Halvorson and Rach

Where’s All This Content Coming From? Pros & Cons of Various Content Sources

So here’s the good news: you don’t have to create all your own content. But all that content isn’t going to magically appear overnight. The content strategist does not only guide the content development process, but also to arrange pre-existing and future content. According to Halvorson and Rach, this content comes from six different places: all with their own strengths and weaknesses.

Original Content: Make it Extra-Special, Just for You

This should be pretty self-explanatory. If you want the best way to get personalized content tailored to your business and audience, make it yourself. It’s easier said than done though. Making your own content is work and takes time and money. But don’t worry – there are plenty of other ways to fill your site with content.

Co-Created Content: Embrace the Sell-Out

Whenever I put on make-up, I watch beauty vloggers on YouTube. Many of them mention that they receive products from cosmetic companies to review on their channel. This is co-created content. You provide the product and some incentive to a relevant partner who then creates the content for you.

The major benefit is that the partner brings along their audience, who trusts their voice. So, for example, if Kim Kardashian posts about a product she loves, her followers will likely seek out the product because they trust her opinion about make-up. Businesses can take advantage of this by sponsoring Kim Kardashian to showcase their product to her Twitter followers.

The downside to this is people may be distrusting of sponsored content because the opinions may not be genuine. Think about it: how much money would it take for you to say something good about a product? If the product is within reason, probably not that much. Instead, going back to the beauty vlogger example, cosmetic companies are sending vloggers a product and asking for their honest opinion: good or bad. Good reviews bring potential customers, and even a bad review can provide good feedback.

Aggregated Content: Bring in the Extended Family

Aggregated content is content pulled from other sources onto one site. You usually see aggregated content in the form of an RSS feed. Yahoo.com uses RSS feeds for weather and trending topics so the homepage doesn’t constantly need to change or update and so Yahoo can personalize the content for readers. That way, someone in Dallas can see the weather in Dallas without having to open up the Yahoo weather page. Neato.

Where aggregated content becomes aggravating content is when the feeds junk up the page. Does your user really need to see your Facebook page that hasn’t been updated in months? No. No they don’t. But as a content strategist, you should be making sure that Facebook page is updated regularly anyway.

Curated Content: Post Only the Best from Across the Web

Curated content is content that already exists that is hand-picked for your website. The content needs to fit your website’s theme and message. If your blog is for sharing pictures of cats, you shouldn’t randomly decide to share an article on U.S. politics. It goes against the message you are trying to share through your content strategy.

Curated content isn’t user-generated. That is, you have to go get the content yourself. Content you ask users to get for you is a whole other subgroup of content. We’ll get to that in a minute.

Licensed Content: Up Your Web Cred

Licensed content is your resources; aka, the trustworthy sources of content that that help users understand your content and makes your content look more credible. This can include articles, videos, or stock photos of all those happy employees that totally look like the people you work with on a Monday morning.

Using licensed content is a debate amongst content strategists. It can increase your web cred when used correctly, but can also seem like generic fluff on your page. More than once, I’ve worked on redesign projects for websites that use obvious stock photos. It makes the company look less genuine, which is the total opposite of what licensed content should be doing.

User-Generated Content: Make Your Audience do the Work

I’ve saved the best and worst for last: the user-generated content. You ask your users for content, and they will deliver: for better or worse. Ideally, you’re getting genuine feedback or creative ideas from your audience at a low cost.

But this is the Internet we’re talking about. These are the people who tried to name a boat “Boaty McBoatface”. When you get serious content, it can be just as helpful as co-created content. But bad reviews and troll comments can be a challenge all on their own.

Content Overload: How to Audit Massive Sites with Minimal Tears

I have a confession to make: I’m actually a massive geek when it comes to manga. My bookshelf is crammed with my collection of over 300 volumes, but the problem with collecting is it gets expensive, and keeping up with around 25 series at a time can be a hassle. So to save money and make sure I’m keeping up with current volumes, I maintain an audit of books available for pre-order so I can buy books when a publisher is having a sale. My audit is pretty minimal, documenting only the title of the series, the volume, the publisher, and the release date, but it’s efficient and takes only a couple minutes every week to maintain.  

This audit is easy for me to update since I only need to keep up with a short list, but for the website I order these books from, which offers over 10,000 products, developing an audit would be a daunting task. And for even larger sites with millions of pages, posts, or products (I’m looking at you Amazon.com), an audit may not even seem feasible. Nevertheless, according to Halvorson and Rach, there are options for auditing these overwhelmingly large websites. But first, you have to determine how big is too big of a site’s scale for a content audit.


What’s the Magic Number?

There isn’t a magic number, per se. The amount of content you need to audit depends on two things:

  1. How many pages you have
  2. How much time you have


Given enough time to devote to the project, you can document 5,000 pages. But if you’re like me and leave everything to the last minute, or you have content in the quintuple or higher digits, then you might want to consider a different approach.


So How Do You Tackle a Massive Audit?

There’s two solutions here, and none of them involve pushing the idea of an audit under the rug and never speaking of it again. To tackle your massive website, use one of two methods: sampling and rolling audits.


Sample Like You Mean It

Sampling is taking a percentage of your content and using it to represent your entire site. But not just any random cluster of pages: you want to represent the goals of the site, the users, and how the content is being consumed. When designating a sample, ask yourself one of these five questions:

  • What percent of my content fulfills specific purposes? If 90% of your website is funny cat videos, 90% of your sample should be funny cat videos. Just remember that not all content fits perfectly in neat little boxes. Even Google needs an About page
  • Who is using specific pages on my site? You know how your site has a primary and secondary audience? Yeah, divide up your content by what each group wants to see.
  • How many people visit specific pages on my site? Demonstrate these high and low traffic pages in your sample. The most important traffic level to focus on is the one that fits your business model.
  • Who does this content belong to? Divide content by who contributed it. The users? You? Your coworker who keeps stealing your coffee creamer? Maybe you’ll find out the content that you developed gets more hits than hers. Now that’ll get you to want to do the audit.
  • How often is the content changed? Your content is like a pantry. Some of what’s in there is regularly circulated and updated while some of it sits there forever totally untouched (like that can of pumpkin pie filling I keep telling myself I’ll use on some Pinterest recipe every time fall rolls around).
  • How many clicks does it take to get to each page? Yeah, we see you trying to be sneaky and only curating the first few pages. Your website isn’t just the top level pages, so your audit shouldn’t only consist of the first layer of pages either.


Just Roll with It

Another option you have is a rolling audit. Basically, you’re going to divide your site into sections and audit each section individually for a period of time. Once you finish that, you circle back to the first section and keep adding. So, for example, if your website is for selling books, you might start with art books one week, biographies the next, and so on until you reach young adult books. Once your schedule is complete, you start over and add on to your art books section. And if your site is overwhelmingly large, you can totally do a rolling audit of samples.