Welcome back, hope you are finding this SEO tips series helpful. A few weeks ago we discussed how to properly link to your site and the documents in it. Today, we’ll learn how to discover what other sites link to you, what pages they link to, and what words they use to do it.
You may recall from my SEO Ranking Factors article that the item believed to have the most positive affect on your search engine rankings was the anchor text used in links to your pages. If you are able to influence that text, you have a better chance of improving your rankings. But, before you can influence it, you have to know that the links exist.
There are many tools that let you search for sites that link to you. Some are free, others you have to pay for. As should be expected, the ones you pay for offer a few additional features, however for the purposes of this article, most of the free ones will work just fine.
Backlinkwatch.com is a free tool for identifying up to 1,000 of your incoming links. It will show you the URL of the site that links to you, the text (or image) that is used in the link, the PageRank (if available) of the page, how many outbound links the page has and if the link is “nofollow.”
Below is a sample of the results from Jay Thompson’s site, www.phoenixrealestateguy.com. (click it to open a bigger version in a new window and follow along)
We can see that Jay’s choice in a domain name has paid off for him. Many people when linking to a Web site will just use the words from the domain as the anchor text. Because of this, Jay has BUNCHES of links with the words “phoenix real estate” in them. That is sure to help his rankings for that phrase. There are also a lot of links for his name “Jay Thompson”, which certainly will help his site rank in searches for his name, but that’s probably not very useful for acquiring new business. I consider the links using “Phoenix RE Guy” to be almost useless. I say almost because all links are good, and the use of “Phoenix” will help somewhat with other local-based searches. But, unless there are a lot of folks searching for homes using the phrase “phoenix re”, it’s pointless.
As with everything else they do, Google keeps the mechanism they use for scoring links a tightly guarded secret. However, we do know that they do NOT like link farms, and they assign lower values to links from blog rolls than from links within the main content sections. It stands to reason then, getting links from pages without a ton of other links is your best bet for a better value.
Unfortunately most of the pages linking to Jay do not have a PageRank assigned by Google. This is not uncommon. Many sites do not get PR assigned to interior pages. However, if you can get links from ranked pages, those are much better – and naturally, the higher the rank the better.
Looking at our sample of Jay’s links, we can see the number of outbound links from the pages, located in the column titled “OBL.” Some of them are quite large, well into the hundreds. As I said before, all links are good, but links from those pages are not nearly as good as the links from pages with fewer outbound links.
The last column shows us that only a few of the links are flagged as “no follow.” This is good. Google (and other engines) will still follow these links, but the “no follow” attribute tells them that the site is not verified, or trusted by the site providing the link. Because of this, they assign much lower values (if any) to the link.
Well, maybe a gotcha. There’s a flaw in some of the tools. They may find links only for the exact page you provide them and possibly NOT the entire site. So you may have 500 links to the home page and another 50 to various pages inside your site, but unless you test them all you wouldn’t know about it. backlinkwatch.com does show you all links to your site – up to the 1,000 link limit anyway. If you use another tool, be sure to verify what it does or does not report.
What do you do with all this information now that you have it? Spend some time going over your list of links. Analyze the anchor text. Does it use key words you want to target? If not, muster up some courage and ask the site owner to change it.
Ever wonder how your competitor does better in the rankings than you when your pages are so similar? The answer might be backlinks. Use one of these tools to analyze who links to them and what anchor text is used. Maybe you can also get the site to link to yours as well.
Get out your binoculars, put on your pith helmet and get busy exploring the web, discovering your own backlinks.
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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