How Lack of Marketing Content Can Derail Your Website Redesign Project

What comes first – site content or site design? In the words of Jeffrey Zeldman, the renowned web designer, blogger, independent publisher and the king of Web standards according to Business Week, “Content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design, it’s decoration.”

Are you involved in or responsible for redesigning your company’s website? Is your website redesign project on hold waiting for marketing to deliver content? If so, you know the frustration.

It doesn’t matter whether you work for a corporate marketing department or the owner of a small business website. You spend countless hours, weeks and months working with the site designers developing site maps, wireframes and mock ups – but content? It is relegated to the bottom of the totem pole of deliverables. As a result, your dream web redesign project comes to a screeching halt.

I kid you not, one of our website redesign projects has been on hold for over a year waiting for site content. Why? Because the client claimed, “they could handle the content themselves.” This is not an isolated case based on my 12 years of experience designing business websites.

The site redesign cycle of frustration

Here’s a typical site redesign scenario:

Our current site is more than 3 years old > Let’s do a redesign > Review new design mock ups > Love that cool new look with the scrolling thingies > Let’s launch the new site ASAP > What’s that “lorem ipsum dolor sit amet” on our pages? > Oh, we need content, okay let’s just copy & paste from our old marketing collateral.

Six months later, very little traffic, even fewer leads and no sales > The new web site sucks, hasn’t done anything for our business.

Situation turns dire until someone within the company gets an epiphany, “Our site is not optimized” > Quick, call in that SEO expert who guarantees first page ranking in Google > Before you know it, you are locked in a 6-month search engine optimization contract.

To rescue your website and deliver you to the Promised Land, the SEO consultant wants you to generate loads of content optimized for keywords and phrases.

And the cycle of frustration continues. Poor results stemming from bad or no content strategy and focusing solely on the design aspects.

Why does online marketing content cause so much angst?

It is not that clients or internal stakeholders don’t care about their website content. There are many reasons for content becoming an afterthought. The ones that I hear most often are:

  • The budget is already very tight and we don’t have any money to hire an outside copywriter.
  • We know our business better than any outsider ever will (True to a large extent).
  • How hard can it be to write some words? We can do it ourselves.
  • Why bother with content? Nobody reads anything anymore. We just need site visitors to fill out our online order form.
  • Our sales people will tell them everything they need to know when they talk to them on the phone or set up a face-to-face meeting.
  • We already have lots of brochures and data sheets to give to our prospects and customers. There’s nothing new we can say on our website.

Solving the content conundrum

It is our responsibility as practitioners of inbound marketing to coax relevant content out of the client, be it internal or external. Here are some ways to make life easier for everyone:

  • Add the sizzle to the steak – it is true that the client knows his/her business better than any outside expert ever will. It does make sense for the meat of the matter to come from the inside, especially when the budgets are tight. It is our job then as marketers to massage it and add some sizzle in order to persuade the reader to take a desired action.
  • Don’t be persona non grata – take the time to really understand the persona of the target audience. I mean dig deeper than just the demographics like company size, job title, SIC code etc. Figure out what the pressing issues are, what motivates them to act now rather than later and then write in a voice that addresses their concerns. This will also lower the client’s fear of “you just don’t get it.”
  • Learn to connect the dots – many times product managers and engineers have very deep knowledge about their products and the problems they can solve. However, they may not be good at articulating those benefits and features. Interview them and then connect all the dots to develop compelling content that will move the visitor and/or the prospect in their decision making process.
  • Be a ruthless editor – business owners and product developers are passionate about their offerings. They can wax eloquently and endlessly about their solution. Harness that power by gathering all the information and then editing the material into cohesive content. Your client may not know the nuances of the written word so guide him/her. Be ruthless, delete and edit until removing one more word would completely change the meaning or make it meaningless. Add explicit calls to action and point the reader towards the next logical step.
  • Develop content templates – sometimes it helps to develop a template for creating new content. As content strategists, we can build a standard format for content that includes page title, short description of the product or service, what problem it solves, who would benefit the most and additional pairs of product benefits and features. Various stakeholders can use these templates to fill in the details while adhering to the fundamental 5W’s of copywriting – Who, What, Where, When and Why.
  • Search engine optimization (SEO) and content are two peas in a pod – working with a SEO expert while developing new content is a smart redesign strategy. Retrofitting optimization is much harder and it isn’t as effective as creating content from the ground up that is optimized for carefully researched keywords and phrases. After all, what good is your redesigned website if no one can find it?
  • Sometimes a generalist is better than a specialist – a business website redesign has many parts with mind-numbing details to keep a track of. Using our expertise as marketers, we can be a project manager or act as the general contractor who brings together and supervises many subcontractors. We are uniquely qualified to recommend hiring an expert online copywriter or designer or SEO expert when it becomes necessary to bring in outside talent.

Try some of these tactics and you’ll soon realize that content creation doesn’t have to be the big roadblock that stops your website design project dead in its tracks.

You may also be interested in downloading our FREE Step-by-Step Guide to Website (re)Design. It will walk you through each step involved in creating a roadmap for a successful business Website.

How do you overcome content development challenges? Please share your ideas by leaving a comment.

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    What comes first – site content or site design? Lack of Marketing Content Can Derail Your Website Redesign Project

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