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6 Online Apps To Help You Focus

Written by Jeremy Jensen

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

6 Online Applications To Help You Focus

Approximately two thirds of working Americans find themselves on a computer during the day. Many of which spend their entire shift glued to a screen, only a mouse click away from accessing the endless distractions that can be found on the internet. With so much information coming at us daily, our focus is quickly becoming diminished in exchange for the stimuli of the latest YouTube sensation.

For some it can become a serious problem, leading to low productivity, bad performance reviews, and the additional stress of bringing work home. Luckily we’ve compiled a list of six applications proven to break bad habits and help you get your work done on time!

 
1. Freedom- Block the internet for a certain amount of time

Have you ever played the psychological game with yourself that only after X amount of work, you’ll reward yourself with X amount of entertainment? Easier said than done. Freedom has one simple use, and that’s to block your internet completely for a specified amount of time. You’d be surprised just how quickly a glance at Facebook, or reading that ‘crucial’ article can take hours out of your day.

If turning off the internet completely is not an option, take a look at Anti-Social. It’s built for those who still need the internet, but would like to block certain sites while the web browser is open.

Freedom cost: $10
Anti-Social: $15

 
2. StayFocusd- Limit the amount of time you spend on distracting websites

With opposite functionality to ‘Anti-Social’, Stayfocusd is a productivity extension for Google Chrome that works by restricting the amount of time you can spend on certain sites, rather than blocking them entirely. Once you’re allotted time is spent, those websites will become blocked for the remainder of the day.

Many prefer this calculated approach as they still desire intermittent breaks in working, but do not like to go beyond a certain point. Want to give yourself 45 minutes to space out? This app is right for you.

StayFocusd cost: Free

 

3. TrackTime- Understand how your time gets spent while online

While we acknowledge we spend a lot of time on the computer, most of us have no idea how that’s broken down into individual application use. How much time did you waste on Twitter today? How often were you actually using your Word Processing application?

TrackTime allows you to monitor your activities daily by providing you with statistics and colorful timelines of where you spend your time, and how often you’re switching between applications

Tracktime cost: Free (only available on Mac)

 

4. RescueTime- A more in-depth look at where your time goes and how to take action

RescueTime will give you one of the most accurate picture’s on the market as to where your activity is performed on your computer. With detailed activity reports, weekly email summary, and daily goals built right into the interface you’re guaranteed results in becoming more efficient.

With premiere, you also get the benefits of:

  • Customized Site Blocking
  • Track Offline Activity
  • Notifications- Notify yourself when spending too much time on something, or for being super productive.

RescueTime cost: $9/month or $72/year

 

5. Concentrate- Work and study more productively between tasks

Many of us are responsible for more than one type of task throughout the day; for instance, there’s times when I’m writing, budgeting, updating my web-page, or producing new content on Social Media. Needless to say these tasks can become intertwined unintentionally and break our focus.

Concentrate allows you to create custom activities that run a corresponding set of actions to only allow applications and websites to run that support productivity within that activity. In English, that means if I’m writing I can only access my word processor, and websites I haven’t placed on a block list while I’m working. You can set up multiple forms of activity to segment your work day and focus on each item individually.

Concentrate cost: $29

 

6. FocusWriter- Creating an optimal environment for your thoughts

Writing can require the greatest self-discipline of any profession, especially in the last decade as life and internet have become so intertwined. FocusWriter commandeers your desktop to provide a distraction-free writing environment so you can focus on what really matters, the words.

Some additional features, include:

  • Daily writing goals (word count or writing time)
  • Typewriter sounds
  • Standard text-editing features

FocurWriter cost: Free, but with a suggested “tip”

 
Do you have any other apps or tips that you use to stay focused? Let us know in the comments section!

 

Image Source: http://betanews.com/2014/02/26/are-you-reading-this-when-you-should-be-working/internet-distraction/

A Quick Primer on Google’s Panda 4.0 Update

Written by Brian Rakowski

Friday, June 6th, 2014

In Chinese culture, the panda bear is considered be a symbol of peace. So why did Google name one of their best known – or maybe most notorious is more like it – major algorithm updates that has caused a lot of headaches in the SERP’s over the past few years after this wonderful animal?

To be ironic?

Who knows, but since there are a lot of people that are trying to figure out how to “beat” it (first step, stop always being reactive) and there is a ton of speculation out there on it, I want to take a few minutes to distill what’s being said with a few thoughts.

A Quick Recap Of Panda

Google makes hundreds of tweaks to their search algorithm every year, but the updates that are especially impactful typically get internal code names like Vince, Caffeine, Hummingbird (this is a core rewrite to a major part of their natural language query engine, so calling it an update is an understatement), Penguin and Panda.

The Panda updates are geared towards content quality on a website and are intended to boost higher quality sites while punishing other site’s that have primarily two things:

  • Thin or spammy content
  • Duplicate content

The idea with the Panda updates is to try and send searchers to sites with high quality, helpful, unique and relevant content that’s going to satisfy the intention behind their query in the best way possible. One could definitely argue that’s the point of Google’s entire search algorithm, but this is all about the content side of the equation.

SEO Joke

 

Ask.com gets Eaten By A Rabid Panda

 

SEO Visibility

 

Since there’s not currently a lot of hard data out there on what exactly is being targeted other than the general stuff I mentioned above, I wanted to provide a quick example of a site that got hit hard which will hopefully provide some insights.

Disclaimer: I don’t mean this as a post to call out Ask.com for doing anything wrong, since I think this is an extreme example of a site being de-ranked vs. completely penalized. The former rewards competitors for producing better content while the latter is a direct slap to the face with a stern “No!” in response for doing something against Google Webmaster’s Guidelines which often results in dropping 100+ spots. Hopefully, they’ll bounce back soon.

As you can see, Ask.com saw a MASSIVE drop which coincides with Panda 4.0 which was officially announced early evening on 5/20/14. Many SERP trackers like Mozcast and Algoroo saw big fluctuations earlier than that, though.

SEO Graphs

Considering there was another announced update which reported went into effect around May 17th or so which targets traditionally spammy queries/niches like payday loans, it’s hard to tell exactly which update we’re dealing with. It could very well be a combination of the two depending on the verticals each tracker is targeting. Nonetheless, you can see that there was a pretty large shakeup in SERP’s around then.

So Where Did They Lose Visibility, And What May Have Caused It?

When I dug into what may have happened using one of my favorite tools, Searchmetrics, I immediately noticed that the vast majority of the drop happened with a handful of specific subdirectories. So what’s going on with them that could have caused the panda to get so angry?
SEO Organic Directories on Ask.com

Scraped Content From Other Authority Sites

So let’s check out some pages in the /question/ subdirectory to see if we can find some things from a content standpoint that might be causing the cataclysm.

Considering that I work in the web hosting industry, I decided to check out questions related to “Web Hosting & Domain Registration”, and a question about TLD’s (Top Level Domains) immediate stood out to me. Here’s what I found when I clicked over to the page:

What Is A TLD
I immediately noticed how little unique content is on the page, since the vast majority is just scrapped from other sources like eHow and Wikipedia. Even the direct answer to the question at the top of the page appears to be part of the Wikipedia description on the right with an additional sentence. No bueno.

When I clicked through to the Wikipedia link on to top right, I’m taken to what is essentially an entire scraped post from this Wikipedia page.

What About User Experience?

When it comes down to one of the main things that Google cares about, the user’s experience, I don’t think that Ask.com is 100% in the wrong. Sure, it would be much more valuable if they expanded on the topic by including unique additional reading that they produced vs. scraping it from other sites, but I also think that there’s value from the searcher’s perspective in having these related resources available on one page. In this example, the question is answered, and there’s additional reading that’s readily available without having to go back to Google if the searcher needs more information.

That seems like a good user experience to me, but I think this is definitely one of those cases where both sides can be argued, especially since there are so many sites that do similar things which don’t add any value to the user.

What do you think?

Do sites which primarily just act as content syndicators provide value to their users?

Should search engines like Google show the multiple sources to the searcher instead?

Is Google overstepping its bounds by essentially forcing the internet to adhere to its vision/standards vs. just arranging and displaying the world’s knowledge as they originally intended?

Google’s Thirst For Quality Content Continues

While this isn’t intended to be a definitive case study on Panda 4.0, I think provides some possible examples of why a huge site lost a lot of visibility in Google due to thin and/or duplicate content issues with some of their top subdirectories.

If there’s enough interest, I’d be happy to take a deeper dive into additional large sites that may have been affected by Panda 4.0, so if you’d like to see that, please let me know in the comments!

 

Stand Out On Pinterest With Rich Pins

Written by Kyler Patterson

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

 

If you haven’t started using Pinterest to share your products and blog posts yet, then you should start doing so. Especially if your target market happens to include a fair percentage of females. Although it may sound cliche, I will still say it: Go where your customers are. And Pinterest is definitely home to a lot of active users. But how do you stand out in the crowd of pins? The answer is actually pretty easy.

 

Rich Pins

If you’ve been following the HostGator blog and have implemented some of the suggested seo strategies, then you’ve likely already optimized content such as meta data and share buttons. If you’re using WordPress or another CMS, you may be able to find a plugin to add these if you haven’t already. For sites created without a Content Management System, you will need to manually add these tags onto your pages. For information on what is needed for Rich Pins and how to apply, please review the Rich Pin Documentation.

 

What Do Rich Pins Do?

Simple Answer: Make You Stand Out. Whether on the home page or within a board, there is a sea of pins. With Rich Pins, you will pop out in the crowd. Take a look at this picture of a Pinterest live feed:

Pinterest-Rich-Pin

You may have noticed that, unlike most of the other pins on the page, the HostGator pins display:

  • The title in bold
  • The associated Favicon
  • The title of the source blog

These extra cosmetic enhancements make these pins stand out in the crowd, drawing the audience’s attention. If you have physical products on your page with prices, it will even show the price! This shows the viewer that the product is for sale and if they like what they see, they’re just a click away. But the enhancements don’t just stop on the boards. Your actual pin has new features too. Taking a closer look:

Pinterest-Tips-Tricks
 

Just like on the board, you’ll see some of the same features: bold title, blog title, favicon, but also the Author’s name. For products, you’ll also see the price. However, there’s one additional feature that is not just helpful for SEO, but will show even more content to your readers, enticing them to click your site’s link! This is your meta description data! For most blogs/product pages, this is the first few sentences of your content. But for those who know how to optimize their meta description, this can be your sales pitch! If used properly, you should start driving targeted leads to your page straight from Pinterest.

 

How To Get Rich Pins?

First you need to make sure your page is optimized for this. The link for tips on this is posted earlier in this article. After you’re optimized, you can validate the pin using the Rich Pin Validator. If successful, it will allow you to Apply. The turnaround time on this can vary from a single day up to several weeks.

 

Hopefully this helps you stand out on Pinterest! Good luck!

 

Do you have other Pinterest tips? Please share them in the comments below.

4 Website Add-Ons That Will Help You Grow Your List

Written by Taylor Hawes

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

Email Growth

Your email list is a very powerful sales tool. Emails and newsletters are an effective, easy way to engage with your prospects, current customers, and other interested parties. If you aren’t utilizing your website to help capture visitors’ information and grow your list, you are missing out on an important marketing opportunity. Here are four simple website add-ons that will help make the process easier.

 

1. Integration with Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest/LinkedIn

Social media is an integral part of so many people’s days. You want to make your social media presence well-known on your site, while making it easy for your visitor to share your content with others.

Evaluate your business audience and pick the two most-used social media platforms and establish a strong presence there. Then, add the corresponding social media buttons in prominent places on your website.

The benefits to this technique are two fold. First, you can often capture your visitors information when they share your page via your own social media buttons. You will know what content they find interesting and then have a way to engage them in the future. Second, they are essentially endorsing your webpage to their friends and network, effectively garnering more visitors.

 

2. A pop-up email capture

When someone visits your site the hard work has already been done for you – they are already interested. One easy way to get their information is through a simple pop-up. Pop-ups can be fairly controversial and there are lots of people out there that don’t like them. However, there are multiple methods that are both unobtrusive and effective.

These tools include pop-down bars, splash pages, hover boxes, and more. Do your research and look at all the options available to determine which one will work best for your customers. Keep in mind that you don’t have to assault them with a pop up the second they visit your site. You can wait until the second or third pageview before displaying the pop-up in order to ensure that they are interested.

 

3. PDF downloads and premium content

Content is an excellent way to drive traffic to your website. Quality content will help engage your reader and develop your authority in your area of business.

One great strategy to further grow your list is to offer PDF downloads or premium content, but only after they sign up for your email list. The content would still be free, but you can request a certain amount of information from your customer before they receive it.

The added benefit of this route is that you are not just gathering their email address; you will also learn what topics interest them based on what content they clicked on or which PDF they downloaded. Make sure that the content is high-quality and useful though; tangible value is a boon for business.

 

4. Subscribe via comment form or checkout process

Consider all the places on your website where you’ve already requested your customer’s information. When customers are examining or commenting on your site, chances are they are required to provide their name and email address. Since they are already giving you their information this is a very simple place to add an opt in box.

Make it an obvious part of the form fields to increase the subscription rate. Consider having it say something interesting such as “subscribe to our awesome newsletter for discounts and exclusives” rather than just “subscribe.” The more information you provide your customer with, the more likely are to opt in.

Rather than growing your prospect list by buying names from a large company, you can start by looking at your own website to grow your list. These simple add-ons will help grow your list with very little effort on your behalf.

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