Article Archive by Author

May 7 2007

How can you tell if an elephant has been in your fridge?

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The Google pagerank update is on! Or, is it? Starting around the 26th of April (or even earlier), reports started to arise in the forums that the Google was updating the pagerank values on their toolbar display. However, as late as last Friday, there had been no confirmation from Google and some Google watchers expressed doubt that the pagerank update was finished.

Did you see a sudden drop in page ranking and you’re wondering if it was something you did? Well, maybe but it could also be something that Google did and it could have happened anytime in the last three months. You could have been blissfully contemplating your pagerank of 7 when it really fell two months ago and you are just finding out now. What does this mean for the average site owner who’s wondering what to do about the fact that the little green Google page rank toolbar is now showing a lower number? Well, nothing, really. Google’s pagerank values are constantly being updated. We just don’t get any glimpses of what they are until the update.

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April 26 2007

Better Living with SEO Tools

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Search engine optimization is hard work and every day it gets harder! The search engines change the rules and new technology makes time-honored methods for getting good natural rankings obsolete. Lately, building in-bound links has gotten very tough because of the “nofollow” attribute that many large sites and even directories have been adding to their links.

If you haven’t heard about it, apparently, some unscrupulous people were spamming the comments’ sections of blogs and even wikipedia.org by adding multitudes of links back to their sites. They wanted to increase their Google Pageranks and for a while, it worked.

To discourage this practice, the owners of these sites started using the “nofollow” attribute because Google and other search engines discount any links coming to your site with the rel=“nofollow” attribute in the anchor tag. They may follow the link to your site but they won’t record it. With the “nofollow” attribute added to all the links, the links then lose their attraction for spammers.

Of course, this makes it much better for those of us who want to read genuine comments and articles without having to put up with spam. However, it also means that submitting your site to a directory or placing a link back to your site in an article or blog comment might not get you the in-bound link credit that you were hoping for; and if you’re not very good at reading the source code of the pages you visit, it can be hard to tell if the links you see are no-follow or not.

Luckily, there are lots of wonderful clever people out there making life a little easier for us all. One of the most useful tools that has come along is: Search Status. It’s a great device that sits on your Firefox browser and provides information on search optimization efforts.

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One of my favorite features is the “Highlight Nofollow Links”. As I surf the web, links with nofollow tags on them show up like this:

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So, when I’m looking for places to submit a web site, I can tell at a glance if a directory listing is going to be valuable for attracting both human and robot visitors.

Search Status also features the Alexa toolbar so if you don’t want to send your web statistics to Alexa, Search Status is not for you. If that doesn’t bother you, you can find Search Status at https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/321 along with lots of other cool add-ons for Firefox or you can go straight to Craig Raw’s site at www.quirk.biz/searchstatus/. Which are your favorite tools? Let me know.

April 17 2007

Ordered List, Unordered List, The List Goes On and On

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Perhaps the most underappreciated form of writing is the simple list. We all make them. We attach them to our refrigerators to remind us to buy milk and we use them as references to track our day. What many people may not realize is that lists can be used for much more.

In her book, Approaches to Discourse Georgetown University professor, Deborah Schiffrin notes that when speakers tell a story, they often use list structures along with or, even in place of, standard narrative structures. For example:

We went to the store to buy some fruit.

  • There were pears.
  • And peaches.
  • And oranges.
  • And even some enormous melons.

There were so many kinds of fruit that we couldn’t decide between them, so we didn’t buy any at all.

If lists can be used to tell a story, it should be no surprise that lists can also be natural choices for structuring all kinds of web content, including marketing copy.

In fact, the list can be a valuable tool for composing web content. Lists add visual and semantic structure that can make any writing easier to follow and research in reading comprehension has found that students do better when presented with well-structured content in their classroom materials. These findings also carry over to the kind of writing found on commercial web sites. Studies in web usability show that structuring content with lists enhances the readability of standard promotional writing, too. When combined with concise, objective styles, content written using unordered lists improves by as much as 124%.

All this may explain why search engines place a higher value on keywords found in ordered and unordered lists. A web page containing a list of items all related to the main keyword targeted for the page is more likely to actually be relevant to that keyword. It’s just the nature of a well-structured list and something that is fairly easy for search engines to detect.

The World Wide Web Consortium has an excellent article describing the advantages of using lists in web content and the best way to go about coding them. These valuable tips can help you:

  1. improve the readability of your web content
  2. make your copy more understandable
  3. optimize your code for multiple browser platforms
  4. make your pages more attractive to search engines
  5. and the list goes on and on or it could.

We often see lists used to describe a range of products or services. What else could we use a list for? What else can you do with a list?

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