Content strategy involves identifying the type of content that will best enable you to communicate to your online audience. The information below will help you to create and publish useful, usable content.
- A content strategy defines:
- key themes and messages
- recommended topics
- content purpose
Define Your Audience
The most important question to ask and answer for any website is:
Who is the most important audience for this web page or site?
For example, for the University’s homepage, the most important audiences are those who are not already familiar with the University—those for whom the website will be their first impression of the University.
For Arts, Sciences and Engineering websites, the most important audiences should be:
(listed in no particular order)
- Prospective undergraduate students
- Prospective graduate students
- Current students
- Current faculty and staff
- Parents of prospective and current students
Conduct a Content Audit
Each department should conduct a content audit of their existing site. The aim is to identify where each piece of content on each page came from—who requested it, who wrote it, who added it to the site—and when it was last updated. Audits also identify problem areas (misspellings, dead links) and content gaps that could possibly be filled.
Write for the Web
Recommended reading: Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content that Works by Janice (Ginny) Redish
Web content is a conversation. When online, people tend to skim and scan in order to find and understand the information they need.
Answer your site visitors’ questions
For every topic on your site, think about what people come wanting to know about that topic. Then think about how to give them that information as clearly and concisely as possible.
Let your site visitors “grab and go”
- Break your text into short sections with clear headings
- Start with key messages (i.e., “front-loading” the content)
- Write short sentences and short paragraphs (a one sentence paragraph is fine)
- Use lists and tables
- Bulleted lists for items or options
- Numbered lists for instructions
- Write and insert meaningful links
- Illustrate your content (with photos and captions)
Additional writing tips:
- Write in the active voice (most of the time)
- Use plain language
- Use verbs for action instead of nouns (e.g., “He denied…” instead of “He issued a denial…”)
- Remember parallelism (humans like patterns)
- Cut unnecessary words
- Use the inverted pyramid style (key message should be first)
- Talk to your site visitors by using “you” (and “we,” if appropriate) in the copy to draw the reader into the conversation
- Avoid overly long or clever page titles, section headings, etc.
Encourage further use
What do you want people to be able to do on your site? Apply for a program? Contact faculty? Subscribe to a newsletter? Follow your social media accounts?
Think about the questions your site visitors have. Be sure to answer them, while using tone and style to engage your site visitors.
Remember: Give your site visitors what they need. And keep in mind how they access your content, from computer screens to mobile devices.
Web Writing Guidelines [pdf]