We use content templates here at Grist and we think you should too. Why? In short because they help structure editorial production and output. They bring order to the process and definition to the copy, without compromising creativity.
Templates provide a framework for the creation of a particular content type, detailing the key elements that should be included. In doing so, their use ensures that all the essentials are covered and prioritised, and that the words on the screen (or page) have a consistent tone, treatment and quality.
This is especially important where there are multiple stakeholders involved in the conception, production and sign-off of material. And in most B2B content marketing campaigns, working with multiple stakeholders is the norm.
Yet despite all the benefits content templates bring, only 44% of B2B marketers use them, according to our research.
It’s not the only editorial tool that remains unused by the majority. And as we’ve argued before, these core disciplines of conventional publishing – providing writers with article briefs and developing content calendars to shape the year’s output among them – are essential to delivering high-quality content marketing.
How to use content templates
For B2B firms, content templates can be brought into play for any content type where a measure of consistency or repeatability is desirable.
Typically they are reserved for the more ‘functional’ or static pages on a B2B website, such as product, service and sector descriptions, or staff profiles and partner biographies, that often change little over time.
But equally they could help set the standard for evergreen content such as topic landing pages, case studies, checklists and guides, or higher volume editorial content with a shorter shelf life such as news stories, blogs and article pages.
While many content marketing strategies prioritise ‘top of the funnel’ editorial content, the value of static content is often underplayed, and rarely given proper love and attention by internal stakeholders. This is a mistake given the importance these pages play in the user journey and in ensuring the discoverability of your site through search engines such as Google.
What should content templates contain?
There will be different fields for different content types but, when creating a checklist, consider off-page elements, not just those that will appear on the page itself.
A blog post template, for example, might include the following on-page elements: headline, kicker, date, author by-line, body copy, image(s), subheadings, pull quote, call to action and URL links. The off-page elements may include: meta description, alt and title tags, downloadable assets, and suggested wording for social media promotion.
The template should provide instructional text in each field, offering example copy, directions on house style and treatment, and word and character counts as appropriate.
But this is not just a tick-box exercise – the template is there to challenge and inspire contributors as well as covering the essentials. A few probing questions such as ‘What does this look like from a client perspective?’ or ‘How does this work in practice?’ can help uncover the nuggets of information that readers will value most.
At Grist we use templates to capture this essential IP as the starting point in a collaborative process that involves editors, copywriters and/or journalists, so that the finished pages marry technical detail and subject expertise with creative flair.
When should you introduce content templates?
Invariably it takes a website relaunch before content templates get taken seriously. Don’t wait that long. Look at the structure of all pages now as part of a content audit – and develop templates for each.
For an idea of how this works in practice, take a look at the expertise pages of law firm, Blake Morgan. The people profile template used here allows scope for individuality and creativity while still providing the key information and a consistent look and feel. This in turn allows Blake Morgan to ‘slice and dice’ the data so users can browse by audience, area of expertise, location or, simply, alphabetical listing. Without the structure that templates impose this would not be possible.
For further inspiration, download Grist’s sample People Profile Template below. And get in touch if you’d like help with others.
Are you one of the 44% using templates? If so, let us know more. How do you use them? And for what pages?
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