Lorem Ipsum is truly the laziest form of content you can utilize, yet it is so widely used in the web development world it’s astonishing. This isn’t the fault of the web agency though, web content has been a tough nut to crack since web design and development become professions. Every agency seems to have a different approach to creating and/or gathering the content for their projects. Lorem became an easy way to show the client where and how final content will be represented on the website, but lorem also tilts the strategy of the website project towards design rather than content. Enter the “Content First” era.

[The history of Lorem Ipsum is kind of interesting. Check this site out.]

The Content First Paradox

The term “content first” became popular with the algorithm changes Google introduced over the past couple years and has been interpreted six ways from Sunday. Most commonly used in its more literal form where the firm requires complete content before design. One agency even states that you should “design around the content.” I’m sorry (not really) but this is an out of touch approach. They are wrong. 

Requiring the content to be completed before design starts is a terrible way to create websites. Not only will it add unnecessary time to the project, but it also creates a strain on the working relationship. Both parties want the site done correctly in the shortest amount of time possible. Proto-content is the key. The holy f**king grail.

What is Proto-content?

Proto-content is draft content. It allows the content to lead the strategy of each page, yet is not finalized content. If a website is developed correctly, final content can be edited in seconds after launch. So why spend so much time on something that is so fluid?

Proto-content exists in three forms:

  1. Current Content: Copy and paste from the current site. Reuse paragraphs if the relevant content doesn’t work. I’ve found it helpful to create new H1s and CTAs while the content is just ripped from the current site.
  2. Draft Content: This is my favorite option. I use a company called Verblio which offers content for a very reasonable price per page. I sell it as proto-content (sometimes I say “draft content”) while Verblio sells it as professionally written final content. I’ve found that selling it as draft content sets the right expectation for the client. Honestly, clients typically end up keeping the draft content because they do not want to pay for a writer and don’t have the time themselves.
  3. Competitor Content: This seems unethical, and it is IF the client launches the site with stolen content. If the client does not have an existing website to pull content from, nor has the budget for draft content, this is a good option. To be clear, launching with stolen content is a shitty thing to do and bad for SEO.

Benefits of Proto-content

Proto-content has many benefits for your health and is recommended by 9/10 doctors*. Here are just a few:

  1. Speeds up the project timeline: Instead of the firm waiting for content to be finalized. The content can be polished over the entire development phase and inserted right before launch. Our goal at Groundwrk is to launch a website in 2-3 months from Discovery. This timeline is healthy for the firm and keeps the client happy. Here is a snapshot of our process timeline: 

  1. The client does not have high expectations: I’ve sold content for $1,000 per page in the past. We used outsourced a local writer and made great margins. The problem was that the client critiqued the SHIT out of the content. All the way down to the Oxford Comma. Other clients have requested new writers because they “didn’t get their flare.” 
  2. Inexpensive: Nuff said. 

Like everything I write, this is what I know now. I learn from every project, conversation, and article. If you want to talk more about proto-content, or if I can help you implement this for your firm let me know. Happy to help.

*Totally made up fact.