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Google Webmaster Central

For anyone that designs, creates, or maintains a website, the question that always seems to come up is "How do I get higher rankings on Google?" While there is not a simple magic bullet that will put your site at #1 overnight, there are numerous tools available from Google and other search engines as well, such as Yahoo to help you design your site to be search engine friendly and (hopefully) improve your search rankings. Here are a few of the tools I've used for a while and highly recommend:

Google Webmaster Central

Google Webmaster Central provides a lot of helpful advice and insight into how Google sees your sites, problems or errors the Googlebot finds when crawling your site, and general advice on how to improve your site. One document I would highly recommend everyone reading, especially those that are new to the idea of SEO is the Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide (PDF). This guide gives a basic overview of how to design and organize your site and is very informative for beginners.

Google Webmaster Central Youtube Channel

I actually just found this today, which is why I'm writing this article. Matt Cutts is a software engineer at Google and is the star of the Webmaster Central Youtube videos. He responds to questions sent in by people all over the world regarding best practices for SEO and answers some questions about what Google looks for in your site.

Yahoo Site Explorer

I am not as familiar with this tool as I am with the Google Webmaster Central, but this provides basically the same service, except for Yahoo. Even though Google is the king of search engines right now, I would still recommend checking this tool out as well to see how you can improve on other search engine listings.

Coincidence? I Think Not.

Props to Google Adsense for the placement of this ad:

Google Applications Series Part 1: Google Reader

The first Google application we'll be looking at in this series is Google Reader. What is Google Reader? The best way I can describe Reader is a centralized location to receive content from all of your favorite websites. Now what does that mean? I'll try to explain.
RSS Icon Sample
If you've ever used RSS to keep up with your favorite websites, I think you will greatly appreciate Reader. If you're not familiar with RSS, to quickly explain, it is a format used to get a summary of content published to a website. This could be the latest news, weather, sports, blog posts, or any other type of content made available on a website. You may have even seen the icon for RSS on websites before, as shown to the right.
The benefits to using Reader are many. For one, I used to keep a lot of Live bookmarks in my Firefox browser both at work and at home. The problem I would run into is that if I found a new site to bookmark at home, I would always forget to add it on my other PCs, and vice versa. Reader provides a centralized location that you can access from anywhere if you have an Internet connection.
 
Google Reader Home Page
The Home page is displayed when you first log into Reader. It displays updated stories from each RSS feed that you're subscribed to. From here you can select to read all of the updated entries, or select a specific webpage at the bottom to view content from. There are also recommendations for other websites to subscribe to based on the content you are already subscribed to.
When you first start using Google Reader, you will not have any content to read. To subscribe to a site, just click on the Add Subscription link. This will
Google Reader Add Subscription
then display a field to enter the website address. You have multiple options from here: you can paste a direct link to a feed, you can just type in the domain name of the website, or you can enter search terms to display a list of sites with those terms. Once you have added a subscription, you can organize the site by putting them into your tags that you have created.
 
All Stories in Google Reader
 
The All Items displays just that, all items. It is a conglomeration of stories from all of the different pages, sorted by date. As you scroll through the list, each item will be marked as read. As the stories are read you have the option to star the article, share it with other users, mark it unread, or add a tag to it. These options help you keep content easily available that you would like to view again in the future. There is also a search feature that allows you to search through all of the content received through your feeds. There are also options to change the sorting order and the view.
One interesting part is the Trends view. This will display statistics of the number of stories read per day, time of day and day of the week. This will also show how many pieces of content you have read for each subscription, the average number of posts per day of each subscription, the number of total Google Reader subscribers, and the keywords you have tagged your content with. While this may not seem like a very useful feature at first, it can be useful to see what sites you read the most content from, use it to trim down your reading list by removing sites that are no longer updating or you are no longer interested in. It's also interesting to see how many items you actually read.
 
Google Reader Trends
 
There are many other features available in Reader including a Bookmark Button shortcut which allows you to drag a link to the toolbar button to automatically add it to Reader, Discovery of other content related to pages you're already subscribed to, a mobile version, and the ability to easily share and find your favorite content.
If you've been looking for a feed reader or have been using one for a while and you're looking for a new one, I would highly recommend Google Reader.
Let me know if you use Reader and what you think of it.

The Power of Google

I can remember some of the first times I surfed the Internet. It started in middle school using Lynx, a text-only browser. You would not believe how excited I was when I found out that I could download custom aircraft for my early version of Microsoft Flight Simulator. I would even stay in the computer lab after school downloading those planes to floppies.

Who would have thought that within just a few short years, we would be sitting in front of a computer, watching live streaming video of a Presidential debate, that friends from all over the world could easily connect through social networks such as Facebook, or that I would even own my own domain name.

One force that I think has been unprecedented in the development of the Internet, especially in the last 2-3 years, is Google. Of course, Google is everyone's favorite search engine and e-mail provider, but what else has Google done to help revolutionize the web?

There are many applications, some that I am just now finding, that Google has produced that are very useful, such as Google Reader, Google Analytics, Google Documents, Google Calendar, and the list continues. I've been using Gmail, Calendar, Docs, and Analytics for a while and highly recommend them, especially Analytics.

I hope, in the upcoming weeks, to do some reviews of the different Google applications I have been using. I plan on doing articles on Google Reader, Analytics, Gmail, and Docs, as those are the ones I have the most experience with.

So be sure to check back for this series!

Is Your Gmail Safe?

For those of you that use Gmail, you definitely want to check this out. Up until a week ago, Gmail only used SSL encryption for login authentication. Your username and password were fine, but everything else after that was not.

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