Google Advertising Tools by Harold Davis is one of those O’Reilly books, so it’s got an animal on the cover. This one is some sort of lemur or monkey. Not that that has anything to do with the subject matter but it ends up much nicer than the O’Reilly books with scary insects on their covers. Ick.
But I digress.
The book concerns, unsurprisingly, Google AdWords and AdSense, but it also talks about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and the process of driving traffic to a website. Davis dispenses with the idea of adding significant article marketing-type content. So he instead focuses in on getting your site onto directories. He also does not seem to get behind requests for backlinks. He does not seem to go for the other kinds of authority enhancements which seem to go in and out of style these days.
Davis also covers affiliate programs, such as Amazon and the like. For example, if you happen to check out the link to purchase the book from this blog entry, you will see an affiliate link in action. He also covers sponsored and contextual advertising.
Hence the book probably would have been better titled Advertising on the Internet. Because it explains far more than Google’s offerings. And it goes into far more detail.
While this book was not strictly about Social Media, any Social Media Marketer worth his or her salt should at least make a concentrated effort to understand online advertising. Because optimizing sites for advertising often helps to optimize them for other purposes as well. And these include important to tasks driving web traffic and even making conversions or sales. Important to the bottom line? Absolutely. Google Advertising Tools by Harold Davis is a worthy addition to the web developer’s library.
The book is less of a how-to and more of a why-to, if that makes sense. If you’re looking for code examples, look elsewhere. Instead, the book covers theory and explains how and why certain tasks need to be done.
Essentially, any social site, whether in the shape of forums or something else, faces the following user hurdles:
Pay attention – users need to have an idea that they want your software, product, services, etc.
Decision to sign up
Input personal information
Pay money (if applicable)
Decide for someone else (if applicable)
Give up the old way of doing things
Back Up a Second
Frankly, there’s even one item before #1, call it #0 if you will: the potential user must understand that he or she has a need. And, hand in hand with that, the potential user also needs to decide to fulfill that need online. Hence if a potential user, say, decides that they want support because they’ve just gotten a cancer diagnosis, but they further decide to only get their support via an in-person group and not an online board then, so far as you’re concerned, it’s game over. After all, not everyone “gets” the social aspect of the web.
Get Over Those Hurdles
Joshua Porter covers the handling of some of these basic hurdles, such as designing to favor signing up and hanging around. One main point he makes is: don’t make signing up too arduous a task. And its corollary: don’t ask for information you don’t need. Far too often, sites ask for what ends up being ludicrous levels of granularity of detail. After all, when was the last time that anyone, really, needed your middle name for you to apply for a job? Yet sites ask for this trivial piece of data. And, even if they don’t require it, that begs the question even further. Why is the field even there in the first place if the site so openly acknowledges that it’s just plain unnecessary?
Eight Seconds to Impress
Porter makes the point all too forcefully: the decision to sign up for an online service is made in eight seconds. That’s an awfully short window of opportunity to convince a potential user that his or her time and attention should go to you and not your competition.
The book abounds with these kinds of helpful nuggets, and is also chockful of references to blogs and books to support the author’s recommendations. The generous sprinkling of citations was helpful as it was a clear signpost suggesting online readings. It can seem counterintuitive to learn about designing for the web by reading a completely offline book. Porter’s work bridges the gap back to the web and lets the reader in on where to find more information situated a lot closer to where the reader is going to be placing new social software or services.
Finally, Designing for the Social Web does not seem to draw an overall conclusion. Rather, the book instead seems to simply run out of gas in the end. It’s as if the author had run out of what to say. Hence a final upshot or even some words of encouragement would have, I feel, helped. But that’s a small issue with an otherwise interesting and eminently practical work.
About a thousand (er, twenty) years ago, I used to practice law. And,
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: get on Google+ as it gives you a boost in rankings. 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.
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. So start supercharging.
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.
I was hired by WebTekPro, a Houston web design company in December of 2014.
But the story of getting a job is a bit amusing.
For the past few months, I have been performing various social media tasks for a Star Trek podcast. Its name is, ‘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, we interview any number of Star Trek professionals, 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 had a job. I’m an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Specialist. I like the work.
Sigh. I really had wanted the work at WebTekPro to work out. But such was not to be. I will not go into the details. But suffice it to say, everyone out there should protect themselves. Here it is, over 5 years since this post first went live. And the lesson remains.
For my first job via UpWork, I never received payment. And, they tried a limited form of identity theft.
So that first part? It was all eerily, achingly, familiar.
To be a worker online, sometimes that means you need to be trusting. But at the same time, you need to be cautious.
Getting everything in writing is helpful. But in this case, even that was not quite enough.
Cambridge, UK: Polity 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
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.
Getting There is Half the Battle?
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. But not necessarily quality. However, when EL James (author of Fifty Shades of Grey) doesn’t make it to the top ten pages of search results, that means something. When Phillips gets there via search engine magic, it 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 pushes 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.
For my final project for Quinnipiac University’s Social Media Analytics class, I created a short presentation about journalism and data. This video is available on YouTube.
My essential question was whether data and story popularity should be drivers for journalistic choices. Those choices are everything from what to put on a ‘front page’ to what to bold or italicize, to where to send scarce (and expensive) reporter resources, to what to cover at all.
Popularity Breeds Contempt
For news organizations looking to save some money, it can be mighty appealing to only cover the most popular story lines. News can very quickly turn into all-Kardashian, all the time, if an organization is not careful. For a news corporation searching for an easier path to profitability, hitching their metaphoric wagon to the popularity star might feel right. After all, and to borrow from last semester’s Social Media Platforms class, they have buyer personae to satisfy. If all of their readers or viewers or listeners want is to know the latest about Justin Bieber or Queen Elizabeth II, then why shouldn’t a news organization satisfy that demand?
But there is a corollary to all of this.
News organizations often have dissimilar foci. If I am reading, say, the Jewish Daily Forward, I am looking for news, most likely, about either the Jewish people or Israel, or at least for stories which are relevant to either of these two not-identical (albeit somewhat similar) entities. Hence a story about the Kardashians, for example, is not going to fly unless it can be related somehow.
Dovetailing into all of this is journalistic ethics. Shouldn’t journalists be telling the stories of the downtrodden, the oppressed, and the forgotten? I well recall the coverage of Watergate as it was happening (even though I was a tween at the time). I’m not so sure that many people today appreciate the sort of courage that that really took.
What is the future of journalism? I feel it has got to be both. There must be a combination. News organizations need to show profits just as much as all other businesses. But that should not come at the expense of their responsibilities.
This was a great class, and I learned a lot. My next semester starts on August 25th.
For the ninth week of class, we talked about semantic search, the semantic web, and semantic SEO. I had read a bit about rich snippets before, but this lecture and the readings began to really bring that home for me, finally.
The Semantic Web is defined by Amanda DiSilvestro as being, “… a set of technologies for representing, storing, and querying information. Although these technologies can be used to store textual data, they typically are used to store smaller bits of data.”
Essentially what happens (and should happen a lot more, as webmasters continue to implement these markup protocols), is that similar sites will identify themselves similarly. Perhaps that’s an overly simplistic way of describing that, but the bottom line is that all writers, say, will identify themselves as persons. Consider the above paragraph. How does Google understand that Amanda DiSilvestro is a person? You might scoff and say, “that’s obvious!” To you and me, yes. But not to computer software, not yet. After all, what if her surname was something that, to Google, might be more ambiguous? What about the Harrison Ford character in the film, Witness?
His name was John Book. But a john has multiple connotations, and a book of course is literary art. But Google does not understand that that’s a person, unless, of course, someone tells the search engine that.
So semantic search and markup ends up as essentially a means of teaching Google about ambiguity. In the current state of technology, we have to be the ones to add the ambiguity and the fuzzy thinking. Machines can’t, yet.
I felt so interested in, and energized by, this topic, that I installed a new WordPress plugin (called RDFace) to try inject some semantic entity classifications of my own into this blog.
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.
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. PierzynskiDesignated 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.
Double quotation marks truncate meta descriptions. This meta description was no exception – in Google search, it simply reads: “A.J. Pierzynski Designated For Assignment; Christian 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.
NESN continues to impress. NESN SEO is great. NESN.com is a well-crafted website. No wonder it’s an advertising cash cow.
The specific task was to find a way to attract Internet searchers to their dolphin swim adventures.
With information about their competition, I found a way to showcase their keywords, and those of their competitors. The tool (and it is free, which is even better) is called MozBar. It allows you to look a little bit under the hood on websites. While I am also able to right-click any website and just select “view page source”, the MozBar laid things out a lot more comprehensively. The tool calculated the percentage of verbiage on that site, versus coding.
The thing that leaped out immediately was that the site did not have any keywords!
Without keywords, they were inadvertently making it more difficult for people searching on Google to find them. They also did not seem to realize that their site (which really is beautiful) is barely readable by search engines. Search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo! and others can really just read verbiage, numbers, and special characters. They do not yet have the ability to read images and truly comprehend them. You and I look at a picture of a dolphin and we know what it is. Even people wholly unfamiliar with dolphins can figure out that they are animals of some sort. But search engines are completely lost. Further, the site had a lot of great verbiage, but it was all a part of the images. It was, e. g. pictures that said things like dolphin swim. But there was no alternate text to cue in the search engines.
How do you fix these problems? My essay (which I will not reprint here, as the grade is still pending) goes more into depth but there are two easy, low-hanging fruit actions that the webmaster can take.
Research keywords and add them, and
Add alternate text to every single image on the site.
There are a lot more things that can be done, but those two are quick and fairly easy. And, psst, they work!