Monthly Archives: September 2013

SEO: The Good and the Bad

Anyone remember a Buzzfeed writer’s essay-length potshot at The Oatmeal‘s Matthew Inman?

I do. As an avid reader of The Oatmeal, I read both the original essay and Inman’s rebuttal, but the thing that stood out to me from both articles was Inman’s past job as an SEO marketer.

SEO the good and the bad

According to Inman, he: “did SEO for a few months in my early 20s, sucked at it, and got banned by Google … I hated SEO when I did it, and I hate it now.”

That was my first introduction to SEO, and it was enough for me. I decided that SEO was bad and stupid, and I moved on.

Fast forward to this past week’s readings, and I learn that good SEO is what makes the web go ’round, especially for strong online communities. So what is this dark side of SEO that I hated so much?

Shady SEO is commonly known as black hat SEO. Black hat refers to a hacker who uses the Internet for selfish or harmful reasons, so someone who practices black hat SEO takes good SEO principles and exploits them for personal gain.

So what are some common black hat SEO techniques?

CLOAKING

If your website serves different set of content to search engines and users, you’re practicing cloaking. Cloaking usually involved baiting search engines with popular search terms; but when a user comes to your website, they find completely different content. Cloaking was one of the first abusive SEO practices to get banned by Google.

DUPLICATE CONTENT

If you are creating multiple webpages with the same content, you’re practicing duplicate content. The concept behind duplicate content is simple: the more pages you own with that content, the more likely users looking for that content will come to your pages than your competitors. In the long run, however, this makes your website less effective and confuses users.

LINK BUYING

If you are paying irrelevant websites to link back to your site to increase your perceived usefulness by search engines, you are link buying. SEO relies on the fact that the most websites that link to you, the more authoritative you are for that content. Link buying is like paying for

KEYWORD STUFFING

If you have pages of content that are simply popular keywords that aren’t relevant to your content, you are keyword stuffing. Another simple tactic that is pretty obvious upon discovery, and does more harm than good.

Search Engine Watch, E3ngage, and Forbes can give you more info on these tactics.

It seems that the key to avoiding bad SEO is that when creating your content, think of your users first. SEO does have a place in the success of a website, but only as a supplement to quality content to your community.

Have you heard of or personally encountered bad SEO before? Or did you have an opinion about SEO that changed after our class readings?

Why SEO is Important

So, you are creating a new website and you want to attract users. What is the first thing you need to think about? Well, for me, it’s the users. But how exactly do we attract users? The answer is search engine optimization, or commonly, SEO. According to Victoria Edward’s article SEO Basics: 8 Essentials When Optimizing Your Site, SEO is fundamental and essential. She also states:

SEO will help you position your website properly to be found at the most critical points in the buying process or when people need your site.

 

What is SEO?

Edward’s article does a great job explaining SEO in 2 simple phrases. The first purpose of SEO is to create a great user experience. To me, user experience is extremely important. How many of you would waste your time on a website where you have no clue how to even navigate the site? Last semester, I took a class called Information Architecture. We learned an incredible amount about what people look for in an effective site, and user experience and friendliness was at the top. After taking that class, it is easy to tell whether a site will be effective.

The second purpose of SEO is to communicate to different search engines (one example is Google) so that they can recommend your website for relevant searches. Everything you do to make your site as effective as you can, such as having great content and great information architecture is beneficial, but will not matter as much if SEO is not a focus.

 

Taken from Wikimedia Commons

Taken from Wikimedia Commons

 

So why exactly is it important? 

Now that we know exactly what SEO entails, it is time to unravel the importance of it. Rank Executives, an internet marketing company, wrote an excellent article titled 10 Benefits of SEO. After reading and analyzing this article, you can’t help but to think that SEO is crucial to businesses. Ultimately, SEO is important for YOU. With SEO, you can see a clear increase in site traffic, and one of the big benefits is that you will stand out. With roughly 250 million websites on the web, it can be very difficult to make a name for yourself, especially in a competitive market. Also, according to Rank Executives, 60% of clicks go to the first result. So, only 40% of clicks on search engines go to the second thru millionth result. Securing that top spot would definitely gain thousands and thousands of visitors. The big question: Wouldn’t you want to be #1?

Summary

Since we now have an understanding of SEO and understand the importance of it, it is time to to optimize your site. SEO should always be thought about. Skipping out will do nothing but hurt you since you will lose out on maximizing revenue opportunities.

Questions to Consider

  • Can you think of other benefits of SEO?
  • Do you have any experiences optimizing a website?

 

How To Write The Perfect Blog Post

Writing the perfect blog post can be difficult. There are lots of things to consider upon outlining a blog post. What kind of title will attract people? What do people want to hear about? How will my blog post be different from others that are already published? These questions, along with many others, are all important for bloggers to consider before writing a post.

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Darren Rowse speaks at a conference in Oregon.

Luckily, an article was written about how to craft the perfect blog post. Author Darren Rowse hits on several points, including the importance of your opening line and timing the publishing of your post correctly. Within each of his points, Rowse continues to break down the blogging process by further analyzing each of his general suggestions. In his post, Rowse jokes about the first thing his future wife said to him when they met to emphasize the importance of an opening line. Through personal anecdotes, Rowse is able to convey the important aspects of blogging to those reading along.

Reading these tips were not only interesting, but helpful. I’ve been a blogger for Infospace, the School of Information Studies‘ official blog, for almost two years! One of the areas in which I’ve struggled with most is finding a topic to write about. Although there is so much constantly happening in the tech world, I find that it can sometimes be difficult to write a post that is not only informative, but also offers perspective on a piece of technology. I’ve learned that it’s important to find something to write about that’s not only important to you, but important to readers! One piece that I wrote for Infospace which was incredibly important to me was this piece about what to do when your internship comes to and end. I wrote this at the end of my internship when I was starting to reflect on my experiences there and looked towards the future. I knew that many students were in a similar position as me, and decided that outlining best practices would be informative and helpful. The post received great feedback, and many people reached out to me thanking me for helping them. A blog post feels successful when you know that something you wrote resonated with people.

Rowse mentions the importance of connecting with an audience in his article along with another key piece of advice, which is to “picture a reader.” This unique piece of advice was something I never considered and feel could be incredibly helpful when writing a post. Rowse says to try and put himself in the mindset of a reader. It’s important to consider “their situation, needs, questions and challenges in front of” them. By analyzing what’s important to a reader, it can become easier to figure out what needs to be addressed in a blog post. I’ve promised myself to do the same for when I continue to write blog posts so I can address the needs of the audience. Blog post audiences can make or break a post. If a piece of writing is well received, then it can make a huge impact! Thinking about the audience is something to always remember.

Although there are a lot of things to consider when writing a blog post, I’ve learned that things come naturally once you start to understand the blogging community and you practice writing posts over and over. By following Rowse’s tips and continuing to blog, anyone can be well on their way to writing a great post.

Online community vs. Social network

This week’s material laid the groundwork for understanding what community management consists of and how it came to be. One of the readings, History and emergence of online communities, details the rise of online communities. Relaying the inherent social nature of online communities, the report emphasizes that to recognize an online community for what it is begins first with a study of the social interactions of the members. There’s a distinction to be made here: the social community varies greatly from the social network.

While social networks bring together people with all sorts of interests and often struggle with security and privacy issues, the social community strives to bring together strangers by enabling them to connect, collaborate and share, often without the need to disclose private and personal information.

Going forward as both an objective observer of the evolution of online communities as well as a participant in some, I would like to focus on the elements that set online communities apart from current online social networks.

From a professional standpoint, it seems invaluable to know the difference between what Facebook can offer a business versus what a Reddit-type community can offer. Traditionally, a network like Facebook connects people irrespective of interest and similarities. Whereas, an online community like Reddit connects people based specifically on similar interests and a shared sense of humor.

For growing brands and companies there are benefits to being a part of both types of online entities, but I wonder if one boasts any significant superiority over the other.

  • Is it more favorable to appeal to a mass audience, regardless of whether they indicate interest?
  • Or is it more favorable to appeal to a targeted audience that is known to share in said interest?
  • In the increasingly crowded online sphere, which holds more value, the online community or the social network?

Get off my Internet: Dealing with Backlash on Blogs

This past week, the #CMGRclass community was flooded with posts on how to handle online brands in disaster situations. Chobani, Kenneth Cole, and Miley Cyrus all served as case studies on how meltdowns are handled online.

But what if that meltdown happens in your space – or more specifically, on your blog?

Dealing with negative feedback is important, and it’s even more important on a blog. Your response to the feedback will be immortalized as long as your blog lives. So how do you manage this? Here are 5 things that you can do to deal with negative comments on blogs.

  • bloggingNegativity is inevitable. So make sure you’re ready with a plan on how to respond to negative comments of all kinds – whether it’s constructive or not.

 

  • conversePay attention. The end of the blog isn’t the blog – it’s just a means to a conversation. Pay attention to those that comment – be on the lookout for those who want to open up that conversation further.

 

  • leaderLead by example. How you respond to criticism will dictate how your readers respond to criticism on your blog, and may also impact how loyal followers will handle criticism “for” you. Do your best to keep dialogue open, but …

 

  • trollsKnow how to spot a troublemaker. Some people just like to stir the pot – or “troll.” Trolls will try to make you miserable and may even attack you personally, so remember the internet mantra and “don’t feed the trolls.”

 

  • networkMake sure you’re not breaking blogging etiquette. Attribute inspiration from other bloggers (which can help build your network), don’t steal images, and in general, be nice to other bloggers. Participate in other comment sections – you never know who might find your blog through theirs.

 

What else would you add to help deal with criticism on blogs?

Online Community History

Today online communities as we know it has became a huge way of communicating with others. In the 1970s when the Internet was created by ARPAnet E-Mail was created. Although, basic E-Mail allowed for user interaction as one could send and recieve messages. “Message Boards” were soon built into email or websites allowing for others to create a string of content that others can respond to. Message boards are quite common even today allowing for a user to interact with others on one topic. Interactions are in the form of message strings that other users are also able to see.

Internet Relay Chat (IRC) developed in 1988 by Jarkko Okarinen was one of the early Instant Messengers. Popular in the 90’s Instant Messaging started to occur. Both users had to be online; and could send each other short messages instantly. This later emerged into AOL Instant Messenger, and Windows Live Messenger.

Today online communities are built off of the innovations that we had in the past. Users that are participating in communities have increased steadily in recent years. Back in a 2001 Pew Internet & American Life Project report, 84% of all Internet users indicated that they contacted an online community and 79% identified at least one group with which they maintained regular online contact. Due to user increases many communities have sprung up in recent years that may relate to user interest, health, shopping and even travel.

Sites like TripAdvisor are an example of an online community where users are able to post photos, comments, and links about a particular place. People who do post about their experiences get responses from a manager or other appointed user. There are also interest communities such as WebMD a community relating to health and wellness. Users are able to get health advice, and learn about news and other resources available to them.

Facebook and Twitter today are two types of platforms that allow users to customize a profile and communicate with others. Facebook has incorporated many great features that were popular in the past into its site. Users can instant message; email and make their Facebook unique with a profile picture (avatar).Twitter allows for an avatar and almost encompasses a forum feature but instead lets users write a post on a news feed of 120 characters.

Online communities today would be drastically different if it were not for many of the previous developments on the web with features such as email, forums, and instant messaging.

The Most Important Tip for Blogging

Is it just me or does it seem like everyone is a blogger now a days? I’ve never been a blogger, but I am beginning to realize the importance of becoming one. I used to only think blogs were for sports, entertainment news, and really any other opinionated subject. Much to my surprise, I have found that they are a crucial element to not only a community manager, but they also build a brand. However, a blog is not going to be of much importance, nor is it going to get many views, if these following tips are not used.

The Top Ten

Darren Rowse’s article How to Craft a Blog Post- 10 Crucial Points to Pause is listed below:

  • Choose a topic that matters to readers

    Photo courtesy of Beth Kanter via Flikr Creative Commons

    Photo courtesy of Beth Kanter via Flikr Creative Commons

  • Craft the title so that it will stick out to readers
  • Choose a good opening line to make a good impression
  • Make sure your post has a point and ‘matters’
  • Drive readers to do something, where they can apply what you say to real life
  • Make sure you have added all of the depth you possibly could
  • Polish posts- even the smallest mistake cost you
  • Publish your post at the right time
  • Post promotion- don’t just rely on the publish button to get views, give a few ‘nudges’ to increase exposure
  • Converse with readers and other bloggers once your post is published

Having a polished post with little to no errors or grammar mistakes would be the most important. For example, the picture below says “no unortherised parking” and is something that should have never been printed. I wouldn’t take that sign seriously, and the same goes for a poorly written blog post.

Another tip I feel is very important is that the post has a point. If we write about something that has no point, a viewer may not be apt to read another one of your blog posts. If it has a catchy title, it will get people to read it, but if the post doesn’t ‘matter,’ as Darren Rowse states, “it’ll never get traction.”

Lastly, crafting the title of the blog that will catch the attention of readers is also important. It is the most crucial part of getting people to actually start reading your post. If it’s easily searchable via Google or easily tweetable, it can help in the amount of traffic the post gets.

Maybe before the committee spends money on a sign, they could check their spelling of "unauthorized" - Image courtesy of Zoay via Flikr Creative Commons

Maybe before the committee spends money on a sign, they could check their spelling of “unauthorized” – Image courtesy of Zoay via Flikr Creative Commons

Ask yourself, “Am I thinking about these tips when I construct my blog post? Did I spend enough time thinking about the title?” Questions like this can make you stop and pause momentarily, or even hours to try to craft the best post possible.

What tip do you find most important? Are there any on the list that you do not think should be there? Why or why not?

 

 

 

 

Blogging 101

This weeks reading had to do with how to write an effective blog post; and how to be a great community manager. The reading had a list of ten things that a Community Manager needs to follow to write a successful blog post and become a good community manager. This week I am moderator for Google+ Community and the #CMGRClass Twitter; and discussion has been developed off of these 10 items. Below I will talk about some discussion of some points that students raised:

Quality Control

The topic of quality control was talked about the most where a Community Manager should make sure there are no errors in information, or spelling as it makes the post look less professional. This is not only a blogging skill but a life skill that you will run into in the corporate sector.

Making Your Posts Matter

As a Community Manager you need to be sure you are able to get your point across to your readers. If your post has weak ideas without information to back up your points your viewers will possibly think that reading your blog is a true waste of time. A post with no point or purpose makes you look less credible and steers your audience away from you. Make sure your post is on point and does not fade away from the main topic. This does usually happen when a blogger is discussing many points and posts mainly about a key point instead of the main topic itself. 

Timing is Everything 

You want to make sure you have your post submitted for your viewers to read in a timely fashion as news becomes old quickly. With social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook events go viral quickly so blogging in a timely fashion is key to making sure you are able to “break” the news to your readers. A post about Apple’s new iPhone release is key to get out to viewers on the release day, and not a week or two later.

How you blog as a Community Manager will make you or break you. As a Community Manager you need to know the basics of Blogging 101 to be a success. Getting your audience to follow and trust you will make you stand out as a successful Community Manager. The points above are the most crucial ones to making your posts successful; and if they are not followed you most likely will not be taken seriously.

The Benefits of #CMGRclass in the “Real World”

arts engage

Last week I started working for SU Arts Engage (a non-profit organization that brings performing artists to the Syracuse area) as one of the two Production Coordinators hired through Imagining America. In addition to assisting with visiting artists, I am in charge of maintaining their website, Facebook and Twitter presence. I’m also in charge of deciding if they should appear on other forms of social media (Pinterest, YouTube, etc.) and whether using a social media aggregate, like RebelMouse, would be beneficial.

I knew when I started working for Arts Engage that I wanted to make a difference: get more likes on Facebook, gain more followers on Twitter and increase traffic to their main site. What I didn’t know, and am still in the process of perfecting, is how to go about achieving that.

Thankfully in #CMGRclass we’re reading, “Buzzing Communities: How to Build Bigger, Better, and More Active Online Communities” by Richard Millington (founder of FeverBee, a community consultancy).

Early on in the book Millington (2012) states that there are eight elements for a community management framework (p.18):

  • Strategy: Establishing and executing the strategy for developing the community.
  • Growth: Increase membership of the community and convert newcomers into regulars.
  • Content: Create, edit, facilitate, and solicit content for the community.
  • Moderation: Remove obstacles to participation and encourage members to make contributions.
  • Events and Activities: Create and facilitate events to keep members engaged.
  • Relationship and Influence: Build relationships with key members and gain influence within the community.
  • Business Integration: Advocate internally within the organization and integrate business processes with community efforts.
  • User Experience: Improve the community platforms and participation experience for members.

Before reading Millington’s book, I would not have described the work I’m doing for Arts Engage as “Community Management,” I had been describing that part of my job as being a Social Media Strategist. It wasn’t until after reading about the eight elements that I noticed that essentially I am acting as a Community Manager because I will eventually be working with the offline community as well as the online one.

Another reading for class this week was found on the FeverBee website which outlined five different types of communities:

  • Interest: Communities of people who share the same interest or passion.
  • Action: Communities of people trying to bring about change.
  • Place: Communities of people brought together by geographic boundaries.
  • Practice: Communities of people in the same profession or undertake the same activities.
  • Circumstance: Communities of people brought together by external events and/or situations.

Millington also makes a point to say that Interest communities are the hardest types to develop because it competes with our “mental leisure time.” Arts Engage does fall under the “Interest Community” label but one could argue that it also falls under “Practice Community.” Either way, I have my work cut out for me.

There were many instances while reading the first chapter where I found myself highlighting, underlining and marking the pages I found to be the most interesting or that held suggestions of what I could do to improve our presence. One of those was a step-by-step instruction on how to create a strategy for your community based on where in the four stages of a community lifecycle your organization happens to be (inception, establishment, maturity or mitosis). Even though the Arts Engage Facebook has been active for a few years, it’s still in the inception stage.

I highly recommend Millington’s book for anyone interested in community management or for ways to increase their social media presence. Happy reading!