May 23, 2018

Road to Taste: a well-maintained travel blog

Road to Taste

The blog is born out of our passion for travel and love for food. We, Saumya and Vishu, love sharing our travel stories with the world and inspire people to travel as much as possible. The experiences garnered by traveling are unmatched.

Recently Saumya went on a dream trip of Palace on Wheels organized by Ministry of Tourism. She was one of the 60 bloggers chosen from around the world and amongst the three from India. Definitely a proud moment for us!

While Saumya loves to capture the world through her lens and is the creative mastermind behind the blog, Vishu takes care of the technicalities and writing. Traveling and exploring places along with enjoying various cuisines is the crux of our work. While traveling takes the major portion of the blog, collaborations with brands and tourism boards also come along the way. We have worked with brands like Google, Accor Group of Hotels, Nikon, UBER, Huawei Honor, Incredible India, UP Tourism, Uttarakhand Tourism, Radisson Hotels and resorts, Milton and Orra Jewellery.

- Vishu and Saumya

May 15, 2018

Social media and blogging updates: offers by Facebook and Google, SEO

Facebook F8 Conference: increments, no blasts

In the latest annual conference, Facebook has announced some new features that will be available later this year on Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and Whatsapp. A peep into what is in store:
  • A feature to clear history from Facebook account, about information received from various websites and apps.
  • Camera to get new capabilities on Facebook, which includes turning pics into 3D.  
  • A dating feature on Facebook app, that would make it possible to date as on Tinder.
  • AR (augmented reality) effects on Instagram and Messenger.
  • AI enhancements and improved bot capabilities on Messenger 2.0.
  • Translation of messages on Messenger.
  • Video chatting feature on Instagram.
  • Group calling on Whatsapp, perhaps both - audio and video calling.

Google showcases its AI prowess, improvements across apps

Google also had its annual I/O Conference, focusing on new developments and software improvements. These include:
  • A more capable and human-like Google Assistant, accompanied by Duplex - which could call on your behalf!
  • New version of Android, Android P.
  • New features on Google News, Google Photos, Gmail and Google Maps.

Non-profit organizations now like to directly connect with the public, less through the media

A University of Kansas study finds that international non-profit organizations have shifted their use of channels of online communication and target audience over a decade.

While in 2007, for online communication with people, these organizations used their websites, followed by blogs, podcasts, videocasts and wikis, they now use their own site followed by social media. Within social media, Facebook comes first, followed by Twitter, blogs and Instagram.

The shift in the publics that they target is more pronounced. Earlier, the focus was on promoting the organization's image, fund-raising and the media, and now the focus is on reaching the general public, potential donors, existing donors and the media in that order. Reaching the media gets a low priority now.

The study covered 150 non-profit professionals in top international NGO organizations based in the US. 

More on the study can be seen here.

Twitter wants you to change password, but why?

Twitter has issued a cautionary advice on its blog, asking account holders to change their password because it has found a bug that logs passwords in the system before it is masked. 

Twitter says, it has not found anybody having misused the logs. Once it discovered the bug, it proactively deleted all such internal logs is plugging the loophole. It says, Out of an abundance of caution, we ask that you consider changing your password on all services where you’ve used this password.

Another proof that our data with tech biggie is not guaranteed to be in safe hands.

The blog post can be visited here.

Cambridge Analytica closes down

The controversial firm that is supposed to have used Facebook data for influencing voters in many countries, has closed down. Knowledgeable people are not sure whether it would not arise in a new avatar.

A takeaway from Hootsuite study: socialization helps SEO

A recent study has validated the impression that engaging, sharing on social media really helps in better search rankings, and it happens directly - not just because more links get distributed through social accounts.

The researchers have also some advice for publishers and marketers. They say, quality of content and backlinks matters as much as their numbers. And paid promotion really helps SEO.
Yes, social can help with SEO. But that shouldn’t give you a free pass to over-post and spam people’s feeds. If you do that, you risk annoying followers. And then they might ignore your posts, or worse, stop following you entirely.
Quality of posts—not quantity—is key. Yes, regular posting is important, but if you’re not offering your audience value there’s no point.
Remember, it might only take one new backlink to significantly improve the search rank of a URL (depending on how competitive the keyword is and how authoritative the site is that links to your own). If you impress the right person enough to share your content on their website, you’ll see a boost in search rank and search visibility.
Social marketers should also take note of the implications of paid promotion on SEO. Indeed, our findings show that paid promotion has nearly double the SEO benefit of organic promotion.
SEO should be thoughtfully integrated into your broader social marketing strategy, but it should not be the driving force. If you focus on creating and sharing quality content, you’ll be in good shape. Quality is, after all, the number one ranking factor in Google.

May 7, 2018

Disavowing backlinks: should you do that?

What is 'disavow'ing links?

Disavowing a link in terms of SEO is to tell search engines, 'Please do not use this backlink (a link on some other site that has a link to my site) for assessing the quality of my website.'

Why disavow backlinks?

Search engines use many factors for assessing the reputation and relevance of websites (that includes blogs). One of them, a very important one, is backlinks. The argument here is that if a website A is giving a link to website B, A is in some way endorsing website B. It would also mean that A considers B relevant for the anchor text used by it (website A) to give link to B. Since the number of backlinks seems to be a ranking parameter, it is possible to fool search engines to believe that a website getting many (though useless) links is a good website. 

However, many black-hat SEO guys, spammers and even competitors use this very tool of backlinking to harm others' websites and serve their own purpose. They have useless or harmful websites in their store which they use for linking to genuine websites. Such links hurt the reputation of the target website. These links are unnatural and Google etc do not like such links for more reasons than one.

Sometimes bad backlinks arise due to wrong or unethical actions of an SEO guy hired by website owners. In trying to temporarily boost website statistics, they may get irrelevant links by using PBN or paid links or such other means. These become a liability in the long run.

Google's Penguin algorithm updates have particularly focused on the quality of links and it is widely reported that many good websites have suffered badly on account of poor quality links. 

Though search engines lay emphasis on quality of backlinks, the sheer number of backlinks appears to still count, because black-hat SEO practitioners manage to pass through Penguin (and perhaps similar tools used by other major search engines).

How does disavow help in removing bad links?

The most effective action for removing the harmful backlinks would be to get the bad website owners to remove such links. But it is difficult, and they seldom agree because they have put the bad link with a criminal purpose. In some cases, the spammers even ask for money in return for removing those links. Through 'disavow', Google and Bing give webmasters (or website owners) the option to tell them that you would like such a link not to be considered while deciding the reputation of your website. The link remains there but does not hurt your website's reputation in the eyes of Google/ Bing.

Is it safe to disavow links?

Google and Bing have a disavow tool but SEO experts suggest that you use it very carefully so that you do not end up removing good links or branding some natural but low quality links (e.g. from new but genuine websites referring to your website in a natural and good way) as bad links.

Google also advises using this option only if you find a large number of spammy backlinks, as it would ignore a few bad links referring to your site. Perhaps a large number of such links give Google an impression that you yourself have managed those links so as to artificially boost the number of websites linking to you.

So, disavow does not serve much purpose if you do not see unnatural links coming to your website in large number or if your website is visible on search pages as much as it should. However, if you suspect that your website/ blog is suffering because of bad backlinks (for example, it has good content but does not come up high on search pages), you can use the disavow tool and watch the performance of the site for some months.

How to disavow backlinks in a safe way on Google or Bing?

Both these major search engines have tools under their Webmaster Tools (Google now calls its Webmaster Tools website as Search Console). They have option to disavow links one by one or posting a file that contains a list of URLs to disavow.  There is no limit on the number of URLs you disavow. Interestingly, if you upload a new file with disavow links, the earlier file ceases to be considered for disavowing; so, if you want to add links to an already submitted file, add old links again to the new file.

The following two resources are quite good on the subject:

1. Google's own resource on how to disavow backlinks and what precautions to take.
2. An old but very useful guide by Moz on how to disavow links without pain useful tools, and what not to do.