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From Search To Site: The Content Silo Conduit

December 15th, 2011 socialamigo Comments off
Mike-and-Doug-Starn, Content Silos, Content Strategy, designforSEO

Content Silos Should Easily Lead The Visitor To What They Want

A web site has become a complicated mess is when, as a visitor, the site has lost its ability to get you to what you want in a clear, efficient manner, or when as stakeholder, the administration of content has become unmanageable and/or ROI has stagnated. In the latter case, the challenge is usually vocalized as, “Traffic’s down,” or “Leads are dropping” or, worse, “We’ve done all this SEO stuff and our conversions are still at 1%.” In every case, this is followed by, “What are we doing wrong?”

Unfortunately, the process of fixing these kinds of issues is like fixing a bad renovation on a house. The homeowner’s problem might be that the roof is leaking, but the resolution of the issue may be multi-faceted; from structural to finishing. The same is often the case with web sites. Designers can increase conversions using web design by testing and moving conversion points to more visible areas on the page, but the real issue may lie in the wrong visitors are landing on that page. You may be successful in getting more leads by improving the design and/or language of the conversion point, but it’s just as likely that the marketing funnel is too wide and too many visitors are landing there. Bringing in more traffic may push up your site’s total numbers, but if the visitor’s time on the site drops, likely conversions are dropping too.

Working like a good general contractor, it is important to identify the core issues and renovate the structure. For a website, this structure is the content silos and how content is indexed and found by the search engines. This means paying particularly close attention to the content in four areas:  keywords and key terms for search, the site architecture, the metadata in the code, and the search-friendly content strategy itself. Trying to remedy problems with a site’s lead generation, conversions or ROI before investigating these primary targets is like putting new shingles on a roof without shoring up the ridge beam and rafters. It’s only when the content conduit is free of compromise that testing can begin.

In Part 2 of this series, we will look at how keywords and key terms

Interactive Content Is The Map -and- The Territory

July 17th, 2010 socialamigo Comments off
content strategy, IxD, UX, SEO, SEM, SMO

Content Strategy Is A Cross-Discipline Practice

As a term, content strategy is a relatively new one to the production of interactive experiences; in particular, website redesigns and new-builds. Too often in the past, the process of creating a content strategy has been to draw a roadmap for content development. As a result of strong editorial practice or from well-meaning search engine optimization practices, many websites have lots of content, but little of it is effective for the visitor nor well-managed structurally. The phrase, “content is king” has echoed through the years, but this has produced content on the web more notable for it’s quantity than it’s quality or experience.

Content strategy, as it is beginning to be known, is a cross-discipline practice that seeks to strike a balance between user experience and SEO, persona development and site architecture, meta-data and editorial calendars, keyword research and traffic analysis. The concepts and protocols are being defined by key practitioners like Kristina Halvorson and Erin Scime and are expanding the definition of content strategy at a key moment when the web is also diversifying both in terms of platforms and applications, and in terms of standardization and conventions.

In her insightful essay on content strategy for A List Apart in December of 2009, Erin Scime lays out the conceptual overview of the content strategist as a digital curator. For me the term “digital curator” is a bit too academic. While it is true that curators, “use judgment and a refined sense of style to select and arrange art to create a narrative, evoke a response, and communicate a message,” there seems to be room in the new definition to include the role of the environmental designer and the exhibition designer as well. It is not just the contextual thread that runs through the exhibit that interests the visitor in a website, but the ebb and flow of the content, the container of the exhibit itself, and the development of visual cohesion.

Still, Scime lays out a number of elegant, competent arguments for this expanded definition of the content strategist starting with defining and assessing the current content and needs of a project, and ending with editorial strategies and the establishment of organizational guidelines and protocols. As she says, “…content strategy engagement is site-level and long-term…” and she is right. Content strategists need to work with stakeholders and marketing people to understand the trajectory of the project and its place within the larger brand and message. They need to work directly with SEO and SEM departments or vendors to uncover searchable terms and incorporate them into every aspect of the website’s development and digital marketing. Likewise, content strategy will directly effect UX and IxD and the kinds of visual structures and cues they will create for the visitor. And now, content strategists must also navigate social media and be responsive to both external audience and internal needs.

The new content strategist is involved in every conversation surrounding an interactive project; if not in the actual development and production of the interactive experience, then certainly in the mapping of the content and the structuring of it within the larger framework. Content is not just king, but it is the map and the territory.