Red Cardinal » Technology Search Engine Optimisation Ireland Sun, 29 Mar 2015 16:23:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Video: Google Talks Search Infrastructure & Search Quality Tue, 14 Oct 2008 07:55:52 +0000 Google has recently released some interesting videos via its Google Technology RoundTable series. All the videos are embedded inside the post, and if you're into SEO then the first video is well worth a watch.

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Some great videos recently released by Google. If you’re into the search area then this one is worth a view:

One comment I found interesting was Jeff Dean’s mention of text size as something they record.

There are two other videos in the same Google Technology RoundTable series, both well worth a watch:

Human Language Technology

I think we’re soon going to have the ability to view any document in any language, and by ‘soon’ I mean months not years, judging from this video:

Map Reduce

Map Reduce is Google’s distributed computation infrastructure. It’s interesting if you’ve wondered how Google does what it does:

Well done Google on releasing such great material.

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Not Content Sticking It To America, The Cork Telecom Fella Decides Ireland Needs Some Prodding Fri, 09 Feb 2007 07:54:56 +0000 There's this Cork fella who goes around annoying all the corporate folk.

God doesn't he sound likeable already :mrgreen:

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It seems Pat Phelan knows how to get under the skin of corporate America. His wildly popular pissed off At&T so much they’re lobbying for a change to the law.

Now after putting smiles on so many US consumer faces (isn’t it funny how corporates are least happy when consumers are at their most delirious) he’s launched a similar service here in Ireland.


Yep, as the name suggests, you can make all your international calls for free. No sign up, no new account, no extra bill. Doesn’t need too much more explaining than that – check it out here.

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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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Apple iPhone the Tipping-Point for Mobile Internet? Wed, 10 Jan 2007 10:57:14 +0000 Here comes the iPhone. It looks great, Apple are fated for their customer-centric products, and the feature set may revolutionise how we interact with our phones.

But could the iPhone herald the genesis of the Mobile Internet we are waiting to get?

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Rightyo, ever man and his dog is reporting the much rumoured Apple iPhone.

Judging by the photos Apple will release an ultra sleek device (no surprise). And of course, Apple are renowned for nailing fantastic technology interfaces. Keeping it simple with absolutely functional interfaces is the cornerstone of Apples design.

But could this herald the long-postponed ‘Mobile Internet Era’?

Read/Write Web is talking up the UI, which, without a stylus, should be interesting. (When I heard about pinching gestures I thought about this great video of a multi-touch interface.)

The out-of-the-box partnership with both Google and Yahoo! shows a quite serious posture to target the Internet user – the free push-email from Yahoo! must be of concern to Blackberry? And the iPhone will also include some pretty comprehensive connectivity options to keep you on-line.

But it’s Apple’s ability to take a product and push it into the mainstream, both physically and mentally, that offers the greatest chance that the iPhone will be the tipping-point for mobile Internet. If Apple manages to achieve the same success for the iPhone as the iPod I think Mobile Internet will finally become a mainstream reality. (Notice the slide on Read/Write showing 10m units and 1% market share in 2008. Bear in mind iPod has 80%+ share…)

When mobile devices become the prevalent access points for the Internet (there’s a lot more mobile phones than computers) we are going to have a sea-change in search (hello localisation), and websites will need to get clever about publishing content for mobile (hi xHTML, device-optimised content).

Now, I just wonder how Irish businesses/websites will be positioned for the Mobile Internet?

Not unrelated, but if you want to eliminate you mobile roaming charges try Roam4Free, an international sim that lets you roam for free.

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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:

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Dublin Might be Ready for Vista, But is Microsoft? Tue, 05 Dec 2006 20:52:42 +0000 ready for a new day?

Er, um, well, maybe. I'm not so sure Microsoft was though.

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There was razzmatazz. There was an astronaut. And amongst countless techies and a bunch of promotion girls there was Microsoft’s biggest product launch ever. Oh yes, and I was there also.

“ready for a new day”

Well perhaps Dublin was, but I’m not so sure about Microsoft.

My day out at Croagh Park

Getting to Croagh Park isn’t the easiest of feats. I arrived after 11am and caught the end of the opening keynote. After a few minutes standing at the back my curiosity got the better of me and I headed to the demo area on the fourth floor. This was where things started to become unstuck.

The Search room

As I am moderately interested in search I headed straight for the Search room. I found a seat (not difficult because everyone else was still upstairs) and a nice MS guy offered to show me the ropes.

The first point to note was that the demo machine seemed a bit temperamental. A few glitches appeared when tabbing through applications – the screen just went dead. My guide mentioned that the demo machines weren’t up to spec for Vista (they certainly weren’t new computers).

He was a knowledgeable and talented guy, but unfortunately he couldn’t tell me if Vista’s new search function would index my web browsing. Nor could he tell me how search behaved across a network.

I do like some features of the new search interface. For instance, if you hover over a search result the related META data appears in a pop-up.

As I was early for the actual demo I went and grabbed a soggy roll and a cup of coffee.

So much attention, so little knowledge

I returned for the search demo proper and found my way to one of the few remaining clients. The demo was of a web-based reporting application that pulled data from a whole bunch of MS products. I’m still not sure how it tied in with search to be honest.

There was one Microsoft person for every four guests in the room, and I asked the nearest rep if I could pull up the application the presenter was showing on my client. After some discussion between Microsoft people I received a response in the negative – the application was running on a server and only available to the presenter. So I carried on watching.

Why demo in Windows 2003?

Strangely, the presentation appeared to be running on a Windows 2003 machine. Now I could be wrong, and it might simply have been a theme, but I still found it odd that Microsoft would promote Vista using a Server 2003 theme?

When the presentation was finished the speaker happened to walk by. I asked him if the web application was platform agnostic and he confirmed it was – it would run on Firefox and other browsers. He also gave me the URL to access the application where I sat. Pity the first couple of fellas hadn’t known that.

As the search presentation was recycling I headed away and caught about half an hour of a very animated and knowledgeable speaker on encryption and Vista’s built-in security features.

Fly me to the moon

Neil Armstrong was a very good speaker, receiving a standing ovation both on arrival and exit. He spoke extremely well and was thoroughly interesting to listen to.

I’m not sure if it’s just me (and Google hasn’t been doing me any favours recently with my tin-hat syndrome), but I felt some of his speech was debunking the debunkers. Maybe he’s just tired of all the naysayers who claim he never got any further than some desert in the US mid-west.

So was I enlightened?

I’ve got to be honest and say no. The welcome package contained two publications, one on the knowledge economy, the other an overview of the Irish case-studies profiled during the day.

I’m really quite surprised there was nothing in the pack about Vista. In fact there was nothing about any of Microsoft’s products. The two publications had a lot about benefits but absolutely no details on the products. I have to say I’m not really any the wiser apart from actually trying out the new Vista UI.

Did I miss something or was I just expecting too much? Or was Micorsoft ready for today?

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Internet Video Eating Into TV Time Tue, 28 Nov 2006 08:44:13 +0000 Should we be taking far more interest in Internet and Mobile video?

Well, according to an ICM poll for the BBC TV, time is being forfeited for these new emerging technologies.

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Well we only have so many hours in the day.

A very interesting poll conducted by ICM on behalf of the BBC indicates that TV is being substituted by Internet and Mobile Video. The poll of 2,070 people showed some very interesting results:

  • 43% of respondents watch less TV as a result of watching Internet/Mobile video;
  • 22% watch Internet/Mobile video either ‘occasionally’ or ‘Once a week or more’;
  • 28% in the 18-24 age bracket watch Internet/Mobile video once a week or more.

I think there is probably some food for thought in those figures, and marketing experts need to pay more attention to video delivery over emerging technologies.

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When You Get Exposure Leverage It Fri, 24 Nov 2006 08:10:40 +0000 What would you give for a free interview on national radio with Pat Kenny to pitch your latest product? As they say, you couldn't pay for media like that. Not to mention that it's free.

And let's say the primary sale channel was your website - would you try to ensure that this cutting-edge product was heavily promoted on your site?

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Publicity leads to sales. Why? Because getting people to notice you is half the battle. If you can get a customer’s attention you can sell him the benefits of your product.

GPS mapping software for your Symbian phone

Sometimes in the morning I have the radio on. Occasionally I hear Pat Kenny, not because I particularly like his show, but because he comes after whoever preceded him.

Yesterday morning there was a very interesting interview with a guy from OSI (Ordinance Survey Ireland). They’re the people who produce the maps of our country.

The discussion was about a new GPS mapping application that lets users view OSI maps of Dublin on their mobile phones. The benefits were spelt out in a very compelling manner. Tourists, it was mentioned, could guide themselves with the mapping software, while Dublin’s residents could use the maps to find unknown streets and locations. And if you use a Nokia GPS phone the mapping software will even guide you to your destination. Pretty cool, and definitely the way of the future.

Buy on-line

Users can purchase and download the GPS mapping software for €29.99 from the OSI website, and the product comes complete with 500 POIs (Points Of Interest) for many of Dublin’s top attractions and locations.

It sounds like a really fantastic product, and I was quite surprised that an Irish company (and a publicly mandated body at that) was actually at the cutting-edge of this type of technology.

Great exposure, dreadful follow-through

This morning I got a chance to visit the OSI website to learn more:

OSI homepage

Hmm.. not much to go on there. I expected there to be some emphasis on this new cutting edge mobile phone GPS mapping software. Well I’m honestly none the wiser so I select ‘Browse our mapping products and services’:

OSI mapping products and services

I’m really not making much progress here. I cant see any mention of mobile phone GPS mapping software. Maybe ‘digital products’?

OSI digital products

Not there, so back to the homepage and this time I try ‘GPS services’. The guy on the radio did mention that this works with GPS. Nothing there either. To be honest at this stage I’m beginning to wonder if this is just some big joke. So I try ‘OSi Trail Master’:

OSI Trail Master

Well this might be it. Unfortunately there’s no real reference material here to tell me what I’m looking at. Alas, it’s another false hope. Only two more options on the homepage left, and next up is ‘OSi StreetSmart’:

OSI StreetSmart

Bingo. With hindsight the name makes sense, but without any pointers figuring this out is far from trivial. Anyhow, now that I’ve finally found what I came here for I’d like to find out more. I suppose I should click the image – it is an anchor after all:

OSI more details

How to burn great publicity

Now most people couldn’t buy the publicity gained from a nationwide radio interview. That type of broadcast is just marketing gold-dust. Businesses have flourished on the attention garnered from radio mentions…

Yesterday morning the OSI gave us a text book example of how to burn through fantastic publicity with poor follow-through.

What’s the lesson? When you do get great exposure make sure you’re ready and waiting to fully leverage it.

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Search Engines Group-Hug Sitemaps & Mobile Ads come to Ireland Thu, 16 Nov 2006 08:55:26 +0000 Two interesting pieces of news from Google today - universal Sitemaps and Mobile Ads come to Ireland.

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Google have issued 2 press releases today:

The first, ‘Major Search Engines Unite to Support a Common Mechanism for Website Submission‘, relates to a joint initiative by Google, Yahoo! and MSN to support the Sitemaps 0.90 protocol.

What does this mean for site owners? Well if your familiar with Google sitemaps, you’ll know that getting crawled, and ultimately indexed, can be assisted by submitting a sitemap to Google.

Now that same sitemap will be accepted by all 3 major search engines, so there will be no need to generate proprietary sitemaps for each.

The second piece of news relates to the expansion of Google ads for mobile. Google Ads for mobile (beta service trialled in the US, UK, Japan and Germany) will be extended to France, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, China, Ireland, India and Australia. So soon we’ll be getting Google Ads on our mobiles here in Ireland.

Personally, I think that in a couple of years it’s all going to be mobile, and that particular space is where you need to be looking in terms of strategic Internet marketing. I hope to look deeper into the mobile space in future posts.

Is anybody using Google Mobile Search? And if so, how do you find the service?

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The Quick & Easy Guide to Better HTML Sun, 12 Nov 2006 09:27:50 +0000 We all want them. Visitors have a better experience. Searchers find what they're looking for. Site owners enjoy more prosperity. And the Internet community have something to pour praise on. So what's holding Ireland's websites back?

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We all want good looking websites that work well for our visitors. Happy visitors = happy site owners. But what happens when the code that runs your website is so poor that it breaks the design in some browsers? Or worse still, keeps some visitors out of your site altogether?

Bring on the code

It’s all about the code. Writing good code is easy. When you know how, that is. Behind every website you view are a number of coding technologies that make things tick. Hyper-Text Mark-up Language (HTML) and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) are probably the most important and common of these, and form the backbone of virtually every web page.

So many ways to view

With a variety of browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari etc.) and an increasing number of platforms (pc, tv, hand held devices etc.), the need for a consistent user experience has never been more important.

That’s where standards come into the equation. At their most basic level, web standards exist so that the widest set of users can access and use your data via the broadest number of channels.

What’s the fly in the ointment?

Web standards seem to be very elusive for many websites on the Internet today.

After testing the Golden Spiders nominees, I thought it might be helpful to detail the top coding problems that ‘broke’ so many of the websites considered to be Ireland’s best.

(Some of the following is somewhat technical, so you can skip to my conclusions if you wish.)

  1. Document Type Definition

    Every HTML document should contain a Document Type Definition (DTD) before the <html> tag. The DTD tells the User Agent which rendering mode to use when displaying the page.
    The most common DTD DOCTYPEs currently in use are:

    <!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN"


    <!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Frameset//EN"

    <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN"

    <!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Frameset//EN"

    <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Frameset//EN"

    If your website doesn’t contain something similar to one of the above on every page then it will not validate.

    It is possible to use proprietary attributes and still ensure validation. To do so your site should carry a custom DTD. More details on custom DTD schema can be found here.

  2. Character Encoding

    Character encoding tells the browser what characters the page will be displaying to the user. Remember that visitors can originate anywhere on the globe, and not all will use Latin characters.

    Letting the browser know the Character Encoding required (or ‘charset’) can be achieved in two ways:
    1. within the HTTP header sent by the server (e.g. using .htaccess on Apache);
    2. within the HTML document header, e.g.:

    <META HTTP-EQUIV="Content-Type" CONTENT="text/html; charset=ISO-8859-1">

    It is extremely important that if set by both the server, through the HTTP headers, and within the HEAD section of a HTML page that the charsets match. A mismatch will invalidate the page.

    If you want to test your site this tool will show you whether the charset is set on your page.

  3. Closed or self-closing tags

    If you look at the code behind any web page you will see a bunch of tags like

    <div><a href="">Click here</a></div>

    Most recent HTML specifications require tags to be closed. So you can see in the example that there was an opening <div> followed by an opening <a> (with a href attribute set), some text, and then the closing </a> followed by a final </div>.

    So each tag was opened and then closed. Notice also that the tags were nested. The closing </a> preceded the closing </div>. Had it been any other way the code would not validate.

    XHTML requires all tags to be closed or self-closing. So it is important to ensure that all your elements are closed, e.g. <head [...] /> or <div> [...] </div>.

  4. Lower case tags

    The XHTML 1.0 specification requires that all element and attribute tags be in lower case. So if your document uses a XHTML DTD then you can not use a mix of upper and lower case mark-up throughout your document.

    Whenever I see mixed case mark-up I immediately think of ‘cut ‘n paste’ coding, which in my view is an extremely lazy and dangerous way to author web pages. If you are going to cut and paste, you have 10 times more reasons to validate your page afterwards.

    If you take a look at the source code of your own web pages (in IE6 select Tools->View Source, IE7 select Page->View Source, FF2 View->Page Source) and see something like this:

    <META NAME="ROBOTS" CONTENT="index, follow">
    <META HTTP-EQUIV="Content-Type" CONTENT="text/html; charset=iso-8859-1">
    <link href="..." type="text/css" rel="stylesheet" media="all">
    <link href="..." type="text/css" rel="stylesheet" media="all">

    I would be slightly concerned about the overall quality and standard of coding produced by your development team / design agency.

    (The fact that this style of coding appeared in some of the nominee sites for ‘Best Web Design Agency’ is somewhat disconcerting.)

  5. Proprietary tags, attributes and CSS

    Unfortunately in the early days of the Internet the browser vendors were less interested in standards (*glances at IE*). This led to a number of proprietary tags and attributes coming into existence. Recent years have seen considerable improvements to the browsers we use. Unfortunately many designers and developers have not kept pace with the times.

    Generally, the use of proprietary code has one major outcome – the code will only work in one brand of browser. While Internet Explorer enjoyed 95% dominance of the browser market during the 1990′s this was fine. But now that new standards-compliant browsers such as Firefox have a 15-20% market share, you can understand why proprietary code has become such an important issue.

    For example, the use of leftmargin, topmargin, marginwidth or marginheight attributes in the body tag involves proprietary code. Similarly, the embed tag is a proprietary tag.

    If you would like to see an excellent example of what can happen when a web site works only in one browser take a glimpse at what happened Enterprise Ireland.

  6. CSS Hacks

    Unfortunately different browser platforms have a nasty habit of rendering content in non-standard ways (*glances again at IE*). It’s a feature of life that hacks are often required to make pages render consistently cross-browser.

    Placing hacks in CSS files has a nasty habit of breaking any validation performed on that file. A far more effective way to introduce hacks is to use conditional includes.

    Conditional includes are special commands that are only read by Microsoft browsers. Such an include might look like:

    <!--[if lt IE 7]>
    <link href="path/to/IE/lte6/stylesheet.css" media="all" rel="Stylesheet" type="text/css" />

    For a good guide to using conditional includes and their syntax see

  7. WCAG Accessibility

    They say that the Internet is a great levelling ground. Not just for business, but also for people with disabilities. That’s why Accessible web pages are so important.

    WCAG 1.0 and Section 508 are the most common accessibility standards used on the web today. They dictate certain coding requirements that apply to accessible web pages. For instance:

    All image elements must contain an ALT attribute. Even spacer images must contain at the least an empty ALT attribute – alt="";

    And a very common error is the omission of proper labels for form elements:

    Form input elements should be accompanied by a corresponding label, e.g. <label for="fname">First Name</label><input type="text" name="firstname" id="fname">

    If you would like to learn more about Accessibility please visit WAI. offers an excellent primer on web site accessible.

  8. Legal Color Names

    Many people don’t realise that there are just sixteen legal color names in HTML 4.x and XHTML. If you use color names in your mark-up and they don’t appear in the following list your document will not validate, and you run the risk of inconsistent rendering across browsers/platforms.

    The Legal Color Names (with HEX values):

    Aqua (#00FFFF)
    Black (#000000)
    Blue (#0000FF)
    Fuchsia (#FF00FF)
    Gray (#808080)
    Green (#008000)
    Lime (#00FF00)
    Maroon (#800000)
    Navy (#000080)
    Olive (#808000)
    Purple (#800080)
    Red (#FF0000)
    Silver (#C0C0C0)
    Teal (#008080)
    White (#FFFFFF)
    Yellow (#FFFF00)

  9. Unescaped special characters

    Unfortunately certain characters have a special meaning to the computers that run the Internet. In particular the ampersand (&) and the less-than and greater-than characters (<, >) cause problems when they are left unescaped.

    The inclusion of these characters on your HTML page will invalidate the mark-up. In all cases they should be properly escaped to either their equivalent HTML entity or ISO Latin-1 code. In the case of the ampersand &amp; or &#38;, less-than &lt; or &#60;, and greater-than &gt; or &62;.

    For a full list of HTML special characters see here.

So what’s the solution?

My own personal opinion is that those responsible for coding and designing websites need to take web standards more seriously.

The fact that web sites nominated for ‘Best Web Design Agency’ failed to validate (and one or two had truly awful coding) is indicative of the wider issues faced by Ireland’s Internet community.

On the other side of the fence, those commissioning new sites should start to consider, as a decision criterion, the quality of the underlying code and the impact on areas such as Accessibility and compatibility poor code can have.

Design and development briefs should include web standards as a requirement. In fact this is one of the easiest metrics to collect for subsequent evaluation.

Failing the above I think a quote from theMenace is particularly apt:

If we don’t have regulation (which we never really can) then we need 1) peer honesty and 2) client education.

Well said.

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Bad Technology Day Fri, 10 Nov 2006 00:09:29 +0000 I've had some problems with both email and voice mail *sigh* so if you tried to get me and didn't hear back I promise I'm not ignoring you.

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Just a quick note to say thank you to everyone who got in touch – I will properly reply to all emails etc. ASAP.

Unfortunately I had one of those horrible technology days today. First the server decided to lose all my email for 13 hours then I discovered that the voice mails left on my VOIP service are devoid of any sound.

I have managed to get all my email back, but

if you left me a voice message I would ask that you please send me an additional email.

I did try calling back numbers, but gave up after the first disgruntled recipient (someone from TCD?) wasn’t too happy to converse.

My apologies to anyone who tried and failed to get me. And thank you very much for all the emails and comments :grin:

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Did Someone Say That Internet Scams Were Becoming More Sophisticated Wed, 01 Nov 2006 08:12:26 +0000 Using some reverse psychology to sell your phishing scam. Now if you could just get a decent English speaking copywriter you'll be emptying those PermanentTSB accounts in no time.

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I got this in an E-mail box yesterday:

Dear Sir/Madam,

Recent email scams have attempted to consume customers into disclosing their Online Banking security log-in details by re-directing them to a fake site.

Well apart from the reference to scams ‘consuming’ customers that opening sentence states a fact that the banks have been trying to get across to all their customers.

We publish details about such scams on our security pages. However, we would like to get security warnings across to customers as many as possible.

That’s why we’re asking you to take a few minutes to check and update your account details. This will allow us to update your occasional security and Online Banking service information.

Hmm.. so a bit of reverse psychology to draw us in. So you’re telling me about the risks of phishing schemes. Then you mention how important it is to get the message out about these scams. Seems fare enough. You couldn’t possibly be trying to pull the wool over my eyes. God knows, I might even have missed the obvious grammatical mistakes had I been reading this in a hurry.

But it’s your call to action that I love. After warning about the dangers of ‘recent email scams’ you want me to follow your link so I can ‘check and update’ my account details:

Due to the recent security update, you are requested to follow the link below.

And of course you have reinforce that call by preying on that most vulnerable human emotion – fear:

You are required to provide all necessary information completely and correctly otherwise, due to security reasons, we may have to close your account temporarily.

Security Advisor
Permanent Tsb

The scary thing here is that should these guys get a native English speaker to create their copy I have no doubt these mails could get some conversions.

Of course if you have Firefox 2 installed you get this nice little message when you click on the link:
Firefox anti-phishing protection

The site in question has been removed.

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Internet Video – The Next ‘Big’ Marketing Theme? Thu, 26 Oct 2006 08:57:21 +0000 Rich interactive media is fast becoming common-place on the Internet. Low cost bandwidth coupled with the rising penetration of the Web globally is driving marketers to look toward new media to get their message across.

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It appears that the clever marketing folk are really beginning to turn on to the idea of rich Internet media as a marketing channel.

We’ve seen the recent acquisition of YouTube by Google and the introduction of And with Google’s big money purchase (and News Corps efforts to purchase YouTube themsleves) it is evident that the smart money is willing to gamble on video being the killer app of the near future. (That gamble may be paying off – YouTube had 81,019,000 visitors in September 2006 making it the 14th most popular property worldwide, Source: ComScore.)

So are we on the cusp of a shift toward Internet-driven video marketing? More and more television adverts are ending up with their very own streaming websites. Advertising campaigns are integrating Internet elements as much more than a simple afterthought. To me this gives an indication of where the advertisers are looking.

Here are some great examples of recent marketing campaigns that have leveraged Internet video:

  • Dove

    This is just a great campaign. By making people look at how they perceive beauty Dove is managing to align their brand with reality rather than the perception created by the beauty industry. The video is available at, but the real kicker for me is the use of social networks to propagate the campaign. Over on YouTube there have been over 50,000 views of the video:

  • Sony Bravia

    The latest Bravia advert directed by Jonathan Glazer has been getting quite some attention the last while. Again the marketers have given the advert its own website, while YouTube has been generously seeded with the video which, judging by a quick search, has had well over 100,000 views:

    The even greater beauty of this advert is that user-generated video of its making is starting to appear. This is the ultimate in self-perpetuating advertising (your audience creates the adverts for you):

    (Does anyone else feel a greater appreciation for the advert after watching that?)

  • Wheeeeee

    Using the Internet as a distribution channel isn’t just for the big-budget corporations of the world. Even a small non-profit organisation barely a few years old can take advantage of Web video. Ok, so perhaps they’re a wee bit more Net-savvy than most companies out there, but Mozilla have shown the potential to get your message across without the paying old-media prices:

    Over 400,000 views for that one ad alone!

  • Nike Time

    Back to a real heavy-hitter. Now it’s not like Nike have cash problems and can’t afford to use main-stream media, but this next clip has over 7 million views over on YouTube. The ad owes nothing to creative skill of the creators but everything to the creative skill of the subject (if you like football you can’t help but love this):

    The only real expense is the sponsorship deal (I shudder to imagine the magnitude of that figure) – those 7m+ views didn’t cost a penny more for Nike.

  • And the Irish?

    Well of course we have our very own Shamrog Isle, the clever Funda viral from a few months back, that fully utilised the Internet to distribute it’s message. The Funda video received almost 50,000 views and God knows how many blog posts and comments, and in case you missed it the first time around:

So as the cost of distribution (bandwidth) tends towards zero it becomes apparent that bandwidth-intensive media will migrate to, and become prevalent on, the Internet.

The interfaces we use to interact with the web are developing at pace, both from a technical perspective and a sociological one. Witness the rise of social networks and the new web2.0 interfaces that foster interactivity.

I think it’s only when you consider where we were and where we are that the shift really becomes apparent. In just five short years we have moved from quite simple on-line advertising techniques to rich interactive media such as video seeded in communities like YouTube.

And remember, video is still in its infancy – the viewing numbers above might not seem large but these are the early adopters. Just wait until things go mainstream.

I think Internet video as a marketing channel is poised to become big indeed.

If your viewing this post via RSS and cannot see the videos click here.

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Want Loyal Customers? Give Them What They Want How They Want It. Mon, 23 Oct 2006 22:03:15 +0000 Don't you just love it when you can have it your own way? Getting things on your terms is the best way, isn't it?

Well that's the beauty of RSS - giving your readers the content they want when and how they want it benefits you and benefits your audience.

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I have to say that I think RSS is a life-saver. As a reader of quite a few SEO, marketing and Internet related blogs/websites it’s great to just login once to view the whole shebang. By simply aggregating all of my daily information sources in one place (Google Reader personally) I can view and digest far more information than otherwise, all on my own terms.

The real beauty for the RSS publisher however, is that by offering multiple channels for your content you are absolutely maximising the possible coverage you can receive.

People are more likely to remain loyal when you offer what they want on their own terms.

The other day I came across and what really caught my attention was their RSS feed page (sorry for the long image but you’ll see why):

Downloadsquad RSS features

Alongside their main feed they offer feeds based on categories, feeds based on platforms, feeds about companies – the list goes on. Quite simply are giving me what I want how I want it. Personally, I think it’s a fantastic feature.

Now, I wonder how long it will take Ireland’s main news and media properties to offer us this kind of choice?

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Like To See The Organiser Of The Future? Sat, 21 Oct 2006 09:58:56 +0000 The biggest Internet companies on the globe are busy creating online services to organise our lives.

And then there's a David that might just be the future. This could be serious...

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There seems to be a lot of buzz about Scrybe.

I have to say the video blew me away (but of course until we see the working application everything is based on a very polished teaser video):

That UI is very, very impressive looking.

It is unknown what architecture this app is built on, but there is some speculation it’s on Flash and Flex (the video looks too smooth to be html/js).

Regardless of the underlying technology, what is plain to see is that these guys are thinking outside the box and working on a very new and innovative way to organise our lives. The biggest break-through seems to be the ability to work off-line seamlessly and easily re-sync later on.

How long will they remain independent (if they are independent?) if they can actually deliver this application?

Looking forward to seeing the real-life version :) You can sign up for the Beta here.

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