Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Mozilla and Yahoo Partner on APAC Firefox 1.5

I'm unashamed to pronounce Firefox as a superior browser, and with over 100 million downloads and market share now over 10%, it seems many are in agreement. As Firefox grows, it's been fascinating to watch the alliances and maneuvers of Mozilla. Yesterday, the final version of Firefox 1.5 launched, and with it another strong alliance. Yahoo has partnered with Mozilla to distribute Firefox 1.5 in China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

I believe its fair to say that Internet Explorer has a strong hold on the browser market in those countries. Our own analytics show over 12% of visitors to zunch.com use the Firefox browser, but only 4% of our zunch.cn visitors. Can Yahoo! and Alibaba make waves in the Asian browser market? My guess is yes. As the number two search provider in blosoming China, they seem to have quite the opportunity before them.

I'll follow up in a couple of months to see if our browser stats change significantly...

Monday, November 28, 2005

Google Adding More Ad Inventory to Search Pages

Google had added two new PPC ad spots to beneath the search results, just like in the Yahoo! search results.

I believe Google tried this a few years ago, one can only guess as to why the did away with it originally.

It seems this would satisfy two goals for them:

1. Increase ad inventory to further increase ad revenues. There are only so many ads Google can run on a page, this may be the last of this type of change. Google is going to have to get more creative. Maybe they could have spots that rotate, just like in big city road billboards?

2. In the short term, this will allow some advertisers to appear on page one of results for a lower cost per click. It's doubtful this benefit will last long, especially in the uber competitve industries.

As always make sure you do a fair amount of A/B testing and make sure to test ad placements as well.

Zunch Sponsors Search Engine Optimization Show

This time next week we will be in the "windy city" for SES Chicago 2005 ~ December 5th - December 8th.

Always a great time and a great event! Work hard in the day time and play hard in the evening. I had the opportunity to attend last years event and was surprised at how far the conference has come along. Last SES I attended, prior to joing Zunch, was SES Dallas back in 2001.

Feel free to stop by our booth (305) and visit with John Sanchez and other Zunchers!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Google - Afraid of the Redmond Waking Giant?

First Google's Sitemap Service allows users to view any site's captured information:

  • Crawling errors
  • Sitemap errors
  • Top search queries
  • Top search query clicks
  • and much more...

Then Google Analytics has to shut down because...well...alot of people wanted to use a free semi-robust analytics tool...plus it had the Google logo on it.

Then today I read that by wanting to simply try Google Analytics that you 'sign-off' on quite a bit:

....Further, Unless You notify Google otherwise in writing, Google and its wholly owned subsidiaries retain the right to identify You as a valued customer and optionally issue a press release that, at a minimum, discloses You have licensed the Product and that the Product is Your preferred web analytics package.

Is this a change of 'do no evil' anti big corporation mentality? Is Google more about getting out the products rather than then products themselves? Does Google fear Microsoft's ambitious goals and their own 'smart think tank'?

Google seems to be trying to downplay Microsoft with witty little one-liners. The Google fan boys may get a giggle out of it but us seasoned folks know that cracking jokes at the competition is a sign of concern.

Friday, November 18, 2005

AD:Tech 05 Wrap Up

AD:Tech 05 in Shanghai ended on November 17th. Terrence Ou, Zunch APAC Directory of Business Development, has informed us back at the "mother ship" that the conference went very well and that Chinese businesses are in need of Zunch's interactive search marketing solutions...

With all kinds of applause, respect and glory, AD:TECH marks Zunch's being recognized as the technology guru in China. Chinese major Internet players are desperate to team with Zunch to offer search marketing solutions in this huge market. Certainly, individual clients are also seeking SEO solutions for their web marketing. more

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Matt Cutts PubCon Points

Here are just a few points taken from Barry's excellent coverage of PubCon:

  • "SEO is not spam, its only when you go against guidelines, when it is spam."

  • Redirects: "We are working towards a framework where we are indexing the destination."

  • "some things in the algorithm that may be perceived as a sandbox..."

  • "Splogs are bad."

  • "Google does not have the ability to hand boost any site, or hand boost any pagerank."

  • "Matt uses ancient versions of Netscape..."

  • "...positioning text at top or bottom, is over rated."

  • "Best links are earned, not sold or traded."

Monday, November 14, 2005

Is Your eCommerce Platform Bad for Your SEO?

Moving to a new eCommerce platform can come with many hidden SEO issues which can seriously jeopardize your search engine optimization efforts. You need to ask the right questions to determine if a particular platform can support your SEO program.

  1. Are the URLs static, simple dynamic or complex dynamic URLs?
    • Static URLs (http://www.site.com/page.aspx) are the optimal choice as there shouldn’t be any issue with the URL being crawled as there are no long variables or session id’s for the search engines to choke on.

    • Simple dynamic URLs (http://www.site.com/page.aspx?category=487) have one variable. While search engines have shown that they have the capabilities to crawl and index these URLs, care needs to be taken in assigning the variable names. For example, Google has specified that they have a direct issue with variables named “id”.

    • Complex dynamic URLs (http://www.site.com/page.aspx?category=487&id=7821564565&xtr=jhy76) have multiple variables and will most likely not be crawled, cached or properly indexed.

  2. Does the platform use cloaking or a “search appliance”?
    Great care needs to be taken when going this route. Either solution serves the search engines one thing and a user something else, although it may be only slightly different. It would be best to contact the engines directly and get written approval of the use of such technologies. Typically I have only heard of larger corporations having this type of access; however these solutions present a degree of risk that some may find unacceptable.

    These solutions are typically used to solve the problem of the complex dynamic URLs that these platforms usually use. As an alternative suggestion, a URL rewrite module/application would eliminate the risk involved with the other technologies and accomplish the same thing – the use of static URLs.

  3. Does the platform have a “built-in” SEO feature?
    Often times a “built-in” feature means that the title tag and meta data are created from the content of each individual page, or worse, one title tag and set of meta data is used for all pages within a category. The problem is for proper optimization you need to order your keywords and text in your title tag a specific way and in a specific order. In addition, more than likely you will need a custom meta description tag that is a couple of sentences to summarize the page. You probably will find that there are many pages where you don’t want the meta description pulled from the page’s body of content.

  4. How are redirects and 404 “Page Not Found” errors handled?
    Keeping a clean house can become an overwhelming task with an ever evolving online store. Promotions, as well as products, routinely come and go. How does the platform support these changes? Some examples of bad house cleaning are:
    • 302 redirects that leave old pages indexed in the search engines and don’t pass on their “credit” (back links, etc.) to newer pages

    • A typical black and white default 404 page that is a dead end to users with nowhere to go

    • Old pages, that instead of redirecting properly, simply shows the new pages content (or a default page’s content) under the old page’s URL.
  5. Are DHTML drop down menus hiding navigational links?
    Depending on how drop down navigational menus are coded, it’s possible to completely hide navigational links from search engines as most DHTML drop down menus are generated with JavaScript. Since search engines cannot execute JavaScript, HREF links that are embedded in JavaScript (no physical HREF tag exists with the URLs) are not displayed to the search engine bot.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Terrence Ou in Shanghai

Our friend and Zunch APAC director of business development, Terrence Ou, has arrived safe-and-sound in Shanghai and has been very busy since his arrival. Visit Terrence's blog - a Zuncher in China - to keep up with Mr. Ou.

SEMPO Survey

For all of you SEOs/SEMs...it's SEMPO survery time again


Friday, November 11, 2005

Design & SEO... a match made in Heaven....or is it?

I often find myself browsing showcase sites for Webdesign and one of the many things i've noticed is that there is an amazing amount of talented designers/developers out there making some incredible looking sites. However, every now and then i run across a design that looks great, meets compliance, has light code, but absolutely zero usability.

My point is that Design doesn't just have to look good, it has to be functional. SEO isn't just about keywords, content and links - it's about keeping customers on a site and making it easy for them to get to what they want. I've outlined a few key do's and dont's below:

  • Use a sitestructure that reduces the amount of clicks a user has to make to get to where they want to go (i.e. products in an e-commerce site)

  • Using too much content can deter potential customers from the site, content is good for SEO, but does anyone actually take the time to read the lot?

  • Use a logical layout that draws the users eyes to the most relevant items

  • NEVER use any sort of hidden Navigation or navigation that users can't figure out

  • Avoid using pop-up windows, unless absolutely necessary (such as for viewing a magnified image of a certain product)

  • Use colors that provide good contrast between content and background, especially for product descriptions, details and navigation

  • Avoid using Graphics for Navigation Text, it's a nightmare to update and adds no value

  • Use clean code (preferrably semantic markup - more on that later)

  • Use includes files for all sorts of fancy DHTML or Javascript (such as dropdown menus and the like)

A lot of you are going to say "Duh!", but trust me, there are still a lot of SEO companies, Designers and Developers out there who don't seem to put any importance on the above

The only way to design something completely foolproof is to never underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools

-Douglas Adams

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Attack of the Blogs?

Last week I attended The Blogging Enterprise conference down in Austin where I gained a little insight into the blogging world as it stands today.

To start- the obvious. John Moore of Brand Autopsy said “with blogs, small can look big and big can get small.” Blogging scares some, mainly us public relations folks, with its potential to spread news or rumors in a matter of seconds leaving us little time to prepare and react. But for many marketers, blogging is a great new outlet with potentially transforming effects.

The “attack of the blogs,” as Forbes recently referred to it, has begun to be beaten to death by the media. As we weigh the pros and cons of this relatively new online “conversation,” the reality is we just don’t know yet what drastic changes blogging can bring to the marketing world. At least, we don’t know which ones will stick.

What we do know is that, according to PRWeek, over 32 million people are reading blogs daily and some 20 million-plus blogs are in existence. As marketers we like to plan ahead with projections and research, but some things just take time. So what’s our plan as marketers or advertisers to really tackle blogging?

Matt Mullenwegg, the founding developer of WordPress, said “blogging is a trick by all the technologists in the world to stop your web pages from sucking.” There’s no question that blogs help with search results, with the new content attracting new visitors as opposed to a run-of-the-mill static site.

We all know that there are some bad blogs out there. Some that are just too painfully bad to ever revisit. As blogging begins to leave its infancy, we are seeing that the blogs finding success in both building buzz and advertising revenues share some common qualities. So what makes a blog a success?

  1. Give people a reason to read your blog.
    - Just because you find something interesting doesn’t necessarily mean others will. Keep readers engaged by not simply repeating the same-old-same-old, but by putting yourself out there with some original thought.
  1. Identify communities of interest.
    - Know who your audience is, or at least who you want it to be.
  1. Engage with other bloggers.
    - Read what other bloggers are saying about you or your industry and post about it. Don’t think of other bloggers as competitors- think of them as colleagues.
  1. Link and get others to link back to you.
    - That doesn’t mean you should have link after link as your primary source of content, just use common sense and link to relevant information.
  1. Keep it simple.
    - Find a direction and a tone, and then stick to it
  1. Post frequently.
    - What’s worse than finding a blog you love and checking it daily only to find the newest content is a week old? Eventually, people will stop checking back, so make sure to keep it fresh.
  1. Encourage feedback.
    - Start a conversation- it’s beneficial to both you and your readers.

Speaking of feedback… let me know what you think. What changes do you see that blogs will bring to the marketing and advertising worlds, specifically search-related?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Underlying Reasons

InternetRetailer shows us some interesting statistics for why people use one engine over another. Not surprisingly, a majority of AOL, Yahoo and MSN searchers use the service because its convenient; they are already there doing other things. What is surprising, however, is the fact that 24% of MSN searchers don't know why they use MSN! Hmm...

The chart also reinforces the idea that it really doesn't matter who has the most relevant results. As I've said before, search is all about convenience. The moment you start searching the goal is to STOP SEARCHING. This is why Google was busy building GMail and Google Local when webmasters across the world were crying "just focus on your results and perfect your algorithm...blah blah blah."

Another interesting note of interest will be the release of IE7. The integrated search bar will make it easier and more convenient than ever to choose an engine and get searching. We'll see how different this chart looks next November.

Monday, November 07, 2005

The More Things Change the More They Stay The Same

Google's most recent update is still being rolled out. Yahoo! updated their algo less than a month ago and MSN just a little before that.

What drastic changes have we needed to make to stay on top? None.

Besides a few tweaks here and there, our recipe for good rankings is basically the same:

  • A domain with some age on it.
  • The right keywords on the the right page in the right priority.
  • Fresh content that supports targeted keywords.
  • Eliminating technological hurdles to proper search inclusion (complex dynamic URLs, links embedded in JavaScript or Flash, canonical issues, etc.)
  • Proper internal link architecture.
  • Relative links to the site's pages (plural) that gradually increase with time.

There is still no silver bullet. At the core of our SEO program is years of experience in best practices, ongoing research & analysis & testing and a tried and tested methodical approach to naturally and correctly obtaining the best possible rankings.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Zunch Rated Top SEO Agency in topseos.com...AGAIN

topseos.com Announces Top 30 SEO Firms for November 2005 - AGAIN! (3-months in a row)

We are consistently the Most Requested Consultants Profiles on SEOconsultants as well!

A big CONGRATULATIONS goes out to each and every Zuncher! This is a true testament to our hard-work and dedication to our clients and the services that we offer.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Microsoft launches live.com beta

In what appears to be a new web portal, www.live.com appeared today. Although far from a finished product, Live is already featuring some improvements of start.com. For one, the Live search interface is much cleaner and natural feeling than the hovering layer used on start.com. Two, I can see my hotmail with Live, right next to my RRS feeds, stocks and weather. Very nice, Bill! My one complaint so far is the light blue color that is used on the SERP page for the links. They don't seem to provide enough contrast to make the links pop out.

More to come on this exciting development...


AD:TECH 05 - Shanghai - November 15-17, 2005 - Shanghai International Convention Center, PRC

Be sure to stop by booth E12 and visit with Zunch Communications'
APAC Business Director Terrence Ou. Terrence will also be speaking on Tuesday November 15th about SEO methodology and will be giving a site clinic on Wednesday November 16th.