“Like a gentleman in a ﬁnely crafted suitwho wants to burp you the alphabet,even if your website looks nice, no onewill stick around to hear whatyou have to say if you don’tcraft something compelling.” Jason Santa Maria @jasonsantamaria http://jasonsantamaria.com/articles/the-elements- of-content-strategy/
(Note: user experience, design,and the other things that make up your website are also important. This isn’t a contest.)
Content is not a nice-to-have. Content is not an add on. It’s a business asset. It has value.
Because ...it brings you customers, wins you fans,builds you an audiences, and earns you money.
It’s also a lot of work,if you want to do it well.
U.S. Findings: Web Use +Perceptions of Content Credibility
“You are all in publishing!” Jeffrey Zeldman, king of the web http://www.zeldman.com/2011/03/15/web-design-is-publishing/
You need to get it right.Enter content strategy.
“Content strategy for the web is about bringingeditorial skill and methods into website planning. In order to create good content, you need a plan for how you’re going to get it and keep it coming.” Elizabeth McGuane @emcguane http://mappedblog.com/2010/10/04/fear-loathing- and-content-strategy/
“Content strategy is to copywritingas information architecture is to design.” Rachel Lovinger @rlovinger http://www.boxesandarrows.com/view/content-strategy-the
“I am a ﬁrm believer that content strategy is communication design.” Nicole Jones @nicoleslaw http://swellcontent.tumblr.com/post/4072864686/ demystifying-content-strategy-part-i-the-term
“Content is story.Content strategy is storytelling.” Prateek Sarkar Director, Creative Services Walt Disney Parks and Resorts
That’s a broad range of answers. Content strategy is a broad ﬁeld.Practitioners come at it from different perspectives, and tend to specialize.
Where do content strategists come from? From “Apes of Wrath,” a Warner Bros. short.
“Good content” is in the eye of thebeholder. Ultimately, your users decide.
What are your goals?What is your content supposed to achieve for you?
“There’s really only one central principle of goodcontent: it should be appropriate for yourbusiness, for your users, and for its context.Appropriate in its method of delivery, in its styleand structure, and above all in its substance.” Erin Kissane @kissane The Elements of Content Strategy
Good content is:• Appropriate• Useful• User-centered• Clear• Consistent• Concise• Supported Erin Kissane again. Seriously, read her book.
How do you knowif your content is good? Inventory and audit.
Yes.It really is a massive spreadsheet documenting your entire site.
How do you do a content inventory? Click each link on your site. Document what you ﬁnd.
Things often tracked in a content inventory: • Page ID/number • URL • Page Title • Parent • Page Description • Components • SEO Information (metadata, keywords) • Who inside the organization owns that content.
The inventory is quantitative. What’s on the site?
Followup: the content audit.That’s qualitative: How good is what you’ve got?
Basic audit: ROT analysis.Look for content that’s: Redundant Outdated or Trivial
More thorough audits can track all kinds of qualities. Is content on brand? Is it clear? Is it meeting customer needs? Is it in a usable format? (There are many possible measures.)
EXERCISE #1:Let’s evaluate some website content.
Step one: Let’s do user analysis on ourselves.
(Note: in the real world, this is a bad idea.)
“We cannot advocate for those whom we do not know— or, even worse, those whom we assume we know.” Corey Vilhauer @mrvilhauer
You’re scoping out a food truck’s website.What content would be useful and usable?
Business goals:Ideally, we’d talk to the business owner. If you owned a food truck, what would you want your website to do for you?
SPLIT INTO TEAMS OF TWOI’ll give each team a food truck’s website.Your job: Perform a quick inventory.How much content is on the site?
And a quick analysis: Is it useful and usable,based on our goals? Check for ROT:redundant, outdated, or trivial content.
WORTH CONSIDERING:Does the content work on mobile?Are they linking to Facebook or Twitter orYelp, and if so, are those up to date?
Spend a half hour on your analysis.Then prepare a quick overview: How’s thesite’s content? What needs ﬁxing?
Present:• Three words that capture the food truck’svoice. What makes it distinct?• Three recommendations for how content(new, deleted, changed) could improve the site.
And a big one, especially in discovery: WHY? Why do we need a blog? Why do we need a Twitter feed? Why aren’t we using a CMS? Etc.
Once you’re done evaluating, it’s time to design.Some tools you might use to do so:
Message Architecture What are your key messages? How are you delivering them?Does your audience believe you?
Your message architecture is independent of form.It’s not a tagline, or a mission statement, or a video. It’s communication goals. Speciﬁc terminology.
illustrations images tweetshelp articles navigation words photos audio slideshows interface copy podcasts Facebook posts blog posts infographics comments cartoons video white papers error messages
Editorial Style Guide What’s our tone?Which dictionary do we consult? Do we use the serial comma?
Editorial process Who’s creating our content?How do we decide it’s good enough?How do we evaluate its effectiveness?
Content Template (a.k.a. Page Table) What needs to go on each kind ofpage? Includes both visible and invisible content. Accompanies site map and wireframes. Communication bridge between subject matter experts and writers.
And content strategy is not, ultimately, about learning a particular tool. Thetools help the process, but they’re not the point of the process.
Also, not every project is a site-wideredesign. Content strategy works on a project-by-project basis.
ONE MORE THING ... Governance!How content strategy plays out over time.
“If IA is the spatial side of information,I see content strategy as the temporal side of the same coin.” Louis Rosenfeld @louisrosenfeld
“When I look at where most websites fail, it’s in managing their content over time.” Karen McGrane @karenmcgrane
Consultants and agencies: People want to hear from you!Yay, buy-in! But you don’t get to be there for the long haul.
In-house: Buy in can be a major challenge!But you know the brand and business goals, and you are there for the long haul.
Content strategy is not a quick ﬁx. It’s a long process. One reason content is valuable is because it’smessy, and difﬁcult, and requires a lot of resources.
To keep your content working:Track when content will need to be archived or updated. Use the editorial calendar. Use a rolling audit. Budget time to get that done.
Whatever your approach and yourbackground, learn about the other areas of content strategy.
“It’s about seeing structures through the lens ofmeaning and storytelling, and building relationshipsacross disciplines so that our databases reﬂect this richness and complexity.” Sara Wachter-Boettcher @sara_ann_marie
“People’s capacity for bullshit is rapidly diminishing. We need to respect people’s time and give them relevant, purposeful content without the extra cruft.” Brad Frost @brad_frost
“We should eliminate distractions for people. If they came to read, turn the lighton and let them read. If they want to learn, give them a quiet place to study. Whateverthey’re after, help them do it in peace. Make it readable, watchable, and hearable—and keep the ads out of the way.” Nicole Jones @nicoleslaw
Content strategy helps make the web a better place.
I’m tired of yammering.I know you’ve got questions. Shoot!
Resources: I’ll post a bibliography and links and stuff on my blog: http://scarequot.es Come to a meetup with Content Strategy Seattle! http://www.meetup.com/Content-Strategy-Seattle/Join the Google Group, or LinkedIn discussion groups. Follow smart people on Twitter.Content strategists are a friendly, helpful group. (I think it’s a job requirement.)
THANK YOURemember to ﬁll out your evaluation. Don’t forget to write. firstname.lastname@example.org http://scarequot.es Twitter: @scarequotes
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