February 2, 2006

  • The Importance of Human Readable URLs

    Best Practice: Use human-readable URLs.


    This is human readable: http://www.bestbuy.com/electronics/research

    This is not: http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage.jsp?id=cat12074&type=page&categoryRep=cat03000

    The problem with complex URLs is three-fold:

    • A human cannot “reverse engineer” a URL to figure out where they are on the site or what might be “one level higher”. Human readable URLs allow you to “cut off” the end of the URL and get to a higher level in the site. URLs that reflect the site’s page layout also act as a secondary way-finding tool.
    • It is hard to share URLs that are not human readable. If you cut and paste a complex URL into an e-mail to share it, often the URL will break in two because it is too long to fit on one line. This creates a broken link for the recipient.
    • Some search engines have a hard time with overly complex URLs and you may find that many of your pages are not accessible to search engine “bots” looking for your content.

    If your site is dynamically generated, discuss with your tech team or vendor whether it is possible to use human-readable URLs. If it isn’t you’ll have to do some serious thinking about the cost benefit of findability vs. technology upgrades. If your site is static and created by humans, remind them to name pages and directories with the user in mind, not the builder.

    Tip: Instead of naming pages descriptively, put them in well-named directories and save the pages as index.html.

    Bad: http://www.allaboutbutlers.org/site/olspage.jsp?id=catsd1225&type=page&categoryRep=bin56892452124

    Better: http://www.allaboutbutlers.org/servingdinner.html

    Best: http://www.allaboutbutlers.org/servingdinner/index.html In this “best case” a visitor can simply type allaboutbutlers.org/servingdinner to get to the exact content they want.

    Best Practice In Action: apple.ca/ipodnano/ipodyourcar

    Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on February 2, 2006.

  • The Blogosphere Is Talking About You Mitch Joel

    Occasional One Degree Guest Contributor Mitch Joel of Twist Image was one of the “participants” in our “One Degree Calling challenge. Our post listed ten Canadian Internet companies with links to their home pages. My goal was to see who was paying attention to the blogosphere and how quickly they would respond if someone “pinged them” with mention and/or link in a blog post. Mitch did well, replying in less than a day (I think that’s great). But he took a bit of exception to my methodology:

    Here’s why One Degree is kind of off. It actually took me no time at all. I get the One Degree RSS feed as soon as they are posted, I just don’t read all of it right away — specifically postings with titles that seem to have little immediate relevance to me or are ambiguous (like One Degree Calling). If you’re into the Blogosphere (like I am), then you’ll have hundreds of feeds (like I do).

    And a bit later he says:

    If anything, One Degree Calling was a better example of how fast word-of-mouth can spread online as I probably would not have even read a post with a title like that unless someone had specifically told me to. Getting beyond the little One Degree “experiment,” what it made me realize is how much great content is out there, and how much care has to go into making every word count. Especially the call to action — which in this case was the title. If it does not resonate with me, no matter how much I like everything else that has come out of there, I am just ambivalent towards it (maybe One Degree could have done multiple postings for each company, so one could have been titled, “One Degree Calling Twist Image” — that I would have read fast).

    I appreciate Mitch’s feedback and I know he gets this blog stuff more than most in Canada, but I think this shows that our methodology was perfect. My goal was to see who monitors the blogosphere, not who reads our feed.

    I’m happy that Mitch gets our feed (told you he was smart) but I certainly wouldn’t expect him to read everything we post and I certainly didn’t mean to imply that all ten agencies should have round-the-clock monitoring of One Degree in case we mention them in passing.

    What I would expect is that all these agencies have set up multiple ego-searches on their names, their company names, their client’s names, and all the associated URLs using all the blog and feed search tools like Technorati, PubSub, BlogPulse, Google Blog Search, Bloglines, Feedster, etc. The name of the post was intentionally cryptic and intentionally mentioned all agencies at the same time — my goal was to see who would find their company and URL mentioned in an obscure post and respond to that. Since we put all the agency names and URLs in the post and in the feed, it should have been picked up by all the search engines within a few minutes of us sending our pings. So anyone monitoring the blogosphere should have got wind of this the next time they checked their ego feeds.

    I’m okay with people checking these once a day (once an hour may show signs of addiction!) so Mitch’s response-time was perfect, even if it was based on word-of-mouth. In June I mentioned Technorati in a post and within a few hours of the post going live, David Sifry founder and SEO of the blog search firm had added a comment to the post. I’m sure he didn’t know we existed before we posted about his service, but as soon as we did, he was there. That’s what I’d like to see from all Canadian web agencies now, and eventually from all Canadian companies.

    Oh by the way Mitch, I’m posting this 4 hours after you posted and that’s only because you posted at 5:30AM on a Sunday morning! I hope the title of this post got your attention!

    Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on October 2, 2005.

September 29, 2005

  • Search Optimize Viral Campaigns

    Does search engine optimization matter when you are doing a viral marketing or teaser ad campaign? Absolutely! One Degree and the “Uncle Yaris” TV ads give us a textbook example. Because I wrote about yaris.ca a few days ago, we’re getting a ton of search traffic right now on the terms Uncle Yaris and Yaris.ca.

    I find it truly ironic that I wrote “they’re from Toyota as a simple Google search will tell you” and now that page itself is the top result:

    Google will redirect you to the site if you search on yaris.ca, but Yahoo shows this:

    <lost due to link decay>

    And MSN puts One Degree at the top of an Uncle Yaris search as well:

    <lost due to link decay>

    My quick review of the search results didn’t reveal yaris.ca as a result for any of the searches now driving traffic to us.

    Lesson learned? Teaser campaigns will generate LOTS of search activity. If you haven’t optimized your site so that the search engines can find you, your curious customers won’t either. Any SEO experts out there want to chime in with a few suggestions on what Toyota should have done with yaris.ca — other than hire you?

    And to Toyota? Thanks for running a TV teaser campaign for One Degree! We’re lovin’ the traffic!

    Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on September 29, 2005.

November 11, 2004

September 6, 2004

  • Thought

    Jakob Nielsen’s “Preparing a Website for the Holiday Shopping Season” makes a great point that site architects often forget — with the rise of search as the dominant traffic generator on many sites, it is now possible for most of your traffic will not be coming through your home page and other key landing pages. That means that every page has to do double duty. First they must cover the topic under discussion so that you add enough value to get the search listing in the first pace and deliver the value the user was seeking. And secondly, pages must convey why your site is a trustworthy source and ask for the sale (whatever that may be).

    As Jakob states: “A website is like a house with a thousand front doors: visitors can enter anywhere.”

June 10, 2004

  • Dumb Smart Search

    I was just trying out the new version of Napster and when I searched for “China Crisis” I got results that included David Sylvian and Asia albums.

    Why might that be?

    Well, David Sylvian used to be in a band called “Japan” which is close to China and “Asia” is where China is.

    I’m surprised I didn’t get “Dishwalla” as one of the results!

    Napster seems to have some sort of “concept” search algorithms in use that really doesn’t make sense in this context. Given that Napster knows I’m searching for an artist, it seems that there are two approaches to expanding search beyond the original term, “spelling” and “related projects”.

    There are band and artist names that are hard to spell or that you only vaguely remember from youth (was “Hitchin’ A Ride” done by Vanity Fair or Vanity Fare?). In this case implementing something like Google’s “Did you mean…?” feature would be very smart. I want this kind of help so I don’t have to remember how to spell Alanis Morissette (Napster catches typos on her last name).

    If I’m searching for “Tin Machine” it might be useful to offer results for frontman David Bowie as well. “Related Projects” searches could be very helpful particularly when you remember David Byrne singing some song but you don’t realize that it was from a solo album not a Talking Head disc.

    The problem with Napster is a search on Tin Machine produces “Tony McKinney”, “More Machine Than Man”, “Nick Gilder and Time Machine” and (very oddly) “The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem”. These are guesses at possible typos but because they aren’t identified as such it looks like they have a really bad search feature.

    Lessons Learned:

    1. Smart search is dumb if it does not take into account the user’s goal in doing the search in the first place.

    2. Tell the user why you are presenting results that are not expected (“No matches found for Tin Machine. Did you mean…? Artists related to Tin Machine include…”).

    3. Hard code results for very popular searches so you can give really relevant information.

April 26, 2004

  • Thought

    Interesting article on ClickZ stating that Tacoda is forming a behavioral ad network:

    “The new network will compete most closely with contextual ad programs run by Google and Overture, jockeying for position on publishers’ pages and in advertisers’ wallets. Tacoda plans to use pay-per-click pricing and a self-serve auction marketplace — conventions popularized by the search players. The biggest difference will be that while the search companies target ads based on what their technology determines to be the content of the page, Tacoda’s network will target its ads based upon member publishers’ knowledge of the site visitor. That knowledge will come from registration data and from information about the person’s behavior across the network: what type of content the person visits, what he searches for, etc.”

    Personally, I’ve always been much more aligned with the idea of context over behavioral alignment. I may be a suburban father of two who loves music, but that doesn’t mean I want to see ads for tickets to Hairspray while I’m searching for a wi-fi router. An ad for a wi-fi router, on the other hand, would be appropriate and effective at that time. My guess is context will beat behavior (particularly reported behavior rather than actual behavior).

April 19, 2004

April 15, 2004

  • A9 — First Impressions

    You may already know this, but Amazon.com just launched A9, the beta version of their much-anticipated entry into online search.

    I find A9 fascinating and I recommend that you use it as your default search tool for at least a while to understand what this might mean. In particular I’d suggest downloading the toolbar version which adds some really unique features you need to experience.

    Looking past the god-awful colour of the site (which isn’t that easy), the application does some truly brilliant things and starts to answer the questions we’ve been asking about how and when personalization and collaboration will be integrated into search.

    If you do an A9 search for say “Internet Marketing in Canada” you get a page that looks a bit like Google (it seems to be using Google’s page results at this time) but with some interesting enhancements. For example, there is a “Site Info” button that allows you to access Alexa information with meta data about the sites listed. One data point provided — similar to Amazon’s book recommendations — states that “people who visited this site also visited…”. And because this is Amazon, there is a separate pane available for book search. And since book search integrates their “search inside the book” technology, it means that A9 allows you to search online AND offline knowledge.

    The most interesting feature of the site is its use of personalization. Once you log-in to A9 using your Amazon log-on the site will begin to remember past searches for you and display them on the home page. The toolbar also keeps visited page history and I’m sure that some back-end manipulation of results based on this information is (or will be) happening.

    A peek into the potential power of personalization is given in A9’s ability to add to search results the last time YOU last visited a site listed in the results. I just did the above search for the second time and found “clicked 21 hours ago” added beside a link that I had indeed clicked 21 hours ago.

    While the site is still in beta and clearly needs some design and UI work, I have to say I’m pretty impressed.

    I’d be interested in your impressions on this and some analysis around the implications for Google and Yahoo! of Amazon entering the market.

    One big problem I see is that A9 doesn’t lend it self to wordplay like Google does. Will we say “Just A9 me” once we start “A9ing” things?

April 12, 2004

  • Thought

    Seth Godin says that “people don’t know how to search”. How true.

    Seth brilliantly points out that there are probably a few thousand “bad searches” that are incredibly common and a smart search firm (hello Google) should create custom results for those results to help users get to what they want (and maybe teach them a bit about how to search if they’d like to learn).

    Seth’s examples are searches for “shoes” or “web”, but in tracking referrers to Alyson’s site, I’ve found that people also think of search engines as being human.

    For example, someone landed on this page because they searched on “can you catch a cold from being out in the cold without a coat…..at recess in the spring for instince?” And yes, the search did have the four periods, typo, and question mark.

    It gives me great joy that the child who did that search (I’m hoping it was a child) took Alyson’s advice and presented it to the teacher or parent that inspired the search.

    Another kind of search (the most common traffic driver to Alyson’s site in fact), is people typing www.alyson.ca into Google. Go figure. Some people really do think Google is the Internet.

February 11, 2004

  • Thought

    George Colony, Chairman and CEO of Forrester has done a spot on analysis of why Google has fundamentally changed the Internet, but won’t be the stellar IPO that everyone seems to think it will be.

    Read Colony’s My View: Googlescape to find some solid analysis.

October 30, 2003

  • Thought

    Guardian Online: Google fights for top spot:

    “Google will raise billions when it goes public in a few months, but Jack Schofield wonders if it will be overtaken by competitors.”

October 27, 2003

  • Thought

    I didn’t know you could do this, but Google seems to have added another new feature, this time allowing you to ask for definitions of terms but entering something like define:best practice into the search box.

    While I like the fact that Google is doing everything it can to keep the interface simple, I think we might be reaching the point where this is ineffective. Many say that Google is becoming the operating system of the Internet. If this is so, my fear is that it is MS-DOS — command line rather than GUI.

October 20, 2003

  • Should Dave Winer Call Google A “Total Asshole Company”?

    Dave Winer said “Google’s directory of weblog tools. None of the tools I wrote made the list… Google, this makes you look like a total asshole company.”

    Google’s Directory is based on DMOZ Open Directory, but filtered through Google’s PageRank so that the most relevant links rise to the top. I don’t think Google has any say about what goes in the Open Directory in the first place. But it does decide what goes in its edited version.

    Let’s compare:

    Google’s Computers > Internet > On the Web > Weblogs > Tools > Publishers

    Open Directory’s Computers > Internet > On the Web > Weblogs > Tools > Publishers

    Sure enough, Radio.Userland is in the Open Directory and not in Google’s. Furthermore, Blogger is number 1 on Google, but listed alphabetically in Open Directory. And Google only lists 37 links while Open Directory lists 52.

    So maybe Dave has a point.

    How does Google decide what gets in its directories? They use PageRank. So maybe Dave’s problem is that his corporate web site gets far fewer links than Blogger.

    Since we can’t see PageRank directly, let’s take a look at what Alexa says:

    It seems that Radio Userland doesn’t appear in the Google directory because it shouldn’t. Blogger’s 3 month average page rank on Alexa is 714. Radio Userland’s is 7,885. If the site was more popular I’m sure it would rate a link in this directory (note that Movable Type is number two in the Google Directory, reflecting it’s rank at 6672 over the last 3 months — once again, according to Alexa.)

    Doing a comparison of Google’s link count for Blogger, Movable Type, and Userland we see:

    Movable: 116,000

    Blogger: 62,500

    Userland: 33,500

    Of course PageRank combines number of links with quality of those links to determine page rank, so it may be that Blogger has better quality links. That may explain why Blogger outranks Movable despite the larger number of inbound links.

    In any case, I don’t see any reason Dave should be calling Google a “Total Asshole Company”.

October 10, 2003

  • Thought

    The Register: Google bug blocks thousands of sites:

    “Google, like the rest of us, seems to be fighting a losing battle to make sense of a rising tide of Internet garbage. But a programming error by the search engine has compounded the problem: by inadvertently blocking thousands of sites from Google users.”

    There seems to be an ongoing undercurrent of concern over the health of the Internet. Google seems to be more susceptible than ever to link spam, blogs are closing community functions because of comment spam, and we all know what our inboxes look like these days.

    Unfortunately, I don’t have any answers, but I will offer a warning that those proffering solutions look for unintended consequences of their technologies.

September 23, 2003

  • Thought

    CNET News.com: Google tests local search:

    “Like many Google experiments, the new function may or may not be widely incorporated into the company’s well-loved search engine, but Google has hinted at its ambitions for geographically targeted search in the past. Local search and advertising is also pegged in the financial community as a massive opportunity for major portals and search providers.”

    You can also try the live Google Search By Location. So you can now find Indian Restaurants in New York, NY.

September 4, 2003

  • Thought

    Google Weblog: “Big News! New Google Operator”:

    “Today, Google introduced a new advanced search feature that enables users to search not only for a particular keyword but also for its synonyms. This is accomplished by placing a ~ character directly in front of the keyword in the search box.”

August 20, 2003

August 13, 2003

  • Thought

    Here’s a “deep link” to Internet News’ article Deep Thinking On Deep Linking:

    “URLs describe the location on the Web at which content resides. Therefore, URLs are facts. Facts are not copyrightable. This point alone should be enough to end the debate.”

    (via PaidContent.org)

  • Thought

    Dave Winer blogged on the emergence of Nutch. This probably marks the official beginning of “nutch-mania”. Or maybe the first stages of GoogleSlagging going public.

    From Dave:

    “Every time Google gets competition, I hope this is the one that sticks, the one that makes search a two horse race.

    As a heavy user of search, I know this is not a good situation, one Silicon Valley company with so much power. When one of them takes hold it’s as if we have a new royal family, people who breathe air that’s finer than ours. They “get” things we don’t. They think outside the box, we’re stuck inside.”

    From Nutch:

    “Nutch is a nascent effort to implement an open-source web search engine.

    Web search is a basic requirement for internet navigation, yet the number of web search engines is decreasing. Today’s oligopoly could soon be a monopoly, with a single company controlling nearly all web search for its commercial gain. That would not be good for users of the internet.”

July 15, 2003

  • Thought

    More interesting analysis of the ramifications of Yahoo’s purchase of Overture:

    CNET News.com: “Yahoo finds itself in search spotlight”

    “Yahoo for now will face off most directly with Google, but analysts said the wild card will likely be Microsoft. MSN is Overture’s biggest partner, delivering as much as one-third of Overture’s revenue this year, or an estimated $350 million. As a result, many industry watchers say that it is only a matter of time before MSN takes stock of its alternatives, including replacing Overture with Google on its Web sites and hastening efforts to build its own Web search technology.”

    It will be interesting to watch a three-way fight over the next year or two. But don’t be fooled, new contenders can still rise up from nowhere. Three years ago we wouldn’t have been imagined that Yahoo would be fighting an upstart called Google in a few years.

July 14, 2003

July 11, 2003

  • Thought

    And I’ll also point you to Google Dance which was referred to somewhat vaguely at the event:

    Google Dance Tool

  • Thought

    Since I’ve been poking around in search since the AIMS event earlier this week, I thought I’d point you to this CNET article called “Microsoft brains take on Google”

    “Speaking here at the Fifth International Congress on Industrial and Applied Mathematics (ICIAM), professor Jennifer Tour Chayes said Microsoft is patenting new search algorithms with the goal of replacing the Inktomi technology currently powering MSN’s search with Microsoft’s own.

    “Since Yahoo acquired Inktomi, Bill (Gates) has decided we need our own capacity,” she said, adding that the company is already patenting new algorithms it believes have the potential to power a new search engine.”

July 10, 2003

  • AdSense Sensor

    I just launched something I call the “AdSense Sensor”.

    Google recently launched AdSense, their contextual ad serving service for small sites.

    Using AdSense you (as a site owner) get to place ads served by Google on your site and share revenue with Google. This is exciting because the ads they serve are contextually related to the content on your site. They do this by using their crawl of your pages to determine which ads are relevant.

    The first question I asked when looking at the service was ‘what kind of ads will be served on my pages?’ I couldn’t find a way to determine this directly from the Google site (which seems like an oversight to me). So to help us all figure whether AdSense makes sense for us, I created this ‘AdSense Sensor’.

    Hope you find it useful!

  • Thought

    If you search on SARS Virus on Google today you will notice the a “Google Public Service Announcement” at the top of the page linking to the CDC SARS page. Another indication that Google gets that it isn’t like other companies and needs to consider the overall “ecology” of the Net in which it increasingly plays a central role.

    Of course all the sponsored links are to hucksters selling masks and sterilization kits. Ugh.

April 2, 2003

March 7, 2003

  • Thought

    This InternetRetailer.com article on eBags.com moving more of their marketing budget to search listings is fairly typical of what we are seeing happening with online marketing. I’ve long preached “context is the only way” for online advertising.

    People are task driven online and want to reach some goal. If you can align advertising with the goal of the user, you will benefit them, and yourself. This strategy is what’s behind the success of search engine links like Google’s Adwords. Because the ads are in context and can be considered largely “content” on the page (i.e. the ads match what the user asked to see) they are more effective at moving the user to their goal and therefore more effective for the marketer because the marketer’s message is actually wanted by these users. This has to be more effective then distracting people from their task because they meet some demographic or interest expectation in the marketer’s mind — “I’ll promote the new Malibu on this mom’s site because women visit that site and they’re my target market”. Or worse yet, just distracting anyone that stops by because the CPC deal lets you blanket the net with pop-ups.

    I’m watching for a major overhaul of online marketing towards context and tight alignment with content over the next few years. I’ve been calling for this since 1997 but with Google and Overture showing people what it looks like in reality, it may finally catch on.

January 31, 2002

  • Thought

    Have you Googlewhacked? This News.com article points to a new online sport — “Googlewhacking” — which is the art of finding search terms that give a “1 of 1” result on Google.com.

    Here’s one I just did “meatball rangerover”.