During our content marketing webinar series, Finalsite's Content Marketing Manager Mia Major shared important tips for writing and structuring website content for improved engagement and a better user experience. While they say a picture is worth 1,000 words, and a video is worth a million, your website's core substance — written content — still matters. And, if you're like myself and Mia, you may be more inclined to read content instead of watch a video or scroll through a slideshow of photos (especially on mobile).
Having well-written content on your website can control the website visitor's journey, make important content easy to find (like a course catalogue), can sell value, and make your website content accessible.
There are two main components to good website content: the website content itself, and the way the content is organized. First, let's dive into how to improve the content itself.
1. Write from the student perspective
Who can attest to the experience of attending your school better than your students? No one. Sometimes, when all of your website's content comes directly from your marketing team, it doesn't come off as authentic. Listening to how your community talks about you and what they say can give you a pulse on the words and phrases you choose. You can do this by:
- Reading, re-sharing, and posting testimonials
- Conducting interviews
- Listening to videos
- Looking on social media for comments and reviews
By listening to what others are saying about your school, you're able to share an authentic perspective on your story that might otherwise be boring if you were saying it yourself.
For example, many schools incorporate a student testimonials throughout their site. Lakeside School in particular has some very compelling testimonials on their Student Life page to showcase an authentic perspective on the student experience:
While, of course, this testimonial is powerful all on its own, it is this kind of content that can inspire headlines and even marketing campaigns. For example, if I was looking for a way to talk about diversity and inclusion on campus, this quote would be a great starting point to write something real and authentic, instead of canned!
Your community experiences your school in a different way, so consider what they have to say and where on your website you can share just that, whether you rephrase it or just use it entirely. And though there are certain areas of your website where it make sense to talk about yourself, it shouldn't be all about you. Think of ways you can replace "we" with "you" to have your prospective visitors feel more like a part of your school.
2. Use Action Words
While this tip seems elementary, action words make your page, blog and news headlines, and call-to-action buttons more engaging. For example, "Inquire Now" is much more powerful than "Inquiry Form" when used on a button or even as a page headline.
Maryvale Preparatory School, for example, has four call-to-action buttons on its homepage with impactful images and action words focusing on the school's mission, curriculum, opportunities, and more for their female students:
3. Write value propositions as your page headlines
Value propositions are essential for your school website, as they are statements identifying what your school has to offer. It is unique to your school and expresses the value of what your school has compared to other schools. Consider statements that no other school can say but yours.
The Oakwood School's value proposition is found on its homepage, standing out by a larger font size and branded school color:
Some additional tips for writing a value proposition include:
- Focus on outcome messaging: What will a student achieve in life because he or she attended your school versus another?
- Highlight a pain point or question your prospective visitor may have
- Focus on the 5% that makes you special. Ask yourself what you offer that no one else does?
- Make it the page's H2 for emphasis and to draw attention back to it
Free Value Proposition Worksheet and Template
4. Be smarter with infographics
Infographics are another great way to showcase your school's story through visually appealing graphics and statistics. It's important to remember, though, you shouldn't just rely on putting numbers together to create an infographic. You want to be able to tell a cohesive story instead of giving random statistics.
Charlotte Latin School, for example, has a great infographic on their homepage that shares some interesting statistics about the school. But, they take the infographic to a new level with each statistic providing more information and offering a next step within that statistic. For instance, the statistic about the number of acres of the campus is accompanied by a call-to-action to tour the campus:
5. Avoid Jargon
Remember to avoid using words, phrases, or terms related to your school that visitors, especially prospects and donors, may not comprehend. While some individuals may click these words out of curiosity, most will not if they are unsure what something means on your site.
For instance, Pace Academy, as beautiful of a site they have, offers a leadership program called Isdell Center for Global Leadership (ICGL) that most visitors may not know the acronym for:
Including this type of jargon within a parent or student portal may be more appropriate as those users will be more familiar with the terminology you are referencing, like naming a portal after a school mascot.
Now that you're ready to write better content, let's focus on the content's structure.
6. Use the inverted pyramid
Each lower level and interior page on your website should be build using the inverted pyramid method:
First, you want to grab attention through an H1 and H2 title. Typically, for SEO purposes, the H1 is the title of the page, so your H2 can be a value proposition or fun title to capture the visitor.
Then you start building out your content from there. You want to be able to build anticipation and answer common questions related to the topic you're sharing. Write your paragraphs with text that is easy to follow and can stand out through aspects like color, bold text, and bullets.
Finally, you should always end your piece of content with a call-to-action. There should always be somewhere else you want to take your visitor to - whether it's a form, previous article that is relevant, or another landing page with more information.
7. Consider SEO
Another important aspect to consider when building out your school website's content is Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This will influence where your school website and its content falls in search engine results based on the keywords an individual is searching for.
Whether you're new to SEO or a seasoned pro, you should always use Google Analytics to help with determining your keywords. GA will help identify the terms people are actually typing to find your school website and its pages.
In other words, you should be including the terms and keywords in the content on your website that you want to rank for — from the title of your pages to your school news or blog.
8. Think about Placement
When it comes to the placement of your content, you might need to consider restructuring your secondary navigation into an "F" pattern as research shows Internet users read in an "F" pattern:
When incorporating your call-to-action buttons on the same page as your content, it's not only a best practice to have the buttons as close to your written content as possible as they are more likely to be clicked this way, but have them be part of your secondary navigation as well.
Red Oaks School does this throughout their entire website which helps draw attention to these important buttons while allowing the content to be easy to follow:
9. Write Captions
Studies have shown that image captions are consistently some of the most-read copy on a page. Consider pairing a strong image with a deep caption — a caption that is two to three sentences long — that helps describe what is happening in the image or video.
Greenwich Country Day School uses this strategy throughout their site, accompanying images with captions and bold call-to-action buttons to engage the website visitor:
10. Be Concise and Organized
Ensure your content is as concise as possible. Take out the red pen to determine which words you can delete, place emphasis on, and highlight what is actually important. Using lists, accordions, tabs, and different headers to break up sections and organize content will make for a more friendly user experience on desktop and mobile.
For example, Composer makes it even easier to build a page for your website with a lot of information in a more concise and organized way through tools like accordions and tabs. Saint John's Catholic Prep uses both features throughout their website:
The content is clean, easy to find, shares the information necessary without being overwhelming, and is still tracked by Google based on the keywords included.
You can also use bullets for your content, like Southridge School, so the content is easier to scan and digest:
11. Think mobile-friendly!
When it comes to your school website content, it is imperative to see how it looks on mobile to assure your design is not only responsive but is easily scannable, scrollable, has an appropriately sized font, and more. One quality of great mobile-first design is size doesn't matter when it comes to content. Remember, content will collapse from left to right so make sure the most important information on your page is on the left.
The Meadowbrook School's website on mobile, for example, changes the homepage's content in an easy-to-follow layout:
Okay — I know, 11 tips is a lot! Here are three important steps to keep in mind to avoid getting overwhelmed.
Step 1: Unlearn what you know about writing.
Much of what you may have learned about writing may have changed, especially in the past ten years. So, don't be afraid to scrap it. For example, the prevalence of mobile browsing and accessible content are just two more recent changes that need to be accounted for.
Step 2: Take out the red pen.
Regardless of your role for your school website, you shouldn't be afraid to look at your website and be critical. Take another look at your website content and make edits, changes, and suggestions. Consider places where you can shorten your sentences, use different words and phrases, and incorporate the keywords you want your website to be ranking for on search engines.
If you don't like editing within your website for fear of accidentally deleting or publishing unfinished content, you can simply take the content from your website, put it in a word document, and edit it there.
If you're planning a redesign, and getting ready to migrate content, this is a great time to take out that red pen and get critical! we recommend not copying over your content from your old website to your new website because it gives you an opportunity to modify the content to be more engaging and optimized for search engines, mobile, accessibility, and your new website.
Step 3: Start with the most important pages.
The most important pages on your website — such as your homepage and main landing pages — are a good place to start. You can also use Google Analytics to see which website pages get the most traffic, or on the other hand, get the highest bounce rates and exit rates.
If you notice a page on your website with this type of low engagement, it could mean the content on the page is not engaging enough or may not meet someone's expectations. Consider the experience of your website visitor when seeing these pages: What do you want them to get out of it? What is the value?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stephanie brings a fresh new marketing perspective with her background in social media, communications, and radio broadcasting. She is a co-producer for the FinalsiteFM podcast network and is passionate about helping schools stay ahead of their marketing goals by tracking new trends and developments. She is also a practicing singer/songwriter and loves to expand her creativity in DIY projects.