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Useful Tips Archive


On this page we have archived our useful tips.

What is an Internet Cookie? | Basic Internet Terminology |
What is the Thumbs.db file?
| Pop-Up Messages | Is Your Computer Running Slow?
Brief Tips

Determining Keywords
by S. Housley

Determining keywords is a critical step in web design. If your website and meta tags do not contain related keywords, web surfers will be unable to find your website when they conduct searches.

The formula is a little tricky - you will need to locate terms that are popular and relevant to your business. These terms may or may not be terms that *you* feel are relevant terms. The optimal terms in a site should be terms that a potential customer would use when searching for a website with your content. In order to achieve success your website should be optimized with terms and phrases that are descriptive, related to your content, and which receive a significant amount of searches. The caveat, of course, is that you want to find terms and phrases where there is little competition, so you quickly achieve high ranking in the important search engines.

relevant + popular with searchers but not with competitors = success

Markets saturated with other sites competing for search terms make it difficult to find quality keywords. Sometimes it is better to optimize for a less popular term, one that is more targeted at your visitor, as it will likely have a higher conversion rate than a less specific popular term. The first step to determining keywords is brainstorming a list of logical terms and phrases that relate to your product or offerings. This should be done by a number of individuals; sometimes people have very different ideas for search terms and by identifying a variety of people and their search terms you may tap words that hadn't occurred to you. There are a number of free and low-cost tools available online and for download that will allow you to expand and research terms that have been brainstormed. The results typically vary with the tools but overall the tools will assist you in determining where to focus your keyword efforts. The tools will often assist with pay-per-click engines, creating expanded, related keywords or phrases that can be bid on.

In addition to examining log files to see what terms customers are using to find a website, visit competitors' web sites and examine their meta tags for additional terms, use a thesaurus to find related terms, include misspellings of keywords in your meta tag keywords, and optimize for various forms of nouns and verbs, including tenses and plurals.

Keyword Tools

TheDowser - Overture Keyword Tool, Google Keyword Sandbox, Keyword Harvester, Google AdWords report analyzer, Google AdWords optimization tool, log file analyzer, conversion tracking and optimization tool.

WordTracker - Wordtracker helps you choose the right internet marketing keywords that will help your search engine placement and ranking. Use Wordtracker for keyword research. Web marketing is all about search engine ranking, and that starts with the proper internet marketing keywords. Get a free keyword report and web site promotion information!

Keyword Suggestion Tools - A handy little tool will show you the results of your query from both Wordtracker and Overture for determining which phrases are searched most often. Enter a search phrase below to see how often it's searched for, as well as get suggestions for alternate (but similar) keywords.

Keyword Ranking Tool - This utility can be used to check search engines for keyword ranking and track search engine ranking for your various keywords over time, which, as you probably know, is critical when doing search engine optimization.

Topword Tool - Topword Tool is a free online tool that analyzes a complete web page and counts keyword occurrences, as well as keyword phrases (number in brackets), equal to or above that set in the Minimum Occurrences setting. It supplies a list of keywords and keyword phrases which are most likely to achieve the highest rankings on a major search engine. The tool will also analyze your meta description/keyword and title tags and then, through color coding, inform you of words/phrases which should be included. The main use for this tool is checking your optimization and tweaking existing web sites to rank well.

Google Suggestion - The Google Suggestion is a new online tool for webmasters. As you type into the search box, Google Suggest guesses what you're typing and offers suggestions in real time. This is similar to Google's 'Did you mean?' feature that offers alternative spellings for your query after you search, except that it works in real time. For example, if you type 'bass', Google Suggest might offer a list of refinements that include 'bass fishing' or 'bass guitar'. Similarly, if you type in only part of a word, like 'progr,' Google Suggest might offer you refinements like 'programming', 'programming languages', 'progesterone', or 'progressive'. You can choose one by scrolling up or down the list with the arrow keys or mouse. The tool provides a number that indicates the number of searches a specific word or phrase has had.

Keyword statistics give webmasters a way to tap into what is on the minds of Internet consumers. When you can match your marketing efforts to the various ways people locate their items of interest on the net, potential customers will be streamed to your site like ants to a picnic.

About the author
Sharon Housley manages marketing for FeedForAll software for creating, editing and publishing RSS feeds and NotePage, Inc. a wireless messaging software company


What is an Internet cookie?

Cookies have, for some reason, gained a rather sinister image. But they really are simple and harmless. A cookie is just one or more pieces of information stored as text strings on your machine.

A Web server sends you a cookie and the browser stores it. The browser then returns the cookie to the server the next time the page is referenced.

The most common use of a cookie is to store a user ID. For example, the cookie might contain the following string:

ID=96352398 is one site that uses this technique. When you order a book, you fill out a form with your name and address. Amazon assigns you an ID, stores your information with that ID in its database on the server, and sends the ID to your browser as a cookie. Your browser stores the ID on your hard disk. The next time you go to Amazon, the ID is sent back to the server. The server looks you up by your ID and customizes the Web page it sends back to you. The page might say, "Welcome back, Joe Smith!"
You may be wondering:

Is there any more to cookies than that? No. They are simply text strings. On my machine there is a directory called c:\windows\cookies that contains all of the cookies. They are little text files -- you can open them up and see the strings that are being saved.
Are cookies harmful? No. They are just short text strings, and they can often make browsing better by allowing a server to recall any customized information you have set.
Are cookies common? Yes. There are over 500 separate cookies on my hard disk.
Can cookies transmit computer viruses? No. They are just text strings.
Can a company read my personal information from my hard disk with a cookie? No. Only the cookie that is sent in the first place is returned to the server. It is not modified or manipulated in any way.


Basic Internet Terminology *
A worldwide network of networks that all use the TCP/IP communications protocol and share a common address space. The Internet has metamorphosed from a military network, to an academic research network, to the current commercial internet. It commonly supports services such as email, the World Wide Web, and file transfer. The Internet is experiencing tremendous growth in the number of users, hosts, and domain names. It is gradually subsuming other media, such as proprietary computer networks, newspapers, books, television, and the telephone. Also known as "the net", "the information superhighway", and "cyberspace."

world wide web (WWW)
A system of Internet servers that support specially formatted documents. The documents are formatted in a language called HTML (HyperText Markup Language) that supports links between documents. This means you can jump from one document to another simply by clicking on hot spots called "links." Not all Internet servers are part of the World Wide Web.

IP address
A string of four numbers separated by periods used to represent a computer on the Internet. All Iowa State University IP addresses begin with 129.186.

domain name
The official name of a computer connected to the Internet. Domain names contain a computer host name followed by a category designation, such as .com for for commercial enterprises, .org for non-profit organizations, .gov for government and .edu for educational institutions. Some Internet domain names include a country abbreviations (e.g., .ca for Canada).

Uniform Resource Locator. An addressing scheme used by World Wide Web browsers to locate resources on the Internet. An URL typically consists of an information transfer protocol specification (e.g., http://), the host machine's IP address or domain name (e.g.,, the path to the file being requested (e.g., /computer/tips), and the name of the file (term2.htm).

A series of rules and conventions that allow different kinds of computers and applications to communicate over a network. There are several different protocols for transferring data, including ftp, http, and gopher.

File Transfer Protocol. An Internet protocol that enables you to transfer files between computers on the Internet.

Hypertext Markup Language. A tag-based ASCII language used to create pages on the World Wide Web. Hypertext links allow pieces of information to be joined such that a person can link, or move, from one piece of data to the next, in the same web site or between sites, where the data elements being joined could be text, images, audio file, movie clips, etc. In addition to the definition of data links, HTML tags are used to define the structure, appearance, and layout. document.

A computer that provides information to client machines: web servers send out web pages, mail servers deliver email, list servers administer mailing lists, and FTP servers hold FTP sites and deliver files to users who request them.

Any computer system that requests a service of another computer system. A workstation requesting a page from a web server is a client of the web server.

An application used to view and navigate the World Wide Web and other Internet resources. The most common browsers in use today are Miscrosoft's Internet Explorer and Netscape's Navigator. Both of these browsers interpret the HTML tags in a web page and display the web page according to the tag instructions.

Internet Service Provider: (1) A business that delivers access to the Internet, usually for a monthly fee. PSI, UUNET, and Netcom are examples of established ISPs but there are thousands of smaller ones all around the world. (2) Any business that provides Internet services such as web sites or web site development.

A device that enables a computer to send and receive information over a telephone line. Internal modems are circuit cards that are plugged straight into the computer's motherboard. External modems are small electronic boxes attached to the serial port with a cable. The rate of information transfer via a modem is based on the bandwidth of the telephone line and the capacity of the modem.

The amount of information or data that can be sent over a network connection in a given period of time. Bandwidth is usually stated in bits per second (bps), kilobits per second (kbps), or megabits per second (mbps).

Connection Delivery rate
Telephone line 14.4 kbps, 28.8 kbps or 56.6 kbps
Ethernet 10 mbps
T1 1.544 mbps
T3 44.746 mbps

bookmark / favorite
A marker or address that identifies a document or a specific place in a document. In Netscape web browsers, a bookmark is a URL (i.e., a web page address) that you have decided to save for future reference. In Microsoft's Internet Explorer, the same bookmark is called a "favorite." Most browsers allow you to create and name folders for storing bookmarks. You can edit the information that is automatically stored when you save a bookmark so that it is more meaningful when you review your list of bookmarks.

A message given to a web browser by a web server. The browser stores the message in a text file called cookie.txt. The message is then sent back to the server each time the browser requests a page from the server. Cookies are used to identify users, pass information about the user's computer system, or information about user's preferences that is then used to customize the information returned. Most browsers allow you to refuse cookies. Some online software, such as online courseware programs, require that cookies be accepted for the programs to operate correctly and fully.

* These definitions were taken in part from:
Karla Embleton, Ph.D.
Director of Educational Technology
College of Family and Consumer Sciences
Iowa State University


What is the Thumbs.db file on my hard drive?

For some time now I have been concerned about a mystery file called Thumbs.db that started appearing in many folders on my computer, my server account and the College web server. The name seemed ominous. Was this the sign of some sort of hacker getting into the system and leaving his finger prints around?

The truth - as is so often the case - turned out to be much more mundane and innocuous. The thumbs.db file is generated by the Windows operating system. It is a database file containing the small images displayed when you view a folder in "thumbnail" view (as opposed to tile, icon, list, or detail view). No harm is done by deleting thumbs.db files. There is no need to include them in your system backups. Whether you see these files or not is a function of your File Options settings.

To turn off this feature and save a bit of disk space,

    1. Click the Start button
    2. Select Control Panel
    3. Select Folder Options
    4. Click the View tab
    5. Check "Do not cache thumbnails"
    6. Click the OK button

Now you can search your computer for thumbs.db files and remove them. To do so:

    1. Click the Start button
    2. Click Search
    3. Click "All files and folders"
    4. In the "All or part of the file name" box type Thumbs.db
    5. Set the "Look in:" pull-down menu to "Local Hard Drives (C:)"
    6. Click Search. A list of the files found appears in the right window.
      Image: Search screen
    7. Click in the right window where the files are listed and press the control button and the A button to highlight all the files (Ctrl+A).
    8. Press the Delete key. It may take a few seconds to delete the files.

From: Technical Tip of the Week, in News Notes
Karla Embleton
College of Family and Consumer Sciences
Iowa State University


What do you think of those irritating pop-up messages
while you are trying to work or play on the Internet?

Are you plagued with annoying pop-up messages? Quite often they are trying to sell you a cure for the annoying problem that they are causing in the first place.

Getting rid of them is quite a simple procedure, you will have to disable the messenger service or "net send" function (Not MSN Messenger). The following instructions apply to both XP Home and XP Professional:

Click Start > Run and type "services.msc" (no quotes) in the Open: line and click OK -- In the right pane, scroll down to Messenger. -- Double click Messenger and click the General tab. --
Under Service Status: click the Stop button. -- In the Startup Type: drop down box, select Disable. -- Click Apply and OK.
The pop ups will soon stop after you do this -- Essie Edmunds



Is your computer running slower
than you remember when it was new?

How to Defrag

Is your computer slowing down to a crawl? Has it lost its "get up & go?" Perhaps it needs a dose of Deeefraaag. But there are some other things that will improve the effectiveness of this prescription.

Run Disk Cleanup

Here is the process I go through. First, I clean out files that are just taking space on my hard drive and will contribute to fragmentation if deleted later. You can do this by running Disk Cleanup (Start/All Programs/Accessories/System Tools/Disk Cleanup). Disk Cleanup will find files that you may want to delete, and will give you options, including the following: Remove temporary Internet files, Remove any downloaded program files (ActiveX controls and Java applets downloaded from the Internet), Empty the Recycle Bin, Remove Windows temporary files, Remove Windows components that you are not using, Remove installed programs that you no longer use. I would at least let Disk Cleanup do all of these except the last one. You will need to decide whether you want to keep programs you are not using. It may be that you have an important program that you rarely use, but it is essential for a particular job.

Temporary Internet files are website pages that are copied to your drive when you go to a site. You should delete them because they can occupy an enormous amount of space on the drive.

Run Disk Defragmenter

Now you are ready to run Defrag. Click on Start and go to All Programs. Scale up to Accessories and go to System Tools. Now, move on to Disk Defragmenter and click it. When the Defragmenter appears, just follow instructions. Click on Drive C: to highlight it, assuming that is your boot drive. You can only defrag one drive at a time. If you have more than one hard drive, you can defrag the others later. If you only want to see how fragmented your disk is, click on Analyze. Otherwise, click on Defragment. The program will analyze your hard drive and place a graphic of its condition in the upper row called, "Estimated disk usage before defragmentation." As the disk is being defragmented, a graphic showing the changes will appear in the lower row named, "Estimated disk usage after defragmentation." If you have a large drive and have not defragged recently, this may take a few hours. For average home use, I would defrag once a week. For heavy business use, daily is not too often. But in either case, I would not go more than a month.

Disk Cleanup and Defrag can be scheduled to run, without your intervention, each night after you have gone to bed. With regular defrag like that, it only takes a few minutes. Fred Langa has a good article telling how to automate this and other things with Windows Task Scheduler, or other scheduling utilities. His article is "Make Windows Self-Maintaining." This could save you a lot of bother after it's set up.
-- Don from (no longer exists)



Brief Tips

Don't use too many fonts in your web page. It is a problem with desktop designer newbies and now it is a problem with web designer newbies. Designers are caught up in all the available fonts, colors, sizes and styles, and they are using them all. Because text needs to convey information, and not complicate it, good designers should limit themselves to one or two fonts.

Keep your keyboard free from dirt: Buy an inexpensive custom-designed keyboard cover and/or keyboard skin at

When you are designing your web site Don't Go Overboard with High Tech.

Some designers delight in using little "tricks," such as input boxes, opening new browser windows or background music. The first time a visitor experiences these, the visitor may be impressed. However, after a few more visits, the viewer will just be annoyed. It is best to stay away from these types of things.

It is obvious that choosing the right keywords can do much for your online business exposure by optimizing your positioning and searchability with major search engines. However, no one says that it is easy. Below we are happy to share with you the article written by Sharon Housley, who studied the keyword issue carefully and made up a small review of online software tools that can help you in finding the optimum keywords.

SEARCHING GOOGLE: The word "site" followed by a colon enables you to restrict your search to a specific site. To do this, use the syntax in the Google search box. For example, to find admission information on Stanford's site, enter:
Image: Google search

Computer Operations
Is your computer is on most of the time? If so it would be a good idea to replace fans every couple of years.

Linux is a disruptive technology: troubling to many, puzzling to some, potentially freeing to all. - source unknown

How do I take a screen shot in Windows?
Simply press the PRINT SCREEN (PrtScn) button on your keyboard to copy an image of your current computer screen to the Clipboard. If you want to capture an image of just the program you're currently working in, press ALT-PRINT SCREEN. To view the image, open your favorite paint program and click Edit and Paste. You can save the screen shot as whatever type of image file is your favorite.

Maintenance Issues
Sign up for software update e-mail notices. Many software companies will send you e-mail whenever a software update is available. This is particularly important for your operating system (e.g., Microsoft Windows® or Macintosh), your antivirus program, and your firewall.

Recycle Bin Question
If you are annoyed by the confirmation window that pops up each time you drag an item to the Recycle Bin, get rid of it.
1. Right-click the Recycle Bin.
2. Select Properties
3. Choose the Global tab.
4. Uncheck the "Display delete confirmation dialog" box.

Remember that each printer will print a particular document differently. Make adjustments accordingly when you print on a new printer.

Computer Operations
Try not to open too many programs while working on your computer. The more things that are open, the slower your system will run.

More Maintenance Issues
Keep your computer out of extreme hot and cold temperatures, which could affect the performance of your PC. Always keep the temperature of the room where your computer resides between 50 degrees and 90 degrees Fahrenheit.


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