Hiya. My name is Meghan Casey and I’m a content strategist at Brain Traffic based in Minneapolis. Been working specifically on the web for about five years, but have been in the marketing/communications field for 15, have worked for or with non-profits, government agencies, corporations, marketing agencies, etc. Let’s talk about you. Raise your hand if your work is pretty much all focused on the web. Raise your hand if web stuff is just one part of your job. Thought so. I hope that today, I can give you some good information and tips to help the web part of your job go a little more smoothly.
Has anyone seen Wall-E? At work recently, we were talking about the parallels between the movie and content strategy. Really. Humans created a lot of junk that needs to be cleaned up – The state of content on the web today Humans boarded a spaceship and left the robots to clean up the content – Sometimes I think of the spaceship as the next big thing that you really can’t do well until you have your content under control Accident leaves one conscientious robot to do the job of many – YOU Robot tries his best to clean up the mess and puts it in his little compactor tummy to turn into tidy cubes – a CMS – if you put junk in a CMS, junk still comes out. Robot every now and again finds something amazing that he takes home in his little cooler to keep – Good content – the kind we strive to create Robot meets probe robot EVE and shares with her the keepsakes he found in the junk – Content people want to share
Content is anything, anywhere that: Informs
Or does all three. This is a little quote from my dad when I was bugging him about something recently. It’s informative Instructional AND Entertaining
Online content is text, which can be Plain old page copy
Error messages User generated content, ads, etc.
Online content is also video and animation
Images and infographics
A good strategy does these five things: Provides clarity Leads to informed recommendations – no cookie cutters Facilitates smart decision making Documents the action plan Guides implementation
Content strategy is all about creating, delivering, and governing CONTENT PEOPLE CARE ABOUT. Keep in mind that caring about content doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best content they’ve ever seen. It’s more about finding what they were looking for or being able to do what they came to do, even if that was something un fun like paying a parking ticket.
Most people come to a website with a specific purpose in mind: I need information about tax breaks for students. I need to renew my license tabs. They want to learn or do something. Ensuring users can find what they came for easily or accomplish their task with minimal hassle is what makes a website successful.
People on one hand expect you to be archaic, beaurucratic and slow, but on the other hand they expect to be able to do or find anything online. They also feel that because they pay taxes, you “owe them.” And, they know you have a mission to fulfill. People expect a lot from government agencies because: They are used to being able to do or find pretty much anything online. They feel entitled because they pay taxes. They know you have a mission you’re required to fulfill.
In general, there are three types of communication on websites. Promotion, Information Dissemination, Interaction/Transaction. Most sites do a combination of the three.
The Census site has: Promotional messages to persuade you to participate Informational content to tell you why the Census is important Content to get you to interact with the site or the Census
This landing page for the House of Representatives is more information dissemination: Here’s a bunch of links – Hope you can find what you’re looking for.
And this specific page on the DC Departmetn of Motor vehicles is all about the transaction.
So, this is a pretty typical process for launching a website or even making improvements to an existing website. Then, right toward the end of design, somebody usually realizes that the content is NOT under control. That’s bad.
Because these are all the things that result from thinking about the content too late. You know, the content … The reason people come to your website.
When you don’t think about the content, you end up with site maps that have a lot of these on them. No one has taken the time to figure out what you need to talk about and how many pages it takes to do it effectively.
Or this. You’ve probably seen this. Design mock up. Oooh, looks great. Actual copy in design. Hmmmm. Doesn’t really work any more. The designer didn’t know what kind of content needed to be accommodated.
Or you get a home page like this. Because everyone thought their content needed prime real estate on the home page. You appeased them all. Well everyone, but the user. Who has no idea where to look. And then, if they decide to scroll down the page, they might find something at the very bottom that applies to them. But, they’ve probably already left.
Here you see something interesting under What’s New about the Google Book Settlement. Let’s see what that’s all about.
Hmm, it’s from 8 months ago. Not so new. No one had a plan for updating the content.
Here is some very important information about renewing your drivers’ license. Ugh. It’s dense. I don’t want to read it. Just take me to where I fill out the form. Is this what I’m supposed to click on? This, down here, with no real call to action?
And here, no one thought about the error messages until just before launch. So, they just used generic ones and thought they’d explain them in the Frequently Asked Questions. Not useful. Not at all. A quick note about FAQs themselves .. to me, they signify that you haven’t taken the time to put the right content in the right place and have left it up to the user to go digging for that bit of information they are looking for.
Anyone else a spinal tap fan. I couldn’t resist when I realized I had precisely 11 tips. When putting these together, I really wanted to give you things that you could use whether you are launching a new site or working with one that already exists. So, let’s get started.
I started a content strategy meet up group in Minneapolis. There are about 20 of them around the country. One of the things we discuss at almost every meeting is: How do you convince “the powers that be” that content strategy is necessary. It’s a time commitment, it’s a money commitment, so you need to give them something that proves it will be worthwhile. You need a rally cry. You may have more than one. For the finance peeps, it might need to be tied specifcally to dollars. For your business partners, it might need to be about how the site isn’t meeting users’ needs. For the business strategist crowd, it’s probably more about how the site isn’t helping you achieve your business goals.
A couple examples from people I know or work with: Anyone want to share what their rally cry or cries might be?
When we work with clients, the very first thing we do for every project – whether we actually give it to the client or not – is audit their website. How many pages are there? How is it organized? What else is on the site – PDFs, Videos, Etc.? Etc. When we do give it to our clients, most are amazed and surprised by how much content they have. At the very least, you want to document the hierarcy of the site with page IDs, the title of each page, and the URL for each page. If you have the time, you can dig in further: How does each page relate to other pages – such as, what links are on the page and where do they go?, When was the page updated last, who owns the page, what else do you know about the page – Things like – this page was created for a direct marketing campaign and never taken down.
So, users for the Animal Care and Control websites are probably: Pet owners who need to buy or renew a license. People considering getting a new pet and need to know the rules People who found a stray pet and need to know what to do. People who want to report a problem pet – barking, biting, etc. Put yourself in their shoes – or brains – and ask some simple questions. It might be all the info you need .
You can create a simple chart. Or put big post its on the board and ask people to go to each one and assign their rating with little sticky dots. But, make them prioritize by limiting the number of dots they get. Going back to our example business goal of increasing operational
Because people come for the content, it’s important to have a clear understanding of well, what you’re talking about.
Your content compass is not external messages you put out there for the world to see. It’s an internal guidepost to help you make content decisions. Walk through example. Tie to message map.
Walk through. Users should be able to look at your site and understand at a high level what your content compass is.
Let’s try it with a couple sites … What story is this site telling? Or what message does it want me to “get”?
This is how you use site metrics. They don’t measure the business success of your site. But they do help you diagnose and prioritize.
Get Your Online Content Under Control: Content Strategy For The Public Sector Gov 2.0 Expo | May 25, 2010 8.21.2009 |
Ask: If you could change one thing about the website, what would it be? What are your challenges or pain points related to our website? How could the website help our organization and users better? What’s the most frequent comment you hear about our website?
Determine: Who are your target users? What do they know about you? How do they find you? What do you know about them? What do they come to the site to do? What content will interest them most? What happens if they don’t find or do what they came for?
Then … rank it: Supports business goal? Helps achieve website objective? Fills a user need? Have resources to support it? 1 = No 2 = Sorta 3 = Yes
Create dog selector tool Improve online licensing process Launch live chat for customer service Create interactive dog friendly establishment map User Need Business Goal Site Objective Resources 1 2 1 1 5 3 3 3 2 11 1 3 2 1 7 1 2 1 1 5
An editorial calendar helps you: Integrate with other online and offline communications/campaigns Keep your content fresh and relevant Avoid embarrassing out-of-date content Demonstrate how much you’re doing Say no to errant content requests 2 minutes