Improve your content with data

Sarah Winters, , Content strategy

This blog post gives you a timeline of when and where to use data to improve your content.

Data and a new site

To start with, I’ll assume you have a content strategy. If you don’t have one, go and buy this book by Kristina Halverson.

1. Decide your top information

Now you have a strategy, decide what you are going to work on first. Personally, I love using Agile and prioritising based on the most important thing for the user first. (Note, I said most important thing for the user and not my company.)

2. Get your audience’s vocabulary

This could just start in your mind if you have been working in an industry for years but remember to test your assumptions with packages like Google Trends and Semrush.

Try forums – I’ve already blogged about this.

3. Write based on user need

When you start writing, make sure you are writing for the person reading and not the person who already knows everything about your subject area and is probably paying you. I’ve already posted on this so look at: writing for the user.

4. Alpha, beta, live

So hopefully you are testing your site loads and you have been through alpha, beta and live stages. All the way through you are picking up valuable data from your users through site analytics, feedback, lab research etc.

5. After live

Exciting times. You are capturing everything: site analytics, info from your feedback mechanism etc. Now this is the thing…. keep doing it. Don’t stop. Every day you can learn something new.

Go back to those forums at times, see if there’s some emerging need you haven’t thought about. Go to your analytics and look at it every day. Your users are constantly giving you information.

It’s positively rude to ignore it.

Data and an existing site

I'm not the biggest fan of content audits. If you must do one, capture decent information. Make sure it has the data. Don’t get locked into that spreadsheet. You still need to work out if you are doing the right thing now.

1. Review your content strategy

Go back to your content strategy. (Again, if you don’t have one, go get one.) Are you doing what you think you should be?

I’d put in a workshop session every 6 months or so to see if the site is on track. I’d ask these questions:

  • Does the content still fit the original idea for the site? If not, is that ok? Was that a conscious decision or did the site just meander off track?
  • Do we need a new set of principles because our business has changed (like a new proposition)?
  • What’s the most important thing we want our customers to do/understand/take away?
  • Are we still doing that in the most user-centred way?
  • Are they still getting what they want?
  • Do we need to get more analytics to find out more meaningful info?

2. Review your top information

Get your business to decide what’s the most important thing and then start with that.

Take a look at your analytics. How are your top performing pages doing? Should they be your top performing pages? What about the ones at the bottom of the heap? Should they be at the top?

3. Review your feedback

You probably have a feedback mechanism. Get all that data and make sure you are taking care of your audience. Now, you are probably doing that all the time anyway.

It might be helpful to put in a point every few months to take a step back and look at the data over a longer period of time. Can you see trends in the past 6 months etc?

Sometimes it is easy to just concentrate on ‘today’ but taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture is very worthwhile.

4. Take a massive risk with something

If I had an understanding boss, I’d take something on the site and start it from scratch. Be innovative and creative. But that’s not always realistic. 🙂

Academic research

I'm a geek for academic research as data so I’d suggest, wherever you are in the process, use this research to understand how humans read.

Don’t stop using data

You can see that no matter where you are in delivering your content strategy, you are in the perfect place to collect and use a variety of data. It’s that data that will turn your site and your content into something really wonderful.

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