Search Engine Optimization

Through this week’s module, we will take a look at search engine optimization (SEO). The book defines search engine optimization as “the practice of tweaking your website to help its content rank well in organic search results” via search engines (such as Google or Bing).

One of the things mentioned at the bottom of this infographic is to include social buttons on every page of your website as well as on every blog post, press release, or outbound form of communication. I had mentioned in my web project plan that i was going to incorporate my social media accounts so that future employers could find me easily.

When looking at the images on Google of SEO, I came across this particular picture. I think that it does a fantastic job at illustrating how the different components of SEO are just gears in the entire process. It emphasizes making your website “crawlable”. It will be important for me to use keywords and meta tags on each webpage so that they will each appear higher in search engine results.

Also, check out this infographic below for a great visual description of how SEO works. It is often overlooked in striving for greater SEO to have a website that is functional and very user-friendly. If you have great usability, then your users will keep coming back and also recommend your site to others. This leads to greater traffic for your site, which in turn, pushes your site higher up on search engine results.

how seo works

One of the major downsides of SEO could actually be the fact that you have higher traffic on your website. Just because your site can become more visible and exciting to view to good viewers doesn’t mean it is impervious to spam and “bad” users. It will be important for users of websites to closely monitor the traffic on their site and make sure that the increased traffic from SEO is good traffic.

Domain Hosting & Registration

So you have decided to create a website. Once you have the basic concept and design of your website designed, the next thing you need to do is come up with a domain name. You can either pay for a domain or use a free domain service. There are many other questions to be asked, such as: What services do you want?, What is your budget?, or Which host do you use?, etc etc etc.

Once you have decided what you want to use as your domain name, you must first see if it is available. A domain name is a lot like a phone number, in that there can not be any duplicate domain names in use. The website, WHOis.net, is a site that you can use to look up a domain name and see if it is currently being use. The site will also give you prices if you wish to purchase the domain that you wish to use.

There are multiple categories that domain names can be divided into:

  • Open Top Level Domains (TLDs) – Anyone can register for these
    • .com, .org, .net, .biz, .name, .info
  • Restricted TLDs – Registration is restricted to certain people
    • .aero, .asia, .cat, .coop, .int, .jobs, .mobi, .museum, .post, .pro, .tel, .travel, .xxx
  • U.S.-Only Domains
    • .edu, .gov, .mil
  • Also, each country has its own 2-letter TLD
    • United States: .us, United Kingdom: .uk,  France: .fr, Canada: .ca  (ETC.)

After you have made sure that your desired domain name is available, you must choose a registrar and a host. Some registrars will offer hosting while other registrars do not offer hosting. A registrar may offer many other different services so it is important that you pick the one that best fits your needs for your site.

At this current time and with the potential use that I would have for a website, I do not think that I would buy a domain name. Sites such as Weebly and WordPress will work well for what people like myself are trying to accomplish with this website. I think it is also best for me to not pay for hosting and use a free service like the one provided. It makes no difference to me if my domain name includes the extra “.weebly”. Therefore, I will stick with my free domain name, charlesmathison.weebly.com, and the free domain hosting service provided.

Check out these PowerPoint slides in a PDF for more information on anything discussed above.

 

Online Security and Privacy

We live in a day and age where anybody can post about anything online, instantaneously. Sometimes, having this access to knowledge or ability to post, is a great tool to have at our fingertips. And then, sometimes, it’s not.

Just think about it. If it is that easy to post, tweet, blog, etc all of this information, then how easy is it for a skilled hacker to steal this information and other confidential information?

So how do we as communication professionals try to protect ourselves and our companies from potential hackers? We need to think about some practices that we take to ensure that our online content stays secure and private.

In an article on Wired.com, “Three Essential Steps to Make Yourself More Hack-Proof“, it says that you can never be truly 100% safe from a hacker but you can try to make yourself less vulnerable. Their three simple steps are to not reuse passwords, setup two-step authentication, and use a password manager.

Do Not Reuse Passwords

This one is pretty self-explanatory. If someone attains a password that is used multiple times, then they have the password to multiple accounts that you control.

Two-Step Authentication

Two-step authentication can sound fairly intimidating. However, it is actually a very beneficial tool that is becoming more and more common these days. All it means is that when you try to login to an account from a different device (desktop computer, laptop, cell phone, etc) it will send a code to a trusted device that must be entered by the user.

Use a Password Manager

A password manager will help you create and store your passwords for your accounts. These passwords will be encrypted and all you will ever need to know is the master password for the password manager. This allows you to use multiple complex passwords without having to worry about remembering so many different passwords. It is best if the password manager is stored locally, preferably, on a flash drive, that way only you can access it when the flash drive is being accessed.

So what does this mean?

These concepts and tools will be beneficial to communication professionals because they will be directly involved with confidential or important information for the company that they are working for. Therefore, they should look to apply these ideas to their work accounts so that they are better protected against a hack or leak of information.

Also, when people feel that their information is not as private as it once was, they are less likely to share information or engage in public discourse. This leads to a less democratic society because there is a lack of information to be shared or discussed. Finally, if people don’t feel like they have the proper privacy they were promised, then they have a lack of trust in the government that promised them privacy.

MOOCs and Online Learning

What is a MOOC?

If you are anything like me, then you were wondering the same thing before you opened this article. MOOC is an acronym for Massive Open Online Course. This is obviously a far different cry from the traditional model of higher education that our parents knew. It is a course that is taught entirely online for a much cheaper price and can be taught to a large number of students. To get a more in-depth look at MOOCs and their pros and cons, check out this article.

While the effectiveness of these MOOCs has been questioned, there is no doubt that they are becoming more of an option at institutions of higher education. I believe that the effectiveness of a MOOC is dependent upon the layout of the course and the course itself.

CA 260 as a MOOC

The course that I am writing this blog post for (CA 260) is known as a blended course. This means that it meets once a week for one hour and fifteen minutes and the other coursework is to be done online. Basically, it is designed to be 50% online and 50% in class.

While CA 260 could function effectively as a MOOC, I feel that is best suited as a blended course. A lot of the material in this course are concepts that we have never seen before (i.e. HTML, CSS, JavaScript coding, etc.). Therefore, having that face-to-face meeting with a professor helps with the understanding of these concepts. This allows us to work in a hands-on fashion while getting instruction simultaneously from our professor.

The best blended course that I have taken was a Statistics I course. All of the homework was to be completed online, while the final exam and tests were in class. Attendance was not mandatory but the teacher used the once a week class time to answer any questions that you might have with difficult concepts or homework problems.

Helpful Resources

The top 3 resources for learning about web design and providing training in that aspect are W3Schools, Google Code University, and Codecademy.

W3Schools is a fairly straightforward site that may seem boring at first. However, it provides beginners with lessons starting at the early stages of web design. The interactive lessons then progress at a steady rate to help the user learn effectively.

Google Code University is best at their video tutorial series that look at coding through HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. The videos are created by Google’s own web developers. Who else better to learn from?

The last helpful resource is Codecademy. It is self-described as the ‘easiest way to learn how to code’. It is a free website that also has a strong social network to allow users to interact with each other and learn from each other.

To look more in-depth at these sites or find other helpful web design training resources, go this article on Creative Bloq.

CMS: Content Management System

Okay, so your buddy has his own local business in Mobile. It started it very small but is now beginning to expand and the company needs to broaden their audience of consumers. What better way to do this in this day and age than with a website?

But where to start? That is the age-old question.

Seeing as it is a local business, they most likely do not have the resources to hire a firm to come in and construct a state-of-the-art website. Therefore, they must do it on their own and need a content management system (CMS) to aid them in building this site. There are a number of CMSs out there to pick from but the main three always seem to be WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal.

After reading some of the articles on Sakai and doing a little perusing on this website, I have come to the conclusion that WordPress is the best CMS for a small local business to use when creating their own website.

comparison of wordpress joomla drupal

Based on the chart above, WordPress offers the most free themes and plug-ins, which allows for a lot of flexibility for the user. It also requires very little skill needed, such as no real experience with HTML, CSS, or PHP (although, it has the option to add content through the use of coding for extra customization).

From the author of the above article and four experts he paneled, WordPress is the best CMS for small to medium sites as well as for beginners when it comes to website development. It is a free platform to use with the ability to pay for features to increase the quantity and quality of functions available to you.

One final benefit to WordPress is that since it is the leading platform for CMS-based sites, there is a large community of support and users with knowledge to answer questions and solve problems.

If you are looking for more information on these three CMS platforms, check out this article on opensource.com.

Tips & Tricks to Managing Your Email

If you are anything like me, then you are not always the best when it comes to managing your email account – or accounts. Yes, I have two email accounts. One is a email address that I have always had and the other one is the school-issued email that you get when you become a student at South Alabama.

One great thing to do with your email account is set up something called a filter. It is a fairly self-explanatory term, in that, a filter allows a user to pull out content and place it in a location of the user’s desire. A filter can place emails from a certain person into a specific tab, mark unwanted emails from another person as read, or even spam certain emails among other things.

Filters can be sorted by the recipient, the sender, the subject of the email, or other criteria. I created a filter to categorize all emails from DailyDigest under the Forums tab in my school Gmail account. Below are the steps on how to create a filter in a Gmail account. This article also explains how to edit/delete filters as well as how to import/export filters.

Steps to creating a Gmail filter

Overall, I thought this process was fairly easy to understand and navigate. It allows you to be flexible in how your email account is managed. I believe that the more knowledge I can obtain about how to use these filters will allow the filters to be used more effectively. I hope to use them going forward to make managing my email account much easier.

Another important thing to consider when looking at your email is how professional your actual emails are read by the recipient. Below is the text from a sample email I wrote to a professor pertaining having to leave a class early.

Hi Dr. Sheffield,

My name is Charles Mathison and I am in your Wednesday 3:30 CA 260 class. Unfortunately, I will have to leave next week’s lab early due to a family event. Please let me know if there is anything of importance that I will miss. I will have a classmate send me the rest of the notes and details from the remainder of class. Thank you for understanding and can’t wait to see you in class!

Thanks,

Charles Mathison

If you need any more information to further your knowledge on email etiquette, check out these great links!

https://business.tutsplus.com/articles/how-to-write-clear-and-professional-emails–cms-20939

https://business.tutsplus.com/articles/the-downton-abbey-guide-to-email-etiquette–cms-20817

 

Website Accessibility and What It Means

Website accessibility typically is comprised of two concepts with different ideas striving for the same goal. The first concept of website accessibility (the one I thought of first) is that of meeting people with different levels of access to the internet or a computer. This includes different types of services (cable, DSL, dial-up, etc.) as well as the internet accessibility in certain rural regions.

The other concept of web accessibility is dealing with users having physical, mental, or learning disabilities. The ability to have access to the internet can be characterized as a basic human right. Therefore, we as web designers need to be able to make our sites accessible to those with disabilities.

Making Your Site Accessible

One of the first things to look at when it comes to your website’s accessibility is if people can see it. This could involve people with a form of colorblindness. You want to make sure that your site is visible to those with colorblindness or at least easily distinguishable. This website provides some good and bad examples of designs for dealing with colorblindness. For my site, I will need to consult that website and make sure the color scheme that I choose is acceptable.

Three other main examples of making your website accessible are alternative text for images, keyboard input, and transcripts for video and audio clips/interviews. The alternative text will describe the image to the user if they are not able to view it. This is also why it is so important to describe the images you use to avoid any confusion. Next, your website should be able to be navigated via the keyboard in case some of your users are not able to control the mouse. Finally, if the users are deaf or the audio clip will not play, having a transcript of what was said will allow them to still have access to that information.

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I hope to use all of these types of accessibility for my web project, especially the use alternative text and color scheme. Another thing I will keep in mind is the use of bright colors and flash that could affect users with epilepsy. There is some great information on this topic found here.

This idea of web accessibility is so important. For users, it is great for people with disabilities to be able to find information about topics. Finally, for web designers, isn’t it important for all potential users to be able to reach and use your site?

Customizing and Designing a Website

As everyone knows, getting started can be the most difficult thing in a process. That is for anything you do: writing a paper, starting a DIY project, and yes, designing a website.

This is why the outline process is so important for web design. First, you will want to have a layout of how you want your website to look. This will include how many pages and their content as well as the structure of the website navigation.

Website Layout Structure

This displays how you access landing pages from the homepage. Each landing page should have sub-landing pages branching from them.

Once, you have a general outline of how you want your website to be structured, then you turn to the design of each individual page. You should start with the homepage first. In the video “How to Design a Killer Homepage“, it talks about some of the key components that your homepage should include.

Your landing pages will contain the meat of your website. It can be thought of as the body paragraphs of an essay whereas your homepage is the introduction paragraph.

A great way to organize information on these landing pages is through the use of drop-down menus. They keep information that should be grouped as whole, together. Here is an example of how drop-down menus should be utilized:Drop-Down Menu example

Our course will be dealing Weebly for website creation. This video explains how to design, add, and organize webpages on Weebly. If this interests you, then get started at Weebly today.

5 Tips for Organizing Your Website:

  1. Make sure that each product or service you offer has its own landing page.
  2. Your homepage should be attention-grabbing but not flashy for flashy-sake.
  3. Also, your homepage should be thought of as a table of contents, showing your audience what they will find.
  4. Make sure that you have three pages for sure on your website: homepage, about page, and contact page. These are must haves.
  5. Your content should be organized logically like a restaurant menu, not just one long list.

Along with the aforementioned videos, which are hyperlinked in the text, this article on web design was used to provide information for this post.

Taking a look at Weebly

7691543_orig

Weebly is a website that is great for those people who are just getting into the field of web design. It is a fairly simple website that provides many features easily accessible to the user. They provide the user with a template so that the user does not have to start from scratch.

One of the most recognizable features that Weebly offers is their “Drag & Drop” feature. It allows you to drag any item or feature that you want to your website. You can edit these items at any time.

 

capture

My homepage with options to “Drag & Drop”.

You are able to insert audio clips, images, slideshows, or video among other things. Weebly has their own galleries for these items or you can add your own items.

One great thing that gives Weebly an advantage is that it is a free website. However, it provides users with the ability to pay for upgrades should they choose to do so. Finally, if the user wishes to move their site from Weebly to another host site they can do that without losing their information.

Another feature is that you are able to have third party integrations on your website through the App Center. These apps can be used for a variety of things, such as marketing, calendar services, shipping, and much more. You are also able to integrate your site through the Weebly mobile app. This way you can create a website that is compatible on desktops, mobile devices, and tablets.

mobile

Weebly offers integration over multiple devices.

When you sign up with Weebly, they provide you with a variety of themes to choose from. To publish your site, you must pick a theme but you are never stuck with just this theme. You are always able to change the theme of your website whenever you please. I am currently using the Birdseye – Portfolio theme. I think that I will stick with this theme as the blue colorway caught my attention but I am in no way completely set on this theme.

 

How To: Blogging like a boss

Blogging can be a very difficult thing to do. However, it can be relatively easy and a lot of fun if you know to blog properly.
Image result for blogging pictures

The biggest thing to do when writing a blog post is to prepare. First of all, you want to pick a topic that interests you or then your write could get bland or dull. Then, you should research the topic you have chosen and fact check your research. Your final step in preparing to write is to put together a brief outline to get your thoughts flowing.

One thing to think about once you’ve begun to write your post is to include images and links to external sites or even your own posts. These can help with the flow of information, clarify difficult concepts, or even just provide some humor.

Make sure to edit your writing once you have finished your post. It is important to do this so you can avoid repetition in your writing. You can either read your post aloud or have someone else proof read it for you. Plus, readers will most likely leave your blog if it contains a lot of grammatical errors.

A final aspect to look at when editing is to keep it short. You want to keep your sentences short and your paragraphs shorter. People tend to lose interest when sentences and paragraphs become to wordy or lengthy. This is another reason why it is a good idea to break up your text with pictures or charts. blogging-sin-1-wall-of-text

One major thing to do when writing a blog professionally is to link it with social media. This will make it easier for your posts to be found and increase your ranking on search engines.

Also, don’t forget to respond to your readers. If they comment on your post, RESPOND! It will show that you care about their feedback and make them more likely to come back or even forward your blog to other readers.