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How to Grow on Twitter

Twitter has changed the face of communication since its launch in 2006, with over 500 million registered users and countless others able to read tweets without even having an account.

There’s scarcely an industry or area of life that doesn’t use the microblogging site to communicate with followers, and one key success variable is the number of followers you have. The struggle for a new social media account is to gain followers, and the vicious circle is that you need followers to entice followers.

Buying Twitter followers can provide a platform to build on, but fake accounts can give a misleading impression of the target demographic. Chances are, if you buy a large chunk of followers, every one of those following accounts will have been generated by use of a ‘bot’, or automation engine. These ghost accounts are devoid of tweets and have very little credibility. Google are increasingly taking into account a site’s social endorsement, and it’s not beyond the realms of feasibility for their algorithm to detect and disavow sites with fake followers.

A new player to the market is Twiends, whose 3 million users take part in mutual following according to criteria that they specify, such as geography and subject matter. Twiends runs on a currency called ‘seeds’. Each time a user follows another account through the site, they are awarded seeds, which can then be used to entice other followers.

Aside from the reciprocal social endorsement, the unique selling point of using Twiends is that members can use profiling to target a specific type of user. For example, a British health blogger could elicit followers from the UK with an interest in sport or diets or healthcare or exercise.

Those whose needs reach beyond reciprocal following can pay for more seeds, and offer a higher seed reward for quality followers. The site is active in its monitoring of spam accounts and ‘churning’ (following then immediately unfollowing in order to obtain seeds/followers) so it is geared to reward those who play fair.

All in all, it is well worth investing the time (and if you wish, money) in order to cultivate your Twitter garden. You get out of it what you put in.

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.uk is here

For years us Brits have had to bear the cumbersome burden of three extra characters in our local web addresses.

Our French neighbours have .fr, Germany has .de (Deutschland), but us poor United Kingdomers have had the much-less-snappy .co.uk as our domain suffix. The idea of having an identifier for local government (.gov.uk), education (.sch.uk, .ac.uk) and organisations (.org.uk) is a sound one, but it is much snappier to have the option of just .uk.

Well finally folks, the moment is here – .uk has arrived! Whilst millions of .co.uk addresses will still exist, those brands and site owners now have the ability to move to the new chic alias. In the next year or so we will see how many large companies and organisations will take advantage of this change. Probably the most apparent potential is for www.bbc.co.uk to become bbc.uk, which is so much more catchy, don’t you think?

One new brand to have embraced this arrangement from day 1 of opening their doors is t shirt shop PopWear. With some sites choosing to lose the www from the beginning of addresses, we now have the ability to live in an online world with less extraneous frill. PopWear’s angle on direct simplicity is aided by their url, a simple and snappy popwear.uk rather than www.popwear.co.uk, which would have opened up the potential for typos. We’ve all typed ww instead of www, or .couk or .co,uk, and a simple url lets you get straight to the end goal rather than dwelling on the keyboard.

A short and sweet url that says everything about an organisation is ideal for both the user and the site owner. As far as the user is concerned, http:// and www serve only to tell us that the site is on the Internet rather than any of the non-existent other places a website can be.

At the time of writing, Amazon is not reachable using the .uk suffix, nor are BBC and Ebay. Here’s hoping though, that this new TLD (top level domain) is adopted by the big boys soon.

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A New Alternative to Google

There are several alternatives to Google, and it could be argued that many are as good if not better at delivering the core product to the end user. In Google’s case, they have developed an impressive suite of applications and it’s difficult to find another brand so comprehensively proficient in web tools. Let’s focus on their core product though, search.

A brief history of search

Remember the early days of the Internet, before Google became an everyday verb? The first mainstream search engines enjoyed a relatively even playing field, with Yahoo!, Alta Vista, Lycos and Ask Jeeves providing search to most early adopters of the web. These days, Google’s global market share is over 80%; with Yahoo, Microsoft’s Bing and Chinese provider Baidu scrapping over the odd 5% here and there. The rest is a ‘long tail’ of pretty insignificant and largely untrusted search portals.

The newest fighter to step into the ring is Samuru, from experienced SEO Brandon Wirtz’s company, Stremor.

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Is Samuru better than Google?

It’s certainly different. If you believe a well-written web page is more relevant than one which has more backlinks, then the principle of Samuru is a step in the right direction. The optimistic fan of the underdog would say it is better. The realist would say it may become better. The truth is, by Stremor’s own admission, it is still early days. Crawling the net takes months, and Samuru is starting from scratch using a brand new method.

So how is Samuru different?

Samuru uses qualitative rather than quantitative methods in its search algorithm, or ‘language heuristics’, as Wirtz calls it. Liquid Helium, the technology behind Samuru, focuses on the quality of text that is written. This includes factors such as bias, grammar, and tone; as well as implications in a search phrase.

Whilst Google looks at Page Rank, backlinks, keyword density and how established a page or domain is, Samuru considers relevance in a much more linguistic way. Samuru wants to personalise your search results according to the meaning of your search phrase. Google is inclined to see your search phrase either severally (results relating to each word in that keyword phrase) or collectively (searching for the instance of that exact phrase in a web page with high page rank).

The quality not quantity scenario also applies to the number of search results provided. Who actually wants to see several million search results? We are fooled into percieving value from those flagship figures in whatever fraction of a second they took to be decided upon. Samuru will list a page of up to 50 results, knowing that you really only want good information based on the query you submitted. Not a fanfare of numbers.

So?

Time will tell, but Samuru has the potential to be what Apple did to IBM; ie the choice for the clever minority. Whether it can muster up the marketing power to get close even to Bing and Yahoo, is sadly a tall order. Until then, tomorrow is just another day in the sun for the world’s favourite search engine.

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Backlinks for SEO: Common Mistakes

Getting other people to link to your site is one of the best ways to win the trust of search engines. If quality sites are linking to you in the right context, using appropriate anchor text, your page equity will increase. What won’t do you any favours is heavy use of reciprocal links, using link farms and using links out of context.

Reciprocal links

So you’ve been approached by someone who needs backlinks as much as you do, and they suggest that you swap links? This can go unnoticed if it is a small element of your overall link picture, however Google will not look fondly upon a site with 5 backlinks, all of which are also linked out in exchange. Instead, give other web masters and bloggers a good, natural reason to link to you.

Link Farms

Link farming is one of the key cheats that has been cracked down on as part of Google’s Penguin and Panda updates. The principle was that, since backlinks are important, the more the merrier. Sites that exist purely to list hyperlinks to other sites are seen by Google as low quality, so are either ignored or actually penalised through poor optimisation. A site needs decent content if it is going to be respected.

Linking out of context

This is related to the first two, and contributes to the SEO mantra about relevance. Let’s say your web site is all about bespoke wooden furniture, and you have somehow persuaded a car mechanic to link to you. Just like you wouldn’t trust a Russian fishmonger to give you dental advice, search engines won’t deem a link to a wooden furniture maker very authoritative if it is part of an article about automotive repairs.

What do Google want?

Quality content with subtle use of links to and from quality sites.