Jun
29th

What is RSS?

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Whats RSS?

What's RSS?

Imagine the world before we invented magazine subscriptions.  Every time you wanted to read your favorite magazine you would walk to the nearest bookstore and go buy the magazine from the shelf.  You’d be happy that you got to read your favorite magazine, but somewhere inside you would know.  Know that there has to be a better way.  Wouldn’t it be great if all these magazines I read could somehow get delivered right to my door, then I could read them at my leisure and wouldn’t have to keep going to find them.

Welcome to RSS.

RSS originally stood for Really Simple Syndication.  Somehow that acronym has been made “unofficial”, but it still explains it pretty well.  Any online entity that has regular updates (like a blog, your Twitter account, or a news site) may choose to publish an RSS feed.  You can then subscribe to the RSS feed and read the articles from all of your feeds in one place.

There are plenty of RSS readers out there and you’ll just have to find the one your most comfortable with.  Myself, I use gmail, so adding my feeds to Google Reader was pretty simple.  Click on the RSS icon (top right) and you will be taken to a site that allows you to choose from several popular RSS readers.  Sign up for a (usually free) account and then every time we add a new article to the blog it will appear in your reader.  Check the reader as often or as casually as you desire.

And now you know how to RSS.

Jun
27th

Google PageRank Update June 2009 – Bloggers Beware

Google has just updated PageRank for the second time in 30 days! I found this very surprising as some updates have taken 3 months or more. Interesting to note in this update is that Bing soared to a PR9. My DVD Collection website has moved from PR1 to PR2. That is especially interesting to me because in the previous update, it moved up as well. In that case, it increased from a PR0 to a PR1.

It wasn’t all good, however. I took a search of 5 blogs that I know participate in paid posting and 3 of them had their PageRank drop. One of them actually dropped from PR5 to PR2 — quite a drop for < 30 days! The others only dropped 1 point to PR4. Those were the only sites I found that dropped from the recent update, so it could be possible that Google changed their algorithms to target pay per post blogs.

What surprised me most about the jump of DVDCorral.com is that the PageRank scale is non-linear. That means going from 1 to 2 is much harder than going from 0 to 1. For example, the Richter scale is a logarithmic scale which measures earth quakes. There are about 120 level 6 earth quakes per year, but only 18 level 7. Go all the way to level 8 and there's only 1 per year. What does this mean for SEO? It means that whatever work you do to get from PR2 to PR3, you'll have to do much more to get from PR3 up to PR4. How much more? No one is really sure. I have heard estimates that one level to the next is about 4 or 5 times as many links (assuming equal quality links).

I also noticed my mother's Prayer Music Website went up from a PR0 to a PR1. Her site is fairly new, so Google has only found links from Twitter.com so far. Twitter, however, is now a PageRank 9. One has to wonder if the increase in links to Twitter (and Google’s corresponding PR increase) has made it a more valuable place for online advertising.

This may be bad news for blogs that are selling paid advertisements as posts, but it looks like good news for those of us who love Twitter. Catch me @bgeisel1.

Jun
26th

Understanding Links – Posting Thumbnails and Text

Using a thumbnail image for attractive links

Use a thumbnail image for attractive links

It’s time for a beginner post. Mostly because my brother has been asking about how to post thumbnails, but also just because it seemed like other people probably had the same questions. There are a lot of things that can be done with links online. In this article, we’re just going to touch on the basics and we can fill in the gaps in a later post.
Links are just a way of referencing material online. In order to do that, you need 2 things: 1) The address of the material you are referencing. 2) The content which will send the user to that material. By content, we refer to either text or a graphic. When you click that text or graphic, you then go to the referring webpage.

So first, let’s look at a simple link:

<a href="http://www.internetstarting.com">Helpful Website</a>

This link starts with a tag, which opens <a.  We must end the tag with a greater than (>), but not until we specify the address to which we link.  That is specified in the href parameter of the a-tag (<a>).  In this case, our address is http://www.internetstarting.com.  Always be sure to enclose the address in quotes.  Then we end the a-tag (which is short for Anchor, BTW).    So far we’ve covered:

<a href="http://www.internetstarting.com">

Next, we have “Helpful Website”.  This is the content of our link, or the anchor text.  In our case it is just text, but we’ll add images later.  This anchor text is what is going to actually be displayed to our user.  Finally, the <a> tag we opened must be closed.  HTML tags are closed with a forward-slash in front of the tag.  Our closing anchor tag would then look like this: </a>.  Now, when shown online, our link will look like the following:
Helpful Website

Now, let’s go about adding an image in there.  To do that, we’ll need to use the image tag, which is simply, <img>.  Similar to the link, we need to supply a parameter to the image tag and that is the location of our image.  This is usually on our site, but it could be anywhere on the web.  In the image tag, that address will be put into the “src” attribute.  So, we’re going to have something that looks like this:

<img src="http://www.csh.rit.edu/~geisel/car/3kgt-md.jpg"

Again, notice that we have to put the parameter to “src” in quotation marks.  Finaly, we’ll close the image tag.  This is a little different than closing the anchor tag because we’re going to use some HTML shorthand.  Because the img doesn’t have any content (only the src attribute here), we can close it immediately.  So, we’re just going to add “/>” instead of our nomal “>” followed by “</img>”.  Our entire image tag now looks like this:

<img src="http://www.csh.rit.edu/~geisel/car/3kgt-md.jpg" />

Now, let’s make that a link.  All we’re going to do, is take our anchor text (which was Helpful Website) and replace it with our image tag.  Now we have:

<a href="http://www.internetstarting.com"> <img src="http://www.csh.rit.edu/~geisel/car/3kgt-md.jpg" /> </a>

or

<a href=”http://www.internetstarting.com”>

<img src=”http://www.csh.rit.edu/~geisel/car/3kgt-md.jpg” />

</a>

Now, we have an image used as the content for our link.  When you click the image, it will still take you to the homepage for InternetStarting.com.  One last thing before we show you the image and link.  It would be a little big to add to this post again, so let’s shrink our image.  We could use photo editing software to shrink the image, or for images that are reasonably small we can just cheat a bit.  We’re going to add two more parameters to the image tag.  They are “height” and “width” and you can probably imagine what they do.  Let’s make our new thumbnail image 80×47 (1/4 the size of the original).  The code would now look like this:

<a href="http://www.internetstarting.com"> <img src="http://www.csh.rit.edu/~geisel/car/3kgt-md.jpg" width="80" height="47" /> </a>

There, now you can see what the thumbnail will look like at 1/4 of its size.  This is not recommended for very large images however as it will slow down your site.  We’re actually using a big image and displaying it as a small image.  For example, if you were to take an image directly from your camera and “cheat” the image tag, it might take 15 or 30 seconds to load this tiny image on your site.  That’s not very efficient and why it would then be better to use some photo editing software to actually save the picture in a smaller format and just use that instead.

One last thing on links for the beginner.  Sometimes you will see a very, very long link.  These especially show up at affiliate sites like Amazon.com.  In fact, you might even see a full web address inside the web address which is in the href.  Don’t let this confuse you!  We’re only concerned with what’s between the quotation marks.  So, <a href=”someReallyReallyLongStringIsOK”> — even if it’s several lines long.  Just look for the closing quotation mark and you will be fine.

For anyone still having trouble with links or who has other questions, use the comment link below.  Let us know what trouble you’re having with links and we’ll see if I, or someone in the community here, can help you out.

Jun
22nd

PageRankSubmit Review – Good for SEO?

Does PageRankReview Measure Up?

Does PageRankSubmit Measure Up?

There are so many sites out there advertising how they will provide you with great SEO, it’s hard to wade through the muck.  Every site has big promises, and more often than not they end up disappointing on those promises.  For better or for worse, I’ll do my best to keep you updated on my experiences so you can avoid the disasters and flock to the successes.  It’s nice to sit in my blogging lair today and bang out an article on the latter, a website that successfully delivered on (at least some of) the hype.

You probably found this site in a search for a review of PageRankReview.com, so I’ll do my best to cut to the chase.  If my reviews are honest and thorough, you’ll hopefully come back to check out my other reviews.  I was happy with PageRankReview and I’m in the process of using them for all of the sites I manage (see the Blogroll on right).  In my opinion I got $100 to $200 of SEO for $29.  It didn’t save the world, but it did get my site to show up in the first few pages of Google.

The claim from PageRankSubmit.com is that they will submit you to 100 Internet directory sites for $29 (price as of this post).  They say the sites all have a PageRank of PR4 or higher.  When you are finished, they will send you an Excel spreadsheet containing a list of the sites to which you were submitted and their PageRank.  All entries are manually submitted by their team, so you don’t have to worry about CAPTCHA issues blocking non-human entries.

In reality, I found they were pretty close to their promise.  They actually submitted my site to 101 directory sites.  I did a PageRank lookup and not all of the sites were still at their advertised PageRank, but remarkably most of them were.  My biggest concern was that some of the directories would be in Google so-called “bad neighborhoods” and that I would be penalized for it.  As far as I can tell, none of the directories had bad reputations with Google.
Continue reading PageRankSubmit Review – Good for SEO? »

Jun
13th

Starting a Blog – A Quick Guide to Blogging

Start your own Blog

Start your own Blog

Thanks to hardworking people at several major internet sites, it’s now easier than ever to start your own blog.  In a recent article in Inc. Magazine, Matt Mullenweg (founder of WordPress) said, “My mom started a blog a couple of weeks ago.  Six years into this, and we finally made it easy enough for my mom to use.”  He’s absolutely right.

Blogging has finally come to a point where it depends more on your ability as a writer than it does your technical skills.  Between sites that will allow you to freely host your blog and software to run the blog, you’re pretty much left with the writing — Oh, and the setup, but we can help you with that.

First, let’s briefly understand what a blog is and is not.  The term comes from the initial use of the term Web-log.  A lot of internet users (especially students) were starting to keep journals online, and now we’ve got tools that allow for much more.  Now blogs are often used as a primary source of news on the internet, but they can just as easily be used for posting information online.  Blogs should not be confused with forums where many users participate in a conversation.  If it’s a topic you’re interested in and ready to talk about, blogs are a great way to get your information out.

The blog will need to be hosted somewhere (see Starting a Website for more information) and there are several sites online that will host your blog for free.  The two easiest are probably WordPress.org and Blogger.com and both are free.  I do have a small blog that I setup on blogger.com and it only took a few minutes to do so.  I haven’t set one up with WordPress.org, but given how well-written their software is, I can’t image their hosting is any different.

For basic blogs, you should just be able to setup an account with one of those sites and get started.  However, if you’re planning on doing some serious blogging (i.e. considering part or full-time work) you may want to have it hosted somewhere you have more control.  When you host a site with a webhosting company, you have more control about the speed of your blog and where you store images.  For anyone just starting, the free-hosted solution is probably just fine and you can always transfer your blog later.  It’s always good to have a solution you can revise later.
Continue reading Starting a Blog – A Quick Guide to Blogging »

Jun
10th

EngineSeeker Review – Traffic Generation

As I was adding an affiliate recently, I had to sign up for a new affiliate service (more about these in a later post).  Since I was already signed up, I thought I’d look for other advertisers that might be useful for this or other websites I run.  Since I was already on the topic of SEO, I decided to check out EngineSeeker.com.

At first glance, I liked the site.  They had a pretty simple interface to make use of a number of different advertising methods, so I thought this might be interesting.  I was unfortunately disappointed.

As with most sites, they offer to list you in search engines.  I decline, because I’m already either crawled by all the search engines or I automatically submit to them.  Caveat Emptor!  Submitting to tons of search engines isn’t usually useful as 75% – 90% of your traffic will end up coming from Google.  Less than 1% of your traffic will come from these 100 search engines (or whatever ridiculous number someone is advertising).  Don’t bother, it isn’t worth the effort.  Yes — even if that is no effort at all.  The worst case is that they submit you multiple times and one of the useful search engines delists you because of over-submission.

Alright, but they have this nifty “Ad Network”.  Let me see how this works.  As always, I’m looking for any useful way I can exchange links, etc. to get a boost on the Google SERPS.  If I run an ad on my site, they’ll display my site on other sites.  That’s what the documentation says, anyway.  When I talked to their rep, he explained that showing their ads on my page doesn’t cause my ads to be shown any more often.  I showed their ads over 300 times and they showed mine once.  Ok, shut that one off.

How about FastTraffic?  That sounds like a good idea.  They use domain names that are expired, but which still receive some traffic.  Then that traffic gets routed to your site.  Sounds like a nifty way to pick up traffic that might actually be interested in my site (they claim its targeted).  The rep sets me up for the free version which guarantees (or your money back??) 2000 hits.  Cool.  2000 hits — I’ll take it!  Not so fast, bucco!  I’ve had 314 visits and 5 of them have clicked on another page.  5!  That’s a bounce rate of 98.4% on a page that has a bounce rate much closer to 50%.  The fact that 5 people have clicked onto a second page makes me feel like it isn’t a bot, but I’m not sure it’s exactly what I’d call targeted traffic either.

What’s left?  Oh, the 5-day trial.  Yeah, there’s a catch there too.  The 5-day trial is only a trial if you don’t… well, try anything.  If you sign up for any of the services, then you automatically forfeit your first month’s subscription fee.  That’s not any kind of trail I’ve ever heard of.  Besides, I’m a fan of the Sam Walton style of customer service.  It’s rumored that the following exchange once happened at an early WalMart meeting:

Sam: “If a customer wants his money back — give it to him!  I don’t care if he rolls a used tire down the asile and wants to return it.”

Manager on staff: “Umm, Mr. Walton… WalMart doesn’t sell tires.”

Sam: <looks man straight in the eyes and replies> “I said, Give him his money back!”

Well, hopefully I paid my $9.99 to save you the agony.  So, when you see advertisers that I promote here on the blog, know that they offer services that I have used and appreciate.  If someone does a terrible job, I promise not to tell you they did an ok job just so I can make a couple of bucks on the affiliate program.  In this case, if you get a chance to check out EngineSeeker.com — go ahead and pass on that “opportunity”.