Content Strategy—Types of Content

A content strategy should clearly define the type of content you are providing. That definition should include a plan for where and how each content type is provided.

Audience

When determining the content types appropriate for your website, application, or blog, you should first consider your audience. Is your audience highly educated or are they relatively new learners when it comes to your subject matter? Are they more likely to expect an in-depth explanation, or will they prefer short and concise explanations? Is the material presented as part of a start-to-finish learning experience (such as a course), or is it reference material and meant to be completely self-contained? Answering these questions will help you determine the content types to include in your content strategy. Keep in mind that it’s completely appropriate to convey information multiple times in different ways.

Content Categories

Your content will typically fall into two categories:

  • Marketing. You may need to include marketing content along with all your other content. This is true if your content is expected to attract new users as well as support existing users. Marketing content may include basic “Who We Are,” “Our Services,” and “About” information. Users like to know who’s behind the companies and organizations they follow. Often, the ability to connect on a personal level is the key to attracting and keeping users. Marketing content often is, however, much more extensive.
  • Support and Technical. This is the content that teaches users how to do something, helps them solve problems, or informs them about topics they want to know more about. It is the focus of the remainder of this blog post.

Support and Technical Content Types

Support or technical content is likely the most extensive portion of your content strategy. If you load your content with an over-abundance of marketing content, your audience may become bored or disinterested. Your audience typically wants to be informed or entertained. While marketing content can often be entertaining, it’s usually not the main reason why people choose to consume your content. Here are some typical content types:

  • Reference. This is content that users can refer to when they want to know what something is or how it works. It usually isn’t a complete start-to-finish explanation or workflow, but is rather a self-contained explanation of a concept or a specific control or area in an application. Reference information includes factual information, tables, specifications, parameters, definitions of commands, and other information users are likely to look up. Reference information is typically short and focuses on just one topic.
  • How To or Tutorial. This content can take various formats. It can be a step-by-step procedure users can follow, often with images and screen shots. Or it can be a video that actually demonstrates the steps. Or it can be a combination of both.
  • Overview or Process. This is similar How To, but it lacks the detailed of step-by-step instructions that are required for a reader to perform tasks. Overview or Process content is usually more of broad explanation along the lines of “how something works” instead of the specific steps required to make it work.
  • FAQ or Q & A. Frequently asked questions (FAQs) and Q & A information is typically designed to help users solve problems or better understand something. It is often a collection of the most common issues raised by your users and provides succinct, helpful answers.
  • Concept or Principle. Concept or Principle information helps users understand the tasks they are performing. it includes  background information, descriptions of systems and objects, and other information that helps build users’ understanding
  • Glossary. Glossary definitions help your user understand terminology unique to your content. They can occur as pop-ups or as an alphabetical list.
  • Training. Instructional content such as online courses or manuals on how to navigate and use a product or service are a rapidly growing area and the trend is to provide courses that are a combination of live action and animated videos combined with reading material such as short documents or even books. Often tests or assessments are included to help users ensure they understand the material.
  • Case Studies. These documents are often part of marketing content. They explain the problem a company is solving and highlight accomplishments in order to attract customers.
  • White Papers. These documents are similar to Case Studies, but they are more focused on an overall technology or scientific area of knowledge than on a specific success. They help build trust and credibility for a product or service. Their problem-solving information helps potential customers understand a company’s offerings and entices them want to learn more.
  • eBooks. Downloadable eBooks are a common way to attract potential customers to your product or service. You can grow your email list and qualified leads with an opt-in incentive such as an eBook that makes it easy for your target audience to provide their contact information in exchange for your content.

Depending on your content needs, you may create just a few of these content types. Or you may need to include all of them in your content strategy. Just be sure you have a plan for which content type is appropriate for the various types of information you are communicating about. And be consistent about how you provide the information. Users appreciate this.

The blog topics in this series look at several concepts and details related to content strategy:

We’ll be adding more information to this series in the future. If you want to be notified when new topics are published, sign up for our newsletter. We value your privacy and promise to never sell or give away your contact information!

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Cindy Written by:

A communications expert with over 25 years experience.

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