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Blogs: Beyond SEO - writing to engage your members

You may plan a great new website with all the functionality to engage your members online – but without a strategy for producing a stream of compelling content over the coming months and years, how can you get and hold their attention?

A conversation rarely ‘just happens’ – without someone stimulating, stirring and prodding, it soon dries up. And unless that person needs ideas to float, news to share, information to impart, questions to ask, the conversation won’t draw the real expertise of the participants. They need to be offered content they can’t get elsewhere, and the person who delivers that content needs real knowledge of the field.

(photo credit: The Black Workshop)

That’s why – whether you’re planning an owned community on your own site, or a managed one somewhere like LinkedIn – your content strategy is a vital aspect of your community strategy.

So far as your website is concerned, content strategy involves questions like:

  • how do you structure your site (draw the site map) to ensure the content is intuitively findable?
  • how do you design the pages to attract and help your members?
  • how do you convey information in an easily readable form that will gain your members’ confidence?
  • how will your members find the pages they need, connecting between different parts of the site?
  • how do you keep it all up-to-date?
  • how do you use the ‘formal’ content to stimulate conversation with and between the members?
  • how do you involve other members of staff in the content and conversation?
  • how do you use your content to increase commercial activity on the site – maybe selling events, membership or publications?
  • and finally, how do you present the content to make it attractive to search engines like Google?

Most web copywriting courses tend to focus on this last question, yet the others are even more crucial for any membership organisation which offers specialist information, especially if it has to be written in-house by staff who may not be trained as journalists.

Since the word ‘content’ refers to anything that appears on a web page, ‘content strategy’ is a very wide field which touches on User Experience (the site map) and Creative (design) as well as on the words and pictures you want to include. It also requires attention to:

  • the site taxonomy (developing a comprehensive and comprehensible set of tags that will allow pages to be linked to one another by topic)
  • the house style (common presentation of the information, including some aspects of writing style)
  • the presentation (including length, language, grammar, punctuation and headings)
  • the approvals and workflow (who within your organisation should take responsibility for writing and approving each page)
  • the response policy (how the organisation will respond if critical comments appear on your pages)
  • the updating policy (so that outdated material doesn’t appear)
  • the choice and presentation of links and attachments.

Most of all though, it requires attention to the ‘call to action’ – ensuring that each page offers the reader something relevant, helpful and valuable to do next.

Although there is a generalised ‘good practice’ for all these issues, each organisation will need to develop its own particular solutions based on its internal structures, resources and the expectations of its members.

The ideal time for doing this is in parallel with your site rebuild – so that your new functionality, site structure and presentation, and compelling new content, can be launched together. But that can be a big ask.

Sift Digital has unrivalled experience of supporting with membership organisations in auditing and reviewing the existing content in the context of their new engagement strategy, planning engaging content, developing taxonomy, instigating and disseminating good practice writing for the web across the organisation, advising on workflow and much else. Its consultants will ensure that you develop solutions uniquely tailored to your circumstances, and designed to stimulate growth of a valuable and sustainable online community.



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