As anyone working in the web knows, content strategy is an important aspect of web design and maintenance. We understand that we have obligations as content creators to ensure that the content we create meets various standards and remains accessible and clear. We understand that the content on a site is essential to the site’s effectiveness and sustainability. But when you start talking about the content of a blog, those same considerations get weighed differently.
Most content strategists will tell you that keeping your website’s content up to date and current is vital for keeping the users coming back, trusting in the knowledgeable nature of those behind the brand; and if the site is selling a product or service, it is a good way to keep your potential customers informed of new developments. Many will also stress the importance of maintaining said content for the life of the site.
But when it comes to blogging, we have to realize that these content considerations have much different implications. And to a larger degree, much more of a commitment. But as we find all over the web (even in our own blog archives) these commitments are not being kept up. And that could be, in large part, because many in the blogosphere only see traffic as a barometer for how effective their content strategy is.
They do not understand that content strategy for a blog is not just a numbers game, but goes much deeper. And it also is about making commitments to content that we create.
What’s the Difference?
Before we dive into the questions that this strategizing has yielded, I figure that there may be one or two readers who perhaps do not see any difference between your standard website content and the content created for a blog. But after years of freelance blogging and writing website copy for clients, I see the two as completely separate kinds of content. And both need a content strategy, but blogs need a content commitment.
Your average website content tends to be focused on the brand behind the site, and centers around what is going on within the company. Most changes to content will be in regards to company directives, staff, or products and services. If they have a blog, it too will be mainly delivering information on the latest moves the brand is making.
Your average blog content tends to be geared towards the industry that the blog is focused on, and centers around what is currently shaping said industry. Most of the content goes up as snapshots of what is happening in the industry, and has been researched and prepared to be relevant to the times. But the times change, and so does the industry.
What Commitments Are We Making?
There are implicit commitments we make as content creators for a blog. We know this as we head into these waters. But when we are looking at our content strategy, we have to go over these commitments and consider them carefully. Otherwise we are doing our content a disservice, as well as those who consume it.
So as content creators, what is our obligation to the content we create? How long does this commitment to the content last? How long is it expected to last?
Crux: New people are always discovering the content on your blog, so dated information is not always recognized as such.
Commitment to Clarity
The first commitment is effectively the easiest and lowest maintenance one to keep up with. Our readers expect us to be able to clearly convey our messages and points to them. If we can’t provide the clarity, they will take their searches for answers elsewhere. So we always have to be mindful of how we put the information together to make sure our audience can take it effectively.
We want our content to be engaging and for it raise questions within our readers minds, but the engagement and questions shouldn’t be centered around trying to figure out what the hell it is we are trying to put out there or get across. That pretty much defeats the purpose. While we do have to commit to this for as long as we are creating content, the long-term investment here is more minimal than elsewhere.
Commitment to Research
This commitment is one that is almost a given, and is not one that you generally have to remind anyone of. But the commitment to research carries a long term price-tag that is implicitly taken on whenever we post. And it seems to be these implied long term conditions that get left unconsidered when laying out a blog’s content strategy. Especially given that so many of us tend to live in the present.
Research never ends. While our initial research to put a post together will reach a plateau, wherein we have all of the information we need to authoritatively cover the subject matter, we now have to remain abreast of any changes in that area that could render aspects of our post useless or incorrect. We commit to this, because it is expected of us by our audience. We commit to this, because we owe it to our content.
Commitment to Keeping Current
This commitment is touched on in the previous section, but it needed to be gone into further. This deals more with the long term plans for the blog and your content than the short term. Given the potential longevity of a blog, failing to implement a plan for keeping your archives current can be damaging.
From outgoing links, to the information discussed in the post, there is a lot to consider with this particular commitment. Since many can succumb to the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ trap, especially as more projects pile on their plates, we do not remember to schedule and undertake past post maintenance to keep them current. And depending on the frequency that the posts were delivered, the very scale of this upkeep can seem potentially overwhelming.
Sharpening Your Content Strategy
These commitments are expected by our users, and we can commit to upholding them until we are blue in the face; but it is meaningless unless we have a sound content strategy backing it up. Naturally, the size of the operation you are dealing with will determine the best way for approaching these various commitments, and how to keep them; but they need to be dealt with.
This will raise further questions no doubt. But these are not to be shied away from. In fact, it is through these dissections that we can develop a solid and comprehensive strategy which satisfies all of our content concerns. Some of the questions that will undoubtedly come up and need to be looked at are:
What about sites who pay outside freelancer authors for content, who owns this commitment? Is it shared, or does it solely fall on the site runner or the content creator? How often should these maintenance sessions take place? Is it reasonable for users to expect this upkeep with any frequency?
Is it better to update older posts with new information, or leave these ‘snapshots’ as they were when they were released and simply create new posts to readdress those topics? Either way, how do we make users aware of these updates and changes? Where do the analytics indicate these upkeeps should begin?
What are the various costs of these commitments, and how do we plan to offset or cover said costs? Will these commitments and costs impact other models (i.e. advertising, ranking, etc) in play on the blog? If so, how do we plan to address those concerns?
Below are some links to some great sources that can further help you get your blog content strategy put together, beyond just addressing these commitments and the questions they raise.
- 9 Hard Hitting Content Strategies for Small Business Blogging – the section on auditing your content is really worth a read
- Blog Content Strategy 101
- The Elements of Content Strategy – A Book Apart
- The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Content Strategy
That covers our end of the commitment talk…for now, anyway. But we are interested to hear what you think about these ideas, and commitments to the content. We know we have work to do getting our own archives in line (this post is a sample of putting our thought processes down as we’ve revisited our blog’s content strategy). Have you found any places where your own commitments haven’t been entirely looked after?