Archive for the 'Content Management' Category

All your databases are belong to us

Thursday, December 6th, 2007

My latest project is to analyse the content database strategy of a major multimedia publishing company.

Like many media companies around today, its business model has changed dramatically to take on board different methods of broadcasting its output. And like many media companies around today, that business model has grown organically in an almost haphazard way, finding short-term fixes to meet the challenge of the moment.

This is not a question of cutting corners; much expensive work has been undertaken. But the bottom line is that media companies seldom have the luxury of stepping back from the everyday grind to properly assess where they are right now, let alone how they should progress from here.

That’s where I come in. As someone involved in content supply and manipulation for the best part of 20 years, I am a fresh pair of eyes. Nevertheless, the headaches have started to kick in around 11.30am each day, as I try to unpick the problems.

Simply put, they have added to their portfolio of databases as the years have gone by: from the weekly publication of a magazine, to the daily output of a web site and now the regular production of books, and all with the aim of running a joined-up operation, both online and off.

They now have three separate content databases, each with its own shelflife and tell-by dates; each with its peculiar naming conventions, and each with its needs and opportunities.

Is it possible to get all three databases talking the same language? It should be. After all databases are simple structured collections of information, manipulated by mathematical rules and logical expressions. Actually, it turns out in this case that what most of the protagonists really mean when they talk about a database is actually a Content Management System. It’s a forgiveable slip; after all, a CMS is simply the front end of a database. The complication is having THREE Content Management Systems feeding into three vectors of transmission — to the web AND print.

Right now, my first task is simply to describe this on paper: call it a springboard to a place where I can begin to formulate possibilities. What follows over the next six weeks is anyone’s guess. At least I’ve got a good supply of headache pills.

Five ways to damage your SEO with content

Monday, August 27th, 2007

1. Write Rubbish

If your content makes no sense, if it’s dull and irrelevant, if not even your mother would make it all the way through, then you can be sure it will be bad for SEO. Make content interesting, make content readable, make content fun!

2. Duplicate It

There’s nothing quite so annoying as content repeated again and again. I mean, there is NOTHING so annoying as content which is repeated time after time. Really, repeating content again and again and again is really, REALLY, really annoying. The search engines don’t like it either, you might even describe it as SEO’s worst nightmare. Don’t use content which is duplicated (or even just summarized) elsewhere on the internet — even if it’s your own copyright, especially if it’s duplicated on the same site. Check for originality on copyscape.com if you’re not certain, and even if you are. Even if the content is your copyright and has been copied by someone else, it can hit your SEO if the copying site has a higher Page Rank than yours.

3. Make It Invisible

For search engines, invisible text equals SEO scam. Technically, making content invisible to the naked eye — for example, making it the same colour as the background or making it transparent or putting it in comment tags — comes under the heading of “Black Hat SEO”, or cheating. It’s a way of artificially loading content with keywords [SEO, content, search engine, timeshare, cialys, pre5cription5] to bump up the density, and the search engines got wise to it years ago. It will hurt your SEO.

4. Use JavaScript To Present It

Search engines just won’t index content which is provided by JavaScript. There have been too many SEO scams using scripts in the past and Google and the rest aren’t taking chances any more. If all you can see in the content source code is a ton of JavaScript, then you can be sure that the search engines won’t be seeing it either.

5. Make It Chaotic

Content should make sense. Part of that is how it is organised. One of the best ways to ruin your SEO is to order content in an illogical, inconsistent fashion so that the reader doesn’t know whether they are at the beginning, middle or end. This extends to your <h> tags: use them in the order <h1>, <h2>, <h3> … <h6>. Keeping content organised means the search engine spiders can crawl it, index it and rank it to the best effect.

Five Reasons to have a CMS

Thursday, August 16th, 2007

1. Because you always have access to your content

Managing content using flat-XHTML and a code editor means you ALWAYS need a code editor. Even if you have a team running a round-the-clock service there will always be gaps. A good Content Management System or CMS means an authorised user can nip into any cybercafé in the world and change stuff to their heart’s content.

2. Because you can keep tabs on who’s doing what

Flat-XHTML is anonymous. A good CMS will include an “audit trail”, a clear record of who’s done what to which. This means sources of error can be pinpointed; ageing content can be freshened up or removed; differences in individual workloads can be managed; and weak areas can be highlighted. This may seem a little Big Brotherish but, in reality, it’s about spotlighting excellence as well as under-achievement.

3. Because you can maintain a style

Even with the world’s best-written style manual, bespoke additions to flat-XHTML content produce differences: it’s human nature to squeeze and poke things into position and cumulative, piecemeal changes can be difficult to roll back. A good CMS enforces style by limiting changes to content to those sanctioned by content managers.

4. Because it helps you to delegate

A good CMS allows access at different levels; from the Site Manager who can do anything, to the writer who can only enter and revise text. Now your website can be built by people with no internet skills, which is most of us.

5. Because things change

A good CMS allows you to change the way your site as required in the least harmful way. So, if your company totally rebrands, then the website can totally rebrand (and at much less cost). And if new rules or ways of thinking come along, you can meet the challenge easily because your content is held as raw data by the CMS.