+
+

Lessons learnt during a blog redesign and migration

Lessons learnt during a blog redesign and migration

10 minute read

Lessons learnt during a blog redesign and migration

10 minute read

Lessons learnt during a blog redesign and migration

Robert Mills

Head of Content, GatherContent

In September 2019 the new look GatherContent blog went live. It's been a long time coming and the first phase of an ongoing project to iterate and improve. As well as design changes, a lot of work has happened behind-the-scenes.

The truth is, my content house was a little messy. I'll explain how and why shortly. But here's the first lesson, your content neglect and short-cuts will catch up with you, like they did me. It may be weeks, months or years, but at some point you will have to deal with the mess.

Not only that, but the longer you leave it, the more mess there is to sort out. By mess, I mean inconsistent imagery, lack of meta descriptions, ill-thought or no tagging, and more. Even though I publish a lot of best practice advice, putting it into action myself was often difficult with so much other stuff to do. Such is the challenge of regularly creating and publishing content as one part of a larger role.

Reasons to redesign a blog

Our blog has been the cornerstone of our educational resources for almost five years. We publish articles written by the GatherContent team, sample chapters, case studies, and weekly articles by guest writers.

Over those years we have gathered a library of significant expertise, advice and examples, but always felt the design and structure of the blog didn't do that content as much justice as it could, and should.

These were my main issues with the blog as it currently was:

  • No published dates on articles
  • Very limited ways to discover related content
  • Varying styles across all imagery
  • Lack of options for promoting other content
  • Inconsistency in meta descriptions, tags, alt descriptions etc
  • Categories that were no longer the best way to group content

The blog's reputation was upheld despite the (internal) mounting concerns around the reading experience it provided and the dead ends it led our audience to.

But we all know how tricky redesigns can be. There will always be pesky curveballs, challenges that you can only know of when they present themselves, and some tasks that just take longer or are more involved than expected.

The catalyst for our blog redesign came when we committed to redesigning the GatherContent marketing site. The blog redesign piggy backed off that project and so a phase one list of deliverables was confirmed.

This article won't go into the tech issues we faced (and are still facing), as that's an article in itself.

The agreed improvements for phase one

Our projects are rarely ever 'done.' The GatherContent blog is no exception. Phase one was our essential requirements from a much longer list. We prioritised these improvements based on findability, usability and getting the basics in place. Other included changes were prioritised around connecting our content and offering contextually related content at every opportunity.

It's hard not to be able to do everything at once, or in the order you'd prefer. For me, I'd have loved to really get deeper into the information architecture and taxonomy. I simply did not have the time available. Perhaps this was a backwards approach as that work would underpin the blog, but it will be something we do have scope to tackle next year. For now I have to take satisfaction in the fact that where we're at is better than where we were, but is by no means the final destination.

Here are more details on each of the issues we wanted to fix, the things we wanted to improve and how we achieved this.

Meta descriptions and alt titles

Some of our blog posts had meta descriptions, some didn't. Some of our images had alt titles and descriptions, some didn't. You see how this goes. There was inconsistency in all the behind-the-scenes content details.

It's hard to put a finger on why this became our reality. Lack of knowledge years ago about the importance of including this information, publishing to deadlines and neglecting to take a little extra time to include the descriptions, leniency in enforcing these requirements.

To solve this it was literally a case of going through over 300 blog articles one by one and adding in meta descriptions and alt titles and descriptions to images. Can you imagine?

My 2019 self was really resenting my 2015 self for not starting off in the right way. But this needed to be less about 'if only we did this post by post', or 'if only we didn't have so much content'.

What this task did present (aside from repetition and woe-is-me moments), was an opportunity to check through all articles for other issues too.

Seeing as I was going into every article to see if there was a meta description and to check images, I could also give them a sweep for formatting issues etc. This was valuable because we had migrated the content from WordPress to Webflow and on the way there were some bits of code showing that shouldn't, I had to remove some gated content forms and also some tweets within articles too.

Lesson learnt: Don't forget or de-prioritise the necessity of meta descriptions and alt titles. It's such a basic requirement but can easily be ignored when having to go through a hefty content backlog. Start as you mean to go or do the painful catch up and then make it standard practice to include this information when publishing content.

Inconsistent imagery

This was a real annoyance. Over the years the style of imagery we used changed, and so by the time we got to the redesign this year there was a large mix of header and thumbnail image styles. In this case, variety was not something we wanted.

We had used images supplied by guest authors, stock imagery (and then started to see so many of the same images on other blogs 🙈), patterned backgrounds related to our book series, and whatever else I could get together. Whilst we did the best we could, we knew it wasn't doing the content any justice.

Here's the blog in April 2019. You'll perhaps note the attempt at some consistency in style but alas, it still looked inconsistent:

The GatherContent blog in April 2019 with different styles of thumbnail images for a selection of articles.

It's worth noting here that we never had feedback from our audience saying, 'your imagery on the blog is rather inconsistent.' That doesn't mean it didn't go unnoticed either though. But we were unhappy with it which was enough to take action during the recent redesign.

The other issue with imagery was that whatever image was chosen as the header image for an article, appeared behind the article snippet on the blog homepage. In most cases that worked out ok, but in some cases like the example below, it simply didn't look good:

Homepage of the GatherContent blog in April 2019 with the article header image behind the snippet. Visually it looks messy as the image is mainly white.

To solve this, we knew we couldn't create images for every blog post. Even doing them in batches would take a long time and again, other work was higher priority. We also knew that we didn't want to bring over the existing images and then start to introduce a consistent style from new posts onwards.

Instead, I decided not to have any header imager on articles. The header images were usually generic backgrounds or images taken from within the article. They weren't what people came to the blog for and they didn't add anything at the top of the articles, they just pushed the content that readers did want further down the page.

Here's how it looks for an individual article (note, we are working on changing the nav and reducing some of the white space):

An article on the GatherContent blog in December 2019. It shows the title, author and body copy with no header image.

We created a generic patterned background in a different colour for each category of the blog. So on an article page, no header image shows.

On the main blog pages or on a category page, you can see those images have been included:

Several articles on the GatherContent blog in December 2019, with smaller coloured category background used as the thumbnails.

Our audience won't see a red graphic and think, 'oh this is from the Content Operations category. Oh, purple is Content Creation' etc. And that's ok. Because the biggest win, and the one we aimed for, is simple, consistent images on all article thumbnails that are on brand and do have some meaning behind then. Also, did I say consistent. I'm so happy about that it needed to be said twice.

Images within the articles still vary in style. Some are taken from existing assets and some are supplied by guest authors. That too, is ok. One day I'd love us to get to bespoke images for *every* article but again, one step at a time.

Lesson learnt: Making do with the resource available is often a default situation, but always strive for consistency and don't use too many sources or styles when creating imagery. Ask if you even need images at all. Don't keep adding different styles and diluting the small amount of consistency that did exist.

No published dates on articles

Of all the changes, this is the one that divided opinion the most. There were fair reasons on both sides but in the end, we now have dates on blog articles. This was my preference.

An example from the GatherContent blog of how the published date looks on an article. Date is displayed above the title of the article.

Even though I stand by a lot of our content still being worthy advice long after it is published, I think it's important to frame that advice in a time period. Readers themselves can decide if it's still useful for them and if they want to link to it, share it, or quote it, at least they know when it was written.

There wasn't much to do here to solve this, rather it was all of the discussions beforehand to commit to the decision of including it that were the challenge.

Lesson learnt: Don't assume everyone will view your content as being 'evergreen' just because there's no publish date on it. If anything, it breeds a level of distrust in content.

Limited ways to discover related content

On the old blog the ways we could surface related content were limited. There were 'related' posts at the end of each article but they were the last three published articles, so often not related at all. We also had a static list of recommended reading on the side which was picked by me once and stayed there for quite some time:

The GatherContent blog in April 2019 with static and unrelated recommended reading posts listed on the side of the blog homepage.

That means you could be reading about style guides and the related posts might be about social listening in Higher Ed, a GatherContent customer story, or something about validating content ideas.

Perhaps, by luck, the related articles were of interest to some readers but yet again it wasn't serving the most relevant content. It was the opposite of a content strategy.

At the time this was the best we had time and resource to do, but for the new blog I really wanted to surface related content that had meaning, to better connect all of our content and to encourage readers to stick around.

The definition of 'related content' here was quite simple: something about the same topic.

I appreciate that if you are reading about workflow, you may not want to read more about workflow. There's work to be done for us to see what journey our readers take on the blog, but this view on related content is taken with the hope that the three articles at the end of each individual article at least have some context and relevance to what the reader has just read.

To solve this, the functionality was added in the CMS where, when adding an article, I can simply choose any of our articles to include. This is how it looks. This article is Anatomy of a content style guide - Greenpeace UK and at the end, the related articles are:

An example from the new GatherContent blog of three related articles shown at the end of the main article, with call to actions to read them.

This requires a good knowledge of our content, which I have as the editor of the blog, but it is also where having an up to date content inventory has helped so I can search by topics to remind myself of older articles.

Lesson learnt: Having the CMS automatically populate the related content did in fact lead to content being un-related. It saved time, for a while, but created the need for a lot of time to be spent hand-picking all related content during the redesign. Prioritise usefulness to readers over development work in the CMS allowing you to choose related content manually.

Lack of options for promoting other content

We have a lot of content to share, from books and templates, to webinars and masterclasses. Whilst there are distribution playbooks in place for these outside of the blog, the redesign was also an opportunity to try and surface this content in a way that didn't distract from the articles, and was also relevant content to the topic in each article.

We achieved this through having two 'adverts' as part of the article template design. There is a smaller content promotional spot at the top of each article, and a larger one at the bottom of each article.

Here's an example of a top of the page advert:

An example from the new GatherContent blog of a small advert promoting one of their books, next to the body copy of a blog article.

The top adverts can be any of our books or guides and the bottom advert can be any of our webinars, masterclasses, templates or downloads.

Our developer made this easy by the way the CMS has been configured - I can literally choose my preferred content from a dropdown list. The issue here became one of governance, related to a specific content format.

Here's an example of the bottom of the page advert:

A full width advert at the bottom of an article on the GatherContent blog. This one promotes a checklist and has a description and image of the checklist with a call to action to download.

If a webinar or masterclass is chosen, the little advert is a form for people to register. Pretty straight forward. But what happens when that event has passed? Imagine the hassle having to go back into every article with an event advert and then change it. Sure this could be managed with a spreadsheet (naturally!), but it's hardly efficient.

To avoid this, whenever an event has passed, the advert becomes a call to action to view the recording of that event.

As well as quite obvious content promotions like these adverts, I have also ensured that every article links to other related articles in the body copy, via hyperlinks. There are no 'click here to read more about workflow' etc but rather we have added hyperlinks to words and sentences that are also contextual to the article it links to.

More than that, each article links to an article that is the next stage of the customer journey.

There are three stages:

  • Awareness (top of the funnel)
  • Consideration (middle of the funnel)
  • Decision (bottom of the funnel)

Awareness articles are very much educational. Practical advice, tips, and examples about anything content related. This makes up the majority of our blog content.

Consideration is where the topic is more closely linked to the features within GatherContent (workflow, structured templates, collaboration, creation etc) and we give a brief nod to the fact GatherContent can be used for that feature.

Decision content are our case studies, product updates and everything that is very much focused on why you should use GatherContent, how others are using it etc.

Here's what that looks like in terms of our blog content and the customer journey then:

An awareness article about workflow will link to a consideration piece about workflow which will link to a decision article about workflow.

Example:

  • The importance of content workflows - awareness, links to;
  • The value of keeping your website content workflow simple - consideration, links to;
  • How Organisation X used GatherContent to define a workflow to keep content production on track - has call to action for demo/trial.

If there isn't a related article the next stage down the journey, we link to another article of the same topic and the same level (awareness to awareness) so side-stepping readers, and then from that second article link down to the next stage.

People may read one article and move on, some may link through and not read the next article, we know there are many different versions of our reader journeys. The point here is to have a purposeful connection between all of our content. Some will take the journey, others will form their own path, and that's fine too.

Lesson learnt: Don't publish content with dead-ends. Offer more (relevant and useful) content so that you're serving your audience and also ensuring your content is serving the business too.

Categories that were no longer the best way to group content

Categorising and tagging has always been tricky for us. For a blog all about content strategy we could have fallen back on just one category bucket—Content strategy for everything, job done! But that would do our discipline, and our readers, a disservice. We also wanted to get the balance between having categories that are meaningful but not bombarding people with choice.

By introducing tags on the new blog, we were able to open up how readers found other content based on topics. Categories and tags serve their own purpose, and have been considered with different needs in mind, but together they provide an enriched findability for our content.

The new categories on the blog are:

  • Content creation
  • Content process
  • Content operations
  • Content strategy
  • Digital transformation
  • GatherContent

Yes, there is overlap. Where would an article on workflow go, for example? It could fit nicely under process, operations or strategy. These decisions are made depending on what approach to workflow the article covers. And tags can then surface this content in other ways too.

The categories are also broad; content strategy alone could cover a large array of topics and advice. The related content at the end of each article is how we can best share the most relevant content to readers, but if they wish to browse categories and tags to hopefully stumble across a gem, hopefully we've set them up to do so.

If we were to get really detailed we would have so many different categories. For us, these cover the main top-level topics of our blog but it is something we will keep reviewing and discussing. Content design and collaboration were also short-listed but we felt the articles that would have been grouped under these, actually fitted well into one of the final categories too.

GatherContent is perhaps a little ambiguous. This covers product updates and case studies, which were previously divided between two categories on the older blog - business and stories. Even more ambiguous.

The important thing for me is that the case studies aren't only found in this category on the blog. They are also linked from the customer page and directly via other means too.

We have more tags than we do categories, which you might expect. Some of the tags we have are:

  • Style guide
  • Audiences
  • Workflow
  • Tone of voice
  • Writing
  • Agencies

If you select any of the tags at the end of an article, you'll see all articles tagged by the topic you chose. We wouldn't have a main category for agencies, for example, but a lot of our content is agency-focused across all our categories, so the agency tag is a way to surface that.

A tagging results page on the GatherContent blog which shows three most recent articles assigned with the tag, 'content planning'.

Is this ground-breaking? Absolutely not. There's a bigger task to be done in future phases for our taxonomy and categorisation of content. That said, this is still a step forward as on the previous blog there were no tags and the categories were confusing.

This is something I definitely want to revisit. UX could be a category, for example, but for now UX focused articles are categorised elsewhere. These are fun challenges to have, hence why being in a content role is interesting. A personal goal next year for me is to level-up my knowledge of content modelling, information architecture and taxonomy. The GatherContent blog will then be my test bed for putting the knowledge into practice.

Lesson learnt: Try and work on your IA and taxonomy at the start. If you can't, like me, define what 'next best thing' looks like, work towards that and ensure there are things in place so you can understand and test the reader journey as a place to iterate from. Also, don't assume your categories and tags are an 'obvious' way of grouping content.

Learn, refine, review, repeat

Over the coming weeks and months we will be trying to gauge the success of this work (also a separate post in the works). Part of the measurement will be traffic, downloads etc, but certainly not in isolation. The real insights will come from trying to establish a reader's journey and also if connecting our content in the ways described above, and increasing visibility and findability to related content, has had a positive impact on our business goals and also on the user experience.

I'll report back soon, but until then, check out the rest of the blog. Hopefully you'll find some useful content.

In September 2019 the new look GatherContent blog went live. It's been a long time coming and the first phase of an ongoing project to iterate and improve. As well as design changes, a lot of work has happened behind-the-scenes.

The truth is, my content house was a little messy. I'll explain how and why shortly. But here's the first lesson, your content neglect and short-cuts will catch up with you, like they did me. It may be weeks, months or years, but at some point you will have to deal with the mess.

Not only that, but the longer you leave it, the more mess there is to sort out. By mess, I mean inconsistent imagery, lack of meta descriptions, ill-thought or no tagging, and more. Even though I publish a lot of best practice advice, putting it into action myself was often difficult with so much other stuff to do. Such is the challenge of regularly creating and publishing content as one part of a larger role.

Reasons to redesign a blog

Our blog has been the cornerstone of our educational resources for almost five years. We publish articles written by the GatherContent team, sample chapters, case studies, and weekly articles by guest writers.

Over those years we have gathered a library of significant expertise, advice and examples, but always felt the design and structure of the blog didn't do that content as much justice as it could, and should.

These were my main issues with the blog as it currently was:

  • No published dates on articles
  • Very limited ways to discover related content
  • Varying styles across all imagery
  • Lack of options for promoting other content
  • Inconsistency in meta descriptions, tags, alt descriptions etc
  • Categories that were no longer the best way to group content

The blog's reputation was upheld despite the (internal) mounting concerns around the reading experience it provided and the dead ends it led our audience to.

But we all know how tricky redesigns can be. There will always be pesky curveballs, challenges that you can only know of when they present themselves, and some tasks that just take longer or are more involved than expected.

The catalyst for our blog redesign came when we committed to redesigning the GatherContent marketing site. The blog redesign piggy backed off that project and so a phase one list of deliverables was confirmed.

This article won't go into the tech issues we faced (and are still facing), as that's an article in itself.

The agreed improvements for phase one

Our projects are rarely ever 'done.' The GatherContent blog is no exception. Phase one was our essential requirements from a much longer list. We prioritised these improvements based on findability, usability and getting the basics in place. Other included changes were prioritised around connecting our content and offering contextually related content at every opportunity.

It's hard not to be able to do everything at once, or in the order you'd prefer. For me, I'd have loved to really get deeper into the information architecture and taxonomy. I simply did not have the time available. Perhaps this was a backwards approach as that work would underpin the blog, but it will be something we do have scope to tackle next year. For now I have to take satisfaction in the fact that where we're at is better than where we were, but is by no means the final destination.

Here are more details on each of the issues we wanted to fix, the things we wanted to improve and how we achieved this.

Meta descriptions and alt titles

Some of our blog posts had meta descriptions, some didn't. Some of our images had alt titles and descriptions, some didn't. You see how this goes. There was inconsistency in all the behind-the-scenes content details.

It's hard to put a finger on why this became our reality. Lack of knowledge years ago about the importance of including this information, publishing to deadlines and neglecting to take a little extra time to include the descriptions, leniency in enforcing these requirements.

To solve this it was literally a case of going through over 300 blog articles one by one and adding in meta descriptions and alt titles and descriptions to images. Can you imagine?

My 2019 self was really resenting my 2015 self for not starting off in the right way. But this needed to be less about 'if only we did this post by post', or 'if only we didn't have so much content'.

What this task did present (aside from repetition and woe-is-me moments), was an opportunity to check through all articles for other issues too.

Seeing as I was going into every article to see if there was a meta description and to check images, I could also give them a sweep for formatting issues etc. This was valuable because we had migrated the content from WordPress to Webflow and on the way there were some bits of code showing that shouldn't, I had to remove some gated content forms and also some tweets within articles too.

Lesson learnt: Don't forget or de-prioritise the necessity of meta descriptions and alt titles. It's such a basic requirement but can easily be ignored when having to go through a hefty content backlog. Start as you mean to go or do the painful catch up and then make it standard practice to include this information when publishing content.

Inconsistent imagery

This was a real annoyance. Over the years the style of imagery we used changed, and so by the time we got to the redesign this year there was a large mix of header and thumbnail image styles. In this case, variety was not something we wanted.

We had used images supplied by guest authors, stock imagery (and then started to see so many of the same images on other blogs 🙈), patterned backgrounds related to our book series, and whatever else I could get together. Whilst we did the best we could, we knew it wasn't doing the content any justice.

Here's the blog in April 2019. You'll perhaps note the attempt at some consistency in style but alas, it still looked inconsistent:

The GatherContent blog in April 2019 with different styles of thumbnail images for a selection of articles.

It's worth noting here that we never had feedback from our audience saying, 'your imagery on the blog is rather inconsistent.' That doesn't mean it didn't go unnoticed either though. But we were unhappy with it which was enough to take action during the recent redesign.

The other issue with imagery was that whatever image was chosen as the header image for an article, appeared behind the article snippet on the blog homepage. In most cases that worked out ok, but in some cases like the example below, it simply didn't look good:

Homepage of the GatherContent blog in April 2019 with the article header image behind the snippet. Visually it looks messy as the image is mainly white.

To solve this, we knew we couldn't create images for every blog post. Even doing them in batches would take a long time and again, other work was higher priority. We also knew that we didn't want to bring over the existing images and then start to introduce a consistent style from new posts onwards.

Instead, I decided not to have any header imager on articles. The header images were usually generic backgrounds or images taken from within the article. They weren't what people came to the blog for and they didn't add anything at the top of the articles, they just pushed the content that readers did want further down the page.

Here's how it looks for an individual article (note, we are working on changing the nav and reducing some of the white space):

An article on the GatherContent blog in December 2019. It shows the title, author and body copy with no header image.

We created a generic patterned background in a different colour for each category of the blog. So on an article page, no header image shows.

On the main blog pages or on a category page, you can see those images have been included:

Several articles on the GatherContent blog in December 2019, with smaller coloured category background used as the thumbnails.

Our audience won't see a red graphic and think, 'oh this is from the Content Operations category. Oh, purple is Content Creation' etc. And that's ok. Because the biggest win, and the one we aimed for, is simple, consistent images on all article thumbnails that are on brand and do have some meaning behind then. Also, did I say consistent. I'm so happy about that it needed to be said twice.

Images within the articles still vary in style. Some are taken from existing assets and some are supplied by guest authors. That too, is ok. One day I'd love us to get to bespoke images for *every* article but again, one step at a time.

Lesson learnt: Making do with the resource available is often a default situation, but always strive for consistency and don't use too many sources or styles when creating imagery. Ask if you even need images at all. Don't keep adding different styles and diluting the small amount of consistency that did exist.

No published dates on articles

Of all the changes, this is the one that divided opinion the most. There were fair reasons on both sides but in the end, we now have dates on blog articles. This was my preference.

An example from the GatherContent blog of how the published date looks on an article. Date is displayed above the title of the article.

Even though I stand by a lot of our content still being worthy advice long after it is published, I think it's important to frame that advice in a time period. Readers themselves can decide if it's still useful for them and if they want to link to it, share it, or quote it, at least they know when it was written.

There wasn't much to do here to solve this, rather it was all of the discussions beforehand to commit to the decision of including it that were the challenge.

Lesson learnt: Don't assume everyone will view your content as being 'evergreen' just because there's no publish date on it. If anything, it breeds a level of distrust in content.

Limited ways to discover related content

On the old blog the ways we could surface related content were limited. There were 'related' posts at the end of each article but they were the last three published articles, so often not related at all. We also had a static list of recommended reading on the side which was picked by me once and stayed there for quite some time:

The GatherContent blog in April 2019 with static and unrelated recommended reading posts listed on the side of the blog homepage.

That means you could be reading about style guides and the related posts might be about social listening in Higher Ed, a GatherContent customer story, or something about validating content ideas.

Perhaps, by luck, the related articles were of interest to some readers but yet again it wasn't serving the most relevant content. It was the opposite of a content strategy.

At the time this was the best we had time and resource to do, but for the new blog I really wanted to surface related content that had meaning, to better connect all of our content and to encourage readers to stick around.

The definition of 'related content' here was quite simple: something about the same topic.

I appreciate that if you are reading about workflow, you may not want to read more about workflow. There's work to be done for us to see what journey our readers take on the blog, but this view on related content is taken with the hope that the three articles at the end of each individual article at least have some context and relevance to what the reader has just read.

To solve this, the functionality was added in the CMS where, when adding an article, I can simply choose any of our articles to include. This is how it looks. This article is Anatomy of a content style guide - Greenpeace UK and at the end, the related articles are:

An example from the new GatherContent blog of three related articles shown at the end of the main article, with call to actions to read them.

This requires a good knowledge of our content, which I have as the editor of the blog, but it is also where having an up to date content inventory has helped so I can search by topics to remind myself of older articles.

Lesson learnt: Having the CMS automatically populate the related content did in fact lead to content being un-related. It saved time, for a while, but created the need for a lot of time to be spent hand-picking all related content during the redesign. Prioritise usefulness to readers over development work in the CMS allowing you to choose related content manually.

Lack of options for promoting other content

We have a lot of content to share, from books and templates, to webinars and masterclasses. Whilst there are distribution playbooks in place for these outside of the blog, the redesign was also an opportunity to try and surface this content in a way that didn't distract from the articles, and was also relevant content to the topic in each article.

We achieved this through having two 'adverts' as part of the article template design. There is a smaller content promotional spot at the top of each article, and a larger one at the bottom of each article.

Here's an example of a top of the page advert:

An example from the new GatherContent blog of a small advert promoting one of their books, next to the body copy of a blog article.

The top adverts can be any of our books or guides and the bottom advert can be any of our webinars, masterclasses, templates or downloads.

Our developer made this easy by the way the CMS has been configured - I can literally choose my preferred content from a dropdown list. The issue here became one of governance, related to a specific content format.

Here's an example of the bottom of the page advert:

A full width advert at the bottom of an article on the GatherContent blog. This one promotes a checklist and has a description and image of the checklist with a call to action to download.

If a webinar or masterclass is chosen, the little advert is a form for people to register. Pretty straight forward. But what happens when that event has passed? Imagine the hassle having to go back into every article with an event advert and then change it. Sure this could be managed with a spreadsheet (naturally!), but it's hardly efficient.

To avoid this, whenever an event has passed, the advert becomes a call to action to view the recording of that event.

As well as quite obvious content promotions like these adverts, I have also ensured that every article links to other related articles in the body copy, via hyperlinks. There are no 'click here to read more about workflow' etc but rather we have added hyperlinks to words and sentences that are also contextual to the article it links to.

More than that, each article links to an article that is the next stage of the customer journey.

There are three stages:

  • Awareness (top of the funnel)
  • Consideration (middle of the funnel)
  • Decision (bottom of the funnel)

Awareness articles are very much educational. Practical advice, tips, and examples about anything content related. This makes up the majority of our blog content.

Consideration is where the topic is more closely linked to the features within GatherContent (workflow, structured templates, collaboration, creation etc) and we give a brief nod to the fact GatherContent can be used for that feature.

Decision content are our case studies, product updates and everything that is very much focused on why you should use GatherContent, how others are using it etc.

Here's what that looks like in terms of our blog content and the customer journey then:

An awareness article about workflow will link to a consideration piece about workflow which will link to a decision article about workflow.

Example:

  • The importance of content workflows - awareness, links to;
  • The value of keeping your website content workflow simple - consideration, links to;
  • How Organisation X used GatherContent to define a workflow to keep content production on track - has call to action for demo/trial.

If there isn't a related article the next stage down the journey, we link to another article of the same topic and the same level (awareness to awareness) so side-stepping readers, and then from that second article link down to the next stage.

People may read one article and move on, some may link through and not read the next article, we know there are many different versions of our reader journeys. The point here is to have a purposeful connection between all of our content. Some will take the journey, others will form their own path, and that's fine too.

Lesson learnt: Don't publish content with dead-ends. Offer more (relevant and useful) content so that you're serving your audience and also ensuring your content is serving the business too.

Categories that were no longer the best way to group content

Categorising and tagging has always been tricky for us. For a blog all about content strategy we could have fallen back on just one category bucket—Content strategy for everything, job done! But that would do our discipline, and our readers, a disservice. We also wanted to get the balance between having categories that are meaningful but not bombarding people with choice.

By introducing tags on the new blog, we were able to open up how readers found other content based on topics. Categories and tags serve their own purpose, and have been considered with different needs in mind, but together they provide an enriched findability for our content.

The new categories on the blog are:

  • Content creation
  • Content process
  • Content operations
  • Content strategy
  • Digital transformation
  • GatherContent

Yes, there is overlap. Where would an article on workflow go, for example? It could fit nicely under process, operations or strategy. These decisions are made depending on what approach to workflow the article covers. And tags can then surface this content in other ways too.

The categories are also broad; content strategy alone could cover a large array of topics and advice. The related content at the end of each article is how we can best share the most relevant content to readers, but if they wish to browse categories and tags to hopefully stumble across a gem, hopefully we've set them up to do so.

If we were to get really detailed we would have so many different categories. For us, these cover the main top-level topics of our blog but it is something we will keep reviewing and discussing. Content design and collaboration were also short-listed but we felt the articles that would have been grouped under these, actually fitted well into one of the final categories too.

GatherContent is perhaps a little ambiguous. This covers product updates and case studies, which were previously divided between two categories on the older blog - business and stories. Even more ambiguous.

The important thing for me is that the case studies aren't only found in this category on the blog. They are also linked from the customer page and directly via other means too.

We have more tags than we do categories, which you might expect. Some of the tags we have are:

  • Style guide
  • Audiences
  • Workflow
  • Tone of voice
  • Writing
  • Agencies

If you select any of the tags at the end of an article, you'll see all articles tagged by the topic you chose. We wouldn't have a main category for agencies, for example, but a lot of our content is agency-focused across all our categories, so the agency tag is a way to surface that.

A tagging results page on the GatherContent blog which shows three most recent articles assigned with the tag, 'content planning'.

Is this ground-breaking? Absolutely not. There's a bigger task to be done in future phases for our taxonomy and categorisation of content. That said, this is still a step forward as on the previous blog there were no tags and the categories were confusing.

This is something I definitely want to revisit. UX could be a category, for example, but for now UX focused articles are categorised elsewhere. These are fun challenges to have, hence why being in a content role is interesting. A personal goal next year for me is to level-up my knowledge of content modelling, information architecture and taxonomy. The GatherContent blog will then be my test bed for putting the knowledge into practice.

Lesson learnt: Try and work on your IA and taxonomy at the start. If you can't, like me, define what 'next best thing' looks like, work towards that and ensure there are things in place so you can understand and test the reader journey as a place to iterate from. Also, don't assume your categories and tags are an 'obvious' way of grouping content.

Learn, refine, review, repeat

Over the coming weeks and months we will be trying to gauge the success of this work (also a separate post in the works). Part of the measurement will be traffic, downloads etc, but certainly not in isolation. The real insights will come from trying to establish a reader's journey and also if connecting our content in the ways described above, and increasing visibility and findability to related content, has had a positive impact on our business goals and also on the user experience.

I'll report back soon, but until then, check out the rest of the blog. Hopefully you'll find some useful content.

No items found.

About the author

Robert Mills

Rob is Head of Content at GatherContent. He is responsible for managing all of the organisation's content output and for their content operations. Rob also works on audience research projects and strategic initiatives to ensure their content meets both business goals and user needs.

He is a journalism graduate and has previously worked as Studio Manager and Head of Content for a design agency and as an Audience Research Executive for the BBC. He’s a published author and has written for industry publications including Net Magazine, Smashing Magazine, UX Matters, UX Booth and Content Marketing Institute. On occasion Rob speaks about content strategy and content operations at leading industry events or on podcasts.

Related posts you might like