Sunday, December 31, 2006

Blog Comments 2.0

Google have provided a brief but handy write up of a year in Google blogging and the blog's parting words which caught my interest.

And before long, perhaps you can begin leaving comments directly. We're working on that.
Oooh! As someone who works with international companies on their SEM campaigns I often find myself in discussions on the pros and cons of comments. More and more companies receptive to the notion of blogging. It's still new but now no longer a fad. Increasingly consumers are expecting to be able to communicate, or at least hear, from companies in a friendly "real language" and not in the less friendly "PR language" or second hand from old media. More companies seem to recognise this and wish to provide a blog. Oh, sure, this is not entirely altruistic as these companies also have an eye on the PR wisdom of a friendly blog. There's also the role of the blog in the SEO strategy. When was the last time you saw an official PR release on Digg's home page?

But there's a catch. Comments. If you let users comment then... gasp... they might say something negative. They may even say something illegal and here in the UK that then becomes the problem of the company providing (or even hosting) the blog. You can moderate comments but that requires effort. What's the ROI benefit from blog comment moderation? How much would you pay someone to moderate comments on a corporate blog?

I often point to Google blog as the easy solution. Simply put, Google has a friendly blog but it does not allow comments. I don't think the blog suffers at all from this. I go there for my official Google news. I feel that I'm closer to Google because I have access to the blog.

I'm sure Google considered letting people comment on the blog but that really would open the flood gates. Can you imagine how many inane comments they would get? The blog spam alone would be intense (Google's blog would make one hell of a honey pot!). The "to reply or not to reply" debate would be worthy of a Shakespearean drama.

Google are considering allowing comments in 2007? Well! Google are just considering it. It would be quite understandable if they conclude; "Nah! That's a crazy idea!"

... but what if Google are working on clever automated and scalable solution? Hmm. Nice. Give Google a problem and they'll naturally gravitate towards a clever automated and scalable solution.

Back in April I waffled on about captchas and cash and came up with a half-baked deposit idea. Simply put, you pay a deposit whenever you comment. If your comment is important enough to you then it should be no problem to deposit 1p until the blogger approved the comment. In a year you might end up loosing, oh, maybe 25p? A blog spammer could deposit thousands of pounds and would stop being a blog spammer. What's the ROI for moderating comments? The blog would have a revenue stream of its own (and, I admit, a new public relations hurdle to overcome).

That's one solution. I very much doubt that this is anything like Google's solution for blog comments in 2007.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Live Search

I'm glad I found time to brush up this blog. I mentioned Bill Slawski by name on my last post and I suspect a Google Blog Alert (which are awfully quick these days) tipped him off. In just a few minutes I had Bill and Danny leaving comments on ARHG. Kudos to Bill to updating his SearchEngineLand post and for his further post on interesting Google patents. Boo hiss to the US Patent Office as I still can't buy the damn things.

Since I found time to update this blog I thought I'd try and pull Search Commands* back into life to. What better starting place than changing the old MSN profile to a new Live Search profile. No where else! So that's what I did. I found time to add in the exclusive LinkFromDomain command and discovered that it's a bit flaky. It had no results for many well known domains. This week Live Search's IP command was also poorly.

Live Search's has also begun to tempt me into setting them as my default search engine is new, though.

SearchEngineLand and the US Patent Office

I often growl at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It's just silly. Today I'm growling at them because their shopping basket is broken. I'm trying to buy Google's Mobile Search Patent and I can't. Grr.

It was SearchEngineLand's SearchCap which tipped me off to this. The email took me to the site and a post by Bill Slawski. It was a succient post which is good in ways. It linked straight through to Microsoft's patent application. It did not link through to Google's Patent Application. To get to that I had to click through to SEO by the Sea which is Bill Slawski's blog. I'm sure it is a very good blog. It's not a blog I happen to read. My SearchEngineLand experience would have been better had the original post linked me to Google's patent application.

I'm sure SearchEngineLand's writers write for free. Kudos to them for that. One of the carrots they get in return is a much a higher profile. Every post Bill writes on SearchEngineLand links back to his profile at SEO by the Sea anyway. If I was Danny (and after a check of my bank balance, I can confirm that I'm not) I would strongly encourage every writer to produce fully inclusive posts. Even if the writer's intent was not to use SearchEngineLand to drive traffic to their blog they shouldn't ever be in the position where people can debate whether that is happening.

Bill's done the very same thing on another Google Patent post - How Google Sitelinks May Work, From Patent Application. Some links to the US Patent Office and a nudge towards SEO by the Sea. Once again, though, thanks to Bill for the Patent heads up.

SearchEngineLand is in Google News too. I'm sure the weight of requests to Google News to include SearchEngineLand justifies this without further inspection. Further more (again from patent applications) we know that Google News is interested in the quality and quantity of the writing team and SearchEngineLand has some trusted and respected names on board.

A quick check of the stories on the home page this morning turns up one quirky figure though. The average word count of articles (body and header, no navigation or footer links) is only 114.5 words. There's not a story linked to from Google News's home page or the first page in news categories right now with less than 275 words.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Eric Schmidt makes another $28,762,514.10

I've been watching the Insiders file Form 4s for the USA's SEC come in. If I was an AdSenser there would be money to made here.

Business Week reports that:

The chairman and chief executive of Google Inc. sold 63,485 shares of common stock under a prearranged trading plan, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings Wednesday.

In a series of Form 4s filed with the SEC, Eric E. Schmidt reported he sold the shares Friday for $453.06 to $456.94 apiece.

If you go on the low side then $453.06 by 63, 485 is $28,762,514.10. If you want to be generous then Dr Schmidt walks off with $29,008,835.90.

Not bad, huh?


Gosh. Two posts in one week! Is the world ending? Have I come strangely addicted to blogging? No! No! (or I hope not on both accounts).

I'm simply enjoying the gap between Christmas and Hogmanay (or New Year as SEO Sassenachs would call it). Addictions are much more likely to be in the form of tracking down episodes 128 and onwards of Inuyasha on YouTube, or anywhere, now that Google's pulled the series or through Untold Legends 2 on the PSP.

That Untold Legends 2 link goes to Amazon (old habits die hard - I paid for the second time through Uni via SEO and affiliate deals) and it reminds me that I've not been on the site in aaages. How can I tell? Amazon have keywords in the URL. I would have noticed that the very second that happened if I was a regular visitor. These days, yep, I tend to go to Tesco, Tesco Direct or Game. Linky!

With this brief lease of extra time I've taken a few hours to muck around with Blogger. I can't be accused of doing that in the past! Gosh. I am determined to use Blogger for this blog. This is Google'n'Blog. It seems appropriate. I'll Wordpress elsewhere. Google has so much work to do - still, and this is Blogger 2. The new custom layout options do not, and may never, work with FTP publishing. Although there is a lot still to do I can see why Google like the system. It's simple. It scales. The $dollar$ variables remind me of old TinyMUSH code (and that's showing my heritage). First off was fixing a bug in this new (to me) template. The bottom of posts end with <$I18N$LinksToThisPost> which, clearly, does not look right. It just takes a second to work out that the second dollar is in the wrong place. It should be <$I18NLinksToThisPost$>. You could just change that to "Links To This Post" as HTML text though. I say that because I've not yet found a way to change the values of the $variables. Keep in mind I've only been mucking around for a few hours and most of that time seems wasted on waiting for the entire blog to re-post after each tweak!

The "personal opinion" disclaimer has been put back in. It's naff but something tells me that that's important. The blog title Andrew Girdwood now links home. The 302 redirect on the domain level is now a 301. Not sure why I had it as a 302 to begin with... I suspect I had plans to grow a little portfolio or test site at the domain and have the blog as a part of it. Well. Ahem. Should that ever happen then Google will pick the changes up quickly enough for me. Individual blog post headings (like <$I18N$LinksToThisPost>) on the front page link to the actual blog posts. I've kept them as >h3< tags too.

Yes!    *gasp*

H tags as links!

I did it! I did!

It makes perfect logical sense to me. The title of the post/article/story goes to the page for that post/article/story. The front page (think of a news paper) as an overall heading and then is divided into equally important sections - which are the <h3> areas.

This is not spam. I shudder to imagine the number of people who would worry about this.

I'll continue to muck around with Blogger and look for improvements. Hopefully Google will do the same. I'm hopeful that now it's on a new platform it'll be easier to maintain, tweak and improve.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Broken - but still good

One of my favourite quotes from Google is:

A good rule of thumb is whether you'd feel comfortable explaining what you've done to a website that competes with you. Another useful test is to ask, "Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn't exist?"

I like that quote because it makes a lot of sense and is easy to understand. Any changes we recommend for SEO also clearly have benefits for users too. It may just be the case that the search engine involvement completes the business case required for making the change.

Google's Sitemap XML program broke the (rule of) thumb. It was just for search engines.

Adam Lasnik has posted a very good Webmaster Central blog post on duplicate content. In particular, I'm pleased to see a tip to be consistent with internal linking. I don't understand why webmasters insist on linking to /index.html when / would work. If you insist on linking to index.html it means is that your upgrade to PHP will involve awkward URL rewriting rules.

Adam also writes;
Rather than letting our algorithms determine the "best" version of a document, you may wish to help guide us to your preferred version. For instance, if you don't want us to index the printer versions of your site's articles, disallow those directories or make use of regular expressions in your robots.txt file.

Hmm. Tough one to squeeze into "I'm comfortable describing this as a non-search engine specific strategy to a competitor" box. Google's broken their rule of thumb too. Clearly, though, this is talking about excluding pages from the index which is a far cry from trying to manipulate the algorithm into ranking you higher. Sometimes the best rules of thumbs are those you can define by the exceptions and perhaps this is one.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Google onebox or Google advert

Hmm. I'm not sure about this Onebox. Is it even an onebox or an advert? At least it's clearly marked.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Google crawling Google Finance

The days of me anally watching everything Google did are gone. I wish that wasn't the case. I wish I had time to be a fan boy. It is a badge of pride. At work, I now have teams of people who watch what Google does and report to me. I'm still informed but it means I rarely get to "discover" stuff myself any more. A good thing I'm not an American guru who has to break discoveries to the blog and forum community as the only way to keep his profile in the limelight.

Here's today's discovery: Google has begun to crawl Google Finance.

That screen grab comes from a link: command too. Pretty neat. We've a backlink from Google Finance.

When Google Finance went live the general Google robots.txt blocked spiders from it. Now spiders can get in.

The other little spin here is that Google Finance uses event driven text. Text that is only visible to user when they mouse over the management team (check YHOO as an example) but which is visible to the search engines all the time.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Gmail / Google Mail

Google use Gmail in their offices rather than Outlook. I can see why. Gmail is simply very good. I'd be lost without Gmail.

Check out my spam count. Over a quarter of a million messages. Gmail deletes spam after 30 days too. This is a record for me and I blame Christmas. Christmas is the season for spam.

It isn't just my Gmail account which collects mail. My main domain forwards all emails to Gmail. I then pop the lot. I still have the run a baysan filter on Thunderbird but without Gmail I'd be waiting hours for my email.

The Gmail contacts online feature is really handy. I like to see the little green ball light up to show that a contact is online. I would not be surprised to see if Google roll out that feature to other areas; imagine Google Groups or even Blogger alerting you when friends are online. You could leave a little green Google light behind with each comment you leave on a blog. The blog owner would be able to see if you're online (if you wanted) or not when she reviews the post. AOL have done the very same thing with a light up flower icon for AIM and Yahoo has their smilie faces.