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SEO – 12 FREE applications you need to check out!

Here is a list of my 12 favorite free applications and why I like them. While many of you may be familiar with some of these applications, I encourage you to check out the other ones if you haven’t already.


1. Firefox

Many people never consider changing their web browser from the one that comes with their computer. If that’s you and you’re still using Internet Explorer or Safari, I highly recommend you check out Firefox. Not only is it a highly stable browser that doesn’t run into many of the problems that Internet Explorer does, it also has an awesome range of free plugins that provide some incredible functionality – including some SEO and Social Media plugins that I’ve listed below which I also recommend you check out.

Plugins:

  • SEO Toolbar: From the gurus over at SEOBook.com, SEO Toolbar extension for Firefox gives you heaps of information for any page you’re on, including Google Pagerank, links to the domain, page links, directory links, site age, monthly unique visits and traffic value.
  • Firebug: Firebug brings a whole bunch of great web-development tools into your browser, allowing you to edit and debug as well as view all the CSS, HTML and JavaScript on any web page.
  • Social Media for Firefox: This handy little plugin makes it easy to see the popularity of a page on the social bookmarking services Digg, Delicious, Mixxx, Reddit, StumbleUpon and Sphinn as well as Twitter and Tip’d. Also allows you to submit content to these services really easily from the bottom of your browser.
  • Google Toolbar: While Firefox comes with a Google Search box, the Google toolbar gives you more functionality as well the ability to access your Gmail from any page you’re on. Bit.ly Preview: Ever weary of those shortened URLs on Twitter? This handy little tool allows you to preview what the site is you will be sent to as well as giving you the ability to shorten URLs and copy them to the clipboard just from the right click menu.
  • SearchStatus: Another great SEO toolbar, giving Pagerank, Alexa Rank, Compete Rank and MozRank as well as serveral other great SEO analysis tools from a dropdown menu.
  • Twitbin: Access your Twitter account right from a browser sidebar. Also allows you to access your @Replies and Direct Messages, as well as quickly reply or message other users. One of the simplest and most practical Twitter apps I’ve seen.

2. AVG Free

A good virus checker is one of the most important things you need on your computer, and AVG Free is the only one I ever use. While there are a lot of other free virus checkers on the market, I just find it really reliable and easy to use. I like it so much that I if I buy a new computer that comes with a expensive virus checker license, I will un-install it and install AVG instead!

3. AdAware Free

You may have spyware or adware running on your computer and not even realize it! Never mind the potential security risk from software that could be stealing passwords and other personal information, spyware and adware slows down your computer! And that’s just a pain. AdAware free is one of the most popular security applications in internet history, with over 250 million downloads! 250 million can’t be wrong – this is a great piece of software.

4. Zone Alarm Free

While Windows does come with a pretty good firewall, it’s not particularly customizable. Zone Alarm is a really great application, allowing you to set what software is able to access the internet as well as blocking other computers from trying to access your system. While it can sometimes slow things down a bit, and it takes a bit to get set up at the start (you have to set permissions on every piece of software you run), I still personally enjoy the added security.

5. Open Office

Do you want Microsoft Office, but you can’t afford the hundreds of dollars it costs? Well look no further! Open Office offers a complete desktop publishing suite including equivalent applications for Word (Writer), Excel (Calc), Access (Base), Powerpoint (Impress), as well as a drawing application (Draw) and a scientific mathematics program (Math). It can also save in Microsoft Office formats like .doc, .xls and .ppt (2003 format)

6. Thunderbird + Lightning

From the same developers as Firefox, Thunderbird, an email client, combined with Lightning, a calendar add-on, offers a real, viable alternative to Outlook. You can use it as the integrated platform, or use it as a stand alone email client and calendar application (the stand-alone calender is called Sunbird). While it may still lack some of the functionality of Outlook, it’s still a very good piece of software providing all the functionality the majority of users require.

7. Orbit Downloader

This is one of my personal favorite applications; Orbit is a download manager that monitors your browser for file downloads. Instead of simply saving file through your browser, Orbit breaks the file into several chunks and downloads them simultaneously making the download far quicker – no matter what your connection speed. It also allows you to capture and save streaming content like video and audio (though make sure you’re not copying copyrighted content). Lastly, it keeps all your downloads in one place and allows you to organize them from the interface. Highly recommended.

8. Kompozer

A fantastic free WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) web authoring program similar to Dreamweaver. While not offering the same degree of functionality, Komposer is designed to be very easy to use for non-technical computer users who want to create great looking web pages without knowing HTML. Also integrates a FTP site manager for uploading your files to the server.

9. WordPress

WordPress is one of the most popular blog platforms on the internet. WordPress gives you a great, customizable system for creating great looking stand-alone blogs (as oppose to blogs hosted by other services like Blogger.com). There are also heaps of great plugins including really effective SEO plugins. WordPress’s popularity and ease of use is one of the reasons we included a custom WordPress template in the recent release of AffiloBlueprint 2.0.

10. Traffic Travis

There’s so much SEO software out there it can be quite hard to find something that’s easy to use, but also does everything you need it to. Traffic Travis has heaps of features in it’s free version, including keyword tool, on-page SEO critic and PPC analysis tools. We use this software heaps in the office, and it’s just a really reliable general SEO tool. Highly recommend.

11. VideoLan

Have you ever had trouble with not being able to play a downloaded video file because it’s in a strange format or your media player says there’s some trouble with codecs? Look no further. I have yet to find anything this program can’t play – and I often use it as a back up when my Window Media Player throws a tantrum and decides it can’t play something. Also features a complete streaming server, and heaps of cool downloadable skins for changing the look of the player.

12. Paint.Net

We all know Photoshop is a great piece of software, few of us have the money to invest in the profession-level piece of software. Paint.Net actually started as a student project at a university, designed to replace Microsoft Paint. Instead, Paint.Net has grown into an application that allows you to do much of the same kind of image creation and editing you can do in Photoshop – all for free. If you want to add some great graphics and retouched photos to your website, but don’t have the money to invest in Photoshop, I definitely recommend you check this out.

Hope this information was useful. Let me know what your favorite FREE tools are, leave a comment. Happy to hear what works best for you!

Heide Holtz

SmarterSites.net

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10 SEO Rules for Your Blog or Website

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a vital component of any website.

As a web designer or blogger, it’s important you understand how SEO works. Here are ten easy rules that will immediately improve the SEO on all of your web sites.

You may also be interested in how to get free advertising on google.

Rule Zero: Do Not Cheat. Period.

If you walked into a room full of genius scientists with PHDs, do you think you could outsmart them all? No. Google has hundreds of rooms full of genius scientists with PHDs, and their job is to work 60 hours a week to make sure you can’t fool Google. You can’t outsmart them. Ever. Ignore any advice on trying to cheat the system and focus on making great web sites with great content, and your sites will show up fine in searches.

Rule One: Stick to Your Keywords

Pick a few keywords or phrases that describe your site. Use them, and words related to them, whenever it’s natural to do so. Repeating them uselessly is no good (rule Zero), use them in sentences, headlines, and links.

Rule Two: Content is King

Users don’t search for design, they search for content. If your site doesn’t have content people want, no one will look at it.

Every page on your site should follow the Inverted Pyramid. Each page should lead with a relevant H1 tag with one of your keywords, and the first paragraph of text should be a summary of the rest of the page.

Rule Three: Clean Code is Searchable Code

Build your sites in a text editor, and write clean, human-readable HTML. The HTML should follow the conceptual structure of the page, navigation first, followed by the H1 tag, then the first paragraph, etc. Try to use descriptive tags when possible. Use UL for lists, P for paragraphs, H tags for heads and subheads, and STRONG for bolded text. Don’t overuse Divs.

Your site can still be artistic and cool, that’s what CSS is for.

Rule Four: The Home Page is the Most Important Page

Your home page is the key to your site being found by search engines. It should summarize the rest of the site, and give a clear, compelling reason for a user to look at the other pages in the site.

Rule Five: Links Have Meaning

Search engines pay a lot of attention to the links on your site, and the words used in those links. Never use “click here” or “see more” for a link. The link text should describe where the link will take the user, such as “more examples of CSS web design” or “learn how we can improve your SEO.”

The more relevant the links on a page, the more findable the page becomes. Don’t go overboard, and don’t link to anything irrelevant. If your page is focused on minimalist web design, a link to the Design MeltDown page on minimalism will boost your SEO. A link to a hilarious picture of a cat will not.

Rule Six: Title Tags for the Win

Every page in your site should have a title with the site name and a short description of the page. About 60 letters total. Include a keyword. Remember that the page title is what appears in search results, it should give users a clear reason to click on it.

Your navigation links should have title attributes that match the titles of your pages. This looks like <a title=”name of page” href=”link”>. It’s a small thing, but it will give you a significant SEO improvement.

Rule Seven: Alt Tags Matter

Every image on your site should have an alt tag. Especially images that are relevant to the page. If your page is focused on CSS tricks, labelling a screenshot “example of rounded CSS corners” will improve your page’s findability. Labelling it “screenshot” or “image” will do the opposite.

Rule Eight: Ignore Most Meta Tags

A long time ago meta tags were the secret to SEO. Those days are gone. The only meta tag that really matters now is the description tag. Search engines may use it to provide the text under the link to your page in their results. Make sure it describes the page in a way that explains why a user searching for your content would want to look at your page.

Rule Nine: Have a Site Map

Make sure you have a site map. This is an xml file that describes the structure of your page. Make one, and give it to Google.

Rule Ten: Design for Humans

Search engines are designed to find what humans want. That means the best way to make your site findable is to design it for humans. Your job as a designer is to solve a problem, not make art, prove a point, serve your ego or break a boundry. In this case, your problem is to provide your users with a site that is easy to use and full of what they’re looking for. If you can do that, the search engines will find you.

Have you got any more tips for SEO tips? Feel free to share them here.

Heide Holtz

http://SmarterSites.net

http://SmarterSites.WordPress.com

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