Before we start, a couple of truths: 1. Mobile devices outnumber PCs and apple computers by almost three to one. 2. The mobile web is growing at an exponential rate and its ability to bring in visitors and create meaningful traffic which can be converted into sales is growing.
This means that your website needs to be mobile device friendly and capable of displaying its content for the Android, Blackberry and iPhone crowd. Usually, for webmasters, this requires some coding work which, unless you can code yourself, also means expenditure. While the mobile web is something which must not be ignored, until you have the time, energy and funds to address it there is an easy way to get your website’s content into mobile devices, through an App.
The best news is that apart from about twenty minutes of your time there is no other cost involved thanks to Google Currents. One of Google’s latest releases, Google Currents is an App for Android and iOS, which means it can be displayed on any Android phone or Tablet as well as iPhones and iPads, which allows you to pull in the content you would like to read regularly and browse it online and offline in a handy magazine-style format.
The video below explains the flexibility of Google Currents:
While Google Currents is certainly exciting and very useful for the end user who can now start their day by browsing through their favourite websites like they are a magazine that’s been put together just for them, its power lies in the ability it gives the small business owner or sole webmaster to repurpose their content and create a Google Currents App for their website which will allow their online visitors to subscribe with just one click (OK, maybe two if they have not already for Google Currents set up on their mobile device).
This is exactly where things get very exciting because Google Currents, like RSS is a push-technology innovation which syncs seamlessly with your site and constantly refreshes content for those who subscribe to it. More than that, the App actually gives you the option to include some social media activity and rich-media content, to further provide a rounded-experience for those who subscribe. This also gives you the opportunity to turn your usual top-down marketing efforts into a true conversation with your potential customers through a much more down-to-earth promotional tone.
The how exactly you achieve this is, of course, the province of your content marketing strategy and tone (and there is a link to an article on that at the bottom of this piece). What we will focus on here is just how to get your content in Google Currents, creating in effect your very own App for mobile devices.
How to Get Your Content in Google Currents
01. Point your browser to the Google Currents App site. You will need to have a Google Account for this so make sure you create one if you haven’t got one already.
Google will ask you to agree to their terms and conditions. Once you fill in all the relevant details and agree to them and hit continue you will see your first screen which will allow you to create your first edition of Google Currents.
Although it asks you to fill in an RSS feed and a YouTube account so you can get up and running fast, resist the temptation. Right now you need to simply create a name for your edition of the Google Currents content. You can, if you are really stuck, put anything there right now and change it later (the App syncs with your site and the change will take effect almost immediately). It is worth, however, to remember that you are trying to get visitors enthused with the content of a single site when they are quite likely to want to go off and create their own compilation, so play the editor a little here and create something worth subscribing to. For HelpMySEO, for example, I used the same title as my email newsletter which is ‘Winning Edge’, you will need to do your own brainstorming here and come up with something suitable.
Once you have your title hit the ‘Create’ button. Do not worry nothing is published anywhere at this point. Once you click ‘Create’ you will be taken to the next screen which is like this:
02. Adding Content to Google Currents. In the screen you are in now you will notice that you get a simulation of Google Currents content on a number of devices on the right hand side and a menu on the left hand side. You will notice that you can add an icon (which will display with your Google Currents listing on the web) and a splash icon which will show on mobile devices like a magazine cover, prior to your content opening up. These can be created using Photoshop or a suitable graphics program, but right now, if you have nothing suitable leave them for later and let’s go straight to the juice which is the second choice on the left labelled ‘Sections’.
Within that click on ‘Feed’. You will see the following screen:
To fill this in you will need to have either the RSS feed from your website or the RSS feed from a section of your website. If, your website does not have an RSS feed (a major SEO omission) don’t worry skip it and we will create content in a different way. If you do have an RSS feed however here is where you input it. Give it a descriptive title and click on ‘Create’. Remember that you can add more content to your Google Currents edition at any time, so if for now this is all you have from your website we can move on, otherwise repeat the process and create another feed from another section. If your feed is valid then you will see the name you gave to it appear on the left hand side menu under ‘Sections’ and on the right hand side you will see a preview of the content.
One thing you may need to experiment with is whether the crawl of your feed should be the feed options (you are given three). Experiment with the one which gives you the best results. It will partially depend upon your website’s set up and structure.
03. Add Social Media to your Google Currents. This is a particularly useful feature because even if your website has no RSS feed you can include you can use your social media activity which promotes your website’s content to actually create a Google Currents edition which features your site.
To do this click on ‘Social Updates’. You will need to give this section a name (be descriptive to make it easy for the reader to recognise) and notice that here you can choose to include your Google+ activities (always a good idea) or an RSS Feed. I would suggest you do both, adding your Google+ ID which you can obtain from your Google Plus profile and then going back and repeating the process but this time choosing to include an RSS feed from Facebook. HelpMySEO’s Facebook page is: http://www.facebook.com/SEOTipsandSocialMediaTechniques and going there on the left hand side menu there is a ‘Get Update via RSS’ link. Click on that and it will take you to a page where you will actually get to see the RSS feed supplied by Facebook. You are only interested in the URL, so copy that and paste it in the field where the URL should go and click ‘Create’.
For good measure we will also now add a Twitter feed. Twitter does a great job of hiding their RSS so what you need here is your Twitter ID. Once you have that go through the same process of creating social media content as you did with Facebook and this time in the Feed field paste the following: https://api.twitter.com/1/statuses/user_timeline.rss?screen_name=davidamerland replace the very last bit which says ‘davidamerland’ with your Twitter ID and that will be your Twitter feed.
You are almost there now, just a couple of steps remain.
04. Publishing your Google Currents Edition for your website. The thing to remember is that your Google Currents edition content is updated from your website content and social media network publishing. You can rearrange the sections any way you like. You can rename them any time you like. You can delete them and add new sections and your mobile devices App will simply update and display what you have. One small word of caution, do remember that once you publish your App it is live and people will be seeing it on their mobile devices. Experimentation with content and rearranging is OK provided it does not affect the end user experience. It is also important to know how much traffic you get from the App and who clicks where. For that you will do well to add your Google Analytics code.
To do this you will need to click on ‘Edition Settings’ on the left hand side menu and then click on ‘Google Analytics’. Provided you have Google Analytics set up already on your website (and if you don’t you deserve sever spanking for eternity in the SEO version of purgatory) all you need is the Analytics ID which usually looks like something like this: UA-33866857-9. Input this in the field and click ‘Update’.
05. Distribute your Google Currents content. Now click on ‘Distribute’. Before you can publish your edition, you do need to verify that the content is owned by you, by choosing the third option down in the distribute section: “Verify Content Ownership”. Press the “Verify” link on the right hand side. If you are logged in with the same Google Account that you use for Google Webmaster tools, this should happen seamlessly. If not, you will be redirected to Google Webmaster Central to link the website to your Google Account.
Once verification has taken place, click on ‘Distribute to Google Currents’ choose a publication date and you are done.
You will see a screen like this one below which also gives you a public URL which you can use to direct website visitors who may want to subscribe to Google Currents content from your site, to access on their mobile devices. For instance the Google Currents URL for HelpMySEO is: http://www.google.com/producer/editions/CAown9E1/winning_edge_insights_in_seo_and_social_
And… that’s it! You have now created an App which can feed content to mobile device users. Don’t forget to track the results through your Google Analytics account and experiment with content and layout and type of posts you use, for best results.
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