Google Makes Changes – How Can You Stay at the Top of the Page?

July 2, 2010

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an interesting industry. It also happens to be pretty large considering its actual purpose: exploiting imperfections in search engines. The people who work in SEO generally don’t like to look at it this way, but all they’re doing is cheating at a game. The goal of a search engine is to give users the most accurate, high-quality results possible. When someone with a floundering website which isn’t receiving the pageviews they’d like seeks out a specialized SEO company just for the sake of getting better search-engine results, they are saying they’d rather get traffic than improve the quality of their site. Well as of late, the companies that provide the short-term relief that is SEO are going nuts, and it’s all because the company they make all their profit off of, Google, has made a pretty major change to their search algorithm.

It’s not exactly being explained this way, but the change seems pretty precisely designed to eliminate the ability to exploit faults in the existing algorithm, exactly the service that SEO companies provide. What the algorithm actually does is improve the quality of results by promoting sites with unique content.

When it comes to Google’s pay-per-click advertising, the updated algorithm will continue to use the quality and cost-per-click (CPC) figure but will be slightly tweaked for that coveted top ad position. Instead of using the actual CPC, Google will use the advertiser’s maximum CPC in the overall equation. In addition, Google will be applying a stricter threshold on the quality component for the top ad positions. Actual CPC is determined, in part, by the bidding behavior of the advertisers below you. This means that your ad’s chance of being promoted to a top spot could be constrained by a factor you cannot influence. By considering your ad’s maximum CPC, a value you set, you will have more control over achieving top ad placement.

According to Google, “In addition to increasing control for advertisers, the improved formula increases the quality of our top ads for users. This is due to more high quality ads becoming eligible for top placement, thereby allowing our system to choose from a larger pool of high quality ads to show our users.”

Other side effects include that the long-tail and mid-tail keywords (phrases with 3 or more words) are passing through more stringent semantic and ranking filters (meaning the array of broad match keywords a page could potentially rank for) have been tightened up or reduced to increase relevance.

Here’s a pretty technical video explaining the actual changes:

So who will be impacted by this change? First, those who currently have top ad positions will see more competition in that area. Second, the people who have spent their time increasing keyword density on their site just for the sake of reaching a higher position on the search engine will have wasted their time.

Really, it’s not as if Google is making a targeted assault on SEO. They are just trying to increase the quality of results and keep up with the evolving state of the web. They’ve recently begun to integrate real-time social media content into their results, which means that it will be impossible to pay a search engine marketing company to be constantly tweaking your site. Regardless, this is only reinforcing the reality that tweaking the content of your site so it’s more kosher for Google results will never stand up to regularly adding genuine, well-written content to your site which people will want to link back to. The truth is that if people reach a site solely because of SEO but the site itself is not well designed, does not have decent content, or doesn’t look trustworthy, no one is going to buy from it or link to it.

So what are the steps to take in order to compensate for this change? Obviously it’s still important to focus on where your site will place on Google. But the way to go about this is not to think from the search engine’s end and build your site around what will be successful on a results page. Rather, the priority should be the quality of your site and its unique content, its accuracy to its message or what its selling. Google is simply trying to make the web a better place – where the best sites are also the most popular sites.

Contact Us or check out our website and we would be happy to help you figure out how you can make a truly good website tailored to a better internet.


Finland makes broadband a ‘legal right’

July 1, 2010

Finland has become the first country in the world to make broadband a legal right for every citizen.

From 1 July every Finn will have the right to access to a 1Mbps (megabit per second) broadband connection.

Finland has vowed to connect everyone to a 100Mbps connection by 2015.

In the UK the government has promised a minimum connection of at least 2Mbps to all homes by 2012 but has stopped short of enshrining this as a right in law.

The Finnish deal means that from 1 July all telecommunications companies will be obliged to provide all residents with broadband lines that can run at a minimum 1Mbps speed.

Broadband commitment

Speaking to the BBC, Finland’s communication minister Suvi Linden explained the thinking behind the legislation: “We considered the role of the internet in Finns everyday life. Internet services are no longer just for entertainment.

“Finland has worked hard to develop an information society and a couple of years ago we realised not everyone had access,” she said.

It is believed up to 96% of the population are already online and that only about 4,000 homes still need connecting to comply with the law.

In the UK internet penetration stands at 73%.

The British government has agreed to provide everyone with a minimum 2Mbps broadband connection by 2012 but it is a commitment rather than a legally binding ruling.

“The UK has a universal service obligation which means virtually all communities will have broadband,” said a spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Making broadband a legal right could have implications for countries that plan tough action on illegal file-sharing.

Both the UK and France have said they may cut off or limit the internet connections of people who persistently download music or films for free.

The Finnish government has adopted a more gentle approach.

“We will have a policy where operators will send letters to illegal file-sharers but we are not planning on cutting off access,” said Ms Linden.

A poll conducted for the BBC World Service earlier this year found that almost four in five people around the world believed that access to the internet is a fundamental right.

[original BBC article]


Videochat and Social Media: The Missing Link

June 22, 2010

  

It’s time to take videochat seriously. Videochat a prime example of futuristic technology that would’ve seemed unimaginable 30 years ago but is currently available. You can have a decent-quality video phonecall with someone thousands of miles away in realtime – why hasn’t this technology taken off? The key lies in social media.

Now that Apple is taking on videochat with “Facetime” on iPhone 4 we can expect some major steps forward in the technology and hopefully in the popularity of this area of communication. Virtually all computers nowadays are equipped with webcams, but people are generally only using these to record video rather than to make live calls. Usually people blame this on the lack of quality and consistency in leading videochat programs like Skype, but in reality the quality is there, it’s just not being used. The problem with current videochat programs can be understood more deeply if you look at them in comparison with videochat’s predecessor: instant messaging.

The online plain of videochat currently looks almost exactly the way instant messaging used to. Sites like stickam and tinychat provide public video chatrooms as well as the ability to create private rooms, similar to the old aol chatrooms. Skype can be equated to AIM, the instant messaging program used ubiquitously for the past 6 or 7 years – at least by middle and high school students. But instant messaging has moved on; now almost all instant messaging dialogues take place over facebook chat, a huge change considering the past popularity of AIM. Skype has the same problem AIM did, it requires you to seek out your friends through their service and create a buddy list which is unique to Skype. Facebook Chat stole instant messaging away from AIM simply because every friend you could ever want to chat with is at your fingertips; you don’t have to find out their special username – you’re already friends with them. Considering the natural trend of tech it seems logical to say that we can expect videochatting to become easier, more reliable, and following these, more popular. The moment it’s possible to create a lightweight decent-quality videochat program within Facebook – expect Skype to disappear.


The Significance of eReading

June 7, 2010

Anyone who follows popular technology trends at all will have noticed the rise in interest and competition in ereaders (I hope a better name emerges for them). Currently, people don’t seem to be acknowledging the significance of potential propogation of ereaders throughout society. Should ereaders become common, it would represent a major step for the internet and computers.

Amazon Kindle

The natural trend of the web is to emulate and then replace all previous forms of communication. But let me make a case for that statement: one could say that the computer is the ultimate machine because it can simulate any other machine conceivable. The ability of the internet to replicate all other forms of communication is a result of these ultimate machines being connected between one another. Over the past few years different tools have been developed for the internet that are slowly replacing our previous communications technologies. Television was the most recent development in communication before the internet, and watching tv and movies online has become extremely common. In some small part, phone calls are being replaced by skype, VoIP, google voice, and others. You’d be fooling yourself if you claimed that skype is truly on the way to replacing phones, but one can see that the internet is moving in on phone calls from different angles. Cell phones are clearly replacing land lines and almost all cell phones now are internet-equipped. How long until all of our voice-communication happens over the internet? Letters have been entirely replaced by email, newspapers are suffocating due to online news. There seems to be only one mode of communication left that hasn’t been supplanted by the web; the oldest communication technology around: books.

Barnes & Noble Nook

Ereaders have become a bit of a hot topic lately, the main competition seems to be among Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Nobles’s Nook and Apple’s iPad. Later I’ll talk about the features of all these devices and which makes the most sense for consumers, but when it comes down to it there is something that is going to be much more important than specs in the field of ereaders. The truth is that reading something off a screen is not very pleasant; paper and ink is just better designed for reading large amounts of text. People can handle and even prefer reading their mail and news online because those things are usually short, they don’t involve much scrolling or wear and tear on the eyes. Reading books is a whole different thing, and a lot stands in the way of the success of ereaders. Reading a book is a pleasurable tactile experience; people will cling to the tradition of reading from a book for as long as they can. That said, the same argument could have been made for newspapers and that didn’t last very long. Nonetheless, people don’t collect newspapers on shelves all over their houses and apartments, don’t fill libraries and bookstores with them.

Books are ingrained in our culture, in our psyches. We like having them around, we like looking at them even if we don’t read them. The success of online books would mean choosing practicality and technological progress over something which is traditional and which seems fundamentally good. The only way this could occur is if a device emerges which is more pleasurable to read from than a book. Personally, I don’t think that’s provided by the current generation of ereaders, and I don’t think they’re going to be overwhelmingly successful. But we’re getting there.

So if you’re going to support the progress of the internet towards becoming the ultimate communication network by buying an ereader the question then becomes – which should I buy? Well the differences between the Nook and the Kindle are negligible. You can decide for yourself, but the Kindle seems to be a better device. The Nook is mostly grasping at straws in an attempt to compete; it uses a slow, mostly nonresponsive partial touchscreen; its operating system is slower and laggier than the Kindle’s. The prices for books are about the same but the Kindle has a larger library of books available. Because of the touchscreen the Nook has less battery life than the Kindle, 10 days as opposed to 14 days. This battery life is so long because they both use “e-ink” screens which have no backlight and look just like ink and paper. This means no strain on the eyes and no glare in sunlight but also no low-light reading.

Apple iPad

Here’s why I think that if you’re looking for an ereader the iPad makes more sense. Ereaders will eventually fail. They have to because they don’t make sense within the scheme of the internet. The idea is to have all different forms of communication and information transfer available within one device; this is the true advantage of computers in the modern age. Spreading different forms of media across different devices is against the core philosophy of technological progress. You might point to the iPod as a counter example. Like books, music is something people want available in a small package for portability. It was because of this that the iPod originally gained prestige, but even now Apple is moving the iPod back towards general computing with the iPod touch and the iPhone. Pretty soon the only version of the iPod which is only for music and other basic media will be something analogous to the shuffle: small, cheap, and simple. With the iPad we move closer towards having extremely portable computers which emulate every form of communication and information technology available. It just happens that the iPad also makes a great device for reading. It’s true that ereaders are currently in the limelight, perhaps they will even expand their market and gain a measure of success for some time. But eventually as the hardware gets more sophisticated ereaders will be replaced by devices which perform all the tasks necessary to call them computers, not just storage devices with screens configured for easy reading. It might make sense to buy an ereader for now, they’re cheaper and lighter simply because they’re specialized. But eventually the technology will catch up and we’ll be provided with a a fully-functional computer similar to the iPad which can also provide a pleasurable reading experience and is also light and cheap and portable, and that will spell the end for ereaders. I don’t think we’re very far away.


Google Chrome OS: Evolving the Operating System

May 26, 2010
 
“…the operating systems that browsers run on were designed in an era where there was no web.”
-Sundar Pichai, Google VP Product Management

The Question

Consider that statement. It’s not a bad point. When using your computer, how much time do you spend on the web versus using purely offline software? Maybe that proportion is more reasonable at work, but consider how you use your computer during free time. Think about the way your kids use their laptop; the way the general public use their computers and phones and any web-enabled device. The truth is that most of the functionality of computers has shifted onto the internet. If most people look through their programs nowadays they realize that perhaps the only programs they’re using are the ones that came with Microsoft Office – word processing, spreadsheets, powerpoint presentations. The other program used most often is probably iTunes or some other media player. How many of these can be replaced with free online applications which have equivalent capabilities or even more advanced and useful tools due to their foundation in the internet? Is your entire operating system one of those programs?

The Answer

With the ever-increasing interest in netbooks, the popularity of the iPad and smartphones which use lightweight operating systems; it has become clear that peoples’ priorities have changed when it comes to leisurely computing. We want functionality, sure, but with an emphasis on speed and ease-of-use. Imagine, then, an operating system which runs exclusively on netbooks. An operating system that starts up and is running in a matter of seconds; where the only real program is an internet browser and the functionality is defined by internet-based applications. Imagine that it is open-source (meaning anyone can develop and improve the project) and that the operating system itself is free (meaning the price is defined only by the hardware you’re willing to pay for). This operating system is the Google Chrome OS, due out in the second half of this year (probably towards the very end of it). But let’s talk about Chrome in detail:

  • Speed: Because the Chrome OS is basically entirely internet-based, it’s extremely lightweight and therefore extremely fast. The speed of your computer’s functionality is defined by the speed of your internet connection.
  • Security: You might think that with everything you do on computer occurring on the web you’ll be more vulnerable to viruses, malware, and hackers. That won’t be the case though, as Google is working to make the Chrome OS the safest browser available. The first thing it’ll have going for it is the same thing that keeps Apple’s Mac OSX safe from malicious attacks: it simply will not be as popular as Windows. Hackers and the like are interested in doing as much damage as possible, so there’s just no incentive to write a virus that’ll affect an operating system that doesn’t have the largest market share. But Google isn’t satisfied with trusting hackers and viruses to just ignore their system, in fact the entire security system of the Chrome OS will be based on lack of trust. Chrome won’t trust any of its applications, and they will all run in “sandboxes” – sequestered virtual space which keeps the app from having an effect on other apps, the structure of the OS, or from involving itself with the network. In a way, Chrome won’t even trust itself, in that every time it restarts the OS will analyze its code and if it has been compromised, it has been designed to fix itself. Also, because it is open-source, Google will have countless developers discovering any bugs or flaws, constantly alerting Google to these issues, and finding ways to fix them.
  • Functionality: The biggest qualm probably any user will have about the Chrome OS is the fear that they will lose the core “usability” of their computer. No one would really like to admit to themselves the majority if not nearly all of their computing power is spent on internet usage. And the truth is that we do need the more heavy-duty software every once in awhile: students need to write papers, almost everyone needs to make spreadsheets and presentations. We don’t trust these lightweight user-made apps to handle those important functions for us. But what people often don’t realize is that Google has created web-based application versions of these programs, and in most cases they are just as good and often better than the ones Microsoft has provided us.
  • It’s called Google Docs and it’s sleeker and faster and in lots of ways more useful than Microsoft Office. Because it’s internet based, Google Docs allows you to collaborate on documents in real-time with other people in other offices or other countries instead of constantly making changes and emailing things back in forth or having to share screens. And because it’s from Google, Docs is constantly being improved and updated in response to users’ needs and requests. Not to mention the obvious: Google Docs is much faster than Microsoft Office can ever hope to be. Oh and it’s free, very much anything Microsoft has ever offered.
  • So that’s Chrome’s advantage over Windows, but what about Apple’s OS which also runs on applications and pretty much introduced and popularized the idea? The main difference is Google’s Open Source Philosophy. On Google’s Chrome OS, all web-apps are Chrome Apps. Apple closes off its hardware in two ways: it’s only open to applications written within Apple’s special framework, and it must be approved by Apple and not contradict their interests as a company in any way. Apple has been known to prevent applications from reaching the public because though they would drastically benefit users, they would take profit away from Apple. Consistent with its image as a company, Google prioritizes the users over itself, and any app available on the web is available to someone running Google Chrome OS. This means you have all of Google’s online software capabilites, plus the countless applications designed by users on the web, not to mention the embedded media player Google plans on providing which you can bet will be more open than Apple’s iTunes (Have you ever tried to get a music file into your iTunes that wasn’t bought from Apple or on a burned cd? I wouldn’t expect those issues from Google)
  • Cost: Google plans on providing the Chrome OS for free on dedicated netbooks. That means that how much you spend comes down only to the companies who sell the netbooks. Considering prices now, you might expect at most to spend $300 or $400 dollars for a netbook which comes with Chrome. Basically, it’ll cost you less to have a fully functioning computer than it costs just to buy Windows alone.
  • Conclusions

    Google Chrome OS enabled netbooks will start coming out later this year, and it’s hard not to imagine getting one (if you can stomach the conversion away from your current programs). The Chrome OS will provide in a lightweight package what seems to be missing in devices like the iPad: an actual computer, not just a scaled-up smartphone. The significance of Chrome is that it marks an evolution of computing deeper into the internet. By shifting the major functionality of computers onto the internet connectivity becomes key and collaboration becomes the bedrock of creation. Chrome seems to be in line with the natural, beneficial evolution of technology – faster, cheaper, and more connected. Apple will sell you a product that looks better, costs more, is more stimulating but when it comes down to it, does less because Apple is so obsessed with image that it closes its development process off to the public. Microsoft will sell you a product that does quite a lot but is plagued with problems and is slow both in functionality and adaptability. I’m putting my stock in Google, which as it moves into the field of operating systems, is set to provide users with everything users need and want: a faster operating system, a better operating system, an operating system based on an open platform which is adaptive and ever-expanding, an operating system that costs you nothing at all.

    Chrome OS Announcement: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/07/introducing-google-chrome-os.html

    Chromium Open Source Project Announcement: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/11/releasing-chromium-os-open-source.html

    Google Docs: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2010/04/next-generation-of-google-docs.html


    Twitter – Getting Started

    May 3, 2010

    A friend of mine recently said to me, ‘I just don’t get Twitter.’ You may have heard or thought this yourself. It’s the fastest growing digital medium for News, Social Interaction, and developing new business relationships.

    So to help my friend and others, here is a simple ‘Get Started Guide.’

    1> Most important: follow a lot of other people. If you follow someone, they will most likely will follow you back. But who to follow? Use the Search box and put in topics that interest you like ‘Baseball,’ ‘Investing,’ etc. Then read the Tweets that come up. If somebody has made an interesting comment, click on their picture to read their profile. If you like, follow them. They will most likely follow you back.

    2> Post interesting stuff yourself, because when the people you follow look up your profile, they’ll want to see that you have something interesting to say. Then they will be more likely to follow you.

    3> Retweet things you find interesting. Retweets not only show up on your profile but also show up to all the Followers of the person you retweeted so some of their followers may follow you.(That’s a sentence you could never imagine writing 10 years ago!)

    4> Read a Blog Post I did awhile back that you may find helpful.
    https://outofchaosblog.wordpress.com/2009/03/20/pathfinder-newsletter-twitter-your-way-to-success/

    5> Most of all interact, learn and have fun with it!


    People’s Processor: Embrace China’s Homegrown Computer Chips

    January 28, 2010

     

    We thought that this was a really important, provocative story about people, politics and technology.

    Imagine that your nation is entirely dependent on a belligerent and economically unstable foreign country for a precious commodity. Imagine that without that commodity, your entire society would grind to a halt. Got it? OK, now imagine that your nation is China, the belligerent nation is the US, and the commodity is CPUs.

    Fuloong

    Fuloong is coming!

    For China to maintain its blistering pace of growth — about 8 percent over the course of the global financial meltdown — the nation’s leaders know they must transition to a postindustrial economy as rapidly as they transitioned to a free-market economy 30 years ago. Computers are key to doing that. The country’s demand for PCs is enormous. The Chinese purchased 39.6 million of them in 2008. And that number is only going to climb — 75 percent of the population still doesn’t have access to the Internet. But the vast majority of PCs sold in China are running central processing units created by the US companies Intel and AMD. This poses a range of problems; perhaps the biggest is that it locks China into paying first-world prices for CPUs. China is also deeply reluctant to build military hardware on top of Western processors. (And if that sounds paranoid, keep in mind that there’s concern in Washington over whether the US military should use American-designed chips that have merely been manufactured overseas.)

    Given those issues, it’s not hard to understand why the Chinese government sponsored an ambitious initiative to create a sort of national processor. Work on the Loongson, or Dragon Chip, began in 2001 at the Institute of Computing Technology in Beijing. The goal was to create a chip that would be versatile enough to drive anything from an industrial robot to a supercomputer. One of the first Loongson-powered computers appeared in 2006, an ultracompact desktop PC known as the Fuloong (Lucky Dragon). It was built by the Chinese company Lemote, which soon followed that up with a cheap netbook. And China is now boasting that a third-generation multicore Loongson chip, currently in the prototype stage, will be used to power a petaflop supercomputer.

    China’s decision to roll its own processors has gone largely unnoticed in the West. It shouldn’t. The country is incredibly motivated for the project to succeed — it has become a cornerstone of the National High-Tech R&D Program embarked upon in 1986. And we know that the Chinese are very good at leveraging economies of scale. The Loongson chip is going to change more than just computer-ownership rates in the most populous nation on the planet. It’s going to have a profound impact on computers everywhere.

    For starters, it could help usher in an era of true post-Windows PCs. Because the Loongson eschews the standard x86 chip architecture, it can’t run the full version of Microsoft Windows without software emulation. To encourage adoption of the processor, the Institute of Computing Technology is adapting everything from Java to OpenOffice for the Loongson chip and releasing it all under a free software license. Lemote positions its netbook as the only computer in the world with nothing but free software, right down to the BIOS burned into the motherboard chip that tells it how to boot up. It’s for this last reason that Richard “GNU/Linux” Stallman, granddaddy of the free software movement, uses a laptop with a Loongson chip.

    Loongson could also reshape the global PC business. “Compared to Intel and IBM, we are still in the cradle,” concedes Weiwu Hu, chief architect of the Loongson. But he also notes that China’s enormous domestic demand isn’t the only potential market for his CPU. “I think many other poor countries, such as those in Africa, need low-cost solutions,” he says. Cheap Chinese processors could corner emerging markets in the developing world (and be a perk for the nation’s allies and trade partners).

    And that’s just the beginning. “These chips have implications for space exploration, intelligence gathering, industrialization, encryption, and international commerce,” says Tom Halfhill, a senior analyst for Microprocessor Report.

    Will Loongson-based PCs make inroads with average consumers in the West? You can already order a Lemote netbook online. It isn’t any cheaper or better than other entry-level netbooks, and reviews from geeky hardware enthusiast sites are less than enthusiastic. But these crude first-generation products hark back to another wave of boxy, underpowered consumer goods that were initially regarded as mere curiosities in the West. They were called Toyotas.

    [Christopher Mims’ original article from Wired.com]


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