Monthly Archives: October 2013

How to Make Your Blog ‘Visible’ via SEO

When it comes to driving new traffic to your blog, search engine optimization (SEO) is a very important aspect. SEO allows content managers to match blog posts with what a user is searching for. But choosing the right keywords takes a bit of skill and varies depending on what type of content is being produced.

There are four areas on a webpage where keywords should be utilized:

  1. Title tags
  2. Description tags
  3. Page’s content/text
  4. Alternative tags on images
Screen Shot 2013-09-30 at 5.10.23 PM

Although build for advertising, Google’s AdWords is very useful when it comes to search engine optimization.
Screenshot taken by Zachary J. Prutzman.

This also represents the order of importance. Search engines will place priority on keywords within the title over keywords located in the page’s text.

 

Deciding on Keywords

As you’re deciding which keywords to use, there are a few things to consider.

First, make sure that the keywords are relevant to your post. Keyword spamming is a technique that many bloggers use, thinking that by typing in popular terms it will direct traffic to their page. Blogsuccessjournal.com states that keyword spamming will give your blog “a ticket to nowhere.”

Also, using 50-100 keywords is not a good idea. Less is more. Keep the keywords as specific to your post as possible. This lets the search engine know that the content is what the user is looking for.

Be aware of how long your keyword phrases are. One word (such as ‘SEO’) is going to have a lot of competition; seven or eight words (such as ‘Optimizing Your Blog For Twitter and Facebook’) is going to be very specific. Positionly says it’s good to find a balance in the area of 2-3 words; this way, it is relevant to your website and does not have as much competition as a one-word search.

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Even when typing “breaking news,” make sure to slow down and optimize your post.
Photo taken by HansKristian. All rights reserved.

One way to measure your competition for keywords is by using Google’s AdWorks. This was created for advertising, but can be utilized for any website. By typing in keywords, you can see how many global and local searches occur each month for that specific keyword. For more on how to use AdWorks, visit Today Made.

When talking to Sean Keeley, creator of Nunesmagician.com, he noted that not all posts should be treated equally when it comes to SEO. Keeley stressed that when writing about breaking news, he is very concerned with having keywords in the right place (such as the title). But, when Keeley is trying to be funny (the tone that a majority of his blog-posts use), it is necessary to keep a voice that represents this. Keywords should no longer be forced into your posts – it needs to feel natural.

While keywords are important in bringing new users to your site, remember to maintain your voice. Optimize your posts when necessary, but do not let it dictate your writing style. Stay original.

Learning from Community Manager Pros

Last week’s Online Content Panel Google+ Hangout was probably my favorite class session to date. Having professionals from the community manager community dialogue with our class provided for unique insight that I have not gotten from anywhere else. The two speakers during this hangout were Ally Greer (@allygreer), the community manager at Scoop.it, and Sean Keely (@NunesMagician), the founder of the popular Syracuse sports blog, “Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician.”

Countdowns are a great way to keep your audience curious and engaged.

Countdowns are a great way to keep your audience curious and engaged.

Although she hardly touched on it, I loved that Ally got her start with Scoop.it as an intern during her study abroad semester in Paris, France. I also studied abroad in Paris, which has an underrated tech and social scene. Not only does this excite me because of my own dreams to one day move back to Paris, but proves how global content management companies are and how community management work can be done anywhere in the world. Aside from her international experience, what I found most helpful from Ally was her discussion of “learning on the job.” There is only so much you can learn from a classroom. No matter how much preparation is involved, so much of being a community manager is being able to respond to scenarios in the moment and deal with problems as they come. Ally is a true example of this mentality, and it is things like #CMGRClass that provide tools that would be helpful in such scenarios.

Sean Keely's Twitter feed, where he is highly engaged with his audience and often uses as a source for new content.

Sean Keely’s Twitter feed, where he is highly engaged with his audience and often uses as a source for new content.

I found Sean’s story to be rather unique. Unlike Ally, he first (unknowingly) created a following, just by writing what he loved. It was only after the blog’s reach grew that he saw there was community to be managed. I find this “reverse” way of getting involved with community management to be very unique and thus, speaks to the niche nature of Sean’s audience. Sean capitalizes on this uniqueness by generating content through his fans — incorporating their content as guest posts, picking up on trending topics through comments and social media, etc. Sean’s method shows how community management does not have to be intimidating or overwhelming. For smaller brands, community management is rather simple and does not even require a ton of tools or resources (which may be the case for larger, more corporate brands).

Thanks Ally and Sean for chatting with us!

 

 

Lessons from Moderating: User-Generated Content (UGC)

I was one of two moderators for this week of class when we discussed User-Generated Content, otherwise known as UGC. Here are some lessons I gathered from the community discussions on how to best approach UGC.

You can’t force it

There seemed to be a strong consensus in the class that the best UGC is natural, not forced. If you want to take advantage of good press and try to turn it into UGC, it might not be the best option. It would take a lot of work to encourage that UGC, and you may not get the quality you want.  But when people organically want to contribute, that’s what you’re getting somewhere.

Accept that you have less control… But set clear expectations.

Content is always the #1 priority, but human writing and storytelling through author personality is what will make your content interesting and different. Don’t stifle personality with perfectionism. You don’t want bad writing on your blog, period. Content, quality, style, and tone should be fully understood by your and your UGC creators.

Kelly’s prompt on the G+ community promoted a great discussion about this topic, and there were awesome answers by my classmates. Set yourself up for UGC success by vetting your content creators properly: set clear quality standards and get to know your UGC creator’s skills before you promise them a feature.

Less for you, more for your community

If you have users writing well for you, not only do you have more time to devote to other tasks to growing your community, but you are giving you and your audience more to talk about. More writers can mean more perspectives, and if those writers are good, it can increase the reach, quality, and engagement of your community. This was something that was addressed frequently in our G+ Hangout with Sean Keely and Ally Greer.

#1 lesson on UGC from Moderating: Be Patient.

Moderating was much more difficult that I thought. I’m not a patient person, and moderation is a huge test of patience.

If I could go back, I would have written much less in the discussions. It was hard to be patient and let others write, especially when sometimes the wait was several hours before anyone commented.

By the end of the week, I began to understand the rhythm of the community. Most people start commenting and posting in the evenings. This makes sense: people are done with classes and are home from being on campus all day.

This is a struggle that all communities have to go through: you can’t start a community and the next day ask for UGC. It’s a natural step in the evolution of a community, and you must be patient in growing it. If you’re patient and focus on engaging your audience, you might reach the point of UGC.

 

Community Management According to Community Managers

Though we’ve certainly touched on and learned the basics of community management in the last several weeks, it was unquestionably more enriching to have Ally Greer and Sean Keely speak to our class and address what had otherwise been a concept confined in our readings. Hearing their experiences with community management helped contextualize everything else we’d learned this unit.

Takeaways from hearing Ally Greer speak:

Ally mentioned that, prior to being hired, she didn’t even know what being a community manager meant. She said that she had to discover and learn her responsibilities on-the-job, specifically by looking at other bloggers and community managers for guidance. The nature of the Internet lends itself to that kind of self-teaching, given that everything moves so much faster on the Web; the best people to learn from are your contemporaries and competitors.

One of the more interesting points that Ally made was that being a user of a product doesn’t automatically make one a member of that community. Through her work for Scoop.it, she had an easier head start with building a community, mainly in that she already had a built-in community to start with. Her plan to turn the top percentage of their users into “ambassador communities” definitely helped jump-start the process, all the while making her community members feel instantly included.

Takeaways from hearing Sean Keely speak:

I thought it was interesting that Sean had to start his blog first—and then go back and manage his community. He had a chance to really establish his voice first, which must have helped with going back and deciding what sort of tone to take on with his community. Compared to Ally, Sean had to build his community from the ground up, starting first with himself and then drawing people in with content that had to be niche enough to draw that kind of audience, but engaging enough to keep people there.

I find Sean’s tactic of incorporating “fan posts” onto the blog a smart move. It’s a low-risk strategy to get content on his site, providing everyday users with an outlet for writing where their visibility is in their hands. At the same time, it’s a smart means of finding new blood and bringing new staff writers to his blog. It builds his brand both ways.

Altogether, participating in the panel helped me understand what community management really entails and how to apply it in a real-world context.

Content may be King, but Curation is Golden

Once you have a well-established social community, it is difficult to maintain it. A community manager then needs to curate compelling content — the best quality & the most relevant —  in order to keep their audience engaged. The beauty of curated content is that it can serve as the perfect compliment to your self-generated content, allowing for new content without the extra cost. Think about it — millions of users are posting on social networks every minute, giving a community manager endless opportunities to find unique content. Don’t forget to link back to the original source — it is common courtesy!

Here’s a great example from Life is Good:

lifeisgood

 

Like I mentioned, there are millions of users are posting on social networks every minute.

Insert panic mode here.

It is nearly impossible to effectively curate content without using tools to help you manage the overflow of user-generated content. Here are Teresa Dankowski’s (Content Marketing Manager at Cision) “5 Tools to Help With Content Curation:”

  • Storify — Finds the most relevant content on a variety of platforms: Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, & Instagram; search function for content discovery
  • Triberr – Communities of bloggers & influencers organized into niche categories
  • NewsCred – Newsroom service that provides access to licensed articles, images & video; curation technology powered by an editorial team
  • Social Monitoring tools – Scour social networks for keywords and mentions; HootSuite & Radian6 are two popular options

Personally, I have also worked with RebelMouse and the social monitoring tool Spredfast. RebelMouse is very similar to Storify, but RebelMouse offers more than just curation and serves as its own content management system. Muck Rack* is also a wonderful way to find unique content, as its Pro search features only pull mentions from verified journalists and bloggers on Twitter.

Example of a media search for “Syracuse University” on Muck Rack Pro:

Screen shot 2013-09-23 at 8.29.42 PM

Successful content curation, then, is about combining these two philosophies: finding unique content and using tools to find and post such content. Mashable’s “5 Tips for Great Content Curation” sum it up best:

  1. Be Part of the Content Ecosystem — Be both a content maker and a content curator.
  2. Follow a Schedule — People take comfort in knowing when to expect something from you.
  3. Embrace Multiple Platforms — Your audience lives on a variety of platforms, so you should too.
  4. Engage and Participate — Show your audience there is an actual human being behind the platform, give your networks a voice.
  5. Share. Don’t Steal. — As I mentioned earlier, attribution is common courtesy! No one likes a thief.

*Disclaimer: I am a former Muck Rack employee.

 

My Week as a Moderator

I went a whole week as a Moderator for #CMGRClass. I learned a lot about how to effectively manage a community and about how you must be on top of your community to make sure things are running smoothly. As a Moderator I felt the biggest lesson learned was time management. This was a good lesson in how to balance my time between working, school, and managing the G+ community for an entire week.

One of the most important articles that I posted was about how to be a successful community manager. This article was really effective as it had tips about the 12 most common things to do while running a community. I personally think that making connections and establishing relationships is key to success. Building relationships is what will keep your community going and your analytics will impress your manager.

Analytics

During the week that I was Moderator there was a great article titled How to Craft a Blog Post.  The article had 12 points from an experienced blogger about issues he had ran into when blogging. This article had a decent amount of discussion about what the most effective key point was. I believed that the most important point was quality control, where even one small mistake can effect your credibility in your readers eyes. One comment that stuck out to me was from iSchool Professor Kelly Lux, that “The title is SO important!”. Professor Lux brought up a great point that the most traffic on blogs comes from titles that are “keyword rich, or are those that answer ask or answer a Q”.

Overall, I think that my week as a moderator went well. There was a lot of great participation from the students of #CMGRClass. Each had their own opinions which helped keep the conversation flowing.  Using Google + for moderation was a great tool as it helped me keep track of who responded to my posts. I also liked the fact that Google + allowed me to almost instantly push a post to my audience within seconds.

I ran into issues with time management during my week of moderating. Like everybody says “there is not enough time in the day”. I tried to balance work, school, and moderating, this was extremely difficult to balance and taught me a lesson on how to balance my time evenly. I learned that moderating and being a successful Community Manager is harder than it looks, and it takes a lot of experience.

 

How to Be A Community Manager by Community Managers

Coming into this class, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t 100% sure what a community manager was or what they do on a day to day basis as a job.  Three or four weeks into the class, and I had a little bit stronger of a grasp on the concept, but not enough to say that I know what they do everyday.  All of this changed when we had the Google+ Hangout panel with Sean Keeley and Ally Greer.  Hearing directly from people that are managing communities every day helped me truly understand what I’d be doing if I decided to pursue community management as a career.

Scoop.it

One thing that stuck out to me about Ally’s contribution to the panel was the way she got into the position at Scoop.it and what she does on a day to day basis.  She got her job with Scoop.it in a relatively unconventional manner, and said she didn’t really know what community management was when she got the job.  I thought that was interesting because it made me feel better about myself in this class because I still didn’t understand exactly what it meant.

Ally went on to explain that not only does she handle social media and content curation, which is all I thought community managers do, but she also deals with customer support and questions, which is something I did at a previous internship.  That stuck out to me because it made me think that even though I wouldn’t consider myself to be a community manager, I do have some community management experience.

The biggest takeaway I found from Ally was that community management encompasses much more than just social media, which is what I thought when I first signed up for this class, and I’m sure other people thought as well.  The second thing I took away is that many people probably have some experience managing a community, whether they realize it or not.

Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician

What interested me most about what Sean who manages Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician, (a Syracuse sports blog) had to say was about how he appeals to his audience.  I think Sean knows his audience and what they’ll be interested in so well because he’s just as interested.  You can see the passion for sports, specifically Syracuse sports, in his blog.  This is important because his audience is also people with a strong passion for Syracuse sports.

One thing that he said is that he writes for himself, which was interesting to me, because why would you write anything for other people to read if you wouldn’t read it or weren’t passionate about it yourself.  Content only turns out as good as the knowledge you have about it, so the more you know and love what you’re creating, the better the content will be, and the more your audience will respond and respect it.

Some Words of Wisdom on Content Creation

For class this week we had two panel guests – Ally Greer, Community Manager at Scoopit, and Sean Keeley, blogger extraordinaire. Keeping in line with the current theme of the class, content, much wisdom was shared regarding content creation.

Scoopit

Scoopit, the it curation platform, currently boasts five million unique users in eleven months – making it one of the largest and most connected curation publishing platforms out there. Ally Greer, living the dream of many young professionals, wound up in her current position via an internship in Paris, one that eventually transitioned into a full time position at the Scoopit San Francisco offices. Tackling the issue of content creation and what it means for a company like Scoopit, which doesn’t exactly create content, Greer discussed where the focus lies: lean content. Martin Smith, Director of Marketing at Atlantic BT, even went as far as to dub Scoopit’s strategy as “The Lean Content Movement” in a February blog post. According to the Scoopit team, lean content is “Resources, tools, tips, and tricks for the most efficient use of content with the minimum use of resources.”

In an age where content is abundant and creation is a time/resource consuming affair, Scoopit has found the way to stay on top. This very methodology was echoed in Greer’s remarks at the panel, ones that truly define Scoopit’s content creation strategy: curation is the substitute for creation. Thus, a user of Scoopit will find that they have the ability to not just share their favorites with others, but that they can go one step further and edit the content to give it meaning.

 Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician

Sean Keeley on the other hand, employs a more fundamental strategy to content creation: he writes for himself. Keeley started blogging as a hobby, writing about sports in a way he found was lacking on other blogs. Today he likes to pride his blog, Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician, as the go-to place for Syracuse University sports and community happenings. Even though his basis is a regional entity (Syracuse sports), Keeley feels that his community is not tied down to upstate NY. He takes a topical approach to content creation, keeping his community coming back for the quality of the content, regardless of location. When discussing how he writes for his particular niche of the community, Keeley straight up says, “I write for myself.” For those struggling with content creation this is fantastic advice. Content should reflect the writer’s/brand’s personality and above all else should be consistent with who you are. This is especially true in Keeley’s case, who started blogging specifically to fill a void that he needed filled. Thus, he now produces quality writing that he would want to read in an ideal blog and the users that share that vision keep on coming back!

 

In terms of writing process, Keeley usually plays it fast and loose, but uses different techniques depending on the topic at hand. If for example, there’s a breaking story, he’ll pay attention to attributes like SEO (to make sure his post surfaces over the various others about the same story), but also work fast to get the story out there. Whereas, if it’s a subject Keeley has more leeway with, he’ll take his time and have fun with the writing. As of late, Keeley admits to widening his subject scope, writing a lot about women’s sports and underrated sports like soccer. Using site comments and social media as a gauge for interest, Keeley is able to determine what exactly his users want to read. For example, he keeps tabs on which of his content gets shared most frequently and generates notable feedback to further determine which topics he covers. Going more in detail about how he views social media, Keeley describes Facebook as his traffic driver and twitter as the conversation tool. Keeley is an especially avid twitterer however, passing along and sharing links to noteworthy stories even if he doesn’t personally write about them.

Takeaways

We heard from two very different individuals with two different approaches to content creation, but it was useful advice nonetheless! For Greer and Scoopit, the lean content approach works perfectly for their company and business model. Whereas, Keeley keeps his community interested by writing for himself.

I wonder though, how it would be if the approaches were reversed. How would Scoopit be different if the content generators based curation on personal preferences? How would the blog’s reception be if Keeley focused on curating rather than creating?

Highlights from an Online Content Panel

Image Courtesy of Richard Stephenson.

Last week our #CMGRclass had a chance to remotely sit down and chat with Ally Greer and Sean Keeley, Community Managers from Scoop.it and Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician. The last four weeks of content had been building to this moment: we were going to be able to see everything we had been reading and writing on transfer into the “real world.”

“I have a unique story on how I got into Community Management…”

I’m always curious about how people get their jobs. I love hearing people’s stories and I love seeing their faces light up when they talk about how connecting with one person led them to discover “X” which is why they’re at “Y” and how they’re hoping to accomplish “Z.” What I liked the most about Ally Greer’s story is how she started it, “I have a unique story.” Greer explained that while she was studying abroad in Paris she did an internship at Scoop.it where she assisted them by giving them her “American viewpoint.” After graduating college she was asked to join their team in San Francisco and has been working for them for the last year and a half. Greer says that she spends her days looking through blog posts, investigating how other Community Managers operate and “learning through observing.”

“I was looking for a reason to write every day…”

Like with Greer’s story, I was curious to learn more about what drove Keeley. Why did he start a blog, why is it about sports – is there a reason it’s about sports? Keeley explained that he wasn’t “particularly into sports writing” but decided to start a blog that would allow him to write whatever he wanted to write about. And that is how Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician was created. He jokes that “as a name it doesn’t make sense” but that the blog started out as a hobby in 2005 and now in 2013, almost 2014, he says that it’s pretty much the main thing he works on every day. He explained that the site is not how he supports himself financially but that everything that has come after the site is what has allowed him to pay the bills.

It was really interesting to see how two Community Managers approach the same job differently. Greer was thrust into it not really sure of what to do or how to go about running things and now she helps maintain their social media and is in charge of the ambassadors. Keeley originally wanted something to do that would allow him to write every day and didn’t think too much about what others wanted to read – he focused on what interested him. Hearing that reminded me of an earlier reading in the semester where we learned that one of the ways to have a successful blog or single posting is to make sure you are interested in what you are talking about.

Listening to their stories made me consider where I would like to go with the work I’m doing as Production Coordinator for SU Arts Engage. Part of my job is maintaining a presence on social media, Twitter and Facebook more than anything else, and we’re always looking to grow our audience. Every event we do we have a hashtag that we monitor and we ask for feedback and a like on our Facebook page if they liked what they saw. At the same time as wanting our audience to grow, I’m reminded of something Greer said, “just because you have 100,000 users doesn’t necessarily mean you have 100,000 users.” Find the core group of interested members of your organization and hold on to them tightly – because they are going to be the ones to get others interested.

User Generated Content: Enhancing Your Online Experience

People always want to fit in – even if it means standing out. That is the philosophy behind User Generated Content (UGC). This content allows users to be a part of a community, while still being able to voice their opinion. It encourages interaction and the distribution of information – all of which better the users’ experience. And UGC is constantly growing… but does it have any drawbacks? And how can it be improved?

Going Up?

Statistics show that UGC has been skyrocketing in recent years. A study by eMarketer shows that 70% of internet users are consumers of UGC. Most of this UGC is composed of blogs and social media.

frank

Social media sites have allowed people to voice their opinion to the masses, no matter where they are in the world.
Photo property of Zachary J. Prutzman. All rights reserved.

According to the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development, there are three main returns that the content’s owner is looking for:

  1. connecting with people
  2. expressing oneself
  3. recognition of the owner’s work

Blogs and social media fill these returns perfectly, as you are posting and receiving feedback, which is why they are the most widely-used forms of sourcing UGC.

UGC is powerful in drawing new viewers to a website. This is because the content’s owner is promoting their work outside of the site that is hosting the content. Telefonica Research conducted a study on a variety of video-hosting sites and found that 47% of all videos having incoming links from external sites. This serves as a form of advertising for a site, and it’s free of charge.

Different Forms of UGC

User generated content can take on a variety of different forms. As stated earlier, the most popular are blogs and social media; however, there are other forms that are much more useful. Almost every website can provide a form of UGC that will be beneficial.

One manner in which UGC drives eCommerce is through product reviews. As mentioned in the article “User-Generated Content” by Niroshan Balasubramaniam, product reviews have becoming a staple in the eCommerce field, as they provide the consumer with some trust as to whether or not the product they are buying will meet their expectations.

The consumer is no longer looking at advertising distributed by the producer; rather, the consumer is receiving unbiased reviews from other users. And with the rise of sites like eBay, consumers are no longer dealing with companies shipping products; rather, they are dealing with other consumers. Reviews on sellers nullify any worries as to whether or not the seller’s product will actually reach the consumer.

More people found out about the 2004 Tsunami via blogs and social media than through conventional media such as CNN and BBC. Photo property of paragthink. All rights reserved.

More people found out about the 2004 Tsunami via blogs and social media than through conventional media such as CNN and BBC.
Photo property of paragthink. All rights reserved.

This was a problem that I ran into back when eBay was just getting started. Sellers did not have feedback, as the site was only running for a couple months. Thus, I was hesitant to purchase products until a seller had a vast amount of positive feedback. Luckily, the growth of user-involvement means that this is no longer much of a problem.

Also, UGC has been successful in producing content. Allowing guest posts on a blog provides a wide variety of content, coming from different voices, and keeps the blog fresh. No longer is there a couple of authors trying to produce content; instead, there is a whole community that is uploading information.

The success of these types of communities was evident in 2004 when a tsunami ripped through the Indian Ocean. The National Geographic found that more people were informed via blogs and social media than by CNN or BBC.

There are drawbacks to allowing guest posts, however, which will be addressed in the next section.

Things Are Running Amuck

There are many problems that are associated with UGC – some of which can invoke legal implications.

One problem with UGC is the fact that anyone could be publishing the information…
Photo property of Crezalyn Nerona Uratsuji. All rights reserved.

Users are constantly posting illegal material. Vidmeter found that nearly 10% of videos on YouTube are uploaded without the content owner’s consent. This can result in legal ramifications towards both the website and the person that illegally uploaded the content.

Also, many people have issues trusting UGC – especially when it comes to blogs. Users question whether or not those providing information on a certain topic are experts or an amateur. This is especially true for those seeking information on science and medicine, as mentioned in Balasubramaniam’s article. By only allowing experts to make guest posts, it provides higher-quality content and a sense of trust for the consumer.

These types of blogs, however, can still provide UGC without allowing guests themselves to make the post. Incorporating tweets, comments and pictures from viewers into a post makes them feel as though they are contributing. It is important, however, to make sure that you acknowledge the user for providing the content.

The Future… Don’t Be Scared

As UGC continues to rise, its future seems bright. That being said, there are already many areas that are being identified for improvement.

As companies become more and more concerned with product reviews online, a shift is being made by PR departments to curtail bad reviews. By allowing users to only see reviews from people they trust (such as their Facebook friends or experts in the field), it would drastically improve reliability.

Also, users are becoming concerned with private information posted on social media sites becoming difficult to control. Other users can tag pictures of someone, thus having it become attached to your name.

Many companies have found it difficult to monetize sites that provide UGC, as most of these sites are trends that eventually phase out. Improvements are being sought as to how monetizing these sites is possible.

Have no fear, however. UGC is improving vastly every day, and is making your online experience much more pleasurable. By finding which form of UGC will best complement your website, you can improve your customer’s experience and drive more traffic to your site.