How to blog on your business website

Blogging on your business website can bring all kinds of benefits – especially to your bottom line – but getting going is easier said than done.

This post is for you if you’ve wondered whether you should blog, have been told you should, or if you’ve always intended to, but never got going.

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Don’t use ‘Under Construction’ pages

Don't use Under Construction Pages

There’s possibly nothing more disappointing when browsing a website than following a link only to be met with the message: Page Under Construction.

Although Under Construction pages are not as common as they used to be, they are still with us,  and often used by businesses who should know better.

Page Under Construction graphic
Nice graphic, but you could have spent time on your content instead.

Often they are accompanied by nice graphics, as if to somehow make sloppy look professional.

They could have used the time it took to make the graphic to put some information in the page instead!

Frustration and disappointment are the main reasons people give up on websites, and finding pages under construction is a great way to do both to your website visitors.

It also reflects badly on your business.


In many cases your website is the first contact your potential customers have with you.

You have promised but not delivered. They followed a link expecting information, only to be disappointed.

It looks like you can’t be bothered.

An obviously incomplete website could indicate a business that is disorganised – even a business about to go under.

Page Under Construction
Some sort of graphic involving roadworks – an old favourite on Under Construction pages

Under construction pages tend to stay that way a long time, if not forever, and most people will not check back soon, if at all.

Even the phrase Under Construction is negative – apart from being a little pompous and unhelpful in its language.

There are better ways to say it.

How to avoid using ‘Page Under Construction’

The simple rule is if your page isn’t ready, don’t put it on your website. And don’t release an incomplete website.

Don’t tell visitors what you don’t have – focus on what you can do here and now.

If the information is important to your website then put some brief useful information there. You can always go back later and add more.

Better to have something than nothing at all.

It’s part of the beauty of the web: You can change anything on your website at any time. Your website should never be finished.

Don’t say ‘Coming Soon’ without giving a date

Another under construction graphic
Not what you want to see on a web page

Often alongside Under Construction messages is an invitation to check back soon to see a completed page.

These almost never have an indication of date, so what does soon mean: In the next few minutes? Next week? Next month? Next year?

To the website visitor, ‘soon’ doesn’t mean anything without a context. So rather than ‘soon’, commit to a date and stick to it.

But still it’s easily avoided – and you’re still talking about what isn’t on your site.

Do you think there’s a place for Under Construction pages on websites? Have your say in the comments.

More information

Sitepoint: Top 7 Usability Blunders Of The Big Players Don’t display ‘under construction’ pages

Jakob Nielsen: 113 Design Guidelines for Homepage Usability

More Website Sins

Things to avoid saying and doing on your business website.

  1. Never say ‘Click Here’
  2. Don’t use ‘Under Construction’ pages
  3. Why you don’t need an FAQ page
  4. Why pop-up light boxes are a bad idea

Five tips for writing effective website copy

Five tips for writing effective website copy

Writing for the web is different from any other form of copywriting and needs special attention.

It’s not just a matter of taking your printed promotional material, grafting it onto your website and hoping it will do the job – because it won’t.

And going on at length about what you have to offer and expecting people will read every word will not work either.

Writing for the web
Follow some basic rules and writing for the web gets a lot easier.

Content marketers like to bang on about web copy that is ‘engaging’ and ‘grabs the reader’s attention’, but this is wishful thinking at best.

After all if your customers are on your website you already have their attention: The hard part is keeping it!

How to write website copy that works

So here are five tips to help you make the best of your business website. We’re not intending to cover everything here – just the basics of how to structure and lay out your website content.

1. Make your text easy to understand

Generally, people will arrive at your business website with a task in mind and want to know if you are the people to do it for them.

Also, most people do not sit and read web pages from top to bottom, savouring every word: They scan pages, eyes darting over the words looking for something that matches what they are looking for.

So your writing needs to be clear and concise, without complicated sentences with ambiguous meanings.

You also need to put the most important points at the top: If you keep people waiting to get to the point the chances are they won’t hang around long enough to find out.

Don’t try to be clever and throw in some puns or other ‘witty’ writing. That sort of thing can get old very quickly, but mainly doesn’t help get your message across.

Make it easy for people and they are more likely to stay around long enough to find out if you can help them.

2. Break up your text

Great big blocks of text are hard to scan and therefore hard to read on a website.

Everyone is time poor these days with a thousand different things competing for our attention. This makes us impatient and blocky text will be skipped over rather than read.

So you need to use short, succinct sentences and lots of paragraphs – ideally one sentence – and one idea – to a paragraph.

You’ll be amazed at how much easier a page is to read if it’s been split up properly.

You can also use headings (heading 1, 2, etc, not just bold text and bigger font size) to break things up, and if you use the right, relevant, words these actually help your page get found on search engines.

3. Go easy on the formatting

Another trap that people fall into is to try to emphasise different aspects in their text, but tests have shown the more you try and make something on a web page stand out, the more you end up hiding it!

Bold text, entire words in capital letters and random big text sizes can all be used to add emphasis, but once you start using them it’s difficult to stop.

If you find yourself doing this, then the chances are there is too much irrelevant stuff in your web page and you need to edit the copy down.

Formatting needs to be consistent and sparse. Don’t use italics (hard to read), underlining (easy to confuse with links), stick to a body text size and font and set heading sizes and use bold very, very sparingly.

4. Keep it short and stick to the point

Information overload normally goes hand in hand with trying to squeeze too much into a web page – it’s a very common problem on small business websites.

We often see business owners go into all kinds of detail their potential customers do not need to know. The end result is visitors are bombarded with too much information and end up taking in nothing.

If you want to take your car in to be fixed by a mechanic you don’t want to know what make of spanners he uses, or for that matter anything about his methods. You just need to know that he is competent to do the job and how much it’s likely to cost.

Yet many business websites are marred by the business going on at length about how they do things when potential customers do not need this information.

If you want to make it easy for your website visitors (and that’s the only way they will stay), keep it short, simple and stick to your essential information.

5. Read it – Then cut it! (Then read it again)

If you are expecting others to read your carefully crafted web copy the least you can do is read through it properly before you press the Publish button. Sadly this doesn’t happen.

Everything that goes on your business website should be read by at least two people first, to make sure it makes sense and doesn’t contain grammatical errors. A spell checker is also a must.

If you can’t get someone else to read your copy, then take a break – overnight at least is good – and come back to it with fresh eyes. Sometimes it’s easier to read through copy that has been printed out.

At this point you should be reading with a view to cutting it down by up to a half. And once you’ve cut it you’ll need to read it again.

If this sounds extreme it isn’t – once you get into practice it’s amazing at how much you can lose and every word you remove will be helping to make your copy more concise – and above all more effective.

More information

Concise, SCANNABLE and objective: How to Write for the Web – Neilsen Norman Group

How to write for the web: BBC News School Report

If you want to hide it, emphasize it: Gerry McGovern – New Thinking

photo credit: RLHyde via photopin cc

Before you spend on SEO, take a long, hard look at your website

Frustrated man with glasses

SEO companies are everywhere – cold calling, emailing and offering to do wonderful things for your site.

[caption id="attachment_506" align="alignright" width="300"]Frustrated man with glasses “I don’t care about your mission statement! How much do you charge?”[/caption]

They say driving traffic to your website will magically increase your sales.

Many will throw lots of figures about page rank, keyword analysis, backlinks and optimisation for good measure.

But while these things are important, a lot of these Search Engine Optimisation companies miss the big picture:

Getting more people to look at your website is not an aim in itself.

Fine, you can get more traffic, but what will these people do when they get to your site?

If your site lacks focus, is badly written, unnecessarily complex and difficult to use then the chances are the increased traffic will only lead to more people leaving the site almost as soon as they have arrived.

You might as well just throw your money down the drain.

New customers?

The point of your business website is to bring you new customers and sometimes to serve existing ones, but if your website is difficult to use or lacks professionalism then you could end up putting people off.

So take a look at your website from the point of view of a prospective customer who has never seen it before and knows nothing about your business.

Answer their questions

What questions will that person have in their mind? Have you answered them? Is it easy to get around the site? Does it really create the right impression for your business? How effective is it at getting your key messages across?

Search engines, and Google in particular, are placing increasing weight on the relevance of a site as well as its quality. In other words, good sites do well in searches.

So if you get the quality right, you will not need to spend a fortune on SEO consultants.

Why simple websites are best

A boffin

A simple website will not only get your message across to your customers in the most effective way possible, but it will save you money, too.

Many web companies will try and sell you a site with all the bells, whistles and gimmicks they can but this will only end up annoying your website visitors – so why bother?

All the research shows that website visitors have less and less patience with websites.

They just want to get in, find out what they need to know and get out again.

[caption id="attachment_516" align="alignright" width="199"]A boffin A usability boffin, yesterday[/caption]

Anything else just gets in the way and often makes the page load slower, adding to their frustration.

A good website doesn’t need:

  • Flashy animated graphics (including dancing gnomes!)
  • Swish designs that baffle and confuse visitors;
  • Pages of waffle and mission statements;
  • ‘Cool’ greetings that say good morning/afternoon/evening according to the time of day you arrive;
  • Any other pointless gimmicks that detract from your message.

In fact these features will only get in the way of your business connecting with your customers.

So why go to all that trouble, let alone pay through the nose for a load of stuff you just don’t need?

Still not convinced? Then read on…

So what does your business website need?

Your website should be:

  • Easy to use and find what you want;
  • Short and to the point, and written in plain English;
  • Built according to web standards and display the same for everyone;
  • Easy to find on search engines and other media such as Google Maps and Facebook.

Find out more:

  • Jakob Nielsen’s site provides a guide on how web content should be written: Concise, scannable, and Objective: How to write for the web

Choosing a web design company

Building websites in his bedroom every now and again

There’s a massive choice of web design companies out there – so how do you spot the diamonds and avoid the duds?

One of the problems with web design is that anyone can do it – to an extent. But you should exercise the same caution when looking at web design companies as you would if you were hiring a builder.

[caption id="attachment_921" align="alignright" width="350"]Building websites in his bedroom every now and again Building websites in his bedroom every now and again[/caption]

Steer clear of companies who offer web design as an add on to their main business – common among IT and telecoms companies, as well as public relations and marketing companies. They often lack the skills to give you a decent website.

They may be able to have a go at giving you a site, but it will probably cost you more money and hassle in the long run.

And in the end you will probably have to go to a proper web design company!

The perils of amateurs

These days anyone with a computer can set themselves up as a web designer and this amateurism can make hiring a web designer a nightmare.

They may have flashy websites of their own, but there’s a lot more to building a professional website than the ability to make it look  nice.

The geeks

There are also web companies who want to sell you all sorts of complicated web solutions – but at a price. Often these web agencies are more biased towards the technical side of things.

Sure – you’ll get a website, but you may well pay through the nose for a solution that uses a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

We’ve seen clients charged large amounts by these companies only to be left on their own once the site has been built.

On the other hand, some may charge very little and only deal with you via e-mail. Always be suspicious of someone who will not speak on the phone or meet in person. And be wary of people claiming to supply ‘cheap’ websites – it will always cost you more in the end.

Long term relationship

Even if you only have a three page simple website you are still entering into a long term business relationship with the company who builds it. So you should treat your website as you would any other long term partnership.

Any company worth its salt should have a portfolio of websites they have produced for other clients. The company should be happy for prospective clients to contact its customers.

You are looking for a broader range of skills, not just an expert in IT, public relations or graphic design.

Those skills include:

  • Writing and editing – specifically writing for websites
  • Photography and design
  • The necessary technical skills
  • In depth understanding of web user behaviour and how to present information
  • Web marketing skills, including search engine optimisation
  • Project management skills and a proven ability to deliver

But above all else they must have good customer service skills. You must be able to build a rapport with your web provider.