Web Content Strategy is Important to your Organization
In the time before Google, content strategy was something that organizations looked down upon, leaving many to wonder if the return on investment would be received as a result of the time and effort invested. The Web has grown significantly since its inception and is now a very competitive space spanning many industries. Having a content strategy to set an organization apart from its competitors is a necessity that can make or break an organization in the market place.
“Each organization has a unique way of working and there are dozens of tools available to help develop or enhance content strategy”
At its core, content strategy helps an organization plan for the creation, publishing, and maintenance of valuable and viable content for a website and digital marketing campaigns. It answers the six basic questions of who, what, when, where, why, and how. Who is going to create the content? What content is needed for publishing? When will the content be published? Where will it be published? Why are we creating and publishing the content? And how will we publish and update the information? All of these questions must be asked and answered when developing a content strategy; otherwise the strategy formulated will only be as strong as the weakest link in the chain. Once the six questions are answered, the strategy should: 1) define the topics of focus; 2) show how the content will deliver the organization’s message to its users; 3) define Search Engine Optimization (SEO) requirements; and 4) define clear recommendations on the creation, publication, and maintenance of the content.
Importance of Content Strategy
Creating a solid content strategy is one of the most important things an organization can do. The Web has become far too complicated to just put up a few aesthetically pleasing web pages and hope for the best. For instance, Google has an estimated 205 or more ranking signals that a website should try to meet in order to rank well in search engine results. A quarter of these signals are in some way related directly to the content on a website, leading to the recent push for more utilization of the User Experience Design (UXD) process when developing sites. The UXD process helps an organization build a clear and concise Information Architecture (IA) to organize and maintain the content on a website. This new IA dictates how users search and browse for content, as well as defines how to represent or label the content. The overall benefit of UXD provides users an improved experience. The growing influence of UXD and the pressure to rank well in search results are the reasons why content strategy has become the most important part of any user experience. For an organization to provide a good user experience it must develop and provide good, fresh, and well organized content for audience engagement.
There are many tools available to build a content strategy. For example, Google Drive offers some great collaborative tools for teams to easily share resources, such as Google Docs, which allows a team to not only share files but also edit them simultaneously. Google Analytics is a tool that will give teams insight into user behaviors and let them know which existing pages are engaging users. In addition, there are more traditional tools such as meetings and surveys. These are time tested tools that, in the end, always produce results, are low cost, and require minimum resources.
One essential tool to assist in the maintenance and support of a content strategy is the content audit. The goal of the content audit is to help identify and document areas of an organization’s site that needs content refreshes, or help if an organization finds areas where content messaging gaps exist. The content audit is the most valuable tool in the tool chest and becomes indispensable when maintaining and updating a company’s website content.
Each organization has a unique way of working and there are dozens of tools available to help develop or enhance content strategy. Ultimately the decision on which tools to use should be left to the individual or teams implementing and maintaining the strategy. It is also for this reason, that the tools a team chooses should enhance the process rather than dictate the process.
Tools Aren’t Enough
Tools for developing and maintaining content are only a small piece of the entire content strategy puzzle. Even before tools are chosen and a content strategy is formulated, there needs to be a larger cultural shift in an organization. Content strategy is a team effort, and requires participation from the top to the bottom of an organization. Content strategy needs to come from the perspective of the business and not the perspective of the technology that is being used to deliver and maintain the content. Organizations must realize that content is not someone else’s problem. It is their own and it is something that requires constant attention. Content strategy is a step in the right direction in forming this new culture, and requires buy in from all invested parties. Processes must be created to enforce and support the strategy once implemented. The best approach to facilitate change is to treat content as a measurable asset. Metrics can be applied to the content to allow an organization to judge its effectiveness and determine its ROI. More importantly, the leadership of an organization must act as a champion and cheerleader for content strategy to show team members that the organization is committed to the strategy as a whole.
Due to the proliferation of mobile devices, creating responsive websites has been the priority of many teams, while content and content strategy remains on the back burner. Moving forward, as many sites are converted to responsive design it will become clear that something is still lacking. We will realize that content written for the desktop does not work on all mediums, nor should it. Content at some point will need to become responsive as well, adapting to the changes that technology presents us. This ultimately means that the websites we are developing with these improved user experiences and designs are still missing a fundamental connection with the user. This is where content and content strategy will finally step into the limelight and round out the user experiences into something truly engaging. The question then becomes, why wait? There is no reason why an organization should not be making content strategy a priority today.