I worked on a conference talk called Ban the Blog with a colleague about a year ago. It was a purposefully provocative title and an extreme view, but one I believe many businesses and website owners need to heed (yes, I get the irony of writing this on a blog platform, but hopefully you'll see past that minor contradiction).
Blogs can often become a content dumping ground and despite the rising influence of structured content strategies into the broad digital direction, let's start a blog' is still a statement that is regularly touted in planning sessions.
But creating a blog and chronologically presenting what you produce isn’t necessarily the answer to your content needs.
Putting your content in date order may make sense in some instances (and with some CMS platforms it’s your only option), but just because it's your latest, it isn't necessarily your greatest or the most relevant for your audience.
We've all seen blogs that have their last post over a month ago and you can imagine the 'we need to put something on the blog' clamour that's going on within the office walls…that isn’t exactly conducive to creating compelling content.
Rather than going sequential, a sensible, straightforward and seamless categorisation will make it easier for your visitors to explore what you've got to offer:
- Sensible. If someone is looking for some form of information from your organisation, what's the best way to summarise and lay out the options for their next click?
- Straightforward. This applies to the language you use to aid navigation; your cleverly titled sections may alienate both new visitors and search engines.
- Seamless. Content can really prove its value when it supports user journeys and aids the decision making processes, rather than sitting on the sidelines in a sectioned-off part of your website.
Branded online content is an extension of your company product range, and therefore it should be treated with the same well-thought-through production, presentation and distribution strategy. Imagine walking into a shop and finding everything lined up in the order that it was produced.
I went into HMV a couple of weeks ago (for headphones, obviously not to actually buy something I could stream or download). At the front of the store I saw the new releases and the special offers, but beyond that, the store was laid out in a very easy-to-understand way.
If I was so inclined, I could easily find a Fun Lovin' Criminals CD, or a Fargo DVD within a few seconds.
Clothes stores follow the same basic format. You get the latest pieces by the door, then you can generally find the coats, belts, shoes or whatever in the place you'd generally expect to.
Some would argue that the web is more like a library than a retail outlet, but the same point still stands. Even the most recent book about medieval history will be placed with other similar titles - if all the books released were displayed in order of release date, you'd never find a thing.
Maybe the web needs a Dewey Decimal System?
Obviously some types of content are best organised chronologically rather than categorically.
News has a certain life-cycle and any coverage you provide on a hot topic should be given a prominent push for as long as the headline still stays warm.
When things simmer down, your lead content piece can either be another bit of news (if you have the infrastructure in place to regularly produce topical content) or an evergreen piece which will fit the current needs of your audience.
Blogs can be great for sharing opinions and expertise, and can be a powerful weapon in an organisation's content arsenal; but don’t default into chronologically presenting your content as your only route.
There are millions of great posts that have been lost in the annuls of time because of this approach. You can save time, money and effort by hunting out what really matters to your audience and resurrecting it from your archive.