The Digital Marketers New Dilemma: Content Migration, Revision, or Creation

Many brands are experiencing a noteworthy hurdle at the intersection of content marketing and advancing technologies.  The improvement of WCMS (web content management systems) into CXM (customer experience management) coupled with demand for a content strategy void is forcing brands to pay attention to a problem which has a new level of complexity: should we migrate, revise or create content for properties being re-platformed? Secondarily, what does the amplification of this content look like with so many channels?

It’s important to ensure that when answering this question, it be addressed from a position of ‘what is the right thing to do’ not ‘what is the easiest thing to do.’  This is important because when standing at the edge of a re-platform project, content becomes so daunting that decisions become informed by anxiety rather than brand value analysis.  That claim seems to drive this dialogue down a certain direction; fair enough.

In actuality, the intent here is to strip effort and complexity away from a decision that can easily be swayed by one or both. Though the following isn’t an exhaustive list of variables for consideration; it is a start.

Determining the right approach

Migrating content means moving content from one system to another, unchanged.  Revising content is the process of using current content as a base and modernizing it according to criteria specific to your brand; with a relationship to search engine optimization.  Creation is just that.  Where cues for content creation may be taken from a legacy content strategy (or lack therein), this is an exercise of invention and certainly the heaviest of all the options.

The variables of Content in a revised website

Keyword Rankings – Chances are you perform well for a number of keywords in search. It’s important to not throw the baby out with the bathwater in this process. Your content may be stale, archaic, wrong or all of the above.  Resist the urge to seemingly save time by omitting an analysis of your content.  There will be nuggets that are worth saving, that should be retained in order to maintain search performance consistency.  Once you identify them, keep what works, omit what doesn’t.

Domain Authority – if you have a high domain authority for your URL, extra special attention should be paid to all of your content.  Not just its identification, but its preservation. You have a high ranking for a reason and unless it’s a fluke (clue: it never is) you want to be sure not to undo what you have been doing right.  That said, revision becomes more challenging, but also more important to a brand since moving the needle on domain authority in the last 10-20 points is more about finesse than science.

Content Volume – The fire hose approach of the 90’s and 00’s is surprisingly still having effects on digital properties today.  Many brands have a plethora of content that they own, stemming from the early digital belief that more is better, primarily for SEO.  What is happening is that search engine comprehension is more closely mirroring user experience expectations.  In other words, don’t offer an ocean of content if a lake will suffice.  This isn’t to say you should truncate your content – think of it as a ‘right sizing’ exercise, only you don’t have to fire anyone… J

Branding – if your project is being driven, influenced or timed with a branding exercise, likely your content should be audited.  And not just audited but ‘revisioned’ ( I think I just made a new word). Branding exercises don’t occur all that often, for good reason.  They are generally painful to manage, full of subjective opinion and never make everyone happy.  Usually this experience is amplified for internal resources. However, customers and clients alike will look to your new image as an opportunity to reengage; even if out of pure curiosity.  This is your chance to show you are not only elevating your brand, but how you engage with your base.

Product Set – if you are a product company you can likely segment out the content on products into specifications and marketing copy (romance copy).  Don’t worry about the specifications.  With any luck they are stored or being served to the CXM through a separate system; a separation of church and state if you will.  The marketing copy is where you should spend your time.  Take a look at how your competitors are talking about their products.  Has your brand voice evolved over time and not reflective of the current brand persona? Are there new keywords appropriate for your product set which are more modern or descriptive?

Service Set – Service organizations benefit (or suffer) from a more regular content revision cycle.  Reason being: services evolve more quickly than products.  That factor alone should force awareness internally that differentiation in the market can be won or lost based on how you communicate value.  Another nuance is that your competitors realize this too and can leap frog you when you aren’t looking.  So if your company hasn’t revised their language on their services in the last 12 months, make this the opportunity to do so.

Modernity of your offering – if your business revolves around technology or lifestyle chances are you have a team of people addressing content on a regular basis.  Where some companies struggle is moving their products from a marketing position which worked 5 or 10 years ago to one which can complete with competitors who might have just joined the market.  There is spill over into marketing operations here as well.  Specifically to content, a strategy is required because you are going to find that newer, generally younger companies are going to be more nimble and agile in the market than your company may be. Your company may be the pillar for a product or service, however having stale content will convey a different brand message at odds with your stability.

Migration of Content, Technically

If the solution is to migrate the content it can be straightforward if you want it to be.  Knowing that modern WCMS/CXM systems are database driven this conversation will require the involvement of a technologist in order to determine the viability of an automated process. Key questions will revolve around:

  • What database structure is your content currently in?
  • Is it structured or unstructured?
  • Is the current HTML used to format content embedded in the data structure?
  • Can the content be segmented into natural categories such as Product info, romance copy, localized copy, etc?
  • Does migration make more sense for some elements of content than another?
  • Should an interstitial migration step be adopted so the editorial staff isn’t editing in the CXM itself?
  • In addition to migration is there any ‘find and replace’ activities that should be considered?

Some Content Gotchas

301 redirects.  The number of times I have seen teams ignore, overlook or dismiss this exercise is staggering.  Your property has had a life for many years, been built into search indexes, shared socially and privately, bookmarked and with any luck mentioned in the media.  Most likely, the URL structure of your new property will differ slightly from the old.  Let’s help both the human and the bot alike.

Inbound links.  You can’t control every inbound link to your property. However, there are likely key inbound links you want to spend some TLC on.  Wikipedia, media links, strategic partnerships are just a few of the areas where you should reach out and coordinate link updates.  It creates better human user experience and assists search engines in maintaining or even increasing the value of the domain and pages.  Hidden Opportunity: you likely have links to your site you would prefer don’t exists.  Since one would need to review all links in order to assess the important ones, identify the worst 10 inbound links to your site and work to get them removed.

Too Much, Too Soon. Content is a program, not a project.  To steal a cliché, which is true (I guess that’s why it’s a cliché): Perfection is the enemy of good.  Don’t target finality for content, target maturity.  You won’t launch at 100% so put that from your mind and know that one of the side effects of a content program, is job security.

How can I prepare for a content migration process?

Audit the content.  Not just an inventory of URL’s; a true audit of the content itself. Create a vernacular for your content that allows you to break up the content into natural categories.  You will find quickly that there may be a smaller volume of affected content than you expected, making this more manageable.

Create a content strategy. Not just an onsite content strategy, but a brand content strategy.  The most daunting element of content creation and revision for any editorial staff is how and when to make decisions within the content itself.  Turn that grey matter and turn it into black and white.  Offer your team the strategic definitions they need to use their own brain power for good!  Tone of voice, brand persona, content structure, channel amplification criteria, to name a few, will assist in creating a back stop for the team so they can use their core skills to execute.

Call Agency Oasis Strategy.  {unapologetic self-promotion} lol.