Technology Talk – 12/23/2007

This has been another great week with all sorts of great stuff happening around the blogosphere. Here are a few that I really enjoyed.

Easily Find A Good Niche Domain With Micro Niche Finder

Whenever someone goes to start a new blog, one of the most crucial decisions they will make is to select the niche they will be writing in. Unfortunately, many of these same bloggers are setting themselves up for disappointment, or failure altogether because they chose a niche that is already packed. This may not be a problem if you are blogging for fun, but entering a popular niche is extremely difficult for anyone trying to make some money from their blog.

If you look at closely at the many bloggers that are making money online without having a large audience, you will probably notice that they do so by having a large number of small blogs that strategically fill search engine gaps. The idea is to go out and find under represented keywords and starting these gaps with a website or blog of your own. Another benefit to using this method is that you can usually find a good keyword-rich domain because the lack of competition for that keyword.

One example of this would be starting a “Make Money Online” blog. You might have a great blog, but you are going to be competing with 200,000 other people, and many have established audiences. If you jump into a small keyword, but only have 1,000 people to compete with for traffic on that keyword, some simple SEO techniques could easily get you into the top 3 and net a lot more traffic than a low ranking on a high traffic keyword.

So, sounds great, but easier said than done, right? While it sounds difficult, it doesn’t have to be with the right tools. Micro Niche Finder is a tool that makes it easy to find under represented niches. What this tool does is search for the keyword you specify and provide you everything you need to know. It will go calculate the top searches using that keyword for you, then display the number of other sites that show up under that keyword and allow you to determine the strength of the competition.

One example would be if you entered a keyword such as “online coupons”, you would see that some good keywords to target are “dell online coupons” and “amazon online coupons”. Some keywords to avoid competing in are “grocery coupons” and “free online coupons”, as they have a lot more people competing for a lot less search engine traffic. The goal is to find keywords with good traffic and less competition (supply and demand).

For some videos and additional information about Micro Niche Finder, you’ll want to click here.

Overall, I find Micro Niche Finder to be very useful when I’m out shopping for domains and looking to launch a new website. It can also be useful when trying to select meta keywords to use with an individual post.

Find Relevant Keywords With The Keyword Suggestion Tool

There are quite a few great SEO tools out there that can really go a long way towards helping you to improve your websites search engine rankings. One of the best things about these tools is that many of them are completely free for anyone to use.

The free tool I want to cover today is the Keyword Suggestion Tool by SEOBook. Hopefully this one doesn’t need much explanation, because the title pretty much says it all. What this tool does is suggest keywords to use for your website, or more importantly, for your individual posts. Before hitting publish on a new post, I recommend pulling up this site in a new window and enter the keyword you are targeting with your post. It will then spit out a bunch of additional keyword recommendations based on a number of various factors.

When I use this tool, I enter a keyword based on the post I’ve written, then focus primarily on the Google Daily Estimate column to see how many people are searching for the various keywords. Then I use any of those that apply to my post as my meta keywords. If you use the WordPress tagging system, your blog will probably use your tags as meta keywords, so you can easily get in the habit of using the keyword tool to suggest tags to use and have it work the same.

Another cool feature of this tool is the links to price estimate tools from Google AdWords. That Google AdWords tool shows the necessary bid to rank #1 for 85% of queries, and roughly how much traffic you could expect Google AdWords to send you based on that bid price and ad position.

Other listed features:

  • Is driven off the Wordtracker keyword suggestion tool. If you sign up for a Wordtracker account they offer many additional keyword research features and tools that are lacking in our basic keyword tool.
  • Offers rough suggested monthly search volumes by market for Google, Yahoo!, and MSN.
  • Links the search volumes to the related global search results.
  • Links to Google Trends, Google Suggest, Google Synonyms, Yahoo! Suggest, and Keyword Discovery keyword research results.
  • Links to various vertical databases like Topix.net, Google Blogsearch, and Del.icio.us to let you know if people are talking about your topic and what types of resources they are referencing.

If this one doesn’t meet your needs, another one I use on occasion was created by Overture, called the Keyword Selector Tool. It is designed to help you figure out which keywords to bid on, but works in a very similar fashion.

Best of: Free SEO Guides, Tools, and Firefox Extensions

When it comes to search engine optimization (SEO), there are all sorts of techniques you can practice to try to get your site indexed as high as possible in the search engine rankings. In addition to these many techniques, there are also a variety of guides and tools found around the internet that webmasters can use, many of which are completely free to anyone.

This post is an attempt to collect the best available search engine optimization resources from around the web and provide them to you in one post. If you know of any useful ones that I’ve missed, please let me know in the comments below!

Search Engine Optimization Guides

Search Engine Optimization Tools

  • Advanced Google Search Methods – Tool that allows you to search Google in a variety of unique ways. Great for keyword research.
  • Backlink Analyzer – Popularity and link analysis tool.  It shows what anchor text is linking into a page or site.
  • Backlink Checker – Checks backlinks pointing towards your website. Also great for checking out competitors backlinks.
  • Blacklink Watch – Shows you the anchor text and PageRank of inbound links for free
  • Digital Point Keyword Tracking Tool – Tool that shows you the results of your query from both Wordtracker and Overture for determining which phrases are searched most often.
  • Google Datacenter Watch Tool – Lets you do a search on Google from their 700+ data centers.
  • Google Rank Position – Shows Google PageRank and PageRank position, number of indexed entries, and Google directory status.
  • Keyword Density and Prominence Tool – Allows you to analyze keyword density of a specific web page and its tags.
  • Keyword Selector Tool – Lets you easily enter keywords and search for related searches and how often those keywords were searched for in the last month.
  • MultiRank Checker – Allows you to check your sites ranking while at the same time checking up to 9 competitors.
  • Ranking Tool – Tool by SEOMoz that lets you check your search engine ranking of up to 5 keywords per day.
  • SEO Analyzer – Provides a report that gives a quick analysis of your website.
  • Strongest Subpages Tool – Provides an organized report of the top pages on your website.
  • Tattler – Link analysis tool that allows you to pull backlinks from Yahoo Site Explorer. You can run a single URL, or multiple URLs, and you can grab additional backlinks from the returned results simply by right-clicking on any URL. Can also export all your data to an Excel spreadsheet.
  • Top 10 Analysis Tool – Shows how your link profile compares with the link profiles of the top 10 ranked sites.
  • Yahoo Search Rankings – Free online tool to check your Yahoo! search ranking position.

Search Engine Optimiation Firefox Extensions

  • SEO For Firefox – Provides a ton of information directly from the web page or the search engine results page. Includes Google PageRank, cache date, domain age, backlinks in Yahoo, number of .edu links, the number of cached pages, and many other stats with a simple right clic.
  • SEO Quake – Adds SEO results to search results and on top of each webpage.
  • RankQuest SEO Toolbar – Provides access to more than 30 SEO tools in a web browser toolbar.

Is their a free SEO guide, tool, or Firefox extension that you use?  Let me know in the comments below!

The Importance of Search Engine Optimization

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past week or avoid sports all together, you have probably heard about the Mitchell Report which was recently released and details a number of Major League Baseball players that used performance enhancing drugs. What does this have to do with this site? Not much really, but I couldn’t help but draw a comparison with search engine optimization while reading over the report.

Throughout the 1990’s and early 2000’s, Major League Baseball players used a variety of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs to improve their performance on the field and help to avoid injuries throughout the long season. Experts are saying that they believe close to 80% of baseball players were using something to improve their performance throughout this time period, showing that the names released barely tipped the surface. While the effects of steroids on the sport were numerous, probably the worst thing about it is that the few players who were using these drugs to get an advantage forced most of the other players to also use, just to keep a level playing field (at a higher level). If you weren’t using, guys in the minor leagues that are using will come up and take your spot. If you lose your spot, you aren’t getting paid.

Just like in baseball, search engine optimization kind of works the same way. Whether your website uses white hat techniques (working out and practicing), or black hat techniques (performance enhancing drugs), optimizing your website is incredibly crucial for any blog to truly compete in todays online world. Some do so the right way, while others use shadier tactics to improve their site, but either way they are doing what it takes to keep up with the competition. SEO experts are in high demand because everyone wants improve their site to try to keep a level playing field. Those that aren’t working at it, aren’t getting paid.

Are you doing your part to keep your website optimized, or is the competition blowing right by you?

SEO Tips: Link Juice and Internal Linking Structure

When it comes to search engine optimization, I’ve always had a strong admiration for people that write about it on their blogs.   SEO stuff has always just been common sense to me, but I’ve always had difficulty explaining it in writing.  I’ve noticed many SEO experts try to add visual elements to their writing to help explain what they are trying to say, so I know I’m not the only one. 

On two separate occasions I’ve probably close to an hour each trying to write a post explaining internal linking and the idea of link juice, but I always end up getting frustrated and deleting it.   Sometimes analogies are the best way to explain this kind of stuff, and I’ve never been good with analogies.  With that said, recently I was excited to run across a post by Josh Spaulding on Blogging Tips called Increasing PageRank through Smart Internal Linking

In his post, Josh gives a great explanation of Google PageRank, link juice, and provides tips on improving your internal linking structure.   This is probably the best written post I’ve run across to date and I think its written in a way that even someone new to blogging could easily understand. 

Top 50 Must-Read SEO Posts of 2007

As we move closer to 2008, it is always fun to look back and reflect over the year that we just completed.   I’m sure many of us probably apply this to our daily lives offline, but do you ever think to look back at 2007 online? 

If you run a website or blog, search engine optimization is always important, and as search engines change, so do they latest SEO theories.  In case you missed anything, Evan Carmichael recently decided to celebrate the past year by taking a look back at the Top 50 must-read SEO Posts of the 2007, which I really enjoyed.

While browsing the list, I also found a few posts that I missed when they were originally written, so I am extremely grateful to Evan for creating this post.   I recommend anyone that is is conscious of their sites SEO to check it out!

The Value of a Domain Name

When it comes to making money online, there are a lot of opportunities available to anyone with access to a computer and a few dollars in their pocket. Whether you attempt to do so with a website or a blog, it all starts with the purchase of a domain name. Sounds easy? It is, but there is a lot to take into consideration before making your domain purchase.

When picking out a domain name, the most important thing you can do is make sure you have your keyword(s) somewhere in your domain. Remember, this is an investment in your future, and the future of your website. Obtaining a keyword rich domain will give you a huge advantage over others in your niche that don’t have keywords in their URL. There is a reason that people spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for a single domain name in many cases!

One example of this is my recently launched blog Hack WordPress. In the past, I spent a lot of time here talking about WordPress, but close to a month after launch of that site my posts are already outranking similar posts on this site. Keywords in your blog URL are even more important than the keywords used in your post slug.

So how do you go about finding a good domain name that uses the keywords you want for your site? Less than a month ago I talked about PCNames Search, which is a free website that helps you to find a good domain name. Their advanced search feature allows you to censor out certain types of domains (an example would be to only look for dot com domain names), as well as set your keyword at the beginning or the end of the domain. What I failed to mention in my original post is that once you’ve settled on a keyword, you can select your domain registrar from a drop-down menu and go purchase it through their referral link. In my experience, doing this will earn you a discount on your domain. I was able to buy each of my domains from GoDaddy for $7.15 each (instead of over $10.00).

Be proactive. How many domain names do you own? Are they all in use? You may be missing out on some great domain names that will be gone when you later get around to launching your new site. David of CyberCoder, which is one of my daily reads, recently gave the advice skip lunch and buy a domain name. The idea of skipping lunch illustrates just how inexpensive a domain name is. Pay $7.00 (or less with some registrars) and you have use of that domain for the full year. After a year, you can either let it go or renew it if its bringing in some additional income. At least this way you have the domain name if you decide to use it.

David recommends setting aside part of your monthly income strictly for purchasing/renewing domain names. This is something I completely agree with and something I try to practice each month. If I buy 3 domains every month, but only launch one site, I’m still building up age on those domains not in use, while continuing to expand my online presence.

Other tips for buying domain names:

  • You should own the domain name of your name (for example, kyleeslick.com). Even if you don’t use it for anything, you should have it parked and in your name. At some point, as more and more things move online, these domains can be used for all sorts of functions, as well as a place potential employers can use to view your resume. You may want to consider purchasing domain names for your kids as well, so they have them eventually when they need them. You don’t want someone else out there using your domain name, do you?
  • Once you own a domain name, don’t point it towards your nameservers until you are ready to launch the blog. Having it pointed at a blank site or WordPress blog may have a negative effect on your domain. Generally speaking, its better to leave it where it is until you are ready to use it.
  • Step back and think about the domain before purchasing it. Is this easy to remember? Does it use all of my keywords? Is the domain name plural? For example, I recently purchased a domain name called Firefox Projects. In an effort to truly own the brand, I also purchased Firefox Project and then did a permanent 301 redirect to Firefox Projects. That way people will get to my site even if they forget the “s” and I avoid having someone purchase the other domain name and using it to compete with me.
  • If your website or blog starts to make more than a $1,000.00 in income a month, you may want to consider protecting your investment by purchasing the other versions of that same domain, such as dot net, dot org, etc., then redirect them all to your blog. This has a very minimal cost and allows you to own your brand and avoid competition.
  • If you are trying to develop readership on the domain, avoid domain names that aren’t dot com or that use hyphens if possible. These are only recommended if you are specifically targeting search engine traffic with the domain name you purchase.
  • Don’t be afraid to have 20 domains that aren’t in use. Look at them as a very small investment in a possibly bright future. And if its a really good domain, maybe someone will even offer to buy it!

Questions? Have something to add? Sound off in the comments below!

Best Firefox Extensions

Have you ever attempted to try to find the best Firefox Extensions only to feel like you are drowning in a pile of worthless or very situational Firefox Extensions? This doesn’t have to be the case.

I’ve waded through the endless masses of extensions, pulled out the best of the best, and broken them down into categories. You will also find a brief description of each extension following the link to download it. Here is the list as it currently stands:

– Appearance –

  • Colorful Tabs – Adds color to your browser tabs, helping you to differentiate between each tab.

– Bookmarks –

  • Add Bookmark Here 2 – Adds a ‘Add Bookmark’ menu to your menubar.
  • Bookmark Sync – Lets you connect to an FTP server to sync up your bookmarks.
  • Boox – Adds enhanced functions to the Bookmarks sidebar.
  • Foxmarks – Most popular bookmark synchronizing extension. Only syncs bookmarks.
  • Google Bookmarks Menu – Adds a Google Bookmarks Menu to your menu bar.
  • Google Browser Sync – Syncs your various computers Firefox browsers. Includes all bookmarks, cookies and will restore last web session.

– Blogging –

  • ScribeFire – Full featured blog editor built right into your web browser. (Formerly Performancing for Firefox)

– Calendar –

  • Better GCal – Bundles a bunch of Greasemonkey scripts into a handy extension for Google Calendar.
  • Google Calendar Notifier – Notifies you of that days events from your Google Calendar.

– Convenience –

  • Adsense Notifier – Displays your Google Adsense earnings on the status bar.
  • Chartlet – Extracts information from designated sites around the Internet at designated intervals (great for pulling stock quotes, etc.)
  • CoComment – Assists you with comment tracking using CoComment.
  • Forecastfox Enhanced – Builds local weather alerts into your web browser (based on your zip code).
  • GraphSense – Displays your AdSense statistics in your web browser through the use of charts and graphs.
  • More Tools Menu – Adds an additional menu called More Tools, and uses this menu for your other extensions.
  • Restart Firefox – Adds an option to restart Firefox.
  • TrashMail.net – Generates a disposable E-mail address to use for subscribing to sites/forums.

– Downloads –

  • Download Manager Tweak – Modifies download appearance and allows you to open in separate windows, sidebar, or tab.
  • Download Status Bar – Gives you the status of a file you are downloading. Includes to and from, status, time remaining, and percentage completed.
  • DownThemAll! – Download Them All adds advanced download capabilities.
  • FlashGot – Allows you to download one link, multiple links, or every link on the page in one click.
  • PDF Download – Allows you to adjust how PDF is handled within Firefox.
  • Video Downloader – Adds an icon to your status bar that allows you to download all types of videos with one click.

– E-mail –

  • AJAX Yahoo! Mail – Adds AJAX support to Yahoo! Mail and allows one-click access to E-mail.
  • Better GMail – Lifehacker extension that combines all the best Greasemonkey scripts into one extension. You can choose which extensions you want to add via a menu.
  • E-Mail Notifier Toolbar – Supports GMail, Yahoo, Hotmail, & any custom POP3 account by placing easy access to them in a toolbar.
  • GMail Manager – Builds GMail into your browser and allows you to manage multiple GMail accounts at one time.
  • Yahoo! Mail Notifier – Builds Yahoo! Mail into your browser, notifying you when you receive new E-mails.

– Functionality –

  • All-in-One Gestures – Allows you to execute common commands using mouse gestures, rocker navigation, scroll wheel navigation and page scrolling.
  • All-in-One Sidebar – Puts your downloads, extensions, themes, and more into a sidebar.
  • Always Remember Password – Forces Firefox to always remember your passwords.
  • Firefox Extension Backup Extension (FEBE) – Backs up your Firefox extensions.
  • Linkification – Converts plain texts to links automatically.
  • Minimize to Tray – Minimizes Firefox to your computer’s system tray.
  • Resurrect Pages – Uses a variety of caches to resurrect missing pages or sites that are down.
  • Rewind/Fast forward Buttons – Adds Opera style fast forward and rewind buttons.
  • Session Manager – Restores all tabs (Replaces Session Saver and Tab Mix Plus).
  • Tab Mix Plus – Tabbed browsing, duplicating tabs, tab click options, session restore.
  • Tab Preview – Adds a preview of every tab except the active tab.
  • Tiny Menu – Converts all of your menus into one menu, making more room available for viewing pages.
  • Uppity – Allows you to navigate up one level. (Works great with the StumbleUpon extension)

– Greasemonkey & Scripts –

  • See my Best Greasemonkey Scripts List for an organized list of the best Greasemonkey scripts.

– Music –

  • Foxy Tunes – Allows you to control your music player of choice through your web browser.

– News/RSS –

  • Better GReader – Bundles a bunch of Greasemonkey scripts into a handy extension for Google Reader.
  • Google Reader Notifier – Notifies you of unread posts in your Google Reader feed reader.
  • RSS Tickler – This works like the above feed readers, however it can build a scroll bar into your Firefox browser, allowing you to glance at feeds as they update without constantly checking your feed reader. This feature can be disabled if you don’t like it as well.
  • Sage – This feed reader has gained alot of popularity recently. It boasts a feed locator, integration with bookmarks and live bookmarks, and technorati integration.
  • Wizz RSS News Reader – This is the most downloaded of the Firefox Extensions and boasts such features as a feed search, integrated Google and Feedster search, and monitors weather and your GMail account for you. It also includes several languages.

– Performance –

  • FasterFox – Makes Firefox run much faster.

– Search –

  • Customize Google – Allows you to customize Google search results to your specifications.
  • Google Toolbar – Adds a Google toolbar to your web browser.
  • Super Drag N Go – Allows you to drag a word or phrase and throw it anywhere on your web page to do an automatic search (uses which search engine you have set as default). Includes opening URL’s that you drag and directional dragging.

– Search Engines –

  • Firefox Search Engines Page – You can add many search engines to your browser search in the upper right corner of your browser including Wikipedia, Technorati, Del.icio.us, ESPN, Flickr Tags, and USA Today.

– Security –

  • Adblock Plus – Allows you to right click on an add and block it from all future visits.
  • McAfee Site Adviser – Gives every website you visit a security ranking. The ranking will appear in your status bar or next to the search results when doing searches.
  • No Script – Stops all scripts on every website you visit, helping avoid advertisements, malicious spyware and computer viruses. You can manually allow any trusted scripts.

– SEO –

  • RankQuest SEO Toolbar – Provides access to more than 30 SEO tools in a toolbar.
  • SearchStatus – Shows Google PageRank and Alexa Rankings within the status bar.
  • SEO for Firefox – Updates your Google and Yahoo search results to show various SEO tools.
  • SEOQuake – Adds SEO results to search results and on top of each webpage.

– Web 2.0 –

  • Del.icio.us – Official Del.icio.us extension.
  • Del.icio.us 1.1 – Adds Del.icio.us to your sidebar.
  • Digg This! – Adds a Digg This! menu to your web browser, making it easy for one click submit.
  • DiggThumbs – Adds a Thumbnail preview of the website next to each article that has been Dugg.
  • Digg Toolbar – Adds a Digg toolbar, making it convenient to search and track Digg.
  • eBay Toolbar – Allows you to do everything eBay from this handy toolbar.
  • Facebook Toolbar – Facebook developers created this toolbar for your Facebook account.
  • MySpace Toolbar – Allows you to access new comments, bulletins and more from your MySpace account.
  • StumpleUpon – StumbleUpon lets you “channelsurf” the best-reviewed sites on the web. It is a collaborative surfing tool for browsing, reviewing and sharing great sites with like-minded people. This helps you find interesting web pages that you wouldn’t think to search for.

– Web Development –

  • AspellFox – Allows you to right click in any text box and select Aspell. This will spell check the text document.
  • ColorZilla – Gives you the EXACT hex color code for a color you see on a website. Simply click on the eyedropper and the color you want.
  • EditCSS – Places your style sheet into a side panel for easy editing.
  • Extended Statusbar – Opera style status bar that provides speed, percentage, time, and loading sizes.
  • FireBug – Debugs your code. (Includes CSS and Javascript)
  • FireFTP – Turns your browser into an FTP Client.
  • GMail Space – Turns your GMail into an FTP Client.
  • IE Tab – Embeds Internet Explorer within a Firefox tab.
  • IE View – Right click a page and select View this Page in IE to open your current page in IE.
  • Load Time Analyzer – Analyzes how long it takes for Firefox to load your webpage and provides a detailed report.
  • Measure It – Renders a ruler across your page, giving you exact pixel counts, etc.
  • Nightly Tester Tools – Makes your extensions Firefox 2.0 compatible and provides basic web developer functions.
  • Opera View – Right click a page and select View this page in Opera to open the current page in Opera.
  • Roboform – Password manager and will pre-fill some forms.
  • Total Validator – Validates XHTML compliancy and checks for broken links or spelling errors.
  • Web Developer Toolbar – Allows quick disable of Cookies, Cache, Javascript and other things by placing many Firefox options within your toolbar.

If there is a Firefox Extension you use a lot that isn’t included in the list above, please leave me a quick comment with a link to the extension and I’ll review it to be added to the list. In an effort to keep this list as useful as possible, I will only be including extensions that appeal to a large number of people.

My intention is to keep this list as useful as possible, so it will be updated regularly as more extensions become available.

What is the Future of Paid Linking?

Wow, this has been quite a week around the blogosphere, with an unusually large focus on Google and their PageRank algorithm adjustment. Over this past week, a lot of bloggers have been focusing on how PageRank effects bloggers, but I haven’t really seen any talk about how this change will effect paid linking companies, such as Text Link Ads. At least that was the case until today, when Stephen at Daily Blog Tips made some projections about what he thinks will happen with the paid links market.

For the record, here are just a few of his projections:

PageRank will become meaningless. In Google’s attempts to kill paid linking by making PageRank an unreliable measure of link value, PageRank will be the ultimate casualty. Bloggers and entrepreneurs will sense the growing discontent and develop third party measurements to take its place. Eventually, PageRank will be looked down upon as inaccurate, uninformative, and frequently out-of-date, as it always should have been.

Google will demolish trust between link buyers and sellers. Just after the paid linking community thinks is has won a small reprieve, Google will unleash a secret counterattack in the form of voluntary disavowal of links (as they’ve already hinted). Within Google Webmaster Tools, a new utility will be developed that will allow webmasters to remove their own outbound links from ranking calculations, all without ever using rel=”nofollow”. Link buyers will no longer be able to trust that link sellers aren’t cashing in without providing value. Short of adding an unenforceable “You will not disavow paid links” clause to link brokerage agreements, all trust in paid linking as a useful SEO method will be lost.

In the end, Google will emerge victorious. Online advertising will continue and thrive as it always has, and some bloggers may be able to use traffic-based advertising for monetization. For the most part, however, paid linking will be reduced to a shadow of its former self. With the value of paid linking for ranking purposes being next to nothing, paid posting and paid directories will also take a hit. Dejected and crestfallen, bloggers will turn to other methods of blog monetization.

Its always interesting to speculate at what the future will hold. It is sad for me to say, but I think Stephen is right on. Google will ultimately win out in the end, as they always do. Google used to be the company that can do no wrong (aka the “fun” company), and now that they’ve attained the power, they have flipped the switch and decided to start abusing their power. And why not? Who is going to stop them? Google is the new Microsoft.

As for Text Link Ads, it looks like they were anticipating this change to the PageRank algorithm and have responded with ShoppingAds.