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Google Search Gives Us a Sampling of Their Algorithm Changes

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The team at Google Search have recently made some changes to their overall process. In fact, they say they make over 500 changes to search in a given year. Obviously they’re not going to list all of them, since some are susceptible to gaming, but they have listed 10 changes, or “improvements” as they call it, made over the last couple of weeks.

Example of search results for "Occupy Oakland Protest"

You can see their list of changes here, but the one that most likely will interest bloggers is the “Fresher, more recent results”. Here’s what Google had to say about this tweak on their blog today:

As we announced just over a week ago, we’ve made a significant improvement to how we rank fresh content. This change impacts roughly 35 percent of total searches (around 6-10% of search results to a noticeable degree) and better determines the appropriate level of freshness for a given query.

They gave many more details at the beginning of November, explaining why they made the changes. Usually when we are searching for something on Google, we want fresh content.

One example they gave is when a person types in “Olympics”. Most likely the person searching is looking for information on the upcoming Olympic Games, not the ones from 1990. So, when you type in ‘Olympics‘ (without even specifying 2012) you’ll see search results for the upcoming Olympic Games first.

You might be asking exactly how much this affects the search results. Here is an update Google gave on November 7th:

Update 11/7/11: To clarify, when we say this algorithm impacted 35% of searches, we mean at least one result on the page was affected, as opposed to when we’ve said noticeably impacted in the past, which means changes that are significant enough that an average user would notice. Using that same scale, this change noticeably impacts 6 – 10% of searches, depending on the language and domain you’re searching on.

Have you noticed a difference in your Google search results or your blog traffic (if you blog on recent events, hot topics, etc) since this update was made?

Are QR Codes Dead?

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If QR codes are already dead, its epitaph would read “we hardly knew ye.” It seems like just yesterday that someone was explaining a QR code to me, and I’m a pretty tech-savvy person. I know that some of my less Internet-y friends don’t understand or use them, my sister doesn’t even have a smartphone, and at BlogWorld, a group of us were actually talking about how the scanning aps we have don’t work very well, so we don’t scan them very often.

So are QR codes already dead? Is this a failed technology that we should put in the “it was a cool idea that never really panned out” pile?

Recently, Dave Wieneke from AdAge wrote a piece entitled “Why Marketers Shouldn’t Waste Their Time With QR Codes.” It’s hard to disagree with his claims – that marketers love them more than consumers do. They’re overused and often just lead consumers to more advertising, which is turning off anyone who has decided to check out what this QR thing is all about.

Not everyone agrees with Wieneke, of course. On ClickZ, Melinda Krueger argues a case for QR codes and if you do a quick Google search for “cool QR codes” you’ll come up with tons of results for people and companies using them in really unique ways. At BlogWorld LA 2011, Peter Shankman actually used the Stefan Pinto ad pictured at right to highlight smart advertising – it’s an example of a QR code used in a really funny way.

But there are a lot of people misusing QR codes, and it’s perhaps making them irrelevant for all of us. I can’t tell you how many times I see QR codes on websites. Really? That doesn’t even make sense. Or when I scan a code, it often takes me to the company home page. So what? I could have found you easily online after shopping…a QR code wasn’t necessarily. There was no “next step” for users (like “liking” a Facebook page) or benefit (like getting a coupon for some free products).

I don’t think QR codes are dead…yet. They are perhaps in the hospital bed, but the disease isn’t incurable if we take action. What do you think? Are QR codes on the way out? Do you use them for your website or business? As a consumer, do you scan them when you see them as part of marketing campaigns?

How to Choose a Perfect Domain Name?

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The domain name is your Internet ID, a cornerstone of your online presence, and thus should be chosen carefully. With the ongoing increase of broadband penetration at the world level and, more importantly, rapid personalization of the user online presence, the domain is assuming even more significant role in creating a virtual destination. In general, there are three ways of using the Web space (personal, business and community), which affect the domain name choice.

Personal

Clearly, the domain name usually matches the personal name. However, before rushing to claim your name, perform a short search engine test first. If it is already registered on multiple extensions, a new registration will only reduce your chances of eventually becoming recognized by a wider Internet community. In this instance, the last name or the nickname could be a great alternative (of course a search engine test is recommendable).

As for the extension, gTLDs (generic top level domains such as .com, .net, .org) are more commonly used than ccTLDs (country-code top level domains such as .de, .es, .ru, .us) since they are targeting wider audience. However, if traditional extensions (.com. .net, .org etc.) are not available, consider registering one of the sizzling new ones that may add personal flavor to your virtual home.

Business

The key feature of your business domain name is memorability – the more memorable, the more chance to be re-visited. What makes this online memorability? Three things: length, call-to-action and a nice extension.

A short domain is, by default, easy to remember and perfect for sharing across online and offline social media. For instance it saves characters on Twitter, fits on your business card, spreads rapidly through the word of mouth etc.

Call-to-action is what makes a website URL appealing. This concept urges users to act immediately and get the domain (permanently) stuck in a consumer’s head. For instance, .ME is perfect for creating domain hacks consisting of Verb + Extension – just try to forget addresses such as Advise.ME, Join.ME, Blog.ME or even those including newly coined words such as Themify.ME!

Finally, the extension plays an important role – if you start/launch on a ccTLD it is more than recommendable to register a gTLD, since at some point the company may go global. Nonetheless, do not register it at any cost. Should there be shortage of suitable names on mainstream extensions, keep in mind that some new ccTLDs (including .ME and .CO) may be a good option since they be geo-targeted in the Webmaster Tools. Therefore, you can set them to any location regardless of their country of origin.

Community

In general, community implies usage of web space for online portals, forums, databases, organizations etc. The most commonly used domain for community websites is .org, so it is by default the primary choice. Still, all of the above (memorability and use of alternative extension) should apply to community websites as well.

In addition to these general guidelines, there is a number of tools across the web available for public use such as WHOIS, domain suggestions, registrar and registry websites, domain auction tools and dropped domains tools etc. that can make your quest easier. If used along with the piece of advice provided above, these tools will give you a pretty good idea of what should be your dream domain name. In the end, instead of getting the domain you really want, you will register the domain you really need.

The .Me Registry operates the .ME domain name which is available for worldwide registration and also offers special, highly valuable premium names through its development program (see details here). .ME Registry (the d.b.a. of doMEn, d.o.o.) was chosen by the government of Montenegro to operate the new .ME domain name extension. ME Registry partners include ME-net, GoDaddy.com and Afilias Limited.

Google Chrome’s New Tab Page, Google+ Integrated

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Google says their web browser, Google Chrome, is now even more app-ealing. Did you get it? Their play on words?

That’s right. They’ve redesigned their Tab Page making it more streamlined and easier to access and organize your apps. (Will this move them even closer to taking over second place?)

Being the visual person that I am, I love how their apps are now “presented in a wall of images” as they state on their blog. It’s updated everytime you visit, it’s more visually appealing and it’s just easier to find what you’re looking for. As for installing new apps, they’ve made that super simple as well. Just hover over the image and click “Add to Chrome”.

Continuing with their efforts to integrate Google+ into all of their products, the apps store now includes reviews from Google+ profiles. The reviews link back to the person’s Google+ profile.

They’ve also added some new apps such as My Robot Nation™, an app that lets you design your own robot and bring it to life with a 3D printer.

Here’s a quick video tour of the new updates from Google Chrome.

This won’t be the last update we see from Google Chrome. They have more new features coming!

What browser do you use and why? For those of you not using Google Chrome, do these new features make you want to switch?

 

You Can Now Connect Blogger to Google+

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In an effort to begin integrating Google+ into Blogger, Google announced you can now use your Google+ profile with your Blogger blogs.

It was back in July talk of Google unifying the Google+ brand began. Although they haven’t renamed Blogger to “Google Blogs” as it had first been reported, they are starting the process of integrating the two.

What benefit is there to connecting your Google+ profile to your Blogger blog?

Google says, “In addition to giving your readers a more robust and familiar sense of who you are, your social connections will see your posts in their Google search results with an annotation that you’ve shared the post.”

They are making this feature optional, considering all of their bloggers do not have a Google+ profile yet. If you don’t have one, you might want consider it. They hinted at more Google+ integrations coming in the future.

For those of you who blog with Blogger, have you added your Google+ profile yet?

Is This The New Gmail?

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It looks like Gmail, Google’s email system, is getting a facelift. The company accidentally posted a video on their YouTube channel with shots of a new Gmail interface. The video is now private, but thanks to the quickness of this Google blogger, we have the shots and a good look at it.

If you’ll recall in August, Google launched a new Google Labs featured called Preview Pane. I used it for about a week and then reverted back to the old Gmail I know, love and am used to. These new shots are based on Preview, but definitely have a lot of changes.

Here are a few of the changes noted:

  • An action bar that uses icons instead of text labels
  • A completely new interface for conversations
  • Profile pictures next to contacts
  • A flexible layout that adapts to any window size
  • Display density options like in Google Docs
  • Resizable chat/labels sections
  • New high-definition themes
  • Updated search box that includes advanced options

You can see all of the pictures from the new interface here.

As for the accidentally leaked video and when we might see this new interface, a Google rep told ReadWriteWeb, “Oops, you weren’t supposed to see that. Stay tuned, we’ll be sharing more info on Gmail’s new look soon.”

What do you think of the new design?

Google Analytics Introduces Flow Visualization

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This morning, at the Web 2.0 Summit, Phil Mui and Susan Wojcicki unveiled Flow Visualization for Google Analytics. After listening to feedback from their users, the analytics team took into consideration their tools didn’t sensibly group related visitor paths and pages, or track how visitors were flowing through a site.

Flow Visualization helps Google Analytics users better analyze the way visitors flow through their sites. The team announced starting this week, “Visitors Flow” and “Goal Flow” will be rolling out to all accounts.

Here’s a look at Visitors Flow.

The Visitors Flow view provides a graphical representation of visitors’ flow through the site by traffic source (or any other dimensions) so you can see their journey, as well as where they dropped off. You’ll find this visualizer on the left hand navigation menu, where you’ll see a new “Visitors Flow” link under the Visitors section.

And here’s a look at Goal Flow.

Goal Flow provides a graphical representation for how visitors flow through your goal steps and where they dropped off. Because the goal steps are defined by the site owner, they should reflect the important steps and page groups of interest to the site. In this first iteration, we’re supporting only URL goals, but we’ll soon be adding events and possibly other goal types.

Both of these new tools seem extremely useful for people (like me) who rely on Google Analytics for the success of their sites. To be able to see visitors’ journey through your site, as well as if your goals for where they end up are being met, makes this Analytics user very happy.

Do you see the value in these new features Google Analytics unveiled?

Source

Bitly Launches Reputation Monitoring, More Services to Come

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Most likely you know bitly for their URL shortening services. The company says they shorten around 80 million URLs a day and track 8 billion clicks a month.

The company announced yesterday they’ve been working on real-time search powered by bitly data for quite awhile. Their first launch is “reputation monitoring”, which will help brands track trending news about their company, as well as social engagement.

The first, launching today, is called “reputation monitoring.” What it lacks in catchy naming, it makes up for in awesomeness: given a search term, it will alert you when there is a sudden change in engagement and/or sentiment around content involving that term. Because these alerts are built on bitly’s realtime social data, you can find this content long before you see it on a search engine based on crawling web pages, and probably long before you see it on a news site.

bitly created a few interesting topics for you to monitor if you would like to do so. They live off the real-time data, which they say “on average lead major search engines by 12 hours or more.”

In order to monitor any term you would like, you need a bitly Enterprise account for $995 a month.

Let me leave you with this quote from Andrew Cohen, bitly’s general manager: “What we’ve built is a conversation search. For any given topic, it returns the most viral and engaging content being shared on social media. And we’re seeing breaking news — protest videos from Iran and Tunisia, corporate controversies, political scoops — being shared on bitly long before it is pointed to by major news organizations or indexed by large search engines.”

Thoughts? Can bitly see the future?

A Beginner’s Guide to WordPress Basics

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If you’re a new blogger, you might want to check out the entire Beginner’s Guide series we’ve been doing here at the BlogWorld blog, which, to date, includes guides to Twitter Basics, SEO Basics, Podcasting Basics, and Blog Monetization Basics. Today, I wanted to cover another common challenge for new bloggers: using WordPress.

WordPress is the blogging platform used by most major bloggers who have their own domain names. Of course, it isn’t the only choice for bloggers, but I personally find it to be the best option based on the community of people developing for it, the ease of installation and use, and the various options to customize your blog and the way you use it.

Before you continue reading this post about using WordPress, head to their site to read installation instructions so you can get WordPress set up on whatever domain name you own.

Adding a Theme

The first thing I do whenever I install WordPress on a new blog is look for a theme I like so that I’m not using the generic out-of-box theme that comes with WordPress. The theme is basically the look of your blog – colors, fonts, sidebars, etc. If you know CSS, you can pretty easily make changes to any theme you see, but even if you don’t, there are thousands of choices, so you should be able to find something you like. If you’re willing to pay for your theme, check out Thesis and Genesis, two of the most well-known and easy-to-customize options out there. Want a free theme? There are tons of those available too – just do a quick search and you’ll find lots of options.

When you download a theme and unzip the file, you’ll want to add it to your site by uploading it to the themes folder. When you log into your WordPress dashboard, you’ll be able to access all of the themes under “Appearance” on the sidebar. From there, you can preview how the themes would look on your site and choose which one to make live.

Adding Plugins

Plugins are awesome. Basically, they add additional functions to your blog based on what you personally need for your community. Personally, my favorite plugins are:

  • All-In-One SEO – perfect to for simple SEO on all of your posts
  • Zemanta – helps you interlink posts on your own site, find related posts to recommend, and add tags to your post
  • Livefyre – my personal comment plugin of choice is Livefyre, though you can also make a case for Disqus (what we use currently here at BlogWorld) and CommentLuv with the generic WordPress comment system, which simple adds a person’s more recent post to the end of their comment

In addition, though there are several individual plugins that perform each of these functions, I recommend using plugins for:

  • Creating a mobile version of your site
  • Adding buttons for social sharing (on individual posts, in a top/bottom bar, along the side of the post, etc.)
  • Adding contact forms to your pages or posts (if you don’t want to list your email address)
  • Building galleries of your pictures
  • Creating tables
  • Backing up your site (SUPER important – check out BlogWorld speaker Peter Pollock’s post on protecting your blog)
  • Adding your author profile to the top or bottom of a post

This is not the end-all list of plugins you can add to make your blog more functional for you and for readers. Spend some time browsing through the available plugins to find those that make sense for your blog.

Setting Up Your Sidebar

After you’ve installed WordPress, added a theme, and set up plugins, your next step is to set up your sidebar. I recommed you include the following things on your sidebar:

  • Links to your most recent posts
  • A sign-up box for your mailing list (I use Aweber)
  • A link for people to subscribe to your blog via RSS
  • Links/buttons to your social network profiles
  • A list of your categories or other navigational tools
  • Polls
  • A calendar of events or posts

You can also consider adding a list of your most popular posts, advertising, a blogroll, a search bar, your Amazon wishlist, Youtube videos, links to products you’re selling or affiliate products, a list of the most recent comments on your blog, a tag cloud or list of popular tags…and much, much more. If you want to add it to your sidebar, there’s a way to do it – and most of what you’ll add to your sidebar, you’ll do so with widgets.

You install a widget much like you’d install a plugin. Under the “appearance” tab on your dashboard sidebar, you’ll see a link to show your widgets, so you can simply drag and drop them onto your sidebar. Easy peasy. There’s also a text box if you want to get all HTML-y and add your own code instead of using a widget for something you want to display.

Configuration

Next, head into your profile (under “Users”) on the sidebar and update it as necessary for your blog. You should pay special attention to your display name (go with a name or nickname rather than “admin”) and your biographical information if you include a theme or plugin that adds your bio to each post.

Remember to go to Gravatar to upload an avatar associated with your email address if you don’t have one already.

Under the “Settings” tab on your dashboard sidebar, you’ll also want to do some more configuration work on your blog. Here’s what you should do, at minimum:

  • Under General: Add your blog title and a tagline (or at least delete the default) and change the blog to your timezone
  • Under Permalinks: Change the permalinks structure to something better than the default numbering system

I recommend going through each page under Settings and considering your various options. While the defaults work for many bloggers, you might want something different.

Adding Content

Congrats – you’re finally ready to add content! There are two different types of content you can add via WordPress (and most blogging platforms):

  • Posts: the general articles you want to add to your blog day by day
  • Pages: content that is more informative to help the user understand more about your blog or you

Posts are linked to both categories and tags. Categories give a broad, general topic while tags are more specific topics. Most bloggers have categories are a main navigational function and choose to include 5 to 15. You can also include a few main categories and then several subcategories under each main “parent” category. Tags tell your reader what an individual post is about. There’s no limit to the number of tags you use on your blog, though most recommend that you don’t use more than 10 or so on any one post.

Pages include things such as About Me, Contact, Archives, About the Blog, Best Of, and more. They’re typically included on the navigation bar of a blog so people can find them quickly.

WordPress Pointers for Beginners

Here are some more tips and tricks for using WordPress if you don’t have experience with this platform.

  • You can change the permalink for a post of page under the main title box by clicking on the “edit” button. This is helpful for SEO in many cases and can also help you create a permalink that is easy to remember.
  • You can work in a WYSIWYG editor or HTML editor – whichever is more comfortable for you.
  • Most of the editing buttons are self-explanatory, since they’re similar to what you already use in word processing programs. Some that you may not know: to the right of the link buttons you’ll see one called “insert more tag” when you hover. This adds “read more” to the post on your homepage which is beneficial if you write extremely long posts and don’t want the whole thing displayed. Beside the spell check, you’ll see a blue box called “toggle full screen” which can be beneficial when you’re writing posts. Beside that, you’ll see a button called “show/hide kitchen sink” which, when clicked, gives you even more editing options.
  • You don’t have to publish a post immediately. You can also schedule it to go up at a specific time in the future by choosing the “edit” option in the publish box.
  • You can move boxes around on your dashboard to make it more functional for you. Simply drag and drop!
  • At the bottom of your edit post page, you can see previous revisions and auto-saves of a post.

If you’re a WordPress user, I want to encourage you to leave your own tips in a comment below!

WordPress Releases Retro Mac Theme in Honor of Steve Jobs

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The internet was in full force yesterday honoring the life of Steve Jobs. From his best quotes and his 2005 Stanford commencement speech, to the way he changed technology forever. It was inspiring to see the different ways people chose to highlight his life, his legacy and keep the memory of him alive.

Boing Boing gave their front page a new look yesterday, which I thought was fantastic. It had the nostalgic classic Mac look we all know so well. Now WordPress has taken note and created a free Retro Mac theme.

WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg commented on the design saying, “Yesterday one of the tributes I noticed was the website Boing Boing switched their theme to one reminiscent of the original Macintosh interface, one of the several times Jobs would make a ding in the universe through his work. It seemed fitting, and we wanted to make it available to all of you, so our theme team worked through the night and here it is”.

Here’s a description of the Retro Mac theme:

A whimsical homage to the days in black and white, celebrating the magic of Mac OS. Dress up your blog with retro, chunky-grade pixellated graphics to evoke some serious computer nostalgia. In all its remembrance and respect, Retro MacOS also supports recent functionality. Read on to learn more.

You can download the theme here.

Do you have a favorite way Steve Jobs was honored yesterday? Let us know in the comment section below.

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