Tags:,, Posted in web development 3 Comments

I have to admit that as a developer, the life beyond delivering a site often falls beyond my remit, so I don’t get to see it grow and encourage it to blossom. As part of my job I rarely actually meet the clients. Last week though I was lucky enough to meet up with many communications officers from a multi-national charity we’re working with to talk about the work we’re doing and to show some demonstrations of our homegrown CMS.

By the end of the day, my MD and I were told that we’d be giving a talk about how they could market their sites better, which was out of the blue but nothing we couldn’t handle. We talked about this over a pint the night before and what came to mind kind of relates to my last post, about analogies and peoples understanding of the web. Most of it is a shift in how you see the little bit of content you’re making.

You’re not publishing a page in a magazine; once the article is published, the jobs done – it’s there for all to see as part of a publication. The difference is that your content needs to be concise and descriptive – more so than on paper, which needs to work outside of the context of your site.

When you write for the web, consider that it loses it’s context; the page you create with your logo and design is almost irrelevant. Write a strong title and use descriptive but concise language. If you look at technical implementation, you want to get high in the the results of Google, SEO can be a mindfield – check Phil Thompson’s post as an example of what you can do.

To me, if you write for your audience, keep it tight and consider how to structure your HTML in terms of title tags, meta data (which is of dubious usefulness nowadays) and keep you mark-up semantically structured (meaning that you use appropriate headings, the order of the document is right and most, if not all code that is used for layout is removed and CSS sorts out your layout), you’re off to a good start.

You can do more though:

  • Add content frequently but not just to have something up there – have something to say.
  • Don’t promise more than you can deliver – don’t state it’ll be a daily blog if you struggle to post once a week.
  • Make RSS available for active sections of your content
  • Promote these feeds – have icons available near you content and remind visitors what and why they’re there.
  • Cross-link your content (‘related content’, or through the use of tagging)
  • Link out to other content sources where it make sense to. In the case of blogs ‘track-backs’ expose you’re citing of another’s blog post, for example.

I’m not a web marketing professional but I think talking with clients about this stuff reminds me how many less web-savvy people might not realise. It’s also worth looking at adding icons to news/blog aggregators such as Digg or social bookmarking sites to enable people to store and share you’re content. If you as a company or employees have profiles on social networks – use them as a way of promoting what’s new too. Most of these suggestions can be done with a little know-how and a little time, but to get real results it’s more of a full-time job!

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16th February, 2008