When you launch a website, you’re making a promise to your audience on a certain level. You’re telling them “here is what my brand represents, here is what we offer and here is how your life will be better after we begin our relationship than it was up until this point.”
This is the type of promise that doesn’t just get someone down off the fence to make a purchase, but often keeps them coming back for more for years to come.
But making a promise like that is impossible without what is arguably the most important factor in launching a website: content.
So based on how important this idea is, it should come as a surprise to absolutely nobody that content is also the largest contributing factor to the delay of a website launch.
In fact at our agency HindSite Interactive (and pretty much every other agency I’ve talked to), most website projects are delayed due to the lack of content delivery or input from client side. It’s become so annoying that it deserved it’s own blog post to raise awareness about this ongoing problem.
But it doesn’t necessarily have to be. At least, not anymore if clients consider these key points:
Where Does Quality Content Come From?
Part of the reason why content always contributes to website launch delays is because oftentimes clients don’t necessarily realize how difficult it can be to produce.
It isn’t necessarily as easy as having an idea, jotting a few thoughts down on paper and sending it off to someone for the “finishing touches.” Content is usually created in one of the following three ways:
- A business already has a website filled with content, but it’s grown old and stale. It needs to be reviewed, restructured or edited to give it the fresh look and feel that modern audiences demand.
- The content already exists, but it’s in another format. It needs to not only be reviewed, restructured and edited for the Internet, but it also needs to be updated.
- Brand new content needs to be planned, written, edited, argued about, edited some more, organized, etc… all before it can be posted to its “final resting place” – your website.
All of these processes take time. They also require that content to pass through a lot of different hands.
Someone needs to decide what type of content is needed at which time, which then requires someone to write it.
Then, that comment can often be “killed by committee” – sales, marketing and even brand leadership all have opinions and many of those can be wildly different from one another.
Only after content has run through this proverbial obstacle course is it passed onto designers, who have the responsibility of actually bringing it to life on the Web.
Overcoming The “Problem” With Content
The problem from the perspective of marketing and design agencies is that not all clients necessarily realize this.
They say that they want to get their site up and running as fast as possible, but they either don’t have their content ready or don’t give it a priority at all. It’s an after thought to say the least.
At that point, projects begin to get delayed. Depending on the agency you’re talking about, those delays get longer and longer. Some projects even go on hold forever, all because of this initial content problem.
It’s frustrating for everyone, but it’s especially troublesome for us agencies and designers because we know what is needed to accomplish but lack one of the mission-critical ingredients in order to actually do so. I think at times we can also bear responsibility for this to not iterate this strongly enough during the discovery and design process for further guidance and reinforcement can be utilized but at the end of the day it is the client’s decision to listen to the recommendations put forth to them.
Breaking Down Those Silos
In truth, creating quality content in a timely manner will require something of an “all hands on deck” approach.
While it’s a good idea to have a particular person oversee the job of finding, editing and getting that content to designers, the actual content creation process can and should come from all areas.
Everyone who works for a particular business has their own unique point-of-view into not only why what you do is important, but what the very real customers that they’re dealing with actually want/need to hear at any particular time.
The business owner, founder or stakeholders for example, can be a great resource for a historical narrative (or even a video) that offers real, emotional insight into your core mission statement. But if they insist on trying to handle everything themselves, you’re likely going to run into a few problems because let’s face it, they’re too busy and have an operation to run and content will be low down their priority list.
They can’t be expected to actually devote the time necessary to the content creation process in the first place.
Secondly, they’re far too close to the company and every piece will likely start to feel the same.
But the occasional contribution from the founder is an excellent resource that should be taken advantage of.
Customer service employees, your sales team, event planners and even billing professionals – all of these people deal directly with members of your audience and have intimate insight into what they need to hear at any particular moment.
So in terms of actually creating that content and getting it into the hands of designers, the solution to this problem is simple: you should be actively listening to these people and funneling their voices into your ongoing content strategy.
Don’t just interview a member of your sales team about what type of collateral they need to move someone farther down the sales funnel – invite them to contribute to your content schedule. Let them write a guest post in your company blog.
Don’t guess at the type of content your audience wants – this is part of why delays happen so frequently in the first place. Go directly to the people who know.
If you’re still having a hard time managing the content creation process at the rate that you (and your designers) need, don’t forget that there are outside options that are worth exploring, too.
Hiring a dedicated copywriter can not only be a great way to get the pace of creation under control, but this single person can do everything mentioned above AND can help you find a consistent voice at the same time.
Options like an SEO firm are also great, because these professionals can help you
A) create content, and
B) make sure that this content is focused on ranking and visibility in engines like Google. Just make sure you’re finding a firm that can strike a balance between these two things – focusing too much on rankings will lead to content that reads like it was written to appease a search engine, because that’s exactly the case.
In the End
In order to prevent content delays (and thus, website launch delays, it’s always essential to keep a few key things in mind. For starters, if you’re keeping your content creation efforts in house, you need not only someone with a core understanding of what web content, content marketing and SEO are – but you need someone who can stay organized and who can meet deadlines.
You also need a complete unified vision from the entire company about the value of quality content in the first place, from leadership on down.
Everyone needs to understand how important it is and everyone needs to be committed to getting it done.
If you’re thinking about outsourcing your efforts to someone like a copywriter, an SEO firm or a PR firm, make sure that one thing is clear above all else: your voice and vision.
It isn’t enough to just give a third party topics to write about – they need to deeply understand the tone you’re trying to set and the chord you’re trying to strike with your audience. In particular if you rely heavily on a SEO person bear in mind that their first priority is search placement and not your brand and it’s clear vision nor often what your audience walks ways with after they land on your site.
They need to be able to provide content that not only reflects your organization as it exists today, but that also makes sense for where you’re going in the future.
Once you’ve got a handle on all of these things, website launch delays will officially be a thing of the past.
If you’re in the market to update your marketing material be it your web presence, I hope these few tips give you some insight into how you can minimize the impact your content can have on your project timeline.
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