Content propagation: pruning and cuttings

I’ve read (and witnessed) how writing one long-form piece of content, for example in the shape of an e-book, can be a source of fresh content for a long time. In gardening terms, you’re propagating your content.

It’s like taking box clippings (late September is supposed to be a good time for this, or so I was told by “Gardener’s World”) and turning them into new plantlets. This typically takes a bit of time and care, but it’s easier – and cheaper – than starting from scratch.

Which begs a question from anyone who takes box clippings or other cuttings.

Plant nursery

Nursery in Ruyigi | Trees for the Future | Click to view on Flickr

Where is your content nursery?

In content creation (or content curation, whichever you like best) you have a spot where you gather any potentially useful ideas and articles that gave you these ideas. It may be the inside of your head (if you have a reliable brain), a notebook, or even a batch of drafts in your blog itself.

You then tend these ideas: you take another look at them, and select the ones that seem strong enough to take root with a bit of help. Water them, feed them, make sure they get their share of sunlight…

Tips for creating, curating, or editing

As luck would have it, Stefanie Flaxman just published a useful post on Copyblogger for editing content in which she distinguishes three stages:

  1. Pre-revision rituals. All of these put a psychological distance between you, the author, and your content.
  2. Comprehensive cutting and pasting. This is where you get systematic about editing: using several editing sittings if necessary, focusing on your goal and on how you’re helping your audience, eliminating anything confusing… And doing it again, until there is no single paragraph or sentence you can find fault with.
  3. Razor-sharp proofreading. This means you look at your content from the viewpoint of someone who’s never seen your content before (your audience).

If you’d like to read the entire post, here it is – enjoy your editing process!

And in case you’re wondering when I started my first content gardening post

 

Content harvest: apples, pears, completely bananas?

Now that I’ve started adding a dash of gardening to my content, more and more ideas pop up. Let’s see if there are useful weeds among them 😉

One question that occurred to me was:

Is there something like harvesting content?

Content harvest: apples

I suppose it’s what you do in an organization with a lot of content creation going on in outlying regions. It’s also what you do when you’re scouring the internet looking for interesting bits of information you can then share through whatever means.

There are a few issues at harvest time of course.

  1. Some apples rot or get eaten while still on the tree. Unless you spray anything you don’t like into oblivion. But I’d like to eat apples, not chemical residues.
  2. Some apples fall before you get to them and get pecked by chickens and devoured by ants or other insects (one minuscule bite at a time).
  3. Other apples just seem to laugh at your efforts by not being worth picking. Even thought they started out looking quite promising, they haven’t ripened the way you’d like them to.

Once you’ve harvested your bits of content, you want to keep them dry and snug for a while to use when you’re ready.

So compare this with ideas for your blog. Sometimes you get plenty of ideas, sometimes it’s as though you get none at all. Jot down any idea when you have it and store it for later. In my case it really helps to get a few lines written so that later on, I won’t end up wondering why any specific idea seemed so interesting. You probably won’t use every single idea you had – some topics are too newsy to keep for a long time. But that’s fine, because you’ll have your ideas stacked all the way up to the ceiling and you’ll select anything you want to work on – when you’re ready to do so.

What do you do with all that content?

Well, that’s a bit of a luxury problem… one that anyone with a mature fruit tree will recognize.

  • Part of your ideas will be fine as they are. You’ll need to add very little to your initial idea.
  • Other ideas will need more work, especially if you left them for a while. You might end up with the content version of stuff like apple pies using your favorite content curation recipe.
  • Another part may have to go to your neighbors… you’ve got too much! This is when you consider sharing your ideas by going guest blogging – provided you also have the time and energy for that 🙂

Content lifecycles: cut flowers to annuals to perennials

How long does your content retain its original usefulness?

Looking at different websites I would say you can distinguish at least three types of content based on their longevity. Let’s liken them to plants, since the weather was still fine while I first drafted this post (no longer, alas).

Perennials in content Continue reading

Why all great content is useful

I’m convinced that all great content is useful in some way. But how would you define ‘useful’ in an everyday context?

Is a cat useful content for your garden?

Would you consider a cat useful content for your garden? Photo on Flickr | Chris Waits

Take a look around you. What could be useful about the things you see? In the garden (where I’ve spent some time of late), useful could take on any of the following shapes Continue reading

Content management for small gardens

This post is about gardening. It’s also about content management. Let’s see how we can fit those two into the same yard.

Planting trees

Garden management and content management results

Last week I planted a tree. It’s not hugely expensive. Still, I worry about it. Sometimes I suspect I read too much. Has the following ever happened to you?

You know you need, say, a new pair of trousers. As luck would have it, all the stores sell the wrong type (the one that doesn’t fit or that makes a size six look like an overweight hippo). They do have nice shirts though, and you end up buying one of those.

Continue reading

Blogging impressions: the muse of desperate bloggers

Since I started editing and publishing content produced by others in our company, I’ve found it harder to create my own content here on my blog. Spending a lot of time doing content-related tasks like editing, tagging, and the like, uses a lot of the available ‘content energy’.

Blogging is… work? Continue reading

Quality content creation: for experts only?

After my earlier posts about content curation as a way to show the world (or the bit you’d be interested in having as a client) you’re an expert in, well, in your field of expertise, there’s the other side of things. Writing about stuff you don’t know anything about. How do you do that anyway? What’s more, how do you come up with content people will come back to again and again?

Cats in their favorite spot

Cats in their favorite spot [image by Tina Lawson – Flickr]

Content creation for non-experts

This article by Jason Acidre gives a few useful tips for non-expert content creators. Using FAQs and the like to make huge lists of ‘everything there is to know about X’ is one way to create great content even if you don’t know that much about a topic.

In fact, you could do more than use frequently asked questions from every competitor you can think of just to assemble a list.

What else can you use existing FAQs for?

You could use FAQs as questions in an interview and try to get a bit more information out of an expert than you might get from an online FAQ handily provided by your competitors. The great thing is you’re answering real questions from clients rather than making stuff up and hoping it’ll help someone out there in the big, big universe… well, you get my point.

  • There is much to be said for using information that’s already out there.
  • On the other hand, there is also value in providing the kind of content that’s not all over the web.

If you can’t provide unique content, then presenting highly useful information in a way that suits the needs of your audience should still give some of them a reason to store your article in their Favorites.

Adding value by transforming content

The way to add value to already useful information is probably in making that information ‘actionable’ – fit for immediate use. This rules out theoretical essays and models:

  • Your content should be almost a copy/paste kind of thing, or
  • It should be an overview so complete that no visitor to your website will need to look anywhere else ever again.
  • It should have extras not usually found in similar overviews. If your competitors are not in the habit of adding relevant links to their examples, you should. If other websites lack visual content to guide visitors through, that’s another extra you could add if you’re a visual content pro.

Favorite content

Lists and tables containing information people need repeatedly are often marked for later (re)reading. If you want to create other people’s favorite content it should be:

  1. Content provided by a known expert (organization)
  2. Content that has proved to be correct and complete.
  3. Content that is well-structured (‘at a glance’).

How do you know if people have favorited a specific piece of content?

Depending on the topic, users of your content will visit your page every month or every week – maybe even every day, where other pages tend to get far fewer views apart from a peak whenever you draw attention to them. Your stats will end up showing a wavy line going up and down and – importantly – up again after every down for quite some time.

If you notice this type of pattern in the stats for a page with a sell-by date, you’ll need to follow up with a new piece of content. Link to your new content from your old page and vice versa.

If you get your facts straight your article could become a regular landing page for a number of your website’s visitors. Where would you like them to go from there?