Table Of Contents
Know your goals
Know your audience (You can have multiple audiences. Can you prioritize them? How can you make the content accessible to all your audiences?)
The goal of content strategy is to create engaging, meaningful, and sustainable content. Content that meets your goals & fulﬁlls your user's needs.
Top Tip: Content strategy is all about getting the right content, to the right people, in the right place, at the right time!
7 questions to ask yourself when creating content
- Is it appropriate?
The content must match the needs of your audience(s).
- Is it useful?
Make sure it has a deﬁned purpose, and it fulﬁlls that purpose. We like to use the matra, “what is the purpose of this page?”
- Is it clear and concise?
No one wants to read a wall of text.
- Does it reﬂects the style or tone of your organization?
For example, is your tone formal or casual?
- Is it user-centered?
Your audience is the consumer of your content. Make sure it’s easy to ﬁnd, scan, consume and if needed, take action!
- Will it create a dead-end?
Empower & encourage your users to engage further with your brand with strong Call-To-Actions (CTAs) and internal linking to more/deeper content.
- Are you treating your audience with respect?
Don’t patronize or market to them.
Top Tip: Think of yourself as a tour guide & how you want to guide people through your digital experience.
7 best practices for writing effective content
- Keep in mind that users are scanning and skimming content.
This is their primary mode of engagement until they ﬁnd what they are looking for.
- Write for all readers.
- Some people read every word.
- Most will just skim until they ﬁnd what they are looking for.
- Focus your message.
- Open with the main point.
- Give people the most important content.
- This concept applies to sections, pages, paragraphs, and sentences.
- Create a hierarchy of information.
- Group related ideas together.
- Use descriptive headers & subheaders.
- Be concise & avoid unnecessary words.
- Keep sentences short - 12 to 15 words is acceptable.
- Keep paragraphs short - 3 to 4 sentences is acceptable.
- Be speciﬁc. Avoid any vague language.
- Streamline information where possible.
E. g. using bullet lists work well,
3 questions to ask yourself
Re-read what you’ve written. Is it...
Make sure you write like a human being. Have you used simple words and sentences?
Ask yourself: What purpose does this serve? What do people need to know?
Whether it's a home page, an announcement, or a sign-up page, can your audience(s) relate to your content?
Top Tip: Write as if you’re in a face-to-face conversation. Adapt the tone depending on who you’re writing to and what you’re writing about.
This section is applicable to all departments but critical for departments that rely on external traffic (traffic outside the University). Departments do not have access to edit items 1 & 2 listed below; work with the web team to update your site accordingly.
4 Key Areas
Well-written content impacts user experience. User experience sends either a positive or a negative signal to search engines. Some elements of your content play a key part in how search engines rank your content. These elements also play a role in inﬂuencing user click-through from a search engine result page.
Use the following 4 key areas as a guide for writing more effectively for SEO.
The Buyer Journey
Users at each stage of their journey will use Google search. Studies show 67% of prospective students use search engines as their ﬁrst source of information.
- Awareness / Interest
Content that peaks interest
- Consideration / Intent / Evaluation
Content that helps users see Stanislaus is a ﬁt
- Decision / Conversion
Content that moves users to contact or apply
The Title tag tells both search engines and users what the content is about. It helps search engines correctly add the content to their index. Titles help search engines rank the pages.
Another way to look at writing an effective Title:
- View our Course Catalog. Plan a Path that’s Right for You
- Stanislaus State Course Catalog. Expand Your Horizons.
- Use the primary, or target keyword phrase if at all possible
- Write descriptive Title tags that inform search engines & users what the page is about
- Title tags should describe a beneﬁt, even entice users to click-through
- Keep Title tags at 55 - 60 characters or less in length, including spaces
- Do not duplicate Title tags
People scan & skim the search engine results page. Concise, yet descriptive Meta Descriptions can help users make a quicker decision to click-through.
Another way to look at writing an effective Meta Description:
- Study Biological Sciences at Stanislaus with a diverse & vibrant biological sciences community of teacher-scholars & student-scientists. Explore the wonder of life.
- Write compelling and useful meta descriptions
- Use this opportunity as an initial touchpoint
- Use the primary, or target keyword phrase if at all possible — while it doesn’t impact ranking, it will help users as they scan and skim the search results
- 150 to 160 characters is the recommended length
- Avoid duplicating meta descriptions
3. Headings (speciﬁcally page name, which is given the < H1 > tag)
An H1 header tag helps search engines rank content.
Headings also improve the user experience of the content, especially for those using screen readers. Use other headings (H2, H3, etc) to break up the content and improve user engagement.
- Use the primary keyword phrase in the H1 tag
- Use only one H1 tag per page (as the page name)
- Use supporting keywords in other headings (H2, H3, etc.)
Internal linking means hyperlinking content on one page of the digital experience to another page of content.
Internal linking is important because it helps the search engines crawl and index the content. It also helps people explore the website within the context of the content they are engaging with.
Avoid using generic calls-to-actions like “Learn More” or “Click Here” to link to more content as it also improves usability and accessibility.
- Use relevant keywords in the anchor text
- Create a link that will be intuitive to the user, and gives some insight into the content they will ﬁnd
- Avoid links like click here, or learn more
Keyword Checklist Best Practices
- Has a primary keyword been used in the page Title, and H1?
- Are supporting keywords used in other headings (H2, H3, etc)?
- Where appropriate, use keywords as internal links.
Here are 7 basic considerations to help you get started writing web content that is more accessible to people with disabilities.
These 7 tips are good practices to help you meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) requirements.
WCAG or Web Content Accessibility Guidelines is a set of requirements that is the international system of coding standards.
WCAG compliance ensures that your website is accessible by everyone, irrespective of disabilities and age.
For each web page, provide a short title that describes the page content and distinguishes it from other pages. The page title is often the same as the main heading of the page.
Put the unique and most relevant information ﬁrst; for example, put the name of the page before the name of the organization. For pages that are part of a multi-step process, include the current step in the page title.
Use short headings to group related paragraphs and clearly describe the sections.
Good headings provide an outline of the content.
Write link text so that it describes the content of the link target.
Avoid using ambiguous link text, such as ‘click here’ or ‘read more’.
Indicate relevant information about the link target, such as document type and size, for example, ‘Proposal Documents (RTF, 20MB)’.
For every image, write alternative text that provides the information or function of the image.
For purely decorative images, there is no need to write alternative text.
For audio-only content, such as a podcast, provide a transcript. For audio and visual content, such as training videos, also provide captions. Include in the transcripts and captions the spoken information and sounds that are important for understanding the content, for example, ‘door creaks’.
For video transcripts, also include a description of the important visual content, for example, ‘Ethan leaves the room’.
Ensure that instructions, guidance, and error messages are clear, easy to understand, and avoid unnecessarily technical language.
Describe input requirements, such as date formats.
- Use simple language and formatting, as appropriate for the context.
- Write in short, clear sentences and paragraphs.
- Avoid using unnecessarily complex words and phrases.
- Expand acronyms on ﬁrst use. For example, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
- Consider providing a glossary for terms readers may not know.
- Use list formatting as appropriate.
- Consider using images, illustrations, video, audio, and symbols to help clarify meaning.
Top Tip: Making your website accessible will improve usability across the board.
Why do we like visual imagery?
Before getting into how to use visuals as a part of your content strategy.
We should ﬁrst look at why visual media is so important to us.
So, let’s turn to science for some quick facts.
- 93% of all human communication is visual.
- 90% of the information sent to the brain is visual.
- An image is easier to scan than text. The brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text.
- MIT neuroscientists have found that the brain can identify images seen for as little as 13 milliseconds.
- Tests show that people can remember more than 2,000 pictures with at least 90% accuracy.
- From an evolutionary perspective, the ability to remember various aspects of one’s visual environment must be vital for survival, so it is not surprising that memory for pictorial material is particularly well developed.
Ref: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)
Top Tip: Visuals should support the content on your website, not replace it.
What is your Goal for Visual Content?
It’s important to remember that one visual format will NOT cover all your needs.
Photography, infographics or video ALL play different roles within the digital space.
To rely on just one to help your SEO, user experience, accessibility and more, is not a recommended approach.
Have a blend of visual media that helps amplify and compliment your written content.
In other words:
Use the right visual medium to best convey your message.
Use these two questions to help guide your decision-making as you start to consider what visual content you want to use or create.
- Why do you want to use visual content for your website?
- What do you want to achieve by using this visual content?
If you’re creating new visual content, understanding your goal(s) will help deﬁne the best format to bring your image-based concepts to life e.g. photography, infographics or video.
Some possible answers could be:
- To educate your readers
- Increase engagement & attract more leads
- Promote your brand
- Enhance your service
Images vs Video vs Infographics
Important - Use the right visual medium to convey your message. Below speaks to some of the beneﬁts that make each format unique.
Use photos, illustration or iconography to enhance or support your key messages and capture the audience’s interest.
Photography's visual cues are subtler and quicker to absorb. It gives people a better understanding of not just the message, but what’s behind the message.
Video not only increases visibility, but it also increases engagement. People are more likely to share and repost video content than any other type of content.
Video metrics are very easy to measure: click-through rates, total views, partial views, drop-off points, and conversion rates.
People love information - especially statistics, numbers, and ﬁgures. Infographics are perfect for compiling a lot of data into one easy-to-follow format that’s nice to look at, easily understood, and remembered.
You can customize every aspect of your infographic - fonts, colors, iconography and more. Because of this, you can very easily align it with your brand identity.
Top Tip: Analyse the data from your current or previous visual content. Does it, (or did it), bring more views, likes or shares? Using this data could help inform your future decision-making.
How much visual content should I use?
There are no hard rules for the amount of visual content a website page should include - Typically it’s case-by-case.
Your page design, the amount of text and what you want the page content to achieve are common factors that will affect any decision-making.
That being said, here are two best practices to consider.
- As a basic rule, you should use at least one image for every 300 to 400 words.
- If possible, try to space images at regular intervals so users have a visual break as they work their way through your written content.
Think of using visual content like pockets of air. It will allow your users to breathe in between reading paragraphs of text and should inspire them to read more.
Top Tip: Google favors images and video. This will improve your website’s visibility in search.
6 tips for optimizing visuals/images for SEO
To boost your visual content’s visibility in Google, focus on providing a great user experience: make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.
Here are some tips:
- Provide good context: Make sure that your visual content is relevant to the topic of the page. We suggest that you display images only where they add original value to the page. We particularly discourage pages where neither the images or the text are original content.
- Optimize placement: Whenever possible, place images near relevant text. When it makes sense, consider placing the most important image near the top of the page.
- Don’t embed important text inside images: Avoid embedding text in images, especially important text elements like page headings and menu items, because not all users can access them (and page translation tools won't work on images). To ensure maximum accessibility of your content, keep text in HTML, provide alt text for images.
- Create informative and high-quality sites: Good content on your webpage is just as important as visual content for Google Images - it provides context and makes the result more actionable. Page content may be used to generate a text snippet for the image, and Google considers the page content quality when ranking images.
- Create device-friendly sites: Users search on Google Images more from mobile than on desktop. For this reason, it is important that you design your site for all device types and sizes. Use the mobile-friendly testing tool to test how well your pages work on mobile devices, and get feedback on what needs to be ﬁxed.
- Create a good URL structure for your images: Google uses the URL path as well as the ﬁle name to help it understand your images. Consider organizing your image content so that URLs are constructed logically.
Create Your Sitemap
Start by creating an unordered list of content pieces you know your visitors need (start with what was highly visited on the old site, what your office gets the most calls for or emails about). Then the next step is to organize it into a sitemap. A sitemap is a list of links to all pages on a website in a hierarchical format, indicating how they connect to each other. By planning this in advance, you have a better chance of perfecting your website navigation and offering users a smooth browsing experience. The best practice here is to make sure that your site is organized in a way that a visitor shouldn’t have to click more than twice to move from one page to another.
Updated: June 20, 2023