Sitegeist Blog - Beitrags-Archiv für die Kategory 'Trends'

Quality web content set to soar on Google

Monday, 28. February 2011 12:53

Websites need quality content – and a clear content strategy – more than ever, after Google announced a change to its algorithm that will benefit original, quality content over hack SEO-driven copy.

Better rankings for better content
Tired of getting low-quality search engine results from sites like eHow? Well, so is Google. Big-wigs at the search giant Amit Singhal and principal engineer Matt Cutts announced a few days ago a “pretty big” improvement to results, based on providing “better rankings for high-quality sites – sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.”

In Google’s sights are “content farms” run by organisations such as Demand Media (eHow, Livestrong, Cracked and more). Demand Media pay freelancers (poorly) to create content on long-tail search engine terms. They have one goal in mind, and it’s not to educate or inform web users.

Gaming the SERPs
While not every eHow article is useless, quality is certainly secondary to keyword optimisation. Content farms are all about ranking highly in search engine results pages (SERP). But because of the sheer weight of numbers and a clever approach to SEO and SEM, eHow is all over your Google results.

Only a few days before the most recent announcement, Google released an extension for its Chrome browser that allows users to blacklist sites they don’t want in their results. While it might be fun to block your competitors and see yourself soar, it seemed like another example of Google admitting that it was failing to keep up with SEO spammers (read my previous post about how SEO tricks Google). Why not fix search instead of making users hack results?

The right direction
The latest announcement is a far more positive step for Google. Users need search engines to deliver the best and most appropriate results. Google’s job is to deliver the best algorithm, and any result page that prioritises quality, original content over $5 articles paid for by word count is OK with me.

So get your content on
Now there are two great reasons for businesses to boost their content stocks with professionally-written, high-quality, useful content:

  1. There’s a gap emerging in the market, as eHow slips down the ladder
  2. Google are on the lookout for the best original content out there.

Take advantage. Hire a web copywriter today.

Thema: Being good, SEO, Trends, User focus | Comments Off | Author:

Content Strategist Hits Melbourne

Friday, 25. June 2010 13:11

Thanks to the good folks at UX Melbourne, I had the opportunity to hear former Razorfish UX pioneer and current content strategist and senior partner at Bond Art + Science in New York Karen McGrane present on content strategy.

This terrific session was held at Loop in Melbourne, and was focussed on describing the what and the why of content strategy to a group made up mostly of UX practitioners, with the odd content person thrown in.

Although from my perspective there weren’t many surprises in Karen’s talk, it was a very successful top-level overview of how content strategists can (and should) be involved in web projects. The basic take-away: leaving content (and the strategy informing it) until the last minute is a recipe for disaster.

Having worked in editorial and CS roles online for well over a decade now, I’m a strong advocate of Karen’s message (indeed, some of her main points have even featured in previous posts on this blog). The most exciting things for me were that this event even happened here in Melbourne, that the conversation has started, and that so many smart web professionals are clearly interested in taking part.

If people in project teams advocate for the inclusion of content strategists, project managers and team managers will increasingly include them…and websites will be better. Promise.

So many thanks to Karen for inspiring so many people, and a big call out to Andrew Green who was instrumental in making the event happen. Yaay.

Thema: Being good, Trends, Web dev | Comments Off | Author:

Social networking is publishing

Friday, 28. May 2010 8:51

Everybody’s doing it, doing it, doing it…
Suddenly – and presumably because Baby Boomers are now tweeting – the broadsheets and ‘serious’ news outlets are all in a lather about social networking. And for them, this means Twitter and Facebook. Don’t ask them about Foursquare.

What’s becoming apparent in recent media flare-ups is the extent to which users of these sites are still operating with old-fashioned concepts of online communication:

  • Anonymity: some users think that, even though it’s plain to everyone who they actually are, they remain somehow hidden in this online world
  • Alternate persona: it seems that some users – even celebrities – think that they can operate using a different persona or voice to the one they maintain in real life.

Be who you are
One of the key messages I deliver to clients is that when you’re online, everything you do is ‘publishing’. And, as any comms professional knows, to communicate effectively (online or off), you need to know who your audience is and – importantly here – who you are:

  • Are you just you?
  • Are you a representative of an organisation?
  • Are you a fictional or exaggerated character?

Deciding this and then being it consistently is vital. Otherwise, your message can be too easily misunderstood.

The sad tale of Catherine Deveny
Look at poor Catherine Deveny. She was until recently a writer of intentionally-controversial opinion pieces in the Age, Melbourne’s apparently more-reputable newspaper. While watching the local TV awards, she tweeted a few things that were – depending on your perspective – funny, stupid or just plain mean and inappropriate.

The next day she was told by the Age that her column was cancelled. She had crossed a line and her public ‘voice’ was not deemed approriate for the Age or its readers, apparently.

Two things here:

1) “Sacked”: Catherine Deveny then spent some days in the media descibing how she was “sacked and heartbroken”. Deveny decried the Age for “dragging my corpse through their paper for hits and circulation while I am on the phone cancelling the trip to Wet’n’Wild I’d promised the kids”. It’s pretty sad. I really liked her columns.

But she wasn’t sacked. She was never employed. She had no contract. She is a freelance writer, and publications have a right to publish what they want. She lives all the time with the threat of unemployment. All freelancers do.

Deveny has the right to say what she wants too. I hope she finds a new outlet better suited to her forthright style. But the Age did nothing wrong. Perhaps Deveny was the one at fault, selling her wares to them in the first place?

I wrote for the first 99 editions of Australia’s Big Issue magazine, with about 400 articles published. My submissions for issue 100 went unpublished, and I never had anything in that magazine again. Sure, I was a bit disappointed. But I never complained about being sacked. It’s up to the editor. That’s as it should be. I got another job.

2) Who was she? Catherine Deveny needed to decide who she was. Was she a freelance controversialist (a personal brand)? Was she an Age columnist? With a clear public identity, publishing decisions (including tweets) become more obvious. And they have predictable outcomes too. A freelance controversialist would have ‘tweeted and be damned’. A high-profile Age columnist wouldn’t have tweeted in the first place. Or, if they had, wouldn’t have been surprised by the fallout.

Kyle and consistency
While Kyle Sandilands might actually be a good bloke (his friends say he is) it doesn’t really matter. The fact it that all of his public behaviours demonstrate a consistent, nasty, boorish personality.

So props to Kyle: at least he’s consistent. He knows who his audience is. And he knows who he is, as far as his public persona goes. A Sandilands tweet from last September: “having trouble paying attention perhaps I need to go to a concentration camp?”. Just terrific Kyle.

Sadly, Sandilands has joined the ranks of celebrity Twitter quitters (Helen Razer, Ricky Gervais, Miley Cyris, that hilarious fake Stephen Conroy guy and more…). Why, I wonder? No self control? Or the result of misunderstanding its purpose, power and reach?

Tellingly, and thankfully, Catherine Deveny still tweets regularly.

Thema: Being bad, Trends, Uncategorized | Comments Off | Author:

What Content Strategy Isn’t

Friday, 14. May 2010 9:26

There’s lots of talk at the moment about content strategy. People are even calling it “CS”. For people who do it – like me – this is all a bit of a shock. We know the work we do is valuable to our clients; we just never knew it would become a movement.

But for all the aspects of content creation, production, management and deployment that DO qualify as content strategy, there’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t.

Content strategy ubiquity
Do a search on Google, subscribe to a blog alert, or lick your pinkie and hold it to the wind and you’ll hear a lot of things described as content strategy:

SEO is great, but it’s not a content strategy. It’s part of one. Your SEO strategy is not your content strategy.

Deciding to outsource your writing to Media Giants or someone in Boronia or someone in Bangalore is not a content strategy. It’s part of one. Content production is not a content strategy.

Creating an online content style guide is not a content strategy. It’s part of one.

Conducting research on user needs is not a content strategy. But – yep – it is part of one.

Content strategy isn’t deciding to do better; it isn’t hiring a proper web writer; it isn’t realising that your web writers are the most valuable salespeople on staff; and it isn’t understanding why your online communication needs should take precedence over technologists and Flash-happy designers.

Content strategy is all of this, and more. It is your business, your comms plan, your brand values, your uniqueness, your site content, and much more.

Do you have someone who intuitively gets it? Do you need a content strategist?

Thema: Trends | Comments Off | Author:

Locked In: Lanier and Rushkoff on What’s Wrong (assuming something is wrong)

Friday, 26. March 2010 8:58

A couple of interesting outbreaks for the closet neo-luddites out there (you know who I am you are!):

Lanier: Web 2.0 is anti-humanist
Jaron Lanier, the virtual reality and avatar trailblazer (and philosopher and multi-instrumentalist) has recently published a book called You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto. In this sweeping book about individuals, culture and the Web, he argues that the Web 2.0 revolution in online social networking and collaboration is a problem. A BIG problem.

According to Lanier, sites like Wikipedia, Facebook and even Amazon are anti-humanist: they elevate the ‘wisdom of crowds’ and the power of advertiser-driven algorithms above the discriminating judgement of individual people. They create a ‘hive mind’ that leaves little room for individual expression, let alone an environment that respects such creativity.

The root cause of this is the design of technology. First, Lanier claims that we, as users, get ‘locked in’; we have to conform to a particular ‘relationship status’ on Facebook; Wikipedia becomes an authority, even though it is written by anonymous contributors; if you bought this book, you should buy that book; etc.

Propelled by 1960s anti-government paranoia, technologists designed the Internet to be anonymous. And because of this, the online world (and especially Web 2.0 manifestations of it) is riddled with trolls who can easily and cynically shut down reasonable conversations, and who have created an environment (and tools) that devalue individual artistic accomplishment (“Content wants to be free”, copyright infringement, etc).

SXSW – Rushkoff: Program or Be Programmed
In a zeitgeisty moment, at last week’s South by Southwest tech event, Douglas Rushkoff – post-McLuhan media theorist, one-time cyberpunk and the pioneer of ‘social currency’ – gave an address titled Program or Be Programmed: 10 Commands for a Digital Age.

You can read lots of descriptions of the talk (here, here and here for example). Interestingly, many of Rushkoff’s ideas intersect with Lanier’s book.

The overarching theme is that, rather than ask how we can use technology, we should be asking what we can make technology do for us. Jaron Lanier called it being ‘locked in’. Rushkoff says that if the Web is something we consume, rather than create, that’s a problem. A BIG problem. “If we create a society that is programmed, we will be the users and most importantly, the used.”

Other big ideas:

  • The Web can be happily asynchronous, so why are we ‘always on’ and demanding synchronous communication?
  • Why do we send text messages to the person sitting next to us?
  • Facebook (and others) promotes forced choice. What’s your relationship status? Feel free not to opt in to this. (Rushkoff says that withholding choice does not denote failure. It reminds me of that great line from Richard Linklater’s 1991 movie Slacker : “Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy”.)
  • Anonymity promotes facelessness, polarisation and a lack of consequence.
  • Contact is King, not content. Rushkoff says, “Social marketing is an oxymoron”.
  • Nothing is free. Don’t steal. It breaks the social contract.
  • Overly negative? Maybe a bit. These guys were born in 1960 and 1961, and have been technical pioneers; they’ve seen a bit.

    Are they jaded oldies who are getting in the way of the cool kids, or wise elders in a world that needs just this kind of introspection and critique?

Thema: Trends | Comments Off | Author: