Content Creation Guidelines
This document is intended to serve as a guide to aid in the redesign and development of all new websites, with the end goal of helping your organization create informative and compelling content. This guide will focus on creating copy, producing quality images, developing a successful SEO plan, and learning how to use Gather Content.
We are confident that our recommendations will result in a fully defined and unified brand that will help educate users and promote your organization.
Basic Guidelines for Creating Content
While the following points will guide you in the proper direction, it is important to note a few general principles that are key to making a successful website:
- Content must be compelling, easily skimable, and to the point.
- If users do not find what they want, they will leave.
- While off-page SEO is important, content creation is equally important to SEO. Google now “crawls” your whole site and keeps track of all the relevant content. Sites that have the best content will show up higher in the search results.
- Write with your User in mind. Tell them what they want/need to know.
- Use language that is consistent with your brand.
- Avoid technical industry terms (jargon).
- Get to the point – fewer and fewer people actually read, so only present key information.
- Use Active Voice (the subject of the sentence performs the action expressed in the verb)
- Use keywords and keyword variations in your copy. Fit them in naturally, and do not purposely over use them.
- Keep like information together.
- Do not force in too much information on the page. If you see that the page is getting too long, it may be best to split up the sections into different pages or edit down the copy in general.
- Keep Paragraphs on point and between 4-6 sentences long.
- Use headers and sub headers to identify key information and break up content blocks. Make sure these are informative, to the point, and sum up the paragraphs that follow.
- Lists are another great way to break up content while providing skimable content, rather than a wall of text.
- Unordered lists are great for providing content that all has the same weight, but may not merit a paragraph (ex – a list of capabilities).
- Ordered lists are more for showing importance or instruction. These are also great for breaking up paragraphs and limiting text.
- Icons and graphics can be a good way to present important information in a more unique way than just plain text. Telling facts and statistics work best.
Call To Action
It is important to entice your users to click. Engage users with specific calls to action – Sign Up Now, Contact Us, Learn More, etc. It is important for the links that entice the user to take action to stand out.
We recommend leveraging custom, professional photography whenever possible. This leads to better quality and more unique images. This may not seem like a lot, but it will make your website stand out in the end.
If custom photography is not an option, there are a number of image library databases to search through. These include iStock, ShutterStock, Fotolio, and many others.
All images should be as high in quality as possible, appearing crisp and presenting a clear subject matter. Do not use any images that appear to be pixelated or washed out. Images should also be relevant to your brand and page content.
While image quality should always be as high as possible, the size of the image may vary by its placement on the page. Generally speaking, images that will be used as a background, or take up the full width of the page should be presented in the largest file size possible. Other images may range in size, but it is best to provide us with the largest file size you have.
When manipulating images in Photoshop, it is important to keep the image to its proper proportions. This can be done by holding SHIFT while you drag the corners of the image.
Do not drastically increase the size of small images. This will rapidly decrease the quality, leaving the images pixelated and unusable.
Saving for the Web
It is best practice to optimize images for the web when saving. This allows you to retain the highest image quality at a reduced file size, which will reduce page-load time. You can save images as JPGs, PNGs, or GIFs. JPGs will be the most frequently saved file type. PNG images and GIFs allow for transparent backgrounds, but may reduce the image quality (depending on a few factors).
To save an image for the web in Photoshop:
- Crop the image to the desired size.
- Go to File > Save For Web and Devices
- Select the format (in this instance JPG).
- Make sure the image is High, Quality 70, and Progressive (as noted in the screen below)
- Click save.
If you do not have Photoshop, there are a few free online tools to use. We suggest using Picresize.com.
To save an image for the web with Picresize.com:
- Upload your image on the main page of the site.
- Crop the image to the desired size.
- Change the size, if necessary (note: it is best to leave it as big as possible – we can adjust the size further later on).
- Select an effect. This would be most helpful for black and white, but should probably be avoided most of the time.
- Make sure the image is Better or Best Quality. If the saved image is over 1MB, you can adjust the file size to make it smaller. However, keep an eye on the quality of the photo. This technique may result in a loss of image quality.
- Click Resize.
Use a consistent URL structure that allows like pages to be grouped in categories. If you add new pages, make sure they are short, to the point, and accurately describe the information presented on the page.
Keep the URL structure simple, but organized. For example – on the Usman Group website, all case studies are stored under the “Work” section. This keeps everything organized and in place.
Use important keywords in links. Google takes this into consideration, and it will boost your page rank. This is especially important if an outside source is linking to your website. Do not use links like “Go Here.”
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a web design best practice that is used to index and promote your website on the various search engines of the Internet. The better your website is indexed, the higher up in the results your business will be. Properly applying SEO techniques could result in an increase in ranking for your specific search result, with the main goal of getting your website to index as close to the first result as possible. The higher up your business lands, the more visits to your site you will receive.
This practice uses many different elements to best optimize the website, which include actual page content, the URL structure, page links, and any tags and descriptions in the code. Your end goal should be to combine these elements with quality content you create. If done well, the end result will improve your search engine rankings.
Keywords are the search terms that you will use to optimize each specific web page. Generally, you want to focus on one or two keywords per page, and variations of that keyword. For example, if you had a page where you are selling sandals, you may also want to use the term “flip-flops.” At this time, Google’s search engine looks for these related terms and groups them together, allowing for more accurate results.
Note: Do not repeat the same keywords on multiple pages throughout the site (variations are ok).
We approach keyword research through a number of platforms, focusing on the following results:
- Exact Search – An exact term and close variations of that term. Woman’s Hats > “Woman’s Hats”
- Phrase Search – A phrase, and close variations of that phrase. Woman’s Hats > “Buy Woman’s Hats”
- Keyword Difficulty/Competition – How difficult it will be to rank for a particular word
It is important to note that just because the keyword has a lot of results does not mean that it is the best word to select. You want to select the keywords that best fit your page content.
Titles and Metas
Titles and Meta Descriptions are lines of descriptive text that provide information on your organization that show up in the search results. These are used to tell people what your page is about, and give them some insight into what they are about to click on. As you can see in the following example, the title is the larger text at the top that contains the targeted keywords. The Meta Description is the couple lines at the bottom that tell about the actual company. Google automatically pulls this information and formats it for search engines.
Proper Titles and Meta Descriptions follow a number of basic rules:
- Keep the length less than 65 characters
- Place the most important keywords first
- Keywords and Keyword Phrases should be separated with dashes ( – ) or pipes ( | ).
- Example: Keyword 1 – Keyword 2 (Variation) | Company Name
- If you run out of space, your title will be cut off. Remove the company name before removing the keywords. You can check your character count here.
- Keep the length less than 160 characters
- Make sure your descriptions flow naturally and use complete sentences.
- Include keywords and/or keyword variations in the description copy.
- If you run out of space, your description will be cut off. Try to plan ahead, and keep to the recommended length. You can check your character count here.
Make sure you account for unique titles and metas on all new pages. Certain plugins may pull names automatically, but you must be on the watch for duplicate titles and metas. Duplicates will count against you.
On Page Content
On page content should follow the content creation recommendations listed above.
The goal of this is to optimize the page so that Google and Users will know the main point of your page. As mentioned earlier, this is why you want to keep content organized.
All content should flow naturally. Focus on one or two keywords per page, with variations included throughout. Do not overuse keywords, or force keywords in at every opportunity possible. This is called Keyword Stuffing, and will result in a penalty. To avoid this, use variations of the word (as mentioned before).
Gather Content is a tool we use for content collection. It allows us to organize your site by the site map we create, and for the client to then add all copy, links, and external files. It is simple to use, simple to follow, and keeps the project totally organized.
Sections of the Page
Each page has two sections – Content and Meta.
Content is where all of the written content, links, and files will go. You can add additional content blocks by going to the top of the page, clicking “Structure,” and dragging a new text block into the appropriate spot of the page. This allows us to keep the page organized by separating the different content sections on the page. At the bottom, you will be able to add any files (images, pdfs, videos, word documents, excel files, etc.).
The Meta Tab will contain the pages Title and Meta descriptions. This page will generally not need to be adjusted, so all you have to do is click between the tabs, and add content.
If you look at the sidebar on Overview, or at the top of Pages, you will see a plus sign (+). This will allow you to add a page.
Once you click the plus sign, you will be able to add one page at a time, or multiple pages at a time. You then have the option to assign them parents and structures. The structure you will choose will always be “Content Strategy.” This will populate the page with the options listed above. You will always be able to go and add/remove pages and adjust the structure when necessary.
If followed, this document should point you in the right direction for creating engaging and well written content. The execution of quality content, images, and SEO strategy will not only help users find you in search engines, but also help users navigate your website with ease and remain engaged to your brand message. If you have any questions on any of the tips or strategies outlined in this document, please call your project lead at 847-325-5466 or send us a message on Basecamp.