Thursday, December 22, 2016

How to SEO Proof your blog and increase traffic by 10X

The last few years, blogging as an activity has witnessed a phenomenal growth in adoption. It has gradually moved on from a past time work to a full time job for many users. The initial entry to the blogging world is pretty easy with many blogging platforms such as Blogspot & Wordpress offering space to create free blogs for anyone. However, what comes post the setup and launch stage is pretty crucial. 


Marketing the Blog in the Right Channels





Just like any other brand or company, your blog is essentially a product that you need to market to the outside world. You need to define the niche, target market and category in which you want to promote your blog and also attract the right audience by posting good content. 

As a great benefactor, Google and other search engines are primarily responsible in bringing traffic into your blog. So it’s your responsibility to setup your blog in a way that Google can find you when the right keyword match is met with your blog content. This is where Search Engine Optimization comes in. If you’re wondering, how do I optimize my blog, how do I start earning quickly, how do I quadruple my traffic in a short period, you’ve arrived at the right place.

Improve Organic Search Traffic


Some say Social media sharing and creation of a separate fb page for your post can be a good way to increase traffic. I completely disagree with this fact. Your twitter followers and Facebook friends/followers may come across your blog post but this does not mean conversion of blog readers or followers. Additionally this is not an organic traffic and hence doesn't impact on long term traffic
  • Google's rank and traffic primarily relies on the number of other websites and blogs that links back to your blog, no of unique visitors, unique pageviews among other things.
  • So blog marketing should be done through regularly going through other blogs, commenting on them, posting good content in your website. I have also listed out detailed methods to improve your traffic and optimize your blog in the best method possible

Understanding Google Search : Decoding their algorithm


Before you begin optimizing your blog, you need to first understand how Google works. 
  • With billions of websites out there on the World Wide Web, Google sends a bot called a “Web Crawler” to go through the pages, crawl them and index them. 
  • Google identifies other websites that links back to your blog and passes on its rank to you as well (sounds awesome right?) . Another way Google finds you is through keywords.
  • Every post your write, Google tries to asses to which category it belongs to and extracts a few essential keywords that it's based about. 


Google's PageRank Calculation

Whenever anyone searches for those words in Google search, if your blog ranks high in those keyword, there's a bright chance your blog post link is gonna appear in the first or second page itself (within top 15 search result). This means you can get an immense boost to traffic from all over the world

So given all these factors, it’s important that you need to setup a good blog with a neat design that improves on the visitor retention time and also come back for more often
This means your blog should excel in good navigation, excellent content (preferably niche), a clean design and additionally faster loading times. Even two seconds can make a huge difference in improving landing page views by more than 30-40%

So how do you go about in setting up the blog and more importantly optimize it? Read on...

Blog Design & Layout : Simplicity is the Key


Some people argue that content is the key. It overrides everything. I partially disagree.
  • A good content in a badly designed blog can go for waste and may not yield the results it warrants. Just like an exam where your handwriting could mean a lot of difference in the marks scored, a blog's key factor also lies in its design. 
  • A design should be simple, have a pleasing background (Preferably white or light colours) , less no of page elements ( for faster loading esp. in slow connections) and of course good navigation. If your reader is unable to find what he's looking for, he wont hesitate to close the tab in less than 5 seconds.
  • If you're using Wordpress or Blogger, there are countless templates that has a simplistic yet powerful design that could really make a huge impact (ever wondered why the top websites in the world including Google, Facebook has a plain white background with nothing flashy?) .You can also read up on the Zen philosophy of website design (esp. by popular blogger Guy Kawasaki)

Install SEO optimized Blog Templates

When it comes to navigation friendly, earning friendly templates, Wordpress takes much precedence in clean, SEO friendly templates that can rake in more revenue than BlogSpot templates. This is because Wordpress has much more design features, elements that can be customized to make it much more attractive. Blogspot on the other hand suffers with a rigid text body space and a fixed add-ons space that can ruin your look.
However note that custom themes can be used in Wordpress only on self-hosted blogs and for free .wordpress.com blogs, you have to choose a theme from the list only.

WordPress Plugins - Yoast for SEO

Wordpress users can install additional plugins such as Yoast SEO that immensely helps in optimizing your content and improves SEO by a great factor. It also handles the technical portion of optimizing the content in your blog and makes your life much easier.



Positioning of Google Adsense, Banner ads in the Blog

  • Ad elements like Google Adsense banner, horizontal/vertical ads and page element ads can be placed on the blog either near your header or on the left/right pane or right below your blog post.
  • However to get more "organic clicks", it’s been found that ads placed between blog posts has a higher chance of clicks mainly due to relevance and most time it resembles like part of the blog post itself.  
  • Users may be led to think that this ad (having a "blended" colour template with the blog post) is actually a continuation of the above post and may click on it, hoping to find more relevant info on the same.

Here's some example of a nice position of an ad between posts. (screenshot from labnol.org). Notice how the ad has been completely blended and the right arrow grey box looks like as a "read more" button but instead it takes you to the ad.


How to Find SEO Optimized Blog templates ?

There are plenty of free templates provided by Blogspot and Wordpress itself that can be really good . However if you are looking for more, a quick google search can help you find the exact design that you need. You can also search for "No pane blog templates", "Single Pane SEO Wordpress templates" etc. to find good results. 


Keyword Planning & Research for writing a blog post

The keyword planning can be both a top down approach or a bottom up approach. This is how you do it 

1.  Top Down approach in selecting a topic: 

So if you're the person who's looking for what to write, then you can do your research online to find what keywords are trending and in those which variations seem to rank on the top in google search results. Select your category and country and find the list of trending topics that you could write about 






2. Bottom Up Approach in selecting a blog topic:


If you already have your blog niche setup and have topics to write about, but unsure of the keywords to include for a high ranking search, just do the following:


Login to a site that offers long tail key word search (you could plenty of examples if you google). In that site, in the search box enter the topic you want to write about and find out what people are searching about it.

Example : if you are writing about a cricket match between India vs England, I did the following search and you can see keywords, the search volume, search result score, cost per score etc. So if your title was like "India vs England 4th test", it would have a good search ranking score. I used  http://keywordtool.io/  in this case.

Now that you have read about writing SEO optimized content, go ahead and read about how to improve blog score. This will be a comprehensive strategy to make it a definite success.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Adapting to Demonetization and A Quest to Find Atm with Cash

In late November, you may have read my earlier post  about the Govt’s move to ban 500 and 1000 Rs notes and how I managed to survive the crisis personally by using digital wallets, online payment services and debit cards to pay for things.

Demonetisation of Zimbabwe


This radical move is not new and in fact Demonetization in Zimbabwe happened much earlier (in 2015), though for a completely different reason. When the country of Zimbabwe faced an insane amount of inflation due to various economic factors(4 billion percent to be exact), currency note values went from hundreds to thousands to millions, to billion to trillion and even quadrillion , basically worthless. In fact 250 quadrillion Zimbabwe dollars was equal to 0.4 USD (Roughly Rs.30) and the government decided to end this and start trading in dollars for time being and a year later slowly rolled out the ZWD in phases in a stabilized manner.


In India, with a population of 80 times that of Zimbabwe, such transitions can’t be easy.  A preparation for a move this big should have been done by estimating national level withdrawals, currency needs per person, max amount of money an ATM can hold, no of ATM’s in all cities, max capacity of printing of 100,new 500 and Rs.2000 notes to fulfil an entire nation’s demand continuously for a min period of 3 months (until money starts rotating). Yet the shortage of money in banks, closure of 90% of ATM’s seem to indicate a panic mode had caused an urge to withdraw money even if there wasn’t an need. This indirectly led to shortage of currency everywhere.

Over a month after Demonetization


Roughly after 25 days later, the situation seems to be exactly the way I had predicted. Though the nation is being pushed towards a cashless Economy, the overall health of the economy is pretty much on a downward spiral.  Small vendors, hotels and other people in service business felt major cash crunch. Manufacturing towns faced max impact with almost no orders or not enough cash to give salaries.  Though wallet companies are putting up large scale ads saying how easy it is for vendors to go digital and success stories of vegetable vendors accepting PayTM or Freecharge, you know the ground reality is far from it. Even autos and cabs that have prepaid wallet options refuse to accept rides unless you choose the cash option.  So I hoped the situation in high-end supermarkets may be completely different, as you can simply swipe your debit/credit card in the counter.


I was wrong. Even there, one is faced with large sign boards that read:
•    Min card transaction amount is Rs.500
•    Old Notes of 500/1000 not accepted
•    Rs.2000 notes accepted only if bill amount is greater than 2000
I’m not talking about small kirana stores but big supermarkets such as WhiteRose Supermarket, Aditya Birla More and even Nilgiris that sports similar boards as above.

So what actually went right for the government?


The actual black money hoarders either burnt all the money or stopped midway in doing any kind of financial transaction and thereby force illegal/unaccounted black money transactions to a standstill. No one however went to the bank to deposit all their money as they know it’s a sure-fire way to get caught. They however recovered some considerable amounts through IT Raids.

My Journey to Find ATM with Cash


So in the last 20 days I tried to visit ATM’s and my bank for five times and this is what happened
  • First time I tried, all ATM's in my entire neighbourhood were closed.
  • Second time, the queue was more than 15 people and I simply gave up.
  • Third time, on the pretext of being smart, I found an ATM in a shady street and entered Rs.1900 as amount. The ATM said: you can enter only 2000 as amount. So I entered 2000 as amount and I got 1 note and my day’s withdrawl quota was already over.
  • Fourth time, I stood in queue in an ATM which happened to have 500 Rs notes. Even midway during the queue, the ATM threw a “No Money” error.
  • Fifth time, I went to the HDFC Branch in my area. I stood in queue for 45 minutes to withdraw using my cheque book for 20,000 Rs. All I got was 9 "2000" Rs notes and 20rs bundle for the remaining 2000(though I happened to spend all of it in roughly 3 days).


Apps to Find Working ATM


On a positive note, several apps have been developed (not by Govt but by fellow citizens) to help find ATM’s with Cash. One such app/website is Money View App. The Money View app provides information about closest Big Bazaars, Petrol pumps and Inox multiplexes where you can get cash (Definitely the need of the house, quite literally). They seem to have gathered info from a 5 million people userbase (50Lakhs) and their live fedback enables the App to provide updated information. You can actually get a working ATM with cash (updated up to 3hours before) which is really amazing.

Download Money View App by clicking the link or you can also find out closest ATM with cash on desktop by clicking this link. In case you have questions, you can reach out to MoneyView's social channels here :  FB, Twitter, Blog.

I just happend to check for my street and spotted a working ATM which is only half a km away.Let's hope I get some cash atleast this time :)

Thursday, December 08, 2016

LG V20 : An Indepth Review - Can it break the Premium Smartphone Market?

The premium smartphone market in Inda has seen very few takers with the likes of Apple, Samsung and the relatively launched Google Pixle dominating the market. Though Google's Nexus was manufactured by LG only, LG has now smartly decided to manufacture their own version of s high end "Premium" smartphone with the recently launched LG V20 after a remarkable success flirting around in the 35K smartphone market with the fanastic LG G3 and G4's with some study phones. 



This power packed premium smartphone from LG could be a major deal breaker for someone who are looking for a high end Android phone, that can basically "do everything" and is actually the real deal. Purely based on the spec sheet, it's clearly evident that there's been no compromise in any front and probably achieved what they set out to begin with.

Here's a short analysis based on the phone's specs :

Wide-Angle Camera

One of the primary things that stands out when it comes to this phone is the camera. A wide angle lens camera with a 16MP dual primary camera and 5MP front camera definitely helps you get an amazing wide angle HD shot . 

The first primary rear camera takes care of the closer picture (within 75 deg) while the second rear camera captures all the other surrounding details in high detail in a wide angle. The same applies to the front camera as well which helps take a wide angle shot.



Frankly, this has always been my requirement in a smartphone, especially while taking selfies. You really need to stretch your hand pretty high in the air to take that good selfie which can cover all the people in a picture instead of cutting their head and neck off and the LGV20 takes care of the wide angle details neatly.

The AutoFocus (both Laser detection and Phase detection) helps you identify the right contrast , face detection even in low light scenarios. In short, you can probably put off your purchase of a DSLR just yet.The above also helps in non-shaky static pictures even if your hand seems to tremble a bit while clicking.

Audio 

LG has collaborated with Bang & Olufsen to provide a premium music experience in the LG V20. The phone comes with a B&O speakers as well as a Bang&Olufsen Play earphones for a rich audio experience.



So how do they bring a rich audio experience inside the phone? : By a concept called Quad DAC.  

What are DAC's ?

DAC stands for Digital Analog converter. A digital mp3 file stored in your phone or even streamed from an online site has to be converted to an analog version for it to be sent an audio output, namely the earphones. So while the digital to analog conversion takes place, there's a high possibility of distortion, noise, loss of bits that can happen significantly impacting the audio clarity.

The below images of the Digital to Analog converter could well explain how multiple DAC's used can improve the audio clarity multifold, as it tries to reduce the noise in conversion to a large extent



(Source of Image : www.androidauthority.com)

The LG V20 uses multiple sub DAC's for conversion (Hence the Quad DAC) and therefore takes care of that problem by conversion with almost insignificant noise and warrants crystal clear clarity in your music


Other Salient Features

The phone also comes with several other interesting features that definitely needs a special mention

  • First smart phone that came preloaded with Android 7.0 Nougat out of the box
  • A steady record feature for HD Video recording
  • A Durable Solid metal design with a military standard testing on drop tests
  • 5.7-inch Quad HD IPS multi-touch capacitive dual screen with 2560 x 1440 pixels resolution (Say Goodbye to those 1366 HD Ready and 1920 HD resolution phones you had been using all alone)
  • 3200mAH lithium-ion battery providing talk-time of 14 hours and standby time of 136 hours
  • 4 GB RAM with Vulcan API to power up those cells for high intensity gaming
  • 64GB internal memory expandable up to 2TB ( never seen any phone coming close to offering that amount of expandable memory)

My Opinion :

LG is a powerful and a trusted player when it comes to smartphones. Almost all their smartphones I have used have come for a pretty long time.
With respect to the LGV20,  time will tell as to how the #LGV20 will be positioned , perceived and received in the market. LG's hardcore fans who are earlier used to some high quality phone with Nexus 5 and Lg G3/G4 without a doubt may switchover to the V20 . But the 55K price tag may be a decisive point in the phone's success or failure.

Do check the phone here at Amazon

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Khanagadi - Making Train Travel a Gastronomic Experience

Train journeys are something that I always look forward to. Not just comfort, but the ease of ticketing, station proximity, timings and of course,relatively cheaper cost makes train journeys always preferable, especially when compared to airlines or even some buses that seem to charge quite a bomb these days

Though both trains and stations are getting modernized to maximize passenger comfort, the one thing that haven't focussed much is on food. In almost all cities, including the metros, the food inside train and at stations are pretty much bad, if not stale. They are invariably expensive, lack of options available and you are basically forced to eat whatever's given.

There has been several attempts in making this a better process and improvise standards , but actual execution never took off. Even in a Shatabdi, where the ticket price is inclusive of the food, the food quality is dismal to say the least. Several times, I have left my food untouched thanks to a bad taste.

Online food app aggregators have only enabled deliveries from various restaurants to where you stay/work. You can't expect the same delivery to the station even if the hotel is pretty closeby, unless you manually go and pick it up which is not possible. I have always shuddered at the thought of the lousy food available in platforms or junk foods that I always strive to avoid

So I happened to discover a new service that actually delivers delicious foods right to our seat(in the train) at the designated time in any of the listed stations enroute your journey. Its called Khanagadi and its available easily through Android and iOS apps.




In this Food in Train app service, all you have to do is simply login, select the station/city and date/time and choose the kind of food you need from the avaialble options. Do mention the train no/seat no for a on-seat delivery. The best part about this service  is that they automatically track train timings,consider train delays and ensure your food is delivered before its due for departure. So you don't have the hassle of infomring them at every step to keep them updated about your location and arrival time.




Suppose you are on your way from Chennai to New Delhi in Tamilnadu Express. Being a 30 hour journey it can be extremely difficult to manage without proper hygienic and good food. Prepacked home food may not last that long and could become stale. So how about scheduling food deliveries in the designated times (and corresponding stations the train stops)?



Probably starting with Dinner in Chennai Central , Breakfast at Warrangal Station (next day at 7AM), lunch at Nagpur (at 2PM) and another delicious North Indian meal at Bhopal(at 8PM), all scheduled deliveries through

If this app service takes off ( though haven't personally tried it yet) it could be a revolutionary step in addressing the needs of several thousand passengers, who can have a hand at the delicious local cuisine where the train is halting without even having to get down.

On a critical note, I tried scheduling for an upcoming journey from Chennai, but currently there's very few choices available.  Additionally for a few other cities, the rates are slightly on the higher side. I'd naturally assume they are expanding their options on a much larger scale and definitely hoping to order from them soon.