Just three years ago, if you asked most web design agencies if they had a content strategist on staff, or even a content strategy in place, they would’ve said a what? But then Kristina Halvorson wrote a book called Content Strategy for the Web. Now, if you don’t have a content strategy or a content strategist when you write a web page, you probably don’t exist. At least not visibly.
Halvorson, in the book’s second edition, summarizes that “content strategy guides your plans for creation, delivery, and governance of content.” You make decisions that set parameters for the substance, structure, workflow, and governance of the content before you write it. Good content tells a story, and it knows why it’s telling it. The more you prepare to tell the story, and the more people you can involve who understand the nuances of each part of the story, and the more communication there is about how to tell it, the easier it is to get it right.
Pretty simple, eh? So why did it take so long to catch on?
The Internet Listens to Nirvana and Paints Its Nails Black.
The web, despite how it has evolved, is still young. Some say it’s still in its infancy, but we disagree. We see the web as an early adolescent. It’s coming to terms with the world around it and learning to adapt to the changes within itself, and it thinks its parents are stupid. Its becoming more and more opinionated and choosy.
The Big Party, and Everyone’s Invited.
When the web was a true infant, anyone could post anything onto a website at anytime, and they did. It’s still like that. But back then, people had less of an idea why or how they were doing it. They showed up to the party, threw a few streamers, blew an air horn, and then left before they had to help clean it all up. Phrases piled up everywhere, indiscernible, purposeless. It was terrible.
In other words, the quality, effectiveness, and singularity of web content suffered because it was all too happy to be there in the first place. No one knew whose house they even crashed.
A Maid Service Called Web Analytics.
Then web analytics showed up, checked out every room, and stared at the mess for a while. It decided what was garbage and what was actual furniture. It noticed that if they had enough hands to help clean up and redecorate, the party house could be the nicest house on the block. But unfortunately web analytics didn’t have hands. It did, however, have a big mouth, and many people heard it shouting from the rooftop. Those people are called content strategists.
Content Strategists have been doing the grunt work in the house ever since. And the more work they’ve done, the more people have started appreciating them. The problem is people still come by to party and make the house messy again, but the crashers are coming less and less.
One Day the Internet Will Grow Up.
Imagine a party where no one shows up early and no one shows up late. Imagine a party where everyone brings the unique food and drinks they said they would bring. Imagine a party where when someone gets wild, someone convinces them to think before they speak. Imagine a party where everyone cleans up after themselves. That’s content strategy.
In the meantime, we still have a lot of cleaning up to do.