Content Planning for and Launching a Responsive Site: An Editor’s Perspective

By Jennifer Ford

Launching a new website presents a host of concerns. First, what kind of site does your audience need? Is it a store? Is it a blog with regularly published news? The most important consideration is your intended audience and researching what they need and trying to create it.

As a web editor for a healthcare publisher, I was tasked with launching a new web-based clinical journal for healthcare providers. Because I have done my research I know that my intended audience is using tablets and mobile devices as much if not more than a desktop, and more than the general public. So, I knew from the start I wanted this new site to be responsive. One consideration you need to make when planning for a responsive site is keeping the site design simple because website elements shift and reform as the size of the screen decreases. You don’t want a lot of drop-down menus and you don’t want users to have to click more than a couple of times to get to where they want to go. Another thing to remember is that as the display of your site shrinks to fit the size of the screen that displays it, certain items may “disappear,” like images or ads.

Starting from scratch, I wrote a business plan for my publisher that detailed my reasoning and a structure for the new responsive site. Here I’ll share some of the resources I used to create the plan.

First, I went to fellow Web Editors contributor Gazalla Gaya’s site, “Web Content Blog.” In one very helpful post, Gazalla details some tips for planning a site launch using a content map. The resource she suggested for creating a content map is the slideshare presentation on web content strategy by  from Content Marketing Institute. To build a content map, identify the goals of the owner of the site and the goals of the readers, and prioritize your content based on this. My plan described my mission statement, my audience, the goals of my readers, the goals of our business. It was helpful to see the way reader and publisher goals overlapped or didn’t when I built the content goal map.

Website wireframe built with Google Drawings.

Website wireframe built with Google Drawings.

Then I used the content map to create a wireframe of the site that showed the menus and essential areas of the site. I presented it to our artists and e-media team and they were able to translate it into a responsive site design. It took a lot of guesswork out of what should go where on the site and helped make my reasoning clear to everyone involved. I also was able to plan for a lightweight site design with a limited number of menu items and site areas that would easily resize to various screen sizes and form factors. The web and design team created mockups of several different screen size displays and we made tweaks based on them. We launched the site in September and have already had great feedback from readers.

If you take just one thing away from this, it should be this: When planning a site launch, do research about your audience and be deliberate in creating a site plan that is tailored to their needs. And giving readers compelling content will give you the added bonus of appealing to the Google Hummingbird algorithm, which, to steal a page from a Website Magazine webinar on SEO, values content that “delights humans.”

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Time to Revisit Your Content Strategy?

by Alan Eggleston

Happy New Year! The change in calendar year is often the trigger to revisit your content calendar and your whole content strategy. If January or February is a down time in your organization, this is a perfect time to do one.

Does your current content work?

Photo by Victor1558 by Creative Commons license.

Photo by Victor1558 with Creative Commons license.

Many web editors often do a sweep of their content at this time and decide any big changes. This may happen at other times of the year or more often than once a year, such as at change in fiscal calendar or concurrent with annual share holder meetings, but often New Years is a convenient trigger. Maybe now is when you decide when that time should be and plan for it.

A more useful strategy is to revisit your analytics at least quarterly and adjust your content strategy based on site performance. Online publishing is amazing for its quick turnaround –  make that work for you.

What does your data tell you?

A deciding factor for changes in content direction is website performance. Take a look at analytics and decide what your stats are telling you – is your current content working and thus worth continuing, or do the numbers tell you that readers want something different? Are visits down or perhaps never really up in the first place? Do visitors stick around or do they come in and get out quickly? Do they visit a lot of pages per visit or do they hit where they enter and leave? Do they arrive at the home page or come in to the site in-depth? Where do searches bring visitors and what do they do when they arrive? Are purchases up? Have you experienced growth in any of those numbers? Analytics can provide you with a ton of great strategic information.

What is your search performance?

Another decision, and one where many web editors historically have been weak, is about search performance. How does your site do in a search? How many of your visits are from searches and how many from people who simply know how to find you? What search terms are they using, and are they the search terms you were expecting (and upon which you base your optimization strategy)? Which search engines are driving the most traffic to you? How many come to you by outside links or by social media and what does that say about your link and social media strategies? What is your search strategy and is it working (do a search audit to find out), or should you rethink that as well? If you don’t have a search strategy – a strategy to improve how your site is found in a search – now is the time to start working on one.

Search performance is often tied to search engine policy. Have you read and followed search engine guidelines or are you unwittingly running afoul of their rules and being punished for it?

What are the search engines telling you?

If there’s any possibility your site isn’t performing well in a search – and, thus, not driving traffic to you – it is worth your time and energy to register for and use search engine webmaster tools. First determine which search engines are driving the most traffic to your site. It may not be Google like you think. However, Google in particular will provide you a lot of feedback if your site is doing something wrong – if they can’t index your pages, for instance; if you have troublesome links; if you aren’t measuring up to their standards. And Google will often suggest changes to help you meet their needs and allow you to resubmit your site for indexing (a “reconsideration request“). If they’re penalizing you, finding out why and doing something about it is a great benefit. Explore the other search engine webmaster tool sites to see what they can tell you and help you fix if they are key to your search strategy.

Google introduced major changes to its algorithm the past couple of years that may have affected your search performance. Are you aware of them and how running afoul of them could affect your site performance?

  • Google Panda* – filtered for poor quality content such as unreasonable duplicate content.
  • Google Hummingbird – entirely rethinks search to add nuance, handle questions, and adjust for mobile search.

*Panda and Penguin were folded into Hummingbird.

Panda could affect your search performance if you run a lot of duplicate content or if your content is of little value in Google’s eyes. Google is OK with duplicate content for globalized sites where different versions of a site contain regionalized versions of the same content. But to aid sites, they introduced the “canonical tag” for URLs to distinguish original content.

Penguin could affect your search performance if your content contains low quality links, including link farms or doorway pages and spammy content and links in your comments sections, such as in blogs or news sections.

If any of these algorithms may have dampened your search performance, now is a good time to rethink how to revise your content to remove the penalties. For instance:

  • More actively administer blog comments to eliminate comment spam, which is rampant.
  • Recode content to add the canonical tag for original content.
  • Make sure writers create only original content and that editors filter for duplicate content (run a search on segments of content to look for duplicates).
  • Eliminate gratuitous link trading and external links that don’t make sense for your content.
  • Revise major current content to build more nuance to improve search performance.
  • Strategize how to build nuance into your new pages to improve search performance.
  • Ensure your site is designed to handle mobile, which Google has also said is now important.

Growth is about improving the search

Today, content is about more than providing interesting text on a page for readers. It’s also about how you attract readers to your page and sustain readership. It’s as much about how you build the page and work with search engines as it is about publishing itself. As you rethink your content calendar – now, at New Years, or at any other time of the year – think about how you bring the reader to you.