Content is King, but You Must Master It.
A Web site’s content is critical to its success. It is so important, actually, that the saying ‘content is king’ has become a cliche. Whether your Web site sells machine parts or legal services, it is the content–not necessarily the design or layout–that drives much of its value in the eye of your users.
Content plays many important roles within a Web site. It informs users about your organization (who you are and what you do), keeps them updated on key happenings (i.e. we just launched a new service or opened a new office), and helps them interpret the world around them through your eyes (i.e. how trends and best practices in your industry will impact them). Content also helps to promote your expertise, an important element of your company’s differentiation. And the more you change and develop site content, the more attractive it is to users, search engines, and the online community at large.
With all of these positives attributes, many Web site owners pay little attention to this area. While most get very excited about photography, design ideas, and navigation, many actually bristle at the idea of generating original content. People fumble the idea of who in the organization will generate content, how often, and when. This critical task is seen as a chore and pushed to the side, often to the detriment of the site. In the end, the content becomes both king and master.
It does not have to be this way. Content–and the process by which it is created–can be a very constructive, engaging experience in which many benefits arise. Here are a few of the positive benefits of creating content:
- helps to crystallize and develop the thinking of the organization
- helps to highlight interesting and insightful thoughts across the enterprise
- actually encourages those in the organization to do interesting or noteworthy things to be the subject of content
- finished content pieces help the organization to learn and share specific ideas with prospects or clients
- encourages collaboration and idea development among team members who might be working together on a piece of content
Understanding the many hidden benefits of content creation–other than the notion that it will improve the Web site–can be critical in terms of developing a better institutional “attitude” about the task. If it is seen as an opportunity (rather than a chore), the idea of mastering content becomes very achievable.
Once the attitude about content changes, some stumble when it comes to what should be the subject of content pieces. “What should I write about?” they ask themselves. Naturally, this will vary by industry and your field, but here are some good places to start:
- New technology developments in your industry
- Legislative or ethical changes concerning your work or that of your customers
- Research or technical discoveries in your field
- Highlighted case studies showing best practices at work
- Company news that is interesting / informative to your buyers
- Answers to frequently asked questions
- Thought pieces that address common mistakes you see customers making
- Highlights of major pitfalls for customers
- Checklists, forms, and document downloads that your customers can use
- Highlights of recent speeches or remarks where your employees have appeared
As a general rule, remember to be as objective and instructive as possible when you are writing. While it may be natural to write about products or services you sell, your content will be more credible if you do not overtly advertise your offerings in the midst of an educational or informative topic. Also, when possible, use relevant photography or informative diagrams/figures to complement your writing. Your readers will enjoy them.
The most common stumbling block to creating Web site content, though, is not knowing what to write about. The area where most get hung up is in the area of creating time to do so and managing the division of labor. It will typically fall on one person to be responsible for the content and that can end in a lack of content altogether. To make the content endeavor effective and consistent, here is a handful of tips to consider:
- Create a forward-looking messaging calendar to lay out general topics and content ideas for the next 6-12 months. This can be developed and amended over time.
- Divide content creation among multiple people in the organization; if multiple people share the responsibility, no one should be overwhelmed.
- Appoint one person to manage the schedule and/or to edit and publish content once it is submitted by others.
- Share content “victories” with the team when they happen (i.e. “I just had a client tell me that she found a recent content piece helpful in her work”)
- Start small. Biting off more than you can chew can leave an organization feeling unsuccessful about content creation.
Content creation is a big deal when it comes to the success of your Web site, a thought that most agree on. What is less obvious is how to be successful at it. With a little planning, organization and an adjusted attitude on the matter, there is no reason that any organization can not master this important area.