This article is intended for strategists, product owners, and digital marketers tasked to (re)build a destination website.
You may have a great content strategy on paper, but to produce and maintain a destination website, high-level principles must be converted into tangible assets - stories and visuals that are mapped into the content structure.
That means you must engage various content creators, domain experts, and managers who may not all have the time or energy to study all your strategy documentation.
How can you ensure they all stay focused? How can you organize your team to prevent the content creation process from getting out of hand? Obviously, you need practical, role-specific instructions and uniform standards so that everyone can deliver quality content timely and effectively.
This is where editorial guidelines come into play.
About this guide
Based on years of experience with tourist destination websites, Creatim’s experts have outlined the following guide that is arranged into:
- Content guidelines
- Advertising guidelines
- Social media guidelines
The idea is to distill the content strategy into a concise, easy-to-digest document. It will help your team to explore how to:
- Elaborate website-specific content challenges
- Establish an effective content creation process
- Keep your team aligned on common goals and KPIs
- Ensure the brand voice is coherent across the website
- Empower brand advocates
These topics need to be developed further to reflect your destination specifics. Clearly state what is non-negotiable, but don’t carve the rules in stone; allow adjustments to reflect the changing market environment. In the hybrid governance model, consider the special needs and expectations of local DMOs.
For policy upgrades, you should have a formal procedure in place to prevent confusion. Nevertheless, be sure not to make the process too bureaucratic.
There are challenges you will inevitably encounter when designing a website. Some will require one-off decisions, while others may be present continuously, such as:
Content focus and personalization. Typical personas are usually introduced in the content strategy. Content guidelines should provide simple charts for each persona so creators can establish relevancy and a clear call to action.
Content quality. Provide stylistic guides for visual content. In copywriting, encourage simple and friendly language with a distinctive brand voice. Require all copy to have correct spelling and grammar. Translations should be re-checked by a native speaker.
Copyright. How will you maintain an overview and manage copyright stipulations? How will you ensure the work is original? Hint: avoid stock photos at all costs. They can undermine your brand authenticity.
Localization. For non-English-speaking destinations, decide which language will be the master language from which all translations ensue. English or your local language?
How will you handle cultural differences in the target markets? For example, the LGBT topic may resonate well with western audiences, but not so much with Arabic markets.
SEO. Who will optimize the content for search engines in each language? What SEO tasks can be assigned to copywriters, and what are the accountabilities of your SEO specialist?
Story guidelines. Considering the story structure: are there any rules authors have to follow? Are there story wireframes or templates to draw from?
Information accuracy. How will you ensure the published information is correct and up to date? Is there a verification process in place? Who is accountable for which information?
Content management tools. Which CMS can best support your editorial and user management processes? Does the CMS support non-Latin languages? Some CMSs allow a different structure for each language under the same URL. Others require a separate URL for each language, which can impede editorial efficiency. What personalization tools does the CMS provide? What tools do you need for collaboration (internal and external)?
Linking policy. Link only to web content aligned with the site’s editorial policy. Are writers allowed to link to external/internal sources, and if yes, how many? Who will monitor the link quality? Who will check the page for broken/404 links?
Content inventory. How will you maintain an overview of content inventory (URL, links, SEO data, history, etc.)? Who will be responsible for content inventory management?
Who is eligible to advertise on the website? Is it any business or just visitor-relevant services? What is your pricing policy? For example, you can offer free advertising for tourism-related products because they provide added value while charging all the others (or even disallowing them). However you decide, make sure you don’t turn your website into a yellow pages-style outlet. Since all advertisers may not be communication-savvy, they need clear instructions or even in-person support on what is allowed and what is not. Any ad examples or templates may come in very handy.
Here is an example of practical rules every advertiser should adhere to:
- Ads cannot include misleading content, claims, offers, or business practices.
- Pop-ups are not allowed.
- The advertiser must avoid excessive capitalization, word repetition, or similar questionable practices.
- Product price must be clearly stated in the ad and on the advertiser’s landing page.
- The advertiser must be identified in the ad and on the advertiser’s landing page.
- Ads cannot cut across the destination brand’s values
- Images must comply with the site’s quality standards (no blurry, unclear, or unrecognizable visuals)
- The advertiser is solely responsible for the copy and the information in the ad and on the landing page.
- The text must be grammatically correct (no spelling or grammatical errors)
- Ideally, the advertiser will provide the ad and the landing page content in all website languages.
- Advertisers can only use tourist board-approved ad templates for ad creation.
- The tourist board may refuse to publish an ad if it does not meet general guidelines or specifications.
Social Media Guidelines
At first glance, social media does not seem to fit under the website umbrella. Indeed, it requires a distinctive approach and is usually a separate topic. On the other hand, it provides user-generated content (UGC), a powerful and inexpensive social proof that is an indispensable ingredient of a destination website.
You need to elicit a positive response from your followers on social media by asking open-ended questions, providing tourist guides, tips on trip planning, and lists of the best places to stay. With some persistence and attentiveness, you will win brand advocates who will happily share their content on your website.
Some practical tips:
- Keep it simple. Don’t be too formal. Use the simple language you would typically use in a good conversation. Be polite and relaxed.
- No overselling. Be inviting rather than pushy.
- Be visual. Engage visitors with compelling images or videos on all social media channels.
- Partner with influencers. Engage people that your audience trusts. Empower brand advocates.
- Respond to negative comments. Negative can turn into positive if addressed helpfully and positively.
- Offensive comments and remarks: Ignore them.
These content guidelines provide a useful reference point for the DMO’s initiatives and activities. They are not limited to website design, however, and provide a basis for the editorial team to keep the website content coherent, enticing, and informative.
Do you need support in shaping your destination website? We’d love to help you to take advantage of your brand’s uniqueness. Schedule a time to talk or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.