Thursday, December 18, 2008

Content Strategy Can Help Kick Your Landing Page Addiction

Two things that bug me the most are doing unnecessary work and doing redundant work. Both drive me crazy and both come into play when talking about content strategy and custom landing pages. By custom landing pages, I’m referring to stand-alone (not part of your main Web site) Web pages that are built to support an individual marketing campaign or product launch. Traffic is driven to these pages by adding links to ad campaigns, emails, online banners etc.

My gripe is that most of these pages are not needed and redundant. In almost all cases, there is a page for this product on the company’s Web site. But for many reasons, the marketing group decides to create a new page, rather than use the page they already have.

Here’s how the break room conversation usually goes:

“Hey, I see you guys built a landing page for your big promo for our left-handed rakes. Why didn’t you just point that traffic to the product page that we just updated last month?”

“Well, that page is dull and boring. We wanted something with more compelling and flashy content. Ya’ know, something fun and catchy. The landing page has video!”

“OK, but didn’t you guys work on, and approve, the content for the product page we have on the site?”

“Sure, but that’s just a, ya know, normal Web page. We really don’t pay too much attention to what goes there as long as the facts are correct. The landing page is like, advertising.”

“So why do we have product pages on the Web site?”

“Dude. If we didn’t have product pages on the site, what else would we have?”

“But how will our customers ever find the product page if we don’t do anything to drive traffic there?”

“I dunno? Hey, we could put a link on the landing page!”

“No! The product page should BE the landing page!”

“Now you’re just talking crazy talk. We can’t put that kind of content on the Web site. Oooo donuts…”

Sure you can have fun, compelling, “advertising like” content on your site. But nobody thinks to ask for it.

A good content strategist will ask the missing questions:

  • Why is this page in the design?
  • How is it going to be used?
  • How is anyone ever going to find this page?

If your product pages are too dull, flat, and inflexible to be used as landing pages for and ad campaign it’s way past time to fix the product pages! Building custom landing pages just costs a lot of money and hides the problem. If the content is really that good, then use it on your main site.

When you understand why each page on the site exists, you can do a better job of designing the content to serve that purpose. Product pages are supposed to sell the product! So of course they should be like advertising. If it takes video and funny, casual content to sell your product, put that stuff on your product page!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Content Strategists' Salary 20 Grand Higher than Tech Writers'

A quick survey of average salaries for Content Strategists vs. Technical Writers shows exactly what I thought - Content Strategists get paid a LOT more - about $21,000.00 a year.

Content Strategist Average = $73,000.00
Technical Writer Average = $52,000.00

Average Salary of Jobs with Titles Matching Your Search

Content Strategist


Technical Writer


I have a long and proud background in technical writing, so I can confidently say that the two jobs are not that different. Most tech writers that I worked with were certainly capable of writing all kinds of material, including marketing and promotional (soft) copy. They frequently deal with HTML and XML, and are comfortable dealing with the technical intricacies that trip up many content strategists who come from journalism or corporate communications backgrounds. I've seen tech writers turn into excellent content strategists.

Content Strategist hiring trends over the last several years shows a repeating cycle with January through March as the low point in the cycle. Who know what will happen next year based on our current economic troubles, but if you are thinking of making the leap from tech writing to content strategy, you have a few months to get your resume ready and work on your interview portfolio.

I have a whole chapter in The Web Content Strategist's Bible about getting your first job as a Web Content Strategist. Also, you can find a good listing of Content Strategy jobs here.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Content Strategy Gets World-Wide Attention

My own version of "you know you're a geek when..." is, I know I'm a geek because I check my server logs daily, just out of curiosity. I'm always amazed at where my site visitors come from. In the last few days, visitors to have come not only from all over the U.S. but also:
  • Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada
  • London, England, United Kingdom
  • Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
  • Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
  • Philippines
  • Jamaica
  • Paris, France
  • Mumbai Maharashtra, India
  • Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  • Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa
  • Ljubljana, Slovenia
  • Kenya
  • Dublin, Ireland
  • Amsterdam, Noord-holland, Netherlands
  • Dubai, United Arab Emirates
  • Hong Kong, Hong Kong (sar), Hong Kong
Pretty amazing, and I don't believe it's an accident. People all over the world are running Web development projects and once you understand the value of content strategy, it just makes sense to learn more about it and incorporate the practice into your development process.

From now on, whenever anyone asks me why I think content strategy will take off as a professional practice, all I have to do it point them to my server logs. It certainly looks universal to me.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Content Strategist by Any Other Name

While looking at the state of the Content Strategy job market yesterday, I noticed that there are still a lot of jobs that are listing "content strategist" type job requirements using different job titles.

We are going through the same that that information architects had to go through a few years ago. The need for a new job function usually becomes clear long before we all settle on a standard job title. So when looking for a content strategist job, be sure to check out lots of other job titles as well.

Here are just a few of the titles I saw that had job descriptions with a lot of overlap with content strategy:
  • Communications Strategist
  • Content Development Specialist
  • Online Communications Manager
  • Web Content Producer
  • Web Editor
  • Web Content Specialist
  • Web Content Coordinator
  • Content Analyst
  • Web Publisher
  • Producer - Web Editing and Publishing
I'm sure there are others, and every job you see with one of the titles is not going to be a good match, but they are still worth checking out.

If you get one of these jobs, please push to change the job title to Content Strategist. The sooner we can standardize the title, the sooner we can begin to standardize the job tasks and get good salary numbers. We can use this information to push for higher salaries and to make sure the market is competitive for those of us with these skills.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Content Strategist Job Postings Up Dramatically for 2008

Despite an economic recession that apparently goes back to December of 2007, job postings looking for Content Strategists are up 74% from April 1, 2007 to Oct 1, 2008 according the the job index site (

Over the same period, the postings for Senior Content Strategists are up an astonishing 93%! (

It seems that the value of having a content strategist as part of the core project team is being recognized, and more importantly, companies are willing to pay for it!

In looking at the graphs for the last several years, it seems that job postings go down with the new year. But if current trends continue, and the economy starts to pick up, I'd look for a boom in content strategist hiring for mid-year 2009.

If you are thinking of making the jump into content strategy, NOW would be the time to work on your portfolio and fill in as many gaps as you can.

Monday, December 1, 2008

New Content Strategy Template - Editorial Style Guide

As promised a couple of weeks ago (OK, it was actually a couple of months ago) I just uploaded a new Editorial Style Guide template as another purchase bonus for The Web Content Strategist's Bible.

An editorial style guide is a must have for every Web content project. You just can't avoid making, and documenting, decisions about word usage if you want to have any kind of consistency in your content. Even when I am the only person writing content, I forget what I've decided and have to spend time going back through what I've written to see how I used certain terms. Plus, you must get sign-off from the client.

The first three editorial decisions that I ask the client about are always:
  1. What do we call this thing we are working on? A website, Web site, or Website?
  2. How do we refer to this particular website? At UPS we have a constant argument about vs.
  3. Do we, or don't we use the serial comma.
I know these issues sound a bit word geeky, but if you decide these and a hundred other things upfront in an editorial style guide, you can avoid having the answer these questions fifty times a day. And trust me, people will have strong opinions about these issues.