Monthly Archives: January 2007

Google thinks I’m Google

Because I work for an SEO company in Pittsburgh, I tend to do quite a lot of local searches in and around the Pittsburgh metro area. At work we’ve been receiving some phone calls from people who think we’re Google – the latest was an event planner wanting to check up on conference plans. I hope whoever at Google was attending the conference got in touch with their planner, because apparently they didn’t already have your number – and I hope you consider using a different planner.

So I download the logfiles for our company website and take a look at the referrers – great, some traffic from Google maps. Then I find that we’re listed #1 for Google Pittsburgh PA

This coincides with a post Google just put out about local search: Find and compare local businesses, which I thought was quite amusing indeed!

So for any future planners or others wanting to find Google Pittsburgh they’re at:

Pittsburgh Engineering Office
4720 Forbes Avenue
Lower Level
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Incase this gets manually altered somehow… I’ve saved a screenshots for prosperity.

We’re also listed under the regular web search with an authoritative onebox listing:

Disclaimer: My company has never pretended to be Google or optimized/paid to be listed this way, this is just an example of Google’s own local search ranking algo, not quite getting it right.

Protecting the WordPress wp-admin folder

After reading about greywolf’s blog being defaced as well as a few others, I thought I’d tighten up security a little. According to comments by shoemoney, it looks like the vulnerability is exposed by accessing some of the files contained within the /wp-admin folder. This should be fixed with the 2.0.7 WordPress upgrade [2.1 is also now available], however, let’s add a little extra security with a htaccess file. This will limit access to this folder by IP address. Any attempts at accessing any file within this folder will be greeted with a Forbidden error message.

I placed this file in the /wp-admin folder (DO NOT REPLACE/EDIT THE .htaccess FILE IN THE ROOT FOLDER OF YOUR BLOG)

AuthUserFile /dev/null
AuthGroupFile /dev/null
AuthName "Example Access Control"
AuthType Basic

order deny,allow
deny from all
allow from xx.xx.xx.xx
allow from xx.xx.xxx.xx

Update: Note that this is was temporary fix until the next version of WordPress came out. If you do limit access to your wp-admin folder by IP address you may have to update it if your internet provider assigns you a dynamic IP address, you move to another location or you have authors at other locations.

You may also want to check out Michael’s Login Lockdown plugin which will prevent attackers trying to brute force their way in. Failed login attempts are recorded and after a set amount of failed logins, it blocks an IP range for 1 hour by default.

Google Analytics Hack – obtaining full referring URL

It’s so frustrating that you can’t usually find which forum thread is linking to your website, because under the referring site report, cross segment performance, content report, it truncates the URL at the end of the filename, so you end up with items like:

/forums/showthread.php
/forums/viewtopic.php
etc.

There are two options, the first is a hack which uses filters to place the referrer into the User Defined Report (thanks to tresman and Pyrana), while the second uses a modified version of the Google Analytics tracking code to place the full referrer into the Top Content Report.

Method 1 – User Defined Report

Add this filter to your Analytics profile:

Custom Filter
Advanced
Field A -> Extract A: Referral (.*)
Field B -> Extract B:
Output To -> Constructor: User Defined $A1
Field A Required: Y
Field B Required: N
Override Output Field: Y
Case Sensitive: N

Here’s a screenshot of the filter settings:
Google Analytics Filter Settings

Results:
User defined referrer tracking

Two of the major benefits is that you don’t have to mess with the Google Analytics code and it uses the User Defined Report which goes unused in most cases.

Method 2 – Hacking the Analytics Code

I managed to find a way to use the urchinTracker function to place the exact referring URL into the Top Content Report, use one of these options (not both!):

Option 1) Place the standard tracking code in the HEAD section of the page and use this body tag:

Option 2) Place this code in the footer right before the tag:


(Replace the XXX’s with your profile account number)

Here’s a quick screenshot of the results:
Analytics Exact Referrer Using urchinTracker hack

Once you run this report, you can then apply a filter at the top of “http” to only show the exact referrers.

The urchinTracker script is usually used for tracking javascript or Flash events :
http://www.google.com/support/analytics/bin/answer.py?answer=27229

Update: If you can’t edit the HEAD or BODY tag or want to keep the tracking code in the footer, check out the Google Analytics Full Referrer Update.

Update 2: I’ve augmented the tracking code to also detect if the page is served in http or https mode to serve the appropriate call to the urchin.js file, and also detecting whether the referrer is internal or external so you don’t get your site appearing as a full referrer in the Top Content Report. View my Ultimate Google Analytics Tracking Code.

Update: 5/10/07 – I confirmed that this hack still works with the new version of Google Analytics.

If you’re a webmaster about to do a redesign, you may want to look into some interesting free icons for your website.

Google PageRank update underway

Matt just posted that the latest Google PageRank update is now underway as well as updates for the link: and site: commands. PR values are fluctuating wildly during this time, but as with previous updates, should settle down in the next 48hrs.
He also reiterated about how Google is treating certain types of links and that the lack of link quality could be causing some pages to go into supplemental.

“If you used to have pages in our main web index and now they’re in the supplemental results, a good hypothesis is that we might not be counting links to your pages with the same weight as we have in the past.”

The major determining factor of a page going into supplemental is its PageRank value. So if some pages are identified as being a bit spammy, they aren’t assigned any (or maybe only a tiny bit of) PageRank. This means that the PR calculation has a new dynamic element to it, which may be part of the dampening value in what we know as the standard PR formula.

Yahoo Panama account daily spending limit bug

I was looking at a couple of accounts that were converted in December 2006 and something caught my eye. The daily spending performance report is not showing the correct amount in the Account Daily Spending Limit column. It currently shows the right amount up to the day the account was converted, then $0 after that. After a short call to the nice people at Yahoo, they confirmed that there’s a bug in the display on this report. The account is functioning correctly, the values just aren’t showing on the report.

MyBlogLog snapped up by Yahoo

Congrats to the Eric and the rest of the MyBlogLog guys! You can read more about this on their own blog.

I signed up for this not so long after I created this blog and I really like the functionality. It provides referrer and traffic information, but more importantly, it gives you a face roll widget that you see on the left column here. This is a much more fun way of seeing actually who is reading your stuff (as long as they’ve signed up to mybloglog).

I wonder what’s in store for those guys, once they move to their new snazzy apartments in San Fran. I wish them the best of luck and am looking forward to seeing what else they’re able to roll out with the big Y behind them.

Location is not an important factor in Google maps

I’ve been analyzing some of the results in Google Maps and by using Google Local Business Center (GLBC) I’ve found that a business can rank:

1) first, infact better than that, it can have an authoritative listing without even having a website. Not all businesses have a website, but I have to question the priority of signals that it uses to provide an authoritative listing. In this day and age, how can a company be classified as an authority on a subject if it does not have a website?

2) in a category which doesn’t even exist from within GLBC. This is because Google is using Acxiom data which is the database behind many of the phone company directories. They have their own category listings, which are different than what is shown within GLBC. They’re aren’t even merged and my request for adding a corresponding category was ignored.

3) in a location even when other companies are geographically closer to the search criteria. If I am looking for a company in a certain town, it is not relevant to show me an authoritative listing of another company in a different location. Above the other points I think this is the most important. In many search queries the user rarely qualifies their location, intention or purpose. As experienced SEO’s are aware, there’s a lot of search volume for short generic terms like [airline tickets], and much less where the searcher is further qualifying their search, for example: [airline tickets to london england]. So in the case of a local search where the location is specified, it surely must be very important for the user to see results exactly in that location.

When I asked Google about the importance of location, they responded with:

“As with all Google search results, Google Maps ranks business listings based on their relevance to the search terms entered, and geographic distance is only one of the factors we consider. Sometimes our search technology decides that a business that’s farther away is more likely to have what you’re looking for than a business that’s closer.”

I actually had to read that twice to believe what I was seeing. How can a business located in a different town be more relevant and receive an authoritative onebox listing? In the listings I was tracking, these aren’t adjoining towns (19.2 miles away according to Google Maps).

Google still obviously has a way to go with local search and mixing data sources with what it finds organically and through user submitted listings (GLBC). I’m confident that this situation will improve, until then I’ll keep hammering away.

Yahoo’s panama rolls out

My mailbox was flooded with a bunch of emails from Yahoo over the holidays. In the next week or so, a bunch of accounts will automatically be upgraded to the new Panama system. If you do not have an online marketing consultant managing this for you, don’t fear; you really don’t have much to worry about. If you don’t get to it right away, the ads will still show and you’ll still get traffic. The only real disadvantage is that you won’t be able to use the new keyword tool, geotargeting or other cool features straight away.

The upgrade notification email mentions that the upgrade may take up to 8 hours to complete, well for most accounts, which have a few hundred keywords, it’ll be literally minutes. Once the upgrade is complete you’ll get another email with the new login URL, which doesn’t use a login capture (hurray for roboform users!).

Good luck with the upgrade, I’m sure you’ll love the new interface and features.