Good content is all about relationships; the connection between design and copy, the engagement between information and users and the alignment of goals with results. Planning your content is more than a starting point, it is the continual backbone of the entire creation and post-launch process.
Great content is the result of being aware of the bigger picture;
- Do you consider and account for all content – Past, present and future?
- Are you aware of your client’s audience and their goals? Understanding this allows you to effectively represent your client’s business.
- How does social media factor in your planning?
There’s a heap of tools and practices out there that aid in the planning, generation and maintenance of website content. The more thorough and dedicated your content planning, the more engaging and fruitful your content will be.
All website content should be fuelled and underpinned by a clearly defined understanding of your audience. Before establishing how to communicate, you have to know who is out there. The only way to create content for your audience is to study them. Ask yourself their questions.
- How will they navigate through a site?
- What information do they need? What information do they want?
- Do they need to be reassured, propositioned?
Before content can be developed, the foundations have to be set. This consists of the underlying goals and objectives of your content. The client’s goals, the business goals and audience goals can align and work together as long as they have been carefully examined and understood. Your content should be catered to your audience. Good content performs on multiple levels, ticking all the boxes. Know what boxes need ticked first, be realistic in your expectations and think like the audience, not the client.
Sometimes guilty of being more design-centred than content-focused, site-maps are a much underused content planning tool.
Site-maps define the logical relationships between all of the content in our site; they dictate, or more helpfully, they guide people’s navigation through your website. They’re pretty important. A site-map can offer an insight into the where, when and why’s of content placement.
The key benefits of a site-map in content planning are;
- Allowing for content to shape the design, rather than the other way around.
- Spotting gaps in content.
- Observing the status of content in relation to the site as a whole – what can be swiped or elaborated.
- Act as a complete and sharable document for team collaboration.
- Allocate the creation, rewrite or monitoring of content.
- Aiding in identifying a relevant design and digital strategy.
- Identifying potential content issues that could affect generation or maintenance, i.e content governance. Use this primary insight to predict and prepare.
When planning content for a website, the site and client itself should be assessed. The type of client and site determine the kind of content that will be produced. A handy way of getting to grips with the function of your content is to make sure you always have one foot in each camp; the client’s and the user’s. Rooting content in the user’s needs and understanding how to communicate the client’s goals in a relevant, audience-friendly way is the crux of it. Matching user experience with functional, goal-driven content can be tricky. Using personas is a great way to dimensionalise your content and focus on the impact it can have on an audience.
Johnny Holland examines the relationship between user experience, content strategy and design interaction in his post ‘Why personas are critical for content strategy’.
- Organize your content around the user’s needs not the structure of your client’s company.
- Be sure to assess the goals of your content and structure it around these objectives.
- Don’t let the design restrict your content planning or generation. Prioritise content.
A content inventory is a great way of studying the scope and purpose of each page on the site.
A useful tool for establishing what already exists, the inventory acts as a means of deconstructing every morsel of content.
More than just a practice for collecting and recording content, an inventory can aid in establishing the flow and focus of messages and an underlying ethos. Although it can be tiresome (infamously tiresome), the process of cataloguing is a rewarding one, offering a hands-on insight into the specific purpose and role of every sentence.
Taking the form of a simple spreadsheet, all site pages are broken down and content is slotted under headings and categories such as;
- File format.
- Meta description.
- Meta keywords.
- Categories and tags.
These content inventories map the paths to meaning because they highlight gaps and the relationship between pieces of content. From this inventory, the user experience begins to take shape.
1. Think of the bigger picture. Inventories are a handy way of viewing the past, present and future of your content. See this process as audit of sorts.
2. Keep it up. As you add content be sure to log it in the inventory. Commit to the updating and maintenance of your inventory.
3. Assess all content. Video, images and applications are all forms of content too, be sure to assess their relevance and placement.
Content mapping is a great way of working out which content should be featured in your website.This technique brings together your analysis of business goals, audience assessment and content aims. These maps become a framework of answers, they can ensure that your content gives audiences the information they search for.
This mapping helps you visualise the effectiveness of your content; does it represent business goals while answering instant audience questions? Not only does it encourage you to structure your content in a user-friendly way, but it allows you to quickly see where fat can be trimmed and where focus needs to be applied.
Questions to ask yourself when mapping your content are;
- Can you trace answers to questions? Is this a clear and easy to negotiate process?
- Does your existing content align with business goals and apply to your target audience?
- Is your content arranged in the most understandable way? Have you approached it from various perspectives and user situations?
1. Collaborate. Now is a good time to involve team members or clients in the content process. New perspectives can uncover new content structures and meanings.
2. This isn’t set in stone. This map can be reimagined and utilised at any time. Play with structure and content until it fits just right.
3. Root your content in clearly defined goals. Know the business, audience and content possibilities before you start mapping.
Content schedule (Editorial calendar)
Helpful in establishing a content cycle, an editorial calendar maps out future content aims, tracks content ideas and generally avoids project delays due to late content. This schedule defines what you will post, where to post it and when it will be published.
Not only will this schedule outline what new content needs to be generated, it will also measures how your existing content is performing. Rewriting or removal are just as necessary as original creation, use this planning time to assess the effectiveness and timing of your content. Schedule regular reviews and audits to maximise its performance and relevance.
Content is more than website copy. Aside from updating and maintaining content, this schedule includes the generation of blog posts and social media posts and engagements.
It’s a plan of action, an assessment of your content challenge. New, better practices are established and weekly time is dedicated to your content cause.
Shareability is an important factor to consider when creating your calendar. There’s some great online tools that tick this box, Google Calendar and Gather Content are perfect for outlining and organising your content milestones.
Useful info to include in your content schedule could be;
- Titles / Keywords – This helps focus the goal of content and be SEO aware.
- Author / date – Coordinates collaborators and set clear deadlines and milestones.
- Target audiences – Encourage research and current trends that apply.
- Media types and channels – Is copy the best way forward or is video or a podcast relevant?
This schedule focuses efforts and ensures you engage with your clients in a way worthwhile to you and them. It can tackle marketing goals, content topics, social media channels and collaborators.
1. This schedule is a great way to bank and track blog ideas and trends. This helps assess relevance and impact.
2. It can be fleshed out as you go, the schedule is a work in progress. Keep it basic.
3. Be aware of shareability and repeating yourself. Ensure posts and content is diverse and easy to share.
Content planning is a commitment
The more you put into the planning stages, the more relevant, engaging and insightful your content will be.
These planning practices don’t just pave the way for future content generation. Mapping, scheduling and inventories help us relate each piece of content to the next, highlighting gaps and helping us understand ways to better communicate with our audiences.