Update: I added a note about the use of HTML tags to open new windows in one of the “bonus tips” below.
A solid website is never complete because businesses change and grow, and visitors love fresh content. After auditing a client’s digital properties, I offer specific feedback as well as general tips like these.
1. Create a basic style guide.
Style guides can be quite short, but they require decisions and commitment. Will you use the full name of your company in each usage? Or will you open a page or post with the full name, then use just the first word or two in the company name?
Perhaps your company name is short, and you like to capitalize the first and last letter. If you do that every time, then it’s memorable. If you do that only sometimes, it looks like an error.
2. Keep the voice “in brand.”
When blogs feature multiple authors, readers don’t expect every post to sound exactly the same. However, every brand has a particular voice, and you define how your brand “sounds.” Like the colors and design on your site, your words introduce people to the personality of your business.
A brand’s social media presence may be slightly different than its website, but the overall feel and tone should resonate as “you,” your company. Brands often evolve over time, and any existing content – especially primary content – should be refreshed to reflect the current approach.
3. Have a good conversation.
Conversational writing means two things: anticipating (and answering) customer questions and writing as if you were in a face-to-face meeting with your customer. Formality is not the goal, but try reading your web copy out loud, as if valued customers or potential clients were standing next to you. The same slang that seems popular around your office or amusing on the screen may seem juvenile or unpleasant to your intended audience.
If you would not say a certain word when you were pitching your product or service, that word does not belong on your website.
4. Add internal links with rich anchor text when appropriate.
Relevant internal links make your content more friendly to visitors and may enhance your Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Even when your analytics already show traffic for your testimonials or case studies, referencing those items in recent blog posts or other new content can bring additional eyes to your favorite messages. You can list titles as “related reading” or use a phrase or sentence as a link.
5. Make old content new again.
I’ve written some ideas about recycling and refreshing old posts within your blog. But you can take that even further by crossing from one platform to another. For example, consider taking a presentation from your YouTube channel – delivered at a leadership seminar, trade association meeting or other conference – and updating the information before using it as a blog post. The blog post can be instructional, without commenting that you delivered that speech five years ago. Mentioning its original incarnation as a speech is also unnecessary, unless the setting or audience might add professional credibility.
6. Build trust; share.
“Credibility” brings us to the next tip: Look for ways to build trust. Start by considering your ideal clients and what matters to THEM. Association memberships and awards may contribute to credibility, but teaching trumps badges and logos. Nothing says “expert” like sharing information that helps your potential customers. Use a case study to illustrate your consulting process with enough detail to inspire and inform readers, whether they contact you or not. When your teaching-style content feels almost “billable,” you’ll know it contains real protein, not filler.
A BONUS Tip: Fatten up any “thin” content.
Again, readers crave protein, and relevant, authentic content may improve your SEO. Yes, visitors are scanners, so balancing the number of words against graphics, white space and other design elements can be tricky. But if your written content is too light per page (I define “light” as under 300 words) throughout your site, search engines may get the impression that you’ve tried to scam them, so to speak, by adding pages to bulk up your website.
Some outdated “black hat” SEO techniques expanded websites artificially to gain traction until search engines created algorithms to address the abuse.
One of these algorithms examines “duplicate” content between sites or within a single site and duplicate content may reduce your site’s ranking in search results. Similar content within a site may generate “keyword cannibalization” or simply make visitors stop reading because they feel they’ve already seen a page or post. Some duplicate content may be required, such as on e-commerce sites, when your content is syndicated elsewhere or when an extensive disclaimer needs to appear on multiple pages but does not belong in the footer. An SEO specialist can help you manage situations like these.
Another BONUS Tip: Open new windows as needed.
Designers have different philosophies about which links, if any, should open new browser windows. Some oppose new windows, period, citing potential confusion or the easy availability of the “back” button. Others open a new browser window only if a link would carry a visitor to a different site. I use the target=”_blank” HTML tag if a link carries visitors away from my site OR into a document, removing my website’s navigation. (NOTE: If you use the target=”_blank” tag, consider adding rel=”noopener” to your code. Google explains how rel=noopener may fix a security vulnerability associated with the target=”_blank” tag.)