Category Archives: Web development

Maps and QR codes

When I need to go to a new place, I will research it on my desktop using one of the typical map sites to get an idea of travel time and where it is. I have a Motorola Atrix which has a nice map app which offers turn by turn directions. I use it a lot, but the problem is that I’ve just performed the search on my desktop and there’s no fast and convenient way to repeat that search on my phone, or even better yet, just transfer the result to my phone.

Google Maps offers print, email and a nice “Link” feature which generates a HTML link which you can copy and paste, unfortunately the clipboard doesn’t span from my desktop to my phone.

Bing Maps has a share button which allows me to share on Facebook, twitter, or email it to myself. Hmm, still not as quick as I’d like and I’d rather not broadcast my map locations to my social connections.

Yahoo Maps also has a Send via email, but again, it’s not convenient enough.

Mapquest has the same options as the search engines, but also two more interesting ones: Send to Mobile and send to Garmin GPS. The first uses SMS messaging, the other is great if you have a Garmin GPS device, but I don’t. So this is a bit better, but I’m not sure I trust the SMS option. I’ve had messages be delayed and as with the other options, it puts me in a position where I’m waiting and relying on an external service.

What I really need is the ability to be in control and initiate the transfer of the map result immediately to my phone.

What I think would be ideal, is if the mapping sites could add another option to print a QR code for that location. That would allow me to instantly transfer it to my smartphone, hopefully the phone would also recognize the URL and automatically open the map app.

What do you think?

Website Optimizer Is Search Engine Friendly

Website Optimizer by Google AdWords is a multivariate testing tool, that is to say, it takes A/B testing one step further. Instead of testing 2 versions of a page, you can test multiple page elements and the various combinations.

When you create an experiment you can specify page elements that you want to test, for example, a page heading, intro copy or a lead image. It uses javascript on the landing page to swap out the test element with the other variations that you specify within Website Optimizer.

I participated in the beta test of this and my initial concern was that it may not be search engine friendly due to the changing page elements, however, after a short call with the Website Optimizer Product Manager, he confirmed that it would not have any impact on organic rankings.

If you are still concerned about it, then you can always set up a specific landing page that is not linked to from your main navigation and use either the robots.txt or meta noindex tags to prevent search engines from crawling those pages.

Once your AdWords account is fairly well optimized, I would highly recommend trying out this tool. You will learn new things about your website, its traffic and motivators. Just make sure you carefully plan the test elements and don’t test too many elements at once to ensure that you can run through enough iterations with conversions to gain meaningful data.

Top 5 Ways To Lose Rankings

I really enjoyed this post by donna, so I thought I’d put together my own favorite five, based on what I’ve seen over the years:

1) Renaming pages or moving them to a different directory location without putting in 301 redirects (this is by far the most common and worst of all mistakes)

2) URL spamming (by choice or by accident)

3) Redesigned website/homepage with a flash intro page – but it looks so cool!

4) Relying too heavily on one type of inbound link (playing the cat and mouse game with Google)

5) Moved to a new webhost and forgot to also move the robots.txt and/or .htaccess files.

Many of these items could easily be avoided if the website owner retained the services of an online marketing consultant.

SEO Is An Investment Not A Cost

When I first start working with a company, many of them classify their website as a cost. It’s something that they have to have, like an 800 number, a phone system with voicemail capability, or an annual equipment service and calibration. A website should not be classified as an expense, but an asset, just in the same way as if you built your own office building, or purchased a new piece of machinery. These items are considered assets because they have some monetary value if resold and help build the business. Your website is exactly the same.

In the same way that adding more tools and machines to a workshop enhances its value through productivity, investing in search engine optimization adds value to your website through better rankings, more qualified traffic and leads or sales.

So eventhough the funds may be taken from an overall marketing department’s annual budget to pay for SEO services, it must not be grouped together with the other advertising costs. Typically most advertising is short lived – once the ad campaign is over, sales decline. This is totally opposite with professional SEO services.

With good optimization, your website’s rankings will actually improve over time. Sure, there may be a few bumps in the road as search engines revise their algorithms, but overall you will see more traffic as a result of increased visibility.

I’ve worked with a few websites which have had very few changes after the optimization process has been completed and yet they continue to gain rankings and see increased traffic as time goes by.

Top 10 Reasons Why Website Frames Are Bad

When website frames were introduced around 1998 with HTML 4.0, it was a time when most users used modems for connectivity – 9,600 and 14,400 baud modems were the norm and download times were horrendously slow compared to modern broadband connections like DSL and cable.

With frames you could split a page into pieces and section off fairly static content like headers, menus or footers into their own frame. This drastically reduced download times because only the main body of the page needed to be downloaded.

Today, websites are larger and require more dynamic elements and real estate to display additional content and other media like ads. Frames are now only used in relatively few instances, where a website designer needs a certain overall look and feel to the website, and quite often where traffic from search engines is not a big priority.

Website frames are problematic if you want to create a search engine friendly website and get it ranked well. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but it can cause problems for the inexperienced website designer. Here’s my top 10 reasons why website frames should not be used:

1) Orphaned Pages
This can happen when a webpage is linked to, but never links back to anywhere. Typical scenario is where a frame is used for a header, but has no navigation links. The header may be optimized with appropriate title and meta tags, but Google doesn’t tend to rank these orphaned pages very well at all.

2) Lack of Content
If you use a frame for the footer of a page, it typically may not contain any links (see above) or much content at all, apart from perhaps a small tag line and a copyright notice. In building a search engine friendly site, we try to maintain contextual relevance across the whole site, or at least across certain sections. This helps in the tail of the search curve where valuable traffic is obtained.

3) Crawl Path Problems
If you have a complex frame set up, search engines may not be able to access every page on your website. You can get around this by using a sitemap, but why initiate a problem in the first place?

4) Internal Link Integrity and PageRank Problems
Similar to the point above, you may not be spreading Google PageRank laterally, i.e. linking similar level pages together, instead of relying on the main navigation to provide the links. Where possible you want to link similar pages to each other because the text surrounding the link is important in determining the contextual relevance of the link, hence, making that link more valuable.

5) User Suspicion/Deception
When a website uses frames, the address in the user’s browser stays the same as they move from page to page. For websites which are expecting a conversion, like an ecommerce site, this may be perceived as trying to hide where the real content is coming from and conversions could suffer.

6) Bookmarking and Linking
Because the address never changes in the browser, it’s more difficult to bookmark or link to internal pages. If you are able to get the URL of the internal frame content to send to them in say a customer service email, it’s sometimes pretty useless for the user, since when they arrive there may not be a header or any website navigation.

7) Dynamic Content Limitations
Using frames makes it very difficult to offer dynamic navigation menus which expand by section depending on where you are on the website, or certain promotions or section advertisements. This can be achieved using Javascript but is a pain in the butt to code and keep track of. A simple mistake can cause problems with the navigation, which needs to be consistent and predictable for the best user experience.

8) Nested Frames
With just one small coding mistake you can end up with nested frames – i.e. multiple headers or navigation frames which is difficult for the user to “break out”. They either resort to having to go to the homepage and starting over, or they just leave.

9) Entry Page Problem
Since many times frames are used to hold the site navigation, if an internal page becomes an entry page from a search engine, there may not be any navigation for them to follow to go further into the site. And if you don’t link inner pages, there’s really nowhere for the user to go. They either manually adjust the address in the browser to get to the homepage, or just leave.

10) Limited Real Estate
Oftentimes the space right next to the main navigation is used for promotions or serving third party advertising. If you have the navigation placed in a frame, the “real estate” available to you is limited to the user’s screen resolution. You could use scrollbars within the frame, but if your main page content already needs a scrollbar, having 2 makes the user work extra hard to navigate your website.

Link to good content, don’t steal it

My wife has spent many hours gathering and updating the content on her website. Using copyscape, we found quite a few people blatantly stealing it, instead of linking to it. We do post a polite message at the top of the page asking people to provide comments, feedback, additions, and to link to it if they liked it.

Many people have just linked to that page and my thanks go out to them, however, it seems that every day there are more and more people stealing our images and content. So tonight I wrote a simple referrer checking script which displays a bogus image if someone tries to remote link to our images.

I know it’s not much but it at least it’ll make it harder for these people to upset my wife, which is something I don’t want right now.