Some marketers assume that having a content strategy means publishing either a blog post or a video once every week — but scheduling content is just a small piece of the content puzzle.
Even though we know the importance of delivering useful content to our consumers, we need to have some form of a structure in place to govern the strategy behind our content. The demand for content is growing, and it looks like this trend is set to continue with studies showing that consumers are now doing more of their own research through various channels before making a purchase. In fact, a study by GE Capital Retail Bank revealed that 81 percent of consumers conduct their own research online before making a purchase.
Having a structured content strategy won’t just benefit your inquisitive consumers though, it will also help your marketing team deliver higher quality content.
What is a Content Model?
According to content strategist Rachel Lovinger, a content model documents all the various kinds of content that you will have for any given project. It defines and differentiates each content type by their elements and their relationship to one another. This includes multiple content types such as blog posts, web pages, images, PDFs and unpublished content.
Content models can help strategists and content marketers visualize the purpose of each content type, and it also lays the backbone of the website’s content ecosystem. It also helps to clarify the requirements for each content type and encourages collaboration between designers, developers of the CMS and content creators.
Most content models are presented as a diagram. And to show you how one looks like here’s a very simple example below:
The content model shown above depicts the content types often found on a movie website. Items on the box office chart would link to pages about a top performing movie, actors/actresses starring in the film and information about the director. At the same time, the actor/actress, director and movie pages would also be linked to one another.
The example model shown above can be used to validate the concept with key stakeholders and can also prompt information architects and designers to think about the implications for the flow of content on the site.
But in most cases, a content model will be more detailed. Most content models will break down each content type into different components (e.g. title, h1 & h2 header, format requirements, featured image, meta description, body text, etc.).
Going back to the example above, a more comprehensive model will show a detailed breakdown of the information to be revealed about the actor, movie or director. This more in-depth model will be used to outline the design of the pages and configure the CMS.
The Benefits of Content Modeling
Having a well thought-out content model serves a number of benefits:
Content Modeling Encourages Collaboration
As mentioned, a content model can encourage collaboration with designers, developers and content creators.
Information architects and designers: A content model can help information architects and designers to maintain the consistency of page designs. It also ensures the page designs can accommodate all content types, layouts and can execute all the required functionalities mentioned in the designs.
Developers: Content models can allow developers to understand the content needs and requirements so they can configure the CMS. If a content model indicates that a given CMS cannot accomplish a feature or component, developers can adjust their approach (or look at alternative CMS solutions) to achieve the desired end-result.
Content creators: The content model provides content creators the necessary guidelines on what content to produce (i.e. blog post or video) and how to upload it to the CMS.
Content Modeling Aides Your Content Strategy
A content model can help to bring your content strategy to life while ensuring:
The business objectives are taken into account.
The CMS solution can support the content needs.
The designs are accurate and complete.
The content strategy in place is sustainable.
In addition, a content model can allow for structured thinking and planning. You can begin by outlining your key objectives and familiarizing with your audience, to designing a UI and identifying the key components and content types to finally utilizing APIs and other technology solutions to create an architecture.
How To Make Your Own Content Model
As you begin to develop your own content model, you will find that it is not as straightforward as it seems, but it is not a difficult task. There are three main stages involved in creating your own content model:
Stage 1: Review Your Current Content Infrastructure
Before creating your content model, you need to look at your existing content. You can go on to Google and enter “site:yourdomain.com” which will show you all the pages of your website. Alternatively, you can use a tool such as Screaming Frog which will collate all the pages related to your domain and export it on to a spreadsheet.
Once you have gained all the page links, it is time to review and organize all of your content and organize them into a plan or taxonomy. Depending how much content you have, this can be a time-consuming process.
When creating your plan, always have your user’s needs in mind. This will help you create a content strategy that is more focussed.
Stage 2: Identify Key Components and Content Types
Once you have a basic plan in place after reviewing your content infrastructure, it is time to identify the key components and content types that you intend to put in place.
The key components will help to determine how structured your content needs to be. As an example, a blog post is made up of images, headers and body text. These components are all self-contained within a blog post. But there are other components to keep in mind; a blog post page will also have other elements that are separate from the content on the blog post such as author bio, email sign up box and navigation menu.
These other components are reusable and can be used on other blog post pages (and other pages) to maintain consistency of the design.
Also, there are other components that the user will not see. Attributes such as metadata and tags are not visible to your user, but they play a crucial role in helping your site being found by search engines. These components will also need to be added to your content model.
Stage 3: Identify the Relationships Between Your Content
The key components, content types as well as your current content all need to be linked together by relevance to one another. Drawing out a diagram as shown in the example above will help developers and designers to link each component and content type as outlined in the content model. The relationship between each content type and component will determine the flow of content on your website.
Bring Order to Your Content Strategy
Many brands do not have a proper structure in place for their content strategy. Failing to do so will lead to lack of focus and miscommunication between teams. Developing a content model may seem like an arduous task, but it is essential. It will help you clarify your business needs and goals and promote a better collaborative working culture within your content strategy team.