Back to content strategy basics

Kristina Halvorson is one of my content heroes (seriously, if you’re a web content geek and haven’t checked out Content Strategy for the Web yet, do it). I was fortunate enough to catch her Q and A webinar “why is content strategy so hard?” and had to share my thoughts.

There was so much good information (see the Storify below for some of the key points), but the stuff that resonated the most for me came at the end. And that was that no matter how many new and shiny marketing tools come along, the core principles of content strategy remain the same.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the next new trend that is going to drive your traffic to new heights, increase engagement, and increase your sales, that the purpose behind your website can get lost. So it’s worthwhile to do a rerun of a few always-relevant points.

Put your customer at the centre

That’s it. It really is that simple. Your customer is showing up on your site for a reason. Doesn’t it make sense to be sure you know what that reason is, then give them what they need?

As Kristina noted, Gerry McGovern (another content hero) has been getting on stage and delivering this same message over and over – for years. Here he is talking about customer-centric websites in 2007…

And in a slightly different context in 2016…

He notes that we still measure content production over content consumption, so “most websites are. . . 90% crap, and the 90% crap kills the 10% quality.” (See his examples starting at around the 14 minute mark – they’re quite illuminating.)

Look at your existing content critically. Run analytics. Do a survey. Is your content helping your customers succeed?

Create good content

Once you know what your customers want, make sure they can find it and understand it.

  • Use the terms they do (if you use “job placement” when your users are searching for “work experience,” your content won’t be found no matter how good it is).
  • Remove pages that don’t help your customers achieve their goals. Your site doesn’t need the extra clutter.
  • Remember that good writing is critical; it’s one more way you make an impression on your customers. If you’re writing your content yourself:
    • try to keep it at a eighth-grade reading level for general audiences (literacy issues aside, check out this fascinating article about the reading levels of famous literary works)
    • have someone else read it for you before you post, both to catch typos and to make sure you haven’t missed something important.

If you don’t have the time to do your content right, or you know you’re not a writer, hire someone to do it for you. I can help. Or if that seems too self-serving, I can recommend you to other great writers I know. Your content is worth it.

Use the right tools

I get it – being where your customers are is important. Using social media to listen to and respond to your customers is a huge part of being viable in today’s landscape. But make sure you’re creating that video or Pinterest page for a reason, not just because it’s what everyone else is doing.

Put your energy into the channels where you know your audience is, and make sure they’re finding what they need through those channels.

Looking for more?

Listen to the webinar recording (webinar and link courtesy of GatherContent), or have a look at the Storify of the Q and A session. And go read Kristina’s book. Really.

I’m always on the lookout for other good content resources – if you have some, please share them in the comments.