More on Google and News Releases; New Google Tools; The Death of iGoogle

Scout on the stairs

It has been a very busy few weeks here. Good news: It is Friday and time for another web roundup! And I will be turning in my mid-term tenure review portfolio today! wahoo!

Great articles from around the web:

Recently, the great blog SpinSucks posted an article reminding practitioners about the recent changes from Google that can have a negative impact on your news release. Here are their tips on how to avoid a Google penalty! I wrote about this several weeks ago if you care to learn more about the WHY behind these needed changes to news release writing online.

Wendy’s Hilarious and Clever Social Media Campaign – Here’s a great article about the latest from Wendy’s – a series of nonsensical soap opera style videos with real user tweets as the script. Absolutely clever. Absolutely hilarious. Check them out!

And, since I like to talk about cool tools for both in the classroom and for productivity for professors, here is a great list of 14 Google tools you may not know existed. While I knew a many of them, I found some cool new tools from this list, some of which are useful in the classroom – like Google’s NGram viewer that would be great for infographics! Btw, I’ve got a few more productivity post tips in the works.

How Social Media Killed iGoogle – Do you remember the customizable landing page? I do. I never got into it. This post helps me understand why – information gathering via social media, including incidental exposure, has killed the personalized portal.

Lastly, happy to see, though I suppose you already knew this 😉 – more professors are using social media in the classroom to teach.

How would you use iPads in the classroom?

Recently, another faculty member and I secured funding to get 10 iPads for our department (6 minis and 4 retinas). While we have some great plans on what we’d like to do with the iPads, I’d love any ideas and suggestions you have on how we can maximize our use of the iPads for learning. What creative ideas and suggestions do you have for using iPads in the classroom? If you’re using iPads in your classes, how are you using them? What has your experience been like? Please share your comments below, via Twitter, or G+. Thanks so much!

Scout update!

Lastly, a quick update for the Scout fans! Scout is growing up so very quickly! I have lost count of how many weeks old she is now, but she’s 27 pounds (she was 14 when we first brought her to the vet a few weeks after we got her).

We’ve spent a lot of time training her (I highly recommend The Power of Positive Dog Training) and taking her to a “puppy kindergarten” class. She recently passed her first puppy class, and we are hoping to enroll her in the next stage. She has been a joy and I have learned a lot – it has been a growing and learning experience for me!  A few weeks ago, we traveled to Pittsburg for a work function for Kelin. During that time, Scout got a chance to visit the breeder where she came from. She got to see her mother and sister. You can follow Scout on Instagram! Scout was confused by  her first Halloween, barking at the children! But she soon settled in. Thanksgiving will be fun!

Snickers Understands the Opportunity in Search

Snickers used search engines to target customers who were making misspellings during search. This cost-effective campaign reached over 500,000 people in 2 days.

How did it work? As explained on a Google article, “Each time someone misspelled a word, they were given a tailored message to “Grab yourself a Snikkers” as “Yu cant spel properlie wen hungrie.” Clicking the ad brought the customer to YoureNotYouWhenYoureHungry.com.

This is the most brilliant example of search engine marketing I’ve seen in quite a while. And the lessons here extend beyond search engine marketing to search generally, and understanding audience and opportunity. What makes this campaign so great?

Integration across mediums – Integrated Marketing is not new, but this is clever integration of an offline campaign that many of us already know to the online world: Snickers’ “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry.” You’ve probably seen the “diva” commercials of someone being hungry and acting moody, then returning to themselves after being given a Snickers. With that familiarity, I know what Snickers is referring to when the campaign ad comes up in search.

Seizing Opportunity– This year, a big trend has been ‘real-time marketing‘ on Twitter. We saw it with Oreo and Audi in the Super Bowl when the lights went out.This week, we saw it with the birth of the royal baby. What is real-time marketing other than taking advantage of an OPPORTUNITY to reach out to an audience and connect with them on a common event or cultural experience? Of course, this type of strategy has been around for ages. Find someone when they’re in need of your product and they’re more likely to buy. But this is a particularly clever way of engaging an audience in that situation and frame of mind.

The search campaign here comes off as an almost secret finding for the searcher, like a treasure hunt they didn’t know they were a part of. There you are browsing for something – like business -, you make a misspelling, are probably frustrated by it, and out of left field comes this funny little find. Hence, an OPPORTUNITY for the target audience to interact with Snickers is created. Who wouldn’t chuckle at someone joking that “Yu cant spel properlie wen hungrie.” at a time like this? It feels like the ad was targeted specifically to you. That’s what I mean when I mention the ‘situation’ and ‘frame of mind’ below.

The video below quickly gives a sense of how Snickers identified an opportunity to target an audience (in this case, young adults who are likely bored, hungry for a snack, and appreciate creativity and humor from a brand), and used search as a creative way of connecting. Though I’m not sure what level of competition they had for the misspelled words, I imagine it wasn’t too great when compared to trying to bid on real spellings for a targeted keyword.

Understanding search behavior – Snickers identified common misspellings of key words. As the video claims, people ‘make spelling mistakes when they’re hungry.’ Though I don’t know about the research on that, I can say that people make spelling mistakes all the time in search. And aren’t we all always hungry for a snack, particularly something sweet?

Meeting Your target demographic on their turf – Snickers targets their audience WHERE their audience is, in the situation and frame of mind that makes them ready to purchase. Let me explain. Who eats Snickers? Well, just about everybody (though I’m a Charleston Chew guy myself). But the campaign uses an odd sense of humor to appeal to younger folks and that busy lifestyle we all experience that makes quick snacks like candy bars an easy option. The video indicates the real target is the bored person at work who is stuck at a computer. And what office doesn’t have a vending machine nearby, or a convenient store around the corner? We’ve seen this sort of targeting in other chocolate bar ads, a la “Gimmie a break” indicating the snack as a quick escape from the drudgery of everyday life.

The resulting experience for the searcher? I didn’t mean to show up at this misspelled search result but, behold, I’m not here alone… Snickers is here too, they’ve made this mistake, and they understand WHY I’m here.

Bringing this all together, I love this example because it shows how one brand cleverly reached an audience on a small budget using something we often talk about, search engines, but don’t always quite realize their full potential.

This is a great example I plan to show in my class to emphasize the importance of search engines, and how they can be used to target audiences (I introduce targeting via search in Writing Across Platforms). I’m sure it will spark discussion and some creativity!

Teaching Keyword Competition with Google Adwords (Activity)

This post is long overdue!

Several weeks ago, I wrote about the importance of teaching content marketing in the college Communication or Business writing class today. I followed up with a post about Search Engine Optimization and an activity for introducing students to the importance of keyword research using Google Trends. I promised a follow up brief activity with Google Keywords Adwords Tool. Then the end of the semester and life ganged up on me! I realized I needed a full post just to talk about Keyword Competition, using my own website title as an example.

The Competition!

Back to the Writing Across Platforms (syllabus) classroom activity I promised!

After teaching Google Trends and doing the activity, I plan to teach Keyword Competition and give my students a brief activity to get them practicing keyword competition research for their writing.

This activity is completed in small chunks across 3 class periods but could easily be done in 2 days! (if you’re really efficient: maybe 1!)

Day 1: Assign Homework (3-4 minutes to explain)

  • On the day I first introduce SEO, I assign students to bring to the next class: Brainstorm a list of 5-7 keywords (terms they think people might use when searching for this topic). The topic is: soup.

Day 2: Set Up: (10 minutes)

Note: I have also explained on this day what Keyword competition is (for a primer, see my activity on Google Trends and the below slides).

  • I first have students go to the Google Adwords Keywords Tool and we walk through an example on cars (we used cars in talking about Google Trends, so there is consistency).
  • I have students search for “fuel efficiency” and “car safety.” And then have them look at alternative keyword options, competition for each term, and search volume. We discuss.
  • Then I have students take out the 5-7 soup keyword terms I assigned the class before. We write some on the board so students can see the variation of ideas related to soup. This gives students a chance to see how others may search for soup, particularly in ways they didn’t think about.

Day 2: In Class Activity (~20 minutes):

I then present an in-class exercise. Here are the instructions:

Scenario:

  • You are going to write a post for your cooking blog.
  • When searching for keywords, think about things that would make for a good blog post subject.
  • Work with a Partner:
    • Go to Google AdWords (google: “google adwords keyword tool”) Select “Exact Match” (on left)
    • Search: soup
    • See what terms people search for a lot by looking at the column labeled “Local Monthly Searches.”
    • Identify and WRITE DOWN 5 terms related to soup with medium to low competition, and high search volume.
    • You’ll need these terms for next class.
  • After students spend 10 minutes or so researching with a partner on an in-class computer, I ask the class “based on your research, what would make for a good blog post subject about soup?” We discuss differences and similarities between what they initially thought up and what their research showed them.
  • I then tell them to bring today’s keyword back next class.

Day 3: Writing Keyword Research Headlines (Lecture: 30 minutes; Activity: 15 minutes, + class discussion).

On day 3, I teach the importance of writing headlines for online articles. I teach headlines first because they are relatively less complicated than thinking about placing keywords or using keyword research to write the article itself. The headline is but a handful of characters! But it encapsulates the blog topic and some say it is the most important part of your article. Headlines itself could be (and may become some day) another blog post! But here’s some great info on headlines:

Why headlines are so important

9 Proven Headline Formulas that Sell Like Crazy

To see the lecture on headlines, see the slides below.

  • After, I have students take out their 5 soup keywords that they discovered through research the class before.
  • I give them 10 minutes to write 5 headlines.
  • Each headline must use a different headline formula of those we discussed.
  • Under each headline they are to list: the keyword(s) used, name of formula.
  • Headlines must be less than 60 characters.
  • Pair and Share: Students exchange their headlines with a partner. The partner evaluates the headlines against what we’ve discussed over the past several classes. Partners then exchange notes and discuss.
  • To wrap up, we discuss as a class and address any questions / concerns students may have.

And that’s that! I’m excited to see how it goes this fall! Thanks for your patience on this. I hope you are having a great summer! If you enjoy this blog post, please subscribe and share! Please post any comments below!

Related lecture slides are below!

Day 1: The Set Up: What’s SEO and Keyword Research?

Day 2: Google Trends and Keyword Competition

Day 3: Headlines

photo CC Team Traveller

How I Used SEO Keyword Competition Research to Target My Niche

At some point, I bet you’ve wondered – Why did you name your blog Social Media Syllabus?

No, it is not a syllabus. It is a way to help my target audience find me. Let me explain.

boat_light

Several posts ago, I discussed introducing students to SEO and writing for search in my Writing Across Platforms course (though it could be taught in a social media course or a PR, marketing, or other course). This included an activity with Google Trends where students get an opportunity to see the importance of understanding how people search the web.

I want to use my blog name as an example to extend this to another great tool we should be teaching our students: Google Adwords Keywords Tool, a very popular tool used to conduct SEO keyword research.

Competition: Considerations for naming a blog (or a post, or post content, for that matter!)
When I decided to start blogging a few months ago, I needed a blog title. I began with SEO in mind. I did a ton of research on Google Adwords Keywords tool for search terms related to social media education. I know my primary target audience is educators interested in teaching or using social media in the classroom. Clearly I’m not the only one out there writing on this subject, and there are many related subjects. So how to differentiate myself?

You see, Google’s Adwords Keyword tool can be used to assess keyword competition.

Keyword competition is simply the idea that if too many people are using the same keyword in their web content, then competition to be the top search result will be fierce and the chance of ranking high in search is more difficult.

Google Adwords Keywords tool’s primary purpose is actually for writing search engine marketing ads on Google. People bid on keywords for ad placement on Google searches and the highest bids show up. But many folks use it for keyword research for SEO as well.

Pulling from our example from the Google Trends post last week, imagine you’re writing web content about an automobile brand. You may have found in Google Trends that “fuel economy” and “safety rating” are more popular than “cup holders” or “park assist” what people are searching for a new car. But you don’t know how many of your competitors are creating content with these terms. If they are, your chances of showing up on search results are diminished.

To find this out, people use Google Adwords Keywords tool. The theory is that if competition is high on Google Adwords, it is likely high on organic content as well. So, in the simplest sense, a high search volume and low competition are though to be ideal.

It is of course more complicated than that. We also must think about specificity and context. Is what people are searching for what your content is about?

Here’s an example. If people search for “drums” they may be searching for brake drums, gallon drums, musical drums, etc.. Drums then is non-specific. It is a bad keyword – because it is not specific and lacks context.

If you’re writing about break drums, of course your content will have the words break drums in them. But what else?

We must be creative in coming up with “long-tail” keywords – those longer phrases that get less search volume, but have less competition and that a very specific target audience is searching for. Should you use “cracked break drum”? “brake drum issues”?

This is not an easy task. But it is something that is becoming more and more important. Our students need to learn it.

Why name my blog Social Media Syllabus?
What I’m trying to do in positioning my blog, is figure out what a social media educator / person wanting to use social media in the classroom is going to search for.

When I did my research, I found I was in competition with a lot social media education programs – such as online courses, certifications, etc. That’s not my niche (which is again, social media educators) – but we share search terms. There are, of course, also articles about social media and higher education. These seem to span from examples of how it is being used by universities rather than by educators, to higher education recruiting, and other related topics but not what my target audience is looking for. Again, not my target audience – but related search terms that similar audiences are searching. Many of these have medium to high competition and not a ton of searches (click image to enlarge – sorry it’s my template).

googleadwords_smeducation

I did a number of other searches and considered a number of things but finally settled on Social Media Syllabus. It has low search volume – but again, I’m targeting a fairly small niche – but someone searching for a social media syllabus is clearly looking for what my blog is primarily about, teaching social media. And, I have the syllabi they are looking for on my site. So, theoretically speaking, I should fulfill their need (click to enlarge).

GoogleAdwordsResults_socialmedia

I hope this explanation offers an example of 1 way of going about thinking about the role search plays in content today, and how we can try and differentiate ourselves with specific terms.

Is it working?
Having moved from Posterous to WordPress (free version), I no longer have Google Analytics, which I miss dearly. Without robust stats it is more difficult for me to be sure my plan is working, as often WordPress doesn’t tell me the search terms that brought people to my site (reading “other search terms” or “unknown search terms). However, it has stated on a dozen or so occasions that people arrived to my site from searching ‘social media syllabus.’ As my blog is fairly new, I should be building authority over time that will help me in search results.

Final Thoughts:
Once the right keywords are chosen, they are used in writing headlines and high up in the body of text of your content. You then want to monitor your web traffic to see what keyword searches are driving traffic to your article. Monitor and adjust. For example, you may find that people are finding you using keywords you hadn’t anticipated, or that people are searching for something off topic and finding their way to your site. Likely, these people are not hanging around as your site’s content is not what they’re looking for.

I hope that brief intro was helpful. There is much more that could be discussed. I will post a class activity for students using Adwords Keywords tool in a future post.

What did I leave out? Other considerations? Educators; Have any resources to share to help students understand SEO? Readers and I would love it if you shared!

– Cheers! Matt

Related Posts

photo CC boltron

Introducing Students to SEO Keyword Research with Google Trends (Activity)

On my last post I talked about Why I’m teaching Content Marketing in the Writing Class. One of the reasons I gave was the close connection between social media, SEO, and content marketing.

Today, we must teach students to write for 2 audiences:

  • Humans – you know, those organisms you interact with on social media.. oh, sometimes in real life too.
  • Search Engines – Where wonders cease and answers are found.

seo_cartoon

For written assignments, students in Writing Across Platforms (see syllabus) will conduct keyword research to optimize their content for the web.

As one way to introduce my students to SEO and keyword research, I use the below in class exercise with Google Trends (formerly, Google Insights). Google Trends allows users to see and compare trends on what Googlers are searching for, by showing search volume across time. Users can break down trends by category, such as geography.

We also discuss keyword research via Google Adword Keyword Search Tool. But I like to talk about Google Trends first because it is easy to use and a bit more approachable with its visual layout, including interactive maps.

Google Trends Activity and Discussion (Time: 15-20 minutes). Note: Lecture notes at bottom of blog post.

In class, I explain how search engines like Google seek to rank content based on relevancy and credibility so they can deliver the best content to searchers. The algorithms for ranking content are complex and constantly changing. But the question for anyone seeking to get their content in front of the right eyeballs remains the same:

How can we optimize our content to increase the chance people will find it online?

  1. I explain how Google Trends can be used to see what characteristics or features of a topic people search for (you can see the slides below). I ask students to imagine they are writing content for a new Volkswagen. How can they know what features of the new car to highlight in their content?
  2. I use this example because Google already has a great video explaining the results of a keyword search topic. So after we discuss some popular features, I show them the video example.
  3. Then we go to Google Trends and try it for ourselves.
  4. I then give them an in-class activity with a similar scenario asking them to find out what people search for most regarding a particular topic. I prompt with:
  5. Imagine you work for a client who wants to promote a new gym. What do people seem to be most interested in?
  6. Look specifically at Maryland. What do they search for in Maryland?
  7. How could you apply this knowledge to target user interest?
  8. Students go to the following Google Doc (http://bit.ly/WAP_GTrendsEx) and follow the instructions and visuals to walk them through the steps on Google Trends.
  9. This brief activity is followed by discussion of what they found, and their thoughts on how this information could be used.
  10. In my experience (I taught this in a social media class in the past), students at this point are excited about this tool and want to compare a topic they are interested in – maybe ice cream flavors, celebrities, brands, etc. I’ll ask students to make predictions on what topic is being searched for most and why. Often, we are surprised by what we find, which makes for a great discussion. We have lots of fun spending a few minutes doing this kind of exploration!
  11. I end by emphasizing that one way to use Google Trends is to see what people care about the most when they search for a topic, whether it be cars, gyms, et cetera.

From there, we move on to discussing Google Adwords Keyword tool, which I’ll save for a future blog post.

Check out the associated slides for this class and the class before it where I explain SEO and linking below:

What is SEO and link building and why do they matter?

Keyword Research Activity: Google Trends and Adwords (relates directly to above blog post)

What do you think? How do you teach your students about keyword research and search engine optimization? Would love to hear your exercises and thoughts below.

Cheers!
– Matt

Related Posts:

  1. When Content Marketing Fails to Deliver: 6 Problems with Marketo’s Ebook
  2. Why We Should Teach Content Marketing in the Writing Class

top cartoon: Some rights reserved by seanrnicholson