Someone contacts me, and tells me that they either need to update an existing website, or build a new one, and they want that website to do things like sell their products or get newsletter subscribers or any other call to action. They’ve got ideas about the visuals, or they’ve got ideas about how much profit they’re expecting the site to generate, and they’ve even got a few ideas about how they want their site to generate all this abundance. They usually involve the notion that their website will do magical things for them while they sleep, with very little effort on their part, and with the idea of content as an afterthought.
It doesn’t work like that.
You cannot half-ass content. It is the driving force behind your website. Your content, more than your visual design or the code that forms your website, is what does all that magic for you. Good content takes time to write and it takes strategy. Hope is not that strategy. Content can’t just be thrown together. It needs to be informed by the overall goals of your website, and it needs to speak to your audience. Yes, you have to define an audience, and it’s not anyone with a pulse and a checkbook. Good content takes research and planning. It takes hard work, and it has to be consistently updated. Websites are not brochures or advertisements or online business cards or fliers that you stick on someone’s windshield, hoping that whoever owns that car will call you wanting to buy what you’re selling. Websites are complex pieces of application software. They are living and breathing things that need to be fed and cared for. You feed them by crafting content that is useful to your audience both before and after the sale or newsletter sign-up. You care for them by keeping their underlying code up-to-date. But most importantly, you feed them. By feeding your website good, quality content, you feed your audience. Your audience then gives back by responding to your call to action, which is also content, and needs to be crafted to suit the overall goals of your website.
As if that wasn’t enough, your content should also inform the visual design of your website. A website that is not designed around the content it will contain is nothing more than an empty shell and the culmination of a lot of wasted time and effort, and any responses to your calls to action will happen for no other reason than sheer luck.
There are lots of moving parts that make up a well-performing website, and they’re all important. But content is the most important. If you don’t have that figured out, you may as well not even have a website.