I’m a New Contributing Editor at Practical Ecommerce

Practical EcommerceSorry, I’m going to pat myself on the back now: I’ve been asked to be a Contributing Editor at Practical Ecommerce, a leading online magazine for ecommerce merchants. YAY! I’ve been writing SEO articles for PEC and its sister site Ecommerce Developer regularly for two years now, and am so pleased to join the team a little more officially. Plus, when I attend SES Chicago next month I get to go as a member of the press. So cool.

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Silk Browsers for Everyone, Amazon Wins

Amazon is registering Silk-based domains by the hundreds, possibly indicating the future availability of the day-old Amazon Fire’s browser on more platforms. Of course, the domain registrations could be defensive, but 500 domains is an awful lot for a browser meant to live on a single tablet island. I prefer to think that Amazon’s registration of SilkSmartphone.com means that soon I can browse faster on my android phone.

Silk browsers for PCs, Macs and mobile devices would be a good move, Amazon. If you own the browser, you can suggest your services. “What do you want to do? Watch, Listen, Read, Play, Shop?” I’m envisioning a browser toolbar with tabletesque icons for each action that look delicious and seduce you to click. An Amazon browser that makes it easiest to consume Amazon products and media, plus collects all your browsing data to feed the Amazon machine, is a no-brainer.

What does the user get? Faster browsing thanks to Silk’s split processing scheme, using the power of Amazon’s cloud to condense and render pages faster than the device’s processors can alone. Well, on mobile devices anyway. And only for sites hosted in Amazon’s cloud. But still. There’s an interesting proposition there for mobile browsing, where load times over 3G or slower connections can feel like an eternity.

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Custom gTLDs: ICANN but Should I?

Internet governing body ICANN approved custom gTLDs yesterday, making it possible for sites with too much cash looking to be too cutting edge to blow $185,000 per gTLD + $25,000 annually on vanity TLDs and domains like bmw.car, nike.shoes or pepsi.cola.

With such a steep price tag only the very rich will be able to afford these custom gTLDs, AKA generic top level domains, which will hopefully minimize their release into the wild. I have three major concerns:

  1. Usability: Internet users are entrenched in their .com ways, or their .ca or .co.uk ways. Whatever the primary TLD is for a country, the majority of internet users will try to append it to whatever URL offered them. Trying to get users to your supercool new hot.wings domain? They’re probably going to stick .com on the end of that and end up somewhere else.
  2. Brand: For big brands, the only ones who could reasonably afford this vanity service, why oh why would you risk confusing customers and prospects with the scenario above? Most brands are still trying to master marketing and transactions on their primary .com web site. Adding a vanity TLD to the mix sounds like an expensive recipe for #fail.
  3. Trademark Violations: If any word can be applied for as a gTLD, brands will have a harder time protecting against trademark violations. For example, with Nike’s brand strength it should pretty easy to prevent anyone but Nike from registering .nike as a gTLD. But would it be permissible for me to apply for the .shoes gTLD and then put domains on it for nike.shoes, adidas.shoes, etc. Afterall, shoes.com has the right to create a nike.shoes.com subdomain on their own shoes.com domain. Should the laws be different if the domain is nike and the TLD is .shoes instead of .com? ICANN’s site makes reference to this thorny area:

ICANN does not accept reservations or pre-registrations based on trademarks. But registries will be required to operate sunrise or intellectual property claims services for the protection of trademarks.

The registry operator must implement, at a minimum, a Sunrise period and a Trademark Claims service during the start-up phases for registration in the TLD, as provided in the registry agreement. These mechanisms will be supported by the established Trademark Clearinghouse as indicated by ICANN. The Sunrise period allows eligible rightsholders an early opportunity to register names in the TLD. The Trademark Claims service provides notice to potential registrants of existing trademark rights, as well as notice to rightsholders of relevant names registered. Registry operators may continue offering the Trademark Claims service after the relevant start-up phases have concluded.
gTLD Applicant Guidebook (PDF)

Let’s get back to the branding and usability questions, though, because that’s where the “SHOULD a company do this?” question comes into play. Let’s say for example that Pizza Hut registers hot.wings because they really REALLY want to underscore that they have wings in addition to pizza, and they are the default name in hot wings just as they are a leader in the American pizza world. This, as indicated by a super-amazing-awesome-cutting-edge microsite dedicated to the explosive awesomeness of their hot wings and their ownership of a spicy new custom generic TLD. They’ll have to train their audience not to add the .com, but it won’t work, customers will .com anyway. Which means these customers primed for an explosive microsite reward would instead see:
So Pizza Hut would also have to purchase wings.com, create a “hot” subdomain, and 301 redirect it over to hot.wings. If they don’t, their customers will get lord-knows-what kind of experience on someone else’s domain, especially when the owner of wings.com realizes what’s happening and decides to take advantage of the free traffic to promote something else. Or just this …

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

Comment Spam Outing on TechCrunch

Personal Note: You may know that I am the SEO Manager for Groupon, a competitor/co-opetioner with some of the sites mentioned here. I found this example reading group buying industry news, not in an effort to spread stories about other sites in Groupon’s space. I would have felt compelled to post this perfect example of good and bad commenting even if it had been a story completely unrelated to my employer’s industry simply because it is related to the SEO industry.

Comment spam is one of the lowest forms of “link building.” Yet people continue to do it because it’s easy, because they think it works and because they don’t understand that many comment sections aren’t crawlable even if the links are followed. But sometimes comment spammers get outed, like in the comments on this TechCrunch post about the partnership between BuyWithMe and SCVNGR. I grabbed a couple of screen shots in case the thread is deleted to illustrate this example (click them to enlarge).

What’s wrong with these comments? If they are from real people with real opinions, nothing. But the same users allegedly posted these comments on multiple posts on the TechCrunch, leaving links to UrbanSpoils on each. Other readers recognized the tactic and called him/them out on it. Personally, I can’t find any duplicate comments from these users, but I didn’t look very long either. The point remains: Comment spam at your peril — is the link inserted valuable enough to risk the scorn of the other readers and commenters? My answer is no. And in this case at least, certainly not. Here’s why:

  • Disqus.com comments are fed into posts using JavaScript. The comment spam isn’t even crawlable in this instance (see cache). So if the goal was to seed links into posts to improve link popularity, #fail.
  • If the intent was to gain click-through traffic from other readers, it’s possible that some clicks were achieved before the outing. Afterwards, I would doubt that many clicked, at least not with the intent to transact. But only the log files know for sure. Still, I call this a #fail.
  • And lastly, even any positive brand recognition that positive comment mentions would have generated have very likely been more than negated by the tongue lashing from other commenters. So #fail.

Not all commenting is spam, of course. When you legitimately have something of value to add to a conversation and when you disclose your identity if you have a self-interest, then comment away. On the very same post, the co-founder of SayLocal comments, disclosing his identity and self-interest. You’ll note that no one flames his comment. It may be just as self-interested, but he has given us the ability to judge his comment honestly.

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

SEO Lessons Learned Launching My Free WordPress Blog

Starting up my new SEO blog was an exercise in compromise. For once in my life, I decided not to obsess over the (super fun) details and instead moved straight to writing posts. I grabbed my domain, paid $10 to map a free WordPress blog to it, and slapped my social network icons in the sidebar.

wordpressI didn’t have the time to figure out hosting and plugins in addition to writing the content. I decided to focus on the things I had to have (content and a place to put it), and the things I could not change later (domain) without negative impact on the blog’s SEO. The rest (hosting, cool templates, control over SEO elements, plugins) can be added on or changed later after I’ve proven to myself that I have enough to write about.

In the process, I found a couple of important SEO elements missing in the free WordPress-hosted offering:

  1. No 301 Redirects: This is a biggie for SEO. WordPress does not 301 redirect when you move your blog. In addition, WordPress does not 301 redirect your blog’s subdomain to your mapped domain name. Example: http://jillkocher.wordpress.com 302 redirects to https://webpierat.com/w. Consequently, if you want your blog to build link popularity & keep it, map it to a domain right from the start so that you can either keep the same URLs or control the 301 redirects yourself when you decide to move it later. Without the mapped domain, your content will either be stuck at the blog’s subdomain or will have to leave its link popularity behind when it moves.
  2. No Plugins. Plugins are not available when blogs are hosted at wordpress.com. You can’t modify your title tags or meta data, no sticky posts or other great SEO plugins for custom WordPress installations.
  3. No Google Webmaster Tools Verification. WordPress is working on it, but the former verification method is kaput.

And a couple of social media and usability elements are also missing:

  1. No JavaScript Support. WordPress’s free blogs only support HTML. Many of the cool plugins and widgets require JavaScript. Bummer.
  2. No Social Media Integration in the Templates. If you want to offer quick logos and links to share posts on Twitter or Digg or Facebook … you can’t. That requires JavaScript, or manual coding in every post. There’s also no quick way to list all your social profiles in your sidebar without manual HTML.

That said, WordPress does include some nifty features in the free version:

  1. XML Sitemap: WordPress creates an XML sitemap automatically, and makes it autodiscoverable on the robots.txt file it also generates automatically. Example: https://webpierat.com/w/robots.txt links to https://webpierat.com/w/sitemap.xml. Unfortunately you can’t modify these manually.
  2. Edit Post URIs + 301 Redirects: Bloggers can edit the default title-based URL while they’re in the post admin. Cool. Better yet, if you publish the post and then want to change the URI after it’s live, WordPress automatically 301 redirects the older versions of the URL to the latest version (even through multiple URL changes).
  3. 404 Errors. Deleting a post produces a hard 404 error on that URL, which will prompt deindexation if a URL has been indexed. Would be better to 301 redirect it to harvest any link popularity the URL may have collected, but at least it’s a 404 and not 200 that lives on forever cruftily.
  4. Tags & Categories: It’s nice to have the ability to create tags and categories for posts to easily create a navigational hierarchy. Be careful to choose wisely, though, so you don’t give prominence to non-valuable keywords & phrases. Similarly, don’t name both a tag & category the same thing or you’ll inadvertently set up competition for the same keyword phrase at different URLs.

One day soon I’ll start experimenting with a custom installation, but I’m still too excited about the prospect of playing with 301 redirects and CSS to allow myself to get distracted by it. There are a lot of other pros and cons to starting your blog on WordPress’s free platform, but these are the ones that made an impression on me.

What has made an impression on you?

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.