Illustration: Rachel Hart

What Is User-Centered Content Strategy?

Lay the groundwork for a solid content strategy that focuses on what the user really wants.

Who are your users and what are their goals?

Before you begin a content strategy, let’s look at who you are serving. The secret sauce in successful content marketing is delivering the right content to the right people. In order to do this, you must determine what people want from your organization and what they hope to accomplish on your site. In other words, how well do you know your audience?


Personas are generalizations of personalities based on age, location, and basic personality traits. Users are placed in a group of 4–5 different persona types. Some large companies pay big bucks for research firms to science the heck out of their users. Data-intensive, empirical research may include usability testing, surveys, analytics, field studies, interviews, and market research.

However, it’s possible to create personas in-house as long as they are based on real clients and not dreamed up people. Non-empirical research — using information and facts from actual visitors — is most practical for small companies or agencies aiming for user-centered content. By “crowdsourcing” your persona effort, you can save time and money on the persona effort.

Credit: Xtensio

Personas can include any kind of data pertaining to your market, but in general personas usually include:

  • A “cute” group name
    Something catchy that personifies your group.
  • A quote
    The quote reflects the over-all attitude or feeling of your persona.
  • A bio
    A short description of the user journey or highlight the factors of the user’s personal or professional life.
  • Common goals
    A task that needs completed or a problem they are trying to solve.

To begin your own research, start collecting data in a spreadsheet. What industries do they work? What devices do they use? What attitudes do they share?

3 Steps to assemble your own user personas:

  1. Compile everything you know about your audience.
  2. Assemble your findings in a spreadsheet or template.
  3. Group like-people together into one persona.

Empathy Maps

Empathy maps dig deeper into the psyche of your audience and focus more on a sensory experience. If you really want to explore the “why” of your user’s behavior, truly understand their pain points and have some empathy.

Credit: SolutionsIQ

Never take for granted that you know your audience as well as you think you do.

Many organizations get stuck in their own head and make assumptions that are outdated or simply false. For some, taking the time to do user research may feel like “overkill” or frivolous. Yet, we’ve seen state agency content managers surprise themselves as they were targeting millennials when in fact, their larger audience was senior citizens.

Empathy maps help you speak to the heart of your users. What they really think, feel see and say ultimately, helps you understand:

  • Who is coming to your site?
  • What do they want?
  • Why do they want it?

Does your site deliver?

Once you have a good idea of who your users are and why they are there, take a look at your content from a fresh point of view. Are you serving them the information they want?

59 Second Rule

Most users stick around less than 59 seconds on a site.

Users leave your site when:

  • They don’t find what they are looking for
  • They don’t know what to do

Your homepage is often the first impression people have of your organization. It’s one of the most important things to optimize. Remember, people may be coming to your site already confused or frustrated about a problem. Help them out by making your services clear and easy to navigate.

Does your homepage:

  • Describe your agency in very few words?
  • Identify who you help?
  • Make your top 3–5 services easy to find?

How do you show up?

So you have the right content for the right people in a way that is easy and clear to navigate. Now we ask how your audience finds you.

We’ll cover 3 key pieces regarding how you show up for your users:

  • Metadata
  • Organic search
  • Information architecture

1. Metadata

The two pieces of metadata worth doing right is the meta title and the meta description. These are important because it’s how you show up in a search result.

This screenshot is the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). The meta title and meta description are things you can configure on any webpage. Carefully chosen words help you clearly describe the page that may entice a user decides to click.

2. Organic Search (SEO)

Choosing the most common or popular keywords and keyword phrases may boost traffic to your site, help people find what they are looking for, and (hopefully) lead them to a solution. By consistently publishing content using those keywords in prominent places, like titles and headings, you’ll get better search engine ranking and click-through to your site.

3. Information Architecture (IA)

“Information architecture” refers to how you show information on your own site. It relates to organization, priority, labeling, and navigation. When working with state agencies, we determine the IA during the discovery phase, using a content inventory (to see what’s already being offered) and analytics to view user behavior.

Before you begin a content strategy, it’s crucial to understand who is using the information on your site. In order to determine the value proposition, do some research and lay out the groundwork with personas and empathy maps. Once you have a good idea of your personas, deliver the content that adds the most value. “Show up” with the goods to be easily be found.

This post was originally published December 13, 2016, written by former Digital Services Georgia content strategist, April Lentini.

Check out April’s talk on personas, empathy maps, and content strategy in our GOVTalks Fall 2016: Digital Ecosystems.

Digital Services Georgia is a nonpartisan division of the Georgia Technology Authority. This publication does not entertain political discussions.

Digital Services Georgia

The team that provides a web platform, training, consulting, and governance for Georgia state agencies. We put people’s needs first.

Digital Services Georgia

Written by

The team account for Digital Services Georgia. We put people’s needs first.

Digital Services Georgia

The team that provides a web platform, training, consulting, and governance for Georgia state agencies. We put people’s needs first.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade