Your business website is one of the most important assets to aid customer acquisition and retention.
It's where your prospects and customers expect to find and learn about your business, seek help and support, be inspired and buy your product or service.
Needless to say, it must provide an easy to use and helpful user experience, in terms of both content and design.
In this article, we’ll take a deeper look at web content management, why it’s important and common ways in which it’s carried out in modern organizations.
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What Is Web Content Management?
Until the early 90’s, only the big media houses controlled content creation and distribution. But with the advent of the World Wide Web, this ability made its way to the masses.
Anyone could learn to create a web page about anything and publish it online. Thousands of curious people were creating pages showcasing their interests and hobbies.
As content production grew, so did the need to manage web content - access control, backups, versioning, editing, organizing and so on. And these activities came under one collective term, known as web content management.
Web content management is the process of creating, publishing and evaluating the effectiveness of your content.
The storing, organizing and publishing of content is typically carried out using a software known as content management system (CMS).
Without a properly configured CMS, your content will be unorganized and disjointed, making it extremely frustrating to find or edit a piece of content.
Why Content Management?
To be able to appreciate the practice of managing content, it’s important to understand the iterative nature of web content creation.
Regardless of the advances in modern technology, content creation is still very much a subjective, manual process. Content writing is an editorial process in which humans prepare information for publication to an audience.
In fact, you can provide two humans with the same information to write a news piece. And you’ll still get completely different articles.
Without any guidelines to ensure seamless and consistent web content management, writing a piece of content pivots heavily on the subjective opinions of a human writer or editor. This will impact his or her decisions on matters such as:
- Length and format of the headline
- The intended target audience for the content
- The angle from which the topic should be approached
- How long does the story need to be?
None of these are decisions that can be automated. They are crude, messy and subjective decisions, and a small change can produce an entirely different piece.
The point is, any piece of content can never be truly perfect and ever-lasting. It is vulnerable to improvement, revision or replacement.
Content writing is not a set and forget thing, but an iterative process. Content is created, revised or replaced over and over, even after being published.
Unlike a receipt, for instance, which is only meant for historical record keeping, a piece of web content is an asset with future value.
It might be consumed for months or years by the audience it was prepared for. But for the content to be able to continue providing value to the organization and its audience far into the future, it needs to be “managed” properly.
In other words, managing content leads to better control over creating new content, editing existing content, and how the content is made available to other people for discovery and consumption.
Content Management Functions
Let’s break down the core functions needed to manage web content. Here are all the processes/activities which are part of managing content in an organization.
Content Development & Publication
This involves writing and revising content as needed by your brand and target audience, such as news articles, procedure documents, or blog posts.
You’ll begin with a concrete and realistic content strategy. Even the best-laid plans often fall through when your expectations regarding the amount of content and target deadlines don’t match with the capacity of resources at your disposal.
Content creation and editing also includes having proper formatting, access to previous drafts/revisions and certain checks in place to minimize poor-quality content.
For example, you’d want to ensure that the hyperlinks are valid, the images have ALT tags, and that the content makes sense and meets the needs of your target audience.
This is where a brand style guide comes in. A detailed style guide ensures consistent language usage and formatting.
Content governance refers to the permissions and processes associated with your web content.
For instance, decisions on who has access to what type of content, and the workflow a piece of content goes through when it is edited.
Here are some possible use cases for better understanding:
- If Robert writes a new blog post, who needs to review and approve it? How will the reviewer be notified?
- If Ned wants to change how the blog posts are archived, what will determine if he is allowed to do that, and how will he go about it?
- If a new writer comes on board, how will he be provided the necessary permissions and instructions? Who decides on these permissions?
As a content manager, you’ll need to define the roles and permissions for each team member and ensure that they aren’t allowed to go beyond the scope of those actions.
These guidelines will be prepared through meetings with team members, and then enforced through a web content management software.
Content Architecture Management
Another crucial part of managing content is defining and maintaining an architecture that allows you to keep track of all the content.
A proper content architecture makes it easy to know where each piece of content is, in what status, who can access it and how it relates to other content. Specifically, content architecture includes functions such as:
Search and organization - What are the different ways in which writers and readers will discover the content they are looking for? What taxonomies (e.g. categories, tags) you will use to organize content in a meaningful way?
Content Re-Use - There are many instances when you might want to use the same content at different places on the website. For example, an author’s bio usually appears at the bottom of all the stories written by the same person.
In such cases, it’s better to have such an architecture that this information can be controlled from a single place, and then retrieved and presented from that location.
Dependency management - How the different pieces of content are linked to each other? If you delete a piece of content, which other content might get impacted? Is there any orphan content that needs a cleanup?
When the content is structured properly, it can be manipulated in different ways to better serve the audience. It can be displayed in several formats, languages, locations and personalized to different audience segments.
The more control you have over content architecture, the more efficient it will be for both writers and readers to navigate to where they need to go to serve their goals.
Your content may be created consistently and managed well, but that doesn’t mean it will actually be providing value to your organization. It also needs to reach its intended audience at the right time.
For example, a brand needs to ensure that the content is presented in a way that it displays properly across multiple platforms and devices.
An effective content promotion and distribution plan combines the principles of aesthetics, psychology, sociology, experience and intuition.
The channels used to promote content can be categorized into 3 broad types: Paid, Owned & Earned Media.
You need a creative team with basic understanding of your industry, customers, competitors and the value proposition that separates you from the competition.
Depending on the needs and size of your organization, you may have one team handling both content management and marketing, or two separate teams working in close collaboration.
Content Performance Evaluation
The only way to ensure whether your efforts to manage web content are going in the right direction is to evaluate performance analytics on an ongoing basis.
You need to have concrete goals when it comes to managing content, as well metrics defined to measure for those goals.
For example depending on your content objectives, you can pick two or three metrics to evaluate — clicks, pageviews, session duration, returning visitors etc.
When you have been tracking these metrics over time, identify patterns or insights which you can act on to improve user experience.
For instance, if you can determine which content is performing the best, you can plan to create more content on related subjects. On the other hand, the content performing poorly may suggest a need of revision or update.
With the basic grasp of major content management functions, I hope you now have a clear picture of how all your content comes together to educate, inspire and even entertain prospects.
Of course, with so many moving parts involved in managing content, it’s easier said than done.
To create the best content experience possible, you need to coordinate the creation, governance, architecture and distribution of the content in the most efficient way possible.
Did I miss anything? Do you use a content management plan? Do you have any questions or comments? Share your thoughts below in the comments section.
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