Thursday, December 10, 2009

So many violations in one paragraph!

I have removed the names to protect the guilty but there are two major legal and ethical problems in this paragraph that I received from a big-name educational website!

BLANK.com December 2009/January2010 Educational Newsletter

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to all you participants! BLANK.com has NO FEES. This site offers 2500 pages of interactive word puzzle activities that focus on learning Latin/Greek roots. XXXX and YYYY appreciate your sharing information about its content with colleagues and friends. YYYY[at]BLANK.com will send copies of the newsletter directly to them if you provide their email address. Participants may also use the Monthly Newsletter button (green box on the left side of the home page) to sign up. Thanks for clicking on ads as your efforts help defray some of the expenses of this voluntary effort.-----------------------------

Did you catch them?
1. A CAN-SPAM violation in which they solicity third party names and say that they will email them!
2. Asking people to click on ads. If anyone at Google gets wind of that, you forfeit your adsense account and lose your position in their search engine.
A third possible problem is that they say that the site is run by volunteers. My estimate is that the couple running it pull in a nice six figure income.

Should I tell them?

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Free Business Advice for Facebook

Dear Facebook,

I read the business advice given to you recently by Time magazine and Wired. Don't be dumb, don't listen to them, listen to me.

My guidance is good, my insights profound, and I'm a sage business advisor. Here we go. A corporate strategy for your success in a few hundred words. Here's the summary:

1. Give me multiple Faces and categories for friends and contacts.
2. Provide me for a fee
a digital archive or vault service. I'd happily pay.
3. Allow me to
use Facebook as my single place for discussions, groups, clubs, and forums. Right now, I use way too many phpbbs, yahoo groups, ning groups, and so on and so forth, It's only because your groups and discussions are so weak.

Facebook's great two challenges are:

1. Lock in your users. Otherwise, you risk being a Myspace or Friendster. You need something more than just being the best place to be. We've seen that people are willing to abandon years of building their sites and links and friends for a better "scene". Don't be complacent. It's not enough. Imagine the horror of other really good entries into the social networking space which are really well combined with other popular areas such as music and games or mobile computing. I can imagine some Apple initiatives where they combine the Iphone, their music business, a partnership with say Electronic Arts, and a social media system which would be a very major threat to you. I can scare you with other scenarios. Your apps are good but you need to keep making Facebook indispensible to us.


2. Business model. Recurring cost-effective revenue. Ongoing growth in revenue per user. These are your challenges. Right now, your business model....is... nascent...a hope and prayer....in development. In short, you don't have one and you take some comfort from the fact that Google figured one out before they got to a real crisis. Of course, others sites (think YouTube and Twitter and MySpace) have not.

Here's the good news. The solution is not difficult. You can complete your emergence as a company by offering a few more features and services that resolve these two challenges. It's easy to implement, no real tough technology. Here's what you should do. As a package, it's coherent and will work. It still allows you to a lot of other things.
Facebook Strategic Plan

1. Allow individuals to have multiple Faces and categories of friends/contacts. One set of my friends might be my family. Another might be my old college friends. A third could be friends from karate. And another big set of contacts could be my business contacts. For each of them, I have a slightly different Face. So family gets to see lots of pictures of my kids but they don't have to suffer through my posting of information about my business. So each time I post a picture or post, I'll need to check which Face it shows on. This allows Facebook to become really useful for business and avoid some of the awkwardness that currently impinges its use.

2. Archiving my digital assets. Right now, all computer users seem to have the same problem of managing our digital assets. We have lots of pictures and contacts and files. We're getting use to the fact that we have home computers, office computers, a portable in the trunk of our car for when we have time to stop at Starbucks, and our Iphone with all of it's pictures. The storing and archiving of all of this digital stuff is a problem. The best solution that I've found is Carbonite.com but there are others. Essentially, it's a centralized archive place where you can store stuff for some small amount. Why not allow us 10 MB of free storage forever with each Facebook account? That way, we have our pictures and videos in Facebook and it's easier to check which ones are public (and for which Face) and which ones are private. And, if we need more storage, we just pay a simple $4 for 100 MB per month. I'd probably trust Facebook to keep it safe and would like the convenience of having a single storage place. I'd like to have a direct link between Facebook and the original. And I'd like that my Iphone and camera already deal with Facebook so I could imagine it would be easy to get my photos automatically archived there. Would I pay $4 a month? In fact, being a packrat, I'd probably be paying $8 or $12 month and since it takes several days to get everything uploaded the first time, I'd probably stay forever. Soon, I'm paying maybe $12/month, $144 per year to Facebook and it's the center of my digital assets world. And I'm happy for the convenience.

3. Make groups and subgroups and clubs work. Right now, if I want to start a community, I use Ning. You should fix your discussions and groups and fan pages so that there's no need for others to create specialized communities with endless different identities and logins and passwords.


This post sponsored by:

Time4Learning.com - Online learning for homeschool, afterschool, and summer study, PreK-8th grade.

Time4Writing.com - Eight Week Online Writing Tutorials to Build Writing Skills & Confidence

SpellingCity.com - The fastest-growing educational website.

Monday, August 24, 2009

SEO Tools - My Education Continues

SEO tools - this was updated August 2015 since it continues to get traffic but the info is out of date.

There are so many different types of SEO tools.  Learning about them and stayin gcurrent on them is an endless exercise. Many of the most useful and insightful tools that dominated have become unavailable over the last decade.  Here's a quick glance at the current SEO tools that I use, organized by what they do.

Find out my site's position by keyword - Google webmaster tools. Webmaster tools also provides vital info on site status as far as Google is concerned. It say if the sitemap has been set up right, if there's dead links, and what searches the site is placing well for and how many searches there. Also, the position and click thrus.
Find out my site's incoming links - Google webmaster tools
Find out my sites incoming traffic my keyword - Google analytics

Find out other sites' position by keyword - none. I use to use many tools for this such as Spyfu. Now I don't. 
Find out other site's incoming links - there's many. For instance: http://www.seo-forensics.com/
Find out other sites' incoming traffic - http://searchanalytics.compete.com/site_referrals/ And this is the point of this post. This is an interesting tool that I'd never seen before. I learned from it that someone else is doing well on math assessment and educational software blog and phonemic awareness lesson, both being terms that I'd like to dominate.

Long gone are the detailed kayword data that Google Analytics use to provide. Overture, which gave the volume of searches by keyword, also gone.  The Cool SEO Tool was one of my long term SEO Tool favorites. It's gone. sight.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fanning and Tweeting and Friending, oh my!

I do some online marketing which use to be pretty simple stuff. I asked all my friends to link to my website and I wrote page titles and urls that made some sense. ba da bing and heh, look at me, I'm atop the search engine for my little phrases.

But now, these durn social media things. I"m tweeting to twitter and posting to facebook. I'm retweeting my friends and following many more. I'm friending many people and inviting them to fan our fan page.

Should I be forming facebook groups or are they lame? Should I have identical posts and tweets or handcraft each one? Why do I have 500 fans on Facebook but only 150 followers on Twitter. Do I tweet to much? Not enough? Do I not tweet so well?

Does all this social stuff mean I can drop those confusing technorati , digg, and delicious tags that someone made appear on each post of this blog? Can I forget everything that I learned in that old blogwritingcourse and ignore the parent chat forums? Do emailed newsletters still get read or do tweets only matter?

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Writing Tips

I thought this ways hysterical. I was looking for some ideas for some great content to summarize teaching writing and found this. It's a little subtle for our audience. Would the homeschoolers online get it? Some are subtle and funny, some are literal and very earnest. I wonder if I could write such a thing for the SEO community.


A Handy Checklist for Writers

In his book Brain Train: Studying for Success (London: E & FN Spon, 1996), 164, Richard Palmer offers great insights on how to study... and enjoy it. One example of the information he delivers is this memorable list of Rules of Grammar for Report Writing:

  1. Remember to never split an infinitive.
  2. The passive voice should never be used.
  3. Punctuate run-on sentences properly they are hard to read otherwise.
  4. Don't use no double negatives.
  5. Use the semi-colon properly, always use it where it is appropriate; and never where it isn't.
  6. Reserve the apostrophe for it's proper use and omit it when its not needed.
  7. Verbs has to agree with their subjects.
  8. No sentence fragments.
  9. Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.
  10. Avoid commas, that are not necessary.
  11. If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a lot of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
  12. A writer must not shift your point of view.
  13. Give slang the elbow.
  14. Conversely, it is incumbent upon us to avoid archaisms.
  15. Don't overuse exclamation marks!!!!
  16. Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences, as of 10 onwards or more, to their antecedents.
  17. Hyphenate between sy-llables; avoid un-necessary hyphens.
  18. Write all adverbial forms correct.
  19. Writing carefully: dangling participles must be avoided.
  20. Steer clear of incorrect forms of verbs that have snuck in the language.
  21. Take the bull by the hand: always pick on the correct idiom and avoid mixed metaphors.
  22. Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
  23. Never, ever use repetitive redundancies.
  24. Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing.
  25. If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times, resist hyperbole.
  26. Also, avoid awkward or affected alliteration.
  27. Don't string together too many prepositional phrases unless you are walking through the valley of the shadow of death.
  28. ""Avoid overuse of quotation marks.""""
  29. For Christ's sake don't offend your readers' sensibilities.
  30. Last but not least, avoid clich├ęs like the plague; seek viable alternatives.

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Friday, August 07, 2009

Chrome - Second time is amazing

About six months ago, I tried Google's Chrome and after a few weeks, discontinued use of it. Didn't feel good, had stability issues, and there was no compelling reason to use it.

I use three different computers in the course of a week. My home office, my office office, and a portable that I use when I'm out and about. On each, I have different browsers. Over the last six months, I have used Safari on the PC (pretty good), a few versions of Firefox, and IE 6, 7, & 8. Frankly, I hate IE, it just keeps crashing no matter how many times I reinstall and update.

Firefox is nice but it annoys me that I can't seem to find how to set it up so it launches right into my preferred homepage (igoogle). It must be there somewhere (for new tabs and new browsers) but I can't find it.

I've reinstalled and been using Chrome for the last few days. What a dream. Slick and fast and easy to configure. Makes using a computer fun again.

I'm also a big user of Google docs but I routinely curse their clumbsiness and I tend to stick to MS stuff for their ease-of-use and features. Of course, on my little laptop, I've gotten cheap and have not yet ante'd up for the microsoft tools so I'm really hoping that Google gets the tools upgraded soon.

What do I really want? I want someone to come up with a simple central storage place for all my stuff for all time. It would be great if it was google or facebook. I'm willing to pay ($10-$20 month) so long as it's efficient, big, secure, and permanent.
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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The directories are a waste of time and other insights

I just read a great pair of articles, by Jill Whalen Is Most Of SEO Just A Boondoggle? and then a commentary on it by Eric Ward: Betting On The Link Building Boondoggle Bonanza.

They seem to be focusing on the enormous amount of nonsense and expense that SEO firms spout and cost when they drag their clients through all sorts of ineffective exercises.

I agree with a lot of the article, particularly that people are spending endless time and money on techniques that are old fashioned and mostly ineffective: listing in directories and posting press releases. These are tired old techniques that google knows for what they are. Thin attempts to get links rather than natural attempts.

I disagree where they start listing techniques that have no value when in fact, the jury is still out on them. How much can link sculpting let you concentrate juice in some place? Can switching to user-friendly URLs make a big difference (I'm betting it can)?

What I like best is that he encourages the use of common sense and testing. And admits how much BS there is in the SEO industry. I've heard way too many of the people in the industry defend their approach as "Industry-standard best practices" which is a clever way of saying, everyone else does it, so it must be right.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Duplicate Content

Most people usually think of duplicate content as either articles that are republished or pages that appear with only the slightest variation on a website.

I'm sure Google discounts or ignores these pages. If content is widely copied throughout the web, I would suspect that Google awards the original source with some special points since everyone appears to be copying and citing the original source.

To illustrate what I believe, assume:
- an article first appears on site A
- the article then appears all over with the web with same outgoing links in it to site B, but also with links back to the original site A
Then, Google will:
- highly count all the links back to site A since it appears to be content that is widely cited evidenced both by the links back and the copying of content
- will not heavily count the links to site B since it's basically the same link all over the place
- will neither reward or punish all the copycat sites

I started thinking about duplicate content since there is a major article on sphinn which deals with detecting duplicate content within a website. And it mostly seems concerned with duplicated page titles and meta descriptions. This is a sloppy error that I'm sure my sites have a lot of. sigh sigh sigh. The article is by Shimon Sandler: Finding Duplicate Content with Free Tools


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Top Five SEO Mistakes

What are the top five mistakes that I see? Here's what my education online has taught me.

1. Trying to optimize a site that doesn't stand a chance since it's got the wrong name, wrong structure, wrong content. If it's not going to do well in the search engines, don't bother playing with links. Start again. Maybe keep the old AND start with a fresh domain that feeds traffic to the old one.

2. Paying attention to what matters. The domain name matters A LOT. Learn this. Don't jsut be catchy, pick a name with the keywords that matter. You'll learn that your url gets mentioned a lot, including on your pages and incoming link anchor text.

3. Paying attention to what matters. The page title matters a lot. The other meta data, the content, the H tags, title tags, and alt tags also matter but don't screw them up weird just to impress the search engines. Present them as they are.

4. Content should be findable. Simple text. Not buried deep in code. Build with CSS. The content on each page should focus on a few concepts which relate to a few related keywords. The search engines understand and reward focus on a page.

5. Site structure. Build sections that relate to each other. Interlink among those sections. Put them in a common folder. The search engines like tidy and organized.

PS - did you notice that I know the difference know between A LOT (Correct) and alot (incorrect)? Thanks to the vocabulary lessons online.

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Saturday, June 06, 2009

Forums

For those of who don't know, there are several distinct reasons to use online internet forums:

- Get help from the online forum community, the forum chats can be very educational
- Give back help to others via an internet discussion forum
- Find contacts. It's easy to tell from their posts on the forum whether they are knowledgable, good spirits, or total jerks
- Marketing  through discrete signature references and appropriate not too aggressive inclusion of key features and brand names within the flow of the discussion on the forum.

Beware, many forum managers are really zealous in banning people for being commercial. Forum managers know about "forum puppet shows" and other such tricks. A "forum puppet show" is when a person, under one ID, asks a question. Then the same person, under a different name, answers the question. Theforum software often sorts posts, with just a click, by IP address or part of the country which makes it simple to detect a person switching identifies.  Even if there are really two different people with different IP addresses and parts of  the country, forum moderators still seem able to distinguis made-up discussions from real ones.

And there are forums on every topics:
Parenting forums ,  educational forum discussions about using edtech tools, marketing, etc etc

BTW, if you are thinking of how to create a forum, here's a few thoughts.

If you have a community already, it's likely to be an easier task to create a forum. You still need to decide whether to use a Facebook group, Google group, Facebook page, Ning group, classic online forum (vbulletin or phpforum), or, if you are using Wordpress, maye buddypress.

If you don't already have a community and you are both looking to create a community and the mechanism for their communication, you're likely to have a harder task creating the forum.

Once you have a forum, you need to moderate it by banning the forum trolls and other miscreants and spammers.  This requires judgement and some technical sophistication with forum tools and programs.

In this day and age (updated Nov 2014), many people want to login to forums with a single sign on such as Google ID< wordpress ID, Twitter, Facebook, Discus, and others. I have no particular insight into how to manage all these questions. Any wisdom on this forum strategy question form the readers would be much appreciated.

Here's another post on the blog where you can read more about online discussion forums for education.

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Thursday, June 04, 2009

California Cancelled Summer School

California Cancelled Summer School!

Gov. Schwarzenegger told a joint session of the state legislature Tuesday that if the $24 billion budget deficit isn't closed, the state won't have enough money to pay its bills next month. Because the budget has to be cut more, L.A. Unified School District has canceled most of summer school.


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'Kung Fu' Actor David Carradine Dies

'Kung Fu' Actor David Carradine Died today. I heard a long discussion of it on NPR. It touched me since I had LOVED that show. I also wondered how I could play in the SEO game of breaking news. Obviously, I am half a day late to participate in that game but I've put it up on my martial arts blog. And here I'm building links to the article about the Kung Fu hero dying. I wonder if I'll get hits and traffic?

Actually, I care a lot more about links but that's another question.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

kaboodle unsubscribe


I think the can-spam law is great. I should be able to easily tell me to stop mailing me. I'd like it if there were real penalties and more standards.
I tried to get off a list this morning which reminded me how important good implementation is if you are NOT going to anger potential customers.
For instance, what about email lists that you can get off only if you remember your password? Of course, you can always ask them to send you your password and then unsubscribe. Still, it's a pain. Is that compliant?
What about lists where there is no UNSUBSCRIBE ALL option? I mention this since I just had to check 30 boxes to completely unsubscribe from a Hearst publication called kaboodle. What a pain! That'll definitely keep me from giving up my email to another hearst publication for awhile.
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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Alabama Education Homeschooling

If you wanted some info on Alabama education, here's some choices. You can get Alabama homeschooling info from Joann. You can participate in an Alabama homeschooling discussion with Joann. There's also all the spelling lists that have been saved by schools in Alabama.

Homeschooling in Alabama

Hi, my name is JoAnn, and I am the Alabama state representative for Time4Learning!

I am 46 years old and I am married to Perry and we have 3 children and 1 grandchild. I homeschool our youngest while Perry's work takes him away from home throughout the week. I keep a busy schedule and never have a dull moment!

How We Homeschool in Alabama

We belong to North Alabama Christian School out of Valley Head. We meet once a week for PE, weather permitting. We also schedule several field trips throughout the year. As far as an average homeschool day for us, I don't have a strict schedule that I go by. I incorporate everything as a learning skill or experience. Breakfast by 9:00 and reading is always after. With dyslexia, reading is our most difficult subject, so I get it done early. We generally do Bible study next, along with music. By 2:00, my son is ready for Time 4 Learning, where we do more reading and language arts, math, science and social studies. By 4:00 we are done and usually out the door to the park!



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Monday, April 27, 2009

Whats a real blog?

I read an interesting post that took a new spin on a question that I've discussed at some length in our How to Blog Course. What is a blog?

We were interested initially (the course has evolved) as teaching blogging as a type of creative writing. For us, it was related to the diary, journal, or confessional but had an episodic or serial structure and most importantly, the writing included elements of audience participation, promotion, and an involvement in the world around us. Our approach to explaining blogs was to create categories saying that there are personal blogs; there are hybrids of personal blogs with either business, advocacy, or non-profit purposes; and there are sites which use blog software as a CMS (content management system) but which aren't blogs at all.

Edward De Leau has a post in his blog Why the whole world is wrong about weblogs in which he makes the distinction between weblogs as a media format and weblogs as the technology or CMS behind a website. He belabors it at some length but his definitions are tight and his cartoons are nice.

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Vocabulary

Learning Vocabulary Fun is the number two site on Google for "vocabulary". How to broaden it's appeal while focusing on keywords of real value to customers and advertisers. Watch this!

Vocabulary Flash Cards -
Vocabulary flash cards have traditionally been a key vocabulary teaching tool. Today, vocabulary flash games online are preferred vocabulary teaching tools to traditional vocabulary flash cards. Note that vocabulary went from nowhere on the search engines to number 13 last week by adding this discussion of flash cards versus flash games!

Expand Your Vocabulary

Word Power:-Developing your Vocabulary
GRE Verbal Tips
Improve Through Active Learning


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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Craigs List - Bad Writing by a College Student

My company now posts all of our job offers on Craigs List and we do our hiring there. This response made me laugh.

Hello im a college student and have great communication skills computer skills.. i would love for this position.. if you can please contact me nicole (sic).

Pretty nice demonstration of her great communication skills, huh?

PS

Watch me direct google towards a certain image of John Edelson. from this post about john edelson.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

SpellingCity.com

SpellingCity.com is my favorite website these days for fun spelling time. Check out these awards:

Parents' Choice Award
The Parents' Choice Foundation, the nation's leading experts on quality childrens' media and toys, recently selected the SpellingCity.com website as a Parents’ Choice Recommended Award.

Golden Lamp Awards Finalist
The Golden Lamp Awards are one of educational publishing's longest-running and most prestigious traditions. SpellingCity has been recognized as one of the four finalists in the Technology Innovations category.

Homeschool.com - Top 100 site
Homeschool.com is the number one site for homeschooling. In January, Homeschool.com announced their top 100 websites for homeschooling in 2009. Eleven websites were selected in the language arts area among them, SpellingCity.com!

Larry Ferlazzo - Top 5 Choice for Best Online Learning Games
Larry Ferlazzo picks SpellingCity as one of the Best Online Learning Games on the web. Larry Ferlazzo is a well-known language teacher and blogger about language arts and ESL websites. He provides two rankings of the best sites: one he ranks sites himself and the other ranking is based on his readers votes. On both rankings, SpellingCity.com was selected as the second most useful learning games website on the web!

ThePioneerWoman
"My recent find is SpellingCity.com. I love straightforward sites like this. The site is focused; it does one thing - and it does it VERY well. I did not have to join to use this FREE site, but I chose to create an account so SpellingCity would save my word lists, making it easier and faster to use the site for daily visits or weekly/monthly reviews. The site has various Spelling uses, like testing or teaching words; it also offers 8 Spelling and Vocabulary games."


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Friday, April 10, 2009

Florida in Education

Florida education online is a weird online marketing theme. But oddly, it's one that I now have several lines in the water on. Florida is a big fishing state so that'll be my metaphor for today.

People need information on homeschooling in Florida. Time4Learning has a page of information to help.

People need to study to pass the vocabulary portion of the FCAT. The vocabulary education site has that need nailed.

For all your spelling needs, there is a page to help you find Florida schools on SpellingCity. Is this a page that Google will be able to use?

And while there is not yet a discussion about Florida, there is a great discussion forum for homeschooling parents.


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