Doing my part to undermine Rick Santorum. You can too!

When you Google for "Santorum," this is the top search result. (Click to enlarge - but only if you're not too squeamish.) You can help keep this brilliant effort working.

It’s time to use my power for good.

Yesterday NPR reported on how the batshit crazy social conservative former US senator Rick Santorum is pulling ahead in Republican polls for the presidential race.

Santorum has always annoyed and amused me. But with this, he’s officially scaring me.

Today, Marketplace Tech Report reminded me about Rick Santorum’s Google problem — so I decided to take action.

So here I am linking to SpreadingSantorum.com, a Google bombing page that writer Dan Savage set up in 2003.

Furthermore I encourage everyone else to do likewise.  Especially if you’ve had your own web site or blog under its own domain name for several years. But even if your only online presence is via a third-party service like Facebook, WordPress.com, or Tumblr (where you don’t have your own domain), I still encourage you to post a link to SpreadingSantorum.com.

Talk about a long-term investment in search visibility that is REALLY paying off! Here’s how it works…

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How missing links hurt online news, part 1 | Knight Digital Media Center

My latest post to the News Leadership 3.0 blog of the Knight Digital Media Center at USC.

For nearly 15 years, the internet has been popular with the general public. So it amazes me that so many online news stories still routinely lack the kind of links that online and mobile users find helpful—and that also enhance the transparency, credibility, and shareability of news.

In a blog post this week, the Google-newsroom conspiracy theory Kevin Sablan of the Orange County Register nailed exactly how bad missing obvious links make news organizations look…

Full story: How missing links hurt online news, part 1 | Knight Digital Media Center.

Expanding a business brochure site into something that will really help your business

To illustrate advertising and informational pa...
These days, brochures aren’t enough to make your business findable. (Image via Wikipedia)

If you’re a semi-retired professional who wants to build a consulting business, and you’re not an internet whiz, what kind of web site will really help clients find you? And how can you easily build and maintain a useful professional network?

My dad, Jack Gahran, is a semi-retired management consultant who knows many other semi-retired professionals. Today he asked me to look over the brand-new web site of a colleague of his, to offer some advice as to how it might be improved in ways that will build this person’s business.

The site is a pretty standard brochure site — a few static pages of basic information. It had a nice but simple design, and the content seemed to use keywords appropriately — both of which help search engines like Google index the site well. However, Google generally isn’t very interested in small brochure sites that are infrequently updated and don’t attract many inbound links.

I offered my dad’s colleague four basic tips for improving his site in ways that will make it much more visible in search engines, and thus more likely to attract inbound links from other sites (another thing Google rewards).

I get asked for this kind of advice a lot, so I figured I’d make a blog post out of it, so everyone can benefit.

Here’s what I told him…
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SEO: How Much Should Journos Know?

MAGNIFYING GLASS
Search optimization: If people can’t easily find your news, it might as well not exist. (Image by andercismo via Flickr)

In a recent post to the Wordtracker blog, The Bad, Good And Ugly Advice Given To Journalists On SEO (search engine optimization), U.K. journalist Rachelle Money made some excellent points about how journalists can craft stories in ways that will attract more search engine traffic.

I agree with much of what she said. However, I do disagree with her about the role of a journalist in the editorial process.

Money wrote that some SEO advice offered to journalists seems:

…overwhelmingly concerned with headlines and how to write better ones for the web. I hate to throw a couple of spanners in the works, but I have never, not once, had to write a headline for a newspaper. That’s the job of a sub-editor; they write headlines, they write the sub-headings and the picture captions and the stand-firsts. I have never had to write a title tag either; that’s the job of the online editor, and they are likely to write the links too. So in many ways the advice given to journalists isn’t really for us, it’s for the production department or the online team.

…That may have been generally true a decade or more ago.

But not today…

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Google News Archive Search: Old News is Good News

Space Shuttle Challenger
Old news still has value, and can draw traffic. (Image via Wikipedia)

News is never just about what’s happening today — it’s also about context, including what led up to this moment. That’s why lately I’ve been intrigued by the Google News archive search. This feature, introduced September 2008, its worth a look — and maybe worth including in order to make more money off your historical archives, or to augment current coverage.

The Official Google Blog explains in Bringing history online, one newspaper at a time that this service presents archived news articles online — either as they were printed, preserving original format/context (including, in some cases, surrounding stories); or with a link to a news org’s paid archives. It also presents a timeline, showing how popular a search term was in news from past years or decades.

For instance, a Google News archive search for “space shuttle” yields a timeline with significant spikes in 1981 (for the first shuttle mission), 1986 (when the Challenger exploded after launch), and 2003 (when the Columbia broke up on re-entry).

An example of the early shuttle coverage I found here includes this March 24, 1982 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story: NASA sees little problem with lost space shuttle tiles. That’s actually a jump from a page 1 story. Other stories also appearing on the page include: “Begin to stay on after Knesset vote,” “Will match missiles with subs, Soviets say,” and “Military coup ousts Guatemalan government” — an intriguing glimpse into the tenor of that time.

That archived story was available for free — but my search also pointed to several articles for sale from newspaper archives. For instance, the Christian Science Monitor is selling its July 21, 1975 story Space shuttle to involve Europe, too for $3.95.

Not every news org’s historical archives are available in the Google News archive. Apparently Google strikes partnerships with news orgs to scan and serve their archives, or to link to existing online archives.

Participating in this service could be a way to turn your history into traffic. The Official Google Blog noted: “Over time, as we scan more articles and our index grows, we’ll also start blending these archives into our main search results so that when you search Google.com, you’ll be searching the full text of these newspapers as well.” This means that participating news orgs could find their historic wealth increasingly findable, and thus potentially more compelling and/or lucrative.

(NOTE: I originally published this article on Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits. Thanks to Tech.Blorge for the tip.)

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Hashtags on Twitter: How do you follow them?

TweetDeck
Column-based Twitter applications like Tweetdeck can make following hashtags easy. (Image by Tojosan)

As I’ve mentioned before, hashtags are a powerful tool that allows Twitter users to track what many people (especially people whom you aren’t already following) are reporting or thinking about a particular topic or event.

Here’s the catch: Hashtags aren’t an officially supported Twitter service. They’re merely a convention that Twitter users have adopted on their own, within the 140-character text-only constraints of tweeting. So you can’t really “follow” hashtags through the main Twitter site.

Many third-party Twitter tools and services “play nice” with hashtags — but you must first know what these tools are and how to use them in order to get maximum value from hashtags.

This can lead to a bit of basic confusion, especially among people who are new to Twitter. Specifically, how exactly do you follow a hashtag?…
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What’s that Hashtag? New glossary tools for Twitter

On Twitter, hashtags are a powerful, simple tool for tracking topics, communities, live events, or breaking news. They make you findable, and they allow on-the-fly collaboration. When you insert one of these short character-string tags beginning with #, you make it easy for Twitter users who don’t already follow you (plus anyone searching Twitter) to find your public contributions to the coverage or discussion on that topic.

The catch is that hashtags are often cryptic — usually because they work best when they’re as brief as possible. So you might stumble across an interesting-sounding tweet containing a hashtag like #wci, #plurk, or #tpb and wonder about its context. Although you can follow a hashtag easily with tools like Twitter Search, Hashtags.org, Tweetdeck, or Twitterfall (which Paul Bradshaw recommended yesterday in Tidbits), those tools don’t easily tell you what a given hashtag means.

Here some promising new tools that can help you quickly put a hashtag in context — or let people easily look up the meaning of the hashtags you launch or use… Continue reading

Silobreaker: Making meaning out of news via the semantic web

From the perspective of people who need news, the real point of the news isn’t merely to discover what’s happening. Rather, it is about discerning what it all might mean — especially, to YOU!

And in an age of information overload, the challenge for journalists is no longer just to provide more news content. Rather, our value lies in supporting relevance, insight, and (ultimately) meaning.

This is why, lately, I’ve been intrigued by Silobreaker. This Europe-based news aggregator site uses semantic web technology (Including visual interfaces) to make news more relevant — and thus, more compelling and useful.

This is pretty important because, since relevance has inherent value, it can be the basis of business models…

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RonRosenbaum.com? NOT! (Or: Stupid domain tricks)

On Friday, Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits published a piece by Ken Sands (Congressional Quarterly’s executive editor for innovation) on a current spat in the journo-sphere: Jarvis on the Death of Print: Gloating, or Practical?

I edit the Tidbits blog. As I was producing that post, I was searching for a good, direct link for Ron Rosenbaum — a journalist and author who recently wrote in Slate that media maven Jeff Jarvis has been gloating over the death of print. I discovered that Rosenbaum blogs for Pajamas Media — and I prefer to link to people’s blogs, so they can speak for themselves.

I noticed something about Rosenbaum’s blog that, in the context of the current rancorous debate he sparked over the fate of traditional journalists, strikes me as somewhat sad.

This screen grab says it all:

RonRosenbaum.com: It's just a title. It doesn't really work right now.

RonRosenbaum.com: It's just a blog title, not a domain. Really.

The name of Rosenbaum’s blog appears to be a domain: RonRosenbaum.com. But it isn’t — that’s just the name of his blog. Even worse: The domain RonRosenbaum.com currently doesn’t resolve to any site.

This reflects a discouraging level of online-media cluenessness that is so common in the mainstream media mindset…

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