Getting Started with Content Creation

We’ve heard the phrase so much that it sounds like a string of cheesy buzzwords, but it’s true that “content is king”. The purpose of maintaining a high content site is that it educates your customers, keeping them up to date with relevant information that can result in conversions, clients, or purchases. Unique, original content, not necessarily your product, is the bait that you’re dangling out for the fish to feed on.

But there is a catch. Your content also needs to be consistent, frequent, and relevant to your potential customer base. Creating and managing good content that meets those criteria is time consuming and can become a full time job. Make sure you are using your resources to your advantage. Some content managers would even go so far as to say forget SEO, and just produce quality, relevant content. I wouldn’t say to ignore SEO as it’s still a valuable practice, but this is an accurate evaluation of the importance of content.

A few tips for good content:

  1. Make it easy to comprehend:
    Good content is interesting and keeps the reader wanting more information until the article is finished. Using jargon, especially without explanation, turns off readers. Trying to prove your expertise by baffling the reader is not a successful content plan.
  2. Keep it short:
    300-500 words are usually enough to make a well researched point. Plus, it’s easier to lose a reader when they see lengthy paragraphs that instantly tell them they don’t have the time to read on. Shorter text in a well organized format like a list tend to hold readers attention. When they have the option to skim the article and still derive valuable information, the article has a better chance of being read and shared.
  3. Use bold titles:
    This goes for the titles of your posts as well as the section or paragraph headers within the posts. Not only should the title be short and catchy, but it should be descriptive. Try to keep it to one line of text.
    Appropriate HTML formatting is also a factor of a bold title. Make sure that your paragraphs are organized well. They can be in list format, broken up into sections with strong or bold sub-headers to delineate topics, or in many other styles. Good organization and descriptive titles always allow for easier reading.
  4. Research your keywords:
    Before adding keywords, meta tags, or even creating your blog post titles, check the competition and search numbers of your key terms using the Google AdWords Keyword Tool. This handy site lets you figure out which terms to use in order to optimize each post for Google.
  5. Allow social media sharing:
    All posts should allow readers to share or like the post directly on the page. There are many apps, modules, plugins, and widgets that let you add a social media button bar to your site. AddThis is a popular one and is available for many content management systems. The Social Media module is also useful and is a Drupal specific application for your site.

To make blogging and content management easy, the Enterprise Blog module for Drupal can help you set up a blog on your site in no time. This feature is a part of the list of useful apps available with the Open Enterprise distribution, and provides your Drupal site with easy blogging features just like those found on Wordpress.

Is your company using content creation for marketing? Has your content been successful? Let us know in the comments, and don’t forget to continue the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

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Web Words Explained: Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization, or SEO, has become a complex but necessary beast over the years. Back in the day, a company who wanted to be found easily was named something like AAA Cleaners or Aardvark Plumbing in order to be listed at the top of their category in the phone book. SEO is actually a lot like that. Businesses still want to be at the top of the listing, but in Google instead of the Yellow Pages.

How Search Engines Work

  1. Search engines “crawl” pages using a spider.
  2. Then they can build an index of links and keywords to determine the subject matter of the page.
  3. Next, they calculate the relevancy of that information and rank the page against others.
  4. Finally, the search engines serve the results to your potential visitors.

The Early Years of SEO

At one time a web developer had to submit a site’s URL to have it listed in a search engine. Once submitted, the search engine would then send a “spider” computer to find links to other pages within the site so that the information could be indexed in the engine. Meta tags also gave the spider insight into the site’s topic, but were submitted by the site’s webmaster who could easily provide inaccurate and irrelevant tags that resulted in page rank manipulation.

Now…

Over the years the algorithm used to determine page ranking has changed. Search engine submission is not mandatory, crawlers have much wider access than in the past, and meta tags are no longer as valuable. On-page SEO and link context grew in usage and relevance, while the importance of anchor text and domain authority is waning. Check out this graph from Adam Bunn, SEO Director at Greenlight Digital. Adam has put together a very in-depth representation of SEO evolution that allows us to see how fast it’s changing. We can also see that, like any tech-related practices, the latest SEO tactics will probably be obsolete within the next few years.

Why do I need SEO?

The objective of SEO is not simply to increase traffic if there is no point of conversion. It’s easy enough to throw in unrelated keywords that maintain high Google searches or low competition, but your content will not be relevant to the needs of your traffic. The keywords you choose must be accurate and your content enticing. Site with rich content have better chances with Google anyway. Think of appealing to Google crawlers as Barney Stinson trying to appeal to women at McLaren’s Pub in How I Met Your Mother. You can approach the crawler and your potential visitors with audacity and get their attention with irrelevant and sleazy phrases, but in the end substance and heart would have gotten you to the top of the list. The latter are also what make visitors stick.

Once you get the visitors in the door you have to hook them. Remember that episode of The Simpsons, “The Computer Wore Menace Shoes”? Homer finally learns how to use his brand new computer and makes a website, Homer’s Web Page. (Just a fair warning, this is a noisy site taken directly from the TV show. I recommend lowering your speakers before clicking). Needless to say, it’s awful. When Homer’s site isn’t receiving visitors, Lisa explains “A web page is supposed to be a personal thing. You’ve just stolen copyrighted material from everyone else. They could sue you for that! You have to offer people something…a joke, an opinion, an idea”. Homer’s redesign, Mr. X: All The Muck That’s Fit to Rake, subsequently explodes in popularity because it offers interesting content. Of course, if you want to be valued in your online community, your information should be cited back to your resources. You also want other highly regarded sites to link to you. When you practice good link building, your site’s credibility and ranking should increase. Visitors are also more likely to cite you in return and click through multiple pages.

A few tips to get started with SEO:

  1. To test the value of your site’s keywords, you can use the Google Adwords Keyword Tool.
  2. Make sure your images have text links or keywords attached for spiders to follow. Crawlers cannot scan for text that is a part of an image rather than a part of the site’s code.
  3. Keep adding content consistently. “Content is king”, they say, and a constant flow of fresh content keeps your site up to date and higher in the rankings.
  4. Focus on long-tail keywords rather than short-tail keywords. It’s easier to take advantage of a search term if it is two or three words.
  5. Take advantage of localism if you run a small business. Add your city and surrounding cities or neighborhoods into your optimized search terms to appeal to your nearest customers. For more information on search engine optimization, check out this extensive, free beginner’s guide by SEOMOZ. If you run a Drupal site or are looking to build one, the SEO Tools module is easy to install and helps to make optimization easy.

What else would you like to know about search engine optimization? Have you used SEO successfully? Let us know!

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Web Words Explained: Content Management System

The meaning is supposed to be simple. The omniscient information source known as Wikipedia currently defines a content management system, or CMS, as “a system providing a collection of procedures used to manage work flow in a collaborative environment”… Say what!?

Of course, this isn’t the first time LevelTen has explained the meaning of a content management system and why you need one. The thing is, we can break this definition down a little further.

If you’ve ever used Drupal, Joomla, or Wordpress, you’ve used a content management system. Simply, a CMS is software that allows you to quickly and remotely log into your site, edit the appearance, manage your site’s users, post blogs, articles, and other content, and just generally organize the information that appears on your site. Not only does the CMS allow the administrator to make these changes, but it allows other users to do the same (with the correct settings in place of course). This makes it easy for you to delegate work to employees or bloggers and get them to create pages and articles for you (wink, wink).

If you’re new to website management, the CMS is very important. It allows you to enter your site without having to find and edit each page in the seemingly complex maze that is your local site server.

What you’ll love:

  • The CMS allows anyone to edit your site, if you let them. All they need is their own user profile.
  • As the site admin, you can set levels of approval for publishing content. This means you can set permissions for each user easily. In Drupal, these are found under the “People” tab.
  • A content management system is inexpensive to maintain. Drupal, for instance, is open source, and free to download and use.
  • A theme is automatically used across your site. This means you apply your site design once and each page looks the same. Once the theme is applied, you can then change the information and structure of each page while maintaining a cohesive look and feel.
  • You don’t need to know complicated coding to build a simple, clean website. Once the site is set up, you will be able to submit various content types to the site. These can be created to restrict and guide the structure of your content. This is a good way to fool-proof your site design.

What you’ll need to know:

  • HTML. Yes, that’s right, you’ll still need to know basic HTML. In Drupal, there is a way to add a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor to your pages. However, if it’s not enabled, knowing a few basic HTML formatting tags will help you a lot. You can search for the right tags and learn how to use them at W3Schools.
  • How to save a draft and publish a page or article in your CMS of choice. It’s not always the same, especially in a flexible content management system like Drupal. When I first began using Drupal, I found that there is a pull-down menu near the bottom of each article or page titled “Publish”. Before clicking save, remember to uncheck the box if you want to save your work for someone else to proof, or to save and review before publishing.
  • How to install updates. Sometimes installation can be simple, other times you have to follow a few steps. A quick search in Google will usually yield an easy to follow guide since many of the best and most popular content management systems are open source.

Let’s Review:

Basically, building your site with a content management system makes your site easy to edit by signing in to your account from any location. It’s a low cost way to maintain cohesive sites with multiple types of content. If you’re looking for ease of use when building your site, using a content management system is a great way to get your web presence up and running.

Now tell us, what content management systems have you used? Is there anything else you want to know about CMS?

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Web Words Explained: Open Source Software

I’ll let you in on a secret. Like many of you, I’m new to Drupal. Despite having a strong background in content management, Drupal is unexplored territory. I remember what it was like in the beginning as I learned to develop new sites. We all remember a point when we were baffled by basic applications like posting blogs, and terms like “CMS”, or “open source” seemed foreign.

I’m also confident that many of you are currently in that same boat. How can you learn to use Drupal when you don’t know the web development lingo? Well, I’ve done some research, exploring popular terms from the ground up in order to make this as easy and painless as possible.

People often describe Drupal as an “open source content management system”, so let’s break down those words into easy-to-chew bites:

What does open source mean?

Open source software is the opposite of proprietary software. Essentially, the term describes a culture of transparency, collaboration, and adaptability in programming. Open source derives its name from programs and software that freely offer the source code for you to edit. Modification of open source software is actually highly encouraged and allows a developer to create exactly what they want.

We can think of open source software like self-serve yogurt. We could potentially go to a restaurant and order a chef’s pre-arranged dessert off the menu, or we could build and adapt it ourselves, including every topping we want, the way we want it.

Open source software must:

  • Include the source code.
  • Allow anyone to edit the source code.
  • Be freely distributed and allow all modified versions to be redistributed.
  • Not prohibit or interfere with other software.

The advantages of using open source programming also outweigh the disadvantages. The few disadvantages include the absence of customer service, inconsistent software quality, and the inability to always meet corporate needs. However, users of open source software are apt to band together, forming message boards and help sites that are filled with solutions supplied by experienced users. A simple Google search can yield a world of assistance and support. Other benefits include flexibility, frequent updates, quick repairs, and low cost, community-based development.

Fun Fact:

Even soda can be open source. OpenCola allows volunteers to redevelop the recipe which is comparable in taste to the closely guarded lists of ingredients held by many popular soft drink manufacturers.

In the end, the term “open source” can describe anything that maintains the propensity to evolve through community participation. A few commonly used examples of open source software you may already be familiar with include Mozilla Firefox, Linux, Android, Wordpress, and the software used to run Wikipedia.

Do you have any questions about open source software and development? Is there any web lingo flying in one ear and out the other?

In the next Web Words Explained, we’ll answer the question: “Wait a minute…What are content management systems?”

Image attribution: The Graphic Design School

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Digital Contagions: Viruses Are No Tribble At All

In many ways, viruses bridge many differing types of bodies. Jussi Parikka, author of Digital Contagions, argues that while viruses are not necessarily good, they’re not inherently evil. However, viruses have become the next big bogeyman in lieu of the “Indians” and “Soviet Russians” of past decades. The virus scare is described as if it was the official fear of the 1980s and 90s, and the relation of new found computer viruses and AIDS reflect that.

From Parikka’s perspective, viruses show us “accidents”, or the shortcomings of the body (or network) that the virus is infiltrating. Companies that sell anti-virus software like to harness our fear of those shortcomings (which we manifest as the virus, or “malicious actor”) in order to profit. Anti-virus software must always be updated and repurchased annually, maintaining this cycle. If not, ominous red notifications pop up to warn computer users that “your computer may not be protected!”, or “your computer may be under attack!”. Of course, these warnings make use of very explicit vocabulary to generate immediate action, and to instigate the purchase of another year of protection as quickly as possible. I’m often surprised that my computer doesn’t flash red, clamp shut and start yelling “danger! Will Robinson, danger!” in this situation.

Parikka also speaks of the “body politic” and adds that a body can be comprised of many systems other than human bodies or computers.  This examination in chapter 2 of Digital Contagions reminded me of  the Stark Trek episode, “The Trouble with Tribbles”. While the tribbles acted virally upon the USS Enterprise,  another virus was lurking where the crew could not see. Parikka states that “the media ecology of cities and human bodies is now supplemented with the global city of networks. This is created and conceptualized as a global body of network flows through the veins of the digital version of a circulatory system” (pg 124). This is exactly where the trouble with tribbles begins.

The little fuzzy space creatures start with one virion which replicates wildly to infect different cells of the ship. The tribbles did not have to reproduce with each other as they were “born pregnant” and only needed to feed off of anything present in the cell they infiltrated. Once the tribbles enter the essential systems of theEnterprise, compromising the functionality of the body, many dead tribbles are found in a compartment. At this point, the viral example is turned in a different direction. The tribbles ate all of the ship’s stores of grain that were meant for the crew. Luckily, the tribbles acting as a virus saved everyone from a virus implanted into the food stores by a disguised Klingon, and the perfect example of Parikka’s “accident”. With the tribbles going viral on the ship and creating a gigantic nuisance, a much more serious and innocuous virus was avoided because the tribbles showed the crew a flaw living in the body of the Enterprise.

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Black Lips - 200 Million Thousand - RadioUTD

Rating: 7.6/10.0
Recommended Tracks: 5, 10, 13
RiYL: King Khan and the Shrines, Times New Viking, The Black Keys

Setting ridiculous stage antics aside, one must admit that The Black Lips’ recent album 200 Million Thousand presents a multifaceted take on lo-fi, punk-inspired tunes. Honestly, one would never guess several of these artfully textured, diversely moody songs were dredged out of the minds of this particular variety of degenerates, though that is precisely the beauty of this album.

An element of soul bonds with classic punk, coalescing into a modern perspective of classic 20th century sound. Occasional vocal grindings that could have been stolen from Koko Taylor mesh well with riffs that will make the dogs howl, forming a comfortable blend of genres with multi-generational appeal.

Thematically, a distinct jangle, fuzz, and screech of distortion fizzes like tinnitus throughout each track, uniting this album in textural acoustic quality. Echoes lace through ““Trapped in a Basement”” and ““Old Man”,” while liberally applied pop trimmings comprise a sound foundation. Lyrically, topics of drugs, prostitution, and general shenanigans plague the album, rendering the content close to that of its predecessors in the worlds of psychedelia and soul. The holistic outcome of the Black Lips’ genre bending and classic styling, however, renders 200 Million Thousand an album for the masses and holds enough contagious beats to prevent it from being soon forgotten.

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