Categories
Media News Smartphones Technology

Mobile Phones and the Right to Search (and Privacy)

cnn.police

Earlier this year I wrote an article about whether the police had the right to search your laptop when you are passing immigration into the USA. The discussion has moved on however, and this week there is a Supreme Court case about whether the police have to right to search an individual’s mobile phone when they are stopped upon suspicion of having committed a crime.

Given the UK governments discussion about the stop and search powers currently in use, there are some serious questions to address here. We now carry our lives with us on our mobile devices. To call them phones is to do them an injustice, they are computers with the possibility of making phone calls. They have our medical, personal, business, banking and emotional data, and the question is whether this is public or private information if the police stop you.

Here in the USA the law has allowed police to search these devices without a warrant, although they could not search your computer in your house without a judge’s permission, and this seems to be an anomaly given changes in how we carry our lives with us.

The case before the court involves David Riley, who was pulled over for driving with expired license plates in 2009. When his car was impounded and inventoried, police found guns in the boot and decided to investigate further.

They looked into his phone and found evidence that he might be in a gang, they downloaded videos, contacts etc and some of this information was used to convict him.

Here in the US the case has been followed by journalist Nina Totenberg, and she has a fantastic account on her blog. You can either listen to her radio report or read a transcript of it. I have taken some of it below to give you an idea of how the debate is unfolding. The question is of whether a warrant should be required, but the following snippets give an idea of how wide the implications for the debate really are:

“It’s not just what can be looked at,” it’s the fact that information from cellphones can be downloaded and kept in “ever-growing databases.”

A person can be arrested “for anything,” including driving without a seat belt, and the police could search that person’s cellphone and “look at every single email” — including “very intimate communications” — as well as medical data, calendar and GPS information to learn everyplace the person has recently been.

People “choose” when they carry their cellphones with them — and thus they should have “no expectation of privacy” if they are arrested.

So some of the questions could be, when the police stop and search you, what do they have the right to look at? If you are then arrested should they need a warrant to search your mobile devices? Do you have the right to privately carry digital information?

Categories
Business Internet

Common Reasons Online Business Startups Fail

It seems like starting a website should be easy enough – there are almost unlimited free online resources spouting off advice, it can be relatively cheap to launch a website, and, naturally, you have the best business idea for your website. So why is it that so many website startups fail?

1. Low Quality Web Design

One of the biggest mistakes that web startups make is having poor web design. Your website is the most important aspect of you company so why would you skimp on that? The overall design of your site is what initially draws people in, it’s what their first impression of you as a company is, so having a solid website design is crucial to your success.

2. Poor Content

In the same respect as low quality web design, having poor content on your site will be a huge turn off to people. To retain visitors you need to be able to provide content that wows them. You want to show anyone and everyone that visits your site the best you have to offer, so why would you fill your site with uninteresting or poorly written content?

3. Poor Marketing

Google SEO Chart
Google is one of the best places to start your online marketing – both simple SEO and paid ads are are good place to start.

You can have the best website and the best content in the world, but if no one ever sees it then it won’t really matter, will it? You can never retain a customer if you can’t even catch their eye to begin with. This is why it’s imperative to spend ample time marketing on social media, through email campaigns, and through traditional marketing routes. You have to be willing to put time and money into your marketing scheme to achieve the best possible outcome – after all, you reap what you sow.

4. No Passion

Picking a niche market just because you think it will be profitable is one of the worst reasons to start a business. You have to actually be passionate about what you’re trying to make money off of, otherwise it’s going to be a lost cause and people will be able to see right through you.

5. Not Enough Funds

When you don’t allocate enough money for a startup company, you run the risk of forcing the company to fizzle out because you lack the proper funds to keep it going – or worse, you risk driving yourself into debt.

Get rich quick schemes rarely work in life and the same holds true for web startups. The road to success can only be reached by hard work, dedication, and money. So if you’re contemplating launching a startup business, make sure that it’s something you really want to do, otherwise you’ll be doing your potential customers and yourself a disservice.

Categories
Search Engines

Google in 2013

Google is of course a tech giant and a company everyone who’s touched a computer knows of. Google first introduced themselves with their simple search engine in 1998, they have very rapidly and significant progressed, by the year, into the giant they are today. From Google Maps to Google phones, tablets and OS systems, Google is now everywhere! Here’s what we can expect from Google in 2013.

Google-X Division

There is set to be a lot of development at Google in the next year and the first thing that warrants a mention is their futuristic Google-X Division. Google are working on two things that you’ve probably already heard about.

The first is Google Glasses, which are wearable computers which give you a heads up display of the word around you. In the first part of 2013, developers who have pre-ordered them will get their hands on them, and therefore be able to write their own software for them and more. The chances are that we won’t see Google Glasses on the market in 2013, but we’ll certainly come a lot closer to knowing fully what they’ll bring.

The Google-X Division is also working on self-driving cars. Google has received a lot of legislation passes that allows them to drive such cars on roads in various US States such as Nevada, and so you can expect to see a lot more developments in regards to this.

Android

Androids market share has soared in the last few years. It is the fastest growing operating system in the world and this poses some interesting questions on how it will develop and progress in 2013.

Historically developers have been building for iOS first, and thus historically the best apps available were for iDevices through iTunes. However as more and more people buy Android devices, the question is are developers going to start developing for Android first more commonly.

Hardware Division

Google only recently refreshed its line-up of Google Nexus products, which are of course Google branded tablets and smartphones that it develops with other manufacturers. There are however, questions at the moment of how much traction on the market these devices are going to get. Is the new 10-inch Google Nexus tablet going to be competitive enough to make you sell your iPad or at the very least choose it over an iPad?

Nonetheless, expect to see Google release new versions of their Nexus products this year and continue to try and compete with its many competitors in 2013.

Knowledge Graphs

A Google Knowledge Graph example
An example of a Google Knowledge Graph – Albert Einstein.

Google did two really interesting things last year with search. One is that they created the Knowledge Graph which is their effort to map out connections with all sorts of different things.

Now if you start to search for something, like for example, if you search for a famous actor, on the right of the screen you will see a box that’ll tell you about other actors that person may have worked with, films they featured in, as well as basic details such as their age and education.

For an example, see the Albert Einstein Knowledge Graph to the right. For Einstein, Google displays images of the scientist, a brief synopses of his life/works and family, as well as books relating to him, and also similar people you might want to read about – in this case for other scientists, like the physicists Isaac Newton and Stephen Hawking.

Google wants to bring its Knowledge Graph to a lot more different parts of the search experience. You’ll thus you will soon start to see more and more of those type of connections when you are Googling.

Google Now

The other major development the search giant was working on in the search area was Google Now.

Google Now is a sort of predictive search. For example, when you take out your phone it might say you have to leave to make it to your appointment because there’s traffic right now, or you might want to go down an alternative road because a specific one is closed. This is only available on devices that run the latest version of Android right now, but Google are preparing to invest a lot more resources into developing this kind of new world of search where you don’t even have to type a query.

So, like in previous years, it seems there is a lot we can expect a lot from Google in 2013.

Categories
How To Guides Search Engines SEO

Tips to improve your mobile SEO

Mobile search engines contain different algorithms and bots than used for traditional web searches. They evaluate websites as it is being rendered on a mobile phone. The ranks are computed based on how well the page is rendered for the phone that submits the queries. One thing you can do to improve your mobile SEO is to make verify the user agents, and the mobile crawlers can pick up your content.

Mobile phone search engines are not as finely tuned as traditional search engines. They are still placing tons of weight on bounce rates and using mobile visitors as barometers for how websites renders on phones.

One neat suggestion in improving your mobile search results is to follow traditional SEO strategies. Mobile indexes and bots determine different from web search. The differences entail things such as alt tags; heading tags and title tags are still dominant with mobile SEO.

After performing traditional SEO strategies, it proves necessary to create a secondary mobile sheet from your website. This will allow for formatting of existing pages to be viewed on mobile phones without having to create separate content. It gives you strength with the SEO value that you have already performed on your website minus creating new pages. You can use the mobile style sheet to assist in blocking things from being rendered with using a “display: none” on the style sheet. All mobile phones with the exception of iPhones can automatically pull the “handheld” style sheet.

iPhones determine different with not searching for mobile “handheld” style sheets. In addressing this critical problem, ensure that you copy your handheld sheet, and create on that is geared for the iPhone. The iPhone is meant to render entire website pages, and people statistically still prefer mobile-formatted content on their iPhones.

What Google search results look like on a smartphoneSometimes, mobile search engines will rank traditional pages but consider them ill-suited for rending on mobile phones even with mobile-specific style sheets. When this happens, the mobile search engine will rank the traditional content but “transcode” it for viewing on mobile phones.

Transcoded versions of websites are hosted on temporary subdomains on search engine’s domains. Typically, this provides a user experience that proves under-optimized. This is because navigation sometimes is broken or misplaced and the individual pages are separated into different pages for faster downloading. This can prove problematic when it comes to tracking activity on your mobile website, and if someone links to your content, the website might not receive credit for the links. Address this problem with a “no-transform”header of your content. The no-transform in the cache-control should stop transcoding.

Next, you should include a mobile-site map. Google provides tools that can help you in building one of these. For website owners using multiple-markup languages such as WML (Wireless Markup Language) or XHTML, you should submit separate mobile sitemaps per languages being used on the website. Ensure that you link to mobile site maps in your robots.txt file, the same as you would for traditional site maps.

When you are submitting a mobile site map, add the mobile style sheet and the no-transform tag for this should confirm fitting in getting the mobile search engines to rank your content.  Another excellent tip is to make sure your traditional content will work on mobile phones. This will provide the best chance of faring well with higher numbers of browsers and phones.

If your content on your website does not include external style sheets, or contains sloppy code or too many media files, the content will have problems rending on mobile phones. You might want to make mobile-specific content on a mobile sub-directory or sub-domain. This can generate tons of problems for SEO strategists because it can end-up splitting traffic and links between two sets of similar pages.

You should use a “handheld” style sheet with the no-transform designation. You can also re-arrange code so that it proves more suited for crawling and rendering. Redirection and browser-detection and self-selection are how websites and mobile phones interact with one another. Browser detection and re-direction is the process that appears to see what browser the website visitor is using to access your website. If the mobile browser is requesting the traditional website, a single PHP script can redirect the user to the mobile phone website. If a browser is requesting the mobile website, it can redirect them to the traditional website. This proves helpful if your website out-ranks your mobile website in mobile searches.

When you think of mobile SEO, the act alone proves dangerous to create a duplicate copy of your website and placing it in a sub-domain. Most website owners think that mobile phones are capable of interpreting the duplication, but unbelievably, they can become confused. When confusion occurs, your new mobile content has a very-little chance of outranking your traditional website in the mobile searches. Redirection and browser-detection should take care of these issues, but there is always a chance of duplicate content taking away value from the content located on the main website.

If this happens, you can try using a canonical tag that will promote the value from your mobile website back to your main website. You can then rely on your browser-detection and re-direction to take care of it. What proves dangerous in this scenario is that you might hurt your rankings for searches on the primitive mobile phones. The reason is that you are pushing the total SEO value into non-mobile content.

Categories
Search Engines

How does Google make money?

The other day someone asked me how Google makes its money. At the time I called upon the knowledge I had and talked about the ads they have in the search results, the Chromebooks and Android systems they are selling, and Google Apps and Docs.

This week Google announced, it was disappointed with its 27% rise in revenues. Yes you read right, it was disappointed! Profits were up 6.4% and revenues 27%. In the same period, (the last quarter of 2011) Microsoft saw its revenues rise just 5%, and its profits fall by 0.15%!

Here is the interesting (weird) thing, Google’s share value fell 10% after the announcement, whilst Microsoft’s grew by around 2%! How crazy.

Anyway, this got me thinking, what are all the way Google makes money, as that is a lot to get just from the ways I mentioned.

How does Google make money?

The fact is, the majority of Google’s revenues come from the ads it presents to users on search result pages. However in recent years it has started making more and more money in other ways. So what are these other ways Google makes money?

Chromebooks

Introduced mid last year, Chromebooks are laptops powered by Google Chrome OS, where the laptop and the internet are one. There are no programs, desktop or start menu, the who experience runs from the cloud, utilising all Google’s (and other) online applications.The Google Chrome Logo

Samsung and Acer are the two firms which currently offer Chrome OS powered laptops, however expansion to more brands in the future is inevitable. Samsung and Acer obviously take their share the sales, as will Amazon and the other places Chromebooks are sold, however the laptops do make money for Google.

Android

I assumed that Google made money from Android, however I was wrong – Google does not make money from its Android mobile operating system. Android is a Google-led open source mobile OS framework, however Google does not profit from it.

Google Android's Logo

YouTube

Since Google bought YouTube in 2006, the site hasn’t been that profitable for it. YouTube is now the site with the third most traffic on the web, meaning that it has huge potential, however until recently, it was only making money from ads.

Before Google AdSense ads used to appear alongside videos, which they still do, however now they also advertise within videos too. Furthermore, YouTube have started offering online movies, which users can pay to watch from the comfort of their own home – or wherever they are.

Google Storage

Many Google services offer online storage, however this is only a finite amount. Should you want to purchase extra storage for Gmail, Google Docs, Picasa or Blogger (photos on blogger, not posts) then you can do so from Google Storage. I doubt this brings in Google a lot of revenue, but nerveless, it makes the internet giant some money.

Google Store

Google have an online store which distribute to may different locations around the world. They sell everything from branded keyrings and juggling balls, to t-shirts and even accessories with past Google Doodles printed on them.

DoubleClick, AdSense and AdWords

The majority of Google’s revenues come from the advertisers who use AdWords and DoubleClick. These ads are then either shown in the search results, or on websites which host AdSense units. Google makes lots of money out of ads. It doesn’t tell AdSense hosts what cut of the advertisers fees they get, but it makes Google a lot of money, so I would guess that they take home more than website owners hosting their ads.

Other Ways Google Makes Money

These are not the only ways Google makes money, other ways include, Google Apps for Business, Google Cloud Connect, Google Docs, Feedburner (through ads), Google Earth Pro, Google Mini (where you effectively buy the Google search engine to use on your own site/intranet), Google Checkout and more.

Hopefully this gives you some insight into just how many ways there are that the search giant that is Google makes money.

Categories
Fun Internet News Search Engines

Google Christmas crackers!

Google always strike me as a fun and playful global giant, which always tries to be a little bit eccentric and different. This year in the run up to Christmas, I have so far found three of Google’s ‘Easter egg’ – which is basically another way of saying hidden, but findable jokes.

The first of the Easter eggs I have found is some Christmas lights. These come up underneath the search box when you search for the word ‘Christmas’ or many different phrases with the world ‘Christmas’ in them, like ‘Merry Christmas’. It’s not much, but it is festive 🙂

Google's Easter Egg Christmas LightsThe second Easter egg is much more exciting! When you search for the words ‘Let It Snow’ Google will take you to the search result, and everything will seem normal – for a second or two. Then all of a sudden, snowflakes will start to fall from the top of your browser, and the screen will start to mist up! You can then demist your browser either by clicking ‘Defrost’ or by using your mouse – although you still need to click the button to start using Google again. Its a really good touch by Google, really gets you in the holiday spirit!

Snow falling on a Google search page
When you type 'Let It Snow' into Google, it starts snowing in your browser!
Google Frosted/Misted Up
After a few seconds of snow, Google becomes very frosty!

The final Easter egg I have found is with the Google owned site YouTube. On some videos – I still haven’t found a link – a snowflake icon comes up on the bottom bar of the video, which if you click, gives you falling snow over the video, which you can control with your mouse.

After a bit of research I have found one more Easter egg! If you type in ‘Hanukkah’ you get some special decorations, which appear like the Christmas lights, underneath the search box.

Finally, something that isn’t actually hidden, but worth mentioning is Google’s message from Santa. SendACallFromSanta.com is courtesy of Gmail, and lets you design a personalised message which Santa can either phone home with, (if you live in the USA or Canada) or create an animated video which can be sent via email. It is totally free and can be used for Children and Adults alike, due to the various serious and humorous options.

Google seem to want to get us in the festive spirit, so now give you my festive wishes 🙂

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Categories
Computers Internet News Science Search Engines

Search engines are changing the way our memory works

A recent article in Science Mag suggests that the use of computers and the internet might actually be changing the way our memory works.

A series of psychology experiments recently carried out have shown that sometimes, when people were presented with hard to answer questions, they began to think of computers.

If participants believed that it would be easy to find answers on Google later, then they had poorer recall of the actual answer, and yet a greater memory of where the answer was stored.

A head x-ray showing someone with a computer for a brainThe researchers said that the internet acts as a tool which we now depend upon to to aid our memories, by remembering some data for us.

Here is the abstract for the journal entry

The advent of the Internet, with sophisticated algorithmic search engines, has made accessing information as easy as lifting a finger. No longer do we have to make costly efforts to find the things we want. We can “Google” the old classmate, find articles online, or look up the actor who was on the tip of our tongue. The results of four studies suggest that when faced with difficult questions, people are primed to think about computers and that when people expect to have future access to information, they have lower rates of recall of the information itself and enhanced recall instead for where to access it. The Internet has become a primary form of external or transactive memory, where information is stored collectively outside ourselves.

In more simplified English, what this is basically saying is that it is now much easier to access data online, mainly thanks to search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo. If we have a question, we can find the answer in seconds.


This has lead the the human brain associating the thought of a problem with computers, as it believes that the internet will be the source of the solution. Search engines are now embeded so much in our brain, that when we think of a problem, we no longer bother trying to work out the answer for ourselves, but instead we associate the possibility of finding the solution of the problem with a search engine.

Let’s be honest, who hasn’t been bugged by something, asked someone else who also wasn’t able to help and as a result was either told “Google it” or thought “I could Google that”? I have, in fact I would say it happens on a weekly basis!

Question time

So what do you think? Are computers, the internet and search engines making us stupid, or is it just that we are now adapting as a race to more efficient ways of finding out information?

Categories
Computers Internet News Science Search Engines

Search engines are changing the way our memory works

A recent article in Science Mag suggests that the use of computers and the internet might actually be changing the way our memory works.

A series of psychology experiments recently carried out have shown that sometimes, when people were presented with hard to answer questions, they began to think of computers.

If participants believed that it would be easy to find answers on Google later, then they had poorer recall of the actual answer, and yet a greater memory of where the answer was stored.

A head x-ray showing someone with a computer for a brainThe researchers said that the internet acts as a tool which we now depend upon to to aid our memories, by remembering some data for us.

Here is the abstract for the journal entry

The advent of the Internet, with sophisticated algorithmic search engines, has made accessing information as easy as lifting a finger. No longer do we have to make costly efforts to find the things we want. We can “Google” the old classmate, find articles online, or look up the actor who was on the tip of our tongue. The results of four studies suggest that when faced with difficult questions, people are primed to think about computers and that when people expect to have future access to information, they have lower rates of recall of the information itself and enhanced recall instead for where to access it. The Internet has become a primary form of external or transactive memory, where information is stored collectively outside ourselves.

In more simplified English, what this is basically saying is that it is now much easier to access data online, mainly thanks to search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo. If we have a question, we can find the answer in seconds.


This has lead the the human brain associating the thought of a problem with computers, as it believes that the internet will be the source of the solution. Search engines are now embeded so much in our brain, that when we think of a problem, we no longer bother trying to work out the answer for ourselves, but instead we associate the possibility of finding the solution of the problem with a search engine.

Let’s be honest, who hasn’t been bugged by something, asked someone else who also wasn’t able to help and as a result was either told “Google it” or thought “I could Google that”? I have, in fact I would say it happens on a weekly basis!

Question time

So what do you think? Are computers, the internet and search engines making us stupid, or is it just that we are now adapting as a race to more efficient ways of finding out information?

Categories
Search Engines

Are you a Googlite?

What is a Googlite?

Well I don’t think it has an official meaning just yet, but when I say Googlite I mean someone who is Google everything! Basically the definition of a Googlite is someone who uses loads of Google products, of which there is an alternative (non-Google product) available.

If you use Google Web Search, you probably aren’t a Googlite. However, if you also use Google AdSense, Blogger, Google Analytics, Google Docs, Picasa, Google Maps, YouTube and FeedBurner, then I would say you are a Googlite.

How do you say Googlite?

Want to know how to pronounce Googlite? Say it as it is phonetically written here:

Goow-gel-I-t or Google-ite

Googlite is a three symbol word, Goo-gel-ight

Is it good to be a Googlite?

As someone who considers themselves a Googlite, I see no reason why it shouldn’t be good. The great thing about using loads of Google products (like Google Search, YouTube, Google Analytics and Gmail rather than Bing Search, Vimeo, StatCounter and Hotmail) is that you are able to integrate them all with each other.

GoogliteBeing a Googlite means that once you sign into your Google account, you can do stuff on YouTube, Google Talk and FeedBurner without having to sign into them separately. This can be great as you only have to remember one username and password, but, what it you get hacked? If someone is able to hack your Google account, then they have access to all your Analytics data, AdSense account and Picasa images.

Google obviously have fail safes like mobile verification and security questions, but if you do get hacked, or forget to sign out, it can be very frustrating.

The future for Googlites

Google are branching out into so many different areas of our life. The Google operating system (Chrome OS), Google Earth, videos on YouTube, the Google browser (Chrome), emails via Gmail etc. All this expansion means that I believe there will be a growing number of Googlites in the future. Why? It’s simple, easy and most of the services are free!

Question time!

Are you a Googlite? Do you want to be? If you are, are you glad? Why/why not?

Categories
News Search Engines SEO

How Google’s Panda Algorithm is changing the web

On April 11, 2011 Google announced on it’s Webmaster Central Blog sweeping changes to it’s search index. In an effort to promote high quality websites and eliminate websites that have poor content the algorithm was adjusted. This adjustment incorporated “feedback signals” which are expected to help Google users find better search results.

What started out as something small

What was described by Amit Singhal, Google fellow, as a “small” update, affected only 2% of US queries has turned out to radical. CNET describes the Google’s algorithm as “radical” and reports the websites that have been affected by reduced rankings.

Great websites drop in ranking

The British Medical Journal, the Cult of Mac, and WikiHow all dropped in visibility. Considered to be reputable sources, and not content farm, these reduction in rank show the algorithm still needs some fine tuning. Other websites that might be considered content farms have been dropped as well.

Facebook, Yelp & Twitter rise in rankings

Websites to increase in ranking are Facebook, Twitter and Yelp. These websites moving up begs a question though. Facebook already has over 500 million active users, of which, 50% log in each day. Does this website really not already appear “high” enough in the search engine. In addition, social media is changing Google search results with the adoption of the “Plus One” on Google and “Likes” on Bing.

Facebook increase in rankings and wikiHow decrease in rankings

Local Searches Soar

Despite the rise of social media websites and some news sources, many poor websites have fallen in ranking, as was expected from this Panda Algorithm shift.

Local searches have significantly improved, however, due to this shift in the algorithm. Websites of companies that are popular in the United States (David’s Bridal, Barnes and Nobles, Walgreens) all appear prominently in the US search index, but not in the UK index. This shift paves the way for a greater index in international search engine results. Improving international search results is a significant win for Google’s index.