Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Like - The Word of the Future

I like this. You like that. He likes nothing. She likes everything.

Like is everywhere and we can't escape it! Facebook's eponymous term is now being taken up by other web 2.0 services. LinkedIn (one of the original social networks, although it is mainly used by professionals to build contacts and network) is now allowing users to 'like' things. And recently, Facebook made it much easier for webmasters and bloggers to allow people to 'like' their content. Indeed, I set up 'liking' on this blog a short while ago.

But LinkedIn's adoption is a very interesting development (it's not liking things on LinkedIn for Facebook, it's liking things on LinkedIn). What will this mean for the web as a whole? I often think that we'll eventually be saying we like things to everything.

In English, at least in the UK, we have become very relaxed to people's speech. One of the things that some foreign language learners find strange is that we say love a lot. It might be true that we do love something genuinely, but often what we mean is we really, really like it. In some languages, love means romantic love and you can't apply it to other things. I think some people are shocked by how often English speakers use it. Perhaps even some English speakers are shocked by how often it is used.

So I wonder if, in the future, we have succumed to Facebook Speak and we will eventually say: 'oh I like that' to mean that we love it (confused much?). What do you think?

Monday, 21 June 2010

SEO Tips for Blogging

Hi everyone! I hope you are all enjoying the World Cup! I wanted to write another blog post that aims to help you get traffic to your blog. You can see the tips I previously wrote here. That post was much more about setting up a blog and general tips you can follow to help you find your feet when starting out. Today, I wanted to write a short piece about trying to get your blog more traffic or better ranking on search engines (SEO stands for search engine optimisation and is the process of getting your blog, or any website for that matter, a better ranking on search engines). It should be noted however, that it might take a while for your blog to get indexed by a search engine but these tips should also be helpful for that. It took my blog a few weeks to get noticed by Google and is only now starting to appear higher for certain search terms.

1 - Titles

Titles are extremely important for blogging. Try to create catchy, content driven titles. This helps two folds. Firstly, visitors are more likely to read the post if you have a good title. Think of it just like print media - headlines in newspapers and magazines are clevely and carefully written for maximum impact. Secondly, keywords that you use in the title are also picked up by search engines. For example, the title of this post is 'SEO Tips for Blogging' which means it'll get picked up if someone searches for something similar. A really good tip that I try to use a lot is to front end your titles (this might not be the correct term, it's one from literature class). Basically you rearrange the title so that the most important word or phrase is at the start of the sentence. Let's see an example from a well known television show:

"Space, the final frontier" vs. "The final frontier, [is] Space"

We could analyze this sentence and go into detail of why the front ending has more impact (or not, if you disagree) but hopefully you can simply hear that it sounds more dramatic. Front ending is used a lot in literature and a lot by clever bloggers and headline writers. By changing the order of the title, you can target specific contect and increase the title's effectiveness.

Let's take a look at this post's title and a couple of variations:

"SEO Tips for Blogging", "Blogging Tips - SEO", "Blogging - SEO" "Blogging Tips about SEO" etc.

What I've found in the past from doing some user research is that most users categorically do not read a lot of the text on the Internet. Especially titles, instructions, comments etc. They'll read the first few words and skip the rest. That's why it's important to make sure the first words are the keywords that will catch people's attention. Also be sure to keep it short and not too lengthy - unless you are writing a very detailed post about something quite complicated.

2 - Keywords

This similar to the titles tip but know your keywords and how to use them. It's important to use keywords cleverly in a post so that it is indexed but also not obvious. So for example, if you have a post about SEO tips you might have a range of keywords including: SEO, blogging, websites, search engine optimization, Google, Yahoo, Bing, search results, keywords, links, page rank and so on. You shouldn't make it obvious you are aiming for these keywords - they should come naturally in the post. This isn't a difficult tip to follow, if you write posts that are well structured and of a high standard then this should come natural. But you should pay close attention to this tip if you write a post that is personal in nature. A lot of people can often write blogs like they are diaries and then wonder why no reads them. That's because writing: "I had a nice walk in the park today" is less likely to get noticed by a search engine then "I had a nice walk in Regent's Park today, I felt just like a tourist in London". The first sentence there aren't any strong keywords to pick up on. In the second sentence there is "Regent's Park", "tourist" and "London". People searching for these things just might come across your blog! Obviously we're playing a bit of a game here but if you want to increase your organic search result position then this is a one way to improve it.

Another important tip if you are using a blogging platform (such as Wordpress or Blogger) is to always keyword/tag/label your posts. This is actually a way to get traffic (a lot of people on Wordpress search for things using tags) and it's a great way to help search engines find your blog.

3 - Network

This is similar to the tip from the previous post I wrote. But if you want to get noticed, it's important to put your blog out there! Comment on other people's blogs/twitters etc. Send emails, leave messages and try to build a friendship with people who blog about similar things to you. Then hopefully you can request a blogroll exchange (they link to you and you link to them). This benefits you and them but you should try to make sure the sites have a similar theme. Getting a link exchange from a technology blog when your blog is about cooking will actually harm your search engine ranking. This is because people used to pay for links to artificially boost their search engine ranking. Google now has a smarter algorithm which tries to see if the link is genuine or not. Obviously if you're linking to a friend that you know then you might be willing to ignore the negative impact to your search ranking. This might be slightly harder for you to achieve. And it might also take a long time for you to get anywhere with this. But it's important to try and get some links to your website. Besides, being part of a blog network is really quite fun and gives you another thing to do with your blog when you're not writing actual entries.

4 - Post Fast

This is probably impossible for you to do unless you are a pro-blogger or have a lot of free time etc. Posting faster than other people means youre post will get seen by a search engine quicker than other posts giving you a head start to get traffic and work your way to the top of the search engine rankings. For example, if you are really fast and post before another blog about the latest release of movie or write the latest news regarding a company then a search engine is more likely to display your result first because you've been indexed first. Does this make sense? It's complicated to explain but is pretty straight forward - get ahead of the competition!

5 - Content

Lastly, content is important. Not necessarily what you write about, but whether you write good, interesting articles. This might seem a bit trivial but it is important. People like having something to read, so always be sure to try and write something worthy of their time. Unless of course you just have a image/video blog and then by all means post away. But having good content ultimately should mean that people visit your site and stick around, you have good titles and include keywords in your posts. What really helps a blog is having dedicated visitors that might have even subscribed to a feed or have your site bookmarked.

Blogging is a personal thing at the end of the day - people blog for different reasons. But if you are aiming to get noticed by search engines then these few tips will hopefully help you.

What are you experiences of writing a blog and SEO? Ever tried to get a better search ranking? What steps did you take to achieve it?

(image credited to Danard Vincente).

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Apple has released the new Mac Mini

While most Apple fans have focused entirely on the release of the new Iphone 4, Apple has also refreshed their Mac Mini and once again proved that innovation and surprise are one of their key strengths. As a start, the product has been changed into a slimmer aluminum case using the same unibody technique used on their Macbook´s. The power supply has been completely built-in which means there is no bulky brick and fewer cables to connect. The bottom panel is now removable making it much easier to upgrade the memory.

It also comes with NVIDIA GeForce 320M, the fastest integrated graphics processor on the market today. This graphic processor delivers up to twice the performance of the previous generation. It also includes up to 500 GB of hard drive space and the latest wireless technology. Although all of the previous features mentioned are highly innovative and useful, the best feature consists of the built in HDMI port. This feature enables the users to watch movies, TV shows, the Internet and even ones photo library on their high quality TV screens. Audio, video, internet, memory and style; need anything else?

Increasing Debt in the UK. and U.S.A.

Though I consider myself relatively uninformed with regards to financial news, I do know that the debt crisis in Greece has dominated American press headlines recently. However I was unaware, and thus suprised, to learn of the growing debt crisis in the UK and the drastic spending cuts the British government is planning. On February 19, 2010, Sean O'Grady of The Independent claimed that the British deficit was on pace to reach 12.8% of the country's GDP. This is higher than the estimated 12.7% trade deficit-to-GDP ratio for Greece. Britain's large trade deficit is magnified by the fact that the Office for budget Responsibility expects the UK national debt to double from £700 billion to £1.4 trillion by 2015. Significant government spending cuts, slow economic growth, and the threat of the UK losing its AAA creditrating status are very alarming issues that, as David Cameron said, "[will disrupt] Britain's whole way of life for years to come".

These alarming facts probed me to investigate the growing public debt in the United States, which as of June 14 stands over $13 trillion: nearly $42,000 for every American ( I can't help but wonder how the United States will pay off this debt given its trade deficit, massive amount of bailout spending, the War on Terror; all while experiencing decreasing domestic manufacturing. Though the United States and the United Kingdom have been at the center of the international financial community for the last two-hundred years, many of their citizens are living beyond their means. I'm interested to see how everyday life will change for American and British citizens as their countries attempt to address their debt issues in the coming years.

Friday, 11 June 2010

China's Influence on Global Technology?

I came across a really interesting article on CNET about China's influence on global tastes in the motor industry. China has recently overtaken the US as being the biggest automotive consumer industry. You might think, so what? China is on the other side of the world but consumer demands in China reflects what the consumer gets in the US.

I found this to be really interest. CNET mentions that car manufacturers have coined the term - 'C-Factor' in relation to this new found influence. I think this speaks volumes of the new position Asian countries find themselves in - specifically China and Taiwan.

Traditionally, Japanese and South Korean businesses are reverred for their technological expertise and approach to economy and business. Everyone is well aware of the technological power houses that dominate the tech landscape: Samsung, Sony, Toshiba and LG to name just a few. But in recent years we have seen the rise of HP, Apple and Dell, Western technology companies that continue to thrive. However, even more recently we have seen the growth of two new East Asian countries within the technology market - China and Taiwan.

China's technology industry has recently been making a lot of headlines internationally due to the controversial tragedies at Foxconn, manufacturers of Apple products amongst many other products for leading technology companies. China's Lenovo PC manufacturer is now in the top 4 selling companies and will continue to grow.

Taiwan doesn't normally get the same amount of headlines as China but its technology industry is making business headlines as it continues to rapidly grow. Acer has become the second biggest computer manufacturer - leap frogging Dell to reach the coveted spot. Although this is somewhat dismissed by Dell (who wrongly or rightly claim it is profit not sale numbers that count), it is still a huge achievement. I guess what it shows is that the technology industry is a continually changing landscape. It will be interesting to see how/if the C-Factor and T-Factor affects other industries such as food, health and so on. Ultimately though, it will be interesting to see if these new companies can continue at the pace they are currently at and if they can stay ahead of the competition once they reach the top.

(Image credited to here)

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Apple iAd Network

Apple has announced that the launch date for the iAd mobile advertising network will be July 1. Why is this platform different from other types of advertising that one can find on the Internet or by watching television?

As Steve Jobs said in his last presentation in relation to the Iphone OS4: “What we want to do with iAd´s is to deliver interaction but also deliver emotion.”

It is a well-known fact that interactive ads on the web are not capable of delivering emotion. On the other hand, television ads are capable of delivering emotion but not interaction. Apple wants to sit in the middle and deliver interaction and at the same time emotion. This is the reason why this new feature by Apple is so important. Users can interact with advertising through distinct features such as: full-screen video, audio, games, maps, and more. It is also very important to note that one does not have to leave the application that they are currently using. By simply clicking on an (x) on the top left corner of their Iphone, the phone goes automatically back to the application the user was using before clicking on the ad.

Apple is also trying to help developers and this is the reason why they have decided to give 60% of advertising revenue to developers. This product will be available for iphone and ipod touch users and it will truly change ads in the mobile industry.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Top 5 Blogging Tips - Tips for Writing a Good Blog

I've been writing a blog for many years now. In my free time I write my own personal blog that focuses mainly on Korean, Japanese and Chinese pop music; before that I had many personal blogs going back 10 years and I also write the myhomepage blog. To be honest, I'm not a pro-blogger and I don't get paid to write blog posts but hopefully I've learnt a few things that you might be able to find useful.

1 - Know Your Niche

This is the fundamental rule I try to stick to. Know your niche. Magazines are split up into different genres - sports, digital design, women's interest, men's interest, children's, puzzlers and so on. Your blog should be no different. If you don't have a coherent blog identity then your readers will be slightly disorientated if they've navigated to your blog on a film you've reviewed only to find you then talking about your car. Personal blogs are exempt from this as they're more like diaries. But I strongly suggest picking a topic you're interested in and sticking to it. You'll find that your blog can pick up a lot of traffic with a lot of keywords in the same topic once it gets indexed by Google and other search engines.

2 - Express Your Personality

One thing that a good writer does is to stand out from the crowd. Being able to show your personality in what you write is important and will keep people coming back to your blog (obviously it might also annoy them but you can't win over everyone). To do this is hard, because we're often used to reading very straight and unbiased writing in news. But never forget to express yourself within your writing - after all the blog is just very much a reflection on you.

3 - Write Interesting Articles

This is another important one. Often I'll find blogs that are just videos or images but with no text or explanation. This can sometimes work great if you're going for a really visual statement - but it can also be difficult to pick up traction because people simply don't want to spend time trying to figure out the point of your post. I've found that the more indepth an article is, the higher chance people will read it and stick around. I've posted a lot of short posts before but they never work as well as longer posts because in the shorter ones, you aren't offering anything different than what your reader could find from a news aggrigrator.

4 - Include Multimedia

This is a simple one and it doesn't always hold true. But if you have atleast one interesting image or video file in your post - it greatly helps your reader understand what your blog post is going to be about. If you're blogging as a personal diary, again, that's different.

5 - Network

This is another important point. Just like how businesses grow through friends and connections, you can see a great improvement to your web traffic if you start networking around. Commenting on other people's blogs, writing to them, exhcanging links. Although this can be daunting and you might be fearful of rejection - most bloggers actually really enjoy getting contacted and love it when they get emails. Plus, exchanging links means that you'll get an improved ranking by Google which will help with your search engine results.

In conclusion, I really enjoy writing blogs - I wouldn't have kept one of some form for over a decade if I didn't. Ultimately I keep a blog because I enjoy writing, but it's more than that. If I just enjoyed writing then I'd keep a diary or write a novels and essays. Blogs allow you to interact with others. The internet facilitates, and actively encourages, reader/author communication. Most blog platforms have an option for readers to post comments easily opening up channels of communication unlike traditional print media. It's this interaction that I enjoy the most. I've gotten to know a lot of nice people through blogging and without this interaction I think blogging would be less engaging.

Image credited to Annie Mole at flickr.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Contact Forms and Emails - The Importance of Communication

In the age of the Internet, easy and open communication has become ubiquitous. Most people can be contacted online through various email addresses, twitter accounts, blog commenting and so forth. However, some organizations and individuals do not see being open to communication as a positive thing and close off many communication channels.

The Internet has become a social phenonenmonan. The advent of Web 2.0 saw a boom in social networking sites. The omniscience of socializing on the Internet is evident on nearly whatever site you go to. You can now join forums, post comments and look at other users' profiles on websites that have traditionally been authoritative and closed (e.g. news websites). People like socializing on the Internet - they want to get involved and express opinions and engage with other people with similar interests.

This is why I think everyone who has an online presence should be open to subsequent communication. Social communication and the Internet now go hand in hand - can you imagine an Internet without emails, comments and contact forms? What an empty place to imagine! I understand that some times communication channels can become blocked by spambots and messages you receive on the Internet often don't make sense but that's no reason to suspend all communication with the web.

Obviously, this post might just represent my frustration with not being able to contact companies and blog authors but I genuinely believe we should all be open to interaction on the Internet for the following reasons:

Firstly so much of the Internet is interaction-orientated, if you're not open to that communication then it does seem incongruent.

Secondly, you miss out on what the Internet is there for - sharing information (you might be very happy to only give out information but we can always learn from receiving some too!). One of the visitors to your website might have some really useful feedback or a new website you might really like. You're missing out on these opportunities if you don't have a way for people to contact you.

Lastly, it's fun! Everyone enjoys social interaction - it's part of what makes us human. It also presents you in a personable light and portrays you as being open.

Hopefully this post will make people not fear the social side of the net but to embrace and see its functions, utilities and applications are great and very helpful.

(picture credit goes to CarbonNYC from flickr.