Solimar Hillier: Helping Students Enjoy the Colors and Flavors of Brazilian Portuguese

By Rafaela Lombardino

Over the past decade Brazil has seen a surge in its economy and is currently the destination for sports lovers. Brazil was recently the host country for the 2014 FIFA World Cup of Soccer and will host the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympic Games. It is only natural that more people are eager to learn this Romance Language for both business and pleasure.

According to a news story by Canada’s The Globe and Mail, Brazilian Portuguese classes being taught in North America and Europe are packed with oil and mining executives, jewelers and retailers who have a need to buy and sell in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, the two largest cities in Brazil. With close to 240 million speakers worldwide, Portuguese is now the world’s sixth most-spoken language―and it is Brazil’s version that is spreading.

Solimar Hillier, UC San Diego Extension Portuguese for Communication instructor

Solimar Hillier, Portuguese for Communication instructor

This trend can be confirmed by native Brazilian Solimar Hillier, who has taught Portuguese classes at UC San Diego Extension for nearly 12 years. As the primary instructor for the Brazilian Portuguese program, she teaches Portuguese for Communication levels one through five.

Solimar has worked as an English and Portuguese teacher since she finished college in Brazil. When she first arrived in the United States, she worked as a substitute teacher in middle schools while pursuing her Master’s degree in Education. Once she completed her Master’s degree, she transitioned to teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) as well as Portuguese, and has been doing both ever since.

“I used to teach Portuguese to a completely different audience in Brazil, because I was teaching Portuguese to native speakers in a high school setting,” she recalls. “At Extension, I started teaching Portuguese to non-natives, which is quite different in terms of student goals as well as the content and techniques I need to use.”

In discussing her diverse UCSD Extension student population, she highlights that many students who come to her classes are married to Brazilians and want to learn the language in order to communicate with their spouses’ friends and family. “Something that is really interesting to me is that these students who are dating or married to Brazilians often complain that their significant others don’t teach them Portuguese, and that is why they take a class―which is something I can relate to from my own experience,” she jokes.

She says other students also come to UC San Diego Extension because they work with Brazilians or their companies trade with Brazil, which may require some business trips to the South American country. A third group is taking classes because it is a requirement for their Master’s degree, and Solimar says their motivation is very different from the other two groups.

The fourth type of students she interacts with are those who are looking for cultural enrichment. “I have students who take classes just because they like the culture and the music, or simply because they love Brazil.”

Solimar moved to the United States after falling in love with California during a visit, and soon decided to stay. When she’s not teaching, she enjoys learning more about Modern Art, going for walks on the beach and exercising her creativity in the kitchen. “Cooking is a passion for me. It is when I relax and can become creative with ingredients and spices. I cook almost every day and enjoy it each time.”

To learn more about the UC San Diego Extension programs, please visit the Foreign Languages page for details, course descriptions and more.

Five Facts About Using VA Educational Benefits: What You Need to Know


By Renzo Lara, Veteran’s Benefits & Disability Coordinator

If you have served in the United States military and are eligible for educational benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), UC San Diego Extension is proud to play a part in realizing your educational goals. Applying for VA educational benefits at any college or university can be a complicated process, so we’ve compiled five fast facts that address frequently asked questions to help make registration easier.

1. We can help you with multiple types of VA educational benefits.

  • The Post 9/11 GI Bill® (Chapter 33)
  • The Montgomery GI Bill (Chapter 33)
  • Vocational/Rehabilitation Benefits (Chapter 31)
  • Dependent Benefits (Chapter 35)
  • Montgomery GI Bill for Selected Reserve (Chapter 1606)

2. The VA only pays for approved academic programs.

Eligible students must plan to pursue an entire certificate or program of study as opposed to individual classes or multiple certificates. VA benefits exclude courses that are not part of the selected certificate or program study.

3. You must apply directly to the VA for benefits.

If you have never applied for VA benefits, start by filing form #22-1990. If you have applied for educational benefits and used them at another school, please complete form #22-1995. (Chapter 31 students, please visit the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment website.)

It typically takes 4-5 weeks for the VA to process new applications. For continuing students, it usually takes 2-3 weeks for the VA to process paperwork, so plan accordingly.

4. Students must complete the benefits application process.

In order to process your benefits, we will need:

  1. VA Educational Benefits Intake Form
  2. VA Requirements and Student Responsibilities
  3. UC San Diego Extension Terms & Conditions – Various VA forms (corresponds to a particular VA Chapter)

Our VA Registration Packet provides all of these forms, and provides full details on required VA forms and academic transcripts needed to process your educational benefits.

5. Registration depends on educational benefit.

  • Students using Chapter 33 and 31 benefits must contact their VA representative for class enrollments.
  • Chapter 30, 35, or 1606 students must enroll and pay for courses.

After students have enrolled, the VA representative certifies classes to the VA. Given the multiple student requests during our peak weeks (the first week or two of the quarter), students must submit course enrollments within a reasonable time frame before the beginning of each quarter.

For more information on our VA Educational Benefit procedures, please visit our VA benefits page or feel free to contact us at We sincerely thank you for your service and look forward to assisting you with the next steps in your educational career. It’s our goal for you to succeed. Please let us know how else we can help you reach your educational goals.

Finding Career Success in Green Building and Design

By Leah R. Singer

In today’s economy and culture of conservation and environmental awareness, green building and design is transforming the marketplace. Individuals and companies are looking for ways to reduce the water and energy consumption of buildings and leave less of a carbon footprint. In addition to social consciousness, federal and state governments are making these environmental considerations mandatory by including them in building code requirements. As such, green building and design is an industry that will only continue to grow. Individuals looking for careers in green building and design will find no shortage of jobs and opportunities to leave a lasting mark on the environment and architecture.

The Demands for Green Careers

iStock_000036996176LargeCorinne Lloyd-Moody, principal at L2 Architects, notes several reasons for the increasing demand in green architecture careers. Buildings are enormous consumers of energy and water and climate change and environmental awareness are playing a large part in increasing demand for buildings designed with a green focus. Sustainable building and development can also increase the financial return for owners operating with the “triple bottom line” in mind: economic benefit (profit), social benefit (people), and environment benefit (planet).

Federal and state mandates are influencing how buildings and construction projects are being designed, constructed, and operated, as well. California’s recently passed building code revisions that require all new residential and commercial construction to achieve zero net energy by 2020 and 2030, respectively. Similarly, new requirements by the federal and state governments call for all new federal buildings to achieve zero net energy by 2030 and all new state buildings to be built as zero net energy facilities after 2025. There is also increased local and regional awareness to manage storm water more effectively and reduce water usage. All these factors contribute to the move toward green building and design, and the abundance of careers within the field.

Individuals looking for careers in green building and design should consider employment as architects, engineers and project managers. Erik Ring, PE/LEED Fellow and principal/design director of MEP Engineering, LPA, Inc., notes that it’s important to keep in mind that “green work” is not necessarily a job type. Instead, it’s an aspect of architecture, engineering, and building design.

“Focus on developing careers in those areas [architecture and engineering] knowing you want to seek out a green focus,” said Ring. “Then find firms and internships that are committed to green building and design.”

Trends in Sustainable Building and Design

iStock_000003845364MediumMatthew Porreca, principal at BNIM Architects, has spent the last three decades working in sustainable building design. He believes what a building can do matters as much as what it looks like.

Those working in the field of green building and design will notice different trends as the field grows and technologies advance. Ring predicts solar will continue to boom over the next three years, especially in California. Ring and Porreca also noted an increasing trend toward repurposing buildings in order to scale sustainability.

“The greenest design you can do is take what’s there and repurpose it,” said Ring. Several designers and construction companies are now exploring how to transform current buildings into NetZero LEED buildings. This type of rebuilding is often a response to climate change and environmental tragedies. For example, a small town in Kansas was forced to rebuild most of its structures after being struck by a tornado that destroyed most of the city’s buildings. Instead of constructing replicas of what existed before, the companies used this as an opportunity to rebuild into LEED buildings.

There’s also a growing trend toward making buildings more “well” for its inhabitants. Wellness is being factored into the architectural design and construction of buildings. This includes creating healthier structures with better airflow and ventilation, and weaving landscape into the building aesthetics.

Find out what it takes to be a part of this growing industry shift. Explore UC San Diego Extension’s courses and programs in Environment and Sustainability. Visit

Lean Six Sigma Black Belt: A Constant Process of Improvement

student1For Maya Gowri, implementing operational excellence is pivotal to her official role at Inova Diagnostics, a San Diego-based manufacturer of in vitro diagnostic systems used in clinical immunology labs and hospitals around the world.

Inova hired Gowri after taking her on as an intern while she completed UC San Diego Extension’s Lean Six Sigma Black Belt (LSSBB) and Lean Enterprise certificate programs. The internship provided an opportunity for Maya to complete her required hands-on course project, which showcased both her potential and her achievement in Extension’s process improvement programs.

Lean Six Sigma is a highly-regarded toolset that combines Lean Enterprise and Six Sigma methodologies. Its roots are in manufacturing, and it has since evolved as an effective tool in a wide range of industries, from finance and hospitality to telecommunications and transportation. In Lean Six Sigma, the Black Belt is the highest level of achievement—it is outranked by only the Master Black Belt, which recognizes an expert who serves primarily in the role of coach.

“I had never been in manufacturing or production before, so I had no idea what to expect when I started my courses,” said Gowri, who formerly worked in marketing, business development, and sales. “It was all new to me, but the knowledge I gained from the certificate programs helped me catch on quickly.”

“The certificate program was well-structured and well-paced, which gave us enough time to fully grasp the concepts,” said Gowri, who previously worked at Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside as a senior improvement analyst. “Plus, the Lean Enterprise course included three on-site visits to manufacturing plants, which helped us see concepts being implemented.”

In her studies, Gowri discovered that Lean Six Sigma places strong emphasis on practical process-driven knowledge and on the value of person-to-person relations.


“People are any company’s most valuable asset,” she said. “As part of leadership skills, we learned to fully embrace the concept of humility. Even though you’re the leader, you need to step back and give full credit to your team.”

While she’s not yet prepared to describe herself as an expert—“I’m in a constant process of improvement”—Gowri now considers herself to be knowledgeable, confident, and well-disciplined in the complex production process she oversees.

As an Operational Excellence Leader, Maya plays a part in the mission of Inova Diagnostics, where advanced medical products help in the diagnosis of serious ailments such as celiac disease, liver disease, rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune thyroid disease, and vasculitis, among others. In 2014, for example, the company introduced a new agent that aids in the diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Maya’s completion of her certificates did not close the door on her relationship with UC San Diego Extension. Maya facilitated the creation of three project sponsorships for Inova Diagnostics through the Lean Six Sigma Black Belt program.

“Maya truly implemented Lean Six Sigma methodologies at Inova by making it an organizational priority to bring in Lean Six Sigma students,” says Angela Cook, Program Manager for Process Improvement at Extension. “Her influence helped give opportunities to students, which in turn gave Inova a connection to top local talent.”

Gowri, who holds an MBA from UC Irvine and a Ph.D. from the University of Kentucky, moved to the United States from India in 1993. Her global background helped give her the perspective to meld various managerial styles within Inova’s diverse workforce.

“The Indian culture is family-oriented and team-oriented, whereas the American culture is more individual-oriented,” she said. “I try to focus on the uniqueness of each person, to see them all as people instead of simply employees.”

Conference Gives Extension Instructors a Chance to Connect and Learn

By Eilene Zimmerman

“All work is learning,” said UC San Diego Extension’s Dean, Mary Walshok, when she took the stage at the Instructor Conference on Saturday, April 11, 2015. “We operate at the intersection of knowledge and practice and… it’s the knowledge and skills that you share with others that makes our community very competitive,” she said. The community Walshok referred to is a big one—over 30,000 students enroll annually in Extension programs, taught by 1,000 instructors.

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In Walshok’s energizing address to more than 120 Extension instructors, she emphasized the university’s commitment to the greater San Diego community, which includes its campus-based, cross-disciplinary research and teaching programs. “That’s where Extension is, just look at our hundreds of certificate programs,” said Walshok. Those programs are at the heart of Extension’s mission, often helping professionals repurpose skills and retool so they remain relevant in a work world that is constantly changing.

Bernie Greenspan, an Extension instructor who teaches courses in intellectual property law, said his students are often in career transition. Some are in the paralegal certificate program and others are paralegals wanting to specialize in patent law. “I also get scientists who want to leave the bench and become patent agents,” he said. “Careers aren’t single-path anymore. We all have to think more broadly.” Greenspan is a patent agent at Prometheus Laboratories.

Instructor Parker Pike teaches an introductory marketing class and said a high percentage of his students have master degrees and Ph.D.’s, but “can’t run a meeting. They don’t understand the marketing component of their businesses,” he said. “They come to my class with the mindset of an academic and need to develop skills to think differently—to be able to listen to colleagues and the community, so they can do their job better.” Pike, who has been an Extension instructor for nearly 30 years, is both a serial entrepreneur and a seasoned marketing executive.

Instructors at the conference took advantage of a rare opportunity to connect with colleagues, something Bruce Dunn, the Extension’s associate dean and an instructor, suggests doesn’t happen often. “As an instructor you only really know the students in your classes,” said Dunn. “The conference is a chance for them to come together and know they are part of the larger community. And, it gives us a chance to update them on new university policies and procedures.” Instructors also mingled with Extension directors and attended workshops designed to enhance both their teaching and the classroom experience.

Workshop topics included: how to use discussion boards; data analytics and feedback tools to improve student success; and how to incorporate social media into teaching and learning. Vicki Krantz, director of business, science and technology programs for Extension, led a workshop that allowed instructors to share their teaching and classroom management strategies with one another. “Every person walked away from the workshop with something new to incorporate into their teaching,” said Krantz.

The conference was also a way for the Extension’s leadership to thank the instructors. “They are the heart of each student’s experience and our evaluations tell us that they are doing an extraordinary job,” said Krantz. “Ninety-four percent of students say their instructors exceeded their expectations.”

As a leading provider of professional education, UC San Diego Extension continually seeks highly qualified instructors with in-depth experience. If you believe you would be a good fit or have an idea for a new course, we encourage you to apply. Visit

Considering a Career in Biotech Project Management?

By Leah R. Singer

One of the fastest growing industries in Southern California is biotech and pharmaceutical research, and San Diego is a magnet to a considerable number of these companies. The local job market offers multiple opportunities for life science professionals as biotech and pharmaceutical companies work everyday to create successful products and place them in the marketplace.

Until recently, it has been the job of the scientists and researchers to shepherd the research and development efforts. While these individuals have the academic and scientific background, they may not have the management and communication skills and training necessary to assure the products go to market in a timely manner and meeting budget goals.

iStock_000003088235MediumThis is where the field of biotech project management has come to fruition. Project managers are hired to oversee the process of developing products from start to finish. They determine the project scope, timelines, budget and procurement, quality controls, communication strategies, human resources, and risk management. The project manager oversees the teams of people responsible for putting the product on the shelves.

Dr. Yves Theriault, president, CEO and founder of Performance Project Management LLC and UC San Diego Extension instructor, points out that the most successful project managers must have some experience in the biotech field in order to make decisions and understand what information is being provided to them. In addition to the biotech experience, Theriault suggested that communication skills and the ability to work with multiple people and teams are also critical since project managers typically spends 90 percent of their time communicating with others.

There are many different types of jobs available for project managers, within both large and small companies. For example, Theriault notes on the pharmaceutical side, there are fifteen different project manager roles in the drug discovery cycle alone.

The Career of a Project Manager

According to Theriault, the average salary of a project manager in the United States ranges from $75,000 (beginning career professional) to $130,000+ for an experience manager. The pay varies by location, company, and project factors. The industry trend has been for companies to hire internal project managers, rather than outsourcing the role to an individual on a contract basis.

iStock_000021572789MediumThe number of projects a person oversees varies by the project scope. If it’s a large project, the individual typically will only oversee that effort. However if the project is smaller, they may oversee multiple assignments. Project managers often start their careers in a small company or oversee one aspect of a larger project. If the work is done well, those individuals are typically promoted to larger projects and given roles with greater responsibility.

The route to a project management career takes three forms. First, a person will have a bachelor’s degree in a science-related field and then go on to earn a Master degree in Business Administration (MBA). The second candidate has a Master degree in science and then goes on to earn a project management program certification. The third candidate may have a Ph.D. and the project management certification.

The Biotechnology Project Management specialized certificate, offered through UC San Diego Extension, helps to bridge the current industry hiring gap by educating qualified candidates for biotech businesses. Certificate program participants learn to manage various discoveries, development, testing, and manufacturing processes in a highly regulated environment. The program is ideal for individuals who are trying to move into the biotech industry by learning project management processes for completing and delivery of a biotech product within budget and on schedule. Which is exactly what the San Diego biotech sector needs to thrive in this rapidly growing, highly competitive industry.

About Yves Theriault, Ph.D.

Yves Theriault, Ph.D., is President, CEO and Founder of Performance Project Management LLC, which uses Project Management Methodologies to achieve Organizational Performance. He has 18 years experience in project management. He is an active member of Project Management Institute and served as Reviewer and Liaison for the Institute’s mega project: LEXICON. Dr. Theriault teaches in the Biotechnology Project Management Program at UC San Diego Extension.

Taking Discovery Beyond Data: Computer Science Explores New Frontiers


Rajesh Gupta, chair of UC San Diego’s Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) Department

Computers shape our daily lives in a myriad of ways, some obvious, others not so.

Rajesh Gupta, chair of UC San Diego’s Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) Department, measures that immersion not merely by outwardly visible, hand-held devices—personal computers, smart phones, mobile devices—but computer-based innovations that go beyond our sight.

Take an example such as the pocket-sized device that instantaneously measures real-time fitness, health, and behavior patterns, no user training or arcane coding needed. Or the inner workings of the electric sports car, which Gupta describes as “a large, mobile iPad.” Or the device inserted within the body to monitor breathing, heart rate, and virtually everything else. Or the smart grid that gauges more efficient electricity consumption.

“Education access, healthcare, electricity, water, transportation, emergency response, communications infrastructure—all of these have been improved because of computing,” said Gupta. “These are not merely engineering issues— they are the issues of our everyday lives.”

Keys to unraveling the mysteries of the cosmos, the body, ancient history, the ocean’s depths—even detecting the exact location of Genghis Khan’s Inner Mongolia tomb—now loom closer to humankind’s grasp because of computer science.

“Much of the history of the human race is in each of us—we are the history book,” said Gupta. “You don’t have to dig into the ground to find that history anymore. Our DNA carries that information. Suddenly, we have the ability to navigate all those questions about who we are, what we are, and where we come from. We are the enablers.”

In the nearly five years since Gupta became department chair, the data science revolution has exploded.

“It’s no longer just data in and data out,” he said. “In our department, we don’t think of ourselves just as computer scientists or engineers who sit in backrooms and build these weird machines. We’re the microscope that sees inside ourselves for new insights.”

While he was growing up in his native India, computers were far from Gupta’s everyday life. His family’s modest home had limited electrical appliances—refrigerator, stove, ceiling fan, radio, but no television. Indeed, personal computers, as we know them today, had yet to be invented.

Gupta vividly recalls the first time he saw an actual computer. It was the late-1970s when he was a nineteen-year-old college student at the Indian Institute of Technology in the northern Indian city of Kanpur.

“It was very large and intimidating, about the size of a small car,” he said. “It had dancing lights, mesmerizing buttons, punch cards, and an air of mystery about what it actually did.”

To his surprise, the early-era computer was “surprisingly tame,” Gupta recalled. “I started playing around with it and that got my imagination running.”


Later, concurrent with Apple’s launch of the Mac in 1984, Gupta came to the U.S. for graduate studies at UC Berkeley and later at Stanford University.

Before long Gupta assembled his own makeshift PC, reflecting a time when computer wizards designed, built, repaired, modified, and programmed computers, which left big-picture data analysis to others.

Such advanced skills are still required, but in contrast to most white-collar professions, the skill set is honed before knowledge is fully applied.

“In most other areas, you have a long hill of knowledge to climb before you learn practical skills,” he said. “You cannot do cardiac surgery without first going through an enormous amount of learning. Only then do you get to the skill. It’s the inverse in computing science.”

Since Gupta became chair of computer science and engineering in early 2011, total enrollment in the department has more than doubled to around 2,500, a rapid rise that until recently tested its capacity.

Two years ago, Gupta launched the “Inspiring Imaginations” campaign that resulted in donations, including the largest ever single alumni donation to the department to expand labs, programs, and classroom space. This has enabled the department to pursue an even more ambitious agenda of growth in the quality of learning experience by its students.

“We have high aspirations,” said Gupta. “Our faculty envisions this department at the very top regarding the quality of research we do, the students’ learning experience, and fulfilling the growing demand for our graduates.”

With an eye to that future, Gupta has launched Computing Primetime, a series of UCSD-TV programs devoted to the department’s leading professors, students, projects, and breakthroughs. The series also focuses on how computer scientists are engaging with faculty and students from other academic areas that benefit from interdisciplinary partnerships with CSE.

“For any emerging field like ours to thrive, we must continue to attract the best talent,” said Gupta, who hosted the inaugural episode, on cyber security. “To do that, we have to get our message out. When we capture the imagination of a young viewer, we have made a lifelong learner.”

To view the series, visit

SEO Article Checklist: How Experts Get Content Ranking Fast

By John E. Lincoln, President of Ignite Visibility & UC San Diego Instructor

Articles are a critical component to establishing a creditable online presence with the potential to generate 67 percent more leads. I know; my company website is up to about 10,000 visitors and over 200 leads a month, all through article marketing. When it is integrated into a strategic content marketing campaign, articles will drive a higher ranking, increase leads and conversions, and build brand awareness. Allow me to give you the full scoop.

According to a recent survey by CMO Council and the Netline Corporation, 87 percent of purchasing decisions are impacted by online content. With 93 percent of online research originating from search engines, you want to ensure your articles appear in the top of the results so that you get the business, not your competitor.

There are some very key SEO ingredients that must be implemented to get an article launched and ranking at the top of the search engines.

Create Google-Worthy Content

googleGoogle strives to expose content that offers a diverse perspective to determine what’s worthy of a high ranking. Their ranking is based on a number of factors, including the freshness, diversity, and originality of an article.

Due to Google’s recommendations, Demand Metric reported that 78 percent of CMOs believe custom content is the future of marketing. The very core to a high ranking article depends on the quality. Your content needs a strong foundation, which includes relevant and engaging information that no one else offers. Keep your readers your top priority and the rest of your marketing goals will fall into place.

Here are the secret ingredients to writing the perfect article:

  1. Relevant, Engaging, and Shareable Content– Readers and Google demand content that’s unique, relevant to a direct audience, and compelling to promote engagement. Research what’s already out there first and then add flavor to create a personalized experienced by delivering exactly what readers crave. Make sure your article is one of a kind.
  2. Focus on Quality, Not Keywords–Creating an article for the sole purpose of SEO will cause you to get burned by a Panda penalty. Instead, make the content’s quality your focus, with keywords second. This means it reads well, has lots of facts, figures and statistics and feels like a piece that some real work went into.
  3. Longer Articles Rank Higher– Although the length of an article is not the main defining factor for ranking, longer posts do rank higher. Create articles in the 1,500 to 2,000 word count range, but maintain the integrity of article by keeping the fluff to a minimum.
  4. Write to Drive Social Shares– Social media is the backbone to content distribution, which aids ranking, so write to promote social media engagement. Use a diversity of article formats such as how-to and lists articles, which are known to increase social shares by 47 percent. Make the article interesting and engaging to keep the discussion going.
  5. Develop a Viral Title– Articles with a killer title are more likely to rank higher due to viral shares. In addition to your keywords, use shocking words, numbers, and big brands in your titles to boost engagement and ranking. What would you rather share? An article titled “SEO Tips for Beginners” or an article titled “27 Ground Breaking SEO Strategies to Increase Your Revenue Now.”

You have about three seconds to capture a reader’s attention. Take your time developing the article title, as it is the most important component to getting your content even opened.

Research Targeted Keywords

Blue keyboard Keywords have an important role in SEO. However, if you’re not targeting the right kind of visitors your efforts are pointless. Make sure you don’t spend time targeting the wrong terms.

To make sure you are maximizing the power of keywords:

  1. Zoom In on Your Niche– Understand exactly who you’re targeting to develop keywords that are as specific as possible with a keyword tool. Research the keywords your competitors are using to implement into your keyword strategy to beat them at their own game. Naturally integrate your selected keywords into your article, but keep the density fairly low. Make sure you use your target word twice in the first 100 words and at least once later in the article at a minimum.
  2. Choose Actionable Keywords– Spark an interest by using actionable keywords that include words like “best” and “how to.” By incorporating action words, Google is better able to connect searchers with the content they are seeking. People also respond well to personal words like “you” and impactful words like “destroy, stop, break,” etc.
  3. Optimize Headings and Headlines– Include your main keyword in your headline to drive SEO power. Then, use headings in the body of your article to feature your supportive keywords. Not every heading mind you, but the majority if possible.
  4. Incorporate Keywords in Metas and URLs– Boost your ranking by strategically placing your keywords in your meta description and your URL. Feature your main keyword in a custom URL, but keep it short and simple. Don’t forget to optimize your meta to attract Google and readers.

The three most important factors that will determine keyword perform are relevance, search volume, and competition. Google looks for clean content with relevant keywords to establish the value of content.

Promote Link Juice

shutterstock_866397If content is king, you can consider links to be the queen. However, the Penguin update scared a lot of webmasters due to the threat of penalties. Stop being afraid of links! They will lend credibility to your article for increased ranking.

As Matt Cutts said, “Links are still the best way that we’ve found to discover (how relevant or important somebody is) and maybe, over time, social or authorship or other types of markup will give us a lot more information about that.”

To promote the relevance of your article in Google’s eyes:

  1. Cross Link to Build Internal Links– Pass page rank from one article to another by cross linking old articles with new articles and vice versa. With an appropriate rich anchor text, you’ll maintain ranking of older articles and boost the ranking of newer articles.
  2. Promote Credibility with External Links– Adding facts and information in your content is great, but only when supported by creditable sources. Link to 3rd party sites to support your evidence and to boost your credibility, but only link to trusted websites because not all links are viewed the same.
  3. Link to Influencers– Find industry influencers and link to them within your article to establish credibility. Then, notify the influencers of the links to encourage more social shares. Both will work in your favor to boost the value of your article.
  4. Choose an Appropriate Anchor Text– In light of the Penguin updates, the appropriate anchor text (that is the text in the hyperlink) can make the difference between a penalty or a valuable link. Choose an appropriate anchor text that describes where the link will take the reader, but avoid linking to too many keywords. If the percent of external links pointing at your site with the same anchor text is too high, you will get a penalty.
  5. Quality Triumphs Quantity– Relevant links to reputable sites are worth far more than the number of links you include. One or two links to a highly trusted website holds more value and SEO juice than five links to less than par sites.

With 69 percent of marketers using their content and outreach to build links to promote a higher ranking, you’ll build relationships and more visitors by implementing links into your article.

A Picture Says a Thousand Words

486749689Visual content is a huge online success, increasing by 9,900 percent in the last seven years. As humans, we are more attracted to visuals than written word and retain more information through images and videos. This builds content engagement, which Google uses to drive ranking. You should never publish an article that doesn’t include a visual.

When using visuals to promote ranking, remember:

  1. Include a Variety of Visuals– Articles with visuals not only rank higher, but have a higher engagement rate. Include images, videos, and especially infographics as infographic search volumes have increased by 800 percent.
  2. Optimize Your Visuals– To increase ranking and placement in Google Image Search, optimize the file names and alt tags of your visuals to include your keywords. Create uniquely optimized descriptions to promote visibility.
  3. Create Unique Shareable Images– Stay away from stock images and create unique images to encourage sharing. Images that are simple to share promote engagement. In fact, a photo on Twitter can boost retweets by 35 percent. Therefore, encourage sharing with an embeddable code. That being said, if you only have stock to work with it is still much better than nothing. I use stock photos often. When I do, I like to add a little branding graphic to them so it feels more unique.
  4. Correct Image Size and Dimensions– You need quality images with the appropriate dimensions and file size. Compressed file images tend to rank higher, as well as large image dimensions.
  5. Optimize Captions– Although there may not be a direct correlation between image captions and Google ranking, image captions tend to be one of the most well-read aspects of content. With readers naturally drawn to images, the caption can be the defining factor of whether or not they will stay to read the article, which will impact the bounce rate.

With social media engagement now used as a ranking signal, visuals in articles are considered to be the “holy grail.” To maximize the SEO power of your article, your visuals need to be optimized for both SEO and social media performance.

Writing is Only Half of It

Writing a great article is only the first step to achieving a high ranking. You must find appropriate outlets to distribute your article. Although content marketing and social media go hand-in-hand, Forbes reports only 26 percent of marketers have a solid content distribution plan. You must use social media to reinforce your content to increase organic social media presence, which Google will use as a ranking factor.

You can create an article that succeeds long term, but not if you skip over the key ingredients that are required to rank well. All of the pieces must be incorporated to achieve the final masterpiece. Good luck with your content marketing!

“12 Trends Search Marketers Can’t Ignore in Content Marketing” SearchEngineWatch

About John E. Lincoln

John E. Lincoln, President of Ignite Visibility & UC San Diego Instructor

John E. Lincoln, President of Ignite Visibility & UC San Diego Instructor

John E. Lincoln has been a guest speaking and teaching at UC San Diego Extension for four years. Currently teaching “Web Analytics”, Lincoln has also taught courses on SEO, social media and pay-per-click. Outside of UC San Diego Extension, Lincoln is President of Ignite Visibility, a full service digital agency. Lincoln is also a frequent writer for Search Engine Land, Marketing Land and Search Engine Journal. During his career, Lincoln has worked with over 200 online businesses and has enjoyed working on national clients such as FOX,, Jacuzzi, Tacori, 1800Dentist and more.

Health Care Meets House of Cards: Meet the Power Brokers and Policy Makers in D.C.

iStock_000008853881Medium_capitolWeek-Long Course Features Intimate Access to Congressional Staffs, Think Tank Scholars, Health & Human Services, and More

A conversation with Leslie Bruce, J.D., a seasoned health care communicator and advocate who leads the Politics & Public Policy of U.S. Healthcare course in Washington, D.C.

Tell us about this unusual course in the nation’s capital.
It’s a 40-hour course that enables master’s degree students and community health leaders to have up-close-and-personal contact with public policy officials in Washington. In five days, you gain access to an enviable list of power players – from scholars at the leading Think Tanks to officials at Health and Human Services, from the lobbyists for the American Hospital Association to Senator Boxer and Feinstein’s staff members.

It sounds like a Congressional internship – but a week-long version for working professionals.
Yes, for health care professionals. One RN attorney has been six times. A compliance officer, a senior vice president at a health staffing company, a military administrator, and a nurse leader who is trying to change the world: all of them want to channel their energy into changing laws or policy, first by intimately understanding the system and by developing a network of powerful contacts in Washington. As Stephen Covey famously said, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

How does this program help participants further their agendas to change public health policy?
In a myriad of ways! For one, they become very educated citizens who understand the detailed process by which policy becomes law. We hear the latest trends and data, we grasp the dynamics that shape the conversation in Washington. By having face-to-face meetings with scholars, departmental officials, congressional staffers and others, the participants start conversations that extend well beyond this week. Overall, the participants become better communicators and advocates – with a sense of how to best convey the information in ways that can affect change in government.

Where does the course meet in Washington, D.C.?
The first day is a classroom experience at the University of California center in DC, known as UCDC, where we set the stage for the week with speakers from leading policy institutes. Tuesday, we spend the day at Health and Human Services, finding out about rules and regulations, especially with regard to the Affordable Care Act. Wednesday, we meet with a chief of staff from a congressional office who shows students how to write a one-page issue paper, how to cut the fat out of the writing so you communicate succinctly with legislators and their staffs. We spend the last two days on Capitol Hill visiting with every congressional office that represents the students in the course.

What do you expect to be the hot topics this year?
The Republican control of Congress, definitely. We will find out what Congressional leaders can actually do to modify the Affordable Care Act, and the politics that drive the process.

What results have you seen among the students who attend the D.C. course?
I’ve seen people become better leaders and take on more leadership positions within their organizations, particularly within trade and professional organizations. They learn to become truly gifted advocates and, again, a resource for legislators when they build on those relationships.

What is most gratifying for you as the instructor?
Exposing participants to how the process works and the people involved. We meet people who have left the health care industry to devote their lives to public policy and it’s tireless work. The students inevitably remark at how smart and how dedicated the public servants are with whom they meet. They also see that these are career options they can pursue.

So if they get the bug to work in Washington, it’s not too late?
The students so often say, “These officials are just like me, they care about the same things.” It’s always a shock to participants to hear the number of fellowships that are available for working professionals, especially ones who work in important, life-saving fields. Students can be change-makers here at home, or they can take their talents to the Beltway.

Visit the ExHeadshot - LKBruce turtlenecktension site to register, and to learn more about the Politics & Public Policy of Healthcare – Washington, D.C..

Leslie Bruce has more than 25 years’ experience in San Diego area business. She has directed advocacy, communications and community relations efforts for UCSD Health Sciences, Sharp HealthCare, and the American Heart Association.

Focus on Instructors: Feifei Fan

By Rafa Lombardino

Chinese is the most spoken language in the world, with approximately 1.2 billion speakers of all varieties of Chinese and 848 million of them speaking Mandarin alone. According to the Modern Language Association the number of college students studying Chinese has increased over the last decade.

Feifei Fan teaches Chinese language classes in the Arts, Humanities, Languages & Digital Arts Department

Feifei Fan teaches Chinese language classes in the Arts, Humanities, Languages & Digital Arts Department

In an effort to match this demand, UC San Diego Extension’s Arts, Humanities, Languages & Digital Arts Department is offering Chinese for Communication Level I, Level II, and Level III as part of its Spring 2015 class schedule. Feifei Fan, a native speaker from China, teaches all three levels. In the Chinese courses, Feifei creates an enriching learning environment to help students stay motivated and improve their language skills. Previous students have commented that he “makes learning fun” and that “his enthusiasm for Chinese was contagious.”

Feifei moved the United States more than a decade ago and started teaching at UC San Diego Extension in 2013. He brought with him a diverse teaching experience, having taught Chinese and Visual Arts at colleges and universities in China and the United States.

“I hear a lot of interesting stories from my students,” he says. “Their ages range from early twenties to sixties and most of them have a relative from China, such as a father, wife or grandparent.”

With his strong knowledge of language, literature, art and technology, he also studies and researches Chinese calligraphy history and theory, Chinese painting history and theory, and Chinese ancient, modern and contemporary language and literature.

Feifei earned his bachelor’s degree in Chinese Language and Literature when he was still in China. At that time, he also taught Chinese Writing in college for four years, mostly to U.S. nationals living in China. He then studied for a second bachelor’s degree, this time in Journalism, and worked as a TV reporter and news editor for China Central Television (CCTV) before leaving his native country.

Once he arrived in the United States, Fefei pursued two master’s degrees: one in Graphic Design and the other in Technology Education, both of them at West Virginia University. He later earned his MFA in Visual Communication at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he taught Graphic Design as an Adjunct Professor.

After completing his studies on the east coast, Feifei moved to San Diego in December 2009. “I enjoy the cultural diversity here,” he says. “I also participate in a lot of activities in our community, and I volunteer at my daughter’s school,” he adds. “In my spare time, I study Chinese calligraphy and enjoy swimming and reading.”

To learn more about UC San Diego Extension’s foreign language program, please visit the area of study page.


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