12 Nov 2008

Real-World Winning Tactics for Content Creation

Okay, we’re officially done blending rakes and it’s time to talk about content. Finally something I know a bit about!

This time around we have Rupali Shah, Robin Liss and Ted Ulle. Moderating is Microsoft hottie Derrick Wheeler. I’ve been calling Derrick hot for three years now. It’s amazing he doesn’t hide when he sees me. Hi Derrick! 🙂

Ted Ulle, aka Tedster on WebmasterWorld, is up first.

Ted wants to “keep it real”. He says that business processes and work flow must support SEO.

Training for SEO

There must be training in your content team for SEO. That means locating and educating everyone in the work flow who will be producing content.  You should have analytics that are dedicated to each person in the work flow. Know what each person needs to see in order to know they’re doing a good job.  Hold regular team meetings to get everyone pulling on the same end of the rope.

War Story 1: Management MUST buy in. He worked with a major Silicon Valley enterprise. They started out great. They had an analytics guy in training. They had people in marketing, IT, copywriting, etc, all in training. They had a strong education kick off. Ted thought he had a winner…and then half the team was reassigned 4 weeks later. All of that training was lost without buy in. Fail.

Your business goal is always number one. The content must support it.

Content Creation Process:

  • Marketing Strategy
  • Back end decision
  • Keyword Research
  • Information Architecture and Menu Labels
  • Let Writers develop content
  • Bring in Graphic Designers — Don’t START here.

Create a document and then record each decision made in the process. This will tell people what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Otherwise you’ll lose yourself in the process.

War Story 2: Beware of Chasing Trophy Keywords

You want to go after the terms your USERS are going to use to find you, not jargon terms. The company in his example earned the top two placements for their jargon term by writing 150 pages of content — and their sales dropped! However, it made them rethink their strategy, helping them go from a start up to a market leader.

Information Architecture: Before you make your menu decisions, make sure you have the right buckets for your content.

Final Web Edit: Make sure content interacts with layout. CSS is Web typesetting. You can KILL good content with bad layout or boost weak content with good layout. Study print typography.

Make your content simple and seamless for the end user, for search engines and for maintenance.  Make simplicity your discipline.  Showing off works against your business purposes. Typical cuprits: graphic designers, fancy programmers and IT folks.

Code geeks should not write content EVER.

On Yahoo Directory, if you don’t put in your credit card information it says “invalid payment instrument data”. It doesn’t say there was as problem with your credit card. That is going to turn people off and that’s what happens when you let code geeks write your content.

Robin Liss is up next. If I remember correctly, she speaks quickly. This should be fun.

Just like a car maker, you manufacture a product. What lessons can we learn from traditional manufacturing?

Mr Ford’s Assembly Line Rocks

She shows a long pipeline of how they produce content. It looks like this (put prettier):

Content Creation Pipeline

Assignment -> Materials -> 1st Draft Creation -> Supplemental Asset Creation -> 1st Edit Feedback -> 2nd Draft Creation -> 2nd Edit

Content Production Pipeline

CMS Load -> Copy Edit -> SEO Edit -> Final Edit -> Take Life -> Marketing -> Revision & Update

These pipelines ensures that they have content in all steps of the pipeline. You need to ask yourself who takes responsibility for what steps. How much time does each step take? What steps do you need or not need dependent on the content type? What can you outsource? What can you do inhouse?

She talks about blogs. The pipeline looks like this:

Assignment -> Materials -> 1st Draft Creation  ->Take Live -> Marketing -> Revision & Update

One a blog, each person usually does all the steps, this is why it’s so efficient. Blogs might have “Long” form posts that have more editing and process. With this pipeline there is no outside quality control or editing, but that’s what defines blogs.

She then shows a a few increasingly complex pipelines that I can’t even attempt to copy down. You should have bought a ticket. 😉

Tools to Save You Money

Content Management System

  • WYSIWYG tools save production time and money
  • Dreamweaver
  • Plone
  • Movable Type
  • Own your CMS
  • Investing money in your CMS will reduce editorial costs long term

Workflow Management Tools

  • Google Calendar
  • Lots of Spreadsheets

Specialization = Economic Efficiency

  • 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 projects, different parts of the article might go to different people

Production and Editing Specalization

  • Find an online copy editor to pay per word – You NEED an editor.
  • Find a basic HTML guru to do the CMS input
  • Hire a part time or full time editor to improve your quality and manage work flow
  • This will allow your writers to improve their craft and get more efficent
  • Making one person do everything can be very inefficient

Bottlenecks have to be destroyed. Record the time in minutes, hours or days that each step in the work flow takes. Constantly track these times and look to improve them. Create an “article flow” by reducing bottlenecks.

Ways to create an even flow

  • Add more staff to bottleneck areas
  • Outsource a bottleneck area
  • Have staff do double duty

Quality Control Everywhere. Error free content = credibility. Measure everything — what gets traffic, who’s on time, what’s the word count, etc.

Final Tips

  • When hiring contributors, make sure you have the rights to all content
  • Put plagiarism clauses in your contracts
  • Be as specific as possible when ordering an article, try to put those blueprints in the contract
  • You get what you pay for. Cheap content will cost money in the long term editing and correct.
  • Blogs are a great way to dip your toe into original content production
  • Quality, quality, quality

Rupali Shah is up to talk about mobile content.

What do the statistics show?

  • 84 percent of iPhone users access news on their phones. 58 percent of BlackBerry users do.
  • 58 percent of iPhone users search on Google. For BlackBerry users it’s 37 percent.
  • Sales for both phones are soaring.

Technology is no longer a barrier to content. We have the technology.

Have you checked your Web site on a mobile device? See what it looks like. Does it work? Is the code too complicated? There are emulators to try it out.

Mobile Search Engine Optimization

  • Use valid XHTML code
  • W3C Compliant
  • Keywords
  • Metadata
  • Linking Sitemaps

Accessible Mobile Content

  • Make it uncluttered. Less is more.
  • Keep the page size small.
  • Use a simple text design
  • Use style sheets
  • Use Div tags, not tables
  • Optimize your images and include all alt text

Rupali offers up some examples of bad mobile experience, including the Kmart Web site. She mentions other sites that image-heavy and take too long to load.

She calls out Fox News for presenting a good mobile experience. They include top level links for better usability. They use a minimal amount of images and optimize them.

Other Tips to Make Your Web site Mobile

Submit your mobile Sitemap to the search engines Webmaster Tools.

Use online emulators

iPhone emulator

Blackberry emulator [linking to the SERP here because I couldn’t find one I liked. If you have a favorite, leave it in the comments, please!]