web content

Website Checkup: Content

This is a great time of year to give your website a checkup. For many of us, it’s a slow time, a time to set goals for the new year, a time of contemplation and reflection.

Not surprisingly, I’ve been doing a lot of rewrites on websites lately. And it has struck me that, while there are often specific redesigns and info updates and strategic changes involved, there are also some more general changes that any website might benefit from.

When you’re looking at your own website from the point of view of the year-end check up, see whether you need a bit of a rewrite:

  • Make it active. The majority of the sites I’ve spruced up this month have used passive voice sentences like this one:

“It is also very important to us that our patients are treated with respect and friendliness in a professional and caring environment.”
Simply changing that sentence to

“We treat our patients with respect and friendliness in a professional, caring environment”

makes it shorter, more readable, and more powerful. Don’t use passive sentences unless you have a good reason to. You can also use more active language. This sentence benefited from the addition of a strong verb:

“I’d gone from being able to wallop a softball to scarcely being able to hit a slow, weak ground ball toward the short stop.”

“Wallop” isn’t a keyword for this site, but neither was “hit,” so replacing one instance of “hit” with “wallop” does no harm from the point of view of search, and livens the sentence up for the human visitors.

  • Make it direct. A roundabout introduction adds nothing to your content, and can lose you the attention of your visitors. The softball sentence above took the place of an entire paragraph describing how the speaker had played sports all his life but had begun to slow down as he got older. We were able to make the point with greater immediacy and to get all the main points into the first paragraph.

On your homepage in particular, every word counts. Not only do you need to help your visitors make an immediate decision about whether to stay and read or not, you also have to make sure that the search engines can tell what you have to offer so they’ll show your page to the right people. This sentence may be interesting, but it doesn’t tell us what the site is for:

“Shop Mobbing is a recently developed shopping strategy originating in the People’s Republic of China as Tuangou, which loosely translates as team buying or group buying (also known as store mobbing).”

Instead, we can start with something more direct:

“Wouldn’t you like to be able to match the buying power of large companies? With Shopmobbing you can, and we’ll make it easy for you.”

We can still give the history of the idea later, but this opening lets our visitors know that we’re a practical site with a service, not an academic introduction to an economic phenomenon.

  • Make it parallel. One of the sites I worked with last week had a wonderful body of useful information, but each page had a different structure and a different look. Choosing one structure — in this case, the statement of the problem, a bulleted list of causes, a bulleted list of the steps to the solution, and a statement of special concerns — makes it much more readable, and more likely that visitors will explore the site fully.

One site I’m working on has pages written to teachers. Yet the instructions for the classroom activities use a variety of kinds of sentence, some apparently about the students, some to the students, and some directly to the teacher:

“Within the group, students should discuss their individual hypotheses and predictions.”

“Have students independently complete, in their own words, the ‘hypothesis’ and ‘prediction’ sections.”

“Test the chosen hypothesis and prediction.”

Rewriting the pages to create a consistent approach allows the reader to scan the lesson more easily, making the site more useful and encouraging repeat visits.

Have a look at your website: could these changes improve your visitors’ experience? Fix it up, and come back tomorrow for another quick checkup suggestion.






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