Content planning is paramount for a new website project. As touched upon in our last post ‘Curating Content to Reflect Brand Identity,’ content not only informs site design, but also brand, messaging and most importantly, engagement.

The first in our three-part ‘Content First’ series will focus on setting the foundations for a successful content plan, identifying and understanding your audience, looking at what interests them and what they engage with as well as assessing your existing website content, reviewing what you have, seeing what works, what doesn’t work and identifying areas for improvement.

What is meant by a ‘content first’ approach?

In the past, many businesses fixated on the website aesthetic, often to the detriment of content, which resulted in a style over substance website that shoehorned content to fit designed page templates. This made life difficult for the content writer, even leading to vital information being missed from pages and a poor UX experience.

Content first is commonly used in web development, planning and creating content ahead of the design phase. Content is mapped and written with the user in mind whilst remaining conscious of the constraints and implications it has on design. By taking a content-first approach, user personas, call to actions and brand can be determined, ensuring your content adds real value or provides users with a solution.

Understand your audience

Understanding who you are writing for is essential to driving engagement. Conducting persona research will help you better understand who your primary and secondary audiences are and what makes them tick. Your audience may consider age demographic, job role or sector, but by identifying exactly who they are should inform content writing helping you to consider language, tone of voice and any specific challenges.

Users visit websites with intention, hoping that you can help them solve a problem or provide a solution. Knowing what they want and need and ensuring the information is easily available on your website will not only make you appear knowledgeable, but also relatable.

Are these prompter questions that could be asked to get thoughts ticking?

  • Who are your audience?
  • What information are they looking for and how does this feed into your CTAs?
  • What is important to them?
  • What tone of voice and language would they use?
  • Where have they come from?
  • How have they heard about your site?
  • What are your CTAs?

Review your existing website content

A new website doesn’t necessarily mean wiping the slate clean and starting again, there is a lot of value in the content you already have. Conducting a full content audit at an early stage will help you identify what you can build upon, what is missing and opportunities for improvement.

Same as above, are these prompter questions that could be asked to get thoughts ticking?

  • Is it still up to date?
  • What information is missing? – services, products, case studies, awards, certifications, people?
  • Does it reflect your brand and values?
  • Does it add value to the user?
  • Does it have clear call to actions to drive engagement?

If you answer no to any of these questions, then you have just identified an area of improvement which may impact your new sitemap (we’ll look at this in more detail in our next post).

Assess the value of your existing content

In addition to reviewing your content on face value, we recommend delving deeper and looking at its value to the business as a lead-generating, conversion tool.

You need to understand what conversion means to your business, is a conversion a resource download, a completed data capture form, an enquiry or a purchase? Understanding what your business classes as a conversion will help you understand how your content is facilitating that process.

Tools like Google Analytics allow you to track engagement, view site traffic and review how individual landing pages are performing. If a particular page isn’t performing, how can this be improved?

Content such as blog posts and case studies are often shared through social media so check your analytics here as well. LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook offer great insights into what your audience is engaging with. Same as above, are these prompter questions that could be asked to get thoughts ticking?

  • Which posts, topics and themes did people engage with?
  • What traffic did it bring to your site?
  • Did any of these convert?

Spotting common trends in engagement can highlight themes to focus on in your site content and future campaigns.

In the second part of our ‘Content First’ series, we’ll take a look at the practical considerations for creating a successful website content plan.