Weed out jargon, sow seeds to boost SEO, and leave room for something wild
Content and gardens are alike in many ways: At their best they can be vibrant and appealing, drawing you in again and again. They can also offer joy and engagement throughout the year. Something else they share? The need for weeding and pruning.
Sure, some plants can thrive for a while on benign neglect. Content? Not so much. It wants tending, and it’s worth it because it encourages people to come back for another experience. As gardeners make the most of what’s growing — and we appear to be turning a corner in the pandemic — now is a perfect time to make the most of your existing content:
- Are you cultivating it to maximum effect?
- Is it working as hard as it can?
- Is it fresh? Is it what your audiences are looking for now — or has it withered?
- What can be recycled, refreshed, repurposed?
Those are a few key questions to ask, according to Imprint team members who plucked some tips to help you reap content rewards.
Spruce up for currency’s sake
If the past 15 months have shown us anything it’s that time — and the times we’re in — changes everything, including a company’s goals. That may be a sign that it’s time to get busy.
“Audiences want messaging that’s up-to-date,” says Duncan Milne, Managing Director. “They expect to see content that reflects the moment that they’re in.”
An audit can help ensure that messaging and brand are a match at this moment. When and how often to do one depends on your audience and the content’s objectives, and in some cases compliance requirements.
“Some clients are required to audit their content annually to review facts or numbers that may have shifted or need updating on current circumstances,” says Ashley Brenner, Creative Director. ”But, even if it is not required by legal, some updates are essential to reflect the times we are in.”
For example, with reopening news breaking almost daily and vaccination numbers high as they are, we’re taking a look at all of our COVID-centric content and refreshing as much as we can to give it a forward-looking, timelier feel. (We’re making a note to revisit this post in six months or so and update this section!)
Your audit can also unearth two other important content categories: Content that has served its purpose but is no longer helpful to audiences or the brand, and gaps where you need new content to support changes in customers’ lives or the brand’s priorities.
Update figures and weed out jargon
When reviewing your content, be sure to check data and figures. Statistics tend to age quickly and may need to be updated. Also keep in mind that advance planning helps to keep data-driven stories from dying on the vine.
“If we know during the original development of a piece of content or project, we can look ahead to put some production elements in place to make the updating of the content efficient, while still having it be effective to the audience,” says Brenner.
For example, a data set may automatically be connected to a chart output. From a production standpoint, that data could automatically update when new numbers are published, keeping the live chart current. Similarly with statistics, a script can be created to update a number set quickly and efficiently, keeping the content fresh.
Audits should also (obviously) include a review of the text in a post.
“Some of our work is based specifically around language,” says Dan Davenport, Editorial Director. “Are we making this content as engaging as possible? Does it reflect the way the brand is presenting itself right now?”
If the answers to those questions are anything but yes, there’s work to do.
While you’re thinking about pumping up engagement, consider clarity. Weed out jargon; it typically tangles the audience up. Planting graphics, on the other hand, can add its own pop, particularly with articles that are just walls of gray text. Without changing the text, inserting graphics or gifs can add a new dimension and boost engagement, says Davenport.
Some formats, such as video and podcasts, are trickier to refresh. If there are significant updates to be made, the law of diminishing returns tends to negate the investment of time and talent.
Sow seeds to boost SEO
Which brings us to search. Spend a chunk of time diving into search trends and see what your audience is actively looking for. With that research in hand, identify any existing content you have that’s adjacent to those trends then:
- Rework the first 2-3 paragraphs to incorporate target keywords, phrases or questions.
- Weave related words and phrases into the rest of the copy where it makes sense logically and contextually. (Remember: Google rewards quality, and punishes robotic keyword “stuffing.”)
- Add or update page metadata.
“Basic things like incorporating keywords and phrases throughout the copy, adding meta titles, H1 tags and alt-text for visual elements can make a difference,” says Colter Hettich, Managing Editor. “And make sure someone on your team is keeping tabs on best practices. SEO is an ever-moving target.”
Factor in photo synthesis
Don’t overlook the impact of visual touch-ups. Whether or not you decide to update the copy, make sure to evaluate existing imagery. If the story is now forward-looking, for example, you might consider swapping out a photograph of a family wearing masks for a mask-free one. If you’ve avoided travel-related imagery for the past year, perhaps now you can begin to consider incorporating some again.
“There are times when an image or illustration might be part of a content update,” says Brenner. “Visually that could give an immediate freshness to a piece. Likewise, if any brand standards change or a photo style change happens, then that would be an ideal time to change imagery with refreshed content.”
Reserve room for something wild
As you’re reviewing communications, recognize that “there is room for wildcat content that surprises audiences,” says Milne. That could include the tone, platform or imagery. But proceed carefully, he cautions: “You need to make sure that you’re not contradicting yourself in any way.”
Once that’s done, take time to step back and smell the roses — and savor the content.