Business or website owners all want to have their websites displayed in the top ten search results. In an effort to achieve that, plenty of website developers and designers have been perusing the algorithms search engines use and coming up with ways or even “tricks” to move up their sites in the ranking. Some of these tactics do work well, in a short period. In the long run, however, you can’t improve your SEO results solely by gearing your design towards search engines or even making use of loopholes to fool the search engine. Instead, optimizing your design for both search engines and viewers in a healthy way can help you achieve and keep the effect you dream of long term.

The reason lies in how search engine companies operate in the first place. Search engine companies such as Google develop and update algorithms to make users happy by prioritizing the most useful and relevant information to users in the ranking list. As a result, to achieve better SEO results, you want to design your website in a way that visitors can find what they need and that search engines can access and understand what’s on your sites.

Firstly, designing a user-friendly website requires an understanding of viewers’ expectations when they search and click on your site. Here are several things you can do to make viewers happy:

  • Choose the right keywords. Using tools such as Google AdWords to research which words or phrases related to your business most web users are typing into the search box. Don’t optimize for the keywords you think people will use to find you. Neither should you optimize for the words that have nothing to do with your website or business. People will get frustrated if they find your site totally irrelevant to what they are looking for and leave immediately, which damages SEO efforts.
  • Provide meaningful content. Too many website designers are stuffing their sites with keywords and making the content meaningless to visitors. If you want your visitors to leave your site satisfied and come back again, provide content they need. That also increases the chance of your website being linked, which is crucial for better ranking.
  • Make the structure and format appealing to users. If you have relevant content more than two clicks away from your homepage, viewers won’t find it easily. The result is that viewers can’t see the content you are actually offering. Also, make sure the writing on your page is brief, easy to understand and well-structured, just making people’s reading experience pleasant.

Aside from making your website appealing to users, you should make search engines easily access, understand and love your sites. Based on algorithms search engines use, here are things you should do:

  • Render your site and content visible to search engines. A search engine cannot index your site and display it in their search results if the search engine cannot see it in the first place.Technical issues making your site or content invisible to search engines might include incorrect content in the robots.txt file, wrong meta robots tags and existence of registration or login forms. Other factors stopping search engines in their tracks might be broken links, use of all-flash pages, use of relevant content in JavaScript and duplicate content. Check with your web developers to make sure the search engines can see what you want them to see.
  • Structure your site for SEO. Linking related pages with each other and linking them to a hub page within two clicks away from your homepage make search engines attach more importance and relevance to the whole content cluster you create. However, be sure to have something meaningful on that hub page instead of merely stuffing it with links.
  • Optimize your on-page structure and content. Build a semantic outline conforming to HTML because that is what search engines can understand. Put relevant keywords in alt attribute and filenames for images because search engines don’t read what’s on the picture. Also, take time writing good and relevant title tags, meta description tags, headlines and first paragraphs. Include the keywords but do not overuse them if it doesn’t make sense. Search engines don’t like abuse of keywords. Don’t forget to make title tags and linking text unique and relevant. Repeating title tags on every page and using “Click Here” everytime you make a link to a page within your site do not help or even hurt your SEO efforts. It’s also smart to create meaningful and relevant URLs and include the keywords if feasible.
  • Increase trust level and authority. It is wise to put your physical address and contact information on every page of your site to optimize for trust. Do not link sites with low trust ranks. In addition, you want to improve the authority of your site by being linked. Make sure to include social media icons displayed on your pages so that people can share your content through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. You can even add functions such as “forward this to friend” to increase the chance of being linked.
  • Make use of blended search. That means you could make your site displayed on the first page of search results with images, videos, press releases, products you sell or physical locations. By making use of the blended search opportunities provided by Google and Bing, you give your site a second way to make it into top search results.
  • Make content scannable to search engines. Breaking content into bullet points or short paragraphs not only improves readers’ experience but also makes it easy for search engines to find relevant points. Again, write for both readers and search engines.

Seeing your website moving up in the search result requires time, constant good-faith efforts and more importantly, patience. Your work may not boost your site ranking within a week or a month, but by following the right and appropriate SEO practices mentioned above, you are sure to see your site ranking gradually improve.

 

 

Americans in Chinese Kitchens

Americans in Chinese Kitchens

After 4-month work, I finally completed my Master Degree’s capstone project, a web video series on authentic Chinese cuisine and Chinese eating culture called Americans in Chinese Kitchens. I am not going to talk much about the web videos or the website in this blog because they turn out to be quite nice from not only my point of view but also those of professionals. Instead, I want to do a summary of my failure in social media efforts so that people doing similar projects can avoid mistakes I made.

My original plan was to release one episode of the videos each week and use Facebook and Twitter to promote the videos simultaneously. However, the schedule turned out to be very tight. Before my defense date when all the videos should be released, there were only less than two weeks left after I polished all of my videos and prepared to release them. That means I had to release all of my five videos and recipes within about 10 days and trying to get as much attention as possible through social media. It was hardly a surprise that it was not very successful.

Don’t Devalue Social Media Efforts

Firstly, I have to admit I did not make a good-faith efforts in this social media campaign within that limited time. My focus was mostly on video production and website content. To some extent, I ignored the necessity of social media efforts to increase the visibility of my project. The quality of videos is perfect. The layout of the website looks neat. However, what is the significance of the work if not many people even know its existence? Don’t just suppose your work will reach thousands of people if it is of decent quality. Get serious about developing a social media strategy and marketing your work.

Extend the Time Span of Social Media Campaigns

It is almost a common sense that the longer something is present on social media, the more people it is likely to reach. It now seems really unwise of me to use only 10 days to actively promote a project requiring 4 months of work. A better option could be starting to promote what I was doing and draw people’s attention when I started to shoot my first video about four months ago. For example, I could have posted some appealing photos on Facebook or Twitter of food cooked by my subjects in the videos or a 30-second footage to get people interested in what I was doing. I could even have written some blog posts about Chinese eating culture and promoted them on social media. The lesson here is that I should not have wasted the four months and waited to start the social media presence until all the videos and the website were finished.

Consider Collaboration On Social Media

A big problem for me in my social media efforts is my failure to reach the group of people who are interested in the topic featured in my project. My target audience in this project, for instance, are those interested in cooking, Asian food and Chinese culture. Although I did use hashtags accurately, that was not very effective. A good strategy could be trying to collaborate with influential social media accounts posting similar topics. Those accounts already own thousands of followers who are interested in a specific topic. If my posts get retweeted or shared by those accounts, my project will directly reach potential target audience.

 

The press release is an important publicity tool that barely costs a cent. However, a press release, especially a poorly written one, is easy to get buried among a huge number of emails coming to a reporter’s email box every day. I happened to find this old article “How To Write a Press Release, with Examples” by CBS Money Watch. I also read a very good guide to writing press releases yesterday: A Complete Guide to Writing an Effective Press Release. Those two articles gave me lots of insight into what type of press releases may get reporters’ attention.

From my understanding, the first thing we should be aware of is to write press releases with our audience in mind. A press release has a much higher possibility of getting covered if it is packed with stories concerning readers rather than business cliches. I had experience working in a newsroom before. Whenever I wrote a story as a journalist, I needed to make sure there was in fact a “story” worth covering. In that light, a same rule can be applied to writing press releases. We need to make sure there is a “story” that might interest journalists and their audience. The CBS article gave us an idea of what kind of press releases do have a story worth covering.

The second thing we need to pay attention to is target audience and target media. What is the press release about? Who will this release be most relevant to? What type of newspapers or magazines are more likely to cover this topic? Identifying the target audience and target media is a prerequisite to an appropriate use of language and content. For example, we should not put a bunch of terminologies in a press release sent to a local daily newspaper. I think a good strategy is to draft and send different versions of a press release to different types of newspapers or magazines.

One last thing is to have an effective communication with reporters. A follow-up call after emailing reporters press releases is desirable. Contacting reporters whom you want to cover the release personally is a good idea too. Besides, structure and style the press release in a way that makes reporters’ job easy. See A Complete Guide to Writing an Effective Press Release. If you have high-quality and publishable photos, send them with the press releases too.

 

According to Forbes, 2015 has been referred to as “The Year of Video Marketing.” Videos stand out as a new popular way for marketing because they are inspiring and appealing. But researches have also found that YouTube videos are SEO-friendly.

There are many things to learn if you want a perfect professional video, but it is not hard or expensive at all to create simple but decent-looking videos for marketing use today. This article will touch on the most basic three steps in most of the video marketing cases.

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Develop Engaging Content

In most cases, the ultimate goal of the videos is to draw attention to products, services or brands. Using a total of 3 minutes of a video merely to shout about the presence of a product is not smart. On the contrary, creating videos relevant to viewers is a good option. A video answering potential clients’ or customers’ questions about products, services or industry is not a bad place to start. A lot of companies even create a series of tutorials educating audience a certain aspect of industry knowledge. That not only increases the chance of videos being clicked on or subscribed to, but also showcases the company’s professionalism and authorization in a certain area.

Another example of good content would be the sharing of personal stories about a normal workday, a company party, a team working hard on a project, or about an employers’ individual experience at work. This enables viewers to gain insight into the company’s values and goals, making it more relatable to them.

Produce High-Quality Videos

The quality of the videos should never be compromised. Follow basic rules such as rule of thirds, decent lighting and nice audio quality to produce decent-looking videos. Using low-quality videos renders a company as being unprofessional. Even when you are shooting an interview with a smartphone, you should make sure the person is not out of focus, and you should consider putting the phone on a tripod.

Make sure that each video is short but engaging enough to hold an audience’s attention throughout the five minutes or less, and include a call to action at the end of your videos.

Implement a Distribution Strategy or Campaign

The following are things you should do

  • Promote videos across social media before they are released.
  • If you have a series of videos, create a YouTube channel specifically for the series and release the videos on a regular basis.
  • Promote the videos through share buttons across all social media platforms in order to increase subscription numbers if you have a series.
  • Keywords are important for SEO strategy. Write titles and descriptions wisely and don’t forget to tag your videos.
  • Include an URL to your website through your video descriptions in order to lead people to your website.
  • Use YouTube video channel functions such as inserting text boxes, links to other videos or website addresses in order to optimize your publicity.

Just one last thing, be sure to have your company’s logo displayed on the screen. You may keep the logo throughout the whole video or simply have it displayed for a certain period of time.

With the three basic steps kept in mind, why not drive business to your company through video marketing today?

Sources & Useful Links:

5 Critical Video production Tips – How To Shoot Better Quality Web Video for Business

4 Tips for Producing Quality Web Videos

Seven Tips for Marketing a Business with Video

16 Tips for Successful Online Video Marketing

5 Things Your Marketing Strategy Should Include

As a communications student, I have heard of SEO thousands of times. I knew SEO is short for “Search Engine Optimization, and I had a very rough idea of what it means. From my understanding, for marketers, SEO is a technique to make their website easily accessible to search engine users from a list of search results. Now I plan to learn the concepts and practices of SEO in depth. In this blog, I’m going to share my understanding of the basic definitions of SEO.

According to the definition given by Moz, “SEO is the practice of improving and promoting a website to increase the number of visitors the site receives from search engines.” Since the majority of website traffic is driven by search engine results such as those appearing on Google or Bing, it is essential for website owners to make sure their sites are not buried in search results. Good SEO strategies play an essential role in increasing the visibility of a website. 

This is a video on the definitions of SEO from Search Engine Land.

Generally speaking, search engines act as a tool to help searchers find possible web pages they are looking for. SEO practice is to structure a website in a way that makes search engines easily find this site when searchers try to find content the website provides and present this site on top results. The key point of SEO practice is to understand factors influencing search engines’ decisions on whether a website is highly relevant to what a searcher is looking for. Engineers and professionals have been doing researches and analysis to identify those factors. For example, this is the periodic table of SEO success actors from Search Engine Land.

There are some principles we all know such as providing useful and informations content to your users. However, there are a huge number of factors to understand. I will learn them gradually and share my understanding in future posts.

I want to show the importance of combining A-Roll and B-Roll in the following three 15-second videos. The three videos look quite different from each other. However, they are actually telling the same story.

As we can see, the first video only uses A-Roll footages, where there is nothing else except a talking head. Basically, we can get what the story is from this interviewee. However, there is no other detail supporting what he says. That makes the whole video look like a lecture, and thus it looks a little boring. Another problem is that there are  lots of obvious jump cuts, which renders the video influent and unprofessional.

The second video only uses B-Roll. There seems to be lots of things happening in the video but we don’t know what the video is about exactly. The video moves from one scene to another very different scene very quickly. There is no transition connecting different scenes, which doesn’t make the video a coherent and fluent-flowing story.

This video combines A-Roll and B-Roll. The interviewee is telling his story and at the same time, B-Roll provides lots of supporting details, which makes the video more appealing to audience. Besides, B-Roll helps avoid jump cuts and A-Roll helps different scenes in B-Roll footages transit. As a result, a combination of A-Roll and B-Roll makes the video an interesting and coherent story.

 

I found this short opinionated documentary “A Threat to Cambodia’s Sacred Forest” on the website of the New York Times. The video is about how Chong people who have lived in a valley for over 600 years protested against building dams in that area, which might destroy Chong people’s “forest, livelihood and heritage.” I really think this video has done a great job in terms of  the quality of its videography and storytelling.

I feel surprised that few footages of interviews appear in this video. Instead, the producer uses text to give viewers some introduction about background information. There are not many A-rolls, but B-rolls are dominant in this video, which makes the whole video flow smoothly. When I watched this video, I felt I was just watching a film instead of a news documentary. I was directed from scenes to scenes without being constantly  interrupted by interviews. Because the B-rolls with some support of text do provide all information viewers need, this technique does work well in this video and succeeds in telling a powerful story.

I also love the audio a lot. The nat sound is great. The sound of bird, leaves, and water makes viewers feel they are actually in the valley. It also gives people a kind of feeling that the forest is sanctuary for wildlife. After the sound of the forest, there’s sound of people doing chiseling work, which is absolutely unharmonious with the sound of the nature. This is a great and powerful contrast.

The combination of different type of shots and the nice composition of each shot are also really appealing to me. I love how different types of shot are adopted. For example, there are wide shots of the valley. There are medium shots of people. There are also shots of the woman’s hands picking up mushrooms, which captures details. I also love how the producer shoot footages from varying angles, which makes the whole scene more real to viewers. The producer combines the footages shot by a still camera and a moving camera very well too. When the family are sailing on the river, the moving shot makes viewers feel they are sailing on the river with the family too. However, when the monks are passing, the camera doesn’t move. Viewers see those monks enter into the picture and pass one by one. Although the camera is still this time, it is the monks’ moving that stands out in this way. Another thing I have noticed is that the composition of almost every shot is great. Principles of simplicity, rule of thirds, balance, framing and leading lines are paid much attention to, which succeeds in giving viewers delightful visual experience.

Good data visualization helps readers absorb information or data better than mere text. The article “The Nation’s Economy, This Side of the Recession” from the New York Times visualizes statistics about the nation’s economy and the recession through graphs such as bubble charts and line graphs. Generally speaking, those graphs are well designed and they present the data effectively. However, there are a few graphs that fail to present information very clearly.

I like how the graphs on this page successfully achieve the four principles of graphic design: contrast, consistency, alignment and proximity. Within each graph, the title uses a different font from other words on the graph. The colors are well chosen in terms of contrasting each other. Meanwhile, almost all the graphs basically consist of only three colors: black, grey and green. That makes the graphs on this webpage look consistent. We would definitely not want too many colors because that would be distracting. The graphs are aligned well on the right of the webpage except for a few really wide graphs, and they belong to different sections featuring different aspects of information. The layout of the graphs looks really neat on the page.

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picture from http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/06/14/business/this-side-of-the-recession.html?ref=business

Many of the graphs are really informative. For example, I like it that those line graphs inform us well how a certain index changes from 2000 to 2014. The numbers before the recession and the numbers now are marked specifically to allow readers to contrast the numbers. The bubble chart in the “Industrial Ruin and Revival” section is one of my favorites too. From the color and the size of the bubbles, audience have a very clear idea of how the number of private manufacturing jobs has changed from 2007 to 2013. Besides, audience can see what things are like in different geographic areas and make comparisons. The “Change from pre-recession peak home prices” graph actually presents tons of numbers in a very simplified way. We can see changes of numbers for different states throughout the country on this graph. That actually illustrates one outstanding feature of data visualization: it can present so much data in a simple and easy-to-absorb way.

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picture from http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/06/14/business/this-side-of-the-recession.html?ref=business

 

 

 

 

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picture from http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/06/14/business/this-side-of-the-recession.html?ref=business

However, there are a few things I do not like about those graphs. The first thing is that in some of the line graphs such as in the “Share of unemployed out of work for six months or more” graph and “food stamp recipients” graph, the area below the line is filled with green and I don’t know the reason for that. Does that intend to emphasize something? If it does not have a purpose, I think all those line graphs should be consistent in terms of the style. Also in the bubble chart in the “A Shrinking, Shifting Middle Class” section, some of the circles are black but nothing tells audience whether there is any difference between brown circles and black circles. That is confusing.

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picture from http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/06/14/business/this-side-of-the-recession.html?ref=business

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picture from http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/06/14/business/this-side-of-the-recession.html?ref=business

Good typography on the website of a news organization can help words deliver messages in a more effective way. It improves readers’ experience. Bad typography, on the contrary, makes the webpage look messy and unprofessional.

I want to analyze the typography of a CNN opinion “Why weeping Brazil fans applauded Germany’s team” and the typography on its webpage. I think they did a good job. I will analyze the typography from the four principles of graphic design: contrast, consistency, alignment and proximity.

Contrast

In this opinion as well as on this whole webpage, different parts of information use different fonts. For example, the title is obviously much bigger than the body part of the story. The title for the photo stories is big too, but it is not of the exactly same size as the title for the whole opinion. “Editors’Note” part is italic, which differentiates this part from the true body of the opinion. The “Story Highlights” part on the left use a much smaller size of words than the body part. Also, the use of color intends to present contrasts too. For example, the background color of the head is red and the background of other parts on the page is white. That is a neat contrast of colors. The hyperlinks contained in the opinion are blue so that audience know where they can click if they want to know additional information. The background of the photo part is black and the text in the photo part is white. The colors in the photo part are opposite of those used in the main part of the opinion. That is a contrast too. All in all, if we navigate through this webpage, we have a very clear idea of which part every word belongs to. That is because the typography here makes good use of contrasts and audience never get lost.

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Consistency

Although there are different fonts and colors in this opinion as well as on this webpage, the page still looks neat generally, because consistency is also paid much attention to. Hyperlinks are all blue. The whole page sticks to a few certain typefaces to make sure nothing distracts audience badly. On the right of the page, there is a part called “part of complete coverage on opinion on the news.” In this part, all the captions are of the same font and all the body parts are of the same font. Such efforts in consistency can really give audience a good first impression when they open the page.

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Alignment

Almost in every part on this webpage, the texts including titles are aligned left. That appeals to readers’ common reading habit that their eyes always go back to the left of the page. This is a good idea especially when there are many texts. The whole page looks organized because almost in every part, texts are aligned left.

Proximity

On newspaper or website pages, things are normally grouped by categories or the information they present, and texts in the same group always have consistent fonts. However, different groups usually use contrasting fonts. As I have mentioned in both the consistency part and the contrast part, different parts of information on this webpage use different fonts. Within the same part, they use consistent fonts. For example, at the bottom, the “From Around the Web” part and the “More from CNN” part consists of blue hyperlink captions. That is the way they are grouped together and differentiated from other information on the page.

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What is the difference between recording a video and shooting stills? What are the things we need to pay attention to when we are doing a vide story? The chapter 13 of Kenneth Kobre’s book Photo Journalism: The Professionals’ Approach provides great tips for video beginners.

(1) One journalist is playing multiple roles in today’s newsrooms. The assignment of photojournalists is not limited to shooting still photos any more. They also need to record videos, report or produce stories. There are worries upon this phenomenon. Technical quality or accuracy of the story may be jeopardized. That requires that traditional reporters update their toolkit and that traditional photojournalists improve their reporting skills (page 308, 309, 310, and page 311).

(2) It is important that we should make sure there is a story before we shoot the video. A good way to do that is to conduct an interview with the subject before recording the video. We can decide whether we can get some engaging stories from this subject through the interviews (page 312).

(3) When we do video stories, we should also keep basic reporting necessities in mind. We should remember that opposing viewpoints do matter in the video story because we are in the journalism field instead of public relations section. Providing opposing viewpoints avoids partiality and imbalance (page 313).

(4) Shooting stills is about catching a moment but shooting videos is about recording the sequence. Moment needs to be put into a context in videos, so things before and after an action or a moment is important (page 314).

(5) I like the comparison that “Shooting video is like composing a symphony.” The way materials are gathered, structured and integrated depends on what kind of stories we want to tell. We should know what kind of shots we may need in order to produce a fluent and interesting video and should integrate them in a way that tells an engaging story (page 314).

(6) We should avoid colliding images when we shoot videos. Colliding images such as a band walking from different sides can be confusing to viewers. One of the good ways to solve that problem is to provide transitional shots which explains the positions or directions visually (page 327).