Natural Search Blog


6 Ways to Optimize Your Site for the iPad

The iPad is no Apple Newton. It truly is a revolutionary device. The whimsical blog of “Fake Steve Jobs” calls the iPad a “life-changing, mind-altering product”. Although that may be an overstatement, the iPad is certainly important — to the computing industry, to computer users, and to online marketers.

The launch of the iPad marks a significant step forward for mobile computing, and for computing in general: one’s productivity can finally be as high as when they are in front of their laptop or desktop computer.
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Overall, it looks like this launch is going to be a success and the iPad, like the iPod, iPhone, and the iMac before it, will gain significant distribution among consumers globally. And, since it includes a browser with a different set of specifications from either the standard mobile devices, the question for advertisers becomes a practical one – “will my web pages come up on this browser?”

With the iPad’s Safari browser, the Web generally looks and works like one would expect on any traditional laptop or desktop computer. However, there are important differences in the browsing experience and these differences could thwart your web visitors, stopping them in their tracks. As a site owner, you must compensate for these differences, or risk losing the conversion, and more importantly, the customer.

In this post, I will briefly touch on 6 ways to optimize your site for the iPad. You can read the full article published on Search Engine Journal here.

“Mobile-Friendly” Does Not Equal “iPad-Friendly”

If you created a mobile-friendly version of your website, you are probably seeing the fruits of your labor in customer adoption already. That mobile site, however, is not suitable for iPad user consumption. Mobile sites are designed for a teeny-tiny screen and translate to a deficient user experience on the iPad. Consequently, your mobile site should never be served up automatically to the iPad user. This can happen inadvertently when your web server’s “user-agent detection” is overly broad in its matching of mobile user agents (the user-agent strings for the iPhone and iPad are very similar; the iPad’s even includes the word “mobile”).

Layout and Formatting

Your website design should lay out correctly whether the user is holding the iPad in landscape mode or portrait mode. Furthermore, when in landscape mode the primary call-to-action should still be visible without scrolling.

Retool Your Navigation

The multi-touch display provides an elegant and intuitive interface for users, but it also presents some unique challenges to web designers who are use to designing for the desktop. The biggest one is that iPad users cannot hover their cursor, potentially rendering any mouse-over navigation unusable. On the iPad, holding your finger down invokes the copy-and-paste function rather than creating a hover state.

Lack of Flash Support

This is one of the main complaints with the iPad. No, this was not an oversight. The lack of Flash support was intentional. The company line at Apple is that Flash is prone to crash and is too resource-intensive. Just ask the helpful employees at the local Apple Store and that is what they will tell you. I do not buy it. If Flash really were that unstable, wouldn’t we notice it on our desktop machines? Speaking for myself, this is not something I experience regularly. Google’s Chrome browser, which I now use as my default, even calls it out when Flash crashes and displays an unhappy icon in the place of the Flash animation. Note that in Chrome, Flash does not crash the browser or even the tab/window. Surely Apple can follow Google’s lead and build this same capability into Safari? I feel this is more a political/competitive issue than anything else.

Expect Glitches

It’s still early days for the iPad. This is version 1, with many more revisions to come. There are still many kinks to be ironed out, including in the iPad Safari browser rendering engine. So do not be too surprised if Safari for the iPad mangles your website with browser rendering bugs and inconsistencies. For example, notice in the figure below that the “New Account?” checkbox partially overlaps the input field, the combination of the two resembling a pull-down list. User confusion could result: if the user doesn’t recognize the checkbox, then they are liable to mistakenly expect the “New Account?” label to be a clickable link and find themselves unable to proceed to checkout.

A Simple Solution

If implementing an iPad-optimized version of your website quickly is not feasible or would be a struggle, there are a number of vendors that provide real-time site translations – one such solution is our own Mobile Site Optimizer. These solutions can be implemented quickly, cost-effectively, and with minimal IT involvement. Read more here.

Reach Local Scam Artists & Thwack ‘Em!

Have you ever been taken advantage of by a business, and wanted to get your due justice?  In most cases we may encounter generally bad service or unacceptable products from small businesses. But, in the worst cases, we actually get victimized by our friendly, local scam artists. It’s not just a matter of unsatisfactory service, but they willfully intended to dupe or cheat your or treat you badly!

Reach Local ScamWith merely a bad service or product, we might push for a discount or refund, and write some negative reviews about a company at various ratings sites like Yelp. But, when it’s an actual scam artist, it becomes a question of how to reach them in the first place, and then how to do anything that they’d even feel.

In the local search marketing world, many of us have noticed a spate of bad actors who are setting up fraudulent business listings (perhaps even operating under bogus names), and once they’ve lured people into doing business with them, they abscond with fees in return for shoddy service or no service/product whatsoever. So, there are some basic issues around how they are operating with impunity, promoting themselves online (sometimes out-ranking bona fide established local businesses), and then taking consumers’ money with zero accountability.

So, here are some tips we’ve made to help you REACH LOCAL SCAM ARTISTS and even thwack ‘em!  You may not be able to get your lost time and money back, but you may get a little justice or you might be able to declaw these bad guys just a bit so they can’t prey on other consumers as easily.

Tips To Reach Local Scam Artists & Thwack ‘Em: (more…)

Top In-House SEOs – Where Are They Now?

There’s been a lot of buzz lately criticizing TopSEOs, a business which purports to rate Search Engine Optimization experts, though ratings are influenced by payments. Both Aaron Wall and Edward Lewis skewered the service with pretty convincing points.

The rating service and talk about it reminded me that I actually did a sort of rating via a blog post here back in 2007 entitled “Some Top In-House SEOs“. In that post I sought to list out the cream-of-the-crop of search engine optimization experts working within major companies.

Top SEOs - On Top Of The Heap

The main difficulty of attempting to rate SEOs is that it’s quite hard to know precisely what they’ve recommended or done to optimize a company’s websites. For instance, you could be an absolute genius at SEO, but if the company is lethargic or incompetent programmers oversee their sites, none of the SEO expert’s talent might be reflected in the actual site. That’s an extreme example, and in most cases some degree of the expert’s recommendations will be properly implemented. But the point is that site configuration may not really be used to reflect an expert’s actual ability, particularly if compared with other colleagues.

Back when I wrote “Some Top In-House SEOs”, I wasn’t really prepared for the large amount of attention it received. I was immediately pressured by a lot of people who wanted to be added to the list, but didn’t meet the criteria I was using. Quite a few people asked me to update the list over time as well, and I quickly saw that it would be necessary if this was done ongoing to be open about the rating criteria I was using — else people would question why so-and-so was listed while so-and-so was not.

The criteria I used back then was very basic. I wanted to list only people who were employees of top companies that performed organic search optimization of one sort or another for those company’s websites. I wanted companies which were readily-identifiable by a majority of people in the U.S., so they had to be MAJOR brand names: top-50 websites, Fortune 500 companies, and Internet Retailer 500 companies. Finally, I had to be able to find/identify the SEOs who worked for those companies, which usually meant that they’d have to self-disclose what they did (many SEOs operated somewhat anonymously behind corporate walls). So, the SEO needed to blog or speak at conferences, and disclose who they worked for. In one or two cases, I discovered individual’s names through news interviews or press releases. I also mined the list of top-linked SEOs from LinkedIn (apparently no longer in operation? formerly: http://www.linkedseo.com/).

I made a number of mistakes, of course. I didn’t feel I had time to write to and receive confirmation from each person. In some cases I just “outed” people from behind the corporate curtain for the first time!

For the most part, people loved the attention and recognition! I felt a bit stressed from those who clamored to get in, and I pretty much stated that I wouldn’t add any until I updated a year down the road. In quite a lot of cases, I think that headhunters mined the list in order to lure people away to other companies, so many benefited from the exposure.

Here it is, about three years after the fact, and I thought it’d be interesting to see where are they all now? So, here’s the list once again, with individual’s former companies listed from back then, and who they work for now. Nothing scientific – I merely base this on what their LinkedIn resume or website states. It’s been neat for me to revisit this list! So many of these folks became friends and close acquaintances since I wrote this up! It’s also fascinating to see how many of them have moved on to advanced titles and to owning their own companies. (more…)

New Personal Blog Launched – Nodal Bits

Enhancement Graphic - NodalBitsFor those of you who are long-term readers of mine, you may be interested to know that I’ve now launched a new personal blog, Nodal Bits.

In its inaugural post, I describe how I first came to do blogging here at Natural Search Blog at the invite of Stephan Spencer, and how I believe blogging is likely more important than a resume in this day and age – at least, it is for a great many industries.

Will I continue to blog here at Natural Search Blog? Well, I intend to do so. I further intent to step up my pace again in posts everywhere I publish.

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Exciting News — Netconcepts Acquired by Covario

Happy New Year Natural Search Geeks!

As some of you know, for the past five years I’ve worked with Stephan Spencer building up the Netconcepts‘ search marketing and SEO technology business. Today it gives me great pleasure to announce a very special event: Netconcepts is merging, through acquisition, with the leading search marketing software company Covario!

As part of Covario, I’m very excited for our people and our clients to be part of what is the leading search marketing software and services organization. Together, we have nearly 100 combined clients in key industries, including high-tech, ecommerce, consumer electronics, financial services, media and consumer packages goods, with many Fortune 500 brands.

Our combined SEO technologies, which include Organic Search Insight and GravityStream, promise advertisers the first end-to-end industry solution that spans the entire search optimization process: keyword research, recommendations, execution, and ongoing reporting. GravityStream is a pioneering technology for automating the execution piece. And now even more is possible.

Analysts expect marketers to increase their SEO spend by 100% over the next 5 years, to $5.0 billion by 2014. By leveraging our leading technologies and world-class SEO expertise, we will continue to improve performance and ROI for leading brands across organic and paid search, on a global scale.

(And on balmy, single-digit temperature days like today in Madison, I’m also excited to spend a bit more time out at the new San Diego headquarters)

As the world of search continues to evolve, these are exciting times indeed!

Brian Klais
Chief Operating Officer
Netconcepts

Good Practices SEO With A Tinge Of Creativity

Search engine marketing is increasingly becoming popular with people from all walks of life and businesses of all hues adopting the web in a big way. The global recesssion has clearly thrust SEM into the spotlight as a great way to drive targeted traffic that is measurable and also making a huge difference to the bottomline of any company, the $ generated in revenue.

Search engine optimisation(SEO) and Pay per click (PPC) marketing are being accorded increasing importance as affordable means of tapping the market potential by reaching a targeted audience on the web compared to the traditional TV and/or newsprint advertising which are more expensive and the results are hard to measure. It is all the more imperative that SEO practitioners adopt more white hat creative methods to improve the visibility of their clients’ sites.

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Blindfolded SEO Audit Part 1

SEO consultants spend a lot of time looking at websites. Moreover, like web designers, SEOs definitely “see” websites very differently than the average web user. Some days, it feels a little like the Matrix, where instead of seeing the streaming code, you see the people, cars and buildings that the code signifies. After doing web design, this is heightened even more, although perhaps inverted … instead of seeing shoes, cookware, and dog collars, I see title tags, heading tags, URL constructs and CSS.

Like any skill though, it takes continual honing and refining, along with the education. This is part of the concept behind the 60-Second Website Audit and training the eye to quickly identify key SEO issues and potential issues.

I’ve joked that, after so many audits, SEO consultants could probably do them blindfolded. So, whip out the blindfold and let’s put that to a test.

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WSJ Comments On Idearc Bankruptcy & Verizon Culpability

Verizon & Involvement in Fairpoint Communications & Idearc Bankruptcy FilingsA few days ago, the Wall Street Journal’s Dennis Berman commented in his column entitled “The Two Sides of Verizon’s Deal Making” on whether Verizon might have some responsibility for the bankruptcies of Idearc, Hawaiian Telecom and FairPoint Communications. As you may recall, I posted an op-ed piece on the subject, Idearc’s Bankruptcy – Who’s Really Responsible? at Search Engine Land not long back, and now Berman’s take on the issue appears to hold a lot of sympathy for my position that Verizon caused the yellow pages company to fail shortly after it was spun off by requiring it to do so with an unreasonably high debt load.

Berman states that while the market in 2006 may’ve allowed Verizon to take billions in the deal divesting itself of its directories corporation, Idearc, he further states:

“It took too much.”

Will there be any consequences for Verizon’s throwing off these companies with unserviceably high debt loads? Burman reports:

“These things matter greatly to how state and federal regulators perceive the company. Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Hawaii each are in an uproar over the FairPoint divestiture, with much of the ire directed at Verizon.”

In a brief video piece, David Berman debates the issue with Evan Newmark, who takes the opposite viewpoint that Verizon should not be held responsible for the performance of its divested companies. (more…)

Do Users Trust Organic Or Paid Results More On Search Engines?

It is a known fact that Pay Per Click (PPC) model of advertising has contributed the most revenue to the Google coffers in the past few years. The fact that paid search contributes to only 12% of the total search traffic is fascinating with a bevy of tools flooding the market all promising to deliver the ultimate solution in paid search marketing.

Organic search is still the biggest driver of search traffic at a whopping 88%. Unlike paid search where results are measurable accurately and instantly, the organic SEO process is a long term strategy with measurable results becoming clearer over time. Yet, the big question in every online marketer’s mind is – Which results do users trust more on search engines – the organic or paid results?

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Is Verizon Responsible for Idearc’s Bankruptcy?

Idearc's Bankruptcy Caused by Verizon?My op-ed piece, “Idearc’s Chapter 11 Bankruptcy: Who’s Really Responsible?” published today on Search Engine Land, and in it I put forth my position that Verizon is responsible for spinning off the company with an unreasonably huge debt load, and the people ultimately paying the bill are the stockholders.

I describe in the article how Verizon spun off Idearc Media (division which publishes print phone books and operates Superpages.com among other online yellow pages), and set that company up to pay back some billions of dollars for its worth. Verizon then turned around and resold those debt instruments to other companies, fully divesting itself of ownership in the new, standalone company.

This sequence in of itself isn’t remarkable – it’s the normal process a company might go through when spinning-off part of itself to form a new company.

But, my contention is that it was done so in a highly irresponsible manner. Verizon had to know beforehand that print directory business was going into shrinkage mode, and that the debt repayment structure would simply be too much for the new company to be reasonably expected to be able to handle. If so, then this could be expected to be a form of fraudulent conveyance, and Verizon could be culpable.

Is my contention outrageous?

Well, even Idearc’s Chief Executive, Scott Klein, has been paraphrased by the Wall Street Journal as saying “Everyone was aware that ‘$9 billion was really more debt than this business could bear’”. So, Idearc was spun off with a majority of this debt from Verizon from the start – clearly set up to fail.

So far, I’ve seen maybe three different law firms filing class-action lawsuits against Idearc and its executives, based on the premise that the stock tanked due to them secretly changing policies, resulting in inflated-looking sales on the books for businesses with higher likelihoods of not paying for contracted advertising. But, I think the real culprit in all this is likely Verizon – they pushed off a part of the company with an untenable debt load, in large part to pay off debts incurred by Verizon FiOS (Verizon’s fiber optic network) expansion.

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