“There are some that only employ words for the purpose of disguising their thoughts.” -Voltaire (1694 – 1778)
While most web projects only focus on the engineering of the site, the most critical component for a successful site launch is the content. All too often the content is an afterthought; a last minute exercise of copying old content from an existing site to your shiny new site. However, content is the reason visitors are coming to your site at all, whether that content is text, video, images, or audio. How easily the content can be found lies in the domain of information architecture, but what gets found is the domain of content strategy.
Content Strategy Defined
Content strategy is like project management for the site’s content and aims to clarify and define the entire process around its creation, publication, and usage. Very simply, content strategy tries to answers the questions:
- What content do we have on the site now?
- What content do we need to have on the site?
- Who is the content for and what does it need to communicate?
- Who will create and edit all the content?
- When does the content need to be published?
- How will SEO, social networking, and other Web 2.0 considerations affect the content?
Notice the only thing missing from this list is “where.” That’s because where the content goes is specified by the information architect and captured on the wireframes.
The content strategist creates and maintains a number of document, but the most notable is the content matrix. The content matrix is a comprehensive spreadsheet listing every piece of content on the website and records information such as who’s responsible for writing it, the due date, expiration date, etc. As you can imagine this could be a really big document for sites with a lot of content.
The content strategist may also be responsible for creating other documentation that could be considered more strategic in nature, such as:
- Editorial guidelines that help writers with language, voice, and style so that all content sounds unified
- SEO recommendations based on keywords and phrases that are important to the organization and its overall strategy
- Content evaluations to improve readability, scan-ability, and consistency so that it will be useful to visitors
Small projects may even call upon the content strategist to actually write content, which is something I would consider the best part of the job. This most likely involves working closely with the client or subject matter expert (SME) to collaborate and create the real crux of what the whole website is about- information.
If content strategy is new to your organization or project then start simply. It can be overwhelming to consider the entire content creation, evaluation and lifecycle when you’re just beginning. In another blog post I outline three simple steps to help your organization get started with content strategy. Start there and let it develop organically over time.
The bottom line is that we are familiar with planning and managing the technical side of web projects. Content strategy provides tools for us to show the same attention and care to our content. And in the end, content is what it’s all about.