Jan 26, 2012

Five Tips for Better Online Text Content

Search engines love good text content, so why do so many website owners and their web designers devote so little effort to creating the words that will represent them on the Internet? Creating text content that works for your website takes some time, and even more thought. A few elemental mistakes can negatively impact the quality of your text, both in the search engines and in the eyes of your customers.

Here are five tips that will help you write solid content to power your site’s success:

Use Proper Spelling and Grammar

You don’t get bonus points for getting it right, but potential customers certainly may have second thoughts about a company that gets it wrong. “Wedding Photography. Turst us with you’re most important details.” Seriously? If you can’t be bothered to spellcheck your home page, you can expect a bride-to-be won’t trust you to photograph the most important day of her life.

Don’t let that lingering post-traumatic stress from fifth grade English class put you off this one. In the business world, spelling and grammar aren’t academic subjects; they’re the nuts-and-bolts of effective written language.

Spell checkers are handy tools to help with whipping your content into shape, but the grammar checking tools built in to most word processing programs, frankly, can be a little dicey. The free spelling and grammar checker application that I’ve found most useful is After the Deadline, which works with Firefox, Google Chrome, WordPress and OpenOffice.

Plan Your Keywords

Good search engine rankings don’t happen by accident. They happen because the content on your website contains the same words, or keyword phrases, that people search for. Establish two or three keyword phrases that best describe your business, then make sure those phrases appear — exactly as you constructed them — in your text content.

Some keyword phrases are awkward to work smoothly into your text. Good SEO copywriting appeals both to the search engines and to the people who read your website. You should also avoid too much of a good thing. Over-use of keywords can have a negative impact on your search rankings. For each keyword phrase, a keyword density of one percent (meaning the phrase occurs once for every 100 words on the page) is a good target number.

You can find a phalanx of “free” keyword density analyzers on the Internet. Most of them will look at a URL you submit and generate a report with a bunch of gobbledy-gook, so they’re practically worthless as writing help. The easiest thing to do is simply get your new text into a word processor that has a word count feature, then divide the word count by the number of times you use a particular keyword phrase.

Make It Original

If you have text sitting around on your old website, or you’ve invested in some content for print or broadcast advertising, simply slapping those old words onto your new pages may seem like a real time-saver. Resist the temptation. That’s like buying a 2011 Ford Mustang, but keeping the engine from the 2000 Pontiac Sunfire you just traded in. Looks nice, but you still get diddly squat when you stomp on the gas.

It doesn’t matter how “new” your old content may be. It won’t be optimized for the search terms you want, and it won’t accurately reflect the current state of your business. New website means new content, period.

Write With Focus

I hope you know your business. So do your potential customers, but they won’t know for sure unless you tell them. Write with authority, and keep the content focused on what site visitors want to know. Except in rare instances, they want to know how you’re going to solve their problems or provide goods to them. They don’t really care that you learned the plumbing business from Uncle Bob, who likes blue and retired to New Mexico two years ago. They just want to know you can get their InSinkErator working again and make that smell go away.

“Focus” applies to your keyword phrases as well. Don’t try to use too many keyword “angles” in your text. Pick the two or three things your business does best and stick to those. Website content that’s too broad doesn’t really tell site visitors anything, and usually fizzles in the search engines.

Play It Straight

Humor is hard. Humorous writing is even harder. Even very skilled writers frequently flop when they try to work humor into their prose. When you’re writing the text content for your new website, stay away from the funny stuff. Seriously.

Humor is also extremely subjective. What you consider the funniest joke ever may turn out to be a mortal insult to someone else. Consider that when a visitor arrives at your website, you have something like four to six seconds to make a favorable impression and engage their interest before they move along. That’s not much time. Do you really want to waste it on a bad joke?

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