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 — it’s a big job. Where to start?
At WriterGirl, we’ve managed dozens of website content overhauls. And we’ve learned it makes a big difference to have certain elements in place before you start writing the content. Below is a handy checklist of everything 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:
1. Identify KPIs
You know your business objectives. How do they relate to your website goals? Is the goal to increase traffic? Boost conversions? Encourage appointments? These key performance indicators (KPIs) can also help inform the right call to action (CTA) messages to help achieve your goals. Include a plan for monitoring and reporting s you build out your site, and don’t forget to gather benchmark metrics for your existing site.
Additionally, to get your site ranked and listed on search pages, publish a new sitemap and manually tell search engines to recrawl your site as soon as possible after your website overhaul. Then, continue to monitor SEO improvements and adjust content accordingly.
With such massive changes to your website, monitoring your site’s performance, including user engagement, traffic and conversion rates, is important so you can correct problems quickly.
2. Do a content audit
For your website content overhaul, your writing team will need feedback about your current website and its performance to serve as the starting point for creating your new content. The best solution: a content audit. Here are the usual steps involved:
- Review your current website page by page (an audit)
- Decide what content will stay and what will go
- Identify what content is missing that will need to be created from scratch
- Use a content gap analysis to see what critical content you’re missing
- Clarify your target audience
- Identify competitors and aspirational sites
You will want to define your target audience clearly. That way, writers can develop the right content at the right reading level. Your audience will also guide your content gap analysis to identify the topics of use and interest to your readers.
When auditing your content, look outside your own site and include a few brand competitors, including a benchmark competitor. It can be helpful to let your content strategy team know your “dream” goal so your overhaul can put you on the right path. Do you want to be known as the state expert in [service line/procedure/treatment] within a few years? Have a website that looks like an aspirational organization? There’s no sense in redoing your site only to have it move you further from your long-term goal.
Pro tip: Depending on your website’s size, this process may take a few months. So, plan accordingly — see #8 on this list.
3. Create a site map
With insights from your content audience, you can tell your writing team precisely what pages they need to write by creating a site map. A site map lists all the pages you want on your new site and where they will live within your site’s navigation. It visualizes how you will organize all the pages on your new website. Your site map should list everything from the home page to service line pages to location pages.
Don’t forget to address how readers will move from page to page throughout the site. That includes information architecture (IA) and navigation menus. IA addresses the functionality of a site including the user interface. Navigation includes components like navigation menus (such as the top bar on the page, right side menu and footer), breadcrumbs and related links.
4. Design: wireframes, mockups and prototypes
What will your new website look like? You can use several methods to demonstrate your site’s new look. And all can guide writers as they create what goes where on a page:
- A wireframeis a basic blueprint of a web page without design elements that shows how to organize information on a page. It gives writers an idea of components, character counts and more.
- A mockupincludes the kinds of images, graphics and design elements of the final product.
- A prototypeis an interactive demo before a site goes live, allowing users to navigate from page to page using functionality like drop-down menus.
Although design is crucial, start the content conversation early, including at the kick-off meeting. During a website overhaul, organizations often spend too much time on the site’s look and feel. But that leaves the content as an afterthought. It’s best not to rush the content to the go-live finish line. After all, the information 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.
5. Leverage editorial and brand style guides
Most organizations have a brand voice and visual identity that sets them apart. Your brand should shine through in both your website’s design and the words you use.
In addition to the design, consistent language and style convey your brand voice on every page. This editorial style defines how you use words. 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, specific naming conventions and other protocols unique to them. Make sure to communicate those to your writers.
Another consideration guiding your writing team is reading level, or health literacy. As a healthcare organization, you’ll need to address high-level medical topics, but what good is that information if the average person can’t understand it? Make sure your writers use plain language.
6. Identify 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 your organization’s differentiators, writers need good sources to revamp your 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. Secure their buy-in so they are willing to invest the time for interviews and providing content feedback. Share the dates your writers will reach out, so your SMEs can quickly schedule times to meet.
7. Develop a SEO plan
Search engine optimization (SEO) helps readers find the content they want online. Your writing team will need your SEO strategy to include desired keywords in the content and write page descriptions (metadata). Of course, 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.
8. Create a workflow plan and approval process
After the writers create the content, what is the plan? Here are some decisions you’ll want to decide upfront to streamline your content overhaul process:
- 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 you communicate edits 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 an approval process and deadlines to keep the project moving forward and to keep your target launch date. .
9. Stick with a 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. But make sure everyone on your team understands this as well. It’s especially important to communicate this to higher-ups (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 for a website content overhaul, it helps to work backward. For example, answer questions in this order:
- When do you want to go live?
- How much time does the web team need to input the copy?
- How much time does your team need for quality checks?
- How much time will SMEs need to review the content and give feedback? Make sure to allow for two rounds of reviews!
Figure out these dates moving backward 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 you need to tighten the timeline, start over and see what you can tweak until 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.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in June 2021. It was updated on March 28, 2023.