How to create good content

I’ve been reading about content strategy and creating good web content. This is a catch-all post to highlight some of the points made by the authors.

The little tome The elements of content strategy by Erin Kissane is essential reading. Here are some points I will be keeping in mind.

Good content is:

  • Appropriate
  • Useful
  • User-centred
  • Clear
  • Consistent
  • Concise
  • Supported.

Amen to all that. What can an editor do to support all that? Always have in mind that “the reader’s interest and attention is the central, precious thing” (Kissane, p. 18).

As content strategist Sara Wachter-Boettcher “We need content that can go anywhere, its meaning and message intact”.

In her book Content Strategy at work, Margot Bloomstein has some good suggestions on what questions to ask about your content (p. 59):

  • What do you have?
  • Is it still good?
  • Do you even need it?
  • Do people even like it?
  • Are you making enough?

Good things for content to be (p. 59):

  • Current
  • Relevant
  • Appropriate

Bad content is ROT:

  • Redundant
  • Outdated
  • Trivial

A very useful tool is this checklist Creating Valuable Content by Ahava Leibtag. Here it is in PDF form. It’s the kind of useful that makes you print it out and stick in on the wall. The basic questions on the checklist:

  • Can the user find the content?
  • Can the user read the content?
  • Can the user understand the content?
  • Will the user want to take action?
  • Will the user share the content?

Content Strategy for the web by Kristina Halovorson and Melissa Rach suggest (p. 6):

  • Do less not more – less content is easier to manage, is more user-friendly and (ahem) costs less.
  • Figure out what you have and where it is coming from.
  • Learn how to listen – to users and colleagues.
  • Put someone – or a team – in charge. There needs to be an overseeing eye.

Don’t forget that every piece of content has a job to do (p. 111). Some content purposes:

  • To persuade
  • To inform
  • To validate
  • To instruct
  • To entertain

Tools for your editorial toolbox (p. 145 – 155):

  • Editorial calendar
  • Content requirements checklist
  • Curation/aggregation checklist
  • Migration checklist
  • Content inventory
  • Content maintenance checklist
  • Content maintenance log
  • Style guide

I love the rallying call – not “Content first” (p. 175):

Content always.

Reading list

Content-focused reading:
Cover of Content strategy for the web.

Find more related posts and recommended reading in our Writing for the web toolkit.

Love your web content

Erin KissaneOn Valentine’s Day I was thinking webby thoughts at  a Webstock workshop Content Strategy in (your) real world presented by content strategist, editor and writer Erin Kissane.

Here is a quick summary of her quotable gems on web content:

  • Good content is useful and purposeful.
  • Be a proponent of sectional landing pages, lots of people aren’t coming in the home page
  • Serve the real humans, and you are serving the smart machines
  • Five good examples trump 30 written guidelines when it comes to demonstrating style.
  • Write a site purpose document and use it as a measuring stick “Nothing goes on the website unless it does this thing”
  • You can do all the content tweaking you like, but it doesn’t matter if people can’t find it.
  • We need to represent users’ content needs.

Find out more in her slim volume The elements of content strategy.