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Published on June 6th, 2009 | by Rahel Bailie

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Reading the tags, or between the tags?

A fellow member of the Content Strategy group pointed me in the direction of this blog post on the topic of measuring the impact of content. I hear their pain. This has happened to all of us, and we suffer the fall-out.

There are two types of people, I’ve found: those who read the tags, and those who read between the tags. A couple who exemplify this are my accountant and his database administrator wife. When I turned up there wearing my content strategy t-shirt, they both studied it intently for a minute. Her reaction was: yep, you wrote valid code. His reaction was: can you tell me what a content strategy is? at which point we all realized that she’d read the tags but hadn’t absorbed what was inside the tags at all. 

Content Strategy t-shirt

Content Strategy t-shirt

This was consistent with the reaction I got at the IxDA conference, where the “blank canvas” t-shirts were handed out. The coders read the tags but had to be reminded to read inside the tags. So what do you do when you’re the one who cares about what’s between the tags more than the tags themselves? (Or you’re like me and think the tags are just as important as the content within, for various reasons I won’t go into in this post.) This is where you need to know the technology options that support your content strategy. This is what separates strategists from writers.  

At many of the conferences I attend, there’s a fellow there who promotes a product that analyzes all the content within [a site, repository, code, etc] and will tell you where certain terms are used, and when terms are used “almost but not quite” the same, and so on. I know about this tool because it’s used by organizations that have buckets and dump trucks full of technical content that needs tracking and translation, and this tool assists with productivity when you have, say, ten or 500 writers who need to write in the same style and use consistente language. (Example: One simple instructional sentence was written with over 300 variations – that alone represented thousands of dollars in translation costs by the time it went into multiple languages.)

So reading the “measuring content strategy” post made me think: wait a minute. If the organization in question has such a “sprawling” site, surely they have such a tool, to make it easy to find, analyze, track, control and otherwise manage the content at the word level (as opposed to the tag level). I’m not mentioning the tool – this isn’t about product placement – because of the importance of knowing about the resources out there that are available to us as content strategists, and knowing when they could be used and to what purpose.

The blog post states: “If a customer lands on a website and leaves because the content was irrelevant or unprofessional, we won’t have the chance to say, “Hey! Come back! That’s not really us. We just threw some stuff up there until we have money for good content.” That person is gone, baby. And we may never know it.” From all the studies done in the UX field, we know how fickle site visitors can be, and we’re right to be concerned about that content between the tags. Equally as important is to arm ourselves with the ammunition to justify how we can keep that content on track.


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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,



One Response to Reading the tags, or between the tags?

  1. Pingback: 30 delicious content strategy and content marketing links « new media mentality

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