Content is king. Many aspects of your website experience are critical – the look and feel, page loading times, SEO, branding – but ultimately, your content has to be of a high quality. This means your text needs to be well-written, engaging, purposeful, accurate, consistent, up to date and have the right tone of voice. It also means images need to be appropriate, eye-catching and accessible. Data and content held in other systems but displayed on your website through integrations or feeds also needs to be correct and up-to-date, meeting your objectives. Unfortunately, that’s not the case on every website, with content sometimes falling short.
There are many reasons why some content does not meet required quality standards, but it is often down to resourcing. A small central marketing team may coordinate content publishing and have daily stewardship of the overall website experience, but they are not always well-resourced enough to have full responsibility for all the content on a website. This is especially the case when there are a large number of pages with effectively devolved ownership of some of the content due to the nature of the topics covered. For example, you might have some pages which are more technical in nature and require input from a particular team.
Because most marketing teams do not have the resources to “police” every page on their website, it is important to ensure content owners look after the pages and elements they are responsible for. Tactics which drive accountability and clarity are key, otherwise, there can be a tendency to leave everything up to the marketing function.
Let’s look at nine tactics that can help support content quality.
1. Have a content strategy and document publishing standards
Good website content starts with a content strategy. A content strategy defines the purpose of your content, and sets the foundations for the publishing standards you want to achieve. It helps content owners understand the role of their pages, as well as the overall aim of the site.
Defining and documenting the publishing standards you want to achieve is also key. This can cover everything from tone of voice, to use of images, to the specifics of how you format dates and contact numbers. This provides the clarity that content owners need to write and update copy on their pages. You can’t ask content owners to meet required standards if you haven’t defined what those standards are.
Of course, the level of detail you provide content owners and administrators with may depend on the extent of their involvement and whether they are updating content directly in your CMS, but having documented standards helps them understand the consistent customer experience you want to achieve.
2. Establish clarity over responsibilities and make this transparent
It’s critical to ensure that the ownership and responsibilities surrounding your website content are clear. When these aren’t defined and agreed to, it’s very easy to get into misunderstandings or for things not to get done, as it is assumed someone else is dealing with an aspect of the content. Here, it’s important to go into detail:
· Who owns the content of each page?
· Who is responsible for keeping it up to date?
· Who is responsible for signing off that content?
· Who is responsible for loading that page into your CMS?
· Who is responsible for making edits or changes?
· What is the associated approval workflow when changes are made?
When ownership and responsibilities go into that much detail, they need to be written down and located somewhere everyone in the team can access them, such as on your company intranet. As a general rule, an overarching “RACI matrix” (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) relating to your website and its content is always a good starting point. It’s also important to keep on top of responsibilities, and assign new people when somebody leaves or moves role.
3. Be clear on content driven by integrations
Not all content is driven from your CMS. Content can sometimes be driven by integrations from other systems: this might be e-commerce pages from a product catalogue stored in a different database, data displaying from a third party, data and numbers from another system and so on. Each of these sources needs to have a responsible and accountable owner, alongside related detail of “who is doing what” within your overall responsibility matrix. These integrations are very much part of your customer experience, and, in some cases, can be one of the most important content areas of your website.
4. Providing training, resources and support
Once you have clarity on what you expect from your content owners, you also need to make life as easy as possible for them, especially if they are entering content directly into your CMS. Providing the right training, resources and ongoing support is key. Usually, you’ll need formal training for each content owner or administrator; having access to self-service resources such as videos can help. They should also have some kind of support. Usually, this means the ability to contact you for questions, but if you have a sizeable community of active content owners and administrators, you can also set up an internal virtual community to provide mutual support and swap tips and tricks. It’s also worth spending time engaging your content owners and administrators. You could have ongoing check-ins, recognition for great contributions and strong content and so on.
5. Open up analytics to content owners
Digital marketing teams are adept at using analytics to improve their content and overall customer experience. Sharing analytics with individual content owners can help engage and galvanise them into improving or updating their content. Knowing that previous changes caused a visible uptick to visits, engagement, SEO, accessibility ratings, readability and more can be motivating for some content owners. This approach can work particularly well with campaign-led content, but may not be appropriate if, for example, a person is responsible for a seldom-visited page that is just there for informational purposes and there is not really any need to improve it, or if they are only responsible for one page. Analytics relating to when a page was last updated can also motivate content owners into action, especially if the update was a long time ago.
6. Put in automated and non-automated content reviews
One of the main reasons for a decline in the standard of web content is when it does not undergo a regular review process. Website content that is designed to be evergreen can easily go out of date, so ensure every page has a regular review process which requires the content author or owner to review and update their content if necessary. This could be once a quarter, or every six months. Because it may be challenging for central digital marketing teams to enforce this resource-wise, reminders for content owners should be automated if possible, ideally from your CMS if it has that capability, or from internal systems within your company like Microsoft 365.
It’s also worth setting up non-automated content reviews which might involve your central marketing function. This may entail meeting a content owner once a year to discuss the website content they are responsible for, how it has performed, how it could be improved and any recommended changes.
7. Avoid using too many PDFs
PDFs included on a website are the enemy of updating content. Unlike pages, they tend not to be directly visible on the website on a day-to-day basis, so can be less of a focus for content owners – they are effectively “out of mind”. On a practical level, they also take longer to update because files have to be updated outside the CMS, and many involve a desktop publishing solution like Adobe InDesign or even a separate design team. This can lead to PDFs getting overlooked in content quality, and quickly becoming out of date. The solution? Where you can, avoid having too many PDFs on your site, otherwise you can set yourself up with challenges around maintaining content quality.
8. Always involve your legal and compliance teams where necessary
Depending on your industry sector or content type, some items may need to be reviewed by your legal and compliance teams. In a litigious world, this can be an area of risk, and a potential concern for individual content owners. Where necessary, ensure you involve your legal and compliance teams as early as possible, and have a set process for reviewing contentious or risky content to avoid publishing bottlenecks.
9. Seek feedback to nurture a customer-first culture
The content on your website, app or any other channel is part of the customer experience. Your content owners should appreciate that the content they are responsible for is important, and impacts the way customers and prospects think about your brand, both positively and negatively.
You can nurture a customer-first culture across your content owner community by seeking feedback from customers and site visitors. Hearing first-hand feedback is a powerful way to make your content owners care about the items they are responsible for, and maintain quality. If you have a formal Voice of the Customer (VOC) program, ensure website feedback is part of this, and that feedback is shared directly with content owners.
Content is still king
Content is a key part of customer experience, but it can be difficult to maintain good quality. It’s always worth spending time on establishing clarity, supporting your content owners and putting the necessary processes in place to ensure your content is sustainable, successful and engaging.