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Content Strategy for the Web - Book Review

1 March 2012
Dr. Moria Levy
book cover

Undoubtedly, the author of "Content Strategy for the Web" radiates a genuine passion for content and demonstrates a profound love for her work. In her 2010 publication, Kristina Halvorson unequivocally showcases this passion. However, the narrative is not without sobriety, influenced by the contemporary treatment of textual content.


According to Halvorson, an increasing number of individuals turn to online information as a precursor to decision-making. The written word wields considerable influence, yet the accessibility for everyone to write, often in an informal manner and with minimal guidance, has diminished its significance. Consequently, many perceive content strategy as somewhat disreputable.


Aligned with the responsibility of someone entrusted with crafting words, the book maintains an approachable tone. It is clearly written, positioned at an accessible reading level, and offers practical insights.


The book covers a range of topics, including:
  • Difficulties

  • Coping:

    • Testing

    • Analysis of the existing situation

    • Strategy

    • Content creation process

    • Measurement

    • Maintenance

    • Content channels

    • Officials


These principles are not confined to websites but can be applied to portals and content-rich sites within an organization. They are particularly relevant in information and knowledge administration contexts.


Undoubtedly, the book is highly recommended for anyone dealing with these aspects.


Difficulties

An intriguing question arises regarding the value of acknowledging difficulties, especially in openly addressing them. I must admit the truth; within the book itself, there is an introductory chapter that, for the sake of brevity, was set aside, with its contents seamlessly integrated into other chapters. However, it is undeniable that Halvorson does not shy away from detailing the challenges that hinder organizations from creating content of sufficient quality:

  1. Clarifying what content should be included on the site is not always evident.

  2. Content is inherently political.

  3. A single entity owns and is exclusively responsible for the content.

  4. Content handling encompasses numerous stages of work and is not as straightforward and brief as one might hope.


Coping

Testing

The initial step in crafting appropriate content involves conducting a comprehensive test to map the existing content. This test can be implemented at various levels, and the following details can be mapped for each page:


Basic Information:

  1. Page hierarchy on the site

  2. Page names

  3. Page address


Quantitative Information:

  1. Quantity/Detail:

    a. Downloadable documents and materials

    b. Quantity/breakdown of videos

    c. Quantity/Detail of Forms

    d. Quantity/detail of functional pages (where the user performs active actions), etc.

  2. Content owners (content brought from outside, content managed internally, content from a partner, etc.)

  3. Additional channels in which the content appears


Quality Information:

  1. Essence of content (what it expresses/achieves)

  2. The level of up-to-date content (Is it current? When was it last updated?)

  3. How much the content supports the organization's goals; how much it supports what users ask for*

  4. How much content is currently in use (according to statistics)

  5. To what extent is the content professionally written: syntax, grammar, use of words, adaptation to organizational messages, level of structuring, and adherence to concise writing rules?


Additional Special Tests – for complex needs:

  1. How discoverable the content is by search engines; the quality and appropriateness of metadata

  2. To what extent the content is accessible to people with disabilities

  3. To what extent the content is linguistically translated into different languages

  4. To what extent the content is culturally translated appropriately for other countries


* Important note: Each correct piece of content serves one of two things:

  • Business Need

  • Responding to the user's wishes


Analysis of the existing situation

Following the test and preceding the proposal of a strategy for optimal content management, it is advisable to clarify additional aspects and give them due consideration:

  1. Goals (business level):

    1. What business goal is the organization seeking to advance through the content?

    2. What do users want or need from the content?

    3. How will success be measured?

  2. Project Objectives (at the content level): Examples:

    1. Updating the site to reflect the organization's dynamism better

    2. Building a website with a structure adaptable to changing needs and social campaigns

    3. Educating customers about products to facilitate easy online purchases

    4. Adapting the site to align with the perception of other corporate-owned sites

  3. Framework of Activity and Constraints:

    1. Activity budget

    2. Schedules

    3. Technology (CMS System)

    4. Legal guidelines

    5. Guidelines regarding content from super-organizations/partners/regulation

    6. Accessibility requirements for people with disabilities

    7. Assumptions for activity

      1. Risks

      2. The cultural environment in terms of communication: image, messages, complementary content channels

      3. Content sources

      4. Relevant functionaries in the organization

      5. Competitors' activities and other influencing factors


These findings are consolidated into a document known as the "Strategic Foundation."


Strategy

The strategy will encompass careful consideration of the following aspects:

  1. Determining Necessary Content and Purpose:

    a. Content aligned with advancing business goals

    b. Content fulfilling user desires

  2. Ensuring Consistency with Branding and Company Messages:

    a. Policies

    b. Writing guidelines

  3. Structuring Content Templates Appropriately:

    a. Panes

    b. Types of items

  4. Facilitating Content Discovery for Users:

    a. Site navigation (site map and scenarios)

    b. Link Policy

    c. Metadata

    d. Complementary content channels

  5. Managing Content Sources:

    a. Original content

    b. Content transferred manually or mechanized from other sources

  6. Preparing for Launch (Conversion and Reclamation):

    a. Work plan and supervisors

  7. Post-Launch Content Management:

    a. (Refer to the maintenance section below)

  8. Organizational Implications and Significance: (Refer to the chapter on functionaries below)


Two additional tips accompany these considerations:

  • It is preferable to minimize content rather than multiply it.

  • Learn to listen (to content partners within the organization and customers needing content outside the organization).


Content creation process

The workflow process comprises several essential steps, outlined as follows:

  1. Collection of Information

  2. Initial Writing; Adding Metadata; Adaptation to Different Writing Rules

  3. OK/Comments

  4. If Necessary: Amendments and Reauthorization

  5. Advertising on Complementary Channels

  6. Updates; Versioning

  7. Archiving/Canceling


To generate high-quality content, it is crucial to identify and consult relevant stakeholders for their insights and needs concerning the information. This includes:

  • Information Seekers

  • Information Providers

  • Authors

  • Those responsible for approval/comments/rejection

  • Publishers


Recommendations:

  • Grant all stakeholders a sense of significance in the process and communicate the process's overall importance to the deliverable.

  • Establish an orderly and governed process for creating and updating content.


Measurement

Web Analytics encompasses the field of website measurement, incorporating a set of metrics to analyze user behavior. It is a dynamic domain marked by constant evolution in both technologies and methodologies. The scope of Web Analytics includes:

  • Web traffic information detailing website traffic

  • Web transactions provide information about active actions on the site

  • Web server performance offering insights into site performance

  • Usability studies provide information on the site's usability

  • User-submitted info presenting details about information contributed by users

  • Forms-based data focusing on the usage of forms


In planning and executing measurement, one should aim to define indices like those mentioned above to enable the examination of:

  • Promoting the achievement of business goals

  • Promoting the fulfillment of user desires


Measurement is a process that should be conducted initially (as a point of comparison) and repeated over time to scrutinize trends and implement changes that enhance the site's content, leading to the realization of goals and desires over time.


Maintenance

The long-term success of a website hinges on maintenance. Virtually every website can only be established as a one-time endeavor with the need for periodic or regular updates. A maintenance plan should be devised with the following objectives:

  • Ensuring accuracy and consistency of content over time

  • Verifying page links, menu items, and the proper operation of other navigation elements

  • Upholding the integrity of messaging and branding on the site's pages

  • Updating metadata to comply with new content and search standards

  • Archiving and organizing outdated content

  • Removing recurring and expired information


The maintenance plan will encompass:

  • Tasks to ensure content maintenance

  • Time estimates for various tasks

  • Roles of officials

  • Skills required for each position holder


To guarantee quality, it is advisable to formulate several documents supporting content quality:

  • Site Policy: Legal, regulatory, and other rules and constraints for the site's content

  • Site Standards: Defined parameters, limitations, and expectations for content contributors, enhancing quality and reducing the likelihood of formulaic, structural, or technical conflicts when different parties write content.

  • Writing Guidelines: Recommendations for effective writing.


Content channels

When contemplating content, the initial focus is often on the website, as described in the preceding sections of this book. However, due consideration should be given to various complementary content channels both on and off the web, and the comprehensive dissemination of content across these channels should be carefully planned:

  • Email marketing

  • Landing pages

  • Ads on Banners

  • Search-driven marketing

  • Press Releases

  • Videos

  • Cell phone

  • Social Media (Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, etc.)


Recommendations:

  • It is advisable to advertise on channels where:

  • The target audience is present

  • The target audience desires and is willing to engage

  • Remember that the tool is not the primary focus; instead, it is the content

  • Before delving into social media, ensure it is the right platform and meticulously plan what will be communicated, why, and how

  • Acknowledge that establishing a presence on social media is not a one-time venture but an enduring commitment.


Officials

The critical functionaries in the activity, though there are others in the book, are as follows:

  1. Content Strategist:

    a. Ensures quality content for the site.

    b. Initiates content activity; maps, tests, and analyzes results.

    c. Collaborates with other site managers in various aspects.

    d. Defines content and source needs.

    e. Sets goals and objectives; communicates to the team.

    f. Develops content recommendations, organizes, manages, and makes them accessible.

    g. Facilitates, accompanies, and controls the content creation process.

    h. Ensures compliance with the maintenance plan and officials.

  2. Content Writer:

    a. Responsible for creating valuable and engaging content.

    b. Writes content.

    c. Assists in content audit.

    d. Recommends content testing; participates in periodic check-ups.

    e. Provides periodic updates.

  3. User Experience Specialist:

    a. Creates a positive and enjoyable user experience with the content.

    b. Plans information architecture (if there is no separate role holder for the above).

    c. Designs the user's interaction with the site.

    d. Performs usability tests and recommends improvements.

    e. Handles visual/graphic design.

    f. Builds prototypes (in collaboration with other functionaries) for representative screens on the site.

  4. Information Architect:

    a. Plans the user interface to meet all functionaries and needs definers.

  5. Publisher:

    a. Acts as a content feeder across channels.

  6. SEO Expert:

    a. Specializes in Search Engine Optimization.

    b. Improves the relevance of pages in search engines and enhances their position on results pages.


Some of these roles may be consolidated into smaller projects under one person.

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