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iStock_000016644190XSmallSo you have decided it’s time to host your own website. Welcome to the cyberworld. But honestly, in the world of Facebook, Twitter, Google, Instagram, Pinterest, countless blogs, news sites and e-real real estate, you were probably already here. Now you have just decided that you’re ready to build your own little e-home for your start-up – and just like a real home, you have to get your furniture moved in. If you haven’t caught on by now, in this case, furniture equals content.

Here’s where a lot of people go wrong when it comes to creating for your site: they don’t narrow down what they want the site to be or what it should communicate. But your website is not just a pretty place on the Internet. It has a job to do for your start-up and that is to let people know about what you do and encourage them to do business with you.

Here are some tips to create great content for your website.

First, Decide Who You Are and Be Consistent

What are you selling? Who are you talking to? Although these questions seem pretty basic and self-explanatory, you would be surprised how many websites give no clear indication of what the company is all about. Everything on your site: theme, colors, design, logo, etc. should be part of a bigger picture, which is, of course, your business introduction to the world.

Remember that your website is an extension of your brand. Every page should reflect the same theme and colors found on your business cards, letterhead, brochures, etc. You want to be sure the whole package represents a cohesive professionalism — which also means creatively written and free of grammatical and spelling errors — across the board.

Choose Your Pages

Many websites contain a format with the following headings, offering clear navigation:

■      About Us – This page tells the basic story of the business, perhaps how you got started, your mission statement and a summary of the services you offer, how and who you have helped.

  • A subpage may be a Staff or Our Team page that gives brief bios of your core workers. The bios should only include relevant work experience and maybe a few personal interests or hobbies.

■      Products/Services – This page talks about what you are offering. What is for sale? You may want to put to think about an online catalogue for this space and links where they can actually purchase your products or services. If you’re leery of putting prices on your website (some professionals recommend that you don’t while others say that avoiding pricing is rubbish”) describe the service and include a link to get more information about it. The link can either direct the potential customer to send an email for more information or call a phone number to speak to someone in your company directly about it. You can also include a clear call to action.

■      Case Studies/Testimonials/Portfolio – There should be someone who is willing to share what you have done for them or how working with your company has helped them. If you’re a start-up, maybe you don’t have too many of these customers yet. Still, let’s say you’re a graphic design business and created some flyers for Cousin Bob that time, it counts. “(Insert Business Name] created custom flyers for me that got my customers excited about my business. They really were able to turn by ideas for a great design into reality.” — Bob B. Note that the testimonial doesn’t say, “My cousin George really helped me out — for cheap!” Keep it professional; potential clients don’t have to know Bob is related. Instead a picture of the work should speak for itself.

Having some sort of example or sample of your work — or even a picture of your work if you offer an actual product — is standard for a portfolio page.

■      Contact Us/Location/Map – This page gives the standard information about where you are located, the hours you are open and how people can contact you. You can also have a Contact Us form that people can complete on your site that sends information directly to your email address. One reason why people opt for a contact form instead of listing a direct email address is because posting the address may invite lots of spam. If you’re concerned about spam use the format name[at]domain.org to thwart any bots that may try to stalk your website.

If you have social media pages (and yes, you should!) include links or plugins to those pages as well.

■      Resources/Links/Blog – People will return to a website that they find useful. One way to ensure that people will view your site as a resource is to have helpful information. If you’re an IT firm, you may want to post links to the most updated resources for that area. If you’re a start-up that helps other businesses get started, you may want to link to governmental pages to help organizations get incorporated or get 501c3 status.

It’s also good to have a blog on your website because you can consistently post relevant topics to bring people back to the site and they can stay updated on new products and services. Don’t forget to post links to blogs on your social media outlets as new posts become available.

■      FAQS/Terms of Service/Disclaimers – If you know that you have specific terms about refunds or certain disclaimers, include the legal jargon on this page. You can also give a list of helpful answers to questions your potential customers will probably have.

Make Sure Your Design Is Clean

Going back to the real estate analogy, just keep this in mind about your website: Just like a house that has a bunch of mismatched, crazy color schemes, a website full of jumbled disorder will drive your audience away. But a cleanly designed site with good, compelling content will keep them coming back. You’ll have a cozy, welcoming e-home for people to visit.