How can we harness the power of content strategy — one of the most underappreciated aspects of UX design— to increase user acquisition and retention for digital products?
Don’t confuse this with content marketing, which is important and closely related, but not what I’m focusing on here. I’m more interested in how we can develop and execute a product content strategy that has growth embedded into its core. Here are four ideas to get you started:
- Establish your voice and tone
Every brand is different, and the first step you should take is to ensure you have developed a set of guidelines that outline your brands unique voice and tone. This sets the standard for everyone within the organization — especially designers, developers, and marketers — on how to communicate effectively across every touchpoint and interaction, both inside and outside the product.
This provides a useful set of guidelines for writing effective sign up forms, landing pages, notifications, and other growth-focused features. It also keeps your brand cohesive and consistent, and enables you to impart your values and uniqueness at every step.
Need an example? MailChimp has a great voice and tone guide.
2. Get content strategists involved at the start
A lot of people mistake content strategy for copywriting, and this couldn’t be further from the truth. Content strategy plays a core role in the design process, and in order for it to be most effective, it has to be involved at the start.
A content strategist doesn’t just write the words on a product — they do that too, for sure — but they also focus on how the product content accomplishes both the user and the business goals, what the appropriate scope should be, how the user experience is structured, and how different elements are arranged throughout it.
Content strategists can serve as crucial links between product design and growth. However, it’s often harder to add growth-focused features to a product after it’s been shipped, so involve content strategists at the start to build a better and more growth-focused product.
3. Good content is good SEO
Say you want to find a good platform to build a website, or a good personal budgeting app to use. What steps do you take to find these tools? Usually, you’ll start with Google. For the builders of these tools, that’s where SEO comes in.
Content is the lifeblood of SEO. Without having the actual words on your website that describes what you do, there’s no way you’ll show up on Google. But content is needed not only at the most basic level — it should also be embedded in your product and marketing channels to help you gain greater search engine rankings, more views, and more opportunities to encourage sign ups. Here’s some examples:
- Do your keyword research. What are your potential customers searching for? Does your content align with that? Describe your product in a way that uses appropriate keywords, and Google will recognize and reward you with better rankings.
- Ensure you have a consistent output of unique, quality content — keeping things fresh ensures that you remain relevant in the cold calculations of Google’s ranking algorithm.
- Proper technical optimization — like appropriate metadata and an effective sitemap — adds further credibility to your domain. Have a sitemap that encompasses all of the different, common use cases of your product in order to increase your visibility among these groups.
- Linkbacks are also a core part of earning a higher ranking — the more often that credible websites link to yours, the more trustworthy your domain is and the more likely it is to be higher ranked. Linkbacks most often come as a result of clear, well-written content.
4. Don’t miss any opportunity to sign up potential customers
Think about the part of your product — like your website, or your mobile app — that facilitates the actual user sign up process. Are there any dead ends here that leave potential customers high and dry? Are there any opportunities to make it easier for people to sign up? You shouldn’t miss any opportunity available (and appropriate) to sign up potential customers.
Here’s an example: the Shopify iPhone app. Shopify has a mobile-first focus, and its mobile products are fantastic. But, does their app do enough to encourage sign ups from potential customers, and does it make things easy for an expired free trial customer to pick a plan and sign up?
Unfortunately, it doesn't do either of these things. Here’s the home screen of the app, and the alert you receive when you try to enter your store URL to find that your plan has expired:
Potential customers can’t pick a plan and sign up within the app, and there’s not even a link to the Shopify website to do that either. Just an “OK” button, and thus an app that has no use to them that they may quickly close, delete, and forget about. I think this is a missed opportunity for Shopify — if you have a multi-platform product, this is a great example of the importance of embedding an sign up process across all of your products, not just the main site.
So, what if the Shopify app was designed for growth? Maybe they would enable sign up within it. Or, at the very least, maybe they would provide a link to the Shopify website so people can sign up from there. Perhaps the app would look like this instead:
This is the power of a growth-focused content strategy — it makes it simple and painless for people to sign up or to continue to be a customer. No dead ends, no missed opportunities.
Content strategy has been around for a long time — but it is just only starting to get the respect it deserves. If you want to harness the power of content strategy to build a great product and increase user acquisition and retention, these four tips are a good place to start.
If you have any ideas, feel free to respond and let me know!