Search Engine Optimization (SEO) - Best Practices


Today in class we will look at ways to improve the search engine rankings of content in our press releases and original websites.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) refers to the practice of refining your Web site content so that it has better visibility in search engines, such as Google.

Search engines are the primary way that people discover Web content. In the U.S., Google accounts for a vast majority of search engine referrals. Thus, it is hugely important that your content be properly indexed so that new users can discover and explore your creations.

This three-minute video gives a great overview of what SEO is all about:



But, what about specifics? Here is a great "cheat sheet" on SEO from my colleague Rebecca Cooney, an associate professor at WSU:
Wix also has some great tips that can be reviewed at:

It's All About Algorithm

A key aspect of search engine optimization is the algorithm that drives the decisions of how search engines "rank" and determine "relevancy" for each website. Here are some resources that help explain more about the ever-changing (and somewhat secretive!) algorithms... 
Ways to Increase Referrals

The following information addresses some of the "best practices" in SEO for websites. It is essentially divided into two areas: On-page elements and Off-page elements. The on-page elements are things that you can control on your site...they are located on the pages of your site. This includes the text/copy, images, URL paths and even the design choices you make for your site. The off-page elements are located elsewhere on the web. This includes third-party websites, such as news sites, blogs and link aggregation services.

On-Page Elements:
The following on-page elements should be reviewed for possible tweaking so that your content is better surfaced in search engines for referral.

Page Title
  • The page title appears in the top bar of your browser
  • For critical areas of your Web site, does the page title in your browser contain the proper wording?
URL
  • Does the Web site URL for key areas include text that would contribute to that page being indexed on critical keywords?
"Invisible" Page Content
  • Description Field text is also important as it is the abstract information that shows up below the linked title in your search listings
  • Keywords description fields are less important, but offer an opportunity to associate some words and phrases with your page
    • Less is more
      • No more than 5-10 keywords in your metatag
Off-Page Elements

Inbound links

  • Increase number of Web pages that link to you
    • Seen as "vote of confidence" for relevance of your site
    • Text in link is also important ("link anchor text")
  • Increase Google's "Page Rank"
    • More links on prominent sites will also increase your page ranking
Best Practices
  • Does your blog post title contain keywords that concisely capture the blog topic and are known to be relevant to your site?
  • The very first words should be the most relevant, if possible
    • Good Example: Second Life Tutorial: Customize your Avatar
    • So-So Example: Want a New Look for your Avatar?
      • In the above example, the words "Second Life Tutorial" will match to keyword searches for people looking for second life tutorials. Further, the inclusion of "customize" and "avatar" will likely help this post show up higher in search results for people looking for help in avatar customization.
       
  • To see an example of this in action, do a Google Search on the words: Second Life
    • Notice how most of the top results have "Second Life" in the first few words of the title
  • Would your blog post title make sense if it were displayed "out of context" via an RSS feed or on a third-party Web site, such as reddit?
    • Each post has the potential to be surfaced on third-party sites. Your headline should be constructed so that it compels someone to click on it.
  • Are there opportunities to mix in blog posts that are not time-sensitive?
    • Many blog posts will clearly be connected to a new and timely announcement or development. However, when appropriate, you might want to strategically develop topics that speak to "evergreen" topics that have a longer shelf life.
  • Consider organizing your narrative with sub-headers and integrating the occasional use of bold text and lists.
    • These are believed to be minor factors in the algorithm that Google uses in determining relevance.
  • If appropriate, include links to previous related blog posts within the text of your new post.
    • Interlinking increases the odds that your posts will be indexed at a higher level, according to many SEO experts.

Share Links and Network Badges

According to many SEO experts, blogs can play a key role in helping one's overall search rankings. In the case of Google's algorithm, the "newness" and frequency of posts contribute to the perceived "relevance" of a site. However, the key is to get other blogs and sites to link directly to your blog. An increase in third party referral links results in an increased "relevance" for your site.

As expected, a new blog post typically gets a burst of traffic immediately after it is published. In most cases, the traffic declines dramatically after a day or two. However, in some cases, a blog post that is not timely might continue to drive traffic to your site long after its initial publication. This is particularly true if the post is not time-sensitive and becomes indexed and related to key terms by search engines.
  • Are you pro-actively encouraging other sites to link to your post? What third-party sites should you strategically target as significant potential recipients of your blog post?
    • Reddit and Facebook are among those social networking/aggregation sites that may help generate links to our site.
    • If you feel that the theme of your post has significance outside of our own site, then submit it! Common sense rules here, but one example is:
      • Reddit.com (Submit URL here - requires registration)
  • Do you have a Facebook Like button on your post?
    • Make it easy for people to link to and share your info.
      • Facebook has code that allows you to add a "Like"button here

Research Links

HubSpot has some great tips on getting the most of paid search listings:
Other useful links:

SEO Worksheets

Moz has created two helpful worksheets that you can use to better refine and define your SEO strategy.
For each of the above, please make your own copies by selecting File > Make a Copy on Google Documents so that you have your own editable version.

More context and information on these worksheets are available on the blog post How to Prioritize SEO Tasks on Moz.com.

WEEK 6: Wireframing & Design Explorations

SUMMARY:
This week, we will:
  • Learn the basics of web design and wireframing
  • Finalize a wireframe of a proposed website for our campaign
  • Review our various homepage wireframes to identify and review key features that are necessary for our campaign website.
  • Continue to work on content management systems and website creation tools, such as Wix or Wordpress, that can be used to build an original campaign website.
HOMEWORK:
  • Complete a wireframe for the homepage of your website using Gliffy.
  • Use your selected website creation tool to build an original website for your campaign. For this week, you will get started with the site – but the actual completion of it won’t be due for several weeks.
  • Read Chapter 4: "Digital Marketing WebSocial"

Creative Commons & Finding Royalty-Free and Low-Lost Images

Creative Commons Overview

One popular option for inexpensive content is Creative Commons , where you can get free or low-cost copyright licenses for music, audio, video, clip art and photos.
Essentially, a Creative Commons license allows the creator to protect his or her creation while simultaneously allowing them to share their work without the usual restrictions of traditional copyright law. Watch the video below to get an overview of how it works.



Video not showing up? You can also access it  directly at this link.



Video not showing up? You can also access it directly at this link.

How to Give Attribution/Credit for Creative Commons Content
If you do decide to use any Creative Commons content, then you will need to pay close attention to the licensing guidelines provided for that content. In most cases, there will be a required "credit line" that you will need to provide with each image, audio or video piece of Creative Commons-licensed content that you use. For information on how to properly attribute your content, please see the following:

Royalty-free and Low-cost Image Licensing Services

Looking  for royalty-free, low-cost and/or free images to add to your campaign site?
Wix.com has built-in access to hundreds of free stock photos in over 20 categories. Learn more about the Wix.com free image directory:
Here are some other stock photo sites worth checking out: iStockphoto logo

Creating a Website for your Brand Using a Content Management System (CMS)

Typically, you would have a professional web design team or resource to help you design, build and launch your website campaign. However, we lack these resources for our class campaign. Thus, we will use one of the many simplified website creation tools/content management systems (CMS) that bring slick, professional-looking websites to those who are not design experts. Many of these sites include pre-made templates that you can even use to jumpstart your designs.
With the help of these user-friendly website services, creating a new website for your brand is now easier than ever. Examples of free website/blog creation services include:
For the purpose of  this class, we will experiment with Wix.com. Use Wix.com to create an original website for your campaign. For this week, you will get started with the site – but the actual completion of it won't be due for several weeks. Use this week to get familiar with Wix.com and to begin your site. You may use your wireframe as a starting point to create from your site from scratch and/or identify a template that contains similar design choices and elements.

GETTING STARTED WITH WIX:


Learn how to get started with Wix.com with these video tutorials.

After logging in, you'll be asked to choose a template to launch the website editor -- it will appear in your browser!

Watch this overview video to learn more.

There are tons more Wix.com tutorials on the official YouTube channel.

IMPORTANT NOTE: When you register for Wix, you will be asked to create a username. Please try to create a username that includes your chosen brand name. If you can’t get an exact match, then please try to get a name that incorporates your brand name in some way. This username will actually be used to help generate the URL path for your published campaign site – so you will want to make sure that it is consistent with the branding of your campaign.

Examples of Previous Semester Campaign Sites:




Wireframing Basics and Learning Gliffy


A wireframe represents a visual sketch that can be used in planning your website design and functionality. It typically happens prior to the actual building of the website - so that you can review and refine key decisions prior to any actual coding or creation.






Gliffy.com enables you to build a "wireframe" and site maps for your website. This easy-to-use service can be used to sketch and create your wireframe on the web -- and then share your creation with other stakeholders. 

An example of the Gliffy.com interface and a wireframe.















You can use Gliffy.com for website wireframing, flow charts, org charts, site maps -- and even a SWOT Analysis!

Here are some example wireframes that you can print out and review:

Project Management Software - Introducing Trello


TRELLO FOR PROJECT MANAGEMENT

Stay organized using Trello, a free web-based service that allows you to organize and prioritize your campaign elements as a team.

Use Trello to create your content development and social media promotion calendar as a team. Assign tasks and track progress on current content productions. You can create neatly organized "cards" for each task. Move your card to a new column to reflect the production status.

Get started at Trello.com.

MOBILE APP VERSION

The following video shows you how Trello works on  your mobile phone, too!


TRAINING VIDEO:

The video below shows you the basics of how to get started with Trello:




WEEKS 4 & 5: Focusing our online identity: Logo creations and research

SUMMARY:

For these weeks, we will:
  • Brainstorm and conduct trademark research on our campaign brand names
  • Explore and create various branded logo treatments for our campaign
  • Conduct a survey to identify key messaging and branding attributes for our campaign
  • Learn the basics of web design and wireframing
  • Create a wireframe of a proposed website for our campaign
  • Review our various homepage wireframes to identify and review key features that are necessary for our campaign website.
HOMEWORK:
  • Make sure you have completed the SWOT analysis, competitive analysis and user personas
  • Identify at least three potential brand names for your product or service. It is critical that you conduct a quick background check on your proposed names on Trademarkia.com to ensure that your suggestions do not violate any existing active trademarks.
  • Use an online survey tool to create a seven-question survey that aims to test the value propositions and sentiments associated with each brand name. (Optional):You can also use this tool to "test" what attributes and qualities people associate with multiple logo designs.
    • Once the survey is created, you should share it with your friends via Facebook or email. Each student should attempt to gather at least 20 responses from friends and family to your survey. (NOTE: Due to the limitations of this course, this is NOT meant to be a scientific survey. In the "real world," you would identify and/or even purchase a targeted survey response list to get a larger and more accurate response rate).
  • Once you determine your brand name, use Photoshop or a free web logo creation service to create a logo for your brand.
  • Create a wireframe for the homepage of your website using Gliffy.
  • Read Chapter 3 "Integrated Marketing Communication"

WEEK 3: Content Strategy Basics - Creating User Persona Research to Craft our Online Campaigns

SUMMARY:

This week, we will:
  • Review the fundamentals of content strategy for our campaigns
  • Review examples of user persona research and then apply these techniques to our campaign
  • Brainstorm and conduct trademark research on our campaign brand names
  • Read Chapter 2: "Becoming a Digital Guru"
HOMEWORK:
  • Continue to tweak/revise your competitive analysis and SWOT analysis. This will be used to help shape and inform future branding and messaging elements, including social media outreach strategies. (NOTE: Branding and naming exercises will occur in the next couple of weeks).
  • This week, each campaign should also have at least one user persona research profile for the audience that you anticipate targeting. Before the end of the semester, you should create at least two additional user persona profiles to include in your social media marketing plan.
  • Identify at least three potential brand names for your product or service. It is critical that you conduct a quick background check on your proposed names on Trademarkia.com to ensure that your suggestions do not violate any existing active trademarks.
ADDITIONAL HOMEWORK FOR NEXT WEEK (TO BE DISCUSSED IN CLASS AND ASSIGNED ON SEPT. 5):
  • Use an online survey tool to create a seven-question survey that aims to test the value propositions and sentiments associated with each brand name. You can also use this tool to "test" what attributes and qualities people associate with each of your proposed logo designs.
  • Once the survey is created, you should share it with your friends via Facebook or email. Each student should attempt to gather at least 20 responses from friends and family to your survey. (NOTE: Due to the limitations of this course, this is NOT meant to be a scientific survey. In the "real world," you would identify and/or even purchase a targeted survey response list to get a larger and more accurate response rate).

Creating a Survey using PollDaddy

LEARNING POLLDADDY

A great survey tool is Polldaddy.com. Use Polldaddy for surveys or polls that include images. For example, you can use it to test logos for your brand.


If the above embedded video does not show up on your browser, you can find it directly on YouTube at this link.

Learn more about how to use Polldaddy at the following link:
Note: If you are an existing Wordpress user, you can use your Wordpress username/login info to "link" your account to Polldaddy. If not, you will be asked to create a new Wordpress login in order to sign up for the free Polldaddy service (which is owned by the same company).

HOMEWORK
  • Use an online survey tool to create a seven-question survey that aims to test the value propositions and sentiments associated with each brand name. You can also use this tool to "test" what attributes and qualities people associate with each of your proposed logo designs.
  • Once the survey is created, you should share it with your friends via Facebook or email. Each student should attempt to gather at least 20 responses from friends and family to your survey. (NOTE: Due to the limitations of this course, this is NOT meant to be a scientific survey. In the "real world," you would identify and/or even purchase a targeted survey response list to get a larger and more accurate response rate).