Make the most of your summer lull: 5 ways to sharpen up your content
Summer can often feel like content downtime. Seize this opportunity to get around to those vital yet all-to-often overlooked jobs that can help streamline your production processes and improve the returns on your content come September...
18.07.13 Rhiannon Jones
With clients, stakeholders and team members all away one after the other, summer can feel like content downtime. Time to seize the opportunity to get around to those vital yet all-too-often overlooked jobs that can help you streamline your production processes and improve the returns on your content…
1. Get your plan in place for the year ahead: Start building your editorial calendar
In our recent State of Digital Copywriting survey, only 17.5% of respondents said they roll out copy on schedule, according to a content plan. The rest either have a plan that tends to get hijacked, or create content on a purely responsive, ad-hoc basis.
Creating an editorial calendar – a plan of what you’re publishing, when, and on what channel – means you can align every piece of content to a clear business aim or theme, and tie all of your publishing together, throughout the year.
Doing so generates huge production efficiencies:
- content is easier to brief, write and sign off when everyone agrees on its aim
- cut down idea-generation time
- eliminate wasted content – content that seems like a good idea when it’s conceived, but is later binned because it overlaps too much with other content or turns out not to be on brand or on plan
2. Work out what you’ve already got: Create a content inventory
Compiling a list of all of your content items in a single spreadsheet might sound arduous, but it can save you essential time and budget later on.
Once you know what you have, it’s easier to identify gaps in your content offering, eliminate out-of-date content, and position new content to better fill those gaps.
And if you’re planning a site redesign or migration, understanding definitively what your current site holds makes it much simpler to see where pages can be repurposed or edited for migration, as opposed to written from scratch.
Typically, your quantitative inventory should include URL, page name, type, and key internal information like content owner and writer.
3. Make content easier to produce: Create copy formats
A copy format or copy template is an editorial structure you can use again and again to present content items of the same type – think of how a recipe is always structured in the same way, for example.
If you have lots of different content creators (especially if they aren’t professional writers), developing copy formats – complete with examples and guidelines – can help enforce consistency across your site/s, and make it easy to brief and quality-control content of the same type.
There are strong usability benefits – users pick up on elements of page structure, such as subheadings, as signposts for information. If you keep these consistent across all of your pages, they’ll know where to look for the information they need, even on pages they’ve never seen before.
Your seo benefits, too. Copy templates tend to include several subheadings, where you can work in keywords far more unobtrusively than in body copy.
4. Discover quick copy fixes: Do a micro-content audit
Do lots of potential leads drop out of your contact form at a particular point? It could be that a badly-worded question is confusing them, for example, or a piece of dense, unclear disclaimer text makes people feel uneasy about continuing.
Looking closely at these tiny – but critical – pieces of copy, around sign-up forms, booking funnels and calls to action, can reap quick text-only fixes which help users to complete the process and lift your bottom line.
If you have content interns over the summer, get them to try your forms and other transactional content and tell you what works, what’s confusing, where the process falls down.
5. Iron out the kinks in production: Review your workflow and signoff processes
An inefficient workflow or stakeholder signoff process can create costly production inefficiencies, so put your processes under the microscope. You could start by asking the people involved where their pain points are. Consider:
- Whether the right people are being used at the right point. According to our survey report, 42.6% of content professionals have 3-5 stakeholders signing off a key piece of web copy. If these stakeholders were involved from the briefing stage rather than at final-proof stage, could that mean reduced feedback, amendment and signoff time later on?
- Who owns which element of production? Would things run more smoothly if the process was guided by one hand, rather than many?
- Where are the obstacles to production, delivery and governance of content? How can they be overcome?
It might be useful to put together a stakeholder briefing pack, which provides key people in the signoff process – who may not be content people primarily – with some of the background to why content is produced in the way it is. You might include:
- introduction to digital best practice
- tone of voice guidance
- keyword strategy