In a 1996 essay, Bill Gates wrote, “Content is king,” and what was true then is still true now. Content is necessary to the success of a business.
If the content is the king, we could say its operations are the queen — or at least a knight. Imagine a startup that wants to create a blog post. It’s a timely post that needs to be up before the end of Q1. Because the startup is new, it hasn’t established concrete operations for blog content. So, the post sits in a Google document with no plan for who uploads the content or what blog platform will host the information. The business has a content writer, but operations don’t typically end there.
Blog posts aren’t the only content option there are. You can incorporate over a dozen different content types, including email, videos, social media posts, podcasts, infographics, and other visual content to increase brand awareness. Without content operations, though, this content likely has no plan for production, publication, or distribution. And what good is a blog post if no one reads it?
If the goal is to post content daily, then you’ll need to identify who is performing the work? What methods are they using? What systems are necessary to get the job done?
One department is the solution to these questions — content operations.
What Is Content Operations?
Content operations is the combined foundation of people, process, and technology that allows an organization to effectively and efficiently maintain its content lifecycle from start to finish. This framework spans the strategy, creation, publishing, distribution, and management of content.
Content operations focus on three elements:
- People: who is performing a task and what their roles and responsibilities are.
- Process: what functions are needed to complete a project successfully.
- Technology: what tools help build out a content operations system.
In content and content operations, the people are the foundation. While customers sit at the center of content, the operations aspect focuses on the company and its team. Roles and responsibilities should be well-defined and outlined to keep the system running smoothly.
The first step is defining clear roles. Content teams have content strategists, managers, creators, editors, and more. For example, the content creation department might break down into specialized positions — content writers, graphic designers, and photographers. Although these are typical roles, some content roles and responsibilities may overlap. Content writers and editors have distinct differences. Depending on the team and its bandwidth, your writers may be responsible for editing their work. It is best to avoid overlap; however, that is sometimes impossible. As long as the roles and responsibilities are clear, the team and its operations should function successfully.
Once you have a team in place, how will you get your projects from start to finish? Your people need processes. Your team — and their roles and responsibilities — will help determine workflows to keep your content moving from planning to publishing.
Say you were publishing a blog post. A sample process might go as follows:
- Step 1: Strategize and generate the idea.
- Step 2: Set a timeline and schedule for the post.
- Step 3: Write the post.
- Step 4: Edit the grammar and content.
- Step 5: Add graphics.
- Step 6: Optimize the post for SEO.
- Step 7: Publish.
- Step 8: Share.
- Step 9: Analyze.
If one of the steps in this process falls through, it impacts the overall success of the operation. Style guidelines, templates, and content governance models strengthen processes and promote accountability and consistency. These frameworks help keep content on track, but they need to be used with technology to ensure content operations are running smoothly.
The last key to successful content operations is technology or the necessary tools for accomplishing each task. Because the planning and execution of content are so extensive, teams require multiple resources to be successful.
The technology for content operations can fall into categories such as:
- Project Management & Scheduling
- Task Management
- Content Execution
- Analytics & Reports
Project Management & Scheduling
All content should appear in an editorial calendar. It is a high-level calendar that keeps track of where, how, and most specifically, when content publishes. Not to be confused with scheduling tools that send out timed posts, like Hootsuite or Sprout Social, tools for project management and scheduling include Monday and Asana.
Monday and Asana are also great examples of task management tools. These platforms allow for the building, following, and executing of content operations by the team.
Content operations also require the technology needed to execute a task. What is the team using to get the job done? Writers need access to word processing tools, like Microsoft Word or Google Docs. Alternatively, designers might need a variety of web and graphic design tools like Adobe Photoshop or Canva.
Analytics & Reports
Analyzing and reporting is usually the last step in a content life cycle. Analysis tools measure your content and its success. WordPress, the world’s biggest blogging platform, has its analytics capabilities while thousands of companies, including General Electric and NASA, use Google Analytics to monitor their content and traffic.
Who benefits from content operations?
This is a simple question with a simple answer — everyone. Content operations provide stability and consistency at every level. Upper management personnel, like a CEO, know that the business is operating efficiently, which has a positive reflection on the company as a whole.
Content operations also benefit the members of the team who are directly involved. Team members can use clearly defined responsibilities and processes to work confidently in their roles. It can boost both workplace culture and quality of work.
Lastly, and possibly most importantly, the final group that benefits from content operations are consumers. Content is one of the biggest tools companies use to keep current and potential customers engaged. Blog posts provide valuable information and tips. Emails inform them of current or upcoming sales and promotions. As customers build relationships with businesses, they have expectations. Content operations help meet them.
Why do content operations matter?
Content operations lead to results, and they result in:
- Saving time and money
- Better quality content
- Producing content faster
- Happy and confident teams
Saving Time And Money
When a content operations team establishes a sound cycle between people, processes, and technology, it leads to efficiency. Efficiency saves time and money. Content operations allow companies to save time by reducing the time needed to get content created, approved, and published. Companies save money when their team can produce content according to schedule without additional resources, for example, extra labor or tools.
Better Quality Content
Content operations promote better quality content. Teams uphold standards for accurate, consistent, and impactful content with a structured content cycle process.
Producing Content Faster
While there should always be a focus on quality content, that content needs to get out quickly. Not all content is evergreen. When faced with an immovable deadline, content operations keep teams on schedule.
Happy And Confident Teams
When team members are unhappy or confused about their roles, responsibilities, or resources, their work may reflect it. Not only does content operations promote accountability and structure, but it allows teams to become confident in their position. It breeds a positive and happy workplace environment for all involved.
Content Operations Manager
At the head of content operation sits the content operations manager. While the title can vary from business to business, the job function is the same. The content operations manager oversees the day-to-day operations of the content team to ensure that the necessary people, process, and technology execute the content strategy.
To accomplish their overall goal, content operations managers might also be responsible for:
- Choosing the technology and tools to support operations
- Creating and managing company policies and procedures
- Streamlining content processes
- Recruiting and hiring content staff members
- Training new staff members
In summary, the work of a content operations manager has less to do with actual content and more to do with the people, processes, and technology needed to plan, create, and publish it.
The Three Words Of Content Operations
To understand content operations, remember these three words — people, process, and technology. As long as the right people are in place, with knowledge of the processes and access to the technology, the content operations of a company should run smoothly and successfully.
The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.
Nike.com uses infinite scrolling to load more products on its category pages. And because of that, Nike risks its loaded content not getting indexed.
For the sake of testing, I entered one of their category pages and scrolled down to choose a product triggered by scrolling. Then, I used the “site:” command to check if the URL is indexed in Google. And as you can see on a screenshot below, this URL is impossible to find on Google:
Of course, Google can still reach your products through sitemaps. However, finding your content in any other way than through links makes it harder for Googlebot to understand your site structure and dependencies between the pages.
To make it even more apparent to you, think about all the products that are visible only when you scroll for them on Nike.com. If there’s no link for bots to follow, they will see only 24 products on a given category page. Of course, for the sake of users, Nike can’t serve all of its products on one viewport. But still, there are better ways of optimizing infinite scrolling to be both comfortable for users and accessible for bots.
Unlike Nike, Douglas.de uses a more SEO-friendly way of serving its content on category pages.
They provide bots with page navigation based on <a href> links to enable crawling and indexing of the next paginated pages. As you can see in the source code below, there’s a link to the second page of pagination included:
Moreover, the paginated navigation may be even more user-friendly than infinite scrolling. The numbered list of category pages may be easier to follow and navigate, especially on large e-commerce websites. Just think how long the viewport would be on Douglas.de if they used infinite scrolling on the page below:
Let’s check if that’s the case here. Again, I used the “site:” command and typed the title of one of Otto.de’s product carousels:
As you can see, Google couldn’t find that product carousel in its index. And the fact that Google can’t see that element means that accessing additional products will be more complex. Also, if you prevent crawlers from reaching your product carousels, you’ll make it more difficult for them to understand the relationship between your pages.
To find out, check what the HTML version of the page looks like for bots by analyzing the cache version.
To check the cache version of Target.com’s page above, I typed “cache:https://www.target.com/p/9-39-…”, which is the URL address of the analyzed page. Also, I took a look at the text-only version of the page.
When scrolling, you’ll see that the links to related products can also be found in its cache. If you see them here, it means bots don’t struggle to find them, either.
However, keep in mind that the links to the exact products you can see in the cache may differ from the ones on the live version of the page. It’s normal for the products in the carousels to rotate, so you don’t need to worry about discrepancies in specific links.
But what exactly does Target.com do differently? They take advantage of dynamic rendering. They serve the initial HTML, and the links to products in the carousels as the static HTML bots can process.
However, you must remember that dynamic rendering adds an extra layer of complexity that may quickly get out of hand with a large website. I recently wrote an article about dynamic rendering that’s a must-read if you are considering this solution.
Also, the fact that crawlers can access the product carousels doesn’t guarantee these products will get indexed. However, it will significantly help them flow through the site structure and understand the dependencies between your pages.
It’s impossible to fully evaluate a website without a proper site crawl. But looking at its robots.txt file can already allow you to identify any critical content that’s blocked.
This disallow directive misuse may result in rendering problems on your entire website.
To check if it applies in this case, I used Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. This tool can help you navigate rendering issues by giving you insight into the rendered source code and the screenshot of a rendered page on mobile.
But let’s find out if those rendering problems affected the website’s indexing. I used the “site:” command to check if the main content (product description) of the analyzed page is indexed on Google. As you can see, no results were found:
The layout is essential for Google to understand the context of your page. If you’d like to know more about this crossroads of web technology and layout, I highly recommend looking into a new field of technical SEO called rendering SEO.
Lidl.de proves that a well-organized robots.txt file can help you control your website’s crawling. The crucial thing is to use the disallow directive consciously.
Having a large e-commerce website, you may easily lose track of all the added directives. Always include as many path fragments of a URL you want to block from crawling as possible. It will help you avoid blocking some crucial pages by mistake.
Will users get obsessed with finding that particular product via Walmart.com? They may, but they can also head to any other store selling this item instead.
To fix this problem, Walmart has two solutions:
Implementing dynamic rendering (prerendering) which is, in most cases, the easiest from an implementation standpoint.
IKEA proves that you can present your main content in a way that is accessible for bots and interactive for users.
When browsing IKEA.com’s product pages, their product descriptions are served behind clickable panels. When you click on them, they dynamically appear on the right-hand side of the viewport.
Take care of your indexing pipeline and check if:
Your content actually gets indexed on Google.
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