Digital content strategy has exploded onto the scene as an important focal point for comms and marketing experts alike. Digital strategists have become increasingly savvy when it comes to understanding their audience in the online space, and perhaps more importantly, serving up content the user actually wants to engage with.
There are some competitive advantages that can be gained if a content strategy is correctly executed:
- Supporting SEO efforts and lead scoring – good content will receive more hits, and therefore increase your likelihood of achieving more leads.
- Lead nurturing – it helps you to make the most of the leads that you do get, and nurture these into conversions.
- Risk mitigation – Reduce the risk of losing valuable visitors by having a well thought out content strategy.
- Engagement - actually capturing, and cultivating an audience based on key demographics.
- Ongoing assessment - ability to evaluate the success and failure of certain campaigns and adjust future campaigns accordingly.
These five steps provide a framework for a basic content strategy, and will work best for sites that have stale content that hasn't been assessed for 6 months or more, or sites that are being rebuilt in the next 3 months.
Step one: Complete a content audit – spreadsheets are fun (and useful)
If you have an existing site, start with assessing the current state of your content. Begin with a spreadsheet, and use this to itemise each URL on your website (think of it as a sitemap on steroids). Looking at an overall snapshot of the site will allow you to pinpoint patterns that reflect content issues.
A good content strategy should include goals and/or metrics in order to measure impact and strategy success. Completing a regular content audit will allow your organisation to solidify branding and market position within a given industry.
Columns could include:
The Page title - does it reflect the page's information accurately?
The URL - is it SEO-friendly?
Content fit and UX consideration – will the user look for this page here? (e.g. if your "make a booking" is buried under "about us" consider moving it).
Popularity – How many page views has it had for the last 1-2 years and what is the bounce rate like?
SEO – Is there a meta description for every page?
Updates – How relevant is the page and when was it last updated?
Audience – who will actually visit this page? Is the tone correct?
Key messages/call to action – What are the key messages for this page?
External/internal links and downloads – Does this page link to other pages – if so, what pages does it link to?
Content editor – who is responsible for keeping the page up-to-date?
Content status – keep, delete, revise, planned, etc.
Duplicate content – is this content duplicated anywhere else on the site?
Assessment or rating – what do you think about it? The tone is off, the terms are out of date? If you are consistent in your naming of the issues, you can track the common issues and address them together
There may be additional columns specifically related to your organisation that need to be added, the above is not an exclusive list, so feel free to add/remove what is relevant.
Action point: Create a spreadsheet to assess your content.
What do I do with the audit once it's done?
2. Consider your audience – then write and structure your content to suit
Most organisations already have a good handle on who they want to target and when, and one of the key advantages of the digital space is that you can use various metric tools, to determine the success of that targeting. Use your Google analytics to assess your most visited pages. Are these pages front and centre? Are they easy to find? When the user does locate the information they are looking for, do they immediately leave, or do they spend a bit of time on the page?
Additionally, consider your tone. If you are targeting health professionals, are you using appropriate jargon that is both professional and approachable? Maybe your audience is youth aged 15-25. This would require a totally different communication strategy.
Action point: Write or edit your content to suit your audience.
3. Have an editing process in place
Your brand can easily be compromised by poor grammar and spelling. A comprehensive editing process needs to include an editor who checks for clarity as well as grammar, spelling and tone:
If your organisation does not have a team member dedicated to this cause, create an editing checklist and ask a competent colleague to review your work before posting to the live website. An advantage of the digital space is that you can update the content at any time, but it can be time-consuming, so we would recommend perfecting it offline prior to upload.
And now, the basics of editing:
- Check article facts (time, dates, numbers, general industry information, individual and place names).
- Check grammar (use of contractions, Americanisations, conjunctions and syntax).
- Check spelling (a UK English spellcheck in conjunction with a thorough read over should do the trick here
- Check clarity (remove superfluous adjectives, check for verbose language, i.e. is the message clear?).
- Check tone (does the tone appeal to who you want to speak to).
- Check against your organisation's communications policy – (have you called your stakeholders "sufferers" when they are really "patients" for example).
Action point: Rope in some editors and train them.
4. Develop clear user pathways
Facilitate the user experience by creating clear pathways to help the user get to where they want to go, and more importantly, where you want them to go!
- Have small marketing initiatives supported throughout the site (e.g. Social media icons present on every page, newsletter sign-up always present, login and search functions need to be always present to allow quick and easy navigation).
- Create clear calls to action with obvious wording on a big button e.g.
Good = "take the test now!" vs
Bad = "Risk assessment tool"
- If you have a shop, this should be front and centre
- Allow users to have their own prospective pages
- This is last step is important if you have a lot of downloadable resources. Consider an area for forms and resources. Simply creating hyperlinks within the text that link to important documents does not mean the user will find them – have them located in more than one possible user path to decrease user frustration.
Handy tip: Less is more when it comes to words on a page. Get creative and use iconography and images to help communicate key messages. Use the F pattern method.
Action point: get your web team together to discuss clear user pathways and key calls to action.
5. Engagement is key – what can we do differently?
Users are engaged by interesting content. That means, they are more likely to interact with your content if it adds value.
For example, videos and images are more interesting than pages of text. Colour and cool designs are more interesting than pages of text.
To think outside the square, consider info graphics, or other visual elements to enhance the user experience and make it as interesting as possible, without being overwhelming. This means, like your writing, it should simply and easily convey your message without bombarding the user with visual stimuli.
Action point: Look at boring content and consider how this could be improved.
With the above tips as a starting point, you're now ready to strategise. And not just any kind of strategise, but the good kind. The content kind. The spreadsheet will work wonders in terms of starting the process, use it as the catalyst for creating truly mind-blowing content that will wow your customers and colleagues alike.
Top content strategy dos and don'ts
- Do update the look of your site regularly to support your content
- Don't duplicate content across multiple pages
- Do carry out content audits every six months
- Don't allow content editing rights to everyone at your organisation