Monday, April 30, 2012

The Top Five Entrepreneurs of 2011

The top five entrepreneurs of 2011 truly demonstrated their ability to start profitable and sustainable businesses. The top five businesses and entrepreneurial founders are as follows:

cc licensed flickr photo shared by techatnyu

1. Rohit Arora: Biz2Credit

Rohit Arora, founder of Biz2Credit, capitalized on the banks’ ability to develop profitable portfolios with small business loans. He also noticed that ethnic-owned firms had the least defaults and used this information to develop his business model. Since immigrants’ largest impediment to getting loans in the United States was a result of lack of understanding, Biz2Credit developed an immigrant-friendly online application process for commercial loans and credit reports.

Once credit scores are determined, immigrants are matched with three to 10 potential lenders. Financial documents can be stored online until a loan is granted or denied. The process is streamlined and innovative. Immigrants can build their business credit and expand their businesses with these opportunities.
To date, this Manhattan firm has facilitated a total of $400 million in loans. The loan amounts are typically
between $200,000 and $4.5 million. Fifty-five percent of the Biz2Credit’s customers are immigrants.

2. Anthony Casalena: SquareSpace

Squarespace developed from Anthony Casalena’s frustration of integrating photos, analytics and blogging tools. He developed a publishing platform to solve the problem. The software integrates websites, Flickr and Twitter easily. He used a $30,000 investment to buy servers to support his platform.
The platform costs between $12 and $36 per month and supports clients such as Kiehl’s, a cosmetic retailers and Marc Ecko Enterprises, a fashion firm. In 2010, the company reported sales of as much as $10.2 million.

3. Michael Dorf: City Winery

City Winery founder, Michael Dorf, addresses the need of winemakers who need fresh grapes from California, Oregon or Chile vineyards. The company also hosts concerts, wine tastings and sells wine by the glass. The event space is used for wedding receptions and private parties. The main portion of his business sells memberships to produce wine for companies. In 2011, Dorf expected to produce $10 million in revenue.

4. Karen Grando: International Asbestos Removal

International Asbestos Removal founder, Karen Grando, went into the asbestos-removal field after hearing her husband repeatedly turn down clients requesting the service. She enrolled in a training program to earn city and state licenses to perform this trade. She has won contracts with Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Dormitory Authority of the State of New York and the School Construction Authority. In 2010, the firm had revenue of $10 million.

5. Michael Kirban: Vita Coco

Vita Coco was started by Michael Kirban and Ira Liran after over-hearing a conversation about coconut water from two Brazilian ladies. The founders felt coconut water could be as profitable as orange juice. The two guys used $100,000 of their own savings to start manufacturing in Brazil. The popular drink made its debut in Whole Foods in New York. Vita Coco is also sold at many Walmart and Costco locations.
Demi Moore and Matthew McConaughey both invested in the popular drink. Celebrities have donated over $10 million for its development. The business growth was only limited by the number of coconuts it could obtain. Last year, the company managed nearly $80 million in sales. The company is also charitable and donated $2 million to the American Heart Association, Special Olympics and other charities.

Guest Post: Robert Kurtz is a career consultant and contributor for Top Business Degrees, a site with detailed information, reviews and guides about online business degrees.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What Is Augmented Reality?

Augmented reality (AR) is one of the technologies gaining increasing interest. By mixing virtual with the real world in different proportions, augmented reality allows pulling graphics out of the television screen or computer display and integrating them into real-world environments.

A smartphone app called MagicPlan uses augment...
A smartphone app called MagicPlan uses augmented reality to capture building topology. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Augmented reality changes the way we view the world. The goal of augmented reality systems is to combine the interactive real world with an interactive computer-generated world in such a way that they appear as one environment.

Augmented reality blurs the line between the real world and the virtual world. The goal of augmented reality is to add information and meaning to a real object or place. It takes a real object or space as the foundation and incorporates technologies that add contextual data to deepen a person’s understanding of the subject.

The video below expalins how Augmented Reality will take shape in future:


AR is the computer vision for observing the world as it is as a scene on the computer or a smart phone. AR is more associated to local search currently but will soon move for ecommerce for 3D viewing of the product and animation.

The entertainment , education and the ecommerce industry will be the first ones to benefit from it. It currently is still being experimented on smart phones but has the potential of moving on to a device like glasses where it can be easily used for every query in the mind. By embracing AR we open up a new world where our mind is the only boundary.
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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Social Media Sharing Policy To Put Your Best Foot Forward For Search

Since social media especially Twitter, Facebook, Google+ are now integrated in a big way in the search engines and have the offshoot benefit on rankings and search presence, its high time that there is a policy for what should be shared via the company and personal social media accounts.

Common examples of social media include blogs; social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, and micro-blogging sites like Twitter; media-sharing sites like YouTube and Flickr; etc.

Social media signals can leverage the search presence of a web entity and add to the digital assets for web presence but at the same time it also has an equal and opposite potential of becoming a liability and also affect the search presence adversely.

Image credit:

Google continuously works on improving the quality of search results and combating the spam on the web is the primary task of the web spam team at Google headed by @mattcutts . Google since last year has been working continuously working on the content spam and has been clearing the web of the content clutter by the series of Panda Updates and also has been working on eradicating the link spam on the web which gives wrong signals to search and manipulate search results.

In real life you are what your thoughts are, online you are what you share and publish.

Similarly, social signals in the long run have the same potential to pollute the web by spam if the companies do not follow a code of conduct for social sharing or do not formulate social media sharing policies.

Many times this task of optimization and social media management is outsourced to a third party so it is assumed that the third party is responsible for all the actions but after all it is the reputation of the company which is at stake. Hence, one can delegate the task but not the entire responsibility and answerability.

As the search and social signals integration is still at the initial stages and the search engines are themselves exploring and experimenting with the search and social data , it is the right time for companies having a corporate social media policy which should be followed to avoid the spam and have a good online reputation.

In online social networks, the lines between public and private, personal and professional are blurred the need for clarity of identity is vital. It is essential that when one shares on behalf of the company on social media he or she clearly states how they are connected with the company and own up for the content that one shares.

IMO Sooner or later Google will see through the social media spam too and start penalizing the accounts which may not be genuine or maybe sharing just to boost a certain listing.

Hence, a social media policy will help the company to avoid such disastrous outcomes.

Some of the points which the policy should include to avoid spammy behavior resulting in bad online reputation are:

  •  Follow authority accounts and accounts which have quality posts related to your industry
  •  Identify the purpose for the social media presence Read more about this on:
  •  Define your audience
  •  Add value with each post and tweet
  •  Be consistent
  •  Share only if you like the content and want others to know about it not just because you know that person.
  •  Do not keep sharing posts of some accounts only. Have a varied mix and see that you connect with more and more relevant accounts over a period of time.
  • The posts should gradually add to the trust and the authority factor of the company’s online presence.
  • The quantity does not matter hence do not buy likes or +1s, they will end up adversely affecting the social scene just like the paid links.
  • Let the friends, followers and the circles increase naturally due to quality postings.
  • Build the brand along with the online persona of the people who share on the social media.
  • Do not be boisterous by only saying what you want to say, listen, reply, engage.
  • Accept negative comments with grace and clarify if necessary
  • Build blog communities and discuss the posts from all perspectives. Do not end up just creating mutual admiration groups which in the long run deprive you of valuable UGC .
  • Do not take anything personally.
  • Just as you keep your personal and professional lives separate in the real world, following the same thumb rule will surely be the best way to balance both the worlds.

All these points are applicable if you want the social presence have a direct and positive correlation to your search presence. For personal accounts these may not matter as for personal and professional personas the rules maybe different.

This infographic from Seo Smarty provides a handy one-page resource as to how each of the major social networks defines spam, what sort of spam you can expect and their position therein.

social media spam infographic
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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Is Your Website Markup Enriched To Support The Rich Snippets Updated By Google?

The latest buzz in the SEO world has the surround sound on the topic of “Semantic Web and Semantic Search”. This is the next step of the ever evolving SEO and it brings in an era where SEO’s have to give importance to microformats, schemas and go beyond the word to word mapping and focus on the meaning of the content of the website and try to correlate it with the meaning of the query being searched on the search engine.

The search engines have been working on semantic search since the advent of web 2.0. Google also has been supporting and promoting content by displaying the Rich Snippets in the search results.

Some of the type of content given priority by Google for Rich Snippets display in SERPs is:

Businesses and organizations

Yesterday , Google has announced the Product Rich Snippets too. The Rich Snippets Tool which verifies the structured data markup has been upgraded to support HTML Input also.

Rich snippets help you to: 

  • Attract potential buyers while they are searching for items to buy on Google.
  • Submit your product listings for free.
  • Control your product information. You can maintain the accuracy and freshness of your product information, so your customers find the relevant, current items they're looking for.

If you're a merchant, you can give Google detailed product information we can use to display rich snippets (for example, price, availability, and review ratings) right on our search results pages. (Right now, shopping rich snippets appear on search results pages only in the US—but we're working hard to make them available everywhere.)

Rich Snippets: Product Search

Product markup allows you to provide Google with specific information about the products on your site. Information about price, availability, reviews and more may be used in search results to help users more quickly and accurately identify relevant content. Visit for more details.

More details on the Product Rich Snippets on

A Product can include an Offer or Offer-aggregate; or an Offer or Offer-aggregate can include one or more Products. Use the structure that works best for your content.

A Product snippet should have details about :
  • Name Of The Product 
  • The Image Of The Product 
  • The Brand Of The Product 
  • The Category Of The Product 
  • Review About The Product 
  • Identifier Which Includes Brand and Product Identification 
  • Offer Details 

Rich snippets add the logical meaning to the data and support semantic search but, just because the content on the page is expressed in mark up which supports the rich snippets and has been verified by the snippets tool, it is not certain to rank in the SERPs unless it is inter-linked by various quality signals from the social and the meta web.

Hence the SEOs now apart from the other on-page factors have to ensure that that atleast the content related to products, reviews, people, recipies, Address (using hCard) video, business and organizations are represented in the correct markup which has a potential to generate a rich snippet in SERPs and search visibility on various search options.
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Friday, April 6, 2012

Forget The Keywords And Focus On The Keyness Factor Of The Content

Yes, we all want our websites on the numero uno position of Google where people can find us easily and reach us. All internet marketing efforts focus all the attention to reach that position on search, social and all over the web and try to be found where people will be searching for their products and services.

We keep on saying that an overall presence is necessary to achieve good visibility on the search engines but let us understand why this is necessary by understanding the meaning of each layer of the evolutionary semantic web.

Everyone wants the magical formula to achieve the above said target. Is there any secret formula ? No there is no single or an instant formula to achieve that. The fact is that , this kind of presence and magically being found everywhere on the digital front is a result of logically building the presence step by step.

Some of the quality factors influencing search presence are:
  • Content
  • Connectivity
  • Relevance
  • Correlation
  • Authority
  • Security
  • Trust

The web is shifting from the web of documents to the web of data. Hence in such a web the majority of the content is in RDFs or in the database. 

Websemantic (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As you can see in the image above, we have URI and Unicode as the basis of the web. I would like to call it the first step which adds the keyness to the webpage and the content of that page that you want to promote organically on search engines or on the web.

The second and the third layer have the XML and RDF content. The content that we mostly have in this format is the RSS feeds and sitemaps which are in XML and the contact details, videos, reviews, events,etc now are being represented more and more in the RDF format. RDF has an XML syntax.

– Every Description element describes a resource

– Every attribute or nested element inside a Description is a property of that Resource

The URLs, titles and the descriptions are of the utmost importance in the XML files like the RSS feeds and sitemaps. If we focus on the keyness factor and try to cater to correlate to a wide range of keyword data rather than focusing on the keywords alone in the URLs, titles and descriptions it gets passed on to the next layer of the emerging web making the pages pass on more correlation and relevance and also syncs the on page signals with the off page signals which get directly indexed in the search engines in the form of feeds and sitemaps. Titles are not merely summaries, but are interpretative guidelines.

Now , from the URI, XML, RDFs we move to the ontology layer. The adoption of standards such as XML or RDF allows interoperability in principle, but does not solve the problem of the production, identification and evolution of knowledge. Ontologies reduce language to a nomenclature which describes neither textual structures nor the considerable variation of genres.

In general, an ontology provides a mechanism to capture information about the objects and the relationships that hold between them in some domain of interest.

According to Wikipedia: In computer science and information science, an ontology formally represents knowledge as a set of concepts within a domain, and the relationships between those concepts. It can be used to reason about the entities within that domain and may be used to describe the domain. An ontology renders shared vocabulary and taxonomy which models a domain with the definition of objects and/or concepts and their properties and relations. Ontologies are the structural frameworks for organizing information and are used in artificial intelligence and the Semantic Web

Ontologies help take the direction of the web from information to knowledge. Ontologies are considered as meta language descriptions of documents, conditioning access to them. Metadata are to be found in the document header, while the data themselves form the body of the text, or more precisely the intratext. From the “Web of Documents”, the transition is thus made to the “Web of Data”, and then even to the “Web of Metadata”: this is the conception currently in force with the Semantic Web.

The URI layer adds text, the RDF layer adds data, the ontology layer adds the relevance, correlation, logic and connections but the security and the encryption pillar is the pillar which is the backbone of such an evolutionary web. If your website has a presence on all these layers or is built keeping in mind the outcome of each layer then your site can have the potential of having a quality web presence and a good visibility factor and gain the trust factor which is like the icing on the cake and can be achieved after a period of time after your web presence has passed the quality test of each layer.

Search is moving from word to word mapping to content relevance and correlation. Its high time we moved on from quantitative metrics to qualitative metrics. .This can be done by moving our focus from the keywords to the keyness of the content.

For that we have to focus on the following metrics rather than rankings alone to judge if are web presence is passing the test of each layer

  • Content Keywords - Which give and idea of keyword variance in the index and relevance 
  • Search Queries – Which give an idea about correlation 
  • No. Of Impressions – Which give an idea about how well the search engine is able to combine and sync the on page signals with the off page signals. 
  • Landing Pages – This gives us an idea about how well each URL is getting indexed along with proper relevance and the correlation factor. 
  • Click Thru Rate – This indicates the success factor of the on-page titles and descriptions of the landing page for that relevant search query. 

Also increasing visibility in more and more search options , rich snippets being displayed with the landing page, decreasing crawl errors and increasing no. of pages being indexed from the XML sitemaps are all quality indicators.

As SEOs let us focus on these quality factors and carve a special niche for SEO and establish the true meaning of SEO rather than ranting about the “Not Provided” data, suggesting a new term for SEO or start the age old story about how SEO is dying.

SEO is very much alive and has a quality dimension to it like never before. Thanks to Google for all the changes made in the algorithms , adding the encryption layer and also for giving more importance to rich snippets and social signals and thereby proving its constant endeavor to make search more qualitative.
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