Content classification and findability no image

Published on March 9th, 2009 | by Rahel Bailie


How to talk to site visitors

A site is, essentially, a place where your organization talks “to” readers. The conversation aspect can only take hold once you’ve started by creating what could be a monologue, and invites site visitors to turn it into a dialogue.

Part of a content strategy is ensuring that visitors can actually find what they’re looking for on a website. The way people talk, and thus search, can be vastly different from the carefully-crafted phrases of the marketing department. Perhaps you need to also include industry terms, as a way of helping potential industry visitors reach your site, and to frame your offering – your product or service – within a larger context. Or perhaps part of your mission is to educate and inform, not just sell. In that case, you need to include the terms that explain the concepts. But as brilliant as that may make your organization look, it won’t necessarily invite dialogue. That is done by creating conversational content.

An example that comes to mind is a client of mine, a small company that develops a CCMS. They understand the need to¬† but continues to struggle with the terminology. Their system has great multi-channel publishing capabilities, but that’s a industry term. Who searches for “multi-channel publishing”? Typical adopters are more likely to search for “single-sourcing” or “CMS for technical documentation” or “content re-use” and some combination of their outputs (technical documentation, online help, training materials, and content for a customer support site or knowledge base).

So their challenge has become to figure out what Gerry McGovern, in an article on CMS Wire, calls carewords, and ensure that readers can find your site using those terms.This seems obvious enough, but this critical aspect is often overlooked, when creating site content That’s where doing a reality check comes in. Whether you do user testing, scan the search logs, or use sophisticated analytics tools, the task of opening the conversation begins with finding the right conversation starter that will get visitors to site, in the first place.

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About the Author

Rahel Anne Bailie is a synthesizer of content strategy, requirements analysis, information architecture, and content management to increase the ROI of content. She has consulted for clients in a range of industries, and on several continents, whose aim is to better leverage their content as business assets. Founder of Intentional Design, she is now the Chief Knowledge Officer of London-based Scroll. She is a Fellow of the Society for Technical Communication, she has worked in the content business for over two decades. She is co-author of Content Strategy: Connecting the dots between business, brand, and benefits, and co-editor of The Language of Content Strategy, and is working on her third content strategy book,

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