Web Content Strategy

As a writer, one of the things that can hobble your creative output is too much planning.

Planning is good. Planning can improve efficiency. I’m a big fan of planning and turning plans into processes that can help you work faster and get more done.

But it’s easy to get stuck in the planning phase and bogged down in false productivity.

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There is ordinary web content writing and there is good web content writing. Just as there are ordinary muffins and there are cream-filled muffins.

Sure, this super-muffin (see photo, right) is just a normal muffin with the top cut off and a squirt of whipped cream.

But it’s a muffin with a twist that stands apart from everyday muffinry. It’s a muffin that gives you more than you expected. And is it tastier than a normal muffin? Quite frankly, yes. It is. I had two.

My point? You can apply the cream-filled muffin idea to web content writing. You just need to work out what your cream is going to be (or how you’re going to make your writing different).

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The time you publish your content can have an effect on its success.

What makes some content popular? Timeliness is certainly a factor. Good content often taps into a newsworthy trend, a mood, a need or a desire.

You can see it in action on Google News every day as hundreds of websites cover breaking news, sport, entertainment, politics, technology and culture.

The downside? News has a short shelf-life and breaking news is an art that’s hard to master.

Timing is everything

Sometimes what you write can strike a chord with readers. You can try to control this element. But sometimes it’s down to luck rather than judgement.

Something you write today might not be an instant hit when you publish it. But who’s to say that it won’t be tomorrow? Or next week? Or next month? You can’t always expect instant results.

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Eggistentialism III

Be different. Stand out from the crowd...

Good content should be some (or most) of the following: entertaining, enlightening, inspirational, instructional, genuinely useful, relevant and valuable.

Good content will help you stand out from the crowd.

But it often won’t stand out on its own. Content needs to have a spotlight shone on it, promoted using methods including (but not limited to): article, Twitter and Facebook marketing; blog commenting; guest posting; press release writing and email newsletters.

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Last Gas Station

To really catch people's attention, try to solve their problems.

On a basic level, useful content solves problems, satisfies reader needs and adds value. So your content could be a tutorial; a revealing interview; a first-run news article; or perhaps a list of handy resources.

As Jesse James Garrett” writes in ‘The Elements of User Experience': “The single most important thing most web sites can offer to their users is content that those users will find valuable.”

Of course, the definition of ‘valuable’ varies. Often wildly. An article like “Why Microsoft has made developers horrified about coding for Windows 8″ might catch your eye. Or you might be tempted to click a headline like “How to Lose Weight at Work.”

Ultimately, you’re going to need to develop an understanding of who your readers are and what they want. You’ll need to test and tweak your strategy until you find the content and the presentational elements that work best.

Next: Good content writing tips: “Stand out from the crowd”

Creative Commons License photo credit: dinstereo

no way

Don't make it difficult for people (and Google) to access your content.

Accessibility here refers to two elements. Firstly, how easy it is for visitors to read a web page. Secondly, how well a particular web page has been labelled for the search engines to find and classify.

Web readers tend to scan and skim website text, hunting for things they find interesting. You probably do it too. You might not even notice. Good content addresses this ‘information foraging’ approach and advocates short, easily digestible sentences and paragraphs.

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A frustrating diversion

It's easy to get diverted when creating content. But stay focused.

It’s important that your content is relevant to your reader. Never forget who you’re writing for. You might have written a great post on the best explosions in films, but it will be useless on a website that’s about wedding dresses.

Our advice is to keep your writing focused on your primary topic. Avoid diversions and stay on the right road.

Provide as much information as you can on the subject, using the full arsenal of editorial weapons at your disposal – articles, images, audio, video, ebooks, email newsletters, tweets and so on.

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30 Years Anniversary of The Wall

The iPod wasn't the original MP3 player, but it provided the best experience.

Original ideas, presentation and information are also vital when producing good content. Yes, you can regurgitate other people’s news or crank out short and shallow articles to target niche-specific keywords. But as Google’s webmaster guidelines helpfully point out:

“It’s worthwhile to take the time to create original content that sets your site apart. This will keep your visitors coming back and will provide useful search results.”

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Les mans del terrisser // The Potter's Hands

Each piece of pottery made by hand will be unique.

‘Unique’ refers to how original the words, phrases and paragraphs in your articles are. While Google loves new, information-rich content, it holds a special place in its algorithms for content that doesn’t appear anywhere else.

Having unique content on your website or blog is vital for boosting your rankings in the search engines and for getting noticed.

As Google points out: “Unique content is a main reason users would choose to visit your site instead of other sites.

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Who are your readers? What do they want?

Do you know your customers? Do you REALLY know what they want? Don’t underestimate the value of profiling your website’s readership to laser-target your content writing efforts.

Try thinking about what your readers are like? Ask yourself ‘what do they want?’ And: ‘what don’t they want?’ You’ll find that before you can step into their shoes, you’ll need to visualise WHO they are.

In broad terms, your website’s readership (if you have one) will be made up of several groups that overlap like an old-fashioned Venn diagram. To use a football/soccer analogy here, they will typically include:
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