This is Part 3 and the last article in our mini series entitled Three things every website owner should consider.
Consistency is often the last thing that website owners consider when optimising their website or even brand in general. That’s why it’s number 3 here. I don’t believe it should be last, but at least I’m being consistent.
When we talk about consistency, it’s not restricted to a single aspect of design, functionality or marketing but everything we decide upon. It’s also worth highlighting that things don’t need to be identical to be consistent, they just follow a similar pattern of rules. I think the cupcakes above demonstrate that nicely and how else was I going to include a picture of sweet treats in an article about optimising your website content?
The Language We Choose
When we write the content for our website’s pages, we do so in a certain manner using what are called Personal Pronouns. Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be an English lesson, we just need to outline the main differences. There are usually three options available to us when creating our text for the web, so let’s make sure we know what they are and the main difference.
- First Person (singular) – I
- First Person (plural) – We
- Third Person – They / It
Small businesses, the sole trader or ‘one man bands’, often use First Person Singular language. e.g. “I provide my specialist services throughout the local area”.
Another popular choice for small business owners and medium sized businesses is First Person Plural. “We provide our specialist services throughout the local area”.
The final option we are looking at here is Third Person. Content written in this style might read “BusinessX provides its services to customers throughout the local area”.
It’s entirely up to you which style you choose, but you should remain consistent in everything you do from that point onwards. I’ve read through many websites where a business wanted to appear more corporate and had opted to use the Third Person in their About page and Contact page. Reading further through the sites then reveals a slide into Second Person language. This effect is most often seen on websites where the Home page and Products / Services pages are updated more frequently and the editor has preferred a softer, more approachable tone.
The worst examples we see are when a corporate sounding website suddenly reveals chunks of text that have reverted to First Person Singular using I. The only time you should see this is when text is directly attributed to an individual. An example of this might be when a CEO or Company Director writes an introductory piece on the Company’s About page. There’s no harm in adding some personality to the company by introducing the people behind the brand.
You don’t want to give out mixed signals or create confusion about the type of business you are. Think about how you would like your company to be perceived, which Person reflects your business the best First Singular, First Plural or Third Person and stick to it.
Now go and take a look at your website and see if you chose correctly. Take time to read through your main content and ensure consistency prevails.
The Tone We Use
Next up we need to address our tone. Are we polite but to the point or do we allow ourselves a more relaxed attitude with our site visitors and customers. This is something that should remain consistent, not only in the content of our web pages, but within all forms of communication, publications and social media platforms.
Businesses that take the Third Person approach, would probably introduce a more formal style to remain congruent. Those that opted for First Person (singular and plural) could easily be less formal, though whether you go as far as smiley faces and the odd LOL all depends on the relationship you’re building with your customer base.
Whatever you decide upon, stick with it. It’s not uncommon to see slight changes in Tone on social media compared to website content and blog posts, but don’t make these differences too extreme. Whatever channel drives customers to you, their experience needs to be a consistent one and maintaining control over Tone and Language goes a long way to fulfilling that.
Design and Layout
As people navigate around your website, it’s important that everything has a familiar look and feel to it. If your blog is running on a different platform to the rest of your site (e.g. WordPress), make sure you have an easy to customise theme and style it in such a way that ties the two nicely together. When sections of a website are unnecessarily different, it can create a confusing and fragmented experience for the user.
It’s also important to ensure your navigation is seamless and consistent. Don’t leave users stranded on an area of your site with no clear way back.
Marketing, Media and Mail
When it comes to driving traffic to our websites, there are so many opportunities available to us, but they all require a certain amount of commitment to succeed.
Blogs are by far one of the most popular avenues to pursue. Creating fresh and unique content that demonstrates your ‘authority’ on the topics you discuss, will lead to new interest in what you have to say and subsequently, many more hits on your pages. But, before you settle on a blog for your website, can you commit to it?
Blogs are only really effective if they’re populated with quality content, all topics are related and they’re active. What do I mean by ‘Active’, well that would mean new content gets added on a regular basis. Regular is not the same as frequent however, so if you only ever add one new post a month, so be it. If you add new posts every week, fantastic. But, whatever you decide to do, be consistent. If you started writing one post a week for the first few weeks, then went to one a month for the next couple of months and now haven’t added anything new for the last year, then your blog was wasted energy. A dead blog is worse than no blog as it could suggest a lack of interest and commitment by the site owner. Reap the benefits of an active blog and be consistent.
Social Media has many benefits for online businesses and website owners. They open up new channels to interact with your customers and make it fast and easy to share your latest news and special offers. Gaining followers on Twitter and getting retweets for instance, can act as indicators to the search giants about your popularity, which in turn could improve your website’s ranking. You can establish reviews on sites like Facebook and Google Business, which will further enhance your brands identity. And, when people do a search for your company or website name (if it’s different), the fist page of results is more likely to be populated with results for you and not similarly named competitors.
It’s all good stuff but, don’t create social media accounts that you’re just going to leave dormant. A Twitter account with no followers and no Tweets looks rather sad and the same goes for all other Social Media channels. You just need to set aside some time on a regular basis to interact. Retweet something interesting, write an update on you Business Facebook page or post a new image on you Google page.
Plus, when you do write that new blog post, you get to tell the world about it on your social media network. Don’t do them all at the same time though. Spread it out and write a unique, short (especially in the case of Twitter’s 140 character limit) into and post a link to you great new article. The #ICYMI (in case you missed it) tag is popular on Twitter as a way to Tweet a second link later in the day, for those in a different timezone that might have missed your earlier update.
If you’re interested in using Social Media for your business, and you should, there’s lots of free advice available online. But be consistent – you knew that was coming right!
Email Campaigns and Newsletters
The last thing I’m going to mention today are Email Campaigns and Newsletters. When done right, they can be incredibly effective, but don’t pester people and fill up their inbox with unwanted drivel. If you choose to send emails, decide on the most appropriate frequency and stick to it. If you’re sending news out once a week, do it every week. If it’s once a month, do it every month. If you only send out news when you have something to important to announce, that’s fine too.
What you don’t want to do is start out by sending weekly emails and then give up for a while. It sends the wrong signals and people will jump to their own conclusion. Test the water with an occasional newsletter and see what feedback you get. If the response is good, you may see the benefit in a more frequent email campaign. And if you do, be consistent.