Friday, 27 June 2008

New domain names allow hilarious play on words

Dot cotton from eastenders So, ICANN (The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), the net regulator, has voted to relax the rules on "top-level" domain names such as .com or .uk. Potentially allowing anyone to put anything after the dot - all requests will go through Icann. You can't buy these domains but you can 'apply' for them and your application will be subject to their evaluation process. Well if anyone can, ICANN can.

I've never even heard of ICANN, sometimes i think that all 'not for profit' organisations are just one huge organisation with a massive network of websites and brand names that changes to suit the story of the day.

Anyway i'm going to send in some applications, so far i've decided to apply for the following:
  • .cotton
  • .dash
  • .matrix
I'll be a millionaire by Christmas.

Friday, 13 June 2008

How to complain to the police about an eBay seller

This was quite a useful guide on eBay that I linked to from my 'I was scammed on eBay post'. Unfortunately it's been removed so i've just copied and pasted it here from the Google cache. Originally written by eBay member on the eBay reviews & guides section with the title 'How To Complain To The Police About A Seller'.

It is an inevitable consequence of eBaying that from time to time you will encounter a rotten apple attempting to sour the whole barrel.

Although this is a relatively rare occurence it helps to know the best way to get the Police to take you seriously.

This is how I recommend folk approach the Police to report a seller they believe has behaved dishonestly.


The first thing to do is to ring your local Police station and make an appointment to see a CID officer - don’t frustrate yourself by arguing your case with a desk clerk in reception - they are programmed to dismiss cases of non delivery as civil matters.

When you attend the Police station you will need to have hard copies of any emails you have received in relation to the auction, if possible make sure these emails display the headers. If you don’t know how to make headers show - ask, they’re important.

Print out a screen shot of the auction you won and add to it your proof of your payment.

You should also make sure that you can supply the Police with the user names of other winners, together with the item numbers of all the sales. You are building a case that can’t be dismissed as a civil matter - bear in mind that third party emails won’t be able to be accepted. In other words, emails forwarded to one member from another victim cannot be considered as part of your complaint so don’t waste time gathering them.

The Police Officer that you speak to will hopefully be aware of the intricacies of eBay - almost every Police Station now has at least one specialist Officer with knowledge of the site - however it is possible that they won't be available.

Just in case the detective you speak to isn't au fait with eBay, bring the contact details on the following page with you - he or she will need them to contact eBay.

Once you have received a crime number be prepared to relay it to any of the other buyers who you are able to contact. They can add that information to the details they supply to the Officer who takes their report.

Whilst all this is ongoing you should, of course, continue with the relevant eBay standard protection claims.

Finally - be realistic about what you are hoping to achieve.

The wheels of justice are notoriously slow but they do turn and they will get there eventually so don‘t give up.

Good Luck.


Thursday, 12 June 2008

Do rel=nofollow tags on internal links benefit your site's SEO?

Well yes, using rel=nofollows on your internal link structure is an advanced SEO technique but it can help to improve your SEO. [See update at end of page, it's likely this technique no longer works].

I asked this question on LinkedIn a couple of weeks ago and what follows is a summary of some of the responses I received and other research I’ve done online.

What is it?

“A site may have many pages that have the opportunity to get crawled and indexed in the SERPs (search engine results pages). You're also looking at near infinite choices for how you interlink all those pages. Out of all those permutations, there is one configuration that is the most optimal from an SEO perspective.

That's because it maximizes the flow of link juice (e.g., PageRank if you're speaking purely in Google terms) to your most important pages and minimizes (or cuts off completely) the flow of link juice to your least important pages.” - Stephan Spencer at Search Engine Land

By adding rel=nofollow to a link you are telling a spider not to follow that link. This was invented to be used in comment fields to prevent comment spam. However as all it does is prevent link juice being passed on, SEO specialists have realised it can be used (completely legally, Google even approves it!) to sculpt internal linking structures.

Example: If you have 100 internal links on a page you are diluting that page’s link juice. By adding rel=nofollow to 90 of the less important links the 10 that remain have 10 times more link juice and subsequently benefit the pages they link to more.

Site structure
Before I get onto the use of rel=nofollow it’s worth considering that this technique is used to fine tune internal linking structure. There’s no point in fine tuning your internal linking structure if it’s sculpted incorrectly in the first place.

“The size and shape of your site's navigational hierarchy is your blunt instrument and rel=nofollow is your scalpel.” - Stephan Spencer at Search Engine Land

“One of the most powerful, and most underdeveloped, on-page SEO tactics is rejigging your internal hierarchical linking structure to optimise the flow of link juice.” This makes sense from an SEO point of view but also from a user point of view – if all your information is arranged in a logical structure it will make for a better user experience.

Using rel=nofollow
So if your site structure is as perfect as you want it, you’ve tried card sorting, user testing and the hippo (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion) is happy then it might be time to look at using rel=nofollow.

First check you have a good xml and HTML sitemap on your site. As Tom Griffin stated in the LinkedIn answer, “The goal is not to block the page from being indexed - the goal is to funnel internal authority throughout your site in the smartest way possible”.

Then you need to select which pages on your site you identify as the most important (and least important) for the relevant keywords you target. This in itself is a worthwhile task for any webmaster. There could be many pages on your site which rank highly for certain keywords but are underused due to being buried in your site structure. The links from those pages could be a massive boost to other pages on your site.

Next is the big one - look at the pages themselves and identify all the links. Clearly this could be a mammoth task even for a site of a few 100 pages so start with the biggie – the home page.

I haven’t tried this yet but I’d recommend creating or using some sort of database or record of which links are on or off (rel=nofollow) to best understand the impact you are having on your site structure. As mentioned above you don’t want to risk creating a dead end and cutting off a page.

Real life examples
SEOmoz have implemented rel=nofollow on their site and witnessed a 20% rise in traffic. However others are more sceptical; Matt Cutts from Google says that nofollowing your internals is a 2nd order effect. It will best optimise the traffic you have rather than gain you more. Essentially he believes there are others things you can do first for a better return on investment.

And my final question on LinkedIn was why aren’t the big sites doing it?,, look in their source code and you won’t find one rel=nofollow tag. The only answer I can think of (and the only answer I got on LinkedIn from Brian Rogers) is that if you have a perfect link structure and your pages rank very highly due to large amounts of external links what difference will fine tuning your internal links make? Or maybe it’s just too complicated?

So to summarise, it’s worth it and it works. How worth it is something only you can decide and, to bore you with clich├ęs, this is only one tool in the SEO armoury.

Update, June 09: Apparently Google now ignores pagerank sculpting such as this. More on Google's Matt Cutts' blog.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Pretend to be Tom Cruise with Microsoft Surface

Microsoft Surface is like that screen computer that Cruise uses in Minority Report. Except it's horizontal and you don't get to wear a glove.

At prices starting around the £3000 mark it's not quite consumer friendly but i'm hoping these will start springing up in public places in the next few years so we can see whether they work as well as that video makes out. Only through use will we actually discover if they provide a benefit.

I can't at the moment see how placing two phones on Microsoft Surface and shifting e-photos visually is any easier than selecting the photos on someone's phone and bluetoothing to another. Although an easier way to split the bill will be nice, will it stop stingy friends though?

Hopefully there will be a way of customising Microsoft Surface to understand what you want just from the actions you do. For example, it's 8am in the morning and you place a bowl of cereal on the table - Surface navigates to the breakfast news; it's 11pm you place a cup of tea on the table - it navigates to a football website; it's 11pm you put two cups of tea on the table - it plays romantic music.

It can't be long before people develop video games for Microsoft Surface, air hockey would work well, shove ha'penny would be even better. And from the marketing perspective it could be a way of advertisers really understanding their consumers. For example, a consumer places the book they're reading on the table, it surreptitiously scans the barcode and then shows adverts related to that subject matter. Much hilarity will then ensue when you try and fix the advertising by selectively putting different books on the table.

I found a hotel press release about using Microsoft Surface in hotel rooms that states you can pay for things 'all with the drop of a credit card'. If Microsoft Surface works by just placing a credit card on it you'll have to be very careful where you put things down. You're tired, you get in to your room, you drop your wallet on the table, bam! You've bought a massage and a continental breakfast.

Now watch Tom Cruise using it, with a glove: