Thursday, December 18, 2014

Why your Web Traffic Doesn’t Convert

As a marketer, it would seem that syndicated content makes your life easier. It’s content already written, presumably for your audience, and probably drives search traffic to your website.

But, if the main thrust of your content strategy is using syndicated content on your website, you’re in trouble. And that’s not just my opinion: 69 percent of marketers back original content over licensed content. (Source: Contently, Dec. 2014)

Why you Need Custom Content        

You need to develop custom content for your website, because syndicated content rarely converts your web traffic to customers. While it may drive search, it doesn’t help you drive revenue, which is one of the two golden rules of content strategy. (The second rule? Create content that supports your customers in accomplishing their tasks.) 

We had one client who was getting 800,000 page views to one page in a month with little to almost no conversions. That’s a nice amount of traffic—but for what?  And why would someone convert? You haven’t told them anything special or different about your brand.


Is it budget?

I know budget is a concern for many marketers, which is why they rely on syndicated content. And it might be a stop gap or a good way to build out certain parts of your website or your content strategy. But your goal for 2015 should be to customize that content, or create your own, relevant content for your audiences that will drive traffic AND revenue.

Custom content may seem expensive, but let’s do the math. Let’s say you license syndicated content at $15K a year, which seems relatively inexpensive.  That drives huge numbers to your website, but very little conversions. Now let’s say you hire a content firm to write custom content for you for the exact same amount. And you drive far less traffic, but far more conversions. Which metric really matters for you when you walk into your boss’s office for your annual review? 

The choice seems pretty clear to me—it’s risky and different than the content strategy you planned in the past, but isn’t it time to try something new? It’s clear that syndicated content just isn’t doing the job you need it to do. 

Need help convincing your executives to stop wasting money on syndicated content? Email Ahava today for a brief step-by-step guide.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Confessions of a Content Strategist: Emmelyn Wang

As we discussed in last month’s Confessions of a Content Strategist, with JennyMagic, the need for a new role within content strategy is emerging—the content engineer. Who is that person who can translate for the content marketing teams and the software engineers and keep everything in line for the customer?

Meet Emmelyn Wang, a content engineer at uShip. She’s an API specialist and currently holds the title of “Community Engagement Manager”. Her job is to interface with every department in the company to educate them about the API. For example, Business Development talks to external folks about the uShip API as a powerful tool to build partnerships. Emmelyn creates content for software developers to successfully use the API. That content increases engagement with the API which drives business to uShip.

“I am the liaison between business and technology. Business has a need and technology has to build it—but what’s really important is that the people driving those two things don’t speak the same language. The most important question is: How do we get them so speak the same language? My content helps to influence the design and use of the APIs—both how they function and the data they provide,” she explains.

In her current role, Emmelyn serves three different groups—uShip developers for the web product and both native mobile apps, business development and sales, and third party developers. The main web product gets over 2 million hits a month. facilitates the delivery of thousands of listings a day (for shipping purposes) and a portion of that traffic that happens through APIs. APIs are Application Programming Interfaces that allow different data systems to talk to each other and process information securely and with built-in performance implications. Native mobile applications are built using APIs and both the data and functionality are consumed through APIs.

From a Content Strategist’s standpoint, why does an API matter?

They provide a standardized content and functionality delivery mechanism and structure that is easily consumed, dynamically updated, and scalable. Standards include the HTTP protocol, XML, JSON, and REST.

For example, Stripe API’s documentation found at, built using Ruby (  and Sinatra ( facilitates such an efficient process. When developers update the product (Stripe API) code, their documentation and helper libraries are also automatically updated.

Ahava Leibtag: Tell me about your background as a content strategist. 

Emmelyn Wang: "I graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with an English and Business background with a heavy emphasis on natural sciences and writing intensive courses. I worked in high tech first before I went to get my MA in Technical Communication (MATC) from Texas State University.

My first job out of college was at IBM as a business analyst and it was a great place to network as a young person. Then, I served as a volunteer board member for the Society for Technical Communication, and networked with people who had been doing content strategy for 30-40 years. It is wonderful to have that mentorship and community of professional support."

AL: How did your work take you in such a heavy technological direction?

EW: “I’m in the field of tech comm because I’m curious about the way things work. I’m a very hands-on learner and am not afraid to dive into source code, make database queries, and learn how to do anything a hardware or software engineer needs to do to understand and use a product. I was the senior technical communication specialist for Hoover Software, a Dun and Bradstreet company, and was invited to consult on products about business intelligence. It was then that I got more heavily involved with Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) than I had at other high tech companies. APIs are so dynamic—they are a super form of content reuse, and a very efficient way to deliver both data and functionality. Even though an API doesn’t have an interface, it’s considered a software developer’s interface. Since APIs don’t have the common consumer user interface most people are used to working with, there’s a huge need for documentation to explain how to use it. So many companies are looking for content strategists who  can explain APIs, because they drive so much business. For example, at Dun and Bradstreet, their API was their most lucrative product and service known as DaaS (Data as a Service). So much so, that for companies that don’t have an API, other companies won’t do business with them. In general, content strategists need to understand the functionality of how content is consumed by mobile applications and around the web-- APIs are one major way that is happening. APIs are not just a ‘backend’ piece. If you want sound data and functionality in your applications, you have to design it into your API first and foremost. Now, with the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) there’s an even more exciting mash up of software APIs and hardware technology.”

There are thousands of APIs created and maintained around the world. Learn more at

AL: Give me an example of a project where you were successful in using both your content strategy skill set and your content engineering skill set?

EW: “I worked on one project where we had a product that was called by seven different names depending on which department of the company you were talking with. But the customer doesn’t know that. So I had to explain ‘Here’s what it is in the code, but here’s what we call it in the database, and here’s how we explain it to the customer’. We managed to consolidate seven names into one by really explaining it from the perspective of the customer.

I don’t even use the phrase ‘content strategy’, because the people I’m working with may not understand the implications for the context. I say, ‘Okay let’s talk about the industry terminology and internal terminology.’ or focus on the exercise to implement the content strategy as a guide. We’ve even set up audience-focused glossaries to help in situations like that one.

I think as content strategists, sometimes we need to use different terms to describe the outcomes of what we do to better relate to the people we’re working with. If we don’t, we need to educate our audience and that steps right into UX. It’s not about the importance of the content strategy, rather it’s about demonstrating that setting up a clearly defined process is something amazing that brings value to the company that everyone needs.”

Want to see an example of the difference between an API for communication between companies and the standard website that’s used to communicate with customers? Check out:

As Emmelyn explained: “When you ship something, you can use the API to determine how much shipping will cost and that’s driven by the API on the uShip. There’s always a work flow and a use case.  Keep top of mind ‘what does this partner need—what do your users want to do?’ It’s the same conversation we have with the mobile team and the product teams—again, it’s about building the best ways to move content to the right people at the right time so they can accomplish their goal.” 

Are you a content strategist who is moving more into the role of content engineer? Let me know and we may interview you next for Confessions of a Content Strategist. 

Emmelyn has worked in Silicon Hills for the past 17 years at companies including IBM and SMSC. She is an alumnae of The University of Texas at Austin. While earning her M.A. with a Major in Technical Communication (TC) from Texas State University, she specialized in international and cross-cultural TC.

She champions content strategy, usability, and localization best practices and teaches TC at the college level. She regularly mentors professionals who are entering the TC field. She served as Director of Programs and Education, then VP, and finally as President of the Austin chapter of the Society for Technical Communication (STC).

Emmelyn first became a Content Strategist at Dovetail Software. Her responsibilities included spearheading information development efforts for the design, creation and, care of content across the company (technical, marketing, and public relations). She worked as the Technical Communications Specialist for the Austin Ventures start-up, Virtual Bridges. She has also consulted for Hoover's, a Dun & Bradstreet company as Senior Technical Writer. She most recently served uShip and third party developers, partners, and affiliates as the Community Engagement Manager on the API team.

Her subject matter expertise includes documenting software APIs and providing strategic technical marketing initiatives for increased engagement. She's familiar with various CRM systems on multiple database platforms. Her niche role is working with an API, user experience design, and support teams to improve the customer experience.

Emmelyn is now leading by serving as Director of Web Content Marketing for Mouser Electronics, a Berkshire Hathaway company. Mouser focuses on technical content, tools, and distribution of electronic components to design engineers. She provides strategic direction to the new product introduction team, translations team, and content creation teams in the US and abroad.

Twitter @lifewingmate

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Do you have a Content Strategy for Wearable Technology?

Darwin said it best, “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.” Wearable technology is coming to a wrist near you and if you’re involved in content creation, you need to be ready.

There are hundreds of industries that will benefit from wearable technology, but one of the first industries primed to radically change will be healthcare. How people make decisions about their health, manage their health and communicate with healthcare professionals will all change because of wearable technologies.

Wearables hold significant advances for the healthcare industry

We have long looked for ways to help people change their behavior in service to better health. But how to do this was complex—how do you remind people to eat wisely, sleep well, exercise for their physical and mental benefit and warn them when they were going off course? Wearable technologies offer this promise.

Wearable technology provides a symbiotic relationship between the patient/consumer and the healthcare professional/marketer. The advantages for both parties are clear: people can connect their behavior to data. That data can help healthcare professionals make better decisions about care, including the content they provide to support those decisions.

This data also provides rich fields of information ripe for harvest about consumer choices—not just what works and when, but patterns of behavior that will provide healthcare marketers the ability to understand their audiences better than before.

Creating Wearable Content

There are already numerous ways to provide information to consumers—let’s look at these possible examples:
  1. A diabetic patient sends in his blood sugar numbers for the day—the doctor’s office sends back an article on managing your carb intake more effectively
  2. A heart failure patient monitors his blood pressure and weight every days and sends those numbers to his doctor—the program notices an unhealthy trend and alerts the office to send the patient an request for an appointment and a video about salt intake
  3. A pregnant woman tagged for preeclampsia risk sends her blood pressure numbers to her doctor everyday so she can avoid pre-term labor—her numbers continue to remain low so the office sends her an article about exercising safely during pregnancy

All the scenarios described above are exciting because they place active management into the hands of the consumer. Particularly with chronic diseases, wearable technology is going to transform behavior. The question is: are you ready with content to support your patients’ behavior and choices? If not, you need to start thinking about your content strategy for wearables—content will need to be short, two-way and personalized.

Are you ready?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Why Thank YOU is Better

Now is a good time of year to talk about how you treat your audience.
Are you thankful for them? Do you make your readers feel your concern and understanding of their unique pain points? Is your content warm and inviting, demonstrating that gratitude?

Today, we’re going to share one trick that will help you make your customers feel you invited them in to your warm house smelling of pumpkin pie.


You as a copywriting device

Our job as content creators is advising our clients how to talk to their audiences.  We want to make one thing very clear: You should always address your audience as you.  Here are five reasons why:
  1. People only care about themselves: So they pay attention when you address them directly. It is like how you respond to your first name—people respond to the word you the same way. When you talk to your audience, they feel special. When you talk about them…well, you could be talking about anyone.
  2. Third person is awkward: You get into pronoun gender issues and just general grammar hoops and loops. Instead of sounding inviting and concerned, when writers use third person, they sound distant and cold. (See what I just did there?)
  3. You create distance: Let’s look at these two sentences: 
    “Your experience investing money with us will be simple and easy.” 
    “Customers who invest their money with us feel it is simple and easy.”
    Who do you feel is really going to give you the customer experience you want?
  4. It’s conversational: Third person is formal and structured. When you use the second person, you create a connection with your reader. If content is a conversation, don’t you want to create the most natural conversation you can?
  5. It creates intimacy: Would you say to a customer standing in front of you, “Our customers find this short instructional video very helpful the first time they use our product?” No, you would say, “You should watch this short video—it will be helpful before you use this product.”

Improve your content by addressing your audience directly. It will be easier to write, read and act on. (Tweet this!)

In case you’re not convinced, just think about some famous tag lines in history:
  • We deliver for the customer.
  • The customer is in good hands with Allstate.
  • Never let them see the customers sweat.
  • It’s not the customer’s father’s Oldsmobile anymore.
  • We’ve got a taste for the customer.

From all of us at Aha Media, we say THANK YOU, and wish you a warm and Happy Thanksgiving—no matter where you are in the world.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Do’s and Don’ts of Building a Branded Hospital App

You may be surprised to learn that there are only a few hundred hospital branded apps available on the App Store. With such a small playing field, building one for your hospital can definitely help you stand out.

But, before committing resources to this effort – the cost of developing a custom branded app is in the neighborhood of six figures – you should know that app users are very particular. People who are likely to download your app expect that it will help them find information and perform tasks that simplify their life.

Failure to meet this expectation can result in stiff consequences, as many users stop using an app after a few uses if it’s not delivering value. User expectations aside, building a branded app is still a very worthwhile endeavor. When executed correctly, it enables positive interactions with your brand that results in a very loyal and engaged patient base.

Healthcare Branded App Do’s

Start by creating a simple interface that allows users to access functions in as few clicks as possible, then offer features that help solve your patient’s most pressing problems.

This may include:

  • One-button prescription refill
  • Online bill pay
  • ‘Find a doctor’ feature with online appointment request/scheduling
  • Secure messaging to physicians or nurses
  • Reminders or alarms for time sensitive self care actions, such as taking medications, procedure preparation or post discharge care
  • Indoor GPS to help patients and their families access amenities within your facility
  • Clinic appointment check-ins
  • Updates on public health alerts


Healthcare Branded App Don’ts

Maximize your app’s sticking power by avoiding these common mistakes:

  • Preaching to the choir: People downloading your app have already made a commitment to your brand so don’t waste their time with marketing information.
  • Displaying health information: People rarely use their smartphones – much less an app – to conduct research in this way.
  • Being redundant with your website: Users are not likely to download or even keep an app with repackaged website content. Make sure you offer unique features that allow patients to interact with your brand in a meaningful way.
  • A ‘Swiss army knife’ approach: Limit your app to features that provide the greatest benefit to the audience that is most likely to use it.
  • Taking the path less traveled: Features like ER wait times and urgent care locations don’t offer the ongoing utility that will endear users to your brand. Save these things for your website.

See a case study from Aha Media Group on writing content for a healthcare mobile app.

Learn more about mobile marketing: 4 Mobile Strategies for Your Business

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

You Cannot Afford a Bad Online Reputation

Let’s face it, people are talking about your brand – and not always in a positive way. Whether it’s true or not, negative information can hurt your brand.

Potential customers, business partners, employees, and investors are all looking at your brand’s digital footprint. This includes mentions in social media and blogs, review sites, the media and countless other sources. If you Googled your brand right now, would you be happy with what you see?

Thanks to the relative ease with which people are now able to post information online, your company’s reputation is just as likely to be shaped by the opinions and feelings of others as it is your own carefully penned branding. Don’t be caught off-guard. Online reputation issues are difficult and sometimes impossible to fix.

Instead, take time now to build a strong positive reputation and make a habit of monitoring what’s being said about you online. In this two-part series, we offer tips to help you establish, grow, protect and manage your online reputation.

Establish your online reputation. The first step in protecting your reputation is to establish a strong online presence. Cast a wide net to gain maximum exposure.

·        Include your brand’s name in your online domain name and purchase all extensions (.org, .net, .com, etc.) even if you plan to use only one. This is especially helpful if your brand name is similar to others or there are other people with the same name as you.

·        The same thinking goes with social media. Claim your brand’s profiles on all social media networks. Actively maintain the ones that are most useful to your brand.

·        List your business in all relevant local listings and your blog in relevant blog directories.

·        Use tools to help manage your social media accounts, or just limit yourself to the two essential networks for online reputation management: LinkedIn and Google+.

Grow your presence. This important step allows you to expand your audience by offering useful information about your brand.

     We can’t emphasize this enough: LinkedIn and Google+ are ORM superheroes. As highly ranked social networking platforms they help fortify your brand’s online reputation. Keep your profiles up to date, post interesting content, get involved in discussions, and answer other people’s questions.

     SEO can help you rank highly and give users a chance to read about your brand in your own words first. Use Google’s free webmaster tools and follow these SEO best practices.

Next month we’ll offer tips for protecting your reputation and how to handle common issues.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Do You Care More About SEO or UX?

I know one of the most pressing issues on your mind is how your customers find your content. That's because we field hundreds of questions every year about strategic SEO and writing for organic search. But… are you also thinking about what happens when users start engaging with your pages? If people find your content, but are confused once they read and interact with it, what’s the point?

We find this very often with the questions we receive about our linking style: Does how we write our links impact our SEO? Well, let’s find out.

Links Matter for the User (Who is Kinda Super Important)

When we write content, we make sure the underlined words of the link (or the tag) are over the same words that the user will find when they jump to the page. For example, if the page title (or the H1 tag) is “Diabetes Education,” we don’t write the link as “Type 2 Diabetes.”  Instead, the link reads as, “Learn more about diabetes education.”  This is important for your customers, because as they follow the link, they land on the page they expected to see. A critical principle in user experience is telling a user where they are on a site and where a click will take them next.

Understanding Exact Match Linking

When I teach digital writing workshops, I used to teach that this concept, called Exact Match, was incredibly important for SEO.  And back in the day, it was; particularly if you used keywords in your page titles (you should still do that). But like so many other things in SEO, Google found that webmasters were abusing Exact Match for external links.  So they discontinued using this factor in their ranking algorithm.

However, from an internal perspective, this is the absolute right way to write links on your web pages. Think about it from the perspective of your customer: That person wants to know what’s on the other side of the jump, especially in a mobile situation. Writing links in this manner creates clean and easy to read content—something we know Google prefers. When you jump people using nicely flowing call-to-action links, you make it crystal clear where the user is headed.

Exceptions for Usability 

Sometimes it may not make sense to use the page title of the page you are referring users to because it’s too long and unwieldy—like the name of a blog title.  In those cases, I think it's okay to depart from this style—but do use some words that are going to make sense to the person reading, so they can decide if they want to follow the link.

You can learn more about how to create findable, readable, understandable, actionable and shareable content by inviting us to teach a digital writing workshop at your company. The workshops are personalized, using your content as examples. Check out our digital writing workshops.