This post was anonymously written as part of Blog Secret Santa. There's a list of all Secret Santa posts, including one written by Keith@KendallPress, on Santa's list of 2013 gift posts.
The world of web design and user experience is in a furor over content strategy. When I talk to designers, I often hear them say that “content is first” and “content is what the user comes to the site for.”
For those of us who work on websites, that’s a huge win!
But if you’re running a small business, you may not be familiar with the world of web design or development. “What is content strategy?” you may ask. “And how can it help me?”
Content strategy defined
Content strategy is the process of planning and caring for your web content. Kristina Halvorson (often dubbed the “queen of content strategists”) is often quoted as defining content strategy this way:
"Content strategy plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content." (http://alistapart.com/article/thedisciplineofcontentstrategy)
Basically, you can think of it as “thinking about content.” But why is that necessary?
Because web content is like your house: if you don’t keep it maintained, the clutter starts piling up. Until one day, you have so much outdated and irrelevant content gumming up your visitors’ search results that you just have to scrap the whole website and start over.
Unless you like the idea of a website that belongs on an episode of Hoarders, content strategy makes a lot of sense.
How to do content strategy
Large corporations that employ in-house marketing teams may staff one or more content strategists to work on various channels (a blog, marketing content, emails, intranets, and more).
If you run a small business, this doesn’t describe you. Your main job is running your company, of which your website is just one facet. You definitely don’t have a team to write your content.
That’s okay. If you can make a few hours weekly or monthly, you can get ahead of your content and keep it in check.
Here are a couple tactics to get you started.
The content audit tells you what content you have and where it lives. You can either do a quantitative or a qualitative audit.
How fancy you get with the audit is up to you. Just create a list of URLs if you want a general inventory, or create a detailed Excel spreadsheet. If you really want to optimize your results, you can include analytics data like bounce rates, conversion rates, and more, to identify what content needs the most work.
You can learn more about content audits and download a spreadsheet at the UX Mastery website.
User experience experts set up labs to run scientific tests that gather data about what website visitors perceive when they use a site. But even without the lab, you can get amazing results from guerilla-style user testing.
It's simple: find someone who's not familiar with your website and ask them to complete a task on your site.
Take notes and watch closely. You'll be surprised at the insights you get. For example, terms that make sense to you may be complete Greek to your visitors—which could be costing you money.
Steve Krug's Don't Make Me Think is the easy-to-read classic that can get you going.
Want to learn more?
What's that you say? You've done user testing and content auditing, and you want to dive deeper into formulating a content strategy for your site?
Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach's Content Strategy for the Web can provide a ton of information and actionable ideas. Read it and join the Twitter hashtag #contentstrategy to learn more—and share your thoughts.