Nothing like crash-and-burn to make me scrutinize my homepage content. What I found was ugly–and I can’t blame it all on WordPress glitches.
I like technology. I update my WordPress plug-ins myself; I pay attention to Google Analytics. Until recently, all was going swimmingly. Then I ran a bunch of routine (ahem) updates and all hell broke loose.
It turns out my hosting service hadn’t run the necessary server updates, thus taking my site down. However, they fixed their problem and brought my site back up the same day. Yay!
Not that I didn’t trust the very nice guy who helped me out, but I checked my website just to be sure. Ack! The updates had thrown everything wonky. It looked horrible. Worse, the homepage content was outdated. It didn’t flow logically. My story wasn’t clear. The reader’s experience was unforgivable. The calls to action I crafted so carefully were almost irrelevant. Ack! Ack!
I did what any recovering project manager does: I created a checklist to be sure every item was addressed. Then I organized it and condensed it for your use.
Websiste Homepage Content Audit Checklist
Take a look at your content.
Are you telling an engaging story?
Is your content organized in a way that makes sense for your audience?
Do your thoughts flow logically?
Is the content current and accurate?
The Reader Experience
Pretend you’re a prospective customer.
Is it easy and intuitive to access content?
Can readers quickly find what they’re looking for?
Will everyone feel welcome?
Do you make it tough to get to your content with pop-ups and videos?
Closing the Deal
Make it easy for someone to take the next step.
Do you have a clear call to action?
Is your contact information easy to find?
Do you make it easy for the reader to contact you?
Do you have social proof like testimonials, case studies and links to your business’s social media accounts?
If you’re not into tech, get some help with this.
Do videos and images load quickly?
Is your website’s homepage meta description accurate? Does it encourage people to click through to your site?
Do keywords accurately support your current business?
Have you set up a Google Business account so you can take advantage of local search?
One Last Thought on Homepage Content
A poorly designed reader experience drives me crazy. Marketing gurus tell you to add a newsletter sign-up and launch at least one video when a viewer lands on a page. Add the legally required cookie statement and you’ve built three barriers to your website’s homepage content. These interrupt the flow and distract the reader. They also give your visitor three opportunities to leave.
That said, website content should support your marketing strategy. Videos and pop-ups can work for the right audience. Just think through what you’re doing.
If you’re not sure or you want to bounce some ideas around, let’s talk.
I’ve invited Shawn Greene, noted author and speaker, to share her step-by-step approach to creating content using sticky notes. She’s generously let me repost her original blog here. While Shawn is known for sales training and instructional design, her method works for almost any content you need to create. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
You need a bunch of Post-its and something to write with.
It helps to use just one size and one color Post-it. However, that’s not vital — use what you have as long as they are large enough to write on.
However, do not plan to use different colors or sizes to organize, prioritize, and so on because that will be counter-productive
Step 1 – Brainstorm
Start thinking and put those thoughts onto Post-its. This should include any thoughts about your objectives or goals even if you think those are already set.
Important! Put just one thing on one Post-it. One idea. One thought. One sub-point. One sub-sub-point. One concern. One way-off-topic. One whatever. I repeat: one thing per Post-it.
As You Brainstorm
Do not analyze. Do not consider. Do not research. Do not check spelling. Do not put Post-its up on a white board as you brainstorm. Do not place each one on a white board and then write on it. Do not organize them. Do not put certain thoughts on one color Post-it and others on a different color. Do not discard thoughts that don’t fit the objective or because they won’t fly.
Just dump all of those thoughts, ideas, concerns, resources, questions, people, etc. onto Post-its.
Keep going until you have a pile of Post-its and come to a lull. Don’t force a continued brainstorm if you feel stuck because the next step will unstick you. Same goes if you don’t feel you have “enough” Post-its.
Find a space that is wide open and smooth (so the Post-its will stick and stay). A clean white board, conference table, window, or door often work well.
You can also create a space by taping flipchart paper on walls, windows or doors, or even white boards. This has the added bonus of being easily transported later.
Step 2 – Lay Out the Post-its and Group Them
Complete this step standing up, unless you’re physically unable to do so, because physical movement is part of what makes the Post-it method work so well. (Do not forego standing because you’re tired or because there is little room. Park the chairs in the hall if you have to.)
Place the Post-its onto the open space. Start by placing them randomly. As you add more Post-its some form of grouping will become apparent, often by topic.
Move Post-its into those now-apparent groups but keep the grouping fairly loose until you have placed all of the Post-its. Do not try to decide if the grouping is “correct.” Feel free to use different kinds of groups, too, don’t try to make them consistent.
The exception to the above are any Post-its covering your objectives or goals. Group and place those somewhere that is in view but separate from the rest.
Throughout this step: physically step back so you can see the whole. Move stuff around as needed.
You may find some Post-its created during the brainstorm do not have a topic or category to which they belong. Add those topics and categories now.
Move Post-its around as needed. Put any that don’t fit off to one side. Put any Post-its covering an introduction or close off to one side, too.
The One Thought Per Post-it No Longer Applies
As you move the Post-its around, other thoughts, ideas and concerns will come to mind. Sometimes it’s best to add notes to existing Post-its, sometimes adding new Post-its is best because you can move them around. Don’t try to figure this out in advance and don’t worry if your approach here is inconsistent. You will organize in the next step.
When the Post-its Do Not Fit the Objectives and Goals
No matter how well considered the objectives and goals were, you may find the brainstormed Post-its don’t quite fit. This occurs in two situations:
(1) The most common situation is the original objectives/goals weren’t quite right.
If the bulk of the content Post-its make sense, pull the misfit objectives down so they don’t distract you. Circle back to these in Step 6 (they often just need edits).
(2) The brainstormed Post-its are not right.
It happens! If you’re absolutely sure the objectives/goals are right, take a break — walk away for a few minutes.
When you come back, take the first set of Post-its down and brainstorm again. (You may want to hold onto the first set because they may apply for other objectives/goals.)
Step 3 – Organize, Including Flow
Once you have the Post-its laid out in rough groups, clean up the groupings and make them consistent, adding or removing Post-its as needed.
Now organize the groups into a flow, experimenting with various versions. Don’t let yourself get stuck looking for the perfect flow. Settle on one that seems okay — you will adjust things later as you develop the program, talk, reference, etc.
Throughout this process – physically step back so you can see the whole. As needed: deal with duplicates, move stuff around, remove things…step back again and repeat as needed.
As you organize, you may find some Post-its no longer seem to fit or no longer seem important. Don’t toss these into recycling yet, put them to one side.
You may also find new thoughts come to mind. Add Post-its, or add notes to existing ones.
Step 4 – Add the Introduction and Close
You may have put aside Post-its with content for the opening/introduction, and close. Add these in the right places.
It’s also quite common to have an outline that is missing an opening/introduction and close. If these are missing, don’t fill them in at this time. Instead, add one Post-it to hold a spot for the opening. and another to hold a spot for the close. You’ll fill these in after you develop the rest of the content.
Step 5 – Prioritize as Needed
No matter what we’re using the Post-it method for, we almost always have more possible content than we’ll be able to use. It’s time to identify priorities and there are two ways to do this:
Add a “P” to priority topics and individual Post-its. Focus on these as you develop the content. Add in the rest only as time and space allow.
Bravely remove anything that is not a priority. (Keep these in case you want to add the content or use it separately.)
Step 6 – Revise Objectives/Goals, if Needed
As noted, it’s common to find the original objectives or goals don’t completely sync with the brainstormed content. They often just need slight edits, for example:
The original objective was “understand new work flow.” The content focused on using the new work flow, so the objective is now “understand and apply the new work flow.”
The original objective was “increase client retention.” The content focused on setting appropriate expectations and agreements, so the objective is now “setting shared expectations.”
Step 7 – Transfer if Needed
We often need to transfer the laid-out Post-its or their content onto something. Common options:
Type them up in outline form.
Stick the Post-its onto paper. Flipchart-size paper is perfect but legal and letter-size work, too. Layer the Post-its like shingles so they take up less room.
Take snapshots. Make sure you can read what’s on the Post-its. If you have to take several snapshots, number them so you have the correct order.
That covers the Post-it method, except to address what to do with all those nifty used stickies: recycle them, of course.
Not Sponsored by Post-its
Post-it is a registered trademark of the 3M company. Though there are many imitators, I have to say official Post-its work the best.
About Shawn Greene
Shawn’s sales expertise is founded in direct experience in selling services — including but not limited to banking. Shawn continues to develop business for Savage and Greene, ensuring our training equips reps to handle today’s challenges.
When Shawn was a sales rep for a training company, she learned her penchant for asking questions, talent as an explainer and writing skills could be combined in “instructional design.” She’s been a professional designer since 1993.
Shawn lives with her husband and monster kitty. For fun, she and her husband play golf, kick back and watch NASCAR, and try to resist the kitty’s attempts to persuade them it’s already dinnertime.
I’ve noticed some interesting content trends in 2021. Some are driven by the economic uncertainties businesses are facing, However, one thing stands out: good writing gets the reader’s attention.
More Focus on the Bottom of the Content Funnel
Instead of casting a wide content net to attract any lead, some of my clients are only looking for qualified prospects. It’s a smart tactic that saves them time and money–and they realize revenue more quickly. They use content rich in descriptions of features, benefits and the details someone would want to know as they research alternatives.
My thought: smart. It’s an approach that lends itself to re-purposing evergreen content, especially when you have a solid understanding of your audience.
Improving the Content Experience
One of my pet peeves is searching for something on my smartphone and then seeing the content blocked by all manner of interruptions. Pop-ups request my email address every time I return to a landing page. Videos start playing, eating up limited public bandwidth. Or I see two short lines of text then have to click “read more,” only to have to wade through even more pop-ups and panels. When I finally get to the content, it’s long-winded and takes forever to get to the point–if it ever does.
Designers and copywriters are starting to pay attention. One of the most positive content trends I’ve noticed in 2021 is these annoying interruptions are less common. Savvy copywriters are driving users to a product or service landing page for in-depth interactions. Content is segmented and organized so it’s easy to read with less intrusive calls to action.
My thought: long overdue.
More Focus on Shorter Pieces of High-Quality Content
Businesses are paying more attention to the customer journey. They’re delivering relevant content in shorter bites (though you can still find plenty of Top 10 Lists and Ultimate Guides). Writing is tighter; headers are less bombastic. Content is tightly focused on a single topic.
My thought: I’m all for anything that encourages good content. WIth apologies to fans of James Michener, we need more Earnest Hemingway–at least on websites.
The Most Unsurprising Content Trend for 2021: SEO Is Still Important
This 2021 content trend would have ranked on any list once Google launched. Big businesses have the budget clout to pay for the obvious keywords. Savvy smaller and niche businesses have learned how to leverage long tail keywords (descriptive phrases) to beat out the behemoths they compete against.
My thought: the search phrase “near me” is a blessing for small businesses because it helps local customers find you. Just make sure you complete your Google Business profile so the search engines can include you in local results.
How Can I Help?
Need some help writing a blog? Don’t know whether you should worry about SEO? Just want to bounce some ideas around? Drop me a line or give me a call; I’d be happy to help.