-160 characters in length, and no fewer than 70 characters)
- Alt text for content-related imagery (Don’t get too long-winded here — short and simple is best! You don’t need alt text for decorative images)
- Internal links to other relevant pages on your website
- A relevant call to action at the end of the page
Beyond these basic copy elements, a really strong content strategy includes blogging. To kick off your website’s launch, create a list of the first several blog topics you want to write about (or hire someone to write about) for your website. While deciding on these blog topics, keep in mind how users are searching for relevant topics. Try using a tool like Answer the Public to see what users are asking about a given subject.
Don’t Be Afraid to Shift Strategy as Needed
Your brand and your audience may evolve over time, so you should reevaluate your content strategy regularly to see if it needs adjustments (or a complete overhaul).
If you decide to change up your website content strategy, save all of the current content first in case you decide to revert back. Nothing is set in stone, and you’re not stuck with something just because you put a lot of time and energy into it.
What makes this process so effective is you don’t have to go all the way back to Step 1 to change your content strategy. You may need to tweak your goals or target audience slightly if it’s been a while since you last updated your research, but once you’ve worked through these steps in full, you have a foundation from which to make adjustments and strategy shifts as your business continues to grow.