Monday, October 31, 2005

Improving traffic to your blog - Links

.. cause you want to be linked, don't you?

In a previous post I already gave some general pointers about optimizing your blog for search engines. In this post I will give a little more detail on the value of links.

Importance of links

Without links the web would not exist. Links are needed to get you from one site to another and from one page to the other. When there are no links pointing to your site then nobody will know you exist and probably no one will care either.

The more links you have to your site the more visitors will stop by and have a look. Also, the more links the more important your website is rated by search engines. The Google PageRank system is based on this principle.

This is why getting more links and more relevant links to your site helps making your blog seem more important.

Getting links by getting yourself known

Getting inbound links can be done in multiple ways. Be sure you add yourself to great sites like Feedster, Technorati. Set a link up from your website (if you have one) to your blog and vice versa.

Put a link to your blog in the signature in your e-mail. Many more options are available. Also consider offline media like business cards. Think about the possibilities and do it.

Add Technorati tags to your postings so your articles are categorised within Technorati.

Getting links by pinging

Pinging your blog is letting blog tracking sites know something has changed on your blog. When you send a ping the site has a look at your site and picks up the new or updated articles through your RSS feed.

This helps the sites pick any new and updated content and also adds more specific meta information about your content to the content.

Getting links by leaving a trail of comments

Take some time and make useful comments on other blogs (Beware that it does not becomes SPAM!!!) and include a link to your blog.

Reading blogs of other bloggers may also inspire you to write some realated content, which you can then link to from the comment section of the other blog.

Links is only one way

As expressed in my previous post there are more ways to promoting your blog. In a next entry I will carry on with this subject.

This is part of a series of articles on improving traffic to your blog.

Putting Web 2.0 to work

.. and have fun at the same time

Back in the old days there was this game that had you running around the world trying to find Carmen Sandiego: 'Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego'. Remember the crude graphics and flying from London to Rio to New York and Tokyo to finally catch up with Carmen.

Well, that was already years ago. There must be a dusty floppy somewhere that still has the game on it. But, heck, maybe I tossed it out a couple of months ago when I moved to my new home. Along with old Lotus 1-2-3, WordPerfect and dBase III disks. I should never have done that.

Brewster Jennings Protects America

Now we can play that game again. Online. Thanks to some clever person took up Web 2.0 and made a mash up of Google Maps and produced a very interesting app. Go play and have loads of fun!

And after having played a game you could think about setting up one yourself. There is an online editor. Do have plenty of fun with that one as well.

Going all the web 2.0 way

As web 2.0 is all about taking available web apps and putting it to new use, it is oh so simple to take this application a step further.

What about using it as a way to document your trip around the world? Leave clues at every site you visited and virtual travelers can follow you with leaving their home.

And there are plenty more possibilities.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Improving traffic to your blog

.. cause you want to be read, don't you?

At the end of the day one would like one's blog to be read. That is an assumption which I think might be true for most of the millions of bloggers. The intended readers might be just a small group of friends, but maybe also a larger audience is hoped for.

So, in comes a little bit of search engine optimisation, SEO for short. Lots of sites are dedicated to this subject. Some sites offer detailed advice on how to do it in a nice way, while others approach it from the dark side: they promote all sorts of tricks with hidden texts and links only to be seen by search engines. That's not what I want to suggest or practice.

There are a lot of elements in SEO. One of these is a structured approach to the content. The semantic usage of HTML tags and the correctness of the HTML ("does it validate?"). And with a blog you can be happy as most of the structure and the code is hidden from the blogger. And the content is formatted in a search engine friendly way. We are well under way with SEO without doing anything! Search engines, and especially Google, are loving blogs because of the structure.

So what more can we do?

What else can we do to improve our traffic? How can we get higher into the search results?

Well, a couple of things:

  • Inbound links are important, so get them.
  • Be sure to use the right keywords.
  • RSS is the way to go.
  • Content, content, content!

Getting inbound links can be done in multiple ways. Be sure you add yourself to great sites like Feedster, Technorati and be sure your blog pings services like these.

Make useful comments on other blogs (NO SPAM!!!) and include a link to your blog. Put a link on your web site to your blog. And in the signature in your e-mail. Many more options are available. Think about and do it.


Keywords are a subject one can write shelves full of books about. Which ones to choose and which variations (including typos), how many times should the keywords be on your page (keyword density). Too many interestinga spects.

Bottom line of this is quite simple: you have blogged about a subject that you wish to be found. Now try to figure out what someone would type in a search engine to find information about that subject. And then make some variations on the words used. Now try to use these words in your content. Put them in important places, like headings, lists, make them bold. That way not only are they easier spotted by the reader, but also by the search engine spider.

RSS feeds

RSS feeds are a way to syndicate content. That is sharing the content with others. Sites like Feedster live on them. But there are plenty of RSS reader clients one can use. Firefox and Flock can work with them.

It is just another channel to promote the content of your blog. Costs are low, as most blog software support it already.


Content is king and will always be king. Keep the flow of blog entries going. Be sure to blog regularly. At the very least once a week. Better daily. But do not blog just to blog. It should contain some relevant content. Yes you can side step from the main subject of your blog. Add some short funny bits now and then. Or comment on Georg W. Bush, which should be easy ;-)

Keep the blog entries coming. Link between your own items.

To cut it short

I am making this entry already too long. (I promise to get back on this subject in more detail, soon.) Keep the flow coming, do a little self promotion and think a little bit about the words you use and your blog will certainly rise on the ladder of the serach results.

Good luck!

This is part of a series of articles on improving traffic to your blog.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Going round and round

.. all the way to retro

Ever wanted to do that horrible Rubik's cube? Here's your chance to go retro.
Created by Michiel van der Blonk (c) 2004

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Jakob Nielsen is quite a figure

.. always good for some interesting quotes and smiles

At the risk of being butchered, here's an interesting quote from the great Jakob Nielsen:

One of a weblog's great benefits is that it essentially frees you from "Web design." You write a paragraph, click a button, and it's posted on the Internet. No need for visual design, page design, interaction design, information architecture, or any programming or server maintenance.

The full article is Weblog Usability: The Top Ten Design Mistakes (Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox). But before you go and read it, that is not my point.

My smile was brought upon by this:

No need for visual design, page design, interaction design

Go ahead and look at the site and see his implementation of this. This seems like a perfect implementation of this statement.

Friday, October 21, 2005


.. is it!

This is it!


Be like a shepherd

.. get the Flock out of here!

This morning I was cycling from home on my bicycle. I had the weird feeling that it was Saturday. But it was Friday. I was hoping it was Saturday, but no, it was Friday. That meant another day at the office. Sigh.

I did not feel like going to work and did not really know what to tackle today.

Then I logged in (it took me three attempts). Then I found an e-mail from Lloyd, on behalf of the Flock crew. I jumped up. My life all of a sudden had new meaning again. Thank gods it is Friday, if it had been Saturday I wouldn't have found this message before Monday.

So why did I jump up? I had found out about Flock sometime ago and it promised a new approach to 'working the Internet'. It has every promise to be the real start of Web 2.0

Based on the Mozilla/Firefox engine it is a great browser, but added to that is much, much more. It has integration with Delicious, Flickr and Blogger. Making it easy to share bookmarks, photos and blog about it without going back and forth between web sites. It is absolutely amazing and why oh why did this not exist before?

Read more about it in this Slashdot article Be sure to absorb all the comments.

My life has changed in a dramatic way. I'm sold to the idea.

Finally quoting the Flock guys themselves:

Flock Developer Preview is now available. Our code couldn't wait any longer to be free!

Go and get Flock and your life will never be the same dull again!

Naturally, this post was created using Flock!


Thursday, October 20, 2005

Working with Excel

.. always funny

This morning I had to print out a huge Excel sheet. A lot of columns and a lot of rows. So I decided to at least filter out the irrelevant rows. Using the Autofilter of Excel 2003 that was a breeze and a big pleasure. Now I was down to 4 pages of A3 sized paper.

But due to the number of columns the printed font size was still relatively small. So, as I found that some columns were not really relevant to my work I decided to hide these. I selected these and in the context menu I choose the option 'Hide' and then an interesting messagebox popped up.

Roughly translated from Dutch (if that is at all possible): Can not shift objects off the sheet.

So .. I have just printed the lot and have to do a little more to find the right information.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Contract renewal

.. always funny

I started in my current job on 1st December last year. And as December is approaching rapidly again the renewal is coming up.

I have been asking about it already for a couple of times and have been reassured that the employer has every intention to extend the contract. Indefinitely even.

Good news so far.

I had a good performance review. My manager said so, just after the review:

BTW your performance is good.
And I have invested a lot of time and made some personal sacrifices (quit a job with an indefinite contract, selling my house, buying a new one, moving my kids, wife quitting her job etc. etc.) Naively, I was expecting some form of reward.

Well, I got an offer for a contract that is the same as the one I now have only there is no end date.

I declined and decided to opt for another one-year contract. That way we would have to do this show all over next year.

Now, see what they will offer me now. Or else, next year.

I want my, I want my

.. I want my MTV

Well not directly my MTV, but rather I want my big monitor back.

Before the weekend some of the PCs in my department got upgraded. Not mine. I already had a reasonably well equipped machine being a developer.

On top of the new systems they also received some of those hot 'n sexy flat screens. Really nice 'n slick 17" TFT panels. Not me, I have one of those back breaking 21" CRT that make my desktops bend. Both my desktop PC and my desk's desktop.

So, on Monday I walked into the department with a little bit of fear, that they may had replaced my desktop machine. It would mean days of installing and tweaking to get things up and running again or searching for my lost machine somewhere in dark dungeons of IT support. But no, my machine was still there. But they had replaced my big male canon with a sissy sized flat panel.

I called IT support and asked for my monitor back. After some time (and a growing headache due to the too bright TFT screen) they came and replaced it with a bigger monitor. Things got better again. I could work again. The font wasn't unreadable small anymore.

But this was only 19" monitor and not my big 21" machine. So another call to IT support. They understood, but could not guarantee that it would be corrected soon. Maybe early next week. Sigh!

Anyhow, a miracle happened and this morning a 21" monitor was wheeled in and was then placed back on top of my poor desktops. Bending them both.

As you can see:

not all change means progress.

Friday, October 07, 2005

South Park?

... mmmmmmmph!

Thanks to the South Park Studio I have yet another alter ego.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Google Sitemaps: do they work?

.. yep they do

In some posts (1, 2 & 3) already some time ago I outlined the experiment I did with Google Sitemaps on my site. As the Google crawling process takes some time to finish it has also taken some time before I can present my conclusions. So here they come.

What was the setup?

I created a sitemap of my website. In this xml file all the interlinked pages appear. I added two pages to my website:

  1. a page that I added to my sitemap.xml
  2. another page that I did not add to my sitemap.xml, but it was linked to from the first page.

Both pages have legitimate content and also link back to other pages of my website. Actually, both were to be part of my website but I merely have omitted putting links on the other pages pointing to these new pages. They are orphans.

The experiment was to see if the Google crawler would visit these two pages. The first directly from the sitemap.xml and the second through crawling the links on the first page.

So what happened?

After having submitted the sitemap.xml I was filled with joy when I discovered that Google scanned the file within 24 hours. Moreover it appears to come by twice a day. Even without resubmitting the file. That did not mean that the pages appeared in the Google search results immediately, but still it gave me hope that they would after the next crawl.

So, I kept checking my website logs to see if any of the secret pages would popup in my requested pages list. And again and again.

Then after some weeks the first secret page was crawled. Bang! The sitemap.xml really showed its purpose. The file was indeed used by the Google crawler to crawl pages.

The second page did not show up. So apparently, the links on the page were not crawled. Maybe they were listed to be crawled in the next crawl. I don't know and for now I do not really care so much. The first part of my experiment was successful and has convinced me that Google Sitemaps really add something to a website.

I have decided not to wait on that next crawl to see if the other secret orphan was crawled. As the two pages both contain valid content and therefore keeping them secret is depriving my site of valuable pages. So I have once again update my site and the secret pages are no longer secret.

Added value

A bonus of the Google Sitemap system is that a website master also has the possibility to view reports on the last crawl results. This can be achieved by placing an html file with a name provided by Google to verify that you can manage the site. Google then provides you with a list of failed pages. Pages that no longer exist or have another error.


By adding a Google Sitemaps file to your website (and keeping it up to date!) you can ensure that new pages are crawled at the next scheduled crawl.

I can recommend it to any site owner. It is worth the effort. For me it is a little bit of work because I still use static html pages on my site, but for a user with a modern cms it can be set up automatically.