Search Engine Optimization: Tips for getting your site noticed (In a good way) and Marketing on Social Media

 

SEO means improving the visibility of your web site in search engines like GOOGLE, which is the way most people find your site in today’s web environment. SEO allows you to get more hits on your page through natural search results, aka unpaid.

First things you need to think about

  • Who comes to my site NOW-demographic
  • Why do they come to my site?
  • What is the most popular thing on my site (Google Analytics or Review should tell you this)
  • What do I WANT to be the most popular thing on my site/what do I want to get more attention on my site?
  • What kind of marketing am I doing now to get people to see my articles
  • Goals: What audience do we want, how big of an audience, and what do we want to be the “draw” of the site

Most Popular sites today and why

  • The most popular sites today (traffic wise) are search engines and social media sites. They include Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Youtube, Blogger, Wikipedia, and Twitter
  • Why do they get the most hits? #1—b/c they are excellent search engines/easy ways to get information you want fast. #2 B/c they promote interactivity, they are a part of the “social media” lifestyle and they get you committed.
  • Applying it to you—you need to make sure your site gives your target audience what it wants from you in an easy way and you need to promote interactivity to establish some loyalty/commitment to the site.
  • Most popular think tank site (based on some Google searches): Heritage Foundation. Why? My guess is b/c they have targeted their audience, given them the content they want (and can only get there) and provide some interactivity.

 Ways to improve your SEO-Marketing Outlook

  • Know your audience and give them a lot of what they want. Do they come to the site b/c of a particular issue? Nail that issue on the head and give them ways to spread it around to their friends on social media.
  • Think to yourself-what do I Google? What kind of phrases do you Google—like “Top 10 election lies,” “Economic experts on immigration,” etc and incorporate those phrases into your URL titles (which are the titles you come up with in your headlines)
  • Use social media to your advantage but do not come off as a used car salesman. Target certain groups, media and leaders that would be interested in your issue.
  • To find target followers—see who similar orgs are following and follow them but don’t bombard them with ads for your organization via @’s or DMs. Give them a taste of what they want but don’t force it in their mouths.
  • On Facebook-announce upcoming events, give away prizes for joining and facilitate dialogue on each post through “comments”
  • Promote your video projects on the home page and send out a notice about them in your newsletters (I get them, so I’ll know!)
  • Use lists! People Google lists all the time and those will pop up first.
  • Have your fellow colleagues and interns promote site content on their personal social media. Nothing’s more convincing than the recommendation of a friend.

Ways to improve your SEO-Tweaking your website

  • Search for your Twitter audience using popular hashtags either by issue #iranelection or news event #midterm. Go to hashtags.org for a starting point. But the best way to use a good hashtag is see what others who cover what you cover are using and join those conversations.
  • Use tags on your website when posting stories as your personal branding. Do you want to be the go-to source for a certain issue, expert or trend? On every post, tag the story with whatever keyword you want to be associated with.
  • When using multimedia—like a photo, image or graphic, people won’t find it in a search if the description or title is built into that multimedia. You have to label them in the body of the text for it to show up in searches.
  • LINKS LINKS LINKS! Do not put a hyperlink on “click here.” Rather, hyperlink the keyword you want people to find when they type it in a search. Add lots of links!
  • Your title: Make your title search friendly with keywords, phrases and names that will be searchable. In AP style you’re supposed to only put someone’s last name, but SEO calls for full names.
  • To show up in area specific searches, you need to specify the location in the body of the text.like instead of “the store,” say “the Houston store,” etc.
  • Make sure your URLs in each post aren’t a bunch of mumbo jumbo. From what I understand you can change the URL of a post on most CMS platforms. If your URL is something like http://www.ladannekoomaram/top-10-ways-to-get-fit that will show up more likely than http://www.ladannekoomaram.com/article-13453234. Likewise, when you create URL names, put hyphens in between in each word instead of having them run together.
  • Always remember, if you spend a lot of time on a video or fancy piece of flash, it is unsearchable. Put what you need in text too.
  • Search spiders love UPDATES, so make sure to update frequently and link to other popular sites that cover what you do. If you get picked up and linked from another popular site, that’s free traffic for you. The best way to get noticed is by the recommendation of someone trusted which is what happens when you get linked by someone or put on their blogroll.
  • Surround your links with relevant, descriptive text
  • Don’t overuse keywords b/c if a spider sees the word being used too much in an abnormal way, it will count against you.
  • People don’t usually read a site for more than five seconds, so give them something clean, visually pleasing and a great lead “above the fold” on the left side. People read screens in the shape of an F (left to right then down).
  • Always put captions with images
  • Never underestimate the power of the “share” feature, comments and social media
  • Your “about” page should have good links, tags and keywords that will make it so your site comes up in relevant searches or similar searches
  • Avoid using JavaScript or FLASH navigation. Google’s crawler typically moves from one page to another by following your links/navigation. It can easily navigate “a href=” links, but cannot always follow JavaScript or FLASH links—nor can it complete any forms on your site, needed to “view” a page. This is important if you have any web content behind a password-protected login.
  •  If you want more details, I found a great “Beginners Guide to SEO” which is free online, but lengthy http://guides.seomoz.org/beginners-guide-to-search-engine-optimization
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Greater Houston Partnership joins businesses in fight for immigration reform

Here’s my first bigger story for Chron that was picked up by their wire service (Pre-editing. Edited copy is Hearsts and I’ll put a link on my clips page).

WASHINGTON, D.C.—President and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership Jeff Moseley stressed the need for comprehensive immigration reform in order to improve the economy and encourage entrepreneurs to start new businesses in the United States.

The House Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law Membership held a hearing this morning on the “Role of Immigration in Strengthening America’s Economy” with industry leaders including Rupert Murdoch, CEO of News Corp. and Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg.

They pushed Congress to enact reform that would secure the border, keep foreign students and professionals who study and work in the United States, and hold businesses accountable that don’t verify the legal status of their employees. They also dispelled myths about undocumented workers, like how they commit more crimes and consume more benefits than taxes paid.

Members of Congress drilled Murdoch on the role of FOX News in thwarting pro-immigration efforts and addressed the question of what to do with the existing 12 million undocumented immigrants currently residing in the U.S.

As a businessman in one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the country, Moseley discussed the vital role immigrants have had in providing necessary services in Houston. More than one million Houstonians are foreign-born, with one in 10 identifying Mexico as their country of origin. Businesses in his group oversee almost 300,000 jobs in the Houston metropolitan area.

“Our board fully endorsed engaging on a comprehensive immigration reform initiative because we would agree that the system is so outdated and broken that there needs to be a wholesale reinvention and reconstruction of the law,” he said.

Under the current law, many immigrants who want to study or work in the United States have to wait decades because of restrictions on the number of immigrants that can enter the country legally every year. According to Moseley’s testimony, the law only allows 5,000 low-skilled laborers and 85,000 high-skilled laborers per year.

“There should be a mechanism so that every year there is an assessment of labor needs in America. And however that assessment is done, there would be opportunities to allow Visas to be issued for skilled and unskilled,” said Moseley. “Embed one number in law, and then you need an act of Congress to amend it, which then means you’re locked into a number that doesn’t work and encourages a breaking of the law because demand is so great.”

Moseley said Houston’s demand for both skilled workers—primarily engineers and medical staff—and unskilled—highway workers, energy and construction—will suffer once Baby Boomers retire and the workforce isn’t replenished.

Both Bloomberg and Moseley pointed out that the birth rate in the U.S. statistically wouldn’t fill vacant job openings when Baby Boomers retire and immigrants are almost twice as likely to start businesses than Americans.

“We think that a law that does not recognize market forces or labor demands is doomed from the beginning,” said Moseley.

The Greater Houston Partnership created a non-profit organization called the “Americans for Immigration Reform” that sponsors immigration research and outreach to lawmakers, the public and media in support of reform.

Mayor Bloomberg also recently formed a coalition of business giants and mayors to push for immigration reform in Congress. This “Partnership on New American Economy” includes leaders from Disney, Hewlett-Packard, Marriott International, Boeing and San Antonio mayor Julian Castro.

The group says it intends to make its point to policymakers by “publishing studies, conducting polls, convening forums and paying for public education campaigns.”

“The economics couldn’t be any clearer. Immigrants pay more taxes than they receive in benefits. We educate them here and tell them to take those jobs and start them in other countries. We need to create a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants,” he stressed.

Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) questioned the panel on differentiating “illegal” and “legal” immigrants and pointed out that mothers with illegal status delivered more than 67 percent of the births in the Lyndon B. Johnson General Hospital this year.

“If you don’t believe we have a border security problem, I’ll take you to the Texas/Mexico border and you can watch for yourself,” he said.

Earlier this week, the White House Director of Domestic Policy Melody Barnes addressed a conference sponsored by the Hamilton Project and the Brookings Institution on what the Obama Administration aims to do about immigration reform. She said they were “disappointed” that the DREAM act was shot down and hoped Congress could find consensus to pass legislation in the near future.

“Obama is fiercely determined to stop kicking the can down the road and to get this moving,” she said. “I can promise you that President Obama will not rest until those bills are on his desk and he is able to use his pen to sign them into law to bring people out of the shadows to ensure prosperity and the moral character of our nation.”

Twitter’s Web Journalism Chat Addresses an Important Question in Journalism: Jobs

Tonight, mostly led by journalists with jobs, WJ (web journalism) chat featured a lively discussion on what recruiters are looking for in job applicants. Later in the conversation, journalists also delved into what skills and assets they’re looking for WHEN and IF they have job openings.

I eagerly awaited the question that asked recruiters to list job openings. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any pop up for D.C., but wouldn’t that have been a cool story? “I got my job from following Wednesday night WJChats? Nowadays, a lot of opportunities happen this way.

Robert Hernandez stole the show with his great advice, job listings and connections he made as a professor at USC and a potential ONA board member. What particularly stood out to me was the lack of students weighing in on the discussion or job hunters. Maybe they were nervous or maybe they felt left out of the employed journalists who seemed to all know each other and congregate in a bubble. Or maybe they were like me, who tweeted every so often and clicked refresh hoping for their next break.

I am lucky, considering that I’m fresh out of grad school, someone decided to give me a shot. I’ll be working part-time at the Houston Chronicle in D.C. doing multimedia and various reports on select issues that interest the Texas audience. I’m looking forward to starting, but I’m also looking for other work so that combined, they would equal one livable salary. In the meantime, I’m volunteering for two media groups (ONA and WAMU), keeping up the foreign policy blog and looking to write for various publications.

I was glad that the discussion tonight didn’t solely focus on social media and technology, because at this point, we get it. We should learn these tools to be able to compete, and we should do this on our own or by joining a school that keeps up with the times. AU is getting there–it is full of professors who understand how journalism is changing, but that hasn’t translated to the curriculum. There are still classes where  you have to write 3,000-word stories and there isn’t enough equipment to teach half of the students how to use a video camera. But from talking to some faculty last night at TBD’s launch party, I learned AU has incorporated a video class for the online/print journalism students.

In my opinion, these are the big things you need to get out of your program before graduating:

  • You need to embrace social media for all its wonders. Don’t start a Twitter account and stop after two Tweets. You’re probably already on Facebook, so get yourself a Delicious page, Flickr and Linkedin account too.
  • Take Bill Gentile’s backpack journalism class to learn storytelling through video. He’s been in the trenches and is about as real as it gets. Also take his foreign correspondence class if you’re an adventurer or have any interest working abroad.
  • Bug the hell out of David Johnson when it comes to the web. He is the most forward-thinking professor I’ve had so far. He isn’t the type to hold your hand and show you what to do. But he’ll point you in the right direction and help you if you work hard. From him, learn the basics of WordPress, Drupal, using social media, Flash, Photoshop (he wont teach you it…but yeah…learn it), and how to brand yourself. On the side (as of now they won’t teach you it) learn some HTML, CSS and PHP. Kinda makes you want to major in computer science!
  • Learn how to edit and use audio equipment for Soundslides and radio packages.
  • Get to know the friendly folks at J-Lab and the IRW, and if you can, get involved!
  • Dive into Joseph Campbell’s media myths–they’ll surprise you and serve as a good lesson on how to conduct your own work
  • I unfortunately never took a class with her, but everyone who has had Lynne Perri for a class has fallen in love with her because of her great advice with editing and producing quality work. She has also been very helpful to students in the job searching process.
  • Finally, blog, put your work on the web and WRITE as much as you can. I came from an English writing background, so that wasn’t as big of an issue for me. But if writing isn’t your thing, the best ways to improve are to a) READ a lot and b) WRITE a lot.
  • Oh yeah, and intern/freelance. You NEED experience!

Some advice from Tweeps during#wjchat:

henrymlopez: Q2 Be able to learn. Know that you’ll need to teach yourself and learn what you’re shown.

webjournalist: Q2 When I hired, news judgment, ethics, pro-activeness and good attitude were key. Tech stuff we could teach you, but know basics. #wjchat

JeffHidek: Q2 Flexibility is king. A vast knowledge base is great but you have to be able to adapt to changing circumstances. #wjchat

SLODeveloper: Q2: Ideal dev candidate would have a bachelor’s degree and 2 years experience in HTML/CSS, Javascript, PHP, MySQL and enjoy dessert #wjchat

kimamoy: Q2 — I look for strong news judgment & Web sensibility, plus ability to learn quickly due to constantly changing tech & new needs #wjchat

andymboyle: @verbalcupcake That they got a degree and have a portfolio that proves they’ve taken initiative. #wjchat

effHidek: Q2 Know the basic principles of databses, coding, flash, actionscript w/ the willingness to learn more. #wjchat #wjchat

kimamoy: i’ve hired laid-off print journalists as contractors, and if they didn’t have web experience, they didn’t last long #wjchat

NicWirtz @verbalcupcake Basically want an example of someone out of their comfort zone and learning something new. #wjchat

wjchat: Q3 Are you interested in applicants being specialists (great videographers) or generalists (scrappy newshounds)? #wjchat

henrymlopez: I am disturbed when I meet people with fresh J-degrees and no digital training. This does not bode well. #wjchat

Q3 Truthfully, know enough about everything but specializing in something. Someone recently said, you need to be a Journalism Plus. #wjchat

BillBoorman: for every interview you need to prepare 3 sets of questions 1 something theyve told you 2 something they havent told you #wjchat

JeffHidek: Q4: Clean up that FB page! We rejected a promising candidate this year after his Facebook profile told a diff. story #wjchat #wjchat

webjournalist: Q7 If you are applying for a Web job, get a domain and your own site showcasing your work. Y’all, it’s actually really simple. #wjchat


Why I Unfollowed You on Twitter

I’ve only unfollowed a few people on Twitter, and I gotta say, it took a lot of patience before I reached the breaking point. For some of us Twitter nerds out there, we monitor how many followers we have and cringe when we see the numbers drop. Most of the time, it’s just a bot discovered and deactivated, but sometimes it’s someone who decided they didn’t want you to pop up on their feed anymore. A few of them discovered that I unfollowed them and got personally offended…to which I would like to respond—give me a reason to follow you, then I will.

If you post silly updates, news stories that don’t interest me or flat out stop posting for a month, I will look the other way. But there are a few key Twitter “don’ts” that will get you blocked faster than you can type 140 characters.

I present: How to NOT annoy me on Twitter

Post things I care about

Remember to link your stuff–I wont trust it (unless you’re Anderson Cooper or something) if I don’t see the link!

Quit with wasteful hashtags. Saying stuff like #omg or #ihatemylife or #lolz are a total waste and quite frankly make you look like a twitter snob. It’s obnoxious!

If you are a marketer or PR person I don’t know, do not tweet me unless you have something i would actually want. Don’t follow me either—i get excited when I see a new person has and then I come to see you’re following 50,000 people and have 70 followers…

Mix it up. Add some personal pizzaz to your tweets if you’re just going to regurgitate news stories or retweet things.

Don’t @ like ten people on irrelevant things. I see what you’re doing on my feed. You’re that kid in class who waves “me me me” when the teacher is trying to think of someone to call on.

Don’t check in at your house. Seriously. The point of 4 square was so people on twitter could be like “oh wow that sounds like an interesting place,” or meet up with you if they’re nearby. Do you really want people finding you at your house? Didn’t think so.

Don’t blast out 10 tweets at a time. I’ll only read the first and second from the top.

Lastly, it’s ok to self promote (that is one of the main functions of Twitter), but do it with class

TBD Launches today and opens up community network

I got a message first thing this morning from a friend who told me my list of D.C. foreign policy events this week was on the home page of the long-awited TBD.com, which has taken the place of WJLA.com and will serve as D.C.’s newest go-to site for all things local. I am lucky enough to be a part of the scores of bloggers on their community network, who will provide in depth coverage of everything from politics to food to the woes of public transportation.

What am I doing on the site, you may ask?

I came to D.C. for two reasons: to get my masters from A.U. in journalism and live in the center for international activity. I knew by being in a city with such diversity, culture and intellect, I would be able to pursue a career as a foreign policy and international journalist. I came from a small college in Indiana and was probably the only Iranian at the entire school (other than my twin sister). Now that I’ve been here for a year, I have met people from every corner of the world, seen major international policies being made (in person) and met some of the brightest officials and experts from around the world. D.C. is very unique in its presence of prominent foreign leaders, major international events and obviously the State Department.

The only problem was, I had a difficult time figuring out the D.C. foreign police machine. Laura Rozen’s blog, Steve Clemons’ The Washington Note and Josh Rogin’s reporting were extremely helpful, but I couldn’t help but want more.

I decided to start a blog based on my daily activity working as a news/communications fellow Radio Free Europe in Washington. I would make it my goal to go to as many foreign policy press conferences, think tanks, human rights groups and cultural events as I could. But I also want to expand that role by going to a number of embassy activities, performances and political rallies to get a feel for what it means to live in the center of international activity.

There’s a wide net of ethnic groups and interests in D.C., so I know as one person I can’t possibly embody them all. But I try to focus on key think tanks, events on the Hill, visits from foreign officials and countries we are deeply involved with at this time (i.e. Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, China).

I also provide a comprehensive list of blogs, resources and news sites of interest to international news junkies and foreign visitors who need to get around D.C.

Email me with suggestions or events you want covered at ladansusan@gmail.com or Tweet me.

Burqas for phones: Saudi Arabia and UAE Requires Face Veil and Burqa for Blackberries

Are you serious?

What if my Blackberry is a boy? Photo from NewsBisuit

According to prelim reports from “News Biscuit,” the UAE will require people with Blackberries to dress their phones in mini Burqas and face veils so they can ONLY use them to talk but not access Internet or email. The burqas will also draw less attention to Blackberry users and protect them from possible harassment.

Reports show that the Blackberry has been banned for use in the UAE because the government cannot monitor its activity. This ban will affect travelers and businessmen coming through the country as well.

This was the best quote from the News Biscuit report:

‘This is not about censorship or oppression,’ said UAE telecommunications regulator Mohammed al-Ghanem, ‘this is about preserving the essential purity of the Blackberry and protecting it from being corrupted.’

So according to the UAE, the purity of the Blackberry is in its ability to be a simple phone. I bet if you polled Blackberry users, a significant number of people would say they use it for email, texting and BBMing. Heck, I have an LG and I rarely use it as a “phone.”

Still waiting to see other reports on the issue, but whether they wear burqas or not, the Blackberry is under attack in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

The New Water Cooler: My talk with UGA students on New Media

Yesterday, I had a great time talking with a group of students from a summer program at the University of Georgia on new media. I met with them via skype and told them the importance of becoming social media savvy now before it becomes a prerequisite to today’s journalism jobs. If an employer sees that you are using new media NOW to enhance your work and connect with others, they can trust that you will continue using it on the job.

Only a handful of students in the class had active Twitter accounts, while many of them said they were on Facebook. It got me thinking about journalism education for high school and undergraduate students and how new media should be incorporated into the classroom.

I remember telling them that I feel one of my best tools for networking, getting my work out there, and learning about topics in my field had to be Twitter, although that wasn’t always the case. People must not mistake Twitter as the value added, but rather, the tool to create value-added content and personal branding.

I just started using Twitter to my advantage this semester when I learned that most major journalists and news organizations talked to each other on it as the new virtual water cooler.

I started noticing the web of connections with D.C. journalists, and I’m now observing this trend with college students, NGOs and political groups. Whenever news breaks or if something goes viral (cough the Old Spice proposal and Paul the Octopus), you can bet the Twitter community is actively chirping about the issue with one another through @’s and hashtags. Instead of having a “behind the scenes” page on news sites, they might as well go to the Twitter pages of its reporters for the real deal.

I’ve made “friends” on Twitter more than Facebook because Facebook is a tool I use to talk to existing friends. Through Twitter, I have gotten breaking news from multiple sources, got some tips on stories for work and met people that have been valuable allies in my journalism career.

So what can Twitter do for you? Just like any social media tool, it has the potential to bring life to discussion and create a spot for you among colleagues in your profession. Or it can be a fun way to stay in touch with friends and tell the world what you’re up to every minute of the day.

For young, aspiring journalists out there going through their journalism courses in high school and college–you cannot ignore the possibilities of new media. It’s important to learn the fundamentals of journalism (writing, storytelling, interviewing, capturing a moment), but what will put you ahead of the dinosaurs is your knowledge of web, mobile and social media.

To hear their report on my interview, visit their blog. Here’s what I said on using your degree to pursue journalism:

“A 2009 DePauw University graduate, Nekoomaram took some time to talk about training for a journalism career. She studied English writing and history at the liberal arts school, located in Greencastle, Ind. She explained that her English classes helped to develop her writing schools, something she sometimes felt gave her an edge over her classmates in American University’s Master of Arts in Journalism program.

The history “helped with understanding context,” especially when it came to Persian affairs, a particular interest of Nekoomaram’s due to her heritage. “The news doesn’t give you the history [as a reporter]. You’re the one who has to do the research about the issue you’re talking about. You need to know your topic,” she explained.”