Planning a website from scratch is a bit like building a house. Where do you begin? How many rooms should you have? Is it possible for a kitchen to be too big?
A website can be designed in an infinite number of ways, with an infinite amount of content. If you start without a plan, you’re basically building a house with no blueprint. And that’s not a house I’d like to live in.
Your website content can be broken down into two primary categories—the number of pages on your site, and the amount of content on each page.
Here’s how to get started.
How Many Pages Should My Website Have?
If only there were a simple answer.
There’s a very general idea that more content = better search rankings. There is some logic here. If you have 500 pages on your site and each page is focused on a good keyword, you will naturally attract more site visitors than a site with five pages that doesn’t take search engine optimization into account at all.
But an enormous site only makes sense when it makes sense. An ecommerce site, for example, could have dozens of products, each with its own product pages. These sites can get large very quickly. But an event venue just doesn’t need that volume of static content. And visitors to the site could easily get lost if they have to click through five or six pages to find the information they need.
Local Austin restaurant Uchi gets about 30,000 monthly site visits with only eight primary web pages. (They also have some separate pages which are simply menu PDFs. Here’s why I don’t like those.) So clearly, businesses can get plenty of traffic with a short, simple site.
Consider the User Experience
The longer and more complex the site, the harder it can be for the user to find what they’re looking for. All of those pages have to be organized into some kind of navigation. And complicated navigation can make the site hard to use.
Your primary navigation is usually listed in the bar at the top of the site. Mine, for example, lists
- The Library
Then, underneath Services, you’ll see secondary navigation to my specific service pages. If my service pages drilled down even further, it could be hard for potential customers to make sense of the site structure.
We have to balance the information we want to share (and the keywords we’re hoping to rank for) with what the user wants and needs.
Where To Start
Here’s where I generally start when creating a website:
Every site needs a place to start, and that’s the homepage. It usually includes the basics of the products and/or services you offer, what is unique about your offerings, and why the customer should care. It also farms out the visitors to other content on the site, depending on what they’re looking for.
The about page tells the site visitor a bit more about the company and what they do. It could include a vision, list of values, or a mission statement. It can provide more context about the company’s reason for being.
The services or product-based content is going to vary widely depending on the business. For a restaurant, the “product” could simply be the menus.
Other businesses may offer a number of services, and they may create a different service page for each one. An event venue, for example, could have unique services pages for weddings, dinner parties, and corporate events.
And for ecommerce, there’s usually an individual page for each different product. These pages may be organized under categories to help the user drill down into what they’re looking for.
How do customers reach you with questions or concerns? This could include a contact form, or it could list an address, phone number, and email address.
Additional Pages to Consider
Depending on your site and its needs, you may want to add some additional pages like…
A blog can be a fantastic way to continue adding new, valuable site content. It can let you rank for more keywords, and can be an excellent informational resource for your customers.
Blogs take time and energy to maintain, so only start one if you are committed to keeping it updated (or to outsourcing the work).
Some multi-location sites find value in creating specific location pages. For example, my client My Fried Chicken in New Zealand has locations in three neighborhoods, so they have three location pages. These can be excellent for local SEO!
A photo gallery may make sense for certain brands with a highly visual product or service. An event venue could include a gallery of past events showing how clients have used the space and made it their own for the day.
Make that good press work for you with quotes from articles and links back to the source.
Even if you’re not running an ecommerce website, you may still have products to sell. Restaurants may sell merchandise. Photographers may sell lightroom presets. Consultants could sell ebooks or guides.
How Long Should a Single Webpage Be?
As you create your site plan, the next issue becomes: how long should each individual web page be?
The “standard wisdom” is to keep pages to 300 words or longer. You’ll find this advice all over the internet. Probably because humans like rules. It makes things easy.
The idea is that anything less than 300 words isn’t long enough to thoroughly answer the user’s query, so it’s less likely to rank well. It’s referred to as “light content.” And while I wouldn’t say it’s a never-to-be-broken rule, it is a good goal.
Some pages may be low on words for a deliberate reason. A gallery page, for example, may include fewer than 300 words, because the purpose of the page is to share images. Still, an image-heavy page may benefit from some explanatory text. I’m currently working on a site for an interior designer, and I’m planning to add a little narrative on each project’s gallery page to explain some of the thought that went into each design.
On the other hand, an idea also pervades that long-form content is always better. But this is certainly not always true. If you write 2,000 words on how to boil an egg, you’ll be stuffing the article full of useless, irrelevant information that doesn’t serve the reader. In that case, a shorter how-to will serve you much better.
So the question becomes…how much information does the potential customer need to take the next step? Do they need a quick intro to the restaurant and a link to a menu? In that case, a short page may be sufficient.
Or do they need a complex sales page to:
- explain the offer
- share all the benefits to the potential customer
- overcome objections
- provide case studies or testimonials
- offer bonuses and extras
- explained the warranty
A sales page like this can easily run to thousands of words.
For blogs, I recommend at least 500 words. But I usually aim for closer to 1,000, with the option to go longer on a particularly in-depth topic. As long as the text follows a logical pattern and is broken into manageable chunks through headings, subheadings, images, and other visual elements, blog posts can be extremely successful at much greater lengths.
As Usual, There’s No Simple Answer
But as long as you focus on providing all the information a potential customer needs to make a decision to buy, you should be okay.
Start with four to five web pages and go from there. The questions you get along the way will help you figure out what content you still need to add. Are your potential customers confused about the process of working with you? Then a process page is in order. Do you get a lot of questions about pricing? Maybe your pricing page needs to be longer.
The biggest mistake you can make on your website is to create it and forget about it. Your site should be updated frequently to make sure you’re giving visitors the best possible experience!