Designing a content first website means that when you lead horses to water, they can actually find something to drink. We all have to focus on driving traffic to our sites, but website specialist Dave Ebbesmeyer has ideas about some overlooked aspects of website design. Following is his advice about organization, common problems, and best practices for creating a content-first website that is a marketing engine.

content first website design with dave ebbesmeyer

Dave Ebbesmeyer of AI Software shares best practices for designing a content first website.

Informative, educational content is a huge draw for attracting prospects, retaining customers, and demonstrating thought leadership. How can companies build a content first website to take the most advantage of their content?

While all organizations are different in their offerings, most organizations would benefit from thinking of their content in the following way: We do THESE THINGS for THESE COMPANIES. In other words, what are the three to five things the company does and who does the company serve?

Representing core services and core industries served with a mixture of graphics and text is the best approach. Conventional wisdom suggests that an Internet user will focus on three to five items, so even if your organization serves a dozen industries, it is useful to focus on the main ones on the home page. Few, if any, small businesses do ‘everything for everyone’, so organizing this information into digestible buckets is the best way to go.

Content comes in a lot of flavors – blogs, podcasts, news items, video. Should websites lump them all together in one section, like an “insight” page, or should they break each channel apart? What is the best way to get maximum exposure?

The amount of content published by an organization would dictate the best way to organize the information. Small businesses often make the mistake of putting uncategorized content into a single blog section, which is great for search engines, but not so great for the human browser. The best course of action is to break down content into three to five areas of focus. These areas should coincide with the major service offerings of the organization. While content can be stored in a single information repository such as a blog or info base, this content should be linked appropriately into the ‘buckets’ that speak to those products/services. For video content, we recommend a YouTube channel to house the videos. The channel can be segmented as well and the videos then embedded into the main site for the benefit of site optimization via YouTube.

What are your pet peeves with the websites you visit? Specifically, what are the top three things that small businesses do wrong, and how can they fix them?

Here are three common mistakes we run into frequently on small business websites:

  1. Lack of unique benefits. Most small business websites will talk about how much they care about their customers and other such statements that are proclaimed by anyone in business. The website (and any other marketing collateral) should focus on what makes that company unique – specifically what that company has that the competitors do not.
  2. No Calls-To-Action (CTA). Many small business websites provide great information but do not tell the user what to do! There are ways to include CTA on every page – do it! Remember, users may enter the site through a blog, services page, or something other than the home page. Your CTA need to be included on every page of the site.
  3. No offsite presence. At the very least, a B2B organization should have a strong Google Listing and LinkedIN company page. Many small businesses overlook these services because they are unaware or don’t believe that they are necessary. Quite the contrary – a 30 year old making purchasing decisions was 16 years old when LinkedIN was launched and has grown up with this technology. Companies need to be present where their prospects are.

Small business is always tight on budget. Can you rank what improvements to make if you have limited money to invest in a content first website?

Small budgets are difficult to work with and plentiful in the small business arena. However, the recent changes with Google make it possible to gain Internet traction with only the expenditure of time. Some things that can be done to improve a web presence with only spending time are the following:

  1. Create a production schedule to deploy blog content on a consistent basis. [editor’s note: thank you, thank you for reinforcing this view!] For small businesses, it is helpful to break down the responsibility among employees to each create one blog per quarter. With a handful of people, this approach provides a year worth of content rather quickly.
  2. Claim your Google listing and encourage customers to fill out Google reviews. Having an updated listing with reviews (and 10 photos) signals Google and will raise your organic rankings as well as help your business show up on map searches.
  3. Use social media. For B2B, LinkedIN has become much more useful. In addition to creating a professional company page, encouraging employees to post one to three times each week can be useful to raising awareness and creating more instances of your organization online.

What are the new trends in website development? How can small business stay ahead of the curve?

Thanks to Google, the major new trend is off page optimization. Google is putting a significant amount of weight on content that is available off of the main website. Proper site structure continues to be important, however what developers are doing in terms of Google listings, reviews, etc. will continue to have more of an impact on page placement. Google also continues to rank websites based on frequency and quality of content updates. So, developers will need to build in content production as well as off page optimization into their service offerings, or partner with firms that can assist with these services.

Thanks for your insight, Dave. Here’s a bit more about Dave and his company, including a way to connect:

Dave Ebbesmeyer is co-founder of AISOFTWARE, which launched in 2003. Dave has been recognized by as a 40 Under 40 winner as well as the recipient of the John F. Barrett Entrepreneurial Vision Award and Lead Magazine’s Rising Tech Stars. He works out of the Cincinnati, OH office where he is in charge of sales and marketing.


Dave’s advice includes creating a production schedule for your blog to keep a constant supply of content. If you need help organizing it all, sign up here for your beta account of PlanITPDQ editorial calendar.