Call to Action (CTA)

What is a Call to Action (CTA)?

The “call to action” or CTA has been a core requirement of effective marketing for nearly a century. For many copywriters and marketers, the call to action is what pulls together an article, email, advertisement, commercial, mailer or landing page. With the advent of online and digital marketing, the importance of the CTA has grown because marketers can now easily test the effectiveness of CTAs – as well as determine which types of CTAs work best for specific campaigns and products.

Why CTAs are important

Marketing calls to action are based on the sales adages of “always be closing” (ABC) and asking for the sale. CTAs get more people take the next step, whether it’s making a purchase, becoming a member, subscribing to a list or taking the next step toward a marketing conversion. Some campaigns can succeed without a call to action, particularly if the recipient is already very interested. But the need to have a strong call to action is based on two basic realities of marketing and sales:

  • Many prospects will not take the next step unless properly asked or invited
  • Many prospects want to take the next step but are unsure how

Effective CTAs address these two very important challenges. They help people who are eager to take the next step, as well as encourage those who may be unsure, hesitant or resistant. For those familiar with the funnel concept of marketing and sales, calls to actions can be seen as the connection between one stage of the funnel and the next. But rather than provide a static bridge, the CTA is a driver pushing prospects through the funnel.

What exactly is a call to action?

CTAs can take many different forms:

  • Hyperlinked buttons
  • Hyperlinked text
  • Phone numbers
  • Email addresses
  • Chat boxes
  • QR code
  • Web page or domain

But at its core, the call to action, as its name suggests, is an invitation. Some invitation are louder or stronger than others, depending on the context. Nevertheless, all CTAs are an invitation to the recipient to take the next (or ultimate) step.

Creating effective calls to action

The key to successfully designing and creating calls to action is understanding that CTAs don’t exist in a vacuum. All CTAs must have a context. And in most cases, that context can be multi-layered based on the audience, product, preceding messages already received, brand reputation, local characteristics and other factors. In other words, the CTA must be relevant. That may seem overly complex, and it can be. But there are some basic “call to action” principles, best practices and guidelines that many marketing professionals follow:

  1. Testing. This is probably the one definitive method for finding the most effective CTA. Through A/B or multivariate testing, marketers can leave no doubt as to which CTA performs best for a specific campaign, ad or email.
  2. Placement. Have you ever heard of the Guttenberg diagram, Z pattern or F pattern? These are design theories that try to describe how readers view a page. All three, however, are based on the Western reading method of reading left to right, then down. I would say that there are probably at least two worthwhile locations on a page for a CTA. The main one is at the very end of your content flow. With most landing pages (and other ads and emails), you also want a CTA above the fold.
  3. Repetition. It doesn’t hurt to have multiple CTAs on one page. In fact, it is sometimes necessary, especially with long or multi-page pieces. As Zig Ziglar wrote (paraphrasing an old Latin phrase): “repetition is the mother of learning, father of action and the architect of accomplishment.” And you never know when a reader or viewer reaches that tipping point when they’re finally receptive to a call to action. Also, some prospects may not want to convert via an online form; they may prefer a phone number, chat box or email address instead.
  4. Contrast. The CTA should stand out from the rest of the page or screen. This may entail a different (brighter) color, bigger button, eye-catching word choices, or all three. The bottom line is that you want your call to action to grab the viewer’s attention.
  5. Offer and benefit. Effective CTAs typically involve an offer, promise or benefit for those willing to take that next step. It could be a pricing discount, a free whitepaper download, chance to win a prize or simply more information to answer their lingering questions. The context will determine which CTA type will probably work best.
  6. Value and trust. Value is not the same thing as offer or benefit. The value hits closer to the brand, seller or author. It goes deeper by trying to answer why they should trust the offer or benefit promised. Consequently, some CTAs will include star ratings, trust logos (from third parties like the BBB) or testimonials from satisfied clients.
  7. Urgency. You’ve probably seen many CTAs online, on paper or on television that set a timeline. This offer only good until the end of the day, month’s end or first 10 callers! They may be annoying, but they work. They create a sense of urgency that does work on many recipients.
  8. Ease of use. When you have some ready and willing to take the next step, the last (and worst) thing you want to do is put obstacles in their way. Calls to action should be easy to understand and use. This means minimizing the actions needed, especially form fields.
  9. Personalized. As noted earlier, calls to action must be relevant. In many cases, this relevancy entails personalization. This doesn’t mean you dynamically insert their name. But CTAs could be personalized by making sure the right offer or benefit is made, based on the target audience. In addition, marketing automation tools such as HubSpot allows marketers to show a different offer to known leads and prospects.

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Article Marketing

What is Article Marketing?

A subset of content marketing, article marketing is a type of marketing strategy that typically relies on publishing favorable or reputation-enhancing articles (or article snippets) about an organization, person, product, brand or event — on third-party websites.

Article marketing campaigns are often launched with the following objectives:

  • Gain wider recognition for the target organization, author, product, brand or event
  • Develop the image or thought-leadership reputation of the target author or organization
  • Gain search engine optimization (SEO) links and higher search engine rankings for the target’s website
  • Generate direct or indirect traffic for the target’s website

Traditional article marketing has been around since the the emergence of the first newspapers. The internet, however, has greatly expanded the reach of article marketing.

Foundation of effective article marketing

As an online marketing strategy, article marketing has lost favor among many digital marketers because of Google’s crackdown on many article marketing channels that have been abused by SEO spammers.

Nevertheless, content and article marketing can still be powerful marketing strategies when done correctly and properly. From an online marketing perspective, effective article marketing requires very high-quality articles.

What exactly constitutes “high quality”? The answer can actually be summarized in one word: expertise.

High-quality content is written from the perspective of a subject matter expert. If the author writing the article marketing piece is not an expert on the subject or doesn’t consult experts on the subject matter, then that article marketing campaign will probably fail.

Publishing on external sites

The basic requirement for typical article marketing campaigns is to publish articles or linked snippets on third-party sites, and not on the organization’s or author’s own website. Many article marketers may also publish the same article on their own website. However, by publishing on third-party websites, the article gains visibility from visitors to those websites.

Article marketers have typically relied on the following methods and channels to arrange publication of their articles on third-party sites (in order of effectiveness):

  • Online journals and publications. The most effective method of article marketing is by having by-lined articles published on the websites of respected publications. These online publications range from popular news media (such as NYTimes.com or CNN.com) to industry-specific publications. These publications usually only publish articles from external writers because of the merit of the article or the reputation of the author.
  • Article promotion. As Google penalties have increased for many article marketing channels, article and content marketing have returned to trusted basics of article marketing. Instead of trying to publish the entire article on third-party websites, the article is published on the organization’s or author’s website. This article is then promoted through various (Google-accepted) article promotion methods, such as social media, email alerts, bookmarking, respected article directories and reputable press release networks.
  • Document sharing sites. Just as YouTube and Vimeo allow users to share their videos with internet surfers, document sharing sites like DocStoc, SlideShare and Scribd allow authors to share their articles with the internet world. The links from these sites no longer carry as much weight for SEO purposes, but they are still useful for gaining more exposure for the author or organization.
  • Guest blogging. Many blogs feature posts from guest bloggers. Many respected blogs accept “guest posts” from authors that are experts in a particular subject matter. Unfortunately, it’s also true that many blogs publish these guest posts in exchange for compensation from the author or author’s organization. Because of the growth of this type of SEO abuse, Google has devalued the links established by many of these guest posts.
  • Article farms and ezines. During the high-point of the article marketing craze, many ezines (online magazines) and article submission sites emerged to solicit submissions from article marketers. Many online marketers submitted content to these sites in order to receive SEO links on these third-party sites that pointed back to the marketer’s own website. Google’s crackdown on this type of SEO link-building has led to a decrease in search visibility for most of these article farms — and Google penalties for the author’s website.

The right way to do article marketing

When done right, article marketing can be very effective. Here’s how to do it the right way:

  1. Build your author reputation. The best place to start is by having the author write high-quality content and publish them on the organization’s or author’s website. Make sure that those articles are properly meta-tagged with the author’s identity and linked to the author’s social media profiles (especially on Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn).
  2. Identify target publications. It’s not enough to be published on other websites. Successful article marketing requires having content published on the right websites, particularly those that are relevant to the content. Consider the different industry publications for your area and research the type of outside content they will publish. And it will be easier to convince publications to publish an article if the author’s reputation is clearly visible through other content on the web.
  3. Identify worthwhile topics and ideas. With a clear understanding of the market and the target publications, develop a list of relevant ideas that resonate with the organization’s or author’s target audience. Many public relations (PR) professionals then run these topics and article ideas past editors at the target publications to determine which have the best chances of being published.
  4. Write high-quality articles. As mentioned above, high-quality “expert” content is required for effective article marketing. If an organization’s subject matter expert (SME) is not a very good writer, then that expert should be paired with an experienced ghost writer to produce high-quality content for article marketing.
  5. Polish the details. In addition to making sure the article is properly spell-checked and edited, spend some time on developing a catchy headline.
  6. Publish the article. The completed article should then be submitted to the target publications for acceptance and posting their website. When possible, post a snippet or copy of the published article on the author’s or organization’s own website.
  7. Promote. Use permissible channels to promote the article and help gain more exposure. At the very least, this typically involves posting to social media channels. But it can also include emailing an invitation to the house list or even advertising the content to target web users.

It’s important to note that the author’s reputation is projected to play an ever-increasing role in determining how well web pages (especially of articles) will rank on related search engine queries on Google. In other words, authors with strong online reputation for writing high-quality content about a specific subject matter will see their articles rank higher on Google.

And just as high-quality content can help an author’s reputation, poor-quality (fluff) content can hurt that author’s reputation.

 

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NoFrames Tag

What is a NoFrames tag?

The noframes tag is an HTML element that had been available for browsers and web bots that did not support frames. However, the noframes tag and the related frame and frameset elements are not recognized by HTML 5.0, because they can have an adverse effect on accessibility and usability.

The primary use of the noframes tag was to provide a message or some alternative content for browsers that did not support the frames or frameset elements. Although the noframes element is not necessary, it is recommended practice for whenever a frameset or frame element is used for a web page.

The following is an example of the noframes tag being used within the frameset element:

<frameset cols=”25%,75%”>
<frame src=”http://www.web1media.com/navigation_menu/” />
<frame src=”http://www.web1media.com/frame_content_1/” />
<noframes>Your current browser does not seem to support frames. We recommend updating your browser to a version that does accept frames.
As an alternative, you can click here to go to the designated content directly.
</noframes>
</frameset>

tag is a fallback tag for browsers that do not support frames. It can contain all the HTML elements that you can find inside theelement of a normal HTML page.

Most professional web developers rarely use frames and framesets today, so noframe elements are rarely necessary. In addition, as mentioned above, HTML 5.0 has deprecated the frame, frameset and noframes tags.

Using NoFrames for SEO

Although most browsers today do support frames (making noframes tags nearly obsolete), many search engine bots and spiders still do not. That is why most search engine optimization (SEO) experts avoid frames and framesets altogether.

However, if frames are absolutely necessary, SEO professionals can mitigate the problem by doing the following:

  1. Ensuring that the actual URL of the content displayed within the frames is submitted to search engines.
  2. Using the noframes tag to include a link directly to the URL of the content displayed within the frames.
  3. Using the noframes tag to provide a detailed description of the content displayed within the frames.

Unfortunately, some SEO practitioners have exploited (and abused) the noframes tag for more negative purposes: using them for invisible keyword stuffing and indirect content scraping. For example, they can create web pages and sites with no original content, but instead just displaying content from other sites. They then use the noframes tag to stuff keyword-rich content  that is invisible to most browsers (and human visitors to the web page), but is read and indexed by most search engine spiders.

In so doing, these SEO amateurs and black hat practitioners violate three of Google’s most pressing issues when it comes to search optimization:

  • Lack of original content or, worse yet, use of scraped content
  • Hidden text
  • Keyword stuffing

There should be no doubt that this is considered SEO spam and will expose the website to search engine penalties, particularly from Google. So noframes tags should not be used for this purpose. In fact, web developers should simply avoid using frames altogether.

 

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Hard Bounce

What is a Hard Bounce?

In email marketing, bounces refer to emails that the recipient is unable to receive, which results in an error (also known as a “bounce”) message from the intended recipient’s email server.

A hard bounce is a relatively permanent error, which means that repeated attempts to send the same email to the same email address will result in the same error message. Often, a hard bounce refers to domains or email addresses that do not exist.

By contrast, a soft bounce refers to a temporary error. If that error is fixed, usually by the recipient, then the email may be able to get through in the future. Examples of soft bounces include full mailboxes, mailboxes that have not been setup (although the email address itself is legitimate) and congested networks (preventing emails from getting through and to the intended recipient).

Hard bounce effect on deliverability

Hard bounces have traditionally been considered one of the factors used by spam filters and anti-spam software in determining whether messages from an email sender should be accepted. However, it is not considered as important as other factors, particularly those involved with engagement.

Hard bounces are a fact of email life. Many non-spam mistakes and events can produce hard bounces, including the following:

  • Misspellings or typographical errors
  • Syntax errors and mistakes
  • Email message size
  • Improper account setup
  • Wrong email provided by recipient
  • Connection issues

Nevertheless, it’s always a smart idea to conduct regular list hygiene to remove hard bounces from your emailing list. The more reliable email marketing platforms, from Responsys and Exact Target to Constant Contact and HubSpot, provide mechanisms for easily (sometimes automatically) removing email addresses that experience hard bounces.

STMP error codes

Both hard and soft bounces are characterized by error messages from the email server of the intended recipient. Most email programs today rely on the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) to transmit and receive email messages over the internet.

The following are the most common SMTP status codes (error notification) indicating a hard bounce:

 

SMTP Code SMTP Status SMTP Error Description/Explanation Recommended Steps
500 Syntax error: command not recognized 5.0.0 The most recent command from the sender’s server was not considered a valid SMTP command by the receiving server. Multiple 500 error messages from different receiving servers points to problems with the sending server, possibly with its firewall.
501 Syntax error: parameters or arguments not recognized 5.0.1 The receiving server receives the command as valid SMTP, but the receiving server does not recognize or accept the command parameters or arguments. Check the domain name to ensure that it’s active or the email address to ensure that it’s legitimate.
502 Command not implemented 5.0.2 The receiving server accepts the message from the receiving server, but is unable to execute the requested command. The receving or sending server may need to be updated.
503 Bad command sequence 5.0.3 The message “packets” were received by the receiving server in the wrong order. This is often due to some sort of network interruptions, such as from faulty routers or “noisy” lines/cables.
504 Parameter not implemented 5.0.4 The receiving server accepts the command and parameter but does not implement the parameter (or is awaiting additional parameters). The message may be missing a required authentication.
510 Bad target email address 5.1.0 The sender’s mail server has flagged the message as having an incorrect email address. Check the spelling or formatting (such as missing @) in the email address.
511 Bad target email address 5.1.1 The sender’s mail server has flagged the message as having an incorrect email address. Check the spelling or formatting (such as missing @) in the email address.
512 Domain name not recognized 5.1.2 A sending, routing or receiving server does not recognize the target domain name. Check the spelling or top level domain (.com, .org., .net, etc.) of the target domain.
513 Incorrect email address format 5.1.3 The sender’s mail server has flagged the message as having an incorrect email address. Check the format of the email address, such as the inclusion of quotation marks or a missing @ sign.
514 Bad target email address 5.1.4 The target email address is ambiguous. Check the spelling or formatting (such as missing @) in the email address.
515 Bad target email address 5.1.5 The target email address is invalid. Check the spelling or formatting (such as missing @) in the email address.
517 Bad sending email address 5.1.7 The sender’s email address has the wrong sytax. Check the spelling or top level domain (.com, .org., .net, etc.) of the domain in the sending email address.
518 Bad sending email address 5.1.8 The sender’s email address is invalid. Check the spelling or formatting (such as missing @) in the sending email address.
523 Message too large 5.2.3 The message exceeds the limits set by the recipient’s email server or platform. Reduce the email size or use a document sharing site (instead of attaching large files).
530 Authentication required 5.3.0 The sending SMTP server requires a username or password before forwarding the message. Check the SMTP server setup to ensure that the proper username and password have been inserted.
534 Message too large 5.3.4 The message exceeds the limits set by the sender’s or receiver’s systems. Reduce the email size or use a document sharing site (instead of attaching large files).
540 Issue with router or network 5.4.0 Interruption due to an undefined network issue.
541 Access denied 5.4.1 Commonly used reply by anti-spam filters Check the message’s spam score or sender’s reputation with spam filters; you can also ask the intended receiver to “whitelist” your sending email address.
542 Bad network connection 5.4.2 The sender or sender’s server is not connected to the internet. Check connections to the internet.
543 Network issues 5.4.3 Usually involves problems with a router. Check local routers to ensure they are operating properly.
544 Network issues 5.4.4 Usually involves problems with a router. Check local routers to ensure they are operating properly.
546 Network issues 5.4.6 Usually involves problems with a router, often involving a routing loop. Check local routers to ensure they are operating properly.
547 Network issues 5.4.7 The allotted time for delivery of command has expired.
550 Mailbox is unavailable 5.5.0 The target email address does not exist or is not available to the sent command. Check the email address; but also check for spam filter issues.
551 User not local 5.5.1 The target email is not on the receiving server, which often provides a forwarding address (but doesn’t relay the message automatically). Check the email address to ensure that the right address is being used.
553 Bad target email address 5.5.3 The target email address is invalid. Check the spelling or formatting (such as missing @) in the email address.
554 Transaction failed. 5.5.4 The receiving email server has rejected the email or sender, usually due to spam issues. Check the message’s spam score or sender’s reputation with spam filters; you can also ask the intended receiver to “whitelist” your sending email address.
571 Authentication required or refused 5.7.1 The receiving email server has rejected the email address, domain name or ISP. Check the message’s spam score or sender’s reputation with spam filters; you can also ask the intended receiver to “whitelist” your sending email address.

 

 

 

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Content Farm

What is a Content Farm?

Sometimes called a content mill, a content farm is a website (and business model) that generates high volumes of web content for the purpose of gaining revenue through search engine optimization (SEO). Content farms typically produce or collect articles, primarily on a topics that are popular among search engine users. However, content farms may also produce or include infographics, videos and other types of content.

The primary critique of content farms and mills is that they produce low-quality or mediocre content that clutter the web and, most importantly, search engine results pages (SERPs) with spammy content. These results in a lower quality of user experience (UX) for search engine users, particularly if low-quality content farm articles rank at the top of search engine results.

How content farms work

Publishers of content farms and mills use their understanding of SEO to produce revenue-generating articles. These articles are designed to rank highly for target keywords, which then produces more traffic and visitors to the articles — and the potential for revenue-generating advertising clicks or impressions.

Here’s an overview of how a content farm operates:

  1. Identify target keywords. Using various keyword tools, but especially Google Adwords’ Keyword Tool and Google Trends, content farms identify high-value keywords that either generate a great deal of search queries or higher advertising rates.
  2. Generate keyword-driven content. Content farms then employ freelance and contract writers to create content around specific target keywords. These writers are usually paid per article, with a minimum word count, or per word. Some content farms and article directories may also give writers a share of the revenue generated through ads on that article’s web page. [Note: some content mills also use sphinning programs that generate very low-quality copies of original articles.]
  3. Optimize website posts. The articles are then posted on the website and optimized for search engines. This is done through the use of on-page meta-tags and keyword usage. In addition to on-page optimization, websites may also use off-site optimization (such as link-building and social promotions) to ensure higher search engine rankings for the article. Some content websites also accept and invite submissions from writers who may want to build up their reputation or build links to their own websites.
  4. Advertisement placements. The template used for each article will typically include automated advertising placement on various parts of the page, including the header and sidebars. The primary advertising placement channel used by many content farms is Google Adsense, which runs contextual ads on each page. These contextual ads analyzes each article’s content and then automatically shows ads that relate to the content on the page, when possible. Google’s display ads may also place “remarketing” ads that are relevant to the individual visitor, rather than the page’s content.
  5. Advertising revenue. Some of the ads show on these article pages are paid on a CPM (cost per thousand) basis, which means that the advertising rate is based on one thousand pageviews of the ad. However, most of the ads shown are typically CPC (cost per click), which means that the publisher is only paid if a visitor clicks on the ad.

Google crackdown on content farms

As note above, the lower quality of the content produced by content farms has led to frequent complaints, aimed mostly at Google for allowing these content farm-generated articles to rank so highly on search engine results.

Google responded in 2010 by promising to do more to address these complaints about content farm articles. In February 2012, Google rolled out an update to their Panda algorithm that resulted in much lower rankings for many content farms.  However, not all content farms seem to have been affected. While sites like Mahalo.com took a nosedive in search results, other websites like eHow.com seems to have survived.

How exactly does Google determine which content farm articles should be penalized or left untouched? That is subject to speculation among SEO practitioners. But assuming that user experience (UX) is Google’s top priority, Google has several tools at its disposal, such as the following:

  • Bounce rate. A high bounce rate is sometimes an indication of low-quality.
  • Over-optimization. Websites that rely highly on SEO tactics, rather than content quality, to rank higher have been targeted by Google for penalties. These over-optimization tactics include over use of keyword-anchored links.
  • Trend alignment. If articles tend to match certain keyword popularity trends, that may be an indication of content farm materials
  • Content analyzer. Having pushed the continuing development of translation software, Google has developed advanced algorithms able to “read” content and make a determination of its quality.

The bottom line is that Google has access to all the data that content mills and farms may use — and much more. Publishers of content farms have expressed a great deal of frustration and anger at Google’s moves.

However, many SEO practitioners and search engine users have applauded Google’s moves, as having improved search engine results. For legitimate website owners and authors committed to generating high-quality content, the penalization of these content farms have opened up space at the top search results.

 

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Article Directory

What is an Article Directory?

The term “article directory” can be applied to a number of different websites and products, but among digital marketers, article directories typically refer to websites that gather, curate and manage various types of articles on select topics for the purpose of generating more traffic and advertising revenue.

By generating or collecting content that can rank highly on search engine results for the target keyword queries, article directories hope to generate the mass volume of traffic that can generate significant advertising revenues. Some article directories also share a portion of the advertising revenue they generate with the authors of the content on their sites.

Many respected publications, such as online newspapers and magazines, actually function as article directories. Organizations such as the New York Times or the local Fox News affiliates produce and curate hundreds of multimedia content (news reports, photographs, charts, videos, podcasts, etc.) on their website each week, if not daily. These website content pieces are used to generate revenue for that website.

In general, however, the term “article directory” is typically used to describe websites such as eHow.com, squidoo.com and ezinearticles.com.

Article directories and SEO

Article directories are perhaps the best example of using SEO as a business model.

Using their understanding of how Google’s search engine algorithm rewarded certain types of articles with higher search engine rankings, article directories started gathering and publishing content for search engine users.

Article directories like these are often called content farms or content mills. The most aggressive article directories conduct regular keyword research to find high-value and trending keywords; they then have writers create content to rank for those target keywords. These articles are then platforms for paid placement advertisements, which would generate revenues for the website owner.

Unfortunately, the quality of the content in most article directories is not very high. They may be written by good writers, but not by topic experts, which is what Google tries to reward with higher rankings. As these low-quality articles ranked higher, the complaints to Google started increasing. Google’s Penguin algorithm update eventually penalized many of these content farm pages, so that they wouldn’t rank as highly.

Article directories and link building

Many SEOs have also used these article directories for link building. They would create and submit relevant articles to article directories, preferably those with high PageRank scores. These submitted articles would provide the SEO link-builders with a backlink on the article directory website, pointing to the link-builders’ own websites.

This link-building strategy worked for a while, but Google’s webspam team eventually set its sights on these links. Matt Cutts, head of Google’s webspam team, explained in April 2014 that webmasters and SEO practitioners should not use article directories for linkbuilding.

Today, backlinks from article directories provide little to no SEO value. In some cases, they may actually produce penalties for the website ron the eceiving end of the backlink.

 

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ARPAnet

What is ARPAnet?

ARPAnet is considered the first implementation of what we now know as the Internet. The ARPAnet name comes from the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), which was created in 1958 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, to drive research into technology and science that would ensure the U.S. military’s leadership role in science and technology.

One of the chief motivations for ARPA’s creation was the launch of the Soviet satellite, Sputnik. The Sputnik launch caught the U.S. defense and intelligence establishment completely by surprise and kicked off what would become known as the “space race” between the U.S. and USSR. But even though the space exploration element was its most prominent feature, the space race was actually a technology race, and ARPAnet was one of its many products.

ARPA, the agency, was renamed as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in 1972. But less than a year later, the agency’s name was changed back to ARPA. Finally, it was renamed DARPA again in 1996 and has been known as such since then. Throughout its entire history, ARPA/DARPA has been an agency within the U.S. Department of Defense.

DARPA launches ARPAnet

The initial version of ARPAnet officially went into operation in 1969 with four routers that linked network servers located at Stanford University, the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) and the University of Utah. It quickly grew to 40 router locations throughout the U.S. by 1973.

Also in 1973, ARPAnet reached outside the U.S., with a satellite link to Norway and a cable link to London. Until 1983, ARPAnet was still a U.S. military project. It was only in that year that ARPAnet separated its military and civilian networks. DARPA officially decommissioned ARPAnet in 1990.

Purpose and origin of ARPAnet

Contrary to popular belief, ARPAnet was not created to ensure that the U.S. had a communication network that would survive a nuclear attack. That false rumor was purportedly started by a RAND Corporation report. and the researchers who did develop ARPAnet have subsequently confirmed that was not their mission.

ARPAnet was established as a packet switching network using the Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) standards. Packet switching broke up messages into smaller, more manageable packets that would then be transmitted over the network. The TCP/IP protocols defined how those packets are organized, labeled and transmitted.

The individual packets for one message could take different routes to get from the sender’s computer to the receiver’s computer. The TCP/IP protocols and packet switching model ensured that a breakdown in one link on the Internet would not permanently stop the message from reaching its target destination. TCP/IP would re-route the packets through other available routers. The receiver will then put together the received packets into the full message, unless an error is detected.  This error-correction and routing feature may be the reason why some believed that ARPAnet was designed to survive a nuclear attack.

The packet switching model was based on the works of Paul Baran, Donald Davies and Lawrence Roberts. Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf are credited with developing the TCP/IP protocols, as part of their work for ARPAnet.

 

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AWStats

What is AWStats?

Before the emergence of Google Analytics, many website owners and webmasters relied AWStats to monitor website traffic. In addition to being a useful tool for tracking website traffic, AWStats was an open source software that was available for all website owners.

AWStats is a web analytics tool that reviews and examines the server log files of the monitored website. It also presents its tracked data with tables and charts that even non-technical users find handy.

Website hosting servers typically maintain logs that record activities on the server. Log records could include hits, visitor IP addresses, referring URLs and all the website pages accessed by the visitor. Like other web analytics tools, AWStats takes the data recorded by the server logs to provide usable data sets, tables and charts.

The introduction of Google Analytics has provided website owners and webmasters with a more robust (but still open source) alternative to AWStats. Unlike AWStats, Google Analytics doesn’t rely on server logs, which is typically limited in the amount of data recorded and provided. Because it is able to collect much more data, Google Analytics is able to provide more metrics and reports than AWStats.

 

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Xenu Link Sleuth

What is Xenu Link Sleuth?

The Xenu Link Sleuth is a free and popular program used by many search engine optimization (SEO) specialists to crawl websites and check links. Although it has been promoted as a tool for finding broken links on a website, SEO experts actually use tools like the Xenu Link Sleuth to do more than just check for broken links.

At its core, the Xenu Link Sleuth is a web bot. It crawls available files and pages on the website to which it is targeted. Its key purpose is to check the links, primarily by following each link to the page or file to which that link is pointing.  Along the way, it collects information about each page it crawls on the website and the server response codes that are received when a hyperlink is checked and followed.

Here are some of the ways that Xenu Link Sleuth are often used by SEO experts:

  • Broken link checker – SEOs need to correct broken links on their site, as broken links could harm a web page’s rankings on search engine results pages (SERPs). Xenu Link Sleuth provides a detailed summary of all links, while indicating which ones are reporting an error message (usually a 404) from the server.
  • Title tag checker – SEOs need to be sure that pages indexed by search engines have the correct title tag. Although title tags may not have much affect on rankings, they do affect click-through rates from SERPs. The Xenu Link Sleuth results table include the title meta tag for each page crawled.
  • Image alt tags – SEOs should make sure that images have alt tags, which provides text copy that are displayed when the image cannot be displayed or is still loading.  This alt tag can assist some search engines with the indexing of images. This alt tag also can be read aloud by browsers to help visually impaired website visitors.
  • Link volume – Although link quality is important, link volume is also of concern to SEOs. Xenu Link Sleuth provides summaries of how many links are pointing to the page that was just crawled, as well as how many outbound links a web page contains. If a page that an SEO wants to rank high as few internal links pointing to it, then it may be worthwhile to create more inbound links to point to that target web page.
  • Page and image sizes – Xenu Link Sleuth’s results table will indicate the size of each page and file crawled, including image files. If a page or file is too big, it may result in slow download speeds… which could affect SEO rankings. Large image files, in particular, are often optimized through compression and resizing to create smaller files (though the quality may suffer slightly in the process).
  • Analyzing competitor websites – Because the Xenu Link Sleuth primarily crawls publicly available web pages and files, it can be used on any website — even a competitor’s website. By analyzing a competitor’s website, an SEO expert can get insights into the strengths and weaknesses of a competitor’s web presence.
  • Building links on 3rd party sites – Backlinks are still an important part of SEO, and top SEO experts use tools like the Xenu Link Sleuth to help build backlinks on 3rd party websites that point to the SEO expert’s own website. One way to do this is to use Xenu Link Sleuth to analyze a directory website. If Xenu Link Sleuth finds broken links to content relevant to the SEO expert, that SEO expert can recreate another version of that lost content (and place it on his or her site). He or she can then contact the owner of the directory website and inform them of the broken link on the directory… and request that the link be redirected to the SEO expert’s own content.

 

Xenu Link Sleuth was created in 1997 by Tilman Hausherr, of Germany. Written in Visual C++, the Xenu Link Sleuth quickly became popular because of its streamlined programming and fast results.

The name Xenu is a reference to a key figure in Scientology, though the reference is more in jest than actual belief. In fact, Hausherr is a frequent and prominent critic of Scientology. The logo on the primary download page for Xenu Link Sleuth is the face and head of an ET-like alien. According to L. Ron Hubbard, the science fiction writer who founded and led Scientology, Xenu was the dictator of the “Galactic Confederacy.” Over 75 million years ago, Xenu brought billions of his people to earth on a space ships looking much like DC-8 airplanes and then destroyed them all with hydrogen bombs. The spirits of those aliens supposedly form around people today and cause them harm.

 

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XForms

What are XForms?

XForms are considered the alternative to the relatively limited form element in standard HTML. Like XHTML, XForms are based on the Extensible Markup Language (XML) — but XForms are different from XHTML forms.

XForms provide several advantages and benefits over traditional HTML-based forms that is making it a more popular choice for many web developers:

  • Structured data support. XML is all about providing a format for more structured data, allowing for easier manipulation and handling of information. Because of its XML foundation, XForms ensures that form data follows XML’s structured data principles.
  • Less reliance on scripting language. The standard HTML language used for many websites comes with a built-in form function that uses the <form> tag. However, because of its limitations, traditional HTML forms must use scripting languages (such as Ajax, PHP, Javascript, etc.) to create more dynamic forms on websites. For example, to create a calculating form (such as with a calculator), HTML forms will need to use a scripting language to run the calculation. This leads to web pages and files that require more server processing time and document complexity.
  • Easier process for initializing form data. Though human website visitors never see what happens when they use a website form, traditional HTML forms actually use a convoluted process for defining initial data, which leads to increased use of the CPU and servers. Because of its XML backbone, XForms typically use XML files to initialize form data.
  • Fewer limits to form data types. HTML forms use a limited set of available data formats. Because of its XML core, XForms give website developers more options for designing and using data encoding formats in their website forms.
  • More options for handling form data. Traditional HTML tends to follow a very simple one-step process when a form is submitted: the data is sent to the website’s server, where the processing ends. Unfortunately, that means that the form data cannot be used for other functions, such as workflows (without additional script programs). Using XML files, XForms provide more flexibility in how form data can be handled and continually processed at multiple stages.
  • One form across multiple pages. It’s somewhat complicated to design traditional HTML forms that span two or more web pages. A scripting language is necessary to save the data collected from one page and insert it into the separate form of the next page. XForms solves that dilemma by creating an XML file that manages and handles the data from the XForm, while also allowing it to be amended with inputs from multiple pages.
  • Multiple forms on one web page. It’s also difficult to create a multiple forms on one page. For example, each HTML form normally only supports one submit button, unless special scripting language is used to handle the form data. Again, because of XML, XForms are better able to handle this level of form complexity.
  • Easier to design for mobile devices. XForms are more self-contained than traditional HTML, allowing it to function with fewer interactions with the server. XForms is also able to work independently of device type, making it easier for developers to create forms for all devices.

 

 

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