Web Development Portfolio

Online Local Business Listings in the Search Spotlight

December 19 2009

Businesses have another reason to establish and maintain their presence online. A while back I touched on how online local business listings help bubble a business’s presence in search engine listings and results. That integration might become tighter now that Google is looking to acquire local business directory Yelp (NY Times link).

As the NY Times reports, the move is motivated by the fact that many users are turning online for local business information as well as looking up local business information via their smartphones.

Web companies big and small are trying to give people information about restaurants, news and events within a few blocks or miles of where they are. Yelp dominates the market for local business listings and reviews in big cities.

Those services are becoming more important as the popularity of smartphones grows. The cellphones are connected to the Web and equipped with GPS so advertisers can know where a person is standing.

It’s a nascent technology so far, but GPS enabled smart phones are out there and as our technology becomes more location aware, more opportunities exist to use that information to help customers and advertisers. As BusinessWeek reports:

[Yelp’s business directory] data would likely prove valuable to Google’s mobile efforts, too. This year, a free app preinstalled in the Motorola (MOT) Droid and other phones using Google’s Android software let users receive turn-by-turn navigation to their destination. With Yelp’s data, the app could suggest restaurants and other services along the way.

Having Google integrated would make access to this data easier for many users. The benefit for Google is in easier access to small business owners:

[Greg] Sterling [principle of Sterling Market Intelligence] says a Yelp deal might be about more than just ads. “[Google] has ambitions that are broader than simply selling advertising. There’s a whole range of stuff they can offer” small businesses, he says. By cozying up to more mom and pops, the company may hope to get the word out about its Google Docs and other online apps. The vast majority of small businesses buy competing software from Microsoft.

Which simply means that if you don’t want to get overlooked by users taking advantage of this growing convergence of internet search and mobile device internet access, businesses need to fortify their online presences to take advantage of how users are looking for them.

Update

As of December 21, 2009 it appears the potential Google/Yelp merger is off. This doesn’t detract from my point that businesses need to plan for visitors from local search and mobile devices.

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SEO Primer – Easy Improvements for Businesses

July 20 2009

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a set of methodologies for making web page content easily accessible to search engines and, by extension, people looking for information via search engines. Search engines like Google.com or Bing.com index information on web pages by sending out web crawlers, spiders, or bots (all automated tools to read web pages) to parse the information contained in the pages’ HTML (HyperText Markup Language – the main language constructing web pages). This information is then indexed in the search engine databases for easy access in response to web searches. When someone types in a search term like “physical therapy” the engines deliver results based on proprietary algorithms which parse keywords in the text of the pages, as well as some meta-information (information that describes the content) written into the HTML code, and other external factors (such as pages linking to that page) to determine a page relevancy (page rank) value for any given search. All SEO comes down to improving these factors so that a given web page appears at the top of related keyword searches.

Start With Good Content

At the base of successful SEO is having quality content that people will want to access. The content should be clear, rich with terms that a reader is seeking, and structured such that they can easily find the specific information they’re looking for. It is very important that content should be written for the reader, in language they can relate with, and not in jargony, industry-specific vocabulary that may not align with the terms the reader is using in their search. Someone seeking relief from back pain, for instance, may type “relief from back pain” into a search engine unless they’re specifically inclined to find relief by looking for “physical therapy.” A well optimized page will contain the terms a web visitor is searching for.

Writing for the web can be as involved as any other formal writing. Suffice it to say, once we have rich content, it can be formatted in its web page HTML to add further meta-information for use by the search engines. See “Writing for the Web” Resources listed below for more detailed information.

Getting Good Referrals

One other vital element to SEO is the quality of links which direct traffic to one’s site. Search engine algorithms give additional weight to the contents of a page based on the authority of referring pages. If a recognized sports medicine site links to a page with sports medicine content, that linked page benefits from the search-engine-vested authority of the referrer. So it’s beneficial to have quality links from recognized authorities. It’s also important to remember that authorities can include heavily trafficked blogs and other social media sites. The consensus of opinion at the conferences I’ve attended points towards the increasing influence of social media on SEO. Therefore, we should nurture any referrer links from outside our site and make sure that they point to relevant pages within our site (not necessarily our home page).

Get Known Locally

One additional factor that will help our clinic traffic is inclusion in local business directories. Search engines utilize these directories as information stores for localized business information. Many of these directories offer free listings along with the ability to include an email address, web site link, and business type categorization. All of this information, if listed, helps promote that business in search engine results related to localities. If someone searches for “Seattle physical therapy” on Google, one will often see results from Yahoo! or Yelp in the top 10 results. These type of results add referrer value to a page. It is in each clinic’s best interest to make sure they’re listed in local business directories online and that their information is up to date and categorized properly. Some no-cost, high benefit places to start:

Web Development Beyond The Fundamentals of SEO

The above elements; content, referrals, and directory listings, are the most powerful accessible factors that company employees can affect that will influence how internet users find the content they’re searching for through search engines. This is what SEO is all about. There are other, more technical factors that I haven’t covered that go on behind the scenes in how we design and maintain our web sites and the structure and meta information encoded in those pages. Ultimately, the web is a tool for communication between people and entities. Web sites and pages are the medium. Good SEO is analogous to the conversation you are able to start with clients.

Resources

Writing for the Web

More SEO Info

Google has some very good resources for helping webmasters optimize for search. For more detailed information about topics I address above you can refer to:

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Links

November 20 2008

Some links to remember and also a post to push the previous one down the page. The <pre&rt; tag isn’t being nice with the template I’m using and I don’t have time to fix it at the moment.

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DNN fckStyles Error

November 20 2008

While experimenting with the wiki component in one of my portals today, I received an error when trying to add a post via the FCK editor, Could not load type 'DotNetNuke.HtmlEditor.FckHtmlEditorProvider.fckStyles'. More specifically:

[HttpException]: Could not load type 'DotNetNuke.HtmlEditor.FckHtmlEditorProvider.fckStyles'.
at System.Web.UI.TemplateParser.GetType(String typeName, Boolean ignoreCase, Boolean throwOnError)
at System.Web.UI.TemplateParser.ProcessInheritsAttribute(String baseTypeName, String codeFileBaseTypeName, String src, Assembly assembly)
at System.Web.UI.TemplateParser.PostProcessMainDirectiveAttributes(IDictionary parseData)
[HttpParseException]: Could not load type 'DotNetNuke.HtmlEditor.FckHtmlEditorProvider.fckStyles'.
at System.Web.UI.TemplateParser.ProcessException(Exception ex)
at System.Web.UI.TemplateParser.ParseStringInternal(String text, Encoding fileEncoding)
at System.Web.UI.TemplateParser.ParseString(String text, VirtualPath virtualPath, Encoding fileEncoding)
[HttpParseException]: Could not load type 'DotNetNuke.HtmlEditor.FckHtmlEditorProvider.fckStyles'.
at System.Web.UI.TemplateParser.ParseString(String text, VirtualPath virtualPath, Encoding fileEncoding)
at System.Web.UI.TemplateParser.ParseReader(StreamReader reader, VirtualPath virtualPath)
at System.Web.UI.TemplateParser.ParseFile(String physicalPath, VirtualPath virtualPath)
at System.Web.UI.TemplateParser.ParseInternal()
at System.Web.UI.TemplateParser.Parse()
at System.Web.UI.TemplateParser.Parse(ICollection referencedAssemblies, VirtualPath virtualPath)
at System.Web.Compilation.BaseTemplateBuildProvider.get_CodeCompilerType()
at System.Web.Compilation.BuildProvider.GetCompilerTypeFromBuildProvider(BuildProvider buildProvider)
at System.Web.Compilation.BuildProvidersCompiler.ProcessBuildProviders()
at System.Web.Compilation.BuildProvidersCompiler.PerformBuild()
at System.Web.Compilation.BuildManager.CompileWebFile(VirtualPath virtualPath)
at System.Web.Compilation.BuildManager.GetVPathBuildResultInternal(VirtualPath virtualPath, Boolean noBuild, Boolean allowCrossApp, Boolean allowBuildInPrecompile)
at System.Web.Compilation.BuildManager.GetVPathBuildResultWithNoAssert(HttpContext context, VirtualPath virtualPath, Boolean noBuild, Boolean allowCrossApp, Boolean allowBuildInPrecompile)
at System.Web.Compilation.BuildManager.GetVirtualPathObjectFactory(VirtualPath virtualPath, HttpContext context, Boolean allowCrossApp, Boolean noAssert)
at System.Web.Compilation.BuildManager.CreateInstanceFromVirtualPath(VirtualPath virtualPath, Type requiredBaseType, HttpContext context, Boolean allowCrossApp, Boolean noAssert)
at System.Web.UI.PageHandlerFactory.GetHandlerHelper(HttpContext context, String requestType, VirtualPath virtualPath, String physicalPath)
at System.Web.UI.PageHandlerFactory.System.Web.IHttpHandlerFactory2.GetHandler(HttpContext context, String requestType, VirtualPath virtualPath, String physicalPath)
at System.Web.HttpApplication.MapHttpHandler(HttpContext context, String requestType, VirtualPath path, String pathTranslated, Boolean useAppConfig)
at System.Web.HttpApplication.MapHandlerExecutionStep.System.Web.HttpApplication.IExecutionStep.Execute()
at System.Web.HttpApplication.ExecuteStep(IExecutionStep step, Boolean& completedSynchronously) 

After messing around with it for a while, I found a workable and easy solution on the DNN forums which amounted to “deleting the fck folder completly from the providers/htmleditorproviders folder and replacing it with the fck folder from the install package.”

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Moments of Assessment

November 7 2008

I was just planning on doing a simple blog post. Unfortunately, I wanted to reference a previous post and made the discovery that in designing my blog layout, I didn’t account for a way to access past posts. A huge oversight, it seems – a rookie mistake. Which got me to thinking that I needed to make a quick fix to the blog to rectify the situation. Except that there’s no easy solution afforded by the Blogger (classic) template that I’m currently using. So instead of the simple post that I was planning on making, I’m writing this bitchy one to complain about Blogger and once again consider moving this whole damn thing over to WordPress. I am (supposed to be) a web developer after all.

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About Blog Publishing Tools

May 26 2008

Now that I’ve had a chance to better dig into how WordPress works, I’m very impressed by the versatility it provides out of the box to anyone who choses to use it. By contrast, Blogger is proving feature-deficient and if it wasn’t for my long history using it, I would’ve pitched it by now for another system. It’s reminiscent of how Moofie describes his relationship with the Star Wars series – dysfunctional in how it lures us back after a cooling off period, hoping that this time around, things will work out better.

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WebVisions Recap

May 26 2008

This past week I had an inspiring experience attending the WebVisions 2008 conference that was here in Portland. WebVisions has been around for eight years now and though I’ve attended before, this is the first time that I’ve felt it was directly applicable to my career. Though I’ve been working on web sites for several years this is the first time I’ve gone in thinking of myself as a web developer. As such, I felt an acute interest in understanding where the industry is going. Previous WebVisions have always conveyed a large amount of conceptual information about trends in web design and directions that it might be headed. Looking back at information I gleaned from previous conferences, I’m struck by how much of what was talked about years ago is now accepted practice. I’d like to do a more comprehensive review of my experience but for now a short summary will have to suffice. Below are the sessions I attended over the two days:

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Light text on dark background vs. readability

April 24 2008

A recent project has gotten me researching readability issues and I wanted to note this with regards to web readability, Light text on dark background vs. readability | 456 Berea Street

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Web Design References

April 24 2008

Smashing Magazine is proving a treasure trove of print and web design tips and examples. The latest to catch my eye make reference to:

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The Highly Extensible CSS Interface

April 2 2008

Something for me to read: The Highly Extensible CSS Interface. I’ve been meaning to spend more time learning additional web development technologies and this link seems along those lines.

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