Content: What’s Your Strategy?

As Content Strategist at Gorilla, I spend a lot of time thinking about website content, both our client’s and our own. After all, along with design and usability, content is one of the three fundamental requirements of every great website. When executed properly, these 3 elements can combine to create meaningful web experiences that drive engagement and conversions, encourage repeat site visits and spur those visitors to proactively share your content with their networks. If ignored, well, bounce rates begin to resemble a trampoline.

For most businesses, the goal isn’t to increase site traffic. It’s to increase relevant site traffic. With that in mind, here are a few key things to consider when creating, or updating, your site’s content strategy.

SEO is an Ingredient, not a Recipe
Should SEO play a significant role in website content development? Absolutely. It’s a must. Should SEO be the primary driver in website content development? Absolutely not. Think of SEO as a single ingredient in a complex recipe required to create great content. Of course you should follow best practices for on-page and off-page optimization, without over-doing it, but the days of “Checklist SEO” producing results on its own are over. Too much gaming of the system and millions of frustrated web users duped into clicking too many dubious links for too many years led the major search engines to rethink how they deliver search results. The most notable change came with the Google “Panda” algorithm update of 2011. For companies serious about producing great content for their site visitors, this is a good thing. It’s an opportunity to separate your site from the pack, and your competitors. Rather than looking for shortcuts, we should embrace the opportunity to find better ways connect with our customers through content. Who’s with me?

Have a Plan
Content needs don’t happen overnight. It only seems that way. Very rarely does a business need require that “we need to get that page up ASAP.” But it’s a familiar refrain to anyone who’s ever been involved in producing website content. This is where planning can pay dividends down the road. A content strategy plan can help you prioritize content deliverables, maintain editorial momentum, manage the content lifecycle, match needs to resources (see below), separate what’s essential from what’s ”nice to have”, and chart your website’s future, among other things. To get there, I’d recommend following the follow steps, at a minimum.

  1. Start with a thorough content inventory, so you have a baseline for measuring progress.
  2. Clearly align (and define) your business and content strategy goals
  3. Hold weekly (or bi-weekly) content meetings to assess needs, progress, etc. If it’s not on the schedule, other business priorities will likely push site content off the radar.
  4. Create an editorial calendar; even a simple one can give you a big picture view.
  5. Review all site content on a regular basis to ensure it remains accurate, relevant, and up-to-date.
  6. Use analytics and other measurements to determine what’s working and what isn’t. 

Have the Resources
This is a particular issue for small and mid-size businesses. Very few companies have the luxury of full-time resources devoted to content development. Yet, the need to continually produce engaging website content to compete in the marketplace never goes away. The key is to balance content needs and resources to ensure a successful content strategy.

Content can take many forms beyond the written word, from images and video to infographics and audio podcasts, and beyond. It’s okay to think big. Just be realistic. Every piece of content needs a competent resource to produce it, and in most cases you won’t have access to all these content producers in-house. Also, consider that website content can have a relatively long shelf life and is often the first interaction site visitors have with your brand. This may not be the time to go with the lowest bidder. If you can’t do it right, it’s probably best not to do it at all. 

Have Fun
The whole purpose of having a content strategy is to tell your brand story in a way that best meets your business and customer needs. Find your voice. Find out what keeps visitors coming back. And don’t be afraid to have some fun along the way. It shows.

Post script: At Gorilla, content strategy is part of a collaborative process that deeply involves our award-winning design, development and marketing teams. And speaking of awards, we’re humbled and flattered that our corporate site is a 2012 Webby Award Honoree. Proof that all the hard work can pay off.