Use Blekko to ‘slash the web’. What?

blekko is a better way to search the web by using slashtags.

I don’t know what that tells you, but the name and the tagline for this new search engine conjure up some pretty nasty images for me, and tell me nothing about the service. Blekko is a nonsense word, and you may think one invented word is as good as another, but Blekko sounds like something you need to clean up. And ‘slashing the web’. I dunno, that sounds nasty. Luckily they go on to explain…

slashtags search only the sites you want and cut out the spam sites. use friends, experts, community or your own slashtags to slash in what you want and slash out what you don’t.

Blekko

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Creating linkbait: A guide for the untalented

So you want to get links, but don’t know how to start creating linkable content? Let me walk you through my process for creating awesome linkbait.

via A Simple Guide to Creating Linkbait – SEOmoz

Allow me to summarise:

1. Take your ‘inspiration’ from what your competitors are doing.
2. Can you put a spin on any of that? Don’t copy, just do something similar to whatever is already popular.
3. Create your content. Hire people to do this if you lack talent.
4. Get people to link to your content. Ass licking always helps.

And whatever you do, don’t take any risks!

Posted in SEO

Sexy CSS3 infographics: I propose a revolution!

There have been two separate trends on the web in recent months and years:

  1. Infographics are everywhere, typically in the form of long JPEGs. These are often criticised as being poor examples of information design (or just poor examples of design), but they still seem popular.
  2. Creating snazzy effects with CSS3 and HTML5. Increasing support for dropshadows, rounded corners, gradients, real fonts, rotation and all other kinds of nice visual enhancements, has resulted in masses of experimental designs. It’s even possible to create many types of fantastic (and terrible) charts and graphs, as well as icons and illustrations.

So CSS3 and infographics are a natural fit. They could be interactive, animated, hyperlinked, semantic and searchable. Besides, making big dumb JPEGs for the web just seems like a retrograde step. Why not put that effort into making a really nice page?

(How the Internet works / “Infographic”)

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PageRank explained with an interactive diagram

This is an excellent page that explains the mathematics behind Google’s PageRank and illustrates it with an interactive diagram. You can arrange a series of pages, link them to each other and see the resulting PageRanks.

PageRank explained with an interactive diagram

PageRank explained with JavaScript

After ‘the science bit’ he concludes with this little piece of wisdom that I hope all SEO ‘experts’ actually get to:

How can I use this to drive traffic to my website?

If you take anything from this article take with it the spirit of sharing knowledge. Knowledge is the only type of content that is truly valuable and there should be no doubt that search engines now and of the future will try their best to make sure it ends up at the top of their search results.

He has a pretty cool piece of JavaScript animated ASCII art on his homepage too: http://williamcotton.com/

SEO for content producers – the essentials

I’ve been preparing a single page document to give to colleagues who are unfamiliar with search engine optimisation techniques, and I thought it might be useful to post it here. Constructive comments are very welcomed to help me improve this first draft, but do check my note at the bottom so you understand the intended purpose of this list.

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John Gruber on Tynt, the ‘Copy/Paste Jerks’

All of this nonsense — the attribution appended to copied text, the inline search results popovers — is from a company named Tynt, which bills itself as “The copy/paste company”.

It’s a bunch of user-hostile SEO bullshit.

Everyone knows how copy and paste works. You select text. You copy. When you paste, what you get is exactly what you selected. The core product of the “copy/paste company” is a service that breaks copy and paste.

The pitch from Tynt to publishers is that their clipboard jiggery-pokery allows publishers to track where text copied from their website is being used, on the assumption that whoever is pasting the text is leaving the Tynt-inserted attribution URL, with its gibberish-looking tracking ID. This is, I believe, a dubious assumption. Who, when they paste such text and find this “Read more:” attribution line appended, doesn’t just delete it (and wonder how it got there)?

via Tynt, the Copy/Paste Jerks

Praise be. There’s also a link to a Google Chrome Tynt blocker plugin, and some other solutions, including how to edit your hosts file.

I’m finding myself at Daring Fireball pretty regularly these days, with a growing amount of respect for Gruber.

Posted in SEO

HuffPo uses A/B testing to write better headlines

From direct mail to web design, A/B testing is considered a gold standard of user research: Show one version to half your audience and another version to the other half; compare results, and adjust accordingly. Some very cool examples include Google’s obsessive testing of subtle design tweaks and Dustin Curtis’ experiment with direct commands and clickthrough rates. (“You should follow me on Twitter” produced dramatically better results than the less moralizing, “Follow me on Twitter.”)

So here’s something devilishly brilliant: The Huffington Post applies A/B testing to some of its headlines. Readers are randomly shown one of two headlines for the same story. After five minutes, which is enough time for such a high-traffic site, the version with the most clicks becomes the wood that everyone sees.

(via How The Huffington Post uses real-time testing to write better headlines – niemanlab.org)

I also found it interesting that they are considering splitting up the content they serve by IP address, so they can serve the East and West coasts better.

Link

Web Seer is a fascinating tool that lets you explore what questions people are typing into Google, and compare it to other questions to see where they overlap. Admittedly, I can’t think of a real world use for this, but it’s fun to play with. If you find an interesting comparison, please leave a link in the comments!

More info on the Web Seer project page.

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Insightful landing page case study

In our analysis of Rand’s effective face-to-face presentation we noticed that he needed at least five minutes to make the case for SEOmoz PRO. Yet the existing web page was more like a one-minute summary. Once we added the key elements of Rand’s presentation, the page became much longer:

Short versus long body copy case study

It’s interesting to note that Amazon.com, which is known for its relentless testing, tends to have extremely long product pages. Just see the page for its Kindle reader.

via conversion-rate-experts.com

There’s a lot of useful information in this article, but this page length comparison and the technique of writing copy with ‘curiosity rather than overt “buy me” language’ were the big takeaways for me.

Posted in SEO | Tagged

The Internet is hard

Banners, logos, carefully crafted wordsmithery – this is all filler, we’ve found out. Users have been calloused by 15 or so years of surfing through bad ads and marketing babble, and they are unconsciously tuning out everything but the one thing they came to find.

For example, none of the 200 or so confused Facebook users who commented on our earlier post read the post itself, the huge logo at the top of the page, the many links to non-Facebook-related content or the huge, all-bold paragraph about how ReadWriteWeb is not, in fact, some ill-conceived redesign of Facebook. They simply searched for “Facebook login” and, upon navigating to our site, scrolled until they found the one button they wanted to click. Which brings us to our third assertion.

(via readwriteweb.com)

RRW has a post up about the confusion that was caused recently when one of their stories became a top Google result for ‘Facebook login’, and hundreds of confused Facebookers mistook the blog for a new Facebook design.

Some important lessons here.

Interesting column about which NY Times stories are the most shared

More emotional stories were more likely to be e-mailed, the researchers found, and positive articles were shared more than negative ones. Longer articles generally did better than shorter articles, although Dr. Berger said that might just be because the longer articles were about more engaging topics.

[…]

Building on prior research, the Penn researchers defined the quality as an “emotion of self-transcendence, a feeling of admiration and elevation in the face of something greater than the self.”

They used two criteria for an awe-inspiring story: Its scale is large, and it requires “mental accommodation” by forcing the reader to view the world in a different way.

“It involves the opening and broadening of the mind,” write Dr. Berger and Dr. Milkman, who is a behavioral economist at Wharton.

(via nytimes.com)

It sounds like a really interesting study. I’ve had a notion for some years now to start a blog on ‘futurology’ or something similar. Now I’m wondering if that could be a hit…