Last week we offered a crash course in content strategy for the little guy. The small business owner. The non-profit webmaster. The mini marketing department. You can’t afford to hire a professional content strategist. But neither can you afford to continue ignoring the outdated and unhelpful content turning your site to irrelevant mush. What’s a little guy to do?
Take heart. With a little research, you can update your content one section at a time, as hours and budget allow. So put a team of employees or volunteers together now, because here are 10 ways to start improving your content today.
1. Welcome complaints.
Have you received complaints about missing, outdated or hard-to-find information on your site? Congratulations—people are looking for information on your site, and they’re coming right out and telling you what they want! Start there. Add, update or reposition content to address those information needs. And make sure your phone number and email address are visible on the home page, to encourage more of these eye-opening complaints in the future.
2. Tap your phones.
As a resource, that is. Ask your office manager for the top three questions that come in over the phones. Then update your About page, write a series of blog posts or add a Frequently Asked Questions section to get that content on your site. And if the questions are along the lines of “how do I know which product is best for….?” or “how do I install…?” or “what day is your next…?”, take the opportunity to add a product comparison page, how-to section or calendar of coming events.
3. Personify your audiences.
Create personas that represent your various audiences. Now put yourself in their shoes. What information would you be looking for? And in what form would you rather have it? Page copy? Blog post? Video? Get your team together to find a way to create that content, even if it takes you a month of Friday morning staff meetings to do it.
4. Monitor your metrics.
What pages are visited most frequently? Least frequently? What are people searching for in your internal site search? If they’re searching for it, it’s either missing or buried. Write new or refresh existing content on that topic, and add a link to it from home or an appropriate landing page.
5. Write strong headlines and calls to action.
If pages aren’t getting hits even though they’re linked from the home page, take a closer look at your headlines or calls to action. Are they compelling? There’s a big difference between “Join ABC Charity” and “6 Reasons You’ll Love Volunteering with ABC Charity.”
6. Test your navigation.
If your navigation is not intuitive, revamp it. How do you know if it’s working? Do some cheap, eye-opening user testing to get feedback from real people trying to use your site. Their comments will be invaluable should you decide to reorganize or redesign your site down the road.
7. Speak your audiences’ languages.
Don’t give your products or services clever names that people aren’t searching for unless you already have more site traffic than you can handle. (Wouldn’t that be nice?) Use the free Keyword Tool in Google AdWords (create an account and login for full access) to learn how people are searching for similar information. Then use those words and phrases in your content.
8. But beware the over-optimization temptation.
We’ve all been to sites where the repetition of SEO keywords has turned the content to gibberish. Use good keywords, but use them naturally. Search engines are smart enough to read the context without keyword stuffing. Remember that your real audiences are human users, and they’re looking for the most helpful information on your topic. Get your best writer to produce it, and never post anything that hasn’t been reviewed for grammar and spelling.
9. Serve content one bite at a time.
Go through your content page by page and make sure it is broken into appropriately sized pieces for your audience(s). A research paper on global warming may be perfect content for an academic website, but the same information, condensed to the most interesting bullet points and rewritten for a general audience, could become a popular SlideShare for your green action group’s site. Pay attention to attention spans. Your web visitors will leave as soon as they are bored.
10. Refresh, refresh, refresh.
Real estate has its three rules (location, location, location) and so does content strategy. Build on the momentum you’ve started by adding new content as often as possible. You’re a publisher now, so create an editorial calendar. Then stick with it. Interview an employee or volunteer every week. Post a new podcast every month. Don’t forget you can repurpose content from other areas of your organization. Find an angle on your latest press release that would make a good blog post (but don’t post the press release to the blog). Edit the 2-hour video of your latest event into a 2-minute highlights or bloopers reel. Remember that each time you refresh your content, the search engines will re-index you. More importantly, you give your audiences another great reason to come back.
Upgrading and maintaining your site content is a lot of work, especially if it’s just you and the office manager doing it. But you can commit to spending an hour or two a week or one weekend a month on your content strategy. A little persistence will pay off as you transform your content—and increase your traffic—over time.