Content strategy is a growing discipline—and rightly so, if you consider that content accounts for the meat of almost any project. Especially when it comes to the web, content strategy can make the difference between a website that converts and one that leaves users frustrated, disappointed, and ultimately, flocking straight to a competitor who really cares about content.
Is Content King? Indeed, It’s the Whole Deck Of Cards
Kristina Halvorson, one of the nation’s most recognized content strategists and the author of the accessible and applicable book Content Strategy for the Web, stresses the importance of not waiting until what she refers to as the 11th hour to begin thinking about and producing content. Content should never be an afterthought; it should inform, guide, and govern everything you do. You’ve heard the phrase “content is king”; it’s time someone suggests that content is king, and queen, and jack. Content is your whole deck of cards. You can’t know which card to play unless you know what you have and why you have it. And that’s what a content strategy aims to do.
The Basics of Content Strategy: Plan, Analyze, Create, Deliver And Govern
A well rounded content strategy lies on the principle that content is a living, breathing thing. It requires care. It requires constant attention. It requires you to plan for it, to create it, to give it life. Your content strategy, therefore, should aim to both quantify and qualify your content; it should be ongoing in scope and cyclical in application. Here are some benchmarks, as expounded upon by Halvorson, by which to measure your own web content strategy:
- Plan: You have to know what content you already have before you can determine what content you need. Conduct a site content audit to help quantify existing content and measure its quality and effectiveness.
- Analyze: Take the time to ask yourself important questions about your content. This is important in helping to “define the objectives, assumptions, risks, and success factors”(36) of your current project; think of it as helping to chisel a foundation for your strategy.
- Create: Collaborate with writers, editors, reviewers, and managers to set standards for creation, revision, and approval of content, including what you need, how it’s structured, and who’s responsible for each stage of the process. Create an editorial calendar to uphold accountability of project deadlines.
- Deliver: Decide what channels are available to promote your content, and choose the right tools to ensure that you present your content “to the right people, in the right place, at the right time”(143).
- Govern: Oversee the long term organization and success of your content by upholding standards and setting a timeline for continuing maintenance of your site with an “eye on constant improvement”(38).
Are You Waiting Until The 11th Hour To Think About YOUR Content?
If you take anything away from this book (and trust me, you will), take this: content strategy is a much neglected but undoubtedly necessary practice. If you’ve been meaning to sink your teeth into content strategy, take Halvorson’s advice and get started now. Her succinct yet insightful guide, Content Strategy for the Web, provides you with the tools to take a confident leap into the uncharted and murky waters of reigning in your content. Your reward? A site with better content, happier visitors, and more conversions. And that’s a strategy you can take straight to the bank.