Review: Content Strategy for the Web

Content Strategy for the Web by Kristina Halvorson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This content strategy primer has both theory and application. It explains the problem, how to perform discovery, how to form strategy, and how to implement the strategy. It's well-organized and well-written, with just enough humor for this type of book.

The book makes the business case for content strategy with reasons such as the following: "Good UX requires good content." "Good content will increase audience trust and engagement, which in turn will help your bottom line." "People don't come to your website for visual appeal or complex technical features: they come for the content."

The book makes the user experience case for content strategy in this way: "You know how, on lots of the websites you go to, most of the information is hard to find, or inconsistent, or totally irrelevant, or just really bad?" A content strategist fixes these problems.

I read this to learn how OptimWise can better help our clients with content strategy when creating and promoting their websites. I had heard about this book in a few places, and finally decided to read it when it was recommended on the Boagworld podcast 1003: 10 books every web professional should read.

Below are my notes.

Intro to content strategy

"You can redesign a home page. You can buy a new CMS. But unless you treat your content with strategic consideration, you can't fix your website."

Content is more or less worthless unless it does one or both of the following:

  • Supports a key business objective
  • Fulfills your users' needs

Content strategy guides your plans for the creation, delivery, and governance of content. Specifically:

  • Defines how you're going to use content to meet your business goals and satisfy your users' needs
  • Guides decisions about content throughout its lifecycle, from discovery to deletion
  • Sets benchmarks against which to measure the success of your content


Audits save time and money. For every 5 hours spent auditing near beginning of project, you might save 20 at a later stage.

Sample audit factors

  • Usability: ease of use
  • Knowledge level: how much prior knowledge users need
  • Findability: ability to find content on site
  • Actionability: calls to action
  • Audience: which target audience it's intended for
  • Accuracy of content
  • Business value: which business goal or KPI
  • Message: which key messages are supported
  • Brand/voice appropriateness: how accurately it reflects your brand


Every hour spent in analysis likely saves dozens or hundreds of hours during content creation, delivery, and upkeep.

To conduct internal analysis, talk to people inside the organization. Use interviews, group discussion, and questionnaires or surveys.

Internal impact factors

  • Target audiences: who do you want to engage in conversation? Why?
  • Messaging: What do you want those target users to know, learn, or get?
  • Channels: what channels (online and offline) are used to deliver content? How are they connected? What is the business purpose of each one?
  • Workflow/governance: how is content created, maintained, and managed? Who is involved?

External impact factors

  • Users' goals and expectations. Discover through user research, website analytics, usability testing.
  • Competitors' websites: Organization, topics, formats (text, video, etc.:), messaging/voice, other web initiatives (other sites, social media, etc.).
  • Influencers: what do they say about you? How does your content support or contradict?
  • Current events and trends (including best practices)

Core of strategy

  • Achieve: what does your content strategy need to accomplish?
  • Be: what "content products" will you create?
  • Do: what will your organization need to do to support this Effort?


  • Audience: bulleted list of basic user attributes
  • Messaging: What info and ideas you want to give to users
  • Purpose: identify purpose of each piece of content (persuade, inform, instruct, etc.)


  • What are the best formats to communicate (and demonstrate) your key messages?
  • Where are your audiences? Which channels will be most effective, based on where your users are, who they're interacting with, what they use channels for, etc.

How to pitch content strategy

  • "Our users deserve better content." Good UX requires good content. Good content will increase audience trust and engagement, which in turn will help your bottom line. People don't come to your website for visual appeal or complex technical features: they come for the content.
  • "Content strategy will make us more efficient." Content strategy will save time, money, sanity.
  • "Our competitors are winning." Show how your competitors' content currently has the advantage.
  • "The numbers say it all." Set up the dire situation and hero opportunity.

Need help?

Do you need help with your content strategy? Contact OptimWise!

Filed Under: 

Want tips to rocket-boost your website?

Simply sign up.

2 comments on “Review: Content Strategy for the Web”

  1. I think that the statement, People do not come to your website for visual appeal, [but] for the content is a great motto to have for any thing really. Nobody walks into a store for the visual appeal, although it may be nice to have that as well, but rather they walk in for what is inside. I have not read this book, but it seems like a great guide to creating good, and affective content. Thanks for the post; I may go find this later this week.

Ready to Blast Off?

Let's talk.

Contact OptimWise