“Web users tend to act like sharks: They have to keep moving, or they’ll die.”
This quote is from Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug, and I like it both because I (ruefully!) relate to it and because it reminds me what to keep in mind when I’m preparing content for the web. It also explains why features like infinite scroll and reading recommendations have become successful in current UX trends.
I’m the digital media editor for World Literature Today, and in our little literary world that means I’m in charge of our content management and web development. It means on one day I’m creating articles on the website, and the next day I’m editing code on the PHP template that dictates the output of those articles.
As the website has grown, I’ve learned a lot about scaling the database and strategically planning each new content idea to assure the technical solution is also the most agreeable to how people read online. The following are some solid pro tips I feel I’ve gleaned from these experiences, and I hope that they’re also helpful for you. Who is this post for? Web editors, content managers, or anyone who’s publishing content online and wants to increase social traffic, retain visitors, and improve their SEO.
Open Graph tags are one of my new favorite things on the web. Truly. When a website is using Open Graph tags, it assures that Facebook posts pull in the right title, image, and description for social sharing, and it’s how Twitter displays URLs as “cards” or previews with titles, images and descriptions, instead of, you know, an unsightly long URL.
Here’s a Twitter example that show how it creates a preview:
New logo for Imagine Music & Arts. I enjoyed working on this one! https://t.co/40vTGd99SG
— Jen Rickard Blair (@JenRickard) August 11, 2016
If you’re using WordPress I recommend the Yoast SEO plugin. You can enable Open Graph metadata for several social media networks, and exert some control over how a link to your homepage is displayed on Facebook. For Drupal users, the Metatag module has a feature called Metatag: OpenGraph. You’ll have very granular control and can even define tags for article author, audio, video, and more.
Spiffing up your Open Graph tags is a great way to improve social media sharing and look like a total pro online.
Once you’ve got someone reading an article on your site, keeping that reader depends on the UX and what “read more” options you have. If you’re using tags on your website’s articles/posts, be specific and accurate. For example, while I did mention sharks in this post, it wouldn’t be accurate to tag the post with “sharks.” Shark enthusiasts will be sorely disappointed.
If you serve a lot of content on a frequent publishing schedule, I recommend using a variety of content types and perhaps connected taxonomies too. From a developer’s standpoint, when you store these clearly defined content types and taxonomies in your database you also unleash the power to recommend accurately related content for your readers, and you also enable them to navigate your website in the way they prefer.
For example, World Literature Today uses authors, genres, and tags so readers are able to read more by a certain author, more fiction, or more stories on a certain topic.
I love being clever with website taxonomy, because it enables the reader to browse and experience content in the way that makes the most sense for them. It enables people to “go down the rabbit hole” on your website, which assures you’ve really got them hooked.
Search Engine Optimization and content marketing overlap more than you’d think. SEO thinks about the way search engines index your site, and content marketing thinks about the way people view your site. The good news is that optimizing your website for SEO and content marketing calls for many overlapping approaches.
If your page’s title, description, hyperlinks, and body text are rich with accurate keywords, you improve your SEO ranking, and also assure the content you’re publishing is consistently relevant to your audience.
Content marketing also means carrying out a consistent publishing schedule and that jives well with search engines—they like fresh dynamic content. With readers expecting lots of good, new content, and search engines expecting the same, you’ll have a website that’s frequently indexed and heartily followed by readers.
Jen Rickard Blair (www.jenblairdesign.com) is a graphic designer and front-end web developer. She works remotely as the digital media editor for World Literature Today magazine and is occasionally available for freelance graphic design. Jen likes working at Vessel Coworking because of the Cuvee coffee, friendly folks, and delightfully fast wifi.