Archive | February, 2009

Site Redesign 301 Redirects

26 Feb

301 redirects, very powerful, ultimately useful.

You want to change the URL of some of your web content. Why? Countless reasons. Maybe you misspelled a word in the URL. You used underscores and now you want to use hyphens or dashes for improved readability and usability. Your old page was /product=7&ver=1.php and you just think something-semantic.php would be a better file name for SEO and other reasons. Etc.

Throw a simple 301 redirect into a .htaccess file or directly within a deprecated content page and you can immediately send visitors and search bots to the new URL. Redirecting visitors is handy and polite but doing it for bots is critical. If you use any other forward, redirect or refresh method, you’re missing out on an easy opportunity to communicate with Google and other search engines. The syntax for a .htaccess 301 redirect is simple:

redirect 301 oldpage.html http://www.yourdomain.com/newpage.htm

Doing a 301 in IIS is a little more complicated, but still worth it.

not using 301 redirects, more powerful, more painful

Your company finally decides to pay for that dream web site redesign. Good idea. (Your old site was so two weeks ago!) Be sure to ask about your chosen web designer’s SEO  production credentials. Not all web designers are created equally. There are numerous web shops capable of delivering beautiful bleeding edge aesthetics and “totally two point oh” functionality, but if they’re not hip to SEO and usability, all the polish in the world wide web won’t save you.

Inevitably site file structures and page names will change during a redesign. Some pages will move to new URLs. Some old pages will be deemed unworthy of migration, and you’ll surely create fresh new content that didn’t exist on the old site. Sit back and enjoy it when you publish your new site and get over the sticker shock. If they didn’t use 301 redirects, your fleeting euphoria will melt to tears when you check on your search rankings in Google.

If you check soon enough, you’ll still see your listings. Dig deeper with a click and you’ll get the dreaded 404 not found error page. (Did you bother to create a custom 404 page to at least brand your shame?) If you wait long enough (time depends on Google’s crawl frequency of your site,) you’ll cringe when you don’t see that first page Google listing. Then you’ll click to the second and third pages and that cringe will turn into a certifiable twitch. Google crawled your page and it wasn’t there. You moved it. Remember? As far as Google is concerned, it doesn’t exist.

retroactive 301 redirect, worth it?

At this point. you can still implement 301 redirects, but their efficacy will be diminished if not totally muted. If you waited too long and Google delisted your newly 404’d legacy URLs, retroactively 301ing them might still help. I don’t know. (Does the Google index have a “memory” of sorts? I doubt it.) Hence the unbeatable power of not using a 301 redirect. It’s still a good idea to retroactively 301, if for no other reason than to collect and reroute traffic from incoming links to legacy URLs.

When your SEO consultant gives you production advice about how to best do a site rebuild (and what not to do!) you should listen. Let your SEO consultant earn those bucks you pay every month. Save money. Make money. Use 301 redirects effectively.

Dan Dreifort is a SEO/Usability spaz and blogging novice.

Analytics Conversion Attribution Solutions

25 Feb
Image representing Google Analytics as depicte...

Image via CrunchBase

Google Analytics is a robust free method to track sales. Just set up a conversion goal and you’re able to quickly determine all sorts of information about your sales. How many conversions can I attribute to any given organic search or PPC phrase? Google Analytics will tell you! Or not. I’ve run into a problem. The Google Analytics conversion attribution problem is best illustrated by this hypothetical scenario:

A Typical Conversion Attribution Scenario

You run Joe’s Crabs (joesawesomecrabs.com). You sell crabs. (natch!)

  1. A user Googles for “crabs” and  finds Joesawesomecrabs.com in one of your PPC ads – clicks it – views the Joe’s Crabs site
  2. Then he/she pokes around Google searching for other crab options from your competition.
  3. Takes a week off of the crab hunt to ponder the options, Eventually deciding that Joe’s Crabs offers the best deal.
  4. The user Googles for “Joe’s Crabs” – clicks an organic Joe’s Crab link to get to your site and makes a purchase.
  5. Google Analytics counts the sale as coming from an organic branded search instead of a non-branded PPC ad.

In reality, both PPC and organic search are legitimate leads for the sale. But Google only counts the last source.

A Solution to Conversion Continuity Problems?

Somebody with the handle, “ShoreTel” explained the Google Analytics conversion continuity problem (and a solution) this way:

The GA cookies (specifically a cookie called __utmz) is overwritten every time a new source is detected for that visitor (except if their source is “direct”). Use your server logs to look for the GA cookies and determine the first and last source(s) for a visitor. The __utma cookie stores the exact timestamp of their very first visit to your site which you can use to go back in time and look up their original source.

So that’s doable… Search through the logs, or design a script to do it for you, but both are time consuming. Jeremy Althof at Starrtech Interactive in Honolulu, the interactive arm of Anthology,  Hawaii’s best marketing firm, suggested I look into Atlas (owned by MicroSoft) and Omniture. I also found that Coremetrics also allegedly can tackle the problem. I’m guessing that paying them would be more effective than creating a custom solution so I sent an information request to all three companies yesterday. I’ve yet to hear back from them.

If/when they get back to me, I’ll let you know what I decide to do.

Dan Dreifort consults on usability and  SEO.

Dan Dreifort Made a Reliable Host

23 Feb

Dan Dreifort and Tim Hibbard, both confessed IT geeks, grew tired of listening to their peers (and each other) griping about the sad state of the web hosting industry. Some sick combination of financial, marketing and executive visions had largely polarized hosting offerings into two distinct, silly camps. At the enterprise level, big businesses can pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars each month for robust managed servers while consumers increasingly had to choose from among countless bottom feeders. These hosts, like Godaddy, 1&1 and their ilk put thousands of customers on a single box sharing a single IP address.

SEO friendly hosting

When your web site shares an IP address with “unscrupulous” sites (e.g. pornographers or spammers,) the Googles of the world associate you with that seedy content and rank your content lower in the search engine results. If you rank highly for the right terms, your web traffic and business should skyrocket. It’s easy to see why a dedicated IP address is key to a comprehensive search engine optimization plan. Another important part of your web business is uptime. If your host is having problems, customers can’t get to your site, contact you or purchase your wares.

Calico Hosting focuses almost all of its efforts on uptime. We’re able to do this by ignoring that which becomes unnecessary when things just work as they should. While almost all if not all hosts dump considerable resources into the bottomless pit of offshore phone support, Calico does not offer phone technical support. We don’t need to. If things are working as they should, customers don’t need to contact the host. In 2008, Calico experienced their first minute of downtime after several hundred days and quickly traced the problem to single client’s script. We restored service in quick fashion and took action to prevent the same sort of problem from occuring again.

Redundant Hosting

Calico’s six multi processor servers currently handle about one hundred domains. We could cut expenses and host ten times as many sites on a single server, but reliability and speed would suffer. Each primary Calico server is mirrored. An identical server with the same data sits ready should hardware malfunction on a primary server. This redundancy hurts our bottom line, but supports that of our clients.

I’ll blog more about my great reliable host in the future. Until then, use some of the links in this post to read more on our site. I really love Calico.

Hawaii Hotel Rates ?!

21 Feb

Hawaii Hotels

I do some work in Hawaii, so I’m always happy to hear when  Hawaii hotel rates come down to earth. Hotels in Hawaii aren’t always known for their economy. When I want to find physicists visiting Hawaii, I stay at one of these joints.  That’s a lie. I’ve never wanted to find physicists in Hawaii and I don’t know if I’d stay at one of those hotels. This is thematic banter. My name is Dan Dreifort by the way, and I like to make noise. What else about Hawaii?

Hawaii Real Estate

If I had a million dollars I’d buy Hawaii oceanfront real estate. I’d even have enough left over to buy something else – maybe even something useful. Or I could give some to charity. I’m a little miffed about volunteering and charity at the moment though.

You know it’s a rough economy when you can’t even get a job that doesn’t pay.

I applied to volunteer at the local Red Cross chapter. They told me to get a background check at mybackgroundcheck.com. I went there, paid the $15 to get the volunteer check. Then filled out their application packet and tried to arrange my 20 minute interview. Turns out there’s a special, free, “Red Cross” version of the background check I needed to do. I expressed to the local volunteer coordinator that they might want to change their instructions to prevent potential volunteers from wasting time and money.  After receiving several looping errors when submitting the form, my pristine background check finally made it to them on the day of my interview.

I did the interview, and while I’ll not divulge (any more) gripey complaints, I’ll say that I was interviewing them as much that they were me. I got the rejection letter a few days later and emailed them to ask if my extruded disc had anything to do with it, and if I’d be able to volunteer after I get that fixed. Their response:

“After conferring with our Exec. Director, [REDACTED], it was decided that “your skills and interests don’t match our current needs”.  Your physical limitations were not a factor in our decision.  We will keep your contact info. on file. Best wishes in your future endeavors. We have no doubt that you will be a great volunteer for another local organization, if that is your choice.”

Part of me wanted to ask them… On exactly which “skills and interests” should I be focusing, should I decide to yearn to be a better Red Cross candidate? Man, I swore no more griping… damn. But seriously, if the Athens Ohio Red Cross chapter is so well staffed that they’re turning away college educated, self made, Red Cross certified babysitting expert, almost able-bodied volunteers, then good for them. I just find it hard to believe that they couldn’t benefit from my skills, effort and time.

My last volunteer effort (in 2008) was teaching English to Chinese immigrants.  My students all worked at my favorite restaurant (sushi!) I made a flier (or is it flyer?)  offering free English lessons. I came to their shop at 11 PM one night a week for a few months. We all had a good time and learned things. Alas, they work seven days per week, usually more than a dozen hours a day, 364 days/year. Eventually classes became a yet another burden in their busy lives. Or maybe they were picking up more than enough English from their days and nights interacting with customers and an hour or two a night of watching late, late TV.

Or maybe they fired me because nobody wants me to work for free.

I’m beginning to think that people will only let me work if I allow them to pay me. It’s a paranoid thought that makes *some* sense in the marketing world. (I.e. people value things more when they pay. Give it away and people don’t think it’s “worth” as much.) So I’m turning away good paying work in my fields, but can’t find a good volunteer gig.

I considered writing a letter to my local paper about getting turned down by the Red Cross, but then realized it might open a flood gate of “Hey, come volunteer for us!” requests. And for other, more obvious reasons… I didn’t write that letter. (Is writing this blog any different?) (A little, I think.) So my buddy Roman at a great Athens Ohio marketing joint has an idea for a charity effort. I think I might help him with his vision.

In closing, I love what the Red Cross does for the world: Disaster relief, community education and blood drives to support the vampire mafia. And I’d decided to turn them down. They just didn’t give me the chance. Maybe they knew my interests better than I did. Oh, and apparently that time I was busted smoking pot in 1994 is no longer on my record. Or maybe, just maybe, society no longer thinks it’s a big deal for college students to toke the wacky weed. Even Obama did that. That makes me almost presidential. But Michael Phelps… that hairy potter can go to hell.

On the national level, Dan Dreifort now volunteers for Death With Dignity National Center and donates time locally to help Stuart’s Opera House and it’s programs.

Cabo and other things Mexican… vacation!

20 Feb

I’ve been to Cabo a few times.  I love it. It’s a little heavy on the time share sales pitches, but then again, so are many other popular vacation spots. So many things to do in Cabo. But my favorite time-passer is Cabo food, specifically, tacos. Truth be known, the next time I go back to Mexico, I’ll likely bypass Cabo for a little place called Zihuatanejo. It’s near Ixtapa on the coast of southern Mexico. I’ve got my eye on one of the best Zihuatanejo villas, and though they might sell it as being perfect for weddings in Zihuatanejo, it looks good for chilling withOUT getting hitched too! Anybody wanna take a trip?

Freud on Religion

18 Feb

Sigmund Freud spent considerable time and effort examining religion. Freud on religion is usually presented as a cut and dry, “he hated it” sort of affair. But Freud was clearly more confused than convinced when it came to his nemesis religion. Read the article linked to earlier in this post for a take on Freud unintentionally and inadvertently empowering religion through the Freudian filter. Witness psychology’s father of psychoanalysis writhe posthumously. It’s fun, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Music Reviews

16 Feb

Dan Dreifort is a musician, but he’s also a wannabe writer and critic. He still loves referring to himself in the third person, but restrained and refrained while he wrote a weekly music column back in the late nineties… for the Athens News. Three long, thankless years. Alas, he digresses in the third person too.

Dan Dreifort has again started writing weekly music for the Anews again as part of the new feature, Ear Buds. He’s compiling the amazing Dan Dreifort music reviews for you. Just follow that last link.

Tempurpedic

14 Feb

So I made a page about Tempurpedic and then made a Tempurpedic page about that page. So this is the Tempurpedic blog post about the Tempurpedic page about the Tempurpedic page. Sickly meta. It’s difficult to care much about something so removed from the actual thing, but what are you gonna do. Yammering on about meta content is much easier than either creating original content or meta content thereof. So I love playing with memory foam mattress material. Can’t fault a guy for that.

My Memory Foam Mattress Quest

But who cares? Somebody does. I not only get plenty of Tempurpedic traffic, people actually write to me telling me they love the way my Tempurpedic sh#t stinks. People even send me memory foam samples. What a world. What an incredible world.

Dan Dreifort Blog – First Post

12 Feb

Dan Dreifort makes a lot of silly, uncool web content but has never been much of a blogger. He sometimes refers to himself in the third person (annoying) and once set up a Dan Dreifort blog of sorts, but only uses it to demo blogging technology to would-be bloggers otherwise in the dark… AND he adores run-on sentences, but only when *he* writes them.

Indelible Beancurd

12 Feb

Indelible Beancurd

My super great friend Ethan and I get together a couple times a year to write and record music. We recently released five years’ of goofing around. We called ourselves Indelible Beancurd and our album is “These curds don’t run.” (Yep, no title case for the title… *except* on the CD cover… our incredible indelible beancurd artist is also a grammarian. What can we do? I mean… he’s right, right?)

Recording Indelible Beancurd Coast to Coast

We recorded one song in a room in Brooklyn. Some tracks we recorded in a house in Galt, CA. We laid some zeroes and ones in an Athens, OH studio, recorded in NYC apartments and spent some coin on a studio in Manhattan for several tracks. Many friends helped with the Indelible Beancurd effort. Check out our web site or the liner notes for those well deserved shoutouts.

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Ethan McCarty

Digital strategy | Social business | People-centric biznology

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