Countless small business owners and entrepreneurs struggle to answer the question: “What should I say on my website?” Sure, you may understand that you need a basic “About Us” and “Contact Us” page, but what else? What about your website’s content plan?
Part of the process to fortify your online presence includes web design, but content is equally (if not more) important. Why?
Content strategist Lynette Tan weighs in:
“To put it simply, copywriting is content used to rouse people to action. It is often used to persuade people to think a certain way about a brand/product. Unlike news or editorial writing, copywriting is all about getting the reader to take action—to buy, subscribe to emailers, or to keep updated with company news/products.”
Your website is your bread and butter as a small business owner; a “hub” of all online transactions. Whether you’re starting, managing, or growing any type of business online, in this day and age you can’t skimp on creating a website content plan. It captures leads and gives you the online presence necessary to hook and sink potential buyers.
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So, drumroll, please…
In this article, we’ll demystify the process of creating a content management plan and offer a step-by-step process for how to conceptualize and architect all the content that you’ll include on your website. We’ll cover topics like goal-setting, functionality, hierarchy, optimization, and scaling production.
Please note: Whether you’re starting your first website from scratch or are preparing to overhaul your current site, this article will help you navigate the process like a pro.
First, what is a content strategy?
A content strategy allows you to plan, create, deliver, and govern website content. It validates that you, as a small business owner, have content that is actually worth reading, engaging with, and that’s easy to consume and respond to.
“The goal of content strategy is to create meaningful, cohesive, engaging, and sustainable content,” says Usability.gov. “It reiterates that your strategy helps you to identify what already exists, what should be created, and, more importantly, why it should be created.”
Kristina Halvorson on Alistapart defines the following elements of content strategy as:
- Key themes and messages
- Recommended content topics and themes
- Content purpose (i.e., how content will bridge the space between audience needs and business requirements)
- Conducting a content gap analysis (i.e., what content types and themes that are missing)
- Metadata frameworks and related content attributes (i.e., SEO elements)
That’s a lot of elements, right? Well, don’t bang your head against the wall in fear that this process is too complex to do on your own. Fortunately, with a few steps, you can master the art of creating a website content plan.
Start by defining your content goals
Let’s start with the basics—goal setting for your content.
“Know your goals before you begin planning, and you’ll have an easier time determining what’s best for your strategy,” says Hubspot.
Pose the following questions as you begin your journey to develop content goals:
- What do you want to achieve?
- What is your target date for developing a content marketing plan?
Once you have identified answers to these high-level questions, dig into the nitty-gritty questions, like:
- Is your goal to convert new customers into clients or drive awareness?
- How can your buyers’ journey inform what content your site needs to contain?
- What objections do you need to proactively address?
- Will your content educate/ inspire/ entertain? Where? How?
- How will you measure your success? (and know whether or not your content is working)?
These more detailed goals should be tied to key performance indicators (KPIs), as well as tactics to make them a reality. Select a series of three to four KPIs based on these goals. These should typically include conversion, referral, and/or share of voice-type metrics.
What’s the goal of your websites’ content?
- Awareness: Introducing prospects to your brand and help them recognize the need for your product/service.
- Research & education: The prospect is aware of the problem and your solution, and is actively gathering information on both.
- Comparison & validation: The prospect is actively considering your solution as well as alternative options, gathering information, and comparing each in order to make an informed decision.
- Purchase: After a prospect has determined that your solution is best, it’s time to buy!
In most cases, the content you include on your website will support a number of different goals and objectives but will focus primarily on meeting the needs of people who are seeking education, considering your solution, and are those who are ready to make a purchase.
Define your audience
Another foundational part of the content creation strategy is defining your audience. Every single one of your pages or posts should speak to—both literally and figuratively—your core audience.
“All website content should be fuelled and underpinned by a clearly defined understanding of your audience,” says GatherContent contributor Nic Evans. “Before establishing how to communicate, you have to know who is out there.”
Study your audience in microscopic detail. Gain customer insight through the obvious sources like social media channels, digital monitoring, third-party websites, and customer support or sales inquiries. Step outside of your own mind and think like a website visitor. As you do so, consider the following questions:
- What are the demographics and psychographics of my core audience?
- What information does my audience need?
- What information does my audience want?
- How will people navigate through my website?
- What information do visitors need in order to convert into customers?
Audit existing content
Hooray, you’ve reached the most boring part of this process—auditing. While kind of hum-drum, it is actually supercritical. In this step, you’ll want to list every single type of content piece you currently have and what you’ll think you’ll need.
If you’re in the boat where you have an existing website or other marketing collateral, it’s good to take a pulse of what content you have produced already. Repurposing content is a beautiful thing because you don’t have to recreate the wheel. If any of the content still works well for your website, keep an inventory of it, as you’ll need it in the next step of creating a website content map.
This step can also include taking a look at competitors’ content to see what’s created and how it’s organized to help inform your website planning process. The goal of the content audit is to gather, organize, and identify opportunities to repurpose existing content.
For those that don’t currently have a site, start with a competitive analysis. Look at what other marketers have created on websites and print collateral. Another good “raw” material is sourcing and reviewing customer transcripts or material from other departments or people within your company. If you are solo, stick with the competitive analysis.
Map key content to a website content map
Once you’ve tackled auditing content create a website content map A.K.A. a visual site map. Believe it or not, it’s quick to develop and easy to change as you go. The website content map is a diagram that shows a website content’s hierarchy and structure to explain the relationships between content on your website visually. It helps to identify the relationships between pages: where they reside and how they interact with other pages.
A visual site map can be done with lines and arrows indicating the relationships between pages, denotes Smashing Magazine.
You can start by bucketing your content by theme and importance. Stem top-level pages from one homepage. Top-level pages should group similar content. More robust and detailed content will fall under each of these top-level pages.
Create content assets
Now to the arguably most important step—writing content. You can work from a website content template, making sure you hit all of the essentials of each page, like:
- Body Copy
- Video content
- Internal links
- Additional assets
Ensure your content is on-brand, with the same tone, voice, and style throughout the copywriting. Repeat your key messages often throughout each asset. Incorporate them into your content creation and always have a call to action, even if soft. Always clarify why your brand is superior by demonstrating to your audience what’s in it for them.
If you want your website content to contribute to your business goals on an ongoing basis, you need more than just the basics, says Content Marketing Institute writer Jodi Harris. “Your content needs to offer tangible value, resonate with your audience on a personal level, and extend your brand’s influence beyond the duration of the initial engagement.”
Need an additional resource on crafting the perfect page copy? Check out this website content planning worksheet.
Upload and optimize content assets
Once you have every page created, it’s time to upload the content to your preferred website builder. Whether you use WordPress, Wix, or another website creator, it’s way easier than the days when you needed a Ph.D. in web development to create a website. This is no longer the case. With the drag and drop functionality and WYSIWIG editor, it’s really a breeze.
Upload the content one asset at a time. Start with parent pages (your top-level pages) then work your way through child pages (the pages that connect from the parent page.
Upload each asset so your content is fresh, then hit publish.
To maximize SEO value so you know it’s at the top of search results, do the following:
Aim for at least 300 words per page. Give people something to chew on and let search bots crawl enough words to figure out and index your content.
Focus on keywords. First, focus on optimizing each page of your site with one primary keyword target per page, using a different keyword each time. Perform research using Google’s Keyword Planner to find high-volume, low competition keywords.
Include SEO elements, like metadata and keywords. Then, integrate the primary keyword on the following elements:
- Metadata: meta-title, meta-description, and keywords
- Header tags (H1, H2, H3…)
- Body copy
- Alt tags (images)
Publishing a content asset is no small feat. In fact, it can take hours, days, and sometimes even weeks to ideate, research, draft, design, route, optimize design, and perfect page. So, don’t make this a wasted effort. Get more eyeballs on your website content by taking the time to promote it. You can do this in a number of ways, including:
- Promote specific content assets within your website with pop-ups and landing pages
- Create social messages and promote them on you social media channels
- Give away free products or services in lieu of an influencers’ social support
- Sending out a press release notifying your sector of your new website content
- Promote the content through email newsletters to your subscribers
- Advertise on social media networks
So, long story short: “If you build it, they WON’T come.” Promotion generally involves two times the production time. Go forth and promote!
Pro tip: Create a content distribution checklist that helps you create a standard process for promoting your work. Here’s what we recommend:
- Social media: Share your content across all your active social networks
Bonus points: seek out groups, communities, and forums (such as Quora) where you can get your content in front of the people most likely to benefit from what you’ve created.
- Email your list: Who better to enjoy your content than those who have opted into your email list? Send out a blog RSS update or share a broadcast email.
- Share internally: Have a team of employees, contractors, or collaborators? Invite them to engage with your content and help you amplify its reach online.
Bonus points: make it easy for others to share your posts by providing pre-written swipe copy for Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin.
- Interlink: After publishing a new post, link to it from previously published articles that discuss related topics.
- Pay for promotion: Consider running paid advertisements to help keep your content circulating on the web.
Maintain and scale content
Another SEO faux pas that is major, yet easy to fix is neglecting to update your content. Keep it fresh! To do this, create a plan to refresh, republish, and publish new content. The easiest place to do this is a blog.
Throughout your blog posts, anticipate what kind of content your audience wants more of. Think about the questions a visitor will have after reading the content on your site. Answering this means you’ll maintain a high position, on the top of search results.
Maintain a steady stream of content throughout the year. Document your endeavors with an editorial calendar to map future content, track ideas, and avoid duplicated topics.
Ready to write your own website content plan?
To be successful in the website planning process, you need to give it more than just the college try. “The more you put into the planning stages, the more relevant, engaging and insightful your content will be,” says Content Marketing Institute contributor Brody Dorland.
While creating a website content plan is not an easy one, it has fruitful benefits in the end when you follow the above steps.