Finally, I got Pagerank!

Finally! It has been a long wait. πŸ™‚ But it’s only a meagre PR of 1! Damn it. πŸ™
It’s about time I remove my homepage then. πŸ˜‰

In a weird way my homepage has received a 1, but the rest a 4. Take for instance the reference or the Google Search category.

Ah well… everyone knows the PageRank is for ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY. Yeah right…
When is the TrustRank due?

Update: Oops. It seems there is no pagerank for the rest of the site. πŸ™

FeedBurner’s Link Splicer

People viewing my feed will be relieved as of today. I will no longer use the FeedBurner ‘Link Splice’ option, which added my Furl into the main sites webfeed.

Why? I was getting fed up by the constant ‘there’s a new item’ notice in Bloglines and FeedDemon. Also, I don’t see an added value merging feeds together. πŸ™‚

So, if you want to keep up-to-date with what’s happening at ThinkLemon and already were subscribed to the main feed. You’ll have to do NOTHING. How’s that for a change?

For those who didn’t already or want to keep the Furl. Here’s how (click on the desired link):
ThinkLemon updates: https://www.thinklemon.com/feed/ (Add to Bloglines, My Yahoo!, My MSN or add with feed-protocol)
My Furl updates: http://www.furl.net/members/cvdlinden/rss.xml (Add to Bloglines, My Yahoo!, My MSN or add with feed-protocol)

Google Sitemaps is working

Google Sitemaps As I’ve posted previously, I started ‘testing’ Google Sitemaps last week. So what have I done? I added my feeds first. They were there already so that didn’t take any effort. Next I added a plugin to my WordPress installation that would generate a sitemap automatically and added that one also.

Now the big question. Is it working? It seems so…
At the Google Sitemaps ‘Control Panel‘ I see that the feeds and sitemap are being fetched every 12 hours or so.
Looking at my serverlogs I see Google spidering like crazy in the past 24 hours or so. Their spider jumped from a third to the first place in the bot-list. So spidering is great. What about the indexing? Seeing a spider is one thing, being indexed another.
Well, great news on that front too. If I lookup my pages in Google I see that a lot of them are cached on june 12 and 13. (That’s like yesterday)

In conclusion: Google Sitemaps looks like the tool to keep your pages in Google fresh. Now if other searchengines would follow, that would be nice. πŸ™‚

Some reservation: It could be that Google is doing an all out spider-run which may (or may not) indicate a Google Dance is underway and we’ll see some updated PageRanks. Time will tell.

Corporate Egosurfing, or how to get market info for free.

Keeping track on what is being said in the media is somewhat of a luxury for big companies. They can afford to allocate people and time in special departments (PR, Communications, …) to track the news, journals, internet, measure campaign effectiveness, etc. Smaller family run companies don’t have that kind of resources. Their time is mainly consumed by running their businesses. There’s hardly any time to stop and look what is being said about them (positive or negative).

Enter the internet anno 2005. I know many of you type their names into Google, hence the term Egosurfing, to see what is known about you. You may want to go over to Yahoo, MSN or Altavista to check what’s being said there. But running around all those sites is time consuming. And time is something some people don’t have. Now, with some RSS-magic and a little time to set-up we’ll automate this task and spare ourselves some valuable corporate time. Best of all, it costs nothing!

Requirements

  • A browser.
  • An hour or so to set things up.
  • An aggregator.
  • A whole lot of feeds, more on that later.
  • A few minutes a day to check up on things.

So here we go.

Step 1: Get a browser

If you are reading this, you have browser. What kind doesn’t matter. So step 1 is taken care of.

Step 2: Get an aggregator

For this ‘Corporate Egosurfing’ to work you’ll need an aggregator. Say what? An aggregator! It’s a tool that lets you collect several sources at once and quickly scan through the latest news.

BloglinesFor this example I suggest you sign-up for a Bloglines account. Bloglines is an online aggregator so you don’t have to install anything, its available on any pc you work on and best of all it’s free. (http://www.bloglines.com/)

Once set-up your account is empty, apart from the ‘Bloglines | News’. Next we’ll add some feeds to go ‘Corporate Egosurfing’. You can add feeds using the ‘Add’ link on your ‘My Feeds’ tab. Bloglines offers some ways to easily add feeds, but for this example we’ll find and add our own feeds.

Our Company

For this example let’s say we are a small family run company that builds custom motorcycles. Or choppers as we call them. Our name is ‘Orange County Choppers‘. We have some internet-presence, even had a documentary on the Discovery Channel. πŸ™‚

Step 3: Add Yahoo! News

Yahoo! NewsGo over to http://news.yahoo.com/. Enter the name of your company or see our result.
Now the important bit. In the right sidebar you’ll see ‘View as RSS’ with an orange XML button. Click on it and don’t be scared. You’ll see a lot of strange code in your browser. This is what a feed looks like on the inside. Now go to the addressbar and copy the URL.

Go over to your Bloglines and click on ‘Add’ under the ‘My Feeds’ tab. On the right hand side paste the copied URL in the ‘Blog or Feed URL:’ and click on ‘Subscribe’. On the next page click ‘Subscribe’ again and your set.

Congratulations! You’ve added your first egosurfing feed. Everytime you’ll login to your account you’ll see the latest additions. You can scan the headlines, read some summary info and/or click on the headings to see the original article.

Step 4: Add Google News

Google NewsOn to the next one. Google. There’s one problem with Google. It doesn’t offer any feeds. πŸ™
But no problem, there is this other site that does what Google doesn’t. πŸ™‚

Go over to http://www.justinpfister.com/gnewsfeed.php. Enter your companyname and press ‘Create RSS’. Next you’ll see another page with the same ‘weird stuff’, so did we. Just copy the URL from the adressbar and add it to your Bloglines account. Just like we did with the Yahoo! News feed.

Step 5: Add MSN News

MSN SearchGo over to http://search.msn.com/news/. Again, enter your companyname. You’ll be presented with a normal search result set. (Our result)

Now go hunt for that orange RSS/XML icon, yes it is on the bottom of the page. The page you’ll see when you click on the button is something we haven’t seen before. Instead of a lot of ‘weird stuff’ we’ll be presented a nice page. MSN offers a direct link to add this feed to your bloglines account. Just press the grey/white ‘sub bloglines’ button. That’s all. πŸ™‚

The nice people of MSN Search also offer feeds for their normal search. So go back to the normal results and click on the ‘Web’ link on the top of the page. Now go to the bottom and click on the ‘RSS’ button. Just add this feed using the ‘sub bloglines’.

Step 6: Sit back and relax

Now you’re set with the top 3 search engines and you’ll be up to date to what’s being said in the ‘press’. Now close all your browsers and come back to your Bloglines account tomorrow. You’ll find it pretty easy to be kept up-to-date with just one visit instead of three.

Or don’t stop here! There are many, many more sources out there that you can add. All you have to do is when you find a nice orange ‘RSS’ or ‘XML’ button on your favorite site, remember to add it to you account.

Or how about keeping a track on what’s happening with the competition? Like for example those West Coast Guys. Just repeat the steps above but with a different companyname.

Now you have a free, custom built, news service about, well, you! How’s that? There’s more, but I’ll save it for later I guess.

What do search engines see in my page?

Search engines are your ultimate blind visitors. They don’t see JavaScript, stumble over framesets, ignore CSS, feel around HTML-tags and leave them alone, choke on Flash. All they really want to see is content. And that content is plain text. Text that can be indexed, weighed, stored, chunked, ranked & retrieved. Or whatever it is they do…

So if you want a glimpse of what Google/Yahoo/MSN can really see in your pages take a look at the Search Engine Spider Simulator. It’ll take your page, strip off all HTML, media, links, meta-info and commonly used words. What is left is a resumé of all the unique words that are on your page.

Now if this simulator doesn’t return anything maybe that’s your explanation for not being indexed.
No content? Why bother.

Google Sitemaps weblog plugins

In the previous post I said that Google Sitemaps will accept your feeds just as well. And it does, no worries. But as I looked further into the dynamic generation of sitemaps I found there were WordPress plugins already available. (Just 3 days after the service went public. How’s that for a user community …)

Currently I have Arne Brachhold’s Google Sitemaps Generator v2 Final running. All I had to do was upload the plugin, activate it, make an empty sitemap.xml writable and I was up and running. You’ll get an extra administration page after activation where you can set a whole lot of options. We’ll see how this one fares.

If that plugin doesn’t work for you. Dirk Zimmermann also has a plugin, although that one didn’t work out for me as I have my WP in a subdir (presumably).

People using Movable Type may want to look at Niall Kennedy’s Weblog.

Update: Arne Brachold’s Google Sitemap Generator for WordPress just bumped up to version 2.5. Good stuff: 1. you can now add external pages that aren’t generated with WordPress. 2. The plugin pings Google to notify them of an update. 3. The plugin has become multi-lingual.

Google Sitemaps (Beta)

To let webmasters help Google index their site better there is Google Sitemaps. Sounds like a good idea.

So how does it work?
First you need to have a Google account (having a GMail account is probably enough).
Second you need to create a Sitemap file in the root of your site. This is an XML file that lists all your indexable pages. Google even provides a generator for this file.
Third you have to tell Google where your sitemap file can be found.
Last, wait to see what Google does with the sitemap file.

I’m still stuck at the the second stage. The generator from Google requires Python to run. Unfortunately I can’t. I don’t like to update the file mannualy so I’d like this to be automated. If anyone knows of a good solution to generate sitemaps automatically. I’d love to hear about it.

Update: It seems that Google Sitemaps will accept RSS 2.0 and Atom 0.3 feeds as well. So for now I’ve added those. And looking at my logs I see Google visit some links.

Pingback/Trackback testing tool

A person I know, that will remain anonymous, has problems receiving trackbacks. So looking around Google I found this site: Red Alt – Ping-o-Mation

What it basically does is:

This tool checks to see if your blog has recently pinged Ping-o-Matic, or has sent a trackback to RedAlt.

So what do I have to do? Simple:

First, test to see if outgoing trackbacks and pingbacks from your site to other sites work. To do this, create a new post on your blog. In that post, create a link to this URL: http://redalt.com/ping

So to make sure I place a link to http://redalt.com/ping that probably shows nothing, but makes sure a ‘ping’ is sent.

Furthermore:

In the Trackback field of your post editor, add the RedAlt Trackback URL: http://redalt.com/ping

Done. So here’s the post and hopefully my outgoing pings/trackbacks have worked. To see I need to go to the site and enter my URL.

Update: Check! My blog can send pings & trackbacks. πŸ™‚ Now some more investigating…

Please ignore.

RSS2Wap: Turn your feeds into WML.

Over at www.fredscapes.nl Fred is plea-ing that webloggers should care more about mobile devices (Dutch only).
Although the number of mobile devices is rising and the technology for delivering content to those devices has been around for years, I still haven’t gotten any experience developing for mobile. Sure, my phone contains a WAP-browser. But the resolution of the screen, connection speed and, more importantly, the absurd pricing of mobile surfing have kept me from doing anything serious with WML.
But I’ll take it into account Fred! πŸ˜‰

RSS2WAP icon Fred does have an interesting tip: RSS2WAP. This is a service that can take your feed and transform it into a WML-page. No messing around. Just take the URL of your feed and voila, your mobile visitors (if any) can see the your latest content on their phone or PDA.

For those interested: See my WAP-enabled feed here! (Not visible in IE and Firefox)

Favorite browser?

Yesterday I furled a CNET article which declared Mozilla Firefox victorious. Ok, ok, firefox won from contenders like IE, Opera & Netscape (8). All of which I didn’t suit me.

Here’s the real story. I’ve been using IE ever since IE3. Why? Well, I’ve won a cd-rom with IE3 along with a videotape of ‘The Net‘. Really! Well IE4 beat NS4 hands down… Ancient history.
Nowadays I’m a webdesigner and somewhat of a webdeveloper and I could use some no-name, obscure, backwards browser. But then I would be cutting myself in my fingers wouldn’t I? Who needs CSS anyway…

As a webdesigner you have to follow the flock. And if the herd is using IE as their preferred browser, you have to design accordingly. I would be happy to design for Konqueror if 90% of the population had installed it. But it’s IE. So? No problem. That’s what they are using, that’s what i’ll design/develop for.

Well a few months ago I did something bold. I had phoenix/firebird or what it was called back then. Nevermind, I had this option in the ‘Tools’ > ‘Options…’ > ‘General’ section with a checkbox to make Firefox my default browser. So I clicked it. Just to see if my Outlook would open links in Firefox instead of IE. It did. Having grown to IE I turned back to it to make IE my default browser again, who wants a beta version of a browser as their default? But… someone please, NOT, show me where the option is hidden… I couldn’t find the damn checkbox to make IE default again. πŸ™

Having being stuck with Firefox wasn’t that bad. πŸ™‚ I found that when there’s a javascript error, Firefox could show me the EXACT line of code that was bad. In IE times it was just guess and trackback. How sweet the alert(“over here”); was. πŸ˜‰ It showed me what kind of HTML I was missing, or at least put in the wrong place (HTMLTidy). Where that &*(#&*$-div went, or didn’t went. What Google & Co could make of my pages. Well as a developer, I’m happy.

I’ll think I make a series of the goodness that came with firefox. But later…