Monday, June 3, 2013

First the Panda, Now the Penguin - What's Up With Google?

Panda Penguin 2.0On May 22, 2013, Matt Cutts announced on his blog that they are rolling out Penguin 2.0 . It has actually been the fourth release since the first Penguin. However, Google have been referring to it as Penguin 2.0 since not just minor refreshes on the existing algorithm were made.  They have made some changes on the algorithm itself.  This means, the updates would most likely have a stronger impact in the search results. 

So, what's up with Google this time? What can webmasters expect in the coming months from Google SEO?   On this video, Matt Cutts not only answers this question. He reassures webmasters- who prioritize the benefits of their users, that they should not be affected negatively in any way. On the contrary, the Penguin should bring more good their way because the new algorithms were created to help people find the best sites out there. How?  Here are some of the points given:

Discover black hat webspam. One of the main purposes of Penguin 2.0 is to discover webspam, What is webspam? It is a "black hat", meaning illegal SEO tactic which deceives search engine spiders. Webspam can be done in different ways such as by swamping an entire page with a lot of keywords or key phrases. 

Another strategy is by deliberately inserting keywords in the content, not withstanding the fact that the article is filled with grammatical errors and that some statements do not make any sense at all. Indeed, armed with a Spinning Software, many webmasters can recreate multiple versions of a single article within minutes, simply by altering words and phrases with possible replacements. The result is a poorly "spun" version of the article, stuffed with meaningless phrases which, would often sound ridiculous to a sane human reader. Obviously, the content was not created for people but intended to make-a-fool out of search engine spiders. 

Apparently, the Penguin can tell. In addition, Google encourages more interaction with webmasters. For instance, if you happen to come across a spam site, you can report it at http://bit.ly/penguinspamreport and Google will check on it. 

Distinguish advertorials that violate guidelines. Some advertisers pay to have their links included in a post or to get a positive review. Matt said there's nothing wrong with paid posts and that advertorials should not lower a website's page rank as long as it meets the guidelines accordingly. For example, there should be a clear disclosure stating that it was a paid review so that the reader can be made aware of that fact. 

Detect hacked sites and sites with malware. Searchers are now alerted about websites that have been possibly hacked or may serve malware. Again, Matt emphasized that they are not after penalizing the webmasters of the hacked sites. They are simply protecting internet users from opening potentially hazardous websites or pages. In fact, Google has provided assistance for webmasters who have been hacked (http://www.google.com/webmasters/hacked/) so they can immediately fix the problem.


Matt did not give exact details about the changes or the algorithms. He made it clear though that for those who are working hard to enhance the quality of their websites by implementing "white hat" or legitimate SEO techniques, there is nothing to worry about. In effect, these updates would benefit even webmasters who do not perform SEO tactics at all, but who are focusing on providing great, quality content for their audience.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Google Bids Goodbye to Google Reader


Last week, Google has made the official announcement on its blog that it would be shutting down Google Reader along with other services it has provided in the past years. Google Reader is set to retire on July 1, 2013.  According to Google, despite a solid following, the number of users has declined over time.  Another reason cited is that the move was essential so that it can focus on enhancing its primary products and services.

What is Google Reader?  

If this is the first time you've been hearing about Google Reader because of all the news of its imminent closing, you might be wondering what the fuss is about.  It is basically a feed subscription or an RSS (Rich Site Summary) reader.  Basically, it enables you to keep track of the latest content from your favorite websites and read them all from a single page.  

Many people has been utilizing this tool for years since it was introduced in 2005.  Obviously, not many are happy to hear about the news of its retirement.  If you have been using Google Reader, you can download an archive of your subscriptions through Google Takeout

Alternatives to Google Reader
Here are three alternative readers you can use for free :


Feedly  You can download Feedly on your desktop, mobile phone or tablet.  Use it to organize, read and share content from your favorite websites.  You can also migrate subscriptions from your existing Google Reader account to Feedly.

The Old Reader   It works pretty much like the Google Reader. As of this moment, it does not have a mobile app just yet so you can only view it from a desktop.  Can you directly important subscriptions from your Google Reader account?  Yes, you can.

Bloglovin  As the name suggests, if you love blogs, then you would love Bloglovin too! It allows you  to find and follow blogs across the web.  You can organize your favorite blogs according to categories - an indispensable option especially if you are subscribed to a hundred blogs or more.  You can download it on your desktop, iPhone, iPad and Android.  If you're a blogger, it's also the perfect place to gain more followers.  Finally, you can import blog subscriptions from your Google Reader account in one click of a button.

Friday, February 1, 2013

What is SEO and Why Should You Learn It

SEO.  The three letters stand for Search Engine Optimization.  Based on this acronym, it's easy to guess that it has something to do with search engines and optimizing or enhancing website performance. 

To understand the concept of search engine optimization, imagine the World Wide Web as one huge spider web.  The spider must crawl along the thread to make its way around the web. In the same way, the World Wide Web is made up of billions of websites which are all inter-connected by a threadlike network.  Search engine spiders can crawl along these threadlike network to discover web pages. 

What are search engines?
Search engines help us find the exact information we need from the World Wide Web. How? We simply need to type a word or a phrase related to the information we are looking for, and let the search engine spider crawl along the threads and bring back a list of web pages with content relevant to our search.  

But, you may ask, "with a multitude of pages to discover in such a vast network, how does a search engine know which pages to include in the search result?"  Good question.  Search engines do not just discover web pages and bring back results based on keywords alone.  It also distinguishes good, quality websites from the poor ones.  Needless to say, it prioritizes good websites and these will float on top of search result listings. 

Why SEO is Essential
Now, here is where Search Engine Optimization becomes a matter of importance.  There are different factors which can affect a website's search engine ranking.   Each search engine has a set of metrics or algorithms that it uses to gauge the relevance, popularity and quality of a website.  Optimizing search engine means taking the necessary steps to make sure that your website meets the search engines' criteria of a good, quality website.

Now, try to search for a specific keyword in Google, for example, and notice that you will get not just one or two-pages of results but more likely, a couple of pages, even a hundred of pages containing a list of websites that contains the keyword you searched for.  Which websites are included on the first page or the first few pages?  These are supposedly the websites that offer the most significant and relevant information on the keyword being searched.  In addition, the websites on the first page also bear the highest rankings which is why it is given the top priority on the list.

Of course, if you were searching for information, wouldn't you most likely check out the websites found on the first page of the results list?   You may also check out the results found on the second, third or the next few pages but only if you do not find what you need right away.  Consequently, websites that are on the bottom pages has a slim chance of getting discovered.  Thus, you can begin to understand why websites are competing achieve a high rank and be on top of the search engine's listing.

Indeed, SEO is such a crucial endeavor for many webmasters.  Should you learn it?  Understanding the concept of SEO and implementing basic SEO steps can tremendously enhance your website's search engine rank and make it more accessible to people. So long as you stick with "white hat" SEO techniques,  optimizing your website for search engines would bring many advantages.


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Monday, January 28, 2013

Six Proven WordPress Blogging Tips that Actually Work

There are a number of blogging platforms to choose from but among the popular ones, Wordpress has proven to be the most versatile and the preferred platform of many professional bloggers.  If you are planning to launch a blog or a website for business, it is strongly recommended that you explore the features and services that WordPress offers.  On this post, we provide five smart and proven tips for effective blogging in WordPress.

1. Have a clear goal in mind
.  Why do you blog and who is your targeted audience?  Knowing the answers to these two important questions would help you to make the right decision about many aspects of your blog.  For example, knowing your purpose and your audience will enable you to choose the right look for your blog. That brings us to the second tip.

2.    Choose a theme that works best for you.  The great thing about WordPress is that you can choose from a wide-range of designs.  We’re not just talking about a handful of designs.  With WordPress, you have literally hundreds of themes to choose from.  These templates are ready-to-use and just in case you’re not happy with the one you picked, it’s very easy to try out a different theme, until you find the perfect look for your website.

3.    Edit the URL of the page.  Here’s another wonderful feature of WP blogs that not many people are making full use of.  You can edit the URL of the page so that it doesn’t have to be the exact title of your post.  Why is this useful?  You can leave out unnecessary words (prepositions, conjunctions) or punctuation marks from the URL and include only the most relevant words in the URL, making it more Search Engine friendly.

You can also shorten the link in just one click of the mouse.  When you create a post, you can find the “Get Shortlink” button right below the title box and the URL editor.  Why would you need to shorten links?  This is helpful if you want to share the URL of your post on Social Sites like Twitter, where you can type only a limited set of characters.   Although there are other URL shortening services that do this, it’s already available in Wordpress so there’s really no need to look far.

4.    Schedule posts in advance.  One of the biggest challenges in blogging is posting on a regular basis. In order for a blog to be successful, you should be able to update posts at least three or five times a week, if not daily.  Sometimes, you might find yourself confronted with too many tasks, making it impossible for you to sit down and write an intelligent post.  Hence, it’s good to create back-up posts for times like these. 

WordPress allows you to publish multiple posts in advance and set the exact date and time when you want each post to go live.  This way, you can make sure that your audience would find fresh content in your blog even when you are away or too busy living your life in the real world.

5.   Take advantage of widgets.  Widgets are small, indispensable applications that come free with your chosen theme.  They are pretty much like plugins.  However, you don’t need to install them as each theme already has its own set of widgets.  You simply drag and drop the ones you like to use them.  Widgets are built to make your life as a blogger a little bit more hassle-free so put them to good use.  

6.  Make use of plug-ins to simplify your tasks.  For WordPress.org users (not the free Wordpress), hundreds of plugins have been created.  These plug-ins are free and each plug-in is designed to do a specific function.  For example, there are plugins designed to optimize the blog, making it easily visible to search engines.  Some plugins are made to help you organize photos on your blog.  There are also Social Network plugins which promotes audience interaction.  And if you are using your blog as a means to promote your business, you can surely find plugins with E-commerce functionality.  What’s important to remember is that installing too many plugins can slow down the website so choose only the essential ones.
   

Monday, January 21, 2013

Top Ten Blog Hosting Sites of 2013

Would you like to start your very own blog this year?  If yes, you have a number of blog hosting sites to choose from.  Check out this shortlist of the most popular blog publishing platforms for the year 2013.  You can click on each link to be directed to the blog host you would like to try.

1. Blogger  A free blog publishing service provided by Google.  Without a doubt, one of the leading blogging platforms in the world. If you have a Google account, you can use it to sign in and create a blog straightaway.  The free account offers six customizable templates and all the basic tools needed in blogging.  You can buy a custom domain for your blog at $10 per year.  This would remove the ".blogspot" extension from your website address.

2. Wordpress.com  A powerful, free blog publishing site that offers reliable support, secure hosting, 3GB storage, blogging tools, and with over 200 ready-to-use customizable themes.  You have the option to subscribe to different kinds of premium upgrades at any time.

3. Tumblr  Founded in 2007, it is considered to be the fastest growing blog hosting site with about 112.6 million blogs to date.  Tumblr is both a microblogging platform and a social networking site where people can share blog entries, photos, videos, music, and texts from a desktop, mobile phone or email.  It is a favorite platform among photo bloggers.

4. Typepad Starting from $8.95 a month, you can fully personalize your blog's design, get help from Typepad's support team, create up to four different blogs, and enjoy unlimited storage.  There's a 14-day free trial period if you want to try it out.

5. Weebly  Its website creator uses a drag-and-drop interface, making it very easy for anyone to design a website that looks professional.  You can post entries from your iPhone or any Android device wherever you are. The free option includes the basic tools you need for blogging while the complete package costs $8 per month.  Furthermore, like the above blogging sites mentioned, it is search engine optimized; has built-in site analytics, and provides reliable cloud hosting service. 

6. LiveJournal  As the name suggests, LiveJournal promotes personal journaling online.  It combines blogging and social networking in one platform. You can post entries on your blog, join blog groups and interact with people in the blogging community.  Bloggers may use a free account or sign up for a paid account to access special features such as a personalized @livejournal email address, advanced customization option, etc.

7. Squarespace  Starting from $16 a month, you get a custom domain, unlimited pages, galleries and blogs, unlimited bandwith and storage, an advanced form builder, and 24/7 cusomer support.  You get to integrate your website with Google Docs and MailChimp for easy management of your mailing list.  You can also connect your website with a Facebook Page for instant tabs sharing.  At $24 per month, you can enjoy a fully-integrated e-commerce website along with other merchant tools and services.  If you have an online business, Squarespace is worth checking out.


8. Webs The free package is ad supported and includes the easy-to-use site builder, 40 MB storage and the option to display up to 5 items in your shop. Meanwhile, the Pro package starts from $15.67 per month, is ad free and includes a custom domain name, access to premium templates, up to 15 personalized email addresses, 5000 MB storage, unlimited HQ video storage, $100 Google AdWords Credit, $50 Facebook Ads Credit, and unlimited items in your web store. Like Squarespace, the e-commerce features makes this blogging platform ideal for business owners.

9. Xanga Founded in 1999, it was originally created as a place to share book and music reviews online.  Since then, it has continued to grow and has expanded to become both a blog hosting service and a social networking website with millions of users worldwide.
 
10. Wordpress.org  Here is a web publishing software for those who have their own domain with an independent web hosting service.  It offers thousands of plug-ins and themes to choose from so you can fully-customize the look, feel and functionality of your blog or website.  This blog publishing tool is currently used by millions of professional bloggers and internet marketers worldwide.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Blogger vs Wordpress Which Should You Use

Blogger is a free service provided by Google so you will be required to create a Google account.  If you're already using Gmail, you can sign in straightaway using your existing Gmail account.

Meanwhile, Wordpress is a publishing site with its own community of bloggers.  Wordpress.com is the free version.  To sign up, you must provide a valid email address and create a unique username and password. 

Now, let's take a look at their main features:

Blogger
Easy access to other Google services such as Adsense, Google+ and Analytics.
Customizable template designer so you can choose the look and feel of your blog.
Customizable template designer for mobile devices (iPhone and Android apps).
Unlimited storage space for uploaded media files (videos and pictures).
You can publish posts using your email or mobile device.


Wordpress
Hundreds of themes to choose from so you can really personalize your blog.
More widgets available, depending on the Theme you're using.
Customizable template designer for mobile devices (iPhone and Android apps).
Import option so you can instantly move content from a different blog site to WP.
Limited storage space (3,072MB).  If you run out of storage, you can upgrade to increase storage capacity.  The price starts from $20 for an additional 10GB.

Which Should You Use?
Compared to Blogger, Wordpress provides a great number of tools and options which might be a bit daunting for a newbie.  In other words, Blogger is more user-friendly, particularly for people who has no background in blogging or the internet.  You can explore the world of blogging one-step-at-time in Blogger and you should have no problem finding your way in there.  The fact that there are fewer choices.makes Blogger hassle-free so you can focus on creating great content.  

On the other hand, Wordpress seems to be the preferred choice of many experienced bloggers, primarily because it allows more options and more flexibility when it comes to blogging technicalities.  Since it is equipped with the "import" tool, you can easily move content and comments from your old blog once you're ready to take the plunge.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Make Your Blog Search Engine Friendly In Ten Easy Steps

Here are ten practical and easy-to-follow steps to make your blog more search engine friendly.

1. Make your content worthwhile. Quality content is still an essential foundation to stay on top of the competition.  If you work hard to present useful, original, informative, compelling, entertaining, worthwhile content on your website, it will surely attract a great number of readers and build a solid following of audience. People would bookmark your site, subscribe to your feeds, or sign up for email subscriptions.  People are driven to your website simply because they find something that’s genuinely worth their time in there – and this is called “organic traffic”.

2. Post new content daily. Search engine spiders are easily attracted by updates.  In other words, putting out fresh, unique content every day would make your site a search engine magnet.  If you can't publish a post on a daily basis, do it at least three times a week or as frequently as possible.  This is the reason why blogs have become strong traffic competitors ~ most bloggers post entries everyday.

3. Do not copy content.  :Publishing duplicate content has always been a violation and will definitely damage your website's reputation.  A lot of webmasters today use Copyscape - a software that can detect duplicate content and plagiarism.

What about posting excerpts or a portion of an article taken from another website?  This should be done very sparingly and with good intent.  Scraping content or making slight modifications on the text to make it seem "unique" just for the sake adding content to your website will not contribute real value to your website's ranking and credibility.  Instead, work hard on creating well-researched, professionally written, original posts.

4. Use categories smartly.  Using categories helps readers find posts on specific topics more easily.  But that's not at all.  It also helps search engines to classify pages of your website according to groups or keywords, making it easier to find relevant search results from your website.

To make the most of this tool, limit the number of categories on your website and choose the best category for each post.  This way, you can be sure that all posts related to a particular topic falls only under one category.  Furthermore, you can avoid having duplicate content or pages with the same content belonging to different categories.

5. Use sharing buttons.  One way to promote wider readership is to provide sharing buttons on each page, making it easier for your readers to share a post from your blog or website on Social Networks.  A lot of people today are on these social sites (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest Google+, Instagram) and if a guest enjoyed your post, this person surely wouldn't mind clicking on one of the sharing buttons for friends, relatives and other people to see it.  Thus, including a simple statement asking a reader to "share the post if they liked it" may go a long way. 

Does Google measure social media popularity in ranking a website?  The world is still waiting for a clear confirmation from Google on this matter but considering the fact that Google Analytics has included social media stats on its report only strengthens the assumption that social media popularity signals (especially, Google+), has bearing on search engine ranking. One thing is certain though - applying this advice is a proven way to increase exposure and drive traffic to your site.

6. Use the "ALT" tag. The ALT tag?  It is an html code used for images where you can insert a text description of the photo on the post. Usually, blogging platforms like Blogger and Wordpress has an easy-to-use tool that allows you to do this to edit the properties of the photo.

Why is it important to include an ALT description?  The answer is because search engine crawlers cannot read images. Therefore, Including a text description in the ALT tag helps search engines to recognize images on your posts, so they can also be visible in search results.

7. Use relevant keywords or phrases.  Which words or phrases would people type in the search box if they want to find information relevant to your content?  These are called keywords or key phrases and it is very important to include them in your posts.  Use keywords in titles and headings as well.  Be careful not to overdo it though.  Keyword stuffing or filling a page with too many keywords is considered as a violation and would make your website look bad in the eyes of search engine spiders.  If you keep Step #1 in mind, which is to write quality posts, this should not be a problem at all.

8.  Include relevant inside links in your content.  This is a good strategy to point your readers to other pages of your website. For instance, you may recommend one or two posts on the same topic which you think would be helpful or provide additional information.  Test if the link is working and that the URL directs to the right page.  Instead of using vague words like "here" or "this", try to use more descriptive words so that it is clear what the page is about.  (To see examples, pay attention to the links in Step #9).

9.  Submit a Sitemap  A sitemap is basically a list of all pages in your website and it helps search engines find its way more easily, so to speak, through your website.  Having a sitemap would ensure that Google and other search engines can crawl and index all the pages of your website.  This is especially recommended if your website has dynamic pages or if it contains a lot of videos, moving images, and photos.

Otherwise, your Sitemap can be a list of all the URLs or pages of your website, with only one URL per line.  You can submit your Sitemap using Google Webmaster Tools. For a more in-depth discussion on Sitemaps, here's an article from Google on How to Create A Sitemap.

10. Exchange links with high quality blogs.  Blogging involves active participation in blogging communities.  It's not just a one-way road.  Reading and following other blogs is an essential gesture to gain exposure and promote your own blog as well.  In the process, you are bound to meet other bloggers on the same niche.  Look for blogs with great content like yours and see if you can exchange links with the blog authors.



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