Categories
Google Search Engine Optimisation Statistics

Google Analytics Expands

Just noticed that my Google Analytics accounts now have 10 profiles per account.

I use Analytics for all my projects and having more profiles per account means less logging in and logging out 🙂

Now all I have to do is figure out a way to consolidate these accounts without losing historic data 🙁

Great news all the same!

[EDIT] Google Analytics has responded that currently there is no way to consolidate account 🙁

Categories
General

Estate Agents sell MyHome.ie

MyHome.ie, one of Ireland’s leading online property websites was sold for €50m to The Irish Times, owner of Ireland.com.

RTE.ie reported that MyHome.ie expects full year profit of €2.5m on sales of €6.2m. So the Irish Times paid roughly 8 times sales and 20 times earnings for this company. To be sure, after shelling out €50m The Irish Times must have some plan to inject more value into MyHome to recoup their investment.

As Michele Neylon mentions, the Irish Times have a successful record of monetising their online properties through subscription services. You don’t have to go too far left field to see that property buyers may be quite willing to fork out €X to view 100 properties or €Y for unlimited access for one month.

However, I am more interested in the market timing of the sale. I wonder whether the rationale for selling has anything to do with the insiders’ view of the Irish property market itself. Owned by Ireland’s top 3 estate agents, MyHome.ie generates fee based income based on property listings from over 700 estate agents nationwide. As a standalone business MyHome.ie is highly exposed to the health of the property market itself.

As every taxi driver and his dog will tell you, the Irish property market has been red hot for quite some time now (and of course we all learnt from the dot.com bubble that when the taxi man and his dog are giving investment advice it’s the perfect signal to turn to cash – or did we?). I have long believed that the longer this particular ‘boom’ goes on the more likely that the market will overshoot dramatically to the downside when the end finally comes.

The sale of MyHome.ie may well turn out to be an even more shrewd move on the part of the vendors than the €50m price tag suggests – I just wonder if MyHome.ie would fetch such a valuation in a year or so?

Categories
Browsers General Security

How To Block IE7 in Windows Update (if you’re not too late!)

Microsoft has announced that IE7 will be distributed via Windows Update with the ‘high-priority’ tag. If your like me (hardened FF user) you probably would rather block Windows from automatically installing the latest IE iteration from Microsoft (well at least till we see how buggy and insecure it is).

MS is offering a tool that lets you to disable automatic delivery of this update – its available at the MS website.

I just wonder if this is going to be another WGA fiasco?

Categories
CSS WebDev

Check Website Layout in Multiple Browsers

One of the greatest difficulties in designing websites is achieving consistent layout results across browser-platform combos.

Unfortunately, browsers don’t always stick to standards and layouts can break.

If you want a nice service that lets you see your web page across multiple browsers and platforms try out BrowserShots.

The free service lets you submit any web page which is queued for processing. Within a couple of hours screenshots of your web page will be taken on multiple browsers/platforms and displayed on the BrowserShots site.

Handy service!

Categories
Marketing Search Engine Optimisation

Praxis Now, PageRank and SERPs

From SiliconRepublic:

PraxisNow, an Internet marketing consultancy, surveyed more than 300 business websites located in the greater Dublin area and found a lack of awareness of how to use the sites to bring more revenue to the companies that maintain them.

A massive 95pc of the sites surveyed were estimated to have 10 visitors per day or less on a rolling average. Close to 70pc of the sites had less than the required amount of content for Google to deem them ‘substantial’, so that they are being penalised for having insubstantial content.

Fewer than 23pc had a Google Page Rank of five or better thus further limiting the sites’ placement when search results are presented. In addition, more than 90pc of the sites did not have an opt-in facility for visitors on the home page.

Most of the sites covered for the survey had no meaningful statistics collection, which PraxisNow claimed would prevent them from knowing if the sites had lots of visitors.

First off, I think these are useful statistics. I am not in the least surprised by the findings of this survey.

But one piece of this story really stuck out:

Fewer than 23pc had a Google Page Rank of five or better thus further limiting the sites’ placement when search results are presented.

As any good search engine optimisation engineer (what a name?) will tell you, a websites position in the SERPs is determined by a number of factors, amongst the most important of which (in my opinion) are the PageRank and topic/theme of that site’s IBL’s (In Bound Links) relative to the search term. Yes on-site content counts also, but a sites PageRank is relatively unimportant in relation to its position on the SERPs.

You can perform countless searches on Google and find the top SERPs having lower PageRank than subsequent results. Many searches on Google return #1 spots with PR2’s and PR3’s. (I had a client with a PR1 site that ranked #1 for ‘bbq dublin’ for many months out of the 1.1m results returned by Google. Suffice to say they did very nicely from this search term.)

Looking at the Praxis Now website they have a Toolbar PageRank of 2 (yep, who am I to talk but give me 8-12 weeks and the next Google update 😉 ). Now, I have no reason to doubt that Praxis Now have excellent marketing knowledge and know-how. I also have no reason to doubt that their seminars may be beneficial for marketers wishing to learn new techniques.

But, being honest, I do have to question their knowledge of PageRank, SERPs and Search Engine Optimisation based on the language quoted above.

Categories
Google Search Engine Optimisation

Search Engine Market Share June 2006

From Hitwise.co.uk:

  • As of June 2006 Google now commands 77% of all search executions in the UK.
  • Both MSN and Yahoo each account for just 7% of that market.

I am not aware of similar statistics for the Irish market but would imagine that the UK market could be quite a good proxy for Ireland. If anything, Google may have an even greater share here as we have far fewer country specific SE’s.

If your target market is Ireland, either nationally or regionally, I believe your top SEO priority has to be the Google SERPs.

I have to wonder about those Irish SEO companies that still sell Overture accounts….

Categories
General Google Search Engine Optimisation

TLD for Country Specific Searches – What Domain Extension (ccTLD) Should You Choose?

I often see questions related to getting your website into country specific SERPs. There have been some urban myths regarding where your IP address resolves to, where you server is located and the TLD used.

Well from the google sitemaps blog:

If you want your site to show up for country-restricted searches, make sure it uses a country-specific domain (such as www.example.com.br). If you use a domain that isn’t country specific (such as .com), make sure that the IP address of the site is located in that country.

So if you have an Irish website and you want to get ranked in the Irish specific SERPs you have to either have a .ie domain or your site should be hosted in Ireland.

If you are looking for either of these then here’s a good Irish hosting company and what I reckon to be the cheapest .ie domain reseller.

Categories
CSS WebDev

How Not to do Hover Background Colors – Using CSS rather than JS Events

From a funny thread over at Michele’s blog about SalesOnline.ie.

If you take a look at the SalesOnline.ie source you will find gems like:

<td width="14%"height="23" style=" background-color:#006699"
onMouseover="this.style.backgroundColor='lightblue';"
onMouseout="this.style.backgroundColor='#006699';"> <div align="center" class="style41"></div>
<div align="center" class="style39"><a href="index.html">Sales Online </a></div></td>

Now this is the most inefficient use of code I have seen in a really long time. Using JavaScript events to trigger the style changes is, well, just plain crazy. Never mind the obvious errors in the mark-up (missing space between width and height attributes). Good God, the more a look at the worse it gets…

Anyhow, the navigation menu could easily have been rendered with plain anchors within the table cells (not the complete code, but you get the idea I hope):

<table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" id="nav">
<tr>
<td width="14%" height="23px"><a href="index.html">Sales Online</a></td>
<td width="19%" height="23px"><a href="advertisersagencies.html">Advertisers/Agencies</a></td>
</tr>
</table>

with CSS:

#nav {
background: #069;
border: 2px solid #999;
width: 100%;
}
#nav a {
display: block;
line-height: 23px;
margin: 0;
padding: 0;
text-align: center;
text-decoration: none;
}
#nav a:hover {
background-color: lightblue;
}

The above code could be refined still further (I only spent a couple of minutes looking at it). You could parse the menu as an unordered list within a <DIV> element:

<div id="nav">
  <a href="#">Sales Online</a>
  <a href="#">Advertisers/Agencies</a>
  <a href="#">Media Owners/Publishers</a>
  <a href="#">Websites & Audiences</a>
  <a href="#">Latest News</a>
  <a href="#">Contact Us</a>
</div>

and CSS:

#nav {
  background: #069;
  border: 1px solid #999;
  width: 888px;
}
#nav a {
  background: #069;
  border: 1px solid #999;
  color: #fff;
  display: block;
  float: left;
  font-size: 10px;
  font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;
  line-height: 23px;
  margin: auto;
  padding: 0;
  text-align: center;
  text-decoration: none;
  width: 146px;
}
#nav a:hover {
  background-color: lightblue;
}

Ok, so you lose the exact widths (easy to re-apply though), but you gain simplicity and good light mark-up.

Just to mention, you will need to make a few changes to get this to render across browsers. The #nav element width needs to be changed to overcome the IE box model. You could use conditional IE comments to include a separate style sheet for IE.

Categories
Clients

We Clean Limited – www.dirtbusters.ie

I have been working with a great little company called ‘The Real Dirtbusters’ for the past 18 months or so. You may have seen their numerous vans around with the large Slimer logos (yep Slimer from Ghostbusters fame).

Based in Mulhuddart and run by Mick Kavanagh, Harry Mathews and Brendan Gaffney, the company provides cleaning services primarily to the construction industry. Even though you may not have heard of them, there’s a good chance you have seen their work firsthand if you were one of the 80,000 new home buyers last year. Well to be accurate, if you were 16,000 of the 80,000 or so new home buyers last year. Yep they clean about 1 in every 5 new residential builds in Ireland.

Back in January 2005 Brendan Gaffeny, who I had studied with at TCD (and climbed Kilimanjaro with), asked me to take a look at some business processes they were having problems with at the time. Having previously worked with process flow management I was happy to take a look. So started my relationship with Mick, Harry and Brendan.

Since then there have been countless changes to their business and they have developed a very successful operation that is the clear leader in their field. I reckon they have managed the business incredibly well over the last year or so. So much so that I think they will be very well positioned to increase market share in the event of any property market downturn (don’t even get me started on the Irish property market – in a word ‘crazy’).

Anyhow, they have asked me to put together a website for them, and, more importantly, perform the necessary SEO to get the site ranked for the keywords. Yesterday we went live with the first pages of the site and next week the online promotion of the site begins.

Categories
General Security

Keeping your PC safe

I recently had to investigate an issue with a client’s website reported by a customer who was unable to use the website’s navigation. I gave the customer a call to see if we could replicate the problem. The customer was from a SMB here in Ireland and my first question was what browser were they using. They were unable to answer so I asked that they click on Tools->About. Guess what? In 2006 they were still using Internet Explorer 5.0. The issue was with CSS but afterwards I began thinking about just how much malware must be floating around their network.

So to get into the swing of this blogging thing I thought it might be useful to give an outline of some of the practices and software available that will help keep your PC safe and clean.

Best Practice

  1. My #1 piece of advice to anyone surfing the web is to dump Internet Explorer. IE is a dated piece of software that has countless security vulnerabilities. As the market leading web browser it is also the target of most malware attacks and the source of many malware infections on Windows based platforms. I have been using Mozilla Firefox since version 0.7 and cringe whenever I am forced to use IE (generally when on vacation or using someone else’s PC). I have also used Opera and found it to be a well thought out browser. However, for pure extendibility I find Firefox wins hands down. You should really try one of these browsers – they copy over all your settings and bookmarks and I guarantee you will be impressed by the experience.
  2. Keep your operating system and applications up to date. Software vendors often update their products fixing bugs, adding functionality and removing security vulnerabilities. It is important that you regularly visit vendor websites or use in-built functionality to keep your products up to date. Most importantly for Microsoft users, you should visit Microsoft’s Update Site every month to download the latest patches. I know that many Irish computer users are limited to dial-up connections but if so you might consider leaving your computer on-line overnight some Saturday night so that it can properly update. The call charges shouldn’t be so obscene at that time.
  3. Regularly scan your computers with up to date Antivirus software using the latest definitions available. Most Antivirus software will allow you to schedule scans that run automatically. I have included an Antivirus Software section below with information and my own experience with many of the applications available. You should also install some form of AntiSpyware application – there are many free and purchased solutions available (see AntiSpyware section below for more details).
  4. If you are not behind a corporate firewall then you should consider installing a software firewall on your PC. Windows XP ships with the Windows Firewall but it is quite limited in the protection afforded (although, of course, better than nothing). You can find out about various software firewalls below.
  5. Something that I don’t see mentioned often is the use of anti-spam software on the mail server. If your e-mail is provided as part of a hosting package you may also have access to anti-spam software. Spamassassin is commonly bundled with Cpanel (you can find it in the Mail section on Cpanel) and uses both filters and heuristics to determine the likelihood of e-mails being spam. You should ensure that it is activated. You won’t lose any e-mail unless you explicitly set this option, but any mail that SpamAssassin believes is spam will be converted to plain text with a warning message in the title. Attachments, which are a common source of malware, will also be converted to plain text and displayed in-line in the message – in effect these attachments become far more difficult to execute by the casual user which reduces the possibility of infection.

In terms of the security software available here is a list of both free and paid applications that will help your PC remain healthy:

  1. Spyware Removal and Protections
    • Firefox – as mentioned above dump IE and install a decent browser. You would be amazed at the extra protection.
    • Spybot Search & Destroy – a FREE and handy spy-ware detection and removal tool that has become more advanced over its lifetime. I have used this for many years now and highly recommend it. (oh, and curiously the company is run out of Greystones, County Wicklow!);
    • Spyware Blaster – another FREE tool that basically prevents you from visiting bad websites known to distribute malware. While simply a prevention tool which doesn’t offer the protection afforded by more advanced software, it can be a useful piece of software and best of all it’s free;
    • Microsoft Defender – yet another free application (still in Beta but free for now anyhow) this software integrates technology acquired through Microsoft’s acquisition of Giant Software some years back. I rarely use this app as I find that scans take hours and are very resource hungry but technically this is probably the best free anti0spyware tool.
    • Lavasoft Adaware – available in both professional and free editions this software includes a scanner and removal engine. I have used this in the past but cannot say what the detection rates are like currently.
    • Webroot Spysweeper – this is probably my favourite anti-spyware software. While not free, Spysweeper provides detection and removal technology that sets the benchmark in this area. The one proviso I would give is that since updating to version 5.05 my system has had some serious instability issues.
    • Ewido – Ewido is probably not so well know but I have heard increasingly good things about this software. As with Spysweeper this software requires a subscription.

    If you can afford to buy Anti-Spyware software I would advise Spysweeper, however if you choose to install the top four apps above I reckon you will probably have a good level of protection.

  2. Anti-Virus
    • Eset Nod32 – again a brand name probably not well known outside experienced users, but this Czech antivirus really works well. Viewed as one of the best AV tools around, the only downside is that Eset NOD32 is slightly more technical in terms of the configuration options available. I have used Eset Nod32 and highly recommend it.
    • Kaspersky – this time from Russia but widely viewed as having the best detection rates in the industry. I have tried Kaspersky but had to uninstall due to persistent BSODs. Pity because I read very good things about this AV.
    • BitDefender – I have not personally used this AV but again i have heard very positive feedback about its abilities.

    You may well wonder where are the Norton’s, the McAfee’s etc. The reason I don’t mention them is that, while providing sufficient protection for casual users, it is well known that they have the worst detection and removal records. I have included links to some review and comparative sites that you can have a look at.

  3. Firewalls
    • Agnitum Outpost – widely viewed as the most effective software firewall for personal use. I believe that previously they also offered a watered-down free version but checking their website I can find no reference to the free version anymore.
    • ZoneAlarm – I have used this particular firewall for a number of years and found the protection to be comprehensive. There have been some previous issues with the software corrupting certain Windows features but these seem to have been ironed out with the latest release. The only thing stopping me going to Agnitum is that ZoneAlarm hasn’t caused me any problems. I can recommend this product if you are looking for a good software firewall. They also offer a reduced feature free version which you could try.
    • Look ‘n Stop – I have only heard of this product recently but everything I have heard seems to be positive. Maybe worth a look.

    Again you may wonder where are the brand name Firewalls. Well again my answer is that the Norton’s and McAfee’s etc don’t offer the protection of the best products available.

    NB ALL-IN-ONE SECURITY SUITES – My advice on this is that most security suites seriously degrade the performance of your PC. If you need the simplest user interface then one of these products *MAY* be for you. However, if you can suffer multiple products you will should reap the rewards in performance terms.

  4. AV Reviews and Comparatives
    • AVComparative.org – website giving impartial reviews and comparisons of all the major commercial AV software available. You might be surprised how well (or how poorly) some of the big names do.
    • Wilders Security – online community dedicated to computer security issues. The website is an excellent resource for finding solutions to really nasty PC infections that many AV products cannot remove. You can also find user reviews of security software.
  5. Online Anti-Virus Scans
    • Trend Micro HouseCall – a good free online scanner. This will detect but not remove malware from your PC. If the scanner finds malware they will try to sell you their full software.
    • Panda ActiveScan – another online scanning engine with same removal limitations as Trend Micro HouseCall.
    • Kasperksy – yet another online scanning engine. Probably better detection rates than previous two.

    These scanners can be useful if you do not have up to date AV software installed and are worried about malware on your PC.

  6. Single File Submission Tools
    • VirusTotal – this is a great tool for scanning single files that may be suspect. It uses multiple AV engines and reports the results usually within seconds.
    • Kaspersky – using the same tool as for online scanning except for single files that you submit to Kaspersky. Usually returns results instantly.

    Great for confirming single file threats that AV software flag as suspicious.

  7. Port Scanner
    • GRC – a great tool for testing leaks in your firewall.

    You can use a port scanner to determine if you PC has left any ports open and vulnerable to attack.

Phew! Well I hope the above is useful and maybe, just maybe, prevents someone from getting a nasty malware infection.