7 tips for effective content design

7 tips for effective content design

Content design allows you to showcase your website content in a simpler, clearer, and quicker way. You can do so by taking user stories as your basis: as (who) I want to (what) so that (why). Recently, we wrote about the origin of and the reason for content design. In this article, you’ll find a few practical tips to get started on your own website content.

Reading tip: The importance of content design

#1 Start your thought process with user stories

You might be used to considering your website’s content based on pages, with the homepage as your logical starting point.

But actually, that is no longer the way people find your website. Google and voice search are increasingly popular ways to discover content.

The content you present should originate from a starting question, a user story: as (who) I want to (what) so that (why).

It’s entirely possible that these stories are already scattered throughout your website. Identify this content and group it into individual stories.

#2 What is the follow-up action?

Next, for every user story, consider what a user’s next point of action might be. It could be a response to a call-to-action (submitting an e-mail address, liking something on social media, buying a product, getting in touch), or a completing a related action (clicking through to a next user story).

For each user story, think of minimum 3 possible follow-up actions.

TIP: Sometimes it helps to visualize all stories offline. For example, on colored post-it notes. It’s an easy way to keep a clear overview.

This is where you’ll discover the benefits of considering user stories (modular content) instead of pages:

  • User story W might actually belong with subjects X, Y, and Z
  • If you only add W to page Y, the user will be forced to search around for it
  • If you add W to all pages, you’ll end up with duplicate content (which Google doesn’t like very much)

The solution: include W as a click-through option on all related stories.

#3 Differentiate between main themes and subtopics with short paragraphs

As a writer, you often know quite a lot about any given topic. It’s tempting to show off all your knowledge in a piece of content. But that’s not helpful to a reader who might be scanning your text. It also makes it harder for your designer to turn your article into an attractive page.

For those reasons, stick to the main topics first. Ask yourself if any subtopics might be better suited to their own user story. An easy way to do this is by limiting paragraphs to a maximum of 6 lines. That makes it much easier to focus.

#4 Consistently use H1 to H3

A user story will often have some kind of hierarchy. Make that structure clear by adding descriptive titles and subtitles. Don’t forget to add the H1 to H3 tags (H1 is for your article’s title). That makes it a lot easier for the designer to incorporate the hierarchy in the design.

Are you noticing that a story needs even deeper layers (H4/H5/H6)? In that case, it might be better to split your content into multiple stories instead.

#5 Images aren’t required

One of the benefits of using content as your starting point is that you won’t be bound to a specific topic. On many web pages, you’ll find an image at the top that doesn’t really add any context or value, like a generic stock photo of smiling people.

As you write, take the time to decide whether your text needs visual support, and if it does, carefully consider what that should look like.

#6 Incorporate SEO best practices in your copy

Well-formulated user stories and Google search queries have a lot of overlap. This is precisely the information your target audience is looking for.

It would be a shame if your (potential) clients and users can’t find your website due to poor search engine optimization.

That’s why you should keep SEO best practices in mind while you’re writing. Are all the writers in your company knowledgeable about (the latest trends in) search engine optimization? If not, consider using a system that will give you real-time advice about your content’s SEO as you write.

READING TIP: Everything you need to know about writing easy-to-discover SEO text

#7 Step away from your content for a while

Content design is all about finding the essence.

That’s why it’s helpful to let a few other people (coworkers, but definitely also your target demographic) take a look at your user stories.

Also a good idea: step away from your written content for a week or so. Looking it over again for the second time, it will be easy to notice any missing points or areas that need some clarification and cleaning up.

 

Content design on your website. What is it and what are the benefits?

Content design on your website. What is it and what are the benefits?

Just for fun, compare the Dutch and British government websites. Which website looks more user-friendly?

Dutch government website

Overheid.nl / lots of content, not much clarity

Gov.uk website

Gov.uk / optimized with content design

Both websites contain roughly the same information, as long as you click far enough through. But the British site provides a much easier overview. Why is that? In this article, you’ll read all about the role that content design (not to be confused with content strategy) plays in the development of a user-friendly website. The steps listed below will help you get started.

What is content design?

From 2010 to 2014, Sarah Richards worked on Gov.uk, the website for the British government. Early on, she felt it was a bit of a mess. For every page she asked herself three questions:

  1. Does this page have a clear goal?
  2. Which task do users aim to complete here?
  3. Is that task a government task?

Only 4% of pages offered a clear answer to all three questions. She and her team began the challenging task of transforming the existing content to be simpler, clearer, and quicker to access. She cut back the number of website pages from 75,000 to 3,000. The project would go on to win multiple awards and UK citizens are now able to access the information they’re looking for much more quickly. Richards wrote about her experience in the book ‘Content Design’. In the book, she explains how to produce a website that is user-friendly by considering your site from the user’s perspective. You’ll discover the most important points below.

Is content design important for my SEO?

Content design is a convenient method to improve your website’s usability. A user-friendly website will encourage visitors to stick around your page a bit longer. They won’t return to the search results as quickly. Google will register that behavior and reward you with a higher ranking. So the answer is yes, content design is definitely important for your SEO! Reading tip: 5 reasons why User Experience (UX) is important for SEO

#1 Based on user input

It’s impossible to successfully (re)design your website without knowing exactly what your users are expecting. There are many different ways to find out what that is:

Based on all this input, you can create user stories: As (who) I want to (what) so that (why) Let’s stick with the example of the government websites: As a citizen of The Netherlands, I want to apply for a new passport so that I can travel abroad.

#2 Start with the content

These user stories are incredibly helpful in redesigning your website. Focus on the most important stories first and take a look at how accessible your content currently is. Keep in mind that user stories don’t exist on an island; someone might come to your website with multiple questions in mind, or might mean something slightly different from the topic they initially Googled. For example, they searched for passport but really need an ID card. Or they might want to know the requirements for a passport photo. Make sure you supply a number of links to related topics so you don’t cause any interruptions to the customer journey. This list of alternatives will come to you partly through logical reasoning and partly through data analysis. Webtexttool can help you discover alternative keywords, for example.

#3 Readable text is essential

Now that you have a list of important user stories and related topics, it’s time to start writing. A readable text must be at the basis of great content design. Even if you eventually turn it into images or other types of multimedia content. Reading tip: Checklist for easy to read (web) text

#4 Consistent layout based on content

Clean interface gives better UX

Only now has the time come to bring in graphic design. Shown above is a website example of the Dutch insurance company, ASR: the most important user stories are summarized in five categories. Anyone looking for something different can enter their question into a search or chat bar. Beyond that, there’s as little ‘noise’ as possible. No distracting banners or obnoxious boxes. The colors are consistent, as is the text. The trend of designing for mobile first is helpful in creating a user-friendly design; because there is so much less room on a smartphone screen, you’ll be encouraged to showcase the most important information first.

Conclusion: helpful in your content strategy

This article is an introduction to content design. Now you know that you can develop user stories based on user input: As (who) I want to (what) so that (why) With the help of these stories, you can structure your website in a logical, user-friendly way. First, write easy-to-read and SEO-friendly content, and only then can you get started on the graphic design of your website.

Meet webtexttool at DMEXCO

Meet webtexttool at DMEXCO

oranje-spekbolOn September 12th and 13th webtexttool will be present at the DMEXCO conference in Cologne. We are very excited that we were invited to participate as one of the most innovative startups.

It would be great to meet you there! Our booth is in the Startup Village (Hall 5.2 Aisle S No: U-50).

Join us for a live demo, a quick chat about content marketing and enjoy the tasty Dutch treats that we will bring 🙂

 

 

 

 

What is structured data and how do you apply it to your SEO strategy?

What is structured data and how do you apply it to your SEO strategy?

Google has come a long way from being that boring list of blue links. Search any random topic, and you’ll get the information presented in a variety of ways: cards, statistics, lists, numbers. Many of those results are connected to structured data. In this article, you’ll read exactly what structured data is, how it’s connected to search engine optimization (SEO), and how you can apply it to achieve a higher search ranking in Google.

How structured data shows up in search results

Although the search giant’s algorithms become smarter every day, they still don’t quite understand exactly what the information on your website means. With structured data, you can lend Google a helping hand. It uses the data to present rich snippets and knowledge graphs. So, what does that look like?

Consider product information: what is the cost of an iPhone X?


Or the prep time for a recipe. Do I have enough time to make that quiche?

What’s going on in Atlanta this week?

What do consumers think of this vacuum cleaner?

How did the Yankees do today?

Who is the director of the MoMA?


A desktop search for the Los Angeles Zoo results in general information about the zoo, including ’notable animals’ like the gorillas Rapunzel and Jabari, orangutan Berani, and Alfred the seal.

Google gleans all this information from the structured data provided by websites. For general information, that info often comes from Wikipedia. For questions that are quick to answer (like sports scores), that can mean that people no longer need to click through to a website. This is also partially true for the featured snippet (or position zero) that we’ve written about before.

Check out: How to reach Google’s Position Zero [7-step plan]

Is structured data good for your SEO?

Generally, providing structured data can be a huge help in terms of search engine optimization:

  • Google, Bing, and other search engines get a better understanding of what your site is all about and will rank it higher as a result.
  • Visitors are more likely to click on rich snippets than on plain, dry text. That higher click-through ratio will also lead to a higher ranking.

Looks like it’s time to get started with structured data.

What is structured data exactly?

Maybe it’s a good idea to take a closer look at some structured data:

Source: Google – Intro Structured Data

This example is a piece of structured data from a recipe post on Grandma’s Apple Pie, which specifies the carbohydrate content and the preparation time. The kind of information that Google can easily include in its rich snippets.

Structured data is written in a number of different ‘languages’. For anyone who isn’t a tech nerd, it’s enough to know that the use of schema.org (the vocabulary list – for example: ‘ReviewCount’ stands for the number of reviews) with JSON-LD (the grammar rules that dictate how the vocabulary should be used) is currently the most popular combination.

How do I apply structured data to my website?

Do you need to become an expert in Schema.org and JSON-LD before you can add structured data to your online content?

No, thank goodness that’s not necessary.

For popular content management systems like WordPress or Joomla, there are a ton of plug-ins available to manage your structured data.

Even Google has created a Structured Data Markup Helper, which allows you to add data in different categories (articles, book reviews, datasets, events, movies, local businesses, products, restaurants, software applications, tv episodes, job postings).

Once you’ve tagged all the relevant data, simply click on ‘Create HTML’ to create the code that you can add to the head section of your page.

It can be quite interesting to poke around in this tool for ideas on which types of data to classify on your website pages.

Schema.org also has a handy overview of sector-specific lists with structured data tag suggestions.

This Google tool is designed to test whether you have correctly added structured data to your website.

When can I expect SEO results?

Please don’t expect an overnight change in your search results ranking after applying structured data.

It can often take multiple weeks before Google crawls your website again and registers any changes.

It’s also important to note that structured data won’t do you much good if you’re not paying attention to the basics of search engine optimization – a process that is easy to automate using webtexttool!

But in the long run, systematically enriching your content with structured data will improve the chances of having your content appear as ‘rich snippets’ or ‘knowledge graphs’ in search results. That is great for your ranking as well as the number of visitors clicking through to your site.

Evergreen content & SEO: what’s the smart approach?

Evergreen content & SEO: what’s the smart approach?

A page on your site that continues to draw new visitors via Google. That sounds like the ideal solution for your SEO strategy. But creating evergreen content is harder than it seems. What is the smartest approach? And is it worth the effort? In this article, you’ll get an extensive introduction to an effective evergreen content strategy.

What is evergreen content?

Toto’s Africa can safely be considered an evergreen. These past years it’s even been on the rise in the streaming and download charts. But the band probably didn’t consider at the time of its release that it would become a timeless classic.

For evergreen content, that’s not quite how things work. The writer considers in advance the timeless character of any given piece. It doesn’t need to be terribly catchy, as long as it offers an answer to a frequently asked question. Type Africa into Google, and you’ll get the Wikipedia page about the continent: classic evergreen content.

Types of evergreen content

Wikipedia is the prime example of why you don’t want to write articles that are too generalized: in a Google ranking, you’ll never beat the online encyclopedia, unless…

Niche explainerWikipedia doesn’t cover every single subject. A search for “mint sauce recipe” brings up this page from 2001 (!) as one of the top results. In internet years that’s positively ancient.

How-to articles

How-to articles are super popular. Wikihow has illustrated examples of how to write that type of article. Multi-step plans or checklists also fit into that category.

Not every how-to piece has staying power, however. An article on how to bake bread will stay relevant for longer than an explainer on how to play your way through GTA IV.

An interesting variation on the how-to is the how-not-to: use examples from the past to lay out the worst way of tackling a problem.

Resourcepages

In some cases, you’ll be on the hunt for useful resources, like free stock photos. This 2014 article by Dustin Senos on Medium still pops up in 2018 Google searches for “find the best stock photos” – with now over 13,000 claps (likes) and countless views.

A proven strategy is to create an extensive (and frequently updated) article that includes links to free resources for beginners but also to offer information about your own service/product for anyone looking for more.

Start with your existing content

Reading through the examples above, perhaps you thought, “Hey, we’ve written this kind of article before.”

Anyone who’s been publishing online for years will most likely have a few articles that remain popular with readers. In those cases, you already have – possibly unintentionally – evergreen content on your website.

Other articles might offer an interesting starting point but aren’t quite complete. Think, for example, of listicles (“5 tips for…”). By expanding your highest scoring listicles to be a full explainer or how-to (something along the lines of 1600 or 2000 words, rather than 400), you can turn your existing content into valuable evergreens.

Even evergreen needs updates

No two evergreen posts are the same. An article about how Athens defeated Sparta (in 400 BC) probably won’t need to be updated.

The list we mentioned above, full of the best online stock photography, will need more frequent updates. In fact, Google quite likes it when you update your evergreens once in a while.

Focus on the content (and automate your SEO)

Whichever format you choose (explainer, how-to, resource page), evergreen content will take longer than an hour to write. Make sure you carve out enough time.

First, think about a logical structure and draw lessons from other successful evergreen pieces about other topics. Don’t forget to make the article scannable: every subtitle should explain what that chapter or paragraph is all about.

Most evergreen content should be aimed at a general audience (any experts will rather click through on your source links), so be sure to explain any jargon and spend extra attention on the readability of your article.

But what about SEO?

Of course, it helps the discoverability of your article to have a certain keyword density, to use enough internal links, and to use a number of relevant synonyms.

But in writing your evergreen article, it’s most important to focus on polished content. Online solutions like webtexttool will help ensure that your content is fully SEO-proof.

Does it make sense to focus on evergreen content?

Evergreen content can be a helpful addition to your marketing mix. But ask yourself honestly in which ways your subject matter can compete with existing articles on Wikipedia or news sites.

Either way, it’s a long-term strategy. Search engine advertising or social campaigns will draw visitors more quickly. But a few pieces of evergreen as an element of your SEO can ultimately deliver a steady stream of visitors to your website.

Continue learning?