Here are some notes from two workshops I went to yesterday. They were really helpful to me and I hope I can pass some of the most important things on to you.
Second Workshop: Online freelancing
Sandra Romo from California Baptist University gave this workshop; she did a great job. The content is very useful for a student, such as myself, and it definitely gave me motivation to give freelancing a try. Here are a few websites she recommends:
Elance.com – A site where you can bid on articles. You get 10 bids for free per month. She mentioned that there is also a section of the site where you can bid on design projects. I’m not quite sure how that works.
Seed.com - a site that creates content for AOL. You create a profile and write requested articles. There is some risk involved since there’s no guarantee your article will be picked up. It is, however, a great byline for your resume.
Demandstudios.com - This site requires you to apply to work for them to create content for eHow. I believe you get paid around $15 an article. If you can spit out two in an hour, that’s not a bad hourly wage.
Writersmarket.com - Rather than buying the huge writer’s market book, freelancing positions can now be conveniently found online. There is a yearly membership requirement, though.
Mediabistro.com – Free courses, job postings and overall a great resource. With a paid membership, there are even more resources on hand.
Issuu.com – A site where you can create a snazzy looking portfolio that actually looks like a book – the pages turn and everything. If you don’t want ads to run along the side of the portfolio, there is a small cost.
Sandra also emphasized that social networking, investing in a website or blog and creating a virtual portfolio is a must. Great workshop! Thanks for all the helpful resources, Sandra.
Third Workshop: SEO 101 for Journalists
Now this was also an awesome workshop! Aram Zucker-Scharff from George Mason University gave a fast-paced lecture on Search Engine Optimization for websites, blogs and anything else you put up on the web. He said there are three areas search engines pay close attention to: the title, description of the article and keywords.
Title - Is what to call the Article. You might have to sacrifice creativity for keywords in order to get noticed by Google. He also said titles should be no more than 60 character since they will get cut off by the search engine and look rather odd.
Description or excerpt - Is a summary for search engines. WordPress and other blog platforms will often have a field to enter descriptions. Make sure the lead is here and is no longer than 160 characters. There is also talk that Google will pass over or penalize descriptions that do not match the content of the article. Remember, content is still very important.
Keywords – Some call these tags. Keywords can include locations, events, important information, companies, titles and even your name. (It’s also a good idea to develop 10 to 20 keywords to work into your articles, but remember not to over do it.) Also consider using keywords you think you can win with. So don’t just go for a really broad keyword when you can make it more specific. You may show up on page 10 with a broad keyword instead of page 1 with narrower keywords.
He also reiterated the importance of linking to and from sites. If you have a choice between linking to the homepage or linking to a specific article, always be sure to link to the article. This is called deep linking. There are many things you can link to, company webpages, data, stats and products. Just don’t overdo it. I get the feeling that it looks cluttered.
It’s also important to have high ranking sites linking to you. Aram said it’s almost as if the websites are casting their vote in your favor; the more important the site casting the vote, the higher and the more power it has to push your site up in rank. For example, twitter has a page rank of 9, facebook has a page rank of 10 and anything ending with “.edu” will be considered a higher than average rank. (This is one reason why it’s really good to get “.edu” websites to link to your page.) But be careful to not be repetitive. So don’t post the link to your article on facebook then an hour later repost it. Apparently Google penalizes for that kind of repetitive posting on the same host.
Well, it was a great workshop. Aram closed by saying it’s important to market yourself and your content. By doing so in a smart, ethical way, search engines will start to recognize your site even more.
I’ve been to many more workshops since these two and I’ll post more about them later. The workshops have been great so far! I can’t believe tomorrow is the last day.