iData Technologies Blog

Using the Google Webmaster Tools to Optimize Your Site

Posted 6/27/2008 1:46:53 PM by Mark Reichard

This post will explore one way that we use Google’s Webmaster Tools to optimize our site. In case you're not familiar with Google Webmaster Tools, they are found in the Webmasters area of the Google site ( here ), and you can get a quick introduction from our article about the predecessor application, called Google Webmaster Console.

One of the most useful areas of Webmaster Tools is the overview screen. The overview provides a summary of any issues that Google sees with your site.

Google Webmaster Tools Overview Screen

For example, let’s say that you decide (like iData recently did) to update your site and re-organize the content, but you don’t want to lose search engine rank accumulated by the old pages/URLs. As those who’ve been through the process know, in this situation you want to use 301 redirects to let search engines and site visitors know about the change. For our update, we implemented 301 redirects for almost all of our old site pages (we thought) using the URL redirect functionality built into our Synapse Publisher CMS.

Soon after the move, when we looked at the overview, we started seeing pages from the old site showing up as not found. Clicking the not found error brings up the Web Crawl report with details of the URLs. This report is great, because it gave us a handy list of pages we’d missed creating URLs for.

Google Web Crawl Report

To fix these pages, I logged into Synapse, went to the URL Redirects screen and added the missing links.

Synapse Publisher 301 Redirect Screen

I then went back to the Web Crawl report and clicked the missing URLs in order to make sure that they were fixed. Clicking the links now brings up the redirected page of new content, which is exactly what we want.

what to look for in a CMS image

Visiting the Overview report and looking at the Web Crawl report are important not only when you have gone through a major redesign. It’s a good idea to use these tools on an ongoing basis to make sure that you have not deleted or moved content that Google has indexed.

Tags: GoogleComments

Anti-social media

Posted 6/19/2008 11:46:44 AM by Mark Reichard

I saw a post on TechCrunch this morning about problems with the Google App Engine.  The Google App Engine is an application development / hosting platform offered by Google for free (up to a pretty generous bandwidth / storage limit).   Like many other free offerings from Google, I love the philosophy behind Google Apps --- it is democratizing (meritocratising?) while at the same time offering a practical solution to real problems faced especially by small businesses.  In theory, a small group of smart people can develop the next killer app, offer it as a Web service and start a business, all without buying a single server.  A host of other companies, especially in the social media space, seem to offer similar benefits by providing a Web based service along with an API to let developers create applications around the service.

However, as the problems with the Google App Engine (and some other services such as Twitter and Flickr) make clear, there is a definite risk to developing applications that reside outside the walls of the enterprise.  I'm reminded of a 2005 article called Six Things you Should Know About Bubble 2.0 (Andrew Orlowski's ironic name for the Web 2.0 hype).  In point #6, Orlowski argues that most of the folks behind Web 2.0, social media and cloud computing applications in general are not up to the task of building reliable, scalable applications.  He goes so far as to suggest that the software engineers involved are not serious and not knowledgeable about system-level programming and robust, fault-tolerant design.  This seems to be me to be going a little far, in addition to being a needlessly ad hominem argument.

In searching for Orlowski's article in order to link to it, I stumbled across another whole set of sites and blog commentary that point out an entirely different set of issues with social media.  One of the key critiques of social media made by sites like is that the democratic, participatory nature of most social media sites, along with their underlying assumption that most people have an honest contribution to make is highly vulnerable to small numbers of people who are highly motivated to be dishonest.  The focus of the pages that I read on was on stock manipulation by fake comments left on financial site message boards, but I also saw links to content about fake reviews and other similar for-profit hoaxes. 

All in all, I think it would be a mistake to assume because of outages and scalability issues that the idea of cloud computing is invalid. Similarly, I think it's clear that software as a service (and applications built on social media APIs specifically) are here to stay.  The key will be for organizations to make smart decisions about how they make use of these opportunities.  Should a Fortune 500 company build mission critical applications on the Google App Engine?  No, not given the security and uptime concerns that those companies have.  Does it make sense for small or medium sized firms to build non-mission critical applications or even mission-critical but non-uptime critical applications that make use of free APIs and cloud resources? Sure, as long as they have thought through what they will do when those services and resources are not available.  In many ways, this is exactly like decisions that we've all been making for a long time about Web and email hosting --- do I do it myself, or outsource?  If I outsource, what are my contingency plans?  As long as those are in place, expectations are set reasonably, and there is a plan to immediately communicate with users about outages, I would not hesitate to use the free services that are out there. 

Tags: Social mediaComments

Conversation Marketing

Posted 6/4/2008 7:48:33 AM by Mark Reichard

This morning as I was driving to work, I listened to John Jantsch's conversation with Paul Gillin on the Duct Tape Marketing podcast.  They were discussing Paul's book, The New Influencers.  A couple of key points that Paul made really struck me.

First is the distinction between "interruption marketing" versus "conversation marketing."  Interruption marketing seeks to interrupt people from something that they are doing (driving down the highway, watching TV, listening to music) to get them to pay attention to an essentially unrelated marketing message.  Conversation marketing seeks to engage people by providing them targeted information about something that they are interested in as part of an activity that they choose to do.  Paul argued that conversation marketing can work by drawing in people who set trends (influencers) and getting them to talk about products or services, but the thing that really struck me about the whole idea of conversation marketing was the notion that for this to work, there must truly be a conversation.  This means that the person doing the marketing must draw people (ideally influencers) into a real conversation very early on in the lifecycle of the product or service and really listen to and value their feedback by building that feedback into the product or service.  This is a leap that traditional marketers are often afraid to make, but it can be hugely effective and it is much more human and genuine than seeking to interrupt as many people as possible.

The second point that really struck a chord with me was Paul's suggestion to focus on strategy rather than particular technologies.  This struck me because he used an analogy to building a house that was very similar to one we use with clients.  Paul said lots of companies pick a social media technology like blogging and then try to figure out what to do with it.  In building a house, though,  no one buys a sack of concrete, then says "what are we going to do with this concrete?" They key is to focus on what you want to get done, then choose appropriate technology.  Similarly, we sometimes meet with clients who say "we need a new Website" without really knowing what they want or why they need it.  We like to say to those clients "Look, you would not say to a building contractor just that you need a new building.  You would say you need more office space, or a new restaurant location or a factory --- something that you needed to further your business goals.  Let's start by figuring out what you want to get done as a business, and then figure out what needs to be built."  

Tags: E-marketing Strategy, Social mediaComments