Managing Content Production
Dealing with content, especially large amounts of content is always going to be challenging. When it comes to a business it can appear daunting as the amount of data that quickly accumulates is soon seemingly unmanageable.
There are a number of different areas in the digital Marketing scope where you need to deal effectively with large amounts of data, making it easily accessible and manageable.
The first is when you are managing a website or thinking about redesigning or launching a new website. It is important to get the information from all the relevant sources and players and organise it in a way that you can easily collate and incorporate it into your design.
The design of your website will be heavily influenced by the amount and kind of data that you will need to display.
Is the data needed in a website predominately informational, does it lend itself to being displayed in a pdf or does it need to be accessed in a webpage? Could an infographic better depict a large number of pages better than having the reading slog through it all or should it complement those pages.
The Content Matrix
Now you will be using your Content Inventory and the Content Gap Analysis as the basis for the most important document in your content strategy, the Content Matrix, this will guide you and your team through creating and integrating all the new content into the website.
prioritization: Scale 1 to 5 with 1 being an absolute necessity and 5 being might be nice to have. In a big project you may just want to have only priority 1 subjects in your content matrix.
When will the content be published – location on website, -Social media Channel, Blog or news letter
Due dates for : development – review, publication – this is an absolute necessity as without a due date nothing gets finished on time.
In a big project you should break the parts of the project up into steps with their own due dates to ensure that everything is on track to finish when it is due for its first review.
Review process: Author, Editor, Legal this is important so the relevant responsible people can sign off on content as it progresses, make sure all parties know their responsibilities and when they will need to sign off on by.
You might also include:
Language / Translation requirements
Meta Data – title, keywords, description, headline, summary
Content Quality – popularity (based on analytics ) – findability (sometimes content scores low because you cant find it) – useability – readability
Internal testing information, such as testing server locations, final reviewers etc. this is any steps which must be undertaken before the content can go live on the website.
At the end of the day what fields you include in your Content Matrix will depend on your team and how your organization is structured, and you may need to break this Content Matrix into a number of different versions.
Many Content strategists use the Content Matrix as a master document and then share different versions and parts with the right and relevant parties responsible for producing or managing their part of the matrix.
Often you will have attachments for different parts showing layout ect, or different versions for PR or Marketing etc. As you create different versions of the Content Matrix remember less is more, these documents often work best when you give people only the information that they require for their part of the project.
The goal of these documents is to give the right people the correct information so that they can do their job better.
Creating A Style Guide
A style guide is a valuable key to guiding your decisions about how your website will look, there are a number of different style guides Like the AP (Associated Press) or …… (insert examples.
A style guide builds uniformity, it creates a look, it is a good idea to build a style guide into a hidden or restricted part of your website, it will include information on what format images are to be kept in how they must be converted before publishing, down to how you spell words like Email,email e-mail or website, web site, etc. etc.
The most important part of your style guide is get uniformity in your content. So you are doing something the same way every time.
Style used for content
Note places where tone can or should change
First person, “We”, or third person, sometimes when writing for online a less formal way of presentation can come across as more authentic.
Other considerations eg. Visial
File sizes and word counts
Legal and company policy issues
Style guides can be long and complicated and can vary greatly from one organization to another.
The outlines above should help you to get started on developing your own style guide for your business.
Remember you can always update your style sheet as you go along which makes it very attractive to keep it online and accessible.
Establishing an Editorial Calendar and Process
The best websites are not just static, standing still, or with a start and stop process, they are rather more organic, continuing to grow and develop over time as more content is added and existing content is refined.
However you don’t want the website to grow haphazardly either, in fits and spurts, but rather a more structured approach is more beneficial to the overall look and exposure of the website.
This is why setting up an Editorial Calendar and editorial processes can really make a difference in structuring the release of content in a timely and on target fashion.
Most businesses face different challenges and opportunities throughout the year, its important to identify those factors and to be ready for them.
There may be seasonal factors, holiday factors or something specific to the type of business being carried out.
Tips for creating an Editorial Calendar
Start with the four seasons, what happens to the business during the seasons, Summer time do the sales increase?
Factor in all the big holidays, those holidays which are important to you and your customers, what happens on those holidays?
Search the content archives for dates and trends specific to your business or organization.
Review annual reports, sales materials, catalogues or advertising materials make sure your online strategy matches your live real world one, do you need to coordinate sales campaigns.
Check out the editorial calendars of newspapers, magazines or even other websites make sure you’re going to be on target with seasonal events, perhaps their is a local show every year, or a big award ceremony which needs to be covered..
Plan your content around your calendar, especially if it is specific to events. Such as Christmas promotions or suchlike.
Brainstorm 52 tips to send out once a week in your weekly email newsletter, get them written up so there is material to build your newsletter around, include season themes and inserts so you have basic outline prepared and being worked on.
Come up with 12 great blog posts, at least once a month you will have a great blog post, prepare in advance so enough research and background information can be gathered and collated so once a month a really good, well put together blog post goes out.
Consider using social media tools that enable you to schedule social media posts in advance, this means you can line up post well in advance and prepare your social media interactions to best compliment your material on the website or blog posts.
Although creating an Editorial calendar can help its all part of the big picture, when it comes to developing a good editorial process, you will find if you’re working with a small company or start up is vastly different from dealing with a large organization.
In a small company those involved have to wear many different hats, juggling the needs of the company, one day accountant, next day salesperson, this can lead to a rather ad hock process when in comes to editorial processes. In contrast in a big organizations the problem could be an over abundance of processes and involvement of many different parties, perhaps their are contradicting policies or policies which result in duplication of effort.
If your working with a small company or one which is still developing their basic procedures, you may find yourself designing their editorial process, their way of creating, reviewing and managing content.
What is Metadata? Meta data is data about data. Its all about keeping data organized and at its heart, metadata is used to describe data that is used in a website and how to keep track of it in many different ways.
When dealing with large amounts of content on a website you will find that creating meta data is important so you can find and keep track of all of the many different pieces of data and whether its on an intranet where you don’t care about SEO results, or on an open website being crawled by SEO web bots, meta data plays an intricate part of collating, searching and organizing content.
Meta data includes things like, the title of a document, who the author is, when it was written, which images belong with the document and a wealth of other information.
There are important little fields like the Title Tag, which is very important to fill out correctly , for if someone decides to bookmark a page or document this data will be the information which will make them click again sometime in the future to get back on your website.
Remember a good description is a sales pitch to get someone viewing the search result to click and explore further.
There are also Keyword fields which web designers used to love to pad and fill up with lots of keywords, so much so that search engines disregard this field for searching purposes now a days, but might be very relevant if the website is on an intranet with its own internal search functions which would be vastly improved by using this field.
Lots of Content organizers use titles made up of keywords, as they wish to optimize their search results and SE rankings and as long as it clearly outlines what your content is, its a good option to use.
Anther area of metadata which is easily missed is Alt text, this is a field accompanying images, which is used to include a written description about your image and is used by internet browsers and other programs which read pages or when they cant display an image for any reason. It is also searched by Search Engines so its an important field to fill out if you are wanting to optimize your website for SEO.
The Author tag is becoming popular today as you keep track of your content and if you create a Google profile it display an image alongside it.
Any good Content Strategy will include ways of writing up the meta data into documents, images and other content which is appropriate for the website and when making up Content Strategy documents there should always be places for meta fields and they always be used and filled out on the content and on the strategy documents.
Working with Information Architecture and Wireframes
Information architects are an emerging discipline and community of practice, focused on bringing the principals of design and architecture to the digital landscape.
Its the art and science of organizing and labeling websites, intranets, online communities ad software to support find-ability and use-ability.
This is where the structure of the site is refined and the ease that visitors will navigate around a website is explored and perfected. Inherently its the creation of a blue print, a visual representation, usually a series of flow charts or site maps which explore how the pages on a site are linked together and how the flow of visitors will progress once they navigate away from the landing page.
Its important to know that the information your visitors are most looking for is found easiest.
A good flow chart or site map is like the blue print or floor plan of a large building. Just as you wouldn’t want to design long hallways which lead people to dead-ends, content architects don’t want to create information or content paths which lead users to pages with nowhere else to go to once they get there.
When organizing content you may find that flow charts and site maps are a very useful way to see how your content works throughout your website and it is certainly a fresh way to recognize if you have too much information on one section but not enough in another part of your site.
The right medium for each message
Text and Images are still great today:
It used to be that you could only use text and images on your website and that time was not that long ago.
Technology has advanced at a blistering pace and we have moved from something which was rather boring in the eyes of many, to today where we have a wealth of rich media formats to use to keep you occupied and engaged. Don’t under estimate the power of text and images, used correctly they are one of the most powerful mediums available to you, to get your message across.
Today there is a lot of hype about rich media content, everybody wants it, they want video and animations, they want the latest flavor of the moment on their websites as they think that it will be the selling point which lands the most. Well that might be true in some situations, but when it comes to rich media, a really good point to bear in mind is that we actually processes information far faster when we read it than if someone is speaking to us. So when the data is lots of facts and heavy in information, text is more appropriate as we can skim through picking out the facts we need etc.
It really is a lot to ask someone to sit down and watch a video about something just because we say so.
So one of the ways we make sure that the rich media is well received is we sell it in the text around it. The rich media must compliment the information that you are imparting on your page, you have to make people want to look at it.
Another really good reason to use text is that the search engines can crawl it and rank your information, they cant animation or a video, so if SEO is important to you, and it should be, you should ensure your information is supporting the video and the video is ancillary to the text information.
You should always use text when it comes to displaying your phone number and address, too many people make the mistake of using a graphic to display this information, not realizing you cant copy a graphic into your address book or dial direct off a displayed telephone number- text can though, so make your images background images and put this important information in text on the top.
Text is great for:
When you’re providing contact and address information.
If you want people to be able to copy and paste information from your website into another document like maps or address info.
If you or the majority of your customers are restricted by limited bandwidth because text and images download a whole lot faster than video, audio files and other rich content.
When you have a lot of information and its appropriate for people to scan and absorb that information quickly.
If you want Search Engines to quickly index your information and find you when others search for what you’re offering.
when you are providing information such as instruction or recipes where text is the most appropriate format to use.
Images are great with text, they don’t need to be huge files, don’t have take up excessive bandwidth and can draw attention to important text information.
If you want to sell an idea or concept or explain complex information video offers a powerful medium to make the content more compelling.
Video is best when:
You want to convey a complex idea quickly –
You are sharing instructional information – training video
If the information you are sharing is highly visual or hard to describe in words –
Sometimes the best use of video is when you combine it with text and it compliments the information being imparted. It could be when showing people cooking instructions for a recipe they are following in text. You watch a video on how to do the various methods employed but when making the recipe you follow the written instructions.
You will find that by adding a little video to your website can make information easier to understand, far more visually impactful and ultimately more powerful in getting the message across. The secret is to use it in the right place and correctly and not overload the viewer or discourage him with needless and aimless video taking up his or her time.
Remember it is a lot to ask someone skimming through a website to stop and watch a video for 5 min, it had better be compelling and impart useful information or it is unlikely that they will watch another.
Infographics and Animations:
Infographics and animations are a concise and engaging way to explain complex concepts. They can also serve as “linkbait” – this information that other people follow be it found on images in a Google search or following links from other websites. This kind of information attracts new visitors to your site and gets other websites to use links back to your animations and infographics.
They are very popular on social media platforms so if you take the time and resources to develop this kind of rich media make sure you to promote it on all your channels of social media.
When you want to show how things are interrelated.
If you want to demonstrate cause and effect
Illustrate complex systems such as a biological ecosystem
If you want to make data visually understandable use bar or pie charts or graphs
Illustrate complex relationships using multiple data sets
When you want to take a visual look inside of an object
Animations are ideal when you want to show how something moves or changes or how multiple things interact in motion.
when you want to show dynamic data such as when you have a growing bar chart due to some even or a puppy growing into a dog.
Show moving parts – like when the pistons in an engine ignite the spark plug at the top of their cycle and then are driven downwards in the cylinder.
Demonstrate chemical reactions such as molecules or electrons bonding or some other microscopic reaction or event.
Show how to assemble something like a chair or how the moving parts of a grandfather clock fit together.
Including motion in your website is a really good idea if you want to draw attention to something. Just don’t overuse animation, so put in controls and allow viewers of the website to switch them off so they don’t get animations repeating endlessly and distracting viewers from the other content.
Timelines are a powerful visual way to provide context, relevance and history. They can easily show how things evolve or change over time.
There are many ways to create timelines:
Using a timeline plugin for wordpress and other content management systems
Designing timelines as graphics using Photoshop or Illustrator
Using WordArt in Microsoft Word
Using a dedicated timeline creation tool (if you do a timeline tools search in Google and you’ll turn up a number)
Interactive timelines are a useful way to show visitors to your website how your business has progressed, people feel more confident when they see how an organization has developed over time and if a business has been in operation for a number of years they are more inclined to give it more credence than a newly established operation.
Timelines can help put current events in perspective as you can show how one event builds upon or leads to another and show how events happening now are a product of previous happenings.
Timelines work best when you want to;
Show how things change over time
illustrate how one event leads to another
Provide a quick reference that users control based on age, time, date or other time related factors
Provide context and history to current events and recent updates.
Adding timelines to your website gives you the ability to add context to events, to show the past, the present, and how it may influence the future.
Using PDF documents
The portable document format is very popular as you can convert large text files into a static pdfs quickly as easily as you can send it to print. Adobe Acrobat is integrated into Microsoft word and the whole experience of creating pdfs is very easy and quick with these tools, its as easy as chosing a different print option when you chose to print.
PDFs are sometimes overused . Its very important that you examine how you use PDF on your website and that its used correctly. People in general love to just convert to PDF as its so much simpler to hold vast amounts of information this way and place into websites. PDFs should be used in the correct manner and context and in mostly it is a far better option to use html. Firstly html is searchable which is a very important point for search engines and SEO rankings also it loads up into the browser far quicker than a PDF document, and invariably there will be some small change required at a later date which in html is a quick and easy edit and in PDF requires the whole document to be redone.
PDF is good for:
when you wish to preserve complicated formatting such as in contracts, legal info, medical instruction or information
important when information being provided is highly regulated such as drug information where spelling or mistakes can lead to law suits and you need to present a document exactly as it was originally designed.
Sharing large documents such as ebooks or when you want to create a self contained interactive file that can be downloaded and viewed offline.
You have hundreds or thousands of pages of information and PDFs are the most cost effective and time saving option.
When you want to create interactive forms
Perhaps you have information where you need to include documents, video and other rich media you can use an interactive PDF file although its creation wont save you time or overcome the benefits of using html, it does offer a compelling advantage in that it is a self contained file which can be downloaded and viewed offline at the viewers leisure and convenience. Its especially good for:
annual company reports
Sales and marketing reports
places where interactive content is appropriate in a document
When you want to share documents beyond your own website and you hope that the viewer will take away and utilize.
PDF serves an important role and used correctly can be a huge asset to your website.
Using Interactive Forms:
One can, and does use forms in lots of places on a website from gathering basic feedback information to conducting surveys and polls to doing searches. There are many ways to create them and many reasons why one should use them as the html is relatively easy and simple to code. However for forms to work they need a script to execute on the server and many isps in the interest of controlling spam add a a whole heap of permissions to go through to get them to work, this adds a whole layer of complexity. Many people use form services such as Emailmeforms or Adobe forms central to provide forms.
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