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NOFOLLOW: Business sense of manipulation

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Earlier during January, Wikipedia announced that all external links on its websites shall be hyperlinked with a NOFOLLOW tag in order to put a curb on spamming. This means that getting referenced on Wikipedia will not add any 'Google juice' to your website, and hence shall not in any way, help in increasing your PageRank. This seems to have started a trend of sorts. Google Videos was accused of manipulation because they provided NOFOLLOW tags to some of the videos on their homepage, while their partner AOL's videos were linked directly.

Now, since spamming is a global issue, all websites are likely to take some sort of an action sooner or later. And most of them are likely to go the NOFOLLOW mode. It makes better business sense. Here are some of my observations...

Let us take the example of Wikipedia. Personally, I do not grudge their actions, and concur with Christer Edwards on this issue. However, their first-moving decision for a NOFOLLOW tag can be adopted as a strategic business decision for many other websites with huge volumes of data simply because of its ability to manipulate results. Let us take Wikipedia itself as an example. Wikipedia links every external link with NOFOLLOW, while directly linking its internal pages. There are a lot of wiki pages that hold a high PR of more than 6. So, while these pages link to other wiki pages, their PR too gets a huge boost. But the external links are left 'juiceless'. So, ultimately, with such a decision, under the veil of challenging spammers, websites can actually help themselves get listed many more times in the top results pages of search engines.

Less-voluminous websites however cannot take this route simply because they do not have enough internal linking to maintain the high PR. So, if other websites too make it a point to add NOFOLLOW to the links to these websites, it is these small websites that end up as losers.

Please note that even Wikipedia has been criticized. So, other for-profit websites, taking such a route may cause a huge Public Relations failure. This is because, it is not just the PageRank that is the problem here. It is much more. It is that of proper and just attribution of references. An attribution with a NOFOLLOW ultimately ends up with the web page that sourced the info appearing before the original page. This is a matter of ethics, which most websites can manage to 'forget' at this stage, but could result in a lot potential law suits over a period of time.

The voting on Wikipedia over remove/keep of the new NOFOLLOW rule in Wikipedia suggests a 61 percent favor for reverting the situation as it is now. But the issue now is no longer with Wikipedia. It is about what big websites will now strategize towards their position on NOFOLLOW.


Offline Businesses Online: Comparison of different Business models

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It makes a lot of sense for small businesses to enter online. The extremely cheap setup cost, coupled with a wordwide audience and a 24X7 open shop makes it an attractive proposition. There has hence been a spurt in the number of online stores ever since the WordWideWeb started.

But the business model in which such websites operate makes a great deal of difference. I shall take up three examples to show how effective or not effective these different models can be.


This is a model that most businesses follow. Fridgedoor is basically an online shop for fridge magnets. The model is quite simple. Display the catalog online with the price, allow a secure transaction gateway (like Paypal) and sell. You may as well use affiliates to sell the product for you, whereby you pay commissions to those who sell them for you. You may use CommissionJunction for such purposes.

Though the model looks quite robust, it can go wrong in its implementation. It pushes you from your core competency into territories that you don't know. For instance, though FridgeDoor's core competency is meeting the supply-demand gap of FridgeDoor magnets, this model requires a host of other things, like increasing the page popularity using SEO techniques, working out a proper affiliate commission model so that the commission paid is neither too less nor too high. It is not that the other business models I shall discuss, do not require them. They require them too. But, the return on investment is higher there. Also, FridgeDoor is a hit because it was one of the firsts in its niche, so that it has been able to retain its leadership ever since. However, a company starting now may find it difficult simply because there are too many existing players in every possible niche that gaining customers through this model may be a tough ask.


CafePress is a unique example which operates outside the conventional model. "If you have to get over the existing big players, get new players in the fray". CafePress is a website where you can shop for tshirts, caps, mugs, and other gift items. You choose the item, and they make them and ship it to you for a fee. This is very similar to FridgeDoor. But their way to increase business is through getting people with good design but lack of resources (read tshirt printing expertise) to get into the business by simply making the design for the tshirt or cap and promoting them on their website. This way, both cafepress and the designer make money for what they have done.

So, where does the company benefit? Here, CafePress has not spent on areas outside their expertise like SEO. They have not spent on new design research, which the seller base has taken care of. They only fufil the orders, and money spent is on promotional activities, which is an inevitable need for any firm. This besides, CafePress has also taken to the affiliate mode of business (which has the roadblocks that I mentioned earlier). But the fact that the website has already garnered a user base that is ready to design the products makes the publicity effort much more easier.


This is the most exciting business model that is exploiting the environment of web 2.0. Moo is again in the printing business, and they print cards. Their business model is to use the current online social networking scene to gain a customer base that would have never used their products otherwise. Moo calls for users to take their online relationship offline, and to do that prints 'minicards' for distribution. Now you can use these cards to provide your Skype or simply your email address to your contacts as an alternative to business cards.

To find the customer base, Moo has taken to Social networking websites like Flickr and Bebo. Since these websites provide an exponential referral list, targetting the web users in this model would mean that if the website can get one user to print his Flickr photo on the card, then his contact list could be the next target for a Moo purchase. This model has so far been extremely effective, since the 'modus operandi' is fresh and interesting.

A mixed model?

Now, the purpose of me discussing the three is not to judge the best model. This is because, not all kind of products can be marketed using one of the above models. But, there is definitely a lot of potential in a mixed model. For example, FridgeDoor can print Flickr photos on their fridge magnets, and hence a tieup with Flickr shall not be a bad idea. Fridge Magnets are a great gift-material and hence the company could try out some newer models to increase customer base, rather than trying the conventional model. No matter FridgeDoor has been an extremely popular site, but, gaining newer customers this way is not unwanted either.

Though Moo's model is exciting, it is something not all businesses can copy, simply because not everyone prints business cards. However a brainstorming can lead to many other similar exciting business models. But, a little competition to Moo's model is not bad after all.


Implications of changes in the Adsense ToS

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This week, Jennifer Slegg, author of the blog on Contextual advertising, JenSense announced after her conversation with Brian Axe, the Senior Product Manager of Google Adsense that here on, Google Adsense can be used along with other contextual ads, though under certain specific restrictions. This is indeed a very interesting development since Google had been adamant for long to accomodate other contextual advertisements on the same page as the one where Adsense ads are being served.

This news could sound sweet for two categories of people. First are the web publishers, who have long been demanding the removal of this section of the Adsense ToS. Now web publishers definitely have the freedom to choose the kind of ads that they would like to serve on their web page. The other section has to be the lesser known contextual ad providers, including those of the kind of Kontera, intelliTXT, and Kanoodle. This slackening of the rule on part of Google means that more and more publishers are likely to try their ads out, which in effect would lead to increasing competition among the advertising network, which shall eventually result in higher CPCs and earnings.

Why Change:

It shall be appropriate to discuss why this change was made in the first place. One prime reason are the legal law suits looming large on the company. In the US, there exists a "restraint of trade provisions" law that prohibits any service from that hinders businesses from making money. Effectively, if you are a web publisher, by prohibiting you from displaying other contextual ads and making money, Google could be booked for action. However, this law is weak in Google's case. Simply because the web publisher was never forced to publish Adsense ads in the first place. So, he can always choose to display other ads over Adsense.

However, this is not all. Like it happened to Microsoft in 1999, Google could have been fined upto $10,000,000 for monopolizing the market of contextual advertising. Since these are law suits that were only waiting to happen, it was upon Google to change the Terms of Service sooner or later.

What Next:

From Jennifer's article, even Yahoo seems to be giving indications that they could be slackening the rules a bit. Though at the outset, it could mean an ushering of the open era, there are certain questions remaining to be answered.

For one, how are those who have been banned in the past for violating this specific clause of ToS be reinstated? Shall they remain to be banned for having vioated a ToS while it existed or be reinstated simply because the rule that got them banned no longer exists? All this is going to take some time to be settled, unless Google straighaway chooses to keep banned publishers still out from the game.

The other ad-serving networks should be expecting a surge in their user base as well as on their revenues. However still, it is going to be a race for the second place, and so, anytime Google chooses to revert the rule back, they are going to lose again, though it is very unlikely to happen. The publishers, no doubt are going to have a field day. But, it remains to be seen how the 'visitors' world is going to take the news. They can now expect more prime estate of the web page going to ads, more cluttering of ad blocks, and lesser content space. This is definitely not an encouraging news to those advocating for high-content websites.

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Age of Google: Branding an alternative Search Engine

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In a book titled '101 Best Dotcoms' published in 2000, I found an interesting line from the author which went like this: 'Amongst your favorite search engines like Yahoo, MSN, Askjeeves...'.Google was simply missing, although it was launched more than two years prior to this. This line, in no way decreases the credibility of the author. Rather, it simply glorifies the path that Google has taken to success. At that time, the very reason Google emerged numero uno in web search technology was because most of its competitors had search alongside their other offerings. Google had only one text box on its homepage. So, while Yahoo was remembered for so many things, Google was remembered for only one thing:Search. Now, they have been trying to grow much beyond that; as proved by the numerous products Google labs has been rolling out, as well as, the suit Google filed to prevent their company name to be used as a synonym for web search.

So, if Google was this primary source for extracting information from the web, why are the other newer search engines even emerging? Yesterday, I had blogged about one niche of Search: searching Images. There are in fact, several other niches that search engines can operate. In this article, I am merely trying to suggest ways in which these newer search engines can also gain popularity.

For the cause, I shall take up the example of Guruji.Com . This is a website dedicated to searches on Indian websites alone. Websites like Technorati operate on a niche that is not addressed by Google or Yahoo. So, they manage a dedicated user base of their own. But, for a search engine like Guruji, whose needs are already taken care by Google to a great extent, the task become much more difficult. So, here are a few points to address this situation.

Purpose of use:

The question we should first ask is why use Guruji? Google and Yahoo are much more convenient. At present, you do not even have to visit their website for a search since a search can be performed right on the toolbars in the browser window. This is regarded the 'comfort zone', and if for any reason the user must move out of this 'comfort zone' and use Guruji, there has to be a reason,and that reason must be unique.

And the reply to this question is the niche; 'Indian websites', in this specific example. But the question still remains. Any Indian search can be performed on Google itself by suffixing a '+ India' to the search query. From a user point of view, any search result pertaining to India will do. The user, at most instances is not looking for a website maintained by an Indian for an answer to his reply.

This brings us then to the question of how to leverage the value of Guruji to expand the user-base. There are no specific answers and every brand manager will have his own route to achieving this task.

Brand Value - Not Search Engine Value:

One primary mistake that could possibly happen is make a search engine just another website and market it like other websites. This was a mistake made by Sproose, an interactive search engine, which ranks web pages based on what ranking users give to the search results. The concept is good, but the advertising format was bad. Sproose took services from PayPerPost to put a word about their search engine on the pages of their blogger network.

The mistake here can be discussed in two ways. 1) Numerous bloggers being paid to 'write' about their search engine will help spread the news about their service. But, Search Engine technology is not a new concept. So, while users may know and remember that such a site exists, it will not help in getting them out of their comfort zone to make a search on Sproose the next time they need info. The point is that users do know that Yahoo, MSN, Ask, etc all exist. But for search, they use Google.So, adding a new search engine to their knowledge does not, in any way, help the user base grow. 2) An attempt to gain inbound links is futile. One necessity to advertise is to get inbound links to the website, which in turn helps the website rank better in a search result. But the chances of a person searching for a search engine are way too minimal.

To make people use your search engine, it is necessary to give them an opportunity to use your web service, outside the website itself. This means that Guruji should market the product in such a way that the users get a feel of the Search engine from other regular websites they use. Here are some possible suggestions:

Study the search requirements of popular Indian blogs and websites, and offer intrasite searching functionality. Now,this is a tricky situation, since most web masters make use of the Google search box. It is here that an optimal bidding comes into place. Now, let me take two popular Indian blogs for an example; India Uncut and Digital Inspiration. The former is a gossip blog while the latter is a technology blog. While both enjoy popular readership, the technology blog will experience higher number of search queries than the gossip blog, as a reader would often visit a technology blog to search for an answer to his problem. This means that after studying the traffic, we need to estimate a good amount that the blog would potentially make from searches (which will be higher for the technology blog than the gossip blog), and with this as a base, bid an amount to the blogger to place your search box instead of the Google Search box.

There is another possible way to perform the same thing. Renting space on blogs. This is equivalent to placing banners or other forms of ads in most cases. But, for a search engine, that does not suffice. A website like Guruji that requires users to feel and experience the service could negoatiate to place a search box in the rented space. Though some web masters may not agree to the idea, a bid higher than that offered for merely renting space could help.

Now, one of the above techniques could help the search engine in getting the users to search the web using their service, and persisted use of the techniques could fetch loyal visitors.


As in any other technique, these techniques too have their own roadblocks. The primary one being achieving targetted search results. This is possible only with indexing a huge list of web pages. For one, a website like Guruji indexes only Indian web pages, and two, it requires users to submit site, which is a pretty long route to achieving a huge index. It worked for Google, but it need not work for newer search engines. The alternative way forward could be to use the index of other established search engines, and applying the unique search algorithm of your search engine. For example, this could be one simplistic option: Since a search engine like Guruji basically needs Indian content, a search query may merely search the keyword from all major search engines, filter the Indian content of them, and then produce result. This is a very simplistic solution, but merely a suggestion at increasing the number of indexed files, which is the only way to increase keyword relevant search results.


Next Generation Image Search technology

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What is the next generation image search going to be like? StockPhotoTalk, in an article on a similar topic hints at image search engines like YotoPhoto and Pixsy that help provide copyleft images and images from those places on the internet which are usually not spidered by the traditional search engines from Google and Yahoo. But is this the next generation we are talking about?

In my opinion, Next generation Image search engines mean much more than that. Consider this: You are taking part in an online quiz competition and you are given a picture of a celebrity to be identified. Now, here is an ideal situation that is not addressed by the current search engines, where images are displayed only for keyowords that you provide. In other words, the above situation will require a search engine that addresses a situation opposite to the current scenario, where all you need is to right-click on the image, copy the image location on the website server, and paste it in the search bar of the next-gen image search engine. The search engine should then be able to compare this image with those in its index and provide relevant images or text from the web.

How to go about doing this:

Now, the question remains how you can go about creating such a search engine. The answer lies in a software whose algorithm is capable of identifying the varying hues and shades that appear on a photo, compare it with the hues and shades that appear on the other millions of photos that it has indexed from across the web, and provide those that match with the queried image. Moving ahead, the software should also be able to match texts that appear predominantly in the texts accompanying each of the web pages containing the matching image, and provide a text based result. For example, if I query an image of Mahatma Gandhi, the search engine should be able to deliver text results of the Indian freedom movement.

Present Technology:

Though the ideas presented seem kind of far fetched, it is not too far away as well. Current researches on this field prove so. For example, sometime back, I had blogged about MyHeritage, a 'Face recognition Software' that helps you find out which are the celebrities you resemble most with. This software works very similar to the algorithm I have talked about in this page. Whereas MyHeritage is a software 'trained' only to identify human faces, more extensive research on the same technology can help us move more closely to the next generation image search that we are talking about.

And the task is already been taken up. The Ohio State University is already researching on such a technology. Called WISE (acronym for Web Image Search Engine), the search engine allows users to upload images from their desktop to the university server and then compare it with the existing images. This is the closest that we have yet been to the next generation of image search.


So, why are the present stalwarts in the field not taken this project yet. The problems, in my opinion, quite justify the same. For one, it is the time taken for a search. Unlike the Google Web search, you cannot expect the search to take place in those '0.12 seconds'. Checking color patterns through the millions of images takes much more time than a mere text search. And the next problem is that of monetization. Unlike the text search which reaps in millions to the Search Engine in the form of sponsored links, image search technology does not justify the costs. It costs much more to develop technology that will understand images to realize the underlying text and then provide the most appropriate ad, than the return on investment that Google or any other search engine can expect to make from it.

Future indications:

The best bet is now on the WISE technology to take shape. For now, this search engine indexes only around 112,382 images, which makes most of the results provided irrelevant to say the least. But, the technology will only be proved when the indexed image list grows, which shall happen sooner or later. Another possible direction is an acquisition of the MyHeritage technology by the existing bigshots in the industry. For one, MyHeritage is not just about Face Recognition Technology. It is more about building family network online, which is yet another form of social networking on the web. This model will align with existing business models that Google has been operating in, as in Orkut(which is one of the top social networking sites). Hence, an acquisition of the MyHeritage technology by Google shall prove to be a phenomenal shift in search technology.

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Embed Flickr slideshows on your blog

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You might have noticed slideshows of pics on Flickr. There is an easy way, as Paul Stamatiou tells us in his blog. For this, first tag all the photos that you want to display on your blog with one specific 'tag'. Once you do this, the next step is to insert the following code inside your blog post.

In the above code, replace "1234567" with your own flickr id and replace "foo" with the tag that you want a slideshow of. Paul's original blog on this in fact has many more options that you may edit, but which is generally unnecessary for a primary set up.

For an example, here is a flickr slideshow of the "Evolution of Yahoo" that I had made for my other blog, Nice Ideas.

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Beautiful colors for your blog

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Bloggers often tend to tweak the blog template that they find online, and those who are not well-versed with CSS and HTML codes atleast try changing the default colors so that their blog gets a unique look.

But, the sad part is that the color codes in HTML are mentioned in six digit hexadecimal codes which are at best, undecipherable. For example, white is denoted by #FFFFFF, black by #000000.

You can use Adobe Photoshop to find the color code that you were looking for. But, I found a much easier way online at ColorBlender. This website provides an online platform for you to try different combinations of colors to find the color code of your choice.

Basically, the utility of the website exetends beyond just amateur webmasters. You can also download the color blends for further work in Photoshop or Illustrator. But, do not worry if you have still not found the right color and you have to go. The website remembers where you left it last time around, if only you have browser cookies enabled!

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Watch TV Online while chatting with friends

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IMvite was launched as a free to use website to view TV channels online. Now, the website has improved further upon this service to now allow users to view TV online while chatting with friends.

IMvite has come up with a TV messenger, which can be downloaded to simulataneously use AOL, MSN and Yahoo messengers for chat. Along with this, the messenger also allows you to browse TV channels, listen to radio channels, surf movie trailors, etc.

The basic purpose of this website is to achieve a consolidation between the 'entertainment' users seek through three media: TV, radio as well as online. You might want to download the messenger here.

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SMS Backup on your Yahoo mailbox

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Yahoo India has now a new feature to help you create a backup of your important SMSes. To avail the SMS Backup service, all you need is a Yahoo email id. Though the registration is free, this Value Adding Service(VAS) charges rates based on your network provider.


You specify the mobile phone number corresponding to your Yahoo email id (you may also have more than one mobile number for an email id). After verification of the number, you can start using the service. To backup the message, you need to forward the SMS message to 82438243. The message gets stored on your SMS Backup folder of your mail inbox, which you can always check online.


Yahoo has only recently launched this, and hence a few of the desired features are still missing. For example, you may not yet start forward MMS and picture messages. Also, messages saved in the mailbox cannot be downloaded back on your mobile phone. Thirdly, information regarding the sender cannot be saved, as the mail is forwarded from your number only.

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Elicit - Blog client software for enhanced content quality

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Bloggers typically require quite a bit of research before making a post. For example, if I were to write about 'Google acquires YouTube', I would have to search Google News for looking up the exact value of the deal, search Flickr for a Google/YouTube logo, search Wikipedia for the history of the two companies, etc.

I found this extremely useful tool which can be used by bloggers to make their work easy. Elicit provides you a common platform for most of the popular blog platforms including Blogger, Wordpress, Movable Type, Live Journal. The different resources that you may require are available in the form of 'docklets'. Docklets are windows that pertain to each of the resources that the blogger may require such as Flickr, Yahoo News.

For example, take Amazon. Elicit offers you a docklet for Amazon, which you may use to search for relevant books, the links for which you may put on your blog to make money. Now, this docklet contains the book image, details and also a tab where you may enter your affiliate-id so that it appears in the link you put on your blog. You may simply click-and-drag items from a docklet to the editing screen to include them in your post.

There are quite a lot of docklets available with the software now, though there does not appear an option to include your own docklet at this stage. Elicit also comes with the feature to 'time' your posts so that they are published at the specified time. That means, should you be out of station for a week, you may time your posts to be published one everyday so that you retain your leadership. (You anyway need to keep the internet on for the whole week!)

Unfortunately Elicit is NOT free. Fortunately though, you may try the product free for 30 days. Do visit the demo tutorial which is pretty useful.

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Create your own remixes

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Happy New year!

If you had been to a party for the New Year celebrations, and loved the remixes that were played, you definitely would want to make something of your own. JamGlue is a website that offers users to create and remix music online.

How JamGlue Works

JamGlue is rather easy to use. There are several options to remix. You can either upload your own music to remix. Or, create remixes from music already available; Or, break down remixed music to shuffle and put in new music of your choice.

The website offers clean visual interfaces that are easily understandable for newbies. Also, the website also allows you to embed your 'published' music on your blog, or download the music.

Note that the website only allows music that are available under the creative commons for use.

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Create your own Video surfing webpage

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YouTube has an option to create your own playlist.
That is a channel for all your favorite videos.
What if your favorites extended beyond only YouTube?
There are two options:
  1. Embed all the videos manually on your webpage
  2. Use Feedbeat
In fact, Feedbeat goes beyond simply adding all video
content on your webpage. Feedbeat, offers a
bookmarklet for you to add videos on a page directly
to your list by a mere click of a button.

Other features include a feed for your videos. This is
of particular use to those who would want to make the
feedbeat page a place for their video podcasts. You can
check for sample feedbeats here.

I found this video on YouTube which provides more
insight into the working of Feedbeat.

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Internet Business Strategies,Business Marketing and Business Management