Great content does not just appear, it is planned! Whether you’re the proud owner of an existing site and need to freshen it up or you are creating a new website, we highly recommend taking a strategic approach to your content first. It’s common for website projects to focus on design and for content to be left as one of the last steps before launch. This is changing and it’s all for the better- we have found that focusing on content strategy and planning content before even talking about design results in smoother timelines and better design (you can find our blog on content strategy here). If you already have the final content ready then your designer has an advantage and will create mockups intended to display your unique content.
Letting old or incomplete content sit for years is like getting a pet rock and expecting it to do tricks for your guests(we love the pet rock analogy at 95Visual). Give your website the attention it deserves by keeping pages updated as your business grows and it will serve your customers better as time goes on. This includes making sure contact info, relevant service pages, and the About page are accurate no matter what quarter it is. For those that need new website content and will be writing it themselves, we have some tips for planning it all.
Understand Your Brand and Objectives: “Why”
The ‘why’ is what content strategy and planning is all about. People are always looking for WHY they should choose one business over another. Being able to articulate why you are in your industry, provide the services you do, and where you want to go is the first step to creating successful content. A strong identity will result in a well-defined voice for content and direction for a design later on in the website process.
Once you’ve defined your ‘why,’ begin by outlining the content you want to create if you are starting fresh (i.e., you have no current content). Research what similar brands are doing and how they reach their audience then take notes. Good things to note are the platforms used (website, social media, marketing/promotional materials), length of content, blog post topics, and what you like/dislike about each. If you have content on a current website or a blog with at least 5 posts then we’ll discuss filling in the gaps later, so doing research is still an important step for you too. After you have a clear understanding of your brand and objectives, you will research your audience.
Understand Your Audience: “Who”
All people are not the same, we know this. Yet when many business owners approach their audience, they view their audience as their preferred demographic and the results may not be what they thought. But who are you really creating content for? The people who will be paying for your services. It’s probably two to three groups that have similar problems, needs, and wants. The content should focus on the people you are serving and effectively show them how you will fulfill their needs. This is the most important step for any web project. Creating a profile of your ideal client is also necessary for website design, marketing, and ads. When you are evaluating who your client is you may consider things like their age, education, job title, and values. The better you understand who your audience is, the better you(or whoever writes your content) can reach them.
Become familiar with the buyer persona and buyer journey if you plan to do all content by yourself. You can understand where your audience is coming from but if you don’t understand where they are in the buyer journey your content will be hit or miss. Customers go through three stages before making a purchase- first awareness, then consideration, and finally a decision. To read more about the buyer journey we suggest this article from Hubspot.
Rethink the Site Map: “Where”
Do you notice when a website just seems out of order? Navigating the menu is more difficult than it should be and the pages you need are in places that don’t make sense. A thoughtful and well-organized site map is crucial to making content easy to find and engage with. If every page on your website has a spot on the menu then organize them into 3-4 groups so the menu isn’t overwhelmed. For example, 95Visual website has five menu items:
Services, Portfolio, About, Blog, Contact
We did this to make it easy for users to get to the information they need and categorized each page so our website stays tidy.
Audit Your Current Content: “When”
For those that have a website or content already started, take some time to sit down with a trusted colleague(maybe grab a coffee as well) to evaluate your current website. It’s important to be objective and thorough in your evaluation to understand where you are and then you can set goals for where you want to be. Here are some tips for evaluating your content:
Read: Go through everything you have and leave no page unturned! Go through all of the content you have even if you are only planning on refreshing one section or something like the blog. Take note of things like common topics, how they fit into the buyer journey, length, readability, tone, datedness, and relevance.
Measure success: Google Analytics is a very useful tool for measuring the success of individual pages. Makes notes on which pages have the most traffic and which have a high bounce rate(meaning users immediately leave after arriving on the page). If some pages have a high bounce rate try to identify why.For example, annoying pop-ups are the top reason for high bounce rates.
After you’ve evaluated all the content, your priority is to find the gaps and develop content that fills those gaps to better serve both your objectives and the audience’s needs. What is missing? Chances are there’s information that needs to be added or updated. Refer back to the list you made of content your competitors are creating and see what you could be doing too. When we work with clients on content strategy there are a few common changes that are made when updating old content: added facility features, change in services, new leadership or key staff, and additional information to the About page.
Content Creation: “What”
We have another post with tips and resources for writing your own content. For now here are some traits of good content. Content should be:
Content is a great tool for building trust with your audience. If the people that use your services know they can go to your website or social media as a resource, they’ll develop a deeper relationship with it and become loyal customers. Beyond just being a loyal customer they’ll trust you enough to recommend your services to their friends, which is one of the greatest strengths your business could have. So when developing the content you’ll be using, take time to consider how it represents your business. Make sure the writing style fits your personality and branding. Do you know what your business identity is? Content fulfills needs to support that identity. Then consider what your users need and how to merge the two ideas. Do you know your ideal client? If you don’t understand the connections between your business objective and your audience then your content will be hit or miss. Putting the time and effort into understanding who your audience is, what they need, and how you fulfill that need pays off. A successful website is one that takes advantage of good design and good content.
Still need some help with planning and development? Contact us to discuss how our Content Strategy services can improve your online presence!