Book Review: The Yahoo! Style Guide

Book Review: The Yahoo! Style Guide

The Yahoo! Style Guide. For my social media writing class at Quinnipiac University, we were required to purchase this book and use it as a reference.

However, instead of just referencing the guide as needed, I read it from cover to cover. And it is a fantastic guide.

Writing Online

So for most people, the act of writing online seems to mainly consist of ejecting words and hoping that they will somehow collide in a manner that is coherent or at least semi-understandable. The Yahoo! Style Guide, instead, serves to provide some well-needed guidance.

Book Review: The Yahoo! Style Guide
Cover of The Yahoo! Style Guide via Amazon

Rather than displaying seemingly antiquated grammar rules, the guide provides logical explanations. Hence as the guide says on Page 50,

“Scan an article reading only the headlines. If you can understand the flow and substance of the story, your content passed the test. If something seems confusing, you may need to rewrite the headings or even reorder some paragraphs.”

So to my mind, this makes infinite sense. Consider how quickly we all skim articles and newspapers these days, whether online or in dead tree format. Headlines and graphics grab our attention. Perhaps they are more fraught with meaning than they should be, but those are the current rules of the game. Therefore, writers on the Internet need to understand that headings, image captions and the like are important to the human reader.

In addition, and unsurprisingly, these elements are also important to machine readers, e. g. search engine bots.

Worth the Price of Admission

And then on Page 4, the guide talks about eye tracking. Yahoo! has surveyed users, and they have come up with an understanding of a general pattern as  to how people browse websites. Here’s what they said:

  • “People scan the main sections of a page to determine what it’s about and whether they want to stay longer
  • They make decisions about the page in as little as three seconds
  • If they decide to stay, they pay the most attention to the content in the upper top part of the screen”

So you’d better get your pages and posts in gear, and pay particularly close attention to headings and the content that sits above the fold. Because the guide shows you the way.

Review: 5/5 stars.

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Supercharging Your On-Line Presence

Supercharging Your On-Line Presence

Supercharging? Yes! This post is a riff on the February 2011 edition of Law Practice Today

About a thousand (er, twenty) years ago, I used to practice law. And,

supercharging
LinkedIn pen (Photo credit: TheSeafarer)

of course, things were far different then as opposed to now. But I have retained some of my old interests and connections, and would get the paper version of the ABA Journal for years after I had hung up my shingle.

Once a lot of that started to go online, I renewed my interest in any number of facets of law practice, in particular how it collides and dovetails with the Internet and, these days, Social Media.

Viral Marketing Gone Wrong

And I have seen enough tone-deaf Social Media campaigns (Able2know is rife with laughably bad viral marketing attempts, for example) to see the need for a publication like Law Practice Today to try to clear up some misconceptions and get lawyers going in a good — or at least non-harmful — online direction. What is great about this article is that it doesn’t just apply to attorneys.

Get Your Own Domain Name

The first point made in the article is: You need your own internet domain name. Well, yes. And it continues to surprise me when companies and individuals who are attempting to make a splash (or at least not appear to be totally out of it) online don’t do this. C’mon, people, domain names are cheap! Go to GoDaddy and buy one! You can direct WordPress to be posting through a domain name that has naught to do with WordPress. This is not too tough (hell, that’s what I’m doing with my blog), or you can hire someone to do this. It’s a lot, to me, like buying business cards with your actual name on them versus cards that just say “Lawyer”.

Rejuvenate Your Website

The next point is: Rejuvenate Your Website. No argument here. Stale websites are as appealing as stale bread. I am not saying that you need to update every minute or every day or even every week but I see an awful lot of abandoned blogs and websites out there — or at least they appear to be, as their most recent changes occurred in 2010. That means it’s been at least nearly two months since anyone changed them. Surely there is news, or at least even cosmetic changes would give one’s readership/potential clients a feeling that someone was minding the store.

Use a Good Profile Picture

Point number three is: Your picture is worth a thousand words. A good picture is, well, good. You might not be able to afford to hire a professional as the article suggests. That’s okay if you at least get a decent photographer friend to take a lot of pictures. How many? How’s one hundred? Lighting varies. You might not smile perfectly the first time. Your tie might be crooked. Your hair might be flying in your face. You might not be looking directly at the camera. There are any number of reasons why a photo can go wrong. And get your pal to snap photos of you in various places, doing various things, so long as they are germane to the site. For a lawyer, that could be in the office, or in front of a courthouse or in front of the office building or with colleagues or alone. After all, with a good hundred photos, you might end up with several usable ones. If there are choices in different locations, you can use them to make different points on your site.

Fill Out All About Me and Profile Pages

Point number four is: It’s All About Me. That is, create an “About Me” page. There’s a place to put a photograph or two, eh? It doesn’t have to be long, but give it a little personality. Be sensible, of course. This is probably not the place (assuming you’re a lawyer) to tout your ninja skills. But if you play tennis or have two kids or are from Omaha, by all means, those things are perfectly fine here. Otherwise, you’re just nameless, faceless Joe or Jane Lawyer — and I, as your prospective client, can find a million of them.

Give Visitors Take Aways

The next point is: Give visitors something to “take away” from your blog. Me, I write articles and I allow the reprint rights. So if my experiences can help you, then by all means reprint my articles, and I wish you well, so long as you respect my rights in the matter.

Work on SEO

The next point is: Build a (Free) Google Profile. Here’s mine. Meh, I’m not so sure it helps me so much, but that’s probably also because I’ve made SEO efforts elsewhere. Still, for an SEO beginner, or someone with a limited budget, this is easy and free and it takes nearly no time.

Here’s another point: Make Sure You Advertise on Google Local. I felt no need to do this, but I’m not trying to push ecommerce directly through my site and blog. Your mileage will, undoubtedly, vary.

LinkedIn

Next point: Be LinkedIn. Hell yeah. Here’s my LinkedIn profile. Yes, I will link to you – just send me a request. Also, I have found that LinkedIn is an excellent way to get to know people attending an event with you. If you can get a hold of the guest list in advance (and with Eventbrite, evite and others, you can), look those people up on LinkedIn. Hey, you might have something in common with them, their photo might be up so that you can recognize them and they might be someone you’d like to know, either personally or professionally.

Gather Business Intelligence

Then there’s the penultimate point: Use Social Networks To Gather Business Intelligence. People share all sorts of stuff these days. Want to know if someone is moving? Going on vacation? Selling their business? Changing jobs? A lot of that information is out there, free for the taking. And other things are out there, if you know how to dig. I’m not suggesting that you turn yourself into a creepy stalker but if a possible client is tweeting about buying land, and you’ve got a real estate practice, well, do I really have to connect the dots for you?

Tell People the News (About You or Anything Else of Interest)

Here’s the last point: Be the Evening News. The idea is, broadcast youtube-type stuff, either your own or pass along others’. Agreed, but I wouldn’t overdo this, particularly not at the expense of other types of content, which are generally easier for Google to index (and for you to get an SEO bounce from). But by all means, if it adds value (there’s a big if right there. I adore the Old Spice Guy but he does not help me on my site), add it.

The bottom line, I think is: don’t be afraid. Yes, the Internet can bite you. But it can also be quite a good friend to you

supercharging

The Top 10 Positives About Job Seeking

The Top 10 Positives About Job Seeking

Job Seeking. Sigh.

Adventures in Career Changing means job applications.

Job Seeking
Success

Beyond networking, education and research, there are just sometimes some forms to fill out. I have filled out – I have no idea how many. And while there are problems with many of these forms, there is also some good out there, along with other aspects of looking for a job these days.

#10 – Following Twitter to Find Jobs

There are all sorts of Twitter streams which showcase any number of openings. Company streams, in particular, can be a good source of leads. Make sure to watch for perhaps a week or so in order to determine whether the content is being updated frequently.

#9 – LinkedIn, Land of Opportunity

For power users of LinkedIn, there are numerous ways to look for work. One good way is to check their job listings, and apply through the site. Some openings allow you to apply directly via your LinkedIn profile. Others send you to a company’s website. But make no mistake; companies (or at least they should) check the traffic sources for the job applications they receive. And so by going to a job application directly from LinkedIn, you show that, at least in some small way, the biggest online networking site in the world matters.

#8 – LinkedIn Skills and Endorsements

If you’ve got an account on LinkedIn, surely you have seen these by now. So fill in your skills profile! And make sure to endorse other people as well, and a lot of them will reciprocate.

#7 – Scannable Resumes

Gone are the days when most resumes were eyeballed, at least to start. Because your resume is far more likely to be read by a machine before a human. So get your resume loaded up with keywords! Why? Because you’ll make the first cut, that’s why.

#6 – Personal Websites

The good, the bad and the ugly are out there. My own, for instance. Because the site is completely functional. And it comes up quickly, plus you can readily find everything on it. Finally, Google ranks it fairly well.

#5 – Clarity

Job descriptions can become very precise these days, as employers can (in part, in some instances) select software and versions from drop-downs to better communicate their needs to the job seeking public.

#4 – LinkedIn Recommendations

Unlike endorsements, these require a bit of prose. But they can be rather powerful. At the very least, you don’t want to be a job seeker who doesn’t have any. So ask! And not just your boss or former boss – ask your coworkers as well, and offer to reciprocate.

#3 – Blog

Just like this one, a candidate can use a blog to provide more information or get across personality without having to overload a resume. Savvy employers will look candidates up on social media. Why not give them something good to find?

#2 – LinkedIn Functionality

For jobs advertised on LinkedIn, for some of them, you can apply by connecting them directly to your profile. What could be easier?

#1 – Being Able to do this Online

Finally, of course, a lot of the job search still must happen in an old-fashioned manner. Interviews will, for the most part (except, perhaps, for quickie phone screens, particularly where relocation is at issue), be conducted in person. A lot of networking will still happen at events and not on LinkedIn. But a ton of it can happen in cyberspace. It makes the search far easier and faster than it ever has been.

Got any of your own gems you’d like to share?

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Getting More Twitter Followers

Getting More Twitter Followers

Getting More Twitter Followers.

Oh, it’s the Holy Grail, isn’t it? Getting more people to follow you, and

Getting More Twitter Followers
twitter icon 9a (Photo credit: marek.sotak)

moving that magical Twitter followers number up, up and ever upwards, to stratospheric heights. And, even more importantly, increasing it to more than the number of people you’re following (more on that later).

Social Media Today weighed in on this, and I support their ideas but would love to expand up them in this post. Here’s what they had to say about Twitter followers and increasing their numbers.

Quality vs. Quantity

First off, they point out that it’s not quantity, it’s quality. Well, yeah. Kinda. However, various Twitter graders (such used to be found on HubSpot – now they provide a website grader) did give more credit for having more followers. Were these graders meaningful? Kinda, sorta.

HubSpot admitted that they did give some weight to the actual numbers. I am not averse to actual numbers being used as a part of the grading system. They are, after all, somewhat objective. But does any of it have a meaning? Probably, mainly, to fellow social media marketing-type folk. But if you were to tout your grade to anyone not into it, they’d probably look at you as if you had three heads (my apologies, HubSpot).

Who Do You Want to Follow You?

So onto the techniques. (1) Think about who you want your Twitter followers to be – like with any other idea, you need to have some sort of a plan. If you want to sell landscaping services, it would help to target homeowners and gardeners, yes? And in your area, right? You might get John from Cincinnati but unless you’re in the Cincinnati area, forget it. John may be wonderful, but his following you is of little help to you. Social Media Today‘s suggestion is to go after directories like We Follow. Agreed, and possibly also go after local groups of people. As in, put your Twitter handle on your business cards. You’re mainly going to be handing those to local folk, so there’s a match there.

(2) Complete your profile – this is a no-brainer and I have no idea why people don’t do this as it takes very little time. And, while you’re at it, add a photograph. Make it of your face, or of the company logo if the profile is shared.

Return the Favor

(3) Follow others – sure, but don’t do so indiscriminately. At some point, you will hit maybe 2,000 following. However, if your own Twitter followers are nowhere near as high, you’ll mainly look like a spammer (e. g. an account indiscriminately following whoever).

The easiest way to assure that a more balanced ratio is maintained is to get into the habit of doing it now, before you have to care about it. Therefore, don’t just follow back everyone who follows you, unless you’ve got a good reason to do so. A lot of accounts will follow and then unfollow in a day or so if you haven’t followed back. You most likely don’t want these followers anyway. So, unless they are appealing for some other reason, don’t bother with them. Might I also suggest pruning? If someone isn’t following you back and they aren’t that interesting, uh, why are you following them again?

You’re Not the Only One

(4) It’s not about you – agreed. I may tweet (on occasion) about shoveling snow, but the bottom line is, I know that’s not fascinating to most people. You have a new blog post? Tweet about it. The company landed a new contract? Tweet about it. The laws are changing in your area? Well, you get the idea.

(5) Hashtag, retweet, and reply – that is, pay attention to other people. How would they best be able to find your stuff? Would you want them to retweet your stuff? Then retweet theirs. Comment, reply, engage. Be involved with the Twitter community.

(6) Add people to lists – of course. But use those lists! I’ve been on Twitter longer than there have been lists, and I originally just followed everyone. When I started listing them, I began coming up with people who I didn’t know at all, at least not on the surface. Hence I created a list just called Who Are These People? and began investigating them further. I kept a lot of them, but a lot were sent to the great Twitter post in the sky. And that’s okay. Because it goes back to an original principle: follow who you want to follow, and don’t just auto-follow.

Get Personal

(7) Welcome your new Twitter followers – personally, I’m not a fan of this one, as I have seen all manner of automated “thanks for following me” messages. There’s nothing wrong with a “thanks for following me” tweet every now and then. Those are nice. Just try not to be too mechanical about it.

(8) Integrate, integrate, integrate – that is, like with any other form of social media engagement, put it everywhere. How many times do people have to see something online before they take action? Seven? Nine? Then get your twitter handle out there. Use it in signature lines, on business cards and, heck, even write it on name tags.

Does it all work? Sure it does. And it’s a lot more in the spirit of Twitter than just getting some generic and spammy auto-following list to add your handle, briefly, to their list of who to follow. Don’t be that guy. Be someone who you would want to follow.

For more information, see the January 10, 2011 edition of Social Media Today.

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SEO, continued

SEO continued (Search Engine Optimization) Strategy)

Yesterday I put together more of an SEO strategy.

SEO continued (Search Engine Optimization) Strategy)

This is tabs and tabs of an Excel spreadsheet as I think about what I really want to do with all of this.

It’s becoming more obvious is that I’ve got major ambitions and there aren’t enough hours in a day in which I can accomplish them. To really make a good site, a beautifully designed one with awesome SEO and kick-bun content, means engaging something like 50 people to do it.

Egad. I’m organized and I’m energetic and I’ve got time these days, but I’m not 50 people.

This is a source of a bit of stress, to be sure, but it’s also a challenge. How can I leverage what I’ve already got? How can I use my organizational skills to make things easier on myself? How can I set up some things which will run on their own, thereby saving me time? What’s the timing of, well, of all of it?

I’m very excited about this whole venture. I actually got a little Google traffic yesterday! Yay!

I’ve only been on Google for maybe 3 days. Holy cow. This stuff really works.

I have a billion things to do. Oh and I’m running in a 5K in a week. If I could do web development while running, I would.

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Guerilla Marketing by Jay Conrad Levinson, a Book Review

Guerilla Marketing by Jay Conrad Levinson

Guerilla Marketing by Jay Conrad Levinson is the concept of succeeding in a small business by essentially paying attention to details and doing many things yourself. Simple ideas, perhaps, but they often seem to be missed.

Some of this may be self-evident.

English: guerilla marketing - heb עברית: שיווק...
English: guerilla marketing – heb עברית: שיווק גרילה (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After all, a small business, almost by definition, does not have a lot of capital just lying around. Often everything needs to be done by an impressively small cadre of workers. Yet we also live in a society where it appears as if many more people than ever before really just want to pay someone to take care of whatever needs to be done. Yet that is wrong-headed.

 

Levinson’s mantra is that it’s not necessary to invest a lot of money if you’re willing to instead invest time, energy, imagination and information. And, I might add, patience and attention. For a small business owner, this means having a passion about what you do. All too often, it seems, entrepreneurs get into a particular field because they cannot find a more traditional means of employment (the economy has been rather sour for the past few years) or they are chucking a traditional job but without a vision or a plan. Neither method will work for long because the entrepreneur’s heart is not in it.

What the entrepreneur needs — beyond the details of how to work a crowd or give a talk — is to be enthused and passionate about what he or she is doing or selling. Going through the motions is simply not going to cut it. Since the entrepreneur is one of the only faces of the company (and, perhaps, it’s only face), the entrepreneur has got to be jazzed to be presenting, talking, handing out business cards, performing demonstrations, writing copy, etc.

 

If the entrepreneur is excited, the prospects can be as well. All in all, an interesting read, and good for the detailed tips, but a more current version would have been a better choice.

Rating

1/5

Work at WebTekPro

Work at WebTekPro

I was hired by this Houston web design company in December of 2014.

The story of my being hired is a bit amusing.

Work at WebTekProFor the past few months, I have been performing various social media tasks for a Star Trek podcast called, ‘The G and T Show’. This entails things like live tweeting the Sunday shows, preparing interesting lists and notes for Facebook, optimizing blog posts, adding appropriate annotations to YouTube, crafting pins for Pinterest and posts for Tumblr, and growing all social media presences. It’s been challenging, fun, and rewarding.

Along the way, any number of Star Trek professionals are interviewed, including legend Larry Nemecek. Nemecek has been interviewed several times, but this time it was in conjunction with an effort called Enterprise in Space. It was a group interview, and that included Johnny Steverson, the Chief Development Officer. Steverson was impressed with the interview and with this small podcast’s social media presence. He asked the hosts, “Who does your social media?

We talked less than two weeks later, and I was hired. I’m an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Specialist. I like the work.

Quinnipiac Assignment 04 – ICM501 – Search and Algorithmic Surfacing

Search and Algorithmic Surfacing

In Google We Trust

We trust Google. Or, at least, it seems that way.

Quinnipiac Assignment 04 – ICM501 – Search and Algorithmic Surfacing In Search Engine Society (pp. 85-117).

Cambridge, UKPolity Press. [Library Catalog Entry | Posted to “Course Materials” on Blackboard], Lavais says, “In examining how adolescents search the web, one research study (Guinee, Eagleton, & Hall 2003) noted their reactions to failed searches. Searchers might try new keywords, or switch search engines, for example. One common reaction was to change the topic, to reframe the question in terms of what was more easily findable via the search engine. The models of search suggest that searchers satisfice: look for sufficiently good answers rather than exhaustively seek the best answer. Because of this, the filters of the search engine may do more than emphasize certain sources over others; they may affect what it is we are looking for in the first place. It is tempting simply to consider this to be poor research skills – or worse, a form of technical illiteracy – but simple answers do not fit this complex problem.” (Page 87)

Whether we search for a local pizza parlor or the best place to go on vacation or for a gynecologist, search engine rankings and how webmasters address Google’s complicated algorithm all shape what we see. Inevitably, we end up trusting these results. Yet are they the best possible results? I would argue that they often are not.

Bestsellers and White Hats That Might Be a Little Grey

Consider the case of New York Times bestselling authors. Google the term new york times bestselling author, and you’ll get the actual list and two Wikipedia entries and then you’ll get the website of Carly Phillips (www.carlyphillips.com/). Just below that is a Forbes article about how to buy your way onto the list.

Wait … Carly who?

I went through the first ten pages of results (further along than most seekers would) and didn’t see JK Rowling, George RR Martin, or Stephen King. I do not believe it is search fraud or any other form of black hat SEO. As was written by Battelle, J. (2005). The search economy. In The search: How Google and its rivals rewrote the rules of business and transformed our culture (pp. 153-188). New York: Portfolio.  [Posted to “Course Materials” on Blackboard], “Among the first-tier companies – Google, Yahoo, Microsoft – search fraud is already taken extremely seriously, and efforts to combat it are intensifying. ‘We’ll never rum a blind eye to this,’ says Patrick Giordani, who runs loss prevention at Yahoo’s Overture subsidiary. ‘Our goal is to stop it all.’” (Page 188). Like I wrote, I don’t think that’s what is happening here.

If Phillips can get to the top of search rankings, then more power to her, assuming that she gets there using white hat techniques only. But just because she hits the top of the search results says nothing about the quality of her prose or even the number of times she’s hit the New York Times bestseller list.

The New York Times bestseller list was, for years, considered to be an objective measurement of popularity (and not necessarily quality). But when EL James (author of Fifty Shades of Grey) doesn’t make it to the top ten pages of search results, that has got to make you wonder. When Phillips can get there via search engine magic, then that says more about the quality of her SEO than of her fiction writing. For seekers who accept the first few results without question (albeit possibly after rewording their searches a few times), the algorithm is pushing content to them that isn’t necessarily truly serving their interests. And, much like we saw with recommender systems, that might even be driving users’ reviews and maybe even their personal preferences.

Quinnipiac Assignment #08 – NESN SEO

Quinnipiac Assignment #08 – NESN SEO

Once again, I reviewed NESN. But this time, it was in order to understand a few basic SEO (Search Engine Optimization) choices that their management had made.

Programmatic Decisions

I strongly suspect that NESN has some form of fancy programming behind their online page creation. NESN SEO just seems to be way too good.

If I were to guess, I would say that their program (possibly developed in house) scrapes the title of a submitted article, wraps it in H1 tags and copies it to the meta descriptions. That same article title is the basis for that particular page’s custom URL. Hence the article, A.J. Pierzynski Designated For Assignment; Christian Vazquez Joins Red Sox is connected to the following custom URL: http://nesn.com/2014/07/a-j-pierzynski-designated-for-assignment-christian-vazquez-to-start-wednesday/ The page title is: A.J. Pierzynski Designated For Assignment; Christian Vazquez Joins Red Sox | Boston Red Sox | NESN.com. The meta description for that same page is: The Boston Red Sox shook up their situation behind the plate in a big way Wednesday. Manager John Farrell confirmed to WEEI‘s “Dale and Holley” that the team has designated veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski for assignment and promoted 23-year-old Christian Vazquez from Triple-A Pawtucket. Finally, the keywords were: a.j. pierzynski, christian vazquez, christian vasquez, boston red sox, red sox catcher, a.j. pierzynski released, a.j. pierzynski dfa, red sox prospects, christian vazquez promotion, christian vazquez red sox.

Quinnipiac Assignment #08 – NESN SEO

Double quotation marks truncate meta descriptions. This meta description was no exception – in Google search, it simply reads: “A.J. Pierzynski Designated For AssignmentChristian VazquezJoins … Sox shook up their situation behind the plate in a big way Wednesday.” (Note: the bolding comes from Google itself).

The Power of Programming

NESN SEO programmatic work (if that’s what  it is) was just great. Pages are named properly. The URL structure is organic and easy to follow. The meta descriptions are generally excellent (the double quotation marks in my sample were probably the doing of the article writer. Perhaps the program should be refined to replace all instances of double quotation marks with single marks?) and are enticing to human searchers because they are written by professional writers.

With a programmatic solution, NESN can get this work done quickly and turn around better online product for more abbreviated deadlines. Having the computer system do this does not require writers to master SEO beyond the basics of naming their articles properly and making sure that the keywords in the titles show up with those articles.

Even better, any time the theory of SEO changes, there only has to be one change made at NESN. Simply (probably not so simple!) tweak the program to accommodate any changes, test it, and roll it out. All without missing  a deadline.

Conclusion

NESN continues to impress. NESN SEO is great. NESN.com is a well-crafted website. No wonder it’s an advertising cash cow.