Saturday, January 22, 2011

College Education

The Federal government is one of the best sources for college financial aid. From low interest loans to free grants, the array of government aid is open to just about everyone. As long as you have passing grades and financial need, you almost certainly qualify for something.

The search for federal aid begins with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form can be filled out on paper or submitted online. Once it is processed, the government will make a judgement about the level and kinds of aid you are eligible for. To receive funding, you must have a high school diploma, GED certificate, or have met state standards to enroll in a qualified higher education school. You must also be a U.S. citizen or an eligible noncitizen, such as a permanent resident. The key factor in determining how much aid you receive will be financial need, not grades. Of course, if you fail to maintain passing grades, you will lose all assistance. However, it is not necessary to be an “A plus” student.

Undergraduates who meet the need criteria can receive Pell Grants. These range from $400 to $4,050 a year. Students with exception financial need may qualify for a Federal Supplemental Opportunity Grant (FSEOGs), which ranges from $100 to $4,000 a year. The amount you can receive may be reduced if you have other sources of aid, such as a scholarship. These grants do not have to be paid back.

Federal loan programs are offered to supplement grant awards, and for those who were not eligible for a grant. For some loans, you do not have to demonstrate need. The amount you can borrow will depend both on your school expenses and your grade level. Perkins loans are offered first to Pell Grant recipients. Only a certain amount is awarded each year and when that runs out, no more loans are given until the following year. Stafford loans are available to both graduates and undergraduates. You must be enrolled at least part-time. Financial need is not a requirement for the Stafford, but for lower income students, the government may award a subsidized loan. This means that the interest will be paid for you while you are a student, and during a six-month grace period after you graduate. Finally, the parents of dependent undergraduate students can take out a Plus loan to cover educational costs.

Words In Searches

One of the things we don't seem to have much of these days is time. Everyone rushes everywhere and communication is compressed into new shorter forms like all of the text messages I receive, I still don't get all of the abbreviations. There is a danger that this short, fast communication is carried over into web sites we develop. All short, bulleted points lacking any grammar or sentence construction, and as I have said before search engines seem to like well-constructed grammatical sentences.

However, there is another knock-on effect of shortening text and that is the effect it has on key words. I am not really talking about the meta tag keywords here, but the words in the text that the search engines find multiple times. This is often known as key word density i.e. what percentage of the text is taken up by a single word or multi-word phrase. Have you ever considered this in writing your own code? Have you thought yourself very clever, by managing to get 100 instances of your key word in one A4 page?

Having your keywords and phrases sprinkled throughout the text is obviously good, but how can you ensure you don't overdo it. Well, one way is to spend time creating a more lengthy piece of well-written text. This will mean that although you still have lots of key words and phrases in there, their relative density is reduced because of the greater overall volume of text.

We have a number of domains that we run purely to test theories on topics like key word density. By creating multiple pages with similar overall information, but written differently, we can test how the different search engines treat different key word densities. Just a note of warning, don't try this at home. You can actually be sandboxed (your site held in limbo) for having duplicate pages on a single domain. So being able to calculate how similar pages are to one another is important when doing this.

Finally, just a word on meta tag keywords. The importance attached by search engines to keywords specified in the meta tag has greatly reduced due to the overuse of this feature. Many sites I have seen have tried to use the same keywords over and over again. Our advice is to choose these words carefully and use maybe 4 or 5, but don't go over board. Then try and use them throughout the actual page text, but without forcing the density. After all, if they really are your key words, then using them in the text should come naturally.

And now a poem reflecting web page writing techniques.

If I write half a page
and you write thirty four
I can use three keywords
whilst you get forty more
I can be brief and concise
and speedily spit pages out
but your one and only masterpiece
Carries far more clout,
I am but a comic strip
to your Tolstoyan drama
I am all wild excitement
whilst you are perfect karma,
I have few words to play with
to juggle in a subtle key
whilst you have an epic
to aid keyword density
the old bull takes his time
never rushing, always serene
he has created multiple options
whilst young bull was over keen,
so when you code your pages
don’t undersell your wording
or you'll be virtually alone
when you should be herding,
ten keywords in a thousand
dilutes the trend to oversell
and makes the reader relax
from the instinct he can tell
that a little page is but a ploy
to put him onto a sales hook,
whereas an interesting article
is worth a second look. About The Author: John Fowler trained as a Mathematican and has worked in the IT industry for over 30 years, much of the time in sales related functions. He now spends his time between being a partner in SEO Gurus and as a sales and management trainer for ICT companies.

Engines Change So Fast

Few things are as important to online businesses as reliable Search Engine Optimization. Get listed high on top search engines and you can just about bet on getting a big boost in sales.

Businesses often spend big bucks on SEO experts, advice, and systems that are touted to deliver your site into the promised land of high rankings. The bad news is -- most of this advice is outdated, untested, or just plain wrong.

Here's why. Search engines are extremely complicated and constantly changing. What worked last year may be completely wrong today. What worked yesterday may be outdated by this afternoon. SEO advisors who get their information from discussion groups (as many do) are often repeating untested guesses, theories, and rumors. Sometimes they misinterpret what search engine changes really mean for real websites.

Keeping up with search engines has become a full-time job, not just for one person, but for a full team of seasoned pros. It takes that many trained people to pour through the hundreds of pages of new findings, and TEST new methodologies.

I stress the word TEST because that's really the only way you can know an optimization or marketing strategy is going to work. My team constantly tests new strategies in real life situations to see how search engines will respond.

In general, it's good to learn how at least some of the Net's most important search engine features (like Google's vital PageRank system) work. You should also learn how to use meta tags and Overture to get your site listed quickly and in a way that will bring you more visitors and sales.

If you really want better ranking for your site, you are well advised to get the help of a qualified SEO professional. Choose a firm that specializes in SEO or SEM. You'll know which ones are the most successful because THEIR sites are ranked high in search engines.