- Internet & the Web
How to maintain your web content
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By getting subject matter experts to review the content for accuracy and also to split your content up to different sections so you can review it, will give you a very well maintained website . Content strategy is so we can plan for the future of the website. To have good effective content it needs to have authority and relevance. A style guide is a great document for content authors and developers to understand the style of a website. Human resource managers, CEOs and call center operators might see it but may not be as likely to use it. We need to engage the managers of other channels just so we could have a consistent tone of voice and style across all the channels users might interact with us. The last thing we want to do as content authors is only focus on the website. We need to look to other channels to understand how the user is interacting with all channels not just the website. It’s great to get your work reviewed by others so they can give you feedback on your writing style, check on spelling and grammar and check that the subject matter is correct.
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How to maintain our content
How do we maintain our content? Depending on the size of your website and number of staff to maintain your website, break up sections of your website and concentrate on them. Focus on a section for some weeks before moving on to the next. Ensure that every piece of content is reviewed at some point. All pieces of information should be up to date. Content audit: This is detailing of each piece of content and making sure that it’s up to date and we know it’s up to date. Content strategy: It is about planning for the future of the website. Where is the website going to? Governance: trying to work out who owns the content. Style guide: It is useful to a website for color, font and typography perspective. It also needs to include pieces of information about your content. All about your stake holders: How to manage them.
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Creating a content strategy: content plan
Content strategy: This is basically a plan for your content. We are going to focus on what new content you will be adding. How will you be updating it? What subject matter will you be looking at? It also influences the direction of the website. You don’t want to be left behind in comparison to your competition. So you need to define exactly what you are going to do. Benefits of content strategy: It helps a website to be current. New and current content helps with users so they come to the website and also helps with search engine optimization. It also keeps the website relevant and not stale. Work out who is going to do it. Who is going to add these new articles? Plan what you are going to add in the website for the next six to twelve months. Assign pieces of contents to different people. It’s all well to say you are going to add new content regularly but you actually need to physically write the strategy plan to follow.
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Content governance: Ownership, responsibility and authority
Who owns it and who has responsibility and authority over pieces of content? You may be responsible for the website as a whole but not for particular pieces of information which might be owned by others. Marketing and media personnel are an example. They will have the responsibility and authority over their pieces of content. It should be put on paper exactly who owns, is responsible and has authority to do things. Content governance document identifies these people. The document allows you to specify who is responsible and has accountability of the content so people don’t claim they were not aware they were responsible for their pieces of content. We want to be sure that our content is maintained and our website is relevant and is up to date.
Distributed accountability model: The responsibility of the content is vested on the subject matter experts. Centralized accountability model: Subject matter experts provide the content to the web team. Identify the right publishing model for your organization. Make sure your content has the required level of quality. All the subject matter experts should be aware that those qualities should be in the content that they write. Characteristics of good contents; timeliness (up to date), accuracy and should have some authority. There should be enough of it. It should be quality and relevant.
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With a style guide in place content is consistent
Characteristics and traits you should have in your style guide: These include things like logos, colors, fonts and typography as is specified by the visual designer. Most content authors don’t include the style of the content within that style guide. You however should specify how you want your content written on your website. Unless you document this, the next person to write a piece of document might use their own style and not that of the website.
What to include in your style guide: Your tone of voice. How you want your headings specified. The language used. The reading level: high or low. Terminologies; specify exactly how they should explain any terminology used. Include any phrases especially those you want to allow or disallow. Specify how you want lists done. There are certain unique things to the organization that may appear after you’ve implemented majority of your content, include that back in your style guide. You should continually add to this style guide, so everyone referring to it will know it is up to date. Questions you may need to answer are; how will people know about the style guide? Should you publish it online? How will the user like to access it? How do you communicate to users that an update has been made? If a user may present content for publication that does not follow the updated style guide, it will necessitate a polite explanation of the same to them.
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Managing stakeholders: With vested interest in content
Everyone will want to contribute or have a say in the website and you will need to be able to manage those communication channels. Who are stakeholders: Your own web team, content authors, senior managers, managers of other channels, and other interested group. i.e marketing, sales or search engine optimizer.
Web team: You may need to delegate particular pieces of content for them to update and maintain. Make sure they are responsible for their own content. Meetings make cohesion and open communication with everyone in that team a reality.
Content authors: They should be responsible for their own content. You may be a bit of arm holder to them so they have the confidence in writing for your website and also do things as you would like them done.
Senior managers: These may not want to contribute to the website. However they have a lot of interest in what is going on. Have open communication channels with them because when they intend to communicate they want to know who to speak to, or as the content author of the organization they might have certain queries they like clarified or even contribute to content when they are ready.
Other channel managers: These could be call center, store managers or social media managers. Communicate with them to understand what is happening outside of the website and also to ensure that the brand and tone of voice is consistent throughout the web contents. They are also a great source of feedback.
Other groups: legal team; keep communication channel open to them. The hard thing with legal guys is, we are not sure of what they would like reviewed or what they would have an issue with. So make them aware of things on a regular basis. Marketing; they might have a request to you and you might also have a request for them. Keep the communication channels open. Search engine optimization experts; these make you understand your keywords and also understand how users are using your website from analytic perspective. Set up some regular meetings with them. This way they give feedback and you can also ask them some questions. The brand guys; when they change some aspects in the brand or tell you they are planning to do so in the near future they expect you to implement this in a timely manner. The keyword here is that you must make yourself available. Make yourself the person that these people come to when they have a question about the website.
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Writing micro contents or content from other channels
Micro contents or other channels that you need to be aware of as a web administrator: There is a user interaction with lots of different channels and lots of different pieces of content coming to their devices and on different ways. We need to make sure that everything is consistent. Emails and text messages should have a consistent experience.
Social media: Twitter and Facebook; you need to make sure that the communication being portrayed on that is what you want to portray on your website. Messages: Error and success messages; make sure you have a part in creating them because we want to be consistent. Newsletters and emails get sent to you frequently. It is something that you can maintain and have a bit more control over, and have a correlation to your website because it is most probably from someone signing up or buying something on your website.
There are other contents that may be created that you have no idea about and you also have no responsibility for. Have a look at a store. Look at the signs, the cash registers. What are the words saying? What is the personality of the store? Is it the same as the website? Look at the advertising campaigns out there for your organization. Go and have a chat to your call center so as to make sure that the brand is being portrayed in the right way. Text messages should be on brand. If you are on a retail context have a look at the packaging and receipts and thank you notes. See whether these are consistent to each other. Do not show your business structure. We want users to think that there is one person maintaining and managing the whole experience from end to end.
How to improve your content writing
Read and write more. Read and write your content and also other people’s. By writing over and over again you get better in writing. You will get better, more confident and more fluent in writing. Editing your content: Edit it yourself and also get someone else to edit it so they tell you ways to improve your writing. Having a break: When you get a writers’ block just rest. Next time you write you might have some fresh new ideas. Peer review: Get your content reviewed. Ask other good writers to give you feedback and critique your work so you can become a better writer. Look at competitors’ websites or similar websites to yours with similar subject matter and identify what good content is. Start reading that content and pick up on things that you can apply on your own content. Test with users: It allows us to find things that we may have not seen before. Discover bits and pieces users will pick up that you would never pick up or a subject matter expert may never pick up. This will allow you to cater for those users in a better way and also it gives you some points on what to do and what not to do.
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Checklist of things to do to write effective online content
There are checklists you could refer to when you are planning, creating and maintaining your website. You need to know your reader and your business. Understand the purpose of your content. You need a plan, and also a structure for our pages and our website. Make the content relevant, useful, credible and current (up to date). Content should be findable through search engines and also on the website. Make it scanable by use of headings, links and chunks of content. We need to make it interesting and written in plain English. Write for the correct reading level so users understand it. Consider the tone of voice for the website and the brand and the organization in general. Use the active voice not the passive, and present tense rather than the future or past tense. We find our keywords through talking to our users and also through our analytics. Use these throughout the website for different pieces of contents and the website as a whole. We should have page heading, page title and subheadings. Lists make our content more scanable. There should be links on throughout our content so users can go to different pages within the website and to other websites. Maps, charts, visual, videos, audios and diagrams enhance the content. Make your content interesting but at the same time relevant. Labels to tables should be concise, to the point and able to make sense to the user. We need to make sure we write the messages not the developers and also ensure the messages give users the information they need. Consider search engine optimization throughout the whole process especially how users will access our content.
Editing and maintaining our content: Check for spelling and grammatical mistakes. If a sentence, word or paragraph is not absolutely necessary, remove it. It needs to be reviewed by someone else, e.g a subject matter expert. Identify who owns the content. We need to make sure that each piece of content has an owner and that they know they are responsible for that content. Plan for the content on our website so we know where the website is going in the next twelve months. We need content governance in place so those owners know what to do with their content. We need to define a style guide so everyone knows how to write content which is on brand.