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Noman Ali: Gadgets, Websites, Google, Social Media and SEO


Monthly Archives: January 2011

German government officials have pressured Facebook to stop spamming people to join the social network after a contact uses the Friend Finder feature; apparently these messages went out even to people that hadn’t been expressly invited by a human.

The company agreed to change this after the city of Hamburg’s data protection office made official complaints to Facebook, according toDer Spiegel. The officials had responded to gripes from people who got emails that included images from profiles of contacts from messaging address books.

The spam had showed signs that Facebook retained the contents of users’ address books from third-party applications well after said users had sent out invitations, and messages went out to people who hadn’t specifically been invited by the person who’d used the Friend Finder feature.

“For many, it wasn’t clear at all how Facebook could know that they knew certain members of the social network in real life,” says Johannes Caspar, who handles data protection issues for the city-state of Hamburg. “Facebook will be required to alert users that they should only send invitations to those contacts who they know personally and who, in their opinion, want to receive such an invitation.”

Now the Friend Finder will make a disclosure to the user whenever that individual loads an address book and ask permission before sending any invitations. Recipients of these messages will also see an explanation of why they received an invitation and have the option to block future mail from Facebook.

We’ve asked Facebook to clarify whether the improved transparency in the Friend Finder will become available only in Germany or worldwide. So far, the social network hasn’t answered that same question when posed by Der Spiegel.



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Hackers are cashing out after stealing credit card numbers from Lush’s UK website, which was shut down on Friday and replaced with a message that warns customers that their account information may have been compromised.

According to the message, anyone who made online purchases on the handmade cosmetic company’s UK site between October 4th and January 20th is at risk of having their credit cards used fraudulently.

Lush also left a message for the hacker:

“If you are reading this, our web team would like to say that your talents are formidable. We would like to offer you a job – were it not for the fact that your morals are clearly not compatible with ours or our customers.”

We’re sure that the hackers are absolutely broken up about the scolding — especially since comments on the cosmetic company’s Facebook profile make it clear that they have started a shopping spree on Lush customers’ dime.

Several customers detail purchases made using their stolen credit card information. Others express anger over the length of time that Lush waited after discovering that hackers had penetrated the site on Christmas Day.

Hilary Jones, ethical director at Lush, told the BBC that the company used the time between Christmas and Friday to investigate what the hacker’s intentions were (perhaps they were just looking for information on bath soaps?). When it became obvious that the hackers had started to make small test purchases using Lush customers’ credit cards, Lush shut down its site.

Other companies like Trapster-maker Reach Unlimited and Gawker Media, on the other hand, notified customers almost immediately when their sites were compromised recently.

A temporary Lush UK website, which prudently will only accept PayPal payments, is scheduled to be launched in a few days. But it might be a while before its customers muster enough forgiveness to shop there.


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  • Posted under Gadgets

Do you ever embed YouTube videos in your web pages? If the answer is yes, you shouldcreate an XML Video Sitemap as it will help improve your site’s performance in Google and other search engines.

Why Create XML Sitemaps for Video?

Video Sitemaps are plain text files containing a list of videos that are either embedded or hosted on your website. During regular crawling, Google mostly ignores video content that’s embedded in web pages but with the help of a video sitemap, you can easily inform Google about all the videos that are on your site.

Video Sitemaps will help your site pages rank in both video search results as well as Google’s universal search. If you would like know more about XML Sitemaps for Video, watch this video or visit for more technical details.

How to Create XML Video Sitemaps?

If you run a WordPress blog, you can use my Video Sitemap plug-in to generate an XML Sitemap for your site with a click. Install the plugin, click the “generate” button and it will instantly create an XML Sitemap file in your site’s root directory using all YouTube clips that are on your site.

Once you have created your Video Sitemap, you can either ping Google directly or use the webmaster tools of Google and Bing to permanently associate your video sitemap with your website or web. Here’s a video demo:

The Limitations with XML Sitemap

The XML Sitemap plug-in currently works with YouTube videos only though future versions may support Vimeo, Facebook, Flickr, Daily Motion and other online video hosting websites.

This will generate video sitemaps for self-hosted WordPress blogs only. If you are on Blogger, or Tumblr, I may have something for you at a later date.


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Google is preparing to launch Google Offers, the search giant’s Groupon competitor, Mashable has learned. We have the documents to prove it.

One of our sources has sent us a confidential fact sheet straight from the Googleplex about the company’s new group buying service. “Google Offers is a new product to help potential customers and clientele find great deals in their area through a daily email,” the fact sheet says.

Google Offers looks and operates much like Groupon or LivingSocial. Users receive an e-mail with a local deal-of-the-day. They then have the opportunity to buy that deal within a specific time limit (we assume 24 hours). Once enough people have made the purchase, the Google Offer is triggered and users get that all-too-familiar $10 for $20 deal for that Indian restaurant you’ve never tried.

From what we can tell, Google Offers will be powered by Google Checkout. It also includes Facebook, Twitter, Google Reader, Google Buzz and e-mail sharing options.

Google is actively reaching out to businesses now to get them on board with Offers. It even apparently has a writing team in place to craft the write-up for offers.

Google famously tried to buy Groupon for $6 billion just a few months ago in order to bolster its local advertising business. Groupon rejected the offer though and is instead preparing for a $15 billion IPO.

The search giant clearly isn’t giving this market up without a fight, though. With its vast reach, huge resources and brand recognition, it could prove to be a powerful player in the space. We’re going to be watching these developments closely. We’ve reached out to Google for comment.

Below, we’ve embedded the entire fact sheet Google is sending to local businesses:

Update: Google has responded to our inquiry and sent us the following statement:

“Google is communicating with small businesses to enlist their support and participation in a test of a pre-paid offers/vouchers program. This initiative is part of an ongoing effort at Google to make new products, such as the recent Offer Ads beta, that connect businesses with customers in new ways. We do not have more details to share at this time, but will keep you posted.”

Google essentially confirms Google Offers is real. It looks like Google Offers is in the testing phases, though.

Update 2: We’ve also learned that Google will pay out 80% of a business’ revenue share three days after its deal runs. Google will hold the remaining 20% for 60 days to cover refunds before sending the rest.


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  • Posted under Google, Social Media

It’s a great day today, after waiting for 7 months Google has finally taken a look into Page Rank Update and has started rolling PR updates in Google Toolbar. While digging into the websites, we found that the page rank on few of the websites has been increased significantly. The update has been found today itself so we can predict that this update will be continued for 3 days as within 3 days all the updates gets completed by Google. We are happy to see increase in Page Rank in few of our websites.

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  • Posted under Google, Search Engine

With all the excitement and planning that comes along with a New Year, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with newfangled ideas. You probably have a long list of  SEO tactics in the pipeline for 2011. Finding the resources, whether time or money, is the real trick.

The point of this post is to minimize your to-do list by covering 32 SEO tactics that you shouldn’t focus on. If any of these buggers have made it onto your 2011 task list or are still lingering in the queue from years past, go ahead and cross ’em off. They won’t help you reach your goals and some of them can even hinder your progress.

If you are still looking for things to do, check out these New Years post for ideas.

Alrighty then, lets get on with the list of things for you to take off your list.

32 SEO Tactics to Avoid in 2011

Hiding Stuff On-Page
There are a hundred ways to hide keywords and links from your users’ view and still have them reside behind the scenes on a web page for the search engines to crawl. Some of these methods are smarter than others, but the collective mind of Google’s web spam team is smarter than all of them. From just plain silly to downright sneaky, numbers 1-5 in this list of SEO tactics to avoid, we cover off some of the most well known methods for hiding copy and links. At best, you could experience a small, temporary boost from some of these tactics. At worst, you’ll land yourself a penalty.

Do not…
1. White text on a white background (I know what you’re thinking, but black on black won’t work either.)
2. Hidden text over an image
3. Hiding text with CSS
4. Linking/keywording in tiny text (font size ‘0’ doesn’t work either, smarty pants)
5. Linking from a hyphen, period, comma, or any other little character

Keyword Stuffing
There are a number of ways to overdo your keyword usage beyond the hidden methods mentioned above. Here are a few to give you an idea of the type of things to avoid.

Do not…
6. Use the Meta Keywords tag. This is a giant waste of time.
7. Use your Title Tag as a place to list keywords.
8. Fill up your Meta Description with keywords, forgetting about click-thru rates
9. Name your images with the character limit in keywords
10. List every city and zip code within a 10 hour drive
11. Put 2000 words of keyword rich content below the footer
12. Keep track of your keyword density (Thankfully, I’ve heard a lot less from eager website owners on this topic in 2010 than I did in 2009.)

Link Network Schemes
If your link building plans involve any of the following, you need to do a little more research on link building. 🙂

Do not sign up for…
13. Link Schemes
14. Reciprocal Linking
15. Link Farms
16. Link Wheel
17. Link Exchange (unless it is a real and substantial business partnership or relationship)
18. Three Way Linking (or Two-way, Four-way or any other way)

Other Link Types to Avoid
Ah links. It isn’t just the networks that are a waste of time. Here are some other link acquisition tactics to avoid.

Do not…
19. Forum/comment spam (thanks Rob)

20. Submit to thousands of directories for $12.42.
21. Segment your content and launch sub-domains so you can link to yourself

Publish/Index as Many Pages as Possible
Just because you have 4 million pages doesn’t mean they should all be indexed. Just because you have come up with a list of 800,000 keywords and misspellings to describe pepper mills, doesn’t mean your e-commerce site should have a web page to represent each. Quantity is not quality. More pages in the index does not mean more traffic. Here are a few SEO tactics to remove from your to-do list.

Do not…
22. Try to get the search engines to index all of the search result pages on your site.
23. Publish a new page for every single keyword target.

Google Local Tricks
Google Local is still fighting spam that works, which I won’t be covering here. Lets not perpetuate the issue, right? Here are a few things that they’ve figured out and should be avoided altogether.

Do not…
24. Place location keywords in your places page categories.
25. Create a bunch of Google Places pages that all list the same physical address.
26. Torment your customers so you’ll get plenty of (negative) reviews. (this one got a lot of attention late last year)
27. Provide different keyword rich business names to local sites.

Random Uselessness
Take these ideas straight to the curb. No recycling please.

Do not…trash
28. Measure your website’s strength or success with PageRank.
29. Find out which pages are ranking well and never touch them again.
30. Blindly target keywords just because your competitors are.
31. Submit to hundreds of search engines automatically for $9.99.
32. Use robots.txt to control robot access (I’ve harped on this before)

If anything here is on your 2011 SEO tactic list, go ahead and cross ’em off. See how I’m helping you out?! No doubt I’ve missed a bunch of old-school spam. For example, I’m certain I haven’t covered every type of link scheme that has ever existed.

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Twitter has just launched the Korean version of its popular service, bringing the total of supported languages to seven.

As is typical for the microblogging company, it made the announcement in Korean. In its blog post, Twitter revealed that it chose Korean as the next language for launch because the number of Twitter users from Korea has increased tenfold in the last year. That’s an astounding growth metric.

Not only is now translated in Korean, but so are the official Twitter Android and iPhone apps. It has also launched a recommended user list of Korean users, including actor Park Joong (@moviejhp) and novelist @Oisoo.

Twitter now supports seven languages. The others include Spanish, Italian, German, French, English and Japanese.


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