Thinking of Going Mobile? There’s an Infographic to Help With That

If you know your Web presence needs to go mobile but you don’t have the data to prove it to the decision makers, there’s an infographic for that.

A book, “The BOOTSTRAPPER’S GUIDE to the MOBILE WEB,” was published May 1, 2012, offering “tons of free resources to help you build your mobile web presence today” and to promote it, the authors have posted a data-intense infographic detailing where mobile Web is headed.

For instance, it says there are “5.5 billion current mobile device subscriptions” … and “there will be nearly as many mobile devices as people in the world by 2015”! Think mobile phones are mostly for calls and games? It says, “By 2013 browser-enhanced mobile phones will exceed 1.82 billion” and “40.1% of mobile device users access browsers.” The trends on browser use continues from there.

Of course, this is an infographic meant to sell books. But it can be a powerful aid in helping you make decisions about taking your Web presence to the next level, which may very well be mobile.

If you use Pinterest, consider looking at Wapple Mobile Web’s pins on Mobile Web Infographics. There you will find lots of information on mobile communications presented graphically. That’s where we found the Bootstrapper’s infographic.

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Web Editors blog and its members not affiliated with the book or its authors. Not an endorsement, paid or otherwise. Book also available at Barnes and Noble and Alibris Books.

Pandas and Penguins and Penalties, Oh My!

By Alan Eggleston

You may have heard of Google Panda and Google Penguin. Both are algorithms, ways of filtering content to decide how pages get ranked for search returns. As a content provider, you are probably wondering if either affects your website and of which of the two you should be most concerned.

A Search Engine Marketing – SEM – Glossary worth consulting for SEO terms.

Panda Filters for Low-Quality Content

Panda was the first to launch. It looks for low-quality content and its first go-round was said to have affected approximately 12 percent of searches in the U.S. Officially called an “update,” Panda is a filter that runs periodically. When it catches a site with content it considers to “lack substantial substance,” it penalizes the site’s search rankings. The next time Panda runs (six times so far), it looks to see if the site has improved its content. Sites with poor content are penalized. The only way to get off the pissed-off-Panda list is to improve content.

What is low-quality content? Most poor content is that which is created for its SEO value instead of its substantive value. It is written around targeted keywords to position high in search engine results. The target audience is the search engine, not an Internet reader. It is often also poorly written, quickly produced, and cheaply bought.

The initial Panda update was for English but other languages have been added, all but some in Asia.

Penguin Filters for Web Spam

Penguin was launched to catch Web spammers. Google has complained about spammers for years and now Google is doing something about them. Google’s effort is expected to affect only about 3 percent of search queries.

Web spammers create Web pages designed not to communicate but to place high in search engine results. They pull tricks like keyword stuffing, unnatural linking schemes, cloaking schemes, sneaky page redirects, and unnatural doorway pages. Another trick is to purposely duplicate content either that they own or that someone else owns but which they pirate. None of these tricks is new, by the way.

Most Sites Have Nothing to Fear

Most website editors don’t need to fear either of these algorithms. The people who need to fear them are those whose efforts are to play the system to get an unfair advantage. They ignore posted search engine best practices – in fact, flaunt working around them.

Panda penalizes those who put their effort into posting garbage content. If as a content provider you produce content users seek out and will find useful, it’s very unlikely Panda will affect you. Produce to please your reader rather attract Google, and you should be all right.

Penguin penalizes for so called “Black Hat” techniques, pulling behind-the-scenes tricks to fool the search engines but that add no value to the reader. Focus instead on providing value to the reader, and you should be all right.

What to Do if You’ve Been Penalized

If you find your site affected by either of these algorithms, you can take action.

First, focus on well constructed, value-laden content. Make sure it’s well written, well edited, and provides value to the reader. Don’t duplicate content and if you find that someone else has duplicated your content, demand that they take it down. Fair use attributes is one thing, flat out plagiarism and copyright violation is entirely another. Report them to Google.

Second, remove any spam. If you’ve been tempted (or been told) to play games with your site to fool Google or game the system, eliminate it. See my list of Black Hat no-no’s above and avoid them. Work with search engines instead of against them.

Third, if you use Google Analytics or Google Webmaster Tools, pay attention to any flags they raise about your site. Correct any problems. If you don’t use these tools, I highly advise that you do.

Next Up – Headlines and SEO

For some online publications, there exists a tension between writing creative headlines and writing for optimization. Join me for my next column on how to win both ways.

Editing with empathy

By Christina Tolliver
linkedin.com/in/christinatolliver

A few years ago, I heard that participating in humanitarian work, such as helping the victims of a natural disaster, has a much greater effect on a person than only hearing about the need for aid. Many scientists believe the reason for the difference is our mirror neurons—the cells in our brains that cause us to feel what another person feels and to reflect it back to them.

Hearing about a natural disaster generates sympathy, which is to feel pity or sorrow for the pain another being experiences. But seeing others suffer activates mirror neurons and, thus, generates empathy, which is to feel the pain the other being experiences. And, when we feel the pain of another, we are motivated to do something to help them.

That’s why usability testing and other forms of user observation, such as Jared Spool’s field visits, are so effective. Unless we observe our users, we merely sympathize with them. We are free to speculate about their needs and design according to our own preferences. But, when we actually see users experiencing and interpreting our product in ways we could not have imagined, we develop an empathy for them that is grounded in reality. That empathy gives us enough motivation to sacrifice our darling designs and provide what users really need.

So I encourage you to cultivate empathy for your customers through usability testing or some other form of user observation. It will make you a more effective editor. As Steve Krug explains in his wonderful book Don’t Make Me Think!, usability testing doesn’t have to be super-rigorous to be valuable. My team has found that even little tests with colleagues (who are not involved in the project) can be enlightening.

Your writers are also your customers, and I encourage you to cultivate empathy for them as well. Talk to your writers about their work. Ask about their problems, questions, fears, and goals. One of the greatest challenges writers face today is working in a CMS. If your writers work in a CMS, ask one of them to walk you through the process of creating a typical piece of content. Even if you’re familiar with the CMS, as the writer shows you the process, you’ll probably gain a greater appreciation for how difficult their work in the CMS can be.

As You Graduate: Wisdom from a Web Editor

by Alison Lueders

Web editing embodies many of the habits of mind you need to succeed in almost any profession – they are pretty universal. Pardon if you’ve heard this “wisdom” before, but at the ripe old age of (never mind), here are my top 3 tips for following your dreams after graduation.

Keep Learning

As Cathy Hodson noted in an earlier post this month, the Web did not exist when I graduated, and yet here I happily am as a web editor. The dreams you have today may morph into something else in years to come, and that’s OK.

Recognize that the constant creation of new knowledge – in fields from farming to rocket science to those as yet unnamed –  is a huge, ongoing opportunity. If you make learning a habit, you will have more choices for work and happiness than those who believe their learning days are over.

So “surf the knowledge wave” in whatever way suits you. As a web editor, I explicitly allot a certain number of hours each week to learning – whether it’s a new software tool, a subject area or a skill. I invest in learning so that I can bring the best “me” possible to my clients – and that “me” is not static.

Help Others Succeed

This is not about being “soft” or squishy. The fact is, “Life is difficult,” as M. Scott Peck says in “The Road Less Traveled“. If you haven’t found this out yet, you will. Be one of the people who eases the way for others. Help solve their problems, share information they need, or just brighten their day with a smile. That helpfulness comes back to you in unexpected ways. It’s also totally within your control, so practice it daily!

What’s this got to do with web editing? I see web editing as service to others – whether saving a client from a potentially embarrassing error or emailing a spot-on article with facts they can use in their next speaking engagement. When my clients succeed, I succeed. Create your own “virtuous circle” in whatever endeavor you pursue.

Stick with It

Albert Einstein said, “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” Most anything worthwhile takes time – often far more time than you’d ever imagine. If you want to accomplish something important – getting a degree, finding a job, finding a spouse – don’t give up.

We live in a time of instant gratification. As a web editor, I LOVE having the world at my fingertips 24 hours a day. But this capability can distort your expectations in other facets of life. Chances are, you will NOT get offered the job after one interview, you will NOT marry the person after the first date, and you will NOT be accepted into every program to which you apply.

It may be hard to see now, but when you look back, you will realize that all those “No’s” were good and necessary steps on the road to your later success. Keep going.

As a web editor (and small business owner), there are days I cringe at having to learn one more thing or complete one more task. But rather than throw up my hands and quit, I take a walk or call a friend. Success is neither easy nor fast, but I know that it will come – if I just stick with it.

In closing, congratulations on your achievement! Graduation is one of the “biggies”. Opportunity awaits, and there are endless ways you can contribute to making a better world. I wish you well in finding YOUR way to make that happen.

Glossary of Web-Editing Terms

If you’re reading this, you’re likely an editor or wordsmith of some sort. And if you’ve ever played Fictionary with non-wordsmithical friends, you probably beat the pants off them. Why? Because you love words and dictionaries.

So, how about some web-editing terms and amateur lexicography? I’ll start off with 8 terms I’ve found useful, but please add your refinements and suggestions for other terms in the comments. I’ll incorporate comments and post that version as a permanent page here on the blog (to be updated and expanded at periodic intervals). Please help! Without it, we’ll have more amateur than lexicography.


above the fold: Originally from the newspaper business, this term is now commonly used by designers and editors of web and email publications to name that part of the layout that’s visible without scrolling down. The implied idea is that you want to put the most enticing bits (whether photos or text) above the fold to induce people to buy the newspaper, or read the rest of the web page. Screen sizes vary, but I’ve seen the fold described as 300 and 600 pixels from the top (enewsletters and web pages, respectively). Life Below 600PX demonstrates the concept and a different angle on it.

alt text: Short for alternative text, it denotes the text specified by the HTML and XHTML ALT attribute. It’s usually used for images and is designed to provide a meaningful equivalent when the image is not available. Alt text is especially important for web users who use a screen reader, which reads aloud the contents of a web page and is commonly used by the visually impaired. Alt text is also critical for enjoying XKCD.

chrome: On a web browser, it is the frame and all the toolbars, buttons, search boxes, and scroll bars around the edges of the web page you’re using. On a web page, it consists of navigation bars, footers, search boxes and any other elements that persist as you move around the site. Bloated chrome means there’s little room for content, but inadequate chrome makes a site or page harder to use. Get more info about chrome.

eyebrow: Specific to enewsletters and email marketing, it refers to the message that says something like this: “Having trouble viewing this HTML email? Click here to view it as a web page.” Direct marketers often use it to reinforce a call to action as well. Also called the pre-header, but saying “eyebrow” instead makes you sound supercilious. (Don’t groan—you can put your own bad puns in the comments! Worst pun-ster wins a free subscription to this blog!) See some examples of eyebrows.

information pages: In contrast to pages that provide search, navigation, or transaction functions, information pages give users the details they came for. On ecommerce sites, the equivalents are often called destination pages; typically they are the main product-description pages. On other sites, they may be how-to articles or essays. Although users will generally scan the pages first to make sure the content meets their needs, information pages are designed to prompt the user to stay and read awhile. See pathway pages.

microcontent:

  1. Originally, the term was used to describe web elements such as page titles and headlines (and subject lines, for emails). These often stand alone—on a search engine results page, for example—and function as a link to guide readers to the full article. Good microcontent abstracts the essential meaning of the full article, does not mislead the user, and provides a clear and succinct headline or title.
  2. In 2002, the term was redefined by Anil Dash: “Microcontent is information published in short form, with its length dictated by the constraint of a single main topic and by the physical and technical limitations of the software and devices that we use to view digital content today.”

pathway pages: Positioned between the home page and information pages (see above) in the information architecture (IA) “map,” pathway pages function like a table of contents—helping users find what they need on the site. People “travel through” these pages, neither slowing down nor reading much, and often clicking on the first plausible link. Good pathway pages make it easy for users to find (click through to) the information they want without hitting the back button.

slug: It’s a mollusk, a swig, a punch with a fist. And it’s the few words that describe a post or page and form the end of the URL on WordPress sites, among others. Ideally, the slug is optimized for search. Read about an example. This web-related usage probably derives from journalism, where the slug denotes the temporary, summarizing name of an article while it’s in production. Slug also has a history in typesetting. And at ad agencies, I’ve heard it used for the project, color, and printing information included on each job layout.


What are your favorite terms? What vocabulary has caught your attention in your web-editing career?

Share your edits, stories, puns, and definitions in the comments!

@EditorAM

Graduation and the Pursuit of Flexibility

By Cathy Hodson

Quite an achievement, to graduate from college. Once upon a time those who graduated from college were in a distinct minority. In post-World War II, that began to change with the advent of the GI Bill, which allowed returning veterans to go to college as a benefit for having served in the military. Now, in 2012, there will be nearly 1.8 million new college graduates.

There will be graduates in every possible profession. Here’s a question to ponder, however: Will you end up having a career in the area you have received a degree for, and staying in that career for the rest of your life? For many of you, probably, but not necessarily.

When I graduated with a degree in teaching more than 25 years ago, the Internet did not exist commercially. We were still using typewriters. Cell phones did not exist. Calculators had been in commercial use for less than 10 years. We were still playing albums, and cassette tapes filled with, yes, disco and the advent of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and Madonna’s “Borderline.” There is no way I could have foreseen that I would not only not be solely a teacher at this point in my career (I do use my teaching skills to train people at work), but there is also no way I could have foreseen that I would leave teaching to work in publishing, which would lead me to begin working in the new frontier of the “information highway.”

My older brother went to college to become a lawyer. He went through law school and became a practicing attorney for the state’s attorney’s office in our county. But a lifelong love of the chase led him to go out with some of his police friends on their beats, and shortly thereafter, he switched careers from law to police work – less than five short years out of law school. He worked as a trooper, patrolling the highways, and then worked his way up to narcotics and finally, 24 years later, he investigates white collar crime and Medicaid fraud. As an American Civilization history major in college, he would not have been able to anticipate such a career path as the one he has found himself on, and one for which he has exhibited an unfailing passion.

I’m sure you will run into other stories such as the ones I’ve told you. These kinds of career jumps cannot happen if you are not flexible or open to change. The journey of life is nothing if not filled with twists and turns. There will be things that happen that you would never have seen coming, and would have laughed at if someone had said you would be doing that in five years.

That doesn’t mean to be highly suggestible. Just because you overhear someone mention something in the hallway doesn’t mean you should dig up your roots and go in an entirely different direction. Changing your profession shouldn’t be something you entertain lightly. But if you have the chance to go in a new direction and it is something that excites you and that you know you will be good at, go for it. Follow your heart. Work at something you are impassioned about, and can make a difference in. We all have to work – it might as well be for something you care deeply about.

One of the many things I love about being a web editor is that you can work in any profession and for any company: healthcare, legislation, news, sports, finance, entertainment, nonprofits, Fortune 500 companies. Web editors are versatile, can juggle a lot of projects, oversee staff, manage logistics, and learn amazing amounts of information about things you would never guess could be compelling or even interesting unless you are thrust in the middle of it.

The world keeps changing, and seems to spin faster every year. This thrills some, horrifies others. Whatever you decide to do with your life and your career, be open to change. Your interests will grow as you learn more. You will discover new talents you didn’t know you had. For some this will speed the rate of ascension within the company you work for. For others, this will mean changing professions or uncovering new talents and frontiers that you cannot help but explore.

Although it is an overused graduation speech axiom, you really are at the beginning of your life, and certainly your career. You are stepping out into the world with your entire life’s worth of education, mentoring, training and enthusiasm contained within you. It is an exciting time, and one can only guess at where you will be in 10, 20 or 30 years from now. Be flexible, be open, follow your heart, give back, and help others when you can. Be true to yourself and don’t ignore your self-preservation instincts. They are there for a reason. You are on the road to making a difference. Welcome to life after college!

Graduation: An Unintentional Lesson Plan

The Web Editors blog continues its graduation theme with a guest post by Brain Traffic’s Meghan Casey, who kindly agreed to offer these words of wisdom.

By Meghan Casey, Brain Traffic

It never occurred to me until I sat down to write this post that my family played a pretty huge role in my personal journey to become a content strategist. So, my advice to graduates is to look for lessons in every relationship and interaction. They’re there. Here’s a summary of the lessons I never knew I was learning.

Lesson #1: Help people, but be realistic and take care of yourself.

My mom was one of the most charitable people I knew. She also seemed to have an uncanny ability to know how much was enough to put the people she helped on a positive path that they could sustain on their own.  And while she was very generous with her time and money, she didn’t completely over-extend. She saved time and energy for her family.

So, how does this apply to my work as a content strategist?

First, it’s taught me to think about whether my client can realistically implement what I’m recommending. If they can’t, I’ve wasted their time and money. It’s okay to stretch and to think big, but it’s important to ground your big ideas in reality.

Second, I’ve learned that I can’t do everything for everyone and that my time is valuable. This important attitude helps me ensure my projects are profitable for my employer because I don’t give clients my time and smarts unless they pay for it.

Lesson #2: Find the pain and demonstrate how you can help fix it.

My dad spent most of his career as a traveling salesman. A really good one. On more than one occasion, I heard his colleagues and friends say, “Jack Casey could sell ice to an Eskimo.” (I mean no offense here.)

I was witness to many a phone call as my dad conducted much of his business from the comfort of his recliner when he wasn’t on the road. Aside from being a very charming and personable guy, my dad had one of the main tricks of selling down. He listened for the things that kept his clients up at night.

I’ve applied that to my work too, which is why I always ask my clients about their challenges. And then I relate my recommendations back to them. And it’s why I keep my readers wants, fears, and questions front-of-mind when I’m writing for websites.

Lesson #3: Stand up for people.

I’ve looked up to my big sister my entire life. One of the reasons why is that she always stood up for people who couldn’t stand up for themselves or needed a little help to do so. She counseled battered women. She ran a children’s advocacy organization. She raised awareness about depression and suicide. And she currently raises money to cure Type 1 Diabetes.

So, how does that apply to my work as a content strategist? It reminds me to think about the people who will be implementing my recommendations and ask questions like:

  • What else are they responsible for?
  • Do they have the skills and experience necessary to execute my ideas?
  • What tools might they need to support them?
  • Will they be freaked out or excited about the changes?

With those questions answered, I can create more realistic recommendations and build in thoughtful commentary to reduce their possible concerns and objections.

Lesson #4: Find the middle ground.

By trade, my eldest brother is an attorney whose preference is to resolve family law issues with mediation.  He’s also been the referee of family arguments or disagreements for as long as I could remember – often for simple things like deciding where to go or what to have for dinner.

His ability to help groups with differing priorities find middle ground has spilled into my work. Some of the tricks and tools I use are to:

  • Make a list of all the stakeholders for my projects and record what role they play and what they care about most.
  • Start all meetings in which contention is likely with something like, “Let’s keep in mind that none of us is here to try to sabotage this project. You all want to do the right thing.”
  • Clarify (sometimes repeatedly) that alignment doesn’t always mean agreement on all the issues. It can mean agreement to move forward with a compromise.

Lesson #5: Leave your work at the office.

My other brother likes to have a good time. Always has. But, he also is one of the most responsible and dedicated employees I know. When he’s on the clock, he is working. Hard. But, when the work day is over or the weekend is upon him, he rarely gives work a second thought.

I admire that. I’m not very good at it. But, he’s taught me the importance of trying to maintain that separation of work and life outside of work. It’s partially about work-life balance, but it’s also about not letting the details of your personal life creep into your work day. Two practices I try to follow (sometimes unsuccessfully) come to mind:

  • Take time off to deal with personal matters, rather than trying to fit them into your work day.
  • Do not—I repeat—do not check your work email over the weekend. And if you just can’t help yourself, don’t respond to the emails you receive.

Lesson #6: Aspire.

One of the most meaningful quotes from my baby sister’s eulogy of my mom is this: “She didn’t reward behavior or achievements that were within my reach and for my own good….and so I learned that effort mattered.”

Since she was little she took that lesson to heart and, in turn, passed it along to her big sister. She constantly aspires to do better for herself and for the people around her. Something being out of her reach was a reason to go after it, not wallow in its impossibility.

I apply that concept when helping clients craft a core strategy for their content. Sometimes we all need a reminder that a strategy is an aspiration – it’s where we want to be, not where we are today. Putting it out there as an achievement to work toward helps to motivate the teams responsible for attaining it.

And with that, I bid you good luck in the awesome and rewarding field of content.

Meghan Casey is a content strategist at Brain Traffic, the world’s leading agency devoted exclusively to content. She helps a wide variety of clients – start-ups, non-profits, colleges and universities, Fortune 50 companies, and everything in between – solve messy content problems every day.