A Blogger’s Absolute Essentials

By Michael Cash

A blog is a great way for you to express yourself; writing about anything you want and seeing it published the minute you finish. If you wish to start a blog, or are having trouble getting into the “blogging spirit,” I have some suggestions of blogging essentials sure to put you on the path to blogging greatness.

The first and most obvious blogging essential, is a laptop computer. NOT a desktop, as a laptop can be used while you lounge on your couch or recliner; perfect blogging comes from a place of comfort, not a static immovable desktop station. Ensure that your laptop has wireless capability, as it is a huge pain in the buttock to constantly connect your laptop to a landline every time you wish to update your blog. If you do not have wireless internet service, get it. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did and can take pride that you have finally joined the 21st century. Continue reading

Tips for Managing Your Reputation Online

By Charles Mburugu

Tips for Online Reputation ManagementIf you have ever Googled your name, you should know how vital it is to manage your reputation online. Each day, thousands of people are looking online for information on others by searching using Google and other major search engines. Since information is very readily available online, managing your reputation is as vital as ever.

Fortunately, reputation management is not very difficult, though it takes much work. The following are tips which can help you ensure that your reputation online does not get impacted negatively by what is being said about you.

1. Establish where you stand

The first step towards reputation management is Googling your name. Try it with and without quotes. Check each of the results in the first two pages of Google. Are there any negative posts or comments that you would want removed?

2. Set a Google alert

Go to Google and set an alert for your name. Google will then send you an email to confirm that you want to receive the updates. When you accept the alert, you will receive a notification every time your name is posted on the web. Continue reading

Maybe We’re All Web Optimists?

Maybe we're all web optimist - what?It appears to me that “SEO” is going to have to be replaced by something else in the very near future.

No, it’s not that some folks who are not very Internet savvy think it stands for “senior executive officer.” Nor is it because one not-too-popular geek decided to try to trademark the term.

Search engine optimization, for which it stands, is, well, no longer just about search engines.

In the old days, everyone just wanted to be at the top of whatever search engine was the biggest at the time and we’d all merrily tweak and link and hold our breath whenever updates happened. In recent years, thie focus has been on Google updates, but several things are happening that are taking the “search engine” out of the picture. Among them:

    1. Although Google is still the biggest and baddest, ranking at the top is going the way of, well, Yahoo (as I duck and run for cover). Google’s increasing use of personalized search results means that a site can rank #1 for you when you are logged into Google, but #25 for someone else. Heck, you can even customize your own Google search results with their new SearchWiki.

    2. Search very often has nothing to do with search engines these days. Frequently, searchers are finding what they want through what are perceived as trusted sources on social media sites like Facebook, StumbleUpon, Digg and so forth or through product reviews on shopping sites like Amazon.com. Rather than take what the search engines dish out, they get their information from friends or peers.

    3. Even Google thinks you want to socialize. For instance, Google Reader allows sharing with friends. Then there’s Knol, kind of Google’s version of Wikipedia.

Anyway, my point is that the web is heading away from searching through search engines as the primary way of finding information. Yes, we’ll still be using “Google” as a verb for years to come, but we as Internet marketing professionals will need to adapt. We need to know how to not just optimize for the search engines, but the entire web.

So let’s see. What can we call ourselves? How about web optimists?

I like the sound of that!

;-)

Happy holidays!

Considering Bundled Service? Maybe You Should Reconsider…

Bundling your telcom services might now be such a good ideaMy area recently suffered an all day service failure with Timer Warner Cable. Everything was down – TV, Internet, VOIP phone – all of the services offered by the media giant. Fortunately for me, it happened on a weekend. Otherwise I would have been screwed as I work from home and do everything over the Internet and phone.

I was furious to think that a company that pushes the hell out of their bundled one-stop package would allow itself to be put in this position (Like they’d have a redundant backup of some kind). All of their customers in the area were without these services. It’s bad enough to have TV down, but if you bundle your services with one company, EVERYTHING goes down in an outage. No TV, no Internet and no telephone.

I currently get high speed Internet and TV from Time Warner. I don’t use their phone service. My VOIP is through Packet 8, but without Internet, I was without my telephone, too.

So, I got to thinking. Like investing, it is probably a good idea to diversify your communications services.

Yes, you might save a few bucks with a bundle, but you run the risk of being without all telecom services in an outage such as what my area went through (and it was not the first time).

So, I’m looking at breaking up these services. I’d like one source for Internet, another for television programming and one for telephone. I am fortunate enough to be in an area where I can get an alternative to all of these (not so fortunate to have fiber optics like Fios yet, though). It could be a mixture of basic cable from Time Warner, DirecTV for premiums, DSL and cell phone service (using VOIP as a backup rather than primary service) or other mashups.

Whatever, I am determined not to let any company put me into the position of having NO service because of a single outage. For me, the teensy savings offered with such a bundle is not worth the potential inconvience or frustration.

Rant over. ;-)

FreeInternet.com: Not What You’d Think

Back in the early days of the Internet, a few folks thought that ads could support giving away free dial-up Internet access. Juno and NetZero were among them. Of course, eventually that free access dwindled down to practically nothing and different ways of making money had to be found.

I’m guessing the folks at United Online, owners of the two ISPs mentioned above, along with Classmates.com and other sites, had the domain for FreeInternet.com left over from those days. Recently launched, the site has nothing to do with free Internet access. Rather, it’s a site for freebies that you can get on the Internet – things like coupons, free shipping, free trials, product giveaways and the like. Given the state of the economy, coupon sites are doing pretty well these days.

If you search for “internet” on the site, you do get two free dial-up access offers – NetZero and Juno, of course, offering ten hours per month, complete with ads.

And, the site has quite a bit to offer as far as selections. There are a ton of products available, though I have yet to figure out how a company gets products listed. All I have been able to find so far is a help e-mail address. I sent a question regarding product inclusion for a client, but have yet to get an answer back. Being an SEO, I tend to trust sites that are more upfront about contact information.

Naturally, you have to register to get stuff. They ask for basic information like address, phone and give you some choices of interests. So far, I haven’t been deluged with e-mail from them, for which I am grateful and give them a big thumbs up for that.

Lots of offers to chose from, but many are not free. I give them a thumbs down for that. A lot are simply 10% or 20% or whatever off of products. As I write this, the newly added offers on the main page (pictured) are mostly for so many dollars off rather than free stuff. Coupons for various product offers are generally codes that you can use at the product web site.

Offers at FreeInternet.com are not necessarily free

Trials, sweepstakes, samples are all offered. I love the idea of having all of this in one easy to navigate place, but I’d really like the site to stay focused on free and not on all of the so-much-off-when-you-buy-so-and-so offers. I, for one, tune those out when I’m looking for FREE.

I’m sure a lot of others will, too.

There’s also the opportunity to review the offers. I’m not seeing too many of those yet, but as mentioned, the site is new.

So, in a nutshell, I think FreeInternet.com is off to a pretty good start. They’ve got lots of products, a clean interface that’s not junked up with too many ads, no bombardment with e-mails (yet) and they don’t ask for too much personal information.

Now, if they could remain focused on free stuff and provide some merchant inclusion and contact information, I’d give them another thumbs up.

Flytunes Updates Interface, Adds Video

Flytunes has added video and upgraded the interfaceFlytunes, the Internet radio service for mobile devices, has rolled out a GUI upgrade and the addition of videos and podcasts.

I gave the new interface and videos a try and have to admit, they are pretty slick…when the technology cooperates. For instance, although I watched some fun Best of YouTube videos that offered nice quality on my iPhone, I still had some hesitation and pregnant pauses in the video stream. It could be my wireless-G network, I just don’t know. Other times I couldn’t get the videos to do anything at all. I tried Fox News Flash several times and never could get the thing to work.

The interface is slick and simple. When you first go to the Flytunes Player in your mobile device, you get a bar simply asking “What do you want to do?” with a down arrow on the left. Touching it opens a window on the bottom that lets you scroll through several options – Radio High Bitrate, Radio Low Bitrate, Video, Podcasts, AccuRadio and Settings. I’ve been listening to the radio stations a bit and enjoyed them.

Next you are asked to “Select a genre” and then “Select a station” for your chosen category. For instance, select Podcasts, Technology and then something like Diggnation and you’ll get some flashing “Loading” messages before a menu of podcasts comes up.

Sound quality is good and I must say I’m impressed. When it works. So far, my iPhone experience with it has been hit or miss. As I mentioned, it could be my Wi-Fi connection that is causing the sputters (works fine for my PCs, though). Flytunes is apparently gearing up for the iPhone broadband that is coming.

Flytunes says there are now 350 channels available, which is a lot and, they change the interface constantly as they add new features. Right now, it’s simplicity at its best.

Give it a try with your iPhone or iPod. It’s free!