We've all heard that content is king, and we all also know that great content is pretty difficult to produce. Yet when clients ask us or a consultancy or agency like Element Three for a new website, managing that website's content is often the furthest thing from their minds. Clients want a new look and feel, a new creative flair to their boring old brand, or maybe even a new brand entirely. They want a new user interface that gets users to the best parts of the website more quickly. They want a conversion-rate-friendly, data-driven, search-engine-optimized site.
What’s that got to do with content? In a word, plenty.
The biggest hidden expense to building a new website is content—writing the new, porting over the old, and managing it all. Here are some of the pitfalls you might encounter when it comes to building out content for new websites, how to prepare for a new site, and why the expense is worth it.
Content is the most expensive part of building a website
Websites can be expensive, when you consider the all-in cost of taking your existing site and redesigning and redeveloping it. But the process of brainstorming layouts, coding the site, and getting the framework in place and online isn’t that part that really costs you. Content is the silent killer of website budgets—in large part because it doesn’t get the attention that more obvious cost drivers do. Whether you are rewriting all new content or just re-publishing everything that was there before into a new format, you’re going to have to deal with a lot of content.
Consider all the content that is necessary to have a properly functioning website that attracts prospects and converts them into paying customers. Over time, good websites generate loads of content, including:
- Product pages
- Industry- or audience-focused pages
- Your "about us" section
- Conversion landing pages (like "contact us" and offer LPs)
- Case studies and testimonials
- Sales tools
And that’s just the start. It’s all necessary in order for users to learn about your products and services. And that depth of content can often get neglected when planning new website projects.
If you rewrite it all, you’re looking at a lot of content to not only generate, but then to also load into a new platform. If you’re just going for a redesign, you’re cutting out the writing part, but you likely will still need to load all of the old content into a new platform or format, with updated imagery and other considerations.
Whether or not you write all new copy for your website, you're going to need to do something with that old content. Most clients want to carry it over to the new website, and that's a great thing to do for a lot of different reasons. But most of that content is not a one-to-one port from the old system to the new—it has to be manually loaded, everything from the copy to the images to links and downloads. And depending on how your new site works, you might have to make changes as you go, too.
Depending on the size of your website, you can start to see how even just moving content from one platform to another can turn into an incredibly manual and long, painstaking process. There are a wealth of tools available that help with content management, but at the end of the day you're still going to need someone to be able to load things into a platform, and that's going to take time and money.
Preparing to deal with content on a new website
A new website build's content budget is an expense that clients would often like to avoid, by planning on handling the content needs of the new website internally. Whether this means writing the content themselves or loading in old content to the new website, though, it’s not a task to be taken lightly, as demonstrated above—the depth and breadth of copy, imagery, links, forms, downloadable files and more can be enormous.
What can you do to get an idea of how much content you’ll need to deal with on a new website?
Conduct a Content Inventory
Take an inventory of all of your web pages, using a scraping tool like Screaming Frog or another web crawler. Make a spreadsheet of all the pages on your existing site.
Audit Your Content
Review all of your website content to see what’s important. Identify which pages are necessary for launching your new website, which ones are secondary, and which ones you can live without. Be sure to review your analytics and webmaster console data to ensure you’re identifying your highest traffic driving pages—these pages you absolutely want to keep on your new website, and they need to be live when the site launches.
You should consider the traffic sources as well:
- Organic: pages that rank well in search engines
- Referral: pages linked to by other sites, needed for redirect plans for your new website
- Social: pages that resonate on social media
- Paid: pages used in your advertising efforts and that are likely involved in your conversion and nurturing efforts
- Email: pages used in your nurturing efforts
You’ll also want to make note of links, downloadable files, imagery, and other factors.
Rank Your Content
Give your content some kind of grade—what’s the best content based on traffic, quality of the copy, conversion metrics, and other factors. Include details on what needs to be on your new website when it launches on day one, and what can wait to be published later, as well as what will need to be rewritten or needs new imagery, and what can remain as is.
Gather Content Assets
Start future-proofing your content efforts for your new website—whether someone at your company will handle the new content or you partner with an agency or other vendor to handle your content needs—by gathering content assets for use on the new site.
Create a library of everything you want to keep, starting with imagery and downloadable files, and moving on to copy. Depending on the CMS platform your website is currently built on and the one you’re moving to, your new site developers may be able to port over much of the existing content, but not always. Even if they can, you’ll likely still need to reload images and handle formatting issues that are bound to come up.
Eyes wide open
The point of all this is not to scare you away from building a new website, but rather to help educate and prepare anyone looking to do so, so that you know what’s coming.
There are thousands of vendors who can build you a new site on the cheap—but unless you’re looking to lose the value of your old content (from search engines, keywords, and the like) or miss out on the success factors already driving your business (such as paid media content, pages used in email nurturing, etc.), you’ll want to be mindful of content as you look for a partner for building your new website. And that's likely going to require a budget.
Ignoring your analytics or the depth of your existing content can prove disastrous for a new website launch. Be prepared with a partner that considers the above steps (and others, such as redirect plans, site navigation, and more), or make sure you have staff on hand who can handle not only the rigors of an inventory and audit of your existing website, but the time and effort to load new content, review and test the new website, and monitor it post-launch for errors and opportunities to make it even better.
Go into your new website project with your eyes wide open. If you’ve ever invested in the value of content on your old website, it’s going to take an investment to safeguard that value on any new website so it can build on what’s already working and the hard-earned success you’ve built with your content over time. But as anyone who sees the effects of good content marketing on a brand can tell you, it’s entirely worth it.
As the Digital Marketing Director for Element Three, Dustin works with the Element Three digital marketing department to determine the best combination of data analysis, marketing technology, and storytelling for driving our clients' bottom line. His background in journalism, digital communication, and ecommerce positions him as a unique voice in the cluttered digital marketing industry. When he's not writing about the forefront of digital marketing, you can find him jamming with a guitar or at home with his wife and two children.
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