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Be your own content expert

Amy Little

Want to create better web content? Take a lesson from someone who knows about good user experience—you.

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The History of IA and Other Tales

Melissa Rach

The web industry, like any other, has its own language. The difference between a good information architect and a great one is often the ability to communicate with clients.

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A-ha: Content Strategists Never Stop Learning

Meghan Casey

Brain Traffic content strategists are no exception. Find out what four of us have learned or discovered recently.

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When You Know Your Content Is Bad

Tenessa Gemelke

Whether you’re in a decision-making position or not, it can be difficult to figure out how to use your powers for good to defeat bad content. Fear not! If you’ve been quietly suffering the knowledge—nay, the CERTAINTY—that your content stinks, here are a few ways to take steps in the right direction.

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Web writing for dummies, smarties, oldies and newbies

Elizabeth Saloka

Tack this handy list of web-writing techniques to your wall.

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Know Your Context

Christine Anameier

We all know that you can’t create effective content without understanding your audience. But audience isn’t just about who—it’s also about when and why. (There’s also how, but that’s another blog post.) In other words, you need to understand the context for your content.

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Get to the Exclamation Point Online

Angie King

Feel the excitement! An exclamation point changes the tone. Just like that! Why, then, are we encouraged to steer clear of this titillating punctuation mark? The exclamation point—known on the street as the screamer and the bang—has a bad rap.

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Stakeholder Interviews: Engage the Octopus

Melissa Rach

Just like an octopus needs all eight arms to move forward, good web content needs help from people at all levels of the organization.

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Know Thy User

Meghan Casey

"I always open your emails because I know they'll contain something I can actually use." Ahh, music to our ears. How can we make that happen for every website and e-mail?

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Four Kinds of Content to Consider for Your Web Content Strategy

Kristina Halvorson

Don't publish content just so you have something to show your boss or client. Consider the types of content out there, prioritze your needs, and commit to what you can sustain.

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Bad Words

Erin Kissane

Consuming content isn’t the same thing as consuming cake. So how should we be talking about the ways in which people interact with our content?

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Avoid This Common Error

Meghan Casey

Guess what? Error messages are content. That means they require the same attention as any other words on your site.

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What should you study to become a content strategist?

Kristina Halvorson

What's a good postgraduate path that would lead to a career in content strategy? Find out what four leading content strategists have to say.

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The Inside Job: Getting Started

Christine Benson

Initiating content strategy projects inside an organization can be daunting. Here are a few tips to kickstart the process.

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Web Developers and SEO: Contentiousness and Common Goals

Kristina Halvorson

Finding common ground: the content.

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Improving Your Content’s Signal-to-Noise Ratio

Christine Anameier

Even good content can be "noise." Here are a few tips on how to cut out the static.

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Content Strategy and Social Media

Kristina Halvorson

Social media proponents tell us the only way to protect our brand integrity is to "join the conversation"—get out there and pay attention to what people are saying about your products and services … But let's back up for a minute.

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What not to wear: A tale of content strategy

Tenessa Gemelke

Brain Traffic’s own Tenessa Gemelke is on What Not to Wear!

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The Pitfalls of Placeholder Copy

Christine Benson

If you're trying to educate, influence, or inform, it's important to not look like you just slapped some text up on a page.

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Making the Transaction

Katie Dohman

Writing and designing for the mobile web—it’s about being pithy on an even smaller scale. It's all about making transactions and none of the so-called filler.

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Here Be Content

Melissa Rach

I have always liked the idea of medieval mapmakers using the phrase "Here Be Dragons" to denote unexplored or dangerous territories.  Sticking a fire-breathing reptile in documentation when you run out of facts? That's panache.

Unexplored and dangerous territories, indeed

These days, people aren't so stylish. When an information architect (or user experience designer) doesn't have the time (or the talent) to document content requirements, they stick a "page stack" on their site map.  It looks like this:

Don' t get me wrong: I'm cool with the stack if there is accompanying documentation that provides content details.  But when an information architect uses the stack in place of content requirements, they are leaving the client in unexplored and dangerous territories (without even a dragon to warn them).

A little dragon goes a long way

So, I have an idea. If you're a web professional doing information architecture and you're not documenting content requirements, stick a dragon on your site map instead of a page stack. This will be a nice heads up for your client and particularly fun for those of you who used to be designers.

If you're a client and you see a dragon on your site map, consider why your information architect is not worried about the information.  Then, call Brain Traffic.

P.S.: Unfortunately, that here-be-dragons bit is mostly a myth. Only one medieval artifact, the Lenox Globe

(ca. 1510), actually has the phrase "here be dragons" on it. Well, technically, there's also the Borgia map (ca. 1430), but it doesn't really say "here be dragons." It says (over a dragon-like figure), "Here are men who have large horns of the length of four feet, and there are even serpents so large, that they could eat an ox whole."  Put that on your site map.

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Style Guide Pep Talk: Rah! Rah! Rah!

Angie Halama

Style guides are a necessity, but updating them can be a hassle. So we want to cheer you on with some helpful tips and style guide spirit!

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Worried About Content "Below the Fold"? Don't Be.

David Bowen

Good news: There's no need to cram everything above The Mythical Line Below Which No Reader Ever Goes.

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Every Doc(ument) Has Its Day

Jason Kleckner

Documentation rarely takes the spotlight. Much like good user experience, if it’s doing its job properly, you don’t even notice it.

Also like bad user experience, bad documentation will make the process painfully inefficient.

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The Content Inventory is Your Friend

Kristina Halvorson

Yep, that's right. Content inventories could change your LIFE.

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Alignment: The Secret to a Successful Content Strategy

Melissa Rach

Learn why alignment and collaboration are secret weapons in the fight for successful content strategies.

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Web Content Style Guides that Don't Suck

Kristina Halvorson

The style guide is a long-overlooked tool in good content strategy. But style guides are a great investment for creating useful, usable content. Get some pointers here.

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Bangalore, we have a problem.

Elizabeth Saloka

I’ve just stumbled on a site that offers web content for $4. Four. Dollars. That’s like, a sandwich. A gas station sandwich. Since when did web content become such a cheap commodity?

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What I Learned About Information Architecture From Watching Bad Movies

Christine Benson

Unsuccessful web experiences typically happen because there are somehow barriers between the users and their goals. And some of these barriers are similar to what makes a bad movie bad.

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Show Me the Content Strategy!

Julie Vollenweider

Asking to see a sample content strategy is a common request that’s often complex to address. But it’s not impossible.

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Speed-dating your source content in 4 easy steps

Angie King

Learn how to weed out the duds (filler information) from the studs (meaty content that addresses users' needs) with our handy-dandy speed-dating tips.

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An intro to metadata and taxonomies

Christine Benson

Confused about metadata? Taxonomies? Think they’re one and the same? Get an initial understanding of what these terms mean, and how they relate to each other.

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How to Sell in Content Strategy

Kristina Halvorson

So many of us struggle to get buy-in for content strategy. What's the best way to convince your stakeholders it's really, truly important?

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Capturing That Back-to-School Feeling

Tenessa Gemelke

Do you love back-to-school time? Of course you do, you adorable nerd!

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This Just In: The New York Times is Way Smart!

Elizabeth Saloka

The best interactive graphics are the simplest. No bells and whistles, please.

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Useful copy in the real world

Christine Benson

On the web or out in the world, clearly communicating your message is always important.

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Do It Like a Librarian: Ranganathan for Content Strategists

Claire Rasmussen

Although academia and consulting can sometimes seem like different planets, content strategists and librarians have a lot in common—after all, we all love content.

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Give Content Strategy a Fighting Chance

Meghan Casey

No stakeholder alignment. No content strategy. Get the people at the table committed to the content cause.

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Don’t Use That Language With Me

Angie Halama

If your writing is filled with jargon, your audience might not be getting your message.

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Rupert Murdoch vs. the "Content Kleptomaniacs" and "Plagiarists" (See: Google)

Kristina Halvorson

When the religion of the Web is that you can find anything you want, from anywhere, at any time, Murdoch's plan is straight-up blasphemous.

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Response to 10 Most Common Misconceptions About User Experience Design

Christine Benson

The other day I posted Whitney Hess' article 10 Most Common Misconceptions About User Experience Design on Twitter, along with "'User experience is not user interface design' and other good tidbits." Then I re-read the article ... and my response ended up being much longer than 140 characters.

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Dunk Your Splash Page

Beth Johnson

What value does a flashy splash page have if you know ahead of time that users will most likely not be interested in viewing it?

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The Value of Content, Part 2: Nobody’s Perfect

Melissa Rach

Get 7 tips for making your content measurement plan perfectly … imperfect.

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The Value of Content, Part 1: Adam Smith never expected this

Melissa Rach

Brace yourselves, content folks. We're going to talk economics. I promise there will be no math involved.

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Anatomy of a web content document

Amy Wallace

Knowing how to format a web content document—or simply how to read it—is a crucial step in successful content creation.

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Are You Really Collaborating?

Christine Benson

Most people in the CS community agree on the need for collaboration, but are you sure that’s what you’re doing?

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Content Strategy Can Help. Literally.

Christine Benson

Customers expect a help section to have helpful content. Make sure you don’t disappoint.

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Cut!

Elizabeth Saloka

The first rule of good web writing is the first rule of all good writing: cut the fat. So, what should you do when the power of Victorian diction compels you?

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Email Etiquette: You are what you send.

Elizabeth Saloka

Email can be a tricky medium. Don’t let it trip you up—personally or professionally.

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Sorting through the digital debris

Christine Anameier

Treatments or a cure for the common cold could be out there, but it would be hard to tell from a Google search.

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What We Say and What We Mean

Lee Thomas

Surely, We Can Say What We Mean.

Agreed. Now stop calling me Shirley.

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Serial Killer: The Dissing of the Oxford Comma

Meghan Casey

Around the world, and at Brain Traffic, opinions vary about whether to use the controversial serial, or Oxford, comma. Most of us are right. Two of us are wrong.

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Content User Experience

Christine Benson

Check out this example of content user experience. You know, content. Like, in the happy sense.

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You’re So Not Welcome.

Erin Anderson

How do you help your user feel at home on your site without actually telling her to, uh, feel at home on your site?

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How To Fix (and Evolve) Your Corporate Website

Kristina Halvorson

Fixing your corporate website requires planning, creating, publishing, and overseeing web content. So how do you support that process?

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Content Creation: Quality vs. Quantity (or “A Recipe for Content Deliciousness”)

Erin Anderson

This is what happens when you write about the virtues of streamlined web content while hungry.

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Content needs a new home

Kristina Halvorson

Unless your primary product or service is content, you probably still lack the appropriate infrastructure to support ongoing content creation and maintenance. Get one.

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I Content Strategize, Therefore I Am

Melissa Rach

What’s the meaning of content? We’ll tell you what we think with the help of some drunken philosophers.

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Content strategy is, in fact, the next big thing

Kristina Halvorson

In January of 2009, I started telling people that content strategy would be the next big focus for organizations worldwide. I even went so far as to say, “Content strategy will soon be getting more attention than social media.”

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You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Angie King

Think no one will notice or care about your little grammatical misstep? Inconceivable!

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How to Board a Moving Train

Tenessa Gemelke

What can hoboes teach you about becoming a content strategist? Plenty.

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News Flash: Social media won't fix your content problem

Kristina Halvorson

Promising social media widgets will make your corporate website relevant isn't just irresponsible. It's wrong.

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Let's get typical! Common strategy scenarios and results

Julie Vollenweider

“Tell me about a typical project.” In a consulting environment, most people understand that this is a tricky request—especially if it’s our first conversation.

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Mining for (Source) Content Gold

Amy Little

As a writer or editor, it’s ideal to get solid content strategy and background information before you start creating content. But sometimes you need to fend for yourself.

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Put a Lid on Canned Copy

Meghan Casey

Canned content is low on nutritional value.

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The "Queen" school of content strategy

Melissa Rach

Start seeing content strategy everywhere. Even in epic rock bands.

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Attention information architects: That IS your job

Christine Benson

For a really great website, give your web writers a roadmap.

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With Content Strategy, There’s No One Right Way

Meghan Casey

There’s no one “right way” to do content strategy. But, we can build on what’s worked before by adapting and refining for the best possible result.

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Let Me Be Clear: Take Time with Your Words

Erin Anderson

We agonize over stuff like error messages, links, and headlines every day. Here's why.

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Tidings of Content & Calm

Lee Thomas

Less really is more. Ralphie double-dog-dares you to read this post.

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Don’t Put Content in your Users' Blind Spot

Angie King

Simply putting content on a page doesn't guarantee your users will find it.

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How Bad Content Ruined My Vacation

Emily Folstad

Ever wondered whether poorly planned content actually affects real people in real life? It does. Just ask my family.

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Contact Us: Great and Gross Examples

Julie Vollenweider

A little TLC for online “contact” can make a huge difference in customer experience.

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Don't Put the Stagecoach Before the Horse

Erin Anderson

Before you leap onto the social media bandwagon, make sure these advanced tools actually play nice with your brand and your audience.

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Content and the Technology of Today

Julie Vollenweider

Choose your own adventure! Technology has changed the way we read. Will it change the way we do content strategy, too?

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How Not to Write (or, dwell Loses a Customer)

Kristina Halvorson

Whether or not the coming year of dwell magazine actually would "thrill, inspire, and dazzle" us as its editor-in-chief guarantees, we'll never know.

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Put the Work Before the Words

Scott Kubie

The definition of content strategy can be tough to nail down. But how important is it that everyone agrees on it? 

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You’re hired: Outsourcing content work

Julie Vollenweider

Take a look at when, how and why it makes sense to tackle a copy project internally, or job it out.

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When All of Your Content Is Video Content

Angie Halama

Some nytimes.com readers aren't so happy with the video content on the website.

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Auditing big sites doesn’t have to be taxing

Christine Anameier

Now that U.S. tax day has come and gone, we can focus our attention on big audits.

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Own Your Content. And Keep Grizzly Bears at Bay.

Clinton Forry

Without mindful ownership and all that goes with it, your content—and business goals–could be in serious danger.

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Workflow That Works

Christine Benson

How many great ideas never get implemented or maintained because nobody ever bothered to figure out who would do the work? Or work was assigned to someone, but no one ever looked at the tasks that person was already doing?

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Clients Say the Darndest Things: How to Deal with Bad Feedback

Elizabeth Saloka

Your writing is magic. Their feedback is tragic.

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Should You Complement Your Intranet With Knowledge From Employees?

Meghan Casey

Employee intranets have traditionally been owned and managed by technology, communications, or human resources. Today, there’s a trend toward employee intranets being owned by teams responsible for internal knowledge sharing or knowledge management.

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How Nonprofits Can Profit From Content Strategy

Tenessa Gemelke

Think your nonprofit doesn’t have the time or resources for content strategy? Here are some small steps that can make a big difference.

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By "Them" I Mean "Him" or "Her"

Angie Halama

Here's a transcript of a recent grammar conversation we had via an all-staff e-mail that was jumpstarted by Angie King (Angie 2.0). It includes such unrelated subjects as manbabies and Vitamin Water.

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Online endeavors need a spare tire

Clinton Forry

Your car isn’t the only thing that should come equipped with a spare tire. Make sure you’ve got one for your content, too.

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Communication Tips from Client Services

Christine Benson

I learn a thing or two about effective communication from our catchphrase-loving VP of client services.

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Workflow That Flows

Christine Benson

A key to great content? Accurate planning, prioritization, and communication.

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Content People Care About: Find your Orphaned Baby Bear

Meghan Casey

You don’t need a cuddly orphaned baby bear to create content people care about. But you do need one of those strategy thingamajigs.

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The John Hodgman Approach to Web Content

Angie King

We take a page from John Hodgman’s fictional reference book and apply it to a client’s website.

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Embrace Your Limits

Christine Benson

Don't get bogged down with what can't be done. Move past the problem and learn three ways to deal with project constraints.

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Ask Yourself: Will Anyone Care About This Content?

Christine Benson

Will this information add to the experience? What if you just got rid of it?

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Personal pronouns: It's okay to own your web copy

Angie King

If you want your users to feel connected to your brand, it’s important they know you stand behind your content.

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Four free podcasts: Curation Best Practices

Kristina Halvorson

Listen in as Kristina talks content curation with IBM.com Editor-in-Chief, James Mathewson.

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You Have Problems

Kristina Halvorson

I know. Web content hurts. But I have good news: there's a cure.

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Don’t Gamble with Automatic Feedback Copy

Angie King

Think users won’t be affected by bad automatic feedback copy? Don’t bet on it.

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Advice from the pros: Telling it like it is

Katie Dohman

You have less than four seconds to get your user the information he or she needs. GO!

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Just fill in the blank?

Meghan Casey

Content strategy--thinking done by real, live humans--makes sure your content hits the mark.

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RSS in the Olden Days

Angie Halama

Back then, they had to do it all by hand.

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