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Six signs you need a content strategy | Nomensa

Six signs you need a content strategy

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6 minutes, 32 seconds

You may already be aware of the many benefits of an effective content strategy and have one in place. But the question is, is it fully integrated with your other services and, crucially, could it be better? Have you really adopted a content-first approach and are you getting the right returns on your investment?

You may have found that despite your best efforts, roadblocks have emerged. Maybe your SEO ranking is slipping and your wireframes remain clumped up with Lorem Ipsum. Or perhaps your projects are trapped in purgatory while you wait for a culture change to come. If so, it may be time for a content strategy overhaul. But chin up – here are six common problem areas and our advice on how to solve them.

Content Strategy: Research, Plan, Produce, Test, Refine, Maintain

1) You don’t have a clear definition of success

Sometimes, what should be the most obvious answer is also the most elusive. Because after all, just what should you concentrate on? Is it follower counts, bounce rates, conversions or click-throughs?

Are you focusing most on hiking your way up Google’s rankings, or is it tangible outcomes like an uptick in sales, or a decrease in calls to your support centre that you’re after? Like many organisations, you may be lost in a maze of metrics.

The problem with measuring success with data is that its definition differs depending on the organisation, and content exists for separate purposes and returns. Now, not every blog post or web page you write will drastically impact your bottom-line.

But every bit of content should drive a result, serve an identified purpose or improve your user experience. This could be improving keyword performance or increasing organic search traffic. And, if it doesn’t, you need to ask yourself, why is it there?

2) You don’t know who your audience are or what they need

You need to know your onions if you want to meet your users’ needs. And, it’s good to consult more than just your data to do it. To figure out what content your audience is really craving you need to ask around as well as crunching all that data. Do some user research or consider leveraging internal staff insight, like that offered by call centre workers or sales people.

Once you know who they are, you can find out what they’re craving and where their painpoints on your site or app are in user testing. By using this insight to inspire the content you produce, you can guarantee it will meet user needs. To see this idea in action, have a look at the work we did last year for Virgin Media Ireland’s support section.

Similarly, you should invest in SEO analytics to discover how users find, access and interact with your digital estate. Then, examine their journeys through the lens of your keyword universe and capitalise on learnings to optimise your content and Information Architecture (IA) to better serve your user’s needs.

3) No one is responsible for governance

This is a big red flag. Is anyone looking at old content? Are you archiving old blogs or rewriting their content with updated insights? Is anyone in charge of sustaining and governing the content? Are you still optimising it for the web and informing your strategy with the latest SEO insights? If not, it’s time to show your content a little love.

Think of your content like a garden; it’s not enough to set out at the start of the year and coat the soil in seeds. You need to nurture your seedlings, check in with them regularly and tend to them.

We are big fans of the content management tool, GatherContent. It keeps everything in one place, facilitates conversation and collaboration, and its calendar function means you can be alerted when you need to start reviewing content.

4) Your organisation doesn’t have Tone of Voice (TOV)/brand style guide

Simply put: you need a TOV/brand guideline that informs and shapes every word you write. Otherwise, you’re likely to publish content that doesn’t sound like you.

Just as visual inconsistencies in branding can create uncertainty amongst your users, content irregularities can breed distrust, too. Users need to know they’re in the right place – reassure them and get everyone who writes for you to read your TOV guide.

5) You’re stuck on page two

You don’t need to be told about the desolate landscape facing websites ranked past page two on Google.

However, there’s another mishap many fall victim to. You may think that your organisation appears quite high up when you type its name, but have you considered how individual landing pages or linked services are faring? Have they slumped, or slipped down altogether? Have you thought about the natural language people use when searching for your services, and have you aligned it with your content?

Growth is never linear and often appears in spurts, but sustained stagnation is a worrying sign. Remember, it’s not enough to stuff your content with keywords and expect to climb the rankings. Content crafted for humans in their natural language delivers the best user experience.

However, while you’re not crafting copy for computers, algorithms are now so intelligent you might as well be. Google’s own advice states that you should treat search engines like they are one of your users. This is great news for users, because SEO best practice naturally aligns with excellent and accessible user experiences.

6) You haven’t considered content layout or formats

Content design was first coined by Sarah Richards while working on the Government Digital Service (GDS) but it’s quickly gaining traction. It encompasses where content sits on the page, how it relates to the other elements and what format is should be in.

At Nomensa, this is where our content and UX practitioners meet and make magic. If you’re a smaller team an excellent place to start is to ask a simple question: What questions do your users need answered here?

Once you’ve written the questions down, put them in order of priority (this informs your layout) and if they haven’t been answered within the content, it’s time to consider whether a different sort of format might work better. What about an image, a diagram or a video?

Additionally, reflect on whether you’re using accessible language. Are readers getting lost in the jargon or heavy academic terminology? You could have the most innovative and exceptional ideas but if they’re unfindable or hidden away in paragraphs and paragraphs of complicated text, it’s not going to get read.

This is similar to what we encountered when working with RSSB (Rail Safety and Standards Board). RSSB is a respected knowledge holder within the rail industry, but despite the doubtless value of its content, paying members were not engaging with the organisation’s online resources. This was because it was written in convoluted language and hadn’t been optimised for its users or search engines.

Through a content-first approach, bolstered by workshops, we were able to give them a new vision. We supported in their transformation into the go-to destination for railway news and information. Of the pages we optimised and rewrote, page views were pushed up by 264%, the downloading of documents shot up by 93% while overall traffic to the new content from social media rose by 106%.

You can read about our approach in our case study.

Getting support for your content

There’s no single solution when it comes to content strategy, so have fun and play around as you experiment with what works and what doesn’t. But if this all sounds a little daunting, don’t worry – we have a dedicated content team on hand to help you through it.

Have a browse of our Content Strategy services and get in touch by emailing us on or calling us on +44 (0) 117 929 7333.

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