Blogs

What to do about copyright infringement of your website?

June 20th, 2006

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They say that “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” But not if you’re a site owner! I’ve seen designs copied, content copied, even entire sites copied. It’s so easy for someone to “view source” and take whatever they like, without regard to copyright.

You can locate copyright infringers pretty easily with Copyscape if they’ve lifted some of your page copy. It’s much more difficult if they’ve limited their sticky fingers to just your design.

So far I’ve discovered by tip-off or by chance that our Netconcepts.com site design has been “pinched” at least 3 times. One of them was a fairly big company. More than a year and they finally stopped using our design, but the evidence of their misbehavior is permanently archived in the Wayback Machine (hint: pick a date in 2004 and compare with my company’s site). In fact, the Wayback Machine is quite useful in that it can serve as indisputable proof of who is the source and who is the copy: whichever site shows the design in use before the other is the source.

The way I see it, you have five options for dealing with an infringer:

  • Do nothing,
  • file a DMCA infringement notification with Google, to get them yanked out of Google,
  • contact the infringing company’s CEO,
  • “out” them on your blog 🙂
  • have your lawyer send them a nastygram.

I have to admit that we’ve often done nothing, just because we’re so busy. Eventually they’ll redesign (maybe pinching another design from somewhere else?). Of course that’s not a great option if you’re serious about protecting your IP (intellectual property) rights.

With our most recent infringer, we’ve taken a more active role. We spoke to their CEO. He asked for 2 months to redesign, which we’ve granted them.

So, what would you do? What’s the most legally correct response? The most pragmatic response?

Microsites with “pass it on” appeal

June 16th, 2006

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Microsites can be really good at going “viral” if they are clever and have “pass it on” appeal. Subservient Chicken, Burger King’s microsite was such a site. It featured a person dressed up in a chicken suit wearing lingerie. You could give it commands by typing them into a box. Pretty weird. Not surprisingly, it became quite popular and went viral.

You improve the chances that your campaign will go viral if it’s a microsite because then it’s at an arm’s length from your corporate/brand site. Corporate sites rarely go viral. Subservient Chicken, for instance, surely had more “pass it on appeal” as a separate site than as a subdirectory within the BurgerKing.com site.

Emerald Nuts launched a funny microsite called AngryLeprechaun.com, which they tied in with their very expensive Super Bowl commercial and promoted through press releases. The site was a spoof; supposedly a leprechaun was supposed to be in the television commercial and was edited out in the final cut. Consequently, the leprechaun was very angry about it so he set up his own website. Visitors can watch the ‘unedited’ video clips with him in the commercial. Cute idea.

Another funny microsite is the counterfeit Mini spoof site. Brilliant!

What are your favorite microsites? Post a comment!

We’ve Googlized a client’s home page!

June 15th, 2006

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I’m usually of the mind that home pages should be rich with textual content so the search engines have something to sink their teeth into. In most cases it’s your home page that gets the most weight of all the pages of your site, so you don’t want to squander that opportunity. However, there are (rare) exceptions to this — times when another approach is in order — where you strip away all but the most essential components (sometimes all the way down to just a search box).

Trustcite.co.nz home page screenshotThis is referred to in some circles as “home page Googlization.” Usability guru Jared Spool recently blogged about home page Googlization. I pretty much agree with his take on this subject. However, we felt that the homepage of our client TrustCite was an exception that warranted Googlizing. The design is very minimalistic. Have a look at it. For this site, simplicity and responsiveness was of primary importance, because the site is meant to become a frequently used resource for New Zealanders. Its singular purpose is to help Kiwis find reputable tradespeople and service providers by relying on feedback from the user’s social network. The primary method of locating these suppliers is through the search box, although there are strong trigger words on the page tucked away under the “Browse categories [+]” link.

Other examples of sites where I think home page Googlization would be in order:

  • Wikipedia (rarely are any of the trivia featured on the home page of interest to me, and never has this filler content been what I went to Wikipedia for)
  • most bank homepages (all I care about as a customer is the online banking login form… take me to my money!)

The rulebook for SEOs wanting to do business with big companies

June 9th, 2006

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Just read this awesome post from Chris Smith of Verizon Directories (SuperPages.com), where he lays out his criteria for selecting an SEO firm to work with. In summary (I’m paraphrasing here), the SEO agency…:

  • should have longevity and track record of at least somewhat related work
  • should not have promoted itself using unrealistic promises and representations
  • should have a clean record (no black-hat methods)
  • should not have tried to impress with a cursory 5-minute site assessment leading to naive recommendations
  • should not have insulted our technical work
  • should not have made claims of secret methods/knowledge
  • should have priced their services reasonably
  • should have posted information on their website about the companies/sites they’ve done work for
  • should have demonstrated strong technical work on their own site as well as clients’ sites
  • should have good people and make that evident on their company site
  • should have projected a professional demeanor
  • shouldn’t have pestered or been hard-selling
  • should be flexible in legal contract negotiations, once selected

Good stuff! Read Chris’ full article: “How major companies choose SEOs”.

(Disclaimer: yes, Verizon SuperPages.com is a client of ours, and no we don’t wear sandals to business meetings.)

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DMNews Goes Web 2.0 – feeds, trackbacks, comments & more

June 2nd, 2006

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DMNews.com has relaunched with a new design and a new back-end, both done by us at Netconcepts. On their blog, DM News’ founder and publisher Adrian Courtenay talks about the relaunch and gives us such glowing praise that I feel myself blushing!

A few new features worth noting:

  • The entire archives have been opened up. No more passwords required!
  • Articles support both comments and trackbacks.
  • Deep links to old articles have been maintained through 301 redirects.
  • The site now offers RSS feeds. Not just one main RSS feed, but every category has an RSS feed.
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Taking full advantage of CSS

May 30th, 2006

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CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) offers many more benefits beyond that of streamlined web pages with table-less layouts and precise positioning (no more transparent 1-pixel spacer GIFs!), mentioned in my previous post. Indeed, that’s just scratching the surface of CSS.

Here are some more clever things you can do with CSS to get your website really humming:

  • Reorder your content to sit above your top and left navigation in the HTML. That will boost the keyword prominence on your pages, which is good for SEO. Then use CSS to get the page to still display as you want. CSS Zen Garden is a great example of this in action… for example, notice how the HTML doesn’t change between this layout with left-side nav and this one with right-side nav; it’s only the CSS that’s changing.
  • If you must use graphical navigation or headings instead of text-based, then use the CSS “image replacement” technique to substitute in a text link or heading tag, respectively, when the CSS is not loaded (as is the case when the search engine spiders come to visit). For example, northland.edu uses this technique well. Currently, this is much more effective for SEO than Alt attributes.

    Many of the image replacement techniques physically move the text off the screen (text-indent: -9999em; left:-9999em;display:none, etc). This isn’t desirable as search engines are starting to examine external CSS files more closely to look for spam. There are a few image replacement techniques that don’t do this type of hiding and are still accessible, namely The Leahy/Langridge Method, The Gilder/Levin Method and The “Shea Enhancement”. Each of these methods have their pluses and minuses, which the Mezzoblue article outlines quite well. (Thanks to our CSS guru Darren for this last bit of advice.)

  • Learn to code in “CSS shorthand.” With shorthand, hex codes for colors, margins, box dimensions and borders can all be abbreviated, for instance. More about this here. The efficiency of CSS shorthand translates into not only a speedier download for your customers, but also compact and tidy code that’s easier to maintain.
  • Make code that “degrades gracefully” (or, as they prefer to say now in geek circles, “enhances progressively”). Creating a separate “low-bandwidth version” or “printer friendly version” or “mobile version” of your site will sound ludicrous in years to come (heck, I think it sounds ludicrous NOW!), because CSS makes such a thing unnecessary. Check out how gracefully gotomedia.com degrades on a cell phone or PDA, for instance.
  • Correct for browser incompatibility snafus with browser-specific CSS. Does something look awry in your page layout when loading your site with the Safari browser, for instance? Internet Explorer doesn’t always play nice with the other browsers. Until the days where all the browsers follow all the same standards to the letter, browser-specific stylesheets are a useful crutch.
  • Separate the presentation layer from the content layer as much as possible and move it into an external stylesheet (in other words, a separate .CSS file). That way it gets cached by the web browser and doesn’t have to reload with each new page.
  • Plan for site-wide changes. Things change — colors, sidebars, ads, copyright dates, etc. Utilize CSS files and/or server-side includes to make future site-wide updates as painless as possible.
  • Make use of the cascading nature of CSS. Most of the styles you define will be used site-wide. Some will only be for one particular page. Then there will be occasions where you’ll want to “cascade” styles, and have certain sections of your site adopt a particular look/layout/theme that overrides or branches off from the site-wide styles. Clever use of cascading styles can lead to very efficient and elegant code.

    Warning! Geek speek ahead:

  • Be careful of overriding previously declared statements. And also be aware that specificity is important in the cascade. Declare all your tag styles first then declare your id and class selectors down the doc. That way the cascade works and can be overwritten with new selectors. (Thanks again to our CSS guru Darren for this last bit of advice.)

CSS coders: the Web Developer Firefox extension is an awesome tool for coding, debugging, and tweaking style sheets. You can display the stylesheet and the rendered page simultaneously side-by-side and then interactively edit the CSS, immediately viewing the effect of the change on the rendered page. And it makes identifying errors (be they validation, CSS, or JavaScript) a piece-of-cake. Did I mention the plugin is free? 🙂

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Searching for brick-and-mortar retailers?

May 28th, 2006

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Data now out from Nielsen//NetRatings shows that the top five most popular shopping search terms for April were all brick-and-mortar retailers:

  1. “home depot”
  2. “walmart”
  3. “target”
  4. “sears”
  5. “best buy”

SearchEngineWatch Blog then arrived at the conclusion that:

These are people who likely have done their research and are now looking for physical/local stores to buy what it is they want.

I disagree. I think most Americans already know where their local Home Depot is. Instead, these searchers are looking to buy online. Some will opt for in-store pickup (which both Sears and Best Buy offer). Some may be on the hunt for product information, buyer’s guides, or the current circular with the week’s in-store specials.

I believe brick-and-mortar brands dominate shopping-related searches because those are the brands that are the most pervasive/popular/trusted in the marketplace. Their online shops offer a safe and familiar place to buy online.

A huge number of Internet users are searching for “home depot” when they could be typing in homedepot.com directly into their browser’s Location bar. Why is this? I imagine that for many people, typing in “home depot” into the Google Toolbar or into the search box on their Start Page is just easier or most comfortable. Perhaps some, like myself, even configured their Google Toolbar to display the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button, to go straight to the first search result. 😉

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Tips for submitting to Open Directory

May 22nd, 2006

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What’s the best way to get listed in the Open Directory (aka DMOZ)? I often hear people complain that they can’t get their site listed. They wait for months and nothing happens. Then they resubmit and wait, and again nothing happens. Then you throw your hands up in the air, wondering if bribes or secret handshakes are required.

An Open Directory listing is a useful thing to have. With it comes some good link gain ?Ä® from Google Directory, DMOZ.org, and a pile of lower-tier directories that use the DMOZ database. It’s not a magic bullet by any means, but it’s worth getting listed.

The key to getting into DMOZ seems to be in picking the right category. The actual mechanics of submitting is easy. From the chosen category page on DMOZ.org, simply click on “suggest URL” (or “Submit a Site” from the category page in Google Directory). I’m going to mix metaphors here (English majors please forgive me)… if you want to give yourself the best shot and to put your best foot forward, heed these words of advice:

  1. Peruse the categories where your competitors are listed.
    Often times you’ll find multiple suitable categories this way. You can search either DMOZ.org or Google Directory. Try searching for their domain name, and if that turns up nothing, try their company name / website name, and variations thereof.

  2. Read the category information to ensure that category is appropriate for you
    When viewing the category page within DMOZ.org, click on the “Description?Ĺ link at the top right of the page. Make sure your submission will be totally on-topic and fall within the guidelines listed here.

  3. Try to pick a category with an editor.
    This is important. You don’t stand much of a chance if there’s no editor. That’s because your submission will go to a higher-level category editor who is probably overwhelmed with submissions coming in from all the unmanned subcategories underneath him/her. You can see if a category has an editor by scrolling to the bottom of the category page at DMOZ.org. If the category has one or more editors, their name(s) will be listed at the bottom of the page preceded by the words “Category editor.” For example, the Computers: Internet: Web Design and Development: Promotion category is edited by cmconsulting. Clicking on cmconsulting takes you to her profile page, which in this case includes a link to her company website.

    To find relevant categories with editors, try this search on Google:

    site:dmoz.org intitle:keyword “Category editor” OR “Category editors”

    replacing the word “keyword” above with your main keyword. So, for example, if you’re looking for jewelry-related categories with editors:

    site:dmoz.org intitle:jewelry “Category editor” OR “Category editors”

  4. Fine-tune your home page to fit the category you are targeting
    For example, if you are a jeweler with a range of inventory and you are submitting under the Shopping: Jewelry: Charms category, make sure Charms is a primary feature on the home page (in the title tag and in the page content), at least until you get approved.

  5. Spiff up your site prior to submitting
    Scan your site for broken links and broken images with a broken link spider tool and fix them. Remove any “This page under construction” messages. Spell check all the copy for typos. Ensure that you’re providing your full contact information, including address. Remove anything dodgy like doorway pages or tiny text (and NO, don’t put them back after you get in!). Make sure the content of your site is valuable. Thin affiliates aren’t welcome in the Open Directory.

  6. Consider going Regional
    You might consider it more desirable to be listed on a main global category page, but we need to be pragmatic here. If you are a retail shop in Dallas, Texas, you stand a much better chance of getting into DMOZ if you found a Regional category for Dallas, Texas. If you have multiple locations, consider a broader Regional category that encompasses all your locations. For example, if you have locations in Dallas and Houston, go with Texas. If you have locations in Dallas and Vancouver, go with North America. Sometimes, multiple Regional categories would be more appropriate.

  7. Get your home page listed first before trying to get “deep links”
    For typical sites, DMOZ strongly prefers listing only the home page. Exceptions are made where a sub-section or sub-page adds substantial value to the category and wouldn’t be located easily by visitors to the home page. Examples of such: an article library, a video archive, conference proceedings. If you have such a resource, submit it and see if you can get in — but do it after you’ve successfully gotten your home page listed. And submit the resource to a DIFFERENT category. Quite a number of sites have achieved multiple listings in DMOZ. Hopefully you will too!

  8. Be non-promotional when crafting your title and description
    You will need to work in your most important keywords into the title and description (the title is most important), writing in the third-person, and without sounding salesy. And this title needs to look like the name of your site, not a list of keywords. This will reduce the risk that you’ll turn off the editor and the risk that the editor will change the title and description. DMOZ information is sometimes displayed in SERPs ?Ä® like when the search term used isn’t present in your page content or your meta description. If an editor rewrites your title or description for you, your most important keywords may be stripped out or your site could be introduced in an unappealing way on Google SERPs.

  9. Be patient, but not too patient
    Don’t expect your listing to be approved in a week. But then again, don’t wait a year. If after a month or two you don?Ä´t get in, submit to another category. Don’t waste your time submitting to the same category; you’ll just sit in the queue with multiple copies of your submission and that’s not going to make the editor happy.

  10. If it’s a second submission, lower your sights
    Ok, so your listing didn’t get approved and it’s been a month or so. Well then, this time pick a category that’s more attainable for you. For example, maybe you should submit to a more specialized category (e.g. Shopping: Jewelry: Handcrafted, instead of Shopping: Jewelry). Or pick a Regional category.

  11. Once you’re in, request a category reassignment
    Didn’t get in to your first choice category because it didn’t have an editor or you didn’t get a response from your submission? Then I’ve got good news for you: it’s a lot easier to move categories once you’re in Open Directory than it was to get in in the first place. You don’t need to settle for a listing in a sub-optimal category.

  12. Get more involved in the ODP (Open Directory Project) community
    This could mean volunteering to become a category editor. Or just becoming known as a constructive, helpful person on the Resource Zone forums. Insiders have a better lay of the land. They know the politics, the manoeuvering required, the favors to call in, the buttons to press.
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Search Engine Optimizing your Blog

May 19th, 2006

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If you read Marketing Profs, you may have seen my two-part article over the last couple of weeks Ten Tips to Help Your Blog Soar in the Search Engines.

The tips involved…

  1. Specific customizing of your title tags
  2. Ways to clean up your URL structure and aggregate link gain to a single definitive (canonical) URL (i.e. reduce duplicate page issues)
  3. Adding a tag cloud and tag pages to your blog and then optimizing those tag pages
  4. Offering text links to related posts
  5. Adding a Top 10 Posts list to your home page with text links to those posts that you most want to pass link gain to
  6. Improving your anchor text on permalinks and on external links to other content of yours
  7. Adding intro copy rich with keywords to the top of the page through the use of sticky posts
  8. Use of heading tags
  9. Use of bold or emphasis tags in the body copy of your blog posts
  10. (For blogs with multiple authors) Creating an author page for each contributor and linking to their site directly from your home page to pass them link gain using keyword rich anchor text.

The complete article is around 3000 words and goes into much more detail. It includes suggested WordPress plugins to use and even sometimes specific PHP code to insert into your blog.

If you are not a MarketingProfs premium subsciber you won’t be able to read the article, so either sign up, or most of the information from the article is available on my blog optimization tag page.

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Favorite Blogging Tools

May 18th, 2006

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In the past I have put together a list of my favorite WordPress plugins that will help extend your blog’s functionality, search engine optimize it and so forth. In addition, there are a number of tools that are not plugins that you could add to the blog or incorporate into your blog. Here is my list of favorites (in no particular order):

  • Feedburner – track readership of your RSS feeds
  • Flickr – a tool for moblogging; it provides a gateway to post your cameraphone photos directly onto your blog just by emailing them as attachments
  • Swicki – add web search and a “what’s hot” buzzcloud to your blog
  • Favicon Generator – easily create a custom favicon for your blog
  • NetNewsWire – awesome RSS newsreader for the Mac
  • coComment – track your conversations on others’ blogs
  • TalkDigger – monitor discussions that reference your URLs
  • Google Analytics – free, hosted web stats service (from Google’s Urchin acquisition)
  • del.icio.us – add favorite sites to this social bookmarks site using the bookmarklet provided, then display your favorite links on your blog’s sidebar with a del.icio.us plugin
  • FeedBlitz – so your blog readers can subscribe to an email newsletter version of your blog
  • Ecto or Qumana – draft blog posts while offline
  • Technorati – “claim” your blog and create a profile to improve your visibility in this blog search engine
  • Pheedo and BlogAds and AdSense – make money with your blog from advertisers

What did I miss? Post a comment and let me know!