Content Strategy: What Your Site Says About You
By now you know that at I.S. content is king. And as we’ve talked about, Content Strategy is pretty hot right now and increasingly sought after as a service.
So I thought I’d take a moment to explain what Content Strategy means to us, and why it should matter to you.
A strong Content Strategy ensures that information is navigable, appropriate and actionable. That’s why content strategy is infused into several key phases of web experience development:
During the strategy phase we develop the editorial tone and direction.
During user interface development, we ensure messages are logically placed.
During the content development phase words are crafted according to the tone and page layout.
At I.S. we like to break down Content Strategy simply as: Message, Structure, Words.
Before you can write a single sentence, you need to define what you want to say, how you want to say it and why it matters to users. You must define your tone and key messages.
So we start every Content Strategy by getting to know your brand, message guidelines, business objectives, service areas, product descriptions and audience needs. We devour marketing materials, product pamphlets and customer service reports – whatever it takes to understand and formulate an editorial tone that will connect with users and message points that support your goals.
For example, with MAXIMUS we determined that it was important to demonstrate their mission to connect citizens with essential health and human service offerings. So we wove a compassionate tone and language through homepage rotators, interior page pull quotes and site copy, like in the Services section.
There should be a method to the madness, which is why Content Strategy is a very important component of Information Architecture development. Together with sitemaps and wireframes, content strategy helps ensure information is organized per-page with your project goals and user expectations in mind. We simply start with like-pages in a site and outline:
What are they key pieces of information users need at this level of the site? On this page?
What calls to action make sense at what level of the site?
For example, each subpage within InfinityQS’ Software section is laid out identically. Pages like Software/Benefits and Software/Options consistently have a short pull quote, brief opening statement, feature descriptions with icons (sometimes Content Strategy drives design elements) and a call to action to try the ProFicient 4 software.
Of course, writing is an essential component of Content Strategy. With an editorial direction and structure established, you can be relatively confident that your content development process will go smoothly -- pages will stay organized and the message will stay focused and consistent.
There are also tricks for web writing that keep even the lengthiest blocks of copy easy to read:
Use formatting elements such as bullets, bold headlines and pull-quotes to make pages scanable and highlight key calls to action prominently.
Write content that is easy to digest in simple, but professional sentence structures.
Ensure important SEO keywords are woven in to the copy, while maintaining optimal readability.
For example, each of our Service pages demonstrates the same tone and structure, as well as formatting and copy length.
Content Is Not Scary
Many times our clients come to us with a myriad of reasons for not addressing the content on their sites. We hear things like:
“We’ve got so much content and don’t know where to start, so let’s just launch with what we have.”
“The approval process for content is too daunting for this organization, so let’s just launch with what we have.”
“We don’t have the internal resources or time to tackle content, so let’s just launch with what we have.”
Bad ideas, all. Why would you redesign your entire website and not tackle the content that sits inside it? After all, content is what will convince users to take action (donate, join, read more, purchase, subscribe, you get the point). Bottom line: Content Strategy is essential to your site’s success. And when you break it down, and tackle one bit at a time, even the most hesitant clients see that content is not such a scary beast after all. Ultimately, they reap the positive returns of a consistent, focused and engaging content experience.