Thursday, 2 October 2008

Is Google Chrome In Need of a Polish?

I don't know about you, but after becoming used to Google's highly useful and free tools, I've been left feeling somewhat disappointed with Google Chrome, their new browser.

Google ChromeImage via Wikipedia

I've been an advocate for all things Google, since the brands infancy, and right up to now I have always been wowed by their tools and they have always found their way into my shortcuts.

Google Chrome however, has left me wondering what the fuss has been all about. Most of the functionality we've all become used to of basic browser seem to have been missed by their developers, and there isn't any additional ground breaking functionality which could make up for the loss.

After eagerly awaiting what could have been one of their biggest products to date, I've ended up going back to my original default browser, at least until the guys have had a chance to give Google Chrome a good polish.

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Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Prosperous Online Prospects

Understanding your market is arguably the most important aspect behind the success of your site, and understanding the impact this could have on your search engine strategies is equally as important.

But you're probably thinking that this level of information is likely to cost a small fortune and that you will only be able to obtain this by involving a specialised agency.

Well, think again...

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBase

Google are once again ahead of the game and are currently testing AdPlanner, a tool which will turn the market on its head when its finally released.

Even though this tool is primarily aimed at the Advertising world, the ability to identify the nature of your audience and then to provide you with a list of other sites catering for the same group of people, opens up a world of partnership opportunities. Just think of all those highly relevant inbound links and you'll start to see value this could add to your SEO campaigns.

So, will it cost you an arm and a leg to do your market research in the future? Not if Google can help it!

This tool is currently only available to a selected few (OK, so I'm boasting a bit!), but there's plenty of information about the ins and outs of AdPlanner directly from the Google guys... Enjoy!

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Friday, 18 July 2008

SEO Friendly Downtime

Over the last few weeks I've picked up a thing or two when it comes to website development, and the relationship between this and SEO.

Generally speaking, website downtime (period of unavailability) occurs for one of two reasons, coding errors (unplanned) or system updates (planned).

So how does downtime affect SEO? well, downtime has the same impact on search bots that it has on real users, and it can have lasting effects.

No EntryImage by Irregular Shed via Flickr

Let's take an example, a user types a key phrase into his/her preferred engine, your website has a good ranking and engages the user. He/she proceeds to click on the result only to find out that when the page loads, an error appears indicating that 'the site could not be found'.

This opens up a whole raft of questions, how likely is the user to click on another result for the same site? what is the user's perception of the brand? to mention just a few.

Search Bots behave in a similar way to real world users, and the impact downtime has on these is just as damaging. Should your site be indexed/listed at all if this is unavailable?

But what if you could let search bots know that 'you are aware' that your site is unavailable, and even tell it to come back at a later time when you know the site will be back up and running.

Well you can, with a very simple and 'above board' tactic which is implemented on your server.

The techie name for this practise is 'HTTP Error (503)', which in layman's terms means that instead of the server hosting your site telling robots that the site can not be found, it tells them that the site is 'only down temporarily' and it's expected/planned to be back up at a predefined time and it should revisit the site then.

Http error handling can also be used to redirect bots visiting an obsolete URL through to a new one, and also allows 'geeky' error pages to be converted to 'user friendly' pages containing meaningful and understandable messages.

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Friday, 27 June 2008

Relaxed Domain Names

I have read a number of different articles about the benefits and drawbacks surrounding sub-domains, and the impact these have on SEO. Overall, there seems to be a very even split between those who recommend this practice and those choosing to focus their efforts on other activities.

ICANN LogoImage via Wikipedia

This much debated topic is looking to take a life of its own with this week's announcement by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) to relax top-level-domains (TLD's).

The approved recommendation looks into creating domains formed as sub-domains and discarding extension altogether (

Take a page in a typical UK based domain for example, and assuming this follows the standard, this would be:

This will become:

Having been involved in setting up sub-domains before I really don't know how beneficial this approach would prove for small/medium websites as this essentially mean having to split a site up into smaller parts.

On a positive note, this approach means that keywords can be used closer to the start of the URL, so it's not all bad news.

I'd be keen to hear your comments on how you see this affecting the SEO world.

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Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Bridging the Analytics Gap

Google Analytics have recently introduced a handy little "benchmarking" feature which let's you compare your site against your industry's overall performance.

Image representing Google Analytics as depicte...Image via CrunchBase

So you decide to launch a site, you are confident that over the next 6 months you'll increase the traffic by 50%, and then double it within a year. But is that good enough? How can you really tell? What if everyone else is achieving 4 or 5 times that? Will you survive in a market where your competitors are going at 100mph?

This information is now readily available as part of Google Analytics service, and for free! - I use an enterprise level analytics tool, the cost of which would probably be enough to help solve the financial crisis of a small country by the way, not yet offering this level of information (though I'm sure they will).

In true Google style, Analytics is now effortlessly taking full advantage of the gap between "site-centric" and "market-centric" solutions.

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Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Google Ads through Yahoo!?

I was surprised to see Yahoo! getting into bed with Google and setting up a deal which sees the big G's ads cropping up within Yahoo's results.

Image representing Yahoo! as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBase

Initially this is only set to run across the pond, but it makes me think this could be the beginning of the end for Yahoo!

Let's face it... when you get in to a situation where you're ready to let your biggest competitor have a presence in your site, how far must you be from hanging your gloves up? Microsoft's u-turn on the original deal must have left Yahoo! even more vulnerable than initially thought.

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The Only Way is Up...

Ok, so I'm showing my age a bit, but what can I say... I'm in a good mood and Yazz's classic hit seems more than appropriate for the occasion.

Moving up IsfallsglaciärImage by Aleksi Aaltonen via Flickr

My site seems to be in Goggle's good books once again, and traffic is slowly (but very surely) heading in the right direction.

The main page has made it back into the first page, and is steadily crawling it's way up to the number one slot for the brand's name, where it rightfully belongs.

I can once again focus my attention on some of the activities, which had up to this point, understandably been relegated to the lower tiers.

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Monday, 23 June 2008

Fragile Google Rankings

Over the past few weeks I've been experiencing a drop on traffic on one of my websites, and today finally I found the fix. It just goes to show how easily Google can turn their back on you if their bot is not being looked after.

GLASGOW, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 12: (FILE PHOT...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

So what happened? I hear you ask... Well, it all started with some changes which had been scheduled for release at the beginning of the month meant the site had to come down whilst maintenance work was being carried out.

As the laws of Murphy came into play, the site was payed a visit by Google's trusted Bot, and hey presto, the website was no more than a holding page in Google's eyes.

Confident that Google would be sending its most trusted agent back to the site in a matter of days, I decided to play the SEO waiting game once again (not uncommon in the SEO world).

A week went by and still no sign of getting indexed, which made me wonder if something had gone wrong with the release... could the changes had caused the drop? could the updated or deleted files have been so critical to Google that it simply decided not to come back at all?

Not having direct access to the website files, at this point I decided to have a chat with the project manager to air my concerns and left reasured that none of the files updated as part of that release would have had an impact on Google.

Another two weeks had passed, and all I could do was scratch my head and hope that Google would soon come back to take pitty on the traffic being sent through them (lowest volumes since records begun). Not even updating the sitemap file did the trick.

So what was the problem? I hear you shout... Well, somehow we ended up with a corrupt Robots.txt file, which even though available in the root of the site, was inacessible to Google (and all other search engine bots).

Recreating and uploading this file once again has done the trick... Google is once again seen as a friend rather than an enemy.

I'd be interested in hearing your stories.

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