Natural Search Blog


Google Sitemaps upgrades help webmasters

The Google Sitemaps team just last week announced a number of changes on their blog.

I was really happy and excited that they appear to’ve done a few of the things I suggested in a post on the Google Sitemaps Group.

They did the following things I had suggested:

There were some additonal things they did which are also interesting:

I’m sure other folx must’ve requested some of the same things I’d suggested, and Google’s good at providing useful features, but it’s really gratifying to see some of the changes I’d wanted showing up now!

Stay tuned for a follow-up posting from me about some of these changes. Some of these new features actually provide some great intel on parameters/methods that Google uses to rank pages.

If you can’t do good design or good SEO… use witchcraft!

I just read this story on CNN today about how some firms offer to optimize your website through applying principles of vaastu shastra and feng shui to increase usage.

Interesting idea: If you can’t do good engineering for usability, good graphic design, and good SEO to bring traffic to your site, use witchcraft!

The Long Tail and prioritizing your time on design and SEO

I am a big fan of the Long Tail, the term coined by Chris Anderson, Executive Editor of Wired Magazine to refer to what happens in economics when the bottlenecks that stand between supply and demand in our culture start to disappear and everything becomes available to everyone.

In this article I found it quite interesting that UIE applied the concept of the Long Tail to prioritizing where you spend the bulk of your time on design and usability. Sure, there are a few pages that get a large chunk of traffic, such as the home page, but that doesn’t mean that that is where you should spend most of your design time. Instead look at the buckets of pages that add up to a large chunk of your traffic. For example, if all of the articles on your site add up to a large amount of your traffic, then you should spend a reasonable amount of your time in your redesign focusing on the articles template.

I think this same argument applies to search engine optimization (SEO) as well as to design. If your product pages account for 50% of your traffic, half of your SEO time should be spent on the product pages (rather than your articles, FAQs, etc.).

Spend your time on the tail!

.MOBI Top Level Domain Names Have Misguided Rules

Well the “Sunrise Registration” period for the new .MOBI top level domain names just started up about a week ago, and I have to say that the rules that have been imposed with .MOBI are irritating. The company that serves as the registry for it, “mobile Top Level Domain Ltd” (“mTLD”), has required that anyone who is delivering up content on a .MOBI TLD must deliver up at least the root level page in XHTML-MP format.

According to their mandatory registrant rules, you could just own the .MOBI domain for your site and not publish a site on it — just sit on it, to keep others from hosting stuff on your trademarked name. Once you publish content on the .MOBI domain, at least the root response must be in XHTML-MP flavor, and they will police these domains to insure compliance. Sites not in compliance will be warned, and if they aren’t fixed, their zone file entries will be deleted until the sites are corrected!

Now, I understand that they idealistically want to make the internet world a better place, and they’re seeking to insure consistency by imposing this standard. However, I think they’re misguided and this is a pretty bad business decision. I don’t see anything wrong in having generally thematic rules associated with TLDs, like using .EDU only for educational institutions and .MIL only for military sites. My beef is with having a registry now take on additional powers of setting a required protocol for the content on the site, policing it and checking for validity, and unplugging sites that don’t comply. (more…)

Zawodny’s Cool Diet Tips

I noticed with interest that Jeremy Zawodny of Yahoo! fame has been posting some of his personal dieting tips on his blog. These are really pretty good tips, IMHO, for all of us in the IT industries who work desk jobs and are constantly fighting the “Battle of the Bulge”, as they say.

I find it interesting that I have generally been following most of these guidelines by coincidence, though I’m not nearly so disciplined (nor anal-retentive) enough to be tracking my weight in spreadsheets and such. I don’t even own a scale!

Even if I don’t track measurements, I’ve never fully devolved into lazy habits, and I’ve kept up with moderate exercise and such since high school. Just a couple of weeks ago, my sister and I participated in a charity 5K run for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure near here in Plano, and I’m fairly pleased to’ve clocked in at a respectable 31 minutes.

Jeremy’s dieting tips seem really pretty good to me — I highly recommend them.

Photo Image Site Referrals Valuable

In an earlier posting on image search optimization, I mentioned how image search utilities and photo album sites could potentially be tapped for great referral traffic. Some people have ridiculed the idea, on the false assumption that only porn sites can get good referral traffic from such sites. However, this is really naive thinking — there are many, many reasons why people use and explore such sites. Providing many images related to your site content and optimizing them can result in some really great referral traffic — some accidental, and some purposeful. It can take some experimentation to use it successfully in a way that can convert.

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How major companies choose SEOs

While we have our own in-house SEO team (and I immodestly consider myself something of an expert in SEO), I do periodically hire an SEO company for various special consulting projects to augment our internal expertise. We hire for stuff like auditing of our optimization work, advice on special problems, strategic planning, and etc. While I’m expert in this area, it’s incestuous and full of hubris not to get some external input.

So, how do we select SEO firms from out of the pack? The internet is crawling with firms and individuals who perform all sorts of SEO work. On the business side, there’ve been times when various firms have seemed to be virtually beating down the door with proposals to “help” us. And at SES conferences, there’s times when it seems like all our Marketing and Sales people attending are perceived as chum thrown into the roiling waters of sharks. Fortunately they look for those of us in the technology department to vet such proposals.

I thought it might be of interest to note down a handful of general guidelines for many of you other SEO professionals out there who are interested in doing work for Fortune 100 firms such as ours.

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