Constant content creation is the fuel for your website. Whether you live 'n die off search engine referrals or natural type-in traffic you understand the need for minty fresh content. This panel of content gurus will look at how to keep the creativity flowing and managing the content process.
- Elisabeth Osmeloski
- Elisabeth Osmeloski, Director of Online Media, Zonder.com
- Robin Liss, Founder and President, Camcorderinfo.com
- Ted Ulle, Partner, The MEWS Group
- Rae Hoffman, Principal, Sugarrae Internet Consulting
The first speaker is Ted Ulle, Partner, The MEWS Group, popularly known as Tedster in Webmaster World. He is here to answer on 'Does ALL your content fit?'
He answers saying that workflow must support your priorities. You're aiming for a simple and seamless experience for the end user. Simplicity is actually a discipline that is not easy.
Keep it simple and clear. Ted present a workflow on how to keep business purpose.
- First start with a web strategy first (SEO)
- Content. Keep all your ideas. Back end and metrics. This is information architecture.
- Content – Use a full copy at least during the launch.
- Now, you can involve your graphic design people
- Web edit in HTML. Don't lay too much and too early focus on graphics.
- Edit your content again in HTML. It's going to look different on a web page.
- Through this whole process, you want to document every choice you made. It's hard but essential.
Menu and navigation:
- The labels are your site content. This indicates to people what you do and what you can.
- Most people have shifted to single word menu labels. These are application-friendly and not website-friendly.
- While offering options, it should never be more than 7 else your viewer will run away. Ted sticks to 5 or 6.
Final Web Edit
- Content interacts with layout
- Consider CSS for web typesetting. Bad layout is detrimental to your site.
- Good layout can fake poor content
- Good to learn print typography. Suggested reading Robert Bringhurst Elements of Typographic Style.
Where do "Seams" come from? Seams means showing off and it's graphic designers who engage in this the most. Remember the focus of the site is your business and not some artwork. Stay away from fancy programming features. IT people shouldn't write copy. Creative people should be involved in writing auto responders. Ensure the message you are sending out is what you want to say.
Code Geeks should not write copy. Ted has some funny examples.
Yahoo! Directory: After filling out a form where he forgot to type in his credit card details, the response he got was, "Invalid Payment Instrument Data." Heh heh.
Six figure video investment: Programmer wrote "Open Demo" for a video that should have said 'Watch demo'. He's thinking like a geek, not like a regular user.
PHP/MYSQL menu: "Search produced no results" even after clicking on a menu link.
Next in line is Robin Liss, Founder and President, Camcorderinfo.com. She starts off by discussing about Reviewed.com. This site produces reviews. Her presentation is called 'High Value Content Production Workflow Strategies.' Basically, it is a guide on how to create content for non-spammers.
How to make content? Just like a car maker, you manufacture a product. What lessons can we learn from traditional manufacturing?
- You can't build a car without blueprints
- Mr Ford's assembly line rocks
- Good tools save money
- Specialization = economic efficiency
- Bottlenecks must be destroyed
- Quality control everywhere
- Measure everything
Design your final product with care:
- Target audience
- Purpose of the product
- Topic Area (Very important)
- Article Structure
- What does the first draft producer need (products, tickets, facts)
- What supplemental content will accompany (videos, photos, links)
- How frequent
- What voice?
- Objectivity vs Subjectivity
- Deadline and delivery schedule
Writing the article or filming the video is only the first step in content production. You also have to ensure that you have a budget time and money for the remaining process.
- Article gets assigned.
- People get materials
- Then create first draft
- Supplemental materials are then created
- First edit and then feedback
- Second draft and a second edit
- Content production- Load CMS and HTML-ize
- Copy Edit
- SEO edit
- Final Edit
- Take Live
- Revision and update
You have to keep a check of the content creation process. The duration, steps involved, if anything can be outsourced etc.
A modified pipeline: blogs.
- First, the piece is assigned and information is received
- First draft is written
- Draft is taken live
- Do some marketing
- Revise and update
One person is in charge of everything in blogs which makes it so efficient. Nevertheless as some of the are longer, there is lesser quality control. Point is, many people say this is what blogs are, the absence of external editing.
Robin shows a sample of where there's a modified pipeline, where there are two people involved- 1 writer and 1 editor. No matter how good a writer you are, you should have an editor. With this, your quality will improve and let people focus on their core specialties.
Robin has a site about digital cameras where there are 6-10 people involved. These are:-
- Editor in chief
- Managing editor
- Product photographer
- Copy editor
Some CMS tools that are budget-friendly:
- Content Management System
- WYSIWYG editors
- Own your CMS
- Investing money in your own CMS will reduce long-term editorial costs
Workflow Management Tools
- Google Calendar
- Lots of spreadsheets
Find the right writer for the right task:
- Short Form vs. Long Form
- Journalistic vs Opinionated
- Edgy vs. straight
- Switching tasks takes time
- When doing large products, different parts of the article might go to different people
- Find an online copy editor to pay per word
- Find a basic HTML guru for CMS
- Hire a part time or full time editor to improve your quality and manage workflow
- Time in minutes, hours or days that each step in the workflow process takes
- Constantly track these times and look to improve them
- Create an "article flow" or "article patter" by reducing bottlenecks
- Ways to create an even flow- add more staff to a bottlenecked area; outsource a bottleneck area; have staff to double duty; reduce the staff time spent on a the over-producing areas; make sure that there are article in every step of the pipeline, track this with Excel and Google Calendar; give deadlines not just for when the article is finished, but when an article needs to move through the content creation process.
Quality Control Everywhere
- As Robin's reviews are syndicated on the WSJ, we can't mess up!
- Error free content = credibility
- Keep an eye for grammatical, factual, and analytical errors
- More eyes Ã¢â‚¬â€œ less errors
- User comments are a great way to find errors.
- Measure Processes
- Measure the time each step takes
- Measure Word count
- Measure When people hit deadlines
- Measure average number of articles produced by day, week, month
- Measure what content gets high traffic.
- While hiring contributors, make it clear that you own all the rights to all the content
- Put plagiarism protection clauses in your contracts
- Be as specific as possible
- Try to put those blueprints in the contract
- You get what you pay for
- Cheap original content will cost more money in the long term when you have to edit it
- Try your best to be original in your content, produce what others aren't
- Blogs are a great way to dip your toe into original content production
In the end, it's all about quality
Last, finally is Rae Hoffman, Principal, Sugarrae Internet Consulting who brings with her some slides. And she is the fastest speaker.
Sugarrae Internet Consulting deals in building content in order to get quality links. Rae says content is the most effective way to distinguish your site from the rest while also developing traffic and developing good incoming links that will push your site to the top of the SERPs and maintain that position.
If quality content is published regularly, you can:-
- Get links
- Get traffic referrals
- Website citations
- Develop feed counts & subscribers
- Gets your site listed in social media
- Ups your possibilities for traditional media mentions
According to Rae, there are 3 ways to get content developed for your website:
Pros: Cheap, commitment-free, use as needed
Cons: Trial and error for quality, availability issues, no commitment
Full-time remote writers:
Pros: No overhead costs, dedicated, more skills for less money
Cons: Distance management, training barriers, and just a paycheck
Full time in house:
Pros: Easier to manage, easier to train, dedicated
Cons: Overhead costs, more expensive, must have long-term needs
Know hat to look for in a content developer:
- Know the type of content you plan to develop
- The type of industry you work in
- Good organizational skills
- Ability to work independently
- Can think for themselves
- Good to stellar writing skills
- Ability to hit deadlines
- Basic HTML skills
- Right writing tone for your site
- A great sense of humor
- Expertise in a certain area
- Journalism specific skills
- Basic promotional skills, etc.
Training Content Developers
- Train your writers to promote their own work as much as possible
- Develop media lists for the topic area your writer is working on for them to be able to push their best pieces to
- Encourage your writers to become active in the community by interacting with others in their industry by participating in forums
- Teach your writers about social media and ask them to become involved in it. They need to know who they're writing for (not to lead the social media campaign)
- Explain to your writers how they can take angles on pieces to receive traffic and citations from big sites that they may not normally appeal to with their straight niche writing
- Encourage writers to pitch to traditional news outlets to get exposure within the niche for your site with a byline that includes your site information in addition to citations in the form of links if they also publish online
- Train your writers to link out when it makes sense and follow up with notifications to companies who are linked to
- Explain to your writers how to use Google News alerts to stay abreast of important happenings