What is Content Strategy and Why you Need It

Andrew Amundson
Andrew Amundson
- 4 min read
Calvin and Hobbes

The thing about content is you should always have more of it. And the thing about strategy is you should always have it.

But what is content strategy? What do agencies mean when they offer it? What do clients mean when they ask for it? What do writers mean they blog about it?

Content with Necessity

Since content is a beast that keeps needing to be fed, there should certainly be some kind of plan around it. A website can coast on the same design or functionality for years, but that persnickety content is always going to need constant updating. If not, your website is just a static piece of brochureware. If you’re in the process of a website build and your wireframes are filled with Lorem Ipsum, you don’t have a content strategy.

Why is content an afterthought (or a never-thought) ? Or why is strategy seemingly only applicable to the beginning of a project? You’ll always need content, and strategy is always vital every bit of the way.

Agencies like to talk about the happy overlap of business/client objectives and audience/user needs — this is accomplished through content strategy. Decide the following:

  • UX: Who are your users and what kind of content do they want? How can they best access it?
  • Editorial Guide: What is your content trying to say? What is your brand/voice/story/message? What topics need to be covered? Where and when will it be delivered?
  • Content Entry: Who is entering the content? What kind of CMS is being used? Will they need training for this?
  • Content Governance: What’s the content workflow? What are the processes at play to ensure quality and standards?

Together Again

The internet is all about interconnectivity, so why don’t we view the varied teams of a digital agency with the same throughline? Content strategy can provide this focused consistency and should not just be relegated to the beginning (or for some clients, the end) of a project. It has an impact on dev, design, PM’s, timelines, budget, and client expectations. Content strategy is not as sexy as design or as necessary as development. But having it in place will ultimately give more context to your design/dev teams during handoffs, along with clarifying the scope of work with your client. All of this will save you time, money and sanity.

People underestimate content because it’s not seen as a specialty skill. Not everyone can code or design, but everyone thinks they can write. Yes, most adults can technically write vaguely grammatically sound, semi-competent sentences — usually relegated to email. But to write well? And to do it consistently? Unicorn-rare and immeasurably time-consuming.

Unlock the Key

The obsession with keyphrases as the Rosetta Stone for SEO misses the point that good, clean writing is good SEO. There seems to be a disconnect with common sense in this industry. Just as our RFP Guide pointed out the novel idea of just talking to someone, I’m now introducing the equally radical notion that making good content is not easy. Just because you can do something does not make you an expert. Most organizations don’t have a content team, they just put it off on interns or admin to write something to fill up space.

It Starts with Words

Let’s analogize this in movie/show terms. Everything you love about Netflix, or GOT — it begins with a script. If a project has a director, producer, actors, all the filming equipment, set design, wardrobe, CGI — but oh wait — no script, then you don’t have a movie. A director never says, “Oh, Ryan Reynolds, just say ‘lorem ipsum’ a bunch of times on a loop … we’ll figure it out later.” Without a script for a film, you’ve just wasted untold amounts of time, money and labor. A website build with no content strategy will suffer the same fate. If Hollywood knows this, so should Silicon Valley.

Keep it Clear

When anyone espouses a buzz phrase like content strategy, it ends up meaning a series of things to a series of people. This is why agreed-upon terminology at an agency is vital (another blog for another time). But the fact that agencies care enough to be confused is actually valuable. This shows that everyone vaguely agrees that content and the strategizing thereof has some significance. They’re just unclear how.

Defining Your Content Strategy

  • Delivering the best content to the right audience
  • Having an agreed-upon system of creating/using content
  • Creating a process that represents consistency across all phases/lifecycle of a project — catering to user needs and business goals

Difficult but not Impossible

The governing logic around content seems to be, “it’s easy/anyone can do it.” Yet without having quality content and a strategy around it, your project is a lost vessel with no story to tell and ultimately fewer and fewer users to convert. The value of content in analytical terms will show in more page sessions, more time spent on page, lower bounce rate, better SEO — all leading to more conversions. On a human level though, you’re entertaining, provoking thought, and giving audiences something worthwhile to consume.

The Real Value

Content strategy is not just a one-off in a vacuum. It should not be some hasty, half-hearted hack for SEO that then goes nowhere. On a micro level, it will entail SEO keyphrase research, detailing the best headers to use, audits, outlines, and writing for web workshops. On the macro level, it will help dictate the vision, voice and expectations of a build throughout.

Strategy is intangible but invaluable. Content is an obvious idea with a value that’s lost on many. These two are inextricably linked, not only to guide the written word on your website but as a veritable North Star for the whole of your project.

That is why at WDG, we are not just premier web developers but also seasoned strategists who know that the content-first approach ends in success. If you have any content, strategy, or content strategy queries, hit us up here.

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