SEO

Tumblr is Down: Don’t call me shortly

tumblr_designcredo

Tumblr status page (sort of)

Now…

Look, let’s cut to the chase, this post has become a pain in the proverbial. I posted it over a year ago when Tumblr famously fell over, the image was a play on the splash screen that was set up, apparently there was an issue with the database clusters.

Anyway, in the interim the image has managed to get itself listed reasonably well on Google, so I get lots of hits to my blog, and to be honest people bounce off, this isn’t good for my stats.

Anyway if you are going to bounce off why not got to my Tumblr? It’s here.

I will now return you to the original post…

…and Then

Two hours and counting and the blogging platform is still down. Whatever are we to do without The Daily What and all those other delightful blogs?

According to The Next Web and CenterNetworks, Tumblr has been down for two hours now, causing a lot of derision among folks on Twitter.

Tumblr has taken to Twitter to inform followers of what’s afoot: “We’re working quickly to recover from a major issue in one of our database clusters. We’re incredibly sorry for the inconvenience.”

As those who regularly use the platform know, Tumblr going down is no unique occurrence. Still, two hours is a rather lengthy stretch of time” especially for a company that’s been rapidly growing and garnering funding of late.
source

My car has just gone in to have a repair, there is a problem with the part, an oil line, it is incredibly inconvenient. My personal transport of choice is a motorbike but I tend to get a bit ‘wussy’ when the outdoor temperature is being defined in negative terms. We rely on this technology and by and large it works, the effect of it not working can be damaging if not planned for, eggs and baskets?

Tumblr is down and it has been for quite a while, now. I woke up to a Tweet from Mashable (below) which was already ‘old’. The world won’t come to an end, planes won’t fall out of the sky but… “we’ll be back shortly” isn’t really cutting it.

This is in anyone’s terms a big downtime but please don’t call me shortly. Database Cluster? Sounds like the new chocolate that will be left in the selection box for that last desperate act of post Christmas binging.

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10 Blogging Tips to Break the 30 Seconds Barrier

33 Seconds Clock
I don’t want to spoil your day but there’s a lot of evidence suggesting that people spend less than a minute on a web page, perhaps as little as 30 seconds. So you really are going to need to make things easy for people if you wan’t them to read your blog posts.

Now, I have a bit of a guilty admission, I don’t read terribly well. I’m not stoopid or owt, but reading has never come overly naturally to me. Nowadays this isn’t helped by my already very long arms refusing to get any longer and, hard as I try, the printed page always seems a tad too close.

I know I am not alone with the oldies and I know too that there are many school children out there who have more difficult learning experiences than others because they don’t find reading easy: frequently young boys, often rubbing their teachers up the wrong way as they get more and more marginalised.

I’m off on one again aren’t I?

Anyway, it may seem a bit of a paradox that I am investing so much of my time writing at the moment, this writing being principally for blogs. I do write, I don’t think I’m an expert but do I know people are reading what I write and post. For the record I also ghost write for other peoples’ blogs. (sssh, you ain’t heard that). But, perhaps most importantly, given what I have just told you, I am aware of what makes reading less onerous.

So let’s look at ten tips that might help break the 33 second barrier.

1 Open With A Bang

A nice strong shocking declaration. A statistic, a side splittingly funny joke, the offer of a lifetime. OK well we are wise to the last one but you get the idea.

2 Be Human

Don’t be scared of being human, it’s what blogging is all about. Show your emotions and your passion.

3 Be Focussed

Do try to keep a focus. If you find you have ‘gone off one one’ cut the offending words and maybe save it as a new draft post to be expanded on.

4 Titles

The post title needs to do two things,

  1. Attract the reader’s attention. Something that is clever, witty, inviting and descriptive
  2. Work for Google and search engines. This means that if you want your post to be picked up by Google your clever, witty, inviting and descriptive will need to be keyword rich too!

5 Headings

Break your post up with relevant subheadings. These aren’t so important for search engines but will make the page a lot easier to scan and navigate through.

6 Use Short Paragraphs

peoplewillnot readgreatblocksoftext thatcannotbeeasily scannedororganisedandfiltered peoplewillnotreadgreat blocksoftextthatcannot beeasilyscannedororganisedand filteredpeoplewillnotreadgreat blocksoftextthatcannotbeeasily scannedororganisedandfiltered peoplewillnotreadgreatblocksoftext thatcannotbeeasily scannedororganised andfiltered peoplewillnotread greatblocksoftext thatcannotbe easilyscannedororganisedandfiltered

When you write it may come out as a stream of consciousness but when it’s on screen you need to make your text easy to look at, to scan, to filter. This puts the reader back in control.

7 Lists

People love lists and they can be very useful tools to,

  • simplify
  • order
  • clarify

the information that’s on a page.

8 Use Bold and Italicize but don’t Underline!

Text styling can help you to communicate more effectively. You can format text easily by making it bold or italic, adding an implied strength or emphasis. At a push you can use capitals and exclamation marks but beware of SHOUTING AT YOUR READERS!!!!! It is my belief that the only places for underlining are in primary school exercise books and to indicate a link on a web page. Don’t do it, bad things will happen to you if you do.

9 Links

Don’t be afraid to use links it’s easy enough to add them in blogs but don’t overdo it. At best links can add depth and value to a post, at worst they can totally overpower the content.

10 Images

Images can really communicate a lot very effectively. Sadly, although Google is considering introducing face recognition technology, images aren’t as yet very searchable. So a good strong hero image probably won’t get people to your site but it may keep people’s interest up long enough for them to start reading.

The bottom line is that you are both helping and empowering your reader, if you put them back in control they will hopefully make the right choice and read your blog.

This post was originally written as a guest blog for the rather impressive Mediocre Mum blog. Many thanks

Who’s Been Looking At My Site Then?

I’ve said before, I’m a bit of a stats watcher: sad but true. So last month this blog had it’s highest readership ever, thankfully this just continues the trend which is good news indeed. We put a lot of effort into our blogging don’t we?

So who looks at the site?

I have a couple of data gathering resources, Google Analytics and the built in WordPress stats, between them they offer a fair amount of data. I can see that there is a good spread of access in to my sites. Although search engines are the major source probably not enough to win an election: referring sites and direct traffic are solid runners up.

Where in The World Are You?

Well I can see that there is a huge imbalance in my readership, most of it is from the UK, which for me is good because I am looking to trade principally within the UK at this point. That said I am heartened by my strong readership bases in California and New York as with good readership throughout Europe.

Closer to home I get a lot of hits from London as well as the South West. In the latter I can see that I have a good readership not only from Exeter but also places like Taunton, Truro and Plymouth are very well represented.

So How Much Detail do You Want?

Plymouth University Visits

Plymouth University Visits


OK, as the above image shows we can, if we choose, mine down to get a fair amount detailed info. The above graph shows that the source (The University of Plymouth) is pretty much providing a single ‘return’ reader who clearly intends to be there. The 1.28% bounce rate is extremely low. We see a slightly low (for the site) depth of readership at 2.76 pages/visit and quite a low time on site, compared to the site viewers as a whole. Clearly good strong growth in readership from this source.

Is There a Sense To Be Made of This?

In an ideal world we want our websites to have quality readership, we don’t want them to be the equivalent of the chip shop papers. How this quality is defined will of course be different for each site. I am always impressed by the growing number of site owners who analyse their data, particularly bounce rate.

Be warned, sometimes you end up with more questions than answers ; 0

Beyond SEO: 10 Essential Questions

SEO is seen as the panacea to all of our business woes and everyone is an SEO expert. Well it is undoubtedly important but in the real world SEO is only part of recipe for online success.

Below are 10 questions to ask yourself if you are trying to communicate or sell services via a the internet.

  1. Is the internet text or image based?

    If you think the internet is driven by images you had better listen to Stephen Fry (from about the 1hr point will do). It’s absolutely essential to understand that words are the key to internet searches.

  2. Does your page source code have;

    1. < title >A Keyword Rich Descriptive Page Title< /title >
    2. < meta name=”description” content=”The snippet that Google probably displays and makes people want to click through on your site-link rather than other people’s”>
    3. < h1>A keyword rich and descriptive main heading< /h1 >
    4. < p >A keyword rich first bit of body content that is both high up the page code and matches the words found is the above.< /p >

    It’s amazing how many websites don’t have these basic SEO needs. They should be different for each page.

  3. Did you know that Google doesn’t look at meta tag keywords (hidden in code) any more?

    In the past keywords were placed in the page code. These keywords were picked up by search engines but this lead quickly to keyword spamming or stuffing so Google don’t use them

  4. What’s your bounce rate?

    You’ve got people to your site, wouldn’t it be nice if they stayed a while rather than bounce straight back out?

  5. Are you sure about what are you selling?

    It is amazing the number of people who ask for a website to be designed but can’t answer this question.

  6. Do you have a niche?

    There is an advert for VW at the moment, ‘it’s like a Golf’. There is no point in presenting yourself as what is already there, no point. Find an angle that is unique to you. Life is so much easier if you are selling a niche product or service rather than pitching against the masses.

  7. Why are you interesting?

    Are we human? Yes we are and we will have interesting and valid tales to tell about our businesses. This is what will ultimately engage and interest people.

  8. Is there an emotional appeal?

    Try to find something that will appeal to people’s emotions. There is an old advertising adage; sell the sizzle not the sausage. Imagine a cooked sausage on the end of a fork, now imagine a raw sausage. Both mental images will inspire some sort of feelings but not necessarily the same.

  9. Are you spreading the story?

    There is a great box of tools out there to help you spread the word. Whether it is Twitter, Facebook or WordPress your online communication will prosper better if it is shared as a dialogue.

  10. Why would anyone return to your site?

    So you’ve spent all this money on your site, your SEO has worked, and people have arrived at your site. Wouldn’t it be good to give them a reason to return? Change, regularly: news, updates, new products, new services. Keep on Movin On

Have The Balls To Tell It Like It Is

This is a Bushel

This is a Bushel

I have said it before but, down my way (Topsham, near Exeter, in Devon) everyone seems to be an SEO expert, everyone. Great, farming’s not what it was and they closed all the Devon coal mines and heavens when did you last see a working steel mill in the South West? So I guess it’s good to have a new sustainable industry…er.

In recent weeks I am pleased to say that I have saved a number of my customers money in various ways though not related directly to design or photography. One customer was paying for Broadband but didn’t have a modern router (still using an ancient USB device). They now have an improved contract and up to date technology, meaning to that they will be able to work better and communicate more easily. I have other customers who were getting invoiced for hosting packages they didn’t need.

Finally some are looking to improve their position on Google by, each month, throwing Google’s way the equivalent of an,

  • Interesting old motorbike
  • Well sourced Omega Seamaster (SH)
  • Pleasant weekend away for two

Well that’s my perspective on it, yours may be different but you get the idea I’m sure.

The problem with this last customer is that they are actually already page one numero uno on a Google search of their primary keywords anyway. That’s what we try to do when we create a website.

Now, here is the rub, the awkward truth. Most of my work comes from direct word of mouth referral. I have in the past paid thousands of pounds to advertise in online and printed directories but saw little effect other than worried mothers phoning me looking for work placements for young Jade or Dean.

It seems to me that it is almost naive to believe that everyone can be a winner in the SEO game and, unless your services are ‘niche’ in the extreme, you will risk an overly expensive bidding war that won’t actually bring the dinner home. That’s not to say there isn’t a job to be done but please be realistic.
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The Best Things in Life Are Free

There are browsers and there are browsers. I use a mac, I use Safari. But when I’m developing websites I use Firefox.

The IE Problem

Popular assumption may be that all websites look the same on all browsers but the reality is that what may look great in one browser refuses to work in another.

I have already highlighted the ridiculous volume of work that web designers around the world have had to do just to try and get sites to work in IE6, and let’s be realistic this browser is still used in many large organisations.

One of my favourite tools is netrenderer a simple quick online tool to allow you to visualise what a website will look like in various IE browsers.

Surely the fact that this site exists at all points to the problem? (Don’t call me Shirley).

Form and Content

HTML was never intended to contain tags for formatting a document. HTML was intended to define the content of a document, like:

<h1>This is a heading</h1>

<p>This is a paragraph.</p>

The content and the form of a website are therefore split. The content is handled by HTML whereas the form or the look of the site is dealt with through CSS via the stylesheet, w3schools.com gives a great intro to the subject.

Now this is all well and good if we are working with a neat stylesheet that we have created ourselves. But what if this isn’t the case? CSS styles are generally placed in an external stylesheet but can appear embedded in the HTML page (generally in the ‘HEAD” but may be inline). There may be a number of external stylesheets in different places, this frequently happens when one is working with a WordPress site that may have several plugins each of which has it’s own stylesheet. Good practice should lead us to put all of the styles in a single sheet but in the real world this isn’t always viable. So in steps FireBug.

FireBug is just one of many plugins that can be added to FireFox to extend it’s functionality way beyond that of a simple browser and is a great tool to help you find just which CSS style is in operation anywhere on a page. Beyond that it will let you perform a ‘what if’ function by allowing you to test changes in the CSS, HTML and JavaScript code, on the fly so to speak.

Extending Firefox

Firefox and Firebug
Firefox can be extended to perform all sorts of functions from FTP to showing the weather. If you look at the screenshot above you will notice in the bottom right part of the window a set of plugins including,

  • Firebug Firebug integrates with Firefox to put a wealth of development tools at your fingertips while you browse. You can edit, debug, and monitor CSS, HTML, and JavaScript live in any web page.
  • FireFTP FireFTP is a free, secure, cross-platform FTP client for Mozilla Firefox which provides easy and intuitive access to FTP servers.
  • Screengrab It will capture what you can see in the window, the entire page, just a selection, a particular frame… basically it saves webpages as images – either to a file, or to the clipboard. It captures Flash too!
  • SenSEO SenSEO is an extension checking the most important on-page-SEO-criteria and calculating a grade of how good your site fulfills these criteria.
  • SearchStatus SearchStatus is a toolbar extension for Firefox and SeaMonkey that allows you to see how any and every website in the world is performing. Designed for the highly specialised needs of search engine marketers, this toolbar provides extensive search-related information about a site, all conveniently displayed in one discreet and compact toolbar.

In addition I am able to see the IP address of a page and validate the CSS code…stop me I’m off again. I could continue but, there we have it FireFox, an immensely powerful tool.