Don’t Invest in a New Website Without Establishing Good Content Governance Habits

Jul 28 2022

If your website feels unwieldy, out of control, and ineffective in helping you reach your marketing goals, it’s tempting to wash your hands of it in favor of a total rebuild or redesign. And yes, investing in a new, custom-built site is a smart way to solve your problems. But if you don’t take the time to address the underlying issues that got you to this place, it won’t be the permanent solution you’re after.   

It’s very common for marketing leaders to misdiagnose what’s wrong with their websites. If your audience isn’t progressing on their user journey the way you’d like, you might assume your information architecture is to blame. Similarly, if you’re unhappy with the photos, images, and other visual elements that appear throughout your site, it’s natural to conclude you need a totally new design.

But the truth is, most website problems can be traced back to one root cause: bad content governance. And if you launch a new website without establishing good governance habits at your organization, you’ll end up right back where you are now.

Here’s how to get your web content under control.

Conduct a Thorough Content Audit 

If you don’t know what content you have on your website right now, it’s impossible to govern it. And even if you’re building a new site from scratch, you’ll likely want to migrate some of your existing content to your new site. That means now is the time to look at each page to determine what should stay and what should go.

Visit each page and ask:

  • Who is the primary audience for this page? 
  • What is the purpose of this content?
  • Is this content current and relevant? 
  • When is the last time anyone has touched this information? 
  • How many times has this page been viewed in the last week, month, or year?
  • Is this information duplicated elsewhere? 

It can be eye-opening to look at the Google Analytics data for each page, too. It’s common for internal stakeholders to insist that their content is important. But the data might tell a different story. Data can help you make a case for keeping the pages that matter and eliminating all the rest.

Of course, if you have hundreds or thousands of pages to review, this can feel like an onerous — or even impossible — task. A web development partner like ImageX can guide you through the process and make it more manageable. 

Recently, we worked with a well-known community nonprofit to audit their website. After manually assessing more than 400 pages, we discovered that two-thirds of their pages could be eliminated or combined. And we helped their marketing team develop a sharper, more focused content strategy that improved wayfinding and increased audience and member satisfaction.

Pare down your content to include only that which is focused on meeting your audience’s needs. That’s the key to making your website the powerful tool it’s meant to be.

Hold a Content Governance Workshop With Your Stakeholders

Most organizations enable multiple content editors to manage, curate, and update website content. Often, these stakeholders function independently, leading to a disjointed approach to content creation and maintenance.

Holding a stakeholder workshop is a powerful way to unite these key players around a shared vision. You may find it beneficial to engage an outside consultant to facilitate this exercise. An objective, expert perspective lends credibility to the process and can help the team align around a course of action.

Define Your Audience and Personas

To help your stakeholders think about website content in terms of your audience, the first thing to do is to explore fundamental questions like:

  • Who is our primary audience? 
  • Are there any secondary audiences we are also trying to reach?
  • What do common user journeys look like? 
  • Why does our audience visit our site, and what are the key tasks they’re seeking to accomplish?
  • Are there key pieces of content that audience members consistently try to find?
  • How can we make it easier for users to progress through the decision funnel?

If you haven’t done the important work of defining your audience and personas before, now’s the time. Resist the urge to simply assume you know who your users are and what they need. Instead, do some research so you can be sure you’re crafting your content with your users in mind.

Teach Your Stakeholders How to Create Content for the Web

Writing for the web is different from other kinds of writing. Your content should be accessible to users with a variety of needs. And it should be skimmable, scannable, and highly readable. That means writing short sentences and paragraphs, avoiding jargon, and using straightforward language. 

Furthermore, your website’s content should follow your organization’s brand guidelines. As a marketing leader, you live and breathe your brand ethos every day. But other members of your organization may not be as familiar with your brand’s voice and tone. To that end, use your content governance workshop to educate your stakeholders on the nuances that make up your brand’s style.

For example, do you want your website content to sound friendly and casual? Or should it be more formal and buttoned up? Are you comfortable using slang? Or do you prefer to follow every grammar rule? Is it ok to use stock photos? Or are authentic photos a must? 

Working through these details as a group empowers all your content editors to create content that’s cohesive and consistent. 

Create a Collaborative Content Roadmap  

Establishing a content roadmap is a great way to get your stakeholders to think about your web content from a big picture perspective. A simple way to approach this is to think through what is most important to your organization each quarter of the year. Then build a content framework based on those subjects, themes, and events. 

For example, a college or university might develop their plan around key moments within the admissions cycle — application deadlines, open houses, and accepted student preview days. Then, the full content team adds elements from their respective areas (e.g., department-specific open house events) that complement and support the primary organizational objectives. 

Assign content creation tasks to specific content editors — with deadlines — to ensure everyone knows who is responsible for what. 

Provide Documented Content Governance Guidelines and Ongoing Training 

The most important thing to know about content governance is that you can’t set it and forget it. You’ve done the hard, important work of conducting a content audit and aligning your stakeholders around common objectives. Now it’s time to make content governance an ongoing priority. 

This involves:

  • Documenting your content creation and approval processes so that content editors have clear guidelines to refer back to.
  • Conducting rolling content audits so that you can address issues as they crop up — before your website becomes overwhelming and unmanageable.
  • Offering ongoing training and support to content editors so your guidelines and expectations stay fresh in their minds.

Whether you’re preparing to launch a new website or simply optimizing the one you have, content governance plays a crucial role in enabling you to reach your business goals. However, wrapping your arms around the full extent of your content challenges can be overwhelming and taxing.

You don’t need to go it alone. The team at ImageX would love to help. Just reach out.