With a process, you have more confidence to move forward
Content creation is never easy.
It tends to be the biggest area of hold up when a website is being built. And for good reason:
- A lot of us feel like we aren’t great writers
- We’re not sure where to start
- It feels overwhelming
But if you have some tools and a process, you can cut down on much of that friction.
Need a quick reference? Scroll down to the bottom of this post for an infographic on content creation.
1. Start with your sitemap
If you’ve been following along in our How to Build a Smart Website series, you already have your sitemap. If not, you’ll want to go read that post and get your sitemap together first because it will give you the general “buckets” that will guide your writing.
2. You don't need to be amazing (yet).
Don’t get me wrong, you will be amazing.
Amazing is coming.
But don’t start out thinking you need to be amazing. With this perfectionism aside, you are in the best spot to make quick work of the writing job ahead.
3. Spend most of your time on the main message of your website homepage
The main headline of your site is where you want to spend most of your time.
I’m not exaggerating when I say we spent hours coming up with the main messaging on the homepage of our website. It’s the first thing people see when they come to your website.
This message should speak right to the heart of the pain point of your target audience and how you solve their problem.
Speaking to the right target person has been difficult for us. We're still honing in on that message, trying some different options. We don’t think we’ve completely nailed that yet on our first shot, and you don’t need to either. (See point #2.) But, we're getting there.
Keep in mind when you’re writing the main headline, clarity is critical. Resist the urge to impress with big words and stay away from ambiguity.
4. Mindmap it.
Grab your sitemap, and use the individual pages you’ve chosen as anchor points for your mindmap.
- You can use a pencil and paper for your mindmap.
- You may also want to use a digital tool. I use the Coggle Chrome Extension—their free version does quite a bit.
Start your brainstorming. For each page you've identified on your sitemap, what does your audience need to know about your service? Get all these unedited thoughts down.
If you get stuck, it may be helpful to come back to your mindmap in 24-48 hours and see what else comes to mind.
Tip: I keep the notes app on my iPhone handy all the time to jot down an idea that, undoubtedly, will come when I am away from my mindmap.
5. From your mindmap, look at the natural sections or groupings that make sense for that page
To keep this simple, you can open up a Word or Google document and pull those main pages over along with bullet points of the natural sections/groupings that started to form.
Once you’ve done this, you’ve got a pretty good outline to work from.
6. Do the rough writing.
When you move into the actual writing, know you’re starting with your terrible first draft. When I remind myself of that, it keeps me from getting caught in analysis paralysis where I end up getting nothing done.
Your first draft could be simply writing out bullet points. Or, it could be writing stream of consciousness thoughts, etc. It doesn’t really matter, just start writing.
7. Refine the rough draft.
A good rule of thumb is to wait at least 24 hours before going back to something you’ve written to do some refining.
Refining is, admittedly, the hardest stage, but you’re not starting from scratch now. It's the blank page that can be so daunting. But you didn't start with a blank page.
8. Final editing is best done by another pair of eyes.
You can do your own editing; however, it is helpful to get someone else’s eyes on your writing. You may have free resources or you might want to pay for someone’s editing capabilities.
A good place to start is with co-workers or a friend with the editing ability. If you’re willing to pay for editing, a good resource is Upwork. You can search for a writer/editor on Upwork and choose someone whose fee and profile is a good fit for you.
You made it!
Once you are done with all the writing, you should feel pretty good. Go celebrate or congratulate yourself in some way. You’ve just got one of the hardest parts of a new website under your belt.
For quick reference, check out our infographic below on content creation for a smart website:
This is the fifth post in the series, “How to Build a Smart Website.” If you’ve missed previous posts, check out the introductory article here and scroll down to the end of to find a full list of links to the other posts.
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