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Internet Explorer 8 RC1

After the release of IE 8 Beta 2 in August 2008, Microsoft has released the near final version of its web browser, the IE 8 Release Candidate 1 on January 26th 2009. Unlike IE 7’s monolithic browser architecture, IE 8 comes with architectural changes that are referred to as “loosely coupled IE” or “LCIE” by Microsoft and hence ensures better browsing stability and lesser propensity to potential exploits. The loosely coupled system puts the different tabs in different system processes unlike IE 7, where there were different processes for different windows but the tabs, toolbar extensions, ActiveX controls were managed by the same process and hence a crash or failure in any one of them lead to the crashing of the whole browser window. Google Chrome too uses this approach of running separate processes for different tabs and in addition it also gives plug-ins separate processes.

From being the king in web browsing world in 2004, Microsoft now faces a lot of competition from Mozilla’s Firefox, Apple’s Safari and Google’s Chrome. According to Net Applications, the global market share of IE 8 is just 0.82 % whereas that of Google Chrome is  1.04%, Mozilla Firefox (all versions) 21.34% , Apple Safari (all versions) 7.93% and hence it has to do a lot of catching up. It offers inprivate filtering and inprivate browsing features. Hence if you use a shared PC you can be confident that cookies, web history, searches and other information is not stored and will give you the required privacy while browsing. It is also the first browser to give protection against “clickjacking”. The inprivate filtering further enlarges the periphery of user privacy as it prevents content providers from gathering information about a user’s browsing habits.

The tab handling of IE 8 too is worth mentioning. In IE 8 if you open a tab from an existing tab then that tab will have the same color as that of the parent tab and will be grouped together. Microsoft has also introduced accelerators which are basically in-page web services and help you get relevant information without leaving the page. Webslices, add-ons, one click favorite buttons are also added in IE 8 but still it lack one major feature and that is a download manager!

Is this the next black horse from the stables of Microsoft? We just have to wait and watch.

Cloud’s the word for SEO

SEO is all about optimizing ones website to the highest order of ranking in the search results. Consequently, if your website can manage to achieve that position, its impact on your business will be profound. However, the bad news is, there are very few people who actually realize its importance.

There are a number of strategies through which one can optimize their own website. Of these, the one that is worth mentioning is the “Cloud”. Many of you might have this question in your mind as to, “what is a cloud?” and “what does a cloud has to do in SEO?” Well, let me throw some light on this. Clouds can be of many types, such as, profile clouds, link clouds, content clouds and so on. However, the most commonly, or rather the only form of cloud used or discussed in the SEO works is the tag cloud. When you are looking in some website page, you must have come across a section headed “Tags”. Under this head you will see a bunch of words, placed one after another, some appearing small in size, whereas, some big and bold. The difference in the size is dependent on the number of times each word or tag has been associated with an item. This whole section is called ‘word cloud’ or sometimes called ‘tag cloud’. In general, the tag cloud helps a visitor to have an idea about the well-liked tags that are present in that particular site. The individual word or tag is actually linked to a page where you will get contents related to the tag you clicked.

This has been a very useful tool for search engine optimization and is gaining widespread acceptance by websites who want to optimize their keywords for search engines. Actually, the whole idea behind a tag cloud is to help you “visualize” content that is most relevant to a websites based on certain keywords or the keywords you searched for.

However, I am sure, you might have come across a funny situation where you have seen a website having certain keywords in its tag cloud in the boldest forms and yet it does not contain any content related to that keyword! For those of you, who have not, watch out!

The most popular search engine spiders cannot read JavaScript or images, just as they read and process plain text. However since having a tag cloud requires some logistic optimizations on keyword history, such clouds are represented by either using JavaScript code or images. This accounts for a cloud that contains misleading tags. The answer to this problem is simple; pictures alone DO NOT best define your website. No, they are not at all friendly to search engines. They may be professional enough to attract the solitary attention of a friendly customer but they are like alien material for crawlers and spiders!

The best practice is to make good use of the “alt” and “title” tags for your images. This will allow the web spiders to crawl your web page in the most efficient manner and mine information from the content of your website. Identify your perception of the tag cloud; for example, which keywords should be bolder, and then compare it with the actual results. Modify or edit the “alt” or “title” tags accordingly.

If you spend some time on this, you will soon come up with satisfying results. Yes, “Tag” is the new SEO language that is creating waves, why shouldn’t you capitalize?

Getting Your Keywords Right

Selecting the right keywords is the first and foremost thing to be considered in the optimization process. If the selection of keywords is not done properly, it would not maximize the return on investment (ROI) on the website promotion.

There are a number of misconceptions in selecting the right and relevant keywords, which, if not checked, can ruin the entire optimization process. Among the various misconceptions, the most common one is that bigger keywords are better. However, this is not true always. Suppose you are a life coach and you are trying to optimize your personal life-coaching website. Therefore, in this case, you can use “life coach” as the appropriate keyword for the site, which is small yet carries a lot of meaning to it.

Keywords should be very specific and should flawlessly relate to the products or the services that are being offered. One can even use keywords in phrases, but the phrases should be in small meaningful sentence format. Moreover, keywords should be such that have high frequency demands and low competition. High keyword frequency can also be defined as those, which are entered in the search bar while searching in any search engine and can draw high traffic. On the other hand, low keyword competition indicates lower number of websites using the same keywords to draw visitors.

Apart from these facts about getting the right keywords, let me share some basic tips that would definitely help you to select the perfect set of keywords for your website. The foremost thing is that you will have to learn to think like a nonprofessional. You might have a thorough knowledge about your industry, but this might not be the case with everyone around. So, while framing the keywords, try to use those words or phrases that a nonprofessional would use who knows nothing about this industry. At the same time, you need to think in an expert’s point of view as well! The product or the service you are offering might need the use of some specific keywords, which the layman would definitely not know. Therefore, it is better to have a balanced perception of both.

So, whenever you are optimizing your website, always remember to pay extra heed to keyword selection, as you certainly know by now, that it is a very important part of this whole optimization process. If you use some rational steps, keeping in mind some basic facts, success might take some time to come. However once it is there, it’s going to be a long lasting one for sure.

Attention Economy

The internet has transformed into a superfluous repository of information in the present era. Consequently, this information overload is causing a deficit or a scarcity of attention. Now if you are not quite familiar with the usage of the word “attention” in the context of this discussion, it simply refers to consumption of information.
Herbert Simon has quite elegantly pointed out that, “A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.” Thus, a need arises out of obvious causes to mine and efficiently allocate this information to its intended audience.

Attention and Economy may be two diverse terms but in the modern times is naturally amalgamating, with one becoming highly interdependent on the other. Let us consider an example to show you exactly how attention affects economy.

While searching for the latest book reviews or releases, how often do you navigate away from a page that does not contain the review of a book that you have been looking for? The chances are high. The fact is, with so many websites and blogs being continuously updated with information on your favorite genre(s), you do not bother to stick to a page and search for information that is not there in the first glance! It takes seconds before you decide to look for your information on a different website or a web page and navigate away from the present one if you are not satisfied with its content. In the process, have you noticed the crisis of attention?

If you observe closely, you will find that this attention deficit not only affects us, but also the organizations keen to reach out to you with their products or services. The moment you are navigating away from a page presuming that the information provided in it is not relevant, you are hurting their economics. Search engines, online retailers, blogs, and news sites are coughing up an overabundance of information for the end users or the consumers every passing hour. This can lead to a loose-loose situation where eventually, a consumer leaves a website, un-happy and a retailer looses business. The irony is, a consumer wants to spend money for a commodity, but does not have the correct retailer reaching out to him.

The entire idea behind attention economy is to create a virtual marketplace where consumers are presented with streamlined content that makes them feel happy and satisfied, in lieu of their attention. More specifically, consumers are made to consume advertisements however, in exchange of certain personalized services. For example, personalized searches, news, alerts and buying recommendations, to name a few.

You might have noticed the “sponsored links” in the Google search pages. You get to use the search feature of Google for free; however, you are being presented with some relevant advertisements based on your search keyword on the search results page. This is an excellent example that demonstrates attention economy in action.

One of the important aspects of attention economy relates to the fact that the consumer can exercise the power of his or her choice. Therefore, the consumer gets to decide where to devote their attention. Websites are also capitalizing on the “online surfing habits” of the consumer, thereby optimizing the way in which information may be sorted and presented.

One might probably argue with the usage of the word “Economy” here. Attention economy is different form its conventional counterpart in the way in which barter is established. The latter has a more explicit or direct form where goods and services may be bought or sold. However, in the former, there is no immediate buying or selling of commodity. The focus is more towards creating deterministic opportunities to sell.

Personalized Search and Artificial Intelligence

Ever wondered to think between the lines of your online searches? The sweet transition from a search request page to the search results page has been taken for granted by most of us. Probably, we are living in an era where we are using search engines at the slightest pretexts to find an instant solution to any problem. So much so, that search engines are now coming up with technology that will help personify our search results.

Whenever you submit your search query to a search engine looking for relevant results or information, the strings of data that comprise your search query is matched against keywords that are referenced by a website or by a particular web page. Conventionally, such information is already mined by search bots in advance. More or less, conventional search engines technically function as mentioned and dynamically generate your desired page comprising of your search results.

With advanced forms of Artificial Intelligence (AI) concepts being seamlessly integrated in programs that power search engines, the present scenario is evolving or rather, has already evolved. Whenever you initiate a search, every data associated with your search query is stored in the search engine’s database. This data is then referenced and cross referenced further with related searches that have been performed by you, or by other individuals. The search engines index this information and intelligently arrange them in order of maximum relevance, all on the account of the search history available. Some search engines may even use a history of searches to create knowledge bases in order to improve the efficiency of the AI based search engine.

Yes, I am talking about the basic principles of personalized search. Against a particular search keyword, the search results that might be relevant to you might be not be for another individual! Personalized search is all about delivering information that only you can relate to as an individual.

Here is an example:

Chord-One word, many meanings! Yes, if I am a music freak, then probably half the number of times I would use this word to indicate a particular scale. However, I would interpret this word more as a line intersecting a circle had I been inclined more towards Geometry. Personalized search helps in rendering a word from its general sense to a more specific sense, to its intended audience. But how do search engines achieve this intelligence?

Though the entire process is quite complex and non-deterministic, it may seem simple if viewed from a distance. While you are searching for information, what these search engines would typically do is dynamically monitor your search habits and capture them over time. This data would now be used to train the AI based search engine where it would acquire knowledge related to your search habits and preferences. As the search engine acquires more knowledge, its classification power increases. You would notice a considerable increase of relevance in your search results.

I guess you now understand the concept loud and clear. Did you know that you could use these features to increase sales for your business? I am talking about SEO in an era of personalized search. Well, I would be glad to talk about it, but on my next post.

SEO in Organic and Inorganic Forms

Search Engine Optimization or SEO, now days, has become a very important and crucial part of online marketing. Most of the web users depend on these popular search engines in order to have an answer to their queries. In such circumstances, it is very important for the website owners to market their online ventures properly by the help of the search engine marketing services. These marketing services help websites to secure a higher order of ranking in the search results.

Marketing through search engines can be done in usually two ways, namely organic SEO and inorganic SEO. Organic SEO, as the name suggests, is nothing but the natural way for optimizing a website in the search engine pages. Since, this does not involve any sort of monetary transaction, good content of the web page full of creativity and relevance is of utmost importance. Another thing that one should keep in mind while using organic SEO is that, the content should continue to advance according to the need of the people searching the net. Moreover, optimization of this kind helps the websites to achieve a higher order of ranking for a longer period of time. This means that organic SEO has a natural, long-term impact.  However, the only shortcoming here is that one might have to wait for over a month or so in order to “see” the desired results i.e. to get one’s website ranked higher in the search engine pages for a particular search criterion.

Now, talking about inorganic SEO, the first thing that I would like to mention here is; this type of optimization involves a substantially larger amount of money from the respective website owners. The website owners, who aim to attain maximum popularity of their website within the shortest time period, are advised to exercise this artificial form of optimization. In this form of SEO, the website owners pay an amount for making their ads appear on a prominent part of the search results page. Consequently, substantial amounts of inbound traffic are drawn to the website. Compared to organic SEO, this is a bit expensive, and hence, inorganic SEO is best suited to those who can afford an enormous “flow of funds” to be paid for the optimization. Unlike the organic way of optimization, inorganic SEO can bring in the desired results much quicker, but the impact or the effect of such optimization is not that enduring.

People have their own reasons and opinions regarding the debate that which one of these two forms of SEO is more effective. On the basis of the evaluation made on search engine marketing services, both Organic and Inorganic SEO have their own shares of advantages and drawbacks. You can choose any of these services, which you feel suits best with your requirements, strategy and budget. In my opinion, I would say that a balanced combination of both the services could bring in the desired results, wherein, your website can be seen at the highest position of the search engine pages for a longer period of time and also, draw inbound traffic faster.

Chrome out of Beta

Google’s chrome is officially out of beta. Well, that’s a surprise. Google, who has been famous to keep it’s products in beta status for long like gmail (still running in beta even after 5 years of it’s launch), has released Chrome out of Beta in just 100 days. With the 15th update of the browser, Google officially announced the release of Chrome version 1.0.

Google in their official blog says that they have fixed the bugs that existed in the beta stage of the browser and has also improved the performance of the plug-ins specially video. Chrome also has better book-marking features and a new bookmark manager. Privacy and security too have been the top priority.  The browser’s unique sand box technology protects against harmful software and safe browsing features give protection against malware attacks. Chrome is an open source and according to Linus Upson, engineering director at Google “We had the luxury of watching what was happening with exploits and attacks with the other browsers while designing Chrome, so I think our security design is serviced very well during the beta period. By open sourcing everything, we hope all of our security features get adopted in other browsers. We don’t think security is something that should be kept.”

Google has now become a household name and though Chrome is more stable and faster than it’s beta version yet it failed to impress many. It still lacks some basic web-browser features like RSS support and form auto fill.

In spite of such capable browsers like Mozilla Firefox, Internet explorer available to us, I feel Google Chrome deserves a try. Moreover, Google is still in the process of developing extension platforms along with Mac and Linux support. Therefore, without taking the discussions further, I sign off for the day with an expectation to see newer a better versions of chrome in near future.