Friday, June 6, 2008

What's Behind the Flare-ups in Oil Prices? Jeremy Siegel and Witold Henisz Weigh In

Memorial Day, which marks the beginning of the summer driving season in the U.S., saw gas prices at nearly $4 a gallon all over the country -- and even higher in states such as Florida. Globally, the picture looks more worrisome: Oil prices crossed a record $135 a barrel during the weekend of May 24-25, although by Tuesday prices had come down to $131. What's behind these regular flare-ups in oil prices? What are the major economic and geopolitical factors at work? How does expensive oil affect the U.S. and world markets, and what can we expect over the coming months? Knowledge@Wharton discussed these questions and more with finance professor Jeremy Siegel, author of The Future for Investors, and management professor Witold Henisz.

Gadgets at Work: The Blurring Boundary between Consumer and Corporate Technologies

The boundaries between work and play are beginning to disappear as consumer technologies -- including social networking tools, user generated content and wikis -- are increasingly adopted by corporate America. For technology companies, this emerging "consumerization" trend represents an opportunity, but it also brings new management challenges as companies struggle to embrace these technologies in a way that doesn't limit their usefulness but also doesn't result in lost time or money. And while there may be productivity gains for corporations that experiment with integrating the latest consumer gadgets, security remains the deal breaker, say experts at Wharton.

You've Worked Hard, Saved and Just Retired: How Do You Manage Your Finances Now?

As baby boomers retire and start spending their nest eggs, they will need new financial products to make their money last, according to speakers at a recent Wharton Impact Conference titled, "Managing Retirement Payouts: Positioning, Investing and Spending Assets." The conference explored emerging patterns in spending during retirement and debated new ideas to help retirees manage their finances after leaving the workforce.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Are You Missing Out By Not Practicing SEO Techniques?

I got a comment on my article about how Google ranks websites asking me: “How did you get from 0 to 4 if you do not have visitors? And why would you care if no one else does?”

The truth is that if you are not interested in attracting a lot of visitors or customers, then page rank and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) isn’t your thing. Who would care? If you don’t care, then don’t bother.

But if you do care, then it is important that you understand what Search Engine Optimization is and how to make it work for you.

In Infoconomy’s article, “Standing Out From the Crowd”, it asks the question: “Why aren’t more companies paying attention to SEO practices?”.

The world’s largest companies are missing out on billions of online dollars by failing to optimise their websites for search engine listings.

Search engine rankings are a vital component of an Internet presence: More than three quarters of hits on Internet home pages are directed there via a search engine; and half of consumers research online prior to making purchases. But many of the world’s largest businesses are failing to take advantage of this growing channel for acquiring customers.

SEO techniques involve some very simple or very advanced techniques to make sure that your site is fully optimized, or in better words, ready for search engines to visit and gather the data they need to place you in their database so people can find you when they search.
Rumors of the Death of SEO

On the other side of this, Shoe Money reports that Jason Calcanis claims SEO is dead. I agree but I also disagree with that statement.

SEO techniques that make website managers and administrators use lunscrupulous practices to attract the attention of search engines to their site and force up their page ranking are dead. Totally killed off. WordPress and other blogging tools and plugins have made it difficult for comment spammers and bad referers to get their fingers into your website to force link popularity and page rank. Today, search engines are no fools when it comes to detecting greedy attempts to abuse and attract their attention. The games played under the guise of SEO techniques to spam search engines and fool with page ranking is dead and gone, part of history. Sure, you can try the old techniques, but the odds are that you will get slapped really fast. Technology has caught up and surpassed you.

Still, the original intention of Search Engine Optimization techniques benefit everyone, including search engines. Streamlined coded websites that load fast and put the information you need in the fore is critical to a site’s success. Simplistic, easy-to-read and use websites and blogs make it useful for users as well as search engines.

SEO really means following web standards and practices that make your website and blog accessible to everyone, including search engines. Here are some examples of articles and information that will help you learn more about good SEO efforts and practices to help your website and blog be not only ready for search engines when they come to visit, but accessible by everyone using every browser, computer, cell phone, and handheld computer.

Site Optimization: Checking Loose Links

The three biggest complains by Internet users are speed issues, broken links, and slow ads. Let’s tackle the number two complaint: broken links. Few things are more frustrating than tracking down the information you want, and you click the link and get the famous “404 Page Error - Page Not Found”.

The term “web” came about as a visual image of how the Internet and web pages work. Through a process of links within a web, each web page connects with another web page which connects with another, and another, and so on and so on, all connecting the strands of the web together. When one of those strands is broken, the web weakens.

A web page features two different types of links: internal and external. External links take the user to another site, leaving yours behind. Internal links are the links that connect one page to another within your website.

As a search engine moves through your site, it relies upon the internal links to move through your web site from page to page, gathering information. If there is a break in any of these links, or you have pages that are not linked to from within other pages in your site, that page won’t be found by the search engines.

If you use site statistics programs to monitor your website or blog visitors and access, check to see how often your 404 page is being accessed, or how often a 404 error is reported. If frequently, thoroughly check how up-to-date your internal links are to keep people inside your site on the right content.

Keeping up with “dead links” can feel like a full-time job. There are several link checking software programs available to help you organize and check your links, as well as free online link checkers to help those with only a few links on their pages. Blogs and pages come and go rather quickly. Or administrators change their linking structure so broken links are found even though the site is still functioning. While link checking programs can identify broken links, you still have to manually check to see if the link is really dead or just moved.

If you have a small business or site, schedule link checking about once every three to six months to keep your external links updated.

Ultimate WordPress SEO Tips

So you think you’ve got the hang of the usual SEO. Links, content, usability. But what about WordPress?

There’s a lot of amazing SEO power built into WordPress. Unfortunately it doesn’t all come by default, and you might not know what’s best when it comes to templates and options.

This simple, easy to follow article will outline many WordPress SEO tips which people often forget to implement (even the most famous bloggers), or haven’t yet arrived at for some reason or another.
Permalink Optimisation

The goal: stick more keywords up into the URL and remove the faff which nobody uses, to make the URL seach engine and people attractive.

* Include %postname%
Having keywords in your URL is an absolute must, especially when it’s as easy as WordPress makes it.
* Get rid of useless tags
Don’t use %day%, %post_id% , %hour%, %minute% or even %second% in your permalink structure. None of these are necessary. Monthly posting archives are perfectly acceptable, but for the vast majority daily ones are not. Putting more /***/ rubbish into your permalink URLs will make it harder to see the URL’s boldened keywords on search engine results, less emphasis is placed on your post title keywords (which are really great).
* Bonus tip: want to go really mad with your permalink SEO? Try dropping date tags all together for %category%! It does away with your neat date tags, though, so you could even try keeping %year% and %month%.
* Stick with the structure you choose! Changing it will probably invalidate all of the links coming to you.
* You better be using .htaccess, punk!

On my sites

On Dech, the permalink structure is /%year%/%monthnum%/%postname%/, which is ideal! It keeps the blog neat, but means that all of the URL, with bold keyword matches, will show up in Google results, etc.

I’ve taken a different approach with Buster Studies, where I’ve decided to go for sheer SEOage, in the form of just %postname%. It really works, especially with some of the techniques mentioned later. Search refferals are sky-high for this very new site. I’m not worried about post-title clashes, because each post covers a different topic, and WordPress doesn’t ever let post slug clashes occur.

What’s that? You can’t use the calendar properly? Well it still happens to work for me when you want to look up dates like yesterday.
Page Titles

Unless you’re some kind of international superband with just a few letters for a name (Apple, IBM…), you’re very likely allowing WordPress to make a big mistake for you when it comes to your page title (the one within the title tags).

You don’t want a title like this:

Buster Studies » Kinetics: Collision Theory, Maxwell-Boltzmann Distribution

Why not? Well, to start with the key words are right at the end! You have to put up with Buster Studies » before your eyes can make it to the real juice!

In Google, when you do a search, searched keywords which appear in your title are made bold, and they sand out really well. You want as much of that as possible. Because Google truncates titles when they pass a particular length, you need your important keywords up front. Google might also be counting words which appear earlier in the title as more important.

The format I use for page titles on Buster Studies and Dech lets people see what the post is about first.

Kinetics: Collision Theory, Maxwell-Boltzmann Distribution · Buster Studies

Look at the top of the page. I even spice it up a little by loosing the common “»” for a lovely “·“.

Even better, the title of the post can be seen in Firefox’s tabs or minimised Windows windows easily.

The code you need to put into your template for this to happen:

< ###title>< ?php wp_title(' '); ?>< ?php if(wp_title(' ', false)) { echo ' ·###; '; } ?>Buster Studies< ###/title>
(remove the ###s and replace stuff with your own bits)

So just rearranging your title will shower your with some fantastic results.
On my sites

As I said, I use the technique above which throws out great, powerful titles like:

Ultimate WordPress SEO Tips · Dech from Fintan Darragh

Essay Notes: Arguments For/Against Regulation of the British Press · Buster Studies

What do you see first? Exactly what I want you to…
Post Titles
Keep it sweet

Keep your post titles nice and simple, and as straight-forward as possible. Sure, pack in the keywords, but do it smartly.

You have to blend readability with keywords. It’s easy to muck-up, but doing it right will help you loads.
Link to the bloody post!

If you don’t use your title to link straight to your permalink URL, the page where your post lives, you are stupid to say the least.

It’s naturally where users click, and it also is a keyword-rich inward link which should reinforce a good post title, page title and URL.
Some HTML might come in handy…

XHTML if you prefer.

* On pages where a list of posts appear (like the front page), wrap the title in H2, H3 or H4 tags. This provides maximum superiority of linkage without going too far. Which ones you use depend on how many posts the page is showing (lower number of posts, opt for H2…).
* On the post page, wrap it in H1 tags! It’s the page title, so it deserves to be wrapped up like that! You’ll benefit greatly from this when it comes to the search engines.
* SEO mad! If you’re capable of bending WordPress to your will, try putting a link to your newest post in H1 tags on your front page! It works wonders!

On my sites

I use this very technique on Dech and it seems to be working very nicely indeed. Buster Studies uses the H1 as a front-page one-off link, and that seems to have a great deal of influence.

Why I tend to prefer Netbeans over Eclipse

Even though Eclipse is surely the dominant Java IDE in the market, there are some reasons that make me prefer Netbeans over it :

* Netbeans is a coherent IDE : you don’t have to check the dependencies for a plugin and the right version for every dependency to get it work (check GMF version, WTP version etc..). Plugins in Netbeans are supervised by the development team and integrate easily and very well in the current Netbeans version.

* Netbeans works out of the box : The functionalities provided by Netbeans are available from the plugins manager. You just have to install/activate them and begin working. In Eclipse, there is the update center, but it is tougher to get a stabilized IDE with a set of complementary tools. Moreover, many valuable Eclipse plugins aren’t in the Eclipse update site, but belong to independent enterprises.

* Netbeans is free : Well, I know eclipse is free too, but a lot of the valuable plugins are commercial (UML, GUI design..). Even if free components in Netbeans don’t offer all the functionalities the commercial plugins in Eclipse do, I prefer having an IDE dealing mainly with free plugins.

* Netbeans is actively supported : Sun makes a lot of efforts to market Netbeans, so we have all kinds of tutorials, videos etc (Netbeans TV, Netbeans Magazine, Netbeans tutorials..) that are made by Sun. Eclipse tutorials and screencasts are numerous but they aren’t supported by IBM so they are less coherent and less ‘Enterprise quality’ documents.

*Netbeans is made by Sun, the Java inventor : Netbeans has recently been on the edge concerning innovative Java technologies (JSF, Java FX..). It is easily understandable as Sun is creating those technologies.

*Netbeans integrates some nice productivity tools : Eclipse has better refactoring, but is beaten in other aspects by Netbeans who integrates GUI Builder Matisse, advanced JSF Web design, JUnit testing, Ant compiling and a Profiler in a user friendly manner.

I know the debate is very heated about this topic. You can leave your opinions and comments either you prefer Eclipse, Netbeans or any other IDE.

Edit in 1st March 2008 : After three months of heavily using Netbeans and then three others with Eclipse, I completely changed my mind. I currently consider Eclipse to be way more productive and feature-rich than Netbeans. Maybe I will write a new post to explain in detail what makes Eclipse superior to Netbeans in my opinion.