Defining Great Content: Live from #SMXAdvanced
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 33 seconds
What is great content? We are told we need it all the time, but how do you define it? How can you come up with or spot the next great idea? I know two of the three panelists today and they are great minds when it comes to content. I’d venture to say two of the best. I can’t wait to hear from Vanessa, it seems like she (along with Jonathon) is in the trenches actually creating content for AdoptUSKids. Vanessa Fox put this panel together to help SEOs understand content strategy from the experts, not other SEOs. These are the experts for sure. (hug) to Vanessa for this panel. PS Nine by Blue (now RKG) is hiring.
- Vanessa Casavant, Marketing Communications Specialist, GeoEngineers (@vancasavant)
- Jonathon Colman, Principal Experience Architect, REI (@jcolman)
- Misty Weaver, Community Manager, Content Insight LLC (@meaningmeasure)
First, get Jonathon’s slides on slideshare. That will help you and me as I try to keep up with him. I asked him nicely to go slow, yesterday was a little rough. He is going to be talking about more intro stuff, but he is always so engaging.
Jonathon starts by defining content strategy from a few sources:
- Kristina Halvorson – “Content Strategy plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content.”
- Rachel Lovinger – “Content Strategists use words and data to create unambiguous content that supports meaningful, interactive experiences.”
- And again from Rachel – “Content Strategy is to copywriting as information architecture is to design.”
Content isn’t just words, design, code, UX, ads, or fonts … it’s an EXPERIENCE. This includes:
- Writing – Pay your people more.
- Editorial Strategy
- Standards and Governance – think brand and “look and feel” guidelines and take it further to the whole experience.
- Content Workflow and Process Design – Misty will cover this more.
- Content Management – We are typically managed by the system and we should stop working within bounds of a system.
- Information Architecture – This is not just sitemaps.
- Metadata Strategy – “Metadata is a love note to the future.” It’s data that gives more context.
- Distribution Channels and Platforms – It’s not just about your site.
5 Impacts of a Strong Content Strategy
- Voice and Tone – Go to voiceandtone.com for Mailchimp’s public guide to their voice and tone.
- Inventory and Audit – Get templates here. Misty is covering this more.
- Consistent Templates – Please don’t look to REI. Jonathon says “do as we say, not as we do.” If you have templates, it’s easier to update and easier for your customers to understand.
- Metadata not <meta> data – REI uses Schema, used to be RDFa and Good Relations. But that’s not what he is talking about. He is talking about using the data about products to inform users and also help structure better results. With more information, you can help customers find what they need, faster. Think faceted navigation. More on infomation architecture and meta data.
- Content Modeling – When you take a look at how your content is related, you make it more findable, portable, and re-usable. Learn more about content modeling via this workshop.
The point is to get to a “Create Once, Publish Everywhere” system.
I don’t have slides for Vanessa, but hopefully I can type fast enough.
Her background is in editorial, content governance, and branding. She has worked 10 years as a communication professional, three as a journalist. She mainly works with non-profits, most recently with AdoptUSKids. She has since moved on but is going to talk about her work there.
Back in 2009, they were going through a redesign of their system and brought in a content strategist to help. She had to keep reminding people why she was there. There was some major balancing with co-workers as they produced a ton of content. It’s hard to be the person that pushes for consistency when there are so many people producing content.
Content is Political
Online brands are only as strong as the content you put out and people consume. There is a lot of passion and good intentions, but at the start no one was overseeing all of the content development.
Content Strategy isn’t New
Newsrooms have been doing this successfully for years. Starting with writers, fact checkers, reporters, then to editors and finally to the publisher, their process was really dead on. It was all political and very much like what organizations are seeing today. It’s not just about strategy, it is also about helping others shape the path for the larger organization. Use your organizational structure to help shape the editorial structure.
She then developed a process for creating new webpages on the site, the maintenance and distribution. It’s a long looking process, but it helped having all of the steps outlined. It helped bring chaos to a consistent message.
- 550% increase in return visitors
- 418% increase in website visits
- 100% increase in email subscriptions
- 200% increase in social media following
Slides here: http://bit.ly/12FQd6W
Misty is going to take us through a content audit. She is not only a content strategist and community director, she is a professor at The University of Washington training the next generation of content strategists. I’ve been to these classes and I want to hire all of her students.
Getting started, the most important thing is that the content be useful and usable.
Content Inventory is a mind numbing odyssey. You need headphones. Inventory is absolutely necessary, it’s the one thing you need. Some people debate workflow before inventory? Inventory before workflow? Both, but she thinks workflow needs to come first now.
She is going to walk through an audit, how she teaches it in class.
- Quantitative basics – Title, Location, ID (create one), and Type of Content. Duplicate content is not inventoried more than once. Use a crawler, it helps (Check out their tool for content inventory at Content Insight).
- Look at what is in the audit and identify the high value items.
- Build Personas using analytics, go on site with the client, do surveys, etc.
- Get specific on these personas and focus on the most important personas.
- Sketch out how their experience might work with the website.
- Look at the content using your personas, who does the page focus on and what goal does the page participate in?
- Check for issues in the story (calls to action) and fix them.