Author Archives: Irfan Akhbarwala

China Pakistan Economic Corridor

Plans for a corridor stretching from the Chinese border to Pakistan’s deep water ports on the Arabian Sea date back to the 1950s, and motivated construction of the Karakoram Highway beginning in 1959. Chinese interest in Pakistan’s deep-water harbour at Gwadar had been rekindled by 2000, and in 2002 China began construction at Gwadar port which was completed in 2006. Expansion of Gwadar Port then ceased thereafter owing to political instability in Pakistan following the fall of General Pervez Musharraf.A-rock-near-Pishkun-Balochistan

The current form of the project was first proposed by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Nawaz Sharif on 22 May 2013 in Islamabad, resulting in the establishment of The Pak-China Economic Corridor Secretariat on 27 August 2013.

The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC)  is a collection of projects currently under construction at a cost of $46 billion which is intended to rapidly expand and upgrade Pakistani infrastructure, as well as deepen and broaden economic links between Pakistan and the People’s Republic of China. The corridor is considered to be an extension of China’s ambitious proposed 21st century Silk Road initiative, and is considered central to China Pakistan relations.IMG_0176

While economic opportunities and development will largely benefit Pakistan, CPEC’s importance to China’s geopolitical and economic goals is reflected by the inclusion of the project as part of China’s 13th five-year development plan. Should all the planned projects be implemented, the value of those projects would be equal to all foreign direct investment in Pakistan since 1970,  and would be equivalent to 17% of Pakistan’s 2015 gross domestic product. Pakistan estimates the corridor project will create some 700,000 direct jobs between 2015–2030 and add up to 2.5 percentage points to the country’s growth rate.

Infrastructure projects under the aegis of CPEC will span the length and breadth of Pakistan, and will eventually link the Pakistani city of Gwadar in southwestern to China’s northwestern autonomous region of Xinjiang via a vast network of highways and railways.  Proposed infrastructure projects are worth approximately $11 billion, and will be financed by heavily-subsidized concessionary loans at an interest rate of 1.6% that will be dispersed to the Government of Pakistan by the Exim Bank of China, China Development Bank, and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.Makran-Coastal-Highway-Project

As part of infrastructure projects worth approximately $11 billion, an 1,100 kilometre long motorway will be constructed between the cities of Karachi and Lahore, while the Karakoram Highway between Rawalpindi and the Chinese border will be completely reconstructed and overhauled. The Karachi–Peshawar main railway line will also be upgraded to allow for train travel at up to 160 kilometres per hour by December 2019. Pakistan’s railway network will also be extended to eventually connect to China’s Southern Xinjiang Railway in Kashgar. A network of pipelines to transport liquefied natural gas and oil will also be laid as part of the project, including a $2.5 billion pipeline between Gwadar and Nawabshah to transport gas from Iran.

Over $33 billion worth of energy infrastructure will be constructed by private consortia to help alleviate Pakistan’s chronic energy shortages, which regularly amount to over 4,500MW, and have shed an estimated 2-2.5% off Pakistan’s annual GDP. With approximately $33 billion expected to be invested in energy sector projects, power generation assumes an important role in the CPEC project. Over 10,400MW of energy generating capacity is to be developed between 2018 and 2020 as part of the corridor’s fast-tracked “Early Harvest” projects. Projects in Gwadar Port and City.Golden Ark Highway

Gwadar Port has been partially operational since 2007.
Gwadar forms the crux of the CPEC project, as it is envisaged to be the link between China’s ambitious One Belt, One Road project, and its Maritime Silk Road project. In total, more than $1 billion worth of projects are to be developed around the port of Gwadar by December 2017.

Project financing

Loans to the Pakistani Government

Approximately $11 billion worth of infrastructure projects being developed by the Pakistani government will be financed by concessionary loans, with interest rates of 1.6%, after Pakistan successfully lobbied the Chinese government to reduce interest rates from an initial 3%.The loans are subsidised by the government of China, and are to be dispersed by the Exim Bank of China and the China Development Bank. For comparison, loans for previous Pakistani infrastructure projects financed by the World Bank carried an interest rate between 5% and 8.5%, while interest rates on market loans approach 12%.

The loan money would be used to finance projects which are planned and executed by the Pakistani government. Portions of the approximately $6.6 billion Karachi–Lahore Motorway are already under construction. The $2.5 billion phase which will connect the city of Multan to the city of Sukkur over a distance of 387 kilometres has also been approved, with 90% of costs to be financed by the Chinese government at 1.6% interest rates, while the remaining 10% is to be financed by the Public Sector Development Programme of the Pakistani government.

The 487 kilometre portion of the Northern Alignment between Burhan and Raikot will be reconstructed at a cost of $920 million, and will be financed by the China Development Bank.

The long-planned 27.1 km long $1.6 billion Orange Line of the Lahore Metro is regarded as a commercial project project, and does not qualify for the Exim Bank’s 1.6% interest rate. It will instead by financed at a 2.4% interest rate after China agreed to reduce interest rates from an originally planned rate of 3.4%.

The $44 million Cross Border Optic Fiber Project, a 1,300 km long fibre optic wire connecting Pakistan and China, will be constructed using concessionary loans at an interest rate of 2%, rather than the 1.6% rate applied to other projects.

Special interest-free loans for Gwadar

The government of China in August 2015 announced that concessionary loans for several projects in Gwadar totalling $757 million would be converted 0% interest loans. The projects which are now to financed by the 0% interest loans include: the construction of the $140 million Eastbay Expressway project, installation of breakwaters in Gwadar which will cost $130 million, a $360 million coal power plant in Gwadar, a $27 million project to dredge berths in Gwadar harbour, and a $100 million 300-bed hospital in Gwadar. Pakistan will only repay the principle on these loans.

In September 2015, the government of China also announced that the $230 million Gwadar International Airport project would no longer be financed by loans, but would instead be constructed by grants which the government of Pakistan will not be required to repay.

Loans to private consortia

$15.5 billion worth of energy projects are to be constructed by joint Chinese-Pakistani firms, rather than by the governments of either China or Pakistan. The Exim Bank of China will finance those investments at 5–6% interest rates, while the government of Pakistan will be contractually obliged to purchase electricity from those firms at pre-negotiated rates.

As an example, the 1,223MW Balloki Power Plant does not fall under the concessionary loan rate of 1.6%, as the project is not being developed by the Pakistani government. Instead, it is considered to be a private sector investment as its construction will be undertaken by a consortium of Harbin Electric and Habib Rafiq Limited after they successfully bid against international competitors. Chinese state-owned banks will provide loans to the consortium that are subsidised by the Chinese government. In the case of the Balloki Power Plant, state-owned banks will finance the project at an interest rate of 5%, while the Pakistani government will purchase electricity at the lowest bid rate of 7.973 cents per unit.

Asian Development Bank assistance

While the E-35 expressway is considered to be a crucial part of the route between Gwadar and China, the E35 will not be financed by CPEC funds. The project will instead be financed by the Asian Development Bank.

The N70 project is not officially a part of CPEC but will connect the CPEC’s Western Alignment to the Karachi-Lahore Motorway at Multan. The project will be financed as part of a $195 million package by the Asian Development Bank announced in May 2015 to upgrade the N70 National Highway and N50 National Highway. In January 2016, The United Kingdom’s Department for International Development announced a $72.4 million grant to Pakistan for roadway improvements in the province of Balochistan, thereby reducing the total Asian Development Bank loan from $195 million to $122.6 million.

The M-4 Motorway between Faisalabad and Multan is not to be financed by the Chinese government as part of CPEC, but will instead be the first infrastructure project partially financed by the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and will be co-financed along with the Asian Development Bank for a total of approximately $275 million. Portions of the project will also be funded by a $90.7 million grant announced in October 2015 by the government of the United Kingdom towards the construction of the Gojra-Shorkot section of the M4 Motorway project.

 

Controversy over finances

In addition to the aforementioned issues, some sources have inappropriately suggested that the interest rate for CPEC related loans would be high, with one Indian source suggesting that Pakistan had unwittingly accepted loans that would “be offered at very high rates of interest,” although the actual interest rates were negotiated prior to acceptance, and for most projects will be 1.6% Several articles in Pakistan have criticised the project’s finances as being shrouded in mystery, while one article suggested that “there is far too much secrecy and far too little transparency.” The Private Power and Infrastructure Board has also been accused of irregularities in the approval process for coal power plants and the tariffs at which Pakistan is contractually obliged to purchase electricity from those plants, with special concern regarding potential irregularities in the tariff approved for the 300MW coal power plant to be built in Pind Dadan Khan by China Machinery Engineering Corporation.

Geopolitical impact

CPEC is considered economically vital to Pakistan in helping it drive economic growth. China has expressed concern that some separatist groups in Xinjiang may be collaborating with insurgents in Pakistan, and has expressed a desire to strengthen security ties.6086978

Opposition from Baloch nationalists

Baloch nationalists have expressed opposition to the project, stating that any large-scale development in the province would eventually lead to local residents “losing control” over natural resources. Other Baloch nationalists view it as a “conspiracy” that would stimulate migration of people from other provinces and make the Baloch a minority in the province.

Former Chief Minister of Balochistan province, Akhtar Mengal, suggested at a political rally in November 2015, that execution of CPEC projects would eventually result in ethnic Baloch being denied entry into the city, though no statements have been made in either Pakistan or China that would suggest such an outcome. He did, however, clarify that he would not oppose development projects in the province that he believed would uplift the plight of local residents. Shortly thereafter, the Pakistani government announced its intention to establish a training institute named Pak-China Technical and Vocational Institute at Gwadar which is to be completed by March 2016 at the cost of 943 million rupees to impart skills to local residents to train them to operate machinery at the port.

Indian objections to CPEC

The Government of India, which shares tense relations with Pakistan, regards portions of the CPEC project negatively as they pass through disputed territory which is claimed by India. Former Indian ambassador, Phunchok Stobdan, alleged that China and Pakistan intended to develop the corridor not just for its economic benefits, but also is motivated by the “strategic intent of besieging India,” though he also stated that India can do little to scuttle CPEC, and that avoiding China’s One Road One Belt project altogether would be to the detriment of India.

During the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to China in 2015, the Indian Foreign Minister, Sushma Swaraj reportedly told Chinese Premier Xi Jinping that projects passing through Gilgit-Baltistan are “unacceptable” as they require road construction in territory India regards as its own. India’s Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar also confirmed that the issue had been raised with the Chinese government on the trip.

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs in May 2015 also summoned the Chinese envoy in New Delhi to lodge India’s opposition to the project. The Chinese Premier dismissed the concerns, describing CPEC as a “commercial project” that would not target any third party.

In March 2016, Indian Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, in reference to China’s ambitions One Road One Belt project and CPEC, stated that India’s vision of Asian connectivity was that of a consultative process rather than that of “unilateral decisions,” and that they should not “add to regional tensions.”

Despite objections, segments of the Indian public, as exemplified by former Indian Ambassador Melkulangara Bhadrakumar, regard the project as in India’s interest vis-a-vis Central Asia, and warn that India might “lose heavily” were India to remain opposed and isolated from the project.

In March 2016, Pakistan announced that it had arrested a suspected spy from India’s Research and Analysis Wing, Kulbhushan Yadav, who Pakistan accused of entering Pakistan from Iran specifically to destabilise regions in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province to hinder implementation of CPEC projects.

Controlling anger before it controls you

You-are-what-you-eat

We all know what anger is, and we’ve all felt it: whether as a fleeting annoyance or as full-fledged rage.

Anger is a completely normal, usually healthy, human emotion. But when it gets out of control and turns destructive, it can lead to problems—problems at work, in your personal relationships, and in the overall quality of your life. And it can make you feel as though you’re at the mercy of an unpredictable and powerful emotion.

People who are easily angered generally have what some psychologists call a low tolerance for frustration, meaning simply that they feel that they should not have to be subjected to frustration, inconvenience, or annoyance. They can’t take things in stride, and they’re particularly infuriated if the situation seems somehow unjust: for example, being corrected for a minor mistake.

It’s best to find out what it is that triggers your anger, and then to develop strategies to keep those triggers from tipping you over the edge.

The Biggest Misconception About Birds. Where do birds sleep?

52176f5948168bbefcb98010ff5e71baWhen I talk to people about birds, one misunderstanding comes up again and again, one thing that everyone seems to get wrong. Not dumb people, either. Dumb people get a lot of things wrong. These people think of themselves as smart people, and by and large, they are. Th2c2fc5a6a030ed8830cfad2c3efcbfbcey’re just not bird people.

What is this avian misconception? I hope you’re sitting down because here it is: Birds don’t sleep in their nests.

They don’t. The mental image is a cute one—a little bird, tuckered out after an early morning of worm-getting, peeling back a tiny leaf blanket in its cozy little nest—but it’s just not the case. Nests (for birds that even make nests—many of them don’t) are for keeping eggs and chicks in place. When nesting season is over, nests are a mess—splattered in the droppings of the fledglings and, in some cases, a dead chick. These messes can attract parasites and predators, and birds just don’t need the nests anymore.

So where do birds sleep? Lots of places. When birds settle down to sleep, it’s called “roosting,” and the main things they’re looking for are safety and warmth. Songbirds have to keep off the ground to avoid cats and things, and out of the open to avoid owls. Dense brush or foliage does fine. Bigger birds have more options and can sleep on the water, on a branch, or even just right on the ground.

Few roosts are completely safe, though, so some birds have developed the ability to literally sleep with one eye open. The eyes of most birds (unlike in humabird001ns) send information to only one side of the mind. Unihemispheric slow-wave sleep allows birds to slide one hemisphere of their mind into a deep sleep while leaving the other hemisphere awake and alert. Birds can turn USWS on and off depending on how safe their roost is: For example, when a large flock of ducks is roosting on an open lake, the birds in the safety of the center of the flock may shut down completely, while the more vulnerable birds at the edge of the flock may enter USWS to stay alert. What’s more, scientists suspect that some birds use USWS to sleep while in flight.

OK, so birds don’t sleep in their nests. Let’s get more specific than that. There are a lot of different kinds of birds, and they roost in different ways. So you’ll be able to really dazzle ‘em at your next cocktail party, here’s how a bunch of different families of birds really do prefer to roost.

Geese and ducks. A coyote would love nothing more than to run up on a big, fat, delicious, sleeping goose. Their bigness and fatness, along with their webbed feet, make it impossible for waterfowl to sleep in the safety of a tree.

Gorgeous Rembrandt-Inspired Portraits of Women With Unusual Animals

Gorgeous Rembrandt-Inspired Portraits of Women With Unusual Animals

Most of the time, geese and ducks sleep at night right on the water. Eagles and hawks aren’t a threat because they also sleep during the night, and any predator swimming after the birds would send vibrations through the water, waking them up. Small islands work, too. Waterfowl also sleep on the shore, usually standing on one leg (tucking the other one up into the warmth of its feathers).

Baby Hawk

Baby Hawk

Herons and egrets. These big wading birds really have only equally large predators to worry about: alligators and eagles. Sometimes herons and egrets roost in the shallows, relying on vibrations in the water to warn them of reptiles, but they’re most often seen roosting in large flocks in waterside trees.

Shorebirds. Spending most of their time out on open beaches, birds like sandpipers and plovers are vulnerable to dive-bombing raptors even when they’re awake. Not being equipped to sit in trees or float on the water, sleeping is an even more dangerous proposition. Shorebirds simply do the best they can, roosting on open beaches in large flocks (to help raise alarm) and almost certainly using USWS to keep alert.

Hawks, eagles, and owls. You know that old joke about where the 800-pound gorilla can sit? Well hawks and eagles follow the same rule: anywhere they want to. ab84d3502acc3c58cbfe418f6024a601Big raptors don’t have to worry about predators so long as they’re off the ground, so they’ll usually just find a tree branch somewhere. Owls also sleep in trees, usually during the day, either in dense foliage (to keep the light out) or, for certain species, in tree cavities.9ca11edc69c5190774c98ff4842ec931

Grouse and quail. Sleep is perhaps most dangerous for these guys—all fat and juicy and, typically, with a poor ability to fly. Everything eats them. They sleep in the safest places they can find and use USWS and camouflage in their defense. Birds that live where there are trees, like spruce or ruffed grouse, will fly up and sleep on tree branches. Where there aren’t trees but only smaller vegetation, birds like willow ptarmigan will sleep in the vegetation. Where there’s nothing at all, no trees or bushes, say, and the land is covered in snow, birds like white-tailed ptarmigan will trust in their all-white plumage and nestle down right there in a snowy hillside.

Woodpeckers. Most woodpeckers roost in tree cavities, either ones they’ve used as nest holes or sometimes ones they’ve chiseled out just for sleeping. Lots of birds roost in tree cavities, or really any hole or covered area, for that matter. Humans have helped, creating lots of protected nooks under roofs, bridges, barns, and ledges.

Crows, swallows, swifts, starlings. These birds aren’t closely related, but they share some incredible communal roosting behaviors. Some species, for social or safety reasons or for warmth, choose to sleep together—sometimes in gigantic flocks. The spectacle of these flocks gathering at dusk is amazing to some people, eerie to others, but impossible to look away from. Check out these videos of hundreds of crows in Maryland, thousands and thousands of tree swallows in Florida, these chimney swifts wheeling into a middle school in Wisconsin.

Pretty much everything else. The bulk of the remaining birds—more than half of all bird species—are perching birds from the order Passeriformes. Classic bird-birds: sparrows, warblers, cardinals, jays, buntings, etc. For the most part, all these perching birds use dense vegetation—bushes, hedges, trees—to sleep. They just fly in at dusk, grab hold of an appropriately-sized twig, and conk out.

How do perching birds stay perched on their perch while they’re asleep, you might ask? Evolution, of course. Passerines have developed “flexor tendons” in their legs that involuntarily clasp shut when a bird squats on a perch. The tendons won’t relax until a bird straightens its leg, so a bird physically can’t leave until it’s ready. The grip is so tight that some birds, like this hummingbird, have been seen sleeping upside down. Looks plenty comfortable to me, and no nest required.

 

Know the reasons behind our tears!

We cry for many reasons. An argument or a fight with a loved one, an untimely death, physical pain, loneliness, frustration, break-ups and sometimes even when we’re happy.

cryingThe tears simply flow even when we try our best to hold them in Many people have likened this to a tap being left open somewhere inside us. But, has it ever struck you why? Why do we cry?

Biologically speaking, men have more testosterone, which inhibits tears. On the other hand, women have more prolactin, which stimulates tears. But it’s not just these two hormones that decide whether you cry or not.

You’ll be surprised to know that there are actually three different types of crying that exist, involving different mechanisms and chemicals. Yes, an emotion so simple has its types as well! They are:

Basal Tears: A protein-rich antibacterial liquid is constantly secreted by the lacrimal gland present in the outer edge of the eyeball. When we blink, the liquid is released, which then lubricates the entire eye surface. By lubricating the eye, basal tears protect them.

Reflex Tears: These tears protect the eyes from irritants such as wind, smoke, and chemicals. They also help flush out random speck of dirt or any object that gets into the eye. A good example of reflex tears are those that you cry while chopping an onion.

Emotional Crying: These tears are produced in such a large quantity that they overflow and overwhelm the nasal canal of the tear ducts and flow down our cheeks. This type of crying occurs in response to stress, frustration, sadness, and happiness, and any other emotion that evokes tears.

Apart from prolactin and testosterone modulating your crying, other hormones and neurotransmitters play a role as well, the likes of serotonin induced by the emotion of love, ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) which leads to the production of cortisol in order to flush out stress from your body and mind and testosterone and prolactin that kick in and rise and fall as we age.

Five Ways to Improve your Site’s Ranking (SEO)

Follow these suggestions, and watch your website rise the ranks to the top of search-engine results.

  1. Publish relevant content

    Quality content is the number one driver of your search engine rankings and there is no substitute for great content. Quality content created specifically for your intended user increases site traffic, which improves your site’s authority and relevance.

    Identify a keyword phrase for each page. Think about how your reader might search for that specific page (with phrases like “mechanical engineering in Michigan,” “best applied physics program,” or “Michigan Tech degrees”). Then, repeat this phrase several times throughout the page—once or twice in the opening and closing paragraphs, and two to four more times throughout the remaining content.

    Don’t forget to use bold, italics, heading tags, and other emphasis tags to highlight keyword phrases, but don’t overdo it.

    Never sacrifice good writing for SEO. The best pages are written for the user, not for the search engine.

  2. Update your content regularly

    You’ve probably noticed that we feel pretty strongly about content. Search engines do, too. Regularly updated content is viewed as one of the best indicators of a site’s relevancy, so be sure to keep it fresh.

  3. Metadata

    When designing your website, each page contains a space between the <head> tags to insert metadata, or information about the contents of your page. If you have a CMS site, the UMC web team will have pre-populated this data for you:

    • Title Metadata

      Title metadata is responsible for the page titles displayed at the top of a browser window. It is the most important metadata on your page. For those with a CMS website, the web team has developed an automated system for creating the meta title for each webpage.

    • Description Metadata

      Description metadata is the textual description that a browser will use in your page search return. Think of it as your site’s window display—a concise and appealing description of what is contained within, with the goal of encouraging people to enter.

    • Keyword Metadata

      Keyword metadata are the search phrases that people type when they want to find your page. You’ll want to include a variety of phrases. However, don’t get greedy: if your list becomes excessive, the browser may completely ignore the data. As a general rule, try to keep it to about 6-8 phrases with each phrase consisting of 1-4 words. A great example would be “computer science degree.”

  4. Have a link-worthy site

    Focus on creating relevant links within the text. Instead of having “click here” links, try writing out the name of the destination. “Click here” has no search engine value beyond the attached URL, whereas “Michigan Tech Enterprise Program” is rich with keywords and will improve your search engine rankings as well as the ranking of the page you are linking to.

  5. Use alt tags

    Always describe your visual and video media using alt tags, or alternative text descriptions. They allow search engines to locate your page, which is crucial—especially for those who use text-only browsers.

These are only a few of the many methods for improving your search engine ranking. If you want to learn more, we recommend the following resources:

U.S. government, Federal Reserve System and The U.S. Treasury

As part of  service relationship, the Federal Reserve System

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sells and redeems U.S. government securities such as savings bonds and Treasury bills, notes and bonds. It also issues the nation’s coin and paper currency. The U.S. Treasury, through its Bureau of the Mint and Bureau of Engraving and Printing, actually produces the nation’s cash supply and, in effect, sells the paper currency to the Federal Reserve Banks at manufacturing cost, and the coins at face value. The Federal Reserve Banks then distribute it to other financial institutions in various ways. During the Fiscal Year 2013, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing delivered 6.6 billion notes at an average cost of 5.0 cents per note.

Best Ways to Boost SEO with Social Media: Twitter

Twitter has a long history with Google, leading to a lot of confusion about whether signals from Twitter influence Google’s search results. Today I’m going to sort that out (spoiler alert: it doesn’t). Then I’m going to look at current best practices for upping your influence in search using Twitter.

Google Loves Twitter: Yes, No, Maybe So?

A few years ago, there was a lot of buzz about search engines using social signals to impact SERs. For a little while, Google did index tweets. Starting in 2009, Google had access to the full “fire hose” of Twitter’s data stream. A year later, Matt Cutts told us that these signals would officially be picked up by Google’s algorithm.

But the partnership was over a couple years later. In 2011, Google’s fire hose agreement with Twitter ended and Google rolled out its own proprietary social network, Google+.

Fast forward to this year, when Cutts went on record saying that “signals” from Twitter (and Facebook) are not part of the Google algo. The breakup between Google and Twitter would seem to be official.

But even now, a lot of SEOs insist that Twitter and Facebook activity weighs into Google’s search results. Most of the arguments point to observations that there’s a high correlation between activity on certain Twitter (or Facebook) accounts and their rankings in search engines. But, come on, folks … dust off your high school stats: correlation is not the same thing as causation.

The correlation is almost certainly about this: If you publish great content and it gets a lot of social shares, chances are it will also get links. Links, not shares, are influencing the search engine results.

If you’re interested in a deeper analysis of what Cutts said in his announcement earlier this year, and what it means, check out Mark Traphagen’s excellent post on that.

The most damning evidence against Google using Twitter data currently comes from Stone Temple Consulting’s recent analysis of how and when Google indexes tweets. Those guys found that only a few tweets are being indexed and those that are coming mainly from superhero accounts of more than a million followers. And … the indexing is slow.

Conclusion: Google is almost certainly not indexing tweets in any way that brings SEO benefits to most of us. So let’s take our eggs out of that basket—at least for now.

What about Bing?

Now, having said that, I need to point out that Bing does use social signals from Twitter. That’s documented and you can bank on it.

For the rest of my post, though, I’m going to focus on using Twitter for Google SEO—indirectly.

Twitter Still Helps With Google SEO. Here’s How.

Assuming you agree with my arguments above, here are some key ways you can use Twitter to help improve your results with Google. It’s not a comprehensive list, but these will give you the most bang for your buck.

Encourage Natural Backlinks.

Links are still the foundation of the Web and the Google algo. They’re our best way of telling Google that our websites and content are valuable and trustworthy. And Twitter’s one of the best social avenues for building organic connections that lead to natural, “honest” links. So-the best way Twitter can boost your SEO is for building natural links.

You have to start with great, useful content. Wherever you publish this—your own website/blog, Google+, LinkedIn or guest blogs, etc.,—you can use Twitter to attract readers who will want to share and link to it.

To encourage this, you’re going to need to focus on Twitter habits that will:

  • Build genuine community and connections
  • Make your tweets more shareable

Best Practices in the Twitterverse

To build genuine community on Twitter, focus on these actions:

  • Engage. Be as social as you would at a party. Be friendly, follow others, retweet, and link to content of people you’d like to do the same for you. Especially try to do this with influencers in your industry or field.
  • Share useful content. Spread your tweets out through the day and know when to post. There’s lots of data out there about optimal times and quantities for tweeting, like this advice from Buffer.

To make your tweets more shareable, try these things:

  • Use Twitter cards. These are bits of code that enable you to improve the user experience by adding photos, videos, product descriptions, and more to your tweets.
  • Use keywords from traditional SEO. This is a way your search and social teams can work synergistically together. Chances are Twitter users will also use some of the same keywords you’ve researched for your SEO campaign. Experiment with using them in tweets and as hashtags.

Optimize Your Personal Information

One of the easiest tricks is to optimize your identity on Twitter. Have a complete profile that includes some keywords for your industry, and a username that’s the same as your company name, individual name, or product. Twitter bios are highly rankable in Google when people search for your name or company.

Use Twitter to Understand Your Customers.

Lastly, as a corollary to the point above about using SEO keywords in tweets, you can use Twitter as a rich source of trending keywords for SEO and/or topics for content creation. The search/social synergy goes both ways.

Key Takeaways

To wrap up, the key SEO benefit from Twitter right now is link building. Bing is using signals from Twitter to influence its results, but the preponderance of evidence is that Google is not. This could definitely change. In the meantime, the ideas outlined here will help you maximize Twitter for Google SEO benefits.

The only constant at the intersection of search and social is fast and constant evolution. So stay on top of the trends. Use these best practices now, but keep your eye on the future.

What Are Backlinks

A backlink is a link back to your site. A link means that a site is embedding the url (your page address) into one of it’s pages, so that readers can click through from that site to yours. Example

Internal and External Backlinks

Backlinks are often described as either “internal backlinks” or “external backlinks”. The difference between the two is that an internal backlink is a link from one part of a specific domain (website) to another part of that same site.  Example

An external backlink is a link that comes from a separate website. Generally when people are talking about how to get backlinks, they are speaking about external backlinks.

Backlinks are valued for two reasons. They transfer visitors from one page to another, and they transfer influence called PageRank. Visitors are transferred when they click a link on one page of a site and are taken to another. Influence is transferred through a system often likened to voting, but “transfer” is probably not the right word to use, as it leads to a common misconception:

A page on a site will never lose or leak PageRank to another. In other words, you have a certain amount of votes based on your own PageRank, when you cast those votes, your own PageRank is not lowered.

PageRank is used by search engines to determine the importance of a particular page of a site (not the entire site). Backlinks are sought after largely because they can raise the PageRank of the page being linked to, which results in increased rankings by the search engines for that page. This makes it more likely that the page will be found by users on Google or other search engines.

So, basically, the more backlinks a page on your site has, the higher that page will rank in the search engines and the more traffic you will receive from user’s searching for terms or phrases that are contained within it.

Dofollow and Nofollow

To further complicate things, backlinks can also be “dofollow” or “nofollow”. This was created to provide the ability to link without passing on “votes”.

Let’s say you wanted to write a blog post about a company or site you were highly critical of, and you included a link for your visitors, you’d actually be promoting this site by “voting” and boosting it’s PageRank. Nofollow provides an option to create a link for your visitors to click, but not make an endorsement of the destination. What were initially just called backlinks then began to be referred to as “dofollow backlinks”.

Nofollow is an attribute placed on the link in html (the stuff “under the hood” when it comes to websites, that you normally do not see). If you know how to work with html yourself, you can add this attribute onto your links. But don’t worry if you don’t, because in most cases this isn’t something you need to worry about.

If you’re wondering what this has to do with you, it’s important for the following reason: In their pursuit of backlinks, people often do not take into account that most blogs and even many profiles they sign up with to add links to, make these links nofollow automatically.

In other words, not being able to distinguish nofollow from dofollow links can have you spending time trying to promote your site in places where it won’t gain any PageRank. There’s some debate about the value of nofollow backlinks, but what we do know is that Google claims they are not used in any way to calculate PageRank, unlike their dofollow cousins.

When discussing backlinks as a way to increase ranking in the search engines and traffic, generally, people are referring to external dofollow backlinks.

How Do You Know Which Sites Have Dofollow Links?

So, you know that what you need for your site is primarily external dofollow backlinks, but how do you know which sites have dofollow links?

Use a plugin called SEOQuake. It’s completely free, and very popular. It has an option to put a line (called a strike-through) over links that are nofollow. This allows you to easily identify if you’re going to get a dofollow link from a forum, profile, blog or anything else.

How Do I Check My Backlinks?

If you’re wondering how you find out exactly how many backlinks you have, most people use Yahoo! Site Explorer, because it updates more regularly and is more comprehensive than Google. You can, if you prefer, check backlinks in Google’s search engine quickly by typing pasting the url to the page you’d like to check and adding link: in front. For example link:hubapges.com will show a list of all the sites that link to HubPages.

If you’ve installed SEOQuake, you can see your backlinks even easier, as the plugin can be configured to display a link to them quite easily.

Which Backlinks Are the Best?

The best backlinks are dofollow external backlinks from a page that has high PageRank. Any backlinks will still provide you some benefit, but those particular backlinks should be your focus.

Note: Despite popular confusion to the contrary, backlinks from pages on .edu or .gov domains do not have a higher influence on PageRank. The type of domain or popularity of the site is irrelevant to PageRank calculations.

What Do You Think?

Do you believe Google’s claim that nofollow backlinks have no bearing on PageRank?

What is your backlink strategy?

How Google Became a Verb

The transitive verb to google (also spelled Google) means using the Google search engine to obtain information on something or somebody on the World Wide Web. However, in many dictionaries the verb refers to using any web search engine, such as Yahoo! or Bing . [Reference]

Many years ago, at least in terms of the internet, a couple of college students at Stanford  made something that helped change the way people both browse and speak. Their product, or perhaps service, was Google. As you surely know, Google is a search engine. Its primary function is to direct web users to the appropriate web page based on their search criteria – technically termed as keyword. From its birth as a company all those years ago in 1998, Google has gone from strength to strength. From its humble origins as a white page with a text box, which hasn’t changed much over the years.

The name for Google came from the word googol, which is the number 10100, which equal to 10 multiplied by 10, 100 times. Making it a pretty big number obviously is supposed to indicate the prowess of the search engine’s capabilities.

In popular media it’s used more and more frequently, and Google have taken steps to avoid its overuse since they fear it may become a generic trademark.

In many dictionaries, Google refers to the company or product, and google refers to the verb meaning “to search for on the internet”, whether you use Google or not. So you can google on Google, but you can google using other search engines too!

 

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