Friday, February 25, 2011
This week, the SPI team is introducing a new weekly feature to its blog where stations will be able to share their opinions and discuss popular topics in public media. Joining the discussion is simple - just share your thoughts in the comments section of each week's discussion post.
This week's topic is mobile technology. Feel free to discuss your favorite apps, your station's mobile strategy, thoughts on Egypt's 'Twitter Revolution', or anything else related to mobile media.
In the spirit of this discussion, we've added a new poll to the blog, located in the right sidebar. Be sure to cast your vote!
(P.S. We need a catchy name for this new weekly feature - something cool like 'Weekly Throwdown' - so leave a comment if you have any ideas to share.)
Thursday, February 24, 2011
The SPI team is proud to announce that Merlin's first batch of new pupils has successfully completed its on-boarding cycle and is now actively promoting local content on PBS.org. Over the past few weeks, these 18 PBS stations have been diligently studying the intricacies of Merlin's web magic. Now, their content is being promoted to audiences in exciting new ways.
Congratulations to Idaho Public Television, KCPT, Wyoming PBS, Arkansas Educational Television Network, Ozarks Public Television, NET, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, WBGU, Maine Public Broadcasting Network, NHPTV, WHRO, KPTS, Illinois Public Media, WITF, WMHT, Western Reserve Public Media, WNIN, WNMU, and UNC-TV. Thanks for all of your hard work!
Starting next week, a new batch of stations will be entering the Merlin classroom – and the SPI team will be hosting webinars and providing plenty of documentation to help make their on-boarding process quick and easy. We’re excited to be working with Iowa Public Television, KCTS, South Texas Public Broadcasting, KLRN, Vegas PBS, KPBS, HoustonPBS, KVIE, WFYI, WKAR, Maryland Public Television, WSRE, WTIU, PBS Ideastream, and WXXI!
If your station is interested in being included in a future Merlin on-boarding cycle, don’t hesitate to send us an email. On average, Merlin and the new PBS.org have been increasing visits to station sites by about 8-10% – and nearly half of the traffic referrals from PBS.org are coming from local content and links on the PBS.org homepage. We’ve even heard that some stations have seen more than a 600% increase in traffic referrals to their COVE videos. If you’d like to jump in and get started with Merlin’s powerful promotional tools, please contact the SPI team at PBSi_StationServices@pbs.org. You can also check out the Merlin Resource Center if you want to start learning the basics today!
Friday, February 18, 2011
Do you know that Facebook allows “brand pages” (like PBS’s page) to geo-filter its posts? Using this functionality, for example, the PBS Facebook page can post an item about an event or news story that can ONLY be seen by people in Denver or Sacramento or Florida (or whatever city or state we’d want to target).
Recently, the PBS Facebook page has been using this capability more frequently to promote local events like ITVS’s Community Cinema Program. What does this mean for you? With products like Merlin and our social media platforms, we here at PBS are committed to working with stations to help promote local activities at a national level. We want to encourage stations (and program producers) to know that you can request items of note, targeted to people in your specific cities and/or states to be posted on the PBS Facebook page.
Kevin Dando, who oversees posts on PBS’s Facebook page, and the SPI team are working together to formalize a process by which your station could request this kind of post – targeted to people in your viewing area – promoting your content, an event, or anything else on the national PBS Facebook page “liked” by over 500,000 people.
Interested in helping us roll this out? Please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can continue the conversation, and talk about next steps.
You may have noticed that Facebook has once again begun rolling out several updates to its popular social networking service. In particular, the recent changes affect Facebook Pages used by many PBS member stations. But have no fear, the SPI FYI Corner is here to help you navigate through Facebook’s new design!
One of the first noticeable new features of Facebook Pages is that their design is now much more similar to the personal profiles of users. Facebook has decided to remove navigation tabs in favor of less visible links that are displayed on the left side of the page. Before you ring a panic alarm about the loss of prominent tabs, try adjusting your Facebook strategy to target the specific benefits presented by this new layout. Your station will need to think outside of the box and post information on its wall instead of hiding it behind tabs, but now new content will be much more visible to users visiting your Facebook Page.
Another new feature being introduced by Facebook is the ability to interact with multiple pages owned by the same admin. This makes it much easier to manage content across multiple pages that represent multiple brands. The benefit stations receive from this is that they are now able to highlight multiple channels or programs on each of their individual Facebook pages. Joint licensees in particular should take advantage of this new feature by cross-promoting radio and TV content on multiple pages.
It may take some getting used to, but the new Facebook Pages will allow stations to interact with viewers more effectively. For more ideas on how to use the new Facebook Pages and to learn about their new features, check out “How Brands Can Make the Most of Facebook’s New Pages” on Mashable.com.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Do you frequently find yourself in waiting rooms without sufficient reading material?
Are you the proud owner of a mobile web-enabled smartphone?
Now you can check out the latest news and updates from the SPI team right on your cell phone. To access the mobile version of the SPI blog, scan the QR code to the right with your phone’s barcode reader app (or go to http://spiblog.pbs.org/ in your mobile web browser).
If you prefer using RSS feeds to aggregate all your public media blog content, try subscribing to the SPI blog feed. Or, if email is more your style, visit our FeedBurner page and sign up to have new SPI blog posts delivered straight to your inbox.
Friday, February 11, 2011
One of the story forms PBSNews.org will be using (launching in weeks) is what we call DataStories; taking hundreds, thousands and sometimes millions of numbers, or massive unwieldy public documents, and making it possible for our average Web user to use that information to better understand some aspect of our world. DataStories are not just pretty graphs or maps, but editorial experiences contextualized with information tailored to each Web user.
Here's an example tracking our nation's credit card debt.
Now this is where YOU come in:
Ultimately we plan on enabling stations to pull a DataStory into your website that's hooked up to the Merlin API, just as you would any other piece of content. Where applicable, you will be able to add something to the end of the URL to customize and/or localize the DataStory to your audience.
We'll also create template tools enabling you to turn datasets of your choice into DataStories, with no programming required beyond knowing how to use a Web browser, and maybe a little HTML.
But even before we activate these plans, we need your help. First and foremost, let us know DataStories you'd like to see based on data or documents in your community, whether or not they have national ramifications.
Reach out to us if you'd like to work with us on creating a custom project for your station -- we're interested in partnering with specific PBS stations to get more data projects out in the wild.
And of course, contact me with any questions, comments, suggestions or concerns. This will be an ongoing experiment, and we'll be adjusting as we go. The one thing we're not doing: taking the easy path, and letting the digital revolution pass us by.
Thanks for your attention and your cooperation!
- Detailed US Smartphone adoption by age
- Habits of mobile web users while watching television
- Mobile video usage statistics
- A shift in Smartphone platform rankings
- A new PBS mobile products roadmap
- New information on the hybrid Mobile Web Apps
The PBS Interactive Station Products & Innovation team is also offering Mobile Strategy and Product Development consultations. If you or your station would like a consultation, please email email@example.com, subject line: Mobile Consultation.
Click here to access the Mobile Strategy Deck for Stations
(Note: you will need your Station Remote Control username and password to access. If you do not know your station's username and password, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org)
A few exciting points:
- At least two projects have mobile components
- Four projects encourage offline activities as a core of the user experience
- There’s one station collaboration currently, but room for more!
- Each grant winner will mentor another station to enhance their local PBS KIDS Interactive offerings.
iQ Zoo: WQED will work with the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium to place QR Codes at exhibits. The QR Codes will link to a web portal where kids can discover more information about the animals they’re watching. The web portal will be divided into biomes which will be divided into sub-habitats which will contain creatures. Each of the creatures will link to PBS KIDS GO! content. Other PBS member stations will be able to add animals, biomes and sub-habitats which will be moderated by WQED and made available to all other implementing stations.
WQED’s mentee will be WVPB: http://www.wvpubcast.org/education.aspx?id=502
PBS KIDS GO! Fun Finder: KBTC will create a kid-friendly calendar tool that allows kids to find and schedule fun events in their community, their favorite TV shows, sports practice, music lessons and more! Partnerships with local organizations will ensure fresh and relevant events for kids and families.
KBTC’s mentee will be KSPS: http://www.ksps.org/
UNC-TV/WGTE: http://www.unctv.org/kids/ / http://www.wgte.org/wgtekids/
The Fabulous Edible Garden: UNC-TV & WGTE will pair up to create a cross-platform game about gardening. Kids will select a growing region of the US, then choose seeds that will grow in that region. After preparing the soil, planting the seeds, watering, tending and harvesting kids will unlock local recipes to make with the vegetables they just grew! Other member stations will be able to contribute local recipes and request additional plants be added to the catalog of flora.
UNC-TV’s mentee will be East Tennessee PBS: http://www.easttennesseepbs.org/
WGTE’s mentee will be WFWA: http://wfwa.org/
PBS KIDS GO! Geo-Journey: Scurry Squirrel’s winter acorn supply has been hidden throughout the country. Kids will obtain geographic clues by answer questions about national monuments, famous landmarks and navigation. By navigating to the correct place on a map, kids will collect acorns to be stored in their log. A partnership with Groundspeak will promote local events for other implementing PBS member stations.
WFSU’s mentee will be WMFE: http://www.wmfe.org/site/PageServer?pagename=kids
The Weather Zone: Have you ever wondered what makes a tornado? Why isn’t there a rainbow every time it rains? Based on data from the National Weather Service sliders representing humidity, temperature and pressure will be auto-populated; kids can change each to see how they effect the weather. More information will be available about clouds, rain snow, rainbows, tornadoes and historical weather events.
WTIU’s mentee will be WFYI: http://www.wfyi.org/k12.asp
Been There, Done That!: Odds are your community is filled with stuff for kids to experience, and even more likely is those kids have something to say about how fun/awesome/silly that experience was for them. Been There, Done That! allows kids to see special events in their communities and let a parent or guardian know they want to go. After checking out a fun new venue, like a science center or museum, kids can come back to upload photos, rate the venue and see what other kids think.
WNET’s mentee will be WTJX: http://www.wtjx.org/kids
If you have any questions, please contact Tricia George at email@example.com .
This post is authored by Tricia George, Production Associate, PBS KIDS GO!
Thursday, February 10, 2011
We're gearing up to start our second and third on-boarding cycles for setting stations up with access to Project Merlin. If you missed the call around the holidays, we've re-opened the survey for stations to sign up:
We need to know a little bit about what local content you're interested in sharing with Merlin, and your availability so we can slot you into the appropriate on-boarding group.
Like the initial roll-out of COVE, stations will be brought on-board in small groups on a rolling basis to ensure a broad range of local content from markets across the country is available through Merlin. On-boarding cycles will continue until all interested stations have access.
More information on Merlin is available in the Merlin Resource Center in Station Remote Control. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
A study released Tuesday called "The Social Break-Up" surveyed more than 1,500 consumers, exploring changing online behaviors and top motivations for “unliking,” unfollowing and unsubscribing from brand communications via Facebook, Twitter and e-mail.
Here are a few key findings from the study:
- 91% of consumers have unsubscribed from opt-in marketing e-mails.
- 77% of consumers report being more cautious about providing their e-mail address to companies versus last year.
- 81% of consumers have either “unliked” or removed a company’s posts from their Facebook News Feed.
- 71% of consumers report being more selective about “liking” a company on Facebook than they were last year.
- 51% of consumers expect that a “like” will result in marketing communications from brands, while 40% do not believe it should result in marketing communications.
- 41% of consumers have “unfollowed” a company on Twitter.
Follow this link to read more about the study findings, and to find a link to the study itself (which requests your email address to download). Now with all the sad break-up news behind us, buy yourself or your loved ones some flowers or chocolates and enjoy Valentine's Day!
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
By now, many people swear by Google Analytics to decipher all of their internet metrics, but using Google to get the right analytics for social sites can be difficult. Enter Facebook Insights: a free tool for Facebook Page owners and Platform developers that provides real-time metrics and can help stations always post the best content.
What is new about Facebook Insights? Whenever you launch Facebook, the Insights Dashboard will now provide the most up-to-date metrics to make it easier to analyze and understand trends. Improved export and dashboard options also make navigating and using the metrics easier as well.
In addition, stations are able to determine which content is most effective and when followers consume the content, in order maximize the impact of every Facebook post. Using Facebook Insights is free for and the data is also available through an API.
For more information on how to put Facebook Insights to good use, read David Hartstein’s article on Mashable.com where he provides tips on how to get the most from every metric. Or contact PBS’s Kevin Dando at email@example.com.
In a previous post we discussed keywords:
Of course, simply having a list of words you'd like to show up isn't enough. The next step is actually optimizing your site to achieve better rankings in the results when Internet users do a search for those terms.
In this post, we're going to focus on "on-page optimization" – those easy steps for tweaking pages on existing sites (without delving into technical or design issues) that will help improve the relevancy portion of the SEO equation.
If you tuned in for our Intro to SEO webinar over the summer, you might recall these quick tips to get started. Even if you have only a few minutes of time per week, you should easily be able to implement these simple steps for one page at a time:
- Select an existing page to optimize, based on traffic opportunity
- Rewrite your Title Tag with your target keywords at the beginning
- Add relevant copy to the body of the page
- Leverage internal linking opportunities
- Bonus tip: Write a compelling meta description to increase click-throughs
Based on your previous research, you should already have a good idea of what terms you're targeting based on potential traffic opportunity. If you have a list of terms rank ordered based on traffic potential, but don't yet know which words you're targeting with which pages, mapping your keyword priorities against specific pieces of content should be your next step.
All that means is deciding (and documenting) which page you want to rank for which terms. You can use the spreadsheet you created during your keyword research and just add another column that indicates the page assigned to each keyword priority.
The purpose of the document is to keep you on track as you move on to the next steps.
The page title is what appears in the HTML code between the
The most important information/keywords should appear at the beginning. Omit any unnecessary words, which dilute the impact of your title.
The text within the Title Tags is one of the most important single on-page factors a search engine considers when determining what your page is about (i.e., when an engine determines "relevancy" of your page to the search engine user's query).
It is also what search engines normally use to determine how your page will be listed in the search engine results – a great title, therefore, will also convince search engine users that your result is the one they want to click on.
It needs to be readable, relevant and credible looking. It's the first thing users see and they generally form an opinion about whether your result is worth clicking on in a fraction of a second.
Here's an example of how Google would display a page in its results based on the Title Tag:
This page is an article about the controversy over cochlear implants for children who are deaf or hard of hearing. The headline is "Cochlear Controversy", which is decent from a keyword perspective. The TITLE TAG, however, is "PBS – Scientific American Frontiers:Growing Up Different:Cochlear Controversy". The structure of the Title goes from general (PBS) to specific ("Cochlear Controversy") and the headline actually gets cut off in the search engine result because it's so long.
Here's are two examples of how to tweak the title to try to be more engaging:
Notice how a simple rewrite gives search engines a much better idea of what the page is about. It's also just a cleaner, more authoritative-looking result that gives users more reason to click through to the page.
Are there other ways to rewrite it that could be better? It depends on what your keyword priorities are for this page (e.g., cochlear implants, hearing implants, cochlear implant controversy, controversy over cochlear implants, cochlear implants in children, implants for deaf kids, etc.), which is why keyword research should always be your first step. However, a good rule of thumb is that your target keywords, whatever they are, should be closer to the front.
If you're just looking for a quick hit to implement across a large number of pages, the simplest change would simply be to have your CMS reorder the fields it uses to auto-generate the TITLE tag, so the article headline/page name came at the beginning, followed by the section or episode name, and ending with the program/series name (basically the reverse of your breadcrumb structure) and "PBS".
Assuming the article headline provided enough context about the page's content, this approach would at least allow you to move your better terms closer to the front.
This tweak will create a lot of long tail benefit with minimal effort (important when you need to achieve scale). For competitive terms, however, you'll probably need to evaluate that this convention is ideal. For pages targeting competitive terms, you should rewrite your Title Tag to focus on your keyword priorities and eliminate unnecessary wordiness in your Title tag.
Remember, in addition to signaling to a search engine why this page is directly relevant to the user's search query, each title must also should be unique and give the user a compelling reason to click through to your page.
Search engines are getting smarter all the time, but at their core they are still just dumb machines. The easier you make it for them to understand what your pages are about, the better it will be for your visibility.
If the page you're optimizing contains fewer than 200 words of content (that can be read by search engine spiders), add one or two paragraphs of unique and keyword-relevant text to the page. This obviously doesn't apply to pages that you don't actually want to send traffic to, like sitemap pages, for example, but it does apply to pages that are video or photo heavy – search engines can't "read" photos and videos, so you'll need to provide the context via text on the page, surrounding your video or other media assets.
(Accessibility aids like using image alt attributes are always a good idea and should definitely be used for non-text elements, but they don't take the place of copy designed to be read by normal users.)
Make sure that your text includes your targeted keyword phrases, but not unnaturally so. Simply forcing your keyword phrases in as often as possible – a practice known as keyword stuffing – brings diminishing returns and lowers the quality of the content.
More than 200 words of unique (non-duplicate), search-engine-readable text is preferable, but that's the minimum it would take to adequately describe the content. In addition, the more substantive your textual content, the easier it is for a page to rank for a much broader variety of long-tail queries.
Links serve two related but separate purposes: they help search engines "discover" content and they are a major ranking factor.
Links are one of the most important factors in SEO, not only to signal authority but also because the link anchor text is another means of telling search engines what your content is about.
The best kind of links:
- Are from pages that have high authority
- Are from pages that are related to your topic
- Are embedded within copy
- Do not use the rel=nofollow attribute
- Use your target keywords as the anchor text
You know who's a great source of links that meet all these criteria? Your very own site!
Every time you add a page to your site (or optimize an existing one), spend 5 minutes to find one or more pages on your site related to your target page and add a link to that page from within the body copy, using your relevant keyword phrases as anchor text.
Links to the page convey authority and importance; anchor text conveys what the linked-to page is about, which helps promote relevancy for specific search terms.
These types of links are also great for users, as it gives them an "information scent" to follow. Cueing your readers to visit related pages on your site will help your engagement metrics as well (e.g., improve your pages-per-visit and time-on-site KPIs), which is a double-win in terms of traffic: more visitors from organic traffic and each visitor views more pages.
Naturally, also link out to your other related content from your new pages, with anchor text that's relevant to the target page.
A great meta description can significantly improve the click-through rate (CTR) of your listing.
The major search engines have long claimed not to weigh the contents of the meta description tag in its ranking algorithm, but the description still serves some important purposes that go way beyond ranking factors.
First, search engines often pull the meta description text to create the "snippet" that you see in the results.
A compelling description will convince users to click on your link (conversely, a lackluster – or missing – description will discourage clicks to your page).
In addition, search engines will highlight keywords in bold if they match the user's query, and the bold text draws the eye. A description that contains bolded words will get more attention (and clicks).
Second, the meta description is also used by other applications. For example, Facebook uses the contents in this tag to populate the page description when users share links on their walls. If you have no meta description tag or a poorly written one, this would also negatively impact the engagement you'd see from content shared on social media sites, as well as Merlin-powered syndication.
Remember: A great meta description, therefore, doesn't simply summarize what's on the page – it serves as your hook to entice your (would-be) audience.
Character limits for Google SERPs:
Expect text to get truncated around…:
Title Tag: 65-70 characters
Description/snippet: 155 characters
Truncation isn't necessarily bad (a truncated snippet, for example, can be a great tease to hook people into wanting to read the rest), but it's important to be aware of where text is being truncated. If your text is consistently too long, it may cut off before you get to the important points (/keywords) or completely change your intended meaning.
Tip: To preview what your complete listing might look like in the results pages, type your full title, description and URL into this tool: http://www.seomofo.com/snippet-optimizer.html
There are a lot of significant organic traffic opportunities in investing in SEO audits, rethinking site structure and information architecture, developing a stronger SEO-focused content strategy, and other "big picture" thinking.
But simply knowing what keywords to target and applying the 5 action items detailed above will help you take advantage of easy opportunities already within reach, and all with only a small amount of effort.
When consistently applied, the steps outlined in this series of keyword research posts can immediately impact your pages' relevancy, which will help your improve search engine rankings across the board.
The add-on benefits go beyond improving your position in the results; the cumulative effect of better rankings, higher click-through rate to your site, and stronger engagement by visitors who land on your pages drives better performance all around.