Google Street View UK is up and running

Street View UK seems to be running. A couple of twitters and blogs are saying that it might go down shortly because of some problems with the face blurring software.

I firstfound it this morning have a quick scan of some of the usual blogs i read first thing in the morning while having my coffee.

Lets see if you can find your self or some wierd captures.

street view UK

street view UK

Top 5 SEO Misconceptions

Top 5 SEO Misconceptions

With any cutting edge or continually changing industry, there’s always going to be a gap between what the professionals and the clients know. When that industry’s in constant flux, the knowledge gap can suddenly become a yawning chasm of misunderstandings and misconceptions. Therefore, it’ll probably come as no surprise to a great number of people that sometimes people just don’t get SEO. It’s this lack of understanding that lets people call us “Snake Oil” salesmen, and to disparage the hard work that we do. But before we tackle these misconceptions, we need to identify them.

1) Meta Keywords are the Holy Grail. Any of you with even a basic understanding of SEO are about to type something along the lines of “1995 called – they want their search algorithms back.” The sad fact of the matter is that some clients have still told us that their last SEO company just filled their meta tags full of spam and pocketed the fee. The more people that understand the much-maligned meta keywords tag, the less opportunity there’ll be for unscrupulous and uninformed types to take them for a ride.

2) SEO companies have access to a Search Engine Hotline. “Can’t you just call Google and get them to index my site today?” As ludicrous as this question seems, it actually makes some sense. Do any other complimentary industries have the same lack of direct communication that Search Engines and SEOs have? Explaining that we can’t call Yahoo head office is an important part of managing client expectations – especially when it comes to the next misconception.

3) Results are instant. We’ve optimised the content, sourced some quality links and made sure the site’s as accessible as possible – “so why haven’t my listings changed? It’s been a week!” In a world of instant communication, instant gratification and instant coffee, it’s hard to explain to a client that the Search Engines might not even index the site for up to a month. Making sure everyone knows the timescales involved in SEO is key to avoiding disappointment.

4) Being a market leader automatically entitles you to the top spot. “I’m a 5* hotel, they’re a pokey b&b – so why are they top and I’m on page three?” Explaining that your word of mouth reputation isn’t automatically linked to your online reputation is crucial to helping newcomers to SEO understand how the process works. By showing them that time, effort and patience can get the underdog to top spot, you’re showing them the power of SEO and managing their expectations.

5) There’s a magic “Top of the SERPs” code. The number of people that think they can hit the top of the SERPs without making changes to their website is staggering. It’s enticing to believe that there’s some magic button that can be pushed so they can reap rewards with minimal effort, but it’s important to let them know that there’s no cheat code. Even though it is tempting to tell them that if they put into the code, their competition will be Doomed.

As SEO professionals, it’s our job to educate and inform our clients about how what we do works. If we’re open and transparent about our efforts, and tackle these misunderstandings head on, then the industry as a whole can benefit. Can’t it?

New Email laws

New laws coming into effect in March 2009 as part of a European Commission directive have caused some mixed reactions across the business community. The proposed new anti-terrorist legislation, put forward by the Home Office states that all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will have to record each and every email sent or received in the UK for up to a year.

The Home Office insists that this new law (first proposed by then Home Secretary David Blunkett in 2001) will provide the police and security services with vital information for the war on terror and the fight against crime – despite the fact that the content of emails will not be stored. Once this law has passed, over 600 public bodies, including the police and local councils, will be able to request details of when and by whom emails were sent.

In order to get this system off the ground, the government may have to support Internet Service Providers with up to £70m of funding.

Online shoppers could save your business!

The latest figures show that UK retailers will be hit the hardest in the run up to Christmas. Christmas sales volumes have fallen for the seventh month in a row in October. Customers are tightening their belts and it is predicted that this knock on affect is going to get worse in the coming months.

There is one saving grace however. It is forecast that UK online shoppers will spend £13.16 billion in the final quarter of 2008. This is a 15% increase on the same period a year ago. Retailers and suppliers are under extreme pressure to keep their prices competitive. Researchers have suggested that the majority of online shopping will take place outside traditional shopping hours, either before 9am or after 6pm.

It was said that “British shoppers will beat the crunch with Internet prices this Christmas, spending more than a billion pounds each week in the run-up”

Chrome – Google’s new web browser. Worth It ?

Google’s assault onto the web browser scene

With the recent release of Firefox 3.0 and the forthcoming arrival of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 8, Google has made an entry into the web browser landscape.

Entitled ‘Chrome’, the beta version will be launched today for use on Windows 2000/XP/Vista operating systems in 100 countries with Mac and Linux versions to follow. The new browser aims to be lightweight and more memory efficient than any previous browsers.

The new browser uses the open source ‘WebKit’ rendering engine, as used by the Safari and Konqueror web browsers. With the new browser being open source, this will enable developers to further enhance the browser like the successful Mozilla Project behind Firefox.

The browser is also designed to work better with multimedia applications, offers a ‘private browsing’ mode and improved security. In the fight against malware and phishing, Chrome will download lists of harmful sites. As with all modern day web browsers, there will tabbed browsing – albeit at the top of the browser rather than the browser window.

One main part of Google Chrome is ‘V8’, which is a JavaScript Virtual Machine. This will in some way reduce the memory bloat taken up by browsers as well as speed up JavaScript performance.

In a blog post by a Google representative, it is claimed that they “needed to completely rethink the browser”. There has been mixed opinions with some circles claiming that Google’s entry into the browser landscape is unnecessary due to the multiplicity of other browsers being available.

As soon as we download a copy, expect to see a review on the Search Engine Consultants’ blog, same Bat time same Bat channel.

Other Search Engines Are Available: More Google Alternatives

In our previous post, this blog looked at the high profile launch of Cuil, the latest search engine to compete with Google. Despite an aesthetically pleasing interface, it received a less than lukewarm reception on Search Engine Consultants’ Weblog and national publications such as Micro Mart. Within this entry, Stuart Vallantine looks at 10 other English language search engines, lesser known than Google.

Though the vox populi associate the internet with Microsoft and Google, there was a time before Sergey Brin and Larry Page’s wunderkind ruled the roost. Yahoo! and Alta Vista was King, the average modem dialled up at 14.4k baud, plus amateur web designers were in thrall of animated email icons and flashing text. We also thought it was a good idea to build splash pages.

Instead of the red giants and blue super giants, we are focusing on the search engine equivalent of the white dwarf stars in this universe known as cyberspace.

A voyage into uncharted waters

Unlike Google and Yahoo which use their own search results, some search engines cluster their results from other search engine directories. For instance, Dogpile sources the pick of its results from the main search engines. This list of 10 search engines will include those within the latter category as well as the former. To ensure a fair test I chose to search for one keyword phrase only which is the U2 album from 1987 (The Joshua Tree).

  1. Wikia Search;
  2. Fazzle;
  3. Gigablast;
  4. Guruji;
  5. Clusty;
  6. Kartoo;
  7. Turbo 10;
  8. Mahalo;
  9. Hakia;
  10. Blinkx;

First up is Wikia Search which is part of Jimmy Wales’ Wikipedia Foundation. This search engine is open source and its users are free to edit some part of the results. Looking for the U2 album, the highest placed entry was a Wikipedia account. Top of the tree was a U2 tribute act. Its users can delete any entries deemed inappropriate, or highlight and label favoured sites. Left of each entry is the site’s ‘favourites’ icon.

Fazzle is a meta crawler search engine which sources its results from the leading search engines. The best pick is the one which is deemed of most relevance. For me this wasn’t so, and my favoured entry was 10th (U2’s official website). The Joshua Tree National Park came top, with sponsored Yahoo! links occupying 2nd and 4th places. It does have some neat features like being able to preview each entry. Despite a number of relevant results, some (irrelevant to the search) sponsored links placed within the same results as the rest of the entries is not a good idea.

Gigablast has its own search engine spider like Google and Yahoo and styles itself on offering its users relevant results at the highest speed possible, even on dial-up connections. Gigablast stuck to its remit by returning me two Wikipedia entries on U2’s album and its accompanying tour. Above the main results section in a rounded box are links to related results, such as ‘Bono’, ‘Palm Springs’ and ‘Joshua Tree National Park’.

Aimed at the Indian market, Guruji’s design has a familiar air to it: the front end and inner pages are similar to that well known behemoth’s search engine in Stanford. The first entry is an article of the future of Joshua trees, with the U2 album in 3rd place. Guruji is also available for use in Punjabi, Urdu and Gujarati.

Owned by Vivisimo, Clusty is similar to Fazzle and Gigablast in the sense it clusters its results. This function is more detailed, in that clusters are available for subject area, the number of search engines each entry is found in, and by domain. Though the national park came top of the results, U2’s album (and the tribute band) was well represented in the results. Unlike Fazzle there are no sponsored links. On the whole, Clusty is well designed and uncluttered. There is also an option to reduce or increase the font size.

For a different experience, Kartoo is a visual search engine with results displayed in non linear form. This uses Adobe Flash technology, though a traditional HTML version is available. The latter version has the same set of results as the Flash version. This too is a meta crawler search engine like Clusty. Results are patchy with all but one on the first page being shopping sites. The one exception is the Wikipedia entry. Sadly, Kartoo is only good as a toy rather than a serious search engine. Sorry.

Aiming to find sites which over search engines cannot reach, Turbo 10 works on similar lines to Clusty. Graphically attractive (if somewhat dated), it enables you categories sites by topic clusters or search engines, with each entry accompanied with a thumbnail screenshot. In terms of relevant results, Turbo 10 enabled to find what I was looking for with good coverage of the U2 album. The only downside of this site is the top result being a sponsored link. B+ for good effort.

Mahalo takes the meta crawling search engine into the Web 2.0 era with a combination of listings sourced by the main search engines and related Mahalo pages. Unlike traditional search engines, it is wholly human powered. User can also create ‘Mahalo pages’ on their favoured subject area like Squidoo (registration required). Search engine results are placed after Mahalo’s links. A choice of popular search engines is available to view separately within a frame.

Using semantic search, Hakia defines its results on three criteria: credible sources, currency and relevance. With the Joshua tree being more than just a U2 album, the tree itself is denoted as the top result. The Wikipedia article on the album is not in the Top 20 results.

For the final search engine, I have plumped for Blinkx, a search engine which has over 26 million hours of video. This time, the album is well represented with video clips from YouTube and other video sharing sites including Vimeo and ITN’s own sources. The aesthetics are very well polished and easy on the eye (except for the first page video wall). Within the results page, a preview of each video is played in the top left. It’s a great source for viewing pop videos, including those other than U2’s.


I hope this little article proves that other search engines are available. We may have heard of the likes of YouTube, Google and Yahoo!, but less of these alternatives. Sometimes, I feel it is always worth comparing the results of our favoured search engine with another one. With tabbed browsing common on modern day web browsers, there’s no excuse.

If anybody asks me if I still haven’t found what I’m looking for, I can tell you that in 9 out of 10 pages I actually did, contrary to Bono’s protestations.

Stuart Vallantine, Thursday 21 August 2008

Cuil Search Engine nose dives like a Sopwith Camel with one wing and no propeller


About as cool as a steaming pile of ……
To be honest I still see what all the hype was about!
Cuil fails to impress as it launches and then nose dives like a Sopwith Camel with one wing and no propeller.

Google killer? So far the only thing this new search engine has killed is my time writing this blog. A disastrous launch topped with a ridiculous budget and a sad attempt to replicate Googles working environment. Muffins and strawberries on desks, BBQ every Friday and a personal trainer for each employee still won’t live up to the Googleplex.

Sometimes it’s just not enough to hype up a new product! I will admit they did a damn good job hyping up the new search engine to all the right channels but what they delivered was as about a appetising as a bowl of Cornflakes with 3 week old milk, could have been good with the right milk but this one just left you with a foul taste in your mouth.

A confession of corrupted search results with certain common phrases throwing up some nasty porn images. Completely irrelevant results and a naff tool bar.

Ok they might have the biggest index of 120 billion pages but it means diddly squat if it is 120 billion pages of complete and utter pig swill. Size really won’t matter in this case if they can’t get the right pages to show for the right search phrase.

Come on Cuil! You are going to need the comeback of all comebacks to be able to get back from this one.
Good luck!

Google Page Rank Fixation?

The Page Rank fixation?

Google V yoda

Google V yoda



Google’s own words are, “We use more than 200 signals, including our patented PageRank™ algorithm, to examine the entire link structure of the web and determine which pages are most important. We then conduct hypertext-matching analysis to determine which pages are relevant to the specific search being conducted. By combining overall importance and query-specific relevance, we’re able to put the most relevant and reliable results first.”

Now most Search Engine Optimisers will fixate on the word PageRank.  OK, maybe not most but I certainly know a few that have done and I’m sure that there will be many more that still will. Never mind the rumblings out on the net that Google might be losing the PageRank patent.

There it is in black and white! Google’s own words, We use more than 200 signals, including our patented PageRank™” The optimal words being more than 200 and including. I swear if I hear one more optimiser say, “But look at their PageRank, its 5, why are they not being found for the right keywords?”  I’m going to snap and beat the living daylights out of every optimiser with that attitude with a dead fish, most likely a salmon or maybe a trout. Yes in fact I think I will use the trout.

The PageRank is just 1 of more than 200 different signals the bot will look at to decide whether your page is relevant or not. One of the worst sales punch lines out there is when they play on this bloated fixation of Page Rank and know that it has something to do with the relevance of an inbound link and then play on their fears, or in most cases lack of knowledge and then con them into buying a ridiculous link strategy promising them 2000 links for X amount.

Buying links is at least not a fallacy and Google DO frown upon it. Fact!
Using hidden text on a page, BAD!
Keyword stuffing on a page, BAD!
Hidden text on a page, BAD!
Cyber Hoaxing, doorway pages, web page cloaking, redirect Hijacking and so on all BAD BAD BAD!

It’s all common sense. If you think it’s bad, it generally is. For all those would be Search Engine Optimising customers out there, if you have an inkling of suspicion that it’s bad, ask for a second opinion.

The basics of what I’m trying to get at, is that the major search engines will not concentrate on one specific ranking factor. They will look at a lot of specific factors, join them up and use what is called an algorithm and then decide.

There are however some common factors that every search engine optimiser will know and use. Well put it this way, if they do not consider these important they should be put in a small capsule and launched into the outer reaches of space.

Factor No 1 –Meta tags – Page titles. Need to be unique and relevant to the content of the page.
Factor No 2 – Meta tags – Description. Also need to be unique and rich in keywords and deliver the right message without keyword stuffing as this is what the potential client will read on the search engine.
Factor No 3 – I consider this to be one of the most important factors, page content. If your web site has no relevant content then the search engine simply cannot make an educated guess as to what your page is truly about. Remember it takes more than 200 different signals together to decide your importance.
Factor No 4 – This factor is another very important one but a very time consuming factor; back linking. Quality human generated back links can be a gold mine of importance to your site. Careful consideration needs to be placed on where and how your place articles or blogs out there. Simply posting content on any forum, blog site or article site can be damaging as the search engines use these as a reference for the importance of your site.

Once again I will quote Google on what they consider to be true.

1.       Focus on the user and all else will follow

2.       It’s best to do one thing really, really well.

3.       Fast is better than slow.

4.       Democracy on the web works.

5.       You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer.

6.       You can make money without doing evil.

7.       There’s always more information out there.

8.       The need for information crosses all borders.

9.       You can be serious without a suit.

10.   Great just isn’t good enough.