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10 Principles you can use to improve your website content

As a therapy practitioner looking to build and write your own private practice website, you may wonder how writing for the web differs to other types of writing. Website content creation is a very different skill to traditional writing, as unlike with printed materials such as books and brochures, web visitors tend to consume content differently: by skimming and scanning. With so much information available to us online, internet users want to find the best answers as quickly as possible. It’s therefore important to ensure that your web page copy is succinct and engaging, so that it does its job when potential clients come calling. Here are 10 simple principles for improving your online content in 2017.

Be straightforward

Did you know that reading from a computer screen is on average 25% slower than reading from printed material? All that brightness makes it harder on the eyes, so the easier your content is to absorb quickly, the better.

Get to the point quickly: what is it that you offer? Are you a private practitioner? An online therapist? Avoid using slang or jargon that your readers might not understand, and choose shorter words over longer ones where possible. Keep your sentence structures simple. Remember, the best copy speaks the same language as its readers.

Here’s a good example of a website belonging to a London-based therapist, Francesca Moresi. Note the short sentences, succinct paragraphs and appropriate use of subject headings.

Keep it relevant

Search is what powers the internet. When your potential clients use Google or Bing search, they are looking to find information as quickly as possible. If the information on your website is irrelevant or outdated, your bounce rate will be high (meaning people will land on your website only to click away) and your SERP ranking will be low (meaning people won’t find you at all).

Remember that web content doesn’t have to be written. It can also mean rich media, such as video. The Chelsea Psychology Clinic uses video to great effect on its website, answering common questions such as ‘what’s different about the Chelsea Psychology Clinic?’ and ‘how many sessions do patients need?’.

Structure your content effectively

Remember that when we’re online, we tend to skim through content to pick out the bits we need, rather than reading through the whole thing. You can make this easier for your visitors (and strategically draw attention to key points) by breaking it down using clear headlines and subheads, bullets and numbered lists, and lots of white space. Keep your lists short – no more than five points. Big, bulky blocks of text are a no-go.

Use keywords strategically

Using the right keywords in your web content is very important, particularly for search engines. You need to know what your potential clients are looking for, and use natural, varying language to ensure that Google picks up its relevancy. You can of course go too far with this and repeat the same keywords too many times – known as ‘over-optimisation’.

A great place to start with your writing is with a free keyword research tool like Ubersuggest. Let’s see what we get when we type in ‘online therapist’:

credit: tools.neilpatel.com

Already we have several good ideas here (along with volume and difficulty) for keywords and phrases that are commonly searched for. What else could you try?

Always link to your sources

A quick point but worth making: always include a hyperlink when you reference content from another source or website. This is good etiquette and encourages others to do the same for you. Choose ‘open link in another tab’ if you want to avoid redirecting your visitors away from your page. Linking strategically to other websites can help you to gain backlinks if the other site responds in kind. Remember, links from powerful websites can boost your domain authority, which is a key factor in ranking well.

Spend time on your headline

Here’s a nice little statistic: on average, five times as many people will read your headline as your body copy. Your landing page headline is your big attention grabber. It can be the difference between someone choosing to read on, or deciding your practice isn’t for them. Your body copy could be outstanding – but without a good headline, it may never get read.

So give your headline the time and attention it deserves. How can you condense what you offer to its essence, in a way that is inviting and intriguing, and also hits your primary keywords? Here’s how to write magnetic headlines.

Use active words

If you want to really engage your visitors when they land on your website, be sure to write with an active voice, rather than a passive one. That means using active verbs, which might look like:

  • Start your first session today
  • Book a free enquiry call
  • Learn more about psychotherapy

The idea is to provide motivation and encourage the reader to take action. When a verb is active, it means the subject of the verb is doing the action. When a verb is passive, it means the subject undergoes the action rather than doing it.

While not strictly therapy-related, we can learn a lot from how ecommerce company Shopify uses active words on its landing page. Learn how to start an online store. Start your free 14-day trial today. Make it your own. Get automatic shipping rates. How can you apply this principle to the wording of your own website?

Keep it fresh

It’s good to remember that all content has a shelf life. While you should aim to write content for your primary landing pages that is evergreen, seasonal or time-specific content such as features and blog posts help to keep your readers coming back and serve as a form of content marketing.

Ideally, you want to produce new content for your readers on a weekly basis. This is a good way to gain more traffic and keep offering an incentive to come back to your website. Look at the Talkspace online therapy blog for inspiration.

Consider your visitors’ reading level

When you’re writing content for your practice website, do be sensitive of how easy it will be for those who perhaps struggle with reading. Avoid lengthy paragraphs – you can almost always break them down. Aim for around six sentences per paragraph. This also makes it scannable, which is ideal for web copy.

Be aware of the language you’re using and make sure you’re not speaking on a level that will go over your readers’ heads. Technical terms and abbreviations can be unhelpful if they are not widely known. Keep your choice of wording as simple as you can.

Include calls to action

Every page on your website should include at least one invitation to take action – known as a ‘call to action’. It could be ‘book a phone consultation with me’ or ‘get in touch for more information’. Let your readers know the logical next step that you want them to take when visiting your website. Make it easy for them. If your web pages are quite long, consider including a call to action halfway down and at the bottom as well.

Take a look at what Better Help has done for some ideas. You can see the ‘get started’ call to action three times on this page – top right, further down on the left, and then again at the bottom of the page. Make your call to action stand out by creating a button in a different colour to the rest of the site.

Writing user-friendly content is easy once you know how. Follow these simple tips and you should find that your engagement improves, along with your Google ranking if you have taken the time to optimise for keywords. Above all, make sure that you’re offering valuable content for your readers, and that the next step – booking an appointment or making contact – is obvious. We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments. 

Patrick Foster: Freelance Writer & Consultant 

As a business owner and digital marketer, I understand the importance of good content and the impact it can have on a small business website. I write for a range of online publications worldwide on the subjects of copywriting and content marketing, among other things.

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