"Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful." - William Morris

Skip Intro: Flash Content now Search Enabled

Posted: July 6th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: SEO | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Google, Yahoo and Adobe have just announced that they have worked together to enable search results to crawl not only HTML, but also Flash files. Interesting news indeed. For years now web builders have had to build two sites in parallel if they use Flash – one for the users, and one for the search engines that preferred eating text in HTML form.

Now this raises a few interesting questions. First up, what will happen to the search results while Google and Yahoo work out how to rank and rate Flash content? No Flash designer has ever had to consider the SEO effects of their Flash coding so surely there must be some pretty badly constructed Flash content out there, at least in terms of what Google is used to seeing. Secondly, are we really excited to see lots of Flash enabled intros for boring, company sites showing up when we search? Probably not – that’s why ‘skip intro’ will soon be the most hated, yet competitive term on Google. Finally, now that Flash folk won’t have to create HTML versions of their sites for SEO purposes – will they still remember to do so for partially sighted visitors? Text to speech browsers are not highly optimized for reading Flash, and although in the UK this audience is supported by legislation this is not the case globally. Perhaps Adobe will also release their Flash ‘search reading’ software to other companies that make text to speech browsers to help them out there – unless Google just offers it as an API of course. Click here to Skip intro.

URLs without ‘www’

Posted: June 7th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Interaction Design | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Recently a trend has started to represent website URLs without the preceding ‘www’ sub-domain, short for ‘world wide wed’ and indicative of a web page. For example this site can be found both at www.isuseful.com and isuseful.com, but by default when I talk about the site address I drop the ‘www’.

Personally I find the ‘www’ to be distracting residue from the old days of the web, and advocate removing it wherever possible. This can now be seen in a number of print and TV ads for popular brands, where the ‘www’ is now rarely used – interestingly for less well known brands the ‘www’ is still in full effect. However there is a danger for existing website owners here – most people when they set up their wonderful, new website will do the obvious checks from their home page for missing content, typos and the like. However most site owners rarely think what might happen to people coming to their site from sources other than clicking on a link. Mis-typed pages are generally captured by a 404 Page Not Found error, which on well built sites results in a helpful page that allows the visitor to search and find what they want. However in the case of a mis-typed of missing sub-domain (ww.example.com or example.com) the user will be presented with either a missing site error or a long wait, depending on their browser and the default behavior of your host’s web server. Either way this could make the visitor think your site has gone away, unless they’re canny enough to try adding a ‘www’ to the front and reload.

So my advice is to ensure, at the very least, you support no sub-domain for your website as well as the traditional www – and make sure you test this when creating new websites for yourself or your clients.

Stock Photography SEO

Posted: May 2nd, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: SEO | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Last night I ended up having an interesting conversation with a friend who has worked tagging photos for a stock photo agency. While we were talking I was struck by the similarities between tagging your photos effectively, and that of carrying out SEO activities on your website. Both have a huge impact on your income if carried out successfully, both are hugely competitive for popular search terms and both require a level of expertise and talent for choosing the right words and terms. The only real difference is that in web SEO, if your site is not winning the search term ranking war you can go around organic search and get paid search results, in photography I don’t think anyone does that yet (anyone feel like starting that business?).

One fundamental difference right now, is that websites tend to be text based, whereas a photo is pure image. So with photos effective keyword tagging is pretty much the only way someone will find your photo when they are searching for a particular need, unless they already have a relationship with you. Expressing the contents of a photo in keywords is now a key skill for all photographers, and they often pay people to do it for them. You have to look at the photo, describe what’s there, and not be emotional about it. You have to be aware of synonyms for key words, and you have to categorize how many of each object are in the photo – such as ‘2 women’. Saying ‘our holiday’ is not going to win you any stock photo business, it’s too personal and non-descriptive. Same with web SEO. A blog title like ‘I’m annoyed..’ may express how you feel, but won’t help your witty, helpful rant on why Microsoft Vista sucks be found by the people who need to read it.

Of course all the major search players are creating more and more advanced image searches as we speak. Google’s image search has a lot of interesting tech behind the scenes, such as face matching, but none of it is yet targeted towards stock photo needs. As this technology evolves we may see the end of the need for photographers to sit and manually tag their photos, but I suspect that’s a long way off. Computer based interpretation of spoken speech has taken a long time to get to the poor level it’s at, and image interpretation is possibly a harder task with less priority. So for now photographers need to be SEO experts in their own field, or they just need to become a world class famous photographer on commission who never needs to worry about stock again. Simple.