How to Write a Website: The Basics

The first step is always the hardest, and setting up a website can seem daunting – especially if it's your first time. But you don't need heaps of content to get started, and you don't have to be a great writer as long as you know how to talk to your audience.

Writing content for your site is a marathon, not a sprint. When you concentrate on getting the basics right from the start, the rest will follow. Here are three questions to ask yourself before writing a website that will show you in your best light.

1. Who are you writing for?

If you've done market research, you'll know who your target audience/s or customers are. You should keep this in mind when creating every aspect of your site, from the template you choose to the style and tone you write in. If you’re not sure what pages you need or what should be included or if you really are stuck start by looking at some of your competitors' and see how they approach their content and what they are doing.

One effective way to remember who you're writing for is to create a persona of your typical customer (there might be more than one). Write down their age, interests and pain points, give them a name, and print it out so you can refer to the persona every time you write until it becomes second nature.

You could also find it useful to create a persona for your own brand, based on someone you admire and want to emulate in your own work. If other people will be sharing or taking over the content writing duties, this helps to maintain a consistent style.

2. What do they need to know?

Content doesn't just fill space. It needs to offer real value to the people visiting your website. Every page such as your home page, about us page, service page etc. should tell them what they need to know about your services and encourage them to get in touch.

Put yourself in your customer's shoes and think about what they want to see on your site. A homepage is a given, which should waste no time clearly explaining what you do, why people should choose you, and encouraging them to take the next step.

People also want to know who you are (About page), all the ways they can contact you (Contact page) and more in-depth information about your products or services on individual pages.

3. How can you communicate that effectively?

Your website and other content needs to answer the questions real people are asking, and it needs to do that in a way that's clear and interesting to read.

Instead of merely presenting information, treat every page as a conversation and talk in layman's terms. While it's good to show your expertise and in-depth knowledge, you also need to connect with your audience using the language they understand.

Never start writing without a plan. Unfocused pages are a challenge to write and even harder to read. Spending a little time planning out the layout of the page will save you time later and help you feel more confident that you're not missing anything out. A good idea is to start each page with a short introduction summarizing the topic, as this helps to grab people's attention and encourages them to continue reading.

Each page should talk about one big idea. This can be broken down into manageable sections under relevant subheadings to help those who are scanning through. This should all come together again at the end with a strong call to action telling the reader what to do next – whether it's to contact you, place an order, make an appointment or continue to the next page.

When you can answer these three questions, you'll be ready to start writing valuable content that people will actually want to read – but you also need to help them find it. See our digital marketing guide for beginners to find out how to achieve success with content.