What is web content?

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Web content, as Lou Rosenfeld and Peter Morville defined it in Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, is “…‘the stuff in your Web site.’” This stuff is textual, visual and aural. It may include HTML, documents, data, applications, e-services, images (graphics), audio (sound) and video files (images), personal Web pages, archived e-mail messages, animations, and many other forms of file and data systems which are found in websites and web pages.

The page concept

Web content as a “page” began in academic papers. But this concept became blurred when individuals began creating and owning a Mosaic page which they often called a “home page” or “Web page”.

Types of web content

Essentially, we have two types of Web content: text and multimedia.

Text web content: This is the actual written word found on a web page, and the main body of words inside images and in text blocks. It needs to be of good quality. Quality content is original written text according to certain criteria, instead of duplicate text which is copied and pasted from another source. Quality content should also contain good internal links and backlinks to give readers access to more information. A web page text should generally be written with a global audience in mind as it could be read by anyone anywhere in the world.

Multimedia web content: These are anything on your web page other than words, but are rather such things as animation, images, sound, and video.

Definitions of the parts of the types of the web content

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Words are a combination of letters of the alphabet making up a sound or a combination of sounds forming a meaningful element of speech, usually shown with a space on either side of it. Needless to say that this definition is made up of words.


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Animations are successive drawings or positions of puppets or models which move when shown as a sequence. They can be created using GIF images, Flash, Ajax, or other animation tools.

Caution: Animations slow down the loading of a web site. So if your website is not dedicated to Web cartoons or animated movies, the best animations are those done in moderation.

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Images are illustrations representing the external forms of a person or thing. They are the the majority of multimedia found on websites. They can be obtained from photos or clip art or even done with a graphics editor or scanner.

Caution: Images liven up your web pages but Images on Web pages should be optimized to download fast.

Sound is anything which may be heard. It is embedded in a Web page for readers to listen to it when they enter the site or when they click a link to turn it on.

Caution: Sound can be annoying if it is made to be turned on automatically but no provision is made for it to be turned off easily.

 

Video is the broadcasting of visual elements. It has a wide appeal among web page visitors.

Caution: It can be challenging to add a video which works reliably across different browsers.

Despite the fact that we often embed these various protocols within web pages, the web page composed of html (or some variation) content still dominates the totality of content found online.

Content management

Websites end up becoming complex, so companies employ people as content author, editor, publisher, and administrator to manage their content. They may also have a content management system in which these people operate the system and organize the information for the website. A business may also make use of content technologies as protection measures to block the copying of their content without permission.

Organizing content

Content must be organized as to make it visitor- or reader-friendly. Hence, the site must be easy to navigate so that the desired contents could be found easily. It is only in this way that the website can really fulfil its role of informing customers, marketing products and services, or selling to them.

Geo targeting of web content

It is not always feasible to write content for a global audience. So some sites resort to Geo targeting of web content. Using geolocation software, the physical location of a website visitor, such as country, region/state, city, metro code/zip code, organization, Internet Protocol (IP) address, ISP or other criteria, is determined (geolocation) and then content appropriate for that visitor is delivered.

Some companies may even have country specific web pages within their corporate sites. A typical example is the FedEx website at FedEx.com where users have the choice to select their country location first before accessing the information they need.

Geo targeting of web content can be automated, so that the visitor is automatically directed to the information needed.

Quality content, 9 ways to ensure it

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Quality content is necessary to boost your SEO rankings with search engines and so get better exposure which will translate into more traffic and/or leads.

To write quality content you must:

1. Create Original Content: Original content can only come from fresh ideas. Rehashing other posts cannot assure originality. Such content is déjà vu and no one will link to it.

Getting a bot to scrape content and re-combine it into some form of gibberish is not original content. Outsourcing cheap content writers to write filler content isn’t either. The worst is collecting articles from around the web to re-post them, even with permission.

2. Create Strong Headlines: The title of your content is the first thing a visitor to your website sees. It sparks the visitor’s interest and curiosity and goads them to read on. You have only seconds to do that. So, your headline must make a good first impression, for you may not have the opportunity to make another. According to great statistics from Copyblogger, while 80% of visitors will read your headlines, only 20% of them will continue to the rest of your content.

So give as much thought to your headlines as to your articles. It’s advisable to have a few headlines and select the one which sounds best.

3. Create actionable Content: People are looking for which actions to take regarding particular situations. Unlike non-fiction, visitors read website content to look for the manner of acting or operating something. Therefore your content must give them a sense of how to apply the information to a dilemma they face.

You may not have to state the obvious. Just writing clearly may be all a visitor needs to learn to do something better.

4. Create problem-solving content: When people need answers to problems, they query the search engines. The search engines then return possible answers to those problems.
What is the implication for you? Your content, either covertly or overtly, must provide answers so that readers may gain knowledge.

The same way the search engines return quick answers to searchers queries, your content must also be easy to scan so people can grab your suggestions quickly and not get angry and click themselves out of your content.

5. Create content based on facts: Sprinkling your content with sources and statistics is great. Better still, they must be credible and verifiable. So link right to the source or the statistics.
Accuracy builds trust with readers. In this regard:

• Link only to trusted and authoritative sources, for they help build trust with your readers.
• Link to as many sources as possible, for in this case, more is better.
• Link to help the search engines out, as links help them figure out not only what your content is about but also how it should be categorized.

6. Create Content that is Engaging and Thought Provoking: An engaging content makes an engaged audience. But how do you write an engaging content? By:
Providing a great introduction: After the headline pulls a reader into your content, the first few sentences lets them decide if it’s up to the headline and therefore worth reading. The introduction is where you tell the reader what you’ll be discussing in the content. Make it interesting. There are millions of websites out there offering the same content as yours. The offer is too numerous and the competition is therefore too keen for you to expect that people will linger on your trying to fathom what you’re about.
Asking questions: Including questions in your content makes readers ponder over them, even long after they have read the piece.
Using anecdotes and stories: An anecdote as an introduction is a great way to anchor readers in a story. Weaving a story into your content introduces a human element which is often touching and unforgettable.

When your content engages visitors, they comment on it. This kind of updates the content and the search engines pick it up. When your content is thought provoking, your visitors reflect upon it long after reading it. this way you endear yourself to your website visitors.

7. Create content that contains Images and Video: What makes the radio more appealing than the newspaper? It’s the audio. What renders the television more interesting than the radio? The images. So ally sound and image and you have the audiovisual, a winner. Moreover, people have different faculties for imbibing information. While all learn by reading, some do better by hearing, and yet others by seeing. So use pictures, videos, or diagrams to illustrate the points in your content.

Another thing. People hate to read blocks of text. Remember the first time you tried to read a novel without pictures? Daunting, wasn’t it? Don’t make your content that way for your readers.

8. Create content that is Short and to the point: Your content doesn’t necessarily have to be long to be better. Nothing beats a brief, to-the-point content that conveys the needed information. Don’t beat about the bush, go straight to the point, do you remember this proverb?

9. Create content continually: Can you tell how boring it will be to eat the same meal over and over again? That’s how it will be for website visitors if they have to consume the same content all the time. As variety is the spice of life, they even wouldn’t. And variety of content is the lifeblood of your website. That not only keeps your readers happy and makes them keep coming back for more but also the search engines would rank sites that are regularly updated.

So develop a regular writing schedule and make the effort to stick to it. At least, add something to your website twice a week. As Nike says, “Just Do It”! That’s what will provide your visitors fresh useful content and let them recommend your website to others.

Quality content, 9 sources to find it

After the “how” of quality content, now let’s look at the “where” of content, that is, 9 sources where you can find the inspiration to “just do it”.

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1. Bulletin board or a guest book: Create a bulletin board or a guest book on your website to give your visitors an opportunity to give their version of an opinion you or a guest contributor has expressed. This will make for lively debate as people express dissenting opinions. This discussion will not only keep contributors coming back to check the feedback but also offer you material for a follow up article.

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2. Feature Articles: You could write a special descriptive article or interview, a distinctive or a regular article on a certain topic. It should be relevant to your site’s theme, educate, entertain or inform. You could also get a guest contributor for the work or exchange articles with them.

3. Articles of other authors or other websites: Although reprinting articles of other authors cannot qualify for original content, you can however personalize them and make them interesting. Writing an introduction to the subject or commenting on the author’s opinions or conclusions enables you to put your own ‘spin’ on the content. You must however avoid articles that have been reprinted many times. Also do not edit an article without obtaining the author’s permission.

You can also get ideas from subscribing to industry news which you may publish in a separate section of your site.

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4. Multimedia: You can upload your own or copyrighted sound, music, pictures, photographs, and video clips to your website.

5. Searching for the best Content: You can scour sites and other resources (eZines, directories, books, offline publications) for the best on a subject you are expert in, and list them on your site. It will be not only a destination for people seeking information on your subject but also a source of content for you.

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6. Reviewing products and companies: Collecting and writing short critical articles about books, websites, music, movies, play, artwork, web designers, restaurants, products, services, etc. relevant to the topic of your site and recommending the best and flagging the bad could be a regular and good contributor of content.

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7. Collecting newsworthy items: You can announce new and innovative products and services, improved versions of old products or services, insider information in your industry, rumours and gossip in your field, swings and developments on your Website. In addition to informing people and keeping them up to date with the latest gossip and happenings, you will have access to an endless flow of information.

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8. Conducting interviews: Talking to an expert in your field or a famous figure face-to-face or via email or over the telephone provides exciting, valuable content. You could do this by learning more about your expert to come up with pertinent questions, deciding upon a topic for the interview, asking additional questions or contacting them for clarification when necessary, and editing your copy so that it reads well.

9. Interacting with your website visitors: Interacting with your readers leads to closer, more personal bonding with them; knowing their preferences, likes and dislikes; collecting their complaints and suggestions; getting their feedback on your performance; and to gathering valuable demographic data on them which can furnish fresh content to use on your site.

5 Tools for collecting interactive data

Now, how can you collect this information? By using interactive tools. Some of them are:

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a) Polls and Surveys: Ask your readers about an article (e.g: “Did it live up to your expectations?”), about a controversial issue (e.g.: “Should churches be forced to celebrate homosexual marriages?”), about current affairs (e.g.: “Do you perceive IS as a threat to the West?”), on demographic data (e.g.: “What is your household income?”), and about user preferences (e.g. “What changes would you like to see on this site?”

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How do you go about it? Ask a few questions (7 or 8 would do), make them open-ended questions (which need only a yes or a no answer), provide an incentive for taking part (such as a discount, trial membership, free e-book, etc.) to get more replies, send the results to the respondents (to let them know how the issue stands with others), and say what you are doing about the feedback (this shows you care about their opinion).

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b) Feedback: Ask a question (e.g.: Would you like to see a new category on this site? If yes, which?) and say that you welcome feedback and you’ll get them to change, improve or act on things and find areas where you must provide content that helps your reader.
Feedback can be collected in the comment boxes on posts, via an email address or a feedback form.

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c) Group discussion: You can create a discussion group and invite readers to join. Then ask the members to debate controversial articles and news stories, and discuss other issues related to your website’s topic. This lively debate will generate content material for your site.

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d) Forums: Create an electronic bulletin board where website visitors can respond to messages posted by others and add their own. This will produce a growing list of discussions which can be encapsulated into a feature article or other form of content on your site.

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e) Chat Rooms: With real-time online chats, you can interview participants, especially experts and celebrities; discuss featured topics and issues; and organize workshops and seminars for your visitors. Transcripts of these sessions can provide invaluable content.

4 people from whom to get Content for your Website

After the “how” and the “where” of quality content, now let’s look at the “who” of it, that is, 4 people who can create content for your website.

1. Yourself: Creating content for your website calls for three qualities: expertise in your website’s topic, good writing skills, and time. Do you have the knowledge or can you do research to provide them valuable, reliable, interesting content? Can you write well or are you prepared to learn to write well? Can you invest the time to do it day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year?

This is the first institute I learnt to write with by correspondence:

ICL

This is the second institute I learnt to write with by correspondence:

LRWG

This is another institute where you can learn to write well by correspondence:

OCA

2. Guest contributors: You can announce on your site that you’re welcoming articles from guest authors. Many people will respond because guest authoring projects them as experts, and gives them exposure and access to your readers. Apart from giving you content, guest contribution is also beneficial to you because all these authors often require is a by-line consisting of a 3 to 5 line description of them and their business at the end of the article.

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3. Content Providers: You can also pay people to create content for your website. Freelance authors, who are sort of writers-on-contract, will provide articles on a pay-per-word/article basis while full time writers and content providers will do so with professional-quality material for a regular salary.

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4. Syndicating or Licensing Content providers: Finally you can obtain content from news services that furnish brief updates and news flashes on many topics; content aggregators who collate information from the web on a given topic; Magazines and Newspapers; Content-rich niche portal sites; and other Websites dedicated to your topic.

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The last word on website content creation

1. Imbue your site with your personality: It takes two to tango, they say. It’s the same with content creation. Providing highly informative, entertaining and original content is only one side of the success formula coin.

The other side is you, the content writer. Letting some of your personality show through your site can make your publication unique and set it apart from the rest. Conveying your values, ideals, ambitions and attitudes to your readers can make them bond with you, trust you, and respect you.

If you love what you do as a content creator, it will show in your work. And your readers will feel it too and love you for that.

2. Write simply for the web reader: People of different backgrounds and varied educational levels use the web. Many do not like to read web publications which look and sound like textbook content or a scientific one.

To help your readers enjoy your content, use simple words, phrases and sentences and use catchy sub-titles to set off paragraphs. Break up your content into small paragraphs and let them have a lot of white spaces between them.

3. Mind your Spelling and Grammar: Have you read things in forums, chat rooms, comment boxes, email messages, feedback forms, group discussions and on social media like Facebook where the spelling and the grammar made you wince? They make the writers appear dumb and you don’t want to convey the same impression to your readers. Always have a dictionary at hand while writing and run your work through grammar and spell check before publishing. The simple rule is: check if in doubt.

4. Check your Style: A book I like so much is The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White. The other is Write Right, a desk drawer digest of punctuation, grammar and style by Jan Venolia. Both are slim but can save you a lot of embarrassment. The general advice is to write your content in a conversational tone.

5. Experiment and grow: Running a website is not a journey in isolation. Many started before you and you can imitate what works for them. Many have started with you and can still inspire you. Many will start after you yet you can learn a few tricks from them.

So keep innovating. If your readers like what you’re serving them, continue. Otherwise, keep experimenting.

To round up, Is Content really King?

Although Andrew Odlyzko argues otherwise in “Content is Not King”, don’t forget: Content makes your website visitors content (excuse the pun) and keeps them coming back for more. Content that is useful, valuable, informative, educational or just plain entertaining can attract and retain an audience better than anything else. Content is also what makes the search engines rank your site in their results pages and allow searchers to find your web pages. And if your content is not relevant and authoritative, that is, of high quality, your website might as well not have existed. So, all said and done, content still remains king.

Should you have something to add to this discussion, why don’t you scroll down to the comment box and say it? You may also contact me on my Wealthy Affiliate Profile. I will be happy to reply you.

Akoli
Your personal guide to securing your future online

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Correspondence institutes where I learnt to write professionally

ICL
LRWG
OCA

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Article marketing
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Separation of presentation and content
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Andrew Odlyzko