Organizing, acquiring, and creating content for your Web site – Part Two

clark.jpg
Clark Hall

Now that we've reviewed and finalized our site map, it is time to start collecting and writing the content we need to build the site.

Acquiring existing written content

Some of the content you need probably exists already. For example we've decided to include course descriptions on our fictional cartooning site. These probably already exist in the General Bulletin, so you could just go there and copy and paste from that document. On the other hand you may find that you want to include more details than are available in the bulletin. In this case I would send the blurbs from the bulletin to the professors teaching the classes and ask them to write a more detailed description for the site. Some may also want to include a syllabus, a link to their class blog, or a link to Blackboard.

Your faculty can also provide you with articles that they've published or other information on their research. Perhaps Professor Brown has written the definitive book on Superman. He may have existing content that you can incorporate into the Superman section. He and the other members of the faculty may also have existing webpages that you can link to rather than create from scratch.

Writing new content

Some of the content you've chosen may exist clearly in the heads of your faculty, staff or students but doesn't really exist anywhere else. Professor Van Pelt may give a lecture on pens in her beginning illustration class but all that exists on paper is an outline. You could have her write a page about this topic (if she has time available) or you could request writing assistance from Marketing and Communications.

Your department members will be a great resource, but many will have time limitations. If they don't have time to write what you need they may be willing to spend an hour with a writer who can interview them about their expertise and then write what you need for the topic.

Even if you find that everyone is able to contribute to the project, you will find that they have very different writing styles. In this case it would also be helpful to have a marketing writer review your content and edit it for consistency in style, flair and punctuation.

A writer can also help translate pages covering very technical topics into language that can be more easily understood by a lay person. This is important because not every visitor to your site will share the same level of expertise. While a colleague in Berlin may very well want to know every technical detail of your fuel cell research, a twelve-year-old girl in Waterville, Maine just wants to know more generally what they do and how they work because she is thinking of studying to become an engineer someday (perhaps here at Case).

If you think you need assistance with this part of the process, please feel free to request a writer from our department.

Photographs and Illustrations

Photographs and illustrations add color and diversion to your site to help break up long chunks of copy. More imporantly they can serve to illustrate the point you are trying to make. As with written content, some photographs, such as the photo of Clark Hall, may already be available. I have thousands of images you may pilfer (for use on Case sites) both online and sitting on my Mac (because I've not had time to post them all). Case's creative team also has a large collection of images on CD in Bellflower Hall. Your department probably has a number of its own images available, and in the Case of the Cartooning site your faculty should be able to share their own cartoons. University Archives is also a great resource for photos as well as historical information about the university.

You will also probably discover that there are images you need that do not exist. If you have a good eye you may be able to shoot your own pictures. Or you can request shots to be taken by our campus photographer. If you are looking for an existing image or the services of our photographer, you may request those online as well.

Next time: Building the site

Postscript

When using existing content please make sure you have the proper permission from the holder of the copyright.

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5 Comments »
  1. PPS When using existing content please don't expect the major search engines to index it, respectively to rank it high on the search engine result pages (SERPs).

    Comment by Sebastian — October 25, 2005 @3:29 pm

  2. Great article, Very detailed information. One more thing regarding using recycled material on your site, We all know the importance of getting people to visit your site and that is mainly done by search engines. Big search engines like Google tend to penalize you if your content matches some other site. what this means is your site does not get idexed or it gets put on a secondary index. So always makes sure you use fresh content as search engines love fresh content. Once more thanks for the great information.

    Comment by Majnoon — April 29, 2007 @8:20 am

  3. Majnoon makes a good point. When I refer to recycled content, I mean that you may go ahead and post (on the Web) content that you or your department have already written for handouts, presentations or other purposes. I do not mean simply copying something from another Web site, unless both sites are within you or your organization's control and you are copying for purposeful redudancy. (I.e. to offer content in multiple place to accomodate users who may enter page X rather than page Z)

    Comment by Heidi Cool — May 8, 2007 @6:15 pm

  4. Good post indeed. @ Sebastian -are you sure about the penalization? I have a blog - amazingindiaexperience . info --where I post informative articles from a newspaper and never forget to give a link back to the original source. And on most cares I rank higher that the newspaper for the related terms associated with the articles. There are lots of myth --regarding these specially created by self-proclaimed SEO experts to confuse people and suffice their business. I think recycling contents is what most webmasters do these days -and it is called as re-written.

    Comment by John — June 3, 2007 @12:16 pm

  5. An interesting article, although I would also caution against duplicate content and suggest some keyword research and SEO considerations so your target audience can find you.

    Comment by Search Engine Rankings — July 12, 2007 @4:29 pm

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