Digital Content Strategies – the importance of quality

Search engine optimisation of your content is the answer to everything. If you can nail the SEO you’ll be at the top of the rankings and success will follow.

Well, kinda. Effective SEO is only half the story.

The real key to success is customer retention. To achieve this articles need to engage readers emotionally. With increasingly busy lifestyles people are no longer prepared to spend time reading material that does not entertain on some level, or which fails to convey a positive message.

Whatever text you produce, you’re always writing about people. Efforts to sell your products or services will always be more successful if visitors to your website sense attachment. Copy with entertainment value will trigger the release of dopamine, generating a pleasurable response and thus increasing the likelihood of buying, returning, and perhaps most importantly of all – sharing: whatever marketing and promotional strategies you employ, word-of-mouth recommendations between friends will always be a fundamental generator of new business.

New business and customer retention. Is there anything more important?

There are clear added value benefits in commissioning quality material for your website, thoughtfully produced by someone with experience and skill. Still not sure you need a specialist? For insight into the decisions and techniques utilised to write this post, read on, MacDuff!

The techniques in the text

  1. The first paragraph mentions “SEO” and “content” – these two words are probably why you’re here, and you agree with the statements made. I’m speaking your language. These are also two fairly pacy, jaunty sentences. I deliberately wrote “search engine optimisation” in full for this very reason. The word “nail” was chosen for its punch – when reading this you’ll probably visualise a nail, the strength and purpose of which underlines the importance of this paragraph.
  2. The second, very short paragraph doesn’t disagree with the one preceding it, and also tells you you’re correct – a positive assertion that strokes your ego slightly, releasing dopamine, and gains your trust. The second sentence primes you for the fact that, well, you’re not entirely correct. The informal tone is also a contrast to that of the first paragraph, holding your attention.
  3. Also in the second paragraph the word “story” is a deliberate choice. The natural (obvious) phrase here would be “half the battle”, but “battle” has immediate negative connotations which would establish a barrier. “Story”, by contrast, indicates a pleasurable experience to follow – entertainment, anyone?
  4. Similarly, at the end of the third paragraph I chose “fails to convey a positive message” over “conveys a negative message”, even though the latter is slightly more concise. This was in order to end on an upwards mood. Note the increase in pace here, too. Earlier in the paragraph I could also have chosen “waste time”, but opted for the more positive “spend time”.
  5. The appearance of the piece is balanced, making the text visually appealing. The shorter paragraphs indicate that it is easy to read and digest, while the heavier blocks communicate and support particularly important points. Finally, the post ends on a lighter note, and encourages you to read further (still here?). It culminates with the paraphrase of a Shakespearean misquote. This will engender a positive response from anyone familiar with MacBeth, and the use of an exclamation mark is in any case uplifting. Win-win! Entertainment, anyone?

Similar decisions were made in the writing of these notes. For example, the subheading The techniques in the text was chose for its flow, and the double teck sound. The first draft was produced longhand.

For consultancy on digital content strategy, writing or editing, please get in touch, or you can tweet me to say hi.


Scrivener tip – compare & roll back snapshots (Mac)

A particularly useful feature in Scrivener is the snapshots function. Before making changes to a document press CMD-5 and – you guessed it – the program will take a snapshot of that file, making an appropriate camera shutter sound in the process. If desired you can name your snapshots to remind you why they were taken: pre cut character X for example.

When you’ve made some changes you can click the Compare button to, um, compare your existing text with that in the previous version. If you decide you don’t like what you’ve done – maybe you want to keep character X after all – simply click Roll Back to undo all the changes you’ve made.

I use the snapshots function a lot, and while I rarely perform a full roll back, it’s handy to have the option available as a safety net. Also useful is the ability to copy selections of text from the snapshot pane to replace into the current document without having to revert completely.

Click here for more Scrivener tips.

For consultancy on digital content strategy, writing or editing, please get in touch, or you can tweet me to say hi.

Scrivener tip (Mac) – switching text modes

If you’re in scriptwriting mode in Scrivener and want to add some text that isn’t part of the script – perhaps some notes or thoughts about the direction the story could take – you might want to switch from scriptwriting to standard mode, so that whatever you type isn’t formatted as dialogue or technical directions, for example.

To do this simply press CMD-8 to toggle between the two. Scrivener will tell you which mode you’re switching to, and change the colour of the document’s Binder icon: in scriptwriting mode it’s yellow, in standard mode it’s white.

Click here for more Scrivener tips.

For consultancy on digital content strategy, writing or editing, please get in touch, or you can tweet me to say hi.

Mechanical Heat – friction in workflows

There’s a lot of advice on the internet about how to achieve a “frictionless workflow”, the seamless passage of ideas and text along a productivity chain that increases speed, maximises output and enables you to do more, quicker. I’d argue, however, that a little bit of friction is a good thing, and that speed is not always a writer’s best friend. This is particularly true when it comes to creative endeavours.

You’ve had an idea? Great. Start with a notebook – a proper one made of paper and card rather than a device of glass and metal. Write down the basic concept, the bare bones. Doodle. Flesh the thing out. Draw lines linking possibilities. Fill in some of the letters or use different coloured pens. Have fun! Or try a typewriter. Bash out some words. Enjoy the clickity-clack-ting of the keys and the chug of the carriage as physical impressions of ink are hammered into paper. Cuss and curse at all teh mistaks. Marvel that people used to write novels this way.

When you’ve written or typed the chemical soup in your head into something more tangible, cut up the paper. Savour the sound of scissors as you snip the extraneous, distilling the words into their most concise form. Screw up the remnants and throw them towards the bin. Miss, mostly. Move the rest around. Try various relationships between concepts or characters. Marvel as new possibilities form.

Only now move to the computer. Forget formatting – content is king. When your notes are transferred to the electronic realm allow the piece to rest. Go for a walk or bike ride. Take a long bath. Listen to music or watch a movie. Let your backbrain do its thing, for it is during these periods that further connections often become manifest – and these are sometimes the best.

While true that such an artistic approach may not be practical in the workplace or when a deadline looms, setting your text aside for even a short period is likely to reap benefits. And if the project is in no way time-pressured leave it for a week or a month, then return with fresh, more critical eyes. Rinse and repeat, until the idea begins to generate heat of its own, and allow the work to flow.

For consultancy on digital content strategy, writing or editing, please get in touch, or you can tweet me to say hi.


Room 204

My time on Writing West Midlands’ writer development programme

The short story

Saturday 9th April saw the final official gathering of the 2015/2016 cohort on Writing West MidlandsRoom 204 writer development programme. Having been fortunate enough to take part this year I thought I’d share my experience.

The short version is this: as a result of my time with Room 204 I’ve received effective suggestions regarding how to move existing projects forward, been encouraged to develop my writing in new areas, invited to participate in projects at their inception, and made many valuable new contacts and friends. There’s also a more general sense of being part of something active and dynamic in the Midlands region, and that this is an on-going, mutually supportive relationship. I believe any writer would find the support offered by the Writing West Midlands team invaluable. If you want to know more, read on, MacDuff!

The full story

When I received word early in 2015 that my application to Room 204 had been successful I was surprised and delighted. At that time, though, I still wasn’t sure what Room 204 would do for me, how it would work, or what would happen. I quickly came to understand the reason for this, and that it’s at the heart of what makes the 204 programme so special.

While there’s a definite framework of one-to-one sessions, invitations to events such as the launch of Birmingham Literature Festival and a free place at the National Writing Conference, the real beauty of Room 204 is that this is not a fixed, predetermined, one-size-fits-all schedule, but a unique experience for each participant. Until the team start to get to know you, have some grasp of where you stand as a writer and what you’re looking to achieve, the help they might be able to offer will not be fully apparent to either party.

The process begins with the one-to-one sessions, which were always motivating, served to broaden my horizons and yielded helpful suggestions for ways to proceed. Over the course of the programme a variety of opportunities are also presented to the group. Some of these are specifically targeted given a writer’s particular area of interest, while others are more general invitations that may appeal to anyone on the programme. These may include but are by no means limited to information about opportunities to work with schools, making submissions to forthcoming short story or poetry collections, or attending networking events in the region.

Whether you act on any of these initiatives is at your discretion, and there’s certainly no pressure to do so, but the reality is that, as with writing in general, you reap what you sow. My analogy for writing is that it’s a bit like riding a bike up a hill: once you get off and start pushing you tend not to get back on again. If you’re struggling up Alpe d’Huez (one of those little hills in the Tour de France), the Room 204 team are on hand with energy drinks, a support car and generally shouting encouragement from the roadside. Something like that anyway.

The programme has played a definite role in moving my career forward and opened up new avenues. The 2016/2017 participants for Room 204 have already been chosen, so if you’re one of them, congratulations! If you’re not but like the sound of 204, applications will open again later in the year – and as we determined at Saturday’s final meeting, a year is a short period of time in a writer’s career. In the meantime you can follow Writing West Midlands on Twitter, and should consider attending the National Writing Conference and Birmingham Literature Festival, both of which will offer interesting schedules and the opportunity to make new connections. Most importantly of all – keep writing!

For consultancy on digital content strategy, writing or editing, please get in touch, or you can tweet me to say hi.