Web Design

After hearing Joey Shepp of earthsite.com speak in class this week, I am a little shocked at how much I didn’t know about web design.  I was aware of the basics like having to make sure that your site is easy to navigate and pleasant to look at, but realized that I hadn’t even begun to think about the actual content, deciding what web hosting company to go through, and site security to name a few.  Previously, I had thought that it wouldn’t be too difficult to make your own website, as I am only familiar with FaceBook and Word Press, but now I would most definitely hire a web designer!

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Links Galore

In order to totally take advantage of Search Engine Optimization, Jon Rognerud (author of Ultimate Guide to Search Engine Optimization) suggests that using links to similar sites can be extremely beneficial.  Rognerud says that: “links are like ‘votes’ for your site, as each link functions as a ‘recommendation’ from another site to check yours out!”  I had not thought about this concept before, but essentially, linking your website to another site is sort of like a free advertisement.  If someone is browsing the web and comes across a site that they’re interested in, it is very likely that they would check out any links that are on that page.  By linking your page to any sites that share similar keywords and topics, webmasters are able to piggy-back off of another site’s SEO and add it to their own.

Another way to utilize links is to link to not only the homepage of your site.  When the links are to deeper layers of your site, the person browsing the web is able to move through your site and see all that it has to offer.  Rognerud suggests that when selecting sites to link, webmasters should “make it natural and mix it up–link to the home page, inner pages, and deep/lowest pages in the web site structure.   Make sure the relevant links point to the correct pages; don’t just link to the home page–a common mistake.”

Keep in mind that links can be very valuable, but also be a detriment to a site.  When putting links on your site or having your link put on another site, it pays to be picky.

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Google AdWords, Here We Come!

I am so excited to start the Google AdWords challenge!  Working on all of our buyer persona profiles this week has been so much more fun than I expected it to be, and I can’t wait to get our campaign underway.  It’s so interesting to break your target market down into specific people because that is something that I never would have thought to do.  Our client, BOK Ranch (check out their website at www.bokranch.com), has quite a few market segments that we’re targeting with our campaign.  The main categories that we’re looking at are future students, volunteers and donors.  Within each are so many potential target segments!  I was working on a profile for the parent of a future rider, and surprised myself with how quickly I was able to come up with a person to represent this parent.  It was really fun to decide what interests the person would have, what they would be searching for online, and a variety of little details about their personality.

Another piece of the challenge that I’m really enjoying is actually writing the ads.  Working to create an appealing ad in a very limited amount of words is more difficult than I thought!  Each time I write a new ad, the allotted characters seem to disappear faster and faster.  This is, however, the type of challenge that I look for and thoroughly enjoy.

My hope for this campaign is that we can drive more traffic to the BOK Ranch website and recruit more riders and volunteers.  It is an incredible program, and I’m so gald that my team has the opportunity to work with them!

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Information Overload!!

I must admit, I’m not very internet/computer savvy.  I know how to use the basics like word, excel, and how to do research online…but beyond that, I’m pretty much hopeless.  In class, we were discussing one of our text books, Search Engine Optimization, and I felt completely lost because of all this new terminology.  So for anyone out there who is as confused as I am by all the computer and internet jargon, look no further because I have put together a brief guide (explained in English) to some of the basics.  To preface the ramblings below, this is as much for my understanding as it is for your knowledge.  I learn the best by explaining things to others…so here it goes!

Content–the stuff that you create

  • Domain name–what you call your site (the http://www.domainname.com bit).  In order to use search engines to their highest potential, it is best to use keywords in your domain name.
  • Keywords–the actual search terms (for example, if I were looking for information on travel in Europe, the keywords I might use could be something like “places to eat in Paris,” “best sights in Italy,” etc.).  It is best to use keywords frequently in your text because then the search engines will rank you higher when someone searches for your website’s topic.
  • Web page title–this one is pretty self-explaninitory…what’s your website called?
  • Web page description–the bit that pops up under the web page title when you search for something.  I had no idea that you got to write this piece too…I thought that Google just automatically populated it from the first page of your website.

Protocol–how you go about doing things online

  • URL (uniform resource locator)/HTTP (hypertext transfer protocol)–these are how you find things online.  You have probably seen websites that pop up with “http://” in front of them, and the URL is the name for the entire web address.
  • FTP (file transfer protocol)–this is what you use to upload or download information to your web host (web hosts will be discussed later) which will change your website.
  • IP (internet protocol)–I had actually heard of this one before going to class!!  The IP address of a computer basically the address from which you’re connecting to the internet.  If you’re creating a website,  you need to know your IP address in order to upload or download information from the server.

Service–everything that helps to create your website, usually you have to pay for these.

  • Domain name registration–lets you pick what your domain name is and buy/rent rights to it.  A popular service for this is godaddy.com.
  • Domain name hosting–the host is the big computer (or server) that allows other people to access your website.
  • Web hosting–websites that host your website on their server for free, these can sometimes put ads all over your page…so the paid version is typically much better!

Language–I was right in thinking that everyone was speaking a different language!  Computers have their own set of languages, the most popular is discussed in this section.

  • HTML (hypertext markup language)–this is the basic one that’s used for most sites.  HTML has three forms–text based, object based and WYSIWYG.  Text based allows you to actually write in HTML language…that sounds way too complicated for me!  Object based is an easier form to use because it gives you little “packets” of information (like the background theme on my blog page) that you choose and assign to your page.  WYSIWYG stands for “what you see is what you get” and means the “drag and drop” form of getting content onto your page–you can go find an image somewhere and literally drag it onto your page, but cannot edit the image itself because what you see is what you get!

Software–this is the stuff that you put on your computer…the best example is something like word, or another program that you put on your computer to use.  This section deals with software related to online content though.

  • HTML editor and web design–these are pretty basic, they are the programs that you use in order to make the website.  Later on, you would have to use a content management program to actually say what goes on your site, but this is the basic bit to design how it all looks.
  • Content management system–the software that you use to manage everything that goes onto your site.  It’s sort of like a platform from which to make changes to the content of your site.  Examples of these include Joomla and Drupal.
  • Spider–these little guys crawl around the internet looking for new sites and changes to existing sites.  Spiders are put out by search engines so that they can provide the most up-to-date information when you search for something.  For example, if I had a website about European travel and put up a new section on Berlin, the spiders that, say Google, has out would come and find my information so the next time someone looks for information on Berlin, my website might come up closer to the top of the search list.  If you do a good job including lots of keywords on your site, then the spiders will find you and get your page near the top of search results.
  • Linux–this is an open-source (that will be explained next!) operating system that is used by many servers to put content on the websites that they host.
  • Open-source–this is non-copyrighted information that anyone can develop.
  • Server configuration program–this is the program that goes on the server in order to allow your website to be put on the internet.  The most common server configuration program is Apache.

Hardware–this is the easiest piece for me to understand because you can actually see it.  If you are sitting at a computer reading my blog right now, you’re looking at a piece of hardware!  Hardware is the physical computer.

  • Server–I’ve mentioned these a number of times already, so for a brief explanation…the server is the super-powered computer that hosts a bunch of websites all at once.  Servers are pretty smart because they can have a ton of websites running all at the same time!

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations!!! Not being a computer person, I know that all this information made my head swim, but I hope that it has helped you to understand some of the computer and internet terminology floating around out there.

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Online Marketing Tools

Have you ever paused to think about what an incredibly vast space the internet covers?  I knew about the basics of the internet for personal use like email and FaceBook, but never thought about the abundance of online marketing tools.  When the founder of earthsite.com, Joey Shepp, came to class last week, my eyes were opened to the huge variety of online marketing tools.  Part way through the class, I felt overwhelemed with the ammount of technical terms being thrown around.  Coming into the class, I thought I had a pretty good handle on internet marketing tools, as I had used a few of them during my internship.  Listening to Joey speak, however, reminded me that there is always something more to learn about any topic. 

One of the most interesting (and probably the newest) tool that we talked about is Google Wave.  For those of you who have not heard about Google Wave, it combines all the great features that Google accounts already have like Google Docs, Gmail and Google chat, but allows users to go back and change earlier posts in addition to adding new material.  Joey described it as everyone working together to build a common document.  Google Wave sounds like something that will be extremely useful both in the classroom and in the professional world.

Another point that really stuck out for me is the advertising trend that moves more toward opt-in advertising.  Older advertising campaigns threw information at people and just hoped that the marketing team had selected the correct target audience.  Now, through channels like FaceBook, marketing teams can focus more on the “pull” side of advertising–providing an appealing advertisement that consumers seek out.  Using FaceBook as a prime example, users post tons of information about themselves, then are able to cut ads that do not appeal to them.  This tells marketing teams exactly what each particular consumer is looking for, thereby allowing them to target ads to a specific person.  Personally, I have found that as more information is available about me on my FaceBook page, the advertisements are more and more target directly to me.  It is a little strange how much my FaceBook account pays attention to my interests, likes and dislikes!

I am excited to begin work on our Google AdWords campaigns because then I get to be the one behind the advertisement targeting!  I am very interested in learning how to tweak advertisements we create in class to most effectively reach our target audience.

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Why Socially (un)Acceptable?

As a 21-year old college student, I already feel as though I am falling behind the times in terms of social media.  I don’t have a MySpace or a Twitter account, and this is my first blog.  I will, however, admit to being an avid Facebook user.  This blog is called Socially (un)Acceptable because of my feelings toward social media.  how and why is it that our society has moved away from in-person communication and gravitated toward electronic communication?  I miss the personal aspect of looking someone in the eye, watching their body language and hearing the tone in their voice of in-person communication.  I struggle with how much online media has become its own culture and wonder why we are so attached to our online communities–I have friends who won’t leave their room until they have checked up on their virtual farm, cleaned their virtual fish tank and made sure that all the virtual customers in their online restaurant have been fed and taken care of.  At what point does an online community go from an acceptable place to socialize to an unacceptable overdose of imaginary reality?

As you can see in the image from the Kaiser Family Foundation, children today are spending an incredible amount of time online and with other forms of technology.  When I was younger, I spent my afternoons playing in the back yard with friends and every summer evening was spent playing hide-and-go-seek with the neighborhood kids until our parents called us in.  We wonder why today’s children have an obesity problem.  With the upswing of technology use, it is no wonder that internet marketing is so popular.

This may be a very personal (and strong) opinion, but today’s children need to get outside, take in the fresh air, use their imaginations and learn how to interact with one another without the mask of a computer screen.  I am honestly scared for the future of our world as our culture leans more on the internet and television.  Please take a moment to watch the video, “Did you Know” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpEnFwiqdx8) and see if it impacts you as much as it affected me.

I also recommend checking out http://news.cnet.com/8301-19518_3-10438088-238.html for more information on children’s social media and technology use.  It’s a very interesting piece.

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