Content + SEO
Website construction: Why content strategy first
I love the show “Fixer Upper” with Chip and Joanna Gaines.
If you haven’t seen it, it’s about a couple in Waco, TX, who discover untapped potential in dilapidated property and, yep, you guessed it … fix it up. Joanna leads the vision and design; Chip leads the demolition and construction. And over the course of an hour, we witness a house transform into a beautiful, functional living space for some lucky new homeowners.
Speaking of transformation, you might have noticed that DS+CO recently completed a reno of our own. And it got me thinking. Revamping your website is a lot like fixing up your house. For a business, your website is literally your digital doorstep. All roads lead back to it. And much like your own home, you want your website to feel welcoming, inviting and reflective of who you are.
If I were Joanna Gaines (that’s a big if) leading your next remodel, I might ask you questions like:
• What’s the first impression you want your home to set? Does it have curb appeal?
• How will people move throughout the space? Does the room flow make sense?
• Which room(s) will people spend the most time in?
• What’s your desired function for each space within the home?
• Is each room equipped with the right accoutrements?
• How will your home tell the story of who you are, where you’ve been, what you value, celebrate and stand for?
When embarking on a website project, you can essentially ask yourself the same questions. Because at the end of the day, you’re considering everything from look and feel to purpose and function to traffic flow and user experience.
As any modern marketer knows, redesigning a website is a multifaceted project with a lot of moving parts and pieces. You’re working with marketing strategists, SEO specialists, content creators, creative directors, UX designers, project managers and more—who each bring a valuable perspective to the table.
So where do you start?
For us, we started by taking a deep look at our brand, which led to an evolved visual identity and storytelling platform that more closely reflects our agency’s growth and maturity. This stage of work was informed by a comprehensive research report from our DS+CO strategy team, with current insights about our category, our industry and our audiences.
This elevated brand foundation became the springboard to roadmap the path to our new site.
How content strategy took a central role
Redesigning your website forces you to take a close, critical look at all the content currently living on your dot com. It’s like cleaning out the storage room in your basement and stumbling upon that cool leather jacket you had in high school. With a little tweaking, you can rock that look again! Then you find … your old retainer. It’s served its purpose; probably time to toss. Your content can be evaluated through that same lens.
Some blog posts, for instance, stand the test of time and continue driving new visitors to your website long after they’re first published (like this little gem of ours). Take note of these, and keep them fresh as new information becomes available. On the other hand, you’ll inevitably come across a piece of content that’s outdated or no longer relevant to your audience. Maybe you can update it or maybe you just retire it.
Bottom line: Marie Kondo all that content so you’re left with pieces that truly reflect your brand identity and your business goals.
Next, we took that massive content inventory and assessed it. This involved looking at each and every piece for format (was it an article, a video, a webinar, etc.), publish date, topic, traffic and many other factors so we could later make informed decisions about which ones to keep, update or remove. (Yes, the same way the KonMari method teaches you to hold an item in your hand and ask if it still brings you joy. Don’t get the reference? OK, apparently I watch too much TV.)
As the DS+CO creative team began concepting the new site’s design and experience, the content team put pen to paper to define and document our content strategy. Rest assured, there’s no one way to develop a content strategy, but its very existence will help ensure all your content efforts are coordinated and intentional, and map back to larger business goals.
Your content strategy is intended to keep your stakeholders aligned around the following types of questions
Why are we creating content? How do we define content? Who are we creating content for? What’s the purpose of the content we’re creating? How does it go from an idea to a live asset? Who’s involved in that process and what tools and templates do they have to reference? How do we decide that our content is on tone, on brand, on strategy? What format will it take? Where is it going to live and how will it be organized? How will it be distributed and promoted? How will it be measured and optimized?
Working with our own clients on their content strategies, we’ve found that your marketing programs will run much more effectively and successfully when you account for these details up front.
What our own content strategy also included was a new tagging structure that would be important for migrating and organizing assets onto the new site. We tagged each piece of content within our three service pillars (intelligence, strategy and amplification), as well as a number of other categories, to ensure our audience can quickly find what they’re looking for in our hub.
Finally, we developed content priority guides (think wireframes but more robust) for each key webpage and section—working in lock-step with creative and web dev to marry the functional needs of each page with the aesthetic design. We found that priority guides are a great way to communicate how content could live and link across the website, making for a cohesive user experience.
With any web endeavor, there’s no true definition of done. It’s ever-iterative and always evolving—and that’s the fun part! Let DS+CO help you start, streamline and slay your next website project. Whether it’s a new build or a fixer-upper, we’ve got the right in-house smarts, heart and hustle to transform your digital domain into a destination you’re proud to call your own.
Christina Nordquist is DS+CO’s director of content marketing, creating strategies that elevate our agency and our clients.