In the past, when an organisation’s websites were owned by the technology team, pre-publication check-lists were a given. The publishing process was slow and deliberate – but at least it was accurate.
Today, marketing and corporate communications departments are in charge. Businesses have to be able to react quickly to the latest content trends and to be increasingly agile in the way they deliver content. They have to cater to a growing range of digital channels, adapt quickly to the latest technologies, and update their sites regularly to comply with changing laws and regulations such as the new EU cookies law.
There is no longer any room for two-year implementation processes or lengthy testing procedures, and traditional quality assurance processes are feeling the strain. Consider the following:
- Organisations are producing record amounts of website content. A 2011 study performed by the Content Marketing Institute found that marketers are now managing an average of 8 different content channels. In the last year alone, there has been a 27% increase in the use of blogs in the marketing mix.
- The number of devices accessing web content is exploding. By 2014, the average US/European consumer will own between 5-10 web-enabled devices for viewing web based digital content.
- The sources of corporate marketing content are expanding. The CMI study also found that more than 62% of marketers use a mix of insourced and outsourced content production. And, the number of systems producing this public facing content is also growing. From web content management tools, to specific blogging tools and even third party content aggregation services, content is displayed in more ways than ever. In a 2010 survey conducted by the CM Professionals Association, more than 50% of the 427 companies interviewed had more than one system to manage web content.
In short, in 2012, there’s more web content, displayed and published to more devices, in more languages, managed in more systems than ever before. As a result, more and more organisations are finding that today’s fast-paced and rapidly evolving content requirements are pushing the limits of their content governance systems and processes.
A recent statistic published in the March 2012 issue of Time Magazine (but which came from a recent University of California study) found that the average person spends about 12 hours per day consuming information, taking in more than 100,000 words. But it’s not just the demand for content that has increased – demand for quality has never been higher. According to the BBC, website errors can cost millions in lost sales and the state of your website has a huge impact on how consumers rate your brand.
Here’s a positive example: food giant Kraft has discovered that a well-timed, high velocity web content strategy has provided for exponential success. And here’s a negative one: retailer Target was widely criticized online when it launched a new error-filled website – and discovered that consumers were all too eager to share their negative opinions. These examples highlight that there is both incredible potential and incredible risk with the overall quality of our web content.
The reality for many businesses is that despite using the best content management technologies available, they are still struggling with content quality issues, especially when faced with the need to churn out vast quantities of relevant, up-to-date content, across a range of digital channels.
This creates a dilemma: how can you keep up with consumer appetite for information while maintaining the quality of your content?
It sounds simple: successful marketers now include web content governance at both the beginning and end of the content publication process. It’s the surest way to enable faster time to market for your content, while ensuring quality and compliance. But what is the best way to do it?
Implementing a CMS with built-in quality checks is a good start, but it isn’t enough. While many CMS tools can help with error reduction, they aren’t designed to deliver top-tier governance visibility. Certainly they don’t offer the breadth of quality assurance checks businesses need to ensure content meets both industry best practice and their own brand and business guidelines. How do you ensure your websites are up-to-date with the latest legal requirements, for example? And what about those organisations with multiple Content Management Systems for different areas of the business? How do you ensure consistency between platforms? With a CMS alone, it is extremely difficult to gauge how your web content measures up to your brand guidelines, content standards and legal compliance responsibilities.
The complexity of these issues has led many organisations to fall back on their old pre-publication content checklists to ensure web content is compatible with their policies and standards. These checklists are not only cumbersome, but also extraordinarily difficult to scale. Because of this, businesses find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place: their CMS offers some automated checking, but lacks breadth. Their content checklist addresses the internal and external standards to which they wish to adhere, but lacks automation, slowing down the publication process, reducing the content’s freshness and perhaps even undercutting its marketing value.
Our answer to the pre-publication conundrum has been to develop the QuickCheck module within our ActiveStandards compliance platform. QuickCheck is an automated compliance validation module designed to help editors check their work in the production environment, so errors are caught and fixed before they make it onto the live site. QuickCheck packs all of a company’s website standards into a convenient browser button, enabling editors to validate a web page with a single click. It provides both the automation associated with a CMS and the breadth associated with pre-publication checklists, enabling editors to swiftly check their content as a natural part of the publication workflow.
An ongoing affair
Even if you have pre-publication checks sewn up, you still need to think about what happens after publication. This wasn’t a huge problem in the old days of static content. But in today’s dynamic environment, ongoing monitoring has never been more relevant. With more and more content arriving on corporate websites from blogs and social media, it isn’t always possible to carry out pre-publication checks. And content owners, who are either double-hatters with varying levels of experience when it comes to quality control, or editors under pressure to deliver content as quickly as possible, have little scope to pick up the slack. If you want your content delivered in a flash – you need a safety net in place to catch any errors that make it through to the live site.
On top of this, there’s the problem of aging content. In today’s fast-paced arena, today’s news is already old news. Pre-publication checks can help you make sure your content is accurate on the date of publication, but they don’t take into account the speed at which organisations are changing. What about defunct products, previous brand or company names, details of partners with whom there is no longer a relationship, or even employees who have left the company? There are all sorts of things that are fine when you publish your site – but later become glaring and embarrassing errors.
This is where regular post-publication checks come in. Ensuring content quality is no longer just about making sure mistakes don’t make it onto your live site, it’s about making sure obsolete content is removed in a timely fashion; it’s about noticing when links break because the source page has been taken down; it’s about updating images so that they are always fresh and relevant. And visibility of these issues is even harder when you’re operating across multiple CMS and digital channels. What today’s businesses need more than ever is the ability to adapt and change in response to the latest developments. The value of enterprise-level web governance solutions is that they are independent of individual systems and projects. They provide a central point of quality control, with deep visibility across platforms and channels, elements which are critical for any organization aspiring to an agile future.