How defining content strategy helps build a website

Build your brand while providing greater value for your users

In this article, we’re going to define what content strategy is, what it consists of and how internal teams use it to make things easier and better. We’re going to do that with particular focus on how you use this product for web development projects.

Content strategy sets a direction to guide the creation, delivery and governance of content to satisfy your users’ needs - and meet your business (or project) goals.

Informed by “Content Strategy for the Web”, the vital book from Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach, Core has developed its content strategy as a living brand artifact that supports our clients’ brands and the work required to build them.

Done right, a content strategy:

  • Reinforces brand strategy so you achieve your business goals
  • Organizes the great big mess of all of your content, messaging and assets from day one of your digital project (website rebuild)
  • Provides clear direction for content creators when it’s time to concept, write and design your website (and its messages)
  • Ensures those creators (whether they be copywriters, subject matter experts or stakeholders whose opinions you must respect) aren’t just making things up for the sake of filling in copy
  • Defines how to best serve the needs of your website’s users to provide the value they expect

When clearly defined and integrated into the process of building a website or launching a digital project, a content strategy is among a marketer’s most valuable tools.

Creative briefs are great when there is one message to convey (and a few key support points), but in more complex, multi-faceted campaigns and web development projects, a content strategy helps simplify and guide multiple messages speaking to different audience needs, motivations and pain points through different channels and tactics. It also defines internal roles and workflows; a crucial step when multiple stakeholders, strategists, writers, editors and subject matter experts all have a hand in collecting, creating and publishing content. 

If you work with a hospital or health system and have ever been involved in a large website rebuild, the promise of clarity a content strategy offers should excite you. Especially when you have physician profiles, service line explainers, marketing initiatives, educational content for your audience(s), blogs on priority services or programs, and pages, links and blocks of copy that have been around since the Carter administration. 

Set your expectations

When engaging a partner for a web project, you should expect that partner to define and use a content strategy.

Here’s what to look for.

As noted in “Content Strategy for the Web”, content strategy can be sorted into two big buckets.

  1. Content Components
  2. People Components

Within each, you’ll have the deliverables needed to use your content strategy. 

With variations for different executions, at the heart of it all, Core uses that framework to build a content strategy deliverable that includes:

Content Components

  • Core strategy statement
  • Supporting strategies to guide content development (including section or page-level strategies for website development)
  • Key messaging
  • Voice, tone, style and usage
  • Structural content

People Components

  • Processes and tools
  • Definition of workflow, governance and roles
  • Audits

Each piece is vital to defining your strategy and the workflow needed to build your website. 

Content Components

Content components define your direction. They represent the compass and the substance to get things done. 

Core Strategy Statement

The Core Strategy Statement is the starting place. It is one strategic statement that defines how you'll use content to accomplish your goals and meet your users' needs. It is simple, aspirational and motivational. It should leave no doubt as to your direction. 

Supporting Strategies

With a direction in place, you’ll need the substance. Defining substantive strategies sets a key foundation as you plan content development. When defining strategy for content for a website, you should use this foundation to get even more specific with section or page-level strategies that make sure the content is useful for those navigating your website. Think of it as an opportunity to understand how you'll meet their need and provide value at every turn, instead of filling pages with blocks of copy they have to wade through. Your website isn't a feature magazine.

Supporting strategies comprise the buckets you’ll fill to provide detailed direction and focus for the content you will make. It should be broken into proportional buckets. For example, you may have heard a mantra around 70/20/10, or similar breakdowns. For a simple and unspecific illustration:

  • 70% of your content can provide value for your audience based on what they need. 
  • 20% of your content can focus on your brand. 
  • 10% of your content can drive a CTA. 

Key Messaging

Key messaging helps you build on the Brand Essence that should already exist as part of your brand development. WHY do you exist? HOW do you do WHAT you do? These questions are vital to defining a brand. Key messaging should further define and support those answers. Collect your WHY, HOW and WHAT into primary, secondary and tertiary messaging, while focusing on the emotional drivers that help connect your audience with a reason to believe in your brand. Key messaging is a crucial resource for content creators. We’ll review how it works within a process shortly.

Voice, Tone, Style and Usage

Often, this is defined as part of a brand guideline. If that hasn’t been defined, it can be included in the content strategy to drive consistency in how your brand should sound, complete with specific terminology and naming conventions. It helps define the character and personality of your brand and takes the guesswork out of content creation. 

Structural Content

The structural content for your website is all of the meta descriptions, meta titles, page headlines and images required to build out the background of your website. It's vital for link sharing, search and, essentially, to ensure your content is formatted for how people share and access content across the internet today. Your web data will show you whether or not your audience is arriving at your site organically. If they aren't coming organically, they're seeing links and making a decision whether or not to visit based on the descriptions and images that accompany them. That's structural content. That content is seen on social media, email, search and more. It is a vital backbone of your website's content plan.

People Components

The people components comprise the instruction manual for your team. Here, we detail who’s responsible for what and the tools they’ll use to do the work. It’s here where we work smarter, not more.

Processes and tools

Building a foundation with your content components is step one. Knowing what to do with it, the process you’ll put in place, and the project management required to make it work, is step two. At Core, we use tools that help us easily define the content strategy for every page and use key messaging and relevant content to assist writers in creating those pages to serve the users’ needs. “Create/Write to this strategy and use these messages.” It’s a workflow that moves step by step for maximum efficiency, guaranteeing strategy is followed.

Tools like Gather Content allow your content strategist to work with the digital strategist as you build out information architecture, site map and page-level strategies. As you go, you understand where the content creators can provide the best value and identify opportunities to offer unique digital solutions that will best serve your audience. When the writers write, the direction and relevant content is right in front of them.

Definition of workflow, governance and roles

Build your team like an editorial newsroom. You need your writers and creators, but you also need to build in the workflow to integrate their work with that of the project stakeholders, subject matter experts, editors and those with final approval. Defining these steps helps project managers keep everything moving toward a successful end. Everyone will know their role and how they can contribute to keep you on target.


Remember earlier in this article when we referred to content that may have been around since the Carter administration? Let’s make sure that never happens to you. Your team should conduct content audits at the beginning of a project and over the course of your website’s lifespan. Regular content audits help you identify the content (and links!) you have, its effectiveness and the gaps you need to fill. As your team begins building out the information architecture and content strategy, knowing what content you have helps keep your vast resources organized so you can create efficiencies from day one. 

Now, you’ll know what to expect - and demand - when asking your digital partner about content strategy and how they use it. There should be no doubt as to its value, substance and how it is used by both your internal team and your agency partner. The more you can use your content strategy to get internal buy-in on goals and how to organize and write your content, the more successful you’ll be. And, most importantly, the happier everyone will be with the project. 

Know what you’re buying. And hold your teams accountable - from day one through the completion and maintenance of your website.


Know your options when embarking on a healthcare website redesign project

Download our cheat sheet with 4 topics to cover with your web development partner — and the questions to ask — to ensure a successful website redesign.

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Colin Deval is the Director of Communications Strategy at Core Health, Core Creative’s specialized healthcare marketing practice.

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