This panel of content creation gurus will look at how to keep the creativity flowing while managing the content process. Moderator: Derrick Wheeler Speakers: Rupali Shah, Organic Search Manager, GroupM Robin Liss, Founder and President, Camcorderinfo.com Ted Ulle, Partner, The MEWS Group
Ted Ulle, aka Tedster takes the floor. Tedster is an industry veteran since 1994, a WebmasterWorld administrator, and great guy to know.
What happens if you know that you are going to publish a lot of content? Don't build a "Frankensite". The main point is that business process or workflow must support your SEO. It must always be there.
Must be training for SEO in your content team. Must locate and educate everyone in the workflow. Can be a big pain, particularly in big enterprises. Pulls people from lots of channels, sometimes there's no communication. You need to locate and educate them. Should have analytics dedicated to each person in the workflow. Lets people know they are doing a good job. Makes a big difference to people. Hold regular team meetings to keep the team coordinated.
War story #1: Management must buy in. Major silicon valley firm. Had IT department, web designers, writers, and analytics people. Half of the team was reassigned, and the entire training went down the drain. Without exec level buy in, you have a big problem. The final product must support the business goal. It's always #1. Its at the top of the chain.
Marketing strategy: If you know your strategy, can rough out content on a conceptual level. If starting a new web site - need to look at CMS, server, back-end, analytics - folded in early. Start with the market strategy, then do keyword research. Next task is the IA, and menus. Most important part of the content. First shot at your site. Without this nailed down, your content will not get found well. At this point, after IA is set, you can pull in graphic designers and build your templates. Many companies do this right away. Happening less now. After you got your templates, you got your content. Point of the story is to take the business goal and make it penetrate the process. The most important thing to do is document each process. If team changes, can review the document. Need to document each decision.
War story #2: Beware of chasing trophy keywords. Niche market - "homeopathy software". Product was aimed at doctors. But the search term is the word a layman would use. B2C not B2B. This market had only one vendor. Tried to be the #2. Gained the number one and number two rankings. Launched lots of content. Sales went down. Got the trophy, and almost went under. Happy ending: web showed them what was wrong. Not just on the web but off the web. Marketed completely different. Content became easier to develop. Traffic became golden. Broke into the market, and became the leader. They don't rank anymore for their trophy term, and it doesn't matter.
Information Architecture: Before you make your menu decision - you need to find the right buckets to hold your content. This discipline is so intense, comes from library science. Often ignored, but so important. Recommends O'reilly's IA for the WWW. Not technical but incredible insightful.
Final web edit: Content interacts with layout. CSS is web typesetting. You can kill good content with bad layout and visa versa. Study print typography. You have centuries of learning about this subject. Study it. Read "Elements of Typographic Style" by Robert Bringherst.
Simple and Seamless goal: For the end user, for the search engines, and for maintenance. Websites are incredibly complex. Need to eat the complication all the time and digest it.
Showing off: Someone shows off on the team. Bad for business goals, good for them. Often the graphics designer, could be the programmers touting AJAX. Or could be your IT folks writing content. They write content on SERPs, error messages, write auto responders which are a big part of the user experience.
Code geeks should never write content! Ever! Yahoo! directory - if you make a mistake with a credit card, you get the message "Invalid Payment Instrument Data".
Despite all planning, things will go wrong. Data queries re too slow. Content breaks the template.
When time to fix, though shalt not kludge! Better late than lousy. Expect to make trade-offs. Keep all priorities straight. How? Go back to your document! Refresh yourself with the business goals. Don't build a "Frankensite".
Robin Liss, of Reviewed.com is up next. Robin is one of the foremost industry experts on producing top quality content, and is a brilliant businesswoman. She started her company when she was 13 years old. Her network of review sites generates well over 1 million unique visitors a month.
"Producing high value content - a guide to creating content for non-spammers."
Just like a car maker, you manufacture a product - the written word. What can we learn from car manufacturers to create efficient processes?
Mr. Ford's assembly line rocks! Shows a slide with a basic pipeline of how content is produced at Reviewed.com. Look at every step, and refine each process. Steps come together to create a content pipeline. Who takes responsibility for what steps? How much time is needed? What steps are needed or not needed depending on the content? What can you outsource? What can you bring in house? This pipeline can scale across 10, 20, or even 100 people.
Create a first draft. Supplement with photos, video, etc. That goes into an edit. Could be you, or an editor. Next is production - "HTMLization". Copy editing, SEO editing, and final edit. Then take it live. Market it, and push it out to blogs. Go back and adjust and fix if necessary.
The most basic content pipeline is a blog. Blogs are efficient because there is a lot of front line content production. A newspaper or magazine might have 10-20% of payroll producing original words. Blogs have limited editing. Almost everyone involved in a blog is creating editorial products. It's highly efficient and productive. Modified pipeline for blog is simpler. Lacks the editing and oversight.
Examples of modified pipeline. You might have an editor and a writer. Sometimes it might be more efficient to add a third person to the process. A more complicated pipeline might have 6 people. An editor-in-chief, an editor, the writer, a photographer, a product tester, and a copy editor. It might be more efficient, but not cheap. Bigger payroll. Lots of quality control in this example. Reviewed.com syndicates to the Washington Post, so quality is mandatory. Her staff is producing an equivalent of a novel a month in text, and high quality text.
Tools: Good tools save money. WSIWYG tools (FCK Editor) save production time and money. Dreamweaver. MT. Own your CMS. Investing money in your CMS will reduce editorial costs in the long term.
Workflow management tools. Google Calendar, lots of spreadsheets.
Specialization = economic efficiency. Find the right writer for the right task. Is this short form content or long form? Journalistic vs. opinionated? Edgy vs. straight? Switching takes time. When doing large projects, different parts of the article might go to different people.
Find an online copy editor, and pay per word. Find a basic HTML guru to "HTMLize" your stuff. Everyone needs an editor, even the best writers. Everything should be edited. Hard to spot your own errors. Mandatory. Allows your writers to improve content. Making one person do everything is inefficient.
Destroy bottlenecks! If you want to get scientific, measure and quantify your workflow. Make a consistent pattern. Heavy focus on patterns at Reviewed.com. One review per week, for example. Even flow. Make sure that you find your inefficiencies. Error free content = creditability. Whether its grammar, or information. Measure everything! Measure your editors. Measure word count, time, deadlines. Measure number of articles that are producing. Measure articles' traffic. Increase efficiency makes better content at less of a cost.
Final tips: Hire contributors, but make sure you own the rights in the contract. Don't want to get into a plagiarism argument. Don't want to get into that mess. Protect yourself in contracts. Be specific.
You get what you pay for. Be original. Google likes content. Writing good reviews ranks well. Contribute to the world's information. Blogs are good way to get into original content creation. And focus on quality!
Rupali Shah is next, and talks about mobile content.
With the advent of iPhones and Blackberries have to think about how to present your company on these devices. Will cover stats about mobile usage, mobile SEO, tops for creating mobile content, good and bad examples.
Stats show that in January, 08 by M:Metrics majority of iPhone and smartphone users are reading news via the browser, accessing web search. The iPhone actually ran out of inventory a few months back. There is high demand for these products. More efficient for many tasks. 7 million + iPhone users. Potential viewers of your website!
Technology is no longer a barrier. Research has shown that people are having an OK experience visiting the web with smart phones. UK users showed a poor experience, but US users were satisfied, according to her slide.
Have you looked at your website on an iPhone or iPhone emulator? Does it look OK? Is the load speed good?
Mobile SEO. Use valid XHTML code. W3C compliance. www.w3.org/mobile. Keywords, meta data, linking and site maps.
Accessibility: Make it uncluttered. Less is more. Make the page sizes small. Look at user agent, and serve tailored content. Have a simple design, rich in text. Use mobile style sheets. Minimize images. Use DIV tags, not tables. Optimize your images with ALT tags.
Look at a check list of all the different screen widths. Shows a slide with the most common sizes. Pay attention to image formats GIFs and JPEGs. Character encoding. Maximum total page weight - 20kb. Limit your colors to 256. Limit your scripting - many devices cannot understand heavy scripting. Avoid lots of scrolling - keep pages short. Use a good navigation structure.
Other tips: Use Google Mobile Sitemaps. Feed the content to the engine. Yahoo has a similar product. Google Webmaster Tools shows what keywords mobile users are finding you.
Coverage provided by Avi A. Wilensky of Promediacorp, a Manhattan based online marketing agency.