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Posts from the ‘Website Usability’ Category

12
Aug

RE: Really, It’s OK. Google Yourself.

Googling Yourself Isn’t Just About Huge Egos

There's no shame. Google Yourself.

We’ve all done it. You do it in secret. In the dead of night and it’s just you and the monitor. No one can ever know you’ve got an ego to stroke. It’s a secret shame you have to carry around.

All euphemisms aside (in case you missed them), I’m here to tell you that it perfectly acceptable to Google yourself. In fact, if you’re a business with a website and you’re not googling yourself, you’d better learn how to. Fast.

Beyond keeping tabs on what the world-at-large is saying about you, a business has got to know what Google has in its index. Does Google think you’ve got more pages on your site than you really have? Does Google have less pages? Moreover, simply googling yourself might allow you to find something ominous, as was the case with me.

A Google Away From Finding You’ve Been Hacked

I’m sure I’m not the only who’s ever had their site hacked. It happens, even to the best of us. Whether through careless implementation (in my case) or because someone out there is determined to break into your site, hacking happens. For me, it started with Google Webmaster Tools and seeing five pages of my total 26 missing from the index. Curious, I wanted to find out which five, so that I could buff up the content to make it more relevant or kill them off in robots.txt.

Why kill off those pages? If you stop those pages from being spidered and indexed, the theory is that you strengthen your entire domain trust and relevance and increase the juice flowing from the more powerful pages. It’s the same principle as the “nofollow”, just using different means.

A Google Away From Finding You've Been HackedAfter performing a site: command (site:[your-site-here]), I saw that Google was registering over 300 pages it attributed to my site! Obviously, this must be some kind of mistake. Digging around the results, I found that there were TONS of pages created, using bogus URLs (with keywords), on the site, killing my domains trust and relevance. Which, in turn, had slaughtered my site’s placement for some terms I was doing relatively well for.

I just think what might have happened if I’d never googled the site. Who knows how many garbage pages would have been created, who knows what kind of damage might have been done? It could have gone on for months more if I hadn’t taken the two minutes to google myself and investigate it. And the damage might have been irreparable by the time I found it (i.e. a sandboxed site for all of eternity).

A Blessing in Disguise

Of course I was pissed. Of course you want to hunt down the slug that hacked you and serve a little revenge. But after all the hemming and hawing, you’re still left with a site that’s trashed. And, for me, it was a blessing in disguise. It gave me the opportunity to revamp the whole thing. New look, new feel, and, most importantly, a new site architecture. It allowed me the chance to put the site on new platform, eliminate the fluff content that wasn’t getting indexed, and beef-up the content that needed a polishing. And in the end, I think I have a stronger site because of the hacker. A blessing in disguise.

The Mores of the Story

What to take away from this? Google yourself.  Sure, it might be egotistical, but it’s helpful and essential too. If you google yourself and help build a stronger search marketing effort and website, why wouldn’t you? Secondly, disaster always strikes. You won’t fully be able to stop yourself thinking negatively about it (to be honest, I’d question someone’s humanness if they could), but what kind of intestinal fortitude you have to kick that disastrous event in the mouth and triumph over it.

And a special thanks to Matt Siltala for encouraging me to get this one out there.  :-)

22
Jul

7 Links Down Memory Lane

The Milwaukee SEO Memory Lane ArchivesI’ve been doing a lot of heavy SEM lifting lately; a couple of intensive posts on The Firehorse Trail, an SEO Dojo radio interview, publishing a C-Level SEM guidebook, and SEM reporting post. Whew. I’m bit tired just listing them.

So, I thought I’d ease off the throttle a bit this time out, take a play from Lisa Barone and the Outspoken blog, and delve into a creative exercise. Spending much of my academic career analyzing, studying, reading, and writing poetry and fiction, I’m no stranger to word-play and thought-exercises, and have trained myself to spark creativity. But now and then, everyone needs a kick in the ass.

This is that kick. I think this is a really great exercise, in part because most bloggers rarely link back to archive posts. Bloggers rely mainly on in-site search and calendar functionality for people to find those old posts. It’s akin to dumper-diving; you’ll have to dig through miles of crap before you find those valuable items someone was crazy enough to ditch.

Blogs are no different than “corporate” sites. Internal linking structure and great anchor-text is just as much a life-blood to relevance as external linking, and it’s great thing to get in the habit of doing. (There I go again, talking SEO; you can take the SEO off the topic, but you can’t take the topic out of the SEO.) Without further ado, let’s take a walk down memory lane.

  1. Your first post: wasn’t much of anything. I was driving to work, listening to the local public radio station, and heard a very quick piece of news that Google and Microsoft were opening up shop in Madison. I thought, “Wow. I bet only a handful people know about and even heard it.” That’s what started my professional blogging career. NPR. I reached out to Danny Sullivan, asking if there was anything unique, and my first real blogging research was complete. *Google never responded to me. Typical.*
  2. A post you enjoyed writing the most: I love a good rant. Blasting big news corps for trying to leverage top placement in the SERPs just because they are who they are, and blowing off a little steam in the process, was by far my favorite. I still feel the exact same way about that post’s message today as I did then: tough shit, do some SEO.
  3. A post which had a great discussion: RE: Most of SEO Just A Boondoggle? Just Hullabaloo. Admittedly, this blog isn’t set up for tremendous discussion. And, it’s been only within the last six months that I’m actively responding to comments (Right. Community lessons learned the hard way). So this post stands out to me because not only was it a extra hot/heated topic around the community, and still is today, but there were some really thoughtful comments from Halfdeck.
  4. A post on someone else’s blog that you wish you’d written: This was a tough one for me. There are a lot of tremendous industry bloggers that I respect and admire. Each with their own style and panache that make their writing so easy and delightful to relish. But Outspoken’s It’s Not the Recession, You Just Suck is one I wish I wrote. I mean, damn, it was flawless, ballsy, and so honest. It was that post alone that convinced me to read Outspoken any time they posted and turned me into a huge Lisa Barone fan.
  5. A post with a title that you are proud of: I hate headlines. It’s always been the hardest part for me. I can kick the ass off content; write it, polish it, and make it gleam. But you always need a great headline to tie it all together; the lynch pin. I like this one: Deserving to Fail: The Fortune 500. It’s short, sweet, and to the point.
  6. A post that you wish more people had read: Create Your Social Media Attack Strategy. I really like this post, and think it offers a really solid strategy and methodology for cranking up and planning your social marketing strategy. Just fell flat, I guess.
  7. Your most visited post ever: Terminal Wave: The Google Wave Failure I seriously doubt that I will ever top this post. Unless I spontaneously combust and live to tell about it.

So that’s the trip. Let’s see what you can come up with for your trip down memory lane.

16
Jun

Making Your World Flat Again: Much Ado About No Follow

PageRank Sculpting Dead? (Not Exactly)

With all the chatter over the last week and half over “rel=nofollow” and Matt Cutts’ statement about the link attribute, I think it’s time to weigh in on it. There are a few great post that should be considered required reading before reading this post:

Is “nofollow” Worth Using Anymore?

After listening and reading hours of material from everyone and anyone, my consensus is no.  Additionally, I’ve also started to notice that “nofollow” has stopped it LinkJuice drafting ways on numerous sites I work on. Not to mention Matt sounds quite serious about the levying penalties for sites employing nofollow to sculpt and/or restrict content as a means to “manipulate” PageRank. And, remember, you are an “enemy” to engines.

What Matt Cutts Has To Say About Nofollow

Q: Does this mean “PageRank sculpting” (trying to change how PageRank flows within your site using e.g. nofollow) is a bad idea?
A: I wouldn’t recommend it, because it isn’t the most effective way to utilize your PageRank. In general, I would let PageRank flow freely within your site. The notion of “PageRank sculpting” has always been a second- or third-order recommendation for us. I would recommend the first-order things to pay attention to are 1) making great content that will attract links in the first place, and 2) choosing a site architecture that makes your site usable/crawlable for humans and search engines alike.

There may be a minuscule number of pages (such as links to a shopping cart or to a login page) that I might add nofollow on, just because those pages are different for every user and they aren’t that helpful to show up in search engines. But in general, I wouldn’t recommend PageRank sculpting.

Additionally, there’s this nifty NEW tag that Google created a while back called the “rel=canonical”, which should help the majority of sites out there with duplicate content issues.

How To Sculpt Without Nofollow:

Rand posted some good methods for sculpting, which work, but it feels unnecessarily sneaky to me.  A better way is to allow, as Matt Cutts suggests, to allow your PageRank to flow freely.  Interconnectivity (internal site link structure) is a key element here. You want your site to have a “flat architecture”, and even though it may not be.  It’s really a play off the Bruce Clay method of siloing, but ensuring that major sections of the site become visible through an internal linking structure. This allows those pages to, if the practice holds, to share and share-alike the PageRank while only giving minimal amounts to other site areas.

And, yes, removing the nofollows will be a pain in the ass, but it’s one that worth it. And, yes, I really don’t like that Google went back on their word with this attribute. But to put it in perspective: “It’s Google’s World. I just live in it.” And, that’s the fact. I’m an enemy combatant.

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