You want my Blogging Manifesto well here it is!

Boy did Andrew not have any idea what he was invoking the other day when he posted about the Ad Age 150. In what turned out to be an interesting Monday and I read about multiple bloggers who rejected this idea to spend two minutes to submit their blog to a Marketing Ranking service. What’s so ironic is the debate has taken exponentially longer than the amount of time it takes to submit, you have to love a good debate! If you don’t want to do it no problem that’s your decision, but something has been eating at me and as I laid down in bed last night one of those few barely twitching electrons is my head hit a spark that can only be described as a nuclear reaction. Anyone who’s considering starting a blog be warned because those nights where you used to sleep peacefully will now be consumed with an unending river of blog post ideas and occasionally the dam will burst and a tidal wave will crash down impeding sleep until you have the flick of a thought on paper. Here goes.

Inside The Light Bulb by PakyuZ

I’ve had multiple discussions with some of the other incredible Higher Education bloggers out there and one thing seems to simply not be fitting. I guess it first began with a finger numbing six hour type off I had with Head of Marketing over GTalk last week and kind of hit tonight.

Robert French left in what he describes in his own words as a rant about the irrelevance of submitting his blog to the Ad Age 150 a sentiment that is shared by others. Similar to Head of Marketing ’s stance Brad Ward told me that, He blogs because he enjoys it and could care less about the SEO aspect, I bet the two of you didn’t know you had so much in common! icon smile You want my Blogging Manifesto well here it is!

So that’s good and to each their own, but the more I think about it the more it bothers me to the core. I’ve been labeled as a SEO and Web Analytics person so I’m sure I’m biased, but I just can’t get it out of my mind… What is the point in spending the time to create good content if it could be optimized just a little better to be more easily found by more people and then learn from the tracking how to do it better next time?! This whole rejection to embrace, strive for the best, and network is fundamentally against all my beliefs of Internet Marketing. If nobody can find or understand your website it doesn’t matter how good your content is… PERIOD.

If you blog this way then it’s only natural to take this exact same stance to the way you operate at work and by doing this you are performing a disservice to your institution! My blog is my sandbox to learn how to create better content, to better optimize link anchoring, to do a better job of cross linking, page layout, build buzz, and finally track/analyze and do it better next time. If there is an opportunity that requires all of two minutes for me to sign my blog up for another list that can bring me an additional backlink along with potential people being able to find my work and hopefully learn something of value then is this not part of my mission? If you don’t believe your content is worthy to be read and strive to make it as good as possible then why should anyone care? If you truly believe this then it also obligates you to network. There is a lot of ethics and responsibility required for this to work properly, but we aren’t talking about a spammy site or link farm here, it’s a resource of marketing blogs.

Do web developers in higher education believe that they are of an elite breed that doesn’t need to build links to their websites? Do they think that because Google and the rest of the search world hold .edu sites as more trustworthy and because we have domain names that have been around for eons in the world of the web that it isn’t necessary to optimize our sites and present content in such a way that users of the web demand? In fact I would argue just the opposite. Search engines and the web in general trust .edu domains because they are rock solid and because of these we are obligated to hold our standards to a higher level.

SEO is about Accessibility

SEO isn’t about gaming the system, SEO is about usability and accessibility. I simply do not understand why this basic concept is so overlooked and misinterpreted. Search engines bots look at a page with CSS, Flash, javascript, and AJAX stripted away. This is exactly what a text editor or accessibility browser sees. If we simply designed our sites with these standards in mind then SEO flows naturally. Using SEO on a webpage isn’t about keyword stuffing, it’s about creating a interesting and unique piece of content that people will find useful and share with each other. Search engines in their optimial form look at links this way. If a page has a bunch of links to it then it must be of value. Link Anchor text not only tells a search engine what the link is about but it’s much easier for a human to understand. Does it not make much more sense as a reader to follow a link that says read my blog about internet marketing in higher education than click here? Page titles, using header tags and the rest are no different it’s about making a site that is easy to read and understandable to a user and if done well then also to the search engines.

The next evolution of the web, the semantic web, is really going to leave sites behind that don’t learn accessibility and SEO before it’s too late.

Web Analytics is Trend Research

As the comment I left on Robert’s blog describes, do Web Analytics not blow tracking of any other medium out of the water? Sure they aren’t perfect and have issues, but I’d love to hear any person argue that Web Analytics aren’t more accurate than TV, Radio, Newspaper, Magazine, or Post Office mail. Not only are they much more accurate but they are exponentially cheaper to obtain! Most analytics tracking packages that provide a javascript code snippet to install on your site are considered 95% accurate! There are a few big services that provide web traffic ranking data and we are attacking them for providing this service FOR FREE! Nobody says you have to pay attention to Alexa data, but not only is it better than nothing, but as long as you know how to analyze it properly (trend analysis) then it can be extremely useful.

Web Analytics finally provide us with the tool to take to upper management and say I KNOW this is happening on our website. No longer is it I think, but here let me show you the data to prove it!

It Doesn’t Happen Overnight

Every day that goes by and a website isn’t optimized properly or you aren’t tracking data is a day that you can’t get back and you become less relevant. SEO and Web Analytics are the heart of Internet Marketing. Social Media and the rest come later. What I’m proposing here isn’t revolutionary and I’ll admit it definitely isn’t very sexy, but it is absolutely vital and effective. Every day that you create content without properly optimizing it you are losing untold opportunity. Also, if you’re not tracking it then you don’t even know what you’re missing.

So why do I blog? I blog to teach, I blog because these important lessons need to be heard and by not following them you have no idea what your leaving on the table.

Ok so wow that got a little long winded and I was hoping to share an awesome trick I learned to syndicate content across social networking sites as a follow-up to my syndicating status update post from last week.

Hopefully Robert you will see this is definitely nothing personal and if anything thank you for finally inspiring me into finding out a way to express all this. To everyone else I challenge you to step up to the plate and truly experiment with taking your skills to the next level.

So while you’re gathering your thoughts and a plan of action watch this hilarious video. Hopefully you will get some ideas about some things NOT to do. In many ways by not accepting and fully participating in these two best practices your message on the web could be as silly and jumbled as Gabe and Max’s.

Also while you’re at it spend the minute to subscribe to .eduGuru. I’m felling extremely motivated now to get some of these more technical posts off the drawing board and into reader’s hands.

11 Responses to “You want my Blogging Manifesto well here it is!”

  1. Says:

    But I think your position comes down to the fundamental difference between why you and I blog. You blog to teach, which is admirable. But I blog for myself - because I like it and it’s fun. My attitude is basically that if people find my work and learn something from it, its a bonus but its not why I do it. There was a time that I was obsessed with rankings and award and such (not for my professional blog - for my political one) but ultimately, that obsession took the joy out of why I originally started the blog, which was to talk about politics!

    It’s not that either position is right or wrong, it’s just different mindsets. Maybe we’ll both flip flop one day and end up arguing different points of view to each other ;-)

  2. Says:

    ;) I don’t reject SEO. I abhor the SEO people that tout sending repeated press/news releases solely to attain search engine placement and rankings. Simple as that. You are not one of them, as I understand it.

    That form of SEO is noise. It does more harm to others than any value it may provide to the single individual sending the release. This is one of those “do no harm” issues.

    Like you, I blog to teach, but also - like Head of Marketing - I blog for myself, too.

    My objection to the Power 150 list has more to do with their pseudo-scientific methodology claims than the idea of lists. The reach and effect of their list is minimal, at best. So, why bother signing up. Hey, I’d likely be rejected - for many reasons - anyway. ;)

  3. Says:

    I think some of it has to do with time. I don’t have a ton of free time to spend really getting the SEO right for my site. That being said, there are tools that make that job easier - including a ton of great, free plugins for blogging tools like WordPress that takes a lot of the work out of it for you. The less you have to worry about stuff like that the more time you can devote to creating great content.

  4. Says:

    I blog to network, to share ideas and information and yes, for myself. I think white noise is what makes the web such a hard place to navigate for people who could benefit from it and I think a lot of the ways that content creators jam the system make it harder and more difficult to break through.

    But I see that as a market opportunity, rather than a problem.

    Great discussion and post.

  5. Says:

    You’re right, Kyle: I had no idea. ;) But I’m glad to have help provoke some discussion and thinking about the role of online communication among those of us who are in the business of informing and communicating. And as for those lost hours of sleep? Just remember the immortal words of Warren Zevon: “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”

  6. Says:

    @Head of Marketing - You say you blog because it’s fun and you enjoy this, but EVERY one of your posts is a lesson. You have even got to the point of leaving Key Takeaways. How is that not teaching? As far as obsessed with ranking, that was maybe the first three months, but at this point it’s more about providing thought provoking examples and lessons.

    @Robert - SEO is only as good as the motives of the people behind it. It is because of this that I preach the accessibility part of SEO because I believe that is what the field was intended for at it’s inception and because I think if people understood that it’s that simple and playing it following those rules you will prosper. Gaming the system is a waste of time because ultimately you have to provide value.

    @Web Manager- you say you don’t have time for SEO but your example IS a good example of it. :) There might be a few things I’d do different, but they aren’t necessarily better just preference. Allegheny’s website also is a fairly good example. You have definitely picked all the “low hanging fruits” which accounts for 90% of the score anyway. You also mention great content and that is definitely the most important part. Added that with a little tweaking for easier visibility for users and bots and you have the secret sauce.

    @Ron - Definitely blogging is a super way to network and has been the single greatest achievement that I treasure. Six months ago I had no idea who any of you were and now we carry on regular thought leading conversations almost weekly. I’ve never been as excited about a conference as I am about eduWEB in a little over a month because I will finally get a chance to meet so many of these people I’ve been reading and conversing with online. @Web Managerthe blackjack and G&T’s are on my friend!

    @Andrew - You always find a way to get people rolling. I guess you didn’t see the 60 Minutes this past Sunday and the special on sleep? Basically yeah… 7.5-8hrs of sleep is so important. You can find the video on the 60 Minutes page here’s a link to Science of Sleep Part 1. I love 60 Minutes!

  7. Says:

    hahaha….but how do you know they’re not lessons for myself? Here is the story with key takeaways - Its my way to keep myself on point. I have my key takeaways in mind before I start to write the blog but I am also prone to going on tangents and I think its a way to bring the whole thing back together.

    It’s also a CYA move - at my last job my psycho former bosses got pissed about my blog because they always read things into it that I didn’t write, which ultimately led to the blow up, the deletion of the blog and me quitting. Now, my current boss is awesome and I don’t think she would ever do that but I still have some residual paranoia.

  8. Says:

    Good post. You make a good point about links however I have to admit I have abad habit of using ‘here’ a lot in my blog posts eg. if you want to read more click here etc.

  9. Says:

    I agree with what Robert French said. No need to add more.

  10. Says:

    Good point made out
    “Search engines bots look at a page with CSS, Flash, javascript, and AJAX stripted away.”

    SEO is not a game, due to overwhelming abuse of the SE system, its hard to make a good place for some people to make a point.Otherwise, nice point explained here.



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