blekko - the little search engine that might

I found out about blekko, a new search engine in limited beta, at SMX East a couple of weeks ago. In addition to picking up a bit of wearable schwag from them, I also took home a login account, though I have just recently had a chance to start experimenting with it. My initial reaction was to be not so excited. "Who needs another search engine?" Even after listening to the guys in the blekko expo booth as well as hearing their representative participate in a search discussion panel along with representatives from bing and Google, I wasn't motivated to immediately start playing with their new service.

The problem they face is that there does not seem to be a large volume of those dissatisified with the state of search. On the contrary, consolidation of search has occurred with the remaining large players, Google and bing, still working on innovative features. Ok, "instant" may not be revolutionary, or even helpful in some case, and I don't use bing enough to know if they are doing anything innovative, but I still have not recently suffered from the inability to find utility from the SERPs that I see.

All of that said, they are worth checking out for some novel features - some of which I would suspect that Google or Microsoft could implement rather quickly, and others that I doubt we'll ever see from a major player. So let's look at those:

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FREE ALL ACCESS PASS TO SMX EAST - NYC OCT 4-6

Last minute opportunity for those that can easily get to NYC. imageMEDIA, my employer and your source for cheap printing, is giving away an all access pass to SMX East, the Search Marketing Expo going on October 4th to 6th (next week) - a $1400 value. You have to jump through some simple hoops, but there has not been a lot of traffic for it yet so the odds are pretty good. You have to get your entry by midnight this Friday, October 1st.

And, a quick FYI, SMX is all about getting and converting web site traffic. It'll be at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center (655 West 34th Street New York, NY 10001) with a Tuesday night party, SMX After Dark, at Mars2112 (51st Street and Broadway).

Yahoo Site Explorer Pages Count Off The Chain

I've done some preliminary searching, but haven't found anyone chatting about it, so ... Did anyone else notice that Yahoo Site Explorer numbers for Pages jumped dramatically on Wednesday?

For competitive analysis, I track the Yahoo Site Explorer numbers, pages & Inlinks, for a group of sites competing in the same keyword phrase space. The sites don't have equal performance, and I throw in a 900lb gorilla and a total non-performer in the market space as a sort of control. I track the raw numbers and then normalize them by computing percent deviation so performance comparisons are apple-to-apple. Of the sites, all of them experienced huge changes in Pages count on Wednesday. The largest jump, experienced by the 900lb gorilla, was 68190.22% (a transition from 5665 pages to 3868641 pages). Even for the non-performer, the jump was 163.64% (33 pages to 87).

I initially suspected that this would be a blip as I am pretty confident that, even with all the pro grammatically created pathways through the site on which I am working, the number of pages is not above 200,000. Anyway, this is my third day of observing numbers of this, seemingly unrealistic, magnitude and they don't look like they are going away.

Inlink counts are unaffected. Anyone have any insight into what Yahoo is doing or thoughts about the jump?

Back Link Musing

So, as I ponder SEO related things, I came across an interesting observation. If I wanted to promote a site on printing, and my day job is pretty much about pushing postcard printing and such, would a link from the US Government Printing Office be helpful? For example, how much benefit would come to my target site, imagemedia.com, by having a link that says something like Government Printing Office?

I get a link to the target site, but will it be valuable in trying to boost SERP positioning?

SEO - The Imperfect Crime

My role at work has shifted from something of a general purpose programmer working with Coldfusion and Actionscript 3, with sprinklings of other languages just for flavor, to specifically supporting marketing endeavors. In some respects, I probably was subconsciously jockeying for the position while fretting about it my thoughts. My apprehension was such that I deliberately expanded my job description to explicitly include programming, in the guise of tool creation support, so that the break would not be clean. I am still digesting that decision.

That said, there is a lot to be excited about in charting a new direction for oneself. Along those lines, I came up with this interesting metaphor in anticipation of having to explain my role to people who have never seriously thought about Internet marketing. I think that it suffices in conveying a quick overview of what's involved and might be helpful to others in grasping the big picture of search engine optimization, SEO.

First off, however, SEO really isn't a crazy concept that ought to screw with your head. The Schrödinger's Cat mind experiment is a good example of something to mess with your mind and the reason I delay checking my lottery tickets (I happen to believe that 4.35e-8 is not 0 though empirical evidence keeps suggesting otherwise). Anyway, the gist of SEO is to create a page that is most representative of all pages that are associated with a given search phrase. So how does one do that?

(There are a tremendous number of other sources of much more profound content than this on all things related to search engines; this is just meant to establish a mind set for approaching the problem.)

SEO is about committing the most imperfect crime. You want to be seen in the act, with no alibi, tons of witnesses (the more respected the better), with lots of evidence pointing your way and generally you want to look as guilty as possible in the lineup. And what the heck, you want to be so sloppy that you commit a lot of extraneous crimes along the way.

Here's how it all breaks down:

  • The Crime
  • The Cops
  • Your Record
  • Witnesses
  • Informants
  • Evidence
  • The Line Up

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More Flash Site Navigation

Some additional thoughts on the site navigation in Flash. I have a deployed version that you can check out at a great place for postcard printing - actually, make it a two-fer and checkout a mail roi calculator that Alex and I created (Alex made it pretty). (Quick aside, I am responsible it seems for a lot of the facets of SEO at imageMEDIA, so I am pretty much obliged to give the link).

I ran into a few problems at deployment that were aggravating, yet solvable. So, for my own recollection and the potential to help someone else, here we go:

Problems:

  1. Firefox: When the swf loses focus, particularly with scrolling and other page interaction, the drop down menus will not display until the swf is re-focused by clicking.
  2. Firefox: A border will sometimes appear around the swf; particularly after you click it to re-activate the drop downs.
  3. IE: Browser lose track of the swf and not align mouse event with the flash.

Solutions:

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Site Navigation Menus, Pure Actionscript & FlashDevelop

A recent requirement at work had me having to forgo Flex for a Flash project. I'm replacing a DHTML site navigation system that employs several images, javascript libraries and, more importantly, places over 70 links onto any given page of the site. I've inherited the job of cleaning up the site SEO-wise and all of these links prevent me from cleanly sculpting the site. At the same time, I am working on improving the performance of the site, and, soon, improving the functionality of the navigation.

Anyway, while I like Flex - really, I like Flex, we need to get a room or something - she can be too heavy for some tasks, and the thought of dropping over 100KB of Flashy goodness on everything single page of the site is less than desirable. Instead, at my current level, I am more than halfway there just using a pure Actionscript Flash project and I have kept my SWF size down to under 4KB. Keep in mind, I am using an XML supporting doc that adds 7KB or so, but I would use the same file for Flex or Flash.

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BuyABlimp.com - An Open SEO Experiment

Even though I started web developing in 1994 (crazy huh), and have been trained in search engine optimization by Bruce Clay himself (good seminars, well catered and conveniently located near the Reagan Library - worth the trip) I have never run an Adsense campaign on one of my own domains. So tonight I began an experiment. Using some web space I have handy, and an idle domain, buyablimp.com (my interests are varied and I really had a project in mind for this, but alas, not so much anymore). So now I have the beginnings of a resource for blimps, dirigibles, hot air balloons and other lighter than air craft. I did some quick googling for preliminary content - some wikipedia references, goodyear blimp, that sort of thing - and have a rudimentary scultping plan. Also, I have applied for an Adsense campaign and am awaiting the verification process; of course, I'm tracking with Google Analytics (even though I am sympathetic to the folks at Scroogle, my favorite behavioral searching scrubber, the business realities of needing analytics on budget win out over my latent paranoia).

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Alexa vs Compete - and the winner is?

As I am of late in a SEO state of mind, and have an odd sense of humor - though maybe not as bad a one as drives this is why you're fat - I decided to compare Alexa.com and Compete.com at there respective sites. I was surprised by the graphs that follow:

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Visual Web Tools and Link Artifacts Bad For SEO

A quick note on Dreamweaver, or any other tool that allows for visual editing of web sites, and SEO. Today, in what must have been penance for sins real and/or imagined, I was obliged to search endless pages of the company web site ensuring link integrity; the joys of accomodating dim witted bots and policies forced by black hat search engine spammers. Adding to my grief, well, actually causing it, is that there are many contributors to the site utilizing a spread of tools (I personally use eclipse - unless I accidently forget in which workspace my global searching has been corrupted and have hung it up for painful minutes forcing me to bounce to notepad for quick fixes - and that happened today) including Dreamweaver.

I've got nothing against Dreamweaver as it always did what I expected of it. The problem is that it is such a great tool for visually-oriented developers that some can use it without ever looking at the code that is produced. There is a wonderful scenario that can bite you in the ass. If you have text that is linked, it is possible to delete the text without deleting the link. It's particularly not visible when the user then goes on to add replacement text and a different link. So you wind up with something like:

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