Any good content project has four, or maybe five key steps to make sure that the end result is top notch. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing it on your own, with an in-house team, or hiring a freelancer or an agency, you should go through each stage in one form or another – or you risk leaving your content quality to chance.
The first step in any content project has to be user research. W
e discussed a few research techniques last week. As well as that you’ll need to take a look at your analytics, to see what is and isn’t working, and you’ll need to sit down with your team, or with yourself, and plan out what you actually want from your site, and the content on it.
At their most basic, analytics will tell you how many people are looking at each page on your existing website, and should give you an idea of where they’re coming from. You’ll be able to see how long people spend looking at pages, and if they’re getting as far as the check out, the contact page, or wherever else it is you need them to go.
At the beginning of your project, run some reports and do yourself a wee audit, so you know where it is you’re starting from. Of course, if you don’t have a website yet, you can skip this step, but you’ll need to learn how to use your Analytics later on, when you’re maintaining your shiny new site.
As well as looking at how your website is doing already, spend some time setting some goals for its future. Knowing what you want your website to achieve will help you to create new content tailored specifically to meet your business goals. Think beyond just increasing your traffic and consider whether you want to get more sign ups to your mailing list, more comments and social shares, or attract a new segment of the market. Build on the reasons and instincts which lead you to start a content project in the first place, and then set yourself some targets which are measurable, and a timescale for when you want to hit them.
Once you’ve done your research you’re now in a good position to start drafting new content. You might need to update your website structure or create a new one, and then take a look at each content item. Make sure you consider your user, what they need, what your goal is for the page, and what action you’ll call on them to take.
Although you may have a broad description of your target customer, each page should be targeted specifically at those who will need it. Buyers in different stages of decision making, professionals from different sectors, customers with different lifestyles – each group will respond best to content targeted specifically at them.
Consider what the specific user, which you’ve already identified, needs to get out of that specific page. What problem is that one piece of content solving for them? Are they looking for delivery information or product details? Do they want to leave a review or ask a question? Try to focus a single page on a single user need so that people will know exactly where to go. Alternatively, you can combine a few user needs into a single page by choosing topics that are closely related, and making sure each page section has a clear heading.
During your research you’ll have set business goals for your updated content – this is the time to assign sub-goals of these to individual pages.
Once you’ve drafted your content you can put it into a staging version of your site and test it with your users. You’ll need to make sure it works for them, otherwise, what’s the point! And you can find out some ideas for this research in our post on User Testing 101. As well as testing with users you’ll need to run some other tests.
Keywords and SEO
Your research from before should have told you which keywords people were searching for to reach your website. Have a look through your content and make sure that these keywords are showing up in high-level headings, links, photo descriptions, and wherever they’re truly relevant. Don’t go overboard with them – SEO is more than just ramming thousands of repeats of the same word into a page. Rather, make sure that they’re included in phrases that might match customers’ exact searches. High-quality content will draw more traffic, link backs and social sharing, which will all help to increase your search engine rankings too.
As well as putting your content in front of users directly, you can use online tools to examine your writing and make sure it’s appropriate for your audience. This readability checker lets you paste in your text directly and gives feedback on your writing. It also gives you some guidance on how to understand different scores. Whoever you’re website is targeting, you can benefit from keep your text easy-to-read. Smart people are busy too, and simple language helps get your message across quickly.
Unless you’re a one-man band entirely, you’ll now need to get other people on board with your content. Show your research, testing results and finished content to any decision makers so they can understand what you’ve been doing. Any staff who work with your customers should be familiar with the content on your new site, and how to use it. They may need to talk to customers about it on the phone or in person, or they might have to provide support to users, respond to comments and enquiries, and so on.
The final official day of your project is always very excited. When you’ve got your final drafts, you’ll want to go over your staging site with a fine toothed comb to make sure there are no errors, broken links, or outdated information in unchanged pages. Schedule the change-over at a time when your traffic is low (based on your analytics), and if possible, give your users a bit of notice so they can plan around your down time.
Of course, ‘go live’ isn’t really the end of your story. Ideally you’ll be monitoring the performance of your website and its content all the time. After a period of time you can do a review of your analytics against your initial audit. It’s also a good idea to seek out feedback from users directly, and make changes if they’re not happy, or if the content is not on track to meet the planned targets. Your web content is never really a static thing, as it should grow and change to reflect your business, but since you’ve dedicated some specific time and resources to working on it, make sure you schedule in the proper follow up, as it’s important to make sure your time and resources were well spent!
Have you been working on a content project recently? What stage are you at? Or if you’ve already finished, what challenges have you had to overcome so far?