I read a blog post a while back titled “How to Optimize Content When You Don’t Know Jack about SEO” and it made me think of all the SEO-related questions I get. Search engine optimization is definitely an important function of digital marketing, but I think a lot of PR professionals would rather just outsource the work to someone else. However, it is an important skill to have and just about anyone working in communications will need to know the basics of SEO at some point. I definitely do not claim to be an SEO expert, but I do know a few basic tricks and I seem to be the go-to guy at the agency I work at when someone has a question. This blog post focuses on using image tags on the WordPress platform.
Before getting too deep into things, please keep in mind that SEO is constantly evolving as search engines (namely Google) are always tweaking their algorithms. These tips are also coming from a blogger’s point-of-view and can be easily incorporated into the typical WordPress blog post.
Boost SEO by Using Images with the Appropriate Tags/Description
I’m a firm believer in the power of images to boost your chances of showing up in searches. For one, people perform image searches a lot. Another reason is it allows you to throw in a bunch of extra searchable data that Web crawlers love. For bloggers on WordPress, that means filling in every field in the form that appears after you upload an image (shown below).
A few things worth pointing out. Notice the original file name is “boost_seo_with_meta_tags.jpg,” which not only describes the image, but also aligns with the topic of this blog post. This is important for a couple reasons. WordPress will automatically create a link incorporating the original file name in the URL so it’s important to use a descriptive file name. Therefor, uploading a file named something like “photo.jpg” is going to do you no good.
Title and alternate text can be rather confusing as they both do essentially the same thing, but they each serve a slightly different purpose. Basically, alternate or “alt” text is meant to be an alternativeinformation source for an image–it should describe the image without the user actually having to see it. This is important for browsers that have images disabled and for meeting ADA standards. The image title is meant to supply additional information to an image. The key takeaway here is to use both a title and alt tag, but to use different phrases in each. Obviously it is a good idea to use your primary keywords (in my case “SEO” and “meta tags”) in both tags, but to use them in a natural way and without “stuffing” them with your keywords. If this is confusing, I suggest reading this article in Search Engine Journal.
The caption tag is pretty straightforward. Not every image in every blog post necessarily needs a caption and sometimes you might choose to leave it out for aesthetics or other reasons. However, you will be missing out on some free SEO “juice” when doing this so it’s definitely a good idea to use a caption when you can. Again, this should either describe the image or otherwise provide additional information or supply additional context to your blog post. Keep your keywords in mind, but don’t force them.
Be sure to provide a description tag as well. You have a little more freedom to provide more context here and to freely incorporate your keywords. However, there’s really no need to get too carried away as this information is not visible except when viewing the page source. But Web crawlers like them, so don’t leave it blank.
Finally, you’ll notice the last field contains the link URL. You are free to change this to link to another website or another page within your blog, but according to SEO expert Tom Pick, you’ll pass some SEO “juice” when doing this.
Another infographic filled with amazing facts about the Internet is making the rounds. I was contacted by one of the creators from onlineeducation.net a couple days ago and I have started to see it posted on other sites since then (PR Daily for one).
This is an interesting infographic as it attempts to paint a picture of what life would be like without the Internet oppose to simply pointing out some key stats. Alas, there are plenty of stats that jump out at me such as the Internet directly and indirectly employing over three million people in the U.S. alone and the Internet reducing the degrees of separation down to only 3.74 people. The infographic ends with the fact that most modern day revolutions are not only aided by the Internet, but are actually started with simple Twitter hashtags such as #occupy.
The first discussion included ways for college grads to get their foot in the door as they work towards finding the job that’s right for them. Among some of the advice dished out, the importance of holding an internship came up from each speaker. Several mentioned having multiple internships as they worked towards getting their first job out of college. One speaker even stressed an internship as being a “critical” stepping stone.
Other tips for getting that first job out of college included volunteering for non-profits, having a mentor and not being too ambitious in your job hunt–though most people don’t really want a sales job, it can be a perfect starting point for a career in marketing. Bill Hatling talked about social media as being a “game changer” and his company is always looking for new hires who understand the trend. The media landscape, as he put it, has changed dramatically in the past decade and it makes sense for students to have a good understanding of new media. This means doing some self-study and finding something about it that interests you. At the very least you should maintain a clean online reputation, but you could take it further by blogging for a non-profit organization or helping a small business with its social media efforts.
On resumes, having good keywords that showcase your skills is important. More importantly though, making sure the resume you submit is catered to the company and the job description. If you feel you can provide the company a fresh perspective in social media strategy, then incorporate that into your resume. However, as Ryan Meints pointed out, having a great resume isn’t everything–he has never even submitted a resume for any of the jobs he has landed. From his perspective, networking is key.
Ryan’s point led to the importance of personal branding. As important as it is to maintain a positive online reputation, having something as basic as a good voice mail greeting is just as important. If you’re applying for jobs, would you want an employer to listen to a greeting that is a simple “Hey, leave a message” in a dull voice or would you rather actually greet your potential employer? My voice mail is simple, yet friendly: “You have reached the voice mail of Eric Wheeler. Please leave a message and your number and I will be sure to get back with you. Thanks!”
Probably the most important piece of advice came from Dan Schulzetenberg: “Understand what your values are.” That simple idea can have a huge impact on your life–whether you’re looking for that breakthrough job or you’re a seasoned pro. Always have strong values and work ethic and life will reward you. What are your values?
In my last post, I talked bout the power of social media on a personal level as it relates to St. Cloud State University choosing to eliminate homecoming. I had a short anecdote I wanted to include, but omitted due to my goal of keeping posts at 500 words or less. The anecdote was about a typo I had on a Facebook post for KVSC on homecoming being eliminated at SCSU:
Not sure what “climate” homecoming is all about, but people started making fun of the typo almost as soon as it was posted. Although the headline was posted as KVSC, I was the one behind the typo (or auto correct more specifically). So once it was called to my attention, I had to make a choice: remove the original post (also removing user comments) or own up to my mistake with a personal remark.
Being a PR guy, I felt it was important to be transparent and admit the goof up. So I simply replied to the post (with my name and face next to the comment) and made a little joke out of it with a reference to damnyouautocorrect.com.
Many social media experts believe it is important to always put a face with a company status update. Personally, I feel it depends on the type of post. Posting an article that is “trending” on your site should not require a face behind the post. However, if there does happen to be a typo, whoever made the error should own up to the mistake.
Lastly, just as a reporter should never remove an article with a factual error, a company should never remove a post or tweet with a mistake. It is much more professional to admit fault. Plus, admitting your mistake can only create more impressions and build credibility as a reputable source of information.
Thankfully, this was merely a typo and not anything offensive. Some celebrities and journalists alike have made “jokes” on Facebook or Twitter that have turned out to be quite offensive and created backlash from their followers. Check this article out to learn of a larger-scale mistake and how Kim Wilson suggests handling a “Twitter Faux Pas.”
I should mention I had a mistake in my last post as well. When I omitted the part about my mistake, I left a sentence in that was completely out of context. It was up for a few hours before I noticed it. Can’t even remember what it was now. Did I just break my own rule of owning up to mistakes?
During a live interview at KVSC 88.1FM, News Director Chris Duffy spoke with St. Cloud State University Student Government President Amanda Bardonner where she revealed the university’s plans to eliminate homecoming. Duffy waited towards the end the interview and caught President Bardonner a little bit off guard. He knew the news was big. Before ending his day, he made sure it was up at kvsc.org.
The next day, I opened up TweetDeck and noticed a heavy amount of mentions for @KVSCnews and in my “KVSC” search results. The story generated over 30 mentions for KVSC on Twitter, which is far greater than the normal one or two tweets per day from the same few listeners. As the director of social media at KVSC, I found it necessary to post the news on the station’s Facebook page as a ‘trending’ story.
The story generated 30 some KVSC-related tweets and 2,000 impressions on the station’s Facebook page, but that’s not my reason for writing. Why I’m writing is because this is the first time I really saw the power of social media at a personal level. After posting the story on the KVSC Facebook page and throwing out a couple retweets for the station, I did the same for my personal accounts.
Being from Oklahoma where homecoming is very important to most schools–even to my small regional university of roughly 2,000 students–I found this news to be quite shocking. Even though I had heard talks of doing “spirit events” throughout the semester instead of homecoming, I really did not think that was a serious notion. So, like many students and alumni, I did my duty to broadcast the news to as many in my social network as possible.
My first action was just a retweet. I then headed over to Facebook to post a link to the KVSC story with my headline of “What can we do to save homecoming at St. Cloud State University?” The story was cross-linked to SCSU’s Facebook page and it got a little bit of attention on my wall and a few people voiced their opinions because of it. I then read an article by the Star Tribune and found a quote I felt summed up my opionion on the matter and headed back to Twitter to post that link:
This is where I started seeing the power of social media come to life. This is pretty much where my homecoming rants ended. I was going about this rather passively as I was working on my final comprehensive exam for graduate school. I then received a tweet from @Aeikens who was putting together a story for the St. Cloud Times. We got in touch and before I knew it, I was doing a phone interview with Dave Aeikens (reporter).
Consider this my first rant. I know, I know … it’s been nearly two weeks since my previous post and I should have something more interesting to discuss and, believe me, I do. However, “Who Uses Bing” is the first topic listed on my blog ideas I have saved in my iPhone notes. This topic actually came to me when I watched my professor go to Bing and type in “Google” before actually doing his search. Let me know in the comments section below if you have ever done this.
Bing is terrible. That may be a bit harsh, it’s not like I know anything about search algorithms, but seriously, Google is just a lot better. It was only a couple years ago when Microsoft formally launched its new search engine site and changed the name from the boring “MSN Search” (Live Search and Windows Live Search–also terribly boring names–were also used) to simply “Bing.” I remember watching some of the fabulous network news anchors poking fun of the name and trying to predict if people would start saying “Just Bing it!” as we all do with Google. Pretty sure I have never heard anyone use Bing as a verb and I don’t think I ever will. Well, there is the clever tagline “Bing and decide” used in it’s advertisements, but come on.
Okay, this is more of a rant than I wanted it to be, so let’s just head over to bing.com and see if the search engine can explain to me why Google is better. After reaching bing.com (which I typed in on my awesome Google Chrome Web browser), I proceeded to type in “why Google is better than Bing” and the auto-complete finished after typing in “why Goo,” nice. At least they’re playing fair and not trying to block certain search terms. Anyway, I came up with this nice article in the number two spot (the first site was an article from 2009 stating that Bing is a competitor, but it is not a “Google Killer”), which contained the 10 reasons why Google is still better than Bing.
There’s no reason to try and list my top 10 reasons; I think the above mentioned article speaks for itself. However, I say Google is king of search because of a few key reasons. First off, Google was founded as a search engine company and has always kept the focus on speed and finding the most relevant, pertinent information regarding the user’s search term. Secondly, Google really optimizes the user Web experience through additional tools such Google Docs, Google Calendar, Gmail and much, much more. Finally, Google has done an outstanding job of integrating its search function into mobile platforms. Google Goggles, voice search and the entire iPhone app is a great addition to the mobile experience.
I think I’ll finish there before I get into a rant on why I think even Yahoo! is better than Bing. Somehow Bing has managed to overtake Yahoo! as the world’s number two search engine, so I guess I’ll congratulate them on that.
Watching the hilarious video above reminds me of a lot of things. For one, it makes me think of some of the more embarrassing moments in my life and, believe me, I’ve had my share, but it also reminds me to always think of the unexpected. This being a (mostly) PR and social media blog, I could get into crisis management and how to deal with social media disasters, but since it’s Christmas Day, I think I’ll just wish everyone warm regards this holiday season and cheers to a happy new year.
In my last post, I discussed how social media has changed the way people are finding jobs, the criteria employers now follow and how many in the PR field are branding themselves and networking via social media sites. The videos mentioned noted some astonishing statistics, making it impossible to ignore the social media wave or pass it off as a fad. In this post, I want to talk about something important in every industry: Good writing skills.
Some might not view text messaging (or SMS) as a form of social media, but it is one communication tool that has fundamentally changed the way people communicate. Though abbreviations such as OMG and LMAO (along with a long list of other text messaging shorthand) may be cute and a much quicker way to get a point across, they really have no place in communicating a company message or in any attempt at branding yourself in an online world. If you’re like me and you mostly maintain a Twitter account and a blog to show potential employers what you are all about and some of the skills you have, you should basically never use shorthand.
It can be a challenge to fit a quick pitch and a link to the full article in 140 characters or less for Twitter, but our society’s attention span has grown increasingly short and relies on bite sized pieces of information to give them the knowledge they need. Maybe the first lesson I learned as a student of mass communications was to be concise in my writing. Give the important information up front and all the minor details in the body and towards the bottom (inverted pyramid style of writing).
That’s enough about Twitter. The point I really want to make is that good writing is important. I feel that I am a decent writer, but that’s because I work on it nearly everyday and have been since I started college. However, I can always work on clarity, creativity and brevity, among other areas. With that, please let me know if I have any typos or if you see areas I can work on to improve my writing style … I am open to all suggestions.
So this is my public service announcement to anyone who has a blog or posts short messages to Twitter, Facebook or any other social network that broadcasts to basically the entire world: Be a good writer.