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Is an outstanding first impression enough?

15 August 2011

This is a guest post written by our former studio mate and good friend Julia Cameron of Blue Ink Copywriting.  You should follow Julia on twitter.

If our decisions were based on first impressions alone, life would be a lot simpler. It would take you seconds to evaluate a potential partner, you’d know right away whether to do business with someone, and having a beautifully designed website would be enough to attract new clients.

There’s no denying the importance of the first impression, especially when it comes website design. But while we’ve been so focused on the aesthetics, we’ve stopped thinking about what sort of impression we’re making overall.

Creating a lasting impression takes more than good design. You also need quality content. It takes a person just a few seconds to scan a web page and work out if it relates to what they’re looking for – and it’s the content’s job to convince them that, indeed, it is.

Be relevant

Before anything else, your content should be relevant. And being relevant means giving people the information they need, in the places they expect to find it. If your business has an interesting start-up story, great. But your home page isn’t the right place for it. And when you’re really passionate or knowledgeable about your industry, it’s easy to find things fascinating, but difficult to know when something of interest to you isn’t of interest to your visitors. Scrutinise every piece of information and keep asking yourself if your readers will find it useful.

Keep it short

More content doesn’t mean more impact; it usually has the opposite effect. You might have a lot say, but you can’t say it all on one page. The average page should have no more than 300 words on it, but if it absolutely must be longer, break up the text with bullet points, sub-headings or anchor links, and see if some of the content can have its own sub-page. Your visitor should be able to take in all the information in front of them at a glance.

Write for humans

It’s nice to be on the first page of Google, but it shouldn’t be your ultimate goal. High search engine rankings aren’t worth much when your visitors are put off by over-optimised content.  As search algorithms evolve, they become more human-like, which means they look at your website in much the same way people do. With this in mind, always write for people first. Quality content will be naturally keyword-rich, attracting search engines and, most importantly, engaging your visitors.

You can do better than make a good first impression. Spend some time on getting your content right or invest in professional copywriting, and you’ll be impressed by the difference it makes.

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