17 06, 2016

Power Up Online Visibility to Your University with SEO

By | 2020-01-29T16:18:02+00:00 June 17th, 2016|Categories: Higher Education|Tags: , , , , |

Universities and Colleges are beginning to realize the true value of SEO for Higher Education. Unfortunately, the SEO landscape is volatile and ever changing. However, there are some best practices which have been fairly consistent over the last couple of years. We believe that these best practices will continue to be relevant throughout 2016 and work to improve online visibility.

Keyword Research and Targeting Specific URLs 

Higher education institutions should embrace keyword research and use it to build relevant pages. These pages should be built around their core programs they offer. To get started first conduct keyword research which will drive content creation. You can start with a free keyword research tool from SEObook. This tool pulls data from Google and Bing’s databases. Simply input the term you want to get information on. This tool returns data on monthly search volumes along with related terms.

Keyword Research for Higher Ed

Next, you want to build an appropriate page around a theme of closely related keywords. These keywords should relate to educational programs your University offers.

For example, upon conducting some research I came across a few Universities who had important content within PDFs. Rather than a dedicated landing page, one University had downloadable PDFs of their courses.

landing page example


An alternative would be to build a landing page around this content and include some sort of conversion point. In case you do not know what a micro conversion is it is a small step on the path of a visitor towards your website’s primary goal.

Avoid Duplicate Content

Google admits that 25-30% of the internet is duplicated content. However, we can still take measures to avoid this. To get an idea if your site has duplicate content simply use Siteliner to run a quick diagnostic.

Identify duplicate contentI can see this college has around 10% duplicated content but, the free version this tool will only look at 250 pages. A way to fix this is to write unique copy on key pages and block unnecessary pages from being crawled by search engines with a robots.txt file. The robots.txt is a nifty text file you can create to instruct search engine robots on where and where not to crawl your site.

Get a Grip on Local Visibility 

local search visibility


Colleges are not immune from the types of competition businesses face online. As you can see competition is fierce. There are a lot of different options for any prospective student deciding on where to further their education. Local visibility or local SEO has risen in prominence over the last several years. But how can Higher Educational Institutions benefit?

Google has begun to provide more individualized search features. These personalized features are based on a person’s geographic location and search history. You can take advantage of this by:

Local Citation Corrections – Your first job is to make sure your college’s address is easily found on key pages. Then you need to ensure it is listed correctly throughout the web.

local citation reviews


Local Content – Once your Higher Ed’s citations are handled it’s time to produce local content. It’s important this content resonates with your audience. Maybe you build a page dedicated to ‘College Life’ and talk about activities around your college’s campus.

Don’t Block Important Resources

Blocking content that is important to searchers within search engines is detrimental. A common way to block important information is with a robots.txt file.

A robots.txt file is a simple file which holds pretty significant power. This file controls how search engines initially crawl a website when they first visit. However as you can imagine it can be pretty easy to block important resources you would otherwise want indexed. To check this simply type your domain name “example.com/robots.txt”. Remember replace “example.com” with your Universities domain name.

robots.txt sample


A good rule of thumb is to not block key pages from search engines with a robots.txt file. For example, you would not want to block important categories such as, Admissions, Academics, or Athletics sections.

Keep in mind, if you use Google Site Search as your internal site search, blocking a section with the robots.txt file will also prevent it from showing up properly in your internal search as well.

Higher Educational institutions may not take digital marketing or search engine optimization into consideration. However, no website is immune from the grasps of Google.

Take advantage of digital marketing and SEO to get in front of more prospective students. By conducting keyword research, avoiding duplicate content issues, and gaining more local visibility you can reach a wider more targeted audience.

9 02, 2016

How to Identify Stolen Content and Take Action!

By | 2017-06-16T12:46:34+00:00 February 9th, 2016|Categories: SEO|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Imagine that you and your staff have spent countless hours creating engaging content for your website, only to discover that much of it has been stolen and repurposed by others – without your consent.

The appearance of duplicate content could adversely affect your website search rankings, making it more difficult for prospective students, alumni and the community to find you. And as we all know, good content rules. So, why let others break them (the rules, that is)?

At Beacon, we’ve seen what unethical practices such as copy scraping can do. Having personally experienced the theft of our content fairly recently, I thought I’d share the steps I took to alert Google to this offense and protect our company from the negative fallout that can follow.

Here are six easy steps for getting back at the thieves who steal copy.

Step 1 – Verify that your suspicions are correct.

Perform a quick Google search to determine where your copy is showing up across the internet. You can randomly select copy from a webpage (copy and paste a few sentences in a Google search box) to run a query. The search results will indicate if your copy appears on another site on the web other than your own.

For example, here are the results from my search.

Scraped Content

The search results will provide you with a list of webpages where that content appears (including your own, of course). As you can see in this example, there is another website using content I wrote without my consent (see the red arrow above).

Step 2– Investigate the extent of the theft

Stolen ContentScraped Content

When investigating the extent of plagiarism, check to see if your content was been copied verbatim. Also, you’ll want to check if this is an isolated event or if the website in question has copied multiple pieces of content. In our example above, you will notice multiple instances of stolen content. It’s time to take action.

Step 3 – Reach out to the website’s administrator

Reach out to the webmaster of the website that stole the copy. If the webmaster’s email contact isn’t readily displayed, check the about or policy sections of their website. The webmaster’s address is often hidden within these pages.

Once you’ve found an email address, notify him that you are aware of the offending activity and request that he remove the stolen content within a defined period of time. A week to ten days is more than enough.

Should the webmaster voluntarily remove the stolen content, your job is done. Have a latte. However, most nefarious webmasters will ignore such warnings and hide behind a perceived veil of anonymity.

Now, the fun begins.

Step 4 – Contact the hosting provider

It’s time to perform a who-is-lookup. This online tool provides you with the webmaster’s identity and more importantly, their website hosting provider. Armed with this new information, I reached out to the hosting provider and let them know that a website they host had blatantly infringed on my intellectual copyrights. I respectfully requested that they take down the website in question.

Step 5 – File a DMCA request

If the hosting provider fails to respond, then it’s time to file a dirty DMCA request. Only take this step once you have exhausted the other options. Also, keep in mind that you need to have the authority to act on behalf of your organization prior to filing this request.

You have the option of drafting your own DMCA takedown request or downloading this DMCA Take Down Notice Template to customize and send to the offending website owner. After you have sent the DMCA notice, give the website a week to ten days to respond. If you don’t hear back within the time you designate in your notice, it’s time to elevate the complaint to Google and get some sort of resolution.

Step 6 – Request Google remove the stolen content

Log into Google Search Console: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/dmca-notice. This will take you to the copyright removal section within Google (see below). Simply follow the instructions and be sure to describe the nature of the work being copied and include URLs where the copyrighted work can be viewed. Also, include the link to the infringing material.

Scraping Site

The DMCA request tends to work pretty quickly so you want to keep an eye on how many pages are currently indexed and compare it over the next few days or weeks. You can double check this by running another search query containing a snippet of your stolen copy. If you were successful in your attempt at protecting your content, you will see that Google has removed pages from its search engine that were infringing upon your copyrights once they complete their investigation.

Monitoring tip: If you would like to check the progress of your request, perform a site search if the offending site and make a note of the number of pages Google has indexed (see below). Compare this number to future searches and you may find the Google now indexes fewer of the website’s pages than before your request. This is a sign that Google may be taking action.

stolen content before after

You’ll know you’ve reached a final resolution when you run a search query and see the following highlighted message displayed:

stolen content example

Good luck and happy hunting!

11 04, 2014

How To Make The Most Out Of Your Web Design

By | 2020-01-29T16:03:39+00:00 April 11th, 2014|Categories: Cascade CMS|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

I spend a lot of time inside and outside of work studying design. I think it gets to a point for everyone where design becomes difficult to ignore, as it influences our every day decisions. It’s important to understand design elements and how they not only affect you on a day to day basis, but your customers as well. You can ask yourself the following questions:

How does my target audience perceive my brand?

Does my website’s design go hand in hand with my content?

What kind of experiences are users having when they land on my website?

Is my design making an emotional connection with my customers?

Because websites are so multi-dimensional, there is no one way to answer these questions. It’s an ever changing industry and with new technology comes updates on how we approach design. Lucky for you, Beacon has been in the industry for 23 years. We love answering these questions because these are the questions you have to ask to get to a successfully designed website.

Since being in the website industry, I’ve had the opportunity to wear many hats. This has helped me approach website design and development from every angle with all considerations in mind. Below I have listed a few elements to consider when designs a website.

User Experience

  • A beginners guide to UI design. Read more.
  • How to beat the paradox of choice in UI design. Read more.



  • An introduction to color theory for web designers. Read more.
  • How to get a professional look with color. Read more.
  • Five web design colors that encourage visitors to click that subscribe button. Read more.


  • How to use images effectively in websites. Read more.
  • How to use photography in web design. Read more.

And finally…

In today’s world, your website is one of your most vital marketing tools. If you would like to find out more about how redesigning your website can push your business forward, let us know!

6 01, 2014

How to Successfully Crash a Project

By | 2017-06-16T13:07:18+00:00 January 6th, 2014|Categories: Web Development|Tags: |

Anticipating problems is a large part of what it takes to be a Project Manager. Every now and again, a problem is big enough that you’ll have to crash the project (add additional resources to meet the deadline). It isn’t something that should be done lightly, as its effects can reach beyond the project team to the entire company and even other clients. My next post will be about when it’s appropriate to crash a project, but in the mean time, let’s focus on how to do it.

If you read my post a few months back about Finding the Critical Path, then you already know which activities will affect the project deadline. When you want to crash a project, you must add resources to one of the activities on the critical path. Your focus is to reduce the number in the duration cell. Keep in mind that duration refers to real-time to completion of that activity and not working hours. Working hours may actually go up when you crash a project because new resources will need time to get up to speed.

First, identify the activity you want to crash. Focus on doing one at a time, and I’ll tell you why later.

Look for:

  • A larger activity that can support more resources
  • A fairly common activity that doesn’t require high specialization
  • A task that can be completed modularly

Once you’ve selected the task, figure out which resources will fit and assign them. Make sure you have open communication with your current team to make them aware of the change and why it’s happening. You especially want to give a heads up to the person whose activity is being crashed to give them a chance to prepare assignments for the new members.

Now you must come up with a new duration number for your critical path chart. Let’s start with the example from my earlier article:


Say we crashed Activity G, so instead of taking 60 hours (or 7.5 days to complete), it will take 30 hours. Let’s plug in the new number and rework the chart a little. You’ll have to redo all the late start numbers to make sure they match up. cpm-crashed We’ve successfully crashed the project, so the time to completion went from 244 hours to 214 hours (we shaved off just under 4 working days). But now we see that we have a new critical path. Activity G is no longer on the path, but Activity H is now. That is why we crash one activity at a time, there is a new critical path. If we tried crashing multiple activities at once, we might be crashing activities that are no longer critical, and thus there would be no impact on the overall project deadline. Similarly, Activity H may now be a prime candidate for crashing, whereas before, it didn’t matter.

25 11, 2013

Is Flat Design For You?

By | 2016-11-18T14:23:20+00:00 November 25th, 2013|Categories: Web Development|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

As technology and the familiarity with it grows, designers and developers are now more than ever trying to enhance the website design world. Inevitably, this leads to countless passing trends that come and go much like any design industry. Which leaves us begging the question, how do we know what is more than just a trend and does it fit our website needs?

Flat design has been a fairly controversial topic since the beginning. Industry leaders such as Microsoft, Apple, and Google have all jumped on board lending us to believe there may be something more to this. So how can flat design benefit your site?

Flat Design Is Responsive Friendly


Image credit to: www.wpexplorer.com/writer-blog-wordpress-theme

More and more we are finding people are using smartphones as a replacement for their computers. In 2012, more tablets and smartphones were purchased than computers. Because of this, responsive websites have now become a necessity. With the simplistic nature of flat design sizing elements down to fit a mobile device or tablet becomes that much easier. By using a lot of white space and large buttons flat design becomes very flexible when considering responsive website.


Flat Design Is Content Friendly

The mystery of, “What is more important? Content? Or Design?” has been solved. The answer is neither. Both equally important. Design attracts your users, but your content keeps them on your site. So why would you not leverage your design to showcase your content? Flat design’s clean and minimal layouts provide an environment that allows your content to stand out. Content communicated in a simple and clear manner is more easily digested by the user.


 Flat Design is User Friendly

Although minimal, flat design has a high level of focus on aesthetics generally utilizing bright colors and large imagery. This coupled with the elimination of borders and shadows entices the user’s eye to flow across your site with ease. Flat design strips down to the most basic form of design that can be appreciated by anyone.

The goal for any website design is to carry the message of your business across to the user. Your design should always highlight the content and focus on the user’s experience. Here at Beacon, we are constantly researching design trends and movements to ensure that our client’s websites are ahead of their time and solidified as legitimate marketing tools.


31 12, 2012

Happy #15 to Beacon + A Look Back at 2012

By | 2020-01-29T16:16:54+00:00 December 31st, 2012|Categories: Beacon News|Tags: |

On January 6th 2013, Beacon will celebrate its 15th birthday.  It’s hard to fathom that fifteen years ago, today, “Beacon Technologies” didn’t exist yet.  It was still just an idea – a plan to form a web development company.  What?  Hasn’t Beacon been around forever???  These milestone birthdays are a great time to reflect on the past.  It’s a long story of twists and turns, ups and downs… but ultimately, being around 15 years requires some level of success.  Rather than look back all the way to the beginning, I believe 2012 was a representative year – a year that brought everything together.

But before diving into 2012, I can officially say that the MAJORITY of my career has been at Beacon now.  Hard to believe that I’ve been here more than my time at RJ Reynolds and AT&T… combined!  I still love the work, the business, the technology.  It’s challenging.  We have really good, talented people.  This team of people that we call “Beacon” really cares about making a difference for our customers.  It’s not about the “cool” factor or the “pretty pictures” of the early internet days.  It’s about business.  It’s about driving sales and streamlining processes with technology.  That’s what we do.

Each year I ask our employees to take part of a day to reflect on the previous year, particularly their individual and team successes.  We all get so caught up in “today’s” activities and forget to look back at all the things we’ve accomplished.  Everyone works so hard – you need to take a moment to pat yourself on the back for a job well done!  It’s important to look back at what you’ve achieved, to remember that difficult web project that was launched for the world to see… that project that is now fully operational and producing results for your customer.  It’s motivating to know and see that your work has value and directly impacts the business of your customers.  For me, that’s all you can ask from your job, your work, your career.

As a business owner, I’m always thinking (ok, worrying) about today and the future.  If you are a business owner, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  But, over the holidays, I took some time to look back at 2012.  Wow!  We accomplished a lot.

  • New Business:  We extended our reach to now serve clients in 40 different states across the U.S., signing over 60 new clients, including companies like Hanes Brands, Honey-Baked Hams, Harvard, Syracuse University, Boston College, Total Wine & More, Renew Life and Shelba Johnson Trucking.  We now have over 30 universities and colleges as clients.
  • Existing Business:  We continued significant support responsibility for clients such as Bassett Furniture, The Princeton Review, Business Supply, Burton & Burton and Cone Health Systems as well as many, many other existing clients.
  • Web Hosting:  We now host/manage over 300 domains (ourselves…no outsourcing!) via shared, dedicated and cloud-based services.  This includes backup/recovery, email management, spam filtering, monitoring, regular maintenance upgrades, 24 hour support, database management and much more than the typical domain management farms.
  • Marketing:  We expanded our marketing strategy (and budget) to more of a national approach, attending trade shows & events in Oregon, Illinois, Florida, Wisconsin, Georgia, California and multiple venues in North Carolina.
  • Partnerships:  We established firm partnerships with nationally known leaders in analytics, email software, site search software and product recommendation software.  We concluded our sixth year of partnership with Google as one of their longest standing Google Analytics Certified Consultants and attended the invitation-only GA Summit in Mt. View along with 500 GACPs from 46 countries.
  • Community:  We increased our collective contribution to the Greensboro United Way, fed a family for 2 weeks during the summer and provided Christmas gifts to a local family of 5.
  • What else?  We hired eight new employees, had our highest revenue year since 2003, increased Beacon’s corporate 401(k) match for employees and produced over 200 blog posts, freely sharing Beacon’s ideas, news, expertise and knowledge worldwide.


The bar was raised pretty high in 2012, but we have many new, exciting things already planned for 2013!

Happy New Year!

19 12, 2011

Greensboro Housing Authority Site Launch

By | 2020-02-04T10:30:46+00:00 December 19th, 2011|Categories: Beacon News|Tags: , , , , , , |

We’re proud to announce the release of the Greensboro Housing Authority redesign!  As always, Beacon was right on-time with our deliverables, which is always our goal.  The client chose a soft launch date of December 1, 2011 because they wanted to show the new site to their Board of Directors at their annual meeting that day.

Their Web site was designed and constructed in-house several years ago, which meant that it was time for a completely new look.  The site also had content that was very out-of-date, so the client took it upon themselves to do a complete rewrite of the content, and restructure the site to be more intuitive.  Also, they wanted to get away from having to update the site by-hand using HTML, and wanted it in a content management system.  Finally, they wanted a new Web hosting partner.

Enter Beacon:

  • We provided them with a brand-new graphical design;
  • Developed it to display perfectly in multiple browsers;
  • Implemented the new site into Cascade Server (content management system) to allow multiple users to update the content with an easy-to-use solution;
  • Incorporated a new search feature;
  • Imported approximately 60 pages of content, including 20 fact sheets about each of their properties;
  • Transferred their Web site to a shared hosting package here at Beacon.

Several Beacon staff members made this project a success:

  • Wendy:  Without much direction from the client, Wendy put together a design that they liked on the first try, which is phenomenal.
  • Stephanie:  She was instrumental in getting the project off the ground, attending the initial meetings and providing meeting notes, the business requirements, and proposed site hierarchy.
  • Zed:  He was thrown into the fire, as this was his first development project here.  He developed the front-end HTML/CSS/jQuery, and implemented the site into Cascade Server (which he picked up on very quickly), and entered most of the content.
  • Tiffany:  Provided assistance and training to Zed.
  • Justin:  Project Management and Cascade Server documentation & training.
  • Beacon’s Technical Support Group (TSG):  And finally, no site hosting transfer is complete without the efforts of TSG, specifically Caleb and William, for setting up the hosting and troubleshooting some DNS issues over a weekend.

This is another high-quality design to add to our portfolio, and another non-profit site we can be proud of.   Thanks to everyone involved!



22 07, 2011

Beacon Technologies Through the Eyes of an Intern – Week 10

By | 2017-08-11T16:07:39+00:00 July 22nd, 2011|Categories: Beacon News|Tags: , , , , , , |

Well sadly, this is my last blog post at Beacon.  It’s been a great 10 weeks.  I really have enjoyed my time here.  Looking back, I can’t think of anything negative to say about my experience.  I want to take the chance to kind of do a recap of my time here.

When I came in the first day, I will admit that I was pretty nervous.  I hadn’t really had a lot of exposure to the kind of work that Beacon does so well.  I knew what most of the terms were from talking to a friend of mine who has been doing similar work.  However, the WMS team here helped me learn the skills I needed.  Everyone took time to show me how to do certain tasks and helped me with understanding the clients I worked on as well as what needed to be done for each client.  As the weeks have gone by, I have grown more confident in doing SEO work, managing social media campaigns, and working with PPC campaigns.  I know that I still have a lot to learn in these areas, but Beacon has given me a strong foundation on which to build.

I know that people traditionally think of internships as being filled with a lot of grunt work.  Getting coffee, running errands, doing tasks that no one else wants to do themselves.  That is far from the case here at Beacon.  As you can tell if you have been following my blog posts thus far, I have been an equal member of the WMS team.  I have shared the same responsibilities as everyone else.  I’ve done the same tasks for my clients as they did for their clients.  Often times, interns don’t get to offer advice and feedback during meetings as it is intended that they learn by watching.  Again, this is not the case at Beacon.  The WMS team meets weekly to brainstorm ideas for clients as well as share interesting articles or other helpful information and tools.  The leading of the meetings rotates each week and regardless of the fact that I am an intern, I led the meeting twice during my time here.  I also contributed equally with the team as much as possible.  I will admit that I often did sit back and listen during meetings.  I know that I do not have nearly the amount of knowledge or experience in this field, and as such I wanted to try to learn as much as possible when everyone was together sharing ideas.

Looking back, I have gained a lot of valuable experience.  There are several tasks and projects that I was able to work on and contribute to during the 10 weeks.  I can honestly say that anyone who is looking for an internship should consider Beacon.  The atmosphere, company culture, and employees all lend themselves to a great work environment.

Thank you to everyone here!  It’s been a great experience and I have learned a lot from you all.

11 01, 2011

Java Script with Dot Net

By | 2016-11-22T10:20:09+00:00 January 11th, 2011|Categories: Web Development|Tags: , , |

There are many times when you want to execute some javascript within your Dot Net page to give it that smooth client side processing without reloading the page.   One example would be when  you have a contact or registration page that needs to be edited before emailing or saving the page data.  You could accomplish this with some Dot Net validation controls, or by registering your javascript within your code behind.

If you already have some javascript that edits input fields and displays a popup box or does whatever it is  you need it to do and you want to leverage the existing work then you can also execute it from your Dot Net control.   You still want to edit the fields in your code behind in case the user has javascript turned off.  Yes there are still people that do this.   You can catch the click event with a custom validator in the code behind for this purpose and use an OnClientClick to execute the javascript edits.  Hopefully the javascript edit are executed the vast majority of the time and the code behind edits will have no impact.

Look at the example below.  Lets say you have some javascript called ‘validate’ that validates the fields on the form.  This is the work that you want to leverage in your new project. Placing this within your <head> tag would appear as so:

 function validate(theForm) {             javascript edits here            on err return false            else return true }

Now let’s look at your submit button.  In this example it is an image button.

<asp:ImageButton imageUrl=”/images/buttons/submit.gif” AlternateText=”Submit”  OnClientClick=”return validate(registrationForm)” width=”92″ height=”24″ tabindex=”12″ runat=”server” > </asp:ImageButton>

Notice the OnClientClickattribute.  This will execute your javascript validation.  Your javascript validation should return a true or false depending on whether validation passed.  The return is captured in the OnClientClick attribute and if it is false, control will not be passed to the code behind.  This will keep the Click event from firing and editing your data from within your code behind.

Now let’s suppose javascript is turned off.  We need to edit the page from the code behind.  So lets set up a custom validator below the image button as so:

<asp:customvalidator id=”registerPage” onServerValidate=”CheckPage” ErrorMessage=”” Runat=”server” ValidationGroup=”Page”></asp:customvalidator>

We will capture the Click event in our code behind with the following code:  Execute the custom validator, that will execute your code behind validation.

Sub   btnSubmit_Click(ByVal sender AsObject, ByVal e AsSystem.Web.UI.ImageClickEventArgs) Handles btnSubmit.Click           registerPage.Validate() If (Page.IsValid)  Then                ProcessForm() End if

        End Sub

Below is the validation routine referenced by the custom validator.

Sub CheckPage(ByVal source AsObject, ByValargs AsServerValidateEventArgs)
        edit routines

         these should be the same edits as your javascript 

         End Sub

By using the OnClientClick attribute to execute the javascript edits, we can then capture the Click event when javascript is turned off and execute the code behind edits.   It should not matter if the javascript passes validation and then the code behind validation is executed because these edits should also pass validation.

That is one way to execute client side validation and leverage some pre-existing javascript code.

Happy coding!

6 01, 2011

Excel tips and tricks

By | 2016-11-22T10:23:16+00:00 January 6th, 2011|Categories: Web Development|Tags: , |

In another life, I was a Microsoft Office trainer and I found that quick and simple Excel tips were always a big hit in my classes, even with the Excel “experts”.  So here are a few Excel time-savers– enjoy!  BTW, I’m using Excel 2007, so though these features are (for the most-part) still available in other versions, the menu options may be different…

  • Freeze panes– To “freeze” the top row of your spreadsheet so that the titles don’t scroll of the page when you move down
    1. Select the row below the row or rows that you want to keep visible when you scroll
    2. On the View tab, in the Window group, click the arrow below Freeze Panes
    3. Select “Freeze Panes”
  • Open workbooks in different windows— Sometimes I need to open more than one workbook to compare the data.  This is particularly nice when you have dual monitors.  Unlike Word though, which opens a new window for every document, Excel opens every workbook in the same instance of Excel, so you can’t easily put them side by side.  Though you can use View, “Arrange All”, this is not my preference, because it squishes all the workbooks onto one small monitor.  The best solution I have found is to open Excel from the Programs menu more than once, arrange each instance in a different monitor and then use the “Open” menu in each instance to load the workbooks.
  • Filter– I use filters all the time!  There’s just nothing better for locating a rogue piece of data or display just a subset of a list (just items assigned to one person in a task list, for example).  Filters can be used in combination with each other, so each additional filter added is based on the current filter.  To filter a table:
    1. Make sure that the active cell is in a table column that contains alphanumeric data
    2. On the Data tab, in the Sort & Filter group, click Filter
    3. Click the arrow in the column header
    4. Select or clear one or more values in the drop down box to filter by OR use the “Custom Filter” option, which allows you to filter by things like “Begins With” or “Contains”
    5. NOTE:  A cool new Excel feature is the ability to filter by cell color or font color, so you can also filter to show just the cells that have been formatted!  Select “Filter by Color” after clicking on the arrow for this feature.
  • Format painter–The format painter is available in all Office products, but I particularly like it in Excel, due to the need to keep data consistently formatted.  The Format Painter copies the current cell’s formatting (fills, borders, font, etc.) to a different cell or group of cells. To use the Format Painter:
    1. Select the cell that has the formatting that you want to copy
    2. On the Home tab, in the Clipboard group, click the Format Painter icon.  NOTE:  If you will only be formatting one cell, click the icon once.  To copy the format to multiple cells, double-click the Format Painter and the tool will remain active until clicked again
    3. Click the cell(s) that you want to format
    4. To stop formatting multiple cells, press ESC or click the Format Painter icon again.
  • Conditional formatting– When conditional formatting is applied to a cell, its appearance changes based on a condition or criteria.  There are many different ways to apply conditional formatting, but I find the most flexible is using a formula to determine which cells to format:
    1. On the Home tab, in the Styles group, click the arrow next to Conditional Formatting, and then click Manage Rules
    2. Click New Rule
    3. Under Apply Rule To, select whether to apply the rule to “Just these cells” or “All cells with the same fields” or “All cells”
    4. Under “Select a Rule Type”, click “Use a formula to determine which cells to format”
    5. Under “Edit the Rule Description”, in the “Format values where this formula is true”, enter a formula
    6. Click Format to display the “Format Cells” dialog box
    7. Select the number, font, border or fill format that you want to apply when the cell value meets the condition and then click OK.
  • Automatically number rows– To fill a column with a series of numbers, the “fill handle” (black box in the bottom right corner of the selected cell; when you point to the fill handle, the pointer changes to a black cross) can be a quick and easy tool:
    1. Select the first cell in the range that you want to fill.
    2. Type the starting value for the series. Then type a value in the next cell to establish a pattern.  For example, if you want the series 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…, type 1 and 2 in the first two cells. If you want the series 2, 4, 6, 8…, type 2 and 4.
    3. Select the cells that contain the starting values.
    4. Drag the fill handle across the range that you want to fill.   Note:  As you drag the fill handle across each cell, Excel displays a preview of the value that it will fill the cell with.
    5. To fill in increasing order, drag down or to the right. To fill in decreasing order, drag up or to the left.
    6. Note:  These numbers are not automatically updated when you add, move, or remove rows. You can manually update the sequential numbering by selecting two numbers that are in the right sequence, and then dragging the fill handle to the end of the numbered range.
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