Posts by Nell Kauls:
- Facebook uses an algorithm called EdgeRank that determines what actually gets shown to whom (your quality score). This was news to me.
- The fundamental things that influence your Facebook quality score are the number of interactions you get on a post (likes, comments, shares) and time (how close interactions are occurring to each other). So you want a lot of interactions happening close to each other.
- Research shows that people do not interact with posts related to self-promotion. The ebook authors recommend that you use the wall to build community with fans, rather than trying to sell to them.
- Hubspot’s Dan Zarrella did some research around successful pages. He found that posting every other day is the optimal frequency for fan pages. This frequency allows you to maintain consistency while not inundating fans. He also found that posting on the weekend and in the mornings was optimal for getting a lot of engagement on posts.
- One of the most popular topics on Facebook is Facebook. So, when you can mention Facebook in your posts do so!
- The “Like” button is becoming really important to quality scores. It is really important to have good content that people want to engage with. Make it easy for them by adding share it or like it buttons to every piece of content.
- Facebook Place pages are a relatively new addition. Their goal is to provide a specific geo-location tied to that page. Right now, if you have a business with multiple locations, Place pages for each location may be a good idea. The Place pages allow you to roll out deals specific to each location.
- This ebook talks a lot about nurturing fans. One of the weaknesses of the ebook is that it is light on details about what this means. They do give Rosetta Stone as an example of a page that does a good job of nurturing fans.
- Book is only available to the author
- Author cannot send readers to the book page
- Readers cannot search for, discover or buy the book
- Book is available to author
- Book is also available to select readers of the author’s choosing
- Readers discover and purchase via direct web address
- Book is available to authors and millions of readers
- Book can be discovered, searched and purchased through the Lulu marketplace
- Book can be eligible for ISBN and world-wide retail distribution (Learn more to ISBN page)
- Content Marketing Institute
The Content Marketing Institute is a source of how-to insight for content marketers and business owners. What is content marketing? CMI will answer this for you!
- Daily Marketing Tips
This blog offers great tips and insights about direct marketing, mail design, and other topics.
- Hubspot Marketing Webinars
This site provides access to many inbound/content marketing webinars. They are hour long sessions, with known professionals in the area, that are packed with information. I watched one of these to prepare for an upcoming project.
- Chicago Manual of Style Online
This online manual is an awesome tool for any editor. It is completely searchable, so I no longer have to spend lots of time with the index. This tool has greatly improved my editing efficiency.
- Minnesota Radon Specialists
I need to test my house for radon. On this site, I can find out all about radon, safe levels for my home, myths, facts, and removal. I can also order a test kit that is whisked to me within 24 hours. I know from a Thirtysomething episode, one in which Hope was researching radon for the environmental magazine she worked for, that she had to “send away” for information about the safe levels for her home. As for getting a test kit, who knows where she went and how long it took.
Last, but certainly not least, I “needed” a new lipgloss this week. I used Temptalia (a site by and for makeup lovers) to see the various colors on actual women’s lips! I could also watch tutorials on how to best apply the gloss and what colors to wear it with. Pretty cool. I could also pick the color I wanted and order it online. Hope would have had to trudge to the mall, dodge the perfume spraying brigade, and rub the gloss on her own skin and lips to do this same research. As for a tutorial, her only options would have been the heavily made-up counter ladies trying to sell her more than she needs. Good luck with that.
- “Content strategy is a repeatable system that defines the entire editorial content development process for a website development project, from early tasks such as analyzing and classifying readers to the very last tasks, such as planning for the ongoing content maintenance after the project launches.” (Richard Sheffield in The Web Content Strategist’s Bible)
- “Content strategy is the practice of planning for the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable content.” (Kristina Halvorson in Content Strategy for the Web)
- The Discipline of Content Strategy by Kristina Halvorson
This 2008 article on A List Apart is how I first heard about web content strategy as a practice. It offers a great high-level overview of content strategy, and, most helpfully, it defines a number of content-related disciplines and how they work together.
- The Web Content Strategist’s Bible by Richard Sheffield
Don’t let the name frighten you away. This short book (200 pages) is packed with great practical information. The subtitle reads, “The Complete Guide to a New and Lucrative Career Path for Writers of All Kinds.” Sheffield talks about his own journey to becoming a content strategist. He also breaks down all aspects of the discipline with great specificity. BONUS: When you buy the book, you can download some of his deliverable templates, including one of the best style guides I’ve used.
- Content Templates to the Rescue by Erin Kissane
This is a very specific article about content templates, which is a simple document that acts as a kind of wizard for content development. When I read this article, I realized I had developed many types of content templates over the years. Kissane outlines how to put one of these useful documents together and how to use it in the content development process.
- Content Strategy for the Web by Kristina Halvorson
This book offers an overview of the benefits, roles, activities, and deliverables associated with content strategy. I loved the deliverable examples in this book. It is also clearly written and structured for the beginner.
- #contentstrategy hash tag on Twitter
I rely on this Twitter fall for the latest articles and information about content strategy. I always find very useful stuff to read and watch. It is also a great place to find content strategy people to follow on Twitter.
- Content Strategy Meetups
I joined a content strategy meetup group in Minneapolis. It is a great way to network with other people who are trying to figure out what it all means, related to content that is!
- Include the student’s name and program. Include title and company if the student is employed.
- Include student’s accomplishments, such as a recent internship or a special project.
- Include quotes about the student’s interesting experiences in your program. Focus on those items that are the most compelling and have had the most impact.
- Highlight how the student works with other students.
- Present anecdotes about hobbies or interests outside of the university.
- Keep student stories brief (4-5 short paragraphs).
- Request a recent photo or arrange to take the student’s picture.
- Where are you from? What are some of the cultural differences you have noticed in the U.S.? (question for international students)
- What set this program apart for you? What was your decision-making process to select this program?
- What has your experience been like so far? Elaborate on any corporate interaction, internships, and/or any leadership roles you have had.
- What are you hoping to do in the future?
- What has surprised you most about your experience in this program?
- What would you say to prospective students who are considering the program?
- Can I save money and time with transfer credits?
- Can my military training and experience apply toward my degree?
- Are there tests I can take to get credit for prior learning?
- Do I have certifications that can qualify as transfer credit?
- Can I get credit for work experience?
- What about credit for CLEP, AP, IB, or DANTES exams?
- Does this program give credit for independent study and internships?
- Include the alumnus’s name, title, company, and graduation year.
- Include alumnus’s accomplishments, such as a recent award received or a special project.
- Provide “where are they now?” information. You can also use this information to populate “Class Notes” sections of newsletters and web pages. This feature is a way to attract other alumni, not just prospective students, to your website.
- Include quotes and information from the alumnus about how she used her degree to improve her life, career, family circumstances, and organization. Focus on those items that are the most compelling and have had the most impact (“I was promoted and now lead my division!”). Many times you need to take license with a quote to make it carry the message more clearly. Make sure the alumnus reviews and approves it. These quotes can find their way into testimonials, ads, press releases, and brochures. They are great information to get and have in your content management system.
- Highlight how the alumnus built relationships with fellow students.
- Present anecdotes about hobbies or interests outside of the university.
- Customize questions around the alumnus’s area of expertise, focusing on interesting and current industry trends.
- Create testimonials from the content gathered for profiles. A collection of 2-3 compelling quotes is all you need to create a testimonial.
- Use words your readers care about in your profiles. Use a keyword generating tool to discover new words for your website content. Google AdWords offers a free tool.
- Keep online profiles brief (4-5 short paragraphs). You can write longer, detailed profiles for newsletters and other publications.
- If possible, conduct the interview by phone or face to face. You will often get more and better information this way because it’s not the first question that gets you the story; it’s the question that comes out of the first question. However, emailing your questionnaire to an alumnus is more convenient and the information comes back to you in electronic format.
- Request a recent photo or arrange to take the alumnus’s picture.
- What degrees do you have and from where?
- What do you consider your greatest accomplishments? (Both personally and professionally)
- How did you become interested in your field?
- What do you see as the most compelling trends in your field?
- What do you enjoy most about your current career position?
- What have been the biggest challenges in your career?
- How has your college experience had an impact on your career?
- Describe any significant relationships with fellow students. How did collaborating with other students contribute to your education?
- What advice would you give to younger alumni or current students who aspire to follow a similar career path?
- What was the best class you took at the University? Do you have a favorite professor?
- What do you enjoy doing with your free time? Family? Hobbies? Interests?
- What would you say to prospective students who are considering the program you graduated from?
- Remember, your institution is not the center of the universe. Gerry McGovern advises, “It can be a fatal mistake to think that what you care about most is what your reader cares about most. You sell yourself, your product, your service, your idea, or your beliefs by first and foremost connecting with what your audience really cares about.” (Killer Web Content, 2006) Enough said.
- Use second person voice (you) in your headings and throughout your web site. This choice allows you to adopt a conversational tone with your readers. Remember! Your web site is your side of a helpful, action-oriented conversation with prospective students and the general public.
- Keep your headings to eight words or fewer. Headings should not read like a sentence, so edit out redundant words and phrases. It should also make sense on its own, because it will often be on its own in search results or on a menu page.
- Use words in your headings that your readers care about. Your heading is the hook for readers who are scanning for the information they need. Answer: “What about this faculty research will my visitors find most interesting and useful? What words can I use to compel them to click on links and explore the site?”
- Never start a link, heading, or sentence with your college or university’s name. Your readers are already on your web site. So, they have the context for the content presented.
- Keep your sentences and paragraphs short and sweet. Keep sentences to 20 words or fewer and paragraphs to 70 words or fewer (about four sentences).
- Never have a dead-end in your web content. Always put a call to action link at the end of your profiles and stories. These links allow you to guide readers to content that will be useful and informative. Answer: “What do I want my readers to do after they have read this faculty research profile? Navigate to programs? Learn more about the university?”
- Use active voice in your call to action links. Remember your readers are on your site to find useful information and complete tasks. Don’t make them guess about what they can accomplish when they follow a link.
- Keep links short. Links should be short, specific, action-oriented phrases with eight words or fewer. Say, “Apply this research to your work.” Not, “Click here for more.” Tell the reader what task they can complete by following the link.
- Put links on separate lines, below the main content. Links embedded in paragraphs and sentences can get lost in the shuffle. Put a link on its own line to focus your reader’s attention.
Here is a list of links we love this week. Use them for work or play!
PC Tools: This website helps you generate secure password(s) within given criteria that you can choose, such as how many characters or whether to include numbers.
Oanda: This site has information and tools about currency and exchange rates. It can even help you figure out average exchange rates for a given period or past exchange rates.
Visual SVN Server: This tool simplifies the installation and management of the Subversion version control system. For those teams or individuals that haven’t had the “time” to figure out a version control system, it doesn’t get much simpler than this. Check it out, you won’t be disappointed.
Although it’s not “officially supported”, the team that produced Visual SVN Server also created an extremely simple add-on to setup Trac functionality.
Two free services to avoid customer service touch-tone purgatory:
LucyPhone: With LucyPhone, you enter the company’s name or phone number and your number and hit “start”. LucyPhone connects you to the company’s line, where you pick an option for getting a live rep. You hang up and get a callback when a person is actually on the line. LucyPhone also offers iPhone and Android apps. (A tip-o-the-hat to my insurance company here - they have instituted this service when you call their customer service line directly. Way to go Hartford! I got great rates, too!)
DialAHuman: DialAHuman provides a list of customer service numbers and gives instructions on how to bypass automated prompts to reach a live rep.
The Trac Project: Trac is a wiki that we use to store information about projects as well as current tasks associated with them. There is another related tool, Mylyn, that allows you to seamlessly integrate Trac task management with our development environment, Eclipse, so reporting issues and monitoring them is easy.
Blogging for Business QA Session: I attended this webinar and learned a lot! Four experts from Hubspot, Linhart PR, VOCE, and SocialFresh answer viewer questions about business blogging. Perk up your ears for the conversation they have about blog comments.
Urlesque: Looking for a fun site? This blog claims it is “exposing bits of the web.” It features internet trends, viral videos, memes, and web culture. The photos they pull off of Etsy (online marketplace for all things handmade), such as sad Etsy boyfriends, are priceless!
Useit: Jakob Nielsen’s website is a great resource for web usability issues.
Schlock Mercenary: This site is a science fiction comic strip following the exploits of a band of mercenaries.
Superpunch: This is a very minimal blog by John Struan; it deconstructs the Struan’s many pop cultural interests with plenty of links, story synopses and screenshots.
I visit the site often as Struan posts a compelling variety of illustration and graphic design. Whatever might catch his attention– gallery excerpts, individual commissions, book covers, comic covers, advertising and t-shirt designs–is treated with equal interest.
It might be as simple as ‘Superpunch’ bearing tastes very similar to my own, but I never fail to find something that tickles my curiosity when I visit the site. It compels me to be better at my craft.
What links do you love? Leave a comment!
I took some time recently to read the new ebook from Hubspot: 2011 Facebook Page Marketing. I felt like I was a little behind on best practices and new(er) Facebook features (What!? I can create a fan page without it being tied to my profile? Yes, a little behind.) As promised, this ebook got me up-to-date on new opportunities for communicating and marketing with Facebook.
Here are my top take-aways:
I learned a lot from the ebook and recommend you check it out!
What are some of your favorite new Facebook features? Leave a comment.
Here is a list of links we love this week. Use them for work or play!
Wordsmyth: Seward is currently working on its second vocabulary development program for kids. When I want to think about a word from a kid’s perspective, I go to Wordsmyth, an online dictionary and thesaurus. This site is among the best at providing definitions in kid-friendly language.
This takes a little while to load, but it is a really neat flash application that displays a lot of user information in a very intuitive and interesting way.
If you’ve never used Joomla on a project before and have thought about possibly using a CMS, this site will give you an idea of some of the vast extensions that are available to make building a site easier.
Learn all about white papers: Ever caught yourself asking, “What exactly is a white paper?” On his Writing White Papers web site, Michael Stelzner clearly defines what they are and how to use them.
A List Apart: This blog is “for people who make websites.” Its authors explore the design, development, and meaning of web content, focusing on best practices.
Stack Overflow is an excellent resource for a broad spectrum of programming questions.
Slashdot often highlights interesting news stories that have some sort of technology angle to them.
As a dog lover, how can I resist the opportunity to share a blog about my dog?
Civilization III is one of my favorite games, and civfanatics.com has a great set of forums for talking about the game.
Girl Genius is one of my favorite webcomics. Bearing the tagline “Adventure, Romance, MAD SCIENCE”, it follows a female character in an alternate-history Victorian “steampunk” setting.
What links do you love? Leave a comment!
I have been using Lulu.com a lot lately. It is my favorite tool for prototyping and producing print materials for our various projects (curriculum materials, training materials, etc.). Lulu allows you to make, self-publish, print, and sell print-on-demand books, e-books, and photo books with free book publishing.
As a smaller company, we have needs for small print runs and not the massive runs you need to get the price breaks available from traditional printers. We usually need one or two of a handbook or manual printed in color. To print this job B.L. (before lulu), we were usually looking at spending hundreds of dollars. We were left with the options of “running to Kinko’s” or printing on our colored printer, usually at the cost of a polished printed piece. Then I discovered Lulu!
Let me break it down for you
We recently needed to publish a 105-page teachers’ manual with these specifications: 8.5″ x 11″, coil binding, white interior paper (80# weight), full-color interior ink, white exterior paper (100# weight), full-color exterior ink.
Here are the quotes we received per copy:
Local printer cost: $98 (this price is just for the color copies, binding and cover printing would be extra)
Lulu.com cost: $28 (this is for a complete book, bound with a glossy cover)
The first time I used Lulu, I was shocked by how excellent the quality was for the price. The photos were vibrant, the paper was very high quality, and the cover looked great.
Some of my favorite features
Lulu has many nice features for book publishing. Here are some of my favorites (for a nice overview of Lulu, view the demo).
Lulu is a marketplace for books as well as being a publisher, which is great for authors who want to sell their books. I don’t. I want to develop and publish my projects so only I have access to them. “Private status” makes sure my projects are for my eyes only.
Here’s a quick explanation on what your book’s status means to new readers and new sales (from lulu.com).
Lulu has a great cover creation wizard. You can choose from many backgrounds, layouts, and themes. You also have the option to create a custom front and back cover with bleeds. You can also customize their very nice layouts and themes with your own photos. I have used both their layouts and my own custom covers. The prints are very high-quality on glossy cover stock (I hear more cover paper choices are coming).
So if you are looking for a cheap way to quickly print small runs of documents or books, try Lulu.
Have you used any other self-publisher sites? Leave a comment and tell me about your experience!
Here are some of our favorite books and websites this week! I sent out a vague email soliciting items for this list, not specifying whether they should be for work or play. So, we have a bit of both. Enjoy!
From Nell Kauls:
This is one of the first and best books on web writing. I have been referring to it a lot lately. This is a book with a lot of examples and practical advice about writing for the web. Her examples make this book a winner.
From Vicky Frank:
I subscribe to the RSS feed of this useful website to receive a daily update of top properties on the web in a variety of categories. The recent article, Mobile App Development Grows Sharply, is an interesting addendum to the information presented in Seward’s blog article last week (Gone Mobile), and is most interesting.
I subscribe to this site’s RSS feed because they have such interesting info about data visualization. With the RSS feed, I don’t need to remember to visit the site – they send their articles to my inbox and I can quickly scan what interests me. There are serious entries like True size of Africa and more light-hearted ones like What New Yorkers complain about. But almost every day there is something of interest.
From Melanie Ruda:
Active Learning: 101 Strategies to Teach Any Subject, by Mel Silberman
The book Active Learning: 101 Strategies to Teach Any Subject is true to its title. I turned to the book for ideas last year while designing an education methods course for college students, and have found it a useful resource again this year while working on a vocabulary-building curriculum for 4th and 5th graders. Silberman’s many suggestions are easily adaptable and run the gamut from “getting students active at the start” to “making learning unforgettable” with activities for review and self-assessment.
From Brian Thompson:
All Creatures Great and Small, by James Herriott
The novel unfolds with Herriott looking for work as a veterinarian in pre-World War II England. He soon finds a job working with another veterinarian, Siegfried Farnon, in Yorkshire, England. The rest of the book recounts Herriott’s experiences working with all manner of creatures, both great and small.
From Paul Johnson:
Shutter Island, by Dennis Lehane
Set on secluded Shutter Island, the home of a mental institution, this book details the escape of one of the patients and the search to find her. My wife read this for book club a while back and she is begging me to finish it so we can see the movie. She really enjoyed it, but I’m not far into it enough yet to give my verdict. If the reviews and my wife’s hints are any indication, I’m in for a twisted plot and a thoroughly satisfying read.
One of my guilty pleasures is watching episodes of the 80’s classic show “Thirtysomething,” which recently became available for streaming on Netflix. Now that I am thirtysomething, I really enjoy the show and its exploration of life, work, parenthood, etc. In an episode I watched recently, Hope Murdoch (main character who is a wife, mom, and editor/journalist) got her first computer (something like a Zenith EZ PC). I think she was using it for word processing, and that’s it. This episode was filmed in 1987, so pre-widespread use of the Internet.
It got me thinking about how radically different Hope’s day-to-day life was from mine, at least in how she accessed information. So, here is a list of websites I used this week to complete tasks and access information for work and life paired with my imaginings about how Hope could have accessed similar information. Let’s just say this exercise taught me to appreciate the Internet.
This week, I discovered these websites containing great information for my work in digital marketing, content development, and editing.
I can find and access this information in seconds through search engines, Twitter, and Facebook. Not so for Hope. To get similar kinds of information for her work as an editor and journalist, Hope had to pound the pavement. A lot. She spent lots of time in libraries trying to access sources using the libraries tools. I imagine she would have then spent a lot of time waiting for copies of books and papers to come in the mail. Then, she could do her work. She also spent a lot of time on the phone (she is often shown working from her home office carrying a baby bottle, on the phone, with a scowl on her face) tracking down information.
Of course, some of the information I have access to Hope could only dream of. On demand training from my desk using online webinars? Unimaginable for Hope. She would have had to go somewhere, on a plane or in a car, to get this kind of information. I simply log in and learn over my lunch hour.
I used these sites to complete a couple of personal tasks.
So, when I hear people waxing nostalgic about life pre-Internet, I think of Hope and the drudgery of some aspects of pre-Internet life.
What are your thoughts? Leave a comment.
Over the past two years, a “new” discipline has emerged in the web development world—web content strategy. I say “new” because many of us web professionals have been doing content strategy for years, we just didn’t have a name for it.
Here is how a couple of content strategy gurus define it:
This sounded to me like exactly what I had been doing for years under the amorphous title of “Writer/Designer.” When I first saw examples of other content strategists’ deliverables, I realized that I had developed very similar documents to help clients create and manage web content. So, could I call myself a content strategist? I didn’t feel comfortable taking on the title until I learned more about the discipline and deliverables. So, I started reading.
I put together this reading list for the aspiring content strategist. Use it to learn more about this emerging practice.
You will soon find that these articles and books lead you to an ever-expanding list of content resources related to content strategy.
Student success stories on your website help prospective students see what is possible when they take a particular program. These profiles help students answer questions like, “Why did other students choose this program?” and “What compelling experiences are these students having?” Also, non-traditional students may ask themselves questions like, “How can I fit this into my busy life?” and “I wonder how far along I am if I use credits I’ve already earned?” All are very important questions that arise during a student’s decision-making process. Student profiles offer prospective students a way to “see themselves” in your students’ stories.
Profiles are also a way to engage your students in helping you fulfill your mission. Making students part of your content creation is a way to build and deepen their ties to your institution.
Use these tips to write student stories for your website:
Use these questions to start a conversation with a student:
Show Students How It Works
Also, use real examples with lots of specifics about how other students have used prior learning and transfer credits to save time and money. These examples speak to non-traditional students who may have a lot of previous work experience and college credits. Examples should answer questions like:
Additionally, put program details like admission deadlines and total credits, and links to cost and financial aid information front and center. This information is crucial to prospective students as they are researching programs. Make it easy for them to find and scan!
In my last post, Write Alumni Profiles That Tell Your Story, I offer tips for writing alumni profiles. These profiles combined with student success stories help you tell your story.
Alumni profiles tell prospective students an important part of your story—your alumni’s accomplishments and contributions to the community. These profiles also help prospective students answer, “What have other people done with this degree?” and “Do people succeed after graduation from the program?” Both are very important questions that arise during the student’s decision-making process, and your website content needs to answer them in an authentic way. Enter alumni profiles. REAL success stories are the most effective way to show prospective students the value of your program.
Profiles are also a way to engage alumni in helping you fulfill your mission. Making alumni part of your content creation process is a way to build and deepen their ties to your institution. Your alumni have many interesting stories to share and are often very pleased to be asked!
Use the following tips to write alumni profiles for your website:
Use these questions to start a conversation with an alumnus:
In my last higher-ed focused post, Write Killer Content for Your Higher-Ed Web Site, I gave you a list of my favorite web writing best practices. Use these tips to write your alumni profile so it will be useful to your audience.
In my last post, Hidden Treasure: How Faculty Can Be Your Source for Fresh Web Content, I told you how to use your faculty’s knowledge and research to create fresh web content, which increases traffic to your site. So, you’ve started the conversation with faculty, and you’ve gotten some great content. Now what? Use this list of my favorite web writing best practices to make your content useful to your readers.