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

How to become the go-to expert for go-to experts

How do you become a go-to expert while still getting some work done?

Experts

Who do experts turn to? Image by Mai Le | Flickr

For individuals and organizations alike, having a wealth of knowledge sure helps if you want to be an expert for other experts to turn to.

However if you really know your stuff you may end up filling your days answering very similar questions – without getting to the bottom of a topic that has your genuine interest more than once every few months.

Add structure to your knowledge-sharing

There are a couple of ways to enhance your expert status in a more structured way:

  1. Organize networking and knowledge-sharing events. David Gurteen’s Knowledge Cafes come to mind – as part of a community.
  2. Provide training to experts
  3. Share your expertise online starting, if you’ve been answering questions for quite some time, with a couple of FAQs. There is no end of experts blogging themselves silly 🙂
  4. However, mind the amount of time you want to invest. You might want to get someone to interview you instead.

The advantage of documenting your knowledge in some form is that you can share it while you’re doing something else with your time. Like run a business based on your expertise. Or perhaps you could use your time listening to other people. Expertise should not be allowed to rest on its laurels.

Ultimate content: being the go-to expert for go-to experts

The ultimate expert is the one the experts turn to – the one who provides content they’ll happily recommend to anyone who will listen, because they really can’t add much to your overview. If this is your aim it means you need to get all of your facts right.

Mistakes ruin your reputation as an expert (need I even say it?)

Mistakes, even if you copy-pasted them from another website to save time, render your content useless and could turn your visitors away for good – because you lose trust when you mix facts with fiction. This is something I realized years ago: if you’re wrong about one fact, then it doesn’t matter if you’re right about all the other facts. (I also learned that people who can’t work with absolute accuracy should not be allowed to go near a database).

People can’t refer to your content as the ultimate source on the topic if you leave in a single mistake. Get your facts straight.

So review every detail with care. Content from obscure sources should be checked against not just your own knowledge but also against, say, your biggest competitor’s opinion or even several other websites. If they contradict one another, apply your own expertise, do more research, call in another expert, or leave that particular ‘fact’ alone.

What else would you recomment doing?

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?

The art of content curation: mind your p’s

How do you handle existing content so that you add value to what’s obviously already out there? In this post I’d like to distinguish several aspects – levels if you will, or approaches – of content curation. I’ve handily summarized these aspects as the 3 P’s of content curation: pick, prepare, and present.

Some content curators stick to one or two aspects, but for best results, add a measure of all three ingredients.

Pick: content selection (social media)

content curation: pick, prepare, present

Pick, prepare, present – image on Flickr

Many tools, from Twitter search to Scoop.it’s suggested content or Squirro will help you make a selection of content for republishing on social media.

  1. Some accounts on Twitter will retweet just about anything about topic X.
  2. Experts make sure they build their reputation and keep it intact by (re)sharing only quality content.

The actual content stays where it is: on someone’s website.

Pick: content selection (websites)

On the other hand, a number of websites are basically one big RSS-feed by the looks of them – and some of them republish complete articles. If you’re looking for quality content and want to republish articles from certain websites on a regular basis:

  1. you’ll need to arrange something with the content creators and expect them to want something in return;
  2. your content creators may appreciate their logo, a link, and perhaps a banner on your website. One good turn deserves another?

Prepare: edit, edit, edit

Sometimes you just can’t help yourself – you’ve got to edit if:

  • the original content is so crappy you don’t want it on your own website without a bit of editing. You try to keep the good ideas while editing out the bad spelling, abysmal grammar, and bone-headed typos.
  • quality content has gone stale and it’s easy to update it. Sometimes all it takes to freshen up an article is two lines and a link to refer to recent developments.
  • a few headings and subheadings would facilitate easy reading. Some articles just aren’t written for online reading, certainly not on – say – a mobile phone.

Edit existing content on these points and it’s hard to see how you can’t improve on the original.

Present: recreate your content for your audience

Content curation is also about writing and tagging articles for your own audience:

  1. Would your audience use certain phrases – or is it better to literally rephrase parts of existing content to suit your readers?
  2. Does that mean you need to rewrite the whole article to fit new keywords?
  3. What does that do to the tags you add? After all these are based on the actual content – which you’ve changed.

Present: where content curation meets content creation

We’ve come a long way beyond ‘simple’ content curation. Writing for a different audience may involve editing existing content beyond recognition. At some point you’ll need to consider whether you need to keep the original thought only, and write your own point of view in a brand new piece of content.

This is especially true if your audience is interested in, say, video’s or infographics rather than written content. You could argue that summarizing existing information in front of a camera or designing an infographic around it is (high-level) content curation. Or could you?

Pick, prepare, present – how to balance your content curation efforts?

Alternate between levels or aspects of content curation. Finding a balance is important in order to:

  • share your own view on a range of topics;
  • avoid exhausting yourself trying to do everything every single time (unless you’re a pro blogger I guess)

After all, you are your readers’ go-to expert 🙂

Happy blogging anniversary – and a new summer task

While I was writing this blog post I noticed a notification reminding me of my blogs first anniversary:

Blogging for a year: Happy Anniversary With WordPress

It’s been an interesting year that started with wanting to write.

Blogging leads to all kinds of things

In some ways, not much happened. I didn’t get 2000 hits within my first week of blogging. But for someone who just wants to write that kind of stuff misses the point by several lightyears. Continue reading

Blogging stew: mixing content creation, curation, and marketing

If content is part of your profession, you need to keep an eye on all aspects. Not just the bit you happen to be responsible for at any given moment. Why?

  1. Because these different aspects are glued together and you’ll get asked sooner or later: “But what about X?” Although you could say that’s out of your jurisdiction, that answer won’t get you anywhere nice.
  2. Because it’s actually nice to stay up to date about topics that are related to what you do for a living, or for a hobby – like blogging.

Blogging stew: content ingredients

Great-looking ‘Mayan stew’. Click to view on Flickr [cloud2013].

As a content enthousiast you’re involved in content creation, content curation, content marketing, or all of them mixed up into a (hopefully) savory stew. What’s the result of putting in your time and energy? Continue reading

Blogging impressions: easy summer tasks for your blog

Summer has finally hit the shores of the Netherlands and elsewhere too I dare say. Like I announced earlier I’ve changed my posting routine to once a week at least for now.

Summer tasks for your blog

Great summer image by Christine Majul. Click to view on Flickr.

To make sure I don’t end up neglecting my blog over the summer, I’ve thought of a couple of easy tasks that’ll make any blog better than it already is. Are you ready?

‘Summer up’ your old blog posts

Check for old posts that you wrote in a hurry. Think of topics that might have turned into a great post but didn’t quite make it because you were tired or stressed out. Open the curtains and let the sun shine into those old winterdepressed writings. See if which of your old ideas, posts and drafts alike, deserve some high summer TLC from you and start editing, rewriting, and (re-)publishing.

If you post one new blog post once a week, update another post every week or so.

Replace sub-par images with quality images

This is definitely an issue for some of my posts and I think it is the nicest way to update old posts. There must’ve been times when you just didn’t have time or energy to look for the best possible images. Change images you added which you don’t like anymore – images that don’t fit in with the rest of your blog. I can’t think of a nicer way to improve your blog than looking for really cool pictures that’ll make your (old) posts look 10 times better. Look for great images to grace your future posts while you’re at it.

This also means tagging the new images. Focusing on just the images on your blog for a change means you can ‘SEO’ your images as much as you like by adding keywords from your text to the alternative text box (Alt tag stuff), description, and title. This is what turns an image into visual content, apart from its contribution to your written content.

Check your stats for blogging inspiration

What topics and posts have been really popular? Do your popular posts stand out in particular ways, like quality of images, truly inspired writing, or seasonal flavor?

Have people found you through search – if so, what were they looking for?

Blog improvement tasks in summer

The important thing is to remember it’s summer. Don’t beat yourself up if you find you could have done a better job for some posts. Summer is a great time for good intentions. Start by taking a relaxed view of your blog posts – then take them out for a brisk run in the summer breeze.

Using content management to improve your content creation

How do you manage your content production?

You may feel you’re cranking out plenty of content, but do you manage to cover all the topics you need to cover?
The wider your range of topics, the more you’ll need to keep a tab on all the content you’re creating or having created. Getting organized is the key factor if you’re to deliver regular, relevant, quality content. How to manage your content (marketing) efforts?

How to create enough content for every topic

I’ve written before about the importance of content management for your content (marketing) strategy. This time, let’s start with my blogging habits. I publish two posts per week on this blog. Since I’m interested in different topics, I have several categories on my blog. With ‘just’ 8 categories, it would take me a month to do one post about each topic.

Content management - use it to get enough variation in topics

How do you create content for every topic? – Flickr image by HikingArtist

It’s unlikely that any (business) blog has the same number of blog posts on every topic. For each topic, the question is: how often do you have something new to share with your readers? Have you:

  • read anything new about a topic?
  • been involved in a project with aspects relating to a topic?
  • attended an event?

If not, you’re less likely to come up with a brainwave for new content. No events also means fewer opportunities for making short interviews which you could share.

Content management for a business website

If you have a business website with dozens of topics which you all need to keep updated with fresh content, gaps may form while you’re busy on other topics. You don’t want to be confronted with content gaps in specialized areas which you then need to fill – which may take days, or weeks, from the moment you contact a relevant subject matter expert.

Every piece of content has to meet your quality standards, right? That means investing time in research and in editing your content.

You can rarely serve every visitor with one format for your content. For every piece of written content, you need a picture that adds interest in the shape of information, entertainment, or a new angle on your written content. Start with visual content and the opposite applies.

First, test-plan your content

Use an Excel sheet, a whiteboard or even a sheet of paper to:

  • List all of your topics horizontally
  • Lists the days (full week or weekdays) vertically.
  • Try to plot one piece of content per topic per month. Use something like yellow sticky notes, because this is just your first step.

You could be looking at anything from 8 to 50 pieces of content per month, and in the latter case you’ll be publishing new content every weekday of every month.

How often do you publish new content now? On your blog? On your website? Elsewhere?

You could tweak your overview by:

  1. dropping your required amount of content to one piece of content per 2 months.
  2. using fewer, less specific categories.
  3. only creating content for topics your customers are interested in. A website that aims to attract customers should start with their needs.

Get your business content organized

  1. Meet your subject matter experts (SME)
  2. Plot every event.
  3. Brainstorm for topics with every SME.
  4. Determine whether each SME is able and willing to write content to specific requirements, talk about their topic(s) in front of a camera or for a podcast. How much of their time do you need?

Take your SMEs for a testdrive. And (although I read this too often) this is a rinse-and-repeat process. Experts are by definition extending their knowledge base, rather than your content base 😉

Plan your content creation process backward

Plot every idea for, or piece of, content on the overview you made earlier – on the day you need it published. Then, we travel back in time…

  1. When do you need this content to be delivered?
  2. How much time does it take to get interviews transcribed, images selected, text edited?
  3. When do you need to contact or meet anyone?

Now you have a simple Content To-Do and the start of an editorial calendar (add details as you go). Using things like colors for different kinds of content helps. Organizing and planning your content gives you insight into:

  • the effort it takes to get your content published.
  • why your company’s content creation efforts seem less successful than you’d like.
  • whether you need to delegate, streamline, or skip tasks.

That’s why you need to testdrive – not just for your SMEs to get used to contributing. You need a trial-and-error phase (or call it a pilot) for everyone. Doing everything at once may be a bit steep.

[Content inspired by this article on Huffington post]