“Part 2: Content” in the series, ‘Better Than Sausage, More Boring Than Babies: How Websites are Made’

This post is the second in a series called “Better Than Sausage, More Boring Than Babies: How Websites are Made”. If you missed the first post, click here for ‘Part 1: Strategy‘.

Part 2: Content

I’m often surprised at how little time clients put into the content of their site – as if the words are only there to fill up the pages, like the stuffing inside of a teddy bear. I’m not saying you need to write a novel or incorporate allegorical allusions in your About Us page, but content matters. Its also worth saying: don’t assume your web design company is going to ‘take care of that’ for you. Some companies do, some companies don’t, others (like Sidekick Studios) offer content writing as an add-on. You should also consider whether you even want someone else writing content for your site – while I know that writing a blog is a big time commitment, it is also how you communicate with potential new customers and fans. You should make sure the content really shows how well you know your subject area; impress people with your knowledge and experience – show your audience that you are the expert that they want to hire/buy from/donate to/volunteer with/trust/etc.
Here are some things to consider as you think about content for your website:
  • Write a website you would want to read. Don’t feel like you have to fill every page with paragraphs – people have short attention span, quality matters much more than quantity.
  • People (and their social media websites) love photos and videos – give them something to share, pin, tweet about.
  • Search engines like to see frequently updated content – like a blog, newsletter, etc. Search engines check your content frequently and, if the content has changed since they last checked, they give you ‘points’ which helps your site rank more highly in search results. (This is oversimplifying it because there are a lot of variables, but it is true.) 
  • Keywords: think of keywords as single word or multi-word phrases that someone might type into google (i.e. ‘organic hangover cures’ or ‘emergency tattoo removal, ithaca’). Make sure to include these words in your text, otherwise your site isn’t likely to pop up for these searches. (Again, this topic is huge and I’m simplifying here.)
Go back to your target audience list from Step 1 and look at your site from their perspective(s): does the young mom feel like this site is speaking to them? Or am I using language that speaks more to an older, male audience? Will the stock photos I chose of pasty white college students make important segments of my target audience feel left out, uninvited? Am I hoping to engage spanish-speaking audiences with an english-only website?
Lastly, I have a splash of cool water on a very hot topic: ‘search engine optimization’ (SEO or SEM, search engine marketing). I am not an expert in this field, but I have enough experience to have formed an educated perspective that I share with my clients. Instead of jumping to spend hundreds or thousands to “get to the top of Google” (a promise that no honest company can make), consider the following. Google is very, very good at what they do – helping people find what they are looking for on the internet. They have spent untold millions of dollars building a complex computer algorithm whose goal is to identify sites with valuable, in-depth, fresh content on specific topics that their searchers want to find and read. The algorithm does its best to mimic a human reader when evaluating a site: looks for images and videos related to the topic, looks for keywords surrounding a topic with headlines that are related, even reads sentence structure for clarity and logic. So…

Here is my big, top secret, magical recipe to getting ranked highly Google:

Write a website filled with content that real people out there actually want to read.
Ta-da! The crowd roars in amazement! 
One more time? Sure:
Write good content and update it often: people will read it, like it, share it, link to it, and Google will notice that and include your site in results more often. And then MORE people will read, like, share and link to your site and then Google will notice that and rank your site even higher. Rinse, wash, repeat. Don’t try to game the system – just play it really well. Good content paired with a solid social media/marketing strategy will be enough. Once you have that going – investing in advertising or additional web marketing avenues makes more sense: don’t spend a lot of money to build a fancy facade on a house with a stinky carpet, no one will want to stay inside.
Has any of my advice offended your good senses? Conflicted with other advice you’ve gotten? Have I used any jargon here that you didn’t understand? Let me know by commenting here or on my Facebook, Twitter or website.
Also, don’t forget to Like us on Facebook to get the next installment of “Better Than Sausage, More Boring Than Babies: How Websites are Made”, which focus on Function.
Thanks for reading,
Mark Pruce
CEO & Lead Cape Wearer of Sidekick Studios

Better Than Sausage, More Boring Than Babies: How Websites are Made

Welcome to very first post on the Sidekick Studios blog. My goal is to help small business and nonprofit owners better understand the worlds of graphic design, web, and marketing and how these these things can help your business. If you ever have questions about anything I write – come find me on Facebook, Twitter or contact me some other way (telepathy is fine but please only during regular business hours).
So let’s get to it – I want to talk about how websites are made in five parts (and five separate blog posts):
  1. Strategy
  2. Content
  3. Function
  4. Design
  5. Technical
I’m trying to keep this as simple as I can while still being helpful, so this mostly pertains to basic ‘marketing-oriented’ websites aimed at letting the world know about your organization, like www.SidekickStudiosIthaca.com, compared to functionality-heavy websites like Facebook or OK Cupid, where the website is the service. Some of this pertains across the board, but I’m going to keep this more general and, hopefully, widely applicable.


If you are considering starting a new website or if you want to revise your current site, I suggest you start with a blank sheet of paper (or, fine, a Word document or Google doc) and answer these questions:

Who are my target audiences for this website? (list them, in order of priority, be specific if you can)

What are my goals for each target audience on my site? (list them, each audience can have multiple goals).

If you have a website already and you haven’t thought about this – two things may happen: first, your site loses focus and it just sits there on the internet, being its unfocused self instead of working for you and with you toward your goals. Second, you don’t have a good way to look at your website and assess it. This assessment can be as simple or complex as you want, but without clear goals it isn’t possible at all. Tracking your site’s success will be the topic of a future blog post, but here’s a teaser: you need specific goals to measure success.
Let’s use a test case and say that I’m making a website for my new company that sells 100% organic water syphoned from the gorges around Ithaca, called Gor’ganic Natural Hydration, LLC.
Here are my answers for my new company:
  • Target audiences:
    • Health conscious adults in Tompkins County, NY
    • Vacationers and tourists to Ithaca, NY
    • Cornell and Ithaca College athletes
    • Misc thirsty Ithacans
  • Goals: (in this case, my goals are the same for most audience groups, but that isn’t always the case)
    • Learn about our products
    • Place an order
    • Visit our retail locations
    • Sign up for our newsletter
    • Click through to our Facebook and Twitter pages (and engage)
    • Contact us with questions
    • Share our page or products with potential customers
Don’t be afraid to look at other websites, such as companies similar to yours, for inspiration. Its not stealing – its research. If they have put this much thought into their website, you will look at it and immediately see it: the color-contrasting buttons directing visitors to ‘sign up now!’ (goal #1) and ‘Like this page for more deals!’ (goal #2) show you they have thought about their goals and want to make it easier for their users to accomplish them.
If you have a business plan, you might already have a list like this – especially if you did or plan to do market research. In the future, as you promote yourself, this list of target audience groups may help you identify different advertising channels.
Have you already done this exercise for your current or future website?
Did you learn anything new about your company?
Are there any other key strategy-related questions that I missed?
Speaking of goals… Like us on Facebook to get the next installment of “Better Than Sausage, More Boring Than Babies: How Websites are Made”.
Thanks for reading,
Mark Pruce
CEO & Lead Cape Wearer of Sidekick Studios