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A lot of people are going to lose their company certifications.  I had to take another test because the reporting test is no longer offered even though I took it only 11 months ago.

Here is the email I got.

[click to continue…]

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Is Gmail safe and secure?

I have heard a lot of people talk about how they won’t use Gmail because it is somehow unsafe or that Google is going to read all their email. Anybody who says this does not know much about email. Gmail is actually one of the safest places to host your email.

Every single email host that you get from your host or registrar is just as insecure as Gmail or each other. No matter what, your email is stored on a server that people have control over.  This means that at Gmail, Hostgator, 1and1, Godaddy, Bluehost, or any host there are employees that can read your email if they wanted to.  Some of the bigger companies like Hostgator and Godaddy have hundreds of low level employees that have access to your email.  At Hostgator every person in support including people in their first week of training has access to your email.

The next problem is that your email bounces around all over the Internet from server to server before it reaches its destination. Each one of those servers has the ability to intercept your emails and read them. So unless you only communicate using encrypted emails with everybody you communicate with your emails are not secure and can be read.  Even if you encrypt your emails the government has access to your encryption code by law.

Worst case Gmail is no better or worse than any other email host. I prefer to use Gmail because there are only a handful of people at Google that can read my email.  The other excuse is that my email is somehow insecure because Google sends me ads based on the text of my email. This is true but this is a computer program not a human. You are identified as a number and served ads based on your behavior.  The program nor the advertiser knows or cares who you are personally or what is in your email other than to send you ads.

I use Gmail because it is the best platform out there. Nothing comes close. Nobody is going to be reading your email.

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I know I covered web page size a few times but I thought a few more things to say. Web page Load times are very important especially for WordPress blogs. Many people are switching to dial up or switching to lower speed broadband to save money. AT&T offers a 750k service for $20 a month now. Even if that were not the case I know everybody has dealt with slow web page load times on their expensive high speed connections. If you have a cable modem you are sharing an Internet connection with your whole street probably. Not to mention many people share an Internet connection in their home. If you live with somebody that plays games and/or downloads movies and music you have seen slow web page load times. Even if Google analytics is showing you 5% dial up users that does not mean you don’t have to worry about slow web page load times.

There are many things that cause slow web page load times. Many people think all they have to do to lower web page load times is get rid of images or make them smaller. There is a lot more you can do. The number of items that your page loads adds to slow web page load times. If your webpage has 30 images 2 CSS files, 4 javascript files that is 36 things that have to load. Each time a new item is loaded that ads to a longer web page load time. Consider using CSS Sprites and combing images or code that don’t need to be in several files. Also you don’t need to load all js and css for every page give specific css and js files to each section that needs them. At the very least pick your top five busiest pages and set them up so they load only what they need and nothing else. Another thing that can slow down web page load time are nested tables. I have seen webpages with 120 nested tables before. A table will not display until all of the HTML for it has loaded.

The problem is that many websites are built on top of some CMS or shopping cart. It may be impossible for some people to make these changes. The advice I give is that if your website is doing well and making you money it is worth the investment to redo the site so that it loads faster. If your just starting out or already invested a lot into a website it may not be worth the extra expense. Slow web page load times will not kill your site I’m just talking about how to make your site better. If your running a business you should always be looking for little ways to squeeze out more profit. I mentioned in a previous post on this subject that Google Maps reduced their page size by 30% and traffic went up 30%. I have also read that you have anywhere from 3 to 5 seconds to convince people to not to hit the back button. If your content does not load very fast you will lose sales.

[tags]webpage load time, page size, google, web page load time[/tags]

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Don’t get scammed when selling things online

I have sold a lot of things online over the years and have seen all kinds of scams. I’m writing this post because I just ran into an old scam while trying to sell something on Craigs List.. This most important thing you can do when selling things online is to watch out for red flags. If it is too good to be true it is. The biggest flag is if somebody wants to pay full price and wants fast shipping. If you are selling on a craigslist type of site be very wary of somebody that does not haggle. Bad English is a big red flag as well. Shipping out of the country is also a huge red flag. Copy the first sentence or two of the offer they make to you into Google with quotes around it. This will catch the really stupid scammers.

Here is an email I got today. It has red flags all over it.

Thanks for the prompt response..I fully understand the condition of
what i am buying. I’m ready to buy it now for my personal use but am
not local and due to the nature of my work, phone calls making and
visiting of website are restricted but i squeezed out time to check
this advert and send you an email regarding it.Note that you will not
be responsible for shipping and handling. My shipping company will
come to your location for the pick up. Kindly provide me your name
and full address so i can forward it to the shipping company to
calculate the cost of pick up for me. And concerning the payment, i
will prefer PayPal because i don’t have access to my bank account
online as i don’t have internet banking but i can pay from my PayPal
account because i have my bank account attached to it. I will also
need you to give me your PayPal email address so i can make the
payments immediately and if you don’t have an account with PayPal yet,
it is very easy to set up, go to http://www.paypal.com and get it set
up, after you have set it up i will only need the e-mail address you
use for registration with PayPal so as to deposit the fund. So get
back to me with the following details:

Your Full Name:
The Pick Up Address including Zip Code:
Your PayPal email address for the payment.

Thanks and in anticipation of your response.

Best Regards,

Nina.

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Managing projects for multiple clients often requires dependent tasks and strict deadlines. To keep track of the “who does what by when” details, it is helpful to have a project management tool to insure you are achieving milestones while not getting stressed out!

SEO Fox needed a solution to manage and organize our projects and tasks in order for us to efficiently fulfill our client obligations. After previous experience with BasecampHQ, Zoho, and Central Desktop (and even demoing a few more), we found a free (donations welcome) hosted project management tool called ClockingIT to help us fulfill our client and sanity needs!

I have found setting up a project in ClockingIT is easy. The interface is intuitive and every user’s dashboard is customizable so users can rename titles and add or subtract widgets to make the dashboard information relevant to the specific user. Admins (configurable) are able to assign projects to clients and task to users and schedule the time allotted to both while seeing a live “timeline” feed of task completions (there is also a GANNT chart display for the PM nerds in a few of us).

A couple tools I really find helpful are the task timer and the very versatile report feature. The timer allows you to easily clock the time it took to do a task (and it can also be a pop-out window) and document any notes you might want other teammates to be aware of. Using the timer tied with the different reports you can run truly makes calculating project metrics upon project completion easy.

Having a hosted solution (one less thing to worry about) was one of our requirements in a project management solution, but ClockingIT also has a local version for organizations that have a strong network administrator who knows a bit about Ruby. For more information on getting the source code or joining the ClockingIT development community, visit their source wiki and join their github project.

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Keyword Discovery Tips

There are all kinds of articles on how to use certain tools to do keyword research. I would like to talk about some other tricks I have used over the years.

Snail Mail

Check your junk mail and try to get junk mail from friends and neighbors. Many companies send out fliers with special domain names specifically for mail outs. Don’t forget that URL’s are keywords. I used to make $5000 a month from one kw that I did ppc for. These keywords won’t last forever so you have to keep finding new ones.

Open Analytics

There are a lot of sites that leave their analytics open. You can do certain searches in Google to find these sites. This way you can find out new keywords. Here are some of the searches.

  • july referrer usage statistics
  • “Top 8 of 8 Total Search Strings”
  • Total Search Strings” july

You will find links like http://example.com/.stat/ref_201007.html. What you do is start deleting the sub directories to find the links to every month. http://example.com/.stat/ You can also throw in some base keywords into those searches to find site in your area. The above searches are just something to get you started. You can come up with all kinds of searches to find sites. Look at different analytics packages to find out keywords they use on their reports to find even more.

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Using Google Trends in Excel to compare years

I was messing around in Google trends yesterday trying to find out how it matched my analytics data. In Raven tools I like to compare this year and last year to see how well I’m doing. I have it set to only show organic traffic from all search engines. I prefer the Raven interface to GA over Google’s.

I had two browser windows open going back and forth trying to see the difference. I was thinking it sure would be cool if I could get this Google Trends data in one place. I did some searches and discovered that if you log into your Google account you can download the Google Trends data. I downloaded the CSV from 2009 and 2010 for the main keyword for a client. I copied the data from 2010 to the 2009 spreadsheet. I deleted the percentage cols and the extra stuff on top and bottom. Since I was comparing 2009 to 2010 I deleted the weeks from 2010 that have not happened yet and the corresponding weeks from 2009. This left me with 4 cols. I changed the heading for the numbers to the year plus AD like 2009 AD because excel did not like just a number there.

I’m not an excel expert. If you really know excel you can really get fancy with this but this worked for my needs and it was fast. Then I click on the insert tab and clicked on Line and picked the first line graph. It made exactly what I wanted.

2007 Excel File
97-2003 Excel File

Google Trends in Excel
* Bottom numbers are week numbers so this shows the first 25 weeks of 2009 and 2010.

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SEO Link Building Tips

Yesterday I was on Webmasterradio talking about link building. I was on with Disa Johnson aka airDisa and Daron Babin aka SEguru. We had a great time but there was just not enough time to talk about all the things I wanted to. Below is a list of link building tips that I prepared for the show.

  1. First step to link building is to make sure all your incoming links go to existing pages or pages that have been redirected to existing pages.
  2. Get a list of websites that mention you or your product but don’t link to your website and ask them to link to you. You can get this from Majestic SEO or by searching for your domain name or company name or product name in Google.
  3. Find websites that link to more than one of your competitors. This means somebody is making a list of similar sites and there is a very good chance you can get them to add your site to the list. One tactic to help in this is to offer a coupon code specifically for that site. Don’t just use a unique random code make it a word that reflects the site name or subject. Search Return will let you do this by uploading your backlinks from Yahoo or you can use an export from linkrep.seofox.com or many of the other backlink providers.
  4. Study your competitor’s backlink profile. This will let you see what types of sites they get links from. It helps to find out what types of sites link to your type of website. It also helps find the type of content people link to. This will give you ideas to create new content that will attract links. You can do this with many of the different backlink tools out there.
    Find broken links to your competitors and inform the site owner that the link is broken and ask them to link to you.
  5. Find sites that link to you with URL’s or junk words like “click here” or “more info” and contact the site owner to change it to a keyword.
  6. Find bloggers that have blogged about your competitors and ask them to write a blog about you. Offer them something like a free product, or service.
  7. Directory submissions still work for long tail keywords. I have run a lot of reports recently and we are seeing top sites with thousands of directory links. The key is getting a good list of directory links.
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Link Hound: A New Backlink Discovery Tool

Quality inbound links are key to achieving great results with organic search.

As SEOs, getting quality incoming links for clients is a time-consuming routine of content creation, web browsing, info submission, and link requests. The question is how to build link popularity efficiently without wasting time.

There are a number of ways to get incoming links, but two that show the most results are creating quality content (linkbait) and requesting links directly from relevant sites. We all know how to create quality content (or buy it). The question is really how to find relevant sites to approach for a link. Advanced keywords searches are a great way to get started. One of the most efficient ways to target potential linkbacks is still competitor backlink analysis.

Competitor backlink analysis is no stranger to SEO; our site owner David Ogletree has made several worthwhile posts about backlink research recently. There are a number of free and modestly priced tools on the market that streamline the link analysis of any website. But a new tool has entered the backlink analysis market that truly aids in streamlining your backlink management.

Link Hound is a great backlink research tool for discovering and managing any backlink endeavor. The process of adding a website campaign and relevant keywords to that campaign is simple. The tool actually suggests numerous websites to analyze based on any keyword phrase entered and determines the links with the most potential to backlink to your site based on the information you give. Link Hound also offers a contact management system within its results page which makes it easy to keep track of links and contacts within the tool instead of exporting that info to Excel. But if you are old-school, you can still export the data to CSV and have fun.

After spending an afternoon using the new tool, it definitely provided relevant potential. Even if you are already using link building software, Link Hound can serve to bolster your reservoir of potential link targets.

Bottom line: Link Hound will help you find relevant backlinks to pursue and help you manage them too.

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New PHP Proposal Generator Software

I have been using a custom proposal generator over the last year and the guy who made it for me decided to make a commercial version. The new proposal generator is called www.phpProposal.com. It works like WordPress. You have to install it on your own server. It is very easy to install. They have a simple script to install on your web server that will tell you if your server is comparable. It works on most LAMP servers. If you have a “linux” web hosting account there is a very good chance this will work on it.

It was originally designed specifically for my needs. The new version is designed for everybody. You can make your own templates and change the wording to whatever you want. It still has built in features for SEO.

Some of the stats for potential clients

  • Ranking in Google, Yahoo, and Bing for keywords
  • How many .edu, .gov links
  • Alexa ranking

It has several pre built proposal templates or you can create one from scratch. It saves your proposals so you can print them out later. I always have to send out proposals and this program makes it real easy.

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