You can download the course notes in pdf form here
WHAT IS A DIGITAL FOOTPRINT AND WHY DO I NEED ONE?
In this day and age it is rare to find an individual or an entity like a company, who does not have some or another form of a digital footprint, also known as an online presence. To simply, yet accurately determine someone’s online presence, go to Google and type in the name of the person or company placed in inverted commas, e.g. “Barend Craven”. This will instruct the search engine to look for and return results containing only that exact name or phrase and thus provide you with an accurate result for what you are looking for. These results are the most accurate representation of your online footprint.
“But why all this?” you are probably asking. The answer is a simple one. In the good old days, people and businesses succeeded by becoming an “authority” in their line of work and this authority was promoted by “word of mouth”. This is exactly the same principle adapted to the online culture of today. The more, original and unique, digital content on a subject that you provide, the more people are going to talk about you and the more search results on that particular subject you will return and thus the more of an authority you will become.
ANN7 proclaims me to be one of the top 10 innovators in Johannesburg, surely I must be good…
So now that we know that a good online presence is key to success in business, let’s get to the basics.
WHAT EXACTLY IS THE INTERNET?
Despite the blatant misuse of the word “cloud” the internet is not some entity that simply exists somewhere in some or another space that only guys that you see on the movies with tons of screens and pizzas know about. The internet is, simply put, a stack of computers, linked to one or another with public access to each other. Each computer, including your phone, is identified by an IP address, e.g. 192.168.10.250 and they are all connected via various means e.g. phone cables, fibre optic cables, mobile networks, etc.
HOW DO I CONNECT TO THIS INTERNET?
To connect to the internet one will first need a computer. Any old computer will do. This can be a desktop PC, a laptop, a tablet, a phone or even a refrigerator (Yes, a good old fridge. There is a classic case of a computerized fridge in a home on the home network and hackers managed to access this entire home network through hacking into the fridge). Now that we have this computer, we have to take a look at getting some internet to it. In the image below we have a basic diagram of what happens in a usual home or small business.
Here you have, firstly your computer, then you have a form of accessing the internet, this is done via telephone cable. Then you have a modem and a router, confusing, not too much, here’s what the various items do:
Internet access: This is done in quite a few different forms, depending on your ISP (Internet Service Provider). Here we use either a telephone connection (Telkom or Neotel), and using that physical connection you can buy internet or “data” from either Telkom or Neotel but you can also purchase internet from other providers like Axxess, Mweb or Afrihost amongst others, that will provide this internet access over your telephone line. You can also have access to the internet over a mobile service provider (3G, HSDPA or LTE) or if you want really fast speeds, you could try fibre optic cable. This is how the internet access comes to you.
Modem: This device is what converts this incoming internet into a data connection that is in a form that is understood by the router.
Router: The router is where all the magic happens. This manages your connection to the internet (where you put your login credentials from your ISP and then it distributes this connection throughout all the devices in your home (home network). It does this via WIFI or a LAN cable. Most devices can connect either way. It is important to note that the router is what gives all the devices on its network an IP (Internet Protocol) address, thus creating a network so you can have your phone or laptop connected to the router and thus each other even if there is no incoming internet connection (This is referred to an intranet and is the thinking behind the birth of the internet, many small intranets all connected.)
Many devices are combinations of these items i.e. a mobile phone has a radio to connect for the incoming connection and a modem and router all built in to the network that gives your mobile phone an IP address. Most modern home usage routers have the modem built in with a WIFI radio and LAN connections.
What do these all connect to? Mostly online servers.
WHAT EXACTLY IS AN ONLINE SERVER?
An online server is not much more than just another computer, only this one has special software installed that allows it to perform particular tasks like create a folder on it, give that folder an IP address. It will also have what is called DNS (Domain Name System) that will translate the name www.barendcraven.com into 22.214.171.124 and get the info from that folder. It sounds a little convoluted but all you need to know for now is that it is a computer and you buy a little bit of space on that computer and you put your website there, it will take care of the rest for you.
An online server looks a lot like this:
And is nothing more than a computer with a lot of hard drives that is connected to the internet.
Various platforms for an online presence
There are various platforms for an online presence. A platform is usually a space in which you can have your own little area that will allow others to access and use or share what you put there e.g.
- Your own hosted website
- Social media where you get your own space or profile like Facebook or Google+
All these platforms live on online servers.
Before we continue with any more of this online malarkey I do feel we need to become comfortable with one of the most misunderstood bogeymen of the internet called SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Most people fear this as it usually means that they have to approach certain people who are usually deemed to be the second-hand car salesmen of the internet, who will chuck a bunch of internet codey like talk to them in exchange for a lot of money and provide very few, tangible results. Let’s demystify this.
WHAT IS A SEARCH ENGINE?
Many years ago, when the internet was born, two bright, young fellows, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, got together and realized that the internet now consisted of various pages on various servers and, if you wanted to go there, you had to put the page name (address) into your browser and this was fantastic but there was no way to find something unless you knew where it is. This was the day Google (our major search engine) was born. There are many other search engines, like Bing and Yahoo but we focus mostly on Google in this country so this is what we will take a look at as they mostly operate in the same way.
A search engine consists of many little robots (programs) also knows as bots, spiders etc, that crawl the internet looking for website content. Now to speed things up a bit when you type something in Google Search, what happens is these little bots go crawling the web. They find content and they take a snapshot of that content which they send back to the Google Servers (yes another computer) only this one is massive.
These servers are massive as they contain the whole internet. This is what the cooling plants look like:
A Google server is really a glorified filing cabinet but before we get onto that, let’s take a look at those bots because they behave in a fashion that is pertinent to the way we build our websites and create our online presence.
Google has four different types of search bot:
- The new content bot ~ this one searches the web looking only for new content.
- The update bot ~ this bot finds existing content that has been updated.
- The news bot ~ this bot searches news websites more frequently looking for up to date news content.
- The spam bot ~ this bot looks for and alerts Google to spam content.
Take note of these as they will answer a lot of questions you will have later.
On an interesting side note, we have discussed that the spiders take a snapshot of each webpage. To see when last a spider took a snapshot of your web pages, find the page in Google and on the search result, and click on the small down arrow (as in the image below) and select “cached”. This will show you how Google currently sees that page and when last the search engine was there.
Once Google has the snap shots of all the web pages, they are put in this massive filing cabinet (this is called indexing), ready for you to search through them. The tricky bit is how they return the results to you. Only a few people truly know how they go about this and this is constantly changing. Making your website appear foremost in the search results is called SEO (Search Engine Optimization). The reason for all the constant changes aka updates in the search algorithms, is that very bad people tend to take advantage of the search criteria. For example, when Google decided that it would return a result based on meta (hidden) keywords in a page, unscrupulous SEO’s would resort to what is called keyword stuffing (hiding hundreds of keywords, mostly irrelevant) in the website pages of their clients. The problem with this is that the search results started to return mostly irrelevant results, so Google keeps changing it. Remember at all times that even though a Google search is free, it is still a business and if it stops returning relevant results, people will stop using it. The SEO practises we will be discussing throughout are timeless SEO practises but practises that need to be implemented from the beginning.
Now that you have a good basic knowledge of search engines and how they work, we can go on as I will be bringing good, long lasting SEO practises into everything we discuss from now on.
THE ANATOMY OF A WEB PAGE
I am a bit of an old fashioned stickler for the traditional web page. Many of the newer websites have fancy sliders, massive images, largely visually appealing yet not very user friendly, somehow they always leave me feeling like I have missed out on some content. To truly understand the working of a web page, one has to look at it from the perspectives of a blind reader (yes, there are programs that enable blind people to have web pages read to them and Google bots use most of these principles), a search bot, and your end user (we like to call them people around here).
Important SEO note:
Search engine bots search through a website in very much the same way that users do ~ through links.
Take a look at the web page on the next page and we will go through all the elements and how they affect your user experience, a blind user’s experience (and yes, that counts towards your SEO nowadays) and a search bot’s experience.
The above image is a rather comprehensive anatomy of your traditional website page. Let’s take a look at the individual elements and discuss their various merits and functions.
This is a very neglected yet important element. Its primary function is for people who constantly have multiple tabs open to be able to quickly keep “tabs” on which page is which. Google does keep a record of the amount of time people spend on your website.
Identifying a page easily by its favicon will allow such people to keep that page open which will lead them to visit it often, keeping them on your site which is exactly what you want and what Google is looking for.
THE ADDRESS (URL)
This is also known as the URL (Uniform Resource Locator) and remember we discussed the DNS. This is the readable representation of the IP address. Being a readable form, I have it on good authority that Google no longer (yes it used to) look for keywords (not to be confused with meta keywords) here but if you can find a way to fit it in, it’s probable advisable and you won’t get punished (yes, Google will give you a lower ranking if you do naughty stuff) for it. Here are some guidelines for a good address for your website:
- As previously mentioned, I would keep the words relevant, i.e. barendcravenphotography.com as long as you can keep it as short as possible. A short and easily readable URL is quickly remembered and repeated in conversation. A good friend of mine owns a shop and his website is plasticchairs.co.za. I have kept the work “photography” out of my URL as part of my plans of fame and fortune. This way it is more generic.
- Stay away from any special characters and spaces in your URL. It makes it hard to remember and doesn’t serve you any good. If you do have to use spaces (as you will see when you create your own website), never use an underscore “_”, always use a hyphen “-“. Google sees an underscore as a word joiner and a hyphen as a word separator. If you are creating a new page like a product photography page, you want your URL to look like this barendcraven.com/product-photography , that way Google knows it as a “product photography” page. If you have used an underscore like www.barendcraven.com/product_photography , Google sees it as a “productphotography” page. It’s clever, not that clever though so let’s always help it out as much as we can in the spirit of “white-hat” SEO.
- We all know that owning a .com is cool (remnants of the beginning of the internet) and if your every intention is world dominance, then you should go all out on that .com, however SEO very much follows the principle of accumulated results (gain a little here, gain a little there accumulating to massive gains) that Formula 1 engineers follow. If you are a local business, a .com is not going to help as much as a .co.za. Google works very much on location, plasticchairs.co.za, a company in South Africa that sells plastic chairs, enough said.
THE PAGE TITLE
This is a short description of what the page does and is relatively important to your search results in that it allows Google to quickly define what this particular page is about. We will cover how to go about page titles further on in this course but for these purposes, let’s get into the mechanics and guidelines for a page title.
- A page title must not exceed 152 characters.
- Phrases in page titles are always separated by a pipe “|” (this is found above the RHS shift key)
- Page titles should contain three sections, separated by the pipe and appear from left to right in order of relevance. i.e. “photography | commercial photography | product photography” or “photography | studio photography | boudoir”.
- Never try to attempt any keyword stuffing or irrelevant words in your page title. Google will know and not like that too much.
This is the bit that people will see first so, as we all know, first impressions… Try to keep this simple. Traditionally it would contain your logo, your site title, an image or some characteristic that best displays the nature of your business and your navigation bar. Some prefer to put the navigation bar in a sidebar or have it compressed into the mobile “burger” I prefer this traditional layout. From a user perspective, it is simpler and everything is where it should be. Try to stay away from scrolling images or anything too animated (I have animated the Wizeys only on page load) otherwise it will be too busy and take up real estate away from anything that should be “above the fold”, something we will discuss when we get to the content section.
Short and sweet here. The logo is an introduction to your branding and on traditional websites, clicking on it will take you back to the home page of the website.
THE NAVIGATION BAR
Also known as the nav bar, this is introduced to give a user (and a search engine) a visual representation of the site’s layout or sitemap. It is an absolute cardinal sin for users to get lost in your website due to poorly planned layout. Often on larger sites, one can have many tiers to this navigation and a recommended maximum is three tiers. There is nothing more frustrating than having to navigate too many dropdown menu’s and one slip of the mouse… we’ve all been there.
THE CONTENT OR ARTICLE
This is the main content of the web page. Here are a few guidelines on creating your content.
- I have also called it the article for those who are interested in or have a basic knowledge of HTML. A few years ago, HTML5 was released which gave search engines and developers a better way of defining the elements of the page. We will do a short introduction to that later but know that this main section is defined to Google by being between the <article> and </article> tags as opposed to the traditional <div> and </div> tags.
- SEO is mainly driven by content nowadays and having loads of content in the form of text here is key to Google. An acceptable amount of content for Google to deem it to be a bona fide page is 250 to 300 words though the actual specification set by Google (insider information here) is 2500 to 3000 words.
- Do not create the page (if you are using WordPress do not publish) before you have your content ready. If you have created the page and there is no content, you may be visited by the Google “new content bot”. This one is the important one and only comes around once. If you have published the page and only later populate it, the new content will only be picked up by the “updated bot” and your content will carry less weight with Google.
- There is an old English expression, “it does what it says on the tin”. Your homepage is that tin. There is a term in website design and SEO called “above the fold”. Above the fold is the amount of screen that one sees on a website page without scrolling down. It is important for users and search engines to know what is on that tin above the fold. Put yourselves in your users’ shoes. The boss wants someone to come in and take some pictures of their products. The secretary goes straight to Google. We have all been there, sifting through the search results, trying to find the most suitable result. Now what Google does is it takes the snippet of content that is the closest match to the page title and puts that in the search result’s description:
Someone looking for a wedding photographer, seeing that in the result, is going to look no further, they are going to pick up the phone and dial that number. Remember, people don’t want to have to search all over your website to see if you can do what they want, it must tell them what you do in the first paragraph.
- Infograms are fantastic and are a quick way to relay ideas and concepts to your users but stay away from images that contain too much text as a search engine cannot read images (only alt tags which we will get into later). A quick way to determine what is text on a website is simply to press ctrl + a and the browser will highlight all the text. Take a look at cucinabespoke.co.za and do this and you will see on their home page that all the text is in one image and Google has no idea what that site is about.
- Links to other sites should be in this section and be in line with the nature of the content. We will get into links later on.
- Stay away, no matter who says what, from hidden text here or anywhere. Google will know. The two ways to place hidden text (usually loads of keywords that will not make sense to a person), are making the text the same colour as the background or placing an image over the text. Either way, don’t go down this avenue. It could well lead to your site being de-indexed. To see if there is any hidden text on a website, again, use ctrl + a.
SOCIAL MEDIA CONTENT SHARE
Not to be confused with the social media connect. These buttons allow a person to share the webpage on their own social media websites or Twitter. This is a quick and easy way to get your content out on the market so I like to have them on all my pages.
SOCIAL MEDIA CONNECT
This is different to the social media share in that these buttons will take your users to your various social media profiles. This is great in that it allows you to engage with your users and test your assumptions. We will delve into the mysteries of social media a little later on.
THE SIDE BAR
This is not altogether compulsory but it is a good way to get your people interested in specific products, highlight some latest news or any other section or goodies you have available to them. If you have business hours or a small map, it is useful to display them here like I have done for the Randburg SPCA website.
Linking to other websites here is not really going to help you or them much which, again, we will get into later when we discuss links and SEO, so keep it simple and link only to relevant and interesting places on your own site.
CALL TO ACTION
Wow. This is one of the most understated and important aspects of a website. I don’t understand the mentality of spending your hard earned money and time on your website without telling people what it is that you expect once they are there. There are many examples of this like “sign up for our newsletter” or “download now” even “book now. Facebook has even started implementing a call to action on its posts for pages. In this example, I have a “download” call to action but there are many different and interesting ways to do this. Look at the image below of the various calls to action on my development website.
THE BACKGROUND IMAGE
Your background image is not really that important to users and to SEO. It is more just a space filler for people who are viewing your website on a larger screen. Take care as not to put too large an image here as it will slow the site down.
I like to keep this simple though quite a few people like to display sitemaps and contact information here. Please note (again on those pesky links) that any links to the developer website or any other external links must have a “nofollow” or it will end up with both of you being penalized by Google.
So now that you know how a website page should be and how you should build it from the start with your SEO in mind, let’s take a look at some of the languages that are commonly used.
HTML (HyperText Markup Language) is fortunately the simplest of them all and is the basic language the basic language that a website page is made up of. Here are the basics of a web page in HTML:
<h1>This is a Heading</h1>
<p>This is a paragraph.</p>
Fortunately we are not going to delve too much into the intricacies of this language but what we do need to remember is that it is a language that is comprised of “tags”, usually a beginning tag and an end tag. Google does read these tags so we must be able to accurately tell Google what the content is about using our knowledge of these tags. WordPress will do most (if not all) of the heavy lifting for you when it comes to this, however, in my experience, I came to know HTML before I got into WordPress and it often helps me out when I am in a pickle but stress not, WordPress has a very comprehensive text editor that will do most for you.
Let’s take a look at some of the tags here and see how they are going to affect your SEO:
<title>Photography | Randburg | Photographic Services</title>
<p>I offer all types of photography from my studio</p>
<p>I do wedding photography in my studio</p>
<p>I do product photography in my studio</p>
It is important to look at your heading <h> tags here and make sure that they are structured in very much the same as you would structure a good Word document. Google allows only one <h1> per page and this should contain the same keywords as the first tier of the page title. The first <h2> (you can have more than one) should contain the same words as the second tier of the page title and likewise for the <h3> tags. Take a look at the image below:
This really covers the most of what you will need when it comes to your WordPress, HTML and SEO on your pages.
CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) is what gives your website its look and feel. It is a styling language. Take a look at the example below:
<h1>This is a heading</h1>
<p>This is a paragraph.</p>
Here the styles tell your browser how it must display the various elements to you. This is something, as a beginner, that you need not worry too much about as WordPress offers this to you in the form of a theme. When you install a WordPress (which we will cover later), you are offered a basic theme and you can download and install for free and buy any theme that you like the most and they will give you completely different looks for the same content. It is important to know that the theme does not change your content, it only displays it differently.
Wow, this one, PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor) has a fancy description, “recursive acronym” in that PHP originally stood for “Personal Home Page” and now stands for (Personal Home Page) Hypertext Preprocessor, which is a great start to a great language. More than 60% of the web is generated by PHP. Why am I telling you this? WordPress is written in and operates with PHP and you are going to see many files ending with .php when you start dealing with it. Mostly you need not worry too much about it but it’s nice to know what is happening here. PHP is the go-getter, go-setter, arranger of most sites and is also the engine that runs your log-ins and contact forms. Yes, it’s that versatile. Look at the example below:
<h1>Welcome to my home page!</h1>
<p>Some more text.</p>
<?php include 'footer.php';?>
To begin with, your browser works with HTML. PHP is an organizer language that puts the HTML page together on the server and then “returns” it to you. A better example: When you are using Excel and you want to display the current date (like on an invoice) you type “=TODAY()” into the cell, then whenever you go to that spreadsheet, it will display the current date. PHP is very much like this. When you are doing multiple pages on a website, why type the footer out each time when you can do it once, save it in a file called footer.php, then use “<?php include ‘footer.php';?>” to call it.
There are tons more languages involved, these are merely the main that you do need to know about. Having the basics down is a great start to a direction of growth should you want to but enough about this, let’s make a website.
LET’S MAKE A WEBSITE
Now that we kind of know what is going on, it’s time to get down to some nitty gritty and start building up a website. First we are going to have to find a place to put it. By now we know that this happens on a server but where to go. There are many places one can go to but for the purposes of this course, I am going to use the people I currently host with, Axxess. Please note that I am in no way affiliated with them, nor do I receive any commission from them, I have chosen them because I am familiar with their systems and I can telephonically contact the tech support, which is dead handy if you want them to install WordPress for you. First off, we are going to need a domain.
This is the address or URL of the website that we have already discussed. Please have a few in mind before you start this process. We head off to www.axxess.co.za and are faced with a few options. We choose “Web Hosting”, then “Linux Hosting” and when you scroll down to the section where you can test your domain names, remembering the domain (URL) principles we previously discussed. What is important here is that, once you find one here that is available and is one that you want, you must purchase it immediately. I’m not saying but it has been known that there are some of these “domain availability” machines that search for domains that have been searched for and not bought and they them buy it up so you have to buy it from them if you want it, yes, very naughty.
In this section and with various other service providers, you will be asked for the type of package you want. Here are your options and requirements (having chosen Linux shared hosting):
- Hosting space ~ This is the amount of storage on their hard drives that they are offering. This needs to be sufficient for all your images, your content and your emails. 2GB is sufficient to start with as this can always be upgraded.
- Monthly traffic ~ This is the equivalent of how much “data” your site will use. Unlimited is good here as the last thing you want is for a user to go onto your site and it says “Sorry, the user has exceeded their bandwidth”, not good at all.
- Sub domains ~ Don’t worry about this. This is for users who have multiple similar products e.g. The Eagle Group has Eagle Ford, Eagle Mazda etc and wants them to fall under the same umbrella but for Super_SEO purposed, it is good to have them in separate sub domains. You are not going to be needing this complexity right now.
- Email inboxes ~ The amount of email addresses you can have, mostly you will not need more than one or two.
- MySQL databases ~ A database is a very fancy Excel spreadsheet that stores data. WordPress needs only one and more than that you probably won’t need so I recommend a minimum of one here.
Once you are done here and your domain is purchased on your desired package, it’s time to start planning your world domination. You will have 24 hours to do this as this is how long it will take to get the domain registered and set up.
WordPress is nothing more than a fancy file system comprised of a few files in specific folders and in specific locations that does all the work in your site setup. WordPress is essentially a CMS (Content Management System) and is downloadable for free from www.wordpress.org. There are three different ways to install WordPress (four really but the fourth is way too complicated to even contemplate mentioning here)
- Use the Softalicious software from your CPanel
- Do a manual install by manually setting up your databases and FTP’ing your setup version
- Phone Axxess, chose hosting, technical support and ask one of the techies there nicely to install it for you. It’s not really their job but they will do it if you provide them with a login username and password. Yip, let’s go for this option.
Important note: when it comes to your username and password, don’t be a tool, there are many hacking programs online that go through entire servers looking for sites that are wordpress and they have a go at hacking them. It will happen to you if you do not provide a strong username and password, using “admin” “admin” is not going to cut the mustard, be strong, be safe.
GETTING STARTED WITH WORDPRESS
Now that you have gotten David or one of the fellows there to install WordPress for you, it’s time to get started. To log onto your site you will enter the domain name, followed by “/wp-admin” e.g. www.barendcraven.com/wp-admin. This will take you straight to your WordPress dashboard and you are ready to start building your very own website.
FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS CAMERASTUFF COURSE, THE USE OF WORDPRESS WILL BE DONE LIVE JUST TO GET YOU TO ATTEND
A LITTLE MORE ON HOSTING AND SERVERS
Now that you have your website up and live, let’s take a look at what’s going on here. You have bought a little piece of the cloud and installed a website but what does it look like on the server. We are not going to go into too many details but you can connect directly to your server, look at your files, add or delete files and sometimes even edit them as they are on the server. Here is what one of my WordPress websites looks like on the server:
Yip, as I mentioned (or did I?), a website is nothing more than a bunch of files and folders on your server. When you look up a website (type in the address in your browser) the file it goes for is the index file. Look in the rights column and you will see various “rights” settings that will allow or block a user from going into these files by opening them in a browser.
To get access to these folders one uses an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) Client that is usually free of charge and easily downloadable from the internet. A very common one to use is called Filezilla but my personal favorite is a program called WinSCP. We are not going to get too technically into this on this course, but you do need to know that this is possible as WordPress has a max file upload size of 2Mb. With the FTP you can copy anything you desire onto your server. Now I know what you are thinking. You are thinking that it is a fantastic idea to load information onto your server like a dropbox. Stop right there and take a look at this webpage file I am going to transfer onto my server:
<metaname="robots" content="noindex, nofollow">
<h1>Login for barendcraven.com</h1>
<p>Username: <em>my username</em></p>
<p>Password: <em>my password</em></p>
Using our knowledge we have created a file (webpage) with all our passwords (yes, let them never be lost again) and we can now navigate to it with our browser. There is no link to it from our website so users won’t find it, heck we even added <metaname=”robots” content=”noindex, nofollow”> to tell search engines not to go there and all we have to do is type http://barendcraven.com/my-passwords.html into any browser and we have access to our info, brilliant! Okay, not so brilliant. First off, knelling a search engine or robot not to follow or visit is really like telling a kid not to do something. They listen but they do it anyway. Google respects “nofollows” but still follows (we will get into this in the next section “more on seo”. Most motor car accidents are caused by ignorance and stupidity, just ask Elon Musk. A guy was killed when he put his Tesla Electric Car into autopilot on the motorway. The autopilot could not identify a white truck on a bright day and thus an accident occurred. What most headlines omitted was the fact that the guy was travelling down the motorway, using new and relatively untested technology which is specified as a driver aid, not replacement, whilst totally engrossed in a Harry Potter movie. This is the same with hacking. Most hackers are not the pizza eating introvert with millions of screens, furiously punching out code in the basement of some building. Most hackers use easy to come by software and just run it. There are search engines available that will search for such files, just ask the Bowman Avenue Dam’s management. Such a file was on the network for management to access their passwords easily. Just as easy for an Iranian hacker to access that network as well as many other institutions networks. Be careful and rather let WordPress do the work for you.
A LITTLE MORE ON SEO
Now that we have our fancy new website up and running there are a few things we need to look at regarding SEO.
Having looked at the basics like content, headers, page titles etc, whilst building our website, there are a few other items that we need to bear in mind like:
- Page load speeds and image optimization
- Responsive sites
- Links and linking
- Social media integration and interaction
PAGE LOAD SPEEDS
Some good news here. WordPress is going to do most of the technical work here for you. The page load speed is how quickly the page can load in your browser. Page load speeds became important to Google with the advancement of mobile devices accessing the internet. To give you an idea of how many users access your website, whilst waiting for an interview on East Coast Radio, I saw their Google analytics which they put on display in the reception. 80% of their current online users were accessing their website with a mobile device. It is pivotal to keep these page load speeds as low as possible. The best way to do this is using Photoshop’s “save for web and devices”. If you do not have Photoshop, you can find a breakdown on how to do this using Office Picture Manager at https://alums.vassar.edu/images/volunteer/image-reductions-in-windows.pdf . Using these image optimization techniques, you can reduce the size of an image from 8Mb down to a very clear 50kb image that should open quickly. A little bit of technical stuff ~ An image is represented in HTML like:
<img src=”www.timewizeparentalcontrol.com/images/parental-control-for-android-devices-home-ad.jpg” alt=” infogram on how to install timewize parental control” width=”660″ height=”461″ />
Now remember in the good old days when you had a tablet connected to the internet and you went onto a webpage and it took forever to load and as you pressed on a link, the page suddenly shifted around and you pressed on that ad instead, went off to another page so you threw the tablet against the wall and went fishing? Well this is why it happened. When you go to a web page, it first fetches the text from the server and while that is loading, it fetches the images from their addresses (in this case the address of the image is www.timewizeparentalcontrol.com/images/parental-control-for-android-devices-home-ad.jpg which is a link you can click on and it will bring up only the image). If you do not specify the image size (in this case it is 660pixels by 461 pixels), the text will download, then, when the picture downloads, the text is rearranged by the browser to fit the image. Fortunately for us, WordPress automatically puts the image size in so the browser keeps that space open so the whole page does not have to rearrange everything when it arrives. As we explained, the image is “fetched” individually from the server so it is basically temporarily downloaded. This is why the image file size is so important, smaller files download faster and pages load quicker. This is very important to photographers. Now the other item you see in the above code is the “alt tag” alt=” infogram on how to install timewize parental control”. This is alternative text to the image. Google (and blind people) cannot see images so you have to provide a good description of the image here, e.g. “a tall blond model wearing a winter outfit consisting of jeans and an anorak with a green, woolen scarf shot in the studio by Johannesburg photographer Barend Craven”. Close your eyes and picture that. This is very important to be descriptive but again, not stuff the alt tag full of keywords. Google and blind readers do not like that so much.
Look at the two sites below, which are side by side.
The site on the left is not responsive and the site on the right is. So what is the difference? A responsive website changes shape and layout of all its elements as the screen gets smaller. When it reaches the mobile size, the text remains the same size so you can read it easily but a lot of the elements change, like the menu changes into that familiar “hamburger” menu, icons change to smaller versions and some elements are not displayed at all. This gives the users a much better experience. The site on the left is not responsive so simply shrinks to fit the screen. This is difficult to use as you constantly have to zoom in and menus are tricky at best to navigate. To test if your site is responsive, open the page in your browser, restore the window (not maximized) and slowly make the window narrower. If the page “responds” by changing layout, but the font size remains the same, then it is responsive. If the content stays the same but “falls off” the page, then it is not responsive. Responsive is good, you want responsive. More good news: most WordPress themes you get nowadays are responsive. Another good reason to use WordPress, but always check this when deciding on a theme.
LINKS AND LINKING
This is a tough one to get and easy to go very wrong with but after this, you will have a good idea on links and how they work. Here is an example of a link in HTML
<p>Here is a splendid example of <a href=” http://www.barendcraven.com/product-photography/”>product photography</a> if you are looking for your products to sell better on your website.</p>
The bit in yellow is called the href (link) tags and the bit in blue is the “anchor text”. We have been doing this for ages in word and on our emails (basically any text editor can do this). We write the words, highlight them, the set the link.
Links are what makes the world go round. Search engines and people get to you, all your other pages and content, as well as other peoples sites through links so let’s take a closer look at some do’s and don’t’s of links and linking.
When you are wanting to link to another site as a reference to what you are writing about, always make sure that the link is in your main content, not in your sidebar or footer. Look at the image below.
The text in orange are links to other websites that I am writing about. Linking to them in this fashion is good for their SEO and for my SEO and can be normal links. When linking to other (external) sites, I always use the WordPress “open in a new tab” option. This changes the HTML to this:
<p>Here is a splendid example of <a href=” http://www.barendcraven.com/product-photography/” target=”_blank”>product photography</a> if you are looking for your products to sell better on your website.</p>
The target=”_blank” bit of HTML tells the browser to open that link in another tab. As it is good for SEO to link to other sites if the content of the page you are linking to is relevant to the content on your page, we want to do it but we don’t want the browser to go off your site, we want that tab to stay open or the people will drift off.
Don’t link to other sites, excepting to social media, from your sidebar. This does that site and your site no good at all. This is from the days when links became important to SEO and unscrupulous people would advertise loads of links, known as link farming, and link to you and other sites. Google gets very particular about this so keep links to other sites in your main content, social media links in the sidebar are acceptable and normally there is a link to the developer’s website in the footer. Keep links to content on your own website in the sidebar. If you have to link to an external site, we change the format of the HTML (unfortunately WordPress does not have this function so you have to manually add it in) to look like this:
<p>Here is a splendid example of <a href=” http://www.barendcraven.com/product-photography/” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”>product photography</a> if you are looking for your products to sell better on your website.</p>
The rel=”nofollow” here in this splendid pink tells the Google robot that it should not follow this link. As we mentioned before, the robot will still follow this link but will record and recognize that you are not trying any tricks with your linking and thus will respect the nofollow.
Don’t trade links by getting your mate to link to you and then you link to them. Google will find out and bust you.
“Links are extremely important to your SEO. If there are lots of sites linking to your content, Google will recognize you as an authority and will rank you higher. The best way to get these natural links is to publish new, unique and interesting content on your website that people will want to link to it”
SOCIAL MEDIA AND INTERACTION
Nowadays social media is huge and an important part of your SEO. As far as social media and on-site SEO is concerned, it is important to understand the two different types of social media interaction. Going back to our anatomy of a web page, we have social media share and social media connect. The “social media share” buttons should appear on every page and offer your people a quick way to share that content onto their own social media platforms. Let’s say, for example, I post this content on my website and someone reads it and wants to share it on their Facebook, they click on that Facebook button and it will post this article on their Facebook. The “social media connect” are ways for your people to find your social media profiles so they can connect to you.
Google takes all these abovementioned practices into account and all will improve your ranking in the search results but what about social media is really that important?
Social media is all the rage these days. When I first started photography, the business model was simple, buy camera, post pictures to Facebook, people hire me. Woe was me when all that resulted in was me being nothing more than an unemployed person with a camera. So what happened there? Interestingly, when I do a Google search for my name, “Barend Craven”, there are no Facebook results? Welcome to the 80/20 principle. Though with social media it is even worse odds so why bother? That’s because we need to understand how this social media thing works and how it differs from a website.
First some politics. When Mark Zuckerburg started Facebook, he used the Microsoft search engine, Bing, as a search engine on Facebook. This started a feud between Google and Facebook with Google then developing its own social media platform Google Plus. This did not work very well for them and they have only recently dropped all interest in getting it on the market. That still leaves us with this feud and as a result, Google robots have no interest in the content that you post on Facebook. At the very best, they will display a link to your profile in the search results. This goes for most social media. It is important to understand that, Google search results are not really interested in all the social media content you publish. They just want to know how many people share your content and that’s it so why then bother with social media?
SOCIAL MEDIA IS THE QUICKEST WAY TO DRIVE TRAFFIC TO YOUR WEBSITE
For the purposes of this course, we will focus on the old-fashioned Facebook as an example. The same principles count for most social media platforms. As a photographer, our first instinct is to upload full albums to Facebook. Please don’t be that person. People will initially only look at the first few pictures then keep scrolling. This has not helped you any. Google counts the traffic to your website. The best way to do this is to write a small blog post (250 to 300 words) on the photo shoot and upload the album there. Then post your best and most eye catching image on your social media with a link to that blog post on your site to view the album. This will get people onto your site and give you the opportunity to sell your other products.
PUBLISH TO ALL SOCIAL MEDIA WEBSITES
Things have changed. Before we had only Facebook to post to but now things have fortunately changed. We now have Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Google Plus amongst others. It’s a lot of work to keep all these profiles up to date but is pivotal to your online footprint.
ENGAGEMENT IS KEY
There is a secret to social media success. Be yourself. In other words, be a person. People engage with people. If you have a Facebook page, engage with your people by being a person. Flip the 80/20 principle upside down. Make 80% of your posts personal, talk about your opinions, share your failures and successes. This is what people want. They want to know that they are dealing with a person, not someone who just posts album after album. An absolute champion of this engagement is our very own Conrad at Camerastuff who is one of the admins of the “South African Amateur Photographers” Facebook group. There are constantly exercises, polls, questions, topics and these are the things that keep people engaged. An inexplicable psychological truth is that, when you want to get people to like you, ask them to help you. By asking them to contribute to your life in the form of opinions, you get them to feel that they are a part of your life and who doesn’t want to feel a part of something. “I need some opinions to improve my business, would you prefer…. or ….. if you came for a studio shoot?” is way more effective than just posting an album. That, or pictures of cats.
As we now have a good idea of social media, its differences to a website and its pro’s and con’s, there is another good use for social media. Everything we do is an assumption. We have a hypothesis that states “I will take pictures of people in a studio and make some money.” Naturally that has to be the case, right? We have an expression that the entire science of user experience is based upon and that is “testing assumptions”. This is what social media is especially good for. Having grown your followers on social media you will find that this is an extremely valuable resource to test your assumptions. In the above we assumed that people want to come all the way to a studio, pay large quantities of money and get an album of photos. What if they can’t afford it? What if they prefer selfies with their phones (yes, some people do). Are these people your market? By asking the right questions the right way i.e. “How much would you pay for a family studio shoot?” or “ Would paying R3000 to improve your self-image be worth it to you?”, you could save yourself a fortune in studio gear when maybe people would rather pay R5000 for someone to take photos at a funeral. Who knows? You have the tools, test the assumption.