If content is King, long live the King

This is a guest post by Matt Rawlings

The recent Google updates have changed the face of SEO forever. No longer is it all about stuffing a website full of keywords with the hope that Google ranks it higher than all the competitors. Today, since the bizarrely named Penguin and Panda updates have come in, it’s all about high quality, unique, regular and informative content that site visitors – and Google’s crawlers – actually want to read, not what’s being forced upon them.

Websites pre-Penguin used to be filled with anchor text, links and key terms with the hope that the search engines would index them all and reward them for their efforts by placing them at the top of the rankings, allowing visitors to find them more easily. Today, the focus is actually on the freshness and quality of the content itself. If an article is placed online, filled with “spammy” keywords and links to here, there and everywhere, it will be penalised accordingly, rewarding the site with a drop in the rankings and subsequently costing them traffic as well as potential sales, depending on the nature of the site of course.

This is where those working in the industry, providing their online expertise – like Vroom, an SEO company based in Dublin – have had to adjust their tactics and really earn their money. They’ve had to adopt new techniques and strategies to meet the goals set by their clients and to stay on top of their own game in the process.

Regular content doesn’t necessarily mean several pieces each day – this can get into the “spammy” bracket – but keeping the site updated with material that is truly unique, never seen before, never copied, however you want to phrase it, and that – most importantly – is relevant to your audience.

For instance, if you’re a technology website, with the aim of providing really informative articles about the latest laptops, smartphones, SEO developments, social media rumours and the ongoing battle for manufacturer supremacy between the likes of Apple and Microsoft, you should steer clear from writing about fashion because it doesn’t fit the look and feel of the site. The search engine crawlers, clever as they are becoming, will see this and penalise you if you start to go too far off topic, too regularly.

The most important thing you should remember is that it’s all about high quality content. If you haven’t got something important, interesting and relevant to say, don’t post it. You can compromise the overall quality of the site as well as your rankings, and you should take pride in the appearance of your website, especially if you’re trying to make sales. If people don’t like the look of your business, they’re less likely to do business with you.

Content is the future of SEO strategies, whether it’s in the form of blog posts on your site or guest posting campaigns to enhance your brand visibility, get it right and you’re on the road to success.

How do you handle SEO on your website? Have you noticed any radical changes in traffic levels recently that could be a result of changes at any of the big search engines? As ever, let us know your thoughts in the comments.

3D TV – Buy Now or Wait?

This is a guest post by Andrew Johnson, an expert in electronic consumables. If you would like more information on televisions and other techie toys please visit Ebuyer.com.

With the amazing success of 3D movies such as Avatar and more content now available on Sky and Virgin, it’s pretty much impossible to get away from the hype of 3D TV these days. But how many of you have actually considered buying one? Is it better to buy now or wait?

Cost of 3D TV

There is no other way of saying this: being early adopters of any new technology always means having to pay the price. Plus let’s not forget that to complete the setup you will also need a 3D Blu-Ray player which will set you back an extra £200, or a 3D package from Sky or Virgin, and additional pairs of glasses if you’re planning to enjoy the new TV with friends and family. However, the good news is that 2011 will see the average 3D TV set getting closer to the £1000 mark as well as offering more choice in terms of screen size and features.

If you have the budget and enjoy having the latest gizmo then a 3D telly is definitely for you.

3D TV Content

As well as cost, it seems that the availability of content in 3D is one of the reasons stopping the entry of 3D TV into the British living rooms in a big way.

Although I do think content is still a major limitation right now, 2011 sees both Sky and Virgin expanding their range of 3D programs and hopefully a further expansion of the titles available on 3D Blu-Ray.

The latest in terms of 3D content takes us to the green lawn of Wimbledon with Sony announcing that this year’s tennis tournament will be filmed in high definition 3D. Broadcast deals are still being sought but this is definitely something to look forward to.

According to Digital Spy, sports fans still seem to prefer high definition to 3D. However, the London 2012 Olympic Games will really push 3D TV demand in the UK with 62% of UK sport fans surveyed seriously considering upgrading in time for the event.

Sports not your thing? Well, if you’re more of a gaming geek you will have heard that 3D gaming is on the rise with PlayStation 3 releasing 3D games thorough the PlayStation Network back last year and the next Xbox featuring full HD stereoscopic 3D visuals.

Glasses

With the average cost of a 3D television expected to come down and content availability to grow over time, 3D glasses are perhaps the one long term barrier which makes people hesitate when buying the latest generation of 3D TVs.

There’s a lot of experimentation going on with glasses-free 3D at the moment but I reckon it will be at least a couple of years before more affordable and truly effective options will be available on the market. Therefore I wouldn’t rely on these new technologies if you’re wanting to enjoy the 3D experience in your living room fairly soon.

So…?

So if you’re looking to get into the 3D game at some point, should you buy now or wait? It’s obvious that the technology still has some way to go before it’s affordable, or widely adopted, but if you’ve had a go of a 3D TV in the showroom you’ll know how impressive it is.

To be honest, the decision to buy now or wait is entirely a matter of personal choice. If you have the money and the desire to be an early adopter, go for it. Just be aware that, much the same as with DVD players when they were released, the prices will continue to drop and the technology become more refined over the next few years.

What do you think? Are you hankering after a 3D TV now? Or are you minded to wait a while and see how things settle down? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

Driving a sub-thousand pound car for a year

This is a guest article by Dan Rous of HouseOfRous.co.uk

Think the title of this piece sounds like a Top Gear challenge? Well in my case, it was a reality. In May 2009, my wife got a temporary job that meant we needed a car each. We already had our family car – a 52 plate Citroen Xsara Picasso, so weren’t looking for anything too big. However, thanks to a friend of a friend, we got a good deal on a 51 plate Nissan Primera – still quite a decent size car – with decent mileage and for less than £1000! But wait – it gets better! The Picasso soon reached 100,000 miles and rather than risk potential costly repair bills, we returned to our now friend of a friend of a friend car dealer to strike a deal. I traded our Picasso for an S reg (1998) Fiat Punto SX that was on the forecourt for £995, and walked away with a decent amount of cash in my hand too. This would be my car to go to and from work – 26 miles each way – and occasional child free outings. Having said that it was still a 5 door car and had room for the two car seats in the back – but not much else.

But why am I telling you all this? I mean, this is a geek/gadget/tech website and here am I telling you that I got hold of a 12 year old car for under a grand. Well this site has carried car reviews for those with modern tech and hybrid tendencies, and also recently looked at retro tech and asked what could be the classics of the future. Now, I’m not going to say the Punto is a classic car, but this model certainly had a bit of a mixed generational personality.

On-wheel controls... snazzy

On-wheel controls... snazzy

For starters, lets just get the basic blurb out the way. This was a 1998 Fiat Punto 1.2 SX 16v with around 67000 miles on the clock. It was a five door hatchback and for its age, was in good condition. So here’s where the car starts playing with your gadget head. Its old – we get it. You have to physically put the key in the door to unlock it. But it does have central locking. When you get in, you find electric front windows. You also find steering wheel mounted radio controls. Even the 51 plate Primera doesn’t have them! And then its back to reality with the manual tilt and slide sunroof and the radio that has one of those cassette player things.

For its performance, we’re back to messing with your head again. It had approximately a 50 litre (11 gallon) petrol tank and with a mix of driving, would give between 35 and 40 mpg. Not too shabby at all for a 12 year old car I think. To put some context on this, I did a journey from my home in Glenrothes to Milton Keynes and back – about 410 miles each way. Now on the way down I didn’t hang around and the return journey found me crawling in M1 and M6 traffic. But the car still let me do each journey on one tank of fuel – handy for avoiding those lovely service station prices. So old, but still economical.

Cassette... or "tape-based mp3 player" as the yoof of today call 'em

Cassette... or "tape-based mp3 player" as the yoof of today call 'em

In the course of the last year, the only thing I had to have done (apart from a standard service) was the exhaust tail pipe and one tyre after a puncture. Everything else was spot on and I didn’t breakdown once. Again, quite impressive for an old car and adding to the economical benefits of the car too. I have now just sold the car ahead of putting it through its MOT and think the rest of the exhaust was needing repairing but, although I don’t have a strong mechanical mind, I don’t think anything else would have been needed. So my sub £1000 car survived another year on the road. If this was a challenge I think I would have won because I still got a good price for a car that only had 5 days left on its Tax and MOT.

So I have sadly parted with the car. And yes, I am sad, but practicality has meant my wife now has a larger car for childminding purposes, and it does make sense to hang on to the larger of our two cars. I’m sad because my “little dodgem” (as a good friend dubbed it) was a nippy and fun car. It was my companion on my commute to work. We did about 14000 miles together. It was new but old. Techy and retro rolled into one. It was great value. Question is, would I undertake a similar challenge again? I think the answer would be yes. Especially if I found a deal on a car with a reach into different generations of technology. So, the Primera is MOT’d til May next year. Plenty of time to keep an eye out. Bring on the next challenge!

Have you had experience running an “older” vehicle? Would you recommend driving a brand new car, or do you always buy second hand? Tell us your story in the comments.

After that, why not check out some of our other car-related posts?

Don’t let not being in the cloud rain on your parade

Guest Post by Kevin Tea. Kevin is a marketing communications professional who is passionate about small to medium size enterprises  and the self employed using new technologies to improve the way they work and the service they offer their clients.

You can follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevincumbria

Some years ago I was close to getting a T shirt printed with the slogan “Cloud Computing Is Just Vapourware.” It was nowhere near the truth, of course, just my odd sense of humour but had I gone ahead today I would have been eating humble pie. Cloud computing has gone way beyond being a catchy buzz phrase and gone mainstream with growth predictions that are almost surreal. So what the heck is cloud computing and why is it so hot?

Essentially cloud computing takes tasks that you would traditionally undertake on your desktop and transfers them webside to “the cloud” where you access them through your web browser. Yup, that’s all there is to it. Simple. Where the complexity comes in is the vast range of services you can access, many of them free of charge, from any computer, anywhere in the world.

The best known example is Google Docs – or Google Apps if you have gone for the paid for package aimed at companies. Simply by signing up for Docs you get word processing, spreadsheet and presentation plus an email account that has one of the best spam filters I have ever seen. Don’t make the mistake of thinking these are cut down, cheapo cheapo offerings, they are fully featured and powerful packages. Another advantage of cloud computing is that if you don’t like one package, then you can be pretty sure there is another rival with similar offerings. For example if you aren’t keen on the Zen Minimalist interface of Google Docs try Zoho, which has a far richer look and feel to it, much more like Microsoft Office so the transfer from desktop to webside applications is easier and more familiar.

So far so what! Okay, so you need more persuading. Scalability is a major plus point for many small to medium sized enterprises. If you start out with five people in your business and you grow fast the costs associated with that growth can be crippling. Those increases might be as simple as having to pay out more for Microsoft Office licences or even to have to employ an IT team to manage your network and handle software upgrades . With cloud based services all the upgrades happen invisibly in the background and at no additional costs to yourself. Virtually all paid for services offer packages within numerical groups of people so if you start off small you pay a set fee for up to five people for example and as you grow you can pay for the additional staff access.

As you delve into cloud computing you will find the word collaboration cropping up all over the place. For me this is one of the great benefits of the new technologies. Take this guest post for example. Traditionally I would have written it in Word and then saved it and sent the file to Chris via email. Now I just save it in Google Docs and share it with Chris and the system sends Chris the link to follow and he can either cut and paste or download the file to his PC. That’s a very basic use. Let’s say Chris and I have agreed to write a book on The Advantages Of Being A Geek. By sharing the master document Chris and I can work on it at the same time and see the revision changes as they happen. Gone are the days of groups of people working on the same document, emailing it to each other and trying to work out who has done what or some wag putting his copy in flashing Christmas lights font!

Collaboration software abounds in the cloud. These packages allow teams of people to link up with each other and essentially project manage each other. Documents are shared, tasks allocated, real time chatrooms pop up for virtual meetings, timelines established and progress monitored. Good examples of this sort of service include DeskAway and WizeHive.

File sharing packages where information is shared and can be accessed by any nominated individual are growing in popularity and the top two are Dropbox and Sugarsync. I used Dropbox for quite some time until I changed to Sugarsync because of the increased flexibility of choosing which files and folders I wanted to sync. Like all cloud offerings these packages offer location independence so I can sync all my files from my home PC, go to work, log into the service and be able to retrieve anything that I wanted. You can also allocate certain files to be shared with other individuals so if you are mixing a music track you can ask another musician across the world to download the file, add their drumming track and re-sync.

Data security is an area that a lot of businesses and individuals are lax about and in the past it used to be a pain in the proverbial with having to buy external hard drives and software to power and configure the whole process. Nowdays you just connect to an online service, select what you want backed up, schedule the process and sit back and forget it. My service of choice, simply because it has saved my bacon on more than one occasion is Mozy. Like a lot of cloud services you get 2gb free of charge and for unlimited backups there is a charge of $4.95 a month and setting it all up to run in the background is simplicity itself. If you ever need to restore most files you just go into the system, choose the files you want and the system collects them, stores them into a zipped file and you are sent am email with the location where you can download the compressed files.

This is a brief introduction to what is out there and I haven’t touched on the likes of accounting packages, photo-editing software and the host of leisure and business packages that can help you work and play more effectively and efficiently. There are reviews galore on my own blog at Web2 and More if you want to find out more.

Image post by …-Wink-…