Content. Words. You know, the stuff that fills some of the blank spaces between images and graphics. Got any?

Contentor to be more specific, editorial contentis not just filler. It’s the news, the information, the stories, the “who’s doing what to whom,” the things people really want to know. Sure, there are cool, artistic sites that showcase cutting-edge technologies, nifty images, animation and video. But for most purposes, content is king. Great websites are designed to support the delivery of great content.

It’s not just words

So why is content sometimes seen as a poor relation? For starters, content somehow seems less tangible, and so less valued, than the other elements of a website. Even with today’s “easy” site creation tools, most people realize that they’re not equipped to design truly attractive, effective websites. Graphic design and information designcreating visuals, laying out navigation and deciding what goes where on each pagehave obvious value. But content? That’s just words! Anyonethe boss’s assistant, for instancecan put words together, right?

Well, not right. Writing for the Web is both art and science. Knowing how people read on the Web (actually, they don’t readthey scan), and how to organize information so it’s most accessible and appropriate to the medium, comprise the art of creating optimal content. On the science side, there’s SEOsearch engine optimizationto help your site get ranked higher by search engines. Chances are that your editorial team (or the boss’s assistant) would benefit greatly from at least a few pointers about all that.

Reuse? Refuse!

And then there’s the one who says, “We’ve got a site already. Just take the old content and reuse it.” That’s like saying, “I’m building a brand new house. But let’s just stick this worn-out, mismatched furniture in there. Don’t worry too much about where you put it or whether it will fit. No one will notice.”

Well, you could do that. But designing a sharp new site and then stuffing it full of recycled content without giving it any thought is just foolish. Well-crafted content is a key part of the site experience, and deserves as much attention as design and navigation. That said, sometimes it’s sensible to repurpose some of your existing content. At the very least, an experienced strategist should conduct a content review and see.

A few purposeful words about repurposing. Many times, people think that because they’ve created some slick marketing collateral, they’ve got all the content they need for the Web. Maybe so, if all they’re after is a brochure-ware site. But brochure-ware doesn’t cut it. On the Web, people want to interact, transact, reactnot just read the electronic equivalent of a sales piece. Web content should be crafted to engage audiences, meet their needs, and motivate them to act. To be most effective, content needs to be fresh and timely. Sites want repeat visitors, but why would anyone return to a site if the content never changes?

So, on the Web, it really is all about content. Time to take a fresh look at your site’s content? Let’s talk.