Red Cardinal » Blogs Search Engine Optimisation Ireland Sun, 29 Mar 2015 09:18:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Well Done Blacknight Mon, 23 Feb 2009 09:52:38 +0000 I spent the weekend in Cork for the Irish Blog Awards. Great time, fantastic night, lovely people and cool place. Blacknight were the worthy winners of the Best Business Blog category sponsored by Red Cardinal.

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Cork was the setting for the 2009 Irish Blog Awards, and it was a fantastic weekend.

On the night The Best Blog of a Business was won by Blacknight. Well done to all the folk at Blacknight.

Unfortunately Michele couldn’t make it to the awards, but George was there to pick up their prize.

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Well Done to The Best Blog of a Business Shortlist Tue, 17 Feb 2009 12:06:54 +0000 Well done to the shortlisted blogs in the Best Blog of a Business category. Details inside :)

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The shortlist for the Best Blog of a Business category has been announced:

Well done to all, and I hope to meet with everyone over the next weekend down in Cork. I’ll be about from Friday until Sunday, so if you’d like to meet up ping me one way or another.

Best of luck to all finalists.

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Best Blog of a Business – Irish Blog Awards 2009 Wed, 04 Feb 2009 15:55:28 +0000 is sponsoring the Best Blog of a Business category at the forthcoming Irish Blog Awards 2009. I'll be in Cork on the night to award the winner his/her prize, and I'm delighted to publish the shortlist here. See inside for more...

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]]> (i.e. me) is sponsoring the Best Blog of a Business category in the forthcoming Irish Blog Awards 2009. I’d like to say congratualtions to all those who are shortlisted for this category, and wish you all the very best of luck on the night. I’m looking forward to meeting everyone down in Cork.

Shortlist for Best Blog of a Business

I know quite a few of the names on the shortlist, but many more there are new to me. If you’re in Cork then please come and say hello. I’m hoping to spend the weekend hanging out with all the great Cork folk. Lastly well done, and a big thank you to Damien for all his work again this year.

Good luck again to all!

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I have a favour to ask please Tue, 19 Feb 2008 12:08:13 +0000 If you see issues with my RSS feed I'd really appreciate if you could ping me.

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I’ve had serious issues since upgrading to WordPress 2.3.3.

David Behan has been really cool letting me know about the issues initially, and updating me on the status. Apparently Netvibes still cant parse my feed :(

Bottom line: my feed is still shagged. And my Feedburner numbers never recovered from the 50% plunge.

So, my little request: if you have issues with my feed can you ping me with what you’re seeing please to help me debug this problem. I can honestly say you wont appreciate your feed numbers until you lose half of your readership in one foul WP upgrade.

Thanks especially to David, but to anyone else who helps out.

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How to lose half your subscribers in 15 minutes… Sat, 16 Feb 2008 19:47:44 +0000 Sorry to any feed subscribers that had to put up with complete gibberish.

Text book example of a Wordpress upgrade gone terribly wrong... :(

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Just upgrade to the latest WordPress install.


Donncha kindly informed me I had a bug in my Subcribe to Comments plugin, and also gently nudged me to upgrade to the latest WP install.

The install went nice and easy. Plugins however didn’t play fair. At all… In particular the Google Sitemap Plugin caused lots of issues. My Feedburner plugin also went a bit haywire.

Long story short – I lost over half of my feed subscribers according to Feedburner :(

Sorry to everyone for all the utter crap that was going out in my feed – this upgrade has been a bloody nightmare.

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Can Excessive Outbound Linking Hurt Your Rankings? Fri, 10 Aug 2007 10:55:51 +0000 Linking out is a good thing for any website. It can help to signal topicality. It can help o create networks.

But sometimes excessive outbound linking can and does hurt your Search Engine rankings...

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I’ve said it before – links form the fabric on the Internet. On that occasion I was making a point about how silly it was to impose arbitrary rules on how people can and cannot link to your site. Today’s post is more about how links on your site can help or harm you.

And as a case in point, the site I’ll be looking at may be a perfect case study for excessively linking to external sites. Let me introduce…

The cute whore

There’s a saying, I believe originating in Cork, which refers to certain individuals as ‘cute whores’. I’m not sure if it can be taken as derogatory, but when I use it I do so with respect for the individual I’m referring to. That cute whore in question is just about to go on his holidays, so this post may not be much use to him for a short while. But some use I do hope it will be.

The great SEO freebie give-away

Ok – I hold my hands up and say that the last few guys waiting for their free search engine optimisation reviews really have been waiting. So I’m trying to work my way through the last few site now, starting with Pat Phelan’s Roam4Free. But bear with me while I digress for an instant.

The purpose of business blogging (IMO)

In my view business blogging should have just one ultimate goal – to become an authority in your chosen field or niche. If as a business blogger you achieve that goal I am quite confident that business success will follow. I am thoroughly convinced of this.

In fact this belief is fodder for a post that I have been threatening for a long time, and a subject that I have discussed with an increasing number of people over the past few months. (I really should write the post.)

The reason for this interlude? Pat is a business blogger through and through.

Back to the SEO advice

From what I can determine Pat really is a cute whore. He’s a doer first, and a talker after. You cant but admire his achievements, and look forward to some of the new ideas he has up his sleeve (he’s been kind enough to share a titbit or two with me from time to time).


But Pat has also been blogging significantly over the past year or so. In fact, I think he has probably become somewhat of an authority on his chosen niche – telecoms, in particular VOIP telephony.

Back to the post topic please…

So what about excessive outbound linking?

Well in the case of the Roam4Free blog the homepage (as of 9am August 10) had 18 internal and 66 external links. So Pat is really linking out from his posts. Or so it would seem…

What’s really happening here is that Pat uses Technorati and Flcikr (amongst other web2.0 bits & bobs). So on every post Pat assigns some Tehnorati tags, and he hosts his images up on Flickr. I can remember once reading one of Pat’s posts in Greader. He had an image of Roam4Free in the post and I thought I’d give it a visit to see if he had launched anything new. It was a link, but it brought me over to Pat’s Flickr stream. Hello back button and crappy user experience (IMO).

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that Flickr is bad, but I think that people like images, and often click on images, so it’s probably better to link intuitively rather than out to Flickr.

The real problem though is that Pat’s pages are littered with links to Flickr and Technorati, and these links are just spewing PageRank where it could be far better used internally on Pat’s site.

Suggestion #1

Add rel="nofollow" to all the outbound Technorati and Flickr links. If you do want to push some PR to those pages then perhaps do so selectively, e.g. have a link to your Flickr stream from the homepage, or build a page listing (and linking to) your Technorati tags.

I have to be honest and say that I’ve never been a huge fan of tagging, although I know it can have value. In this case those Technorati tags are just sucking the life out of Pat’s blog and really have to go. The same advice goes for the add-to-feed-reader links bottom navigation column. NOFOLLOW those fellas as well.

Suggestion #2

I looked for a robots.txt file and got this:

Error 404 – Not Found

Search bar and other tools go here! If you’re reading this, it needs to be implemented, remind me!

Well Pat, you also need to implement a robots.txt file to block out some of the content that you don’t want wasting Search Engines’ time. For instance, I can see literally hundreds of pages with URLs like index.php?tag=[tag]. At first I couldn’t figure where they were coming from. Then I saw that Pat is using two tagging methods within his posts – one to Technorati, the other within his site.

Well after NOFOLLOWING the Technorati links I think Pat should block access to the internal tag pages. I’m pretty sure that they will produce at least some dupe content, and I think Pat would do better to focus on his posts and categories. (TBH I would drop one or the other tagging techniques)

Here’s the start of what I think should go into Pat’s robots.txt:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /index.php?tag=
Disallow: */trackback

The other benefit of blocking that content is that you wont be wasting PR on non-performing content. Currently it appears that Pat has almost 2.5k pages in the supplemental index. Most of these are comments feed and the aforementioned tag pages. But there’s quite a lot of post pages in there also. Retaining more PR internally on the site by removing the leakage (#1 above) and removing superfluous content should bring more of those pages back into the primary index.

(Personally I would NOFOLLOW my comment feeds as well, but advising that is sure to start an argument.)

Suggestion #3

Another reason for many of the post pages to go supplemental may be because of WordPress’ inherent pagination issues. These can be solved using Jamie Sirovich’s excellent PagerFix plugin.

The pagination issue will be especially important for Pat’s blog as he tends to be a serial poster making multiple posts on a any given good day. More posts = higher level of pagination.

In case you’re not aware of the pagination problem – the basic gist is that when you first publish a page it appears on your homepage. Then over time it rotates down to page 2. And then further again. Each time the post moves to an older page it adds one more click to the path from the homepage. Each extra click means less PR to the page. If you use WordPress’ default pager that is. PagerFix does just what the name suggests – fix the WordPress default pager.

Any further thoughts?

The only other thing I would suggest to Pat is possibly to link a little more to his own properties from within his posts. Pat has links to ‘Our Brands’ in the sidebar, but my experience is that links within the body content carry more weight, so don’t be afraid to Pat to plug yourself more often :grin:

I think that Pat might also be well advised to upgrade WordPress from 2.04 as there may be some security issues with that install.

Hope some of that will help you out Pat, and look forward tot he next toy you’ll be releasing soon.

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Technorati Wiki Tue, 31 Jul 2007 15:53:11 +0000 Quick funny about Technorati's developer wiki getting spammed to death...

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Very light posting from me…

Here’s a quickie – check out Technorati’s developer wiki. Let’s just say it’s been moderately spammed (to death)….

Technorati Developers Wiki

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Spiderability is the First Step to Search Engine Nirvana Wed, 04 Jul 2007 10:09:24 +0000 What happens when Google just wont pick up your site?

The first thing to check is whether Googlebot can actually access your content.

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I have a post brewing about taking things for granted. We’re all guilty of it at some time or other.

The most needy review to date

I’ve been (slowly) working my way through some blog SEO posts to help those folk who took up my offer of some free consulting. Today I’m looking at a site that really will benefit from some basic SEO tips. In fact, I think this is definitely the site most needy of help I’ve looked at to date (although the SEO for Blogspot folk are fighting hard for that particular crown).

Basic Seo starts with letting the bots in

Search engines rely on bots (or ‘spiders’) to crawl the Internet and collect the information you publish on your websites. These bots are basically slimmed down web browsers whose modus-operandi is extremely simple – crawl content, find links, save content, follow links, crawl content, find links…. That’s there one and only job. Ok, they do a few other things while they’re at it, but that gives the basic gist of what the bots do.

Bots don’t like Javascript

So the we’ve learned that search engine bots are slimmed down web browsers. One of the things they don’t do is Javascript. So here’s the first rule of spiderability:

1. Don’t use Javascript to create navigational components.

Use good old plain HTML. That’s what it’s for so make use of it.

META refresh gives a strong spam signal

A few years back spammers started to use META refreshes to spam the search engines. META refresh is a small piece of code that is inserted into the <head> element of a HTML document. It basically tells your browsers to go to a new location after a predetermined number of seconds. Spammers used this because the bots didn’t actually enforce the rule when they found it – they simply crawled the content on the page and returned that to the search engine for indexing. The spammer could simply place nice search engine friendly text on the initial page which would rank nicely and as soon as a human visitor came along and visited this page they would be instantly redirected to the spammers real page. The search engines didn’t like this. So the second rule is very simple:

2. Don’t use META refresh when the proper and upstanding thing to do is issue the correct header response.

Every page includes a HTTP header detailing the manifest of the page. This header includes a HTTP response code that tells the browser what to do with the page. The well known 301 redirect is simply a code that is passed as a header response that tells the browser (accessing agent) that the location of the resource requested has changed permanently, and to go to the new location. It is fairly trivial to send header responses – on Apache based systems redirects are relatively easy to set up using the .htaccess file with mod_rewrite.

Some Irish language lessons

So perhaps it would be appropriate to introduce the site that I’m looking at today: ‘Shiopa eile’ is Irish for ‘another shop’ and the blog in question is the brainchild of Paul O Mahony.

Siopa Eile shopping blog
Siopa Eile Shopping Blog

I think the most interesting thing (from my point of view) about is that it is not indexed in Google. is therefore getting zero traffic from Google. Given that Google is often the number #1 referrer for many websites, Paul is really starting with a blank page. So here’s the advice I would give to Paul in order to better optimise his site.

The SEO tips

The blog can be found in a subdirectory called ‘blog’. Currently the root index page contains a nasty META refresh into that directory. Here’s what the root page returns:

<meta HTTP-EQUIV=”REFRESH” content=”0; url=”>
Please wait as you get redirected to <a href=”http://siop[... ]“></a>.

[NB - edits my own]

Now I would say that as a matter of urgency this needs to be change:

Tip no. #1:

If nothing will be published in the root directory then move the entire blog up into the level. In general deeper means less important, so the closer to the root the more important the content appears to the search engines. I would normally say that all pages should be redirected after the move, but in this case nothing is indexed. Any inbound links should be redirected to their new homes though.

Moving the blog into the root may require some higgery-pokkery in WordPress, but I think it would be well worth it.

If it is not possible to move the blog into the root directory then I would suggest removing the META refresh and adding a 301 redirect into the .htaccess file.

The .htaccess file can be found in the root directory. You can use an FTP program (such as the free FileZilla) to grab this file and re-upload once you’ve finished editing. Here’s the code that needs to be included:

<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
Options +FollowSymlinks
RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^siopaeile\.com [NC]
RewriteRule ^/$$1 [R=301]
# that redirects to
# and to
# but wouldn’t redirect to
# so fall through to redirect root to /blog/
RewriteRule ^/$$1 [R=301,L]
# that redirects root / to
<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>

BIG FAT WARNINGI know enough to get around .htacess and mod_rewrite, but I always tell folk to test the code very well. For me personally mod_rewrite is one of the most difficult aspects of my job, and very often I have to experiment to get the code right. Get it wrong and your sever is likely going to bang out 500 errors to beat the band.

So why no indexing in Google?

I have to be honest here. I first started writing this post some time ago. I even emailed Paul to ask him about the META refresh (he probably thinks I’m either quite mad or incredibly useless for taking this long to actually write about his site…).

When I first looked at his backlinks in Yahoo! there seemed to be none (but take it from me – never, ever put your entire faith into Yahoo’s SiteExplorer tool). That would normally explain the issue – Google wont index a site unless it finds at least one external link to that site. That external link must be FOLLOWed (i.e. without a rel="nofollow" attribute), and it may be the case that unless the link originates on a semi-trusted site it will be ignored.

Well Yahoo! is reporting quite a few links now. The few links that I checked were from Paul commenting on other people’s blogs. Commenting and interacting with others is a great way to get attention and traffic. But you will not get any Search Engine benefits if the link you acquire from other sites is NOFOLLOWed. Unfortunately for Paul this was the case on the pages I checked.

Tip #2:

Paul needs good text-rich anchored FOLLOWed links (like shopping blog), preferably from on-theme websites (unlike mine).

Use the tools Google gives you

Google has been far and away the most progressive Search Engine in terms of informing webmasters about their sites status. The Webmaster Console can give valuable data to a webmaster enabling you to diagnose all sorts of issues. In Paul’s case the console will likely not yield much information (Google appears to be completely oblivious to his site). The console may give up one useful piece of info in instances where your site is not appearing in Google – Penalty notification.

If your site is under any penalty you will be notified within the console. That’s pretty cool because if you inadvertently broke the guidelines (and got caught :mrgreen:) this tool not only informs you, but it also allows you to file a re-inclusion request after you’ve fixed up the offending material.

Tip #3:

Make use of Google Webmaster Console to appraise your site condition and diagnose any issues with crawlabilty and HTTP errors.

Just a quick note: I’m not suggesting that Paul’s site is under a penalty. My gut tells me it’s a spiderability and link issue.

So any other tips?

Well I would strongly suggest reading some of my previous posts in this ‘series’. Many contain tips that can be followed on any site:

  1. Getting you site out of supplemental index (Krishna De)
  2. Page titles and SEO (First Partners)
  3. SEO for Blogspot (Blogger) sites (multiple sites)
  4. SEO for photoblogs (McAwilliams)
  5. Corporate Blogging SEO (Bubble Brosthers)
  6. PageRank Flow, Comment Feeds in Supplementals, NoFollow & robots.txt (BifSniff)

Apart from the above, there are many other tweaks that Paul can make. I would certainly include post titles (they seem to be missing from the homepage) along with links straight through to the actual post. I would also consider NOFOLLOWing all the links to the social media site and Technorati tags. I noticed a few other actionable items, but the first and foremost priority is letting the search engine bots into the site and getting the pages properly indexed. Hope that helps Paul.

To the others who are still on my list

I have to admit when I made my offer I sort of knew it was a little risky. I thought I’d spend a short amount of time on each site and zip through the reviews. I’m finding that I’m actually spending multiple hours on each site, and being just a mere one-man-show means that I often have to drop the review mid-sentence to work with clients (and I haven’t been short of work thankfully). But I do promise that everyone will get a review. So here are the blogging heavy-hitters that still await their reviews:


Slow but steady progress (emphasis on the slow – sorry guys)

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WordPress Mobile Plugin with WURFL Killed my Rankings Mon, 25 Jun 2007 08:21:05 +0000 If you have Ruadhan O'Donoghue's Wordpress Mobile Plugin with WURFL plugin installed you may want to consider deactivating it.

Serving mobile content to Googlebot and Slurp is going to impact your Search Engine rankings.

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A couple of days ago my site absolutely fell out of the SERPs. I really couldn’t tell what was causing Google to receive 404 errors that Webmaster Console was reporting.

Further Digging

This was really beginning to hurt me so I decided to grab my raw access logs and look to see what was going on: – - [23/Jun/2007:02:59:52 -0400] “GET / HTTP/1.1″ 302 5 “-” “Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +” – - [23/Jun/2007:02:59:55 -0400] “GET /wp-mobile.php HTTP/1.1″ 404 20530 “-” “Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +”

What’s happening there is Googlebot is requesting my homepage, getting a 302 redirect for /wp-mobile.php, and then a 404 not found for that file. In my stupidity I didn’t copy across the file in question as per the installation instructions (although I’m not sure why the plugin doesn’t simply redirect to the plugin folder?).

So you can see how Google was getting those 404 errors. But my stupidity aside, there is a very nasty flaw in Ruadhan O’Donoghue’s plugin: mobile content is served to search engine robots.

If you serve excerpts for each post on your homepage then you really want the Search Engine bots to see that content. Granted, my own cock-up added to my issues by serving 404′s to the bots, but I think the plugin will need some modification to ensure that regular web-crwalers aren’t getting the minimal content that mobile devices get. For actual post pages this isn’t really an issue, but for the homepage this plugin could really affect your rankings – I for one need to ensure that my homepage is served correctly to the bots.

Here’s a few requests from my log: – - [23/Jun/2007:03:05:04 -0400] “GET /statistics/02-03-2007/social-media-marketing/ HTTP/1.0″ 302 0 “-” “Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Yahoo! Slurp;” – - [23/Jun/2007:03:05:24 -0400] “GET /wp-mobile.php HTTP/1.0″ 404 20492 “-” “Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Yahoo! Slurp;” – - [23/Jun/2007:03:10:34 -0400] “GET /contact HTTP/1.0″ 302 0 “-” “Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Yahoo! Slurp;” – - [23/Jun/2007:03:10:35 -0400] “GET /wp-mobile.php HTTP/1.0″ 404 20495 “-” “Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Yahoo! Slurp;” – - [23/Jun/2007:02:59:52 -0400] “GET / HTTP/1.1″ 302 5 “-” “Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +” – - [23/Jun/2007:02:59:55 -0400] “GET /wp-mobile.php HTTP/1.1″ 404 20530 “-” “Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +”

It appears that MSNbot isn’t affected by this, but both Googlebot and Yahoo!Slurp are served up the mobile equivalent of your blog.

The plugin is taking over the parsing for all those user agents as they accept mobile content. But the fly in the ointment is that the content served up by Ruadhan’s plugin is extremely paired down: the homepage simply includes links to your last 10 posts. I’d say this could spell the kiss of death for your search engine rankings (even if you manage to copy the files across *doh*).

I’ve left a comment on the plugin page over on the .mobi blog, and trackbacked to Michele’s post where I first saw this plugin. Hopefully Ruadhan can come up with a workaround for this issue, as I’m quite sure a mobile plugin will be very useful given that mobile devices are going to appear more and more in your logs going forward.

Have thoughts on this post? Head over and leave a comment on the blog: WordPress Mobile Plugin with WURFL Killed my Rankings

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Stop WordPress Overwriting Custom .htaccess Rules Mon, 11 Jun 2007 09:05:28 +0000 If I had a penny cent for every time I've had to re-upload my .htaccess file to this site....

If you suffer from Wordpress overwriting your custom .htaccess rules fret no more - the solution is deceptively simple.

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For as long As I care to remember I’ve been having issues with my WordPress .htaccess file.

.htaccess file is a small Apache file that lets you do all sorts of funky things with requests made to your server. It’s also one of SEO’s best tools. I have a lot of custom 301 redirects set up, including a redirect which makes my site available only via the www subdomain.

WordPress Permalinks

Well WordPress has a habit of rewriting the .htaccess file to allow some of the SEO-friendly URLs you regularly see (also known as ‘permalinks’). And each time it does so I lose my rules. It’s a royal pain in the arse and when this happened just the other day I thought I’d take the time to fix this for once and for all. I had to dig through the WordPress Codex to see what was causing all the trouble. save_mod_rewrite_rules() is the culprit. That little function, and my own ignorance of how WordPress processes the .htaccess file.

The solution

As with most solutions it’s really very simple. As with most simple solutions it’s only simple if you know about it. So here it is:

WordPress .htaccess file looks like this:

# BEGIN wordpress
<ifmodule mod_rewrite.c>
rewriteEngine On
rewriteBase /
rewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME}!-f
rewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME}!-d
rewriteRule . /index.php [L]
# END wordpress

Now here’s the really important bit:

Never place your own rules within the ‘wordpress’ block

The WordPress block is the bit that starts with # BEGIN wordpress and ends with # END wordpress. My mistake was to place my rules within this block (after the rewirteEngine On line). This seemed the sensible thing to do – after all rewrite rules must come after rewirteEngine On, and my understanding was not to repeat this command.

How WordPress rewrites .htaccess files

When WordPress rewrites the .htaccess file it does so by first checking that the file is writeable, then exploding the file using the # BEGIN and # END strings. Anything outside of those markers should be left intact after WP rewrites the file.

In my case I had to add a new block with a second rewirteEngine On so that Apache wouldn’t break (although I don’t think this is strictly the correct way to write the file). Here’s what my new revised .htaccess file looks like:

<ifmodule mod_rewrite.c>
RewriteEngine On
[... ]Funky custom rules go here[ ...]
# BEGIN WordPress
<ifmodule mod_rewrite.c>
RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
RewriteRule . /index.php [L]
# END WordPress

Perhaps the WordPress folk could add an additional comment into the .htaccess file that explains this better?

Well there you have it – how to stop WordPress overwriting your custom .htaccess file rules.

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PageRank Flow, Comment Feeds in Supplementals, NoFollow & robots.txt – bifsniff.com Thu, 07 Jun 2007 12:01:44 +0000 Understanding and controlling how search engines access and index the contents of your website can greatly assist in achieving higher rankings for the pages that matter the most.

Have thoughts on this post? Head over and leave a comment on the blog: PageRank Flow, Comment Feeds in Supplementals, NoFollow & robots.txt –

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Well there’s no time like the present to try and clear the last of the IBA free site analyses. As they say – better late than never!

Please Note: While the following analysis relates to many of the suggestions made are highly relevant to any website. – formerly the cartoon guys

I had the fortune to meet Frank a few months back when he came along the the inaugural ShareIT event in Cork. Frank has also been kind enough to let me know every time WordPress has decided to rewrite my .htaccess file (which is more times than I care to mention – damn WP).

Page Navigation

  1. Fist port of call – the Canonical URL
  2. Comment Feeds in the Supplemental Bin
  3. Why pages go supplemental
  4. Controlling search engine access to your site
  5. Don’t channel PageRank to useless pages
  6. Having unique page titles and descriptions

First port of call – the Canonical URL

The very first thing I check when I go to a site is whether or not it resolves via a canonical URL. This all sounds very technical, but in fact it’s a very simple test:

  1. In your browser address bar type your website address WITHOUT the www.
  2. Now do the same thing again, except this time with the www.

*IF* your site appeared for both addresses *AND* the address bar didn’t change for either to the other (i.e. you typed www.[mysite].[myTLD] and the address automatically change to [mysite].[myTLD] without the www.) then you are effectively publishing the same site two times. This is known as the “Canonical URL” issue.

You see if Google can access your site via both www. and non-www. addresses it sees these as two different sites. Google does a pretty good job of filtering out one or the other from its results, but where this can hurt you is your backlink profile. Say lots of people have linked to your site and those links point at both the non-www. and www. addresses more or less evenly. Well under this situation you are effectively diluting the link love by splitting it between two sites. Now if you go and set up a really simple redirect from non-www. to www. (or vice-versa) you’ll effectively double the link love in this example. his could have an effect on how your site ranks overall.

Now if Frank is reading this he’s probably saying ‘tell me something I don’t know’. That’s because Frank has mastered this a long time ago. Try typing into your browser. Now take a look at the address bar – no www. there now is there?

Comment Feeds in the Supplemental Bin

Frank mentioned that he had a lot of pages in the supplemental index. In particular the comment feeds seemed to get supped. This is quite regular in fact. The comment feed is generally only linked to from within a post itself, and rarely will you have external links pointing at your comment feed URL.

Curiously this issue has been the focus of quite a bit of disucusion (overview here, some more here) in the SEO field recently.

Before we go any further let’s take a step back and look at the problem faced by First we need to take a snapshot of the pages indexed in both Google’s main and supplemental indices. The following advanced operator commands will help us:

  1. Total indexed pages:
  2. Pages in supplemental index:
    *** -RCredCardinalIE

Query 1 gives us the total number of pages indexed (2,060), query 2 the number of pages in the supplemental index (1,180), and the difference between the two (880) the number of pages in the primary index. The comment feeds are of low value and deservedly end up in the supplemental index. This is quite normal, and generally wont hurt your site. An argument can be made, however, for trying to reduce the number of pages indexed in order to ensure that Google gets your most important pages into the primary index.

Another Step Back – Why Pages go Supplemental

To better understand why you want to control what pages get indexed you need to know why pages go supplemental. There have been many rumours and myths about this topic. However recently Google has come out and said on a number of occasions that there is only one reason why a page will end up in the suppelmental index – Lack of PageRank

Get more quality backlinks. This is a key way that our algorithms will view your pages as more valuable to retain in our main index.

Source: Adam Lasnik comment here

…the main determinant of whether a url is in our main web index or in the supplemental index is PageRank.

If a page doesn’t have enough PageRank to be included in our main web index, the supplemental results represent an additional chance for users to find that page, as opposed to Google not indexing the page.

Source: Matt Cutts Google Hell post

PageRank is passed from one resource (page) to another via links. A collection of pages that forms a any website will therefore have a calculable amount of pagerank to share between those pages. Let’s take a very simple example to show this.

So let’s say that your site has ’6′ PageRank units to share amongst its pages. All external links point at the homepage only (rarely the case, although the homepage regularly has the highest PageRank). Here’s how the site might look:


The homepage (‘Home’) links to 3 sub-category pages (‘SubCat1′, ‘SubCat2′, ‘SubCat3′). So each of these sub pages receives 2 PageRank units (i.e. 6/3) from the homepage. In turn each of these sub-category pages links all other sub-category pages, 2 inner pages, and back to the homepage (this is a classic ‘silo’ architecture).

  • the homepage funnels PgaeRank to 3 sub-category pages
  • each sub-category page funnels PageRank to 2 other sub-category pages, two inner pages, and back to the homepage
  • each inner page funnels PageRank to 1 other inner page and back to its parent sub-category page

There are many reciprocal relationships within this very small example, and calculating the actual PageRank in and out of any page can become very complex as the number of pages and links on each page increases (I’m not even going to try).

What should be obvious though is the fact that reducing the number of pages which share the initial PageRank should increase the PageRank shared by the smaller page set. That in turn may result in some additional pages coming out of the supplemental index and into the primary index.

In bifsniff’s case they have too many pages and either not enough PageRank to support all those pages or PageRank is not being filtered optimally to support each page.

Controlling search engine access to your site

One trick here is to specifically exclude pages that you don’t want indexed. In the case of WordPress feeds you can use this useful plugin written by Joost DeValk. The plugin ads a NoIndex tag to your feeds so they will be followed but wont get indexed.

In terms of the comments feeds that end up in the supps, well it would be as well to just add a NOFOLLOW to the links. This will take a bit of digging into your code as the link text is generated within /wp-includes/fedds.php:

92. function comments_rss_link($link_text = 'Comments RSS', $commentsrssfilename = '') {
93. $url = comments_rss($commentsrssfilename);
94. echo "<a href='$url'>$link_text</a>";
95. }

Line 94. needs to be changed to:

echo "<a href='$url' rel='nofollow'>$link_text</a>";

That should place the required “NOFOLLOW” value into the rel attribute. Those feeds should then no longer be indexed in Google. By changing this code (rather than using Joost’s plugin) you get the benefit of retaining your main feeds indexation while keeping those pesky comment feeds out of the index.

Don’t channel PageRank to useless pages

When I performed the site: operator commend in Google i got the following results:


Here’s the ‘Secret Page’:


That page has a PageRank of 4 and no external links according to Yahoo!. The same goes for the Authors Login page.

I would NOFOLLOW those links (this might require some hard coding hackery) and exclude those pages within my robots.txt file:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /secret/
Disallow: /private-authors-area/

Any other pages that are not adding to the user experience could also be removed in similar fashion.

Having unique page titles and descriptions

I noticed that bifsniff uses an identical META description throughout the site. I think it is always better to make the page META as unique as possible for each page. There are two benefits here:

  1. search engines generally use the META description as the snippet, so you should view your META as a call-to-action;
  2. unique META data *may* assist you when a page is at the margin of being duplicate content.

If you use WordPress there are a number of plugins available that allow you to add unique META descriptions and keywords to each page and post.


Well hopefully there’s quite a bit for Frank to go with there. There was a few other other items that I came across (linking to archives) but I think this post is quite long enough.

Hopefully this post will explain to people how search engines see each site in aggregate and how Google in particular decides which pages to include in the primary and supplementary index.

If you have any questions, or any of the above technical issues need de-mystifying please do leave me a comment below and I’ll try to better explain. (Glances at Aide from

Have thoughts on this post? Head over and leave a comment on the blog: PageRank Flow, Comment Feeds in Supplementals, NoFollow & robots.txt –

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5 Reasons Why I Blog Wed, 11 Apr 2007 22:43:26 +0000 Why I blog. You could say it's fairly obvious, but then I could retort by saying that this post is schizophrenic.

And then I might not retort at all. Now I'm confused.

Have thoughts on this post? Head over and leave a comment on the blog: 5 Reasons Why I Blog

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It’s nice to see one of these big blog memes make it to Irish shores. Both Gavin and myself were tagged by one Mr Halfdeck. Gavin put up a great post, so now it’s my turn.

So why do I blog?

  1. One real reason.

    I’d really love to say I blog to make the world a better place but I’ll be frank. I blog for one primary reason – to draw attention to myself so that I can earn a living. You may or may not have noticed that I don’t have a sales/brochure site, just a blog with one or two very basic pages to whore my wares (I can’t stop using the word whore since SMW007 – thanks Lar :mrgreen: ). And thus far it’s worked incredibly well.

  2. To interact with others

    The real beauty of blogs, and the reason why I always recommend that clients start blogging to achieve better SEO results, is because suddenly we can all interact via the blog. Readers can comment, respond, argue and engage. Engagement leads to links. Period.

  3. It’s just so damn easy

    OK. It does take some work, but think about it – WordPress installs in about four clicks. And I have to hand to the WP guys – it’s just such a worthy publishing platform. Easy, easy, easy, and very effective. Posting decent material does require some work, but the response you get in Point 2. above makes it all worth while. I have a lot of people to thank for that.

  4. To help others

    Without insulting the profit perogative in Point 1. above, I do try to help others if I can. By publishing that help on my blog it may also be useful to someone else later on. You know those moments when you’re looking for a solution to some problem and suddenly you find it on a blog somewhere? So I put as many solutions up on my blog because information is only useful if you can access it. And there I have stumbled upon another reason why I blog. Search engines just bloody love blogs. I don’t mean normal love. I’m talking about infatuation love. Hey, I’m not complaining :grin:

  5. Scrap all the above

    Here’s the real reason:


You can find that site at

Or at if you are so inclined….

So why is Realex the real reason I blog? Well without crap sites like the Realex website I probably wouldn’t have too much to write about. You see blogs are the world’s Number #1 medium for that pastime we all love so much – the rant.

So here it is: I have a username and password to login to Realex Resource Centre. I don’t have the URL for the Resource Centre (client’s account). Do you think the site mentions Login? Anywhere?

But they do have a nice search box on each page. Search is so useful. I should know. But have you tried using the fantastic Realex site search feature? It’s really cool in a very deja-vu kind of way – no matter what you search for the result is always just a refresh of the page your searched from. No results to be found.

So there you are. That’s why I blog.

I was going to mention that I hadn’t been tagged before and then I remembered that indeed I had. And on that occasion I very rudely never responded. But I do hope that Pat has since forgiven me.

And finally here’s who I’m tagging:

  1. Damien Mulley (probably one of the most interesting Irish blogers)
  2. Pat Phelan (not because I ignored Pat’s earlier tag, but because I think he has fast become an authority in his niche, and I’m interested to learn what motivates him)
  3. Lar Veale (OK – it’s not Lar’s blog per-se, but, again, I really am interested in what motivates business blogging)
  4. Krishna De – another interesting business blogger, and I’m interested in the business side of things again.
  5. Thomas Holmes – a really positive blog (the yin to my negative yang) and dual language to boot. Interesting from so many angles.

This is a great meme and I hope it spreads to more Irish blogs.

Have thoughts on this post? Head over and leave a comment on the blog: 5 Reasons Why I Blog

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How To Get Your Site Out Of The Supplemental Index -Krishna De Tue, 10 Apr 2007 07:55:28 +0000 This post was to be all about how Krishna could make her blog more Search Engine friendly. Unfortunately it became a discovery of the site being hacked.

There is also some advice for Krishna, and I hope her site has already been patched or is soon to be so.

Have thoughts on this post? Head over and leave a comment on the blog: How To Get Your Site Out Of The Supplemental Index -Krishna De

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I met Krishna De in Cork last month. She gave a fantastic presentation on marketing and leveraging the Internet to achieve your business goals. In fact, without prejudice to any of the other speakers, I found that Krishna’s topic area was of the most interest to me. Krishna also availed of my offer for a free site review. So without further ado…

I have to say I have always admired Krishna’s website. It is just well polished from the get-go. The homepage just speaks ‘professionalism’ to me:


If I were to find any fault it would be with the footer – I can’t easily discern between text and links. But that would just be nit-picking.

More than meets the eye

It was only when I sent in a spider that the true size of Krishna’s site became apparent. I knew that her blog has been on-line for a number of years and so expected the blog to be quite extensive. But I hadn’t expected this:

Crawler 1: 2,306 internal pages
Crawler 2: 2,604 pages (some external)

A look at Google’s index shows that Krishna’s site has a high number of pages in the supplemental index:

Pages Indexed: 1,330
Pages Supplemental: 964

That’s a particularly high proportion of supplemental:indexed pages, and to me this is the most pressing issue for Krishna.

A robots eye view

Here’s Krishna’s robots.txt file:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /_mm/
Disallow: /_notes/
Disallow: /_baks/
Disallow: /MMWIP/
Disallow: /audio-for/
Disallow: /private/
Disallow: /onlinebrand/

User-agent: googlebot
Disallow: *.csi

When I look at some of the files that have made their way into the supplemental index I can see immediately that many should not be indexed in the first place.

HOLD PRESS – I’ve just noticed that Krishna’s site has been hacked:


Those links at the top of the page shouldn’t be there. That’s taken from Google’s cached version of the page. Here’s the original page. This type of hacking is normally carried out by altering the .htaccess file to cloak your pages for GoogleBot. Normal users are shown the second page, while Google sees the page with the links.

I’ve seen this hack a lot recently. The best medicine is to make sure that your software is up-to-date. There have been issues with WordPress, and that’s why the WordPress guys are very much on the ball with updates. You have to carefully check your server to see what else has been left around. The first file I would check is .htaccess, although in this case I have a feeling there may be a bit more going on.

I cant tell for sure if Krishna has fixed this. This hack might be a bit more elaborate than normal user agent sniffing. When I access the page as GoogleBot I get the clean version so the hack has either been treated, or is using a IP delivery or reverse-lookup to only cloak for the real GoogleBot. I sent Krishna a mail as soon as I found this so hopefully she already knows about it and had it patched.

Back to work…

There’s not a lot I can do while I wait to hear back from Krishna. So I’m going to go ahead with what I think Krishna should do to fix the supplemental issues.

The crawler found 2,306 resources in Krishna’s site. it also found about 100 cases of duplicate content covering about 250 pages (the homepage was accessible via 4 URLs). Most of the duplicate content came from the trailing slash problem. Krishna can solve most of this by installing a small WordPress Plugin called Permalink Redirect.

Next step, Krishna needs to update that robots.txt file. I would add in the following to stop Google crawling certain areas of the site:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /_mm/
Disallow: /_notes/
Disallow: /_baks/
Disallow: /MMWIP/
Disallow: /audio-for/
Disallow: /private/
Disallow: /onlinebrand/
Disallow: /learningzone/
Disallow: /blog/wp-content/plugins/
User-agent: googlebot
Disallow: *.csi

Soemwhere in Krishna’s blog she has linked to her plug-in directory. The result is that Google has indexed a tonne of files from her WordPress Plug-in directory. This has two effects:

  1. increases the site size, and therefore the Pagerank needed to carry each page;
  2. decreases the Pagerank passed to each page as there are more internal links than needed.

So not only should Krishna remove the links to those pages, she should also make sure that the bots no longer crawl resources that shouldn’t be in the index. The two most obvious offenders I could see for low-value filler content were Learning Zone (/learningzone/) and the plug-in directory (/blog/wp-content/plugins/). So I’ve disallowed the bots from those areas.

Calendars can drive bots batty

I’ve found that dynamic calendars are very often the worst culprits for driving search engine bots around the twist. And Krishna’s site hasn’t let me down. Within the LearningZone there is a dynamic calendar. This is just one more reason to keep the bots out of there.


I notice that the crawler came back with a large chunk of default WordPress page URLs. These are the URLs that look like Krishna must have changed over to the more SE-friendly permalink structure, but not changed all her internal links.

Although there could be quite some work involved, I think it would be useful to fix this issue. I saw some duplicate content issues due to the use of both default and permalink structures. If you are interested in the duplicate content URLs here’s the full report:


Other thoughts

My eyes are getting a bit weary now, but there are just a couple of other thoughts on Krishna’s blog.

Internal linking can be a great way to help your pages rank well. For a start you can control the anchor text used, and anchors are what give relevancy to the linked material. Google loves anchors, so don’t use ‘click here’ or ‘look at this’ where you could use great descriptive anchors for your links.

I looked through some of Krishna’s posts and the thing that struck me was the lack of links. A great way to keep posts out of the supplemental index AND boost your internal traffic is to cross link in your posts. If you discussed something previously which is related to your current post then link to it. And use good descriptive anchor text in your links. It’s amazing how just one or two good internal links can see pages jump out of the supplemental index.

I hope Krishna has fixed this up

It’s such a pain in the rear when hackers get into your site. And it goes to show that you can never be too careful with the security of your website. Hopefully Krishna either has this sorted or soon will.

And if you want to see a great example of a blog that shows you what on-line marketing is I would strongly advise that you head over to Krishna De’s website.

Have thoughts on this post? Head over and leave a comment on the blog: How To Get Your Site Out Of The Supplemental Index -Krishna De

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Are You Confusing Search Engine Bots? Tue, 03 Apr 2007 08:16:16 +0000 Given the right signals search engines will reciprocate with good rankings.

But what are the signals you can control, and what should those signals be?

A look at another Irish Blog Award nominee might help answer these questions.

Have thoughts on this post? Head over and leave a comment on the blog: Are You Confusing Search Engine Bots?

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There are two primary factors to getting a page ranked – discovery and relevancy. By and large, search engines are clever creatures, but the very best webmasters will always send out the right signals to gently guide the search engines, and in return receive great rankings for their content.

Search engines discover content using their bots (or ‘crawlers’), and determine relevancy (and by extension ranking) using advanced algorithms.


The golden rule of SEO is that search engines cant rank a page they don’t know about. This is what makes discovery is so important. The most natural way for a search engine to discover a new resource is by crawling a link pointing at that content. So to get any new resource crawled quickly you should get a few links from other sites that are crawled regularly. (The major search engines have a sitemap initiative, but remember that without a solitary link Google will not index your content regardless of sitemap).


Getting your page crawled is less than half the battle. Now comes the hard part – ranking well. The second factor that determines whether your page ranks well is relevancy. Relevancy is determined by search engine algorithms which decide the order to display results to searchers. A number of on-site and off-site factors are incorporated into the relevancy determination which I’ll look at in a moment. (Trust could be also be dropped into the mix here, but I’m assuming that away for the moment).

How can you guide the search engines?

Webmasters actually have the greatest say in signalling for both discovery and relevancy. I use the term signalling because that’s really what SEO is all about – sending the right signal to the search engines.

To explain more about signals I’m going to have a look at another of the Irish Blog Award nominee sites which availed of the free site review offer.

First Partners

I met Paul Browne at the Irish Blog Awards a few weeks back. Paul writes regularly on his technology-themed First Partners blog:

First Partners Blog

Back to relevancy

The page title is probably one of the most important on-page elements used by search engines to determine the relevancy of your web pages. By and large you should target 1-3 keyword phrases, and bear in mind that most searches are around 3 words in length.

In the case of Paul’s blog homepage I notice that he is using dynamic titles which include the title of the most recent post. This in my view is a mistake – the homepage page title is about as sacred as it gets, and you don’t want it changing every day or so. I think Paul should concentrate on the main focus of his blog, whatever niche that might be, and use that in his blog homepage title.

The canonical URL problem (again)

I’m probably beginning to sound like a broken record. The canonical URL problem is a condition where your site or page is accessible by typing either of the following into your browser:


(notice this second case drops the www)

If you can reach your page via either URL AND the URL in the address bar does not change your site is suffering from the canonical URL problem.

In Paul’s case his site is accessible via both the www and non-www URLs. To fix this problem you need to redirect one URL to the other with a 301 redirect.

Don’t use 302 redirects for your homepage

When checking Paul’s blog I noticed that the homepage had a Toolbar PR0. This is odd given that the blog has PageRank 5. Then I noticed that the root page is redirecting to

GET / HTTP/1.1
User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-GB; rv: Gecko/20070309 Firefox/
Accept: text/xml,application/xml,application/xhtml+xml,[... ]png,*/*;q=0.5
Accept-Language: en,en-us;q=0.5
Accept-Encoding: gzip,deflate
Accept-Charset: ISO-8859-1,utf-8;q=0.7,*;q=0.7
Keep-Alive: 300
Connection: keep-alive
Cookie: __utma=67859462.28111[... ]__utmc=67859462

HTTP/1.x 302 Found
Date: Mon, 02 Apr 2007 16:35:35 GMT
Server: Apache/2.0.52 (Red Hat)
Content-Length: 304
Keep-Alive: timeout=15, max=100
Connection: Keep-Alive
Content-Type: text/html; charset=iso-8859-1
X-Pad: avoid browser bug

If the homepage is going to stay there then I suggest changing that to a 301 redirect. The most probable reason why the temporary homepage is currently PageRank 0 is that it has few if any backlinks. The backlinks Paul has accumulated point at rather than, and Google doesn’t realise that /rp/ is now the homepage. No 301 = No transferral of links and trust

And some advice for the blog?

I had a few ideas when I looked at Paul’s blog. I found that the page weight was a little too beefy, with the blog homepage weighing in at 800KB+ on one occasion last week. I also thought that Paul could cut the number of posts published per page to a more manageable number. And I even considered whether NOFOLLOWing some of the internal links (e.g. the cloud) might help.

But I can safely scrap all that advice for one simple suggestion: give each and every blog post a unique META description.

When I looked at all the pages in the supplemental index it was instantly apparent that Paul wasn’t using META descriptions:

First Partners supplemental index

You can see that Google is picking up boilerplate content for every snippet. I’d be willing to bet that at least some of the 265 pages in supplemental will pop out if they have a unique description META.

I did spend a short amount of time looking at the backlink profile for the blog and the majority of links use the anchor “Paul Browne – Technology in plain English”. I reckon Paul probably ranks well for his name (he had a thread about his on-line doppleganger but I couldn’t find it). I think some diversification of the link anchor could pay off – non-diverse backlink anchors may actually raise a flag that could damage your site.

So find that niche and push it in your titles and anchors. In Paul’s case that niche should be highly relevant to his company’s products and services. I’ll leave the idea generation to Paul.

So to recap my advice

  1. Fix the blog homepage title
  2. Sort the canonical URL
  3. Change the root page 302 redirect
  4. Assign unique META descriptions to each blog post

Previous posts in this series:

Seo for Blogspot (Blogger) blogs: Helping The Blogspot Bloggers – A Tough Test To SEO Blogspot
PhotoBlog SEO: SEO For Thin Content Sites – Making A P h o t o B l o g More Visible
Corporate Blogging SEO: Putting Some Fizz Into Bubble Brothers – Beware Of Corporate Blogspot Blogs

Have thoughts on this post? Head over and leave a comment on the blog: Are You Confusing Search Engine Bots?

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Search Marketing World 2007, ShareIT Cork, and A Few Other Pieces of Irish SEO News Sun, 25 Mar 2007 11:38:11 +0000 Wow, what a week. First there was Search Marketing World 2007, and then there was ShareIT down in Cork. Oh, and did I mention that I might be leaving the Irish SEO industry?

Have thoughts on this post? Head over and leave a comment on the blog: Search Marketing World 2007, ShareIT Cork, and A Few Other Pieces of Irish SEO News

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Well, another week flashes by and with so much to report I suppose it’s best to do a review post.

Search Marketing World 2007

Ireland’s first conference dedicated to Search Marketing hit our shores on Wednesday March 21 in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham. The highlight for me was meeting some of the Irish guys who have become on-line friends over the past 12 months. To Dave, Jason, Stephen and Alastair – the pleasure was mine.

Prosperity gave out a great little USB flash-drive to each attendee – great idea guys. It was nice that one of the first faces to greet me on arrival was Gary from Prosperity. I met Gary late last year, and he’s one of the most amiable people I’ve met on my travels. If you need a media-focused recruitment agency give prosperity a call.

The conference itself was very well organised. I wont go into detail on the sessions as I bobbed and weaved quite a bit. Both Jason and Dave have excellent write-ups on the sessions they attended and their overall thoughts of the conference. The sessions that stood out for me personally were the “Search Facts and Figures in Ireland” session in the morning and the “Ad Agencies and Search” session that closed out the day.

I do think it was a shame that not even one session was set aside for advanced material (‘Advanced Track’ – for who??), but I suppose the organisers were somewhat precluded from straying from very entry-level subject matter given the small and nascent Search market here in Ireland.

It was also nice to meet and chat with Danny Sullivan. It is quite true what they say about Danny – he’s a really nice guy who absolutely blows you away with his knowledge and understanding of the search world.

Well done Martin, and perhaps next year you’ll find a small room to run some advanced sessions for the professional SEOs out here.

ShareIT Cork – Business Advisory

Now this was just hands-down a fantastic idea. Damien organised a free one-day training conference for start-ups and small companies. Damien pulled together some fantastic speakers (can’t speak for yours truly) and I found that everything discussed would benefit my own business. This for me is a great indicator that both speakers and content were absolutely top-notch.

I have to admit that I probably warbled on a bit (Damien almost fell asleep when I was talking LOL), but I suppose SEO can be a difficult subject to squeeze into a one hour talk (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it). My presentation will be getting some substantial tweaking next time it is called upon.

It was great to meet up with everyone there on the day, and in particular Krishna, who is a fantastic speaker, and Laurence of IQcontent who I chatted with extensively for the second time in a week. After we managed to miss the next train afterwards Laurence and I grabbed a bite to eat, and then chatted for most of the train journey home. I can re-affirm what Dave said.

Perhaps biggest thanks are due to Damien who once again displayed his enormous propensity for helping others. Very, very well done Damien. I’m sure you slept like a rock after sitting through my presentation.

To all the attendees – I’ll get all the links and presentation material zipped up and make it available either here or through Damien.

Keep an eye on the Business Advisory site for the next event happening near you. I’d personally be happy to pay to attend and event like this, so the fact that it is completely free makes it a complete no-brainer. Well done again Damien.

Some other bits and bobs

Well done also to Dave Davis who now becomes the second Irish SEO blogger to join the illustrious ranks of the WebProNews network. This now means that selected posts from both my blog and Dave’s will be syndicated across the iEntry network. It might not sound like much but take a look at the list of bloggers and you’ll appreciate the significance of this. Dave’s name should be joining the list sometime next week.

Well done Dave.

I’ve Been Stalked!

But in the nice way. I was approached by a Dublin college to lecture a course in Internet Marketing. Unfortunately prior commitments meant I was unavailable to lecture the course in question. It was a shame as I believe there is desperate need for a course that takes a contemporary look at Internet marketing and offers hands-on instruction in achieving marketing goals via the Internet. To my knowledge nothing along these lines is currently being offered in Ireland.

A very big hat-tip to John Coburn for referring me to the institution in question.

Will I be leaving the Irish SEO scene?

And finally, a very well known global Internet Marketing Firm has approached me with a view to joining them in London. While extremely flattered, I’m just having too much fun working for myself here in Ireland. But it’s really nice to know that my work is starting to get noticed on a higher stage.

So the bad news is that I won’t be leaving the Irish SEO scene just yet.

Have thoughts on this post? Head over and leave a comment on the blog: Search Marketing World 2007, ShareIT Cork, and A Few Other Pieces of Irish SEO News

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SEO For Thin Content Sites – Making A P h o t o B l o g More Visible Mon, 12 Mar 2007 13:51:49 +0000 Optimising thin-content sites is a difficult task. Search engines, by their nature, love text. So image rich sites can be especially hard to rank.

Site architecture is such an important factor in crawling and ranking, and it becomes even more so when your dealing with a thin-content site such as an image blog or an e-commerce site.

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Search engines love text. Unfortunately they’re not so hot on images, so when you have to optimise a site that has thin content and rich imagery you’ve got your work cut out.


  2. Some Initial Suggestions
  3. A quick note about usability
  4. 1. Site Architecture
  5. 2. On-Page Optimisation
  6. 3. Off-Site Optimisation
  7. Conclusion

John Williams’ site was nominated in the best Photo Blog category of Irish Blog Awards and contains the regularly updated stock of John’s photos (well worth a look).

The site appears to be running on the Moveable Type platform, and you can see many issues when you check Google’s index:

  1. ~ 578 pages indexed;
  2. ~ 438 pages in supplemental.

Straight away that rings alarm bells for me. I checked the site with a crawler and there are a number of issues with the linking patterns observed:

  • comment pages seem to be in the supplemental bin;
  • search pages are being indexed;
  • high number of broken links.

There are three areas I’m going to have a look at:

  1. Site architecture;
  2. On-page optimisation;
  3. Off-page optimisation; screen capture

But before I go any further I want to mention the most obvious issue I had with John’s site – the navigation. I just couldn’t figure out what was a link and what was plain text. As time goes by I’m becoming more and more inclined to stick with convention, even if it affects aesthetics. Blue underlined text for links cant go wrong. The links within the text area are especially confusing – it took me an age to find the comments link (more on comments later).

1. Site Architecture

The supplemental index is Google’s secondary index where it places all content that does not meet the primary index grade algorithmically. This is not necessarily a reflection on your pages – the issue is primarily caused by a lack of PageRank. Generally the solution to supplemental listings is to increase the internal Pagerank of your site.

Pagerank flows through links, both off-site links pointing at your site, and internal links pointing at internal pages. One of the easiest ways to elevate a page to the primary index is to add external links pointing at that page. Another technique is to increase the overall in-bound links pointing at your site. A third, and often neglected tactic is to reduce the number of internal pages that share overall site Pagerank.

If John published the comments for the image pages on the image pages themselves he could instantly improve the SEO of his site. Most of the comment pages are in the supplemental index. The overall size of could be reduced by a figure equal to the number of image posts instantly, and the remaining pages would receive more Pagerank as a result.

I would also block all bots from the search pages (not sure how they got crawled in the first place):

User-agent: *
Disallow: /movabletype32/mt-search.cgi

If John moves the comments into the main pages I would simply block the entire /movabletype32/ folder:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /movabletype32

(I’m not familiar with MovableType so you should check carefully that you wouldn’t be blocking something that you might want crawled.)

John could also NOFOLLOW all internal links to non-relevant pages such as search and comments (should he integrate them into the main pages). The basic goal here is to reduce the spread of Pagerank and filter it toward the most important pages on the site.

The one thing that has me flummoxed is that John’s about page is supplemental. It doesn’t make any sense, and my best guess is that this is down to on-page elements.

Possible Duplicate content issue
I noticed that the homepage displays the latest post. Within the post description there is also a link to the post, but at the archived address. While I know that Google will figure this out when a new page is published to the blog, I think that the archived link should only be published once the page has been archived and is no longer available on the homepage.

Technically this link is pointing at a duplicate page hosted on a different URL. This means that the archived page may not be indexed for a short while after a new post is published (you can see that the current post is not cached).

If John can change the permalink structure and combine year and month into one variable (/year/month/ to /year-month/) it may also help with indexing issues.

Canonical URL
Almost missed this. Normally the first thing I check is whether a site is accessible via both www. and non-www. URLs. If so then some link love could be split as Google basically sees these as separate sites. John should fix this with a mod_rewrite rule in his root .htaccess file.

2. On-Page Optimisation

  1. Page Title & Meta data

    The page titles really need more content. I would also swap the site name with the page name:

    <title> photography | All about John</title>

    to something like:

    <title>About John McWilliams - Photographer and Photo Blogger | photography and photo blog</title>

    That way you get more keywords in there. You should wash, rinse and repeat for all pages.

    For the image pages:

    <title> photoblog : Locked</title>

    to something like:

    <title>Locked - an image of a Dublin canal lock photographed while bird watching | photograhy and photo blog</title>

    Now they aren’t necessarily the best I could come up with, but hopefully they reinforce where I’m trying to go. I’ve managed to get some relevant keywords in there – ‘image’ and ‘photographed’.

    The page descriptions also need some TLC. I wrote previously about the optimisation of META Descriptions – it’s quite relevant for John’s site. I would make sure that you give good descriptions of the images in the META Description and include your main keywords again. And make the descriptions unique for very page. This may help get some of the pages out of supplemental.

  2. Navigation

    The main navigation in the header includes links that should really be in the footer. I would relegate the Links and Validation links, and consider moving the Sitemap also.

    I saw some comments from others who also found the navigation difficult. I would act on these comments as users are more important than search engines in my view.

  3. HTML Mark-up

    Here’s an extract of the HTML for the main image:

    <a href="[... ]duck.html"><img alt="copyright John Williams 2004-2007" title="this image : Locked © 2004-2007 by John Williams / click to view the previous image" src="" class="imageborder" border="0" /></a>

    John should really be using the image ALT and TITLE attributes better:

    <a href="[... ]duck.html"><img alt="Locked - an image of a Dublin canal Lock | copyright John Williams 2004-2007" title="Locked - an image of a Dublin canal Lock | copyright John Williams 2004-2007 | click to view the previous image" src="" class="imageborder" border="0" /></a>

    Semantic mark-up will really help these pages:

    <div class="blogdata">
    11.03.07: <a href="[... ]html"><span style="text-transform: uppercase;">Locked</span></a><br/>

    John should really try to use Header elements here, and as much as possible include some keywords:

    <div class="blogdata">
    11.03.07: <h1 style="text-transform: uppercase;"><a href="[... ]html">Locked</a></h1>

    Better still, John could take that styling attribute and stick it into an external style sheet. If it didn’t upset the apple cart too much I would try to repeat the title in that h1 element:

    <div class="blogdata">
    11.03.07: <h1><a href="[... ]html">Locked <span class="color: #666">a Dublin canal Lock</span></a></h1>

    Basically it can pay off to use header tags <h> 1-6. Google will give you some benefit if you do.

  4. Technorati links

    Because John has so many pages in he supplemental index I might try sticking NOFOLLOWs on those Technorati links. After all, it’s not like they need the link love. This should retain a little more of the Pagerank in-site rather than leaking it out.

  5. Image Search

    I already mentioned about image ALT and TITLE attributes. Another important element to use is the image file name. If your image does rank well on an image search the file name will normally be displayed below the image. So it’s a good idea to match the file name with the image:


    If you search for ‘image search optimisation’ you’ll find a whole bunch of resources for this topic.

3. Off-site Optimisation

Without a doubt link building will help get many pages out of the supplemental index. My gut feeling is that the site architecture isn’t helping out though, and I was surprised to see that the site didn’t rank well for related terms and phrases. I expected to find it for phrases like ‘photo blog ireland’ (it’s number #1 for ‘photoblog ireland’). Diversifying the keyword mix should help to increase search volume.

If John can get some deeplinks pointing at some of his older images it would help the site considerably. Building quality on-theme links can be one of the most difficult areas of SEO. I know personally that getting noticed can lead to countless links. Try to comment on forums and blogs related to your site – if you ad to conversations people will take notice, and this can often lead to links for your site.

I’m pretty sure that the low-hanging fruit such as directories will also help to improve its rankings. Even forum signatures may help promote some of the supplemental pages.

Unfortunately I can’t go into much detail on link building as my time is up on this particular mini project. I will say one thing – lean on bloggers :mrgreen:

John’s site is an interesting test case. Two blogs in one, and the primary blog containing thin-content. My gut tells me that the site architecture and on-page issues are really holding this site back. Yahoo! shows over 3,000 back links so I’m cautiously optimistic that John has enough link juice to rank well.

I wish John the best of luck with the site, and hope that some of the advice above is useful.

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I Blame It On The Lego Mon, 05 Mar 2007 16:22:42 +0000 I'm not sure why so many people are finding my site while searching for 'whore'.

But I do want to say a big Thank You to the Cork Telecoms Entrepreneurs who sent me a fab little Pocket PC.

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I’ve never been the winning kind, not in competitions anyhow. But a couple of weeks ago I was the very happy recipient of a mighty fine prize awarded by a certain Cork telecoms entrepreneur.

The Tale Of The Link Whore Revisited

Back in January, in response to this call, I wrote a review of Pat Phelan’s website. I didn’t expect the hour or so of work would warrant much more than a ‘thank you’, and I was very pleasantly surprised when Pat commented that he and his colleagues had decided that my post deserved the prize. (As an aside, the post I wrote has brought in a considerable amount of traffic – some of which turns out to be a little off topic.)

The Pocket PC, The Impatient Owner, and Blaming it all on Lego

So I am now the proud owner of a shiny silver Acer n50 Pocket PC. Now when this arrived first my younger years were rekindled by the challenge of removing the packaging. I blame it on the Lego, but whenever something like this is put in front of me I always ignore all instructions and simply try to construct something that resembles the picture on the box.

Well Pocket PCs seem to be a little more complex than your average Lego toy. Turning it on was a breeze. Enabling wireless, oh, took about 55 minutes. A short time into this endeavour I relented and sought the instruction manual, which was no where to be found. Apparently Acer don’t ship instruction manuals.

Oh well, it all ended well, and I’m now acquainting myself with my new toy which should help me keep my schedule more under control. And I have to say that surfing with Minimo is a very interesting and eye opening experience – since viewing my own site on a small screen device I’ve decided it’s not very mobile friendly, and installed a very nice WordPress Mobile plug-in.

A big Thank You

Well all that’s left to say is a very big thanks to Pat and colleagues for their incredibly kind gift. I hope we have the opportunity to meet up when I head down to Cork later this month.

(I wonder if I’ll meet the nice Cork web design guy?)

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]]> 5
A Dose Full of Comment Spam, Long Copy Referrer Pages & SEO Tools – What Do YOU Think? Mon, 26 Feb 2007 08:28:29 +0000 It's a fact of life that spammers wouldn't be in business if they weren't making a dollar. Another fact of life is that very often SEO and spamming live very closely.

This is a post about some particularly well-known SEO tools that were pushed through comment spam left on my blog. A mini-rant? Yes, and a look at the effectiveness of 'long copy' pages to sell products.

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[Update: this related post by Carsten Cumbrowski puts my analysis here to shame. Very worthy of a read if you want to learn how black-hat affiliate marketing works.]

Just about everyone knows that spam is part and parcel of life. We just live with it and try to do our best to minimise the impact it has on our daily lives. Unfortunately spam is a particular issue for the SEO industry, as unscrupulous search marketers often turn to spamming techniques to make a quick dollar.

I get my share of spam at Red Cardinal. Generally I just delete the crap left by ‘kind’ spammers (like Cork Web Design Spammers), but occasionally I do a little digging to see what some of the particularly nasty spammers are at. More about spammers a little later – but first, let me tell you what I think of ‘Long Copy’.

Long Copy Pages for ‘SEO’ tools

I like to include screen shots of pages in my posts. I have a nifty little app that lets me grab entire screen shots from within the browser, not just the visible area.

I wanted to include the sales pages for two SEO tools, both of which use ‘long copy’. Here’s the screen shot of the two pages:

Long Copy marketing

These pages are so ‘long’ that I had to reduce them by a factor of ~14 just to get them that small. Maybe they’re ‘Really Long Copy’, if there is such a thing. (If you want to view those pages in all their glory I’ve ‘published’ the URLs a little further down the page. In case you’re wondering what this is all about I’ll come clean in a second.)

These pages appear to be affiliate sites for two well known SEO tools. I’m not 100% sure what’s going on with these pages as they don’t appear to have affiliate IDs appended to the outgoing URLs. Perhaps the affiliate program uses HTTP referrers for identification. Perhaps these pages are actually proprietary sales pages. I’m don’t know for sure.

So what’s the problem with those sales pages? Purely my opinion, but they look and feel like ‘get-rich-quick’ pitches to me. The message I hear sounds like ‘I’ll sell you this great benefit. But wait, there’s more. Buy now and I’ll include x and y’. Yes, lots of marketers defend this technique. And I know it’s true that ‘long copy’ can be effective, but only when the content is compelling and does not feel like I’m being ‘sold’.

Long Page Copy – Read or Turn Off?

When I see long copy pages like these I just turn off completely. As I mentioned, I just think ‘get rich quick’.

I’ve stuck my neck out on this issue once or twice (hello Copyblogger). I sometimes wonder if perhaps long copy is a peculiar American technique that we just don’t fall for this side of the pond? (And if you’re interested Brian Clarke, a.k.a. Copyblogger, has written a post about the death of long copy.)

Back to the comment spam

So taking a step backward for a moment. Why am I highlighting those two affiliate pages? Keyword Elite and SEO Elite are marketed and sold by Bryxen Software (a firm owned by Brad Callen I believe). As with so much of the US on-line marketing industry, Bryxen uses ‘Long Page’ techniques to sell there software. They also make heavy use of affiliate programs to multiply their sales. A couple of weeks ago Red Cardinal received multiple comment spam like the following:

SEO Elite | + | IP:

seo firm…

Automate your link building efforts and rank high in the search engines easily….


Killer Keyword Tool | + | IP:

keyword lists…

Generate huge laser-targeted low competition, high demand keyword lists in minutes….

These comments were dropped on multiple posts, and, as you can see above, were left by the same IP. Odd? I think not. Probably the same bot. Checking the WHOIS shows registered to someone in Singapore, while is privately registered.

Both of the tools being promoted are from Bryxen Software (Brad Callens company +, and the linked sites appear to be affiliates.

Comment Spam by ‘SEO’ Firms – Why SEO has such a BAD NAME

I am sure of one thing – spamming blog comments with links to long copy pages, such as those pictured above in miniature, is one of the main reasons the SEO industry has such serious reputation problems. It is very, very hard to blame people for viewing the SEO industry with suspicion. After all, every day the results of spammers litter our websites and pollute our on-line experience.

The reputation problem is only compounded given that the products marketed by the above spammers are well-known SEO tools: comment spam + SEO tools = SEO spammers. And how can we blame people for making that connection.

I’m very interested in your thoughts on ‘long copy’, and whether you have been converted by a ‘long copy’ page like the ones above.

And if you’re thinking of buying these tools, think about this…

I neither own nor use either of these tools. They may well be excellent tools, and perform their respective task extremely well – I don’t know. But if you want to do the world a favour, don’t buy products that are marketed by spammers.

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For IBA Nominees Accepting My Offer – Please Read Sun, 18 Feb 2007 11:06:19 +0000 Please let me know if I've missed your acceptance of my Free Consulting Offer.

Please check the list and let me know if you need to be added.

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Well I’ve learnt a few things from my offer of free site reviews & SEO consulting.

  • Quite a lot of blog platforms cant seem to ping correctly;
  • Technorati data is very temperamental;
  • Google Webmaster Console backlink data is really stale;
  • Yahoo! SiteExplorer isn’t the answer either; and
  • People don’t seem to like freebies anymore.

So first off, my grand plan to track the acceptances via trackbacks or pings has backfired. For whatever reason the pings never materialised, so I’ve had to manually go out looking for the acceptances *sigh*.

Check to make sure I’ve included you!

Here’s the acceptances I’ve found:

  1. Bock The Robber
  2. Bubble Brothers
  3. John Williams (
  5. Paul Browne (First Partners)
  6. JC Skinner (Skinflicks)
  7. (group blog)
  8. Hayden Shaughnessy (Media Angler)
  9. Conor O’Neill (Argolon)
  10. Pat Phelan (Roam4Freee)
  11. Michele Neylon (MNeylon)
  13. Twenty Major (not an acceptance per-se, but you’re on the list now!)
  14. Krishna De
  15. Grandad (Ramblings Of A Senior Citizen)

First off, if I’ve missed you from the above list leave a comment or email me [Richard at this domain]. Don’t worry – I will include everyone that answered the original call.

Second, when first making the offer I was concerned that I’d get a plethora of responses. That hasn’t materialised, so I’m happy to tell those who have accepted that I’ll be assigning an hour or two to each of your sites.

Stay tuned for the first set of reviews which will appear in the next two weeks.

Found some more:

  1. Dario Sanchez (

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]]> 15
Google Webmaster Blog Open For User Comments Wed, 14 Feb 2007 10:05:12 +0000 Want to comment directly on Google Google blog posts? User commenting has always been disabled on all Google blogs. Until today.

Google has just announced that user commenting will be enabled on the Webmaster Blog.

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Google has just announced that comments will be turned on on the Google Webmaster Blog

Now, while this might not sound like a big deal to most, Google is now moving further toward engaging with the web community in general, and webmasters in particular.

Of course it will also be interesting to see what happens when the SEOs start asking difficult questions. I imagine we might see the odd comment from Michael Gray which should make for some interesting reading.

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]]> 3
What’s The Best Thing About IBA? Fantastic Animated Prank Phone Calls Sat, 10 Feb 2007 11:39:13 +0000 Absolute class. The 'So what's happening' comment has me in bits.

The animation is fantastic, and I think this is a great example of how new media can draw attention to your website. In fact, it's so good here it is:

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Well at over 500 URLs the list is almost too long to scroll through, but this one is just begging to be repeated. As I said the cream is rising :mrgreen:

I hadn’t seen this before but it is absolute class:

I cant see a way to contact Ian Kenny – I wonder does he do freelance animation work?

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]]> 8
The Cream Starts To Rise, Let the Voting Begin Sat, 10 Feb 2007 09:25:50 +0000 The first count is in. Find out who was voted into this years prestigious Blog Awards.

Links to each and every nominated site and page are inside.

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The Irish Blog Awards are fast approaching. In fact Damien has just launched the voting form over on the awards site. Well done Damien.

Whereas other Irish Internet-related awards have been much criticised (*cough*, *cough*), I think that the Blog Awards has every chance of being very transparent and highly credible. Every credit is due to Mr. Mulley.

Well done to all the nominated bloggers, and if you’re on the list then watch my blog for a very special anouncement.

The form currently does not allow voters to visit each nominee site/page, although this functionality is due soon. So to help everyone out here’s the full list of categories and nominees:

Best Designed Blog

Best Blog

Best Use of the Irish Language in a Blog

Best Political Blog

Best Group Blog

Best Contribution to the Irish Bloggersphere

Best News/Current Affairs Blog

Best Technology Blog/Blogger

Most Humorous Post

Best Newcomer

Best Business Blog

Best Blog Post

Best Arts and Culture Blog

Best Personal Blog

Best Sport & Recreation Blog

Best Photo Blog

Best Specialist Blog

Best Music Blog

Best Podcaster

Best Podcast

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]]> 16
How Would You Like A €2,000 Web Design For Free? It’s Just One Click Away Wed, 07 Feb 2007 23:14:38 +0000 What started out as a friendly blog thread has quickly escalated into one of the biggest on-line give-aways the Irish blog scene has ever seen.

Something tells me this is just the beginning. But if you fancy €2,000 of free web design read on.

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Well what started out as a a friendly bit of banter over who would buy the pints at the Irish Blog Awards has suddenly escalated into serious contest that could even eclipse the Blog Awards themselves.

First Blog Awards organiser Damien Mulley threw his hat into the ring by entering the official Blog Awards RSS feed into the contest (I’ve heard it’s dreadfully overrated :mrgreen:). And now web designer Eoghan McCabe has really thrown a cat amongst the pigeons. In a calculated (and incredibly sneaky, perhaps even underhand…) move Eoghan is offering a prize of €2,000 worth of web design (yes, you read that right) to one of his lucky RSS subscriber.

Speculation now centers on how other contenders for the ‘Real Blog Awards‘ might respond to this latest escalation. I smell blood.

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]]> 3
The Great Big Extraordinary Feed Contest (with that most typical of Irish prizes) Mon, 05 Feb 2007 14:24:38 +0000 There's a contest going on and the stakes are high.

Your feed subscribers could win you free drink.

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The opportunity to have a bit of harmless fun while blogging doesn’t come by every day you know. So when a competition appears that promises to mark the men from the boys and includes that best prize of all (watching the hip pocket being tucked into) you just cant pass on the opportunity.

He with the largest % increase in feed readers takes the booty

So for my part here’s my feed count from Feedburner:

So between February 6 and the Blog Awards I need to increase my feed readership by as much as possible. This is going to be fun

If anyone else wants to take part, post your interest over at Paul Browne’s blog.

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]]> 1 – Measuring Corporate Social Responsibility Tue, 30 Jan 2007 08:40:13 +0000 A nice little service that lets users vote on the impact the actions of large companies have.

Do you think this would be a good idea for Irish politics?

Have thoughts on this post? Head over and leave a comment on the blog: – Measuring Corporate Social Responsibility

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Another link to Andy Beal’s blog, this time a post about a service that is to corporate social responsibility what is to funny/quirky,techie stories. lets people post commentary and links to content about the actions of companies. Others can then vote on the content and decide whether the issues discussed have a negative or positive impact.

It’s very interesting for reputation management, but what has me thinking is the potential for something Irish. But with one big difference. I think the Irish version should be based not on corporate social responsibility but on the actions of politicians and political parties.

Set it up, publish commentary about Irish politics (think about some of the recent furores) and let people decide on the impact. I think a collation of political commentary and facts (unbiased) that people could vote on would be a fantastic resource.

I’m not into politics, but one thing that annoys me is how much we complain and how little we change. We seem to have a national talent for crying foul one minute and singing the praises of those that arse things up the next.

I suppose politics is a strange beast. It seems there is never a tipping point in Irish politics. Now I wonder if some of the political bloggers might agree with me and set this up…

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]]> 3
The Tale of a Link Whore, a Mobile PC, a Site Review, and some Clever Market Disruption Wed, 24 Jan 2007 18:13:44 +0000 Roam4Free eh? Sounds compelling - something that everyone who roams wants.

I think Pat is on to an absolute winner. And with a couple of tweaks to the website I think this will become even more of a no-brainer for customers.

But is my advice any good? You decide (and there's a free link for anyone who can figure out what I'm thinking at the end :mrgreen:)

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I got an email from Pat yesterday which led to a short rally:

Pat: Hi Richard. Would appreciate any mention. Am beginning to feel like a link wh***

Me: May I ‘dismantle’ it? It might not be pretty :)

Pat: Lmao Please do

Of course I’m not one to turn down a free sacrificial lamb, so…

Before I start…

Before I go any further here’s my policy on posting and linking out on request. If something is worthy of a post or a link I’m normally quite happy to oblige. There, that was easy.

Roam4Free is a great idea. I’ve been with O2 since they were Digiphone, and for many years was always over-charged on my roaming. And I received many a refund to prove it :D

(Fortunately all O2′s roaming partners ‘set’ the same price a year or two back – how anti-competitive can they get?)

I think Pat is on to a winner. But I also think he really has to nail the website because (and I’m assuming here) it is the primary sales channel.

Oh, and by the way, my comments here could easily apply to any website, so I hope they might be useful to other readers, not just Pat.

What’s the first thing you see on any website?

Well more often then not it’s the page title. As one of the top elements in any HTML page, the title is very first on-screen element to be populated in your browser.

When I visit I see this title:

Welcome to – The end of sky high roaming charges !

Two things strike me. First there are no targeted keyword phrases in that title. Other than ‘roaming charges’, which I doubt people search on, there are no reasons for people to discover Pat’s service via the number #1 Internet gateway – Search Engines.

So what phrases might I suggest to Pat?

Well I can see that ‘roaming charges’ and broad matches have very little volume. But the terms ,’international sim cards’, ‘mobile international’ and ‘cell international’ (cell = mobile in the US) and a number of long tail derivatives of those phrases have fairly good volume (000′s per month).

Now just for a minute I’m going to take off my SEO cap and put on my marketing cap. Pat is doing a great job of promoting this (Read/WriteWeb just popped up in my reader). So he’s going to get traffic. Therefore he needs to balance the SEO stuff with pure marketing. And the page title can be a powerful marketing tool.

The title has to quickly establish the product’s benefits for visitors. It should also attract some Search Engine Love if possible. Here are some of my suggestions:

Reduce your International Cell & Mobile Roaming Charges by up to x% with

or maybe:

Turn your Mobile into a Free International Cell Phone with Roam4Free

Both of those titles include some relevant keywords that might help with SEO efforts. But more importantly, they both tell the visitor exactly what the product does in simple English, and include a clear call to action. I always think the best way to get your message across to the widest audience is to speak in plain simple language (and pop a couple of nice high-volume keywords in there for measure :mrgreen:).

I posted about the benefit of using good marketing copy in your META description tag a while ago, and I think Pat could look at editing his current Description:

Works in over 115 countries. Receive calls for FREE in over 65 countries. Up to 90% discount on standard mobile rates

I would spell it out – mention ‘international sim card’ somewhere in that copy. (Good use of upper-cased ‘FREE’ though.)

One other point worth mentioning here is that different pages can effectively become honey pots for various search phrases (you should always try to target different phrases on your various pages) . And while I’m on the subject, remember that people can land on any page, not just the homepage, so you should consider every page a selling opportunity.

The Homepage Itself – Quick to Figure or Quick to Leave?

The homepage makes good use of contrast and visual boundaries to break up the main page areas:

Roam4Free homepage

I think I have made it clear on numerous occasions that I am not a big flash fan. The flash image on the homepage (sorry, you cant see it in the image above) really doesn’t reinforce the copy on the page. A static image of a sim card will have the same effect in explaining the product. And as for placing static text within the flash file – silly, silly..

And then there’s the font colour, which I feel is too close in contrast to the background colour (blue on blue in places).

This product is crying out for a ‘Sell It To Me Homepage’

Personally I think the homepage should be the seller. If you can convert from the homepage you’re on to a winner. The more pages people check out the more opportunity they have to reconsider that purchase decision.

So how would I make the homepage sell? Perhaps a three point storyboard that explains the product, how to get it, and how to use it:

  1. Get a Sim card
  2. Add credit
  3. Roam4Free

Yes I know all that info is all ready there, but I think it needs to be simplified and given more prominence on the page. Make it feel as simple as possible – 1, 2, 3. Get prospects into the comfort zone.

I would place all the ancillary info into the appropriate story element above, e.g. ‘Use in over 115 countries’, ‘Compatible with most mobile phones and networks across the globe.’, ‘No call set up.’ in step one Get a Sim Card

‘Easy to use. Top up from where ever, when ever.’, ‘Per-minute billing. Save up to 90% on standard mobile rates.’ in step two ‘Add Credit’.

‘No line rental. No minimum contract. No hidden costs – Just FREE incoming calls in over 65 countries, and up to 90% off standard mobile rates’ in the final step.

OK, you might have to edit this last group a little. But the point is to keep the decision process as simple as possible and the purchase path short. Give customers the info needed to make the all important purchase decision without leaving that homepage. (Not sure if implementing the pricing would be possible here though?)

Did anyone else notice the critical navigation flaw?

Take a look at the image above. Apart from there being no obvious homepage link (we read left to right and expect the homepage link to appear top right LEFT of the page), (oops, a little typo there – I’m slightly dyslexic…) I can see the most glaring Achilles heel. But before I declare my hand, some history.

The Internet has been around for a while now, and over time a number of conventions have formed and been widely accepted. The most widely accepted convention is how to link. Unfortunately breaks that convention, badly.

Take a look at the navigation bar:

Navigation Bar

Do you see the link for signing up? Well it’s there all right. But if you are like most Internet users you glance rather than read, and you’d be forgiven if you missed the sign up link.

It’s actually there at the top of the navigation bar: ‘New User ? Buy a sim to get an account today!’.

The link is not underlined, and worse still, it uses the same color as the labels on the login form. One of the most important links on the site, ‘Sign Up’, doesn’t look like a link at all, it looks like plain text.

Click Here To Purchase

This page is straight-forward and to the point. In fact it’s a little thin on content – there’s a lot a free real estate there, so I would consider increasing the font size to make reading easier. The font size should also be varied to give a visual cue as to the importance of various text elements.

But this next bit pisses me off. When you visit a site you have a goal. You want the shortest and quickest path to achieving that goal so you can move to your next goal.

So every moment of time waisted due to poor design reduces the goodwill you have toward the site in question. On the purchase (sign up) page I am given a link to ‘More Details’. Here’s what I get:

More Details link

How has that improved my experience? I just waisted 2 clicks – one to view a useless page, and another to go back to go back to where I came form. And a small fraction of visitors wont bother to go back.

Call Rates Page

Try this without Javascript. OK, maybe I’m a little pedantic on this one, but what about mobile browsers? After all, mobile users are the target market here, and I do think mobile Internet might catch on sooner or later…

Nice use of XMLHttpRequest though.

Have I anything good to say?

Yes! It’s a great idea, and I hope it catches on.

My criticisms of the website might seem harse. I only checked a few pages TBH, and I’ve seen far worse. It’s a nice site, and with a few tweaks could probably really pull in traffic that converts.

I see an affiliate system also in the offing. That should push the boat out further as those clever affiliate people target some of the juicy long tail phrases I noticed.

Something I won’t mention…

On a final note, the site has one thing I haven’t mentioned that I think could be a huge asset and very serious linkbait. I’m not going to say what, but I might whisper it to Pat at some stage :mrgreen:.

(If anyone can guess what it is I’ll give them any link they request – no baddies though.)

Have thoughts on this post? Head over and leave a comment on the blog: The Tale of a Link Whore, a Mobile PC, a Site Review, and some Clever Market Disruption

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Who Said META Tag Optimization Was Dead? Thu, 18 Jan 2007 15:23:41 +0000 Did you know that the META Description tag can be one of the most important factors dictating whether searchers will actually visit your website?

But META descriptions aren't useful for attracting search engines, they're useful for attracting the people who use search engines. Read on to learn how your META tags can get you more traffic (and I'm pretty sure you aren't thinking what I'm thinking).

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Ok, I now have so many draft posts that it’s not funny any more. So here’s a short little post about the META description tag, and why META tag optimization still has it’s uses.

Those Awards, a ‘Best Site’, and some META tag fun optimisation

I swore that I wouldn’t mention those awards again (see, I kept my word :mrgreen:), but this post has led to a rather large amount of traffic.

It appears that many people are hitting Red Cardinal off searches for “moviestar”. Here’s a quick screen shot of the Google results for that term:

Google search for moviestar

(You’ll have to take my word for it when I say that my post ranked #2 for that search for a long time. I’m now at #5. Oh, and while I’m at it, I’ve no idea why is returned at the current #2? And one more thing, does anyone else find that ‘Movistar’ suggested listings in the middle useful?)

Here’s a larger image of my blog post listing on that page:

Google snippet for Red Cardinal Moviestar post

When I wrote that post I was a little angry at said awards. So I gave the post a META description of “ is NOT the Best Website Launched in 2006″. And boy have I got some traffic from people searching for “moviestar”.

Meta Tag Optimization alive & well

First off, Meta Description tags have little or no ranking benefit. What content you stick in that tag wont make your site rank any higher (well, for Google anyway). But that tag can be hugely powerful for websites that do rank well. That’s because Google generally uses your META Description for the snippet underneath your page URL in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).

When you think about your META description tags, you should think of them in terms of getting click throughs, not ranking.

As people searched for “moviestar” many saw my snippet. That snippet aroused curiosity and served as a good call-to-action. And people did act – by clicking and visiting my post.

So next time you’re creating your unique META descriptions for each page (did I mention that unique descriptions on each page reduces the chance of duplicate content filters hitting your site?) you should think about searchers. And you should think about your descriptions as headlines – the more attractive your headline the more likely you will receive that click over a less interesting or off-topic snippet.

People still believe in Meta Tag Optimization

Just as a parting note, I took a quick look in my favourite keyword tool to see what people search for. And they are still searching on phrases related to meta tag optimisation:

Keyword research for 'meta tag'

[Update] The actual search query is actually “” (without quotes) – yes, you’d be absolutely surprised at the number of people who search for a domain name.

Have thoughts on this post? Head over and leave a comment on the blog: Who Said META Tag Optimization Was Dead?

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Hacker Threatens, Targeting SEO-Related Sites Tue, 16 Jan 2007 06:55:39 +0000 After taking down GreyWolf's blog, a hacker threatens some of the biggest webmaster-related sites on the Internet. included on the threat list.

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Michael Wolf’s popular SEO blog has been hacked, and it appears that the hacker may have some issues with the SEO community:

I’m going to crack all the SEO related sites/blogs/forums that I can… Maybe once in a while a non-SEO site will slip into the list but what the hell! Who cares anyways?

And the hacker goes on to list future targets:

The list – Mess with the best, die like the rest? He scares me… Just typing his site in this list makes me tremble – That bitch needs some AdultFriendFinder love ASAP! – A bald “guru”, he is like the Buda of the SEO “gurus” (See – The hardest one of the list. Hats off to RSnake and iD! – Actually I’m just going to target and their forums – Hard – They have the ugliest backend (and forum!) I’ve seen in my life – The blog and the private forums (I help out n00bs over there once in a while) – I’m not aiming for a deface; rather I will find & release ways to game their “democratic” system (This will make happy some webmasters out there) – Had access to their server until they updated their stuff. This is the biggest target on the list… – Dude wtf?! You came out of the blur and now your blog is everywhere – Your book is not that good anyways so get lost…

There are some serious big-hitting names in there. Gaming Somehow I don’t think he’s alone in that endeavour :mrgeen:

The above extracts are taken from a post made on Michael Gray’s blog before it was taken down. I flashed off an email to GreyWolf in case he’s unaware (and found out that is listed in in the process).

We’ll have to wait and see if the Anti-SEO Hacker comes good on any of his threats.

[EDIT] I see that the hacker may have been using an exploit similar to one found by Jason Roe recently. Well done Jason on your find.

If you use WordPress and haven’t already done so, you should upgrade to the latest release – 2.0.7 available here.

Have thoughts on this post? Head over and leave a comment on the blog: Hacker Threatens, Targeting SEO-Related Sites

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Irish Blog Awards *cough* *cough* Sun, 14 Jan 2007 10:46:43 +0000 Irish Blog Awards - do I deserve a nomination?

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The Irish Blog Awards have opened the nominations, and I thought that perhaps *cough*, *splutter*, someone might be thinking about who to nominate for Best Newcomer, or perhaps Best Specialist, or even Best Business blog.

I probably don’t deserve to be nominated for any of those categories… but if anyone fancies fanning a poor SEO’s ego :mrgreen:

Have thoughts on this post? Head over and leave a comment on the blog: Irish Blog Awards *cough* *cough*

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Search Marketing in Emerging Markets Mon, 18 Dec 2006 08:46:16 +0000 A quick fluffy link to an interesting post about Search Marketing in Portugal.

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A small fluffy link about Search Marketing in emerging markets, in this case Portugal.

SEM for Emerging Markets.

Quite interesting and shares some parallels with Ireland, which is very much at the nascent stage of search marketing.

Does anyone think that Search Marketing is going to take off next year here in Ireland, and if so what will drive that?

Have thoughts on this post? Head over and leave a comment on the blog: Search Marketing in Emerging Markets

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Really Simple Guide to RSS Fri, 15 Dec 2006 08:36:01 +0000 As the title suggests, this is A Really Simple Guide to RSS.

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After Missing Sinn Fein’s RSS feed for my eGovernment Study I thought it might be a good idea to take a look at RSS – what it is and how to use it.

What is RSS?

Really Simple Syndication is a format for publishing web pages and other content.

In essence RSS is very similar to the content you would find on any website, with a few differences. RSS does not include any styling information that would give the ‘page’ a custom design or layout. If you can imagine reading this page without the header up top, the sidebar on the right or anything else that is superfluous to the viewing this story.

An RSS ‘feed’ can also contain more than one ‘page’ in a single file. That’s the real beauty of RSS – you can look at many stories or pages from a website without leaving the RSS ‘page’ or feed.

But perhaps the biggest difference between RSS and a regular web page is the ability to aggregate or combine multiple RSS ‘feeds’ (published RSS files are often referred to as a ‘feeds’) in your ‘reader’. A ‘reader’ is a program used to read and display the ‘feeds’ or RSS pages. Here’s what mine looks like:

Really Simple Guide to RSS - Google Reader

I read the feeds from over 100 websites just about most days. Now if I was to visit all those sites it might take me 3 or 4 hours, but my reader shows me the feeds fom all those sites on one page. I can view the website name, the title and a snippet of each item. When I click on a story title I can read the content of that ‘page’:

Google Reader open story

Using my reader to aggregate thee feeds I can keep track of many, many blogs and websites.

RSS Readers

I use Google Reader. It’s free and rather than sit on my computer it sits on the Internet so I can access my feeds from any computer with Internet access.

The main web browsers and email clients now incorporate RSS features also. Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari and Opera allow you to track and read feeds right in your browser.

So how can you tell if a site publishes a feed?

When you visit a website you might see the following icon appear in your address bar:

RSS auto discovery through META

That icon has been adopted by all the major browsers for the purpose of depicting RSS feeds. It is available for download at Feed Icons. Older feed icons might look like this:

RSS icon XML icon Feed icon

You can see that orange is the predominant colour used to depict RSS.

Making your feed icon appear in the address bar

Since most of the major browsers now support RSS it is a good idea to notify the browser that you have a feed so that the RSS icon appears in the address bar. To make your feed visible to agents you should include something similar to the following META in the head section of your page:

<link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml" title="RSS 2.0" href="" />
<link rel="alternate" type="text/xml" title="RSS .92" href="" />
<link rel="alternate" type="application/atom+xml" title="Atom 0.3" href="" />

This auto discovery technique is also used by most readers and blog aggregators so it is a good idea to include it.

RSS features and uses

RSS can be used for many purposes. E-commerce stores can publish their products via RSS. Employment sites often offer customised search feeds so users can keep tabs on particular job-type vacancies. Many large sites offer multiple feeds so you can track only the information of interest to you.

Search engines and RSS

Search engines love RSS. They just devour feeds because they are very machine readable. Feeds also contain something search engines love: TEXT. And lots of it.

Very often my feed will rank well for specific search phrases and my site might have 2 or 3 pages ranking on the first SERP (Search Engine Result Page) – the post, my homepage and my feed . When multiple results from my site appear on a results page the probability of receiving a referral increase dramatically.

So does RSS matter?

RSS is here. It has not reached the tipping-point just yet, but the integration of RSS into the major browsers during 2006 means that RSS should become more and more mainstream over time.

And just as I finish this what appears in my reader?

the latest research done by and goo Research shows that RSS’s bringing more accesses to the sites.

Q1: Do you visit more sites due to RSS feeds?
- More, 34.6%
- Hasn’t changed, 59.5%
- Less, 5.8%

Q2: Do you visit sites you read on RSS feeds?
- Always, 23.5%
- Sometimes, 58.1%

From Multilingual-Search.

Perfect :mrgreen:

Have thoughts on this post? Head over and leave a comment on the blog: Really Simple Guide to RSS

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What’s Up with Google and Thinkhouse PR? Sun, 03 Dec 2006 12:14:11 +0000 When and why do Google de-index pages?

Perhaps it's just me, but when 2 pages about Thinkhouse PR disappear from Google's index there's something fishy going on...

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Is someone in Google de-indexing pages which are less than flattering in their reference to Thinkhouse PR?

Going back a couple of months now, but you may recall a small fuss over Damien Mulley’s Thinkhouse PR post disappearing from Google’s SERPs.

Although the page was re-indexed, Google were never forthcoming about what caused the issue to occur:

Hey, I like a good conspiracy as much as the next guy (big X-Files fan… well, of the early years at least), but I must respectfully note that there’s no nefarious banning that’s gone on here.

While it may be seen as unfortunate timing, some pages of are currently not shown in our search results due purely to algorithmic factors… nothing manual or otherwise intentional about it.

It’s quite possible that this may change as we continue to update our algorithms regularly.

Adam, on behalf of the Search Quality Team at Google.

P.S. — Ironically, with the online attention you’ve received about this issue, your pages may automatically end getting crawled more frequently or deeply, resulting in more of your pages being shown in our search results… so I humbly recommend a bit of patience.
Source: Adam Lasnik comment on

Tinfoil hats ready

Now call me paranoid, and perhaps on that occasion it was just coincidence, but I find it very curious that my post about was crawled, indexed and ranked #3 for a Google search on ‘’, but very shortly after was completely de-indexed from Google (site:, cache:).

In case you’re wondering if I’ve gone completely batty are a client of Thinkhouse PR.

Just too many coincidences?

My site is actively crawled and indexed by Google. Every page is indexed. Except one.

I am purely white-hat. My site complies with all Google guidelines. Their are no bad links either into or out of the absent page in question.

Some questions for Google

Perhaps I’m just a crackpot… but I’m not buying this as a coincidence.

I would really like to know the following:

  1. Do any Dublin-based Googlers have the ability to remove pages from the index?
  2. Under what circumstances would an indexed page be de-indexed?
  3. Does Google have any relationship with Thinkhouse PR?

I will be posting this over at the Google Webmasters Group in the hope that Adam Lasnik might answer some of my questions.

Have thoughts on this post? Head over and leave a comment on the blog: What’s Up with Google and Thinkhouse PR?

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Spammers Crack Me Up Fri, 01 Dec 2006 10:32:56 +0000 Sometimes spammers can put a smile on your face.

For me today is one of those days :mrgreen:

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Like just about every other normal person I hate spam. Every day it slows me down and makes me wince.

But occasionally, just occasionally you come across a gem that puts a smile on your face.

Thank you mikigrubber

Askimet has been getting a bit busier lately (must be because Google loves me now). I filter out a lot of the automated bots with the Bad Behaviour plug-in, so I tend to be left with Asian and Eastern European SEO’s (*cough* spammers *cough*) leaving me nice comments.

mikgrubber gave me a good laugh with this one though:

Hello All. Let’s take a look. A great sollution for you.
pain relief
natural pain relief
lower back pain relief
chronic pain relief
neck pain relief
pain relief medication
knee pain relief
toothache pain relief
natural back pain relief
natural pain product relief
headache pain relief
pain relief cream
tooth pain relief
pain relief product
pain relief drug
pain relief patch
menstrual pain relief

Of course they were all live links. The usual crap you get. But the main difference with this one was how miki signed off:

Don’t delete this. Thanks!

I think that’s just fantastic. It just cracked me up. A polite spammer. What will they try next?.

(Of course I deleted him straight away :mrgreen:)

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Sometimes A Spell Checker Wont Save You :-) Mon, 23 Oct 2006 23:43:41 +0000 I'd really hate to be the guy or gal who gave Ireland this first.

If you want a good laugh...

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Just a quickie that’s gonna give you a laugh.

It’s amazing what the slip of a keypad touch can do:

Ireland's First 50 Meter Poo

Here’s the search that found this little gem (and the image above links to the actual post [FIXED NOW] – they deserve a bit of link-love because TBH I’m still laughing).

Even the spellcheck in FireFox 2.0 (which I got earlier to test out) wouldn’t have saved them from that :)

I really want to let them know put part of me just says no! No prizes for guessing which part is winning :mrgreen:

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