So, you’ve decided it’s time for a website content overhaul. Whether it’s your hospital’s public website, your health system’s employee intranet or your office’s physician portal — a website content overhaul is a big job. Where to start?

At WriterGirl, we’ve managed dozens of website content overhauls. We learned what a big difference it can make to have the pieces in place when you start writing the content. Below is a handy checklist of all the things you’ll need to get the job done. Or, if you decide to enlist the help of professional content writers, here’s what to bring to your kick-off meeting:

illustration of a checklist or content audit1. Content audit

For your website content overhaul, your writing team will need feedback about your current website to serve as the starting point for creating your new content. You will need to do a content audit. Here are the usual steps involved:

  • Go through your current website page by page.
  • Decide what content will stay and what will go.
  • Identify what content is missing that will need to be created from scratch.
  • Collect all this information in an Excel spreadsheet with your recommendations to inform your writing team.

Pro tip: Depending on your website’s size, this process may take a few months. So, plan accordingly — see #8 on this list.

illustration of a site map2. Site map

From your content audit, you will know what is working on your current site and what is not. You will have ideas of how to improve the user experience in terms of navigation and organizing information. Armed with this insight, it’s time to tell your writing team exactly what pages they need to write by creating a site map.

A site map is a list of all the pages you want on your new site and where they will live within your site’s navigation. It’s an overview of the site’s content at a single glance and shows visually how all the pages on your new website will be organized. From the home page to service line pages to location pages, your site map should list them all. It will be the literal map that guides your content writers.

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illustration of a wireframe or mockup3. Wireframes/mockups/prototype

What will your new website look like? There are several ways to demonstrate your site’s new look which can help guide writers as they create what goes where on a page:

  • A wireframe is a basic blueprint of a web page without design elements that shows how information will be organized on a page.
  • A mockup is similar to a wireframe, but has the kinds of images, graphics and design elements that the final product will have.
  • A prototype is more of a demo of when the website goes live. It’s interactive, allows users to navigate from page to page, and uses functionality like drop-down menus.

Although design is a crucial element, make sure you start the content conversation early, including at the kick-off meeting. During a website overhaul, organizations often spend the bulk of their time on design at the outset — leaving content creation as almost an afterthought as they rush to the go-live finish line. But this is a mistake. After all, the content itself is what your users come to your website to find.

When coming up with timelines at this meeting, you’ll want to give content writing the same amount of time and attention as coming up with your new look. For example, if you don’t have the site map ready for your writers, you run the risk of running out of time to write the content, setting your go-live date back by weeks or even months.

illustration of a style guide with a pencil4. Editorial and brand style guides

Most organizations have a brand voice and visual identity that sets them apart. Your brand should be reflected in both your website’s design and the words you use.

In addition to visual elements, consistent language and style are important to convey your brand voice on every page. This is called editorial style. For example, will you spell “healthcare” with one word or two?

Your writers will need your editorial style guide and brand guidelines as they set out to create content. Most healthcare organizations use AP style for general copy. But every organization has exceptions to AP, naming conventions and other protocols that are unique to that company.

Another consideration that will guide your writing team is reading level, or health literacy. As a healthcare organization, you’ll likely need to talk about some high-level medical topics, but what good is all that information if the average person can’t understand it? Make sure you’re writing in plain language.

illustration of speech bubbles5. Source information and SMEs

Your writers are not Rumpelstiltskin; they can’t spin gold out of straw. To write quality, accurate, up-to-date content that highlights differentiators for your organization, writers will need good sources to overhaul website content.

Sometimes legacy content can be refreshed with a new brand voice and augmented with research from reputable sources. But there’s no substitute for subject matter expert (SME) input.

Make it a priority to identify appropriate SMEs for each page or section and secure their buy-in so they are willing to invest the time it will take to do interviews and provide feedback on content. Make sure the SMEs expect your writers to reach out, so no time is lost to interview scheduling lags.

Illustration of a magnifying glass with a gear6. SEO plan

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the wizard behind the curtain that helps readers find the content they are looking for online. Your writing team will need access to your SEO strategy so they can help write the metadata for each page — from SEO titles to meta descriptions — as well as including all your desired keywords in the content. The best SEO strategy is good content, but a little SEO savvy goes a long way, too, as this nationally ranked children’s hospital demonstrated.

Illustration of a plan or workflow with arrows and circles7. Workflow plan and approval process

After the writers create the content, what is the plan? Here are some decisions that need to be made:

  • Who will review the first drafts? Will it go to the marketing team for a first pass and back to the writers? Or will it go to the SMEs first?
  • Who has the final say on when a draft is approved to post online?
  • How will edits be communicated to the writers — for example, the “track changes” feature in Microsoft Word or a shared software like Google Docs or inMotion?
  • How much time will you give reviewers to review? It’s important to set deadlines to keep the project moving forward.

Illustration of a calendar8. Timeline

According to a research report by HubSpot, 51% of website redesigns launch late. A website content overhaul takes time. You already know this, of course — especially if you’re the marketing person in charge of the overhaul! But make sure everyone on your team understands this as well — including the higher-ups you report to (who may have an unrealistic idea of when the site should go live) and the SMEs who will do interviews and help with reviewing.

When making a timeline, it helps to work backward:

  • When do you want to go live?
  • Now, how much time does the web team need for inputting the copy and for your team to do quality checks? That will determine when you need the final, approved copy.
  • How much time will it take to get SMEs to review the content and give feedback? (Allow for two rounds of reviews.) This tells you when you need first drafts.

Figure out these dates moving backward all the way to the content audit. What do you get? Do you have enough time to do it all, or did this process take you back to sometime last year?

If the latter, start over again and see what you need to tweak until it’s clear your plan allows plenty of time to write great content and get it posted for all the world to read.

Don’t tackle your healthcare website content alone. The writers and content strategists at WriterGirl can help you at any stage of your website content overhaul and more. Contact us any time to learn more.