Covenanthouse.org is a charity that raises awareness and funds to homeless youth. Using the software Screaming Frog SEO Spider, I was able to discover a lot more into the site itself. I already knew what the charity was as I had participated in the charity at my high school for a couple of years. Instead of trying to learn more about charity , it was time to learn more about the site and its meta data.
The most interesting that I found in my research is the percentage of images per page that Covenant House has. Over 99% of the pages have images on them. When compared to a similar site like Children.org, Covenant House has 85% more images per page. This isn’t the stereotypical meta data information, but pictures add such a huge element to a website, and I think Covenant House does a great job at balancing the images with the writing.
When asked about content, what is the first thing that pops into your head? Probably some form of media like a television show you watch or a YouTube channel you follow. That falls under the category of content creation, but there are other forms of content that aren’t as widely known to people, who aren’t in the content field. There are three main types of content:
Content Creation – the contribution of information to any media and most especially to digital media for an end-user/audience in specific contexts.
Content Marketing – a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
Content Strategy – the discipline responsible for satisfying business requirements through content creation and distribution.
When wanting to start something that is content you would want to start with content strategy. “You wouldn’t start building a house without a blueprint, a sculpture without a sketch, or a company without a mission statement. So, there should be no content creation without a plan. Otherwise you risk getting derailed from your objective. A content strategy includes everything from brand and tone to how you will promote your content and eventually repurpose it” (blog.hubspot.com). Content strategy is the building blocks of what you are trying to create, without it you are essentially flying blind.
Following content strategy, the next step is content marketing. “What good is it to create all this great content if no one sees it? In a perfect world, herds of people would flock to your site every time you published a new post. In reality — especially when you’re just starting out — you’ll need to entice people to consume your content and even shepherd them into your online space” (blog.hubspot.com). You have all these good ideas about what you want to produce but nobody to show it to. That’s what content marketing is for. In order to create good content marketing you need to provide content that makes your buyers more intelligent. “The essence of this content strategy is the belief that if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyal” (contentmarketinginstitute.com).
Last but not least is content creation. You’ve strategized about the brand and tone you want to promote and you’ve marketed your idea. Now it’s finally time to create your content. “Content creation is an iterative process that pays off tremendously with your audience. Once you have the content creation process down, you’ll be able to generate creative work that not only delights your audience but also grows your business” (blog.hubspot.com). Content creation can be anything you want it to be. You can write a script or provide a site that provides services. The ideas you can have for your own content are almost limitless.
After these brief introductions into what each form of content is, it’s time to figure out what makes them similar and different. The easy connection between the three forms of content is that they all revolve around content. This is true, but to get more in-depth about it, to have successful content you cannot have one without the other. You can’t write an essay about World War 2 without first researching it, right? It’s the same premise with content.
Content marketing is a means of marketing. “Content marketers draw and develop the larger story that our organization wants to tell, and focus on ways to engage an audience, using content so that it changes or enhances a behavior…” (contentmarketinginstitute.com). In other words, it means that content marketing is a marketing strategy that uses the content you’re creating to form a better relationship with the customer.
Content strategy, on the other hand “…refers to the overarching plan you have for every piece of content related to your business” (kontent.ai). This includes:
Set Measurable and Achievable Goals
Goals and objectives need to be clearly defined and each piece of content should be created for a specific purpose.
What is the journey your audience is going to take with your content?
Choose Content Types
“Producing content is great, but what kind of content best conveys the message of your brand? You may want to consider things like infographics, YouTube videos, SlideShare presentations, Medium articles, and other content types to complement your standard blog posts” (kontent.ai).
Define Distribution and Promotion Channels
Where is the content being sent after you create it?
Create an Editorial Calendar
The calendar should outline when and where your content is being published.
Now onto content creation. Content creation doesn’t really have many similarities with content strategy and content marketing other than the fact that they all revolve around content and content creation being the final goal of content strategy and content marketing. It’s also similar to content strategy because both involve quite a lot of analysis on your part. You need to analyze your content in content strategy to see what needs to be fixed. Analyzing your content during content creation helps to form the best content possible. Content creation is the final frontier of the process, it’s the physical process of creating your content.
The first step in developing a content strategy is to figure out what’s wrong with the content. Why aren’t you getting the traffic that you initially thought you would receive? Start to hypothesize what could be wrong. For example, “The majority of the content on your site is for <audience a>, but you’re really trying to increase conversation with <audience b>” (Casey 6). Once you’ve figured out what you think the problem is you can decide how you want to prove or disprove them. For the example that we’ve chosen, we would use “user testing”. If you want to increase conversations with <audience b> get that audience to test out the new content that you’re providing. “Getting insights from actual users is a great way to add some subjectivity to your assessment. You can look at things like how content makes a user feel, how easy your content is to understand, and how findable key content is” (Casey 8).
Now that a problem has been identified because of the user testing, try and turn it into an opportunity. No one likes problems, but opportunities can be worked with, especially when pitching this project to your higher-ups. When pitching your project to the higher-ups keep a few things in mind. “First, it may make sense to start with something small that doesn’t require a ton of time or budget. Decision-makers have a harder time saying no to something little risk” (Casey 15). Secondly, remember that they want to do what’s right. The higher-ups and decision-makers will spend their time and money on a lot of the right things. Convince them that your project is one of them.
Now, to convince them of your project you need to state your case. It’s almost like a math problem. Talk about the missed opportunities that could be had if your project isn’t given resources. Let’s go back to our original example. Let’s say <audience a> are ages 25-40 and <audience b> are ages 16-24.
Your pitch: We need to make our site more mobile-friendly. “In 2013, Netbiscuits research found that 76% of consumers will abandon a website if it’s not optimized for mobile browsing, while over 30% simply won’t bother trying to use a brand’s non-optimized site, or turn to a competitor instead” (wired.com). We need to connect to people aged 16-24. 18% of that age group spend nearly 50 hours a week online and 95% of this age group get online using their smartphone. If we make the site more mobile-friendly, we reduce the risk of losing 76% of 16-24 year-olds and increase the probability of gaining more users. There’s no risk in making a more mobile-friendly site.
Once you’ve finished your pitch it’s time to get stakeholders on board. “Stakeholder involvement and alignment will make or break your project. This is true for pretty much any project an organization takes on. But it’s especially true for content projects” (Casey 27). A stakeholder is anyone who can affect or is affected by the project. There are five different roles for stakeholders:
“The person who is ultimately responsible for the success or failure of the project” (Casey 28). This could be you.
Your project will help solve their problems. They will typically say a lot regarding the project and can approve or veto the work.
These people will tell others the importance of your project.
This role is like decision-makers, but they don’t have the power to approve or veto the work.
This role can stop a project in its tracks.
Along with the five different types of roles there are for stakeholders there are also four different types of stakeholders:
They set the vision and goals for the business.
“These are the subject matter experts who have the detailed knowledge about an organization’s products, services, offerings, and so on” (Casey 29).
This type of stakeholder is responsible for putting your strategy into action.
These are the people who have knowledge/ experience related to your target audience.
Now, with the knowledge of the different roles and types that stakeholders can be it’s time to create a team. Figure out who you want to work with and who you should talk to regarding each point in your project. Start filling in each person that comes to mind into one of their roles or types. Remember, throughout this whole process you need to keep your stakeholders in the loop.
With your team fully formed, it’s time to put people in their appropriate places. You don’t want your experts on 16-24 year-olds to set the vision for the project, right? You want them focused on user proxy. Make sure each person/ group is playing to their strong suits (That’s why you filled in each person to a specific role and type).
Before you begin the actual project, you need to have your opening meeting. The first meeting would be used to just outline what the project is and to make sure every person understands each step and how they will all be involved in the project. Every meeting should have a set of ground rules. It’s up to you to make them, but a few good ones to have would be no electronics (unless needed) or no interruptions. Make sure if someone is talking everyone listens.
Now with the meeting and ground rules out of the way, it’s time to get started on the project.
Create a checklist of what needs to be planned for. For example, you would need someone to scout other sites and see how they were made more mobile-friendly. Along with the checklist, make sure there’s “…a single source of truth about the project that everyone can reference. Projects oftentimes get underway and go off the rails because objectives were misinterpreted, deliverables weren’t clearly defined, a date got pushed back that caused a snowball effect, or an important decision didn’t get documented and communicated” (Casey 50).
Don’t forget to include a budget. A budget is a must, just like the checklist and the source of truth. “If you’re hiring someone from the outside to do most of the work, you could just include the total budget for the work. If you’re doing the work internally, I suggest listing the number of hours you’re estimating it will take for each person or team” (Casey 52). A budget helps keep you on track, it’s probably one of the most important things to have for a project to be successful, especially if you’re outsourcing. If you don’t set up a time frame or budget no one is going to know when their deadline is or how much they can spend. This could result in you having to pay an outsourced member of the team, much more than originally thought. If you budgeted correctly and gave them a flat fee instead of an hourly wage, it not only saves you and the company money but also pushes the person to get everything in on time, because they don’t make any more money if they keep pushing it aside.
Casey, Meghan. The Content Strategy Toolkit: Methods, Guidelines, and Templates for Getting Content Right. New Riders, 2015.
When you think about content, what immediately pops into your head? For me, I think of videos. Whether that’s a movie, TV show, Youtube video. Any form of “moving picture” is what I think of when I hear content. Two hundred years ago, “moving pictures” didn’t exist, but content was still there. They had books and plays. We still have those now, but the mainstream view of content has become increasingly digital. Plays can now be considered “moving pictures” if you watch them through a screen; the same thing with books. “More tools, channels and platforms means more content than ever is being uploaded…” (firehead.net). With more and more ways to get content out there, content strategists need to adapt.
“Content marketing has seen a lot of changes during the past few years. Many of these changes can be attributed to the rapidly evolving search landscape, as well as a huge shift in the way people are actually discovering content” (blog.hubspot.com). A major problem that content strategists have to deal with is search engines. I’d say it’s safe to say that if you have internet access you use a search engine. Search engines are great. They help you find whatever you want with the click of a button. It would make sense that that would help content strategists, right? Wrong. It just makes life more difficult for them. “…depending on how and where you’re searching from, you’ll see different search results, which makes it difficult to evaluate success based on keyword rankings alone” (blog.hubspot.com). This makes it more difficult for a smaller company based in New Jersey to have their content seen by someone in California.
This challenges content strategists to adapt. If they don’t adapt, they risk losing their costumers to more user-friendly sites. For example, cell phones have become a huge place for content to be seen. Cell phones have gained internet access and friends and family can share videos or images or a website with each other via one simple text. The problem here lies within whether or not something is mobile friendly. No website was mobile-friendly when smartphones first came out.
Nowadays, if your content isn’t mobile-friendly, you’re probably going to lose your users. “Brands failing to drill down to this level and deliver adaptive experiences run the risk of customers abandoning their websites. In 2013, Netbiscuits research found that 76% of consumers will abandon a website if it’s not optimized for mobile browsing, while over 30% simply won’t bother trying to use a brand’s non-optimized site, or turn to a competitor instead” (wired.com).
My dream job would be to be a content creator. I’ve always had a big passion for creating, ever since I was a little kid. I would write out scripts for me and my neighbors to put on for our parents. Funny enough, that led me to where I am today. After a few bumps in the road I re-discovered my passion for creating when I switched my major (for the second time) to Film, Television, and Media Arts. I was fortunate enough to be able to write a feature-length script as my senior project, and it’s one of the pieces of content that I’ve created that I’m most proud of.
The process of writing that feature-length script was probably my first introduction into content strategy. “Content strategy plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content” (alistapart.com). Now, during that process we didn’t go through every step of content strategy. We went over the creation portion. In writing a script this would be the Beat Sheet, treatment, character descriptions, potential actors we would want, and then of course writing the script itself. We talked for a little about the publication process. Mainly, where we could submit it in order to gain the most attention (The Nicholl Fellowship). Then of course how pertinent it was to register our scripts with the WGA (Writer’s Guild of America) so it’s officially ours to use.
This past summer, up to now, has been the most content I’ve produced. I’m currently starting a business (metanet.gg). My job has been to produce social media posts about how the site has been coming along and updates about our Kickstarter (we reached our goal!). Our content will now be shifting towards what we believe our users want. That would be articles and videos geared towards the gaming industry (as the site is for gamers). We’ve already produced two short articles which would give us 14 benefit points, “600 words, meaning a cost of 3 minutes to read (assuming a reading speed of 200 wpm). 7 benefit units gained from reading each article” (nngroup.com). We’ve also produced a guide on how to play Samus which is a longer article (as well as a video) which gives us 10 benefit points, “1,000 words, meaning a cost of 5 minutes to read. 10 benefit units gained from reading each article” (nngroup.com).
The trend we have is good, two short articles to every one article. We’re definitely going to try to keep to shorter articles as “…short articles were 60% of the length of the long articles but still provided 70% of the benefit” (nngroup.com). Even with that being said, the longer articles do still have a place on the site as a mix of the two will generate the most benefit units per hour.
The Nielsen Norman Group states, “If you want many readers, focus on short and scannable content. This is a good strategy for advertising-driven sites or sites that sell impulse buys. If you want people who really need a solution, focus on comprehensive coverage. This is a good strategy if you sell highly targeted solutions to complicated problems.”
Since we want a combination of both (many readers and people who want to focus on comprehensive coverage) the 2/3 short articles and 1/3 long articles is the best content strategy for our site.