In Content Strategy for the Web (Second Edition), Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach describe how to create, manage and audit digital content.
I spend a lot of time reading and writing about how to create digital content and I was drawn to this book.
Content Strategy for the Web provides a guide to identifying and managing digital content. The book is broken into four key sections:
- In the Reality section, the authors explain why content “sucks” and how to put your content to work.
- In the Discovery section, the authors explain why the world of content extends beyond a website.
In the Strategy section, they detail how to audit content.
In the Success section, they describe some pointers for creating successful content.
The individual chapters are even more digestible and are broken up with useful graphics, charts and tables (unfortunately, these don’t display that well on a Kindle).
A Foreword about Facebook
The book has a revealing Foreword by Sarah Cancilla – a Content Strategist for Facebook.
She explains how she joined Facebook and set her sights on changing a group of links on the lower right-hand corner of the Facebook home page. She progressed strategic content changes from there. Cancilla concludes, “content strategy is an essential part of what we make and imagine.”
I would have liked more insights into how Facebook strategies content, but the authors keep their examples to the experiences of their content strategy company: Brain Traffic. I’d be lying if I said I found these examples as interesting as the Facebook example.
What is a Content Strategist?
This is a key question of the book and the authors answer through an imagined dinner party conversation.
Person: “So! What do you do?”
You: “I’m a content strategist.”
Person: “Oh! What does that mean?”
You: “You know how, on lots of the websites you go to, most of the information is hard to find, or just inconsistent, or totally irrelevant, or just really bad?”
You: “That’s what I do. I fix it.”
“You know how, on lots of the websites you go to, most of the information is hard to find, or just inconsistent, or totally irrelevant, or just really bad?”
Content Strategist Wanted
The Strategy section resonated with me and not just because it relates to the title. Here, the authors describe how to undertake a qualitative and quantitative content audit. They even give helpful audit tools and explain the nuts and bolts of this process.
Audits are hardly sexy, but being able to conduct a content audit is a really useful skill.
The role of Content Strategist is relatively new, and there are very few experts in this area. A quick search on LinkedIn revealed relatively few people outside of the United States employed solely as Content Strategists.
This means somebody with a passion for great content can apply the advice found in this book and, with a little savvy, they can educate and position themselves as a Content Strategist.
Don’t take my word for it though. Google is keen on high-value content too.
In this book, the authors argue for checking the micro-copy on your website (e.g. boilerplates, menus etc). They also explain the importance of metadata, wireframes, content tags and auditing tools.
In another interesting chapter, they describe how to prioritise important content. According to Brain Traffic’s Lee Thomas, it boils down to:
I regularly use this set of criteria to decide how much time and resources to spend on a particular piece of content or project.
For Novices and Professionals
Halvorson and Rach’s writing style is enthusiastic and conversational. I read this book in a few hours, and it didn’t feel like a slog at any point.
That said, I could have done without the exclamation marks and capitalised words for emphasis. I was also disappointed that the charts, tables and pictures were hard to read on my Kindle. These are only minor quibbles though.
Content Strategy for the Web is useful for anyone who works with or manages digital content. At the very least, you’ll have fodder for your next dinner party.