Saturday, December 30, 2006

End of year musings and spendings

As 2006 winds down, I have much to be grateful for. Besides all the personal stuff (ten toes, fingers, kids and friends and all with same), Time4Learning has been alot of fun this year.

We grew alot. We built a staff who seem very happy and full of potential. And I like the independence of a web-based business.

Strategically, I'm in a good spot. The growth in broadband internet this year was enormous. the growth in homeschooling was enormous. And I benefit from both trends. When I consider the enormity of this trends and my place at the intersection, I start to worry that my growth is too small. In fact, by mid December, I became convinced of this and that the fault, dear brutus, lay not in my stars, but in myself, as we are underlings...In short, I decided that I had been too cheap. As a small struggling business, I have a hard time spending money in risky ways. This was wise when I started and was getting my feet wet. But now, I know a fair amount about what I'm doing and it's time to invest more aggressively.

So I spent more on marketing in the last two weeks that I had in the previous two years combined. I'm also going to try to get five pages/week up on the site! I'd like to find a writer but since I'm such a finicky editor and it's so easy for me to pull together pages, it might just be best to punch it thru. For instance, I just got up a page on homeschool umbrella schools that I've been diddling with for most of the year. (Granted, it's pretty messed up right now but soon, I'll fix it)

Thursday, December 28, 2006

John Edelson

John Edelson - OK, a little background on who the author is....
John Edelson
John Edelson, circa 2014

John Edelson is the founder and president of Time4Learning. He also provides member support services as well as does the marketing. Often, he cleans the office at the end of the day and helps fix broken web pages. Usually, the broken web pages are due to his "help" with them.

Update August 2015. John is nine years older since this post was originally written.  He now has a Twitter account: @VSpellCityMayor
He's on the Florida Atlantic University School of Education Advisory Board and so on.
Time4Learning now goes PreK to 12th grade (not just to 8th).
John Edelson has also now founded:
 Time4Writing.com - K12 writing classes online with teachers for 2nd-12th VocabularySpellingCity. Game-based word study to build literacy. Web or app.

Science4Us. Early Elementary Science Curriculum for NGSS and state standards. Web or app.

Professional Experience
Current - President/Founder, Time4Learning.com ,

Home Schooling Curriculum, PreK-8th Grade, Various educational and entertainment consulting & investing projects:

Vcom3D - SigningAvatars for deaf education. Florida. LearningToday - Standards-based online curriculum for school-based education. Florida.

ARC International. ARK.L Senior Vice President & Founder. Semiconductor intellectual property. London & Florida. 1998-2002. Created ARC as a spin-out from Argonaut with 10 people. Raised $12M, acquired three firms, participated in managing the firm's IPO.

Argonaut Games. General Manager. Videogame and technology development. London. 1996-98. Hired as a “turn-around” manager who transformed a struggling 100 person family firm into a growth-oriented profitable company that successfully went public. Raised $6M in capital. Executive produced Croc, a Playstation game that went platinum. The 3DO Company. Developer Relations & Marketing Director. Videogame platform innovator. California & London. 1992-95.
SGI. California. 1988-92. Product Marketing & Developer Relations. Pioneering workstations for engineering analysis and 3D graphics.
MID Consulting. Paris. 1986-88. Corporate strategy, acquisitions, and diversifications.
Price Waterhouse. DC. 1982-84. Business Consulting.
US Peace Corps. Cameroon. 1980-82.

Other

Board Member, WireSpring Technologies
Board Member, The Cooperative Feeding Program of Broward

Yale College. BA. 1980, cum laude.
Harvard Business School. MBA. 1986.

avid but aging soccer player. sometimes runner. currently in the martial arts (red belt). Father of two.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Testing a new DNS prior to broad dissemination

Heres a trick that I'd like to remember. We just switched our DNS but it has not broadly propagated yet. But we really wanted to test it tonight. So here's what I did....

Go to-->Start-->Run
copy and paste this: notepad C:\WINDOWS\system32\drivers\etc\hosts
scroll all the way down to the bottom of the file
add this as the last line: 198.173.76.209 www.time4learning.com
(note - there has to be a tab, not a space between the address and url)

PS - I'm writing this down so that I remember to reverse the process some time.....

BTW - I'm 13th for fifth grade math on google....and 43rd for 5th grade. uhg....

changing hosting companies

After three years, Time4Learning is switching hosting companies.

We initially picked Webstream for the following reasons:
- local company at which we had contacts
- reasonable pricing
- they had both linux and windows servers
- they had both shared and dedicated servers


We had our ups and downs with Webstream. The primary reason for switching is that we want a host with 24/7 telephone & email support. Webstream has support starting at 9am on weekdays (often 9:30) and nothing guaranteed on the weekends. Given the frequent need to reboot servers, we just can't afford to wait until they get to the office. And when it goes down on Sunday, I go beserk hoping that someone will come to the office and reboot us.... Also, they are in hurricane country and have had week-long down time during the bad hurricanes (this year was good, the previous year was bad). We have had a number of system crashes and outages (2x a time) so we got motivated to look around. Another down was the fact that they gave us a dns number which many routers blocked which took me a year to figure out and caused endless embarrassments with customers. The last downer was they only had one really great tech guy. The positives were that they had one very productive great tech guy and the reasons that we started with them.

What we were looking for in a new host.
- 24/7 support - telephone & email
- shared & dedicated servers
- good reputation for reliability
- the ability to have the site mirrored elsewhere

We picked verio. This means that we switched to geotrust for our ssl certificate.

BTW - now that we are doing so well on homeschool curriculum, it's time to take a run at some other big terms: learning games, educational games, as well as some lesser terms like homeschooler and homeschooling. Plus, it's time to come up first for: second grade (actually, we're still 54th on google. uhg

SEO Progress in homeschooling

Time4Learning-SEO-Progress
Searches
3-06

March
3-06

April
4-06
May
5-06
June
6-06
Dec
12-06
homeschool137,953below 10065th6517
home school curriculum28,814212014135
homeschool material2,278559812
homeschool online6,4419843
homeschool resource5,6071616

Conclusions:
1. The focus on homeschool curriculum has worked well!!!
2. I should take aim at the first page for the big homeschooling phrase: homeschool. Obviously, this is a much more competitive term and getting to top 10 on that term will be the hardest one yet. Should I create a new page or is the homeschool curriculum page good enough?
3. I should work both homeschool resource and homeschool material since with a little more page tuning and links, I could make google's first page for them.

I should check in the other areas such as reading comprehension to see if I have progressed or stagnated....


An update of May 15, 2006 article on SEO homeschool progress:

http://learn-to-market-online116.blogspot.com/2006/05/homeschool-progress.html

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Aweber Bellsouth problem is solved!

Hurrah! I don't know what happened. Nobody told me that it has been solved. But, good news, my email sign-up box now accepts bellsouth accounts!!!!

Thank you aweber,

I'm a happy camper again. :>

(for background on the now irrelevant problem, look at the posts on aweber bellsouth.)

OH, and check out: gifted students and time4learning's progress in the homeschool area.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Bellsouth says "Not Blocking" Aweber

Bellsouth's abuse dept (Lee F) called me back within an hour of me leaving a message. Great guys. They said:

1. They are NOT blocking aweber. They aren't black listed on anything. Bellsouth accepts Aweber's email when they follows policy for the transmission and Aweber isn't following the acceptable use policy. It's not a question of volume, it's a question of following the protocol.

2. To get the specifics on what policies Aweber is not following, you need to communicate with the postmaster dept. The postmaster dept cannot be called but they do read their email.

3. Setting my own SPF policy will not necessarily help (although its a good thing) since aweber is not following the protocols.

My plan - try one more time to get a discussion going between Aweber and bellsouth. If not, switch in january. But its frustrating since it's such a pain to switch and generally, aweber has been great.

Background:
Can a SPF policy solve my Bellsouth-Aweber email block?
Aweber bellsouth email block

Can a SPF policy solve my Bellsouth-Aweber email block?

Problem - I send my email newsletter from a third party that I've always found to be very dependable: Aweber. But, they say that they are being blocked by Bellsouth which has led them to respond to email sign-ups on my sign-up page with a pop-up page saying: "An Error has Occurred". For details on the aweber bellsouth feud.

I have recently discovered what a SPF email policy is.

Questions -

1. Is it possible to publish a SPF policy which allows Aweber to send out Time4Learning emails?
The answer to this is yes, I just need to figure out how to do it.

2. Will Bellsouth respect this SPF policy and let the Time4Learning emails thru?
I have called Bellsouth's Abuse dept (1 404-499-5224) and left them a message. I have heard that it is not their abuse dept but their postmaster dept that would make this decision. I will wait for the Bellsouth abuse people to call back (like they did last time) before also trying to contact their postmaster group.

3. Will Aweber, knowing that Time4Learning has published such a SPF policy and that Bellsouth will respect it, remove their block on people entering Bellsouth emails into my sign-up system. I don't know but I would expect them to. I can't see why they wouldn't.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Email SPF Settings

Email, Publishing SPF settings. My education.
Today, I got lucky.

One of our homeschool moms noticed that she got some of our emails and not others. She called to inquire. She spoke to her husband (Tim), an IT guru. Tim got involved. (Thank you Tim). And now I am wiser about a problem that has haunted us for awhile: why do some of our emails NOT get thru.

Background - We send emails from three sources:
- Directly from our server (http://www.Time4Learning.com hosted elsewhere)using a mail program set up in our database
- From our computers in our office using outlook. We send thru Bellsouth email accounts with return addresses and "from" in outlook set to: Support@Time4Learning.com which are almost all sent from Bellsouth servers
- I sometimes use my Gmail account to send emails. It is sent to provide support@Time4Learning.com as the return address
- From Aweber, an ethical email marketing service that handles our marketing email


What I learned about spam filters and spf published policies....

Modern sophisticated spam filters will check the return address on an email and compare it with what server an email is coming from. Some spam filters stop there and reject all emails that are sent from different servers than the one listed in the from or reply field. More sophisticated spam filter will then check any that don't match up with the published spf policy for that domain. A domain can publish a list of servers permitted to send using their return address. Each domain should publish a DNS policy which tells the world what servers are authorized to send emails in their name. BTW, there is an authority site on SPF policy - The Sender Policy Framework - (note, these guys have an spf wizard!)

How to check your SPF published policy?
- go the command line (start, run, cmd, OK)
- type: nslookup
- type set type=txt
- type domainname (time4learning.com)
Of course, these directions are not that much help since if you need the directions, you'll also need help understanding the results....

My result is "v=spf1 ip4:64.234.192.0/19 -all" which apparently translates to "anybody hosted at webstream is entitled to send email as time4learning.com". This means that our mail sent from bellsouth, gmail, and aweber is likely to get caught in spam filters and that anybody at webstream is free to spoof us"

What could/should we do?
- publish a new spf policy allowing bellsouth, aweber, and our specific domain....
(does this happen thru my registrar or hoster or elsewhere?)
- publish no policy allowing anyone to send in our name
- set up outlook to be an "authenticated mail relay"
- set up our email system to actually send from Time4Learning.com

I'm not sure how to do any of these but next week, after some other transitions, we'll figure out how to do it.

Thanks again Tim. Glad your kids like our online homeschool service. If you have some good pictures of your kids, we could add them to Ed Mouse's site.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Another approach to SEO

My friend and onetime contractor, Ken Burks, has been setting up some nifty new online businesses. I think it's really interesting since he is taking an approach so different than mine.

1. He has lots of products to sell so he has a php databased driven engine that creates thousands of pages. His newest site sells knives such as Remington Knives.

2. His other site is no necessarily less lethal, it focuses on skateboards.

While I don't want to reveal all his secrets, his approach is the opposite of mine.

Whereas all my pages are painstakingly handcreated, his are....
Whereas all my links are done by people,...
Whereas my site is not that automated, his processes are highly automated....

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Aweber Update

AWEBER - GREAT NEWS

Aweber fixed the typos on their error message (occurred, originate) and updated their copyright message. BUT, it's still an ugly sheet that disrupts my flow. My plan is, if the problem is still there in January, to move to another much smaller email company. sigh.....

Monday, November 20, 2006

Aweber bellsouth email block

Note - Great News - This whole problem has gone away!!!
-------------------------------------------------------
I have my little educational website and one of my marketing tools is an email newsletter that I send out to people who ask for more information. I do this through a highly ethical email service company called Aweber. Recently however, my level of satisfaction has slipped as I find myself caught in an Aweber Bellsouth feud.

Does anybody have any insight into how to solve this problem?

I have an options to "sign up for a free newsletter" on many pages on my website. I get alot of sign-ups daily(over 150). I think about 4% of them are Bellsouth email addresses. After someone called me, I learned in early Nov 2006 that when you put in an email address with a bellsouth address, you got the following: (got to Time4Learning.com and try it yourself)


Notice how users are suddenly transported from my pretty well-designed site to a page which is ...."discordant". I can't prove it but I would expect 95% of the people who get this message think that there is something wrong with my site and just move onto another one.

Since I spend alot of time trying to create good impressions, attract potential new members, and then getting them to join, I am not happy with this situation. Heres where it starts getting weird.

I call up Aweber who has always had great technical support both by chat and telephone. They tell me that "the problem with Bellsouth has been there for two weeks and with a little support, it can be quickly resolved". I am speaking at this point to an Aweber supervisor (sean). He agrees to pursue the matter and get back to me. I specifically want information on:

- how long this problem has been going on?
- Is it only between Aweber and Bellsouth or are they being blocked elsewhere?
- could they fix the typos in the error message (does your dictionary think "occured" is correctly spelt? How about "All messages orginate (sic) from the aweber.com domain under these ips:")?
- would they consider moving the "return to the website" above the fold?
- would they rewrite the letter to be more concise and clear? Update the copyright notice?
- have they done everything that they can to work with Bellsouth to resolve the problem?

_________________
The Aweber message
-----------------------------------------------
An error has occured! Our records indicate that your ISP, BellSouth, is currently blocking email sent to bellsouth.net from us. We have attempted to email you the requested information, but in all likelihood it will not arrive. To ensure that your requested information arrives please contact BellSouth's support department.Click on the support email address for BellSouth below to send them the form letter below.Email: postmaster@bellsouth.net

Network Operation Phone Number: +1 404-499-5224
Please CC: postmaster@aweber.com in any responses.
Dear BellSouth,

My name is smith and I am a customer using BellSouth.
I have just attempted to opt-in for more information on a website
using my email address: Smith135@bellsouth.net
That website uses a service called AWeber.com to manage opt-in
requests like mine. You, BellSouth, have previously blocked
AWeber.com from sending email to BellSouth customers. This
is incorrect and I want to make sure that this issue gets resolved
so that my requested information can be received.
It appears you may be filtering or blocking some of their emails
or servers. Please check your records and lift any blocks on
servers in the aweber.com domain or contact postmaster@aweber.com
for further information.
Sincerely,
Smith
Smith135@bellsouth.net
== Request Information for BellSouth Postmaster ==
Name: eaton
Email: Smith135@bellsouth.net
IP: 65.8.77.182
URL: http://www.time4learning.com/scope-sequence/index.shtml
Date: 11/20/2006 10:06:00 EST
== SMTP Errors Being Seen ==
452 Message rejected
Sorry... Connection denied. Listed in deny list.
exceeded max time without delivery
== AWeber Utilized Netblocks ==
All messages orginate from the aweber.com domain under these ips:
cidr: 207.106.239.64/27
cidr: 207.106.200.0/26

Continue back to the website.
Copyright © 1998-2004 AWeber Systems, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction strictly prohibited."


--------------------------------------------

Aweber gets back to me - Sean's call back does not go well. He tells me that it's only been a problem for a few weeks and they will not make any changes to the message since he and the President have looked at it and used it for years and it cannot be further refined. I get frustrated.

Refined? The letter has several spelling errors in it. The copyright message suggests that the page has not been looked at.

Bellsouth Speaks To me - It turns out that my inquiries to Bellsouth were answered quickly. I get a call back from the Bellsouth abuse department (Lee). They explain to me (I spoke this morning with a first level person and then Mike F, the Abuse department supervisor) that:

- the Aweber "problem" has been going on for at least a year.
- Aweber has long been asking people to call Bellsouth to complain about the "Block" although Bellsouth insists that they are holding to the standards and will require Aweber to meet them.
- the problem (It's not clear to me whether bellsouth is actually blocking the emails or not) is that Aweber does not comply with the industry-standards for email "rate limiting". (They explained to me that this is about how many emails can be sent per connection). There might also be a problem with "concurrent simultaneous connections".

I asked if I could set up a conference call between Bellsouth and Aweber. Bellsouth laughed. "They know exactly about what they have to do, we're tired of telling them". I asked if they could repeat the problems to me and was told that they need to be compliant with http://www.postmaster.bellsouth.net/best_practice.htm (which is pretty vague).

So presumably the problem stems from two interpretations of some technical standard or norm and both sides are bad mouthing each other and so it sits. Since I got a call back from Bellsouth at a high level but cannot get a call back from the president of Aweber, I'm tending to think that the ball is in Aweber's hands to do something. Also, I'm blaming Aweber since they told me that it was a problem dating back a few weeks with hopes of quick resolution. Which I now believe to be untrue. Its a long-standing problem which appears unlikely to be resolved soon.

Of course, it's possible that the problem only got worse in November in which case, I apologize for jumping to conclusions about untrue.

What to do?
1. Ignore the problem.
It's only 4% of my potential new members who get turned off.
2. Try to work with Aweber and Bellsouth to resolve it. But they are remarkably stubborn.
3. Switch from Aweber. Expected switching cost (programmer to move boxes, move database and decline list etc) ~$5K and lots of hassle.
4. Look for better ideas

Answer - Try to work with them. I prefer this hassle to trying to rebuild all those newsletters and databases. Also, since I pay Bellsouth hundreds of dollars each month and Aweber around $120 monthly, I feel that they should make an effort.... Anybody else want to help?

NEXT Chapter - I got Aweber on the phone again. Sean's answer:
- The abuse department tracks what is going on, but its the postmaster group at bellsouth that decides it.
- The problem is constantly changing rules at bellsouth about Rate Limiting. Its not an email per connection issue (which Bellsouth abuse suggested), it's a total volume of emails question. Bellsouth is somewhat arbitrarily totally limiting the amount of emails that they accept from Aweber.
- The current episode only goes back a few weeks but the intermittent problems with Bellsouth goes back a year at least.
- Sean suggests getting onto any email insiders forum and I'll see that everyone is frustrated with Bellsouth.

uhg....Three updates:
Aweber corrects the typos...
Can a SPF policy solve my Bellsouth-Aweber email block?
Aweber Bellsouth Problem apparently solved!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Picking a Hosting Company - Focus on speed....

Using http://www.search-engine-mechanics.co.uk/speed.htm, I can tell what speed sites load at. While this could be a function of a badly designed web page, it might also be due to the hosting company. Slow is bad, fast is good.

Losers - netfirms
Winner - Sultanhosting

Domain name - Size - Load time (secs) -Average Speed per KB - hosting co.

01 www.learninggamesforkids.com 19.55 KB 0.22 seconds 0.01 seconds sultanhosting FAST
02 www.time4learning.com 21.04 KB 0.36 seconds 0.02 seconds webstream GOOD
03 www.homeschoolonline.org 74.87 KB 2.18 seconds 0.03 seconds netfirms SLOW
04 www.edelson.info 0.69 KB 0.16 seconds 0.23 seconds bellsouth FAST
05 www.todays-learners.com 18.23 KB 0.21 seconds 0.01 seconds sultanhosting FAST
06 www.homeschool-curriculum-review.com 4.66 KB 1.67 seconds 0.36 seconds netfirms SLOW

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Yahoo & MSN SEO

And I quote from Pat Quinn - http://www.search-engine-mechanics.co.uk/.

I have a client who receives 80% of his Internet business (which is substantial) via Yahoo, on which he is No 1 for all four of his search terms. Google does very little for him. Why should that be? It's because, when you get down to it, Yahoo is a consumer-oriented engine and Google is predominantly a commercial or business-to-business engine. And his business is geared to the consumer market....

It's also worth bearing in mind that MSN, as the third of the big three engines, is a pretty formidable presence. I can assure you, too, that business is good if you are well positioned on MSN. And since this outfit is owned by Microsoft, I can't see Mr Gates playing third-fiddle for very much longer. Search engine-wise, we live in interesting times.

With my marketing instincts honed to be aware of the potential of these other engines, I've just rechecked my standing on Yahoo & MSN.

Homeschool on Google: 34 Yahoo: 16th MSN: 8th
Homeschool curriculum on Google: 7th Yahoo: 4th on MSN: 1st
Homeschool resource on Google: 7th Yahoo: 16th on MSN: 8th

The great news is that I seem to do fine on Yahoo & MSN.

Homeschool SEO progress

Heh - I'm now number seven on google, a new high, for "homeschool curriculum"

And, my favorite free SEO just got better. They integrated .edu backlinks, alexa status, related pages, and added age in the waybackmachine. COOL-OH.

How important is "homeschool curriculum"? In Sept O6, the number of Yahoo US searches:

123,576 home school - Over 100K searches in Sept and Time4Learning is 34th and climbing!
13,849 home school curriculum - Time4Learning is firmly on the1st page at #7 and this is alot of searches !!!!
4,116
christian home school - haven't started competing here....
3,909
home resource school - 18th in google as "homeschool resource" - I should push to get on P1.
2,777
home program school - 11th in google as "homeschool program" - I should push to get on P1.
2,382
home online school - we're number 4 here.

And who is ahead of us?
http://www.homeschoolreviews.com - a review site owned by Jamey, great guy in North FL
http://www.suite101.com/welcome.cfm/homeschool_curriculum - Suite 101 is a mega content / advertising directory site with quality editors by area....
http://www.robinsoncurriculum.com - a curriculum vendor that I don't know much about
http://www.sonlight.com - great curriculum who I would hope would integrate Time4Learning as an alternative math offering or as supplementary on the language arts side ...
http://www.theswap.com - long standing site run by homeschoolers facilitating barter, swap, and resale of used materials. I advertise there. I might do more...
http://www.hsadvisor.com - A very nice homeschool megasite. I advertise there too.
Time4Learning - a leading homeschool curriculum online site !

Due Diligence of SEO Techniques

SEO Due Diligence for Acquisitions

In acquiring a firm whose marketing is primarily online, the acquirer needs to enter a whole new type of due diligence of seo.

This might sound esoteric but imagine this:

-----------
Company B gets 5K visitors/day to their site prior to the acquisition. Following the acquisition, in the first month, the number drops in month 2 to less than a thousand visitors. The revenues decline proportionately to under 20% of the pre acquisition number.

When the new management reviews the historical traffic records, they discover that most of the traffic traditionally came from three domains. Despite the info in the whois database, there is no way to contact these domains and no traffic coming from them.

The sellers of the company have moved on and are not available to answer questions.

--------------

What happened? In this case, it's likely that the original owners had a number of sites that they owned. The traffic and revenues of Company B were based on traffic delivered from other sites which Company B was not visibly paying for. Thus it appeared that the traffic was based on success in natural search. When the original owners sold the company, they redirected the traffic flow elsewhere. Since they own the sites in ways that are difficult to trace, it is impossible to prove. The buyers acquisition agreement did not address this possibility in the declarations or "representations and warranties". The origin of the traffic was not analysed in the preacquisition due diligence seo process but, if they were important traffic contributors, they should have been analyzed.

Here's a much harder scenario to detect and track...

-----------
Company C gets 5K visitors/day to their site prior to the acquisition about 90% of it from the search engines through "natural search". Following the acquisition, in the second through sixth month, the number drops to less than five hundred visitors. The revenues decline to under 10% of the pre acquisition number. When the new management reviews the historical links, they discover that there used to be about 1000 links in and there are still about 1000 links in, there is no detailed analysis of the links.
--------------
What happened? This is a nearly untrackable problem. The original owners had built a large link count of mostly junky links. However, amongsth the 1000 links, there might have been 5-10 that were controlled by the owners which had significant page rank and were, prior to the acquisition, pointing all of their link power to the website that was about to be sold. Following the acquisition, these sites were redirected and the result is that over a few months, the new owners observed a fall in page rank but they could not track the high page rank back to the sites that disappeared.
___________________
If online marketing systems and traffic are a component of the value of your acquistion, get an expert to do your analysis.

Good due diligence SEO issues:

- where is the expertise in SEO? Check it out. Interview? Writing? Training?
- What mechanisms are used?
- is the traffic really from 3rd party sites - check it
- are the techniques white hat or black hat (with a limited shelf-life)?
- where does the traffic come from?
- is the seo success due to links pointing to the site which are truly 3rd party or related?
- history of links & traffic patterns. Understand it...
- involvement with buying traffic thru PPC, network marketing, email marketing etc etc
- etc etc


This post sponsored by Time4Learning providing homeschool resources , summer school , and after school learning for gifted kids or special needs or mainstream.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Hosting Companies - How to Pick?

Method for picking hosting companies
I don't much like my hosting company. Sometimes they are nice to me and I feel differently but mostly, emails get answered with 1-2 word answers, they don't take calls regularly etc etc.

So, I want to switch hosting companies to one that has 24/7 staffing and telephone support and a great record of up time and support.
----------------
Is there an objective / reliable way to check out a hosting company's statistics on uptime? On history and reputation?
----------------
Can I check who is faster?

I found a site that lists who is bigger than who. Also, it has stats on domains won/loss accounts.
http://www.webhosting.info/webhosts/

I looked at the record of what my target accounts show to see any pattern. And I tried contacting some of the sites that left the hosting companies that I'm considering but this does not feel like a terribly productive exercise.

-------------
My situation, I am currently on a shared windows server with alot of .Net programming and one sql database. My current vendor has had a series of crashes relating to connections between the db and site. His "fix" is to upsell me to dedicated server. I've decided instead to switch to a site with better support & track record...

I'm considering:http://www.ixwebhosting.com/ - based on my programmers recommendationhttp://www.layeredtech.com/ - based on a personal contact
www.sultanhosting.com/ - where I have a reseller account.
http://www.netfirms.com/ - where I have an account
http://www.godaddy.com/ - where I have an account.
http://www.verio.com - major & local
http://www.mindspring.com personal contact....
Any thoughts on the methodology for deciding?


http://forums.webhosting.info/showthread.php?p=22913#post22913 - I posted this question.
http://www.dnsstuff.com/pages/forums.htm - I posted this question.

I'll tell you what I learn....

Monday, November 06, 2006

LiveStats Definitions Question

I don't really get the definitions of hits, impressions, visitors, and distinct visits.
And I'm tryinng to reconcile the statistics

Reconciling PPC Visitors & Webstats
For instance, I send my PPC traffic to a start page and google says that they sent me 17,648 visitors in October. I should get that number on my webstats (livestats) report. But it reports that the landing page had 78,020 visitors who entered on that page. As far as I can tell, that page never shows up as the target page in any advertisements and it's built to not do well in search. So there are really only two ways to enter on that page.

1 - PPC - which explains 18K of 78K October visitors
2 - Repeat visitors who came to that page again because they bookmarked it. Is it possible that 60K visits were due to book marks in October? I think it's unlikely.

LiveStats reported that During the Month of October, 2006:

A total of 380,099 distinct visits were made to the site.
The average visit lasted 4 Minutes and 22 Seconds.
395 distinct web pages were viewed a total of 3,254,821 times.
The average visit contained 8.56 page views.

Total page views as entry pages were 341,614.
And that there were 15,384,957 hits.

Here's some questions.
- How do these stats relate to each other?
- Is a visit the same as a visitor?
- What constitutes a hit?
- Does an entry page hold the same meaning as a visit...hit...visitor?

- Are page views under Entry pages the same as "visitors entering"?
- Trying to reconcile referrers with total visitors suggests that the largest number of visitors bookmarked us. Which makes some sense since visitors tend to come back a few times while making up their mind and members visit many many times/month.

Friday, November 03, 2006

How large a sample size ?

I responded to an invite to get some info on helping understand if my webstats were an adequate basis to make a decision. Its from MarketingExperiments.com, a MECC Labs company.


Their site and blog are an absolutely fantatic resource of much higher quality than most of the marketing drek on the web. Nevertheless, I find that I want to nitpick in the area of statistical validity.

Since it has a copyright notice on it, I'll only quote this part:

"There are 2 ways to evaluate your data…
􀂄 Understand the complex math (which they then provide alot of complex formulas on




􀂄 Utilize the MEC test protocol - which makes it somewhat simpler but still, nothing that you could (or I could) remember.

I did, in my youth, take some statistics. I remember an old rule.

DIVIDE YORU DATA SET IN HALF RANDOMLY. COMPARE THE DATA FROM THE TWO HALFS. IF IT MATCHES. BELIEVE IT. IF NOT, GET A BIGGER SAMPLE.

This means that if you have conversion rate data on 2000 people. You could sort alphabetically and take every other data point. Add them up. If both data sets show a 1.6 conversion rate, your sample set is adequate.

If one set say 1.3% and the other says 2.0%, your margin of error is pretty large.

Also, if you division of the data is not arbitrary, this is meaningless. For instance, you cannot divide by the first half of the month or the second since this not a random division.

Question to you smart guys. Does this rule hold true?
Secondly, how about my idea for a pool tool to use when the normal pools of data are too small to use.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

What is a subdomain? How does it relate to SEO?

I have always thought of domains as being defined as http://www.domain.com . I thought that new folders went at the end http://www.domain.com/newfolder

But, I see there are these "subdomains" which appear as http://subdomain.domain.com

Here's the question: Does google count them as part of the domain or not?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

More open seo questions

1. Three way links by accident. Do my blogs hurt me? I tend to track parents' reviews of my site and list their sites on my blog... Does this appear as a 3 way link to google? Does this?

2. Graphics not counting for links. I hear that a graphical link doesn't count as much as a text one. True? How much less? Does alt text count like anchor text? Why not? Where's the logic in this? Or is just because google prefers a text-based web to a graphical one (easier to spider)

Home School Does this graphic with a link and an alt tag count less than a text one?


3. putting articles on blogs first? I tend to write rough drafts of my pages that I eventually put on my site. I store and work on the rough drafts in my blog. Since google tracks where content appears first, does this hurt my site when I put them up there by making my site look like its reusing stuff from elsewhere?

4. Is my feeder site worth it? In discussing this, I learned two new terms: link bait & social linking.

Advice what it would take to get it to the top for "homeschool" for this page:
on http://www.time4learning.com/homeSchool-curriculum.htm - thanks to Carrie of Abalone Search Engine Optimization services.

Background: that page is now first page for homeschool-curriculum, 23rd for homeschool, and 60th for homeschooling. What would it take to do well on homeschool?
1. Take homeschooling off the page. It should be a different page. More "homeschool", notice the title.
2. Meta description - hold to 250 characters, mine is too long
3. get homeschool 2x into description


Tools Advice - I want an integrated tool that has: number of searches, position on the search engines, and which perhaps integrates with webstats to tell me people who visit from which term/engine and how they convert.

Does anything like that exist? Answer No. Carrie uses.....

- Rank Tracker - MSN, google, yahoo - tells you rank
- Word tracker - for number of searches...

Monday, October 30, 2006

Open SEO Questions

I was drawn to an seo firm's site by a comment on a recent post. I started to write her some questions. Here they are. I'll give her a few days and if no response, Imight put this out into the forums....

1. page name - I'm hoping in the next few months to do well on the search term: homeschool. Should I use this page: www.Time4Learning.com/homeschool-curriculum.htm? I have finally gotten this page onto the first page for google "homeschool curriculum". It has the advantage that it already has alot of links. It has the disadvantage of having the name: "homeschool-curriculum" Or, should I create a new page with name: www.Time4Learning.com/homeschool.htm ?

2. SEO tool. So far, I've done all of my seo work using free tools on the web (check out the free SEO tools article) but I'm finding keeping track of the hundreds of terms to be a little overwhelming.

3. Webanalytics. I'm about to install some sort of analytics beyond the free stuff that my host provides to help me track where people go and which term or referrer gives the best conversions. Is Google analytics the way to go? I just wrote them for an invite and then told me that it was too late. No more invites. (ie It's free for all now).

Friday, October 27, 2006

Link Power - New terms & measures needed

We spend so much time on SEO and trying to build our position, I think we need a better vocabulary for the essense of what we are building and transmitting.

Page rank is a weak term. Are there better terms? Has anyone yet come up with an industry standard for measuring it?

I saw a post where the question was about whether 301 redirects transmit their "SEO Juice". Its better than page rank but not catchy enough.

What about?

- SEO Force
- Page Rank Power
- SEO PowerUps
- SEO Kharma (does have the idea of passing on....)
- Its a type of link energy - a food
- Link calories.
- Link Power.

We could have a way of measuring a page's Link Power (say, put up a standard test page about on a website with a single link from a page. That page's link power could be defined as the inverse of your rank on google for the test page after 45 days)

This post sponsored by those goofy people providing homeschool resources over at Time4Learning.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Is a feeder site clever or wasteful?

I have posted variations of this question onto two seo forums. No answers so far....
webworkshop.net/seoforum/viewtopic.php?t=14399
ttp://forums.searchenginewatch.com/showthread.php?t=14694

I have a major site that I am trying to promote in the search engines, it's for home education.

Time4Learning is the site that I'm trying to primarily promote. It's a kids education site with lessons and a playground (for recess after studying).

To support Time4Learning.co with traffic and links, I created what I think of as a "feeder site", http://www.learninggamesforkids.com. It is made up of a few of the learning games that make up the "playground" of the primary site.

I created it as a free site since I felt that I could get more websites to link to it since many of them will only link to "free" sites. [Never mind that "free" usually means advertising-based or something full of to-play-the-second-part-of-this-game-click-here-to-accept-a-few-special-downloads" triggering an installation of crud which will take years to clean out and which is somehow justified by yahooligians as "but you clicked yes on a contract attached to the middle of a game intended for 8 year olds but now I'll get off my high horse and back to business].

I could put these activities on a page on my primary site as an example of the playground activities. I would probably get less websites to link to it but it would be directly on my main site.

Given that I am primarily interested in building Time4Learning's position in the search engines, I have 3 questions:

Question 1 - If the feeder site only has outgoing links to my primary site (which will shortly be the case), is there any SEO disadvantage to having the links coming into the feeder site?

Question 2 - If you look at learninggamesforkids.com, you'll notice that the games (some of them) are hosted elsewhere. Should I mark those links with some sort of "spiders, do not follow" to not "waste" any page rank that I'm trying to transmit to my primary site?

Question 3 - Is this whole strategy clever or misguided?

Top Ten SEO Factors

I quote this article in its entirety since I keep giving it to new staff members and friends. It's a great simple collection of the basics of SEO. There is a statement that image links just don't count which surprises me.....

About the Author: Scott Hendison is an internet consultant that specializes in search engine optimization and internet marketing. He has written over 100 articles that are available on his website. He has also developed a tutorial area for beginning search engine optimization, at 'SEO101'.

These are what I believe to be the top 10 most important things (not necessarily in order) that you need, in order to get your website found in the search engines.

There are many other factors as well, but if you follow these guidelines, you'll stand a much better chance, and you'll be off to a good start.

1. Title Meta Tag. The title tag is what displays as the headline in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). It's also what displays in the top blue band of Internet Explorer when your site is displayed.
Your title tag of your website should be easy to read and designed to bring in traffic. By that, I mean that your main keyword phrase should be used toward the beginning of the tag. True there are websites being found now that do not use the phrase in the title, but the vast majority still do as of this writing.

Don't make the mistake of putting your company name first, unless you are already a household name, like Nascar or HBO. People are likely searching for what you have to offer, not your name.
Your title tag should be written with a capital letter starting the tag, and followed by all lowercase letters, unless you're using proper nouns. Some people prefer to capitalize every word, too.

2. Description Meta Tag. The description tag is the paragraph that people will see when your page comes up in the search results.
Your description tag should be captivating and designed to attract business. It should be easy to read, and compel the reader to act right now and follow your link. Without a description tag, search engines will frequently display the first text on your page. Is yours appropriate as a description of the page?
A proper description tag is what people will see below your title. You should make proper use of punctuation, and with readability, use your subject and geographical references.

3. Keywords Meta Tag. The importance of Meta keyword tags fluctuates from month to month among different search engines. There is a debate in the SEO community as to whether or not they help at all on certain search engines. In fact, in the summer of 2004 it appeared as if they were losing importance altogether.
However, you'll NEVER be penalized on any search engines for using relevant targeted keywords in moderation, and they can only help you with most, especially Yahoo.
Avoid stuffing your keyword metatags with too many keywords. Just use relevant tags that apply directly to the content of that particular page, and don't overdo it.

4. Alt Tags. The small yellow box that comes up when your mouse cursor is placed over an image is called the ALT tag. Every relevant image should have an alt tag with your key words or phrases mentioned in the tag.
A proper ALT tag goes after the file name, and before the Align indicator. * - The ALT tag is no longer being considered for ranking purposes by some search engines. That said, it still cannot HURT you, and will still help you with some engines. My recommendation is to continue to use them, but be sure to avoid keyword stuffing. Besides, who nows when the pendulum will swing back the other way?

5. Header Tags. The text of each page is given more weight by the search engines if you make use of header tags and then use descriptive body text below those headers. Bullet points work well too. It is not enough to merely BOLD or enlarge your text headlines.

6. Link Text. Search engine spiders cannot follow image links. In addition to having image links or buttons on your web pages, you should have text links at the bottom or elsewhere. The text that the user sees when looking at the link is called the link text. A link that displays products does not carry as much weight to the search engines as a link called oregon widgets. Link text is very important, and is actually one of the most frequently overlooked aspects of web design that I've seen. {NOTE - is it true that spiders don't follow image links? I had thought that image links counted and if you used alt text, it filled the same function as anchor text?)

7. Site Map. Using a site map not only makes it easy for your users to see the entire structure of your website, but it also makes it easier for the search engines to spider your site. When the search engine spiders come to visit, they will follow all of the text links from your main index page. If one of those links is to a site map, then the spiders will go right to the sitemap, and consequently visit every page you have text linked to from that site map. On the site map page, try to have a sentence or two describing each page, and not just a page of links.

8. Relevant Inbound Links. By relevant, I mean similar industry or subject related sites. Right now, no single strategy can get your site ranked higher faster than being linked to by dozens of other relevant websites. It used to be that the quantity of incoming links mattered most, but today, it's much better to have three highly relevant links to you from other popular related websites than 30 links from unrelated low ranked sites. If there are other businesses in your industry that you can trade links with, it will help your site enormously. Link to others, and have them link to you. It's proven, and it works. To see who's linking to you, in Google type the following...links: yourdomain.com

9. Your Content. Not to be forgotten of course, is the actual content of your webpage. It must be relevant helpful information that people want to read. These days, each webpage should be laser focused on one specific product or subject, in order to rank highly for that search phrase. The days of writing one webpage to appeal to dozens of search terms are long gone. Ideally, each page should have between 400 to 650 words on it. Too few, and the search engines won't consider it to be relevant enough. Too many words and the search engine spiders may have a hard time determining the actual subject or focus of the page.
Use your keywords or phrases often, and use them at the beginning of your paragraphs wherever possible. Don't overuse them and make the page sound phony, but don't write a page about a certain subject, and not mention that subject repeatedly either. Reading it out loud to yourself is a great way to judge how natural your text sounds.
Concentrate on writing quality pages that actually appeal to the human reader. Write pages that provide the reader with exactly what they are looking for; that is, information about the exact search phrase they've entered.

10. Avoid Cheating. With all of these tidbits of information, it's tempting to think that you can stuff 100 keywords into your title, or create a page with the phrase oregon widget company being used 100 times in headers, text links, ALT tags, bullet points etc. but that cannot help you. In fact, it can penalize you, and get your website banned from certain search engines.


About the Author: Scott Hendison is an internet consultant that specializes in search engine optimization and internet marketing. He has written over 100 articles that are available on his website. He has also developed a tutorial area for beginning search engine optimization, at 'SEO101'. And of course, this blog is supported by those kind people providing great resources for homeschooling online .

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

SEO Progress - Homes School Keyphrases

Hot news.
Time4Learning is 4th for homeschool online with google, 8th for homeschool curriculum on google. And, we are 18th for homeschool on google.

There is about 5 times more traffic on homeschool curriculum than homeschool online.
And perhaps 5 times more on homeschool than homeschool curriculum. Per the overture search phrase tool

I only wish I know how many people were clicking thru to me from google having searched on homeschool curriculum. I guess its time for some real analytics.

Plan :
- pick a seo package that can track my progress on the search engines for 100s of terms, track my traffic in by those same terms, and track customer conversions by those same terms and their path. Does such a tool exist? Would google analytics do it?

Friday, October 20, 2006

Better Business Bureau or Who can you trust?

Online trust is tough to build.

My site is a real "soft sell". We never make outlandish promises such as "better grades in 6 weeks" or "learn to read in month" (BTW - the initial Hooked on Phonics bankruptcy was due to the first Bush administration cracking down on their irresponsible claims). While I ask for an email on one of my major landing pages, I don't force them to give it to me to see the demos. My follow-up emails to visitors provide a broad number of ways to help their children (only one of which is Time4Learning). When people sign up, I don't ask for any commitment. They can cancel at any time and even have a two week money-back gurantee (an option that about 18% of the people exercise). We now answer the phone 6 days a week and email 7 days a week with superior member support. In short, my business strategy is about having a long-term relationship with the homeschool market and relying primarily on repeat users and word of mouth. It's working.

One way of measuring trust is the question of shopping cart abandons. My payment page used to have a 90% abandon rate but through alot of fiddling with the page and changing the process by which people get into it, I'm down to 65% abandons. My 90% rate was within industry norms, my 65% abandon rate is considered pretty good by people "in the know".

One reason that people abandon is that they don't yet trust us. The visa, amex, mastercard, and discovery logos help people having confidence. I also have a logo from "XRamp SSL secured" which is hotlinked to their site which is supposed to provide confidence to my users. But since their name is unknown, I'm not sure it helps. I have yet to fiddle with using variations on their logo (there are a number to try) but I wonder if that will help.

I'd like to add the verisign and paypal logos since they seem respected and build confidence but I don't work with them. Maybe I should. I think I'll look into putting a paypal payment option right on the payment page.

Many sites have the BBB - Better Business Bureau logo. Or the Better Business Bureau Online logo. I feel that this is respected and so I have started to look into getting one..

1. First sad observation on the Better Business Bureau. To contact BBB, I go to their site and put in my company info and that I would like to be contacted to get signed up. I eventually get a call from a "sales rep" who claims that they have had customer inquiries about me and I get a hard sell from him about why I need BBB to convince customers. He's a jerk. Their internal communication is so bad that he is not given the message that I submitted in their box. Although I tell him that I was the one who put the info into their system (we even confirm the date), he keeps trying to tell me that a customer asked about me on that date. He doesn't seem to understand that I'm an online business and don't have a window to post their sticker onto although I think I explain it clearly. Clearly he's commissioned, clueless and perhaps deaf. I won't mention his name but it discourages me so much that I decide to drop the better business bureau online idea.

2. I continue to note that many online businesses use the BBB logo. Some just copy it and its not a live link. It's unclear to me that BBB ever finds and attacks them. I actually make inquiries about this and find that they do send "cease and desist letters". Sounds expensive and old fashioned and ineffective. Why don't they follow the letters by creating a blacklist of sites illicitly using their logo and aggressive provide the info to people who matter (credit card companies, search engine companies , john q public etc) that they are sleazeballs and get some cooperation in getting real penalties put to them (sites banned in the search engines

3. This month I decided to make another run at BBB and put my name in their box again. New person called. Ruth. Much nicer. Not rude. Actually listens!!!! But, their structure is still silly. She has no computer and cannot look at my site. It seems that I need to go thru their local approval process (local being the Better Business Bureau that oversees from Vero Beach down the East Coast of Florida to the Keys). Then, I can deal with their national Better Business Bureau. I'm working on it.

For my BBB BBBOnline update...

PS - I'd like their to be a BBB-type online service that checks compliance with Coppa, Privacy, SPAM, customer service, refund policy etc etc so that people really had some help distinguishing the truly compliant businesses

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Word of Mouth & Referrals

Time4Learning gets alot of referrals from parents. We rely on it. We encourage it. Our encouragement is through our homeschool curriculum review program.

As I research this, I realize that word of mouth can be studied and encouraged:

- Professor Carl Walters
Word of Mouth Marketing Association

Time4Learning is an example of a small company that is at the cutting edge junction of two cutting edge phenomenons: online marketing & word-of-mouth marketing.

Anybody want to put some students to work helping us and studying us?

While conceptually, we are cutting edge, we are held back by inhouse technical expertise. I guess I can and will fix this.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Doubling my link count?

My approach to building links is to use lots of elbow grease. No tricks. Just work.

I have no automated systems for exchanging links and mostly I ignore the automated reciprocal link requests. I mostly just email and fill in forms for directories, invite my members to link to us from their sites, write articles and offer them for publication, and pay for advertising. I also have created a few of my own sites: Lavalle's Karate site, homeschooling online, gifted students, California home school, Florida home school, and homeschool curriculum review.

Its safe (nothing tricky or black-hatty) and very time-consuming. I think I'll have someone else to do it for awhile.


How is my link-count doing? I only wish I had better tools and was more organized. I don't really have a consistent measure of my link count or positon over time except for the few terms that I count (ie homeschool curriculum)

The neato tool - http://www.webuildpages.com/neat-o/ - today gives me a total count of 764 links. Notes indicate that they gave me only 309 on 12/27/2005. My goals: 1k on halloween of this year. 2K by Christmas. BTW - i wonder what the neato tool counts?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Blogging for SEO

This article is not for those of your thinking about blogging to make friends: its for those of you who have a blog to improve your site's site engine ranking. For those who think that a BLOG stands for a Better Listing On Google.

Heres the steps.

1. Set up a blog giving it a name and description that utilizes your target keyphrases. I don't know which blogging software is best. I don't know if its better to have a blog on a site (eg www.homeschoolonline.org) or have it on a blog hoster (such as www.homeschoolblogger.com/edmouse ).

2. Write a few dozen articles. Short. Maybe two paragraphs each. Schedule them for publishing once a day or once every few days or whatever. Space them out. They should make sense, be on target, and be OK. These initial ones won't get many readers so don't go all out.

3. Include links to leading sites that are relevant to your subject. Maybe a link or so in each article. This establishes your blog as legitimate.

4. Get others to link to you. This could be done by intelligently commenting on other blogs or in forums or newsgroups in ways that mention your site or using your site as your byline. If you do it right, this draws traffic, makes friends, and soon you are getting links. It helps if you really care about your topic. If you are terribly witty and social, it helps. If you have insider insights, it helps. But then, you would be writing for people, not just for the spiders (which is this article's topic).

5. Make sure pingomatic or other blog registers get "pinged" (notified) each type your articles are published. Some blogging software does this automatically, others don't.

6. After awhile, include a few links to your own domain. The links should come come from your target keyphrases. For instance, second grade math help .

7. Make the links as relevant as possible. For instance, if you are writing about John Edelson, discuss a number of johns and edelsons and maybe some johnsons and edels and then at one point, link to the site like this: john edelson

8. Keep this up for a few years.

9. Repeat with different blogs on different addresses with different content as necessary.

Eventually, all else being equaly, it will help raise the visibility of your site. I hope. Good luck. Lets hope google doesn't switch to a new type of algorith which focuses on user preferences rather than site links too soon...

more...on seo blogging including linkbacks and articles

Having students with learning issues? Dyslexia - Attention Deficit - Sensory Processing Disorders - Autism - Aspergers - Downs Syndrome

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Is there a free lunch? Not in the homeschool domain monetization space.

Uhg, I just looked at this month's results on traffic club for the six sites that I parked there. Web Home School, family homeschool, gifted child, Florida HomeSchool, gifted child, and gifted student : literally $.83!!!

Here's what the table shows. It shows that theres no traffic......
A total of 17 visitors for a total $.83.

I somehow thought their service included directory submissions etc. Guess not.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Home Page issues - SEO vs Readability

I just reread my home page and I decided to bite the bullet and rewrite. It was written by an SEO geek with the intention of driving traffic. The terms he built around:

term / my google position
Educational teaching games 1st
learn to read 18th
lean to read programs 6th
learn to read program 20th
kid (s) math game (s) 62 / 64 / 85th
kid (s) reading game (s) 42 / 45 / 47 / 55
home education not in top 100

What I hate is that the page just does not read very well.
Also, it expresses a point of view of Time4Learning circa early 2005.

What has changed?
- We've learned that members care passionately about curriculum and educational content.
- We've learned that all the educational bells and whistles (reports, redos, detailed scope and sequence, teaching guides, answer keys) are of great importance to our families.
- We've not found much of an audience who cares about using our service as a "better-than-video-games-type" entertainment baby-sitting service

So, I'll focus on improving the writing and try to pick some new pictures. I'll retain the two expressions that we have done well on:
- educational teaching games
- learn to read programs
And drop the others.

Friday, September 15, 2006

About About, 101, Bella, and ivillage

There are an array of megasites which seem to appear in the top listings for alot important keyphrases. I suspect that they know what they're doing in terms of seo. Here's what I'm wondering about...Is there a reason that they use addresses that have the key term on the left side of the URL instead of the right? And, how do they do it? Are these independently listed URLs? Examples:


http://parenting.ivillage.com
http://homeschooling.about.com/
http://specialneedschildren.bellaonline.com/Site.asp
http://autismspectrumdisorders.bellaonline.com/Site.asp
http://specialneedsparenting.suite101.com/

Examples of the other way:

http://about.com/parenting/
http://www.suite101.com/welcome.cfm/homeschool_curriculum
www.amazon.com/100-Top-Picks-Homeschool-Curriculum/dp/0805431381
http://www.time4learning.com/homeSchool-curriculum.htm
http://www.bellaonline.com/site/Homeschooling
http://www.time4learning.com/learning-dyslexia.shtml
http://www.bellaonline.com/site/specialneedschildren
http://www.time4learning.com/learning-sensoryprocessingdysfunction.shtml
http://www.time4learning.com/autism.shtml


Is there a difference in terms of SEO impact? Does this require registering different domains? If not, how do they do it? I thought domains were defined by a common domain name which meant www.domainname.com . I've never fully understood the relationship between www.domain.com and domain.com but I'm not at all sure how to think about www.onetopic.domainname.com and www.anothertopic.domain.com .

Anyone know any articles on the topic?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Writing for the Web and Three Audiences

My web pages are written for three distinct audiences.

1. The Skimmers. The majority of web visitors read only the headlines and bolded text before deciding: "Do I click into the site or do I move on to another site?" For these skimmers, I focus on the overall visual effect, the headlines, and an appealing and visible action button.

2. The Readers. The readers feel that the rest of us suffer from some combination of the lazies or attention deficit and they get frustrated by pages that lack substance or that are poorly written. For the readers, I provide well-written paragraphs that expand on the headlines and a full page of relevant information. This segment of the audience will scroll down and so pages continue down past "the fold" providing them substantative information.

3. The spiders. Each page is also written for the perambulating octopieds and their robotic arachnid preferences. I don't just bold, I H1 (is that a verb yet?). I pick my headlines and wording with more than just a casual glance to key phrase volumes and my competitiveness on them. I provide alt tags, page names, titles, and links (both inwards and outwards) so that the bots understand in the fraction of a second that they dedicate to analyzing my site, which categories, searches, and class of site (authority site, if you please) I belong in. more on seo...

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Monetizing Domains in the Home Schooling

Like many compulsives or impulsives, I seem to accumulate alot of domains. Each great business and marketing idea seems to lead to me rapidly registering new domains (often in the dead of night). In some cases, I have actually created the site but in about 90% of the cases, I have registered a domain and not yet done much with it.

I'm often surprised when I look at my list of domains: "What crazy idea did I have when I actually signed up for www.somethingodd.com"?

So, rather than leave these domains idle, I am looking for help on what best to do with these domains (I've tried ignoring them but they haunt me).

Also, since I host and register in a number of places (I have a bad case of the deal-of-the-month) and I don't have the expertise to forward or to properly redirect, I end up with weird Kludges.

Weird Kludges - For instance, the only way that I have found to direct a domain (registered at namebargain) to a page at Time4Learning (registered at registersite.com, now misk.com and hosted at webstream.net) is to set the dns to trafficclub which allows me to select the page to redirect the domain to. I suspect the search engines don't like this combination but its the best I can do until I get a techie to work with me.

Here are the four strategies that I have come up with along with my thoughts on how to measure them.

1. Monetize domains with some appropriate algorithm-based pages and advertisements. Most of my unused domains seem to get populated by a set of pages with ads and affiliate links and link pages where are making money for someone (the registrar?). After much inquiring, I found a way to set this up myself. So in a few minutes, I registered the following domains onto trafficclub.com. Anybody have a better idea?
Florida Home School florida-home-school.com
California Home School california-home-school.com
Gifted Child gifted-child.com
Gifted Student gifted-student.org
I set these up earlier today so we'll see how they do ($1/day? $10/day? $100/day?).

2. Redirect the domains to relevant pages on the site that I most care about. Here for example:
Californiavirtualacadmy.com California Virtual Academy - goes to T4L CA page
Florida Home School florida-home-school.org - goes to T4L FL page
Gifted-Child.org Gifted Child - goes to T4L gifted page
Gifted-Student.com Gifted Student - goes to T4L gifted page
Home School Online Home-School-Online.com - goes to homeschoolonline.org
Home School Resource Home-School-Resource.com - goes to T4L homeschool resource page
I guess if traffic comes in from these domains on my monthly stats, I'll know that its helping. And if google or yahoo counts them as links, then they weigh in a bit.

3. Put up a tiny original website with a few relevant links. Examples...
Time For Learning Timeforlearning.com
Home School Curriculum Review Homeschool-Curriculum-Review.com
Learning Games for Kids LearningGamesForKids.com PR4
To measure this, I should set up a few this weekend and endow them with the example same links so it'll be an apples to apples comparison. These others have been up for awhile and have some decent page rank on their own.

4. Or just redirect the whole domain to another:
http://www.Time4Math.com PR2
http://www.Time4Reading.com
Again, these are old and new ones should be set up to measure. These sites do direct traffic (in the hundreds per month, not thousands) and do have some page rank.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A google refrigerator and an Ed Mouse portrait

Google Refrigerator, Ed Mouse
Great Day of Mail:
A Google Refrigerator
and an Ed Mouse Portrait
Don't you hate ho-hum mail? You go to the mail box and return with some catalogs, flyers, credit card solicitations, and some bills... nothing of interest.

But, I recently received not one, but two exciting packages. ...a google refrigerator and a portrait of Ed Mouse, (the Educational Mouse)!

The frig was sent "gratis" by google's ppc group for paying alot of ppc commisssions and then not joining any of the class action suits about click fraud (that's a joke. I'm sure they would have sent me the frig either way).

The Ed Mouse portrait of this animated educational cartoon mouse was commissioned by Time4Learning from one of our Members, Andrea Hermitt, decorative artist. Since Time4Learning is about to make the big move from a home office to an office-office (is that the right term?), these will both be very useful.

This post sponsored by the best homeschool curriculum on the planet (currently at 9 on google) which is a great homeschool resource for learning enrichment.   
Educational Mouse Support Team
Ed Mouse Support Time, circa 2012