Christopher Bazin - Developer and Analyst

Christopher Bazin – USC Grad Student/Webmaster/Sprinkle-Donut Hunter, exploring the technical world and learning how to communicate!

SEO Tactics – Which Ones Work?

April 24, 2010 by · 6 Comments 

Wanna be on top?

If you are unfamiliar with the term SEO it stands for Search Engine Optimization.  If part of your business is promoting your site on the web then you already know what it means.  If not then you need to catch up.  I read a great article titled “5 Outdated SEO Tactics – and 5 Alternatives” by Ken Lyons who wrote it for Website Magazine. I would like to take a moment to summarize it and educate some clients and friends on this topic.

Just five years ago SEO specialists were using all sorts of tactics to try to get results.  A good result was your webpage link showing up on the first page, if not the at the top when searching for a keyword related to your business.  Things have changed and search engines are smarter.  Google’s “algorithm” is a big Harry Potter magic box.  No one really know what’s in it or how pages are ranked, but they have a pretty good idea what does work and what doesn’t.

Making Your Content Count
Lyons’ article begins with a term called “keyword stuffing.” Previously SEO magicians found out that if they bombarded a page with the keywords it would rank better when it ranked for those keywords. Effectively they would place these keywords in the body of the document and have the text color match the background color.  If you are just barely following along, that means that the text would be virtually invisible to the reader of the page but not to the spiders that crawl the page. Now search engines are smarter so doing that will not only not have any effect you site may actually get penalized for doing such underhanded things.

The solution is to use those keywords you want be prevalent on that page but in content that makes sense. Write a story, product descriptions or include those words in your “about us” section.  Just be true and you can’t go wrong.

Spamming Comments On Blogs
This is really my first blog so I am only now aware of these techniques.  For businesses that  have blogs, reviews or some way for the customer to engage with your business you need to watch for these kind of effects. I have only heard in passing that there are software packages for SEO scientists that do exactly this!  Be cautious.  That is another way that can get you in big trouble with search engine giants.  Make sure that the people you hired for your SEO agenda do not succumb to this method.

The reality is, as Lyons’ mentioned, Google values blog comments etc. as very low on the SEO scale.  In fact, the words he used was “Google introduced a nofollow link tags” which effectively tells Google spiders not to pay any attention to those links in the comments of blogs.  So, as far as Google is concerned it doesn’t doesn’t even matter.

The Search Engine Submission Racket
If you hired or a looking to hire a SEO specialist and part of their package is to “submit to search engines” – start running. Google’s ability to discover your pages and or update your pages in search engines is so far advanced from years ago that there is no longer a need to submit to search engines directly.

If you do want to speed up the process (the little that you can) the article suggests that you can make your updated page get discovered quicker if you submit your link through a social media route.  Sure enough I did this through twitter and bingo!  Google crawled it and I had it flagged as a Google alert.  Amazing!

<META> Tags – Do They Work?
This is a great question.   Do they work?  Previously, part of making sure you rank for your selected keywords is putting those keywords in the <HEAD> of your webpage.  Regardless you still need META tags.  The tags that describe your site are very important as well as other META tags.  You really can’t ignore that control.  Lyons states that Google is on record with saying that META tags with respect to KEYWORDS just do not work.  Again, META tags with respect to KEYWORDS do not work.  That felt good to say it twice.

Now, this just increases the value of blogs on your site. Remember that categorizing your posts and tagging your posts will help with search ability.  Thank you to Zach Posner, our teacher at USC for Annenberg’s Online Communities Masters Program (APOC) – Web Technology for fixing my blog and pointing out that file names matter too.  Check out the URL for the story your reading right now “SEO- Tactics-which-ones-work.”  What could be more perfect.

Link to Me Please
Just like in business, word of mouth means a lot in SEO as well. If there is a well respected blog or site that mentions your Web site, you can bet that it will be worth a lot of points to Google and affect your ratings.  Again, be careful.  Getting involved in SEO techniques that put your links in link farms could mean bad news.  Google doesn’t like it when you link to people in bad “neighborhoods” so always be on top of what your SEO providers are doing for you.

As the article by Lyons suggests, getting testimonials or vendors you work with you mention you via links in creative ways will do the same trick.  Remember to be sincere, upfront and transparent in what you are asking for from your link-listers.  Don’t be afraid to ask to name the link (i.e. Christopher Bazin instead of click here) either.

Hopefully this lays our the SEO street along with a good guide on avoiding the basic potholes.  These techniques work.  If you are confused on how to  implement them, feel free to send me a comment and I will respond.  Thank you again Ken Lyons for that great article in Website Magazine.

Go On, Take a Bite of bit.ly 101

April 22, 2010 by · 4 Comments 

I love me some bit.ly.

So you have a few followers and you have a few friends.  But who is really listening?  What if you are working hard to bring value to your readers but you can’t tell if people are clicking on links posted through social media sites?  Well before you burst into tears – kicking and screaming – I want to take a moment to introduce bit.ly.

Bit.ly is a link shortening Web application.  You submit a link, for example:
http://www.christopherbazin.com/click/here/now?cool=123234345 and that gets turned
into this: http://bit.ly/9Sxu8J.  So why is that helpful?  Well for character-limited social media it is  a necessity.  In fact a lot of social media’s auxiliary tools like hootsuite.com have this type of service built in (ow.ly) to anticipate this need.

We can see the practical uses for this by shortening the number of characters you are posting but there is another hidden advantage.  If you know this already you can skip reading this article but the most significant reason for using link shorteners (more specifically bit.ly) is because you can monitor the clicks.  WAIT… WHAT?  Yes, my friends you can tell who clicked your link.

Well let me clarify.  You can’t tell who followed the link but you can tell that someone clicked, shared it, if they tweeted it, comments, country and social media vehicle.  WOW.  All with that tiny URL!

How do I get that information you ask?  Are you sitting down?  With bit.ly it is simple. To the link you shorted and shared, add a plus sign (+).  So when you open a browser you will type: http://bit.ly/9Sxu8J+  presto-change-o there are your stats.

This is an important tool so I am going to review it one more time from the top.

Step one: Copy the URL that you want shortened or tracked

http://iamupthere.com

Step two: go to http://bit.ly and paste that url into the text area and click shorten

Step three: paste the shortened (bit.ly/d2K2Lz) link into emails, social media, webpages, where ever!

Step four: to get stats, type the shorted URL from bit.ly and add a + sign. http://bit.ly/d2K2Lz+ and PRESTO!  Give it try!

Now I am not an expert, but if you have questions go ahead and make a comment and I will respond. It truly is amazing and remember, you can also check how well your competitor links are doing too! (wink)

What Would Jesus Do? Would You Friend Him?

April 11, 2010 by · 3 Comments 

Be a fan of Jesus.

I just finished watching Bill Maher’s Religulous which, if you haven’t seen it, is an in-your-face and almost argumentative look at religion in our world. Throughout the entire movie Maher confronts religious leaders and followers about their faiths, the message they are trying to spread and the inaccuracies based on historic fact.  It is not only brilliant, but for someone who has only a tangential interest in religion like myself, it provides a lot of interesting information.

I admit that I am not religion expert and I lay somewhere on that comfortable Christian couch but one thing I couldn’t get out of my mind is what would happen if Jesus had a Facebook account?  Or any God or Prophet?

Now before you call the wagon I have to clarify what I mean.  It was apparent through this pseudo documentary that religion, in general, has embedded within it many fantastic tales.  It really doesn’t matter what faith you are quoting.  Now what if that gospel message  had the speed of the Groundswell – We have been reading and studying this action and how powerful this can be.

I am certainly not wanting to wade in the waters of religion so consider this next question presuming God exists: What would the shape of religion be if God had a Facebook account?  Or even Twitter for answering prayers?

The Groundswell

April 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Groundswell!

One of our reading assignments for our Introduction to Online Communities class is Groundswell, written by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff.  I am only near the beginning of the book but I wanted to check-in and write down a few thoughts.

If you are someone who is new to the idea of the groundswell then this book is a must.  It doesn’t just lecture on what the subject is, but rather it gives real examples that illustrate what this phenomenon is.  I say phenomenon because at the time the events in the book took place there were no examples or study into how a groundswell occurs.  I suspect for our class, since we have had so many powerful speakers and panelists, we find the beginning of the book more of a review.  However, near the end of chapter 2, I did find an interesting analysis of which technologies people should pay attention to.  It is the first time that the book, so far, gives thought to the future.

Here is what Li and Bernoff have to say about the Groundswell Technology Test:

  1. Relationships are important. Does the technology depend on relationships?  Can people connect in new and different ways? Can these relationships develop virally?
  2. Is it easy to obtain and sign up for?  Is it free? Does it use existing technology? (Cell phone for example)
  3. Who as the power?  Does this technology benefit people as opposed to companies?
  4. Is there content? Is there enough content? Do users generate “valuable” content?
  5. Is it an open platform? Can others delve into the technology and create piggy-back applications using the technology?

The book fully admits that there are other factors at play but I really appreciated this analysis.  Also, the fact that some or all of the points may not be met does not mean that the technology will fail.  It may, however, take longer to spread.

As we read more books on social media and the groundswell effect we find that most contain a look back and an investigation into the success or failure, much like a crime scene investigator.  This last excerpt is not only useful and important but it really  is the first bold step I have read that involves progress and execution.

More to come…

Media Consumption

April 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Have I changed?

I am frustrated by my cable service. There are too many channels to choose from and the promises made by the “on demand” services are vastly over rated.  In most cases a decision to watch something from the “demand” menu area leads to swearwords and a throw of the remote.  I am smart enough to realize that there are still significant obstacles that my cable company is trying to overcome but it’s just not working for me.

So, today was the day I was to switch to a new cable service.  This new company promises a faster service (both television viewing and Internet speed) as well as a DVR that can tape four programs at once. I, too, am wondering what four programs I could possibly want to tape at exactly the same time, but the fact is I can do it..  Needless to say, technology has a middleman – the installer.  He was late and we had to reschedule, so today is perfect day for me to reflect on how my media consumption has changed.

I am not quite there yet. I just can’t let go of paid television programming.  I am not sure why but it sure would like to get rid of that monthly bill.  I do have a lot of friends who watch exclusively through their computer screens but for me there is still something unentertaining about that method of video consumption.  I do notice that I watch a lot of short videos, mostly comedy and cute animals, via the web but those videos are usually the type that gets embedded and doesn’t require a search.  Those are the ones that are served right there, right now and right in front of me in a feed.  Facebook is great example.  I also notice that my patience for viewing has shortened as well.  A two-hour movie makes me sweat. I would rather watch something in a thirty-minute time slot or something even shorter.

Radio.  One usually forgets that radio plays a big role in the media arena.  Like many other people I wake up to the radio and I drive to work listening to it.  Consumption of this type of media is usually because no other source of media is available (no TV in the car or can’t listen to my iPod).  That really hasn’t changed, but more and more I find myself listening to radio via the web or iPhone app as I work away or cook.  It seems oddly new or different when consuming it through this technology.

So what does the future hold for media and me? I think something has to give.  Shirky’s article is interesting because we see a trend where, to some, video is free.  People honestly think it is free.  The bottom line is:  someone is going to have to pay for it and I guess right now, through my cable company, I am really one of the many ways people are paying for the quality video programming.  Shirky mentions that “The most watched minute of video made in the last five years shows baby Charlie biting his brother’s finger. “ but I don’t think anyone would consider that quality video.

Truthfully, if the common denominator to our media consumption is the Internet then for those who depend on it may be disappointed if Comcast and other ISPs have their say.  In a recent ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals reversed a ruling saying the FCC had no jurisdiction when it came to net neutrality.  So those people watching TV programming on their computers might be forced to change their viewing habits and go back to cable since broadband might be dolled out on a per kilobyte basis.   This would be a sobering reality to those who watch movies, listen to radio, share files, download videos and basically live off of their computers.  So, until it is clear what the motives of the ISPs are and the effect of this ruling I think I will keep my cable installation appointment for the time being and hope the installer shows up.

Comcast is Coming for You

April 6, 2010 by · 3 Comments 

Comcast has a plan.

Net neutrality is something we take for granted. It gives us the freedom to download and browse sites from whatever source we want to–we are all equal. Imagine though if we were re-routed to another source or others given priority to choice sites because of their affiliation to the service provider. Well, this could well become a reality with the recent appeal court decision that says that the FCC lacks jurisdiction in this area. Comcast’s game was citing how they wanted to limit the traffic of a BitTorrent site (BitTorrent’s usually a nest for illegal downloads).

Ok, while I do agree with the fact that we should be fair and not let some bad apples slow down the network and gobble up all the bandwidth and consuming it with illegal use, I think their motives are different. There are looking to make more money from services they already offer by proposing tier based data packages.  Imagine if you wanted to rent a movie on demand and the movie to download costs you $3.99 or maybe you have a mem

bership to Netflix of $8.99 per month.  Would you ever stop to think about how much bandwidth you have left before you start your movie? So you rent that movie and at the end of the month you get another bill from your Internet service provider for an extra $5.00 for your bandwidth overage. You think that seems unrealistic? Well, that is where we are headed.

This battle of the ISP (Internet service provider) wanting to charge more isn’t a new battle but you have to wonder why now? Could it be that many homes don’t have a regular telephone?  Do you think it is strange that even phone companies have bundles that include internet and TV?  Everyone is looking for more revenue from within and in my opinion this is where they

are trying to stick it to the consumer.

For our technology and national connectivity to progress we  depend on net neutrality.  Here is simple example: What if in two years all of our TV’s were integrated in the web making our viewing habits more of an online experience.  Something like this would kill that progression.  No one could afford it.

Earthquake – Youtube Witness

April 5, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Social media is everywhere, happening all the time and, at times like this, act as a witness producing a byproduct. This video of a girl recording her solo guitar/singing debut (we have all seen this on youtube) began her recording session when the Mexicali earthquake hit. The shaking lasted for almost 50 seconds.

Putting your Ear to the Ground

April 4, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

Are you talking about me?

All great social media campaigns begin with the concept of listening. Whether it is because you have a brand that you want to protect or if you are just looking to see if customers are looking for something you want to offer. Well the good news is, the tools are available and they are really easy to use.

Google (insert voice of angels) has a really easy to use tool called “Google Alerts.”  If you are involved in this industry, how could you not have heard about it.  Even if you don’t have a product out there, you should at least be monitoring your name.  This can lead to quick responses when people are posting comments related to your business or reputation.

Here is how it works in three easy steps.  First, make sure you have a google account (it isn’t completely necessary, but it helps in the management of these alerts).  That is easy enough to do.  Next, navigate to http://google.com/alerts and get going!  For example, if I want to see if anyone ever mentions my name “Christopher Bazin”, in “search items” I will put my name. Under “type” I can choose from an array of different types of content (News, Blogs, Web, Comprehensive, Video or Group).  I chose “comprehensive” since (according to google) that, as the name suggests, has the most reach into the different categories.

Creating this alert without signing in to google.

Next, how often do you want to receive these alerts? Once a day? Once a week? or As it happens?  Well, I think this really depends on the reason for the search and frequency that the search is successful.  If I am protecting a specific brand and I want to respond to comments made toward my brand in a timely manner, I would suggest that you set it for “as it happens.”  There is no underlaying magic here.  Google, when it stumbles on the words you have put into the alert, will notify you.

Finally, you can also determine the length of the email you will be receiving the results in – “Up to 20 results” or “Up to 50 results.” That I will leave up to you to test out.

Then as simple as putting in the email address you want your alert to go to, you are done!  Note that if you are not signed in to your google account, google will send an opt-in email for the alert. Simply go to the email address that you entered, find the email to approve the alert and bingo!

Try it and see what your results are. You may be surprised!

UPDATE!!

Ok, so within hours of me posting this article and creating the alert, Google (angels singing) sent me the following email.  Check it, you won’t be disappointed!

Google alert sent only hours after creating it!

Becoming an Entrepreneur

April 1, 2010 by · 8 Comments 

Where is my partner?

Last night in class we had guest lecturer Brian Norgard who came in dressed in flip-flops, a t-shirt and jeans. If first impressions were any indication I would have probably said that this guy was in the wrong place. As he began addressing the class and recanting his brush with Facebook’s birth you could tell that this young man was a genius. He is not arrogant and he is like you and I.  What was refreshing was his attitude. His no bullsh** attitude.

Brian’s latest venture is namesake.com which promotes itself as the next micro-social network for the professional entertainment industry. His outlook is that with our social lives are permeating through sites like Facebook and there is a need and a want for people to keep their business image separate. That, as I understand it, is the motivation and mission of namesake.com.

A few of the big lessons left by Norgard for the students was the feeling of “go for it” and “don’t be afraid to share your ideas.”  Discussing your seemingly great idea might lead to more product improvement or, better yet, saving yourself and your partners tens of thousands of dollars.  I think a few of us have an idea or a project in mind and are afraid of disclosing for fear that someone else will just snap it up.  Although that fear is not unfounded I think the point Norgard is making is that the benefits far outweigh the risk in this example.

Let’s face it, the man has success.  However, the most envious trait that this man has is really the relationship he has with his business partner(s).  As Brian pointed out, finding someone you can trust is not easy. When you do find someone like this, it seems, you can accomplish amazing things.  WHERE is my partner?

NEW Creative Jobs from iPad

March 26, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

VIV Mag Featurette: A Digital Magazine Motion Cover and Feature for the iPad from Alexx Henry on Vimeo.

The iPad is just weeks away from being released and magazines and other ad agencies are excited. Why you ask? Take a look at the video. Although most, if not all, of the examples in the video are generated, the potential is amazing.

This really brings a whole new dimension to professional content.  I am excited!!