Let’s start with the fact that the concept “content marketing” is not well-established at the moment. Actually, marketing experts began to use this very term only in 2012, before this other terms were used: educational marketing, inbound marketing, involvement marketing, etc. But the point is the same: content marketing is creation and distribution of branded content which has its own value for the customer. Technically, it is an approach to the company site by the principles and patterns of thematic media – with publication schedule, editing, and dissemination of the content.
Content marketing is often confused with copywriting. But they are not the same thing. The copywriter’s task is to create content. Content in content marketing is a basis but not the final point. Its key difference from copywriting is presence of content strategy. The principal “engine” of content marketing is not a copywriter but a content strategist. A content strategist builds a long-term plan of content distribution.
Content strategy is a sort of glue keeping all parts of the project together. If it doesn’t have a clear trend or there is no trend at all, the probability of your commercial failure is almost 100%. If it is used in the right place in the right time, you are bound to achieve the necessary results.
However, achieving the results is not an easy task. The process of implementing content strategy is fraught with many nuances and challenges and requires not only decent knowledge of content marketing, but an established pattern of interaction between all members of the team: content strategist, developer, copywriter, designer, SEO optimizer and other participants of the project. And as the most problems arise when a designer and a copywriter collaborate on the landing pages, we will make this issue a focus of today’s article.
We hope that our experience of work in this area and our mistakes will help you improve the management of your projects as well as quality of products and services.
Beginning: the first step, the most difficult one
Project manager: We need a landing page for customer X.
Designer: I can’t start working on the design until I see the content.
Copywriter: I can’t start writing until I see the design.
This dialogue may seem funny … until you find yourself in the same situation. How can this problem be solved? Simply enough: create a content first, then a design. Do you agree that having a ready content makes easier choosing a relevant form? It was repeatedly proven in practice that design based on the content reflects the essence of product or service the most fully, thus attracting bigger number of customers.
So, the pattern of work on content creation is reduced to the following:
- Content strategist develops the strategy of site promotion via content and prepares the following data:
Type of audience. Strict, friendly or indifferent? Mostly men or women? Kids, teenagers, middle-aged or elderly people? What do they want to achieve? What can you give them?
The amount of the text. Some products require a long advertisement text while for others an absolute minimum is enough. By the way, this fact should be taken into account by SEO-specialists because if mistakes occur while a landing page is created, there are all chances that your content will not get search traffic.
Message priority. Which idea is the main and which is secondary? What should be said to “hook” visitors? What can prompt them to action?
A call to action. What will the most accurate wording of the call to action be? What emotional and intellectual factors will motivate a visitor to take action?
- In accordance with these data a copywriter writes a literate selling text.
- A designer studies the content strategist’s data, a copywriter’s work and makes a visually appealing design.
Landing pages are a perfect place to work off this interaction pattern as from the standpoint of content marketing they are less complex than other types of web pages. As a rule, they convey one particular idea, have a small amount of text and a minimum of SEO, which facilitates the creation of design significantly. As a rule they are much more important than other types of pages, here exactly the conversion takes place, they are the ones to determine if the project is going to be successful or not.
Quick tips for a successful start:
- Make sure there is one special person in your company responsible for implementing content strategy. If responsibility is not assigned, your end product will be equally undetermined;
- Do not rush! Many seek to plunge into the work on new project as soon as possible. However, this tactics does not prove to be efficient. Before you get down to business, make sure that your colleagues are on the same wavelength as you;
- If being a designer you have to work as a content strategist as well, develop understanding of this discipline. Study the literature, read the blogs, learn from experienced professionals;
- Make sure that the designers and copywriters understand what they should be doing and what they should not. Copywriters must not teach designers to create a design, and designers should not teach copywriters to write. Everyone has to do their job.
Process improvement: overcoming problems
Project manager: How are things going?
Site developer: I’m waiting for a designer.
Designer: I’m waiting for a copywriter.
Copywriter: I’m waiting for a project manager.
The process of site development involves a lot of difficulties. Problems often arise unexpectedly and at utterly wrong time.
Difficulties of teamwork on the project.
Of course this process is not ideal, but it is constantly being improved. Thus, in order to help designers adjust the text to the “framework” and page design you can use content templates. This does not only facilitate their work but allows customers getting the general idea of how the content will look on the site. It also helps calculate the words quickly.
As for communication, their quality can be improved using software for project management. The great advantage of the project management system is the fact that it provides single place for managing tasks and effective interaction of all team members. Here you can discuss the working points, exchange information, leave comments, mark reference points, put deadlines etc. Such great opportunities take away all the gaps and misunderstandings that may arise when managing the project through the E-mail. Reviews, edits, comments on the project – everything is in one place. Each employee participating in the project monitors the events and remains informed of any developments.
Use collaborative environment when working on the projects.
Quick tips to improve processes:
Make sure there is a person who is personally responsible for project management. Without a manager the project movement will be slowed at all stages;
- Organize regular briefings on the different issues of the project. Teach yourself and others being responsible. Make daily and monthly reports on the work done not only for customers but for your project groups;
- Coordinate every stage of your work with the customer. Don’t be afraid to bother them, as your task is to make the end product which conforms to all his expectations. Otherwise you will have to rework everything, change the budget and shift the terms. Neither you nor your customer will benefit from it;
- Copywriters and designers need to resolve quickly all the issues that have arisen between them.
Conflict resolution: why do we not get along with each other?
Designer: All these words make me tired.
Copywriter: All these pictures confuse me.
Project manager: All these arguments knock me out.
No matter how well your strategy is designed and co-workers interaction pattern is established, design and content will contradict with each other almost in each project. It is OK. If no arguments and questions arise, that will be the reason for concern. Our experience shows that this very fact can prove the project to be in a serious trouble. Below you will find the main problems you can face regularly and the ways to deal with them.
Allocating a separate space for SEO-content
Not only designers but the readers as well are bored with long texts. However, sometimes SEO-optimizers require a large number of landing keys unrelated to each other semantically so copywriters have to compose long texts. Luckily, there are some clever ways to solve this problem without sacrificing quality of optimization:
- Tabs is a great way to hide text
Tabs make possible to keep page in vertical position. What is more important, they allow visitors finding easily the necessary information and skipping the unnecessary one.
- Allocate SEO-content in the “basement” of the page
Of course, SEO strategist would prefer the optimized content to appear at the top of the page. However, if the aim of the website is converting traffic into customers, then the visitors must see an attractive design, not a block of the text of 3000 words. But the main thing here is not to overdo. The text should be not only for search. If it is not read by real people, believe us, the significance of such content will fall for search engines as well (remember about the behavioral factors of ranking!).
- Increase creativity of non-SEO landing pages
The pages telling about products and services are the most important for search optimization. The aim of these pages is giving useful information, not surprising with great design. So, you can better show your design skills on non-SEO pages. For example, you can do it in the section “About the company” or “Customer service”. It is where you should be creative, and your effort will be rewarded.
Clarity of thought VS. Creativity
The eternal battle “design-content” erupts with particular force when the elements of navigation, headlines of the main page and blocks calling to action are created. The nature of this battle is in the following question: “What wins over the hearts and minds of visitors more? Awesome design or understandable and accessible information?” And you should understand that there is no clear and definite answer.
Creating menu of site navigation (as well as its individual elements) is one of the best practices for a designer and one of the most complicated tasks. The fact that the results are predictable and expected is very important here: if a user goes to one or another section, the content of the page should correspond to the visitor’s expectations: the information of the company should be allocated in the section “About the company”, information about the services – in the section “Services”, etc. Show your creativity wherever you want but not in the navigation menu. To make it easier for visitors to navigate, the text and design elements of the navigation should be as simple and understandable as possible.
Design and content of the main page headline
Various types of headline animation are in fashion today. No wonder, it looks like a great way to show the basic features and the cost of the company services as well as attract attention. The content should laconically convey information and the headline must work on an emotional level. But emotional response to the headline should still appear (and we feel sure about it) not through design but in the first place through the essence, sense, content.
Blocks calling to action
To begin with, make sure that the pages of your site contain call to action as it is a great opportunity to take the visitor to the next logical step. A call to action can look like a simple text link (E.g. “Learn more about our services”) or be in the form of interesting design element functioning in the same way as a miniature landing page.
The most important thing when creating a call to action is its wording. The phrase should be simple and easy to understand and relate entirely to the page which the visitor enters. Besides, the call should be aimed at committing a conversion action.
Short tips to overcome conflicts easily:
- Maintain good communication between all team members and customers.
- Choose a project manager with great communication skills and objective point of view.
- Focus on the aim of the project: is it to convince, motivate, inform or any other? Creative differences should not be theoretical, they should always have real expression. This will make collaboration more effective.
Verbose copywriters VS. Creatively thinking designers
One more problem which many project managers frequently face is that copywriters are too verbose and designers are always silent. Ask a copywriter the time, and he will describe the process of clock production to you. Ask the same question to a designer, and he will draw you a beautiful picture of a pendulum. Alas, neither answer will be practical… Differences in mentality of these two professionals make the process of implementation of these two strategies problematic. Each of them tries in his side. But think about it. Can an image convey full information about the key benefits of the product? What about just a wordy text, without a design at all? Hardly… Only the combination of these two elements can bring good results. That is exactly why we advocate development of communication between all members of the team. Only in communication and cooperation all disputes can be settled up and an optimal decision can be found.
However, there is another way. Very effective but still rather unpopular – feedback from end-users. Just show them a webpage and ask for their opinion on its presentation and content, you will find out what should be corrected and what should be left as it is. Why can’t you do it yourself? You cannot, as your opinion will always be subjective. Working on the project, you put so much effort and emotions into it that it seems great to you in any case. Only a true judge in the face of end-users can make an honest verdict to your creative effort. Why not throw away all doubts and delegate the judgment to those whose opinion will be the most objective?
Thanks to Brad Shorr for the material Content Strategy Within The Design Process – we’ve taken something from there.