Sunday, May 30, 2010

Social Search vs Social Media

about-social-searchI've been evangelizing lately about "Social Search" vs "Social Media".

I think social search is one of the biggest game changers in the way search results are displayed.

Our search results depend on who we are connected to, who is in our social circle.

Social Media is content that is shared socially.

Social Media Sites (like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr) help us to find, connect and share our i
nformation with each other.

Social Search takes social media to the next level.

If you are in someone's social circle, your public content may appear
on Page 1 of Google Search results. Creating good, fresh content on your website and blog, is more important than ever.

Here's what I'm talking about:


I do a search for "Photography". My results include authority sites l
ike "" and "wikipedia" at the top of the page. It is followed by Google Maps Local 7 pack, then more authority sites and then my friends! These small sites that typically don't make it to Page 1 now show up under "Social Circle" followed by videos and blogs.

The easiest way to take advantage of social search is to create a Google Profile and link all your social sites from that profile. Also, sharing information via Google Reader will fast track your social search results.

Seriously...I get so discouraged when I see my "social" results and my friend aren't there. They aren't showing up because they don't connect with Gmail, or Google Reader, or Twitter, or Flickr....they aren't using the main open social networks.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Getting Started and Improving with Google Sites

It is exciting to see more and more people using Google Sites as a web publishing platform.

I picked up a post today from Eric Sheninger, Principal at New Milford High School and advocate of 2.0 learning. His post Google Sites Rock, highlighted the benefits of Google Sites for educators and links to sites at New Milford HS.

Eric did a fantastic job outlining why Google Sites rock. I would like to take it one step further and demonstrate a quick Classroom Site Makeover on Mr. D's Class Page - Mr. D's Class Page Makeover

Here's a screenshot of the original home page:

Let's start with home page....this is critical. It sets the tone for the site.  The purpose of the page is to assure the visitor they are in the right place and that their needs are going to be met. If information seems confusing, the visitor isn't likely to stay engaged.

Explaining how to use the site is admitting that it is a bit confusing. Let's see if we can make it more intuitive.

Instead of directing the visitor with this long instruction, just give them clear choices.

Sites need organization.  Too much content all together makes it difficult for the eye to find the focal point. 

Understand the goals of your target audience and then provide clear navigation. 

In this case, start with adding a new navigation element to the side it Classes (and make sure to check the box "display title"). Then add a navigation element and name it Resources. In this way you are providing chunks of information. 

I've taken one class, AP Biology to demonstrate some additional design/page structure. 

  • Add a "Recent Post" gadget to the landing page to provide a quick view of chronological information - "class notes". 
  • Add a glossary page
  • Add a FAQ page
This is really a quick overview but demonstrates how little things can make a big difference. 

Overall, really focus on text. There's a lot of great information buried in the site because it remains in an embedded presentation. Perhaps assign a student to create a page that contains the same information in the PPT.  The idea is to make everything accessible and searchable. 

For example, when running a search query for "keys to designing a good experiment" I get only one result - an attached doc under Integrated Science. Yet "keys to designing a good experiment" is explained in the embedded presentation "Experimental Design", in the AP Biology class.

General mistakes with Google Sites:
  • Using templates! Most templates don't match the content. Best to start with default or Simple Template. 
  • Poor quality graphics
  • Not using contrast - text should contrast with background color, stick with black text on white background to be safe. It shouldn't hurt the eyes to read!
  • Too much content all together (the eyes need focal points so use text gadgets and chunk information together)

It is pretty cool that we can all learn from each other and use technology to quickly share what we are discovering.

Thanks to Eric Sheninger, I learned how to use Google Forms as a self-grading quiz! I've been working on a "Self Assessment" for Small Business owners, (a way to self score their social media marketing) and this formula for self grading is just what I needed.

Google Sites really do rock! Understanding basic design combined with the suite of tools from Google Apps, gives everyone the power to quickly publish and share information in a meaningful way.

Non-profits and education are discovering the benefits and also the agony of Google sites. I say agony because, as a creator of the site, it can be frustrating. There are design limitations and some quirkiness to sites. However, you will find a work around for almost every situation.

What  suggestions do you have for Mr D's Classroom page?

Or, do you have a Google Site that could use  a "makeover"?

Let me know!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Google Bookmarks adds a List Feature for Sharing

With the continual fire-hose of information today, creating lists have become a great way to filter information. Now you can quickly and easily create lists right from Google Search, Google Maps or when you are on a great website or blog.

I just created a couple of public lists, one for sharing my favorite coffee shops in Kirkland, WA and a list of resources for help with Google Apps and Google Sites.

Watch this video to learn how to utilize Google Bookmarks and Lists.

This could prove to be an awesome productivity tool and can play a role in your social media marketing strategy.