From Google to you
I recently attended a search industry conference at which Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s anti-webspam team, was a keynote speaker. Matt’s team is charged with finding sites that are attempting to cheat the system, documenting how they do it and then dropping them from the search index. As a result, Matt and his team have learned what works best to get sites listed correctly – and it is surprisingly simple. Matt shared a few SEO tips for beginners with us.
These tips are intended for web site owners just getting started in the optimization process. However, it’s often the simplest things that are overlooked. Many of the sites that I and other SEOs are tasked with “fixing” do not follow some of these and as a result rank poorly for searches they should, or at least could, rank well for.
Ten SEO Tips
- Use good URL & Site structure.
It’s been discussed over and over again. Yes, Google can index dynamic page URLs (like those here on AgentGenius.com). However, if you are able to use search friendly URLS – often referred to as PERMALINKS – then you really should. Permalinks allow you to include keywords in your URL, creating one more crumb in the trail you want the search engines and readers to follow.
- Use good and unique page titles.
Page titles should be a brief (only about 65-70 characters) description of what a page contains, or is about. This is another opportunity to let the search engines (and more importantly, your readers) know what they might find on a page. Too often this is ignored, or worse misused. Many sites leave page titles blank, insert just the company name, or use non-descriptive text like “about us” or “our products”. A page title should be able to stand alone, a reader should have an idea what the page is about without reading one word of it’s content.
- Use keywords naturally withing your content (don’t try to stuff them in there).
Google does recognize common root variations of the same word. For example, it knows that engage, engagement, engaging, and engaged are all variations the same word. Don’t waste your time and irritate your readers by using all these words over and over in your pages. However, Google does not know that cat, kitten, kitty, feline or putty-tat could all be used to mean the same thing. When applicable, use common synonyms in your pages as well. Different people use different words to communicate, try to use the most common variations in your writing.
- Page title and site URL do not have to match.
If you are not using a blog or a content management system (CMS), this is probably not something you ever even considering doing – creating matching titles and URLs is too much work for a manual process. However, if you use a CMS like WordPress it is often done for you automatically. Why not alter the URL slightly and insert a keyword synonym? It’s just one more of the crumbs to follow. (I’ll admit I have not done this – it’s one of those simple things I never even thought about, but feel silly for not doing).
- Check your site logs often to see what you already rank well for.
You might already be ranking well for something and not even know it. Possibly searchers are finding you with keywords you never even considered. By reviwing your search logs, you’ll know how you are being found and be able to optimize your site accordingly.
- Create a blog and post often.
New, fresh content and a growing site is a good indication of relevance. Relevance is what will get you ranked in Google.
- Fill in your description tags.
It’s surprising, how many site owners think the description tag is just a place to stuff keywords. More accurately, it’s displayed by Google (and others) in the search results along with the page title to give searchers an idea what they should expect to find on your web site. A well written description tag should contain your keyword(s) or synonyms and also be truly descriptive of the page and it’s content. If your potential reader thinks this is what they want to see, they will click. If they see a long and obvious list of keywords, chances are they will pass you over.
- Create an XML site map.
Site maps are one of those things SEOs can’t seem to agree on. Many feel that a well structured site will be crawled just fine with out one. Others, myself included, feel that any help they provide is worth the minimal (if any) work required to maintain them. If you run your site in WordPress, or most any CMS, there are plugins available that take all the work out this. I read recently about a test done that showed Google not only came to a site sooner, but it also crawled sites more quickly – a lot more quickly, on sites with site maps. Of course I’d love to link you to it, but can’t locate it at the moment – if you have it, please post in the comments.
- If you are local, be sure to register in the Google local business center.
Put simply, if you run a local business, and are not listed here, you are throwing money away. When people search for products and services in their area, the business identified as local will often rank at the very top of page one, regardless of all other SEO factors.
- Use your chosen keywords in URL and titles.
OK – This is a repeat of 1 & 2, but it’s important so don’t forget to do it.
Simple, right? OK, time to fess up…..how many of these are you not doing on your web site?
Will China’s new digital currency really compete with the US Dollar?
(BUSINESS FINANCE) It isn’t the first time that China has tried to compete with the dollar, but the release of a digital currency has lead some economists to raise red flags.
For decades the US has been the world standard for foreign trade. As of 2019, 88% of all trades were being backed by that almighty dollar, making it the backbone of the world economy. However, China may be sneaking in something new for digital currency.
In the last few months, over 100k people were “airdropped” cold hard digital currency. This currency came from People’s Bank of China (PBOC), who has created a digital manifestation of the Chinese yuan. This is planned to run concurrently with its paper and coin playmates. Upon initial inspection, they resemble the same structure as Bitcoin and Ethereum. But there’s a major difference here: The Chinese government is the one fronting the money.
The suspected plan behind this is that the government plans to tightly control the value of the digital yuan, which they are known to do with the paper one as well. This would create a unique item within the world of cryptocurrency. Personally, I don’t think that any of this is going to go anywhere soon. Too many people still need hard currency but it does open up a unique aspect of currency that has only just started since debit and credit cards. It gives the government the ability to spy on its cryptocurrency users. Being able to monitor transaction flows can reveal things like tax evasion and spending habits. There is even the possibility of experimenting with expiring cash.
But how does this affect the US? There’s a method that has been used by Americans since WWII called dollar weaponization. The exchange domination allows the US government to monitor how the dollars move across the border. Along with that monitoring they are actually able to freeze people out of global financial products as well. It’s a phenomenal amount of power to hold.
The concern for economists is that the price fixing capabilities of this new currency as well as its backer being an entire countries government could affect everything about the global financial system. Only time will tell how true that turns out to be.
There are a number of possibilities that could come up honestly and they could fall flat on their face unless they put their entire monetary worth behind it. Only time will tell but some economists are already calling for DigiDollars from the American government. Another step into the future.
New Pinterest code of conduct pushes for mindful posting
(SOCIAL MEDIA) Social media sites have struggled with harmful content, but Pinterest is using their new code of conduct to encourage better, not just reprimands.
It appears that at least one social media site has made a decision on how to move forward with the basis of their platform. Pinterest has created a brand-new code of conduct for their users. Giving them a set of rules to follow which to some may be a little restricting, but I’m not mad about it. In a public statement, they told the world their message:
“We’re on a journey to build a globally inclusive platform where Pinners around the world can discover ideas that feel personalized, relevant, and reflective of who they are.”
The revamp of their system includes 3 separate changes revolving around the rules of the platform. All of them are complete with examples and full sets of rules. The list is summed up as:
- Pinterest Creator Code
- Pinterest Comment Moderation Tools
- Pinterest Creator Fund
For the Creator Code, Pinterest had this to say: “The Creator Code is a mandatory set of guidelines that lives within our product intended to educate and build community around making inclusive and compassionate content”. The rules are as follows:
- Be Kind
- Check my Facts
- Be aware of triggers
- Practice Inclusion
- Do no harm
The list of rules provides some details on the pop-up as well, with notes like “make sure content doesn’t insult,” “make sure information is accurate,” etc. The main goal of this ‘agreement’, according to Pinterest, is not to reprimand offending people but to practice a proactive and empowering social environment. Other social websites have been shoe-horned into reprimanding instead of being proactive against abuse, and it has been met with mixed results. Facebook itself is getting a great deal of flack about their new algorithm that picks out individual words and bans people for progressively longer periods without any form of context.
Comment Moderation is a new set of tools that Pinterest is hoping will encourage a more positive experience between users and content creators. It’s just like putting the carrot before the donkey to get him to move the cart.
- Positivity Reminders
- Moderation Tools
- Featured Comments
- New Spam Prevention Signals
Sticking to the positivity considerations here seems to be the goal. They seem to be focusing on reminding people to be good and encouraging them to stay that way. Again, proactive, not reactive.
The social platform’s last change is to create a Pinterest Creator Fund. Their aim is to provide training, create strategy consulting, and financial support. Pinterest has also stated that they are going to be aiming these funds specifically at underrepresented communities. They even claim to be committing themselves to a quota of 50% of their Creators. While I find this commendable, it also comes off a little heavy handed. I would personally wait to see how they go about this. If they are ignoring good and decent Creators based purely on them being in a represented group, then I would find this a bad use of their time. However, if they are actively going out and looking for underrepresented Creators while still bringing in good Creators that are in represented groups, then I’m all for this.
Being the change you want to see in the world is something I personally feel we should all strive towards. Whether or not you produced positive change depends on your own goals… so on and so forth. In my own opinion, Pinterest and their new code of conduct is creating a better positive experience here and striving to remind people to be better than they were with each post. It’s a bold move and ultimately could be a spectacular outcome. Only time will tell how their creators and users will respond. Best of luck to them.
Chatbots: Are they still useful, or ready to be retired?
(TECH NEWS) Chatbots have proven themselves to be equally problematic as they are helpful – is it time to let them go the way of the floppy disk?
All chatbots must die. I’d like to say it was fun while it lasted, but was it really?
I understand the appeal, truly. It’s a well established 21st century business mantra for all the side hustlers and serial entrepreneurs out there: “Automation is the key to scaling.” If we can save time, labor, and therefore money by automating systems, that means we have more time to build our brands and sell our goods and services.
Automation makes sense in many ways, but not all automation tools were created equal. While many tools for automation are extremely effective and useful, chatbots have been problematic from the start. Tools for email marketing, social media, internal team communication, and project management are a few examples of automation that have helped many a startup or other small business kick things into high gear quickly, so that they can spend time wooing clients and raising capital. They definitely have their place in the world of business.
However promising or intriguing chatbots seemed when they were shiny and new, they have lost their luster. If we have seen any life lesson in 2020, it is that humans are uniquely adept at finding ways to make a mess of things.
The artificial intelligence of most chatbots has to be loaded, over time, into the system, by humans. We try to come up with every possible customer-business interaction to respond to with the aim of being helpful. However, language is dynamic, interactive, with near infinite combinations, not to mention dialects, misspellings, and slang.
It would take an unrealistic amount of time to be able to program a chatbot to compute, much less reply to, all possible interactions. If you don’t believe me, consider your voice-activated phone bot or autocorrect spelling. It doesn’t take a whole lot to run those trains off the rails, at least temporarily. There will always be someone trying to confuse the bots, to get a terse, funny, or nonsensical answer, too.
Chatbots can work well when you are asking straightforward questions about a single topic. Even then, they can fall short. A report by AI Multiple showed that some chatbots were manipulated into expressing agreement with racist, violent, or unpatriotic (to China, where they were created) ideas. Others, like CNN and WSJ, had problems helping people unsubscribe from their messages.
Funny, shocking, or simply unhelpful answers abound in the world of chatbot fails. People are bound to make it messy, either accidentally or on purpose.
In general, it feels like the time has come to put chatbots out to pasture. Here are some helpful questions from azumbrunnen.me to help you decide when it’s worth keeping yours.
- Is the case simple enough to work on chatbot? Chatbots are good with direct and short statements and requests, generally. However, considering that Comcast’s research shows at least 1,700 ways to say “I want to pay my bill,” according to Netomi, the definition of “simple enough” is not so simple.
- Is your Natural Language Processor capable and sophisticated enough? Pre-scripted chatbots are often the ones to fail more quickly than chatbots built with an NLP. It will take a solid NLP to deal with the intricacies of conversational human language.
- Are your users in chat based environments? If so, then it could be useful, as you are meeting your customers where they are. Otherwise, if chatbots pop up whenever someone visits your website or Facebook page, it can really stress them out or turn them off.
I personally treat most chatbots like moles in a digital whack-a-mole game. The race is on to close every popup as quickly as possible, including chatbots. I understand that from time to time, in certain, clearly defined and specific scenarios, having a chatbot field the first few questions can help direct the customer to the correct person to resolve their problems or direct them to FAQs.
They are difficult to program within the expansiveness of the human mind and human language, though, and a lot of people find them terribly annoying. It’s time to move on.
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