Top Authoring Tips to Attract, Captivate and Impress
Top Authoring Tips to Attract, Captivate and Impress
In a world where more content is generated every day than in all of history up until just a few years ago, content authors must not only instanty grab attention, but maintain engagement for at least long enough to successfully deliver their message.
At Hub Communications Digital content is a big part of our daily life and we've learned a thing or two about writing engaging content for your website.
Picture Web Readers as Wild Animals
In the article Information Foraging: Why Google Makes People Leave Your Site Faster, Jakob Nielsen at the Nielsen Norman Group likens readers to 'wild animals gathering food' who are looking for the 'maximum benefit for minimum effort' while searching the Web for information.
Jacob describes the term 'Information Foraging' as the process of hunting for information and 'Information Scent' as the process of tracking or following the trail to the information they are hunting for.
By considering this analogy, writing with the informavore's navigation behaviour in mind, you will improve the chances of catching the reader.
Spend Time on the Headline
The headline is the most important part of the article.
Authors tend to focus more on the body of the article, putting a simple headline or title at the top. However, for the reader, the headline is their first sniff of the information scent.
Typically on the web links to articles are the headline, which the reader uses to determine the relevance to their search for information.
Headlines must inform the reader of the subject of the article, arouse their curiosity, encourage them to continue reading and be short and memorable, all in one line.
While there is no perfect formula, there is evidence that six worded headlines have been found to be the most effective.
Use Simple Language
Writing for the Internet is very similar to writing for a newspaper or a magazine. The use of abstruse (hard to understand) words that are not part of everyday language will distract the reader (as just demonstrated).
Even if you include hyperlinks to the definition of words that you have used, the simple act of wondering what a particular word or sentence means can distract the reader and break the flow of their reading.
Unless your audience are academics looking for peer-reviewed journals, your readers will quickly lose interest and find something easier to read.
Follow the Inverted Pyramid Style of Writing
A popular technique among journalists is the inverted pyramid writing style - putting the most important information at the top of the article and expanding upon the idea as you move down.
Try to imagine your average reader as someone who is late for work in the morning, but really wants to know what is in your article, and write your copy accordingly.
Include the most important information in your opening paragraphs instead of having the reader go through an entire page.
Pick Your Key Words
Writing for the Internet is not just about writing interesting copy. You must also make sure that your content is search engine friendly.
As an author, you need to consider the keywords of the topic you are writing about, and incorporate them into your writing to give your content the greatest visibility on the web.
Some forethought is important however, as some search engines penalise the misuse of keywords, such as using unqualified or unrelated keywords, or using them too frequently.
Write for Easy Flow Reading
Write content that can be skimmed through quickly whilst still delivering the important details easily.
Readers want the answer to their question immediately, so give it to them and make it clear, but reward those that take the time to read deeper by expanding upon what the reader would otherwise take away just from skim-reading.
Stick to a single idea per paragraph or use bullet points to separate out the ideas in long paragraphs.
Write Accurate Information
One of the most important aims for any author must be the use of accurate information.
Don't underestimate the ability of your readers to independently verify claims made by you in your article. Only provide them with well researched and factual content.
If you learn that information in an old article has become incorrect, add a correction into the article or write a new article with up-to-date information.
Make Sharing the Article Easy
While following the steps above will make a tasty article for the 'informavore', making the article easy to share will add the cherry on top.
Add tools to allow readers to easily quote paragraphs of text from your article and post to their social media platform of choice. Provide the means for the reader to easily create a link to your article, or e-Mail the link to a friend.
While writing for the web might be different from writing a book, or an essay; with continuous practice, authoring web content can become as easy as catching fish in a tank.
Keep the above points in mind when writing your next article and you are on your way to creating quality content for your website.
- The optimal length for social media updates and more
- Information Foraging: Why Google Makes People Leave Your Site Faster
Got Your Own Writing Tips? Share them with us on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.
5 Steps to Better Link Building
5 Steps to Better Link Building
We have been covering the shift in web content and SEO practices recently, and now we get to the practice of link building.
Links are not the beginning or the end of Search Engine Optimisation, but they do hold a large portion of weight in the algorithms employed by Google/Bing to rank websites on their Search Engine Result Pages (SERP).
It is worth spending some time to understand link building, to incorporate link building into your content creation processes, so that you can reap the rewards from the effort in the future.
A Short History of Link Building
In their simplest form, links are like map locations for search engines to navigate between on their endless quest for information. Another way to look at them, is to consider a link as a vote from one website for another. Links help search engines calculate the popularity of websites and specific pages based on the number of other websites that carry links pointing to them.
Rand Fishkin of Moz, in 2009, summarised the history of link building and described it as follows: Between 2000 and 2002, direct link buys, email requests for links and link exchanges were popular. In 2003 and 2004, link networks, blog commenting and paid text links became popular. 2005 saw the advent of social media links, linkbait and quizbait and in 2008-09 came content licensing and editorial content for links.
After 2009, Google started introducing software like Hummingbird, Penguin and Panda which fished out websites that were aimed at fooling search engines. These complicated software algorithms were created to penalise such websites and to stop them from appearing at the top of the Search Engine Results Pages (SERP).
The Better Way to Link Build
Nowadays, the best practice for link building is to consider the bigger picture, and focus on building your link profile. QuickSprout has a great article - What is a "Good Link Profile" and How Do You Get One - that is worth reading if you have not heard of the term before.
Step One: Focus on Content
The first step is to produce quality content which is relevant, meaningful, and will gain popularity on the Internet in its own merit. Unless you create content which readers would want to share, you aren't going to create reason for other websites to link to your website.
As mentioned earlier, links are like votes. So if a website posts a link to your content, it is like the owner of the website voted for you. If a website which is considered an 'authority' links to your content, the value of the 'vote' increases. All of this affects where your website shows up on a Search Engine Results Page.
There are several ways in which you can structure content on your website to make it more appealing. Articles which list the '10 best' or '10 worst' of a topic are very popular with readers. Infographics or white papers providing insight into specific areas of your industry are also very popular and make the content easier to share as well.
Step Two: Only Aim for Natural Links
According to Google, their algorithms are configured to use only natural links for indexing and ranking websites. Search engine algorithms are able to distinguish between genuine links to your site posted by people who think the information would be helpful to others, and links which are posted specifically to "boost votes". The latter are referred to as spammy backlinks, which hurt your link profile.
Step Three: Promote, Promote, Promote
The content that you have created needs to be promoted aggressively by you. Do not wait for people to notice your content first and then start sharing. Instead, reach out to authority websites and "influencers" in your industry and share your content with them. If they find it useful and share it with their followers, your reach will increase exponentially.
Use paid options offered by social platforms like Facebook and Twitter to promote posts. You can also buy ad space in online journals using content syndication networks like Taboola and Zemanta to promote your content.
Step Four: Diversify your Back Links
Mix things up by requesting backlinks in different formats and on different platforms. Aim for some backlinks to be through social media, and some to be contained within content.
Another popular way to diversify link building is through guest blogging. However, today, guest blogging has become vastly more complicated than before. To establish your own set of followers, it is imperative that you contribute high quality content regularly. You must also promote the content you contribute and respond to queries / feedback.
Step Five: Backlink Management
Keep a constant watch out for any websites which feature your name or that of your brand. Check these websites regularly and request backlinks to your website if you have been mentioned, but not linked to. Another popular way of tracking mentions is through Google Alerts. You can enroll for competitions and also submit reviews of products to websites in return for a backlink.
We have provided a very basic introduction into the practice of link building for today's content writers and provide a list of articles that should provide you with some more in-depth information. If you would like to discuss how you can improve your link building strategy or your overall content strategy, feel free to Get in Touch.
- What Is a "Good Link Profile" and How Do You Get One?
- MOZ Beginners Guide: Growing Popularity and Links.
- Link Building Has Changed.
- Steps to a Google-friendly site.
- Find Key Influencers - Tips and Tools
Want to discuss this some more? If you would like to know more about content marketing or about anything in this article please let us know on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.
6 Good Reasons Why You Should Be Thinking "Mobile First"
6 Good Reasons Why You Should Be Thinking "Mobile First"
Almost everyone would agree that mobile is the current focus for the Web, even Google holds a "mobile first" mantra for their products and services. Even still, the websites of numerous large companies are not taking advantage of rapidly growing mobile consumer market.
The team at Voucher Cloud have put together a Portrait of a Mobile Consumer; an infographic that highlights the current status of the mobile consumer market, and, once again, it gave some compelling statistics that took even us by surprise.
If your website isn't mobile friendly, here are 6 good reasons why you should be thinking "mobile first":
- It is estimated that there will be 8.2 billion hand-held mobile devices by 2018. The estimate for the global population in 2018 is only 7.4 billion.
- Within the next 3 years, m-Commerce sales are predicted to hit $626 billion, which is just shy of the 2013 e-Commerce sales total of $638 billion.
- 90% of consumers are already using their smart-phones for pre-shopping activities, such as to find directions to and the opening hours of a business.
- More than 50% of Amazon customers completed a purchase on a mobile device in the last fiscal quarter of 2013.
- Near Field Communication ready point-of-sale checkout terminals are expected to increase to 44.6 million within the next 2 years. I.E. Check-out/Pay via your smart-phone.
- Retailers are starting to use mobile-devices to create interactive in-store experiences, pairing the smart-phones with contact-less technologies such as Near Field Communication (BlueTooth for example) or QR Codes. So far, real-world examples are offering vouchers or membership benefits, but the possibilities are endless.
If you need to move your business on-line, or you want to make your website mobile friendly, Get in Touch for a FREE demonstration.
View the Infographic: Portrait of a Mobile Consumer
More Information: Portrait of a Mobile Consumer - An infographic by the team at vouchercloud.
Got an opinion? What was your reaction to the statistics put forward in the infographic? Share on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.
The Relevance of Traditional SEO in 2014
The Relevance of Traditional SEO in 2014
It seems like only yesterday the "experts" were advising that to achieve
the best search engine performance you needed a properly optimised
website layout along with the use of hand-picked keywords in the
important areas of the pages.
The way Google ranks search results has changed the SEO game dramatically, however, and the tactics and strategies for Search Engine Optimisation have shifted to be almost totally content focused.
It would seem content marketing has replaced "traditional" methods of search engine optimisation (SEO), so we ask, how relevant are these traditional SEO practices and is there any use in still following them?
Let's begin with a quick look at the history of traditional SEO.
Keywords and inbound links are the two broad philosophies directing the SEO industry. The goal: to have your website at the top of the results pages whenever a specific keyword is typed into a search engine.
This gave rise to strategies that aimed to deceive search engines using techniques such as "keyword stuffing" (using keywords or phrases numerous times on a page without any context or providing meaningful content for the reader), creating link farms and other practices that took advantage of the simplicity of search indexing algorithms to gain a higher ranking.
Legitimate websites found it difficult to rank highly in Search Engine Results Pages against these tactics, and it ultimately led to search engines changing the way they index and rank websites to ensure that the end user was being given high quality search results that gave them the information they were searching for.
New Age SEO
In response to deceitful SEO tactics, Google introduced a new algorithm that uses latent semantic indexing, which follows the idea that words used in the same context tend to have similar meanings. For example, the phrase "complete guide" is given the same ranking as "definitive guide" when either phrase is used in a search query.
Suddenly, the websites that had a stronghold on certain keywords and key phrases, and that were reliant on being at the top by pushing the competition out of the circle, found themselves now having to compete with websites using similar phrases. The distinguishing factor was now the content that was being provided to the user, not just the keywords in the search query.
Enter Content marketing. Content marketing, which involves the creation of high quality content to get ahead in website rankings is being touted as the new SEO.
Content marketing strategy also provides a greater return on investment by boosting a website's ranking through content being shared on a variety of social networking platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and others.
A case study by Kissmetrics, presented by Neil Patel, studied the number of visits and back-links to 47 info-graphics which cost $28,200 to produce. These info-graphics received 2,512,596 page views and 41,142 back-links from 3741 unique domains. The social media contributions were 41359 tweets and 20,859 likes.
Patel estimates that the costs of trying to manipulate Google by buying Tweets, Likes, visitors and links would be $1,072,905.80 as compared to the $28,200 spent on producing the infographics.
That is quite a difference.
Apart from the cost factor, another major advantage for content marketing as an SEO strategy is the fact that good quality content will remain unaffected by future changes that search engines might make to their algorithms.
The positive practices of traditional SEO that helped search engines to deliver high quality search results to their users have remained a part of the New Age SEO practices, while the practices that worked against helping search engines have been dropped.
The answer to our question - how relevant are the traditional SEO practices today and is there any use in still following them? - is that since the positive traditional practices are part of the new age practices, it is worth focusing on a content marketing strategy to provide and boost SEO rather than trying to implement and manage two strategies in parallel.
As Aaron Agius from Louder Online told Huffington Post recently, "Content is the foundation of any successful online marketing campaign. A great strategy is needed in order to fuel social media activity, to create high converting landing pages for pay per click marketing and to power increases in search engine rankings for target keywords."
- How Content Marketing Is Replacing Traditional SEO Tactics
- How Google Is Killing Traditional SEO (And Why We Should Be Grateful)
- 7 Obsolete SEO Tactics You're Wasting Your Time On
What is your current SEO strategy? Have you shifted your focus, or are you still following the same practices? Let us know on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.
Is Your Content Accessible?
Is Your Content Accessible?
The Internet has created a platform to provide solutions to many every day problems. From basic websites that share information or entertainment, to highly complex applications that allow people to complete banking transactions on-line or see other parts of the world in real-time, we have been able to open our world like never before.
Just like in the real-world however, website owners must consider how their website or on-line application is used by visitors, including people with a disability.
For a web developer or a content author, this means that there are some techniques and tactics that need to be considered when creating a website or a piece of content that is published in the Internet.
So, we'll take you through what Web Accessibility is all about, and what you need to do to play your part in building an accessible World Wide Web.
What is Web Accessibility?
The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.
Very simply, Web Accessibility ensures that the same detail of information is accessible to a viewer with a disability as is accessible to a viewer without a disability, so that the end experience for all users is as equal as possible.
The disability could be from a visual impairment, or a hearing impairment or a physical or mental disability that affects how the user is able to interact with the website and the content.
The Web Accessibility Initiative
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has been ensuring that all areas of the World Wide Web are accessible to everyone since 2005 as part of their Web Accessibility Initiative (WIA).
As stated on the Web Accessibility Initiative website, web accessibility depends on several components working together in order for the Web to be accessible to all, and content is one of the essential components that, when formatted to meet the WAI guidelines, could substantially improve Web accessibility.
The Web Accessibility Initiative website provides strategies, guidelines and resources for website developers, software developers and user agent developers to make the Web accessible to people with disabilities.
For website content, this standard is outlined in the Web Content Accessibility Guideline, and it is up to version 2.0.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 was first introduced in 2008 and it defines how to make Web content more accessible "with a goal of proving a single shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally". The recommendations and techniques provided to achieve WCAG 2.0 compliance are updated once a year to stay current with changing technology.
The guidelines, along with the resources that come from the guidelines, are all built upon a foundation of four principles of accessibility, such that anyone who wants to use the Web must have content that is:
Which means users must be able to perceive the information being presented, it must be visible to at least one of their senses). For content, this means providing text based alternatives for non-textual content like images or audio. Multimedia content should have captions which are accessible to screen readers, or should also provide an alternative version such as a written transcript. The guidelines also cover techniques of displaying content that should be avoided, such as time-based media that may not be displayed for long enough to be read properly; or styling content in a way that makes it difficult to read or hides content from view.
Which means users must be able to operate the interface (or put more simply, navigate around a website) using in the very least, a keyboard. In most cases, users have a keyboard and a mouse to interact with a website, but alternative means to navigate around a website must be provided. This alternative is typically provided through the functionality of the web browser (using the TAB or arrow keys to scroll through navigation elements on the page), or it is handled by assistive technologies that are based upon keyboard commands to a web browser.
Which means users must be able to understand the information as well as easily determine how to use the website. Authors of websites must make their text readable without much effort by the visitor. This includes choices of font, size of text as well as the layout of the page. Content must also be structured in a predictable format so as to not leave the user guessing. For example, providing the user with clear and meaningful feedback after interacting with the website, such as after submitting a form.
Which means users must be able to access the content as technologies advance (as technologies and user agents evolve, the content should remain accessible). From a content point-of-view, this principles means that content is structured in a way that is future-proof. Using valid HTML with correct semantic mark-up is the best way to ensure that your content will be future-proof.
So what does it mean for you?
As a website owner or content author, you should check your website to see whether it meets the current WCAG 2.0 standards, and then take steps to address any areas that are not up to standard.
For most websites, this will typically be ensuring that meaningful images also have meaningful text alternatives (so background images don't count), and that hyper-links and anchors have meaningful titles and can be activated (clicked) by using the keyboard. If your website has video, then ensure that your videos provide subtitles and/or a transcript that users can read instead if they are unable to watch the video.
Services like AChecker will let you check if your website meets the WCAG 2.0 standard of accessibility for free. Several other such services are available online and can be found in a list of tools provided on the WAI website.
It is also highly recommended that you read the Techniques for WCAG 2.0 document to give you an idea of what to consider when creating content to ensure that it will be WCAG 2.0 compliant.
- Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI)
- Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Overview
- Essential Components of Web Accessibility
- Techniques and Failures for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0
- Complete List of Web Accessibility Evaluation Tools
Do you think Web Accessibility is important? Join our discussion on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.