Moving this blog

I’m moving this blog to here I’ll be turning off comments soon on existing posts and leaving a link to the new location.

After a week or so, I’ll just delete the domain.

Its kinda sucky that I can’t just 301 everything with a little dose of redirection but hey, I can’t complain really.

If anybody knows a quick and easy way using these free WP subdomains, I’d be obliged.

Cheers :)

document.write random

SEO – Brain surgery? Perhaps not, but its not so far off!

Reading this blog here from oilman got me thinking about SEO and how people value their worth in terms of what they charge for their services and how some of what he is saying about others and their denigrating what we do can impact upon us negatively.

Putting to one side all those idiots who say they will submit your site to the search engines for a one off fee of $100 solicited by way of some awful looking spam email or adsense ad somewhere. Those tosspots really don’t help the situation as they help paint a perception that there really is nothing to what people like me do, when the obverse is so blindingly obviously true!

Some people have great difficulty in charging their clients the right price for what they do. Ive certainly been guilty of it in the past as have lots of others no doubt. If you are one of these people who works alone, then you may well fall into some isolationist camp whereby you dont *really* appreciate what it is you actually know. Add to that mix people like shoemoney saying that 95% of SEO is super simple or worse still, others who say stuff like , SEO is Bullshit ( a headline people will grab hold of and use to sneer at you with) and you may find others beginning to question the value of what it is you do. Ok, Ive been a little unfair to Mr Shoe when I say that as he did actually go on to clarify a few of his points, but still I think its fair to say that throw away comments like that, don’t entirely help in any SEO is a winning strategy, worthy of high dollar investment in quaility people perception game! Detractors seize on such statements and use them to dis the entire concept.

See, I know this guy who happens to be a brain surgeon. I knew him at school as a kid, he even credits me as part inspiration for his interest in the human brain, but that’s a story for another day. He is a clever fecker and studied all sorts of medical stuff for years. He now opens up peoples heads and performs surgery on their brains. Cool huh? Yet talk to him and he’ll tell you that its all pretty simple stuff really. He won’t brag or sound off like he’s some super know all mega-brain, oh no, he’ll just tell you that what he knows is simply the product of years of reading, observation, long hours of study and practice. But, you just know that to get where is he and be allowed to cut through your head and muck about with your brain holding a sclapel and all, that he’s pretty pretty clued up on how it all works and what needs to be done to keep you alive and functioning in a non cabbage doll way!

WTF does this have to do with SEO? Please, allow me to continue. I think it might help if I clarify a few of the issues and outline some of the complexitities of whats actually involved in doing the day to day work of SEO. I’m gonna brainstorm a little and see where I go and see if I can touch on just a few of things involved and state what I think is required in order to do it properly. I might miss a trick or two, so feel free to say your bit at then end. :D

SEO and Search engines

The aim of an SEO will be to get a website into the search engine results pages for their clients target keywords and phrases. The SEO therefore, has to have quite an in-depth understanding of how search engines work, an understanding of Page Rank, search bots, crawl rates, indexing, tag weighting, robots.txt files, algorithms. He will also need to keep ahead of the curve by continually monitoring and watching for clues as to changes in how things may be evaluated in the future. He’ll need to know what players are important, what user-agents they use and how to identify them, he’ll need an understanding of concepts like trustrank and authority scores, he’ll need to know how these are attained, sustained and lost. He won’t need to go and read guidelines on a daily basis, he’ll just have a good feel for what they are.

SEO’s as Client Side Scripters

Then there’s the website or page. He needs to know all about Title tags and H tags and keyword placement, tables and DIV tags why some meta tags are important and others aren’t, what is a <script> tag when to use noscript, how to use flash, what is a frame, why are they problematic? IOW, he’ll need to know a bit about HTML. Before he builds his page though he’ll need to know why KW research is important, he’ll need to know where to look and how to evaluate using search operators. Oops I forgot to mention CSS, oh and client side scripting too, what is AJAX? What is XML? What are the pluses and minuses of RSS.

SEO’s as Server Side Scripters

Whilst he is at it he may as well have some knowledge of server side scripting languages like PHP and ASP or CFM what is an include? Why are string manipulators so cool. How do you walk an array? Why is script security so important to your continual rankings etc etc etc.

SEO’s as Database Administrators

Then there are databases; you know, the things used to power most of the web. They use things like Structured Query Language to output data onto these things called webpages, you know, those things that hold all these keywords and all. If he really wants to help his client, he’ll need to know how to output his clients stuff, he’ll need to know about database design and structure, he’ll need to know how his queries will affect his site. He’ll need to know about query caching, database management and optimisation.

SEO’s as Server Admins

He’ll need to know a little about server loads and web server architecture, its processes and limitations, how a mod_rewrite can eliminate query strings in URI’s, how to block bad bots, bad IP’s, and why this is important to his clients aims, he’ll need to know about logfiles; error_logs and access_logs.

SEO’s and Metrics

He’ll need to have a good take on metrics – he’ll have a good take on what software’s are out there and why some maybe better than others. He’ll need to know why his visitor demographic is important and how he can best leverage that information to tweak and fine tune his efforts.

SEO’s and Market Pulse

Then there are all the external influences. Things like social metrics, bookmarking, link data, creating buzz and getting links, why is a reciprocal not as good as a one way, what is the difference between a good link and a bad link, what are the sites worth getting into, why are they so?

SEO’s and PPC

He’ll need to know how to help his client through quiet periods and algo changes, he’ll need a knowledge of PPC and what it is and what it does, how to set up campaigns, what is CPM and CPC? What is click-fraud, how is it detected? He’ll need a knowledge of MFA’s and other contextual abuses of his ad-spend, he might have a client who could benefit from Arbitrage or at least the knowledge of how it could affect their bottom line.

SEO’s and Spam

Then there is that huge topic of webspam and all that entails. What is webspam, what is cloaking , what is hijacking, what is a 301 and a 302 what is a 404 and why do they matter, what is hidden text, how do you file a reinclusion request what is a nofollow, why did it arise? What’s a splog? Whats a duplicate content filter, Whats the difference between a filter and a penalty?

SEO and Creativity

He’ll need to be able to adapt quickly and think creatively on his feet. He’ll be able to tell the diffference between an opportunity and a yoke and use whatever is before him to best maximise his clients chance of success.

SEO’s and People Networks

And finally, there are the places to look and learn a little more, who are the people worth listening to and who aren’t and so it could go, on and on and on.

There’s quite a bit involved in it all, wouldn’t you say? Is all that lot easy? I don’t think so. It takes years of reading and trial and error and experience to get anywhere near to that level of knowledge and expertise, feckin years. It never stops either, never stands still, blink and you’ll miss a shedload.

See, if you are hiring an SEO company or individual then IMO they will need to have all of the above, and beyond. Any SEO looking to compete in the search space working for different clients in different market sectors will need to have those tools and knowledge in their armoury. If they don’t, then sooner or later a competitor will come along who has and just wipe them off of the landscape. SEO is a knowledge based economy.

You see, flying a plane, splitting an atom, building a house, riding a bike, baking a cake, learning your times tables are all one trick ponies. Once you know them, thats it, you get on with it. Some tasks or roles are different though, some continually shift and change as new technologies and ways of doing things are thrown at them. SEO fits right into this category.
I too liked what Danny Sullivan had to say in his defence of SEO blog at searchengineland.com

Yes, you can invest time to learn these “simple” things. But if you know nothing about them, they can seem like rocket science. Over the years, I’ve talked with plenty of people who weren’t even aware of the basic tip that every page should have a unique, descriptive title tag. They think “title” means the biggest text on the page, not the HTML title tag. Talk of HTML title tags — that IS rocket science to them.

Damn right too, lwe all tend to take what we know for granted, but when we sit down and compare it against the general publics knowledge of it all then we begin to get a little more perspective.

So, if anyone tells you that SEO is easy, if anyone tells you its just a simple case of putting a meta tag in here there and anywhere, then I suggest you tell them to go and get ranked for something worth ranking for and then come back in 6 months and let you know how they did. get them to start from scratch mind, none of these pre loaded authority blogs or similar subdomains ;)

Have something to say on this?  Comment here 

Watch your CMS – it could be getting you into trouble

Graywolf blogged about some Disney Blog getting  de-indexed for hidden text.

Seems that some blogging platforms/cms’s have issues that could get your site removed  for web spamming by inserting text  that is hidden.

One commenter there had this to say:

Some freely available WordPress templates (specifically from blogthemes.com)contain hidden links from the designer linking to certain cancer websites. I am sure most people do not see that as it is kind of sneaky.

I do wonder why they don’t just ignore  such aspects for ranking purposes. If its identified as hidden algorithmically then it can be ignored as a ranking factor too…no? Or am I missing some bigger picture here.

Say no to splogging and yes to blogging

Say yes to Blogging

So, Ive blogged now for a little over a week. Ok, so Ive blogged in the past on other topics, but not as consitently or comprehensively; at least in the sense of making posts longer than 20 or 30 words and posting everyday writing unique and semi compelling stuff!

Why am I so surprised that I’m actually enjoying writing about things I find interesting, amusing and entertaining? I haven’t got any huge audience or anything like that, and to be frank I’m not too bothered. I’m just enjoying the process. Its cathartic even, its good to talk.

As Ive said previously. I have blogged before. Some of the stuff I blogged on was kinda personal. I blogged about my divorce for example, it was an excellent vehicle that helped deal with a shitty time in my life. Ive blogged about my everyday life – its ups and its downs, mostly just sporadic moans and rants.

Ive also tried to blog on random stuff too. In my silliness, I once said, I know, I’ll blog on anything and everything, cobblers to focus, who needs that! So was born my first splog.

Say no to Splogging

So I built this site, it was a combination of a blogging module and a mishmash of other stuff I’d coded and plugged in. I didn’t see it that way at the time, but in retrospect I had created a splog. Not just any old splog mind. It was a well crafted juicy splog that when viewed 1st hand, looked nothing like a splog. The whole thing was really just an exercise in intellectual curiosity.

I had a domain name that I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do with, I’d been fannying with Drupal, I’d seen a few community blog type sites grow pretty quickly and wanted to have a little play about to explore some of the issues and get a feel for what it could and couldn’t do. I justed wanted to stick the modules up and play about with it and stick things on to the front and the back and the side, like some Blue Peter toy made out of cardboard tubes and coloured paper almost. I wanted to see how quick I could get it spidered, how deeply it would be crawled, how often, by whom, how well it would rank, how quickly, how people reacted to ad placement and all manner of other things that simply unavailable through any other route. You can’t read about this stuff, you have to go through the curve and experience it.

The home page had real posts from real people. Heck I even had people sign up and post their pics and write stuff about their lives and all that. I also had a database with 20 odd thousand keywords. I plugged these words into a template and let the spiders do the rest. I fed in RSS search feeds to supplement the ‘content’, I used the tagging systems pumped out by things like de.li.ci.o.us and Flickr to give each page a unique look and feel. I mixed things up and varied the layouts and KW densities based on the length of the url or sector it pertained to or some other random variable, I did everything I could to push the envelop as far as I could and to see where it would go, hell I even took the piss on the domain name, using a well known spamming term. At the time, the way I saw it there was no harm done. Search engine spiders lapped it all up, I got visitors and some signed up and participated. Those who didn’t sign up to the program, clicked on ads relative to the keywords – win win, they got what they wanted , I got paid a few cents for their efforts and advertisers got on target searchers in kw focused search mode.

Eventually, as was inevitable. The site got pulled from the SE db’s. What had taken me a little over a week to code and set up, at its peak had 50k pages in the SE databases and received around 1500 visitors per day at its peak, with most of them coming from MSN and Y!, Google at least was considerably smarter, but still gave me long tail referals.

Was there a point, why even?

Was it worth it? Yes, as an exercise in education and observation, absolutely.

If I’m honest there have been times when Ive said to myself I could have put in a little more effort at the outset and actually made something worth having long term even; ok thats an understatement I could have put in a whole lot more effort, but that would have required real work and effort outside of playing about with a bit of PHP and SQL, I’d have had to involved other humans :-0 built a little community thing even, generated a little buzz and excitement, made something useful.

Easy to game search engines?

It does kinda beg the question of how it was that easy to get 100k visitors in such a short period of time for something of such little use and value, taking next to no time to develop which was nothing other really than an ugly keyword splog!

See the way I see it, my big pile of poo shouldn’t really have been able to rank for anything, cos really it was saying nothing at all. It offered very little that was original. It basically rehashed and spewed out that which already exists out there already. I still have the scripts and the database, so could always stick it all up on another database and see…but I won’t, I can’t be bothered, it served its purpose, to do so would feel unkarmic.

Today, I doubt the same approach woulld work. The SE’s are whole lot smarter. They are learning from all of these other social media metrics. They are looking at what is getting buzz, who is talking about what in which space and why, they are actually applying these factors to their algos. They realise that its simply not good enough to rely on factors that given a little effort, are so relatively easy to manipulate. They are looking at how people vote with their fingers and mice, studying the demographic and seeing where they go. Google reader, feedburner, delicious, toolbars, youtube, myspace, blogging platforms and all manner of other popular services enable them to glean so much more than they once did.

Sympathy for the devil

It must be damn hard to be a SE engineer these days, constantly firefighting, tweaking, playing. In fairness to them, they are doing a pretty good job, but still have a way to go of course, its the nature of the beast they’ll always be playing catchup of one form or another. Web Spammers or people just looking to rank well for their topics and interests will go to exceptional lengths to get to where they or their clients need to be. Most of us are natural born problem solvers, its what we relish. Search engine algos are just another problem to be figured out and solved. It is certainly a whole lot harder to rank for something worth ranking for. Domains do get filtered/penalised every day, just go and have a read up over on any SEO forum to see examples of people screaming and wailing. It really is getting to be about content content content.

Can you still spam your way to the top using splogs or other well known spamming practices and methods? Well, you’d like to think not or yes even, dependant upon your view. If the SE’s know a method exists then they’ll look at ways of minimising its efficacy, thats for sure. The trick really is to just work hard on something of value and the rest will follow naturally. I’m seriously of the opinion that heavy duty old style spamming just isn’t worth the effort. You may as well plough those very same efforts into something worth building and growing.

IMHO of course :)

Comment on Say no to splogging yes to blogging here

Web PRO News Videos from Search Conferences

Web Pro News have put together some really good videos together over at their site.

This link here entitled the do’s and dont’s of Digg is a great discussion on doing well in Digg as well as things to avoid. Its also a good general discussion around social media, tips for choosing an SEO, PPC and arbitrage, the future of search, trends in the industry and a few other related topics.

If you are interested in search and blogging and site monetisation and social media and all the other stuff that makes up this thing called the internet such an interesting space to play in, then go check them out, they are definitely worth a look!

Good stuff, well done Mike,Neil and Todd . :)

Warning: Make sure you have some time on your hand as I spent like um…2 hours watching all sorts of interesting stuff over there!

Pay to Blog what’s the big deal?

I was just over at tech crunch reading some of the broohah about some deal that fell through regarding performancing and payperpost and was kinda surpised at the level of snorting and derision being applied there. There is this guy named Ted, who like most people trying to get things off of the floor in life has managed to obtain $3 million dollars in funding for an idea, which he feels might just fly. So far he has managed to stir up a bit of controversy, with various high profile people like Matt Cutts coming out against the idea in general.

So ok, I can see why a search engine might have an issue with squillions of bloggers being paid to promote and talk about things using keyword rich anchor text to distort the search landscape but thats just tough I guess, they’ll find a way to deal with it, or mightn’t bother even, hardly the end of the world for mfa sites adsense now is it. Besides what with all this talk about mature algos and whatnot, I doubt it’ll make a huge difference anyways, a storm in a teacup even? Perhaps, or maybe some might see it as the thin end of a wedge. The lines get a little blurred when you think ahead and envisage a SERP full of results containing blogs that have been written on the basis of some monetary consideration. In those scenarios, where would the distinction between paid ads and paid ads masquerading as free serps be drawn? Should the search engine be held accountable for its editorial decisions?

Google or any other search engine for that matter  wants their free SERPs to be full of stuff that is diverse and in some cases ‘untainted’ by the dirty grubby mits of commerce. Its probably why we haven’t yet seen paid inclusion rolled out yet,  its full of issues pertaining to disclosure and ads. Y! for example once had a program that enabled you to appear in their results, provided you paid - it was soon dropped amid a wail of criticism.
Washington Post article discussing word-of-mouth-marketing references a petition from Commercial Alert, an advertising and marketing watchdog group based in Portland Oregon and the response from the FTC associate director.

 “The petition to us did raise a question about compliance with the FTC act,” said Mary K. Engle, FTC associate director for advertising practices. “We wanted to make clear . . . if you’re being paid, you should disclose that.”

So ok, no harm done then, if you are going to blog and get paid for your posts then you should disclose that somewhere – isn’t that what tinytext and footers are for :D.

I haven’t looked too intently at either ReviewMe or PayPerPost so have no idea whether or not they enforce disclosure in any toc’s. That said, the FTC is just an American governmental organisation with no jurasdiction or enforcement powers outide of the USA. The web is a big place full of other people from different countries  and nome de plumes, and aliases. Gambling is still alive and kicking on the net even after a ban , some things just can’t be legislated away.

When people like  Guy Kawasaki talk about how he made a paltry $3k adsense revenue from 2,436,117 page views then its hardly surprising when people not half as financially astute   look for better earning opportunities. If you are one of these people who write about stuff daily on a topic close to your heart then goodluck to you if you can earn from it too.

The way I see it is that people will soon see through any posts that extol the virtues of some commercial lot of tosh. Try it yourself – try and get enthused on a daily basis for stuff that you don’t really believe in or want to talk about, see how long it takes people to switch off from what you are saying.

I think thats where reviewme could make a difference. I think they say to the bloggers, “here is so and so a company, they want you to write about them, they’ll pay you too, and you can say what you like as well” wheres the harm?

SE Reps to the back of the room please. :)

How to build a database driven website part 2

In part 1 of how to build a database driven website we looked at creating the database and tables and looked at some simple options for inserting data.

In this part we are going to look at connecting to the DB using PHP, creating a simple template as well as discussing a few site architecture issues.

We are going to use a simple PHP connection script to connect to your DB, which will be saved in a separate file and stored outside of root.The connection script will contain the username and password for connecting to our database.

Continued here

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