SEO: 7 Reasons to Use a Site Crawler

Image result for SEO: 7 Reasons to Use a Site Crawler

Third-party crawlers, such as DeepCrawl (shown here) and Screaming Frog, can mimic search engine bots and uncover problems to a site that affect search rankings.

No matter how well you think you know your site, a crawler will always turn up something new. In some cases, it’s those things that you don’t know about that can sink your SEO ship.

Search engines use highly developed bots to crawl the web looking for content to index. If a search engine’s crawlers can’t find the content on your site, it won’t rank or drive natural search traffic. Even if it’s findable, if the content on your site isn’t sending the appropriate relevance signals, it still won’t rank or drive natural search traffic.

Since they mimic the actions of more sophisticated search engine crawlers, third-party crawlers, such as DeepCrawl and Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider, can uncover a wide variety of technical and content issues to improve natural search performance.

7 Reasons to Use a Site Crawler

What’s out there? Owners and managers think of their websites as the pieces that customers will (hopefully) see. But search engines find and remember all the obsolete and orphaned areas of sites, as well. A crawler can help catalog the outdated content so that you can determine what to do next. Maybe some of it is still useful if it’s refreshed. Maybe some of it can be 301 redirected so that its link authority can strengthen other areas of the site.

How is this page performing? Some crawlers can pull analytics data in from Google Search Console and Google Analytics. They make it easy to view correlations between the performance of individual pages and the data found on the page itself.

Not enough indexation or way too much? By omission, crawlers can identify what’s potentially not accessible by bots. If your crawl report has some holes where you know sections of your site should be, can bots access that content? If not, there might be a problem with disallows, noindexcommands, or the way it’s coded that is keeping bots out.

Alternately, a crawler can show you when you have duplicate content. When your sifting through the URLs listed, look for telltale signs like redundant product ID numbers or duplicate title tags or other signs that the content might be the same between two or more pages.

Keep in mind that the ability to crawl does not equate to indexation, merely the ability to be indexed.

What’s that error, and why is that redirecting? Crawlers make finding and reviewing technical fixes much faster. A quick crawl of the site automatically returns a server header status code for every page encountered. Simply filter for the 404s and you have a list of errors to track down. Need to test those redirects that just went live? Switch to list mode and specify the old URLs to crawl. Your crawler will tell you which are redirecting and where they’re sending visitors to now.

Is the metadata complete? Without a crawler, it’s too difficult to identify existing metadata and create a plan to optimize it on a larger scale. Use it to quickly gather data about title tags, meta descriptions, and keywords, H headings, language tags, and more.

Does the site send mixed signals? When not structured correctly, data on individual pages can tie bots into knots. Canonical tags and robots directives, in combination with redirects and disallows affecting the same pages, can send a combination of confusing signals to search engines that can mess up your indexation and ability to perform in natural search.

If you have a sudden problem with performance in a key page, check for a noindex directive and, also, confirm the page that the canonical tag specifies. Does it convey contradictory signals to a redirect sending traffic to the page, or a disallow in the robots.txt file? You never know when something could accidentally change as a result of some other release that developers pushed out.

Is the text correct? Some crawlers also allow you to search for custom bits of text on a page. Maybe your company is rebranding and you want to be sure that you find every instance of the old brand on the site. Or maybe you recently updated schema on a page template and you want to be sure that it’s found on certain pages. If it’s something that involves searching for and reporting on a piece of text within the source code of a group of web pages, your crawler can help.

Plan Crawl Times

It’s important to remember, however, that third-party crawlers can put a heavy burden on your servers. They tend to be set to crawl too quickly as a default, and the rapid-fire requests can stress your servers if they’re already experiencing a high customer volume. Your development team may even have blocked your crawler previously based on suspected scraping by spammers.

Talk to your developers to explain what you need to accomplish and ask for the best time to do it. They almost certainly have a crawler that they use — they may even be able to give you access to their software license. Or they may volunteer to do the crawl for you and send you the file. At the least, they’ll want to advise you as to the best times of day to crawl and the frequency at which to set the bot’s requests. It’s a small courtesy that helps build respect.

[“Source-practicalecommerce”]

How to Use Reverb Plugins on Your Vocal Tracks

Image result for How to Use Reverb Plugins on Your Vocal TracksWe’ve all been there. Your band is tracking some cool new song you just wrote, and it’s coming together great: perfect groove, killer tones, clever ear–candy. Then you add those vocals tracks.

Suddenly, all you notice is that the voice sounds dull, lifeless, and strangely disconnected from the rest of the music. It’s not that the lyrics aren’t working or that your intonation is off. It’s just that, for some reason, those vocals don’t sound well–placed in the mix.

That’s usually right around the time your bandmate or co–producer turns to you and says something like, “It’s all good! Just needs a bunch of reverb!” That’s, well, half–right.

When deployed deftly, good old reverb is the perfect tool for gluing harmonies together or putting the vocal track in a simulated acoustic context.

But, there are very few times when you’ll want to soak your vocal tracks with the effect. Discretion is the name of the game with reverb. Your production will really benefit from understanding a few things about one of the oldest studio effects and how it remains so useful in today’s DAW–dominated world.

The Basics: What Reverb Does and Doesn’t Do

A lot of people will tell you that reverb makes vocals sound bigger, but that’s not really the case. Like natural reverb in a cave or warehouse, a reverb plugin makes a vocal sound like it’s in a space. The reason why reverb is so great on a sterile, dry voice recording is because it helps that vocal track sound like it wasn’t recorded in an isolation booth.

If anything, heavy reverb doesn’t make a vocal sound bigger, but farther away. After all, you’d hear more reverberation from someone farther down in a cave than someone standing right next to you.

Metric Halo’s HaloVerb Digital Reverb

So, if your issue is that the vocals you recorded sound oddly out in front of the band — a very common problem when the vocal is tracked in a different space, on a different day — then break out some basic reverb.

For that kind of issue, a simple plugin like Waves’ Renaissance Reverb or Metric Halo’s HaloVerb will do the job. Choose a size for the room you want to emulate, set a decay time that matches the sound of the other instruments in the mix, and slowly dial a wetter and wetter signal until the voice seems to meet the rest of the band in that imagined space.

If you’re looking to add more presence and power to a vocal performance however, go the opposite route and dial back the reverb.

Reverb has a law of diminishing returns. A little bit is usually called for, but adding more and more will eventually just cause your voice to sound overly glassy, getting swallowed up by the rest of the mix. Ergo, if your reverberated vocal part is sounding weak or unintelligible, dial back your room size, decay, and dry/wet settings to taste.

RELATED ARTICLE



Types of Reverb

While the guiding conceptual principles I outlined apply to any type of reverb you choose to use, different types do have different characteristics. You’ll see these types of reverbs all over the plugin–verse, and knowing what to use and when to use it will lead to the best production decisions.

Plate Reverb

Plate reverb emulates one of the earliest techniques used to get the effect: shooting a recorded signal into an actual steel plate via a transducer and then re–recording the resulting metallic vibrations with a contact microphone. This generates a pleasantly dark, dense, and diffused timbre. The intensity and decay of the reverb directly relate to the size of the plate.

This makes them an excellent choice if you’re going for a thick, vintage tone with your vocals, or if you’re looking for that warmth–and–glue factor but aren’t particularly concerned about adding brightness. You want to be careful with plate reverbs since they add low–end frequencies and can muddy up your mix.

Spring Reverb

Spring reverb — based on a similarly old–school electro–mechanical technology — offers a much brighter and snappier tone. Like plate reverb emulating reverberation on a metal plate, spring reverb emulates reverberation across metal springs.

On most plugins, you can typically adjust the “tension” and “number” of springs being emulated, with very loose springs offering a messier sound and sloppier decay, and tighter springs offering that classic, higher–pitched “splash.”

Because they sound somewhat smaller than their plate cousins, spring reverbs are awesome for scenarios where you don’t want much pre–delay.

Spring reverbs play really well with delay effects. For the best of both worlds, try sending your lead vocal through a tight spring reverb and then into a longer delay. But, once again, be careful. That spring sound is very noticeable, and it can easily distract from the original dry signal if not implemented cautiously.

Room Simulation

Room reverbs, as you likely guessed, simulate rooms. Digital room reverbs will give you control over various room sizes and building materials, ranging from a symphony house to a narrow hall.

Eventide Reverb

Plugins such as the Eventide Reverb typically have settings for various tiled rooms, concrete halls, wooden gymnasiums, and so on. Each preset will make pre–delay time, amount of diffusion, and early reflections present in your reverb signal, and every other setting conform to the spatial and acoustic logic of the room selected.

These verbs will usually impart a more modern sound to your vocal than springs or plates, and they offer far and away the most control over every little parameter you might care to mess with.

Say your band tracked basics to your song in a wooden room that was roughly 20 by 25 feet area with a 12–foot ceiling that you don’t have access to anymore. Using your room simulator, you can basically “dial in” a simulation of that space for your vocal track, creating reflections that will match those produced by the band, thus unifying the performances.

You can also go the opposite route and take your vocal track in some surreal directions by tweaking the parameters to create tiny rooms with inordinately huge decay times. Experiment! That’s the beauty of the digital reverb in the DAW era: you can always play around and re–adjust those knobs again later.

Vox Verb in Practice

Once you play around with reverb enough, you’ll start to get a sense of how to use it functionally. A big part of the joy of reverb, at least once you understand how to use your favorite plugins, is using it creatively.

Try sending all of your vocal harmonies to a track with reverb wetness turned up high while putting a short, crisp reverb on the lead. This will help the harmonies blend and the main vocal pop.

Or maybe use almost no reverb at all during sparse, intimate verses of your song to get a more confessional tone, and then crank it up for a particularly psychedelic bridge or chorus. Suddenly, you’re making real choices about where the singer exists in relation to a song and its listener.

Appendix: A Few General Reverb Functions Explained

  • Wet/Dry or Reverb Level: Controls the ratio of original signal to processed signal.

  • Pre–delay: Controls the total elapsed time between the sounding of the dry and wet signals.

  • Decay Time: Controls the total time until that last reverb tail dies away.

  • Early Reflections: Controls the amount of discrete echoes present in your wet signal.

  • Diffusion: Pushes those discrete echoes closer together (smearing them) or farther apart (separating them).

  • Room Size: Controls the dimensions of a the room being simulated, which automatically adjusts the boominess and decay of your reverb sound on a more global level.

  • Modulation Depth: Varies the pitch of reverberated signal relative to the dry signal.

  • Modulation Rate: Varies how quickly those pitches oscillate in time.

[“Source-ndtv”]

Over 80 powerful VFX & color grading plugins now free to use in any major video editor

Image result for Over 80 powerful VFX & color grading plugins now free to use in any major video editorFXHOME (hitfilm.com) today released Ignite Express (hitfilm.com/ignite-express), a free suite of over 80 powerful plugins which transform editors like Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro X and more, turning them into advanced visual effects toolkits.

From world-leading keying technology to 360° video effects and the ultimate light flares collection – this suite contains over 300 effects and presets in total and uses professional HitFilm technology to help editors generate impressive visual effects, achieve perfect grading, color correction and much more. Created to fit into any workflow, users can plugin and power up using Ignite Express on Mac or PC with the editor of their choice: After Effects, Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro X, Motion, Sony Catalyst, DaVinci Resolve, NUKE, EDIUS, Media Composer and Vegas Pro 14 are all supported.

Hero shot
Hero shot

Ignite Express offers choice to video editors worldwide, with direct native support giving a smooth workflow and high performance every time. They can effortlessly scale up production value and dramatic flare in their next project with advanced VFX plugins, or experiment with hues, exposure, and hyperstylized effects to create their own signature film look. Ignite Express even contains advanced keying plugins for bold and believable composites, including a matte cleaner tool to seamlessly smooth edges.

With Ignite Express, we can help editors all over the world tell great stories, no matter their workflow,” says Josh Davies, Founder and CEO of HitFilm. “It’s important to us that everyone has access to our powerful technology, so we’re thrilled to be able to offer these free plugins and open up a new world of possibilities for video editors and creators worldwide.”

Ignite Express users will find even more advanced plugins available in Ignite Pro, which is available from the HitFilm store for $199. It contains over 150 plugins and offers further flexibility for video editors.

They [HitFilm] feel that helping future generations become masters of their craft is the right thing to do.” – Dan Cooper, Engadget

*ENDS*

NOTES TO EDITORS

  • For information about HitFilm’s products and services, please visit hitfilm.com.
  • For reviews and briefings, please contact [email protected]
  • The HitFilm YouTube channel has over 130k subscribers and provides free weekly tutorials and filmmaking techniques: youtube.com/user/FXhomeHitFilm
  • Media information, including a product description, logos and images can be downloaded here: hitfilm.com/contact

Ignite Express 2017 is FREE to download (hitfilm.com/ignite-express) from the 15th June 2017 for both Mac and PC.

Minimum requirements are:
• Apple Mac – OS X 10.10 Yosemite, 10.11 El Capitan or macOS 10.12 Sierra
• Windows PC – 64 bit version of Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 10

ABOUT FXHOME, Makers of HitFilm
In 2011, Josh Davies set out on a mission to prove that professional grade post-production tools can be made available to everyone. HitFilm was created as an all-in-one video editing and visual effects software solution – at a fraction of the cost of other industry standard tools.

With over 1.3 million users, HitFilm is one of the leading post-production software tools in the industry, offering professional software options and unrivalled community support for the next generation of filmmaker.

What started as a big idea on a little budget, has grown to a global movement of filmmakers who share HitFilm’s vision for the future of video software.

[“Source-ndtv”]

How to add cloud functionality to your WordPress site with an easy to use plugin

One reason I always recommend WordPress for more than just blogs is its flexibility. With WordPress you can create sites centered around blogging, services, e-commerce, community, and so much more. Plus, with the help of a massive repository of plugins, WordPress can be expanded into almost any type of site.

If you use WordPress as either a community or a client-based website, you’ll be interested to know about a cloud-centric plugin called WP Cloud that enables users to:

  • Upload and view files
  • View assigned cloud space
  • View cloud space used

Must-Read Cloud

  • Take advantage of training and certification discounts for Microsoft Azure
  • Video: The 5 trends that form the future of cloud computing
  • Video: The hybrid cloud ‘condition,’ and what Amazon is doing to address it
  • Subscribe to TechRepublic’s Cloud Insights newsletter

At the moment, the plugin is limited in what it can do, and it doesn’t have an associated mobile plugin yet, but what it does offer goes a long way to extend the built-in features for users.

A word of warning about WP Cloud: The development has come to a standstill over the last two years. Even with that in mind, it’s a solid solution if you want to allow your users a bit of cloud space on your WordPress site. Hopefully, with a bit of prodding, the developer will resume working on it again, or open source the code so it can be continued by another developer.

Let’s install and use WP Cloud. I am assuming you have access to the admin section of your WordPress site.

SEE: Working with WordPress: Control your site support, prevent zombie apocalypse (ZDNet)

Installing WP Cloud

The installation of WP Cloud is as simple as installing any other WordPress plugin.

  1. Log into your WordPress site as the administrator or as a user that has admin permissions.
  2. Click Plugins | Add New from the left navigation.
  3. In the Search Plugins box, type WP Cloud and hit Enter on your keyboard.
  4. Click the Install Now button associated with the WP Cloud plugin.
  5. Once the installation completes, click the Activate button.

    Using WP Cloud

    The WP Cloud plugin is now available for your users. Each user has to point their browser to http://SITE_URL/cloud (SITE_URL is the actual domain or IP address of your WordPress site). Each logged in user will be presented with their cloud space on the site. Note: Users have to be registered and logged into the site to use the WP Cloud plugin.

    Before opening the floodgates to users, you might want to take care of a little housekeeping first. If you go to Cloud | Settings, you can set a user quota for the plugin—this is especially important when you’re limited on server storage space. This is an all-or-none quota, which means you cannot set different quotas for different users. There are really only two options:

    • 0 = cloud hosting disabled
    • X = any positive number (in megabytes) will enable hosting and set the quota to that number

    There is also a setting called “overlaps” (which is described as Overload in the documentation) that allows you to set a percentage that will—once it’s reached—prevent a user from uploading a file. The description, according to the developer, is:

    • 9 of 10 MB used. Overload 10%. File to upload: 2MB. -> YES
    • 9 of 10 MB used. Overload 0%. File to upload: 2MB. -> NO
    • 10 of 10MB used. Overload 10%. File to upload: 1MB. -> NO
    • 9.99 of 10MB used. Overload 10%. File to upload: 1MB. -> YES

    This allows you to prevent users from uploading files when they are close to their quota. You set the overlaps in percentage from 0-100.

    When you have the quota and overlaps settings ready, you can point users to the cloud link for your site. When a registered/logged in user goes to the cloud URL, they will be greeted by a simple page that allows them to upload, view, and delete their files (Figure B). The user will also see the percentage of space used in their cloud storage.

    Shortcodes

    The developer has enabled shortcodes so you can add custom pages that include WP Cloud options. The available shortcodes are:

    • [cloud] prints a list of files for the current user
    • [cloud_show id=”0″] prints a list of files of the given user id
    • [cloud_upload] prints a simple upload form that allows the current user to upload a file in his/her directory
    • [cloud_send] prints a simple upload form that allows the current user to upload a file to another user directory by specifying login_name or email

    Here’s hoping for more

    WP Cloud is a handy plugin to add to various types of WordPress sites. Although WP Cloud is limited in features, it makes up for it in ease of use.

    My hope is that the developer will either return to work on the plugin or allow someone to fork it so that it can expand its feature set. Even as it is now, WP Cloud is a worthwhile addition to WordPress.

[Source:-Tech Reepublic]

Price Check Widgets: Who, How and Why to Use Them.

The past two years have seen a relatively new product category hit the market for hotels: price check widgets, and this sudden proliferation has come hand in hand with the increasing move to drive direct bookings. As OTAs consolidate, many hotels feel constrained by high third-party commission rates, and the benefits of a book direct strategy are more widely understood.

How do price check widgets work? What are the benefits to your hotel of using one? Which price check widgets are out there?

The idea behind a price check widget is simple: when placed on a hotel’s website, it gives guests a clear, immediate way to see the price differences between the hotel’s own site and the price on various OTAs. Ideally, the guest should see that the hotel’s own price is equal to or lower than that of any third-party site. This doesn’t always happen, but it’s up to the hotel to ensure that their direct rates are better or the same as any third-party rates (there are a few widgets that will help you out with this – read on to discover which).

This encourages guests to make their booking directly. However, it also benefits the guest: it saves them time shopping around, assures them they’re getting the best deal, and gives them direct contact with the hotel. This in turn gives the guest more flexibility in adjusting their reservations, and builds loyalty.

What Do the Experts Say?

We’ve reviewed and reached out to the top price check companies in the market today to get their insights and look at what makes price check tools so useful:

Nancy Huang, Head of Marketing at Travel Tripper, says that Travel Tripper has “seen our hotels earn tens of thousands in additional revenue” through their Rate Match tool.  This is because price check tools allow customers to clearly see in the hotel’s own booking engine that they are getting the best deal, instead of shopping around a dozen sites.

Sophie Cartwright at Guestline offers similar sentiments, adding that “It can be the difference between clinching that direct booking and sending them back into the hands of the OTAs.”

So what are the options for hotels? Which price check widget is best for their needs, and where can they get it? We looked into the choices.

Firstly, we inspected stand alone price check widgets – the kind that can be integrated with any booking engine, and aren’t part of a larger system. After that, we looked at widgets that came as part of a larger package, and the key differences between the two types.

Stand Alone Price Check Widgets

These widgets can be attached to any booking engine, CRS or your hotel site. They are free-standing, lightweight and can usually be styled to match a hotel’s branding.

Triptease
The first price check widget on the market was Triptease’s. They invented the first widget, and created a whole new product category. Declan Ward, a representative of Triptease, says:

“It’s our firm belief that direct is best. When we launched two years ago, we realised after months of research that hotels were in need of one thing: a way to drive direct bookings. We launched Price Check, our smart widget that shows live prices from OTAs on a hotel website, and things really took off.”

Widely used and the subject of some recent controversy with Booking.com, it tends to be one of the first price check tools brought up in conversation. They boast 99.5% accuracy in the rates their widget shows, and work with hotels of all sizes. Unfortunately, they do not currently have any case studies available specifically for independent hotels. For their Price Check Widget and other innovations, Triptease were named European Travel Innovator of the Year at Phocuswright last year.

Their Price Check Widget shows real time OTA prices and compares them to your own hotel’s best available rate. One of the unique aspects of the Triptease widget is that the tool also comes with the option of adding 3 benefits of booking direct right next to the price (like free wifi or early check in), reminding guests of the benefits of booking on your site. ///

Clicktripz
Clicktripz offers “conversion solutions for travel.” The first solution they developed after their acquisition of hotel data science start up TheSuitest was their price check widget. They designed the widget to help “travel suppliers and online travel agents (OTAs)”increase their conversion rates.

Unlike other price check tools, they don’t seem to be specifically targeting hotels. Clicktripz works with a variety of client types, including suppliers, publishers, advertisers and travellers, so perhaps it’s no surprise. Nevertheless, it’s a broader arena than most price check tools are targeting, so they might have more opportunity for growth than other suppliers.

Convertio
Convertio is a company dedicated to their Price Check Wizard, engagement messaging and a personalized offer engine. Their smart widget shows your own price at the top, followed by several OTAs below. According to their website, they help hotels garner 35% more direct bookings on average.

They also offer comparisons at both the hotel level and the room type level, as well as customizable displays for different languages and currencies. Here’s an example of the comparison at a room level:

LiveRate
LiveRate’s exclusive product is their price check widget. Their sleek, simple widget integrates onto a hotel website’s home page and links directly to their booking engine. It places the call to action – ‘Book Now’ – right next to a strong motivation to book, making the choice easy for the guest. It can be compared with up to 3 OTAs and customized to match your branding.

Cloudbeds
Cloudbeds offers a PMS, a channel manager, a booking engine, and a group booking engine they call their “OTA-in-a-box”, along with tools like their price checker. Their Rate Comparison Widget is a bit unusual in that it can be placed on any page of your website – that means it can be featured on your home page, booking engine, or every page of your site if you like. It’s also optimised for mobile, which is swiftly becoming a necessity due to mobile’s dramatic growth.

Their Rate Comparison Widget can integrate with up to 5 online travel agencies, and offers guests up-to-date, real time data. Their fees, which also include their booking engine and other features, start at €23 per month.

World Hotel Marketing
World Hotel Marketing, who also provide other distribution solutions and digital marketing services, call their widget a Rate Comparison Tool. It offers comparisons with “at least” 3 real time OTA rates. It’s not clear if their tool is capable of offering further comparisons or is capped at 3, although in most cases 3 would suffice for a hotel’s needs.

Their widget can also be customised for your hotel brand’s look and feel, a must-have if you don’t want your price checker tool to feel out of place or too ostentatious.

Price Checkers as Part of a Larger System

One way to ensure your price check widget doesn’t stand out like a sore thumb is to make it a native part of the body – that is, to get a larger system that comes with a price checker of its own.

Here are 5 of those systems. Let’s see what they believe makes their widgets stand out from the rest.

Hotel Champ
Hotel Champ offers their Price Comparison tool as part of their ‘Triggering Toolset’, a set of 10 tools designed to increase conversions. This kit includes tools like a USP comparison with your website vs the OTAs, live chat and an exit popup message.

Their price comparison tool is clean, neat and does the job. Their Triggering Toolset starts at €229 per month for smaller properties, so make sure you look into the potential value for your property before investing.

Travel Tripper
To Travel Tripper, price check widgets are just one part of “making the actual booking process easy and seamless for the consumer” – an essential concern to those looking to improve direct bookings, says Nancy Huang, Travel Tripper’s head of marketing.

The Travel Tripper Rate Match tool is a little different. In addition to checking rates, Nancy says, the tool “will also price match any lower rate it finds on a third-party booking site.” That way the consumer can be absolutely certain that they’re finding the lowest rate on the hotel’s own site, and if you’ve forgotten to adjust your rates on your own site to make them the lowest, the tool can do it for you.

Paraty Tech
Paraty Tech is a Spain-based company who offer a booking engine, online marketing and web design. Their Parity Maker is their latest tool, and has most of the features of other price check tools we’ve seen – plus a little extra.

Parity Maker compares and matches rates with OTAs in real time. Then, like Travel Tripper’s tool, if the lowest price is not on the hotel’s own website, the prices will be modified to change that fact. The prices change right before the user’s eyes, giving them a powerful incentive to book immediately.

Guestline
Price Assure is offered as a free tool as a part of Guestline’s latest Online Booking Module. Sophie Cartwright at Guestline tells us that Guestline’s Price Assure tool allows guests to compare the total cost of their stay on the hotel’s website against up to 5 other online channels (the same number as Cloudbeds).

When checking room availability, the tool instantly returns results – there’s no wait to see the comparable prices. Sophie says that “the widget uses controls within Guestline’s software, and is configurable by the property, which can customise the messages that the booker reads.” This is convenient for hotels wanting as much flexibility as possible in their price check widget and looking to ensure information is constantly up to date.

Everyglobe
Everyglobe may technically be a stand alone widget, but they’ve partnered exclusively with Webhotelier. Since their price check widget is currently exclusively available with the Webhotelier booking engine, we’re going to treat it here as part of a larger system.

Everyglobe shows a live price comparison on both your hotel website and your booking engine. Here’s what it looks like:

Conclusion

All of these price check widgets have unique features to offer, and it’s likely that some will perform better for your property than others. Ultimately, however, they are all trying to do the same thing: drive direct bookings to your site.

When you are developing a book direct strategy, everything that can be done should be done to get guests on your site and keep them there to book. Hotel technology companies know this, so watch this space! It’s likely that the market will open up even further than it has in such a short span of time, and it will be interesting to watch and see which tools rise, which fall, and why.

[Source:-Hotilers]

Google’s Disavow Tool: Use With Caution Or You Could Harm Your Website’s Performance

Breaking metal chain

In late 2012, Google introduced the Disavow tool, which allows websites to disavow links. While it was welcomed with open arms by some, there has been a smattering of mixed reviews and a few naysayers who caution against the seeming convenience of it.

Of course, many site owners bombarded their SEO writers and web designers with requests to remove links. Some of the links caused manual penalties, while others were simply sub par, and as SEO best practice knowledge continues to spread, it’s natural that more website owners are on top of their link game.

Keep in mind that Disavow is an advanced tool and should only be used by professional webmasters. Its purpose is to remove backlinks that harm your site’s performance, such as super-spammy links. You also have to be 100 percent certain that the backlinks are harming your site’s performance, otherwise you might do a lot more harm than good.

Quality link building, along with quality content and analytics, is the foundation of smart SEO. With best practices always evolving, it’s a must to keep up with trends. Here’s a look at how to carefully use Disavow.

Use Disavow If…

You’re a professional with a sharp understanding of how SEO works. It might be prudent to use Disavow if you’ve received a bad link warning from Google, but those warnings aren’t always accurate. Before using Disavow, it’s best to try to manually remove trouble links first; the same rings true for manual penalties.

If you’re sure that you have received a manual penalty because of a bad link, and you know exactly what link it is, try to remove it yourself first. This is the fastest, easiest, and yet most overlooked approach—especially for website newbies. If that fails, Disavow may be an option.

Let’s say you manage a retail site and you’ve been hit with a manual penalty soon after adding new backlinks. If a little digging shows that a certain link is stuffed with spam, you’ve likely identified the culprit and can get it removed.

When You’re Stuck

If you’ve been slapped with a manual penalty or have received bad link warnings, these can be tough to remove. You can apply for a reconsideration with Google, but reconsiderations are notoriously difficult to get. If you’ve been struggling with this for weeks or months, it might be time to try out Disavow. However, Disavow should be a last resort since properly identifying a trouble link is a huge undertaking.

Another time Disavow could work is if you’ve received negative SEO. Negative SEO is subjective and not always “fair,” but that’s how the SEO game sometimes plays out. Keep in mind that negative SEO is a rarity and the chances of your actually becoming a victim are slim at best. Also, the odds of someone consciously creating bad links to infiltrate your site are extremely low. Before using Disavow on negative SEO, ensure that you’re not dealing with another SEO problem.

Use Disavow With Care

It’s pretty easy to disavow every link on a domain name—which will absolutely destroy your site rankings. If you have sub-domains and root domains linked together, this can also cause problems. One wrong move can devastate your SEO rankings, and you know just how challenging it can be to rebuild.

[Source:-Big Rock]

How To Use Elements of Fiction for a Better Blog

elements of fiction better blog

What’s your favorite part of a good story?

Mine is always the plot. I love how my favorite authors take something ordinary, turn it around, and then present me with this new idea. Other people enjoy the characters and their growth throughout their ordeal. Meanwhile, some folks are obsessed with the details of the setting.

Whichever element you like, we could all agree that storytelling is – and always will be – timeless.

No wonder the most successful bloggers use this tactic.

In fact, our brains are so in tuned with stories that through thousands of years, it has inspired cooperation, helped us survive, and have kept our species alive.

There are numerous articles dedicated to how creative writing can help you with your blog. But in this post, let me show you how the five elements of fiction (the plot, characters, setting, conflict, and resolution) can take your blogging skills to a new level.

#1 The Plot: What’s YOUR Story In a Nutshell?

In some references, this can also be called the main ‘premise’. Good content is akin to a good story: it revolves around a central idea. The Star Wars Trilogy is a great example. Its original author, Alan Dean Foster, wanted the plot to be that good triumphs over evil no matter what – and it showed in all the books and the movies. People loved it because it was consistent.

In blogging, our most common plot is ‘helping readers with our expertise. Whether the post is about tips on cooking casserole or how to write a compelling article, you should leave people feeling like they gained something useful from your work.

We’re all familiar with link-bait articles: writings that promise something wonderful but deliver another. This goes against one of the basic elements of writing.

So to deliver quality, consistent blog stories over time, be clear on your plot first. The best way to know whether you’ve nailed this one down is to summarize your thought in just two or three sentences. It should answer the question: ‘what’s this article about?’ If you can do that, then your plot is ready.

Recommended for YouWebcast, November 3rd: 5 Key Steps to Building a Business Case for Your Sales Enablement Team

#2 The Setting: WHERE Is Your Story?

Among the elements of fiction, this one is easiest to spot. It’s space in Star Wars, Hogwarts in Harry Potter, and New England in Little Women. It’s not only limited to places or location. A story’s setting can also be a specific time, date, or event. In blogging, your setting would explain the motive behind your plot.

Say you want to write about how to create a convincing article for prospective digital marketing clients. Your goal (or plot) would be to give away solid tips on how to be persuasive through text. Your setting is the dynamic industry of modern online marketing. Show it the best way you can through concrete examples or comparisons.

In one of my guests posts entitled ’Unboxing Your Brand’, my setting was video-sharing site, YouTube. I wanted people to see the world of un-boxing videos and how it affects consumers today. My plot was to help readers realize the difference between bringing great content and just promoting someone’s products.

#3 The Characters: WHO Are In Your Story?

This is perhaps everyone’s favorite among the elements of fiction.

We all want to know who’s who in the grand scheme of things and why they are important. You may think there are no characters in a blog post – but there is: YOU. You have the most significant role in your blog posts because you are the one carrying your audience. This is why having a unique voice is essential as it shows in your work.

Readers can identify character types through dialogues alone. For instance: right now, my character is informal, but shows a fine balance between being conversational and professional. I sound like this through all of my articles. Readers can’t say I’m much fun – but I get a lot of feedback that my works are educational, insightful, and positive for the most part.

One blogger I like in particular, Erika Napoletano, has a totally different character. She seems headstrong, independent, and adventurous. In fact, she reminds me of the heroine Kriemhild from the old Germanic epic, Nibelungenlied. As you can see, we can play different characters based on how we choose to portray ourselves.

The more you show your true self, the more your writings are going to break through all that digital noise.

#4 The Conflict: Is There a Problem?

Although having a grand plot, amazing characters, and an unforgettable setting is crucial to a good story, they’re all useless without conflict.

In the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling for example, the main conflict is that Lord Voldemort was trying to kill Harry Potter. In Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, the girls go through various hardships in life that test their values. Conflict is not just to keep a story exciting – it’s to help characters evolve.

In blogging, it is normal for authors to convey contradicting views or to present problems. Without it, the piece will feel flat, bland, and one-sided.

In Paul Pruneau’s post about blogging essentials, his conflict was about too much content and how it can bury one’s blog under all that chaos. Neil Patel’s post on the other hand, tackles the conflict of content marketers being unable to include user behavior in most of their campaigns.

The arguments presented in these articles make readers excited to see how it can be resolved. They hang onto the author’s every word. They stay. The same is true in a good story. After all, weren’t we all at the edge of our seats when Titanic’s demise pushed Rose and Jack to fight for their lives?

#5 The Resolution: Everything Must Come to an End.

Unfortunately, even good stories must come to an end.

This is where we need to go full circle and conclude our works. In Titanic, Rose moves on but eventually meets Jack in the afterlife. In Harry Potter, Harry finally defeats Voldemort. Conflicts that were presented must have an answer. Otherwise, readers will feel cheated.

Going back to our example of writing a convincing post for potential online marketing clients, at the end of your article, you should wrap it up with your key thought. Something like, you need to maintain a distinct yet genuine voice to be truly persuasive; or that nothing beats showcasing your experience and value to customers. Repeat your main point if you must for emphasis.

Failing to conclude a blog post often results in confusion.

Did the author mean to say more? That was it? If you believe that you have enumerated all the important concepts, you can simply summarize them in your last paragraph. You could also close with a question. The latter often works to get engagement in the form of comments and/or social media shares, because your last sentence made them think.

Where Elements of Fiction Come Full Circle

You won’t need these for every post in your blog. There are times when all you need are just a plot and an ending; other times, you’ll have to outline everything. However, knowing how the elements of fiction contribute to its readability will help make your work more cohesive.

No matter how baffling a story may seem in the beginning, they all come together before we’re finished reading.

The most essential rule that both blogging and creative writing stick to is making EACH word count. ‘Each word had to pull its own weight; it should serve its own purpose’. Similar to composing music, no note should be out of place. So take your time when creating your piece.

After all, the best stories weren’t written in one day.
[Source:-B 2 C]

How to Use Siri to Add Widgets to Notification Center in macOS Sierra

siri mac sierra

If you haven’t played around with Siri in macOS Sierra, the new version of the Mac’s operating system, you should really check it out. We’ve previously covered a whole bunch of stuff you can do with the Mac-based version of Apple’s voice assistant, and those tricks are great ones to learn. One other cool feature, though, is that you can save certain Siri queries as widgets in Notification Center, letting you get quick answers to your frequent questions without having to ask Siri each time you want an update.

Here’s how it works. First, launch Siri by either clicking its icon in the Dock…

Siri Dock

…or the one in your menu bar:

Siri Menu Bar

When you do so, Siri will start listening. Then you can do all sorts of things with your voice, just like you can on your iPad or iPhone—get sports scores, find word definitions, do Web searches, change your settings, get weather information, and lots more. Here’s the kicker, though: If the request you’ve made is something that can be saved as a widget into Notification Center, you’ll see a small plus button appear within Siri’s answer.

Plus Button

If you see the plus icon in your Siri results, click it to create a new widget in your Notification Center. Now, anytime you click on Notification Center’s three-lined icon at the top-right of your screen afterward, you’ll see your fancy new widget.

Notification Center Icon

This trick doesn’t work with all Siri queries, of course. It’s primarily designed for data-driven questions that will change over time, such as the scores and schedules of your favorite sports teams, the latest ski forecasts, international currency values or stock quotes, and local news alerts.

Once you’ve added a Siri query as a widget, you can delete it from your Notification Center the same way you manage other widgets. That is, simply hover your cursor over the widget and click the small “x” that appears.

[Source:-tek revue]

How to Use Siri to Add Widgets to Notification Center in macOS Sierra

If you haven’t played around with Siri in macOS Sierra, the new version of the Mac’s operating system, you should really check it out. We’ve previously covered a whole bunch of stuff you can do with the Mac-based version of Apple’s voice assistant, and those tricks are great ones to learn. One other cool feature, though, is that you can save certain Siri queries as widgets in Notification Center, letting you get quick answers to your frequent questions without having to ask Siri each time you want an update.

Here’s how it works. First, launch Siri by either clicking its icon in the Dock…

Siri Dock

…or the one in your menu bar:

Siri Menu Bar

When you do so, Siri will start listening. Then you can do all sorts of things with your voice, just like you can on your iPad or iPhone—get sports scores, find word definitions, do Web searches, change your settings, get weather information, and lots more. Here’s the kicker, though: If the request you’ve made is something that can be saved as a widget into Notification Center, you’ll see a small plus button appear within Siri’s answer.

Plus Button

If you see the plus icon in your Siri results, click it to create a new widget in your Notification Center. Now, anytime you click on Notification Center’s three-lined icon at the top-right of your screen afterward, you’ll see your fancy new widget.

Notification Center Icon

This trick doesn’t work with all Siri queries, of course. It’s primarily designed for data-driven questions that will change over time, such as the scores and schedules of your favorite sports teams, the latest ski forecasts, international currency values or stock quotes, and local news alerts.

Once you’ve added a Siri query as a widget, you can delete it from your Notification Center the same way you manage other widgets. That is, simply hover your cursor over the widget and click the small “x” that appears.

Nifty! For more on configuring Siri on your Mac, check out System Preferences > Siri.

Want news and tips from TekRevue delivered directly to your inbox? Sign up for the TekRevue Weekly Digest using the box below. Get tips, reviews, news, and giveaways reserved exclusively for subscribers.

[Source:-Tek Revue]

A Language Learning Phenomenon — 5 Reasons 1,000,000 People Use This App To Learn Languages

Facebook now has approximately 1.6 billion users, which equates to about one quarter of the world’s population. This number becomes even more astonishing when you consider that 3.3 billion of the world’s 7.2 billion people are connected to the internet — Facebook has registered over half the world’s connected population. The other internet giant, Google, handles around 4 billion search queries a day. Our information age of hyper-connectivity has heralded a new understanding of achievable scale. Every two days we generate the same amount of information as we did from the dawn of civilization until 2003 — five exabytes — and platforms with skittish names and basement origins categorize and index this information, mediate how we interact with one another, and mould the channels through which we access the vast repository of human knowledge.

Companies that operate on the breathtaking scale of Google and Facebook address and satisfy core fundamental human needs; namely, access to information and social interaction. It’s a formula for success: identify or create a need and provide a product or service which fulfills this need. In our networked world, this can be done at a global level: Uber can hail you a car either side of the Atlantic, Airbnb can secure you an apartment in Bombay or Buenos Aires, and Foodora can deliver you a takeaway in Birmingham or Berlin.

What happens, though, when a web company focuses not on need, but on aspiration? Can it also unite thousands of people in a common desire to educate and better themselves?

In 2007, the language experts at Babbel set out to make language learning easy, effective, and accessible to everyone. Fast-forward nine years and the four founders have multiplied into over four-hundred language enthusiasts — among them linguists, teachers, polyglots and content creators — who produce courses for learners of fourteen different foreign languages from seven different native languages, which equates to ninety-eight combinations of individually tailored courses.

So how’s it working out?

The numbers speak for themselves: over 1,000,000 people choose to learn a language with Babbel, and that number continues to grow. But why have the Babbel apps proved so popular? We’ve selected our top five reasons:

1. The People

From a rabble of budding language enthusiasts working in a loft in the Kreuzberg neighborhood of Berlin, Babbel HQ has since evolved to house a broad range of experts united by the common goal of creating the best language learning tools possible. That may all sound rather, um… lofty, but as I heard Eric Schmidt say just this week, such overt ambition possesses a strong force of attraction. For a company that requires specialists in ninety-eight language combinations, this force of attraction is integral to finding the right people, whether it’s an Italian linguist who can design a course in Indonesian, or a graphic designer who can help localize the look and feel across seven languages. This imperative of multilingual, intercultural expertise has endowed the company with a truly unique topography of skills, and an unrivaled potential for innovation within the world of language learning.

2. The Product AND The Service

App-based learning carries a few inherent advantages. It’s convenient: you have your smartphone by your side at all times, fully-charged and ready to guide you through the labyrinth of contemporary life, from the gentle tap of the snooze in the morning to the emoji-peppered goodnight-message you compose for a loved one in the evening.

Furthermore, an online product can be constantly improved and updated, blurring the distinction between product and service. A Babbel learner’s progress is measured, and junctures within courses that prove difficult are optimized in order to ensure information is conveyed as effectively as possible. Yes, all that German grammar may sometimes seem complicated, and yes, some of those French words don’t look anything like they sound, but that’s exactly where Babbel comes in handy: it prides itself on making the complicated simple.

3. The Learners

All of the 1,000,000+ learners have their own story, their own reason for endeavoring to learn a language. As Babbel is in frequent contact with them, some truly inspiring tales have emerged.Gianni, for example, is probably our oldest learner at the age of 101. He’s a technophile who has long used Skype to communicate with his daughter in New York, and who likes to practice his new language with his great-granddaughter’s English speaking nanny. Cecilia is also Italian but has lived abroad for many years and speaks multiple languages. She now uses Babbel to learn German with a view to moving to Berlin in the next few years. The Babbelonians themselves are also keen Babbelers, having taken part in numerous challenges to see how much they can learn within a given period of time, whether that be Turkish in seven days, or French in a working week…

4. The Magazine

The Babbel Magazine was founded two years ago with the aim of promoting entertaining, educational articles, artwork and video on the topics of language and culture. It’s written in six different languages – English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese – and is visited on average by over ten million people every month. The editorial team now consists of thirteen people from eight different countries, and you can read about anything from the secret languages of twins to how soccer players in international teams communicate with one another. If this sounds like your cup of tea, then you can easily register with Babbel and receive all the latest updates from our magazine.

5. The Future

Artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality… Science fiction is rapidly becoming science reality. The education industry has often lagged behind other industries, such as gaming and travel, in adopting and developing new digital technologies. Babbel aims to change this – driving innovation in order to keep education in step and simultaneously addressing the soaring trend toward informal, autodidactic learning that’s been ushered in by the Information Age.

[Source:-Babble Magazine]