Category Archives: Classes

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

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for details.

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

Why We Should Teach Content Marketing in the Writing Class

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for details.

Some say content marketing is a hot topic in 2013 that will pass – a buzzword of sorts. I say, we should be teaching it to our students.

What is content marketing?

As Tom Foremski said, “Every company is a media company.” Content marketing is the creating of content aimed at attracting a target audience. The content adds value to the audience, rather than simply trying to sell them a product. Ultimately, the content serves a business objective (think, profit).

tractor

For example, I’ve been spending a great deal of time researching lawnmowers. Kelin and I are new homeowners. We have a 3/4 acre lawn and last summer after purchasing the house I nearly killed myself trying to mow the hilly thing with a push mower that was not self propelled (Hey, I’m a professor not a body builder). It’s hot and humid here. This year, I have visions of myself destroying that tall grass from behind the wheel of a riding lawnmower, a bottle of ice-cold water in the cup holder.

I know what I want. But there are so many options and price points. As I research mowers online, I’m trying to educate myself on the different transmissions, how much power I need (we’ve got a mean hill), whether paying more for a particular brand is “worth it,” and more.

A traditional approach would be to show me a bright red mower and pitch me on why I should buy it.

A content marketing approach might be to educate me on how to pick the best mower for my lawn terrain, how to prepare my lawn for mowing, tips on how to ensure the longevity of my mower, et cetera. How does this work? Simply, as I learn more, I become more confident in the credibility and reliability of the company providing me this information – perhaps in this case the content marketing is being done by a local hardware store. They aren’t just trying to sell me something, they are trying to help me. They are building a relationship with me. I know I’m the type of consumer that is skeptical, over-thinks purchasing decisions, hates to waste a buck. I appreciate being helped and educated on the subject. I’m more likely to buy from this hardware store.

Next fall I’m teaching Writing Across Platforms. My goal is to prepare students to write for the Web economy. I chose to focus a good portion of the class on online content marketing. Here are 3 reasons why:

  1. Content marketing is tried and true – public relations practitioners have been using content marketing for decades! The concept isn’t new. The goal isn’t either: to build trusting relationships and establish reputations. Which leads me to:
  2. If the brand is a media company, it needs great content creators – Social media enables organizes to create content and reach audiences like never before, arguably shifting the role of communication professionals and making “owned media” king. As such, content marketing is being used by more and more brands today. Pitching is great, but you can go directly to your audience… they’re searching for you anyways. If a student is going to excel in the social media landscape, he/she needs to understand how to create content that builds relationships with and excites their target audience. That’s a different relationship than with bloggers and the media. I know social media is going to change in ways I can’t predict. I want students understand fundamental ideas that can be applied across social tools, the underlying essence of what makes these tools so powerful.
  3. Social / content marketing/ and SEO go hand in hand – I’ll talk more about this in future blog posts. But in essence, for people to find your brand on the overcrowded web, you need to create search-friendly content that people want.

I’m excited to say I’ve completed planning the class.

While students won’t get a chance to make ebooks, webinars, or other cool content (so much to do, too little time) – they will get a clear understanding of what content marketing is, explore many examples through the text and in-class, and use this approach to content to plan out and create a series of blog posts that add value to a clearly defined audience while building the reputation of an organization. Why a blog? As Mark Schaefer says in Born to Blog, the blog is the best content marketing tool around.

In future blog posts I’ll talk more in depth about some of the activities and assignments we’ll be covering in Writing Across Platforms, such as keyword research and SEO.

Are you teaching content marketing? If so, how? What books or resources are you using? I’d love to talk shop. If you’ve got any comments or questions, please drop them below.

By the way, hope you like the new website layout. Had to merge over to WordPress now that Posterous is going away.

Cheers!
– Matt

Related Posts:

  1. When Content Marketing Fails to Deliver: 6 Problems with Marketo’s Ebook
  2. Introducing Students to SEO Keyword Research with Google Trends (Activity)
  3. What is SEO keyword competition? A primer for the Google Keywords competition activity

Photo – creative commons by aivo2010

Personal Branding Activity: Talking to students about how they present themselves online

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for details.

Personal Branding for Students: Help With Students Professional Online Identity

Over the past few years I’ve noticed an increase in how much students are thinking about how they present themselves online, their professional online identity.

This is good news because according to a CareerBuilder survey, 37% of employers look up perspective employees on social media before hiring. (Personally, I was surprised by this – 37% to me seems a little low). Certainly what we say and do online impacts how others see us.

If you teach social media, you likely follow many of your students on social media. Sometimes I cringe when I see the things some students Tweet.

Every semester for the past few years I’ve taken time in class to talk about presenting oneself professionally online.

This semester I decided to go about it a little differently. I decided to go a little more in depth. I am building a concentration of courses in our department that will emphasize strategic social media, and because the Principles of Public Relations class is the first class in the concentration, I decided I want to get students thinking about the professional uses of social media from the get go.

Professional Self-Representation Online Activity for Students

Here’s what I did in my Principles of PR class this semester:

  1. Early on in this semester we talked about being professional online, the fact that many employers look up a potential employee on social media before making a hiring decision, and watched this video about the business of researching potential employees on social media (embedded below). I had them read Dr. Karen Russell’s great list titled “PR Students: What not to Tweet” over at teachingpr.org.
  2. I then had students fill out an in class activity about what being professional online means to them, and how they would want others to see their identity online (see it on Scribd). I photocopied the form and gave a copy back to them. I kept a copy.
  3. I told the students to start using Twitter, if they hadn’t already. (I decide to focus on Twitter, though I’ve come to find that many of our students don’t use or like Twitter. So maybe I should broaden my horizons in the future).
  4. After several weeks, we were discussing public opinion and how the failure of co-orientation between an organization and its publics can lead to misunderstandings of stance on an issue that can harm the relationship. (Chapter 8 of Cutlip & Center’s Effective Public Relations 11th edition) I told the students to: “Write a brief paragraph about how you want others to see you as a professional person who works in your career field choice.”
  5. I then gave them a little homework assignment (on Scribd). They were to  print out tag clouds of their Tweets, their Tweetstats, and their profile and bring them to class the following class.
  6. The following class, I gave students a few minutes to look over the things they’d printed the night before (their stats, profile, etc.) and had them answer some questions (found on Scribd here) about the sort of things they post, and whether what they post reflects how they want to be perceived professionally. We revisited Dr. Russell’s list of what students should not Tweet. Students checked whether they were following Dr. Russell’s guidelines, revisited what they’d written several weeks back about what being professional on social media meant to them, and revisited their statement from the class before about how they want others to see them professionally in their career of choice.

The purpose here was to see if the students identified differences between how they had seen themselves and how they discovered through the exercise how others may see them based on what they post online. Through this, we were able to make a connection to our discussion the class period before about the potential harm brought on by a lack of co-orientation between an organization (the org being the student in this case) and its publics.

Students who weren’t afraid to share what they post on Twitter to the class had their tweets projected on the screen using VisibleTweets.com.

After, we talked for a while about professional behavior online. Many students expressed that they were increasingly conscious of what they post online, particularly out of concern that a future employer might see what they post. When they were younger, some said, they didn’t think as much about what they’d posted. Many felt it was unfair that people were judged for things they’d posted long ago, pointing out that people change, grow, and mature.

I continue to see some students who throw caution to the wind, using social media as a place to vent all those frustrations and share those things they wouldn’t normally say to someone. But overall, I’m impressed by how much students today are considering the implications of what they post on social media. A few short years ago, this was not my experience.

How about you? Do you discuss professional self-representation on social media with your students? If so, what have you found effective? What challenges have you faced? It is a difficult subject and I’m constantly looking for ways to reach students on this issue. Please share in the comments section below. Thanks! 🙂 

Next Steps: More Activities and Resources for Teaching Personal Branding

Personal Branding and Teach Social Media Book

My book Teach Social Media: A Plan for Creating a Course Your Students Will Love provides an assignment on personal branding.

More Blog Posts About Personal Branding and Social Media Influencers:

Recommended Reading about Professional Online Identities:

Cheers!

images CC jcoleman (top) (bottom) DavidDMuir