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Happy Belated Birthday Panda!

February 25, 2015

Yesterday Google celebrated its Panda algorithm turning four years old.  As some may see this as a trivial fact, it is actually a very important day – one that reshaped the internet like we’ve never seen before.  With Google still being the most used search engine to date (11.944 billion monthly searches on average) it is by far the most significant quality algorithm to date affecting everyone from SEO specialists to your grandparents using AOL.

Taking a trip down the memory highway, Panda was released on February 24, 2011.  At this time, the internet was a place of poor quality content.  Keyword stuffing, link farms, autoGoogle Panda Algorithmmated blog commenting, were all common tactics used to enhance a websites presence to achieve the all mighty page 1 spot #1 ranking.  If your business had the money and resources to continually perform these black hat techniques, your website thrived and dominated the search rankings.  As a result, the quality of Google’s search results were under constant scrutiny.  Panda focused on removing poor-quality sites from search results and returning higher quality sites instead.  It affected approximately 12% of all search results – applying that to the 11.944 billion monthly searches on Google – we’re looking at around 1.4 billion searches affected!

So what is a high quality site?  An analogy commonly used is that of a term paper – it should be well written, little to no grammatical mistakes, provide insight that draws a reader in, and contain citations to bring about validity and trust.  I like to think about it as “Would I trust this website with my credit card?”  If the answer is no, it’s probably not a high quality site.

Returning to present day, one can truly see and experience the positive changes Panda created and set in motion.  Not only did it force websites to begin using white hat techniques and truly care about their content, it paved the way for other algorithms (Penguin, Hummingbird, etc.) that have jumped on the quality bandwagon.  Happy belated birthday Panda and thank you for helping cleanup our internet search results!

The forest and the trees in 2015… and beyond

January 29, 2015

It’s hard to believe that we’re already at the end of January – it seems as if we just celebrated the start of the New Year!  And as the resolutions and goals for the year come and go, we so often focus on the short term:  lose weight, start working out again, get that promotion or even a new job.  But what about the big picture?

These short term, specialized goals are like the trees in a forest.  It’s easy to focus on a tree or two (or three), and ensure that they’re growing strong and healthy.  But what about the rest of the trees?  The whole forest?  As the saying goes, it’s critical to not to lose sight of the forest for the trees.  The entire system needs to be in balance.

Take a broader view of your life:  Where do you want to be in 5 years?  10 years?  What do you want to be doing?  How are you growing professionally?  Personally?  Are your relationships with your family and friends strong?  What’s on your bucket list?  Do you have a plan for the future and are you making progress on it?  Basically, think about what you’d like your forest to be, and determine what needs to occur to achieve that goal.  What trees need pruning?  Some extra TLC?  Or maybe you need to plant a few new trees…  Cultivate your trees, but do so in the context of the overall forest – and enjoy the results!

The Importance of Code

January 20, 2015

Today, there’s hardly a facet of life where we aren’t interacting with a computer of some sort.  We program our alarm clocks to ensure we wake up on time.  We set a program on our microwave to heat our food.  There are even special ways to construct search requests on Google to narrow down your results.  These seem like ordinary, even mundane, tasks, but we are programming.  In the workforce, many professions make use of software such as Microsoft Excel, which allows the user the opportunity to custom program in equations and logic, and allows people who don’t think of themselves as programmers to create full blown applications, and even games.

The use of programming in everyday life will only increase.  People will find innovative ways to leverage technology to support needs in their lives, and a foundation to this learning should start as early as possible.

As parents of the future generation, I ask that you introduce your children at an early age to computers.  As my father explained to me when I was very young, there is far more that you can accomplish on a computer than play games.  I was extremely fortunate, and had a computer in the house when I was young.  I remember writing simple programs in BASIC on an Apple ][ computer.  At the time, most of my programming involved drawing pictures on the screen, but I was programming.  The foundation of my understanding of software happened when I was very young, and I continued to hone these skills in college.

Last month, my son, who is in first grade, came home with a certificate announcing he had participated in The Hour of Code.  In association with Code.org, the hour of code is an initiative that aims to introduce young people to coding.  In my son’s recollection, all he did was play games, however these games involved setting small instructions on familiar character (Angry Birds, Frozen, etc.) to have them perform a series of actions.  The Hour of Code is an event that is scheduled to happen in December, but the website is available year round and free.  I recommend that you log in and encourage your children to learn the fundamentals of code.  You should also reach out to your local school and ask them to set aside time to participate.

Happy Holidays from Status Not Quo and Oddly Even Studios!

December 23, 2014

SNQ_2014Holiday_nonclient

Tis the Season to Shop Online

November 25, 2014

“65% of U.S. shoppers will browse online and buy in store over the holidays. 47% will actually purchase online.” – InternetRetailer

More and more American’s are flocking to the Internet for holiday shopping, especially with so many special day sales: Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday, etc. If you’re an eCommerce site, it’s now not a point of “Are we going to do anything special for the holidays?” but more of “What are we going to do?” Even if your site doesn’t host any holiday promotions, why wouldn’t you make the most of this time of year to increase your revenue? In 2013, online spending hit $2.29 billion on Cyber Monday alone!Online Holiday Shopping

Though the holiday season is quickly approaching, it is never too late to perform some quick-turnaround search engine optimization (SEO) just in time. Here are four last minute tips to bolster your SEO presence for the holiday shopping:

Amazon and eBay
Leverage these two major holiday players. Adding your products to their site can help bolster your SEO. We know how popular they are so doing this can provide a major boost to visibility – thus increasing sales and traffic. In 2013 on Cyber Monday for Amazon, more than “36.8 million items were ordered worldwide. That’s about 426 items purchased per second.” – TheVerge

Top Landing Pages
You should have a pretty good idea of where the majority of users are going on your site. Make sure these landing pages include special holiday promotions. If it doesn’t make sense to do this, at least add links on these pages to your holiday pages – giving them another avenue to reach your holiday deals. People are already visiting these pages, use that to your advantage.

Get Social
Claim or create listings for your site on high authority holiday shopping sites such as Cybermonday.com or Cybermondaydeals.com. Also post daily comments to your primary Social Media sites – this could be just the thing for that extra boost. For example, killer gift lists and sales would almost certainly be well-received. Not only is this establishing backlinks, this is another way to get your name and content out there.

Shopping Never Sleeps
According to Google and Your Business, one third of all shopping-related searches are now happening between the hours of 10pm and 4am. While it is unreasonable to monitor outside of business hours, an easy way to manage the non-working hours is to setup Google AdWords. With such features as automatic bidding, AdWords allows you to create an optimal online-advertising strategy to reel in those late night “primers”.

Though the holiday season can be a stressful time for your business, remember that there are always solutions out there. Following these simply SEO techniques, you too can join the online shopping movement and turn this holiday season into a more fruitful one.

What Makes a Logo Great?

November 14, 2014

There are lots of places you can go that will tell you how you can create a compelling logo. Since how-to has been adequately covered, let’s talk about what exactly makes an amazing logo and why it stands out in your mind. What is it about that logo that resonated with you so effectively?

Here are a few key indicators that a logo has great design:

The Logo Represents The Company.

Or more precisely, it represents the ideal or philosophy the company stands for or believes in. It’s rarely a literal representation of the products or services.

Consider FedEx’s logo. On a quick glance it looks like typical typeface logo. Look closer and you’ll notice that the negative space between the E and the X creates an arrow, which represents forward movement. Also take notice what the logo doesn’t include: packages, delivery trucks, etc.—nothing you would associate with their products or service. Instead they’ve encapsulated an ideal that is bigger than all of that with their simple logo design.

Often when clients will talk about effective logos, they talk about Nike as the kind of branding mark they aspire to have. But equally often, when these same clients are presented with abstract concepts that might represent their brand (similar to the Nike swoosh), they reply that they want something more laterally representative of their product. What these clients really want isn’t an abstract logo like Nike’s. They want one that’s as recognizable as Nike’s (who doesn’t?). In those particular cases they’d be happier with a logo that represented a concept associated with their company – the Nike’s swoosh represents a wing and speed, not shoes.

One of the great logo designers, Paul Rand, was once quoted as saying: “Surprising to many, the subject matter of a logo is of relatively little importance… Ultimately, the only mandate in the design of logos, it seems, is that they be distinctive, memorable, and clear.

The Logo is Appropriate for Its Customers.

Look at the Toys-R-Us logo. Toys-R-Us makes toys so it is a company with products that appeal primarily to children. The logo is made up of a fun font with bright colors. The backwards “R” is indicative of the way a child might mistakenly write the letter when first learning to spell. Now take those same design cues and apply them to a logo for an investment firm or insurance agency. It doesn’t work. Because “fun” is not something we want from our investments or insurance agents. We want “safe” or “growth” or something equally serious. On the same note, children wouldn’t connect to a toy store with a law-firm style logo.

The Logo is Distinctive and Original.

There’s no dearth of company logos that are almost exactly the same as their competitor’s. If you want a great logo you need to find a more unique combination of icon and typography. Unlike just about every other coffee company, the Starbucks logo

doesn’t have a coffee bean anywhere in its logo. Instead, they have a mermaid.

The Logo is Adaptable.

Meaning, a really great logo works in a variety of situations. It works in black and white. It looks good in full color. It works when it’s shrunk down to fit on a mobile app icon and it works when it’s on a large billboard. A really effective logo is clear and discernible across many applications. Which generally means that a really great logo doesn’t need a bunch of Photoshop effects like shadows, glares, and 3D extrusions. It’s why the current trend of flat color is so popular. Keeping the logo simple keeps it versatile.

The Logo is Timeless.

Think about the logos for Coke, McDonalds or Tide. These logos have been around for decades. They haven’t really changed all that much during that time except for some small tweaks that have kept them current with design trends but still true to their original design. These logos have become icons because the companies they represent have fervently protected them against misuse, and made also sure they are used consistently, year after year. This is what makes them memorable and timeless.

However…

A Bad Company Will Not Have a Great Logo for Long.

At the end of the day, no matter how effective or awesome your logo is, if your product or service isn’t equally awesome, the logo will not be remembered as great.

Consider Enron. Their logo was designed by Paul Rand, who I quoted earlier. It does everything correctly from a design standpoint—it’s original, works at all sizes, works in black and white, and is appropriate for the company’s services. And yet no one I’ve mentioned it to thinks of Enron’s logo as great. Why? Because no one thinks of Enron as great. When people think of Enron they think of dishonesty and corruption and greed.

Finally, from Paul Rand again: “A logo derives its meaning and usefulness from the quality of that which it symbolizes. If a company is second rate, the logo will eventually be perceived as second rate. It is foolhardy to believe that a logo will do its job immediately, before an audience has been properly conditioned.”

Responsive web design

November 7, 2014

Why Responsive?

Websites are no longer restricted to desktop viewing. Smartphones and tablets take the lion’s share when it comes to browsing. That means a website should look and perform well on the mobile devices just as they do on a laptop or desktop. Until a few years back, a lot of websites had a mobile version of it (some still do, unfortunately). That works unless you are not concerned about SEO and ranking. Google, for example, does not recommend a different website for mobile viewing. So how do we make a website great across devices? With a responsive design approach.

How?

There are 3 main concepts to make a website responsive:

  1.  Fluid layout
  2.  Flexible images
  3.  Media queries

However, mobile browsing is not just about the size of a div or an image. It is also about how much information is presented in a smaller screen and how it is presented without crowding the real estate. That then brings us to the next big concept:

Mobile-first approach

Mobile-first web design was formed with the evolution of progressive enhancement from graceful degradation. So instead of removing elements as the device size goes down, you start with the most basic amount of page elements that function best on the mobile screen and add fluff to it as the screen size increases. This is a much better approach than scaling down because you start with the bare minimum and create the most aesthetic design at the lowest level and make it shinier as you go. Your end products at the smallest screen and the largest one are both at their best and do not look like a patched up work that looks like a shaky house of cards.

Mobile-first + Responsive design

I saw this quote by Bruce Lee in a web design blog (which I am sorry to say, I don’t remember. I really do want to credit the author) and it made so much sense:

Bruce-Lee-Quote-Be-like-Water

This is what we need to do. Create the mobile version of the page with the basic CSS classes. Then use media queries and view port sizes to change the styles with screen size. What you end up with is a website that looks great no matter what your browser size is or what the device is.

I am not going into the details of how exactly a responsive website is created. There are tons of blogs and websites that explain these. I would like to list a few here for reference:

https://developers.google.com/web/fundamentals/getting-started/your-first-multi-screen-site/responsive?hl=en

http://learn.shayhowe.com/advanced-html-css/responsive-web-design/

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/magazine/hh653584.aspx

In conclusion, call it mobile-first, responsive, adaptive or whatever it may be, it all ultimately comes to providing the same great user experience across devices and browsers. Remember, sometimes less is more. Happy coding!

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