Top Ten List of Apple IPhone Apps used by Lindsey Lohan and Paris Hilton while they were Eaten By Sharks

Traffic stats – the red headed step child of statistics, damned lies cloaked inside a slathering of untruth and then wrapped in that un-Godliest of file formats, xls and used to bludgeon all that is sane and rational out of your web strategy.  This is the stuff that reduces grown webmasters, those mastadonian throwbacks of an earlier tech era, to tears, and enables the airline magazine reading, conference attending execs to think they actually have a handle on what’s happening.

The truth is that the only true measure is cash.  The cold, hard green stuff, the only thing that slays the monthly mortgage beast, or allows us to consume fossil fuels with reckless abandon.

Now the stats for this blog have got me completely befuddled.  Yes, I can see what is happening, and I see that all too clearly.  The problem is that I have little notion of how I should react.

From the top:

  • I notice from from MyBlogLog Stats that I’m getting 300 or so readers a week, up from 50 or so a couple months ago.  Google confirms this.
  • The primary referer for those users is Google Images, specifically if you search for “sharks” which will show an image from one of my posts from June in the #2 spot.
  • My “One and Done” rate is (the site bounce rate) is threw the roof.  I have lots of traffic that simply isn’t engaged.  They’re coming to the wrong site and leaving.
  • That image is in danger of being hot linked all over the web.  Google images is the place people generally go to find image for use on their blog, and frankly, it’s where I found the image in the first place.  I am worried someone will live link, and I’ll end up getting a huge bill for bandwidth (this site is setup to withstand a visit to the Digg homepage or slashdotting).

Eugene and Tom, tell me I should be flattered.  I’m not so sure.  Perhaps it’s experience, perhaps its just my inbred belief that things tend to go from bad to worse, not good to better.  So what are my options:

  • Do nothing – my wife’s beliefs aside, this is not my strong point.  I hate inaction…
  • Throw in an htaccess rule protecting the images, then sending an adverisement for my site to anyone who links live.  Nice idea, but frankly it’s hypocritical.  I live link…a lot.  I know it’s bad, but darn it, I like having images.
  • Go with Tom’s suggestion: start doing more shark content.  Darn it, if they’re coming for sharks, then sharks they’ll get.  I guess this is a good one, except for the fact that I have little access to shark content.  Even though I once was almost shark food…and wear a mako shark tooth around my neck, and have a set of mako jaws on my wall above this very computer, that was caught on my boat while I was captaining, by my father.
  • Delete the image and wait for it to drop from Google.

Sadly, here is what I see:

  • Writing about sharks = actually making something out of this blog.
  • Writing about Social Media = sending lots of smoke up the chimney, and getting readers who’d never, in a million years, click on an advertisement
  • Writing about the Death of Print Media = talking to myself – its a dead issue, and no one is reading my posts about it anymore.

I guess if I really thought I wanted to monetize this blog, I’d start writing posts like “Top Ten List of Apple IPhone Apps used by Lindsey Lohan and Paris Hilton while they were Eaten By Sharks.”  Then wait for the diggs to roll in…

That, I think I might be able to do…and for the record, I miss the days when I used to get paid to write stuff like this (and paid well, I might add…)

Blog Aggregation

David Churbuck posts this morning on Blog Aggregation. We both did a blog aggregation project over at Reel-Time.com in 2003 which, as he notes, was well ahead of the curve (and probably the need). He’s got some excellent points, but I have a few things to add.

The idea of a blog is something that many of us don’t fully understand. It’s basically an online journal that was designed to allow users without server level access to maintain their own content and easily switch the appearance of that content via templates. Over time, they have become so much more.

One of the most powerful things about a blog is that the presentation you are most likely seeing, my own template on my site, isn’t necessarily the way everyone will see the content. RSS, which is essentially an XML stream of content, allows us to present our content in many different formats and many different places. The promise of XML, as it was presented a decade ago, was that it would allow us to separate content from presentation, and in that, it is indeed one of the few technologies to have fully delivered on it’s promise.

So we now have blogs, with all kinds of neat little RSS feeds which are quite granular, down to the category or tag level, that allow us to slice and dice our content, to mix and match by category, by author, etc. I’ve looked at the aggregators that Churbuck mentions, and basically barfed…yeah, they work, but their ugly and they don’t have to be. We should be able to easily design pages that will consume the rss feeds and present them in a useful manner.

I’ve been saying for years that the most misunderstood bit of blogs is their categorization capabilities. The better you categorize, the more useful your content (although you can also use tags…).

My ideas:

  • Remember to sort by categories – make it easy to allow users to find what they want.
  • Remember to provide direct links to the authors.
  • Let users set up searches that trigger rss feeds so your content can reach them when it’s appropriate. And you can even allow search to create a page on the fly if you’ve got enough content.
  • Leverage internal as well as external assets – you can use outside streams, although you may want to be able to editorially decide which bits of content you will present on your site. You can literally scavenge posts via Google Blog Search and Technorati.
  • Think of your pages as homepages – each topic or category you present should be optimized as though it will be the only one your readers will see.
  • You can have multiple feeds from blogs, some summarized, some containing the full content, and some broken into categories, tags, etc.  They can be reassembled into larger groups (all my authors writing about javelin throwing) in interesting ways.

Consuming RSS feeds and rendering them on pages is easy stuff and can provide that deep niche content we want. There’s no reason to settle for out of the box tools that make our content look like one of those “portals” companies pushed in 2001.

In the example Churbuck offers of the Olympics, I’d consider setting up pages for:

  • Countries
  • Main sports categories, track and field, swimming, martial arts, etc.
  • Social and off the field categories
  • Major celeb pages – some of the athletes get a lot of mentions, provide their own pages
  • Search – once again, it’s key…

Then you ensure your bloggers are tagging properly and you’ve got the start. In fact, you can even have an editor retag stuff as “lead story” etc. This stuff works for splogs and it can work for high volume content situations as well!

The real take away secret is this: aggregation is simple content management. Think of it that way and you’ll jump way ahead of the pack.

Local Search Optimization – Your Path to Success

The secrets of local search optimizationI recently rolled out the http://www.powerupgeneratorservice.com site and in reviewing the initial search results are very interesting. To begin with, some background.

Power Up Generator’s previous site was a single page, which hadn’t been optimized at all. They didn’t every turn up #1 when you searched on their own name.

My initial survey of the site brought forward a problem for search optimization: they do business across New England. Yet no one searches for “new england” when they look for generator service, parts, sales, etc. They search for the state.

So I was faced really with the chore of optimizing not for a single base keyword set, but 7 variants of that set. Here’s how I answered the challenge:

  1. The pages were handcoded using php and tableless css design to minimize the code on the page. This provides a better keyword density, which is the first and most important thing.
  2. I made full use of the metatags, title and description to echo the important keywords.
  3. H1, H2, bold text are your friends. These identifiers are how search engines find important text, such as your keywords.
  4. Image alt tags – by all means they should describe the photo, but they can also be used to restate your keywords. Instead of “Foobartronics HK236 Johnson Rod” you use “Foobartronics HK236 Johnson Rod – My prime keyword here Products.”

That’s pretty much it. I always load a Google Sitemap and load the site in Google Webmaster Tools, then set up a Google Alert for anyone linking to the site. Then it’s a matter of watching your analytics package and fine tuning.

Not sure it can work? Check this result less than 2 weeks after site go live…

Then try replacing Vermont with any other New England state.

    Humans Search Better

    Who’d have thunk it? An article in Wired Magazine entitled “Algorithms Are Terrific. But to Search Smarter, Find a Person.” notices the growing trend of search firms using real meat-space residents to fine tune their results rather than relying on algorithms. The dirty little secret: algorithms can be gamed while humans are tougher to fool.

    Personally, I’ve been using Mahalo, Jason Calacanis’ new company and I am really liking what I see. The results are pertinent, and spam/splogger free. Give it a shot and you’ll see what I mean.

    The vogue for human curation reflects the growing frustration Net users have with the limits of algorithms. Unhelpful detritus often clutters search results, thanks to online publishers who have learned how to game the system. Users have tired of clicking through to adware-laden splogs posing as legitimate resources. And unless you get your keywords just right, services like Google Alerts spew out either too much relevant content — or not enough.

    Even with armies of paid contributors, however, the curators can’t cover Google-scale territory. They’ve had to make tough choices about resource allocation, opting to focus on topics and sources with the most mainstream appeal. Mahalo, for example, has plenty of curated listings dedicated to videogame cheats or Page Six celebrities, but it defaults to Google search results for topics like UAVs or Russian nesting dolls.

    True, some of my more arcane searches don’t get the results I’d hoped for, but for much or what I need, the spam free goodness is there. Get ahead of the curve and give it a shot.