Google being reported as fraud site by Opera

It has been almost a month since my last post. I will be extremely busy till the end of this month. The new year has been going great so far. All my exams, except one, were easy. Hope you all had a great Christmas and New Year (Yes, I know it is a bit too late 🙂 ).

Today early morning, my brother rushed in to my room and told me that our latest site, www.love-meter.net, is being reported as fraud site by Opera. I ran to my computer and found that it was true. I was surprised because the site is not yet complete and still it is being reported as a fraud site. I reloaded the page and it was then I noticed that it was not actually our site, but Google’s cache of my site that my brother was referring to. I checked my site and found that it was not showing any warnings. Next I checked for Google’s cache of www.google.com and found that it too showed the same error. But the warning is not being shown on the datacenter homepage. I checked the page cache in some other datacenters [64.233.161.104, 209.85.165.102] and they were not showing any such warning.

BTW, I had received several feedbacks and comments on Local Analytics. I am sorry, I wasn’t able to respond to your comments and fix the errors you have reported. I will try my best to fix those errors by the end of this month or early February.

Google reported as fraud site by Opera Site Check Google reported as fraud site by Opera Site Check

Speed up page loading & save bandwidth by reducing page size

Yesterday, while fixing some browser compatibility issues of my new theme, I was surprised to know that my homepage was over 400 KB in size and took more than 30 seconds to completely load with my DSL connection. More than 80 files, including images, javascript and css, were embedded within the page.

I decided to optimize the page and found that the following actions can be taken to decrease the load time.

  • Reduce the number of requests
    First of all, I opened up my theme’s stylesheet and found several unused classes with image backgrounds and bullets. I removed those classes and removed all references to non-existant files.
  • Reduce the total download size
    I tried removing unwanted markup and html comments left by my theme and plugins. But that did not create much difference in size. Next I converted some of the images from PNG to JPEG format. This reduced the total size by over 30 KB. But most of the page size was due to the embedded Javascript and CSS files. For example, the prototype javascript library is over 90 KB in size, which on compression get reduced to 22KB. Hence I used Apache Module mod_deflate to compress my files dynamically for gzip enabled browsers. I used the following code in my .htaccess file to compress files of the following mime types  – text/css,  text/html,  text/plain,  text/xml and application/x-javascript. For this to work on your server, you should have mod_deflate enabled. Most webhosts have this enabled. If not, you may also try  PHP mod_gzip or ZLib compression.

    # Insert filter
    SetOutputFilter DEFLATE
    
    AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/css text/html text/plain text/xml application/x-javascript
    
    # Netscape 4.x has some problems...
    BrowserMatch ^Mozilla/4 gzip-only-text/html
    
    # Netscape 4.06-4.08 have some more problems
    BrowserMatch ^Mozilla/4\.0[678] no-gzip
    
    # MSIE masquerades as Netscape, but it is fine
    # BrowserMatch \bMSIE !no-gzip !gzip-only-text/html
    
    # NOTE: Due to a bug in mod_setenvif up to Apache 2.0.48
    # the above regex won't work. You can use the following
    # workaround to get the desired effect:
    BrowserMatch \bMSI[E] !no-gzip !gzip-only-text/html
    
    # Make sure proxies don't deliver the wrong content
    Header append Vary User-Agent env=!dont-vary
  • Cache files client side
    Almost all browsers have the ability to cache files on your computer for faster loading. If we set the expiry time of the file, the browser will check for updated content only after the specified time. We can use the Apache module mod_expires for this purpose. The following code will request the browser to cache all files for three hours. This can make the browser download the file only once during a session, but will update the content on next visit. You may also use the ExpiresByType directive to set different time for images, javascript and css files.

    # Cache all files for the next 3 hours
    ExpiresActive On
    ExpiresDefault "access plus 3 hours"

Results

The final result was great. The homepage size got reduced to 159 KB, which was less than half of the original size. The page load time also reduced to 19.3 seconds from about 32 seconds.

The load time and page size were calculated using the Web Page Speed Report tool from www.websiteoptimization.com.

Make sure you backup your current .htaccess file before trying the above code. So that you can revert back if something goes wrong.

End of PageRank. What comes next?

For the past few weeks, blogosphere is teeming with posts on Google and its latest PageRank update. The recent update has raised a lot of hues and cries against Google, as a large number of popular and high ranking websites lost their PR by as much as -2. The action was part of Google’s plan to eradicate paid links and sponsored posts as it meddled with Google Ranking system. The penalties were not totally unexpected, as Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team, had warned about selling links with the intention of passing PR almost two years back. Still the public opinion was against Google was heavy with many webmasters deciding to boycott Google and its services.

PageRank[1, 2, 3] is the ranking system used by Google for finding out the importance of a webpage, for their search engine. The system grades every webpage in a numerical scale ranging from 0 to 10, depending on the number of backlinks it has got from other websites. Links from high PageRank websites boosts your PR much higher, compared to links from low PR websites. Google’s SERP is not entirely based on PageRank, as it would have resulted in a  lot or irrelevant results like Live Search. Among equally important pages, the ones having higher PR was given a higher importance. This helps in countering content copying, as most of the sites will be linking to the original website.

Initially the PageRank was limited to internal use and was not available to the public. But later Google integrated a visual pagerank bar to the Google Toolbar and it didn’t take much time for the webmaster world to accept PageRank as the best indicator of the value of a website. And soon the PageRank of the homepage became the symbol of a site’s prestige, value and marketability. And with the increase in importance of PR, improving a site’s PR became one of the prime objectives of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Several white hat and black hat methods were developed for improving the PageRank of a site. And most of the methods were cracked down by Google. But selling paid links was something Google was unable to stop, until recently.

Another major reason for PageRank getting its present day (or pre-october days?) significance was that most of the advertisers used to give much importance to PR, while choosing the sites to advertise on. Now that many of the top sites selling links are having lower PR, there is no point in continuing the policy. If advertisers don’t care much about PR, then most of the webmasters will be giving any even lesser importance to PageRank, which is reflected by the recent boycotts. Hence I too think Jamie is right in saying that PageRank is dead as a dodo.

Till now PageRank analysis had been the best method for evaluating the importance of a website. And it served as the basis for buying sites and links. But now with both PageRank and Alexa ranking dead, webmasters have to find an alternate method for evaluating websites.

Best traffic analysis programs for your blog

If you are into blogging seriously and hope to become a professional blogger, then you should analyze your traffic regularly. Regular traffic analysis helps you a in knowing what kind of effect your posts are making on your readers. It helps you in understanding the topics your readers are interested.  A keen observation and wise decisions will surely add your name to the list of the best bloggers.

Traffic analysis is a very difficult job and I’m sure that most of us are not interested in it. Fortunately, there are several services available, which allows us to analyze site traffic with detailed reports and convenient graphs.

  • Google Analytics

    Home Page | Get Product | Product Tour | Features
    Managed by Google, this is one of the best available web traffic analysis service. The best thing about Google Analytics is that it is free. In my opinion, Google Analytics is the best traffic analysis service that is free. Analytics allows you to manage unlimited number of websites from your account.
    Installation of Analytics on your site is as simple as adding a piece of Javascript code on your website. There are a number of WordPress plugins for Analytics available which requires only your Analytics account ID, and thus save you the trouble of editing your theme. I too have created a highly configurable Analytics plugin for Word Press, which allows you to locally host the urchin.js file and periodically update it.
    Pros:

    • Indepth reports with detailed graphs.
    • Ecommerce tracking is possible.
    • Option to export the stat reports to a number of formats.

    Cons:

    • Real-time tracking is not possible. . The reports are updated several times a day, but still it gets delayed by several hours.
    • Detailed report about single visits is not available
    • Customer support limited to Help center and support group
  • StatCounter

    Home Page | Get Product | Demo | Features
    If you too hate Google after their latest PageRank update [1, 2, 3], and do not want to use their service anymore, then StatCounter is your second best option (Is it a coincidence that StatCounter lost its PageRank from 10 to 6 in the latest update?). The reports are not as detailed as the ones provided by Google Analytics.
    Pros:

    • Stats are updated in realtime.
    • Detailed report about last 500 visits is available.
    • Ability to display a visible counter on your webpage.

    Cons:

    • The reports are not as flexible as Google Analytics.
    • Free account control panel is ad supported.
    • E-commerce tracking and tracking of visitors over multiple domains is not possible.
  • Mint

    Home Page | Get Product | Demo | Features
    Unlike Google Analytics and StatCounter, Mint is a hosted traffic analysis program written in PHP and MySQL. Also Mint is not free and costs $30. Mint provides very detailed realtime details of your site traffic. But since the program is hosted on your server which may not be dedicated servers with load balancing, it can cause heavy server loads for high traffic websites. I have never used Mint, but have heard very Good reviews about Mint from several sources. If you have a medium traffic website and can spend $30, then this is the best software for real time tracking. I recommend using Mint along with Google Analytics, so that you will be having access to detailed realtime reports from Mint and comprehensive and detailed long term statistics from Google Analytics.
    Pros:

    • Stats are updated in realtime.
    • Very simple and nice interface.
    • Ability to extend and enhance the functionality of Mint by using plugins(called Peppers).

    Cons:

    • It is not free.
    • The program needs to be installed on your server.
    • Requires Unix server with atleast MySQL 3.x and PHP 4.2.3.
    • Causes intensive server load on high traffic websites.
    • Lack of comprehensive reports and graphs.
  • FireStats

    Home Page | Get Product |  Demo | Features
    Like Mints, FireStats is also a hosted Traffic tracking program. But unlike Mint, FireStats is free for non-commercial use and costs $25 for commercial use. I have been using FireStats for the past few months. The reports are not as detailed as in Mint, but the development of FireStats is happening at a rapid pace. FireStats can be installed as a standalone version or as plugins for WordPress, WordPress MU, Joomla, Drupal, MediaWiki etc. For WordPress blogs, FireStats provides two widgets for displaying your traffic stats and popular posts. It also allows you to display the country, platform and browser details of your commentators next to their name. For non-commercial usages, I recommend using FireStats. But for commercial sites I recommend using Mint, because for the small difference in price you get a much detailed report.
    Pros:

    • Stats are updated in realtime.
    • Very easy integration with a number of programs like WordPress, WordPress MU, Joomla, Drupal etc.
    • Multi level access to reports.
    • Availability of widgets for displaying stats and popular posts.
    • Ability to show the country, platform and browser details of your commentators next to their name.

    Cons:

    • Not free for commercial use.
    • Requires atleast MySQL 4.0.17 with INODB support and PHP 4.4.2.
    • Provides only basic details.
    • Interface and usability is not as good as Analytics or Mint.

Page Rank Tools

Ever since reading on some of the popular blogs about the effect of the latest PageRank updates on their blog, I too have been waiting eagerly to know Google’s decision on my blog. Hurray! Google has showered some blessings on me too. Yes, the PageRank of JoyceBabu.Com jumped from PR0 to PR3. Well, this may not be as great as the PR5 of JohnCow.com, JonLee.ca or ContestBlogger.com. But I am more than happy with this. Now I believe I too have got some bragging rights.

Web Hosting Folio - Pagerank Visualization Tool

Since the Google PageRank update is still running, not all datacenters have updated their PR database. Here are some interesting tools that helps you to analyze your sites pagerank in different ways.

Link your Hotmail / Windows Live IDs

Microsoft recently introduced a new feature to its Windows Live accounts – the ability to link your different Windows Live Accounts together, so that you can switch between your different accounts in just two clicks. This is a feature I have been missing very badly in my Google Accounts. I have over 10 Gmail and Google Apps for Domain mail accounts, which I find very difficult to manage. I hope google will also follow Microsoft in enabling integration of multiple Google Accounts.

When two or more of your accounts are linked together, you can switch from account to another by clicking on your Live ID on the top right corner and selecting the new account from the drop down list. Previously you had to logout of your current session and re-login to access the second account. Now you can check your different Live mail accounts without logging in to each account separately.

I used to find it quite annoying when checking my site stats with Google Analytics, since my Analytics account is tied with a Google Account different from my primary email address. On logging in my gmail account, I get logged out from my Analytic account and on logging in to Analytic my gmail inbox also switches. Adsense, Gmail and Orkut allows you to login to multiple accounts at the same time, but not Analytics or Webmaster Tools. Fortunately, after starting this blog, I moved my primary email address to this domain and is powered by Google Apps for Domain. Hence I strongly feel that this new feature is going to be a great time saver for many of the Windows Live account holders.

But there is a small downside to this great new option. If you are not careful with each account, someone may access all your accounts as all your linked accounts are equally important now. Suppose somebody hacks into one of your account (or steals the password from your system), then the person has all your accounts at his disposal. So make sure that each account is secured with a strong password. Also never link your personal accounts with shared or group accounts.

You may visit LiveSide, if you wish to know more about the recent update.

Personalize Orkut to your liking

Are you an orkut addict? I have been one every since I joined orkut long back. Infact, I am an active member of orkut with a couple of thousand scraps and hundreds of friends. Thanks to orkut I could reconnect with many of my long lost friends.

Every since I joined orkut, there was something about it that I didn’t like – the design. The initial design of the site, before Google took over the site was very bad. A large amount of Javascript code was embedded within the page, that made it slow to load and resource hungry. After its merger with Google Accounts, the site was redesigned. It was much better than the previous design, though there are many who are dissatisfied with the new look. The best thing about the new design was that the embedded Javascript and CSS codes were replaced by linked external files, which reduced made the pages load faster.

A few days back, while going through my previous article “Gmail and Yahoo! Mail Beautifiers“, a question struck me. Are there any similar script for Orkut? Once again GreaseMonkey came to our help. There are several scripts that allows you to change your Orkut theme. I checked two of the scripts with Opera User Scripts, and it worked fine with Opera too. The only downside of this method is that the theme switches only after the complete page load. For IE users, there is nothing you can do other than yell out, “IE Sucks“.

The first script I tested and the one I liked the most was Matrix by Crazysouls.com. The design was really cool, but unfortunately the design was broken at several places (most probably due to some recent updates by Orkut team). Hence, I have tweaked the files a little bit to make it compatible with the latest orkut layout. You can download the updated file from here.

Here is a screenshot of the Matrix Theme.


Matrix theme for orkut

Keyboard Shortcuts

There is one more userscript that I wish to mention. OrkutShortcuts allows you to visit some of your most frequently visited orkut pages with some simple keyboard shortcuts. The supported shortcuts are

  • Home : Ctrl + Shift + H
  • Scrapbook : Ctrl + Shift + S
  • Communities : Ctrl + Shift + C
  • Friends : Ctrl + Shift + F
  • Edit Profile : Ctrl + Shift + E

Installation

Inorder to install the script for Firefox, you must download and install the GreaseMonkey extension from the Firefox Addon Repository. After installing the extension and restarting Firefox, clicking on the appropriate download link above will popup an installation window. Click install and reload Orkut and you are done.

For installing the script in Opera, save the script somewhere on your HardDisk, say C:\\Program Files\\Opera\\Profile\\UserJs\\, or anywhere you like. After that go Tools > Preferences > Advanced > Content > Javascript Options in your Opera browser and click the choose button at the bottom of the window and select the directory where you saved the userscript. And reload the window to see your brand new Orkut.

If you are using TorPlus,  then the user script path is already configured. Hence all you have to do is save the file in the corresponding directory. If you are using TorOpera, save the file in the directory TorPlus\\Opera\\Profile\\js\\user\\  and if you are using TorKestrel, then save the file in the directory TorPlus\\Kestrel\\Profile\\js\\user\\   and you are done.

Cool Hotmail – A new MicroSoft initiative

Microsoft, one of the largest email service providers with their hotmail and live mail service, has introduced a new initiative called “CoolHotmail.com” to lure Indian internet users to use their hotmail service. The service, powered by their live mail service, presently offers users 193 unique domain names to choose from, in addition to their standard Live Mail features.

Microsoft believes that your email id truly reflects your personality. Hence they have classified the  into  5 groups namely Where I live, Who I like, Who am I, What I like and I Don’t fit. Some of the available domain names are MumbaiRocks.in, SalaamDelhi.in, ClubSachin.in, IAmMarried.in, ILoveSoccer.in and so on. You can also request for a particular domain, if it is not already on the list. Ofcourse, it is subject to the availability of the domain and they don’t guarantee that they will offer the domain even if it is available.

Other than for a few people who wish to try out new services, I am not sure how many people will be interested in this service. Most of the people will prefer to stick with their current email address. Also it is very unprofessional to use email addresses like these and to change email address every now and then. If you are really serious with your email address and use it for professional purposes, then I highly recommend you to get your own domain in your name or your company’s name. If you signup for a free Google Apps account with your domain, you and your friends/family/employees get a free 2 GB inbox with all standard Gmail features, Google Calendar, Google Docs and Google Personalized homepage too. Microsoft also provides a similar service named Windows Live Custom Domains. But personally, I think Google Apps is better than Windows Live Custom Domains.

My list of recommended WordPress Plugins – Part II

This is the second post on the series, “My List of recommended WordPress Plugins”. The previous post got a good amount of visits. I got busy with many things after that, hence this post got delayed.

  • Today, I begin the list with a plugin that allows you to monetize your website efficiently. The Shylock Adsense Plugin  allows you to insert ads on your blog without modifying the template. The main advantage of the plugin is that it allows us to specify when and where the ads will appear, directly from the Admin Control Panel. You can configure the plugin to show more ads in your older posts and no or little ads in the posts created in the last X days. Also there is facility to add ads to homepage, archives and category pages. In pages having multiple posts, it allows you to decide under which post the ads should appear. The name of the plugin is a misnomer, because you can show any ads (contextual / banner), not just Adsense. The plugin was created by Alex of Shylock Blogging for his personal use, but he was good enough to distribute it for free. He is testing a new version of the plugin, watch out for it.
  • Another plugin I recommend is the DoFollow plugin. If you have a high activity blog, then you may run into trouble with it. But for small blogs with less comments, it will help increase user activity (though I haven’t seen much difference except in the post announcing it  ). It allows you to remunerate your loyal readers who participate in the discussion on your blog. Once you start using the plugin, you are surely going to get a sudden surge in visitors. If you decide to use the plugin, then I recommend you to checkout the Bumpzee community “No Nofollow“. Andy Beard has posted a list of Do Follow plugins.
  • Another important plugin that I would like to introduce is the “Global Translator” from Nothing2Hide. I think most of the bloggers are not aware of the power of this plugin. I have been getting a good number of visits from other language search engines, especially the Italian, German and French versions of Google. I highly recommend this plugin.
  • Though loyal readers are the life-blood of a blog, search engines cannot be completely avoided. A good blog is surely going to get a good number of visitors from search engines, who may become your subscribers. There are many plugins that allows you to search engine optimize your blog. “All in One SEO Pack” is a plugin that includes the features of all the major SEO plugins. The plugin allows you to specify alternate title (other than the post title), meta keyword and meta description for your page. It allows you to insert ‘noindex’ attribute to category and archive pages, removing duplicate contents from your blog. This plugin is also highly recommended.
  • WordPress provides RSS feed of comments on a post, which readers can subscribe. But some people(including me) prefer to subscribe to a topic by email rather than by rss feed. “Subscribe to comments” is a Word press plugin that provides your readers to subscribe to comments on a post by email. Users can subscribe to the comments by selecting a checkbox while submitting a comment or by submitting their email address in a separate form without commenting.

This is not the full list. There is still more plugins that I use and I’ll continue with it later. And again, I hope you will try these excellent plugins. Also checkout the previous post in this series

NB: Before you try any of these, please backup your WordPress database. If you are not sure how to do that, then it is better not to try these. Do it at your own risk.

Webmails and Web Messengers – The web 2.0 style

On Wednesday, Microsoft announced that it is has increased the webmail box storage size to 5GB for free users and 10GB for premium users. But still, it is behind Yahoo! Mail. Yahoo! mail and Rediff mail still leads with both providing unlimited mail storage space. Presently Gmail, the webmail service provided by Google, lags in the race with less than 3 GB space, though it was the first webmail service to provide a GB sized mailbox for free. It was the entry of Google into the Webmail service that revolutionized the free webmail services. Before the entry of Gmail, Hotmail was providing just 2MB space while Yahoo! Mail provided 6MB. Gmail still continues to add great features to its webmail service. Gmail has integrated Chat, Calendar, Docs & Spreadsheet support and so on.

Microsoft has also promised to improve the performance of Hotmail by identifying and fixing the slowest parts. The slow reponse was the primary reason I moved from Hotmail to Yahoo! Mail and finally to Gmail. Of the three main webmail providers, I like the look and feel of Hotmail the most. It is really cool. The new Yahoo! Mail is more or less like my email client. I like the new interface very much. Unfortunately, it doesn’t load in my browser (Opera). Also, the time taken for it to load is also large. Had they provided some ActiveX components, that made the loading fast, then I would have considered going back to Yahoo! Mail. Gmail is my favorite webmail provider. There are many reasons for that. First and foremost, its integrated chat feature. Recently, Yahoo! also started providing a similar service. The second reason for me loving Gmail is the ability to send emails from multiple email addresses from a single email address. I have configured my different Google Apps accounts and Gmails accounts to forward received mails to my primary Gmail account. When replying to a received mail, google automatically sends the mail from the original email address. This is a great help to me, as I have to manage a number of email addresses. Another feature I like in Gmail is its filter system. It helps me to organize my mails better. The filter system along with labels is much more powerful than the folders provided by Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail. BTW, I forgot to mention the best feature of Gmail. Its ability to group together messages of a conversation and notification of updates to conversation while we are composing a message.

Don’t you think it will be cool, if you can chat with your Google Talk, MSN Messenger and Yahoo! Messenger contacts with a single email address? Now you can do that if you have a Gmail account. Gmail has built in support for GTalk. For using your Gmail ID with MSN Messenger and Yahoo! Messenger, signup for a Windows Live ID with your Gmail address. Now login to your MSN Messenger and GTalk. You can’t have GTalk to MSN / Yahoo chatting. But now your contacts doesn’t have to remember your different messenger IDs.