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Top 5 problems with digital content: why are we still doing it wrong?

Posted by August 6, 2013
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Sticky Content’s report on the State of Digital Copywriting shows we’re still short on strategy and big on stakeholder interference. So what are the issues here and how can we fix them?

We all know copy matters on a website. It helps you get found in search engines, build awareness of your brand, and turn browsers into buyers. So how we are all doing when it comes to planning and creating valuable, effective content?

For our State of Digital Copywriting survey we canvassed the opinions of 365 content professionals. The results have shown that, when it comes to online copy, a lot of people are still struggling with the fundamentals: a lack of process and planning, excessive stakeholder involvement, and ineffective use of measurement.

Here are 5 issues that stood out – and how to fix them:

1.    About 3 in 10 people say senior management damage copy the most at sign-off stage. Effective digital content is commercially critical, but if your team can’t get anything out of the door without it getting mangled by their managers, are they wasting their time?

FIX: There’s a strong argument for respecting your team’s abilities here: you’ve hired people to do content, so let them prove their abilities to their stakeholders when they’re briefed. Get senior people involved from the beginning so you avoid ending up with content by committee.

2.    6 in 10 say people just don’t get what good copy looks like. This is another issue about stakeholder management. ‘Copy is seen as nail varnish applied at the end rather than an essential part of a digital project,’ said one of our respondents. Does that sound familiar? Does your organisation really understand the value of content?

FIX: Educate your organisation (and maybe yourself) about what best-practice digital content looks like, and its ROI.

3.    A third of content plans get hijacked, and only 1 in 10 always uses a brief. Some 52% of content professionals in the survey say they ‘can only write copy on demand, in response to business needs’. But without a decent plan in place, how can you expect to get solid performance from good-quality digital content?

FIX: If you don’t already have the right skills in-house, hire someone with some clout to manage your content production – and support them to spend time planning, briefing and measuring your content, not just publishing it.

4.    More than half have more than 3 stakeholders signing-off copy – 5% have more than 8
Of course, it’s vital to have a solid QA process – and I’m not just talking about typos. Getting sign-off from your legal team can sometimes be what stops you breaking the law, but without managing who’s doing what, you can end up with something barely recognisable.

FIX: Get the sign-off process nailed before any copywriting starts – and limit each person’s involvement to their area of expertise. Compliance team sticking their oar in about the use of bullet points? Tell them to back off.

5.    1 in 5 content professionals surveyed doesn’t measure content at all
If you want to do more of something, you need to prove it works. If you’re not measuring what you’re doing, how are you going to get the data to back it up? Some people aren’t measuring at all, other people are measuring the wrong things.

FIX: Get the right metrics, get the right data. Pick a project you can do a clean copy test on (like rewriting a booking form, or split-testing your email subject lines) and use your results to build the business case for content within your organisation. Then, you’re more likely to get the right budget.

What do you think are the biggest problems with getting good content? Comment below – and get your copy of the full report here.

About the author:

Amy Nicholson is head of editorial client services at Sticky Content and sits on BIMA’s executive board. She’s always happy to talk digital content, so give her a shout.

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