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Security Update: WordPress and Google Both Launch Improvements

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It’s been a busy week for security buffs as both WordPress and Google Accounts are both receiving major security improvements that their users should definitely scoop up as quickly as possible.

For WordPress users, they need to see about upgrading their installation to version 3.0.5, which fixes several security bugs that are most dangerous to those who have authors with limited permissions on their blog. Google, on the other hand, is slowly rolling out a new two-factor authentication system that may help keep your email and other information more secure.

If you use either or both of these tools, you may want to look at making the needed changes so you can get the full benefit of their security improvements. Otherwise, you’ll likely find that your blog, your email and your other personal information are at greater risk.

WordPress Launches 3.0.5

WordPress users who have a standalone installation of WordPress on their server, will likely want to upgrade to 3.0.5 as soon as possible.

The upgrade addresses several severe security issues including:

  1. Two security issues that would have allowed a author or contributor-level user to gain greater access to the site.
  2. Another security issue that would have allowed an author-level user to read information they weren’t supposed to access, such as drafts or private posts.
  3. Two additional security issues that help secure plugins, especially those that don’t use WordPress’ built-in security API.

Obviously, if you don’t have author or contributor-level users or don’t use many plugins, there is less urgency in this upgrade but, considering it is a free update and takes only minutes to install automatically, it’s well worth going ahead and upgrading.

At the same time as WordPress 3.0.5’s release, Automattic also announced the release of the fourth release candidate for the WordPress 3.1 branch. This release deals mostly mostly small bugs that were found in the third release candidate and marks a clear sign that the 3.1 branch is very near completion and should be sent out to the masses very shortly.

Google Introduces Two Factor Authentication

For users of Blogger, or even just Gmail or other Google tools, Google is rolling out two-factor authentication to help make your Google account more secure.

The basic principle is that, instead of merely having your email address and password to log into your Google account, you also have to enter a second, numerical passcode. This code is always changing and is sent to the user every login via either text message or the “Google Authenticator” app that is available for the iPhone, Android and BlackBerry.

Since this number changes regularly, it makes it much more difficult for someone to phish your password and anyone who wishes to enter your acount without authorization has to have access to your email address, password and your phone, making the process significantly more difficult.

Two-factor authentication is hardly new, PayPal has been using a security key system for years and many corporations and government agencies have required other kinds of security tokens for even longer.

But despite their history, security tokens have not gained widespread usage due to the perceived hassle (both in setting them up and using them) and the fact many don’t wish to either use text messages or to purchase keychains or cards to keep around. This has limited the application to high-risk targets such as banks, corporations and so forth.

Fortunately, Google’s system is free for anyone with a smartphone or with an unlimited text messaging plan and, as such, may mark the beginning of widespread usage for more personal targets.

As incidents like the Gawker leak have shown us, passwords are very vulnerable to being leaked, guessed or stolen, making a second layer of authentication very important for critical data.

Right now, systems such as Google’s are the best available and will likely become more common over the next few years.

Bottom Line

If you value your data, your privacy and your site, then you need to take security seriously. Fortunately, both Google and the WordPress development team are both working to help make security easier and better.

If you use either of these products, take a moment and upgrade your sites and your password security. You’ll be glad that you did.

While these steps may not secure you completely, that’s because nothing really can. They will, however, make you a much more difficult target and motivate attackers to move on to other, easier targets.

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“I Earn More than You” – Should You Reveal Blogging Income?

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Blogging Income

I get a lot of chat messages on Facebook and Google from blog colleagues and acquaintances inquiring about my ‘online earning’.

While some of them who are still stuck in the conventional mentality of success equaled with 9-to-5 job ask about online income quite frowningly, thinking ‘blogging’ is just a fanciful term of jotting down personal opinion online and claiming ‘value’; there are fellow bloggers who inquire the same, not out of real interest but to claim bragging rights – “I earn more than you. You are just a speck of dust”!

Blogging Income

 

On a further serious note, I have seen popular bloggers like Darren Rowse and John Chow cite their income online but they stopped revealing them after some time.

Why Would You Want to Reveal Blogging Income?

  1. You want to reveal how much you make money online because you seriously want to inspire and motivate others. Revealing the income acts as a proof that, yes, it is possible to make money online, especially from blogging.
  2. You want to gain some sort of credibility. There are many bloggers who claim to earn large sums of money, which sounds too good to be true. In such circumstances, feeling the need to establish credibility by displaying your ‘real’ income is justified.

But, hold on….

  1. Some people reveal how much is their blogging income is because they want to ‘brag’. Bragging is a serious issue. People post their AdSense income checks on social networks even though Google considers this illegal but bloggers are unmindful of this.

If you are a cynic,

As a cynic, you probably think that the reason why bloggers won’t reveal their income is because they are not making any money online. While a part of this maybe true, but not always.

Should You Reveal Blogging Income?

Personally, I am not comfortable revealing how much I am earning online, whether it is by blogging or by writing, not because I don’t want to motivate people or because I am afraid of competition, I consider whatever I earn as my “own”; I am the “proprietor” and except for the tax department, no one has the right to question this, not even friend and family, unless I am willing disclose it.

Till then, I am happy displaying a Privacy and/or Disclosure Policy on my blog and websites.

Moreover, I feel that once you start revealing your online income, it sort of escalates the expectations of followers and readers – then they want you to earn more, make more money…and you begin to feel unnecessarily pressurized.

To sum up all this…

Why build unnecessary expectations? Isn’t it enough to fulfill your own expectations first? Of course, unless you want to retain your bragging rights, go ahead and brag how much you are earning, but just this – is it really helping anyone?

What do you think?

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3 Strategies to Beat the Recent Panda 4.0 Update

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panda head mascotThe recent Panda 4.0 update which was rolled out on May 20th 2014 has created quite a storm. The update definitely shifted things around because people didn’t know what to expect. Google implemented these search updates because they wanted to fine tune their search results while eliminating those websites that have used blackhat techniques to boost their content. They want to ensure the content which ranks the highest within the SERP’s resonates well with its readers. With that said, it’s important to know you’re focus and the direction you should heading in when generating traffic to your blog. You should be in investing you’re time in resourceful content writing while focusing on content that provides a solution and is geared towards user engagement. If you want to continue to build growth and write content that ranks well within the SERP’s, it’s important to know what Panda 4.0 has changed in the search algorithm so you can strategically formulate your own content creation plan. Before jumping into what’s actually changed after the update, let’s take a look at what Panda 4.0 is all about…

What is Panda 4.0?

All in all, these Panda updates are designed to reshape the way that Google displays its search results. It’s aimed at improving the way that high quality content websites are ranked which will allow for lower quality content sites to be outranked in the SERP’s. Each year, internet marketers are coming up with creative ways to produce content through software programs, scrapping programs, etc so there needs to be a way to filter out these websites. The goal of every search engine is to provide users with only the best content available while eliminating those that don’t fit the “high quality” threshold. The good news is those websites which have dominated by creating high quality content from the start have done very well often noticing a boost in traffic each time an update comes around.

How Has Panda 4.0 Impacted Search Results?

Let’s look at some ways the recent Panda 4.0 update has impacted the search results. I’ll also want to discuss some ways that you can effectively work with the recent changes to improve your content.

The Affect on Aggregated Content Websites

When referring to aggregated websites, we’re focusing on sites that have succeeded previously by combining and displaying content from other blogs. For example, they will partner with websites to have a feed streamed directly onto their website. These aggregated websites don’t product any original high quality content but display relevant content produced by other well established websites.

Google has often prided themselves on original high quality content and decided to crack down hard on those websites that compile content from various websites. Many people will often consider this a sneaky way for websites to rank higher in the SERPS while benefiting enormously through advertising income. However, the funny thing is that some aggregated websites are still doing quite well for either two reasons.

First, they have NOT felt the impact of the recent Panda 4.0 update yet and will in the near future be affected. Google may just be trying to find out where to place the website.

Next, there are other factors which determine where to place certain websites that are aggregating content. For example, BuzzFeed.com continues to flourish even after the update which means that they’ve aggregated only the best content, post original high quality content written by their editors or were pioneers in the industry of aggregating content. Google has done a great job keeping their EXACT ranking factors a secret.

When I visited BuzzFeed.com I noticed a few things that stood out. First, they cater to every niche which means they’ll be getting triple the traffic that niche targeted aggregated sites would generate. Next, through social shares, they’ve generated a lot of unique targeted traffic to their website. This means that social traffic does play a huge factor in their success. BuzzFeed.com has over 13, 528 referring domains generating 1,473,153 external backlinks which is way more than several other niche targeted aggregated websites have.

You’ll never know the EXACT factors which divide aggregated website’s however there are definitely some which are performing well even after the recent update.

Solution:

Matt Cutts has talked about aggregated content and how it can affect you’re rankings. When I read over his answer, this is what stood out…

“All the content in the widget can easily be found on another site.  Also because the content is generated automatically, there’s a high likelihood that the content may be irrelevant. Cutts argues that aggregated content like this can even hurt the search engine ranking of your site as a whole.”

There are two things you can do to optimize your content…

First, keep content relevant to your niche because mixing and matching can harm your overall search rankings. For example, when you go too broad it becomes a question of where does your website actually belong in the search rankings. Even though BuzzFeed.com does cover various topics, if you type in any search phrase like “entertainment news” or “celebrity news” BuzzFeed.com does not show up on the first page of Google SERP’s. However, many niche targeted “entertainment” websites did come up within the results.

Check this out…I did a quick “Entertainment News’ search because this was what seemed to be dominating on BuzzFeed.com.

ZAC_01

The lesson is to keep things relevant and targeted so this way you’re able to rank higher for certain search terms if you do the next thing which is…

Moderate and only approve the best content for your website. If you have a partner system than only partner with highly reputable websites that are up-to date with the latest news. I would fear the “duplicate” effect because when you’re aggregating content, your adding content which is readily available on the internet. This means it’s depleting the value added to the hosting websites. You’re better off working with partners and their editors to write original content for your website.

Panda 4.0 Impacts Thin Content

What does this mean? Many bloggers would have several pages with content but not all pages contain “high quality” content. Google search updates have been programmed to distinguish between websites that have various pages with high quality content compared to those with a few. Google algorithms crawl all your pages through URL structures within your website looking for user engagement. When Panda 4.0 notices that there is only user engagement on 1-2 pages out of 40 it indicates one of the following:

  • You recently shifted your content writing efforts
  • Your promoting products on a single page
  • Only few pages have actual useful content
  • You’re site content shift’s often which is NOT good in the long run because if Google ranks you higher than other websites based on a single page then there is no guarantee that you’ll produce resourceful content when moving forward.

To prove this theory, let’s look at the top 3 search results for the keyword “link building”. Here are the results…

ZAC_02

Now visit the top 3 results, which in this case are Moz.com, SearchEngineWatch.com and Wikipedia.com. From my experience I know all are reputable websites. Explore each and you’ll notice several things that stand out…

  • Content longer than 2000 words on each page and internal links
  • Enormous comments and social shares
  • Fresh content updated frequently, if not daily.
  • Accurate URL structure which is well organized linking to high quality content

There are several more but I’m hoping you understand what it means to have Panda 4.0 weed out those sites that have thin content scattered throughout their blog.

Solution:

“Content is King” and writing high quality content will always dominate the internet because it’ll provide EXACTLY what the visitor is looking for. You’ll notice that engagement, social shares and increased rankings have been the foundation of the recent Panda updates. Start investing more of your time in writing high quality content and watch your rankings soar. If you visit the site of any experienced blogger, you’ll notice that high quality content is their most effective link building strategy. You need to write content that people want to link to and if you don’t have that passion, you’re in the wrong profession. Another tip is to visit older content on your blog and start updating it so that it becomes a valuable resource for visitors.

Panda 4.0 Rewarded High Quality Content

The new wave of Panda 4.0 simply rewarded “high quality content” and I had mentioned that above. “Content is King” and it’s evident by some of the websites that were actually affected. For example, eBay.com saw a major drop in their rankings and many experts believe it was the “thin” content effect which was responsible. What does this mean?

Whenever someone did a search for a specific product and eBay showed up in the organic search results, most times the URL will point to a page with very little content. If you view product pages on eBay.com, you’ll notice a title, image and very little content describing the product. The problem is that people who are inexperienced with SEO, normally the people posting a product for sale within eBay, are in charge of creating content which describes the product. They do a poor quality job which affects search results. Next, the related products will internally link to pages which have made the same mistakes as the previous product like title, image and very little content. This is known as the “thin” content syndrome and caused eBay a huge drop in the rankings.

ZAC_03

How about the ones which were winners AFTER the recent Panda 4.0 update?

Many of the winners with an increase of 500% in the SERP’s were health related websites. These sites, since governed closely due to the sensitive nature of the topic, are very detailed on every single page and regularly updated. Each page contains loads of content and interlinked to other detailed relevant content.

The point is that high quality content websites have done very well after the recent Panda 4.0 update.

Solution:

In your niche, visit relevant websites to find out what’s trending. You can visit websites like Topsy.com and type in a keyword phrase like “link building” and filter it down to find out the most shared content. Visit the top website and find out what’s missing and create something better. The great thing about Topsy.com is that you can search a keyword in every niche and find out what’s trending. If you’re looking to dominate your competitors than read these 13 Content Writing Tips That Will Crush Your Competition.

Your objective should be to create something even better than your competition. If the top spot doesn’t have images, then add some in your content, if their missing videos, then create a video tutorial. It’s that simple!

Final Thoughts

Every day Google works hard researching ways to revive their search algorithm so that the search results become more relevant to the user experience. If you think hard about the purpose of any search engine, it is to provide their users with the most relevant high quality resources. Next, Google has dominated because they found a creative way to provide just that – High Quality Search Results.

What is the future for Google?

If you look back at every Google update since 2006, you’ll notice a few visible trends…

First, you’ll notice the SERP’s produce more targeted results focused around websites with high quality content. If there are any lower quality websites that appear on the first page of Google, they’ll slowing be eliminated in future updates. You’ll also notice those sites that have always produced high quality content have NOT been affected by the recent updates or have benefited from higher search rankings.

Websites that produce fresh content more frequently have flourished in recent years and these are NOT one page websites which promote single product reviews. Google recently introduced a “freshness” update within their algorithm. Here’s something from Moz.com

“For example, a document whose content is edited often may be scored differently than a document whose content remains static over time. Also, a document having a relatively large amount of its content updated over time might be scored differently than a document having a relatively small amount of its content updated over time.”

howoften

Finally, user engagement has played a vital role in Google determining ranking positions. User engagement has two elements. First, how long a visitor remains on your page (bounce rate factor) which indicates the quality of your content and internal linking pattern. If a visitor finds your content engaging, they’ll most likely visit other relevant resources on your website. Next, social shares, the importance in ranking is still up for discussion, but has played an important role in driving targeted traffic to a webpage. The more people share a piece of content, the more traffic is generated and the likelihood of someone linking to it just increased.

Going forward focus on these elements and you’ve just decreased the chance of a future update impacting your website. If I had to choose one element that you’ll always succeed with, I’d choose writing high quality content every time you publish.

Let me know what you guys think is the most important element that will eliminate the chances of being affected by a future Google update?

 

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Do You Believe in Ghost?

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ghost_logo_bigThat’s not a misprint. There’s no “s” missing. The word is Ghost. It’s the newly released, open-source blogging platform that’s made quite a stir in the industry and will create an even bigger one now it’s available, free of charge, to anyone who wants it.

The amount of fuss should be no surprise. The man behind the platform is entrepreneur, designer, and former WordPress User Interface Team member John O’Nolan. CTO and co-founder is Javascript expert Hannah Wolfe.

They went to Kickstarter for initial funding and instead of the £25,000 goal, they raised almost £200,000. Major contributors are Envato and Woo Themes: companies recognized by professional bloggers everywhere. Oh, and Microsoft is involved too.

The Ghost story

So should you be interested in Ghost or is it just another WordPress competitor that has little chance of gaining the critical mass necessary to contend with the industry leader?

Actually, it’s not being discussed as a WordPress competitor at all. Nor a CMS. Visit the launch website and you’re greeted by a simple headline that’s appeared in all the publicity: “Just A Blogging Platform.”

Delve a little deeper and you’ll find that the philosophy behind Ghost is straightforward online publishing. It’s about stripping away all the extra functionality that WordPress and other platforms provide and getting back to what blogging originally was, albeit a more stylish version.

Wired said, “Ghost aims to reboot blogging.” Mashable asked, “Is This Kickstarter Project the Future of Blogging?” ProBlogger called it “a simply, elegantly designed and useful interface.”

Some scary challenges

It’s great publicity, but what does it really mean to the majority of bloggers? Those people aren’t necessarily developers or coders but just want an efficient platform for getting their ideas — or their businesses — onto the Internet?

The claim of simplicity runs into a bit of a challenge right at the start. You have to write in Markdown, a language developed to translate text to HTML quickly and easily.

It certainly does that, and it’s far from the most difficult language to learn, but what’s wrong with hitting the “B” for bold button? Or selecting “Heading 1” from a drop-down menu?

Then there’s installation. Soon they’ll offer a hosted version (no mention of price) but at the moment you have to install it yourself. Many bloggers do exactly that with WordPress, so where’s the problem?

Actually, you can’t run it, as many WordPress users do, on shared hosting. It’s got to be a VPS. $4.99 a month? Forget it. $15.00 is more like it.

If you’re blogging on a commercial basis, maybe $15 a month is not the end of the world, but there are other, potentially more difficult challenges.

Business or pleasure?

If you blog for pleasure, for the joy of publishing your thoughts online, Ghost might be what you’re looking for. If you’re a freelance journalist or an author you might prefer the simplicity. After all, for many it is just about the words.

On the other hand, if you want to turn your passion or hobby into a business, or you already have a blog and you’re wondering whether to consider this alternative, at the very least you’ll want to wait a while.

As yet there’s a lack of themes, so you can’t customize the look or the user experience. Although Woo is involved, there’s no mention of their well-known e-commerce plugin coming to the platform. Indeed the idea of plugins goes against the whole ethos of Ghost.

Which, ultimately, makes it unworkable. A recent article by Steve Wellen of Domo talks about mobile business intelligence. It should be required reading for all businesspeople, because it focuses on the importance of user experience and gathering what information you can from people’s interactions and transactions.

Regardless of the size or nature of your commercial ambitions, you can’t even begin to implement those vital strategies without plugins, or the ability to add code that tracks visitors.

Some very smart people are behind Ghost. We suspect they’ll do some clever things with it. The problem is, at present we can’t see what the practical applications will be.

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