Strategic website content templates: A guide

Strategic website content templates: A guide

3 minute read

Strategic website content templates: A guide

3 minute read

Strategic website content templates: A guide

Gigi Griffis

Content Strategist
Big content projects—the kind with lots of contributors, subject matter experts, and stakeholders—can get really messy really fast.

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You know what I mean. You’ve got multiple writers across different departments, subject matter experts without a writing background, or writers without subject matter expertise. You’re wrangling legal teams, SEO specialists, content creators, and content uploaders. And, to top it all off, everyone is sending/saving/uploading content that's formatted differently.

It can be chaos. This is why so many companies rely on website content templates to keep everyone on the same page.

Content templates to the rescue

Templates are essential to the content creation process, especially if you have more than one 'cook in the content marketing kitchen.'

Templates also help your team think strategically and holistically about the content they’re creating for each page.

"By knowing what’s going to go where, you have a better idea of what needs to be written, and how much needs to be written about each message element." - Roger Parker

How can your templates accomplish all this? By incorporating the right elements—for strategic thinking, SEO-friendliness, usability, and, of course, on-page content itself…

Top 3 elements of website content templates

There are a few important elements that must be included in any content template. Here are the top 3 you need to make sure your templates include:

1. Strategic elements

These strategic elements will help your content creation team stay focused on company goals, user goals, and the content that supports them.

If you already have page tables, consider incorporating them into your templates.

(Page tables are strategic breakdowns of each page of your site and may include page goals, prioritized content, and maintenance concerns. If you want to learn more, we recommend picking up a copy of Content Strategy for the Web by Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach.)

If you are creating templates from scratch, make sure to include strategic elements from the start. And if you’ve got a template without strategic elements, it’s time to weave them in.

Here are a few elements you may want to include in your templates:

Maintenance considerations

  • How often should this content be updated?
  • Does it have an expiration date?
  • Are there any time-sensitive numbers or info on the page?

Audience

  • If you have multiple audiences for your site, which audience is this page targeted at primarily?
  • Is there a secondary audience that may click on this page as well?

Purpose

  • In one sentence, describe what this page is trying to accomplish.
  • What do you want your audience to walk away with?

Keyword research

  • What keywords need to be incorporated on the web page?
  • Are there any guidelines for including these keywords?

Audience questions

  • What questions are your users trying to answer by coming to this page?
  • What questions will you answer in the piece of content?

Technical considerations

  • Does any additional technology need to be developed or included on this page?

Phase two content

  • Is there anything that needs to be added to this page at a later date? Why and when?
  • What additional supporting content should be linked to this page or added to this section when phase two budget or goals kick in?

CTA

  • What call to action must be included on this page?
  • Where will the CTA link to?

2. SEO and usability elements

In addition to audience, purpose, and strategy, you need to account for SEO and usability upfront by including them in your templates. SEO and usability elements, which so often go hand in hand, may include:

  • Keywords to focus on
  • Meta descriptions
  • Browser titles
  • ALT and TITLE tags
  • Friendly URLs
  • Literacy levels/scores
  • Technical requirements (“put a pause button on this page’s scrolling content,” for example)

Even if you aren’t focused on SEO, it’s always a good idea to include usability elements, as well as browser titles and meta descriptions, which impact users as well as search engines.

💡 See Also: Content 101: How to use Structured Content to Save Time and Reduce Effort - including advice around SEO and usability and how to structure your templates

3. On-page content elements

Make sure you don’t forget the on-page content (which, if you already have templates, is probably what you’re starting with). With predetermined templates, you can make sure that your content writers not only address the headline and body copy for each page, but also:

  • Images, graphics, and video
  • Sidebar items
  • Link lists
  • PDFs and other downloads
  • Podcasts
  • Infographics
  • Forms (including form fields, required fields, and intro language)

Depending on your project, you may want to include some or all of these elements—or you may want to have several different content templates for different sections of the site. For example, a video library will have different content requirements than a landing page, though both can benefit from the strategic and SEO elements discussed above).

3 types of website content templates

Beyond a template for the web content itself, you may also want to use a template to help with the strategic planning process for developing new content. Here are a few templates you can use:

1. Website content outline template

Using a website content outline template helps ensure that you’re including everything you need on your page from both a content and SEO perspective.

Like other content writing templates, the contents of this template will depend on the type of content and topic.

In general, your website content outline will include:

  • Headline
  • Sub-headline
  • Headers
  • Sub-headers
  • Paragraphs
  • Bullet points
  • Calls-to-action

This content template will help you save time every time you create a new web page. All you have to do is fill in the information and publish it. Not only will it save you time but it will also ensure that every new page that’s created is consistent.

Website content outline
Each website content template will have a different layout depending on the page topic. (Source)

Ready to outline your content for the web? Get our free content project brief, which you can use to plan and outline each web page.

2. Website content planning template

While the website content outline template helps you plan the content on each page, the website content planning template allows you to plan the website content for the entire site.

This is an essential part of not only web design but also a strategic approach to website copy.

Your website content planning template should include:

  • Home page
  • About page
  • Services or Products page
  • Contact
  • Blog

You’ll also include any other pages that are essential to helping others understand your offers. This might be individual service or product pages or perhaps pillar pages meant to educate visitors on important topics in your industry.

Content model template
Use our content model template while you do your overall website content planning.

If you want to build your own content model for your website, check out our content model template.

3. Website content audit template

Editing your website content can be overwhelming when you first get started, especially if you’ve never done a content audit before.

However, by keeping an updated list of site content that you periodically update, you can make sure there are no gaps in your content needs.

Your website content audit template will include:

  • Page title (H1)
  • Title tag
  • Meta description
  • URL
  • Keywords
  • CTA
  • Internal links
  • External links

You can add whatever elements are important to you to your website content audit template. If you’re blogging regularly, be sure to add these posts to the audit as well so you can more easily find link opportunities.

Content audit template
Conducting a content audit that you update regularly will help you identify content gaps.

Ready to audit your website content? Download our content audit spreadsheet.

Where to create and save your content templates

Now that you have an idea about what to include in your content templates, let’s talk about content management as it pertains to templates.

You can use a tool like Google Docs to create, collaborate, and manage templates.

However, there are some specific benefits to using a tool that’s built for content operations—like GatherContent. GatherContent offers a range of content templates that help you structure your content, which becomes increasingly more important as you scale content production.

Strategic content template
With GatherContent, you can create your own strategic content templates to use over and over again.

GatherContent’s templates are customizable to your needs. All you have to do to customize your website content template is drag and drop the fields to create your template.

You can build a library of templates for you and your team to use to keep your content consistent.

Good to Know: GatherContent content templates help  you structure and scale content production, consistently whilst keeping any type of content in the correct format and style.

Time to tame the content chaos

It’s time to put that chaos back in its place (which isn’t in your content project)! Your next steps now are pretty simple:

  • Download one of our sample templates or build one of your own.
  • Decide what strategic elements, SEO elements, usability elements, and on-page content elements are relevant to your project.
  • Work these into your new template. Remove anything unnecessary or irrelevant.
  • Make your templates electronic so that you can keep everything in one place, stay organized, track progress, and eventually export everything into your new CMS.
  • Deliver the templates to your team. Explain each element and why you’ve included it. Communicate deadlines and expectations and let them know where to find the templates and how to use and save them.
  • Start creating and gathering content!

You know what I mean. You’ve got multiple writers across different departments, subject matter experts without a writing background, or writers without subject matter expertise. You’re wrangling legal teams, SEO specialists, content creators, and content uploaders. And, to top it all off, everyone is sending/saving/uploading content that's formatted differently.

It can be chaos. This is why so many companies rely on website content templates to keep everyone on the same page.

Content templates to the rescue

Templates are essential to the content creation process, especially if you have more than one 'cook in the content marketing kitchen.'

Templates also help your team think strategically and holistically about the content they’re creating for each page.

"By knowing what’s going to go where, you have a better idea of what needs to be written, and how much needs to be written about each message element." - Roger Parker

How can your templates accomplish all this? By incorporating the right elements—for strategic thinking, SEO-friendliness, usability, and, of course, on-page content itself…

Top 3 elements of website content templates

There are a few important elements that must be included in any content template. Here are the top 3 you need to make sure your templates include:

1. Strategic elements

These strategic elements will help your content creation team stay focused on company goals, user goals, and the content that supports them.

If you already have page tables, consider incorporating them into your templates.

(Page tables are strategic breakdowns of each page of your site and may include page goals, prioritized content, and maintenance concerns. If you want to learn more, we recommend picking up a copy of Content Strategy for the Web by Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach.)

If you are creating templates from scratch, make sure to include strategic elements from the start. And if you’ve got a template without strategic elements, it’s time to weave them in.

Here are a few elements you may want to include in your templates:

Maintenance considerations

  • How often should this content be updated?
  • Does it have an expiration date?
  • Are there any time-sensitive numbers or info on the page?

Audience

  • If you have multiple audiences for your site, which audience is this page targeted at primarily?
  • Is there a secondary audience that may click on this page as well?

Purpose

  • In one sentence, describe what this page is trying to accomplish.
  • What do you want your audience to walk away with?

Keyword research

  • What keywords need to be incorporated on the web page?
  • Are there any guidelines for including these keywords?

Audience questions

  • What questions are your users trying to answer by coming to this page?
  • What questions will you answer in the piece of content?

Technical considerations

  • Does any additional technology need to be developed or included on this page?

Phase two content

  • Is there anything that needs to be added to this page at a later date? Why and when?
  • What additional supporting content should be linked to this page or added to this section when phase two budget or goals kick in?

CTA

  • What call to action must be included on this page?
  • Where will the CTA link to?

2. SEO and usability elements

In addition to audience, purpose, and strategy, you need to account for SEO and usability upfront by including them in your templates. SEO and usability elements, which so often go hand in hand, may include:

  • Keywords to focus on
  • Meta descriptions
  • Browser titles
  • ALT and TITLE tags
  • Friendly URLs
  • Literacy levels/scores
  • Technical requirements (“put a pause button on this page’s scrolling content,” for example)

Even if you aren’t focused on SEO, it’s always a good idea to include usability elements, as well as browser titles and meta descriptions, which impact users as well as search engines.

💡 See Also: Content 101: How to use Structured Content to Save Time and Reduce Effort - including advice around SEO and usability and how to structure your templates

3. On-page content elements

Make sure you don’t forget the on-page content (which, if you already have templates, is probably what you’re starting with). With predetermined templates, you can make sure that your content writers not only address the headline and body copy for each page, but also:

  • Images, graphics, and video
  • Sidebar items
  • Link lists
  • PDFs and other downloads
  • Podcasts
  • Infographics
  • Forms (including form fields, required fields, and intro language)

Depending on your project, you may want to include some or all of these elements—or you may want to have several different content templates for different sections of the site. For example, a video library will have different content requirements than a landing page, though both can benefit from the strategic and SEO elements discussed above).

3 types of website content templates

Beyond a template for the web content itself, you may also want to use a template to help with the strategic planning process for developing new content. Here are a few templates you can use:

1. Website content outline template

Using a website content outline template helps ensure that you’re including everything you need on your page from both a content and SEO perspective.

Like other content writing templates, the contents of this template will depend on the type of content and topic.

In general, your website content outline will include:

  • Headline
  • Sub-headline
  • Headers
  • Sub-headers
  • Paragraphs
  • Bullet points
  • Calls-to-action

This content template will help you save time every time you create a new web page. All you have to do is fill in the information and publish it. Not only will it save you time but it will also ensure that every new page that’s created is consistent.

Website content outline
Each website content template will have a different layout depending on the page topic. (Source)

Ready to outline your content for the web? Get our free content project brief, which you can use to plan and outline each web page.

2. Website content planning template

While the website content outline template helps you plan the content on each page, the website content planning template allows you to plan the website content for the entire site.

This is an essential part of not only web design but also a strategic approach to website copy.

Your website content planning template should include:

  • Home page
  • About page
  • Services or Products page
  • Contact
  • Blog

You’ll also include any other pages that are essential to helping others understand your offers. This might be individual service or product pages or perhaps pillar pages meant to educate visitors on important topics in your industry.

Content model template
Use our content model template while you do your overall website content planning.

If you want to build your own content model for your website, check out our content model template.

3. Website content audit template

Editing your website content can be overwhelming when you first get started, especially if you’ve never done a content audit before.

However, by keeping an updated list of site content that you periodically update, you can make sure there are no gaps in your content needs.

Your website content audit template will include:

  • Page title (H1)
  • Title tag
  • Meta description
  • URL
  • Keywords
  • CTA
  • Internal links
  • External links

You can add whatever elements are important to you to your website content audit template. If you’re blogging regularly, be sure to add these posts to the audit as well so you can more easily find link opportunities.

Content audit template
Conducting a content audit that you update regularly will help you identify content gaps.

Ready to audit your website content? Download our content audit spreadsheet.

Where to create and save your content templates

Now that you have an idea about what to include in your content templates, let’s talk about content management as it pertains to templates.

You can use a tool like Google Docs to create, collaborate, and manage templates.

However, there are some specific benefits to using a tool that’s built for content operations—like GatherContent. GatherContent offers a range of content templates that help you structure your content, which becomes increasingly more important as you scale content production.

Strategic content template
With GatherContent, you can create your own strategic content templates to use over and over again.

GatherContent’s templates are customizable to your needs. All you have to do to customize your website content template is drag and drop the fields to create your template.

You can build a library of templates for you and your team to use to keep your content consistent.

Good to Know: GatherContent content templates help  you structure and scale content production, consistently whilst keeping any type of content in the correct format and style.

Time to tame the content chaos

It’s time to put that chaos back in its place (which isn’t in your content project)! Your next steps now are pretty simple:

  • Download one of our sample templates or build one of your own.
  • Decide what strategic elements, SEO elements, usability elements, and on-page content elements are relevant to your project.
  • Work these into your new template. Remove anything unnecessary or irrelevant.
  • Make your templates electronic so that you can keep everything in one place, stay organized, track progress, and eventually export everything into your new CMS.
  • Deliver the templates to your team. Explain each element and why you’ve included it. Communicate deadlines and expectations and let them know where to find the templates and how to use and save them.
  • Start creating and gathering content!

Ready to get started?
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gigi griffis

About the author

Gigi Griffis

Gigi is a content strategist and web writer specializing in travel, technology, education, non-profit, and wellness content. In 2010, she quit her agency job and started Content for Do-Gooders, where she helps clients solve messy content problems around the world. You should follow her on Twitter.

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