If you’re a web content manager for a state agency, chances are good that managing your site’s content is only a fraction of what you are paid to do. So how do you plan, create and organize content like a pro?
The purpose of content strategy is to plan for the creation, delivery and performance of content. Private enterprises often hire content strategists as an integral part of their development. While government agencies usually don’t have the resources to hire an entire team to manage their site, it’s easy to put a content plan in place to keep business and communication goals aligned.
See The Big Picture
First and foremost, a content strategy plan should help you see and support the big picture. If you don’t already have a firm grasp on who you are and what you do as an agency, you will be forced to think about it as you develop your content.
Who are you?
Before you even begin creating content, clearly define your agency and what it is you do in terms of the state department and brand. Summarize it into a clean, clear statement so someone who is visiting your site for the first time will know exactly who you are and what you have to offer.
If you’re thinking this should already be laid out in your business plan, you’re right. However, we have noticed that many of our content managers don’t have access to their agency's original business model and when they do, they find it loaded with business jargon or that it’s just not relevant for the web.
For content strategy’s sake, simplify your message.
Take your tagline, for example. Do you have one? and does it clearly sum up your state agency in one phrase?
Brief, clear and concise taglines — always visible in the header space — are a great way to define who you are.
Of course you can always expand your story in detail on the About page, but keep in mind, you have to be quick with information on the web. The more you can deliver information in a snapshot, the better. Rarely, does anyone have the time (or interest) to bother with your mission or vision site pages. They want “simple and fast.”
What problems do you solve?
In the big picture of things, ask yourself what problems you solve. How are you solving your reader’s problems from your site? Maybe they need to access a form or they are looking for answers to common questions. Take some time to think about all the problems you help solve. Your most commonly sought solutions should be front and center on your site.
Knowing what problems you solve is parallel to what your audience goals are. It’s always a good idea to make sure you are serving up content based on your audience’s needs. If you think your agency needs to re-evaluate the needs of citizens who use your site, take it a step further. Create personas or empathy maps to define and understand your audience.
What services do you offer?
Many agencies take their listed services for granted. They have been in operation for so long, they forget what their services look like from an outsider’s perspective. Depending on the complexity of your agency, you may find that you have to update, re-organize or rewrite your agency's services before you can continue with your content strategy.
Perhaps the most important thing people forget when planning their content strategy is stating their website goals. Sure, you want to help people find information, but what do you want from them? What does citizen engagement look like for your state agency? In digital marketing, this is known as conversion. Conversion happens when you: 1) have an ask and 2) get what you ask for. An “ask” on a website is referred to as a Call to Action (CTA). CTAs are well crafted, enticing demands usually in the form of a link or button.
Take a look at how your goals, call-to-actions and conversions relate:
|Your Goal||Your CTA||Conversion|
|Less calls about bananas to your call center.||Read our banana FAQs||More visits to the banana FAQs page. Call center experiences less calls about bananas.|
|More subscribers to your monthly newsletter.||Stay posted on banana emergencies in Georgia||Newsletter sign-up increases by 10%.|
|More online form submissions (Less faxes)||We’ve partnered with Docusign®. Fill out our secure banana form to expedite the process.||More form submissions.|
Having a solid content strategy should support your overall business goals. Having consistency in your content helps you keep your goals in the foreground.
One of the main benefits to creating and maintaining a content strategy is keeping your content fresh. You may have heard us say before that your website should be thought of as a living, breathing thing. You don’t just set it up and forget about it. In order for your website to work for you, content should be constantly planned, created and updated.
If you have a blog or any social media account, you should be maintaining an editorial calendar. Editorial calendars help you plan the type of content you are publishing, the date and the channel. You can also keep track of who is writing and approving each piece. Content falls into two very basic categories:
- Seasonal Content
Seasonal content refers to topics that have a season. Plan for upcoming articles based on what people may be looking for in the months ahead. While there are certainly busy seasons for any agency — tax season for Georgia Department of Revenue or school starting for Georgia Department of Education — try to capitalize on the timing of seasonal events in your industry.
For example, while the Department of Revenue gets a lot of traffic in April, the Department of Education can certainly spin a tax-related article for teachers as well.
- Evergreen Content
Evergreen content is content that is relevant all year long. This is generally articles or news related to your industry. Do some research to find out what topics people are searching for. This will help your site with SEO but also make it a valued resource if people find the information they need in a blog article. You can access search data in Google analytics or even visit the call center to find out what kinds of things people are inquiring about.
Devote some time to your editorial calendar and get buy-in from co-workers. Have a brainstorming session to plan content at least one to two months in advance. The key to maintaining your content is consistency. An editorial calendar will keep you on track.
Sometimes you just need to refresh what’s already written. As part of your content strategy, take a look at all content posted on your site including; white papers, slide presentations, older blog posts and all of your site pages. Has information changed? Do you have any broken links or profile pages from employees who have moved on? Get rid of anything that is not currently relevant or update it.
Keeping your content fresh and relevant as part of your content strategy not only helps with SEO, but also instills credibility and promotes readership.
Your content strategy should account for the ways people find you. Here are some ways people find and access your site:
- Mobile Devices
People are increasingly using tablets and smartphones to search for things. If you’re on our platform, your site is automatically responsive. If you have tools or services that would translate into a mobile app, that is another great opportunity to get found.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is an integral part of any content strategy. Using proper taxonomy, page nomenclature and keywords, you can attract visitors who are searching for your kind of information or services.
At Digital Services Georgia, we are committed to creating accessible websites. Again, if you’re on our platform, your site is automatically accessible. Being accessible to those with disabilities should remain a part of your content strategy nonetheless. Anytime you add images or write new content, there are always ways to improve the visibility, clarity and performance for readers in general.
A content strategy not only plans the delivery of valuable content, but also ensures you can be found by mobile devices, search and those with disabilities.
A content strategy helps you see the big picture for your business goals with your website. It helps you identify the problems you solve and clearly articulate the services you offer. Your digital content will always evolve with user needs, the growth or your agency and new technology.
You don’t necessarily need a ton of resources to create and maintain a content strategy for your state agency’s website.
Our Content Strategy Playbook is almost ready. Check back soon to download this hands-on guide to help you:
- Clearly establish your brand and tone of voice
- Create, plan and organize content
- Make sure your content is optimized for search and accessibility
- Measure the success of your content