No matter what niche of business communications you work in, you probably set a personal and professional goal of producing great content. After all, it’s why we all get into this biz in the first place, right? For years now, folks in the technical communication niche have been hearing about and working towards writing content so that it can be reused… think topic-based authoring, structured writing, and you’ll see what I mean. At the same time, folks in the corporate communications/advertising/marketing world have been inundated with approaches for optimizing content for search engines and getting that coveted top results ranking. And the convergence between marketing, technical, support and other forms of content is already happening. Search engines penalize duplicated content. Component content management systems are designed to support reusing the same content in as many places as possible or appropriate. So how does a typical content writer, working on a variety of projects, releases, and products for distribution via numerous online methods figure out the right approach for creating and optimizing the content? This week’s poll asks whether creating content optimzed for reuse or findability via search should be a higher priority.
If you are a content author separated from the delivery processes, then it seems that reuse versus findability is even harder to determine. Even more so if you’re insulated from any kind of feedback or customer knowledge. If, like many technical writers working for small to medium-sized organizations, you have responsibilities for both creation and delivery, do you have processes in place to determine when you create for optimal findability and when you create for effecient reuse?
Granted, knowledge of the inner workings of SEO (search engine optimization) can help mitigate some conflicts (see Tom Johnson’s post on I’d Rather Be Writing referencing canonical links for a bit more information) between these two goals. But in the real world, where you’re charged with creating good content that helps customers, there’s not much time for evaulating whether the lesser of two evils is getting dinged by Google or by error messages from your CCMS. It just needs to get out the door.
So this week’s poll asks whether you focus more on findability or reuse when you’re creating content. Do you have content creation/production performance metrics that emphasize one or the other? How does your organization determine its content goals? We’d love to hear from folks who are struggling with these apparently contradictory efforts, and those who’ve got an approach that works. Vote in the poll, and then please do leave a comment with your thoughts about how content development addresses both of these goals.