Welcome back. My series of SEO Tips is winding down; I hope you have gotten a lot out of them. If you have questions about this, the earlier tips or something I have yet to cover, please don’t hesitate to ask.
How could Christopher Robin ever find Pooh or Tigger’s place without his map of the 100 acre woods? Without a map, how easily could you get around in a town you’ve never been to before? Sure, you could drive up and down every street until you found your destination, but that map sure does make things a lot easier. Sitemaps do the same thing for your Web site, they help google and the others get through your site more easily.
Sitemaps are special pages, or files, created to help visitors and search spiders more easily navigate to all of the pages on your Web site. Sitemaps can be created in a couple different ways, either as traditional HTML files, or as XML files. Naturally, each has its own pros and cons.
Sitemaps created using traditional HTML (or other standard code) layout methods can be a life ring to stranded visitors. Done correctly they are an opportunity for you to use your preferred keywords as the anchor text (you remember how important anchor text is, right?), directing visitors and search engines in a way that most benefits you. The sitemap at apple.com is a great example of how to build one in this style. Take a peek….I’ll wait a minute. You can see that they gave careful thought about how to lay out the page and the text to use for the links. It fits the overall design of the site, making you feel welcome – not lost.
Unfortunately though, sitemaps are often treated as a necessary evil and not given the proper attention and respect. Take a look at this sitemap for a California pizza shop…not quite so nice. True, it does serve its purpose, but just barely. The biggest disadvantage to sitemaps like this is that as your site grows they can become difficult to manage over time. Keeping track of new files, files to remove or when each gets updated takes a lot of work. Additionally, if you have a large site, listing every page on your sitemap is just not practical, forcing you to decide what pages to include.
Creating your sitemap as an XML file almost always makes it easier to create and maintain, especially if you run your site with WordPress or another content management system (CMS). There are several plugins available for WordPress that will automatically generate and update your sitemap whenever you add to or change the content on your your site – how easy is that?
The formatting of XML files is not pretty to look at (Take a look at the one on my site). Because of this, they are not intended to be browsed by your visitors, just the spiders. Since you don’t need to worry about how the files look to visitors, you are able to include every page on your site. That’s good for the spiders, very good. Some tests have shown sites that use an XML sitemap get indexed deeper, faster and more frequently than those that do not. The obvious downside to using this style of sitemap is that you have no life ring to offer your visitors if/when they get lost in your site. Thankfully though, WordPress (and other CMS) sites are generally pretty easy to navigate.
Two maps better than one?
If you have a particularly large site and are concerned your visitors might get lost, but you still want the search spiders to find all your pages, there’s no reason to not have both types of sitemaps – well, other than it’s twice the work for you. But, your visitors and traffic is worth it, right?
OK – time for you to get busy creating your own sitemap so that when the Google bot visits your site it doesn’t get trapped in Eeyores gloomy place.
What freelancers need to know about new tax form 1099-NEC
(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) There’s a new tax form for freelancers, but don’t hyperventilate. It’s not as bad as it sounds.
Dear freelancers and workers of the gig economy: You can stop banging your head on your desk. Or your table at a café. Or any hard surface near your couch.
The words “new tax form” are terrible, horrible, no good words for anyone, let alone independent workers. In this case, the “new” form is really a resurrected old one that replaces the 1009-MISC you’ve been getting from clients who’ve paid you more than $600.
And that’s the most important thing you need to know. Make sure your clients have sent you the right form – 1099-NEC – by Feb. 1, 2021. NEC stands for nonemployee compensation.
Of course, there could be all sorts of exceptions and blah-di-blah that might apply to you. Look to Forbes.com for the gritty accounting details, including why this came about.
TL;DR: The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act) aims to fight tax fraud by closing the time between when independent contractors can file their returns (Jan. 31) and some employers’ deadlines for submitting their own tax forms to the government (sometimes as late as the end of March). That meant fraudsters could file tax returns and claim a refund before the IRS had time to match up the numbers.
Speaking of matching up numbers: Make sure the number in Box 1 on the 1099-NEC is the same number you have in your records. Paying taxes on money you didn’t earn is what experts call “not good.”
So… you are keeping those records as you collect payment, right? Just a tip: If you’ve been keeping track of invoices, payments, and business expenses on a spreadsheet, you might want to check out the free accounting software Wave.
The IRS is going to release more info about filing requirements later in the year, but it’s always a good idea (for freelancers especially) to get a head start on collecting and adding up the receipts.
You may even minimize your banging-head-on-the-table headaches in 2021.
Sci-fi alert: Building cities on quantum networks becoming reality
(OPINION / EDITORIAL) The University of Bristol’s Quantum Engineering Tech Lab has created quantum networks that demonstrate the possibilities for future cities.
The University of Bristol is home to the largest quantum entanglement-based computer network in the world. Its Quantum Engineering Technology Lab, led by Dr. Siddarth Joshi, has been spearheading the development of a method of encryption called Quantum Key Distribution that may soon revolutionize information security.
First, what is quantum computing, exactly? (Giving a concise answer to that question is sort of like nailing jelly to a wall, but here goes…)
Much like a light switch, a conventional computer circuit can only be in one of two states at a time: On (1) or off (0). That’s basically how binary code works – by representing information as a series of discrete on and off signals, or high and low energy states.
Quantum computing makes use of a third kind of state that exists between those two.
Think about it this way: If classical, binary computing models rely on energy states of “yes” and “no” to communicate data, quantum computing introduces a state of “maybe.” This is because at the quantum level, the photons that make up the information in a quantum computer can exist in multiple places (or energy states, if you prefer) at once – a phenomenon known as “entanglement.”
Entangled photons cannot be observed or measured (i.e., tampered with) without changing their state and destroying the information they contain. That means quantum computer networks are virtually hack proof compared to traditional networks.
This is where Dr. Joshi’s team is changing the game. While previous attempts to build a secure quantum computer network have been limited to just two machines, the QET Lab has been able to establish a quantum encrypted network between eight machines over a distance of nearly eleven miles.
As Dr. Joshi puts it, “until now, building a quantum network has entailed huge cost, time, and resource, as well as often compromising on its security which defeats the whole purpose. […] By contrast, the QET Lab’s vision is scalable, relatively cheap and, most important of all, impregnable.”
If it can be successfully scaled up further, quantum encryption has countless potential civic applications, such as providing security for voting machines, WiFi networks, remote banking services, credit card transactions, and more.
In order for an entire population to be able to utilize a quantum network, fiber optic infrastructure must first be made accessible and affordable for everyone to have in their homes. In that sense, quantum cities are still roughly two decades away, posits Dr. Joshi. The technology behind it is very nearly mature, though. A simpler application of quantum encryption is practically right around the corner – think quantum ATMs in as few as five years.
Extend your smart home to the mailbox with the Ring Mailbox Sensor
(TECH NEWS) With the rise of the smart home and mail theft, Amazon’s new Ring product is the perfect addition to protect your letters and packages.
Pop the wireless, battery-powered motion sensor in your mailbox, and it will alert you when someone opens the lid or door. You can get a notification in the Ring app on your smartphone and, because Ring is an Amazon company, through any Alexa-enabled device. (So your Ecobee thermostat can tell you you’ve got mail. Cool.)
The sensor’s biggest benefit: You can immediately collect your mail when you get an alert that it’s been delivered. If you’re home.
There’s no camera with live view or speaker for yelling at the thief to drop your stuff, although you can do that with any microphone-enabled cameras near your mailbox.
But if you’ve ringed your home with Ring products, you can set the sensor to turn on Smart Lights or to make the video doorbell or security cameras start recording. If your mailbox is near your front door, however, that will probably already be happening after those devices detect motion. The sensor could be very useful for mailboxes at the end of a long driveway and out of sight of any cameras.
You can preorder the Mailbox Sensor ($29.99) at Ring.com and Amazon.com starting on Oct. 8. To connect the sensor with the doorbell, smart lights, and Alexa devices, you’ll need the Ring Bridge ($49.99).
You may want to keep an eye on Amazon’s new Sidewalk technology, however. Sidewalk is designed to extend the range of your Wi-Fi network. It siphons off a small part of your bandwidth, and that of your neighbors with Amazon-related devices, to create a crowd-sourced neighborhood network.
Amazon has released a list of devices – mostly Echoes and cameras – that will act as bridges themselves, and it’s not yet clear how the Mailbox Sensor will interact with all of that in the future. By the way, if privacy concerns were the first thing that popped into your head when you read that, check out Amazon’s Sidewalk white paper on privacy.
FYI: If your mail is stolen, You should report to the USPS, using their online form. You could report to the police via 311 but know that it’s unlikely officers will pursue the crime.
The best defense against thieves is still a locked mailbox. It’s not fool-proof, of course, but it can make thieves take longer to get at your mail. But if they take the sensor with your mail, or even your whole mailbox, Ring will replace the Mailbox Sensor for free.
You can find out more about the Mailbox Sensor in Ring’s support FAQ.
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