How to Integrate a Content Marketing Plan Into Your Website Project
Website projects are exciting because each one is incredibly unique and challenging in its own way. At Noble Studios, we recognized early on there was a consistent problem with the traditional process for a website build. No, it wasn’t lack of Nature’s Bakery nutritional bars to keep teams fueled. (Shoutout to Noble execs for keeping the snack wall on point.) The problem was the lack of an effective strategic content marketing plan built into website projects.
Common content questions were asked way too late in the website project timeline. Questions included: What about the content? Who was responsible for taking care of content again? Why do we need that content? Content was often treated like the red-headed stepchild of website projects. For example, we often assisted clients with performing last-minute content migrations and abruptly realized necessary content development needs. It’s a problem we still see other agencies dealing with.
As a digital marketing agency that believes content is “Kween”, we realized this was a huge opportunity to improve the way we built websites for clients. The Noble solution? A content-first approach.
What Does a Content-First Approach Mean for Website Projects?
A content-first approach means beginning your website project with a strategic content marketing plan. The content plan should look holistically at website content as it relates to the client’s business needs and the needs of the target audiences. For example, when evaluating content clusters and topics across the website, we ask: What is the goal of the content? Who is the key audience for that specific content? What should the performance metric be for each piece of content that ties back to business goals? A strategic content plan not only looks at how the site previously performed, but looks at where the site’s content needs to go in order to impact client KPIs and meet user needs.
What Does a Strategic Content Plan Look Like?
Website Project Brief
First and foremost, a content-first website project begins with a website project brief. The purpose of a website project brief is to anchor your All-Time Best Website Project Ever to the client’s business goals and audience needs. Starting your website project with a comprehensive brief will result in a high-performance website that will grow and evolve with both client and website visitor needs. Not to get too Darwinian, but it’s survival of the fittest out here on the Interwebs. It’s important to build a site that not only visually differentiates your brand, but devours the competition by outperforming.
Here’s what your “Kween of the Digital Jungle” website project brief could look like.
Client Business Goals
- What does the client hope to achieve this year, next year, beyond?
- What is the client’s business strategy and initiatives for reaching these goals?
Website Project Goals
- Performance: Deliver KPIs
- Content: Discoverability and relevance
- Design Goals: Audience UX/UI needs
- Technical: Performance-based functionality
Website Project Purpose
- What are the primary and secondary purposes as they relate to the client’s business goals?
- Why should a customer use the site as it relates to the client’s business goals?
- What will the customer need on the site to help achieve client business goals?
Client Target Audience
- Who are the target audiences as they relate back to business goals?
- What are the key audience groups and reasons why they would use the site/used the site historically?
- Are there multiple audiences across site topic areas?
- Brand Positioning: Who the client is, what they do, and why it matters.
- Brand Personality: How a client talks about themselves: messaging, personality, culture, etc.
- Brand Differentiators: What sets the client apart from the competition?
Website Project Content Strategy
You’ve collaborated with your team and the client on a killer website project brief, now what? Begin building out a sitemap? If you Google phrases like “website project development,” sitemap development consistently appears as the recommended next step after evaluating historical website performance data. We believe this falls short. Why?
The purpose of a sitemap is to provide the blueprint, not the unique foundation, of your website project. Sitemap-recommended hierarchies stem from historical user and performance data provided by audits like heat mapping and Google Analytics, but sitemap recommendations do not encompass a bigger picture strategy and paint a picture of how you want your site to perform beyond launch. To achieve this, website content needs to be anchored to your client’s performance goals and audience needs.
As a means to keep client performance goals and audiences top of mind, your content strategy should evolve from the website project brief. Content performance then becomes the crux of the project’s success, not an afterthought. Here’s what your content strategy could look like.
Content Goal: Your website content goals as they relate to key messaging for target audiences, as well as performance outcomes from content goals.
Content Objectives: The type of content you will need to meet your content goals.
Content Tactics: Your specific content needs. For example: We will create eight new pages under content cluster group xx. These pages are specifically: a, b, c, etc.
Content Outline: A content outline is where you’ll build out your content mentioned in the content tactics, and provide for each content cluster and corresponding sub-pages: Purpose, Audience(s) and Performance Metric(s).
By leading a website project with a content-first approach, your strategic content plan becomes the project team’s North Star. Roadmaps and initiatives are prioritized with buy-in from the entire project team and the client. This will prevent what we had seen historically at Noble as siloing website project work. The siloed process led to major internal and client misalignments during a website project. Specifically, varying perceptions of website goals and what success should look like. By leveraging a collaborative content plan, your website project team will align with a common goal and purpose. The result: One hell of a website for your client.