It’s the age-old question most website content writers dread: which comes first, the copy or the design? Depending on who you ask, you can get wildly differing opinions on the matter.
Prospective clients who ask me this question get a straightforward answer. Websites must lead with content, not design. It’s a bold statement. One that can be backed up with evidence for naysayers who argue that design is more important than content.
Design needs to work for the content, not the other way around.
If you’ve followed me for any amount of time, you know that I believe in a “people first, SEO second” approach to content writing. Putting people first requires an emphasis on content over design.
Now, I’m not going to argue that website design isn’t important. It’s part of creating a seamless user experience (which search engines like and reward). Websites must load fast. They need to be visually appealing. But none of that matters if the meat of the website – your content – is subpar.
What role does design play in search engine ranking?
Remember when I said I wouldn’t argue that website design wasn’t important? It’s because I know that a poorly-performing website hurts ranking with search engines like Google.
Think about the last time you visited a website on your mobile device. Did it load quickly, or did you end up abandoning it because you spent far too much time watching that swirly “loading” icon on your screen?
Even worse than a website page that loads slowly is one that is so jam-packed with visuals and text that it’s difficult to navigate or read.
You need both a well-designed, user-friendly website design and high-quality content to perform well with search engines. Giving a website designer content to inspire the design is one of the most effective ways to ensure you have both.
What is effective website content?
Website content extends beyond the written word. Yes, your website needs an About Us section and a landing page that converts traffic to sales. However, effective website content can – and should – include graphics, photos, and videos that complement the words on the page.
One of the quickest ways to boost engagement on your website (or social media) is with a high-quality video. That’s because the human brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text. Just one minute of a well-scripted video can replace 1.8 million words.
Another way to boost engagement (and credibility) is with infographics that illustrate a point you’re making in your content. Visuals speed up processing time, which is crucial for decision-making. The sooner a visitor to your website (or social media) determines you’re credible, the quicker they’ll decide to do business with you.
One caveat about graphics: go original when possible. Using stock photography and other graphics can hurt your search engine ranking because you may be using the same visuals that thousands of other companies are using on their websites. Custom photography and graphic design make your content stand out, increasing your brand’s credibility.
What is the role of content on a website?
Educating and informing visitors to your website is the role of content. Through blogs, case studies, and other content strategies, you can let people know what you stand for and how they can benefit from doing business with your brand.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that content is the key to your marketing efforts. All forms of digital marketing—blogs, case studies, eBooks, infographics, videos—can be incorporated into a website that leads with content.
What if the website is already designed?
It can be trickier if you’re asked to create content for a website that’s already designed. I’ve been in this position more than once. While not ideal, it can be done with some consideration.
First, if the website design looks and feels cluttered, don’t be afraid to make recommendations for necessary changes. No one wants to redesign their website from scratch, but sometimes there are practical adjustments that can be made to help your content streamline seamlessly with an already-designed site.
One of the most important aspects of design that can easily be altered is graphics and videos. Too many can bog down the loading time for a web page, which frustrates visitors to your site. Graphics can be optimized for faster loading using website plug-ins (or by writing HTML code).
For videos, stick to no more than one per page. While videos can draw attention quickly, they also can affect the user experience if they are awkwardly positioned on the page or take too long to load and play. Make sure all videos are compressed to prevent this mistake.
Next, look at the visuals provided and craft content that complements it. Remember, when it comes to website content, more is not necessarily better. Keep your descriptions short and to the point. Use H2 headers to separate ideas if the website design lends itself to them. Doing so can boost your search engine ranking.
Inverted pyramid method
One of the most helpful tips for crafting content for your website is to use the inverted pyramid method. It works by placing the most essential pieces of information at the top of the page and declining in order of importance.
Using a traditional storytelling method can help you organize your content in order of importance. Start with a catchy title that grabs visitors’ attention. Follow it with a compelling introduction to your brand that is clear and concise. Don’t forget to include a conflict and resolution section to demonstrate how your products or services add value.
The conclusion of your story must feature a strong call-to-action that prompts visitors to take a specific action. What do you want them to do now that they’re hooked on your brand? Subscribe to a newsletter? Click the “learn more” option? Whatever it is, make it clear so you don’t lose a prospective customer who’s already on the hook.
How do you get quality content for your website?
Everyone thinks they can write—until they try. Then they quickly discover that creating compelling website content that converts is harder than it looks.
Working with a content specialist can improve your chances of meeting your content marketing goals. Don’t leave your website content to chance. Reach out today to schedule your complimentary consultation to get your website content producing sustainable growth for your brand.
Shari L. Berg is the owner/operator of The Write Reflection, and a writing professional for 25 years.