You’ve probably realized that filling the demand for fresh web content can be a challenge. Whether you’ve hired a freelance content writer or have distributed website writing among your staff members, communication is key. I’m sure you’ve heard it a dozen times, but developing a process of clearly communicating what you’d like on your site will not only save you from frustration, but it will save your writing team time. And I’ll tell you why…

The Problem with Language

One of my first content writing assignments (before Enerica) was for a portrait studio. In addition the usual content requests (SEO, keyword density, length, etc.), the CEO sent me five topic headings and the following instructions:

Anticipate questions clients may have about each one of the different portraits. Be creative.

I produced copy that I thought met his instructions. The first one I turned in was for a pregnancy portrait. What I got back after the first draft review was a big, fat “No.” So, he told me what he meant about addressing concerns—“Don’t mention how they might feel unattractive. Just tell them that our makeup and lighting will make them feel beautiful.” I took the instructions to mean “explicitly address concerns,” where he clearly meant for me to implicitly address them.

This happens a lot. Not because everyone is so terrible at communication, but because language is ambiguous. No matter how clear you are, there’s always room for interpretation.

Just the instructions, “Be creative,” greatly depend on what or whom someone thinks is creative. Is it Steve Jobs or Hunter S. Thompson? A content template is where you eliminate gray areas.

The Wonderful Content Template

The purpose of content templates is to design your content. Remember that it’s you—not the writer—who knows your products, your industry, your goals, and what you want every page on your website to do.

Here are the broad strokes:

  1. Purpose. What do you want the page to do? The purpose could be to describe a product, inform or educate, sell or a call to action.
  2. Audience. Who do you expect will be interested in the content?
  3. Goals. What are three things you’d like to communicate on the page?
  4. Voice. What voice do you want to use? Friendly? Authoritative?
  5. Focus. What keywords and phrases do you want to focus on?

An example

This is for a casting director I recently worked with, who had several pages that he filled out templates for. I’ll use the Home Page as an example.

  1. Purpose: The home page should introduce me.
  2. Audience: Potential directors and producers and actors who might be auditioning for me.
  3. Three Goals: Who I am, what I do and my experience (briefly).
  4. Voice: I want to be friendly, but professional.
  5. Keywords: Casting, acting, TV, Film, Theatre, Director

Armed with this information (and my meetings with him), I was able to write exactly what he wanted the first time.

If you’re having workflow issues with content writing, this is a good beginning step. Make a template to eliminate the gray areas between you and your writer.