Week 12 – Content Strategy for the Web

Halvorson, Kristina. “Content Strategy for the Web.” 5-42, 147-72: New Riders Press, 2009.

 

Halvorson begins “Content Strategy for the Web” with five suggestions to improve web content.  These include: 

  • Do less, not more – less content is easier to manage and is more user-friendly
  • Figure out what you have and where it’s coming from – conduct a content audit
  • Learn how to listen – find out from you customers what their true needs are
  • Put someone in charge – establish an editor-in-chief to maintain the content
  • Start asking, Why? – develop clear reasons for delivering content online (5-12)

One of the biggest problems with content strategies is that in most organizations, no one actually does own the content – this causes priorities to clash and compromises to be made (20).  Someone needs to be “in charge” of balancing all of the different priorities between different aspects of the organization in order for the content to actually be effective.  Halvorson goes on to emphasize that our standards for content are really low.  Too often, more time and effort have been invested in the flashy design and interface workings of a website, leaving content as a last-minute after-thought. 

Halvorson defines content strategy as a “holistic, well-considered plan for obtaining a specific goal or result” through the use of “text, data, graphics, video, audio, [and] countless [online] tools” (32).  A true content strategy plans for content’s creation, delivery, and governance (33).  In order to determine what angle to take on this strategy plan, web analytics must come into the mix into order to provide you with “hard data about how content efforts have impact on you business’s bottom line” (147).  One of the most difficult aspects of implementing a plan is to do so with a clear maintenance plan in place.  This can include both individual and team responsibilities including web editor-in-chief, web editor, web writer, search engine optimization strategist, reviewers, and approvers (160-161).  Some of the best companies who treat web content as a business asset that drives their success online include: 

  • Wells Fargo
  • IBM.com
  • REI
  • Mint.com

This whole balance of learning how to listen to actual, relevant needs and filtering out the immediate wants of an organization is a fine-tuned skill that can make the difference between an effective website and one that comes across as desperate to incorporate every new idea that happens to pop into someone’s head.  Along this same line of thought, it is important to look to the needs of the customer in addition to the desires of the organization as a whole; however, “just because an employee or a customer asks for something does not mean it should be automatically delivered upon” (11).  For example, in the reading for last week by Friess, participants in a study indicated that they wanted an index to help navigate the manual the participants were testing.  However, the organization was adamant that they were not going to pay to include an index – it was non-negotiable.  Eventually, the index did work its way into the final product but only because the organization realized its essential benefit to the participants in the study. 

The other aspect of content strategy that really clicked with me was the emphasis on clear business objectives and goals for an organization.  In curriculum planning, I often see too many teachers get hung-up on a particular novel that they just can’t bear to part with or a new technique or teaching strategy that they just have incorporate into the classroom; often, ideas and methods are implemented without pause to ask “Why?” Sure, new techniques and newer technology can be helpful with classroom engagement and variation in presenting information, but if they fail to contribute to the overall goal of teaching a concept or getting a skill across, how effective can they be?  The same premise is true for delivering effective web content.  Without a clear goal and purpose in mind, a website can be ineffective and fail to achieve its desired results despite its shiny new homepage and flashy icons.  What qualities and skills are necessary in an individual to oversee the creation and execution of an effective content strategy for an organization?

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