When colleagues want to add new content to our corporate website, they come to me and I quickly force myself into listening mode. In most cases, I’m biting my tongue because as a content strategist, I already believe I have the answer; Immediately I want to blurt out suggestions based on past experiences. After all, I’ve been building web pages for years and the process can appear to be pretty straightforward — words, images, design, functionality, Calls to Action (CTAs). How can web pages be that different from one another?
Believe me, they can.
By going into need-finding mode — where I close my mouth and open my ears — I get a clearer picture of what my colleagues are trying to achieve. It pays not to offer suggestions upfront and, instead, just ask the right questions:
- Why are you adding this content?
- Who is the audience?
- What do you want this content to do?
- How will you measure its success?
Hearing out your colleagues is essential, because at first it’s likely their end goals will be unclear to you. By gathering the appropriate information at the outset, you should have what you need to move forward.
Once I have the basics, I toggle from listener to content strategist, where I try to align my colleagues’ needs with those of our website visitors. This can happen during a white board session, a single conversation, or a series of discussions. Due diligence early on can go a long way.
Building effective web content doesn’t stop at knowing what your colleagues want to say, however. You also have to understand who is going to consume that content and where. Getting the right information in the right place will make your visitor’s journey a fruitful one.
Where does the new content go?
When requests come in, I immediately begin thinking about where on our website the new content should live. To help determine content placement I use the sales funnel — where prospective customers looking for information are at the top and those ready to buy and are looking for more comprehensive content at the bottom. Is the new content top of funnel (TOFU) and therefore belongs on our top-level pages? Is it feature-related (middle of funnel: MOFU) content that should be deeper on the site? Or, is it bottom of funnel (BOFU) content that visitors should consume right before they’re ready to buy?
To help answer these questions, I like to juxtapose the sales funnel with our website’s content pyramid to determine placement. One of the primary objectives of Salesforce’s main website is to help drive visitors further down the sales funnel. So our first-level pages tell more broad, macro stories, and then as the visitor digs deeper in our site, they learn more and hopefully buy our products. Most websites, regardless of their objective, follow a similar model.
Think of the page as a narrative, where a story is being told from the top of the page down. Once a proposed placement for content is determined — whether it’s a net-new page or an addition to an existing one — it’s important to figure out positioning of the content.
- Is the new content in a logical spot?
- Will it confuse visitors or help them on their journeys?
- Does it work with the rest of the content on the page?
- Are you putting it there because there’s no other logical place to put it?
The last question is a really important one. Oftentimes content creators don’t know where to put something, so they just find a spot on the website. This does not make for a good user experience. You need to think outside of the organizational silos that exist within your organization. It’s too easy to place content on your website the way it’s organized in your company. While that may make sense to everyone within your company, it doesn’t to outsiders. Instead, put content in places where a visitor would actually go to to find the information you want them to get.
Success metrics vary from site to site, but all share the common goal of increasing user engagement. Effective websites understand their users and build to their needs. Look at how easy it is to navigate Amazon.com, for example. By taking a user-oriented approach when building your web pages, you are creating an experience that allows visitors to quickly and easily find what they need to make informed decisions. You need to think like your visitors do and put relevant content in the right places. Otherwise, you’ll have a website that makes complete sense to everyone at your company, but is mystifying to the people who want to buy your products.