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mindmapping-softwareMind mapping was popularized in the 1970s by British author Tony Buzan and today is a massively popular technique for visual thinking. The concept is simple: place a key idea in the center, branch out to associated ideas, then branch out again in ever-increasing detail. The result is a radial, tree-like structure that’s easy to scan and think about.  Since those early days, numerous mind mapping software tools have been created, making the process way more sophisticated. Today, you can change colors and format, add images and videos, engage collaborators, generate presentations, and more.

In this quick guide to mind mapping tools, we’ll mix popular “heavy hitters” with lesser-known applications.



MindMeister is a market leader in mind mapping software, with all the convenience of a web-based application. You can use it anywhere on any device, retaining your work across different platforms.

As with all similar tools, you begin with a blank space and place a single thought in the center. This is your “big idea” from which everything else will be derived. Clicking a simple plus sign generates a “child” concept that branches out from the center. To begin with, you might surround your big idea with four or five related concepts. Each of these can have their own “children”, and so forth. Formatting is easy because MindMeister provides a menu of options next to your mind map that you can use for changing fonts, background colors, etc. That’s where you also add images, videos and more extended notes to your map. Visual customizing options are almost unlimited.


It’s the extra features, though, that make MindMeister a powerful tool for personal and group thinking. You can easily turn your ideas into tasks and assign people, prioritize, create due dates, and mark as completed. You can even trigger email reminders. What’s more, you can export your mind map in multiple formats. PDF and text might be expected, but MindMeister also exports to rival mind mapping tools, which is smart. And you can generate a slide show out of your mind map. Finally, MindMeister makes collaboration easy, allowing you to add users and manage their permissions. There are good reasons why MindMeister holds the leadership position it enjoys today.



By contrast, Braincat is a little-known upstart with a radically different take on mind mapping. In Braincat, the visual map is not the beginning of your thinking process. It’s the end result —one of several possible outputs. That’s because Braincat is based on a quite different understanding of how the human mind works. While traditional mind maps begin with a “big idea” and then add increasing detail, Braincat assumes you’re starting out with a mass of unsorted stuff — and you don’t yet know what the big idea is! That’s why Braincat calls its process “reverse mind mapping.”  You’re going from many to one, instead of one to many.

The key to Braincat is categorizing: deciding what headings to place your details under. You look at each item and ask yourself, “What kind of thing is this?” or “What is this a case of?” Once you’ve reduced hundreds of bits and pieces to four or five categories, you can take a look at those categories and ask yourself, “What’s the big idea?” Now you’ve arrived at that elusive center of your thinking: and the software automatically generates a mind map.

Braincat is ideal for any brainstorming situation — alone or with others — where ideas are flying thick and fast and you don’t want to kill creativity by organizing too fast. The mental process of categorizing gives you a special mastery of your material. And the visual mind map is your satisfying reward. It provides an “aha” moment when you clearly see the hidden structure of your thinking.

Another key feature of Braincat is sequencing. Whether you’re writing an article or planning a project, it matters what comes before what. The strength and limitation of a mind map are that it shows everything simultaneously. So Braincat also generates an outline that’s sequenced by your choices. That’s especially useful for writers, project managers, syllabus writers, and anyone who has to produce something out of their thinking.

For some, Braincat will provide a complete alternative to traditional mind mapping. For others, it will be the perfect complement.



MindNode is another major player in the mind mapping software universe. The underlying logic of MindNode is the same as MindMeister: a radial map with a central idea that branches out to subordinate concepts. The software has powerful formatting tools to make your mind map visually interesting and lots of options for uploading additional content.

Again, though, it’s the additional features that make MindNode a leader in its class. One of these is “quick entry” which allows you to drop ideas onto the page without organizing them first. This may sound similar to Braincat, but it’s different because in MindNode you drag and link the ideas into a mind map. This works best if you don’t have too many items to begin with, otherwise, you’ll get visually overwhelmed.

MindNode boasts what it calls an “infinite canvas,” meaning your map can expand in all directions way beyond what’s shown on the screen. Fortunately, there’s a “focus mode” that allows you to look at just one element of your mind map — a single idea and its connected details — while hiding the rest. Upload options include the ability to add an image and capture any text it includes with in-built OCR (optical character reading).  Turning ideas into tasks is also easy, and there are some neat project management tools. Finally, MindNode has a tagging system that helps you find things fast, which is great for a really large mind map on that “infinite canvas”!


The Brain

TheBrain is all about mind mapping at scale. The fundamental logic is familiar: a central idea with radiating branches and sub-branches. You can link ideas that appear on different branches, drawing a line between them and naming the link. You can also create “jump thoughts” that are not yet connected to the overall mapping structure.

The key distinction of TheBrain is how it organizes large numbers of inter-related mind maps. With a single click, any idea, at any level of the hierarchy, becomes what is called the “active thought.”  It moves to the center of your screen and is now the “big idea” for a distinct mind map, with its own subordinate elements. This means that just by clicking, you can generate an unlimited number of mind maps, each centered on its own “active thought” — and they are all interlinked. Every “active thought” can have its own associated notes, links, images, videos, etc. These are accessed in a panel to the side of the mind map.

The intention of TheBrain is to provide a vast digital memory that resembles the way your own brain holds and links information. Needless to say, the success of this solution depends on its searchability. In the side panel, any search term will generate a list of thoughts, links, associated files, or uploads. When you click a result, you generate a mind map with that element in the center. All the material directly connected to your search result will appear with it. TheBrain is an interesting fusion of mind-mapping and digital filing and is used by a loyal following of both individuals and corporations.

In conclusion…


Mind mapping is a powerful way to visualize your ideas and has been adopted enthusiastically by millions of people. Digital applications have greatly expanded the uses of this simple tool, and no doubt the evolution will continue. Conventional mind mapping works best when you can easily organize your thoughts as you capture them, or you only have a few ideas to drag and drop around a screen. If you’re starting with a mass of unsorted ideas and information, you might want to explore “reverse mind mapping” as a different kind of process. For maximum productivity, you’ll probably want both kinds of tools!

The battle between FaceBook and Google mightbe overrated, but in terms of innovation, both companies are definitely doing their best. In the “50 Most Innovative Companies of 2011” list, published by Fastcompany Magazine, Facebook, the leader in 2010 is placed third (“For 600 million users, despite Hollywood”).

Notably, one place ahead of the world’s largest social network is the micro-blogging website Twitter (“For five years of explosive growth that have redefined communication”). 200 million users mark is certainly not far away.

At the very top, placed first, is Apple (“For dominating the business landscape, in 101 ways”). iPad is probably the reason they went two places up from last-years third position.

And what about Google? And Microsoft? Don’t worry, both are there. Google is sixth (“For instantly upgrading the search experience”) – one place behind Groupon (5), whose courage is also admitted (“For reinvigorating retail — and turning down $6 billion”). Microsoft is only 37th – but still 9 places up from last year. Bing, and Win Phone OS 7 are both noted as good products, but it is the hand-free Kinect that impressed Fastcompany, “turning the human body into a game controller”.

Another notable inclusion is LinkedIn (“For turning 90 million members into the world’s most useful career database”) and Russian search engine Yandex (26) that is given credit for successfully battling Google in the Russian search market niche and for various complex algorithms. The list, of course, includes off-line companies, such as Nissan(4, “For creating the Leaf, the first mass- market all- electric car”), Trader Joe’s (11, for “For vaulting past Whole Foods to become America’s favorite organic grocer) and Snohetta (35, “For design that’s both social and beautiful”).

Several polls, conducted recently, approve that the search engines are still regarded reliable by the internet users, yet the influence of “spammers” worries many searches.

Over 33 percent of the responders to the question: “Have Google’s Search Results Become Less Useful To You?”, said that the spammers “have gained a significant foothold”. Over 40 percent responded with the “kind of” statement, making a total of over 75% percent noticing the negative influence of “noise” on Google Search. With less than 4% stating that results got better, it seems that the spam issue needs to worry Google algorithmists.

Nevertheless, almost 90% still find Search Engines (and most use Google, of course) do either “excellent” or “good” job of finding relevant information, and about two-thirds of users rate Google results as “useful”.

With other search engines trying to close the gap between the runaway leader in the Search Industry, they might well switch their attention to inventing better search algorithms. Yet, there is no guarantee that those will produce less “noisy” results. And even if they do, and Google will lose a considerable amount of market percentage – the spammers will probably quickly adjust their techniques to alter these “new-search-algorithm” results as well…

via Flickr

via Flickr

Hope everyone’s having a great weekend, short and sweet post today of 7 tips to become a better SEO.

A search engine optimization specialist is a dime in a dozen nowadays, everyone from designers, developers to your marketing executives are calling themselves SEOs. There is a misconception that been an SEO simply involves some knowledge of how search engines work and getting links.

1. SEO for glory not for money. What separates the good from the bad is that great SEO work for the results. If your sole focus to become an SEO is for the money, than my last 9 tips will seem like a nuance. Great SEO work for the glory of the results. The pride of seeing their hard work bare fruition is something most people don’t understand, sure you shouldn’t get too emotionally attached to your work. But the driving force of good SEO is their passion to deliver the results.

2. Willingness to learn. No great SEO will claim they know everything there is about search engine optimization, those that do should be questioned about their knowledge and proof be shown. SEO has been and in my opinion will continue to be an evolving industry. As the world demands better search results from search engines, companies like Microsoft and Google will continue to change their services to fill the demand. It is a pre-requist for any SEO to constantly educate themselves. A simple question to ask when hiring an SEO. ( what publications, blogs, websites do they frequent and contribute to )

3. Willingness to share. SEO is a community based industry, a lot of work comes from referrals. And if you are unwilling to share your ideas with others and join discussions. You will find yourself a very lonely SEO with no work. I am not implying that to divulge your company secrets or all your knowledge to the world, once you become part of the community and build solid relationships with other SEO’s that you trust, this is where sharing of ideas can really bring great benefits.

4. Under sale, over deliver. We have all come across the loud mouth, Cr*p talkin salesmen that promise the world but can’t deliver the product. Don’t be that person, if you are in a client facing role, a great SEO presentation will include facts, accurate projections and great presentation skills. Always be honest with your clients when dealing with deliverables and results, sure most client won’t understand what it is exactly us SEO’s do but a great SEO should have the ability to ‘dumb’ down the answers. Be conservative in your traffic projections because when you over deliver results, everyone is happy.

5. Develop your analytical skills. A great SEO needs to possess an analytical  mind, be able to gather data from different sources and combine / analysis the data to determine a favourable outcome. How can you perform an accurate keyword analysis, traffic projection or simply how many backlinks to acquire if you don’t have good analytical skills.

6. Learn to use these tools. Your job as an SEO will often require you to use these programs. Don’t rely on sys admins or designers to do the work, otherwise you could be waiting a long time, SEO is a time dependent service. The quicker you start, the faster you will see results.

  • Google and other search engines. ( pretty obivious, but you would be surprise how many SEO’s dont know the basics )
  • Cpanel / Plesk
  • Server based traffic statistics programs ( AWstats, webalizer, mint, pikwik )
  • FTP programs
  • Basic HTaccess knowledge
  • Google webmaster tools
  • Google Analytics
  • Basic HTML editors ( dreamweaver / notepad )
  • Popular content manage systems ( wordpress / joomla )

7. Develop your creative mind. No one likes a robot or a drone, SEO is a creative process that requires you to create solutions for many different clients in different markets. If you are a freelance or inhouse SEO, having a creative mind will help you with your sales pitch, if you can consistently put forward new ideas to your clients that will increase their traffic, they will love you for it. Ideas can be big or small, such as these simple creative link-building concept.

I hope you have enjoyed these tips and have taken away some ideas to help you on your SEO journey. As always, if you agree or disagree with my views, please share them in the comments.

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A compilation of the most newsworthy, ground breaking, interesting and useful stories that matters to the search and marketing industry, sourced from websites, blogs and tweets. Can’t wait for the weekly round-up? Follow us on Twitter @little_engine for the latest on search and marketing.

Google Caffeine

Google announces public testing for the new search infrastructure on Google webmaster blog.

Search quality engineer Matt Cutts updates and answers questions on Caffeine

Will Google Caffeine effect Google Local Listings – some thoughts and comparisons

Lil Engine evaluates and tests Google Caffeine –  Exclusive overview and comparison

SEO & SEM Tools

GooBingHoo.comCompare side by side search results from Google, Yahoo, Bing and now also with Caffeine.

20 free keyword research tools – Excellent list of free to use keyword suggestion / volume comparison research tools.

FireFox Addon: Monitor the Page Size with View Dependencies – via SEJ

Optimize your crawling & indexing – Good tips provided by Google Webmasters blog , slideshow and text wrap up

Matt Cutts:  Straight from Google – What You Need to Know about Word Press Optimisation, very good video for WordPress users that want to learn some simple optimisation tips [Video] 45 min

Small Google PageRank update – Mostly changes in internal pages, SEO’s reporting mostly drops in Pagerank for internal pages, especially those sites with a large index.

Matt Cutts on nofollow – The debate continues with this video with Jen Lopez ( SEOMoz ) and Matt Cutts ( Google ) @ SES San Jose 2009

Why are .com sites ranking highly in UK SERPs? – Matt Cutts on Google Webmaster YouTube

Pie chart of component’s of Google’s algorithm – via

Google Ranking Algorithm Breakdown Chart - Via

Pie chart of component’s of Google’s algorithm

Online Advertising / Marketing

Google Adwords Conversion Rates Don’t Vary Much with Ad Position from Chief Economist at Google, Hal Varian.

Google Adwords – Sponsored search ads now displaying closer to organic results. Keep track of CTR’s in the next day or so. Advertisers reporting a 5 – 10 % increase in clicks.

Google Adwords – Googler’s have reported different text size / type and location changing on Sponsored Results Ads. Appears Google is doing quite a lot of A / B testing on Adwords.

Google AdwordsNew Search Ads Quality Guide , Google adds some pretty useful resources to their Adwords help section, such as: how quality score affects your ranking and how quality score affects how much you pay.

Is Your Business Ready for Online Marketing? – Great 60min video of Warren Lanier, CEO of Bridge Point Marketing and David Kamatoy. Some really useful tips for business owners and entrepreneurs, covering the differences between traditional advertising, SEO and social media marketing.

Social Media Marketing

10 Really Tangible Ways To Measure Social Media Success – nice tips on measuring the success of  social media marketing campaigns with sites such as Twitter and facebook.

United Breaks Guitars Song 2: Yes, Dave is back with another YouTube music video on his broken guitar. Will he get as much exposure as his first hit? I doubt it, this song is pretty weak and really doesn’t bring anything new or fresh to his first song . Maybe my conspiracy theory is true, maybe Dave is working on a Viral campaign for United!

From the Li’l Engine Forum

A new visualized web search engine,, was born today – 08/18/2009 : Join the Discussion


Thanks for checking out the first ever Li’l Engine weekly search roundup! I’d love to get some feedback on my writing style and also the topics covered, perhaps you may have more to add to this roundup? or want to see a particular topic covered more, let me have it 🙂 You can contact me directly via my personal twitter account or just leave a response in the comments.