Website Content: Establishing Expertise and Building Trust
By the year 2019, you knew you needed a good website to reach more customers. The day-to-day workload of entrepreneurs, founders, and other business leaders often put the maintenance of those websites on the back burner.
Then 2020 arrived and everything changed overnight. Those languishing websites turned into the lifelines that would determine if your business survived. After the mad scramble to update and inform and pivot to virtual everything, a new reality dawned.
Business websites were the main avenue of communication with customers and investors.
The pandemic showed everyone from Mom & Pop stores to multi-national corporations the truth that content writers have known for years:
Your website should establish your expertise and connect you to your visitors.
It should turn clicks into visitors, turn visitors into customers, and nurture those customers until they become loyal brand ambassadors. That seems like a lot to ask from some words on a web page, but never underestimate the power of good content.
Copy and Content
Your website needs short, catchy copy that grabs the attention of a visitor. That copy walks the fine line of being both accessible and professional. It tells your visitors that they are welcome in this space where you are an expert.
Your site also needs content—the descriptions, articles, videos, and pictures that turn visitors into customers learning about the solutions you offer. Today we’re going to talk about the written content that guides visitors through your site and provides them a reason to return.
The first piece of content I ever wrote was a movie review in 2002. In the twenty years since, I’ve written everything from blog posts to product descriptions and homepages to social media posts. I’ve learned a lot about optimizing content along the way.
The Value of Content
As the saying goes, content is king, and that’s as true today as it was when I first heard it in the early 2000s. From 100-word SEO-optimized product descriptions to long-form articles about your industry, you have opportunities all over your website to connect with your customers.
Content offers your visitors something of value for their time. Ideas for their own businesses, an engaging look behind the scenes at your business, or a new way to look at problems and solutions.
Your goal is two-fold: establish expertise in your area of business and build trust with visitors. Your company is not built on clicks or site traffic, it’s built on conversions. Chasing the former does not guarantee the latter. You need to give your visitors a reason to stick around.
Every paragraph on your site helps you establish expertise in your industry. From homepage sections identifying pain points and offering solutions to articles discussing current trends—all show that you’re knowledgeable and invested.
The tricky part of establishing industry expertise, or thought leadership, is remaining accessible. I had professors in college who had obviously forgotten what it was like to not be an expert. They talked over our heads and down to us at the same time.
Don’t be one of those professors.
Your content should meet people where they are. Offer tips and hints for industry newcomers in one article and do a deep dive into an esoteric topic in the next. Just make sure to clearly identify your audience.
You know what it’s like to be the newbie, and how easy it is to click away from something you don’t understand. Welcoming newcomers into your world is one of the most powerful ways to turn a casual visitor into a loyal brand ambassador.
Expertise and leadership also involve opinion. Let your customers know where you stand on important issues in your industry. Leaders don’t just provide information, they interpret it. Use your expertise to wade through topical issues and don’t be afraid to take a side.
What you’re reading right now is opinion. My thoughts on a topic based on my years of experience writing content.
You don’t need to share your opinion on every topic. I’ve seen companies stray into politics and it’s a gamble. Choose your opinion pieces outside of your industry very carefully. Remember that you’re building a community.
People argue that trust is built on what you do, not what you say. They have a point. But we’re living in a world where we may never connect in person with our customers or colleagues. Content provides a bridge between our real lives and our virtual businesses.
Building trust and loyalty through your website starts with consistency. Make sure your website has current basic information. Add content regularly, answer comments, and respond to emails generated through your contact form.
Show your customers and investors that you’re accessible through your site. You don’t have to do it all yourself. Find someone you trust to answer emails and comments. Make a schedule with your content writers. Be clear in your expectations for customer interactions and content topics.
Using content that’s personal and less focused on your business or industry is a powerful way to build trust and community. I once wrote an article about grief and a listicle about the absurdities of traveling with small children for a site completely unrelated to either topic.
Both pieces resulted in new readers and followers who continued to visit my other content. It can be hard to connect virtually. It’s worth the effort to branch out into topics more universal to the human experience.
Customers and investors who get to know you through your content feel invested in the success of your business.
Pulling It All Together
In the two decades that I’ve been writing web content, the world has changed in extraordinary ways. What hasn’t changed is the power of the written word to inspire, unite, and build communities.
Use that power on your website. Make your visitors feel welcome and reassure them with your expertise. Cultivate connections that build trust. Post content that rewards that trust with something of value. There is no single, perfect way to create or present content on a website. Your website can meet the challenges of a rapidly changing business environment if you invest in content that keeps your customers and investors informed, engaged, and connected.