Content Strategy

Content Strategy. When explaining what we do, these two words, more than any others, draw blank looks on our new clients’ faces.

They just want a website. Their previous web developer probably never even mentioned content strategy.

Blowing in the wind

But this is a new industry. We are still working out what we do and how we do it. You can forget about responsive web design, cutting edge dns servers, rapid development tools or ferocious frameworks:

If you don’t have the right content. You might as well pull the plug on your web server. Save the electricity for something more useful. Like your hair dryer or Playstation. You’ll have plenty of free time y’all.

What is content?

Content is everything. Content can be more than text copy, images, audio or video. It can be the task, such as adding something to a shopping basket or signing up to a newsletter.

The elephant in the room

The new visitor comes to your website for your content. Everything else plays a supporting role. The main attraction, the starring role, the global super star and the raison d’être is content. It’s content baby. Don’t let the elephant in the room be your content.

What is content strategy?

A good question. For which we need good people to answer:

The main goal of content strategy is to use words and data to create unambiguous content that supports meaningful, interactive experiences.
~ Rachel Lovinger, Content Strategy: the Philosophy of Data


Content strategy plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content.
~ Kristina Halvorson, The Discipline of Content Strategy


a repeatable system that defines the entire editorial content development process for a website development project.
~ Richard Sheffield, The Web Content Strategist’s Bible


The planning and leadership of content projects
~ Erin Kissane, The Elements of Content Strategy

or, my favourite;

Victorious warriors win first and then go to war
~ Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Win First

So how do you win first? Begin with your objective. Create a focal point. A project definition. Set this target dead centre of your telescopic sight. A crystal clear mission statement or an unambiguous sentence or two is all you need to start. It is both the beginning and the end. Once you have crafted your project definition and honed and polished it to a glimmering razor edge, you can go to war.


Necessarily, the content strategist must work to define not only which content will be published, but why we’re publishing it in the first place.

Otherwise, content strategy isn’t strategy at all: it’s just a glorified production line for content nobody really needs or wants. (See: your company’s CMS.)

~ Kristina Halvorson, The Discipline of Content Strategy

The Content Strategist

Content strategists combine the skills of writers, editors and publishers to think in a holistic way about what users should see when they visit a site.

~ Jeffery Macintyre, Content-tious Strategy

A voyage of discovery

Just because you don’t already have a website, it doesn’t mean you don’t need a content audit. What about your logo? Isn’t that content which will need publishing on your new fangled website? Chances are you will have some promotional materials, flyers or similar, which is a good start.

If you have a website. A content inventory or quantitative audit will help you take stock of what you have. Later, it will help you find it, retire it safely and stamp it in need of rework, if need be.

The Content Inventory

All you need is a spreadsheet. Create a nice blank table and away you go. To save time you could try using something like Content Insight’s Content Analysis Tool. But doing it the olde fashioned way can be useful as it is a method of getting you to grips with all that lovely and not so lovely content you have.

What you are aiming for is a detailed site map of your website (and other offline content). You will record:

  • title
  • format (text, image, video, pdf etc)
  • URL (or location)
  • content type (page, post, product)
  • owner (who is going to maintain this?)

Show me the quality

After completing your inventory, it is time to sort the wheat from the chaff. For this, you’ll run a qualitative audit. But how do you know if you have quality content? By comparing the content to your user research, project definition and analytical data. That is how.

You can then start asking meaningful questions like:

  • Is it appropriate?
  • Is it useful?
  • Is it clear, consistent and concise?
  • Is it up to date?


Your Feng Shui is balanced by a good site structure. Your URLS are your foundation. Deep dug pillars to support your content well. No matter how much money you spend on your curtains without a good foundation it is curtains. Don’t be a Towering Pisa. Be strong. Stand up tall and straight. Stick your chest out and be proud of your URLs.

“When you have a URL, it’s part of the web, part of the discourse of humanity.”
~ Tim Berners Lee,

URL Design

The URL is an address. Designed for humans. A good URL structure can be like an API for your website. It helps people understand and even operate the buttons or levers. When done right, it allows the user to steer and navigate.

URLs are universal. They work in Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer, cURL, wget, your iPhone, Android and even written down on sticky notes. They are the one universal syntax of the web. Don’t take that for granted.
~ URL Design

Mobile First. Content First. URL First.

I love good URL design.
~ Jeremy Keith

Good URL design will reinforce your cornerstone content. Your cornerstone content is both bread and butter. It is style and substance. Form and function. Like your diet it needs to be well balanced. Think with your head but feel with your feet. You need to have nice sensible shoes. Throw out your stilettos. Get a pair of Vans.

Your URLs are sacred. Once created, they shall never change. Design them to last.

There is a symbiotic relationship between content and design. One cannot thrive without the other.
~ Mark Boulton

The Data is your eyes, not your brain

The Data is your eyes, not your brain
~ Colleen Jones Content Strategy for the web Kristina Halvorson, Melissa Rach

To be continued…

Content Strategy: The Philosophy of Data

Keyword Research


I was a content strategist. But I didn’t know it

I have been creating websites from the days when the person who built websites was called a webmaster. When I started ‘content strategist’ didn’t exist as a job title. Nor did UX Professional nor Information Architect. But I did the work anyway. Forget the label, I didn’t know it even existed. My work fitted into one big bucket with ‘web design’ on the side. Today my bucket of expertise may be labelled ‘web design, development & content strategy.’