7 best practices for content management
Managing ever-growing and complex structured content can be challenging for anyone. Here are some helpful tips!
Content. It is the water in a glass, the hand in a glove, and the substance of your thoughts, knowledge, and communication between people. On the web, content is everywhere—in the form of text on websites, images on Instagram, video on YouTube, and audio on Soundcloud.
As a content editor, having the right digital tools and team is of course important, but the actual day to day management of constantly growing content must not be overlooked either. This is a question of method, and to help you we have crafted six best practice tips for content management.
Structured content works best together with a headless CMS. See how you can choose the right one:
1. Know your purpose
Whether you work alone or in an organization, you must have a purpose. Are you the content editor of a clothing store? Then your organization's purpose is to sell clothes. Are you maintaining the logistics intranet of an oil service provider? Then your organization's purpose is to sell complex services and gear. Or are you the content editor of a non-profit organization? Then your organization’s purpose is tied to your specified goals—like securing funding, spreading ideas, or delivering aid.
The medium where your content is—like a classical website, a database, or an app—is there for a reason. If you know this reason, the purpose behind your content being published to begin with, you will have a clear advantage.
This may sound utterly obvious. But don't underestimate the power of having a clear and unambiguous purpose!
You should plan and do everything in alignment with the overall strategy of your organization. If your organization aims to sell clothes, it doesn't make sense to include content about food or coding.
Knowing what you are trying to achieve and thereby supporting business goals is fundamental to any editor or content manager. But your organization and team may have too many ideas and too few resources to execute your plan in a meaningful way. This is known as the knowing-doing gap.
To avoid this problem, start small—focus for instance on a given section of your product or a chosen department.
Read more: Content management survival guide »
2. Know your audience
A lot of knowledge is required in these early tips. And it's a good reason for that. Driving taxi passengers willy-nilly or serving restaurant customers anything you find in the kitchen regardless of their orders is not good plan. Similarly, it's not wise to create and manage content without any knowledge of whom you are addressing in the first place.
When you are managing content, you should gather your team and stakeholders to create a persona. This is a semi-fictional personification of your ideal customer (or even detractor!).
A persona lets you know for whom you are writing, shooting, or recording. It gives you a human face to acknowledge when you are managing that health care content depository, filming that tutorial video, or recording that financial podcast.
The typical persona is detailed, with information about his or her daily life, preferred media, pain points, and triggers. Because of this, the process of creating a persona can be a daunting task, involving interviews and surveys of real people. You might want to involve an external agency in this endeavor.
3. Establish a publishing plan
Managing content is not done with a blindfold or at random. Publishing content without any plan is the equivalent to start baking a complex course without a recipe or getting into your car without having the faintest idea of where a given destination is.
In order to be purposeful, you need to organize your content—you need a plan. What content should go where and when should it be published? Do you have a regular stream of blog posts in the pipeline? Do you know what kind of content is best suited for your purpose?
The plan should include dates, titles, content types, content status, authors, and—if you’re into inbound marketing—funnels, personas, and associated premium content.
Remember, a publishing plan does not only pertain to blog posts—it is just as relevant to content types like products, landing pages, videos, and podcasts.
4. Keep a periodical inventory
Closely related to a publishing plan is keeping a periodical inventory of all your content. You can’t just publish pages and videos and be done with it—remember that everyone can access your published material, potentially years after it was published. Potential customers stumbling over outdated content will obviously not be impressed.
Just like your publishing plan details all your content being published, a periodical inventory plan details all your content altogether, when the individual pieces were published, and a regular interval for when you will maintain the content.
Different types of content need different intervals—a financial reporting standards page may need to be updated monthly, while a recipe for cinnamon buns can get away with yearly supervision, or maybe even less frequently.
A periodical inventory will also ensure continuous improvement of your digital experiences. It will keep the content fresh and relevant, strengthen your SEO, and keep your digital presence uncluttered.
Use an analytics tool to see what content performs well, and what content underperforms—and make necessary changes due to audience behavior.
Periodical inventory and analytics enable you to keep control of your content management, and will guard you against chaos and decay.
5. Acquire the right tools
While content management methods are the primary focus of this article, you can’t escape the facts that you also need great digital tools. If you want to execute your purpose well and keep control of your content, your chosen CMS should consequently provide a logical and tidy overview.
A flexible and neat CMS should not be the only tool up your sleeve. For instance, a governance tool like Siteimprove lets you monitor your content—analyzing SEO and checking for broken links. The bottom line is: assess your needs for content management and acquire the right tools for the job.
Also, make sure to keep your tools up to date. Just like working with a dull knife will not make kitchen miracles for a chef, an outdated, sluggish CMS and related tools will make your content and project management less efficient.
6. Facilitate a quality-minded culture
A great purpose, plan, and tools will not count for much if you are the only one in your organization that adheres to the principles of content management best practices. If you can facilitate this mindset to the rest of your organization, or at least your digital team, your job will become much easier.
Also, get your content editors and stakeholders to understand that the web doesn’t need more content, it needs better content.
Building and maintaining a quality-minded culture in your organization may be a task as daunting as creating and managing great content. But there are ways.
You should try to influence or decide the hiring of team members with the right skills, introduce content management best practice principles, build a solid workflow and collaboration culture, and ensure that your CMS has features like user rights management and commentaries/issues management.
Keeping a healthy and quality-minded culture is a great way to ensure both brand message continuity and a positive workplace environment.
7. Pay attention to trends
Finally, paying attention to trends is the last best practice tip. New isn’t always nor automatically better, but when new ideas or technologies actually are great, you better pay attention and not miss out.
For content management purposes you should follow topics like SEO, structured content, technology, consumer trends, and design. While not every piece of news might be worthwhile, you can always learn something new.
Subscribe to newsletters from thought leaders and brands you trust, follow interesting influencers on Twitter, and use tools like Feedly to get content through RSS feeds from specialized blogs.
You should do what is right for you, but make sure you at least have some connection to the ever-evolving world of digital and content management.
First published 2 October 2019, updated 5 January 2023.