Web Content Strategist's Bible

What Do Web Content Strategists Do?


The Web Content Strategist's Bible

  • 21 critical Web content strategy documents defined and explained
  • Complete details on creating a Web content matrix
  • A ready-to-use Content Matrix template file for download
  • New information not found anywhere else
  • Tips on finding your first content strategy job
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Learn more about Web Content Strategy

When looking at what a content strategist does, it is important to clarify the context of the work. This will likely vary greatly depending upon whom you are talking to. A content strategy could be something as simple as planning to make daily updates to a blog and distribute content via RSS feeds. Or it could be as complex as designing a 1500 page website with different, targeted content written for specific user groups, and localized in 20 languages. In the world of interactive design agencies, we are generally talking about the latter when talking about Web content strategy. A content strategist is a member of a large team that will also include an art director, graphic designers, an information architect, a technical lead, programmers, content developers (writers), a project manager, and a consultant or account executive of some kind.

So when I use the term "Web content”, just what am I talking about? Technically, Web content can be anything that appears on a website, including words, pictures, video, sounds, downloadable files (images, PDFs), buttons, icons, and logos. But for this discussion, I'm usually talking about the editorial content-the paragraphs, sentences, and words on a page. A content strategist may be involved in evaluating, tracking and locating some of these other types of content, but for the most part, we will be talking about the processes surrounding the identification, creation, and approval of the words on a website.

Editorial content then becomes more than just words on a page. The content strategist participates in every phase of the project's design and implementation. She can help figure out what content needs to be on the new site and how much existing content (online, print, etc.) can be re-used. She will help figure out how much new content needs to be created. She will define the content development process to be used for all new content - this would include workflow and approvals. She may also write some of the content herself and handle assigning content to be written by others and editing it once it is complete.

As users become more sophisticated and integrated the Web into their daily lives, their expectations for Web content become higher. Having a lot of content is no longer enough. The content has to be well organized (this is usually the information architect's job) and it must hang together in a coherent way. It must communicate value and tell a good story (this is the content strategist's job).

As a content strategist, for every block of text on the website, you need to consider:

  • Is the content appropriately labeled and defined? These labels and definitions of the content are referred to as metadata-data about data. Keywords or tags for searching might be metadata, as could a list of countries for which the content be used. Metadata makes the content able to be manipulated automatically by computer systems based on business rules. For instance, maybe products labeled as "boots" should only appear in certain areas of the site.
  • How is this content relevant to what the user is trying to accomplish? A user who is just beginning to think about buying a product needs very different information than someone who has done a lot of research and is seeking very detailed specifications. These users have different criteria for what relevant product information might be. This is often referred to as the user's context in the site. This is why a content strategist may decide to write different content for a number of user types.
  • Is the content complete and comprehensive? Is everything present on the site that a user might want to know so they can successfully accomplish whatever they came to the website to accomplish?
  • What is the most efficient way to develop this content? Ultimately, someone is going to have to write, import, or copy and paste existing text into some kind of data repository for the site, this is usually a Web content management system (WCMS). What workflows and approvals are needed? If there is a WCMS, how easy are the input forms to use and should the content strategist help design them? Is there enough time in the project plan to create all the needed content? The team will look to the content strategist to help answer these questions.
    All of these elements become as much a part of the editorial content as the words and sentences.

It's a complex job and one that requires a variety of skills, but one that can be extremely rewarding, both personally and financially, for smart, well-organized writers with all kinds of backgrounds.

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