What a content strategy can do for you

An overview of how a content strategy can help focus your web content. (3 mins reading time)

content without content strategy

Content connects people.

A content strategy helps make that connection stronger. It brings focus to what you want to tell people. It helps you organize your content and your time.

Why have content?

Why have a website at all? This may seem like a stupid question. But ask yourself when you look at your website why any of it is there? Who is it for? What is it trying to say?

There are two golden rules to good content.

  1. It must support a key business goal. What do I want to say? For our university this might be our international research profile, or student recruitment.
  1. It must meet people’s needs. What are people looking for? People don’t browse for things randomly. Why would someone be looking at your content? What kind of task are they engaged in at the time?

If your content doesn’t do both of these things then you really don’t need it on your website. Just get rid of it.

Less content. More focus.

Small websites are easier to manage than big ones. Since this is obvious, why don’t more sites choose to be smaller?

David Hobbs (@jdavidhobbs)

Less content is easier for people to find and process. It allows greater focus for your message.

Less content costs less to create and maintain.

So you might be thinking this is all very well, but some websites need to have lots of content. But why have more content than you need?

How much do you need? Again, what are your key business goals? What are people looking for?

Business objectives: putting experts in charge

Great content cannot be designed successfully by committee.

A problem I’ve seen often around our university is that content editors are put “in charge” of a website. Then they are swamped with requests from lots of people for content that should be put on the website, right now.

This results in a sprawling, confusing and often contradictory mess. Of course it does. But it happens all the time because content creation has become a reactive process. There is no strategy. There is no resource planning. There are no realistic priorities.

A content strategy should help give content editors the freedom and confidence to create good, relevant content. It should allow all the stakeholders to understand clearly what the desired outcomes of the website are, and what priorities should follow from that.

User needs: putting people first

Think about the person looking at your content. Think about where they will be and what they are trying to do. What are you trying to do right now?

You don’t really care where this post lives or how it was published. The content might be on a blog or it might be on Facebook or in a series of tweets? But you would care if you found this post about content strategy, and then it told you something entirely different.

If you don’t know what people are looking for from your content, then ask them. There are lots of ways of doing this. I covered a few a while back in a post about personas and a post about user-centered design. Site analytics are well worth looking at too, but only really tell part of the picture. Taking this extra effort can seem like a daunting process at first, but it really will save time, money, and effort later.

A content strategy can provide a framework to help you focus on the people using your content. Only then can you think about the best way of getting a clear message across to those people.

Next steps: building a content strategy

In my related post about content strategy, I outline how content strategy works, and how you might go about building one. Or at least how you might start planning a content strategy.

Further reading

A big thanks to the excellent book Content Strategy for the Web by Kristina Halvorson (@halvorson) and Melissa Rach (@melissarach). It’s a great read and a big help in getting me started with content strategy!

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