123 Internet Group - Blog: 06_08
Milton Keynes 01908 231 230
Northampton 01604 231 231
Bedford & Luton 01234 432 431
Peterborough 01733 822 821
 
  • 123 Internet Group
  • Web Design
  • Web Development
  • Search Engine Marketing SEO
  • Secure Web Hosting & Email
  • Social Media Networking
  • Outsourced Specialist SEO
  • Email Marketing
  • Online Page-Turn PDF Brochures
  • Text / SMS Marketing Services
  • VOIP / IP Telephony Services
  • Mobile Apps
  • CD / DVD Duplication & Full CD / DVD Printing
  • Low Cost, Competitive, High Quality Colour Printing
 

Monday, August 28, 2006

AOL - The Greased Pig of Search is About to Get Caught

The greased pig of the search world is about to get caught. Apparently the pig is a prized ham after all.

For the past three months, AOL has been acting like the greased pig of the search engine world. Each of the other major players has been trying to capture a piece of AOL but according to the breathless reporting in publications such as the Wall St. Journal, Search Engine Watch, CNet News and WebProNews, AOL has been playing each against the other. It is much easier to understand the motivation of the four-legged greased pigs than it is to figure out the game of negotiated brinksmanship AOL is playing. In the traditional country fair version of the game, the greased pigs do not wish to be caught. When such sport takes place in a boardroom owned by the greased pig however, it is somewhat reasonable for participants to assume said greased pig actually wishes to be caught. In the case of AOL's game of greased pig, appearances have often been deceiving and experiences will change during actual game play. Nevertheless, the greased pig is about to be caught and when it does, a series of events will eventually affect nearly 80% of US Internet users.

Of all the major search entities, AOL has one of the longest, most interesting and convoluted stories. It still has one of the biggest membership bases of any entity on the Internet with an estimated 97 millïon. It is owned and operated by the board of the Time Warner publishing empire. AOL purchased Time Warner in early 2000 in a legendary stöck transfer that took place weeks before the dot-com crash removed much of the value of those shares.

The major search engines wanted AOL outright but eventually found it wasn't for sale as an entity. In late October and early November, reports surfaced suggesting Yahoo, Microsoft and Google were each trying to buy AOL away from Time Warner. Observers might have thought themselves safe in assuming the Time Warner board might approve the outright sale of the AOL arm, which has been a drag on overall operations since the firms merged in 2000. In September 2003, the company officially known as AOL Time Warner moved to distance itself from its underperforming partner by dropping the name AOL from its corporate identity.

At the time of the transfer, AOL was the largest Internet Service Provider in the United States but a series of mistakes, combined with the sudden downturn in the Internet economy pushed AOL to near obscurity in the eyes of Time Warner and most long-term Internet users. Remember the days when AOL sent hundreds of millïons of unsolicited frëe AOL CDs to homes around the world promising a month of Frëe AOL access. Many, if not most, of those CDs ended up as drink coasters, Christmas tree ornaments, unpredictable Frisbees, or, home fashioned ninja throwing stars.

Like many of the geniuses that coded before them, some of most important contributions AOL's Netscape team has made to the Internet can nevër be balanced in a profït and loss ledger. Before it bought Time Warner, AOL purchased the beleaguered Netscape web browser but ended up alienating loyal Netscape users by redesigning the browser in its own image in the disastrous Netscape 6.0 release in November 2000. While the 6.0 version was a resounding flop, it stands out as the first major public open-source application and is considered the predecessor of the massively popular Firefox browser. One of the least appreciated assets owned by AOL was the group of open-source programmers who developed Netscape and moved on to förm the independent Mozilla Foundation.

Again, like many of those that coded before them, the power of AOL's reach was grievously underappreciated because the conditions to exercise that power had not been realized. America had not gone broadband as quickly as expected and the massive migration towards digital convergence has until this year been treated as a dot-bomb pipe dream by mainstream corporate investors. Nöw that over 75% of US Internet users are accessing via big-pipes, video and audio content (stuff folks will pay for) is nöw easily served. In short, investors see a way to easily and inexpensively get products to consumers. As anyone with a sense of history will tell ya, those who invest in transportation of goods or people tend to make a heck of a lot of monëy.

Sensing the major shifts taking place in today's publishing sector, billionaire corporate raider Carl Ichan who currently controls 2.8% of Time Warner's shares has set his sights on Time Warner chief Richard Parsons. He wants Parsons out and is expected to be planning the break-up of the empire if he can mount a successful hostile challenge against the Board of Directors. The pending shareholders fight might be the biggest reason Time Warner's board seems to have backed down from selling AOL or even allowing another firm to purchase a stake in it, even after months of negotiations with MSN, Google and Yahoo. The Board was acting like a greased pig, not in reaction to the competitive bids from the Big3 but in reaction to the competitive challenge Ichan is mounting against Parsons. AOL is simply worth too much in the near future to sell off or compromise today, even if it would have provided a massive return for investors.

Earlier this month, Ichan warned the Time Warner board he would hold them personally responsible if AOL was sold at too low a price. Shortly thereafter, AOL changed its tune and took itself off the open market, later saying that it would not even sell a stake in the company.

At the end of the day however, all greased pigs must be caught and AOL, no matter how wily is no exception. The Wall Street Journal reported today that AOL and Microsoft are about to sign a deal that will remove Google from AOL's search page in mid-2006 and replace it with MSN generated results and paid advertising.

AOL and Google have been partners in search since 2002 when Google provided the vast majority of search results seen on almost every search engine, including rival Yahoo. Under the present arrangement, AOL retains approximately 80% of ad revenue generated by AdWords advertising displayed across the AOL network. That agreement, set to expire in mid-2006, was good for about $300 millïon in revenues for AOL last year.

A deal between AOL and MSN will give the two firms access to over 140 millïon subscribed members, making it the largest online content and advertising alliance in the world. Yahoo has approximately 122 millïon registered users per month and Google has about 86 millïon. Though discussions about selling a stake in AOL are no longer on the table, chairperson Richard Parsons applied a bit more grease as he told a Tuesday news conference that AOL remained in talks with "multiple parties".

That reminds me of something my grand-pappy used to say. "Nevër fight with a pig Jim, nevër fight with a pig." To this day I have no idea what he meant, but the expression is stuck in my head. Perhaps he simply had the family trait of foresight as he died years before the public even considered personal computers. You see; AOL's Board of Directors might have actually initiated the greased pig contest as a front in another fight they are facing with Ichan while, at the same time, playing Google, Microsoft and Yahoo off against each other in order to force a stronger settlement from one or more of them. Pigs are said to be one of the brightest four legged animals and, at the end of the day, this one has behaved beyond expectations and provided a captive audience with the greatest greased pig catching contest of all time. Yee Haw.


About The Author
Jim Hedger is a writer, speaker and search engine marketing expert based in Victoria BC. Jim writes and edits full-time for StepForth and is also an editor for the Internet Search Engine Database. He has worked as an SEO for over 5 years and welcomes the opportunïty to share his experience through interviews, articles and speaking engagements. He can be reached at jimhedger@stepforth.com

posted by Scott Jones @ 8:49 am 0 comments links to this post

Wireless Router & Security: A Step-By-Step Guide

Setting up a wireless router is easy. Essentially you turn your cable or DSL modem off and your wireless router on. Then, you connect the router to the modem with a cable, and turn the modem back on. You are more or less done. The wireless network wizard on your computer will pick up the router and, if your ISP does not have any special requirements, away-you-go, you are on the Internet.

For ease of setup and configuration, manufacturers ship wireless routers with all security disabled. Therein lies the problem. If you do not take any further steps to secure your router, and a surprising number of people don't, your network will be wide open to all passersby and strangers. It's like you've hung out a sign, "The door is open. Please come in and help yourself."

The problem is not that strangers will be able to use your router to access the Internet but that, without further protection, would-be intruders will be able monitor and sniff out information you send and receive on your network. Malicious intruders can even hop on to your internal network; access your hard drives; and, steal, edit, or delete files on your computer.

The good news is that it is relatively easy to secure your wireless router. Here are three basic steps you should take.

1. Password Protect the Access to Your Router's Internal Configuration

To access your router's internal setup, open a browser and enter the routers setup URL. The URL will be specified in the manual. The URLs for D-Link and Linksys routers, two major manufacturers of wireless routers, are http://192.168.0.1 and http://192.168.1.1, respectively.

For Linksys routers, leave the user name blank and type "admin" (without the quotes) in the password field and press enter. To change the password, simply clïck on the Password tab and enter your new password.

For other routers, please consult your manual. Alternately, you can search on the Internet with the term "default login for". Don't be surprised to find quite a number of pages listing default login parameters for many different routers, even uncommon ones.

2. Change the Default SSID (Service Set IDentifier)

The SSID is the name of a WLAN (Wireless Local Area Network). All wireless devices on a WLAN use SSIDs to communicate with each other.

Routers ship with standard default SSIDs. For example, the default SSID for Linksys routers is, not unsurprisingly, "Linksys". As you can see, if you don't change the default SSID of your router a would-be intruder armed with a few common SSIDs from major manufacturers will be able to find your wireless network quite easily.

To change the SSID, clïck on the Wireless tab. Look for an input item labeled SSID. It will be near the top. Enter a new name for network. Don't use something like "My Network". Use a name that is be hard to guess.

3. Disable SSID Broadcast

Wireless enabled computers use network discovery software to automatically search for nearby SSIDs. Some of the more advanced software will query the SSIDs of nearby networks and even display their names. Therefore, changing the network name only helps partially to secure your network. To prevent your network name from being discovered, you must disable SSID broadcast.

In the same screen that you changed the name of your network, you will see options for SSID broadcast. Choose "Disable SSID" to make your network invisible. Nöw save all your settings and log out.

Since your wireless network is nöw invisible, you will have to configure your computers to connect to your wireless network using the new name. On Windows XP, start by clicking on the wireless icon in the Notification Area and proceed from there.

With these three steps, your network nöw has basic security. However, if you keep sensitive information on your computers, you may want to secure your wireless network even further. For example, you can:

Change the channel your router uses to transmit and receive data on a regularly basis.
Restrict devices that can connect to the router by filtering out MAC (Media Access Control) addresses.
Use encryption such as WEP and WPA.

As with most things in life, security is a trade off between cost (time, monëy, inconvenience) and benefit (ease of use). It is a personal decision you make. However for the majority of home uses, the three basic steps plus WEP/WPA encryption provides reasonably strong security.

Turning on encryption is a two-step process. First you configure your router to use encryption using an encryption key of your choice. And then, you configure your computer to use the encryption key. The actual process of configuring your router for encryption varies from router to router. Please consult the router's manual.

There are even stronger methods for ensuring security. A strong and robust security method is RADIUS (Remote Authentication Dial In User Service). Using RADIUS requires additional hardware and software. However, there are companies that offer RADIUS security as a subscription based service. The fees are reasonable and dropping.

Therefore for example, if you run a business on your wireless network, have sensitive data on your computers such as credit card information, and have a number of users who access your network, you should consider using RADIUS. Since the service sector for RADIUS is dynamic and growing, a search on the Internet with terms like "RADIUS subscription" or "RADIUS service" is probably the best way to locate one.


About The Author
Brian Medini in association with http://computer-internet.marc8.com. More on wireless networks at: http://computer-internet.marc8.com/top/wireless

posted by Scott Jones @ 8:48 am 0 comments links to this post

Purchasing Links for Pagerank

It nevër ceases to amaze me how one company (Google) can literally support hundreds, if not thousands, of other companies and industries. What I am referring to hëre is the unbelievable number of sub-industries that have developed around every nuance of Google or the other search engines. Think about some of the aspects of SEO, and undoubtedly you will find a niche industry with several companies who focus on that specific aspect, and make good monëy doing so.

One such sub-industry is the linking industry. As you all (undoubtedly) know, Google bases part of its ranking algorithm on the number, quality, and variety of inbound links to a website. Lately Google has thrown in the wrinkle of looking more heavily at authority links, but the concept is still the same, and more importantly, the message is still the same to website owners: linking is important.

Because getting quality links is important, entrepreneurs have jumped into action developing every sort of flavor of a company promising to get website owners hundreds (if not thousands) of quality inbound links. Among these companies are link exchange communities, software programs, article writing systems, blog creation systems (or splog creation systems), and link purchasing. Today we are going to just focus on purchasing links as the subject has been in the news lately.

Link Buying – What Is It?

Link buying is a very simple idea. Website owners need high quality (read high PR) inbound links. Websites that are of high quality are looking to monetize their websites. The opportunïty is thus created – high quality websites open a section on their website where a website owner can purchase a plain text link with the hopes of improving their website ranking.

Nöw, admittedly, link buying has become a bit more complicated than this. What started off simply as one website owner asking another if they would link to them for a fee is nöw a significant industry. We have link brokers, advanced link management systems, etc. The idea is still the same, however – buy a quality link with the hopes of increasing your ranking.

Is Link Buying OK With the Search Engines?

Well, Google does not like link buying. It is Google's view that buying and selling text links lowers the overall value and trustworthiness of links on the Internet. Matt Cutts posted back in September how Google and many of the people at Google feel about buying and selling links. In a word, they don't like it at all. Although they recognize that some people would buy links just for the traffïc, it is their opinion that if someone wants to buy a link, they should add the "nofollow" attribute to the link to make sure that it does not get included in a search engine ranking.

Yahoo has also come out against purchasing links. However, blogger Jeremy Zawodny, who also happens to be an employee of Yahoo's search department started selling links on his blog. The link will be around for 1 month as he is testing various monetization methods on his site. These links, for those of you paying attention, do not contain the "no follow" attribute. Although this does not constitute an official endorsement of buying and selling links, it does mean that at least one influential person at Yahoo is at least open to the idea of using link purchasing as a valid monetization of a website.

As a sidenote, could this be a bit of a glimpse at how Google and Yahoo! Rank websites? We all know that Google puts a lot of emphasis on the meaning of links from one site to another, which is why they are fighting so hard to reduce link trading and link purchasing. Is this possibly a glimpse showing us that Yahoo does not put as much weïght on links as Google? Or could it be that Yahoo is more confident in their ability to determine a page's natural relevancy?

So Should I Buy Links?

It would be so easy to say that buying links is a decent practice and that you will nevër get in trouble for doing so. Heck, I would love to be able to buy a few links, including one on Jeremy's blog. But the truth is, if you want to rank well in either search engine for the long-term and not face a future penalty, you should probably refrain from buying links. Google has stated several times (many times through Matt Cutts) that buying links is not an acceptable practice and that doing so can get you in trouble. Matt shows an example of where this is the case at http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/tell-me-about-your-backlinks/. According to him, Google has gotten quite adept at identifying purchased links.

I have no doubt that there are thousands of examples of sites that have purchased links only to see their rankings improve significantly. I seriously doubt that Google or any search engine that places significant weïght on linking can properly determine whether every link is bought or natural. You may be able to buy a link and have great success with it.

But when it all comes down to the choice you have to make, you have to realize that link buying is a risk. If a search engine catches you buying or selling a link, they will undoubtedly consider your site to be more questionable. What we must also realize is that they are no longer relying simply on scripts to identify what they consider to be sp@m, they are also using human eyes to confirm what their scripts find.

The Exception to This Rule

Every rule has its exception, and this rule is no exception. There is a legitïmate förm of link buying. One of the really good things that has come about from link trading, buying and selling is that we have learned that plain text links have the ability to bring in real traffïc. If this is what you are after, then buy links to your heart's content.

Of course, you might want to make sure that you don't get in trouble for buying links, even if your intention is completely innocent. Although Google has gotten better at determining what links are purchased and what links are natural, they still can not determine a person's intent. To keep yourself safe, always request that the person you are buying the link from adds the "nofollow" attribute. This will protect both you and them from getting penalized.

Overall Linking Strategies

The conversation of linking schemes and methods is one that has been played out in many different forms. Many people have had success manipulating linking schemes, and there are some very good organizations out there that can get you a quality inbound link. Regardless of what new scheme you hear about or even participate in, your biggest linking goal should always be to find those high quality, one-way inbound links that occur naturally. These would be the type where someone links over to your website because you actually have some quality content to offer rather than some monëy or deal to offer.

Linking strategies and schemes will no-doubt evolve. I have heard of a few recently which I think can be very successful, but nothing will ever beat a quality, natural link from a source that links to you because you have something to offer.


About The Author
Mark Daoust is the owner of Site-Reference.com.

This article may be reprinted as long as an active link remains to the original article, which can be found at http://www.site-reference.com/articles/.

posted by Scott Jones @ 8:47 am 0 comments links to this post

SEO For The Big Three

Ranking your website highly on one of the "big three" search engines (Google, Yahoo or MSN) is a daunting task let alone ranking your website highly on all three. Three engines, three algorithms, three different sets of rules - and yet there are websites out there that have first page rankings across them all – how do they do it?
While all of the major search engines use different algorithms, the end goal of all three is the same: to provide the searcher with the most relevant results available. It is this one common thread that makes it possible for an SEO to rank a website highly across all the major engines. While there are a variety of factors at play and an even wider variation in the weïght each of these factors are given – the possible variations that can produce relevant results are limited.

For example, if inbound links are given 0% weïght then insignificant sites will rank highly for high-competition phrases. Many reputable companies such as Microsoft could löse rankings for their own names so links must and will always hold value. On the other hand, if links were to hold 100% weïght then sp@mming the search engines would be a simple matter and so there are a limited number of possible variables in between these extremes that this factor can have, no matter which engine we are optimizing for.

That said, there are still three main engines with three distinct algorithms despite common requirements. To clarify how to optimize for all of them it's easiest to discuss them individually first. Due to the way their algorithms work, it is best to expect rankings on MSN first, followed by Yahoo! and finally Google (I am assuming that the phrase is at least moderately competitive). For this reason, we will discuss them individually in that order.

SEO for MSN

Proper SEO for MSN requires that a site be structured well with a distinct theme throughout and many inbound links. The advantage an SEO has while optimizing a site for MSN is that MSN tends to pick up and credït new content and inbound links very quickly. That means that with the right tactics in place, one can rank a website relatively quickly on this important engine.

While MSN has the lowest number of searches performed on it, ComScore's report back in July revealed that MSN searchers were also 48% more likely to purchase a product or service online than the average Internet user. A very important statistic for website owners that sell online.

To rank highly on MSN one needs to build a solid sized site (exactly how large will depend on your industry – look at the size of your competitors' sites for an idea), a relevant theme throughout the site that focuses on your primary keywords and a good number of links. MSN doesn't (at this time) employ an aging delay on links such as the one employed by both Google and Yahoo! so the effects of the site and inbound links can be picked up very quickly and with good SEO efforts one can rank well within a few months on MSN for competitive phrases.

SEO for Yahoo!

Until recently Yahoo! acted very much like MSN, but nöw it's leaning a bit more towards Google. Ranking a website well on Yahoo! requires a solid-sized site with unique content and a very good number of links.

While PageRank is a Google factor, Yahoo! does have some type of page value factor at play. Many moons ago Yahoo! was playing with a PageRank-like calculation called WebRank. They even went so far as to put out a beta toolbar testing it. This indicates that there is a factor at play in the Yahoo! algorithm similar to Google's PageRank – they just don't advertise what a specific page's value is.

Yahoo! is placing a fair amount of emphasis on the age of links though not in the same way that Google is. We will get to Google shortly, however to understand what to expect from Yahoo! one must understand that when you get a link to your website it won't deliver its full value for a number of months. While the exact number of months in unknown, it appears to be around 8 before it delivers its full weïght, though it will hold some weïght from day one and this weïght will increase as time passes.

To rank well on Yahoo!, you must optimize your site similar to what you would do for MSN and you must build a large number of inbound links and have patience as these links age. You will not see a sudden spike 2 weeks after a large link-building campaign. You will likely have to wait 3-4 months to notice any significant effect.

SEO For Google

Virtually every webmaster and website owner is primarily concerned about attaining Google rankings because of the significantly higher number of searchers using it. Provided that you are building your website following the best practices of SEO (i.e. unique content, a sizable amount of content, and a good number of incoming links), then your rankings are sure to follow. However, because of the aging delay it will likely take longer than for MSN or Yahoo! Google considers the age of your links, your domain and even the individual page to be factors, and the longer your page has been online the better.

Essentially, ranking a site on Google requires that you take the same actions as for the other two, continue your link building efforts on an ongoing basis to ensure that you end up with more-and-more links, and that you update your content and add content on a fairly regular basis (through the addition of a blog for example).

Tying It Together

The logical process for a new website or one at the first stages of SEO is to first target MSN. At this point, you can focus your attention on continuing to build high-quality, relevant links to, and content on, your site which will continue to increase your value on Yahoo! and Google.

Analysis will be required to determine exactly what weïght you will be giving to different areas. For example, if your onsite factors are optimized for MSN, then you know that you will need to make up for this in the offsite factors for Yahoo! and Google. If you figured you would need 100 links to rank on Google, then you will nöw need to up that number to account for the fact that you have optimized your site for a different engine.

During the analysis process you will likely want to use a tool to speed up the process of keyword density analysis and competitor link analysis. At Beanstalk we use a tool called Total Optimizer Pro though there are others out there (note: I have yet to find one that does what this one does as quickly and easily).

Conclusion

I am hoping that none of you read the title and were expecting to rank on the first page of all three major engines next week. Ranking highly on all three major engines takes time, patience and a good few rounds of tweaking to get the perfect balance of onsite and offsite optimization. Of course, as you can gather, done properly it's well worth the effort.


About The Author
Dave Davies is the CEO of Beanstalk Search Engine Positioning, Inc.. Dave writes with years of expreience in SEO and optimization tactics. Watch Beanstalk's SEO news blog for details on the publication of a 4-part series on ranking your website highly accross the "big three engines" in January of 2006. Dave would like to thank TopNet Solutions for the development of Total Optimizer Pro - a comprehensive SEO tool that provides a blueprint of how the top 10 got there, so you can too.

posted by Scott Jones @ 8:46 am 0 comments links to this post

Small Business Podcasting Demystified

Much has been written lately about the subject of podcasting. Podcasting is a very powerful small business tool but, some are kept away because it all sounds so technical.

In this article I will attempt to simplify the subject.

Let's start with the Podcast definition from the growing resource Wikipedia: What is a podcast - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Podcast.

The definition provided by Wikipedia is a good place for you to start, but let me just add my take. A podcast is little more than an audio file (usually an mp3) placed on a website and combined with an RSS file that allows people to subscribe and automatically download any new content recordings.

From a technical standpoint, there's nothing really too complicated about podcasting so don't think this is some geeky tech stuff. From a marketing standpoint, I didn't get too excited about the concept until Apple decided to make a podcast directory a primary component of iTunes. When that happened the market for podcasting on any subject imaginable was born.

Podcast Basics

Podcasts are typically published with a blogging tool like Blogger, TypePad, or MovableType. If you already use one of these blog services, creating your podcast is as simple as linking to your audio files and using a service like FeedBurner to automatically convert it into a podcast friendly feed. (More on that in a minute)

Create Content

Most podcasts are formatted much like radio shows. Hosts will interview guests or simply decide to talk about a subject that they feel is of interest to someone. From a business standpoint it can be a very powerful way to produce content that will make your website more interactive.

The plumber that records simple how to fix it podcasts will own the world! (Videocasts are just around the corner too.) There are a couple other very good reasons to host a podcast that may not directly have to do with content per se. Think about interviewing your clients on the benefits of using your service and posting those interviews as a podcast. Think that might make your best client even more loyal?

What about referral partners? What if you identified business owners that also serve your target market and invited them to be guests on your podcast. My guess is that you could instantly build a network of leading businesses with you as the hub. When you publish a podcast, whether you have a local or national audience, you become a member of the media. The tables are suddenly turned when you approach prospects and influential individuals. When you are the publisher of a podcast you have the opportunïty to gain access to the decision makers inside your biggest prospects – by simply requesting an interview. Do you see the potential in that?

Record

As I wrote earlier, a podcast is a digital recording so one of the steps you must complete for each session is to record your podcast. There are many ways to accomplish this task. You can use a portable mp3 recorder, use a service to record a telephone interview, record an interview using any number of VoIP services or create a recording set-up for your computer. (Obviously, you can go into a professional recording studio too.)

This article is not meant to explain in great detail every element of working with digital audio files but there are many ways to accomplish this step when you determine what your podcast needs are.

A great set-up for recording you own voice is to use a professional mic and a frëe software program called Audacity (Audacity has some very useful editing functions as well)

For telephone interviews you can use a service such as Conference Calls Unlimïted. CCU offers a telephone bridge line, recording, editing and hostíng of your mp3 file.

VoIP is a PC to PC or PC to telephone service led by a service called Skype. This is a particularly good option for International calls. A host of add-ons are cropping up to build even greater functionality into Skype.

Evoca
Gabcast
Skype VoIP calling
Conference Calls Unlimïted
Audacity free audio recorder and editor
Skype recording that interfaces with Outlook

Edit

You may find that after you conduct an interview you want to add some music or cut out segments. Again, look no further than Audacity (It's frëe and works very well).

File Host

Once you record your podcast you must upload the file to a server. There are services that offer recording and hosting options but, all you really need is enough space with your current web host to upload your mp3 files. Either way, you will simply link to the mp3 file from a blog post or web page. Below are some other options.

Podblaze
OurMedia
Audioblog
Liberated Syndication

RSS Feed

One of things that makes a podcast something more than an mp3 file is the addition of a podcast format RSS feed. This is simply a file that is updated every time you add an mp3 file so that subscribers through iTunes or some other Podcast service can automatically download your new content.

Podcasts do require a specific kind of RSS feed but, the only thing you need to do is go to a frëe service called FeedBurner and allow them to convert your blog feed or other RSS feed to work for podcasting. They can also set your feed up the way that iTunes and Yahoo Podcast want it set-up.

FeedBurner - Enhance a blog feed
Feed for all - Create a feed

Submit

Just like websites and blogs, podcasting has its own set of directories. You need to make a point of submitting your podcast or podcast feed (the one you formatted with FeedBurner) to the major podcast directories and engines.

ODEO
iTunes
Podcast.net
Singing Fish
Podcast Alley
Podcast News
Yahoo Podcast
Digital Podcast

Apple's Podcasting FAQs
Apple's Podcast technical specifications

Music and Intros

Maybe you want a cool music beat to kick off your show or a big radio voice type intro.

Royalty free music
Professional intros and outros

Listening and Searching

You should subscribe to and listen to podcasts to get a good idea of some of the ways people are using this tool for business. You will need what is sometimes referred to as a podcatcher to subscribe. If you have iTunes you already have one. (Most of the time you can visit a podcast site and simply listen to the mp3 file if you have an mp3 player like Windows Media Player or RealPlayer installed on your computer.)

iTunes
Juice
Doppler

Misc. Podcast Gear
Search audio files

Podcast Tutorials and Forums

Podstrigs
About.com
Podcast Alley
Podcasting News
FeedBurner's Podcast Guide

My Set-Up

Just in case you are curious, here's how I podcast. I use Conference Calls Unlimïted to provide my recording and editing. I hook up with a guest by telephone, conduct the interview and about 24 hours later receive a link to the edited mp3 file to link to from my podcast blog.

My intro was produced my AudioBag.com.

My RSS feed was created and enhanced by FeedBurner.

There are lots of things that you can do to make your podcast even more professional. In this article I've attempted to demystify the major points and get you interested in producing your own podcast.


About The Author
John Jantsch is a veteran marketing coach, award winning blogger and author of Duct Tape Marketing: The World's Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide published by Thomas Nelson - due out in the fall of 2006. He is the creator of the Duct Tape Marketing small business marketing system. You can find more information by visiting http://www.ducttapemarketing.com.

posted by Scott Jones @ 8:44 am 0 comments links to this post

Google's New Patent Translated

There is always great interest within the search engine marketing community whenever a search engine files for a patent. This is especially true for Google, which just recently released a new patent application - System and method for supporting editorial opinion in the ranking of search results.

However, we must keep in mind that just because a patent has been applied for or granted, the search engines may or may not implement the patent within their primary search results.

Nevertheless, these patents often do give us clues about what the search engines are looking for in a website.

Some of Google's patents have given us insight into the influence of anchor text, fresh content, themes, data history, link popularity, user behavior, and domain-related information.

However, Google's most recent patent application shows a shift from focusing on algorithm-based changes to the integration of a human editorial process.

Ultimately, Google is striving to create the best possible search results for their visitors. This patent proposes one possible method for doing that.

For the most part, search engine algorithms have reached their peak. We've known for quite some time that an algorithm-based search engine can nevër permanently deliver excellent results. Why, you might ask. Simply because there will always be people out there trying to reverse-engineer the system.

Therefore, a cat and mouse game is created.

Out of this problem, a number of solutions have evolved. One of these is social search engines, which rank their results based on the wisdom of crowds. Another solution to arise from this problem is a human editorial process.

And now, Google has proposed in their patent application a hybrid mechanism which combines algorithmic search with a human based editorial process. By integrating editorial opinion, they are looking to enhance the quality of their search results.

The patent describes the process of identifying favored and non-favored sources in order to improve search results.

Favored Sources: Websites that are identified as being useful or containing authoritative content on the desired topic.

Non-Favored Sources: Websites that are identified as sources of misinformation or over-promotion on that particular topic.

Basically, Google is trying to patent a system for identifying good sites and bad sites in order to rank them accordingly in the SERPs.

They have proposed a semi-automatic system for determining favored and non-favored sources.

"In an implementation consistent with the present invention, the set of favored and non-favored sources may be automatically determined. To accomplish this, exemplary queries in the query theme may be classified into a set of topics (e.g., an online topic hierarchy, such as Yahoo!, Open Directory, or Google) using the approach for classification described above. Web hosts that appear in the URLs associated with the best matching topics to the query theme may be taken to be favored sources. For example, if the query theme is "sites that help in finding accommodation," then web hosts listed under the Open Directory category "http://dmoz.org/Recreation/Travel/Lodging" can be taken as favored sources."

In addition, they have also combined with this a new system of relevancy and theme-based queries to improve their results.

"For example, for the query theme "sites that provide frëe downloads," web sites that actually provide frëe software downloads would be considered "favored sources" and web sites that mislead search engines with words such as "free" and "download" (popularly known as "spam techniques"), but do notin fact provide access to frëe downloads, would be considered "non-favored sources."

The patent application infers that "resource" sites have a brighter future in the search engines, especially Google. Therefore, don't be afraid to link out to other sites. The more value you provide to your visitor, the more you will be rewarded in the end. Your ultimate goal is to become an authority in your particular topic.

As an online marketer, you should also put more thought into the quality of the pages your site delivers as a whole. This is one of the very few patents that refers to a site as a whole rather than individual pages.

Conclusion:

For the smart SEO, this should not change your methods. As always, quality content is the key. If you are providing your visitors with relevant, quality content, then the search engines will reward you.

A number of interesting ideas were brought up in this patent. It appears that relevancy and quality content play a major role. However, there is still the question of which factors will be considered in determining favored sites. Will inclusion in DMOZ or Yahoo! be a requirement? If so, many webmasters may take a dim view of this approach.

Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see how Google changes over the next few years. Algorithm based search results will continue to be problematic because there will always be those who try to beat the system. Implementing some sort of human editorial opinion into the ranking process seems inevitable.

In the end, this is true for all of the major search engines. Yahoo, Google, MSN, and AskJeeves must all provide quality search results to compete within this industry. To be truly successful, they will have to go beyond algorithm-based results to deliver the most value for their visitors.


Did You Find This Article Useful? Then Digg It.

About The Author
Kim Roach is a staff writer and editor for the SiteProNews and SEO-News newsletters. You can also find additional tips and news on webmaster and SEO topics by Kim at the SiteProNews blog. Kim's email is: kim @ seo-news.com

posted by Scott Jones @ 8:33 am 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Copywriting With Google's Dynamic Keyword Insertion Tool

Automation is an odd creature. It usually seems, at first glance, that automating a process can make things easier, simpler and faster. But oftentimes, once an automated process is in place, trouble spots pop up. This is sometimes the case when looking at the copywriting aspect of Google's dynamic keyword insertion tool.

In case you're unfamiliar with dynamic keyword insertion (DKI), it's a feature of Google's AdWords program. It is often used for large campaigns in order to automatically insert the keyword into the headline of an ad. Truly, it's a lifesaver for many pay-per-click (PPC) ad managers who have to stay on top of thousands of ads every day. It's all done with a simple syntax command: {keyword:_______}.

From a timesaving standpoint, this is a wonder tool that has rescued PPC managers from the mind-numbing chore of typing the same keywords over and over. From an economic point-of-view, DKI *can* (not always) perform well enough to make it a viable option for largër campaigns. But what happens with regard to copywriting and eye tracking?

See It and Clíck It

The human eye is normally drawn to things that are unusual. Things that look out of place or different get noticed far more than things that blend in. For instance, on a page full of black text and black & white photographs, a small red square in the bottom corner will get focused on almost immediately. Why? Because it is completely different than everything else around it.

This same principle applies when considering your copywriting strategy for AdWords. When using DKI, you'll want to keep your eye on the results pages. Why? We've all heard that using the keyphrase in the headline pulls better. It does. Most of the time. There is an exception, however. This exception is what you'll be watching.

In fact, a study done last year by Enquiro, Did-It and Eyetools tracked users' interactions with the Google search results page. It found that surfers normally reviewed the page in an F formation. They would scan vertically down the left side of the page and then over to the right (where paid ads are) *IF* something caught their attention. That's the point we'll explore in this article.

In order to get clicks, you first have to get seen. If your ad looks and reads like all the rest, you've completely lost your originality advantage.

See For Yoursëlf

Copywriting using DKI is a balancing act. You have to consider several factors, including the character count of your longest keyphrase, your ability to add text to the keyword-rich headline and how the ad looks on the page.

Take a look at some examples below. Remember that AdWords results show differently at various points throughout the day (and in relation to individual account parameters), so you may not see exactly what I saw when doing this research. I'm sure it will be close enough for you to get the idea.

Go to Google and type in the phrase "cruise vacation center" (without using the quote marks). See how all the ads look different? They don't all have the same words bolded. They don't all use the same copy. The bold words stand out because they are different. In this case, your eye will usually go first to the ads with bolded words in the headline.

You see ads offering a 6-night cruise for $xx.xx and other ads promoting X% off on a cruise vacation, etc. There is diversity and that's a good thing.

Now, what if you type in "home improvement"? (Again, without the quotes.) If your results page looks like mine, practically every ad has the exact same headline: home improvement. Not only do most of the ads look the same, the headlines read the same. Your eye doesn't know where to go because everything seems identical. But wait! About four or five ads down, something catches your eye. It's an ad that has no bold in the headline. That stands out because it's different! As you scroll further down the page, more ads with no bold in the headlines pop out at you. In this case, because everyone else has opted for the DKI feature, their headlines are all very similar, making them less noticeable. But the ones who wrote custom headlines won out, thanks to diversity.

Tips for Writing With DKI

If you want or need to write using the DKI option, consider these tips:

1. Use a descriptive word along with your keyphrase. Instead of just inserting the phrase "airline tickets," place the word "discount" or "cheap" before your keyphrase to help it stand out.
2. For keyphrases that will take the entire 25-character limit, consider using one word of the keyphrase in the headline, instead of the entire phrase. Rather than "home improvement," try inserting just "home" or "improvement" along with other text you write yourself.

3. Keep it applicable. Your headline still has to convey a strong message about what the customer can expect at your site.

4. Test & Track! Everything in advertising is subject to change. Smart marketers always test and track to get the best results.

With a little forethought, you can develop a combination of DKI and custom-written AdWords ads that drive qualified visitors to your site.


About The Author
Copy not getting results? Learn to write SEO and online copywriting that impresses the engines and your visitors at http://www.copywritingcourse.com. Be sure to also chëck out Karon's report How To Increase Keyword Saturation (Without Destroying the Flow of Your Copy).

posted by Scott Jones @ 9:35 am 0 comments links to this post

Friday, August 18, 2006

How to Integrate RSS Into Your Marketing Mix

RSS is changing the way we consume information online. Instead of being overloaded with mounds of information in our inbox, we can pick and choose exactly which content providers we want to hear from.

On the other side of the story are the publishers. Not only is RSS changing the way visitors view information, but it is also opening up vast opportunities for publishers wanting to syndicate their content across the Internet.

RSS is turning into one of the most popular distribution channels for webmasters, publishers, article writers and news syndicators. With RSS, you have the opportuníty to have a continual digital conversation with your readers. You can use RSS to syndicate a wide variety of media formats including text, video, and audio.

No longer is the Web all about text. You can use RSS to syndicate your very own talk show, weekly podcast, or a collection of video tutorials.

With over 100 RSS and blog search engines available online, it's time that you started integrating RSS into your marketing mix. This article will outline how you can combine the power of RSS with your current marketing activities.

To begin, let's start with email marketing. Some people have predicted that RSS will one day overtake email as the top communication model. However, this is not likely to happen considering the differences between these two technologies. Instead, the two should be combined to form a powerful marketing duo.

Email Marketing and RSS Intertwine

You can complement your email marketing campaigns with one or more RSS feeds. By providing your readers with alternatives, you will reach a much largër number of subscribers.

There are a number of ways that you can integrate RSS into your current email marketing campaign.

1. Use RSS to announce each new issue of your ezine. Announce your e-zine in your RSS feed as a single RSS content item. When your subscribers click-through, they can access your newsletter in full on your website, drawing additional visitors to your content.

2. If you are currently using email autoresponders, provide those very same autoresponders as RSS feeds. You can do this at http://www.zookoda.com .

Using RSS, you can syndicate a wide variety of content. One of the most obvious uses of RSS is to deliver content updates to your users. RSS is an excellent communication medium for delivering daily updates of your web site content. You can't expect your visitors to come back to your site every day to chëck for updates, but with an RSS feed they can quickly pick up any changes that interest them.

However, this is just the beginning of what is possible with RSS.

Deliver Content Updates, News, and So Much More...

You can also use RSS feeds to deliver news announcements, forum discussion updates, new product releases, quick tips, quotes, new coupons, job listings, classifieds, and real estate listings.

RSS can even be used to deliver content that is not available on your site. Let's face it, you cannot possibly publish all of the great information that is available on your site's particular topic.

However, you can supply your users with a content aggregation service that directs them to the best content within your industry.

With all of the digital junk that is currently being delivered online, you would be delivering an extremely valuable service simply by syndicating the most important and relevant information within a particular niche.

Keep in mind that relevant information goes beyond whether or not the content relates to your visitors' interests. Relevant information can also speak to each individual user. Just like email marketing, you can use personalization within your RSS feeds to increase your response rate.

Speak Directly to Your Visitors with Personalized RSS Feeds

One of my favorite examples of personalization can be found at Babycenter.com. As soon as you enter the site, you are asked for two pieces of information:

Your due date or your child's birthday and...
Your email address

After you submit your information you start receiving a weekly e-zine that is relevant to your pregnancy stage or the age of your child. If you have a 2-year old, you'll be receiving articles, tips and product recommendations for that age.

Do you see the power in this? By using profiling, webmasters are able to send information that is highly relevant to their readers on a case-by-case basis.

You could use this same idea with your RSS feeds.

Basic personalization might include elements such as the reader's first name, while more advanced personalization might deliver personalized content, product recommendations and so on.

Once you have decided on what type of content you would like to syndicate, you must then start organizing content for your feed. If you want to use RSS to its full potential, then I would highly advise you to create multiple RSS feeds for your users.

Use Multiple RSS Feeds to Increase Your Exposure

You can do this by creating RSS feeds for each category of content you cover. This extends your reach and marketing capability. Do not pack all of your content under one generic RSS feed. This is not beneficial for you or your visitors. By breaking your RSS feeds into categories, your visitors will be able to tap into the exact information that they are looking for.

For example, visitors who only want to keep up with forum updates shouldn't have to sift through articles, news, and other content.

When you begin marketing your RSS feeds, keep in mind that this is still a fairly new technology.

RSS Isn't Quite Mainstream, So Educate Your Visitors

Take your visitors step-by-step through the process of locating, subscribing and reading an RSS feed. By doing this, you are informing your website visitors and helping to promote the use of your own RSS feed.

To see a really good example of this, go to BBC News.

There is one last step to integrating RSS into your overall marketing strategy. This one is often overlooked, but can be extremely powerful when executed properly.

Take Your RSS Marketing to the Next Level with Your Affíliates

Provide your affíliates with an RSS feed of your product catalog. They can then use your feed to syndicate your latest product releases on their own websites. Whenever someone clicks on a headline, they would be directed to your web store. If they decide to make a purchase, the referring affíliate would make a commission on the sale.

Of course, this type of RSS would most likely need to be customizable, allowing the affíliate to carry only the products updates they feel would be a good match for their website.

Amazon.com has implemented this very same technique and it's time that the rest of us do so as well.

RSS is one of many ways to communicate with your customer base. RSS should not be your only communication mechanism, but rather simply a piece of the marketing puzzle. When RSS is combined with other communication models, including email and postcard marketing, your message will finally receive its true potential. When any of these techniques are used alone, they löse much of their marketing power.

Start combining your communication models to see much higher response rates.

Did You Find This Article Useful? Then Digg It.

About The Author
Kim Roach is a staff writer and editor for the SiteProNews and SEO-News newsletters. You can contact Kim at: kim @ seo-news.com

posted by Scott Jones @ 11:21 am 0 comments links to this post