Saturday, 26 April 2008


SearchMe have a nice, shiny interface. They're based just down the road from Google, and are crawling the net at the moment. I've had quite a fun afternoon checking that I'm at the top for the words I want in this engine too (I am!) and flagging competitor sites as porn. Fantastic stuff. Take a look (watch out, may crash lesser browsers and will definitely break lesser machines):

Searchme Visual Search

They've picked up a great way of building category lists and collecting stats (and indeed feedback) for it, too. Enjoy!

Thursday, 17 April 2008

BT Web Clicks = Bad

BT Web Clicks are sending out an AMAZING, unique offer!

They then proceeded to ask me “what do we rank for on google?”, my response was “your company name, unless you request otherwise”.

They then went on to mentioned that “the man from BT” can get us listed “at the top” of the search engine for “our keywords”.

Interesting! What does Google say about companies offering that?

No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google.

So.. BT (British Telecom) are officially offering a large pile of fail - and this is just the tip of the iceberg; inside are hidden £15k/month costs, outrageous consultancy fees, targetting at the meek and lonely, and to top it all, a cornucopia of grammatical errors. Watch out for this one, people - they may be cold calling in your area now.

James Wade has the full scoop: BT Web Clicks review.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Sponsored blogging

I hope you're earning from your splogs, like these people. There seems to be an infinite amount of authors tapping away at posts, and filling their blogs with brief product reviews and props. It's a fantastic and easily minable market. Just look at this: Is 8 Enough. You have a relatively attractive, human-copy-written, regularly updated blog, with a decent amount of advertising and some paid posts. This attention builds up trust, and that'll only help your CTR; sponsored articles will cover the times when clicks are low. As there's more than one sponsored blogging site, it's certainly recommendable to interleave posts from different providers while possible, while you can (many only allow one in three to be paid).

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Opera Pagerank widget

If you use Opera (think FF but faster and no memory leaks), you'll probably miss LivePR. There's an almost-as-good replacement available, and it's really easy to install:

Pagerank in Opera

It's well worth spending the extra 30 seconds to set up the custom Javascript plugin mentioned there, too.

Flash SEO

Flash is the leading vector graphics technology used in thousands of interactive and design-focused websites. According to estimates, over 98% of Internet users have Flash player software installed in their browsers.
Well-created Flash animations can make sites more attractive, provide a better experience for users than text-based content, and allow designers to show off their creativity and skills.
However, Flash websites are usually much slower to load, very often lack the content users are looking for, do not cater for users with disabilities, and cannot achieve the same search engine rankings as their text-based counterparts.
Some of these shortcomings can be overcome, others cannot. The following post deals with both the drawbacks and possible remedies.

1. Shortcomings

1.1 Download speed

Despite the expansion and lowering of broadband connections prices, the vast majority of Internet users still use slow dial-ups. Flash is not bandwidth friendly and these users have to wait about for a Flash site to load. Many people are not willing to do that even for the most beautiful Flash site.

1.2 Lack of content

Flash is the medium for creativity and design, not for accommodating large amounts of text or information in general. Not many content-focused sites are likely to use it. The problem is that most people use the Net to search for information. As they would not expect to find much of it on a Flash website, they are likely to avoid them. Content is what most users are looking for, and a website lacking it will be unsuccessful regardless of its appearance.

1.3 Accessibility issues

Flash is unfriendly to screen readers of visually impaired users. Screen readers work with plain HTML text and cannot read properly images or text embedded within Flash animations.

1.4 Search engines

Search engines were designed to index and work with HTML documents, not Flash or other non-HTML formats.
Although Google and FAST search engines are now able to crawl some Flash sites, they are still a long way from being able to retrieve and index the content in full. No other search engine has even this very limited ability and so cannot index any information at all.

2. Solutions

Many suggestions abound about how to overcome these shortcomings. A few can partially improve the situation, some are likely to get a site penalised or banned by search engines, and the influence of others on rankings has still to be gauged.

2.1 'Non-solutions'

Doorway pages

Building ‘doorway’ HTML pages no longer works, because search engines now hate them almost as much as they are quick to detect them. In the past, doorway pages were used for ‘keyword stuffing’ and cloaking, and as result, they trigger anti-spam filters on all important search engines.

<noframes> / <noscript> tag

Another trick suggested to contain Flash content is by using invisible framesets and to fill the <noframes> tag with ‘alternative’ and index-able content in plain-text format. Although a true replication of Flash content in HTML format might seem as a legitimate use of this tag, search engines are unable - as well as unwilling - to reach this conclusion.
Search engines succeed or fail on their ability to provide useful information. They are unlikely to understand why any site information should be presented in one form to them, and in another to potential users.

CSS invisible layers

Placing content on a Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) layer set to be invisible is yet another risky plan. It also offers search engine spiders content that is different for human users and, therefore, could be interpreted as ‘spamming’.
Until recently search engines spiders avoided external CSS style sheets and would have been unable to discover the “display: none” declarations. However, in the past few weeks Googlebot has begun to crawl style sheets ignoring all “robots” exclusion statements. Of course, it is impossible to be absolutely certain why it was re-programmed this way, but searching for hidden content is a likely reason.

CSS z-index

Another possibility is to add text content to a CSS layer and to position it either off-screen by negative margin, or behind the Flash content by putting both on layers and setting a lower “z-index” value to the content layer. A site’s visitor will see the Flash movie in a browser, but search engine spiders will find the ‘keyword-rich’ text in the source code.
Many experts argue that if the off-screen content truly reflects the Flash content, there cannot be issues with spamming. They might be correct. Then again, they might not. If search engine spiders cannot see the Flash content, they cannot establish whether it really matches the plain-text content. And because they cannot do that, they could never know whether the ‘alternative’ content is there to help them, or to fool them.

2.2 A possibility

HTML version

In theory it is always possible to reproduce a Flash site in a ‘plain’ HTML version and offer search engine spiders and visitors the choice.
In practice it doesn’t seem to be a very cost- and time-efficient or labour-saving solution.

2.3 Recommended solutions

<applet> tag

Using the <applet> element for embedding Flash is an ‘old-school’ technique that has featured on the W3C “deprecated-feature” list for quite a long time.
However, it does allow textual content to be place between the opening and closing tag, and in the “alternative description” inside the tag itself. Which is about the only reason why is it listed here.

<embed> tag

Another tag for embedding Flash movies is the <embed> tag. Although the <embed> tag is now deprecated too, it is the only tag that works equally well across browsers.
Its sibling - the <noembed></noembed> tag – allows alternative text description to be placed in between. This is its legitimate use.

<object> tag

The <object> tag is the latest element for embedding Flash movies. It is recommended by the W3C. However, it is likely to crash some versions of IE 4.01 and is not supported by older versions of NN.
The text alternative is placed between the opening and closing tag.

Macromedia MX features

Macromedia Flash MX 2004 comes with many great features designed to improve accessibility, and as a consequence, also search engine spiderability, such as:

  • Providing text equivalents for all visual elements via “Name” and “Description” fields. The name field is used for shorter text equivalents (similar to the <img alt>), the description field is used for longer descriptions (similar to the <longdesc> attribute in HTML.) Both can provide search engine spiders with useful information about the site’s content and relationships between individual site elements.

  • Specifying reading order of Flash content. When reading the text equivalents in a Flash movie, a spider does not necessarily have to read the content in the order of the visual layout. Specifying the correct order helps spiders associate content of individual site elements, and in mapping internal structure.

  • Captioning audio content. Captions added to narrative audio provide spiders with useful information about the audio’s content and its relationship to the rest of the page.

Google and FAST (AllTheWeb / Yahoo!) search engines are able to extract some content from Flash pages. FAST uses the Macromedia Flash search engine software developer's kit (SDK), which was designed to convert text and links from a Flash file into HTML for indexing. What technology Google employs is not known.
Both seem to be able to follow embedded links. It remains unclear to what extent they are able to extract the textual information from a page, or from the text equivalents.
Further, XML and XSL can be shoehorned into a supporting role for Flash SEO.


Both Google and FAST can extract some links from Flash files and, as a result, crawl a certain proportion of their content. It enables them to at least partially map the site’s internal structure and analyse relationships between individual pages. In addition, it allows Google to distribute some of the Page Rank allocated to the home page throughout the rest of the site.
This represents an opportunity for well-structured Flash websites with good internal structure to improve their rankings in Google and FAST search engines’ networks.

Page titles and meta descriptions

All search engines use page titles and meta descriptions in conjunction with the page’s content for ranking algorithms.
As most spiders cannot read the content of a Flash file and, therefore, cannot match it to the page’s title and metadata, it is unlikely that even the most carefully written titles and descriptions could significantly improve a site’s ranking.

3. Conclusion

By adopting correct design techniques, it is possible to overcome some of the inherent shortcomings of Flash. A few search engine spiders will then be able to crawl such a site and at least partially index its content, which means an increase in site rankings in these search engines. The site will also become more accessible to individuals with disabilities.
However, even the best optimised Flash website can improve its rankings only in comparison to another Flash website. Regardless of the thoroughness in design, or advancements in search engine retrieval technologies, a Flash website will never outrank a well-optimised HTML site.
Search engines work with text and reward sites that provide it. Therefore, if search engine visibility is the factor, a site cannot be designed in Flash. It is as simple as that.

4. Recommendations

  • Do not create a website entirely in Flash

  • Build a website in HTML instead

  • Use Flash movies as a supporting visual medium for plain text content

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Meta Keywords Wordpress plugin

Ahh.. nothing like a good, theory-centric, hype-free approach to SEO. There's an extremely sensible and (fairly) lightweight Meta Keywords plugin rattling around over at data dump.

It seemed to me that a basic meta keywords tag should be trivial to include. According to Google’s
word of mouth advice, meta keyword tags (apart from being mainly unimportant) shouldn’t contain more than six or seven keyphrases (not keywords, keyphrases - more than one word can go there) separated by commas.

Sounds simple, right? This plugin reads your document’s content and title, strips out crap (formatting, useless words such as “the”, invisible characters) and then performs n-gram analysis to get an idea of term frequency. That’s a fancy way of saying that it finds the most oft-used words and phrases in your post. The top six (or seven, or even twenty - you can edit a constant at the top of the plugin to alter this) phrases are then plonked out into a nice meta keywords tag in your HTML header. Easy as pie!

Go and have a look for yourself, and leech the thing.
Meta Keywords plugin for WordPress

Free backlink analysis

Yeah, you heard that right. Debra at thelinkspiel got a hookup with Receptional. Get over there and see how many authority links you have (if you didn't already know!).

Tool URL:

User & pass: thelinkspiel

One thing this tool could do with is some kind of drill down into each category, where it showed you the domains that were providing links in each instance, or even the full URIs. The data is a little opaque as it stands. Still - have a try!

Update - if you're after other free tools that backlink analyze, you could do worse than:

Thursday, 10 April 2008

T-Mobile UK SEO Audit

Well, I've had this internal document on my desk for a few years, and it's kinda heavy - and certainly not pertinent enough any more to cause damage. So, here's a high-grade commercial SEO Audit, worth somewhere around 1500GBP at the time of production. Enjoy.

T-Mobile UK SEO Audit

I suppose the most shocking thing here is the quality of the site - thankfully it's improved since then - it's really incomprehensible that a company of this proportion failed so epically. Or, well, not.

You might like to take this audit and use it as a framework for your own; some things are well out of date, there are factual errors, and typos, but the formatting works, and the principles are still the same. Let me know what works for you!

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