What IS a content strategy?
Is it a service, or series of services, that gets tacked on to copywriting or information architecture? Is it a mindset that promotes designing stuff with users and content in mind? Is it just the latest buzz word? Or is it an actual thing—a deliverable in agency-speak?
I hear these kinds of questions a lot. The answer: It is definitely a thing. A thing with tremendous value in and of itself. A complete content strategy for a website includes:
1. Content Analysis
- Target audience overview—A prioritized list of target audiences with descriptions of who will consume the content (personas), what their needs are, and the contexts in which their needs are present (scenarios).
- Business goals assessment—A prioritized list of website and content goals developed with the client.
- Content audit—A detailed inventory (quantitative, qualitative and/or specialized) of the existing content.
- Messaging audit—An overview of the current messaging.
- Competitive analysis—An overview of key competitors’ content and messaging.
- SEO audit—An assessment of the website’s current status with search engines, including keyword research.
- Analytics study—An examination of the Web analytics of the existing website to see what content is, and is not, being used by visitors.
2. Content Recommendations
- Themes and messages—An overview of key themes and messages that should be present in the content for it to be successful.
- Tone and voice—The recommended tone and voice to be implemented in content creation.
- Topics and types—A detailed outline of the major content topics that should be included (such as product descriptions, articles, promos, press releases, bios, FAQs, blog posts, forms, shopping cart and registration), as well as the main types of content (such as text, PDF, audio and video).
- Goals and purposes—A prioritized list of reasons for each content topic and type to exist and how the content will meet both the audience’s and the business’s needs.
- Distribution channels—For content that will be distributed beyond the website, recommendations for channels, such as other public websites, mobile sites, intranets/extranets, e-mail, paid search, ads, press releases, print and TV/radio, and distribution mechanisms, such as feeds, social networking sites, etc.
- Languages—A summary of the content’s translation needs, including whether it will be globalized or localized.
- SEO considerations—An overview of any content ramifications of the SEO strategy, such as a need for landing page content.
- Timeline—A timetable showing the order in which content should be created based on the prioritized goals and purposes.
- Ongoing management—A plan for the management of the content over time, including information about any content management system, governance board, standards and maintenance needed.
3. Content Plan
- Gap analysis—A detailed comparison of what content you have (from the content audit) vs. what content you need (after the recommendations are approved) AND how you will bridge the gap.
- Content matrix—A detailed spreadsheet that includes all content needed, where it will come from, who is responsible for it, and more.
- Content template / copy deck—A Word document arranged by site map ID that captures each content block needed to complete the website.
- Editorial strategy— An overview of content creation standards and timing, including a style guide and editorial calendar.
Of course there are variations, but in general, when these elements come together—usually in the form of a comprehensive report developed in phases—you have a content strategy. A thing that changes everything in the success of a website project.