Getting a web site for your business is a challenge. You know that you should have a site, because increasingly your customers and market are online. But you don’t know much about web technology and you don’t want to be taken for a ride.
All this talk about SEO and social media strategy and domain names and information architecture … can’t you just have a basic site that works?
Of course you can.
What businesses are beginning to realise though, is that content strategy is part of the basic package.
You wouldn’t commission a web site without graphic design. And yet the graphics are only the means of presenting … what exactly? What is the web site there to say? What is it there to do? And how is it going to say and do those things?
Content strategy answers these questions. The story of the expensive camel introduced us to its importance for small businesses. We looked at the first four problems that it overcomes for you. Now let’s go through the next four.
Your fifth problem: your site might look great when you launch but will deteriorate soon after
Print is a one-off, fixed medium. Your web site, however, will probably be updated. It may have a blog. The public may make comments, add suggestions. Or perhaps your staff will update the articles every now and then or add new events or listings.
Unless you have an editorial guide, detailing the tone, style and formatting of content pages, then the chances of your site remaining as good as it looked at launch are zero. And back to the budget question: if you want your web site to be effective with your customers over time, then how much is it worth to have the editorial help – either one-off or ongoing – to make sure that this happens?
What use is buying a swimming pool if you never have it cleaned so no one can swim in it?
Your sixth problem: blogging is tough to keep up
There are many reasons why a blog can be a good idea on a business web site. It allows you to display your expertise, gives you control over the tone and personality of the site, works wonders for the search engines and brings your web site to life.
But there is a caveat: if you are not going to blog consistently with useful, interesting and well-written articles, it is better not to bother at all.
Blogging is harder to do than you think. After a while, ideas are hard to come by. Writing time is tricky to justify when there are a million other things you need to do for your business. The whole write—edit—check—format—check again—publish—promote cycle is much bigger than just jotting a few thoughts down. But anything less makes you look like an amateur.
If you have help, it’s a different story. Either great training and editorial guidance to begin with, or even ongoing support – a small price to pay for consistently publishing articles that bring your business to life online.
Your seventh problem: when you finally realise what you really want on your web site, it will be too late
No matter what ideas you start with, when you see your site being formed you will probably change your mind or have further ideas about it.
If there is no strategy behind what appears on the site from the beginning, this process will get tiresome and expensive. The web company will be spending time – paid for by your money – on creating a framework, structure, navigation, design – based on guesswork. When you see it and decide you really wanted something else, be prepared to get your wallet out. At this stage change is difficult, because the web site is a system of many interconnected elements. Change one, and you have to change them all.
It’s like seeing a house being built and then deciding you don’t like the shape of the kitchen or the location of the bathroom. You can’t change the architect’s plans when the house is half built.
Content strategy gets the plans accurate at the beginning. A content expert helps you to know what you really want and what will work; what content needs to be nailed down from the start and what can be changed easily later on.
Content is not the only element that requires careful planning – get things straight with the developer and designer too. But it is often the part that gets overlooked, leaving clients wanting to change it when it is too late. Talk to a content strategist at the beginning, and save yourself thousands of pounds of reworking later on.
Your eighth problem: you can’t offend your boss
It is often the boss who throws new ideas into the mix when it is too late to incorporate them. She may not be sensitive to the planning and building process so far – she might just be fixated on a particular concept or outcome.
She might suddenly want new sections of content or additional media, or something given priority on the front page to satisfy her ego or her latest creative idea. Whether or not these things are good ideas in themselves is less important than the negative impact on the development of the site – like wanting solar panels on the roof when the house has already been built to take electricity from the grid.
The problem here is that it takes a very brave employee to stand up to his boss and deny her right to play around with the web site even though it is already in production.
In our experience, it rarely happens.
Because you don’t say no to your boss. Especially if your boss is you.
A content strategist knows how web sites work and can stand up to your boss’s latest ideas for the sake of your business. He or she is a third party who helps you all to stick to the plan, as well as taking the better suggestions from your boss and converting them into features that will actually work.
Saving you money in the long run
At Endis Solutions we make web sites for small and medium sized businesses, and we see clients get into these difficulties time after time. Content strategy as a core part of your web site project holds it all together, keeps the site doing what you need it to do for your business, and prevents you from having to pay your way out of a mess later on.
That’s why content strategy is part of the basic web site package. You can’t afford not to have it.