I have a post here about two things I really love – travel and movies, not really web development related but thought I’d put a post up in case it’s useful to anyone. Last month I went to my sister’s house, who has recently moved to Quebec for a few months – it’s a place I can thoroughly recommend although it is slightly colder than LA!
Anyway we were talking about things that we miss about home – over a few beers one evening. The list was surprisingly small for my sister and I can hardly blame her. But one thing she commented on was the way she missed catching all the latest films and shows, there always seemed to be a little delay on stuff getting to Canada. You might not think it’s a big deal but when all your friends are online talking about the latest episode of Game of Thrones or NCIS and you’re half a series behind it can get a little frustrating.
So we came up with a couple of things to help her, the first involved purchasing the leads to connect her laptop to the TV. This was essential in our plan like me, watching lots of stuff on a monitor instead of a TV never made that much sense. It especially stopped the social element of watching a film with a few friends.
The next thing I did was to start up my subscription to Netflix, I know it’s not quite up to date but it’s great for watching series you’ve missed. The beauty is that you can watch a whole series in a few nights if you get hooked. One thing I discovered that inexplicably my sister had never seen a single episode of Lost!!
That’s where it all went wrong, which you will find if you try to watch US Netflix in Canada, it’s just different. When I say different I actually mean worse, when you log on to Netflix in Canada you actually get a version that has a load less content than the American version. For starters I couldn’t even find all 70 odd episodes of Lost anywhere on the site.
What happens like many web and media streaming sites, is that it tailors your content depending on your location. So although Netflix is a global application, as you move around you’ll find the content varies greatly. I’m afraid the Canadian version was just nowhere near as good value as the one I watched at home.
It’s something I’ve always intended to do sometime soon, do some travelling whilst working at the same time. Instead of doing this two to three week vacation thing just settle somewhere for 6 months or so, work and then move on again. This would hopefully allow me to see a few places and get to know them rather than doing the tourist stuff and then flying back (among a huge group of Americans all doing the same thing).
I know people do it, and I was reminded by chatting with an old buddy of mine who has been working in Istanbul for just over a year now. So I decided to pick his brains and get some suggestions on what I could do to get started and what tips he could suggest.
It was he says easier than you think, although there are a few things to bear in mind. First of all try and make sure you’re not too committed to one place – don’t sign a two year lease or commit to long term agreements on anything. If you don’t know a country you’re liable to make mistakes, my friend found a bargain apartment in Istanbul over the internet, and when he arrived it was in a very unsafe part of the city especially for foreigners. He had to pay a substantial sum to cancel the lease agreement.
Get your affairs in order at home, rent out your house, assign letting agents and get all your bills on standing order. Make sure you have access to all your accounts online if possible and check if they’re accessible from outside the country. Many bank accounts can’t be accessed from outside the US due to fraud restrictions, but if you invest in a US proxy server – here’s one then you can access using an American IP address. Being able to keep tabs of your affairs whilst travelling is a huge advantage and makes life much simpler.
There’s other advantages to using these sort of programs to hide your identity when travelling, firstly it means you can keep your web based business secure when using random wifi connections that you don’t entirely trust. Also it can help you keep in touch back home, my friend who is from London uses his to access British television over the internet (normally blocked due to licensing restrictions) – here’s it in action watching some BBC show online.
SEO stands for search engine optimisation, it’s not very exciting but it’s a subject you really can’t avoid if you want to be successful online. Basically it means optimising your site in order to attract the most relevant traffic to your site. It’s also a difficult balancing act, if you optimize your site too much it could get penalized by the search engines particularly Google. Too little and you’ll simply not receive any traffic from them.
There are some basic tasks that you can do that are essential and pretty safe. For a start you should try and target keywords on both your site and individual pages and posts. Say you had a site about dieting, which also promoted dieting products – here you should choose your keywords carefully. Using a keyword tool, there’s one free called keyword planner on the Google site – pick phrases that relate to the content on each page and try to target that phrase.
You should include the selected phrase in the Title and use the phrase a couple of times during the content. Make sure you don’t overdo the use as this will count against you. Putting links and relative images with related keywords will help boost your rankings for that keyword. Don’t imagine you’ll be able to rank for a phrase like ‘lose weight’ easily as this is an incredibly competitive keyword to rank for. Instead target slightly longer words which might bring you some quality traffic, the phrase ‘lose weight for holidays’ for example might bring you less traffic but still be profitable.
The other thing that has a significant effect on your rankings is the number of links pointing at each page. This is where the difficulty takes place, without links from other sites pointing at your pages they will not rank at all. Unfortunately Google says you can’t build or generate these links yourself – it’s a catch 22 situation, no-one will link to your site if they don’t see it, but without links none will ever visit. In reality you have to make some effort to build links otherwise you’ll never get anywhere, but you have to be cautious.
Don’t build thousands of links from low quality websites, try and generate slow, relevant links on good authority sites. Technically you’re not allowed to do anything, but writing for other sites, sponsoring posts or similar are possible as long as you do it carefully. If you use proxy servers like this British one you can access sites in other countries whilst keeping your address private.
You can also use certain tools to build social networking links from sites like Facebook, Twitter and Reddit to help rank your sites. Again don’t build these all from the same sort and be careful to change your IP address occasionally (see here) so the links don’t get deleted.