Let’s begin with a definition. Content automation refers to using technology to reduce manual effort in creating, delivering, and managing content.

To bring the concept to life, here’s a quick example of content automation. The health and wellness company Sharecare automatically delivers pertinent content based on a user’s health profile and preferences. 

Screenshot of Sharecare's personalized health content

Why invest in content automation like this? The benefits include:

  • Being able to meet current customer/user demands: Users expect the right content at the right time, all the time. 
  • Staying compliant with legal and quality standards: Organizations face pressure to comply with legal requirements, quality standards, and other rules at scale. 
  • Opening up opportunities for innovation: Content automation can help achieve new levels of delighting customers and content operations efficiency. 

Content automation can help you in every content phase:

  • Creation
  • Management 
  • Delivery
  • Evaluation        
  • Optimization

Companies are increasing investment in these types of automation efforts. Deloitte finds that 73% of executives say their organizations have embarked on a path to intelligent automation, up 58% from 2019. Those organizations range from piloting, with 1 to 10 automations (37%), to scaling, with 51 or more automations (13%).

This article will help you start to think through and implement your content automation efforts. 

1. Embrace the Automation of Content Workflow

As any content professional knows, content creation is a heavy lift. But content automation can help, including with how content moves from a draft state to a final published state. 

Document current content creation tasks and steps: To be able to automate a task or process you need to clarify the current tasks, steps, and people or roles responsible for developing content. This can take different forms, including a checklist, playbook, or RACI chart. 

Identify tools and technology that can help: Once you have a solid understanding of the tasks and processes you want to automate, you can determine what technology you need to make that automation a reality. For example, if you determine you have specific style rules you want all content to follow, you can use an AI-powered editing tool such as Writer to automatically check that each piece of content is adhering to your guidelines. 

2. Use Automation in Content Management 

Investing in the right content management system and setting it up properly can allow you to automate numerous tasks and processes. 

Incorporate workflow into your CMS: Today, many content management systems come with a default workflow or allow you to create a custom workflow. You can set up a workflow in your CMS to enable automatic enforcement of your content publication process as well as automated notifications for the next step or person in the flow. For example, you can define a workflow that ensures that once a content contributor uploads or enters a new piece of content, they must send that for review to an editor. And when they do, that editor gets a notification that new content is ready for them to review. This means your content team can work entirely within the CMS instead of having to send multiple emails just to get one piece of content out the door.   

Use a CMS that allows you to reuse structured content easily: Do you want to be able to enter a piece of content into your CMS once and reuse it or parts of it on multiple pages or places on your website (or your other channels/applications)? If so, then you need to structure your content consistently and you need a CMS that will allow you to enter that content into different fields and components that you can then pull into other pages or channels. 

One article can be delivered to many different channels

3. Code Content With Tags and Metadata 

Applying the right tags and metadata to your content, and doing so consistently, is a first step in being able to automate content delivery

Develop and use tags and metadata: By creating a well-organized system for tagging content and using metadata fields, you can open up opportunities for automating the surfacing of content to the right users at the right time.   

Look for content curation opportunities: Once you have your tagging and metadata in place, you can start to curate content throughout your site to make the most of existing content. For example, The Home Depot has a wealth of useful guides about gardening. Do you think they recreate all of that content every spring? Of course not! Instead, when spring rolls around The Home Depot creates some new guides and curates old guides that are still highly relevant. 

The Home Depot reuses garden content each year

Define logic and rules for personalized suggestions: You can create rules and logic based on your content tags and metadata to offer users a personalized experience. For example, you can give customers suggestions for more content similar to the content they just viewed by using the content tags. 

4. Implement Content Evaluation Automation 

Just having content analytics in place doesn’t mean you are evaluating your content. Content evaluation takes time, but content automation can make it easier and more efficient. 

Take time to set up analytics to measure what matters: You can collect data all day long, but if you don’t know what you want to accomplish with your content then you won’t be able to take action using the data you collect. To move from analytics to content intelligence you need to note your content goals, write down questions about whether your content is accomplishing these goals, and write down possible data points to answer those questions. Once you know what you need to measure and why, you can set up automated ways to collect and evaluate the right data to inform your content decision making. 

Deploy ongoing voice of customer data collection: In the age of rapid digital transformation, asking your customers once a year or every so often about what they think about your content just isn’t enough. Setting up an ongoing, automated voice of customer data collection system, such as ContentWRX, makes considering customer perceptions easy. It will also allow you to react more effectively to customer feedback about your content. 

5. Invest In Automating Content Optimization

Automating content optimization includes efforts such as multivariate testing, where different versions of content are tested for impact or performance.  

Use the machine-learning capabilities of your CMS: Certain content management systems can use data to learn from user behavior and improve personalization over time. You will need to have the right platform, data, and logic in place to employ machine learning to automate content optimization

Automate multivariate testing: Tools ranging from Adobe Target to Optimizely to Facebook can automatically try different combinations of text, images, and layouts, then assess which combination performs the best. This approach works well for accelerating testing at a large scale.

Moving Forward

Now that you have an understanding of what it takes to start implementing content automation, you’re ready to take the next steps. But, keep in mind some of the challenges you may face, so you can be ready to overcome them.  For example, Deloitte finds that executives are most likely to say process fragmentation and a lack of IT readiness are the top barriers to scaling intelligent automation.

As you move forward, here are some suggestions for how to go from idea to full implementation with help from Content Science:

Dig in deeper with a certification course: This article features content from Content Science’s Content Engineering Certification program, which is part of our Content Science Academy. The certification course provides an introduction to content engineering, and covers topics that will help you manage and automate content effectively—and gives examples, practice assignments, and tools to get you going. 

Get guidance from The Content Advantage: There are even more content automation insights and examples in The Content Advantage. You can use the information in the book to help you put together a content automation strategy that works for your organization. 

Partner with Content Science: We are here to help you. If your organization is ready to get to work on content automation, you can engage Content Science to work with you and your team to develop an automation strategy that will put you on the path to success. 

This article is part of our ongoing How To series, in which we help you learn how to get started in or improve across key content areas. Catch up with more in this series: 

The Author

Content Science is a growing content strategy and intelligence company and the publisher of Content Science Review. We empower digital enterprises for the content era by taking their content approach to the next level. Customers of our professional services and one-of-a-kind products (such as ContentWRX and Content Science Academy) include the Fortune 50, the world’s largest nonprofits, and the most trusted government agencies.

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