Business & Technology

Do you waste your vote if you vote for a third party candidate?

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No, it is not a wasted vote for many reasons: 1. It Influences the Major Parties It lets politicians and political parties know which way the electorate is leaning. Part of the reason why Democrats and Republicans are able to maintain a two party system is because they are so broad in their base. If they see some of their voters are straying from the party, they will adjust their… Read More »

Why should I vote for president if I don’t live in a swing state?

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There are several reasons why you should vote: There are local officials being elected in the same election, and these officials affect you as much, if not more than the President would. You might not be able to get the President you want, but maybe you can get the Governor, Mayor or Sheriff you want. Even if your candidate doesn’t win the election, political parties note who is voting and… Read More »

Should I use different pen names for different audiences?

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Maintaining three pen names means three different brands, with three different marketing efforts. It takes a lot of work. Before you decide, you would want to consider the following: Will any of your audiences react negatively if they find out you also write for the other audiences? For example, will some people devalue your business advice if they know you also give dating advice? Will certain people reading your more… Read More »

As an employee of a start-up, what are the signs that we are about to be acquired?

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Some signs include: A sudden shift in priorities to things that make the numbers look good, especially the financial numbers.  Suddenly efficiency, revenue and profit become the number one priority, while everything else gets neglected.  They are trying to make the company more appealing for a buyout. The owners or founders of the company suddenly take less interest in running the company and let their lieutenants run it for them. … Read More »

Why do people endorse me on LinkedIn for skills I don’t have?

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Part of it has to do with people’s perceptions of you vs. who you really are. For example, I’ve been in IT for a long time and so have many of my associates, and we all have our specialties. Yet people assume all sorts of things about our skills, and we often get asked to do things tech related that are not related to our specialty simply because we’re computer… Read More »

Why is socialism appealing to some when it has constantly failed?

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What is interesting is that pure socialism and communism has failed everywhere it has been attempted, but so has pure capitalism. Most large modern countries today are hybrids, with a combination of capitalist and socialist principles. Some countries lean more one way or the other, but none are pure socialist or pure capitalist.  And that’s a good thing. Socialism appeals to the compassion and desire to help their fellow man,… Read More »

How to Generate Revenue from a Blog

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It is possible to generate an income from a blog, and there are a number of ways to do it. It is best if you have a niche blog about a specific topic or interest.  Personal blogs that are general in nature are harder to grow an audience for since there is little focus on a particular topic, and unless you lead a very fascinating life, not everyone will want… Read More »

If the States Regulate ISPs, Shouldn’t We Talk to Them about Net Neutrality?

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I found an interesting tidbit on the FCC website about the regulation of the internet.  It says: The FCC does not regulate the Internet or Internet Service Providers (ISPs). You may contact your state consumer protection office…. If that is the case, why are we contacting the FCC and the federal government about Net Neutrality, when the power to regulate it is already in the hands of the states we… Read More »

Why “Internet Fast Lanes” are B.S.: Users Create Traffic, Not Content Providers

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In the current Net Neutrality debate, cable companies and internet service providers are claiming that they deserve more money from Netflix and YouTube and other content providers because they supposedly “create” the most traffic on their networks.  But that is simply not true. Do you know who really creates the most traffic on the internet?  The end users requesting content and visiting websites. Think about it.  Netflix and YouTube only send… Read More »

The Dangers of the U.S. Marketplace Fairness Act & E.U. 13th VAT Directive

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As governments get more strapped for cash, they seek out new ways to get revenue.  Unfortunately the laws they have on the books are not suitable for taxation of internet commerce. There are several government initiatives to redress that, such as the Marketplace Fairness Act in the U.S., being considered now in Congress, and the Thirteenth VAT Directive already on the books at the EU. The problem with these laws… Read More »

Why Google Needs Our Help

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I just finished watching the movie The Internship, a comedy about two out of work salesmen who try to get an internship at Google, and it got me thinking.  As many of you know, Google has discontinued the Google Authorship program, and is getting very aggressive about link spam (see my article Is Linking Dead for SEO? for some commentary about that). The fact is, Google is at war… at war with spammers,… Read More »

Google Kills Google Authorship, No More Recognition for Writers

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One of the biggest benefits of Google Authorship was the fact that the actual content creators, the authors, finally get the recognition they deserve for their hard work. Before Google Authorship, the focus was always on the website and the company’s brand, not the author. In fact, oftentimes authors were lucky to even get a by line on things they created. It is not uncommon for authors to write hundreds… Read More »

Slow Launch Your Membership Website or be Banned by Google

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I see a lot of new websites make this mistake.  They launch a new membership website, forums, double opt-in list or other website that requires people to signup and receive an email to verify their account.  But because they did not do a gradual launch, Gmail and other mail providers freak out at the sudden influx of verification emails, and either shuffle their emails into spam, or worse, block their emails entirely. Then,… Read More »

Why Trickle Down Economics No Longer Works

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There used to be this theory that if you poured money into the top of the economy, through loans, tax cuts, and direct investment, the money would trickle down to the bottom of the economy, to the workers, the stay-at home moms, and the children. While there are arguments about whether or not that theory was ever effective, in today’s economy it simply cannot work as the only way to… Read More »

Why it is Possible for Everyone to be Wealthy

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Most people think of wealth and money as finite things, but in reality, wealth is infinite and it is actually possible for everyone to be wealthy. The reason why this is true is because wealth is actually created by producing value and the movement of money. To give you a demonstration of how this works, let’s simplify it down to a smaller number of people and dollars.  Let’s say we have… Read More »

If You Want to Link to Rackspace, Don’t Visit Their Website

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I had an interesting experience this morning while researching Rackspace for an article.  Apparently if you go to their website, you automatically agree to a whole set of terms of use, including provisions that state that you can only link to their home page, and that you are prohibited from using their logo. Now, come on.  I know that it is in the best interest of any corporation to protect their intellectual property, and as a writer I fully understand the value of copyrighted works.  After all, that is my livelihood.  But to prohibit linking or using their logo.  Now that is a bit too much, in my opinion. Next thing you know, they are going to add to their terms of service that you can’t say anything negative about them either. Free Speech & Fair Use Basically what Rackspace is trying to do is getting you to agree to not use the fair use provision of U.S. copyright law, which allows you to mention a company or brand, and use its logo, for educational and editorial purposes. So if you write an article about them, you are not allowed to use their logo, despite it being allowed under fair use. Links are Addresses They are also trying to control how you link to them.  So if you have an educational or editorial website talking about them, you cannot deep link into their website to make it easier for your users to find information on Rackspace’s website. According to the World Wide Web Consortium Technical Architecture Group, “any attempt to forbid the practice of deep linking is based on a misunderstanding of the technology, and threatens to undermine the functioning of the Web as a whole.” In a court case between Microsoft & Ticketmaster, the court also concluded that URLs themselves were not copyrightable, writing: “A URL is simply an address, open to the public, like the street address of a building, which, if known, can enable the user to reach the building. There is nothing sufficiently original to make the URL a copyrightable item, especially the way it is used. There appear to be no cases holding the URLs to be subject to copyright. On principle, they should not be.” So basically, Rackspace is trying to get around U.S. case law stating that deep linking is allowed. Getting Around Their Website Terms Of course, what is interesting is that if you never visit their website, you have never agreed to their website terms of use, and you can do all of the things that you are allowed to do under the law, like use their logo when mentioning their company, or deep linking to their website.  All you have to do is make sure you use Google or Bing and other methods to find the information you need, and avoid clicking on their website for any reason. Web Page Terms of Use I doubt their website terms of use is actually enforceable on a one time visitor to their website, but just in case it is, here is my terms and conditions for reading this web page, which by visiting this web page or reading this article (online or offline), you fully agree to. Special Provision for Rackspace If you are an officer, employee, agent, representative or attorney representing Rackspace or its subsidiaries, affiliates and associates, you hereby agree that you will not sue me, this website, or any person or company I am associated with, nor will you compel or encourage another person or entity to do so.  Furthermore, if you break this provision and initiate legal action, you further agree to pay all our legal fees and pay $10,000 in damages for our inconvenience.  The damages shall be paid to me or to any person or legal entity that I designate. In addition to the above provision, you also agree that the Website Terms of Service on your website do not apply to me, this website, and any company, person or entity that I am associated with. If you are Robert Scoble, you agree to do the chicken dance while wearing Google Glass and post it on YouTube. Wait, What? Okay, okay, maybe I went too far.  But hopefully you can see my point that forcing someone to agree to a whole list of terms of use just to visit their website is absurd.  But these terms are as real as Rackspace’s terms.  You agreed to them.  No takebacks. I can understand if I created an account, or submitted information to them.  But to be restricted as a writer just because I visited their website once by provisions that are on an obscure page on their website.  I think that is going too far. Plus it makes it hard to write about them in a meaningful way.  I shouldn’t complain too much.  I did get an article out of it. P.S. The cool part of my terms and conditions is that Rackspace can’t argue that my terms of use are invalid, while still maintaining that theirs is valid.

Can I Pay Bloggers and is Disclosure Required?

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Yes, it is okay to play bloggers, but depending on what they are blogging about and what jurisdiction they are in, there may be some disclosure requirements. For example, if you are asking them to review or write positive things about a company, product or service and pay them, some jurisdictions require that it be disclosed that it is a paid advertisement or otherwise indicate that the article was sponsored content. Another example is if you provide the blogger a free product or service to evaluate, the blogger should disclose they received a free product or service. This often can be done simply by the blogger thanking you for providing a free product or service to try out within the article. You look generous, and it meets the disclosure requirement. If you are asking a blogger to write something that is not promotional in nature, then no disclosure is required, unless there would be a perceived conflict of interest by not disclosing it. Example of perceived conflict of interest: The Pork Board paying a blogger to write negative things about chicken. Although it is not promotional in nature, there could be a perceived conflict of interest, since pork producers benefit indirectly by decreased sales of chicken. Not disclosing that the article was sponsored by the Pork Board would be misleading.

Guest Blogging for Google Authorship Reputation instead of Link Building

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Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s Webspam team, has publicly and repeatedly stated that guest blogging for SEO purposes is dead.1  We are already seeing that Google is taking an aggressive stance towards link spam, especially on guest posts and link farms. One thing that really hasn’t been touched upon, but is lurking in the background, is guest blogging for the purpose of increasing your Google Authorship reputation. As Google starts to incorporate more indicators into its algorithm, we are going to start seeing the decline of links as the major indicator of a web page’s worth, and see the increase in importance of social media mentions, website reputation, publisher reputation, and author reputation.  These won’t replace links as an indicator, but they will certainly become more and more important over time. While the exact formula is kept secret, for obvious reasons, it is clear that Google is going in the direction of measuring a web page’s worth by reputation, in addition to the measures that it already uses, like incoming links. What this means is that authors that have a high reputation for certain topics, will appear higher in those topics than those with less of a reputation, assuming all other factors are the same.2 I predict that we are going to see a much needed shift in guest blogging towards quality posts for the purpose of either passing the author’s reputation to the website or publisher, or for the purpose of passing the reputation of the website or publisher to the author.  Not to mention the clout and exposure an author gets by being published on a respected high traffic site, or the clout a website receives by having a respected author contributing an article. Hopefully we will see a swift decline in guest posting and articles created for the sole purpose of generating links, as Google cracks down on link spam and reputation becomes more important. If you have not embraced Google Authorship yet, we recommend that you do now.  The sooner you, as an author, get associated with great content, the better your content will show up in the future as reputation becomes more important. So, guest blogging is not dead.  It is just transforming back into what it always was supposed to be: a way to get ideas and great content in front of new eyes. Matt has updated his post several times for clarity. If you have not read it in awhile, you may want to read it again.It is important to note that there are a lot of indicators that Google looks at, and the importance of each indicator will be tweaked by Google over time to achieve optimal search results. We do not want to assume that one indicator trumps all others.  It is better to take a combined approach.

Labeling the Purpose of Links in HTML could Reduce Link Spam

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In order to help search engines like Google & Bing understand the weight and importance of links on a page, and to reduce link spam, perhaps we need to start labeling the purpose of the links on our websites and blogs. In a previous article, we talked about “Is linking dead for SEO?” and Matt Cutt’s statement that guest blogging for SEO is dead.  Search engines are finding that using links to determine the relevancy, importance and value of a page is getting harder and harder due to link spam. But perhaps if we labelled what the links were for, we could assist Google in calculating the value of the links, while at the same time discouraging link spam. To make things simpler, some of this labeling could be done automatically by content management systems such as WordPress and forum software like phpBB. Proposed Attributes Here are some suggestions for how to label links in HTML so Google and other search engines will know what they are for.  The label would be added to your standard link /anchor <A> HTML tag.  Some of these are already part of HTML5, while some of these are my suggestions. Most of these have not been adopted by anyone yet, but hopefully some of these suggestions will get adopted in HTML5 and by Google, Bing and others. rel=”sponsored” Instead of just labeling a link as rel=”nofollow” perhaps we go a step further and declare that a link is an actual sponsored link. This would allow websites to earn income from advertisers without fear of a Google penalty for the advertiser or publisher, since these links are clearly labelled as sponsored links.  Search engines could simply ignore them for ranking purposes. On websites that adopt this, these links would naturally tend to become more relevant to the website visitor, since the purpose of the link is exclusively for the visitor to click on, and not there for SEO purposes. After all, if the link is not relevant or interesting, visitors will never click on it. This also helps bring links back to their original purpose, which is for people to use to get to other related and/or interesting webpages. rel=”topic” Using this attribute would indicate that the publisher and/or author is declaring that this link is related to the topic of the page.  In many ways, this serves as an endorsement by the publisher and author. Google could look at these links and give them more weight if organic, and issue a Google penalty if abused. Google would also have a better chance of finding link spam, because anyone using this tag is declaring that links marked with this attribute are relevant to the topic somehow.  Irrelevant links would be easier for Google to spot. If Google finds publishers purposely stuffing irrelevant links marked with rel=”topic” in a page, it could justify a strict penalty since the publisher is purposely declaring these links are relevant when they are in fact not.  This may reduce link spam, since there are strict penalties for link stuffing with this attribute, while at the same time, giving publishers the freedom to link to anything they want using the other attributes mentioned on this page. If strict penalties are in place for its misuse, honest publishers would be more likely to adopt it, and spammers would more likely not use it at all. rel=”comment” A website or blog could mark all links in comments with this attribute telling search engines that these links are not endorsed by the publisher and/or author. Comment spam would drop considerably on blogs that label which links are from the comments, if search engines started ignoring comment links or penalizing excessive comment spam. For example, if both Google and WordPress adopted this, the whole reason for posting comment spam would go away overnight (at least for WordPress) since there would be no SEO benefits whatsoever to posting links in comments.  It may take time for spammers to realize this, of course, but taking away any incentive for posting links in comments for SEO purposes would help reduce comment spam, especially the kind that has no relevancy to the topic whatsoever. rel=”discussion” This one is similar to rel=”comment” except it would be used in forums, discussion boards and other situations where there is an ongoing discussion.  This would allow publishers to declare that links in the discussions are user generated content, and are not endorsed by the publisher.  This is especially useful for websites that have both user generated content and publisher generated content, to distinguish them from each other. This reason this is different from rel=”comment” is that it is possible that the links are relevant to the discussion. but it is also possible that it is not, since it is user generated content.  Google could take this into account when analyzing a page, and give such links less weight than links that are endorsed by the publisher. Since many of these spam links are automated, patterns could be detected allowing search engines to filter out spammy user generated content.  This would allow search engines to ignore certain links, or even entire discussion boards that are know to house a lot of spammy comments. rel=”author” This one is already part of HTML5 and recognized by Google and others.  It is used to tell search engines and bots that you are linking to the author’s profile page.  This profile page can be a page on the website itself, or can be an external profile on another website or social network. Google has started to use this tag with Google Authorship, where if you link to the Author’s Google+ profile and perform a couple of validation steps, Google will know which Google+ user is the author, which gives several benefits including building credibility for the author, and displaying the author’s profile picture in Google search results (SERPs). Authors with a better reputation would see their content show up higher in search engines. rel=”contributor” This would be a link to the profile or website of someone who contributed to the creation of the page or article, but who is not the primary author.  This gives a way to give credit to graphics designers, researchers, web designer, video producer, and co-authors who created the content.  Especially since Google currently prefers that there only be one author to an article. People should get credit for their work, even if they are not the primary author, and this would be a way to be fair.  It would not give as much weight as an author attribution, but it would help Google have a better understanding of who is actually creating the content, especially content that is co-created. This would also allow the linking to contributors without fear that it be confused with link spam.  Google could simple take into account that this is a link to a contributor, and not meant to be a relevant link related to the topic, and weigh it appropriately. rel=”publisher” This would tell search engines who the publisher is, either by linking to the publisher’s website and/or to the publisher’s social network pages.  This would allow search engines to figure out who the publisher is, and which websites are related by publisher. Google has started recognizing this attribute for indicating which Google+ profile belongs to the publisher, when a Google+ page URL is entered as the URL. Publishers with consistently good content across multiple websites could get a boost in their search engine rankings, which would encourage good content. rel=”publisher-sites” This attribute would allow a publisher to link to its sister website, without fear of being penalized by Google for irrelevant links. Google could use this to determine websites with a common publisher, and also use that to calculate a publisher’s reputation.  Google would also understand that these links are, in fact, organic and not sponsored links, despite possibly being irrelevant to the topic.  Proper use of these links would avoid a Google penalty, but be given a different weight due to their nature. How this can Reduce Link Spam If labeling the purpose of links starts gaining widespread use, it could reduce link spam by: Allowing Google to distinguish between user generated links vs. publisher generated links vs. sponsored links, and weighing them accordingly. Removing the incentive of posting links in comments for SEO purposes. Reducing the incentive of posting links in forums and discussion boards for SEO purposes, since it carries less weight than publisher generated links. Making sponsored links more relevant to visitors, since sponsored links would not have any SEO benefits, but be purely for the traffic the links themselves create. With a possible Google penalty for misuse of the rel=”topics” attribute, publishers would think twice about using it for SEO purposes. Allow Google to give a boost to rankings to publishers and authors who have consistently good content. Links marked by a reputable publisher and/or author with rel=”topic” would carry more weight. Hopefully something like this catches on.  If you agree (or disagree), please comment below and share this post on social media.  Let’s get a discussion started around this topic. Image courtesy of  Stuart Miles / FreeDigtialPhotos.net.

Is Linking Dead for SEO?

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In a controversial and much talked about post by Matt Cutts, entitled “The decay and fall of guest blogging for SEO,” the head of Google’s Webspam team declares that guest posting for SEO purposes is dead. In his post, which has been edited several times for clarity, he attempts to clarify that Google is targeting spammy links only, but leaves the door open for linking for legitimate purposes. Google is in an unenviable position, where it needs, not just wants, but needs to rein in the problem of spammy content, but at the same time needs to avoid penalizing legitimate websites. The biggest problem is how to determine if a link is organic or not, since webmasters are not disclosing whether a link is sponsored or not.  We all have seen spammy websites in Google’s search results, but now we are starting to see legitimate websites penalized for actions of third parties. Toxic Links Google has created such a scare that webmasters are left wondering if they should link to other websites at all, especially their own.  Google says its fine to do so, but some webmasters are not sure they want to take that risk. The danger to Google is that it will frighten webmasters away from creating organic links, which will give Google less content to crawl, which will reduce the size and quality of their index. In the current state of things, Google is declaring spammy links dead, at least for the purpose of gaining attention of search engines.  That is clear.  What is not so clear is whether organic linking is truly safe as well, as Google claims, especially those in the gray area.  For example, linking to other websites you own could be considered spammy by one observer, and useful by another. Unfortunately Black Hat SEO will Adapt The bigger problem is that black hat SEO will just change their tactics.  If linking becomes toxic, then the best way to manipulate Google’s results would be to create spammy content linking to competing websites. So it is actually possible that if Google becomes too heavy handed on link spam, they could unintentionally create additional link spam, meant to discredit legitimate websites. We are already seeing an increase in comment spam linking to Google and no other website.  I am pretty sure Google did not post or authorize those links.  I wonder how many other spammy links are false flags as well. Linking is Dying for SEO Links are no longer a reliable measure of the relevance and importance of a website. While Google is trying to scare spammers, and at the same time trying to calm the fears of webmasters the world over, the reality is that links are going to have to be deemed less important in Google’s search algorithm.  They just are not an accurate indicator anymore. Over time, what we are going to see is a rise of new indicators, such as Google Authorship, and social media mentions to supplement and perhaps even replace linking as the primary indicator of relevance, popularity and importance. Linking is not dead yet, but whether this happens this year or next year, this is the direction things are going. On whether or not you should link to other websites, that is up to you.  But link because it is useful, or you want people to click on the links, not because you want Google to increase a website’s rank.

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