One of the hardest parts of creating a website is deciding on the content and message and finding the best footing in a complicated online space. Byte's content strategy crafts smart long term decisions.
Content isn't just king, it's castle and country. Smart content leads people to a website and positions the website as a resource or leader in the field. Content and the corresponding design sets the expectation that a viewer has the moment they load their first page.
Content strategy defines the site's navigations, the sidebars, callouts and buckets, and it helps define the voice of the brand through clearer and smarter language. Byte's content strategy service is fed by curiosity and learning what works using context only available through long-term relationships.
The key to content strategy is that we're defining the needs not just for going live, but also for the longer term, listing out the content that should be written over time. The content strategy often includes types of content that haven't even started to be collected, like testimonials or visitor log book messages, so we imagine that the website will one day have that kind of content, and we leave space for that when it finally does come online.
Finding and organizing the best content
We've honed a process to create a focused, resilient content strategy that lasts well past the go-live date of the website. Here's how:
We do our homework. We visit sites and read trade journals or background sites that gives us insight into the industry and specific areas covered.
We listen. We have focused conversations with our clients and have worksheets so clients can help us do shared discovery with stakeholders. We have an internal document process that includes a variety of spreadsheets, and when shared helps clients iterate through content needs and hopes.
We synthesize. We take in a wide array of client and comparable and contextual input, and we formulate a series of themes that the content strategy can cover. We explore different themes concurrently, and we work with our clients on the themes until there are clear winners, opening to wider stakeholders and choosing the winning themes.
We communicate. We have a deliverable document format that shows our strategy in ways current and future staff can understand and apply. Each client has different needs, but our deliverables can cover audience segments, segment use cases, personas, user paths, and visual sitemaps.
Key content differences
There are two key things we do that change the outcomes pretty dramatically: audience understanding and sitemapping:
Audience understanding: We start a content strategy by enumerating and quantifying audiences, creating an outline of the types of people that will interact with the site. We use this to discover what each audience will want to achieve on the site (use cases), the goals we want them to achieve and the paths they'd have to take, the search keywords they might use to find the site, and the content and data available that will shape the experience for them.
A content strategy is different than a content audit. A content audit will likely lead to just a rearranging of available content. We're interested in discovering new content that needs to be created over time. A content strategy becomes a roadmap a client will use to develop relevant content over time that helps real people on the site.
Sitemapping: A sitemap is an abstracted, visual way to explore how people will experience the hierarchy of sections and pages on a website. This is a key stage because this defines the different navigations on a website, and the navigations are the way every visitor to any page will first know the width and depth of a website's content.
Most web designers make sitemaps based on available content, and put it in an order that makes the most sense. This ends up with the standard "About Us," "Our Products/Services," "Our Difference," and "Contact Us," which is kind of an anything-goes sitemap that doesn't say anything more than its parts.
We explore sitemaps differently. We explore using pages of content that exists now and should exist as determined by the audience explorations. We then apply different themes, like products, services, value statements, impacts, audiences or a mix of multiple ideas. We keep exploring concurrent themes down to a few main contenders, and we open them up to wider stakeholder input and potentially ask people with no background with an organization to give some input, what the industry calls "user testing". In the end we're looking to find the best one that connects with the previously defined audiences.
The sitemap phrase often leads into an ontology or taxonomy phase, creating a hierarchical list of site terms that people will come to learn and know on a website. This can happen as a data-inspired phase, bringing in data that the site will use, or other outside or industry terms. It can also happen as a stronger search engine discovery phase for clients who are using pay per click or other search engine tools to help attract new visitors.
Other content strategy tools
Beyond our audience understanding, there are a variety of first-step tools that can help us find a content strategy that drives visitors:
- Editorial strategy
- Content creation and publication
- Workflow, ownership and governance
- Content voice and tone (brand)
- Site messaging (from callouts to campaigns)
- Taxonomy and hierarchy
- Data as content, content as data
- Market-based gap analysis
- Metadata and content attributes
- Related content and content nexus
- Social media strategy
- Content channel strategy beyond social media
- Search engine optimization by content
Over time, our content strategy can update over time to include:
- Editorial calendars
- Social media strategy changes
- Search engine optimization changes
- Statistics and strategy reviews
- Organizational or business changes
Developing content is the hardest part of building a site. No client has the right content to start, and without a full content strategy, there's no real way to guess what should be developed. A good content strategy defines what an organization should be creating and collecting over time. New data sets, whitepapers, testimonials and much more will often take time, and we'll build in the space so the site houses it effortlessly once there's enough to make the case.
It's our job to help an organization define what that next generation of content will be, how to put that into an editorial calendar, how to make it shiny for search engines, and most importantly, how to make it worthwhile to people. We're also hands-on enough to directly help content administrators understand the big picture and define ways to achieve the content goals.
Lastly, we're building content strategy tools right into our CMS so there are ways to help site administrators keep their eyes on the prize. We're creating editorial calendars, global site tags and clear promotional messaging options that will help the content strategy for years to come.
[image of editorial calendar when it becomes available?]
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