There are three main content types you can use for your website and elsewhere
Each has their own pros and cons and each can be split down further.
You can also usually make them do “double duty” or even “triple duty” without doubling or trebling the amount of time it takes to create the content.
Written content for your website
This is my preferred method.
Partly because I’ve been writing content since secondary school – I did mainly essay subjects at both secondary and degree level, so there were always essays and other things to be written.
Most of the time, I wrote these “against the clock” – partly because I was lazy, partly because I knew that when it came to the exams I’d have a set amount of time to write the necessary essays so I thought it was best to get practice in.
And I’ve kept up that practice ever since.
It’s changed from pen and paper – thankfully, because my writing has got less and less legible over time.
I bought an electric typewriter early on – I used the IBM Selectric for quite a while as I liked the idea that I could swap out typefaces just by changing the golf ball that held the letters.
Then I moved on to a Smith Corona typewriter as it had a built-in Tippex style error correcting ribbon.After that, I used Tasword on my ZX Spectrum. I think Tasword was ahead of it’s time – it had mail merge available. But due to the limitations of the Spectrum it wasn’t WYSIWYG. But I could save my files to cassette tape and (later on) to the loop tape called a Microdrive.
After that, it was an Amstrad PC and things were really looking up. I could save files to a much more reliable floppy disc.
And, since the early 1990’s, I’ve used a PC to type on.
Mostly with Microsoft Word or just direct into WordPress.
So, that was a long story but it shows that I’ve been writing stuff for a very long time and explains a but about why it’s my preferred method.
Basically it’s what I’m used to using.
I’m still a 2 finger typist although I do use my thumb for the space bar.
I’ve never learned to touch type – I didn’t have the patience as I found that whilst I was learning, it slowed me down.
So, insted, I can type at around 40 words a minute using just two fingers and liberal use of the backspace/delete key!
The plus with written content
The biggest plus with written content is that it’s what the web was based on.
Early search algorithms – well before Google was born – only worked with the text that showed on the pages they found.
Partly because most pages were only text, partly because it’s a lot easier to understand text than it is to understand images,
There wasn’t much processing power or memory or hard disk space.
It’s hard to believe but Alta Vista (one of the early search engines) originally ran with 130Gb of memory accessing a (then massive) 500Gb of hard disk space.
Words squash down with programs like ZIP, so they don’t need much storage space.
And they’re easy to match when people do a search.
Sure, the search technology has improved – it copes a lot better now with capitalisation, singular and plural versions and synonyms – but it’s still essentially matching words on a page to words searched for.
And since the search technology has been around for the best part of two decades, it’s reasonably mature and reasonably accurate.
It’s accurate to the extent that Google knows the meaning of words in context. And most of the time it gets that right.
In turn, this means that keyword stuffed articles are less likely to work for getting results in the search engines.
Instead, you can write your content naturally and keep your ultimate reader in mind rather than having to look over your shoulder and try to guess whether or not a search engine will know the context.
There’s a very high chance that if a human can understand your article, so will a search engine’s algorithm.
That’s great news for written content
Google works by analysing masses of data.
It lets its computers make sense of things that we’d struggle to do – that’s how Google Translate is able to come up with passable translations between near enough any language pair.
Sure, it won’t be as accurate as a human translator.
But my guess is there aren’t many human translators who could translate something from Polish to Sudanese or any other language pair you care to name.
So you can tap away at your keyboard and let the words flow in a way that makes sense to human readers, reasonably safe in the knowledge that they’ll also make sense to a computer algorithm that might return your page in the search results if it’s in a good mood.
Of course, if you don’t like typing then the written word may sound daunting.
But that’s no longer necessarily the case.
You could start with a video or an audio and pay someone on Fiverr or elsewhere to transcribe it for you.
In my experience, humans do a better job at transcribing speech than machines.
But you could try out the Windows speech to text option or get a program like Dragon Naturally Speaking to do it for you.
Both programs take a bit of training.
Some of that training is so they can understand your voice.
And some of it is so that you can learn all the extra commands to add in things like punctuation.
Speech to text programs don’t know that you need a new paragraph unless you tell them.
They do mostly understand things like apostrophes but they don’t know when you want brackets, hyphens, commas, full stops or other punctuation.
So you have to tell them.
But either option can be a good way to get written content without having to tap away at a keyboard forever.
One other thought on written content.
No matter how slow your current typing speed, the more you practice, the better and quicker you’ll get.
So don’t beat yourself up if you can’t type fast.
And your speed will improve.
Video content for your website
This is my second favourite way of creating content.
Although, that said, the style of video I create usually means that I start with the written word.
My personal preference for video content is a PowerPoint style presentation.
I’ll type out the words I want to use into PowerPoint (or, more correctly, the presentation module of LibreOffice) and then set my screen capture program running whilst I read out the slides and ad-lib where appropriate.
You’ve probably come across video sales letters where they do the same thing.
Does it add much to the words?
Does that matter?
I certainly still get views on my videos where I use this style.
The advantage of doing a slide show presentation is several fold:
- You can copy and paste the text into a text file and use it as the caption file for the video. This helps YouTube, Google and humans understand what you’re saying much better than the automatic translation that takes place when you upload a video. The technology is good considering the speed it happens at and the quantity of files being transcribed but the accuracy reminds me of the early OCR text recognition programs that tried to read in the text from a typed page. It’s hit and miss.
- You can save the slide show as a PDF and offer it as a download for people who prefer to read information rather than watch or listen to it. That’s one of the reasons I like LibreOffice – it has an export to PDF option built in whereas my version of PowerPoint is sufficiently ancient that it doesn’t let me do that. I haven’t currently figured out how to add a clickable footer link to the PDF export but if and when I do, I’ll then upload the slide show to document sharing sites like SlideShare and Scribd. That gives you extra exposure on the search engines.
- You’re not looking down at your notes whilst you read the words. That comes across in your voice and doesn’t sound good. If you’re reading from the slides, that’s much like using an autocue.
- The first few times you use this method, it’s worth reading your text out loud before pressing the record button. Longer term, I find that so long as I don’t leave too much time gap between typing the slides and reading them out loud I no longer have to do a practice run.
Videos also have another advantage.
You can create an audio version at the click of a mouse using a program like VLC.
Some people prefer to listen to content rather than read or watch it.
Almost by definition, a slide show style presentation is mainly words.
Very few of the presentations I create rely on showing people how to do things on screen.
So if that’s your style as well, you can quickly create an audio version and upload it to a podcasting site for extra listeners.
Audio is a much more convenient format for a lot of people.
If you’re the driver, you shouldn’t be reading a book or watching a video whilst driving.
But you can listen to an audio.
Commuting or jogging or quite a few other things work better with audios than any other format.
So don’t ignore them!
A few other things to remember for video content
- Use the description area on your chosen video site. Don’t just copy and paste the slide show content (that should be reserved for the caption file), take a few minutes to re-write it.
- If you’ve used various bullet points or sub sections in your video, make a note of the times of these and put that (plus a short bullet point) in your video description. YouTube will then make that minutes & seconds time into a clickable link that takes the viewer to that place in the file
- Include a call to action in your video and your description. Ask the viewer to click a link or subscribe or whatever else it is you want them to do.
- If you’ve verified your channel (and you should have done) then you can use your own thumbnail image instead of the one that YouTube suggests. Skim a few in YouTube if you’re short of ideas but remember that the thumbnail will show in YouTube and, usually, Google. So make it enticing.
- If you’ve linked a website, you can add clickable links on your video from the Annotations section of YouTube,
- Even if you haven’t linked your website, you can still use annotations to draw people’s attention to different parts of your video
And if you’d like to go into video creation in more depth, take a look here.
Audio content for your website
I’m guilty of ignoring audio most of the time and really shouldn’t be.
iTunes and other audio markets are massive.
People like the convenience of audio – it’s probably the most portable and versatile format you can use for your content,
You can turn your videos into audios using VLC (which I linked to earlier).
Or you can just create an audio directly.
You can do that using a program such as Audacity.
It’s a free, full featured audio recorder and manipulator but most of the time when I use it I just press the record button and then let it convert the final file to an MP3.
You can get clever but that’s not really something I’ve done.
Alternatively, you can use your phone as your recorder. That works nicely and podcats sites like SoundCloud have an app that makes this a very simple process from pressing record to uploading the final file.
Or you could record Skype or anything else that has a record option.
Audio works well for a lot of people.
Again, you can get it transcribed and re-use it in written form once the transcription comes back.
The snag with audio and video
As I hinted at earlier, computers don’t do a fantastic job of voice recognition.
That means they can’t index your audio content anywhere near as well as they can index your written content.
Adding a transcript gets over this but it’s an extra step that not everyone wants to take.
And – despite what TV shows like 24 would have you believe – image recognition isn’t fantastic either.
People have a hard enough time guessing image content when it’s shown from a weird angle or the shot is too close up or too far away.
Computers fare even worse.
So don’t rely on Google or any other search engine making sense of the visual content of your videos any time soon.
What to do next
Decide on your preferred method of creating content for your website and actually do it.
There’s no point in reading this article, nodding your head in agreement, jotting down a few things to try out and then not doing them.
You need to put things into practice.
Because the more you practice at creating content in whatever format you’ve chosen, the better you’ll get.
And if you’d like to find out how to get free content for your website, click here.