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Thursday, September 07, 2006

How To Analyze Your Website

I found this article by Jerry Bader.And I think is really useful.

How good is your website? Does it do its job? Is it effective? These are all good questions that every business owner and marketing manager needs to ask him or herself. The website has become an essential tool for business. We all know we have to have a website, but are we using this venue to its greatest advantage?

Most people responsible for their company's websites have stats packages and counters to tell them how many hits, how many unique visitors, where they are coming from, what their IP addresses are, what browser they're using, and of course the all important monitor resolution. So what! Who cares? The real question is do we have an effective website?

Now if you have a transactional website, commonly referred to as an e-commerce site, you know the number of sales you are generating from your site, which is important, but do you really know how effective your site is? How many orders are you losing because of bad layout, awkward design, confusing navigation, and poor copy? How many potential clients have you chased away because you haven't put a phone number on your site and an accessible real-person that can answer questions?

A website is your business' public face. Big businesses can look like mom and pop operations and mom and pop operations can look like General Motors. The design of your website should not be taken lightly, its budget should not be an afterthought, and the designer you hire should be someone who understands more than code. Your Web-designer should be a multimedia-marketing advisor, someone who can counsel you how best to deliver your marketing message, and someone who can go beyond technical issues.

You can spend a lot of money and have someone analyze your site for you, but are you really going to believe him, are you really going to act on their recommendations? You can't sell somebody something they really don't want - that may sound obvious, but believe me, sales people do it everyday. If you don't think you need a new website, you aren't going to spend the money to have one built. So the best way to tell if you need one is to analyze the one you already have, yourself.

Below is a set questions you can ask yourself. If you answer them honestly, you'll know whether you need a new site or not. After you've gone through the process, ask some colleagues to do the same. See if your answers compare.

1. Does Your Website Have A Purpose?

Every website should have a clearly defined purpose. Having a website just because everyone else has one is not an acceptable strategy. What is your website's purpose?

a. Transactional sales-oriented site
b. Customer service support site
c. How to instructional site
d. Product or service demonstration site
e. Lead generation site
f. Marketing, branding, positioning site
g. Promotional campaign site
h. Viral or buzz creation site

2. Is Your Website Focused?

Too many businesses both large and small use their website as an information junkyard, a dumping ground for everything you do, everything you've done, and everything you ever thought of doing. This won't work. Customers are like children; they want clarity, direction, and unequivocal answers. Your website should be focused on a singular function. URLs are cheap, there is no reason you can't have different websites for every major thing you do, or every marketing campaign you initiate. How focused is your website?

3. How Functional Is Your Website?

Everybody knows that websites should be easy to use, that you shouldn't have to drill-down too deep to find what you're looking for, and of course everything should work. Your website is a communication tool. If your website doesn't work properly, the only thing you're communicating is incompetence. How functional is your website?

4. Does Your Website's Construction Balance Competing Concerns?

Websites by their very nature are a compromise of competing issues. Aesthetics, multimedia, frame construction, HTML, Flash, client-side, server-side, data bases, SEO tactics, information architecture, marketing communication, transaction efficiency all compete for precedence in the design of a site. Are you sacrificing clarity, focus, and communication for SEO tricks and unattainable traffic numbers? Did you start with an IT solution like a database and build your site around a poorly conceived information delivery system. Does your website's design reflect your sites' defined business purpose or is it a result of secondary technical concerns?

5. Does your website honestly reflect your business personality?

Does your website represent and promote your marketing objectives? Okay, this is a trick question for many small owner-managed businesses. Marketing is not sales. Marketing is about communicating who you are, what you do, and why you do it better than the other guy. Marketing is about image building, branding, and positioning, in other words, enhancing your business personality. Does your website honestly reflect your business personality?

6. Is your Web-presentation integrated into your overall marketing plan?

Too many websites bear no relation to the rest of their business' marketing initiatives. Everything your company does should reflect an over-riding ethos, point-of-view, and personality. If your marketing collaterals don't match your website presentation, you are confusing your audience. Is your Web-presentation integrated into your overall marketing plan?

7. Is content king on your website?

I once had a fairly large manufacturing client ask me to build a website based on a business card and ten 8x10 glossies of discontinued merchandise. This fellow was so paranoid that his competitors would see what he was doing that he hid his products from his customers. This business is now bankrupt. We've all heard the saying 'content is king'. Is content king on your website? Does your website adequately display and explain what you do, what products you sell, and what services you provide? Are there examples of your work? Are there testimonials from your customers? Have you provided information on how to order, how to use, and how to resolve problems? Is content really king on your website?

8. Is your website an experience?

You watch television, you listen to the radio, you read a magazine, but you experience a website. Unlike other marketing vehicles, websites provide you the opportunity to deliver your marketing message with the full complement of multimedia tools. Websites can stimulate all the senses, sight, sound, and interactive touch in order to communicate and connect with your audience. Websites are not brochures. Visitors shouldn't just see your website, they should experience it. Is your website an experience?

9. Does your website have a distinctive look?

The notion of the flaming animated logo has become a cliché for bad design and style over substance, but that does not mean your website should be aesthetically boring and visually dreary. Your site should display clarity of vision; it should provide functional page layout; its use of colors, type, and static and kinetic visuals should be distinctive and purposeful. Your website should provide a defining "Look" that enhances your business personality. Does your website display a distinctive look that represents your business personality?

10. Do you list appropriate contact information on your website?

I remember going to a meeting with a client who was in the construction business. The Vice President of the company was hopping mad. He demanded his email address be taken off the site immediately. He wasn't going to waste any more time dealing with client emails and inquiries. Websites are all about connecting you to your clients, not hiding from them. If you think you can put your website on autopilot and that a FAQ and Q&A are going to cut-it, you better think again. Does your website have adequate contact information? Do you list appropriate email addresses and phone numbers for the people responsible for various aspects of your business?

There you have it. Ten questions that when answered honestly will tell you whether or not you have a website that works and whether or not you need to rebuild.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Geotag -Meta Tags

What is a geotag?

A geotag is simply a properly-formed XML tag giving the geographic coordinates of a place. The coordinates can be specified in latitude and longitude or in UTM (Universal Transverse Mercator) coordinates.
Why should I geotag?

We believe that there are many benefits accrued from locating data and news on maps. Geo-located information can answer lots of questions: Where did that happen? Was it near me/my colleagues/my family/my friends? How many are near me and how many are over there? Is that a good place to be or a place to stay away from at all costs? The events of interest can be anything from rock concerts to earthquakes to poltical gatherings to superfund sites to terrorist activities. We can see patterns emerge and watch trails being made.
What can I geotag?

Weblog posts, web pages, RDF resources, even arbitrary HTML and XML elements.
The details

The RDFIG Geo vocabulary from the W3C is the common basis for the recommendations below. It supplies official global names for the latitude, longitude, and altitude properties. These are given in a system of coordinates known as "the WGS84 datum". (A geographic datum specifies an ellispoidal approximation to the earth's surface; WGS84 is the most commonly used such datum; it is utilized, eg for GPS).

To specify that the longitude of something is X, that its latitude is Y, and, optionally, that its altitude is Z, tags of the form


are used. Altitude is specified in meters. The prefix "geo:" represents the RDFIG Geo namespace, whose URI is: If you don't know about namespaces, and are concerned with geotagging web pages or ordinary HTML, then just follow the examples below.

Geotagging an HTML element

The following will pass muster as correct XML in the context of XHTML (the newer dialect of HTML that adheres to the XML standard), but will also work in earlier HTML dialects, in the sense of being tolerated by all modern browsers. To geotag an HTML element, include a span of the following form:

<span style="display:none" xmlns:geo="">

If the geo namespace is defined at an outer level of the document, the namespace definition in the span tag can be omitted, leaving

<span style="display:none"> <geo:lat>46.1</geo:lat><geo:long>124</geo:long></span>

In earlier HTML dialects, omitting the namespace definition is also appropriate, since the objective of adhering to the XML standard is irrelevant.

This technique can be used to geotag a post in a weblog, or elements within any HTML document.
Geotagging XML (including RSS and RDF ).

Simply include elements of the form


as children of the element you wish to tag, and place the definition of the geo namespace at the outermost level of the document (or at the level you prefer).
Geotagging a web page

Use this method to assign a location to a web page as a whole, rather than to its parts. In the element, include meta tags of the form:

<meta property="geo:lat">46.1</meta>
<meta property="geo:long">124</meta>

In XHTML, the document namespace definition should include the geo tag.

This form of meta tag follows the recommendations contained in

Search Engine Facts

Google updates parts of its index daily

A large fraction of Google's index is updated every day as Google crawls the web. That means that there is always an update going on.

In addition, Google has algorithms and data pushes that are going out on a less frequent basis. The latest were on 27 June, 28 July and 17 August. Unfortunately, Matt Cutts doesn't reveal any information about the details of these updates.

Google's BigDaddy update

BigDaddy was a software infrastructure upgrade that finished in February. The BigDaddy update introduced a new way how they crawl the web.

Supplemental results

This summer, Google also updated their supplemental results index structure. It was a complete rewrite and the indexing infrastructure for the supplemental results is different from then main indexing structure.

Another update is on the way

Matt Cutts mentions in the video that another software infrastructure update is on the way. The new update should increase the quality of the search results:

"If we find out that we can improve quality by changing our algorithms or data or infrastructure, or anything else, we’re going to make that change.

The best SEO's in my experience are the ones that can adapt, and that say 'OK, this is the way the algorithms look right now to me, if I want to make a good site that will do well in search engines, this is the direction I want to head in next.'"

Matt Cutts talks about the different updates on Google but he doesn't say what this means to your web site. He doesn't reveal how Google's algorithms analyze your web pages.

Why XSS is Here to Stay

On the drive to work today, I started wondering what it would take to stop cross site scripting. Not from a website perspective - because god knows that’s such a huge task it would take forever to accomplish. But rather, what would happen if all the browsers, on the same day at the same time decided to shut off remote script includes? That would be great from a web application security perspective, but what exactly would break if that happened? A lot is the short answer, but here are a few things that make Fortune 500 type companies rely on it:

Analytics Yup, you can thank the likes of Google, Omniture and Hitbox for making JavaScript counters that do more than count, but also gather statistics that are only availible in JavaScript space. If remote JavaScript was turned off the only alternative would be to include some local proxy, to call the local dynamic page and proxy that information back to the analytics programs. Even huge companies would rather use their data warehouse only for auditing or spider analytics (which fly under the radar of JavaScript reporting systems) and use these JavaScript includes as the primary source for information about their site.

Contextual Banner ads Here you can thank the banner companies (Google and Overture primarily) for increasing the placement of dynamic banner ads all over the web. In doing so they have made a huge dependence on remote JavaScript for revenue generation (this site is no different).

AJAX Information super-highway 2.0, here we come! Tons of applications are starting to request off host XML files to include in their website. It’s the new way to deliver content without refreshing the page. If we got rid of it, what would happen? Well, we’d probably go back to refreshing the web-page, or using some other cross domain software, like Flash. I doubt anyone is giving up on this one any time in the near future.

Akamai I love Akamai in concept. Caching is a huge part of performance on big website design. If you can throw your static content, like images and, oh, JavaScript on remote hosts that cache that content for you, you can dramatically decrease load time and processor power. It’s sexy, and it’s here to stay. Too bad it forces me to allow JavaScript from everywhere if I want to see “Hello, RSnake” on the top of the websites I visit.

Page load and SEO Going hand in hand with Akamai is that big companies don’t want to include all the JavaScript on their page because it dramatically slows down the time it takes to render the page. The reason is because it is not cacheable if it’s a dynamic page (which large companies typically have a lot of). Also, if you are very bandwidth conscious and you have a ton of cookies you don’t want their browser sending those cookies over and over again (typically upstream is always slower than downstream too), so you are better off keeping the JavaScript off host so cookies aren’t sent in transit on every request. Additionally, spiders discount JavaScript in terms of SEO (search engine optimization). So keeping JavaScript on the page reduces the relevance of the content on your page.

All of those things together (and probably a lot of other things I haven’t thought of as well) make it pretty clear that there’s no way big companies are going to lobby the browser companies to shut off remote script sources. They want them. It’s good for business. It’s terrible from a security perspective, but there you have it. There are mitigating factors, sure, but the concept isn’t going away. And speaking from experience, you can’t surf without JavaScript turned on all the time. Tons of websites force it (thanks, Adsense and Orkut!) forcing their users into a lower state of security, regardless of their intentions. So we continue to fight the issues on the server instead.