Tag: Content

The Never-Ending Page: How to Plan for Page Content

The Never-ending page or how to plan for page content

When we talk about page content, how long and dense should those pages be?

You’re a business. You need a new website. And, as part of that website, you need copywriting to provide content for the pages. How do you determine how much content goes on a page, and therefore what you’re paying for when you include copy as part of your website contract?

This is an important question to resolve when discussing the scope of a contract. Pages on the Internet aren’t the same as pages on a paper. Whereas a document page has space limitations, there is theoretically no end to how long an online page could be. You could fit a whole book’s worth of content, and keep going until someone decides to end it.

But doing that will not only blow the scope of work out of the water, it will do a disservice to your visitors. The truth is that some pages need a lot of copy, some pages need only a minimal amount. The right amount of copy all comes down to the page itself, and what you need it to accomplish.

That said, thinking about the purpose of your page helps. Here are a few common page types and what you should plan for in terms of page content.

The Homepage.

As we discussed previously, the homepage tends to get the most attention, but it’s often one of the shortest pages on your site—at least in terms of copy. Homepage copy often runs under 300 words, but what it lacks in length it makes up for in messaging.

Your homepage should communicate your high-level brand messaging, and it should help direct visitors to the pages that will be most useful to them. A good homepage is friendly and welcoming and uses a lot of imagery. Density is bad, so leave the heavy copy work for elsewhere.

Function pages.

A function page is what I’m calling your contact page, your log-in page, or any other page that is used only to direct visitors elsewhere. For instance, from a usability standpoint, it’s good for every top-level navigation menu item to be clickable. But that page is usually just a filler page to help direct people who click there to one of the sub-navigation items. You won’t expect visitors to spend a lot of time on this page, it’s mostly just there to avoid a usability problem.

Function pages are light on copy. Think less than 100 words. They’re not designed for SEO purposes, they’re just there to accomplish a basic task. That doesn’t mean they’re not important (they are!)—they just don’t take a lot of copy.

About pages.

Again, your about page can be long or short—it’s really up to you. 90% of the time, this is just a vanity section of the site. The person who cares most about your About page is you. Most visitors skip over it, and even when they do land on it, it’s probably not going to be the deciding factor in a purchasing decision.

OK, that’s a little harsh. About pages do serve a purpose, and you should care about how you use it to present your business. But you should also be realistic about who’s reading this page and why. Again: this isn’t going to be your big SEO loadstone, nor is this doing the bulk of your conversions. Mostly you want to use this page to communicate that real people run your company, that you have some history, or lacking any real work history, that you have a clear vision for your organization.

About pages typically run 300–500 words, with another 50–200 words each for employee bios.

Informational pages.

These pages are the meat of your site, and they have the power to really draw in SEO traffic. That said, I’m using this term as a catch-all for product pages, services pages, and any other kind of page designed to deliver high-value information to the visitor.

Typically, these are top-level or second-tier navigation pages, and their purpose is to speak to targeted personas and convert them. However, they could also be landing pages, or pages that are a little deeper than your main navigation.

These pages can be anywhere from 500 words and up, depending on how much material you have to cover. If you’re just starting out as a business, then you may be closer to 500 words. If you’ve been around a while, then these pages can easily be in the 1000–1500 word range as you begin to discuss FAQs, product specifications, or the customer experience.

Remember, these pages need to convert. If any one page starts to talk about too many different things, the chances of selling the visitor go down. It’s better to focus a page on one topic and cover it well than to try to use a single page to cover a dozen topics shallowly.

Case Studies.

Do you have an amazing customer story to tell? A killer case study that will make the case for your product? We often treat case studies as their own content type, rather than putting them on their own page, but how we handle them depends a lot on their length.

A case study can be anywhere from 300–1500 words long (or longer, depending on your industry). Anything shorter is closer to a testimonial, and would probably be handled differently.

Landing pages.

Landing pages can vary in length, depending on the buying stage your visitor is in. If you expect your visitor to already be ready to make a decision, then your landing page a closer: short copy (50–300 words) that doesn’t get in the way of closing the sale will do.

But sometimes visitors come to your landing page from an advertisement, in which case they might be totally new to your site and need a lot of information before they’re ready to close. In that case, your landing page should be very persona-centric, and will need to cover a lot more ground with the copy. In these instances, a landing page could be well over a thousand (or even two thousand) words long.

However, something of that length is basically its own project, and you may want to discuss that as a scope of work separate from the rest of the website project.

Blog pages.

Whenever clients ask about covering more detailed information, I usually point them to the blog. Your blog is the space on your site that is designed to say literally all the things you want to say, but in an organized way.

Think about it this way: If you put 50,000 words of content onto one page, it’s going to be difficult for anyone to find what they’re looking for. They could scroll forever and still not find the answer to their question. And from Google’s POV, 50,000 words covers so many topics that it’s going to have a hard time knowing exactly what the page is supposed to be about.

On the other hand, if you’re writing a series of posts in which each post covers each topic at length and in depth, Google is going to have a much better idea what those posts are about. And so will your readers.

Your blog comes with categories and tags that allow you to cross-reference and index your ideas, as well as keep them in a format where more topics are easy to discover. So if every you get to a point in your website copy where you’re wondering if something is starting to ramble, take that point and save it for your blog where you can really do the topic justice.

Length is good for SEO (to a point).

The bottom line here is that, when you’re writing content for the heart of your site, ask yourself: “what is this page about?” The harder it is for you to answer that question, the more likely it is that you should re-organize your page content.

And, if you do find yourself falling into the trap of the never-ending page, remember your blog. Having a lot to talk about is great, and we encourage that. But it’s better to put that content somewhere organized, where it can be easily referenced and consumed, rather than crammed on one page where it’s hard to follow.

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Should You Have a Content Backlog for Your Blog Launch?

Should You Have a Content Backlog for Your Blog Launch

You’re about to launch a blog for your business. How much content should you have first?

You’re getting ready to launch a blog for your business. Most often, this happens as part of a larger website overhaul. Maybe you’re already revamping your site, and while you didn’t have a blog on your old site, you’re ready to start a content marketing strategy with your new website.

Or maybe you used to blog more, but fell off the wagon. Now you’re refreshing your blog page to make it look more modern. The question is: Do you need to have a backlog of content before you launch?

The answer, as so many things in life, depends on your circumstances. If you’re launching a new blog, relaunching an old blog, or in the middle of redeveloping your current blog, your strategy will vary. Here’s our breakdown of what you should do in each of those circumstances.

If your blog is ready to go, just start publishing.

Some businesses want to build up a backlog so they can launch with more of a “splash.” In general, I think this is a misguided way of thinking about a business blog. You aren’t Netflix; no one is waiting with baited breath for your content to drop.

Building a backlog is all well and good so long as it doesn’t prevent you from publishing your content right away. However, if you’re done developing your blog, there’s no reason to wait. In fact, doing so only delays your ability to rank for keywords.

As we’ve said before, it usually takes about 6 months for blog content to begin ranking organically. If you delay the launch of your blog for a month or two just to build up a backlog, you’re only prolonging that period. And by the time visitors do start coming to your blog through organic search, you’ll already have built a backlog from your blogging.

If you blog once a week, it will take two months to create a content backlog. The only question is whether your content is available on your blog during those two months as you write it. For me, the answer is a pretty obvious “yes.”

If you have time to build up a backlog before your blog launch, do so.

That said, if your current website is under development, or if you’re revamping your blog page, this time is a perfect opportunity to begin building a content backlog.

After all, the main reason to launch your blog with a content backlog is that it adds immediate credibility to your archive. If someone comes to visit your blog page and they only see one or two posts, the lack of depth to your content catalog will be somewhat anticlimactic. On the other hand, if you already have a page or two in your content archive, it’s a signal that you can speak authoritatively on the subject.

On its own, this reason isn’t important enough to justify building up a pre-launch content archive. But if you’re already waiting for your website or blog page to undergo development, then it’s smart to use that time to create your backlog.

For our clients, we usually like to launch their websites with 4–8 blog posts. This fills up the content archive and gives those initial blogs an early chance to start ranking.

If you have content from a previous blog, post and backdate.

Some blogs come with baggage—a mixed bag of old content that may or may not still be valuable along with some true gems. If you have this, great! Having a content archive that goes back a few years looks good for your blog, even if older posts are a big sporadic.

You should clear up anything that is irrelevant or so dated that it would make you look bad. For instance, if you used your blog to post old company announcements, job listings, new hires that are now hold hires, etc., it’s good to delete these. Similarly, posts that contain information that is no longer accurate should go.

But do keep the pieces that have aged well, and if you can import them with their original publication dates, all the better. If for whatever reason you’re importing blog posts individually, it’s not strictly necessary to keep their original publication dates, but it does look good if you can. Just make sure you don’t publish them all on one day.

Once you launch, stick to your schedule.

After you go through all the trouble to design and launch your new blog, it is important that you maintain a regular posting schedule for three reasons:

  1. Leaving gaps in your posting schedule looks unprofessional. Sure, you can avoid this by omitting the publication date on your blog, but I hate doing this, because it means your readers don’t know how relevant your content is. Dates are important, and if you can show that you’ve been publishing a post (or more!) a week for several consecutive months, it shows that you value your blog and take your content seriously.
  2. Once you start skipping posts, it’s hard to get back into the discipline of regular writing. I’ve seen this happen numerous times. The moment someone starts prioritizing other tasks over regular blog posting, its sets a precedent in which anything comes first. When this happens, the blog eventually dies—and with it, your content strategy. It’s easy to discount the value of a single post, but the true value of your blog lies in its cumulative strength. Don’t neglect it.
  3. I said earlier that most business blogs don’t have audiences waiting for them to release their latest post. But then—some do. If you plan for your content to set you up as an industry leader, it is absolutely imperative that you keep to a schedule. If you’re not going to make your publication date, why should your audience show up?

Launching with a content backlog is far less important than posting regularly once you do launch. With regular posting, you will have a content backlog in a matter of weeks. Without regular posting, your blog launch won’t mean anything, because your blog won’t last.

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