In a Mess? Is it Time to Rewrite Your Web Pages?

I just re-wrote my ‘about’ page. It was about time. It was pretty messy thanks to a series of on-the-hoof edits carried out over several months at a very busy time. I only noticed it was a bit crap when I found the time to read the whole thing through from start to finish.
Is it time to rewrite your web pages? When was the last time you read through your site to make sure it still reflects the business accurately, says everything you need to say, and does it in an appealing way? If the answer is ‘never’ or ‘ages’, here are some tips for bringing old web pages up to scratch.

First, benchmark where you stand right now

You might think you’ve improved a page, but in fact it has dropped like a stone in the search results and people seem to be spending less time on it than ever. It’s important to compare the relative performance of a page before and after editing, but you can’t do that without benchmarking its performance in the first place.

Does the page still fulfil its original business goal?

Remind yourself about the page’s business goal, the reason you created it in the first place. Does it still fulfil that goal or have things gone dog-shaped? Is the goal still appropriate in today’s context? If the page is obsolete, you might even want to retire and redirect it.

Delve into your audience – But only so deep

Next, ask yourself if the page still dovetails with your insights about the people who buy your stuff. Some businesses have very broad audiences. Take me. As a copywriter I work with businesses of every size, type and location, which means my target audience is ‘every business on the planet’. Yours might be more closely targeted, for example people who have a cat, a Porsche, or a baby less than a year old.
Some articles talk about delving deeper to identify whether people are reading your page for leisure or work, on a train or at home, are happier reading long chunks of text or looking at infographics and images. The list goes on. Personally I don’t think it’s possible to pin down people’s behaviour to this level of granularity. We just don’t fall neatly into homogenous groups, no matter how much marketers would like us to. Because science says humans are unpredictable, the opposite of logical, driven by emotion, I wouldn’t bother with demographic and psychographic information or audience insight tools, either. While they claim to provide a comprehensive picture of audiences, I doubt the intel they deliver is particularly intelligent. You could end up being so prescriptive that you actually lose prospects.

Think about what people want from your pages

Instead of getting too caught up in audience analysis, think about what problems and needs the page solves for people in general. Does it fulfil their intentions? It’s often pretty obvious: information about a specific product, insight into your company, details about deliveries. Are you giving them what they expect, everything they need? If you’re not sure, put your consumer head on and think about what you’d want to get out of it. You are a consumer too, whether you operate B2B or B2C.

Get inspired by competitors above you in the search results

It makes sense to look at what your direct competitors are doing. We’re talking digital marketing here, so your main competitors in this context are those that appear above you in the search results. Is their page clearer, easier to read, laid out better, more detailed or more concise, better written, more entertaining, more practical, more useful? If so, you can improve your content using theirs for inspiration.

Rewrite your web pages – How about keywords?

I’m ever so careful with keywords these days, often only using them once – or twice maximum – in a page, and using similar words and phrases the rest of the time. Is there a keyword that maps closely to a page? Maybe several? Make sure they’re included subtly, logically and naturally and you’ll help search engines figure out what the page is about, then surface it when people search for your kind of business.

Improve the spelling, grammar, flow and more

You know the business goal of the page, who will be looking at it, what they expect to see on it, and which keywords they’re likely to use to find it. Now it’s time for an impartial assessment and edit:

  • Check the spelling and grammar
  • Make sure it flows perfectly, easy to read with no lumpy bits that stop you in your tracks
  • Is the information expressed in the right order, given the correct priority?
  • Are you repeating yourself? It’s common for home pages and about pages to be very similar, for example
  • Make sure your meta data still reflects the content of the page, and is written to please both search engines and humans
  • Check the layout – is it clear and logical, do you use headers and subheads effectively, have you ordered suitable information into bullet lists, have you emboldened / italicised the parts you want to stand out?
  • Have you used Schema mark-up for things like reviews? It matters because coding things properly improves the way your page displays in the search results, thanks to ‘rich snippets’ that appear under the page title
  • Check the language – are you using plain English? Can you drop any jargon or corporate speak that’s crept in? Is the tone of voice suitable as well as consistent throughout the page?
  • Are any of the links on the page broken?
  • Can you add internal links to make life easier for people?
  • Are there any high authority external links you can add to make the page even more useful?
  • Can any of your pages be merged to make life easier for visitors?
  • How fast does the page load? Check and make any changes needed to make it faster
  • Are your images good enough quality? Are they the size of football pitches, far too big to load fast?

How often to check your web pages?

I try to check all my web pages and give them a spring clean at least once every six months. If you don’t have the time or inclination to rewrite your web pages, you can always let me loose on your site. I’ll give it a really good, professional polish.

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