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Guidelines On How To Write Great Website Content

Web Content Design Or Detailed Guidelines On How To Write Great Websites

Great websites are not built over night. Simple solutions will not be advised here because I do not believe that they exist. When I write content for this website I try to follow the guidelines listed on this page. These are the things I learned from experience of working with websites over the past several years. These items remain a constant factor of my work ethic to this day.

Following directions on this page, I hope someone else out there will be able to build great websites. Let's make the Web a better place by making better websites. The accessibility of the Internet makes it easy to build just about any kind of a website, but nothing feels greater than doing things right. It is a rewarding experience.

Search engines constantly improve their services and will only continue to do so. The rules for writing better content that is recognized by them will get even tighter with time. It used to be enough to place an exclamation point as the first character in the title tag of your webpage in order to come up to the top. Today, knowledge of more complex rules is required to get ahead of your competition. This page is designed to explain these important details.

Knowing the exact purpose of what we are doing allows us not to get disappointed when we lose track of what we are doing. It allows us to understand when we have reached our goals, instead of trying to chase an invisible reward (like Google AdSense revenue). Note, however, this is not to say that generating passive income using affiliate programs isn't possible. But it's best to keep our goals realistic and keep on doing more of the thing that we know will produce results.

1. Page content must serve single specific purpose (*most important)

  • Searching for content, people usually know exactly what they are looking for. People think of one page at a time. Each individual page of your website should contain content designed to serve a specific purpose and nothing else.

2. Use the TITLE tag to build visitor's expectation of the page content

  • The TITLE tag purpose is to create an honest mental sneak-peak of the content located on your page. One of the most common reasons why website visitors leave the page is the title tag has misled them because it only seemed to describe what the visitor was looking for. When the title tag is short and only mentions general interest keywords, the visitor will attempt to guess the meaning of the content of the page. You've got to think twice here and be as descriptive as possble. This will eliminate the visitor's guesswork and increase the number of people visiting your page who are actually interested in seeing the content on that page.

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  • Your web page title as seen in search results can make the difference between serving your visitors or wasting their time. Think of three words that clearly describe the content of the page and use your creativity and common sense to express the actual existing purpose of content located on that page.

  • Do not use words in the title tag of your page that are designed to excite the visitor. For example: "The Top 10...", "The Most Fantastic...", "The Best...". Yes, this trick will make more visitors click on the link in search results, but you are misguiding your web audience. You either provide Best Of material on your page, or simply don't disguise your content as something it is not only to throttle traffic. Using misleading information is sure going to waste everyone's time and put a dent on the overall quality of your website. Then people wonder why the Bounce Rate for their website in Google Analytics is so high.

3. Content must be helpful and of practical use

  • Insightful content that helps website visitors to learn new information, or as some say "take something with them" from the page must be one of your primary goals. Share your own experience of doing something, people like to learn something without having to do it themselves.

  • When you write useful tutorials or guidelines people are likely to link to your webpage and share it with other people with similar intentions. Word of mouth or friend referals seem to be the most legitimate proofs that you are writing great content.

4. Will it stand the test of time?

  • Tutorials about OpenGL programming that I wrote 6 years ago are still being read today. I know this because I continue to receive feedback from people who write me to ask questions. Looking back in retrospect, I now realize why they are still being read. Today, everyone wants to monetize their websites because Google AdSense is an established and widely accepted advertisement platform. But years ago, when the Internet was young, I wrote tutorials out of personal interest in the subject. I enjoyed writing about OpenGL (which is a computer library for creating 3-dimensional graphics) and that contributed to the quality of content. It's rewarding to see this in action, that content we write out of intense personal interest for something becomes the most valuable content to other people. Having an intense curiosity gives you the ability to write thorough content.

5. Is the content interesting?

  • Serious film directors, whose audience is the movie theater auditorium, often ask: Is this scene interesting enough to watch? Serious public speech writers whose audience are the people whose attention they are interested in capturing ask: Is this speech interesting to listen to? Serious webmasters, whose audience is information-seeking people from all over the world, must ask themselves: Is the content on this page interesting to read, watch, look at or learn from?

6. Research, plan, design and write original, interesting content

  • In any industry being unique or original is a valuable asset to your business. Unique content that exists only on your website is likely to have large majorities of people post links to it. Great original content is always a product of ruthless research, work ethic and creativity. If you believe you are incapable of achieving these things, then according to Dr. Carol Dweck, a Stanford University psychology professor and a recognized world leader in the study of personality, it is likely that you have fixed mindset and it is a course in Personal Development that you need, not a course in writing great content. If you are open to it, follow the link to gain a clear insight into your personality type. Looking back at my own transformation toward being more successful at building websites, I think she points out some legitimate concerns.

7. Organize your content

  • Writing content is not enough. You must organize it in a way that is easy for the visitor to scan through. Any organized data on your page (even if it is irrelevant to the main subject of the page) will attract most attention over non-organized content. This has been proven by analyzing mouse pointer heatmaps and watching video screen captures of website visitor sessions.

8. You can fool Google... (note, this is not my advice)

  • Google does not work against your best intentions. In fact, if you try to do more of what Google is trying to do, your websites will be much more accessible and visible in the search results.

  • There are no special secrets about Google. Put yourself in their shoes and think for a moment about what you would do in order to put top content on top of the list in search results. If you ask yourself this question every once in a while, you will gain a deeper insight into how Google works.

  • Try to avoid thinking that there are certain tricks you should do in order to rise to popularity.

  • Don't neglect the common principles of writing great content, just because Google defines the rules. Remember that Google is based on the democratic nature of the Web. It allows people to decide what they like, and not what some blank computer algorithm thinks.

9. But you cannot fool the visitors

  • You've fooled Google and tricked someone to see your page, but all this hard work will not be rewarded. Once the visitor realizes that he is not on the right website, he will leave.

  • The Worst Sin in the industry of content writing is to mislead visitors by using false phrases in links and title tags in an attempt to accelerate traffic. We can't underestimate the importance of descriptive pointers in links like that if we are to write great content.

  • When visitors realize that they didn't find what they were looking for on a webpage, most of them will put the blame on themselves, thinking they just didn't arrive at the right page or that they were unable to find what they were looking for. They won't think it's webmasters fault, or even think that they have been tricked into a visit. How disappointing is it then, to know that the actual reason for that is the webmaster's neglect for making his website true to its browser title tag?

  • If you provide exact descriptions of the page in links and page titles, your page will be attracting so many visitors who will want to see that information. If every page on your website serves a purpose and is pointed to by links containing descriptive text, you increase the usefulness of your webpages by 4-digit percent rates. Knowing this truth, it's amazing to see so many sites still use non-descriptive, irrelevant titles. It's as if they are working against their own efforts. I think it's time to get over the self-sabotaging tactics and making things that work and actually serve the visitors.

  • Let's try to avoid taking the titles for our webpages from the top of our heads. Let's not take these descriptions for granted and start to think about how we can let people know exactly what they will find once they click that link. This is the same not only for Title Tags, but for external linking to our sites. Some thing are bound to slip from our attention, but let's make no exceptions for this rule. It should be one of the most important parts of the content writing ethic. By sticking to this rule (it should really be a law), we effectively increase our ability to have an impact on the visitor of our website.

10. Use interactive content that has purpose

  • It's no secret that a webpage is capable of far greater things than simply displaying text. But more often than not webmasters don't think of taking advantage of the dynamic qualities of their webpages. People like clicking on buttons and watching what happens because it gives them the sense of power over content, because it is a method of communication and because and it can give them quick results that would otherwise require laborous work (search engine filter controls for example).

  • Leverage the dynamic nature of the web to create interactive content related to the existing page subject. When I was writing a page that described the costs associated with making a website I also included a website cost calculator javascript. These small interactive additions to your website not only give more value to your pages, but also allow you to watch what people are doing with the interactive content. This can serve as a great insight into learning how people think and allow you to deploy according content optimizations. How much money you make will depend on it. I'm not saying you will make millions because of it, but on a long-term timeframe you will be able to observe greater results.

11. Honesty is the best policy. Let your readers knows which links go out to affiliated sites

  • You are comfortable showing "Ads by Google" text next to AdSense Ads, why not do the same for affiliate links?

  • Would you be surprised to know that sometimes people just erase your affiliate ID when they see it in the browser's address bar specifically with the purpose to not credit you with affiliate earnings? This probably happens because frequent visitors are so fed up with clicking on links that seem to point to another page on the website only to find themselves on Amazon. Todays Internet users are smart, many are aware of how webmasters use links containing affiliate program ID. Because other webmasters try to mislead the visitors to buy things from Amazon, your website can suffer the same fate of them not wanting to give you any commissions. It's rare, but it does happen.

  • Instead of giving the visitors the wrong impression, either provide a plain link side by side with an affiliate link (See Figure 1), or use only the affiliate link, but give it a name "affiliate link" (See Figure 2). Honesty is the best policy. Figure 3 is an Honesty Test for you. Could you use this link (See Figure 3) on your site?

12. Don't use black background as the default color style

  • Because after a few minutes it becomes irritating to read. Why torture loyal visitors? However, keep in mind that some people (computer programmers in particular) prefer writing code using dark background colors and become accustomed to it. I can see how they could benefit from text written on a dark background. Because some people's eyes are more responsive to the brightness intensity of the computer screen, you might want to create a black/white CSS theme switcher. This can be achieved by using alternate style sheets if you don't want to refresh the page just to switch the CSS style of a page.

13. Use a platform-independent readable font (That basically means Arial or Verdana)

  • Use easy to read fonts such as Arial or Verdana. Proof is in the facts. Google uses Arial and LiveJournal uses Vbeerdana and these sites care about readability. Both fonts look great and readable.

14. Suggest proper information inside the meta description and meta keywords fields in your HTML code

  • Meta description tag must contain a brief description of the exact content located on your page. You must take all available precautions of not specifying broad subjects (examples: skiis, motorcycles, airplanes) by themselves because it will not make your website more popular for singular keywords. That's just asking too much from the meta description tag, don't you think? Instead, try to be specific (examples: where to buy quality mountain skiing equipment, motorcycle engine care instructions, and so forth). According to Google Webmaster Tools, Google considers anything less than about 15 words a short meta description. I think 3 sentences would be a fair amount of text for the meta description.

  • The text in the meta description tag is what people will see in search results under the title link text of your page.

  • What should you write in the meta keywords tag? Again try not to take over the world with one webpage and write something like "cars, motorcycles, skis, the holy bible". It's just not very effective. The meta keywords tag must contain specific keywords that describe the exact nature of your content, whatever it may be. If you have website tutorials on your website, don't just type: "website, tutorials" on every single page where tutorials are, only the front page. For each individual page, you need an individual set of keywords. For example if your webpage is about building PHP and Javscript auto generated html forms, my suggestion is to type something like "php, javascript, automatic, auto, generator, html, input, form". Just say what the page is really about, and not what you want it to be famous for, which has a low chance of happening.

  • The keyword meta tag works together with text in external links to your website to increase the authenticity of your webpage content and therefore will equate to better search engine placement.

15. Don't write about subjects you don't know anything about

  • Knowledge is something that will be recognized about you by the visitors who have an advanced experience with the subjects you are writing about. Sometimes it is exactly those visitors who are likely to place a link to your website from a respectable website (a univeresity for example, or another important website). My suggestion is to write content only on the subjects you are familiar with. If you don't enjoy writing about something, it's best to leave it alone and find something you feel passionate about.

16. Avoid unnecessary sentences - do not write non-relevant information to fill the space

  • Once your content is written, it's time to edit it and look for sentences that are unnecessary. How to identify such a sentence? Well it doesn't explain anything and it doesn't teach anything, it's like a space-filler phrase that someone decided to write to make their paragraphs look longer. The length of a paragraph or the amount of content do not define quality of content in any circumstances. Take those sentences out completely.

17. Watch out for grammatical and syntax errors

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  • If people notice basic writing errors in your written work, they will be under the impression that you don't care enough about your content. Remember, most people leave a website within 8 seconds of being there if they don't find what they're looking for. If they see syntax errors on your website, they might leave even sooner, let alone link to your page.

18. Easy to read and understand

  • Complication and failure to express exact meaning is not a pleasant thing to encounter in the body of content on your website. Use simple sentences that make sense. Find free websites that advice on how to write better sentences. Take out any sentences that bring no value to the reader.

19. Integrity of header titles and sentences

  • Search engines know how to look for organic distribution of keywords on your website. This means that if you are using logic to organize your webpage header title text, sentences and paragraphs, then you are doing the right thing.

  • Search engines continue to improve their services. Because the goal of a search engine is to find good content, it is only a matter of time until the importance of well-structured content is used as a factor in recognizing content quality. Write your content well and as search engines improve your hard work will be rewarded.

  • Avoid repetition of the same words in any sentence. Sometimes people with writing skills will excuse themselves for using the same word twice in a sentence because using more keywords on the page will get great amounts of search engine attention. This myth can't be farther from the truth. By using repetitive language and unchanging sentence structure, not only you make your content redundant, but it also becomes more difficult to read and understand. Using the same keywords multiple times on the same page will get search engine recognition, but the amount of significance search engines put on the number of keywords seen on the page is so little compared to all of the other factors, that it's not worth the trade off between doing that and coming up with well-written, readable sentences.

20. Start the first sentence in the paragraph with a word of interest, and continue building the sentence

  • Top areas of interest that website visitors pay attention to are the first sentences of a new paragraph. It is important not to start them with meaningless filler words or phrases such as "So", "I thought that...", "It is really a good piece of advice", and so forth. Instead, start these sentences by saying something that belongs to the subject of the content on that page. Be inventive to capture visitor's interest from the start. Because they don't expect a work of literary art, and because they are so used to scanning thousands of websites filled with pointless content, surprise them by saying something informative. If your webpage is about the HTML TITLE tag, you can start the first sentence by stating: "Page title is the most underestimated tool for attracting targeted visitors". This will make the visitor believe that on this page they will learn about how to leverage the power of the TITLE tag. Of course this means that you actually have to live up to what you say in that sentence. Use the remaining space on your page to actually explain how the title tag works and what value it can bring to a website.

  • Starting the first sentence of a paragraph with a question is usually not that much of a great idea. Most people scan the contents of a webpage, and they feel they don't have time to stay on your page and figure out what the answer to that question is, if it's not located in the second sentence of the same paragraph. Some questions are impossible to answer in one sentence, but when they are, the whole purpose of a 2 sentence paragraph becomes meaningless. There are better ways to answer questions and it is by writing the answer right away, in the first sentence without prefixing it with a question.

21. Make main menu available at all times

  • Curious visitors must not be left questioning how to navigate your website. Your navigation must be easy to understand. The mental image of your entire website must be expressed by consistent navigation bars or menus located on every page of your website.

22. Logically organize lists of information by importance or difficulty level

  • When you make lists, don't just put all information in a list just because it is a list. People will naturally look at the first item on the list. Make it the most important item.

23. Do research, don't rush to post anything

  • Great website content takes time to create. It is not important to post content every day, as it is important to post quality content every once in a while. For some reason, this fundamental knowledge is neglected by most webmasters.

24. Do not neglect any of the above (*most difficult)

  • Study and understand the above advice before you write new content. It will take a long time for the information and the reasons to sink in. I didn't learn all of this in one day. It took months, and in some cases years to understand the importance of doing these things by observing results they produced.

Doing all of the above is difficult work. But stick to these guidelines and you will be way ahead of most content publishers on the Internet.

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