They say that content is king, but more often than not, it's treated like that slightly mad king who keeps making strange demands and referring to himself in the plural. People deal with having him around, but only because they assume he (the content) is someone else’s problem. Content strategy, however, looks this problem in the face and refuses to flinch.
Content strategy may sound like another fancy-yet-meaningless buzzword to describe the job of the humble copywriter; but, as it turns out, there is a lot more to it than cranking out large word counts and filling in empty spaces on a website. The principles of content strategy are centered on developing a useful and meaningful website that will significantly impact a user's experience.
Content strategy lays out plans for the creation, publication, and control of useful and usable content. A strategist will take control of the development and incorporation of new or revised content for the site, and define what content should be published and, more importantly, why it should be published.
Many website designers do not take content strategy into account during the early stages of development. When it comes time to publish to the Web, there is often a quick stab at some filler content to round out the site, which inevitably leads to more stale, dissociative, and useless content clogging up the Internet. It is just too tempting to use this type of content and label it "good enough."
Unfortunately, "good enough" could leave you "far behind" the competition. Internet users are a savvy bunch and website experiences continue to advance, and that will require more sophisticated content. Not just more content, but more relevant, useful, accurate, and meaningful content.
So how does one define "meaningful" content? Does it really matter? Isn’t all content just about climbing the search engine rankings anyway? After all, most website visitors don’t stay long enough to see all the content on a page, let alone read an entire paragraph.
Meaningful content is a unified presentation of words, audio, video, and graphics. Used properly, a website just might encourage a visitor to care about the information on the screen. That means treating it as more than an afterthought and following some important criteria.
Content must be relevant to human visitors. It must be readable, but it must also be delivered in a style and voice that specific customers or demographics will relate to. A content strategy should include a style guide for the site so everyone that contributes content is working within a set structure.
The content must also be useful to machines. All search engine optimization best practices should be followed, including the use of proper keyword density, meta data, and relevant text. These are the elements that will help a site start to climb the search engine rankings where it will be noticed.
Content strategy should make the actual production of the content an effective process. It will establish rules for workflows, updates, and upkeep schedules. This process is all about optimizing company time and resources to ensure that content isn’t being thrown in at the last minute.
Finally, meaningful content will be part of a comprehensive vision for the website. Strategists will determine what the site needs, provide and in-depth analysis of existing content, and identify problematic areas or elements that disconnect the user from the intended website experience.
Content strategy really is about more than just filling up empty space on a website. By accepting content as a crucial part of website design from the beginning stages of development you can create a site that is meaningful to both customers and search engines. And that’s a powerful combination that can lead to success.