Archive for December, 2007

What is SEO?

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

SEOSearch engine optimization or SEO is the practice of trying to get your Web site to appear higher in a search engine’s organic search results for the keywords for which you want to be listed. The idea is that if someone is searching for a term that is related to your business, you want to be listed at the top of the search results page because that person will be more likely to click on your listing and come to your Web site. Organic search results are the “natural” search results, or the listings that are free. More about organic vs. paid listings below.

There are many factors that contribute to where sites are listed in organic search results – the combination of these factors is called the “algorithm.” Only some of these factors can be impacted with SEO tactics:

  • Domain name – If your keywords are listed in your URL, you’ll have a better chance of being ranked higher in the search results for those terms.
  • Duration - The longer your site has existed, the higher you’ll be ranked.
  • Content – If you have high-quality content on your Web site, and the content matches the keywords for which you’re trying to rank, you’ll have better luck getting listed. It’s also beneficial if your site has frequently updated content.
  • Metadata – This is data that allows you to describe your Web site with a title, description and keywords. Metadata sits behind the scenes on your Web page and plays a factor in organic search results.
  • Incoming links – If your site has a number of other sites pointing to it, the search algorithms will determine that it’s of higher value and will list it higher in the search results. You will get an even bigger benefit from incoming links if the text that links to you contains the keywords for which you’re trying to rank.

SEO may sound like a relatively simple concept, but there are SEO experts who execute these tactics full-time and trust me – it’s more complex and difficult than it sounds. This post is just meant to be a starting definition of the term, and not a how-to or training guide in any way. For that info, follow the resources links below.

One quick comment about organic vs. paid search listings: All the various search engines display both free and paid listings on their search results pages. For example, if you type the term “SEO” into Google, the results that you get back will be a combination of organic (or natural) search results and paid search results. The screenshot below has the paid search results areas circled in red.

SEO google search

Let me say again that SEO can be fairly complicated and I am just scratching the surface with this definition. I definitely recommend checking out some of these additional SEO resources:

What is Web 2.0?

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

Web 2.0 is a term that has existed since 2004. The phrase is now widely used by anyone who works on or with the Internet, but Web 2.0 is one of those expressions that many business people outside the Internet industry only “sort-of” understand.

Web 2.0To understand Web 2.0, you first have to be familiar with Web 1.0. Web 1.0 is the Web as it existed up to and immediately after the Internet bubble burst in 2000. Web 1.0 followed the “broadcast model,” meaning that any content that existed on the Web was one-way – the content was written and published by the author (a company or an individual) for the reader. The best way of understanding the broadcast model is: “We talk, you listen.” There are still many sites that are Web 1.0, including most corporate and informational Web sites. Examples include and GM.

Web 2.0 was born when the broadcast model started to change to a conversational model.

The hallmarks of Web 2.0 are conversations and user-generated content. Sites that provide technology platforms that allow users to interact and to contribute content are Web 2.0 sites. Examples include Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, YouTube and blogs – these sites provide the technology that lets users submit content and interact with each other in various ways, such as by submitting photos and videos, chatting or by commenting on on each others content.

Today, many Web 1.0 sites are moving toward Web 2.0 by launching Web 2.0 features. These sites publish content, but solicit a response from users to further enhance the conversation. For example, retail sites such as Walmart and Target now allow visitors to post reviews of products. Traditional publishing companies like the NY Times have opened up their articles for comments and have discussion areas to facilitate reader interactions.

The following are some of the most useful articles you can read to find out more about Web 2.0:

  • What is Web 2.0- This article by Tim O’Reilly is often sourced as the definitive treatise on Web 2.0.
  • Web 2.0 – This 2005 article was written by Paul Graham, and is a very good explanation of Web 2.0.
  • What is Web 2.0- This 2006 documentary from TechCrunch features Editor Michael Arrington’s interviews with start-up CEOs about Web 2.0. (24 Minutes). The CEO’s definitions of Web 2.0 really illustrate why this term is so difficult to pin down and how everyone defines it a little differently (around minute 5).
  • Web 2.0- The Wikipedia entry about Web 2.0.
  • Web 1.0 vs. Web 2.0 – This post will help you understand the differences between 1.0 and 2.0.

Internet terminology

Monday, December 10th, 2007

Question markI get a lot of questions from people about what certain things are or mean related to the Internet. Some of these questions are from people who know nothing of business or the Web, but most of the time they are from professionals who work with the Internet in at least some capacity, but who don’t do so full time so they are trying to catch up to the latest concepts and terms.

In light of these questions, I thought I would take the next week or two to provide basic explanations for some of these concepts both to clear up confusion and so that I can use these definitions as a framework for future posts. If anyone has any questions or terms that they would like me to tackle, please let me know what they are in the comments, via Web form or by email ( and I will be glad to take a stab at answering them.

Photo by aymlis

Colorful dinosaurs?

Friday, December 7th, 2007

colorful dinosaurI already had a shock last month when I found out the beautiful stark white sculpture from the ancient Greeks and Romans used to be brightly colored. Now I find out that dinosaurs likely were colorful creatures, as well!?

According to, the skin color of dinosaurs remains a mystery to paleontologists even to this day. Their best bet, however, is that because dinosaurs descended from birds and were diurnal (active chiefly in the day), they were colorful, males more so than the females.

Photo by Orin Optiglot

Inspiration from books

Friday, December 7th, 2007

I have posted before about how I like to read books for encouragement. But my favorite thing is when I can read a book and be inspired.

Founders At WorkStarting a company is hard. There are lots of things about it that are challenging at one point or another, but the past few weeks have been particularly difficult for me. Mostly, it’s the isolation of working from home and waiting waiting waiting for some technology to be developed so I can move forward with the business. Plus, it’s cold. And dark by 4:15, which seems ridiculously early. Also, I have had a number of conversations with people about the businesses that I am starting in which the people just did not get it. At all.

Thankfully, they aren’t the people who are supposed to get it, they aren’t in my industry, they are not even my target audience. But it’s still not fun when someone doesn’t understand what you’re doing. Especially when you are isolated. And waiting. And it’s dark outside.

So I was psyched when I picked up the book that I’m reading now, Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days, and read this in the introduction:

Founders live day to day with a sense of uncertainty, isolation, and sometimes lack of progress. Plus, startups, by their nature, are doing new things – and when you do new things, people often reject you.

This I can relate to. (Apparently, so can other entrepreneurs. I just came across this review of the book on Guy Kawasaki’s blog. He included a picture of the book with his post-it notes and comments in the pages – check it out, it’s worth the visual.)

And here’s where the inspiration comes in:

I’d say determination is the single most important quality in a startup founder. If the founders I spoke with were superhuman in any way, it was in their perseverance.

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

Thursday, December 6th, 2007

St. Nicholas SwitzerlandLast night I had a delicious fondue dinner with Matt and Michele (my brother and sister-in-law) in honor of St. Nicholas Day, which is celebrated in Switzerland on December 6. Michele’s family is Swiss, and I lucked out in getting to partake of this year’s festivities.

Contrary to what I thought before I knew any better, in Switzerland, St. Nicholas Day is different than Christmas. On St. Nicholas Eve, children in Switzerland leave out a boot, and hopefully wake up on Dec. 6 to find it filled with chocolates, nuts and oranges. St. Nicholas – or Samichlaus – is accompanied on his journeys by a dark and scary friend Schmutzli and a donkey. Rumor has it that the bad kids get coal and a beating from Schmutzli’s switch. Lucky for me, I got a Lindt chocolate snowman instead. Happy St. Nicholas Day!

Photo from the Switzerland Traveler

What does 16th Letter mean?

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007

Hands down, the most frequent question I get about this blog is about its name and what 16th Letter means. I’m glad that everyone who asks thinks that it must mean something, but so far, no one has figured it out without me telling them. So here’s the scoop.

I love piI started a company this year called Pure Incubation. The naming process was difficult, but when Pure Incubation came up as an initial idea, part of the appeal of the name was that the initials are “PI” – like pi (or pie). The super-geeky part of me really liked some of the symbolically interesting things about naming a company after pi (the 3.14 version), if you read up on the listing in Wikipedia you’ll see what I mean, but here are the highlights:

  • Pi is related to math. I am not a big math-lover, so I like the irony.
  • Pi is “transcendental” – in math definition is too hard to explain, but its other definition is “surpassing all others” or “beyond common thought or experience.”
  • People often say that pi is infinite, but it isn’t – it’s “irrational.” This is another math term that means that a number can’t be written as the ratio of two integers – you cannot reach the end of trying to calculate the exact value of the number.
  • There were many people who worked extensively on calculating pi across many nations and cultures and centuries. The first was Archimedes around 250 B.C. Over the years, mathematicians from Greece, China, Babylonia, Egypt, India, Scotland, Germany and France dedicated their entire lives to working on the calculation. It was considered to be a great breakthrough in 1424 when a Persian calculated the number to 16 decimals. There was something so appealing about this number that people dedicated their lives to discovering more about it.
  • With the advent of computers, work on pi was revolutionized. In 1949, John von Neumann used ENIAC to compute 2,037 digits of pi – a calculation that took 70 hours. The current record (set in 2002) is pi calculated to 1,241,100,000,000 decimals.

That was likely more information than you ever wanted to know about pi.

After I figured out the company name, I needed to come up with a name for my blog. I wanted it to be related to Pure Incubation, but not tied so closely to it that it couldn’t stand alone. Finally, it dawned on me that pi is the 16th letter of the Greek alphabet.

Photo by jaqian

Here Comes Another Bubble music video

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007

Just saw this posted on the BoomTown blog, it’s a music video about Web 2.0 set to Billy Joel’s song We Didn’t Light the Fire. It’s hysterical.

UPDATE: Turns out that YouTube was forced to take down the video. So if you click the link below, it won’t work. Right now, Yahoo still has the video up here.

Here comes another bubble

How to keep tabs on your company and personal brand using Google Alerts

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007

Google Alerts LogoHow big is the World Wide Web in 2007? The answer to that question is hard to pin down, to say the least. I can find little reliable data since a report published by Berkeley in 2003 (at that time the Web had 170 terabytes of information, 17x the size of the Library of Congress), and an analysis done by Antonio Guilli in 2005 placing the number at 11.5 billion Web pages. The most recent data that I could find was an article from Pandia from February 2007 indicating that the size of the World Wide Web is somewhere between 15 and 30 billion pages, probably closer to 30 billion.

My point? The Web is big. Huge. And the best way that I know how to keep up with the new information that is being produced about my brands on a daily basis is to use Google Alerts.

This is a simple tool to use, and in my opinion, every professional up and down an organization should be using it. To set it up, take the following steps:

  1. Go to the Google news home page.
  2. Click the icon in the left-hand column that says “News alerts.”
  3. Enter the search terms that you want to track. I recommend tracking your company name and your personal name at the very minimum.
  4. In the “type” field, select “comprehensive” – this will track the Web, news, blogs, groups and all the information that Google has indexed.
  5. How often depends on your needs. I recommend once-per-day, but if you are really a stickler for finding out information more quickly, you could select “as it happens.” The only warning about that setting is that you’ll be getting multiple notifications per day and it could quickly overwhelm your inbox depending on how many alerts you set up.
  6. Click “create alert.”
  7. In the past I needed to confirm my alerts – I no longer need to do that, but I’m not sure if that is because I am using a Gmail account, because I have set up so many news alerts in the past, or because Google has done away with the confirmation step. So just be aware that you may have to confirm your subscriptions (or you may not).

That’s it! You’ll now start getting notifications to your inbox. You can remove subscriptions by following the links that are in each email, and Google has created a page to manage alerts that will let you see all your notifications in one place and add and remove them easily.

That covers the how, but a quick word on the why you should do this. The primary reason to set up alerts is obvious – if you are the owner or an executive of a company or work in the PR department, it is your responsibility to monitor your brands. This is the easiest, least-intensive way to make sure that you are up-to-date on what people are saying about your company. But there are some other benefits that you might not realize:

You will know what is going on with your company. If you’re an executive, you are likely privy to information before the rest of the employees, so this might not apply to you as much as to the non-executive who isn’t kept up-to-speed. It’s possible that by monitoring your company’s alerts, you’ll find out about acquisitions, financials, layoffs and even scandals before the rest of your colleagues. This happened famously at New York Times Digital where employees found out about layoffs before they were announced because of an article that was published in the New York Times.

You will make sure that a bad image of you isn’t being leaked to the public. By keeping tabs on your personal brand (ie, your name) you will make sure that you know what people are saying about you and how you are being portrayed on the Web. Think that your MySpace page won’t show up in a Google search? Think again. By monitoring my alerts with my maiden name (Melissa Reyen), I found out that I am among the record holders for Harvard softball for most times grounded into a double play. Slightly embarrassing, but not as embarrassing as this.

You will look smart. If you set up alerts to monitor not only your company, but also your competitors and the product or service that your company produces, you will be able to stay on the cutting-edge of the news for your industry. When you find out a particularly juicy tidbit, you can email your colleagues, who will think that you are super-smart and insightful for knowing this information, even though it was sent directly to you from Google.

You can be proactive. If you find out that some unfortunate information is being spread about your company, you can work to to avert the problem and end up looking like a hero. When I worked at Ziff Davis, we were often accused of spamming people – anyone who works at a publishing company knows that this is a fairly regular occurrence, not because we were spamming, but because there are humans involved in the unsubscribe process and things occasionally go wrong. This happened, and my colleague Mary Hart was on the case quickly to respond to a blogger who was ranting. Her actions immediately turned the rant into praise for the exemplary customer service that she provided.

Bottom line: If you don’t have Google Alerts set up, do it today. The small amount of effort will be well worth it.