Content is Critical

November 12, 2012

Content Strategy for the Web 

content is critical

Why do you visit a website? Is it for its dazzling design and nifty graphics? What about neat rollover text with continuous scrolling and vivid background images? Well then, surely it’s for the novelty of slideshow effects, java script and fun pop outs, right? Right?

Wrong. Try again. The number one reason a person visits a website is for its information—its content. And not just any content my friends, good, relevant and up-to-date content. Without good content, why else would a person stay on the page? They’d click out faster than uploading a photo to Facebook.

Speaking of Facebook, Sara Concilla, content strategist for the popular social network, wrote a lovely Foreword for the book, Content Strategy for the Web, by Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach.  In her Foreword, she spoke of the vital impact content strategy is having throughout the web and its effect on all sites. Even Facebook, where practically the entire site is composed of other people’s content, has a content strategist. Regardless of where the content comes from, a content strategist’s responsibility is to allow users to view the content in an organized and creative manner. In other words, they’ll stay on the page, and maybe, if you’re lucky, come back again.

According to Content Strategy for the Web, content strategy “guides your plans for creation, delivery and governance of content.” Basically, it encompasses everything from gathering your content to showcasing it (with the help of your designers and developers). Sounds tough, doesn’t it? It can be. Absolutely. But if you want content that will support an epic design and top-of-line effects, you’ll need to take these next words to heart.

First, identify the purpose of this website. What is the key business objective? What are your goals? How will your website fulfill the user’s needs? Take this information and turn it into a strategy—a direction in which you want all your content to focus on or move towards. That is the first step to good content.

Next, you need to realize that less is more. It may be hard, business owners, to realize this. But grit your teeth and listen to reason. Your users, your customers, don’t want everything but the kitchen sink. They want relevant information without having to look too hard. So give it to them. After all, it’s easier to manage and costs less in both time and money.

Once you understand that content should be relevant and brief, make a content audit. For those who already have websites, this involves a detailed breakdown of all your current content. For beginners, this  is an accounting of the content your organization will want to display online. Still, there’s not much of a difference. Your audit, regardless where it begins, helps you scope and budget, provides a clear understanding of where your content comes from and anticipates problems before they arise. (AKA – this is a big time and money saver guys, do not overlook this!) Overall, the audit answers those vital questions—what do I have? Is it worth anything?

Finally, you must listen. Know the business and your colleagues, take all their thoughts and considerations into account. And of course, listen to your user. After all, “no one knows better what your customer needs than your customer.” Knowledge of your business and your users is vital to your content strategy, it helps all your decisions and tunnels the direction in which you should take.

So jump in. You don’t have to be an expert on web developing to employ good content strategy (though no doubt it helps) but you do have to know your content.

Now, dear readers, understand this blog post only barely skims the surface of Content Strategy for the Web (just the first chapter actually). I beg of you—buy the book, read it, or better yet, hire someone who knows the importance of good content and can implement it.

Trust these words: “Your business needs it. Your users want it.” Content is Critical.