Blog: Content writing and content strategy insights

Nine digital content skills that open up many job opportunities

People who know how to write well for digital media — websites, intranets, social media, blogs, e-newsletters — have amazing career opportunities.

Today when you write for work, you need to understand 'digital'. Digital technology is a game-changer for writers and communicators.

People who write for work must know how to:

  1. attract online readers
  2. improve search rankings
  3. use metadata and keywords
  4. follow web standards
  5. use a content management system properly
  6. write for mobile devices
  7. write plain English
  8. write for Google Translate
  9. publish on multiple channels.

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    The careers of five best friends begin to merge in a digital workforce

    When I grew up I had four besties. Together we were just like Blyton’s Famous Five. Sure, we didn’t roam the countryside solving mysteries and capturing villains. Golly gosh no! But we did freely roam our cul-de-sac for hours enjoying jolly adventures — at least until dinner time.

    After university, we all dispersed into very different jobs — one into journalism, one into strategic planning, one into advertising, one into corporate comms, and I moved from solicitor to information designer.

    But in the last five years or so, something funny has happened: all our job descriptions are starting to look the same. Disciplines are merging. My friends and I are doing similar tasks and use the same skillsets.

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    Spot-check your own web content

    We all hope and trust that our content authors are creating findable, usable, valuable content for both web and mobile. But how can we be sure? Here's a quick way to spot-check your own web content without user-testing. 

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    Google boosts ranking of mobile-friendly pages for smartphone searchers

    Search results on mobile phoneSince April 21, Google has expanded its use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. They say, "This change ... will have a significant impact in our search results." Wow. Huge implications for web designers, content managers, content strategists and web writers. 

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    "Write" (no) "Me" (no) "a Web Page" (no): all business writing is content

    Business writing has changed into something unrecognisable: content. The ironic book title Write me a web page, Elsie! reflects a 20th century viewpoint and a world that has gone forever.

    The manager who says, Write me a web page, Elsie! has no concept of the nature of the internet. As content strategy, Write me a web page is disastrous. It generates ROT, it undermines information architecture, it ignores accessibility, it stomps on customer service.

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    Headlines are crucial for mobile content

    Jakob Nielsen's latest Useit article gives yet another reason to write brilliant headlines: headlines are crucial on sites designed for mobile devices.

    After being optimized for use on a mobile phone, a simple web site displays complete headlines instead of just the first 2-3 words.

    Showing longer headlines may seem counter-intuitive when space is so limited. Why 'waste' precious screen space on a complete headline?

    Actually, a well-written headline is worth its weight in titanium. On mobile, it gives readers more clues about the information they're chasing, and a bigger target for the finger tap that takes them straight to that information. On all web sites, a well-written headline is juicy food for search engines, a boon to the CMS, and an instant summary for busy human readers.

    One thing doesn't change with the environment: the usefulness of headlines depends entirely on the skill with which they're written.

    To learn more about the secret life of headlines and to gain the skill of writing brilliant headlines for today's electronic world, go straight to our one-hour online writing course:
    Brilliant Headlines on the Web

    How to write enovels

    At next week's conference on the Future of the Book, I'll be really interested in one topic as a writer. And this topic affects you too, if you write for work. Which you do.

    How People Will Read Digitally
    To create effective digital publications, you need to understand how people read digitally. This session explains the latest research findings and shows some cutting edge techniques being developed to enhance the digital reading experience.

    David Bainbridge, University of Waikato

    Since this is about ebooks, the implications for writers go far beyond what we know about how people read web content on a computer screen. Ebook readers do not have the same type of computer screens, and they're not online, usually. And people read ebooks on iPhones: the tiny screen is an everyday book "page" for many.

    I'm sure I'll learn much about how to write ebooks for the new environment. Obviously, any old book can be turned into an ebook. And obviously, endless examples of short, easy, how-to books have been written expressly for sale as a PDF.

    But as a writer I want to know how I can make a work of fiction desirable, enticing, comfortable, and friendly, in the new environment? What design tips will work regardless of how the books are read? What sort of structure might work well -- must every future novel be picaresque, for instance?

    The same information will apply, somehow, to business writing. It'll be fun trying to figure this out.

    Exciting times. Meantime,

    Radio NZ audio: Sherman Young discusses the future of books.

    Image: bolted books by artist David Boyle.