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Author Archives: Tim Ashton

My Blogging Experience – New to Blogging

Information Architecture and Content Management is my first ever blog. For this blog I have used WordPress, one of the most popular blogging tools. WordPress is also open source, which means that the user has access to the code that WordPress is built on and they can change it if they desire. It also means that it is free to use for the perspective blogger, all that is needed is a domain name and a web host. Or you can use the WordPress.com service that allows a blogger to set up a free blog as a sub domain of WordPress.

As my first attempt at writing a blog, I would rate this experience as successful. I have already put forward a few blog posts; I have focused on making the posts high quality and am confident that I have achieved that goal. In addition, in the process of producing these blog posts, I have learned more about search engines, search engine optimisation and the use of search analytics tools in web development.

I have attempted (to the best of my current ability) to use SEO techniques such as those that have been written about in my second post. Unfortunately as of 5th September 2011 my blog does not even appear in the top 10 pages when using a Google search for “search engine optimisation” but the Google search “tim ashton search engine optimisation” returns my blog in the number one position, also true for the search “tim ashton metasearch engines”. Of course, my blog is up against the experts in SEO as every organisation or individual that provides a SEO service has got an optimised blog or website.

Search Engine Optimisation Search

Search Results for the SEO Google Search

 

Metasearchengine search

Search Results for Metasearch engine Google Search

 

Now that I have a sentiment of a success from my first attempt at blogging, I think that I will certainly participate in blogging in the future. As I gain more experience in the information technology industry, I will draw on an increasing pool of knowledge. An increase in my knowledge base will allow me to offer more in each of my future blogs and blog posts. In doing so I will not only share what I know with others, but I am inviting comments, and increasing my exposure to a community of blogging peers on the web. I will be using this blogging experience as my starting point in my information sharing activities on the web.

HTML
The most difficult technical issues of getting started as a blogger have been made relatively trivial through the use of WordPress. The WordPress content management system (CMS)has negated the technical difficulty of producing this blog. You do not need to know how to code in server side scripting languages such as PHP or write SQL (WordPress uses PHP and SQL) queries to interact with a database, you do not even need to know how to produce HTML code. That said, my knowledge of HTML has been very helpful, it has allowed me to modify the content in the way that I desired. Without this knowledge I think it would have been difficult to produce tables and position pictures effectively. I found using the standard WordPress content management view a bit tedious and that it was considerably easier to write HTML code to achieve my blogging goals.

Having the technical issues taken care of by the content management systems allowed me to focus on producing quality content for my blog and know that for the most part, it could be simply entered into the CM administration interface. Producing the content was, in fact quite challenging. Not only was there a considerable amount of research and reading required but I was attempting to write the content in a search engine friendly manner.

Coming up with new ideas for the content of a blog is not easy, but if a starting point with a sound foundation can be made, the blog can stem from there and begin to grow. I think that the continued production of a quality blog would assist in the generation of new ideas from comments and input from other bloggers. Furthermore, a continued participation in blogging circles of a particular topic will help to stimulate new blog posts.

The Blogosphere
This blogging experience has given me an insight as what it means to actually maintain and write in a blog. The experience showed me that actually setting up and using blog software was not complex. The difficulty exists more in the production of high quality content written in an appropriate manner for the web and gaining exposure on the web from your blog.

I learned more about the topics that I have posted about and I have become more aware of the blogosphere at large. I have learned that bloggers work hard to get their blog posts noticed and they interact with other bloggers to share their ideas and knowledge. Additionally the whole notion of blogging is knowledge sharing and communication between people with both similar and dissimilar views.

The topics written about in blog posts are numerous and varied, The State of the Blogosphere 2010 report by Technorati provides some interesting information about who is blogging, why, what are they blogging about, how often and where are they blogging from.

Further information

 

 
 

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Search Analytics – Unique visitors to social networking web sites

Compete is a web based search engine optimisation (SEO) tool that provides a range of services to developers. Compete offers various packages, many of which are paid services, the level of service you receive from Compete depends on the amount you pay for your subscription. Compete does however offer a limited number of useful services for free, one of which is tracking the number of unique visitors to a web site. The number of unique visitors is determined by how many distinct individuals visit a site each month, visitors are only counted once no matter how many times they may visit a site.

I have utilized the unique visitor tool that Compete offers to compare some of the popular social networking web sites. The sites that are compared for their unique visitors are Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn and delicious. As Google+ has not been open to the public for that long, Google+ is a little misrepresented in the line graphs below. There has been a lot of interest in Google+ but there has also been difficulty for people to join see this long list of comments in response to this article.

The comparison is being made over four months from April 2011 to July 2011 inclusive. The charts below show the number of unique visitors to each site as generated by unique.

April 2011
Social Networks 04/2011

May 2011
Social Networks 05/2011

June 2011
Social Networks 06/2011

July 2011
Social Networks 07/2011

April 2011 May 2011 June 2011 July 2011
FacebookFacebook 137,917,539 142,666,563 146,178,617 149,820,491
TwitterTwitter 27,504,233 28,741,503 31,653,497 32,420,163
LinkedInLinkedIn 16,189,190 19,285,889 21,152,051 21,358,653
DeliciousDelicious 50,622 40,136 40,859 97,963
Google+Google+ N/A N/A 298,508 5316,388

Table 1

As you can see from table 1 above and the line graphs generated by Compete, all of the social networking sites have seen increased traffic from unique visitors. Delicious had less in May and June than April but in July, there were considerably more visitors than the previous months. Although this comparison has been made over a relatively short time frame, it highlights the ever increasing growth in traffic that social networking sites have been obtaining for some time. You can see from this article from January 2008, that the growth of these web sites is somewhat of a phenomenon.

The social networking sites being discussed here have enjoyed growth, but not all social networking sites have grown. MySpace has seen its market share decline in recent years, though it seems to now have more of a niche market in the music industry then for the general user. This BBC article shows a few other sites that are experiencing a decline in market share; it also shows some interesting data about the use of social networks in different countries.

In spite of some sites experiencing a decline in popularity, social networking web sites are still experiencing a growth in the number of visitors. People are using these sites more and more, and the availability of the sites is increasing. According to Comscore there has been a large increase in access to social networks in the previous year (U.S), with Facebook via a mobile device growing by 112% and Twitter at a 347% growth. With this kind of access, it is convenient for users to access their social networks anywhere and anytime, while the growth in the use of these kinds of devices continues, so with it will be the growth in the use of social networking web sites.


Further reading

 

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Search Engine Optimisation for Blogs

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of improving a web sites visibility to search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing. By improving the visibility to search engines SEO aims to have a web page appear higher in the list of search results of any given appropriate search, thereby increasing traffic on the site or page. SEO may target different types of searches e.g. News or Images and these different searches can be made using most general purpose search engines such as Google.

Search Engine Optimisation

Generally, optimising a website involves editing the content and the coding to increase the relevance to specific keywords (aslo known as “index terms“) and to remove barriers to the indexing activities of search engines. It can also involve increasing the number of incoming links to the page or site and increasing the number of outgoing links.

In this post, I am going to look at ways to make a blog more search engine friendly and how to utilise SEO techniques to improve a blogs visibility to search engines on the web. Blogs are naturally search engine friendly because they are rich in text, links and are frequently-updated, they are web pages that use cascading style sheets (CSS). As blogs are web pages, SEO on a blog is similar to SEO for web pages but for Blogs, SEO is focused on giving something to talk about and something worthy of attention.

There are a number of ways that you can make your blog more search engine friendly

  1. Use the primary keyword of you blog in the domain name (the URL of your blog).
  2. When you set up the domain of your blog, ensure that you have used the keyword in the domain name. For example if you were doing a blog on “metasearching” and you wanted to be found with the keyword “metasearching” then ensure that this appears somewhere in the domain name.

  3. Use the key phrase that you want to be found by in header tags and in the title of blog posts.
  4. If your primary key phrase is “search engine optimization”, you need to ensure that this appears in whole or part in the blog headers and in the title of each post. Most blogging software will create permalink posts with these keywords in them, but for server side software such as WordPress (used for this blog) you may need to change the permalink structure to maximise findability.

  5. Use your secondary keywords in the body of your post.
  6. When writing the content of your post, consider the words and phrases that someone may use when conducting a search. These are the secondary keywords that you want to include, try to use them throughout your blog. Do not overdo it, as overuse of your keywords can reduce the apparent value of your content. You should also use these keywords wherever possible as “alt” and “title” in your images and outgoing links in the blog. By carefully wording you content you ensure that you have an appropriate keyword density.

    Search Engine Spiders

  7. Make sure every page is linked to every other page by using sidebars and linking old posts.
  8. By having every page linked in such a way ensures that the search engine spider can crawl over your blog and index the pages more effectively. This makes them (the pages) more available to anyone conducting a search for your content.

  9. Try to establish inbound links to your blog.
  10. Incoming links help to increase your Pagerank and help to increase your blogs ranking in search engines. Although you may have less control over this than other factors, there are still some things that you can do:

      Submit your blog to blog search engines and directories.
      Exchange Links with similarly themed blogs.
      Add your blogs URL to your signature on forum posts on other sites.

    Of course, quality content will entice other bloggers and sites to link to your site, so a focus on developing the content of your blog will assist in generating inbound links.

  11. Once you have set up your blogs domain, don’t change it.
  12. If you change your domain name or system, any links that you have generated will be lost and you blog will become more difficult to find. This is the opposite of what we are aiming for when considering SEO for a blog.

There are many SEO tools available for you to use, here is a good list. These can assist you when you are optimizing your blog and many of them are free to use. You can easily gain valuable information about your domain, the use of keywords in your content; the amount of incoming links to your site and many other aspects relating to the SEO techniques described is this post.


Useful information can be obtained from the following links

 

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Special Search Engines on the Web – Metasearch Engines

Google, Yahoo and Bing - Web Search EnginesOn the World Wide Web there are many different search engines available, most of us simply use Google, Yahoo, Bing or one of the other main engines to perform all of our searches. If you use Google to perform a search for “list of search engines” you will quickly discover that the search engines available are both numerous and varied in their application.

There are search engines categorised by “Content” type (news, business, medical etc), “Information” type (forum, blogs etc), “Model” type (open source, semantic browsing etc), “based on” types (Google, Yahoo, Bing). Within these of search engine types there is a number of engines that are available, so for example in the metasearch engine category there is Exite, Info.com, Dogpile, MetaCrawler just to name a few.

I am aiming to find two special search engines on the web and to discover which of the two works the best. In order to do this I need to find two similar special search sites, it would not really be appropriate to compare a bit torrent search engine with a legal search engine as the content and the intended audience is going to be very different.

As there are many metasearch engines and it is a concept that is quite interesting, so I have chosen two metasearch engines for this exercise. To make my choice, the query “metasearch engine” was run in Google and a list of available metasearch engines was returned. From this list I have selected Dogpile and MetaCrawler.

A metasearch engine is a search engine that takes the query entered by the user and sends it to a number of other search engines. When the results are returned the metasearch engine combines the results into a single list as if only one search engine were used. This allows the user to search across multiple search engines simultaneously. In this case, MetaCrawler and Dogpile combine engines such as Yahoo, Google and Bing.

For the end user, this combination means access to combined indexes of web pages that are available and a more comprehensive search of the web can be obtained. Also, the user can complete one search across multiple engines by means of a single query.

I have conducted two different searches in both of the metasearch engines, the first query is “C++” as an IT student I am interested in programming and I am also aware of some sites which I have previously found useful when programming in C++. The second query is a more natural language type; it is “which bees make the best honey”. In this case I am just interested in the subject matter and am prepared to browse a few different sites to learn more.

The search for “C++” yielded similar results from both engines except that Dogpiles first response is a financial market result for Citibank stocks, and is not at all what I was looking for in my search for “C++”. Both Dogpile and MetaCrawler have compiled a list of results which (apart from the Citibank stocks) are very appropriate. Sites such as cplusplus.com and cprogramming.com are valuable resources for programmers and of course Wikipedia is always a good starting point if it is an information seeking search.

Results of query “C++” for Dogpile

Results of query “C++” for MetaCrawler

The search for “which bees make the best honey” got similar results, though I think that MetaCrawlers results were probably a little better than DogPiles. Although both give the information that is required, the results in the MetaCrawler list supply information giving sites first so there is less to sort through before me as a user can begin browsing.

Results of query “which bees make the best honey” for Dogpile

Results of query “which bees make the best honey” MetaCrawler

Both engines have some advertising in the form of sponsored links; both have suggestions to allow the user to choose possible alternatives to help them search from a “Are you looking for?” list. In addition, both have previous searches listed and retain the original search in the search bar, and almost identical advanced search options.

Though they are very similar, MetaCrawler appears to be a slightly better search engine in terms of results. Dogpile has a slightly more aesthetic interface, but the search results that MetaCrawler delivered were a little more appropriate to my needs in both cases and I think that this would be the case for future searches.

Try Dogpile at www.dogpile.com/

Dogpile

Dogpile Metasearch home

Try MetaCrawler at www.metacrawler.com/

MetaCrawler

MetaCrawler Metasearch home

For a few other special search engines go to http://webquest.sdsu.edu/searching/specialized.html and test them out.

This article http://www.top10tag.com/ten-best-specialized-search-engines/ has some interesting specialised search engines including a sounds search engine, bit torrent engine and a specialised deep web medical search engine.

Here are a few articles of interest related to search engines:
http://www.labnol.org/internet/search/special-search-engines-not-google-or-yahoo/1601/
http://alekdavis.blogspot.com/2007/07/searching-beyond-google.html

Some information in this post was gathered from these pages below
http://www.thesearchenginelist.com/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_search_engines

 

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Welcome

Information architecture is an important factor when designing web sites for usability. Users of sites are bombarded with information, and to ensure that they are not overloaded with information the structure of the information must be managed to allow them to find what they are looking for.

The way that web sites are designed and constructed causes us to react. This reaction can be good or bad, depending on the usability of the site. If a web site has a logical structure that helps us to find the information we are looking for then we find it easy to use and are usually satisfied with the result. If a site is not logically laid out and seems to lack intelligible organisation, users become frustrated whilst attempting to navigate through them. They get lost in a mountain of information that is not pertinent to their requirements.

Information architecture is defined by Peter Moreville and Louis Rosenfeld in their book “Information Architecture” – 3rd edition as:

  1. The structural design of shared information environments.
  2. The combination of organisation, labelling, search and navigation systems within web sites and intranets.
  3. The art and science of shaping information products and experiences to support usability and findability.
  4. An emerging discipline and community of practice focused on bringing principles of design and architecture to the digital landscape.

By conducting a Google search “how much information is produced each year” a BBC news article was retrieved, the article states that US researchers estimate that 800mb of data is produced each year for every person on the planet, as we are approaching 7 billion people, that is approximately 5600000000 gigabytes of information each year. The research also found that the amount of data being produced is increasing by approximately 30% each year.

See the article http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/3227467.stm

Although we have been structuring and organising information for a long time, in the digital age it is more important than ever. Due to the penetration of internet connectivity and such an abundance of information, the infrastructure for communication is in place. Unfortunately in spite of the available information, it can be difficult to find and integrate.

In this blog, I will be discussing some aspects of the World Wide Web. I will look into search engines like Google, Yahoo and some special search engines. I will discuss blogging, and in particular, how to make a blog search engine friendly. That is, how you can make your blog easily discoverable by web search engines. I will post about the use of search analytic tools, using one to chart the number of unique visitors to popular social networking sites. And, I will look into and post about the use of wikis for the purpose of information sharing and collaboration.

Welcome to my information architecture and content management WordPress blog.

 

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