So, by now you have your domain name and decided what you want your website to achieve. You’ve a stack of blindingly colourful pie-charts, fantastic cash-flow projections based on expected conversion rates, feedback from your mammy and your kids and their friends and the one-eyed cat and the upside down goldfish. You’ve done all your research, figured out what your strengths are, what your customers expect you to deliver and where you want to get to; which you’ve neatly surmised into a hundred page document you can release as a self help book for wannabes should all else fail.
Of course, there’s just the wee issue of organising content for the site. This falls into two distinct phases: Phase One – actually having content; Phase Two – organising it.
Phase One: Content
You’d be surprised by the number of people who assure you they have everything ready for their website, except they don’t – and usually it’s the same insignificant little thing they’ve forgotten: the exact content to be used. It’s as if once they’ve decided to have a website, and documented all they want it to do, that the actual content will magically appear, all by itself, from some bottomless pool of unwanted typographic elements, abandoned words, pixels and imagery that are just waiting for the opportunity fill up websites all by themselves. But because it takes time to do, and no one ever has time to do it, everything gets delayed. Eventually someone will crack, someone always does, and if you’re not careful they’ll come back with exactly what you don’t want.
Phase Two: Organising The Content
You can’t organise content unless you know what content is needed, so the first step is to make sure you get the right content. To do this you need a plan, you need to map out the site and define the pages – all the pages – and what you want to display on each page. If you have an ‘about’ page you need to decide whether you want any subsections to that page, what those subsection pages are and what content goes in them – do key people have their own pages?, do you have text for them?, do they have their own blogs?, do you want to show photos of them?, do you want to link to their social media pages?, etc. If you have products do you want to break products down by categories – does each category have an overview page?, a listings page?, does each product have its own page with images/prices/reference numbers/titles/description?
If you don’t know what pages you have, and what goes on each page, you can’t possibly gather all the required information. So, there’s got to be some thinking and doing involved – you know, the following through stuff that people are prone to forget about or put off until somebody else decides to do it.
Of course, whoever’s building your site can help you (their experience and knowledge can show you how and why certain things work and others don’t), but they can’t do everything without input from you. Architecting an organisational map for how the site will present its content is the foundation on which everything is built; get it wrong and everything will fall over, take your time to get this right and all the bits that follow will happen better and quicker.
Phase One | Part 2: Content (again)
Now you know what content you need – text, logos, photographs, etc – you need to ensure that it’s all good quality content. Copy/pasting text from other sites (competitors, wikis, whatever) won’t do you any good at all in terms of SEO, besides, it’s lazy and if your users – or the original content creators – find out it could be very embarrassing.
It’s best to write your own content, not just because it ranks better but because it also gives you the chance to tailor content specifically to your brand. Search engines feed on original content (which will improve your ranking), and spit out the copy/paste stuff (which could damage your ranking). Search engines and our site visitors will appreciate your own take on whatever it is your content is about, they’ll begin to trust you for writing something that’s exclusively yours and not just some knock-off copy. So, if you want to do the best you can for your site in terms of search engine optimisation, it pays to take the time and put the effort in.
Phase Two | Part 2: Organising The Content (again)
Now you have your site mapped out and filled in where all the bits of relevant content go, there’s just a few more tweaks to be done in terms of organising it so that it’s relevant and meaningful (optimised) for search engines.
For your website pages to be seen as relevant to the search criteria used by people when they’re searching the pages should have:
- a unique page title that reflects the content
- content headers that reflect the associated following text
- textual content which search engines can relate to page titles and content headers
- a search engine friendly URL that’s unique and relevant to the page content
- keywords, preferably within all of the above
What you’re trying to do is create a web with each page, one that’s designed to appeal to search engines and trap their interest with honey-encrusted 100% keyword goodness. By making each page out of original content it will stand out, and these are the pages that attract the search engines which will feed off the embedded keywords. Your page then gets judged by visiting search engines that gorge themselves on its content. Original content made with a good mix of relevant, healthy (properly thought out) keyword ingredients will have them singing your praises. Dodgy content, made out of someone else’s leftovers and a stew of wiki based generic content roadkill, will have search engines puking your site down the web ranking toilet and customers not wanting to be near you.