Most companies fully understand their content needs to be good. Content strategies that fail typically do so on the systemic level. Processes, audiences, and goals are ill-defined. Fixing this starts with a clear set of content guidelines. Use the template below to get a concrete start on your own.
The Purpose of Content Guidelines
- Develop a clear understanding of the purpose your content serves and the goals that motivate it
- Build a consistent brand for your content that is aimed at particular audiences
- Create an organizational structure for your content
Now that you know why you need them, here’s a template you can work with:
[Company Name] Content Guidelines
[The purpose of this section is to lay out the specific goals of your content strategy and to clearly define exactly why it is you are producing content in the first place. It may also break down your content into different types, since different types of content may be designed to serve different purposes. Some examples follow.]
Content for [Company Name] is designed to serve a number of different purposes. Each individual piece of content must be defined as aiming for one or more of the following objectives:
- Interest Capture: Attract long tail search engine traffic
- Linkbait: Attract links and social sharing
- Promotional: Serve as a guest editorial for placement on another site as a way of earning brand awareness and linking back to your site
- Lead Magnet: Serve as a lead magnet in order to encourage signing up for an email list
- Thought Leadership: Develop trust and reputation with your existing audience
- Demand Generation: Identify a problem that your products and services are an ideal solution for
- Landing Pages: Convert bottom-of-funnel visits to sales
[This section lays down broad guidelines for how content should be structured across the site.]
- Do not create new blog categories without first defining the category as a magazine column with clear audiences, topics, and goals. See the “column” section below.
- Do not assign a blog post to multiple categories. Only one category per post.
- No less than [number] words per blog post.
- Blog post paragraphs should be limited to five lines, with a typical paragraph containing three lines, and one sentence paragraphs for ideas that require emphasis.
- Use short sentences, avoid jargon, and define necessary jargon in plain english. Aim for a good score at http://www.hemingwayapp.com/.
- All blog posts require a target keyword or keyphrase.
- All blog posts should explicitly define at least one target persona. [Link to document with list of fictional personas.] Persona may be substituted for a specific publication or influencer.
[Lays out specific formatting guidelines that all content should abide by. The example text that follows should be approached with even more leeway than the examples given above.]
- Every blog post requires a banner image
- URL should not contain more than 5 words
- Remove unnecessary connective words
- Target keyword should be placed near the beginning of the URL
- Separate words with hyphens
- Include a meta description with between 140 and 155 characters
- Include target keywords
- The meta description should hook the user and should not give away the result
- [Publishing days and hours]
- Contact influencers that were mentioned in the post to notify them after publication
[This section lays out details for each of the blog columns. We suggest moving away from “categories” and toward “columns,” more akin to a magazine or newspaper. While these terms can be used interchangeably, we see categories as merely topics, while columns are developed with a particular audience, topic, and goal in mind. They are sub-brands with their own structural and writing styles, that may focus on different media or formats, and are developed to meet specific needs and serve specific purposes.
While columns and audiences are closely connected, don’t confuse them. Two columns may serve identical or similar audiences, but serve different purposes, for example, to:
- Help solve problems
- To entertain
- To inspire
- To declare company values that can build a stronger affinity with your target audiences
- To persuade
Providing a general example for this section is impossible, but the structure of the section will resemble the following.]
- Overview: [An overview of the column, which may include notes on the topic, whether or not it is periodical, days of the week or month that it is published, tone, style, function, etc.]
- Purpose: [Should relate to the objectives defined in the “objectives” section, but be more specific about the personas involved and what somebody who is reading this column is looking for]
- Framework: [Defines stylistic elements of the column including the format of the titles and headlines, the emotional tone, links to examples, the layout of the post, expected media, etc.]
Now get out there and make your own!