February 25, 2017

Converting PDF to anything, almost! And the world's lightest desktop PDF reader

In an earlier article on PDF software, we had reviewed some PDF reader, annotator and converter programs. In the present one, we'd review one very professional product that has fantastic free offshoots too. Rather, let's start with the free tools first.

World's smallest PDF reader

In our earlier review, we had recommended Foxit Reader. We still love that. But this one - Slim PDF Reader - is feather-light as compared to other programs. It is just 1.5MB (installer download size) as compared to others that are much bigger in size. Even Foxit is about 4 times bigger!

True to the developers' claim (They call it the world's smallest desktop PDF reader), the product is basic and simple and without frills that in most cases remain unused but bloat the software.

A minefield of PDF conversion and extraction tools in this Professional sw

As always, we recommend software or utilities only after satisfying ourselves. So, we evaluated the trial version of the premium software developed by the company that produces Slim PDF Reader. It is called Able2Extract Professional. It is a paid version but  the software is worth its price for people who have to work with PDFs and need to extract content from PDF files for various purposes.

Able2Extract PDF program has great features!

We'd rank the premium PDF converter high for its key features:
  • large number of file formats from/ to it converts,
  • high quality of extracted files,
  • extracted content being editable like normal files,
  • ability to edit any type of PDF documents, and
  • ease of learning. 

When you convert a PDF document into a document file (e.g. .docx), you often end up with a document that is full of garbage or its text going out of alignment or some text behaving funny. With Able2Extract, the resulting docs are clean and editable.

Similarly if you want to copy columns from a business pamphlet in PDF format, you need not suffer a garbled sheet.  

Think of inserting a portion of PDF doc into a MS Word document without editing its layout. With Able2Extract, just convert that portion into a picture file (e.g. .jpg) and insert into the MS Word document!

You can convert PDFs into even .html, .csv and AutoCad files! 

There are many more ways you can use this superb software including splitting and merging PDFs, security and encryption, page resizing and customization. By the way, this sw developer has free online converters that you can visit here: Free PDF Tools

We do not have any commercial considerations with the producers of this product except that they provided a PIN to extend the evaluation version. The views are fully ours.

February 21, 2017

Video offerings from social biggies, Ponzi through social media and other updates

Amazon starts Chime, a Skype or Google Hangout like service


Amazon ChimeAmazon has announced a video talking/ conferencing service called Amazon Chime that boasts of delivering high-quality audio and video, easy collaboration and suitability for mobile phones.

Let's see who wins. Or is there enough for everybody, as the number of people wanting to use video talking and conferencing grows by a big leap?

  

Video offers from Facebook

When it comes to video, Facebook continues to add value. It has just announced new features that make watching videos on FB more fun

The videos on FB timeline till now played without sound till you clicked on them. Now they come with audio which comes in and fades out as you slide them in and out of the mobile screen. You have to allow this feature in 'settings'. 

Facebook video
You can also release videos away from the timeline. You can take it to a corner of the screen while you move down the timeline to view other posts. If you like, the video will keep playing even if you exit FB!

In addition, FB has announced a video app for television, to allow people to watch their videos in a bigger format.  

   

How newspaper editors view social media as a source of news?

A research paper in the latest issue of International Journal of Communication reinforces the general view that traditional journalists and their editors still are not sure of the credibility and usefulness of social media as a source of news. The researchers, based on a survey in the US, infer that:

  • Traditional editors are not likely to see citizen journalism (=information given to traditional media by people at large) as a good source of news. The older and more experienced a journalist, the more distrust he or she has on the emerging media as a news source of value.
  • Editors at publicly owned media houses tend to be more open towards news given by people than their counterparts in privately owned media.
  • Editors in more pluralistic communities are more open to social media as compared to those in less open and diverse societies.
  • Editors generally find the news through social media as less credible than that received from institutional sources.

  

Social media scam in India dupes over 650,000 investors!

India has seen ponzi schemes growing through word-of-mouth publicity and collapsing after the operators suddenly run away with the money. But this is the first such scheme popularized through social media. 

In ponzi schemes, people are asked to make deposits and are paid returns out of deposits by new customers rather than from profits earned through a legitimate productive activity. 

In the present case, people were asked to pay a sum and promote certain web links by way of 'liking' them. The returns were so unbelievably good and came just by clicking some links that the scheme was able to lure thousands and thousands of students, salaried persons, small traders, estate agents and farmers from the nearby areas. But as it was driven by social media, it spread to other states and even beyond India. The scam grew to about 37 billion rupees in just 6 years of its taking birth.

Thousands of depositors who had risen high in the hierarchy over years and had made good money through the scheme gathered in front of the 'company' office in support of the operators when police arrested the kingpins.

February 15, 2017

How to avoid a slap from Google and maximise gains from keywords

There was a time when SEO pundits told you to stuff your website with paying keywords and the site would be on top of the search engine pages and (therefore) would generate huge incomes. In fact, many early website owners made good money doing that.

Then search engines got smarter and Google, the daddy of search engines at present, started penalizing websites for keyword stuffing. In recent changes, Google has become (i) very strict and unsparing of unnatural action that is taken to boost traffic or search position, and (ii) very smart at knowing the intent of searchers so that they get relevant search results for their queries.

Reams have been written on how to bring your content to the top of search pages without annoying today's smart search engines. Without going into the theory behind the science of web search, we bring you top tips that are up-to-date, ethical and effective.

1. Relevance is what Google, Yahoo and Bing want


Do not put keywords that are not relevant to the topic of discussion. Chances are that if you stuff irrelevant keywords, Google etc will call your bluff. If they find this out during their manual check (which, though, is very rare), they might slap a heavy penalty on you. Even if you manage to optimize your page for a keyword that is not relevant and you get to the top search page, you will be downgraded soon because people who go to your webpage will not find information that they were seeking. This quick bounce of traffic gives the signal to search engines that the page is not relevant for that keyword.

2. Depth of content gets you high marks and automatically gets you natural keywords


As Google says, the depth of content is a very strong signal for its rating of websites. All search engines like pages that have well-researched content. For that reason, long articles are preferred to short ones and original content is taken as much more important than copy-pasted one.

Coming to keywords, long and well-researched articles rank high without your trying to optimize the page because the general sense of the article will be enough to tell Google, Yahoo or Bing that the article can be very useful to people searching that topic.

On top of it, it helps if you have a look at various expressions in the article that could be subtly directed towards a particular keyword. What we mean is that quality of content supported by a bit of keyword optimization is what works the best in the long run.

3. Write often, update often.


Search engines take your site as a useful, updated resource when you write on the same topic again and again. It also shows you are really interested in that topic, perhaps you are an expert. In fact, that gives your website enough relevant keywords without you giving much thought to keywords.

4. Write for humans and then check if it will be liked by machines.


SEO guys or those in a hurry to reach the top of search pages do things upside down; they first think of keywords and decide where all to stuffed them, and then develop the article around the keywords.

It is fine to think of a topic that would get you traffic (and money), write about it and then optimize it for expressions that are likely to be real-life search expressions.

5. Don't be wary of optimization; just do it right.


Keywords are not dead, as yet. SEO in total is not irrelevant, as yet. People are likely to continue using words or phrases, and add specific attributes to them as they type their search queries. Search engines will also keep matching the search terms with webpages in their index. 

Since the indexing of pages and producing search results are done by computers, search engines develop complex algorithms for filtering good and relevant resources from the www. In doing so, they downgrade the webpages when they find use of tricks to fool search engines or searchers. What we are telling in this post is to use keywords but don't do things that might even mistakenly be considered wrong by these algo's.

Sprucing up the webpage with highlighting key phrases, using keywords to draw reader attention etc (which is natural keyword optimization) is not only liked by Google, they even recommend it.

Google itself has a free online Keyword Planner Tool. You can, if you have time and patience, use it to know what keywords would get you more traffic and more revenues. There are many ethical ways you can use good keywords ethically and without inviting wrath of search engines. Some are given at this link:

Keywords, let's repeat, will remain relevant for a long time to come. But keyword optimization should be part of a well-rounded SEO strategy for the website, which should not be too aggressive.

6. Pages matter but domain too.


This is a fair keyword strategy, and search engines will never dislike it: remain focused on the main topic or theme of your blog or website, and have individual pages focusing on different aspects or sub-topics. For example, you have a website on "blogging and social media". It will have many pages on "blogging" and many on "social media". Within the "blogging" sub-topic, you can have hundreds of pages on different aspects. In fact, you can have sub-sub-topics such as "fashion blogging" and many posts on each of them. Over a period of time as you keep updating the blog or site, you generate a huge article base on individual niches and an encyclopedia on the main theme, with all the gains and no fear of penalty from search engines!

Likely position of a site on Google due to kw optimization
We'd end the article with a few reminders on what NOT to do in applying keywords so that Google does not penalize you:
  • Don't use the same keyword many times in the body text. If the expression needs to be there naturally (e.g. "keyword" in the present article), you cannot avoid it, but in that case too, it should not be over-used artificially.
  • Don't use the same keyword more than once in title, post heading, sub-headings, URL etc. Avoid even its close variations. The days of scattering keyword around "so that it tells the search engine more strongly that the content is relevant to the keyword" are long gone.
  • Don't have more than 1% words as keywords. Even less is better.
  • Don't hide keywords in transparent font or in font color similar to the background. In fact, any type of keyword cloaking or fooling the searcher is a serious crime in the eyes of search engines.
  • SEO gurus have long been advising optimizing anchor text (the text that links to something else when you click on it). It worked well for many years but now search engines don't like anchor text that looks optimized for a keyword. They dislike it even more if it points to internal pages (pages in the same website).
  • SEO guys will also tell you, long tail keywords are liked by search engines. The reality is that they might lead to problem more easily than short keywords, if you repeat them too often. For example, "watch" can get repeated five dozen times in a natural way in a long article on watches, but even two exact occurrences of "buying analog watches" are not likely. This will be frowned upon by search engines.
  • Don't check your website or blog using SEO checkers. We used to recommend using them some years back, not now. They have not only become irrelevant, they are likely to mislead you.
  • If you take services of an SEO expert, ask how they'd optimize your site. Better, ask to share a site optimized by them and check what techniques they are using. Buy their services only if you are sure they use such techniques that would not be seen as "fooling the searcher" by search engines.
  • Finally, when in doubt, under-optimize rather than over-optimize.
This is a great resource from Google on how the search works, and from here you get links to more best practices and importance of avoiding SEO tricks.

    February 6, 2017

    Compilation of the directory of top Indian blogs for 2017 begins

    Friends,

    This post is meant to announce that the compilation of the Directory of Best Indian Blogs has begun. We would, as before, bring out the categorized list of top Indian blogs and a much smaller list of the topmost Indian blogs.

    The terms for inclusion in the Directory remain the same as in the past. You might also like to look at the FAQs on the blog directories compiled by us.

    We are going to scour social media in a big way this time, where a great number of Indian bloggers are now active. Our initial experience of search for good blogs through Twitter has been very good.

    We would welcome suggestions from you all on good blogs, till April end. However, due to constraint of resources we'd be able to compile the directory of only Indian blogs as of now. Please send blog suggestions to kp.nd.2008@gmail.com

    Collage of badges of the Directory of Best Indian Blogs over years

    February 1, 2017

    How to write great headlines? What's the best online headline analyzing tool?

    Why are good headlines important, especially for blog posts?


    There is no doubt that beautifully written headlines draw attention to written content like nothing else. A bold image is the only exception. Experienced writers know it, copywriters and advertisers know it, sub editors in newspaper offices know it, text monitors in television newsrooms know it. Well, good bloggers also know it.

    What is a great headline?


    A bit of theory before we come to the tips part.

    The quality of headline depends on the expressions that we put in it. Expressions can be categorized in the following way, in decreasing levels of impact:

    • Emotions: Emotions are the most irresistible expressions, whether in text or visuals or music. In the case of headline, you can play with words for creating fear or greed or anger or satisfaction or happiness or... This is what most advertisers do with their punchlines.
    • Urgency: You can make the reader of the headline feel that he might miss something if he does not act immediately OR he might gain big if he acts. Urgency, when supported by the right emotion, is often highly effective. 
    • Tips: You stop when some tip draws your attention, isn't it? If your post has some advice in it for the reader, bring that aspect up in the headline. 
    • Information: Information attracts visitors but giving just information without other ingredients does not invite attention. If only information is what you are presenting, give it an interesting twist.

    But the reality is that even after knowing what interests the reader, we cannot all the time write emotional content and emotional headlines. Sometimes the right words and expressions do not come to us, sometimes we don't give enough creative time to writing headlines and sometimes the subject might need a sober treatment.

    If for some reason we deliberately write a bland headline, that's OK. For example, in the case of a blog showcasing scientific research. But in most cases, there should be no reason for not trying to write the best possible headline for the post.

    The headline must fully relate to the article; the beauty of the great headline is in bringing the best part of article to the top and inviting the visitor to read it. In trying to write a 'juicy' headline, we should never fool the reader into believing that there is something great in the body text while there is none.

    There are a number of quite useful headline tools freely available on the web to check your headline and also give you some tips on how to improve it. Play with words, compare different headlines and choose the best one for your post. Read on...

    Best headline tools


    Here are what we found to be the best headline analyzing tools. All these are online and free, but if you use them again and again, they might ask you for [free] registration.
    3 best hl analyzers: different appeals, different scores

    Coschedule calls its headline analysis tool as 'the #1 headline analyzer'. It gives a score when you type a headline into its text box, based on many factors. 

    Coschedule says, headlines are great when they (i) convert (e.g. lists, how to's); (ii) have a balance between common and uncommon words, and have power words; and (iii) are optimized for length.

    AMI's headline analyzer is supposed to check the 'emotional marketing value' of the headline input-ed in its text box. The tool tells whether the headline is intellectual, emphatic or spiritual and how much it scores on the emotional scale of 0-100%.

    Sharethrough's headline tool also gives a percentage score and breaks it down further into engagement and impression. It also lets you know what you need to add, e.g. 'alert words', proper branding and celebrity.

    You need not go by a tool's rating or suggestions. Finally it is your gut feeling and your own judgement that matters. It should be the best you can think of.
     
    Btw, the headline of this post got the following scores:
    CoSchedule: 77 (excellent); AMI: 7.7% (much below average); ShareThrough: 73 (above average). 
    The scores for an emotive, marketing version 'The killer headline tool worthy of dying for!' were like this: CoSchedule: 68% (good); AMI: 25% (above average): ShareThrough: 68% (average).

    Disclaimer: We do not have any type of commercial dealing with tools recommended here.