Category Archives: Technology

Free SEO tools to use for your site!

18 Free SEO Tools You Should Use

Search engine optimization (SEO) is vital in getting ‘free visibility’ from Google and other search engines. Getting started with SEO is easier than you think especially with the vast amount of free SEO tools and resources available. However, you and/or your organization do not need to pay top dollar to analyze your site’s SEO and other technical needs and status. Below is a list of free SEO tools and resources that will give you the insights you need to know what’s happening on your site, what to prioritize, and how to move forward:

Free SEO Tools and Resources

  1. Moz: How Your Business is Listed Online
    More so for local SEO tools and needs, this is a free listing report to better understand how Google is seeing your business. Per Moz, “4 in 5 consumers use search engines to find local information.”
  2. Keyword Tool
    Free keyword research tool that gives you over 750 Google Keyword Suggestions! You can also search in other search platforms outside of Google including YouTube, Bing, Amazon, eBay and App Store.
  3. Google
    • Google Keyword Planner
      Through Google’s AdWords, you can use the free SEO tool Google Keyword Planner that gives you an average monthly search volume range. You merely type in your keywords and hit ‘Get ideas’! You can even conduct local SEO keyword research with the location targeting option (see image below).

      This tool can be a bit confusing to use at first since it automatically redirects you to the AdWords platform after signing up. Here is a helpful article on how to get to and use the keyword research tool.
      How to use the Google Keyword Planner tool, one out of many free SEO tools available to you!

    • Google Trends
      This user-friendly tool analyzes the search term you enter for user interest over time and location. From there, you have limitless options to filter results including countries, time period, and device and search type. Also, you get a handy list of top and rising queries related to the search term you entered, which is helpful when you are looking for fresh, new content to write about based on trends!
    • Google Webmaster Tools
      Search for site errors, technical SEO items, search analytics, queries to your site, top pages and more. You’ll get complete control over how Google sees and analyzes your site and be able to find and quickly correct any technical SEO errors including broken links, robots.txt file, sitemaps, URL parameters and more! This is a must-have tool for anyone serious with their web presence and performance.
    • Google Analytics
      This is probably the most well-known tool that is used for everything analytical. From different source types users are coming from to behaviors and more, this platform has it all. It’s useful for SEO purposes, too, where you can get an inside look at how organic traffic is performing. Here’s a quick guide from Moz on tracking SEO with Google Analytics.
    • PageSpeed Insights
      Having a site that loads and responds quickly isn’t just important for SEO and ranking, but it is a must for great user experience on both mobile and desktop. This helpful tool analyzes the speed of your site and offers fix suggestions to anything that’s not optimized or didn’t quickly respond. There are many other page load time tools out there, as well.
    • Mobile-Friendly Test
      Having a site optimized for mobile is vital since more and more searches are from such devices. Test your website in this free mobile-friendly test from Google to see any optimizations or updates needed to be more responsive to any and all types of devices.
  4. Quick Sprout
    This free website analyzer tool lets you see optimized and non-optimized content on your site. This includes meta-titles and meta-descriptions, headings (H1, H2, etc.), images (image alt tags and titles), etc. You can even update non-optimized content and save it as a reference for when you go through and update it on the actual site!
  5. SimilarWeb
    This is all about competitors and emerging trends. You can research known competitors in your market and see how your site compares in terms of search engine rank, traffic volume, country rank, sources and referrals, and more! You can even download a PDF of the report and change the time range for more insights. This is a very insightful report and will give you a great idea of how your site is performing in terms of sources and referrals as well as how your top competitors and their sites are performing, as well.
  6. SERPs’ Rank Checker
    Enter a keyword and the site domain with the option of choosing Google vs. Yahoo, desktop vs. mobile, and local SEO with an exact location. You can download a CSV of the report, as well, which comes in handy!
    SERPs rank checker tool is a great free SEO tool that looks at how your domain ranks for a specified keyword.
  7. Internet Marketing Ninjas
    Part of technical SEO and site errors, use this free SEO tool to conduct an overall crawl of your site that includes the discovery of broken links, redirects and more! You can enter your email that will then send you the findings, which may be a good idea since it can take a while for the crawl to finish—depending on the size and depth of your site.
    A snipit of the Internet Marketing Ninja tool that can crawl your entire website!
  8. Yoast
    • Yoast Google Suggest Expander
      Yoast offers a TON of free SEO tools and resources, and this one can help you in finding long-tail keywords. Simply enter a keyword and press ‘Submit Query,’ and a list of long-tail keywords will show to give you an idea of what users are searching for based on the keyword you entered.
    • Yoast SEO Free WordPress Plugin
      This is a MUST HAVE in terms free SEO tools and for optimizing your WordPress posts and pages. The free version is still very powerful and will ‘grade’ your page based on the focus keyword you entered into it. This is an amazing checker for on-page optimizations on each and every one of your posts and pages.
  9. Quix SEO Check
    This simple, free SEO tool will conduct a quick crawl of the domain you entered and analyze meta tags, HTML code, headers and more!
  10. Wayback Machine
    This tool can be a life saver if you’re searching for an older version of your site. You may want to use this to search for very old media files, pages or posts that are now deleted or for a backlog of your website, etc.
  11. HTTP Status Code Checker
    This ‘what-you-see-is-what-you-get’ free SEO tool can conduct a mass check of URLs that are pasted into it. It lets you know the function and status of each URL, which can be handy if you’re trying to see the paths of redirects or discover 404 errors.
  12. Barracuda Panguin Tool
    As you become more in tune with SEO best practices, you’ll soon realize that Google rules all (we all bow to Google in the SEO rule). Because of this, any and all algorithm changes made by Google could potentially impact your site. These algorithm changes are usually animal names and can focus on local to overall changes to how Google ranks your site.

    This free tool needs access to Google Analytics, so if you don’t have a free account yet, then you won’t be able to use it. After allowing access to your Google Analytics site profile, it will show organic visits to your site over time and overlay all known Google updates to those visits. If there are any notable increases or decreases in organic traffic to your site that align with the updates, then you’ll know that your site is either performing really well in the eyes of Google, or your site was penalized.
    Another free SEO tool includes the Panguin algorithm tool that takes into account your site's organic traffic and known Google updates.

Do you have any other free SEO tools or resources you use and love? Share them in the comments!

21, Handy Keyboard Shortcuts and Alt Codes for Digital Journalists

When it comes to completing online projects—rather it’s on a program or the web—I am a huge fan of keyboard shortcuts and alt codes so as to work more efficiently. These are the top keyboard shortcuts and alt codes that I use most often and thought they would come in handy for those who vastly work in the online world.

Visual tutorial of how to use alt codes to create symbols and other text.
Image from Ranker.

21 Keyboard Shortcuts and Alt Codes You Should Know:

  1. ALT+0149
  2. Creates a bullet for a list when rich-text formatting is unavailable: •

  3. ALT+0150
  4. Creates an ‘en’ dash, which is used to represent a span of dates, numbers or time: –

  5. ALT+0151
  6. Creates an ’em’ dash, which is used to create a strong break in a sentence and can replace commas, parentheses or colons: —

  7. ALT+0169
  8. Creates copyright symbol: ©

  9. SHIFT+TAB
  10. Work your way backwards/up in selecting clickable areas on a page, such as input boxes in a form.

  11. SHIFT+Home (or End)
  12. I use this if I’m writing in Word or WordPress. If you’re at the end of a sentence and want to go to the beginning of the same line you’re on, click SHIFT+Home, and it’ll take you to the beginning of that line (same with SHIFT+End)

  13. CTRL+A
  14. Selects all of the text in a document, web page, etc.

  15. CTRL+Z and CTRL+Y
  16. CTRL+Z undos an action; and CTRL+Y redoes an action.

  17. CTRL+X, CTRL+C and CTRL+V
  18. These are probably the most well-known shortcuts, but in case you are new to shortcuts: CTRL+X cuts text, figures/images, etc.; CTRL+C copies text, figures/images, etc.; and CTRL+V pastes text, figures/images, etc., that were copied or cut.

  19. CTRL+T, CTRL+N and CTRL+W
  20. These control your web browser: CTRL+T creates a new tab in an already open window; CTRL+N creates a new browser window; and CTRL+W closes the tabs one-by-one.

  21. CTRL+U
  22. More so for web developers, this shortcut opens up the View Page Source option to view the code on the backend of a page (F12 also does this).

  23. CTRL++ and CTRL+- (CTRL+Mousewheel Up and CTRL+Mousewheel down)
  24. If you want to zoom in on a webpage, hit CTRL + ‘Plus Sign’ or CTRL+Mousewheel Up; and if you’d like to zoom out, CTRL + ‘Dash’ or CTRL+Mousewheel down.

  25. CTRL+Home and CTRL+End
  26. Takes you to the very top or very bottom of a page, document, etc.

  27. CTRL+F
  28. Browser function to find something in a page (F3 also does this).

  29. CTRL+D
  30. Create a bookmark of the webpage you’re currently on.

  31. CTRL+Pageup and CTRL+Page down
  32. Switches between open browser tabs in a window.

  33. CTRL+R
  34. Refreshes the webpage (F5 also does this).

  35. CTRL+J
  36. Opens your online downloads window.

  37. CTRL+K and CTRL+L
  38. CTRL+K allows you to search in your search bar; and CTRL+L selects the text/URL in the search bar (F6 also does this).

  39. F5
  40. Opens your online downloads window.

  41. F11
  42. Makes your browser window fullscreen.

Other handy resources:

Learn important keyboard shortcuts for your online and digital work to increase productivity!
Image from SoftPlan Tuts.

Freedom of Press and History of Journalism in America

Freedom of press has been tested time and time again throughout the history of journalism in America.In recent months, the American political system experienced an upheaval of unprecedented events involving the inauguration of President Donald Trump. Also in recent months, the trust in news and media organizations has plummeted among Americans where only 32 percent have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media. This is “the lowest level in Gallup polling history and is down eight percentage points from 2015.

Americans' trust and confidence in the mass media from Gallup polling.
Image from Gallup.

Needless to say, it only takes moments on social media or listening to leaders to reveal that the media is NOT portrayed in a golden light. The importance of keeping the press free so journalists can be ‘watchdogs’ and ‘gatekeepers’ is extremely high … so high that the overall structure of press freedom may be at risk … again.

Again? Take a step back before allowing clickbait headlines and dismal topics burn you out. Let’s analyze the origins and tests of press freedom throughout our history. Where and when did these freedoms start? In other words, what’s the history of American journalism, and how did it transform to what we are seeing today?

The Notion of Freedom of Press

“Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government: When this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved,” wrote Founding Father Benjamin Franklin in The Pennsylvania Gazette.

The founders saw the federal government as a powerful entity; therefore, they developed a system of checks and balances for all branches. The press was considered an outlet to inform the people about what was happening within each branch. The press’ job was to present the facts to the public so that citizens would be aware of issues as well as be involved in politics.

After the Revolutionary War, the Founders debated various interpretations of freedom of speech and of press. James Madison revealed the original form of these freedoms by writing “the people shall not be deprived or abridged of their right to speak, to write, or to publish their sentiments; and the freedom of the press, as one of the great bulwarks of liberty shall be inviolable.”

As the idea of freedom of speech and press was constructed, both Madison and Jefferson argued that stating or printing one’s opinions—whether they are true or false—did not fall into the federal government’s jurisdiction, and such regulation was not a function the government should perform.

(Source: digitalcommons.law.umaryland.edu)

Sedition Act of 1798

England and France were in the midst of a heated war during the late 1790s, and Adams and the Federalists were in power. Because they believed war was imminent, they pushed for the Sedition Act of 1798, which was a test of governmental power over the freedom of press.

Political cartoon of the Sedition Act of 1798 by Adams that limited freedom of press.
Image from “The alien and sedition acts” by Philip Kabranov & Patrick Embert.

Because newspapers tended to be partisan during this time, the Federalists used this Act to attack opposition, which included those newspapers aligned against them:

“Newspapers were highly partisan, and often existed principally to advance the interests of a particular political party. The government prosecuted the editors of the leading Republican newspapers, and succeeded in jailing many Republican editors and closing, at least temporarily, many Republican newspapers.”

(Source: chicagounbound.uchicago.edu)

How Times of War Influenced the Press

Civil War

Abraham Lincoln used his wartime powers to control the freedom of press during the Civil War.
Photo from The History Rat.

As the Civil War began, “it was early recognized by the [Lincoln] Administration that the newspapers might be an effective agent in giving information to the South, as well as in encouraging their resistance. Therefore early in the war, measures were adopted which were intended to curb their activities. These measures may be classified as follows: Control of reporters, Censorship of the Telegraph System, Exclusion from the Mails, Closing of Newspaper Offices and the Arrest of Editors by Military Force.”

In what would be seen as shocking today, the Civil War period saw “more than 300 opposition newspapers in the North shut down” as well as the arrest of “many editors for publishing ‘disloyal’ speech.”

The Union held vast powers during the time of war over the press, and never again has such power and restraint recurred in our history. This, in turn, was a test of power of the federal government in controlling newspapers and what they printed due to wartime fears.

(Sources: Virginia Law Review and chicagounbound.uchicago.edu)

Yellow Journalism

Another notable period did not involve the government controlling the press so much as it involved the press controlling the masses. The sensational stories about Spain’s control over Cuba influenced the public and government to become involved in this foreign conflict in the late 1890s.

According to the Office of the Historian: “Yellow journalism was a style of newspaper reporting that emphasized sensationalism over facts. During its heyday in the late 19th century, it was one of many factors that helped push the United States and Spain into war in Cuba and the Philippines, leading to the acquisition of overseas territory by the United States.”

Yellow Journalism depicting Hearst and Pulitzer.
Image from Media Throughout the Ages.

Such sensational articles—mainly by Hearst and Pulitzer publishers—used dramatic, bold headlines, drawings of events, and “occasionally printing rousing stories that proved to be false.”

Overall, the press influenced ideas and involvement in foreign affairs and showed the impact and power held by the press.

World War I & II

World War I during the Woodrow Wilson era saw a decrease in freedom of press due to wartime and was punishable up to 20 years in prison.
American women protesting the sedition and espionage acts at the White House between 1917 and 1918.

The American people didn’t want to partake in World War I. Because of such disdain for entering the War, President Woodrow Wilson needed to increase public approval for entering war, which involved government propaganda and holding the media accountable.

Because of this, another attempt at stifling press freedom was enacted under the Sedition Act of 1918—a distant cousin of the one in 1798.

“In effect, the government reenacted the Sedition Act of 1798. But whereas the 1798 act had a maximum penalty of two years in prison, the World War I statutes carried penalties ranging up to 20 years in prison. Most people convicted under these acts were sentenced to terms ranging from 10 to 20 years in prison. During World War I, some 2,000 individuals were prosecuted under these laws, including not only individual speakers, but publishers of newspapers and magazines.”

Unlike WWI that saw little enthusiasm from the American public, World War II differed in that the attack on Pearl Harbor awakened a mass frenzy to enter the War. Even so, the 1940s propelled the thought that “the government no longer thought it could (or should) convict individuals for criticizing the war unless their criticisms included false statements of fact. This was a major step forward in our First Amendment traditions.”

Honolulu Star-Bulletin, December 7, 1941.
Front page of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin right after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Image from The World War II Multimedia Database.

(Source: chicagounbound.uchicago.edu)

Post-September 11th

How the press covered the 9/11 attacks in terms of press freedom.It’s argued that after the September 11th attacks, journalists were reporting in fear—not knowing when the next attack would be or where it would occur.

An article from The Atlantic titled, “They were far less concerned about civil liberties. Editors long ignored isolated reports that the United States was holding suspected terrorists in secret prisons. ‘We wouldn’t publish it even if we knew,’ a senior editor at a major American newspaper said when it was suggested that his paper devote its impressive investigative talent to exposing the secret prisons.”

Since then, the ‘digital revolution’ continues to impact news consumption where social media has made it possible to discover new information in mere seconds. Privacy concerns are on the rise, and traditional, print media outlets are under fire for losing a large part of their revenue streams as well as not successfully adapting to such a fast, visual and interactive, and impatient society.

(Source: chicagounbound.uchicago.edu)

What’s Next?

Fake news, Trump and Facebook—oh my!

Donald Trump declares a war on the media that has caused many to question freedom of press.
Image from CNN.

Think how topsy-turvy the world is when trying to acquire factual and unbiased information. Trump declared “war on the media” due to alternative facts of his apparent success. Trust in the media is at a new time low. Fakes news seems to be influencing citizens more so than journalistic media outlets. These are just a few issues dealing with press freedom and how the media is portrayed in society.

Are we seeing the most censored time in press freedom? Perhaps it’s not the most censored time after reviewing the history of press freedom and past actions by the federal government.

In a Politico article titled “Trump is Making Journalism Great Again,” it stated, “In his own way, Trump has set us free. Reporters must treat Inauguration Day as a kind of Liberation Day to explore news outside the usual Washington circles. He has been explicit in his disdain for the press and his dislike for press conferences, prickly to the nth degree about being challenged and known for his vindictive way with those who cross him. So, forget about the White House press room. It’s time to circle behind enemy lines.”

History proves journalists were trialed, tested, hated, and loved over and over. Take advantage of the need for factual information in this digital age, and don’t let fear override the true role of the journalist—informing the public with honest, factual information so they aren’t left in the dark.


Sources

  1. Gallup, Inc. “Americans’ Trust in Mass Media Sinks to New Low.” Gallup.com. N.p., 14 Sept. 2016. Web. 07 Feb. 2017. Available at: gallup.com/poll/195542/americans-trust-mass-media-sinks-new-low.aspx.
  2. David S. Bogen, The Origins of Freedom of Speech and Press, 42 Md. L. Rev. 429 (1983)
    Available at: digitalcommons.law.umaryland.edu/mlr/vol42/iss3/3
  3. Geoffrey R. Stone, “Freedom of the Press in Time of War,” 59 SMU Law Review 1663 (2006).
    Available at: chicagounbound.uchicago.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2955&context=journal_articles
  4. Carroll, Thomas F. “Freedom of Speech and of the Press during the Civil War.” Virginia Law Review, vol. 9, no. 7, 1923, pp. 516–551. jstor.org/stable/1065306.
  5. “Milestones: 1866–1898 – Office of the Historian.” U.S. Department of State. U.S. Department of State, n.d. Web. 07 Feb. 2017. Available at: history.state.gov/milestones/1866-1898/yellow-journalism.
  6. Bonner, Raymond. “The Media and 9/11: How We Did.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 9 Sept. 2011. Web. 07 Feb. 2017. Available at: theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/09/the-media-and-9-11-how-we-did/244818/.