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James Rutherford

Web, design, Newcastle, games and fun!

Archive

Archive for May, 2010

Dom encouraged a simple approach to SEO. His points included:

  • Pick your niche: Look at what people are searching for in your market
  • Basic structure: Get decent URLs, title and heading tags
  • Content: Produce something worthwhile
  • Be realistic: High search placements are slow to gain and easy to lose
  • Remove as much duplicated content as possible
  • Judge your sources: Don’t read any SEO blogs!
  • If you’re outsourcing updates (as with any other outsourcing), check everything
  • Don’t do everything at once: Test the impact and improve incrementally
  • Be savvy: Fact check any lines you may be being fed by an SEO agency

Areas relevant to Google for you to look at now or in the near future:

  • Google product search
  • Google local
  • Universal Search (blogs, tweets, video, etc)
  • Microformats

Dom presented a few Twitter anecdotes in his unique style, which illustrated:

  • The importance of context – information which you may not be communicating
  • That without context, meaning may warp or amplify
  • Anyone may be listening (e.g. potential future employers)
  • Strangers may go to great lengths to pull a prank (well, Dom and Tim may, at least)
  • People will interact and respond in unpredictable ways

References: Dominic Hodgson@thehodge

Related: BBC News – Be careful what you tweet

Andrew introduced a free SEO analytics tool released by Microsoft.

The tool is distributed via the Microsoft Web Platform and runs on Vista and Windows 7. [The SEO Toolkit is independent of other components- no IIS server install is required].

The tool parses as a search engine would, so can be used to examine sites built with any underlying platform (e.g. PHP, JSP, ASP, flat HTML, etc..) and will highlight a range of potential problems. It will analyse both locally hosted and publicly-released sites, so is useful for both development and audit.

It has three main features – site analysis, robots editor and sitemap editor.

It includes a powerful query engine and is extensible (in VB.NET or C#).

A very useful talk for me- this is a tool I’ve not encountered, but I could see it fitting very appropriately into my web development workflow.

Slides and talk are now up on the SuperMondays blog.

References: Andrew Westgarth@apwestgarthCarlosAg blog

Tim isolated Google as the only worthwhile ‘optimisation’ target, and introduced some common fallacies. His notable points were:

  • Google does not crawl meta data
  • Keyword density isn’t important. Mentioning a term once on a page should be adequate
  • Content is not rated by semantic relevancy
  • Buying links is officially frowned-upon, though realistically, links are very commonly ‘bought’ in one way or another- even from Google themselves
  • Markup structures are important, but not as important as most SEOs say
  • Google does analyse page structure to discount footers, advertising blocks, etc. (see ‘page segmentation analysis’).
  • SEO advice is predominantly [erm...] cobblers.

Both Tim and Dominic (speaking later) recommend SEO Dojo as a (rare) worthwhile source for SEO information.

Tim accepted a few questions, outlining how you might become relisted if Google have penalised you [with a 'reconsideration request']; how problematic penalisation can be [usually 'not very']; some potential hostile SEO tactics and how you might try to recover from them [perhaps employing a 'Reputation Management Consultant', though Tim's general feeling on those in this role is less than glowing...]

References: Tim Nash@tnash

A few forthcoming events were announced at SuperSEO (SuperMondays)…

10th June – Thursday Fizz

Business speaker and former ‘Dragon’ Rachel Elnaugh gives a morning talk, then an afternoon workshop.

The Hub’s 1st Birthday Bash runs throughout the evening at the Baltic.

References: Thursday Fizz

24th June – GDS Bitesize Workshops

Business workshops for the North-East Digital sector.

References: Gateshead Digital Summer

24th June – Summer Net-Together

Codeworks Connect / Think and a Drink annual barbecue and social event.

References: Summer Net-Together 2010

15-16th July – Webdurance

David King introduced the Webdurance ‘charity hack’ event, bringing together 36 web developers to build/expand websites for 6 charities over the course of 24 hours.

It should be a lot of fun and very wholesome. Volunteers are still encouraged to apply.

References: Webdurance websiteWebdurance Twitter

Last night’s SuperMondays SEO event (which – breaking format – really ought to have been entitled ‘SEOperMondays’) convened at the Beehive, Newcastle University and was, yet again, well attended.

The format mirrored previous events; registration/refreshments, followed by general announcements for us North-East geeks, a number of talks and then away to the pub… which we packed out (that’s what you call a good conversion rate!)

To keep my notes digestable and focussed, I’ll be splitting them over five (!) posts- I’m cleaving off some ‘Diary Dates’ and a further three for the talks themselves.

The general notices included:

NorthernNet – Northern Knowledge

High-speed communications network connecting the North, launching a business directory (Northern Knowledge).

References: NorthernNet

Inkspot Science

Collaborative data sharing and analysis/workshop tools provided as a cloud service. An earlier SuperMondays talk by Paul Watson outlined some of the technology.

References: Inkspot Science

…and Way Back When

Long-time SuperMondays attendees may remember Craig Rothwell’s talk on the OpenPandora handheld back in January 2009. It’s taken a long time, but the good news is that the first consumer units have just started shipping- and it looks like an excellent little machine, particularly for the games player on the move! Better still, it’s a user focussed project, and units are being assembled here in Newcastle.

References: OpenPandora

Portal is one of my all-time favourite games.

It’s available from the Steam distribution system, and is frequently on offer (recently available for free), or bundled inside the Orange Box deal.

It would be difficult to say exactly why Portal is amazing without spoiling it; suffice to say that it’s a short game (approx 4-6 hours play), incredibly clever, with a great sense of humour and a huge twist halfway through. If you’ve not yet sampled it- avoid any reviews before you do so.

It also features a number of extras, one of which is a ‘director’s commentary’ mode. If you activate this, speech bubbles are scattered around the levels – which, when clicked, explain design decisions.

These demonstrate the attention directed towards user testing and how this shaped the look, structure and progression through the game.

There are very obvious lessons to be learnt for game developers, but they’re also acutely relevant to any field that involves user interaction.

To paraphrase them:

  • Your users won’t necessarily see, mentally connect or react the way you would expect them to.
  • Simplify, deconstruct and semaphore the appropriate interactive elements.