Business management

SME Tools: creating meaningful content for your website

Now you’ve got your website, what kind of content should you fill it with in order to best attract customers?

Start with your brand

Launching a website without first defining what your brand is all about could make it come across as generic and, potentially, unprofessional.

“Everything begins with a brand narrative,” says Faraz Aghaei, co-founder of creative agency The Clerkenwell Brothers. “What is your brand’s mission – what is it that you do and how do you go about doing it? Next, what is your vision – where is it that you want to go?”

The third thing to consider, he says, are your brand values – what is it that you stand for?

You also need to think about what Aghaei calls ‘brand essence’ – how you want people to feel whenever they come into contact with your business. Multiple factors will contribute to this ‘essence’, from the words you use to the colours and images chosen to represent your brand. Pinning down an aesthetic and tone of voice that accurately conveys your brand to customers is essential to creating a successful web presence for your business.

But first you need to…

Decide what the point is of your website

Lesley Gulliver, managing director of strategic brand consultancy The Engine Room, recommends giving very serious thought to what you want your website to achieve before you even think about starting the design process. Is it:

  • a calling card for your business, intended primarily to establish credibility?
  • an e-commerce site, where your main goal will be to sell product online?
  • a way to generate leads?

Whatever the answer, Aghaei insists it is paramount that the objectives are clear before proceeding. “Different types of site have a very different function,” he says.

If you’re planning on using a design agency to create your website, Gulliver adds that it is vital that SMEs approach them (or better still, several) with a carefully constructed brief.

“You need to provide a background to what the business is about, a profile of your target audience and an explanation of what you’re trying to achieve,” she says.

Define your tone of voice

In essence, your business’s tone of voice is the way in which it speaks to people in its communications. Are you going to be fun and friendly? Friendly and technical? Technical and serious?

Whatever you settle on it should be consistent across your website, advertising, social media accounts and so on (collectively known as ‘touchpoints’) so that people start to feel a certain familiarity about your brand the more they encounter you.

“Think about what you personally want the business to sound like, but also think about what’s going to make you distinctive,” says Ben Garry, content specialist at digital marketing agency Impression.

A business website is not just a vanity site any more; it has to be somewhere where people can go and get useful information

Steve Lipscombe
Director, Ronin Marketing

He cites innocent smoothies as a good example of a brand with a well-defined tone of voice: it is fun and distinctive and evident across all of their touchpoints. “However,” he says, “that tone of voice might work for innocent, who are selling smoothies and have quite a young audience, but you need to be mindful of your service. I wouldn’t recommend it for a law firm.”

Joanna Miller, founder and creative director of Bespoke Verse, which sells poetry-themed goods (and whose website was named Website of the Year at the SME National Business Awards 2019), settled on a tone of voice that was approachable and knowledgeable.

“Hopefully,” she says, “it makes people feel that they can talk to us. Imagery is important too; I put a picture of myself on our ‘about us’ page, because I wanted people to feel that we are having a one-to-one communication with them.”

Get your key content right

Miller says that it can be a good idea to hire a copywriter for the words on your website as they can usually explain everything more succinctly than business owners can. “On your ‘about us’ page in particular,” she says, “most people write far too much.”

The words on your website are just one of many things you need to get right. Garry says, for example, that it’s vital that a website looks trustworthy, too.

“People have a certain expectation that your payment methods will be secure and that your delivery fees are clear,” he says. “Google is very big on the three pillars of ‘expertise’, ‘authority’ and ‘trust’, and if a website does not display sufficient credentials in any of those, it will be difficult for a site to rank.”

Talk of “ranking on Google” (ie how well your site performs when people search for whatever it is that your business offers) inevitably leads to conversations about search engine optimisation (SEO). For beginners, says Garry, the homepage essentials from an SEO point of view are to have your brand name on the page and in the page title. Your homepage is also a good place to have a short phrase that sums up exactly what you do, so that Google can quickly understand the concept of your business.

Other ways to build trust and credibility include showing reviews of your products and linking to your social media accounts – especially if you have lots of followers.

Keep it fresh

Regularly updated content on a website is likely to improve your overall success when it comes to Google rankings, as the search engine’s aim is to provide internet users with the best, most relevant results.

Generally speaking, the more high-quality content you can add via blogs, for example, the more you can demonstrate your expertise and, in return, the more Google will send people your way.

“You basically have to offer people a lot more for free than you’re used to,” says Steve Lipscombe, director of Ronin Marketing. “A business website is not just a vanity site any more; it has to be somewhere where people can go and get useful information. And if you give people something, you’re likely to get something in return.”

Lipscombe suggests offering hints and tips about whatever it is you’re selling, looking at trends in your market and writing about them, and giving people constructive advice on how they might source or evaluate products.

There’s no getting around the fact that building up a body of quality website content will take time, but Garry points out that there is, at least, a bonus for those who take it seriously. “You can share all this content on social media, so it becomes another way for people to find you,” he says.

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