When talking about a web content strategist and web content projects, what is the context? The answer may vary depending on who you are talking to. A content strategy could be something as simple as planning a blog and distributing content through RSS feeds. Or it could be as complicated as planning to build a 1000 page website with different targeted content written for specific user groups, and all done in ten languages. In the world of web design agencies, we generally talk about the latter when we talk about web content strategy. A content strategist works as part of a large team that may also include an art director, graphic designers, an information architect, a technical leader, programmers, content developers (writers), and a project manager.
So what exactly do I mean when I use the term “web content”? Technically, web content can be anything that appears on a website, including words, images, videos, sounds, downloadable files (PDF), buttons, icons, and logos. For this discussion, when I refer to web content, I typically mean editorial content – the paragraphs, sentences, and words of a web page. A content strategist may be involved in crawling and locating some of these other types of content, but for the most part, we’ll be talking about the processes surrounding identifying, creating, and approving the words on a website.
But let’s not oversimplify this either. As Web users have become increasingly sophisticated, their expectations for Web content have become higher. Having a lot of content is no longer enough. The content must be well organized (this is usually the job of the information architect) and must be coherently put together and communicate value and a good story (this is the job of the content strategist).
Editorial content then becomes more than just words on a page. The content strategist can participate in all phases of project design and implementation. She can help determine what content should be on the new site and how much existing content (online, in print, etc.) can be reused. She will help determine the amount of new content to write. She will define the content development process that will be used for all new content; this would include workflow and approvals. She can also write some of the content herself and take care of assigning the content for others to write and editing once it is complete.
So, as a content strategist, for each paragraph of text on the website, you will need to consider:
- How is this information relevant to what the user is doing? A site user who is starting to think about buying a product needs very different information than someone who has done a lot of research and just wants detailed specifications. These users have different criteria on what the relevant product information might be. This is often referred to as the user context on the site. This is why a content strategist may decide to write different content for various types of users.
- Is the content complete? Is everything that is present on the site that a user might want to know in order to be able to successfully achieve what they went to the website to achieve?
- Is the content properly labeled and defined? These content definitions and tags are called metadata data about data. Keywords or tags for search can be metadata, as well as a list of countries for which the content is used. The metadata makes the content can be manipulated automatically by computer systems based on business rules. For example, products labeled “boots” may only appear in certain areas of the site.
- What is the most efficient way to develop this content? Ultimately, someone will have to type, import, or copy and paste existing text into some kind of data repository for the site, usually a web content management system (WCMS). What tools will be used? What workflows and approvals are needed? If there is a WCMS, how easy are the input forms to use and should the content strategist help design them? Is there enough time in the project plan to create all the necessary content? The team will seek out the content strategist to help answer these questions.
All of these elements become part of the editorial content of the Web as well as words and sentences.
It’s great work, but it can be extremely rewarding, both personally and financially, for smart, well-organized writers of all kinds.