November 2007

Being The Best You Can Be At What You Do – Crayon Music Man!

Greetings from inside the SEOigloo!

The above video may just be the best thing I have ever seen on YouTube. Some background: the fellow in this video has somehow mastered playing what all late 60/70′s children will recognize as ‘The Crayon Music’ from Sesame Street. When I think about the time this man put into figuring this complex tune out, note by note, beat by beat, chord by chord, I am blown away. No sheet music, nobody to tell him how to do this…he just did it because he must love the song, and the evident glee of the presentation has received an ecstatic (if sometimes ineloquent) response from the public in the 96 comments on YouTube. Sentiments include:

“Without knowing anything else about you, this makes me wanna be friends with you for life.”

“WOW!!!! This has made my day!”

“I think my life would be complete if I could play this song.”

“You rule! Thanks for bringing a smile to my face… I’ve had that song stuck in my head for over 25 years and you brought it to life. Seriously man, I can’t thank you enough.”

Aren’t these the kind of responses every business owner and marketer dreams of eliciting from the public?

So often, I find myself in conversations with our web design clients who are leaning towards imitating their competition – a safe bet. I urge them to dig deeper, to find what’s really special about what they do so that they can powerhouse their way towards being the best at that thing. Maybe you are the best seamstress, best joke teller, best gardener, best chef, best counselor, best PHP programmer, best customer service person, best finder of antique lamps…nobody you know has quite the skills you do. If pursuing your specialty fills you with excitement, chances are, that’s going to translate into something that the public will pick up on, and that – when wisely honed – can translate into a business.

I can almost guarantee that this Crayon Music Man could get gigs just playing this song for the right crowd (at the local hangout, at business conference parties with a 30-40 something audience, at holiday events.) Were he to obtain the copyright to this and other classic Sesame Street tunes, he could cut an album that would doubtless sell to all those 70′s kids who have an almost crazy love of this memorable music. Maybe he’ll just keep this on a for-fun level, but I see real talent, dedication and zing here, and I know what happens when I run into these qualities in the business world. This is the stuff that fulfilling work lives are made of.

The world already has its Amazon.com, its Dizzy Gillespie, its Google…what can you share with us?

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For anyone who is having an ‘episode’ seeing this fellow play this, you can also see the original Sesame Street crayon short here: How Crayons Are Made Video.

And…MaestroJosh87, I’m floored. That’s simply awesome! Your video inspires me to keep on doing what I do, as well as I can!

IP Address in Google Organic SERPs

Greetings from inside the SEOigloo,

Today’s post contains a question for you, my valued readers. In doing some Google queries in the main Google index, I came across something quite peculiar in the results. My query was for therapist berkeley ca (so, of a local nature) and the following indented result for one of my clients was returned to me:

image of ip address in serps

Note my scribbly pink circles around the IP address appearing where the website URL should normally be. None of the other 8 results on the page had IP addresses instead of URLs. Have you run into this before? What’s it all about? I’d love feedback!

David Mihm Explains Flat Site Architecture

Greetings from inside the SEOigloo,

This is just a quick pointer to David Mihm’s post about the importance of flat website architecture. The folks at SEOmoz liked it so much, they moved it onto the front of their blog – a big, and deserved, compliment.

The basic premise is such an important one for web business owners to grasp and applies especially to anyone who owns a small website. The fewer links you make a Googlebot follow in order to find a page on your site, the higher your chances are of that page being found, indexed and highly valued. When you are dealing with a small number of pages, say 20-50, chances are, your best bet will be to put a link on the homepage of your site to every single one of those pages. This sends a signal to the bots that each of these pages is important to you and worth being crawled. When you start burying pages 2, 3, or 4 links deep into the site, Googlebot appears to view those pages as less important to crawl and value highly.

Flat site architecture basically means keeping links to your pages at a top level rather than burying them deeper within the site.

I remember that this was the belief back when we first started doing SEO. If we built a 200 page website, we’d put a top level link to every single one of those pages in the main nav menu on the homepage. This technique absolutely worked, though I do recall it appearing to us that it would take Google awhile to work its way down the long menu. For example, one day, Google would index the first 10 links. A few days later it would pick up the next 20. It would take some weeks for Google to actually get to the bottom of the list, but eventually, all of the pages on the site would be indexed.

A couple of things happened that began to change the way a lot of us design websites. I can think of two big ones.

1) We caught wind of the 100 rule. Don’t put more than 100 links on any given page or it will look like spam to the Googlebot. It will also send homepage pagerank in too many different directions.

2) It is confusing for people to look through 200 links. Breaking them down into smaller categories (a process known as siloing) makes a site more usable. Categorizing and siloing makes the site less cluttered.

These two factors are essential knowledge these days, especially for large websites with hundreds or thousands of pages. No way is someone going to build a menu with 5000 links in it. But David’s post focuses on the small site, and I have to say, my heart is with him on what he is saying. We do silo quite a bit on our clients e-commerce sites these days. 4 years ago, we wouldn’t have done this. We would have said, “no, we want a link to every product on the homepage nav.” Design trends and new thoughts have made us move away from this workhorse approach, and maybe that’s a mistake if indexing is our primary goal…particularly if one is dealing with a brand new website.

Well, I think I’ll have to say it’s a toss-up between the need for quick crawling of a new site and the need for best usability practices. I’m a fan of the old workhorse site, before design became a bit cleaner and fancier as it is now. I remember well how perfectly flat site architecture worked for those clients back then. We struggle more with the concept of usability and conversions these days.

I guess it all boils down to appropriateness. We advocate keeping things as flat as one possibly can, and believe that the navigation is the whole spine and nerve center of any website. No question, on a site with less than, say, 30 pages, we’d want a link to every page to be at that top level. But once you start getting beyond that, the need to categorize and silo starts to kick in, at least in my experience. Read David’s article and tell me what you think, please. I really enjoyed what he wrote and found myself cheering him on!

Will husbands who won’t ask directions use Google Gas Station Maps?

Greetings from inside the SEOigloo!

Matt McGee’s extremely good post about Google maps at gas station pumps answers my title question with a big, huge ‘no’. Please, take a gander at Matt’s list of reasons why putting Google maps at the pump is unlikely to be the success Google must be hoping for.

Matt predicts the danger of pump rage being caused by sitting around while the guy in front of you tries to locate a landmark, and he also points out that leaving the choice of landmarks on the map up to the gas station owner may result in some rather useless data.

I’d like to add to this that the last thing I want is more buttons to push on the gas station pump. I mean, ewwww, it’s yucky enough touching the pump, let alone the transactional buttons. I’m not at all keen on the idea of using a pump, covered with carcinogenic chemicals, as a computer, thank you very much.

My husband doesn’t much like asking directions from people. I’m usually the one trying to understand the expressive gestures of the gas station attendant. This is how we often end up in wonderful, surprise locations. I think I’d like to keep it that way. We use enough hand sanitizer as it is after filling up the tank. We’ll have to start carrying a small sink around with us if we’re going to be fiddling with greasy, gasoline-coated buttons for minutes at a time. Yuck.

Cleanliness aside, I really do see traffic flow being the main issue with this concept. Just today, I was at the local grocery store thinking about this subject. Some company installed some fancy terminal in the supplements department. It looks kind of like an old arcade machine, but it’s supposed to answer health questions for you. For some reason, the terminal was placed right next to this small store’s checkout line. Anyone wanting to use it would have to stand in the middle of the line while people tried to squeeze around them to pay for their groceries. After a few, “excuse me, pardon me, excuse me, pardon me’s”, this would get cumbersome. I’ve never yet seen anyone using the machine.

Gas stations aren’t most people’s idea of a place they want to spend more time. The need for speedy transactions is obvious. Combining this with looking at maps, when you consider how lost some people seem to get the minute they even open a map, is kind of a silly idea. What do you all think about this?

Google and Yahoo! Local – We Have A Problem!

Greetings from inside the SEOigloo!

A couple of days ago, I was assisting a client with getting her business listed in Google’s Local Business Center and Yahoo’s Local service. This client is a medical services provider with admirable skills in her profession, yet not terribly comfortable with technology, so part of our contract with her was to walk her, step by step, through getting some business listings going. She and I were both keen on getting everything just right, and in total, the process took about 2 hours of phone consulting time.

On both Google and Yahoo’s local registration forms, we encountered such a silly problem, I wanted to make a note of it here. One of the options in both of these listings is to specify what types of payment the business accepts. In this case, the client accepts both cash and checks, but the radio buttons provided in the form made it impossible for her to choose these options. She could either pick:

Cash Only
or
Personal Checks

There was no option for just ‘cash’, and if she picked ‘cash only’, she wasn’t allowed to also pick ‘personal checks’. What is that only doing in there? I imagine that millions of businesses accept credit cards AND checks AND cash. It’s very odd that the designers of these registration forms didn’t predict that all these bases would need to be covered. Usability experts and analysts…where are you? I’d like to see this fixed. It made the process confusing and frustrating for my client who wanted to be sure she was getting her listing just right. In the end, she had to pick ‘personal checks’, having to omit that she takes cash. As this isn’t an accurate representation of her business, Google Maps and Yahoo Local are missing pieces of the picture and their users will be, too.

How’s about a new radio button for ‘cash’?

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