Thursday, 25 October 2007 at 15:03, mcrilf wrote...

Case study: Facebook Flyers part 2

A couple of days ago I blogged about my experience with Facebook Flyers - the pay-per-click advertising platform for Facebook.

Part 1 focused on what Facebook Flyers are, how to set them up and the details of the tests that I ran. In this post (part 2 of the series), I'm going to reveal the results of my test. Read on...

The results
Facebook provides limited reporting but it is enough to give you basic insight into how your ads are doing: impressions, clicks, CTR, average CPC and budget spent - all on a daily basis.

What was interesting in my tests was the way in which the flyers were served. Although they initially got some good coverage, they quickly started to lose visibility. Several times, I upped the maximum CPC and each time they got a boost of impressions.

The graph below shows the impressions each of the 3 flyer tests got.

After 11th October, I left the flyers to run themselves, with no changes. And as you can see, they are hardly being served at all now, even though they are all showing as active.

So what's going on here? Why isn't Facebook spending my budget in serving my Flyers? Perhaps since it's a cost per click model, they upweight Flyers that get good click through rates (CTR). Initially, my CTRs were terrible - the maximum CTR I got was on the 'Supersize your iPod' Flyer which received a CTR of 0.28% on October 9th.

The average CTRs for the 3 Flyers currently stands at:
Find your soulmate: 0.008%
Control your credit: 0.004%
Supersize your iPod: 0.138%

As you can see: abismal.

If you think about it, CTRs are bound to be lower on Facebook than something like Google Adwords. Google users are actively searching for something. Facebook users are keeping in touch with their friends. With this in mind, it follows on that Facebook users are less likely to respond to sales-led advertising. I included the 'Find your soulmate' Flyer since I thought that this would fit in with what Facebook users are doing - ie connecting with people. But as you can see, this didn't perform well at all.

The tests I ran were not exhaustive, but give an indication of the sort of response you can expect from Facebook Flyers. Although CPC is relatively cheap, CTRs are terrible since users aren't in the frame of mind for buying stuff (or even finding a date it seems!).

Despite this, I haven't written Facebook Flyers off. With a user base of 40 million people and 60 billion page impressions per month, the numbers are too big and the potential too great to pass up. So I'll be doing some more testing in the days and weeks to come. Of course, you'll hear about it here when I have any results.

The future
It seems the Flyers platform is set for a major overhaul. Nick O'Neill of AllFacebook reports that Facebook is expected to launch a new ad network on 6th November and have recently filed a trademark for "SocialAds".

They are clearly looking for a way to monetize those 60 billion page impressions per month to help justify their valuation! Watch this space.

If you've had any experiences with Facebook Flyers, let me know in the comments below.

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Case study: Facebook Flyers part 1

The huge popularity of Facebook is unquestionable. It has overtaken MySpace as the largest social network in the UK - a fact that marketers are starting to wake up to. After all, where there are huge numbers of people, there are advertising opportunities and money to be made.

For a while now, Facebook has offered a targeted advertising solution called Facebook Flyers.

Anyone can create a flyer (ie an advertisement) and have it served to any segment of the Facebook membership based on geographical location, interests, gender, age and many other segmentation attributes, as shown in the screenshot below:

With pay per click advertising getting ever more expensive on the Google AdWords network, I thought I'd give Facebook Flyers a go.

The test ads
For my test, I set up 3 flyers for 3 different affiliate products, each with different targeting selections. The images below show both the flyers and the targeting:

If you are familiar with Google Adwords, there are a number of things that Facebook Flyers do differently.

Firstly, as you can immediately see, you can add an image to make your ad more visually appealing.

Secondly, the targeting options are better - since you are targeting actual Facebook members who have given Facebook lots of personal information (age, gender, interests, home city etc etc), Facebook allows you to use these to determine whether or not your flyer will be displayed. (Dean Donaldson discusses whether or not this is a good thing in his recent post Facebook plans to sell my garbage).

Setting up a flyer is a simple job. Each of the ads went to a dedicated affiliate landing page which, according to the affiliate network Commission Junction, converted well. I started off with pretty cheap maximum cost per click ($0.05 each) and a daily budget of around $10.

So within 10 minutes my 3 flyers were up and running and the impressions started ramping up.

The results
So how did they fare? Check back soon for the follow-up post on the full results, click-through rates and conclusions. Why not make life easy for yourself and subscribe to my feed so you'll get part 2 automatically?

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Sunday, 14 October 2007 at 07:45, mcrilf wrote...

Google gets you talking

I've been a long-term fan of Jaiku, the microblogging platform which a couple of days ago announced that it has been bought by Google - a move that will certainly un-nerve Jaiku's main rival Twitter.

The terms of the deal are still under wraps, but I'm sure founders Jyri Engeström and Petteri Koponen will have done pretty well out the service that they founded back in February 2006.

Google is still keeping quite about what it's plans for Jaiku are.

We plan to use the ideas and technology behind Jaiku to make compelling and useful products. Although we don't have definite plans to announce at this time, we're excited about helping drive the next round of developments in web and mobile technology.
At the moment, new signups to Jaiku are on hold - no doubt to allow for smooth transition of the service to Googleland. Existing users are still free to use the service.

Interesting that Google has added to their acquisitions by opting to buy Jaiku and not Twitter, since the latter service, while similar, has a larger user base. For me, Jaiku's ability to integrate multiple RSS feeds into its service has always been a plus over Twitter. Together with it's superior mobile features.

The mobile space is something that Google is making significant inroads into - with rumours of the Gphone abounding plus its recent acquisition of the mobile social networking service Zingku.

Where ever there are vast numbers of people, Google wants to dominate as these recent moves show. And you can be sure monetisation of the mobile channel is at the forefront of the giant's mind.

Do you think Google's future dominance of the mobile channel is a good thing?

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Saturday, 13 October 2007 at 09:30, mcrilf wrote...

Cool, customisable busy animations

If you're ever in need of a cool I'm busy doing stuff animation, look no further than It does exactly what you need:


Here are a few that I prepared earlier ;)

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Thursday, 4 October 2007 at 19:54, mcrilf wrote...

Very cool new widget

Widgets are great and are really taking off at the moment. They're everywhere.

From Blogrush (hmmm...still reserving judgement on that one) to Widgetbucks which I'm running on my gift shopping website, to WidgetBox where you can pretty much widgetize (is that a word?!) anything as well as turn it into a Facebook application (pretty cool) in a couple of clicks.

Well, today I came across a very cool new widget - Spotback.

Essentially, it is (as you can see!) a rating widget, but there's so much more to it than that. Add a snippet of Javascript to your blog and immediately you're allowing your readers to rate each post using a very neat AJAX user interface. That's just the start. From their site...

Spotback is a personalized rating system that recommends relevant content based on personal rating history using collaborative filtering and aggregated knowledge technologies. When embedding the Spotback technology onto your website you are providing your users a unique personal online experience. When they rate your content, they will immediately be exposed to more relevant content from your website. This results in longer visit lengths, increase in page views and guaranteed user satisfaction.

The fact that it shows related content right in the widget makes it very easy for your readers to jump to other posts - which is great for you since you're engaging your readership much more.

As a user of the widget, it saves your personal ratings and learns as you go - so it is then able to recommend other content which it thinks you might like.

They have three widget types - slider (for ratings), stars (for ratings, but different style) and sidebar (for serving related content). The latter of these also automatically generates tag clouds. All widgets are very customisable so you can match them to your blog very easily. I've left mine with default settings for the moment, other than changing the colour of the link text to fit in with my design.

The last really cool thing about this widget is that all rated content then gets aggregated into a news site, kind of like digg but with the ability to completely personalise which channels you're interested in. You can build your own news page layout and even include RSS feeds from any other site.

You can see Spotback in action below - try it out. What do you think of it?

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Tuesday, 2 October 2007 at 06:44, mcrilf wrote...

How to be a social media king

Engaging with social media sites is a 'must do' if you're trying to build any kind of reputation and traffic to your blog. As I recently showed with my post on getting traffic from social media websites it can and does work if you follow a few simple guidelines.

Life has just been made a little bit easier now though thanks to the guys on the 97th Floor. They have just released a Firefox extension that will help you gain credibility on the key social media destinations.

Once installed, the extension does two things for you.

Feature one
If you run it in 'auto' mode, for any page that you visit, you'll see in the status bar the number of times that page has been submitted to digg, reddit, StumbleUpon or

Why is this a good thing?

Well, if a page is popular on one of the networks, chances are it'll be popular on another. And if you're the first to discover it on one of them, up goes your credibility. So by clicking any of the icons in the status bar, you can immediately submit that story to the social media site that hasn't got the hot story yet.

Feature two
Another great feature of the plugin is when you're actually browing the social media sites. Again in 'auto' mode, Social Media for Firefox does its magic and shows you right next to each story how many times it has appeared on the other social media sites, as you can see below.

Very cool.

You can download the Social Media for Firefox extension here.

And once you've installed it, you could always add this post to your favourite social media site!

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Wednesday, 26 September 2007 at 19:40, mcrilf wrote...

Is this some kinda joke?

I was studying my analytics today and saw a new referrer to one of my posts. Naturally I visited it to see who it was who was kind enough to send me the traffic.

But then I realised that the site is some kind of (automated? must be?!) content scraping site. All the posts follow an identical format: a brief (but normally ridiculous) introduction; a scrape of someone elses content (mine in this case); and a source with a link back to the original post (no rel="nofollow", interestingly).

Here's the introduction to their post that they scraped from my blog:

"I’ve a passion for Telephones and keep looking for good articles. Today, I checked if I could find more info by entering ‘adsense blogging’ in Google and found this:"

What? Telephones? Adsense blogging? Give me a break. What kind of garbage is this?!

Of course, the site as Google Adsense all over it and is designed to pull visitors in (thanks to other hard-working bloggers' content) and earn from Adsense clicks.

Surely this type of site can't earn the guys running it anything? If it shouldn't! What value is it adding to the world? Despite them sending me traffic and inbound links, I can't help feeling like they're stealing other peoples' content for their own benefit.

What do you think?

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Sunday, 23 September 2007 at 16:57, mcrilf wrote...

Find out who makes $40k per month blogging

So you're trying to earn a crust with your blog, right?'s some inspiration for you!

I just stumbled across Paula Mooney's list of blogger (and webmasters and affiliates) earnings. The figures reported for annual earnings range from the multi-millions at the top to a few tens of dollars at the bottom.

Notable entries are:

  • Kevin Ham. $300,000,000 empire with multiple sites including Interesting this one in that it ( is a keyword-rich site around a niche with pretty much all links being AdSense links. The content draws people in...and the AdSense sends them elsewhere with Mr Ham making a few cents (or more!) in the middle. Also interesting from an SEO perspective is that the title tag of the home page is just 'Homepage'. And there are no META keywords! So he builds sites like that and still makes $300,000,000!?!?! Sheesh.

  • Steve Pavlina who says he makes about $40k per month from his blogging activities

  • The inspirational Darren Rowse of clocking in at around $360,000 per year.

  • Grant from Million Dollar Project who is on his way to reaching the goal implied by his blog's title...reporting annualised income of $981. Go Grant!! Actually, he reports that part of his income has been generated by commenting on Paula's list. (So, yes, I commented too!)

So...even the small guys can get on her list! Of course, the key to earnings is content and targeted traffic through lots of exposure. And as Paula quotes Yaro Starak..."All I can say about this is that it pays to talk about how much money you make online if you want exposure."

In which case, you'll be wondering what I earn from this blog. That's not something that I've calculated yet. No, honestly. But when I have, you'll be the first to know!

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Monday, 17 September 2007 at 20:50, mcrilf wrote...

Using social bookmarks to drive traffic

I'm spending lots of time at the moment reading about driving traffic to your blog. You will of course heard about BlogRush - the traffic driving system that is taking the blogging world by storm (unless you've been asleep over the weekend when it was which case get on to it now!!!).

One of the methods I am testing is using social bookmarking sites and I thought you might like to see the results from a recent test...

I blogged recently about ShrinkMyTunes - a new software product that re-compresses mp3s allowing you to stuff more of them on your iPod. Although SarahG recently commented that you can achieve something similar with iTunes itself, it originally struck me as a piece of software that could fly. After all, how many iPods are out there? And how many people wish they could get more on them?!

Anyway, I wrote the post and submitted it to The results were amazing...and pretty instant. Here's my statcounter graph...

That recent peak is the traffic. A pleasant surprise as you can imagine. Now comes the it quality traffic? I'll have to wait and see on that one. Hopefully, you might have been one of those visitors and will be reading this which case, I guess the answer is "yes"!

Have you had any successes using social bookmarking in this way? Let me know.

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Sunday, 16 September 2007 at 19:28, mcrilf wrote...

New widget drives targeted traffic to your blog

BlogRush Widget - click to get one for your site and increase your own traffic

Without targeted traffic, your blog is nothing. After all, you're writing for a readership - and without the readership, why write at all?

But delivering traffic to your blog can be time consuming. There are a variety of techniques that you can use (I'll cover these in a later post), but a new one that has just been released makes life easy.

It's called BlogRush and it works like this:

  • you sign up for free
  • you put a widget on your blog
  • every time a page on your blog is displayed, you earn a credit
  • for each credit you earn, your blog's content is syndicated across other blogs using BlogRush

The content delivered in the widget is targeted to your blog - so your readership benefits. And by categorising your own blog within BlogRush, your posts appear on similarly targeted blogs, thereby gaining click-thrus from readers of those blogs.

And there's a bonus: for every person who you refer to BlogRush, you earn credits on their credits...and when they refer people you earn credits on those credits too, 10 levels deep.

It sounds like a great way to generate targeted traffic. Try it out here.

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Saturday, 15 September 2007 at 06:51, mcrilf wrote...

Free keyword research guide : WordTracker

When you create content for your website or blog it is vital to include keywords within your content that your readers will use when searching for your content. In other words, you need to optimise your content using the most popular keywords that are appropriate to your product or service.

But how do you know what those magic keywords are? Which ones will make the difference between you appearing at number 1 in Google and number 10. (Research shows that the drop-off in clicks from the number 1 to results further down the page is exponential).

The key to success in building the best, most optimised content is to carry out keyword research before you start writing. There are a number of tools out there that can help, but one of the best is WordTracker. They have a database of over 330 million keywords with statistics on each.

Wordtracker helps website owners and search engine marketers identify keywords and phrases that are relevant to their or their client's business and most likely to be used as queries by search engine visitors.

As well as telling you how many searches are carried out for a bunch of keywords, it will also tell you how competitive a keyword is - allowing you to go after high volume, low competition niche keyword phrases, thereby increasing your chances of appearing higher up the search results pages.

They have a free keyword research tool which you can use to test their service and a free downloadable keyword research guide (PDF).

I've found it a great service. And with more and more competition out there grabbing visitors away from your site, optimising your content for search is vital if you're going to get your product or service in front of the right people.

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Wednesday, 12 September 2007 at 07:39, mcrilf wrote...

Supersize your iPod - get 4 times the tunes on it!

I just heard about this cool new software download called ShrinkMyTunes. It re-compresses any mp3 files so they end up even smaller, allowing you to get more of them on your iPod or other mp3 player...and in tests 88% of people couldn't tell the difference between the original and the shrunk mp3.

They've got some sample mp3s on their site so you can hear the difference.


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Tuesday, 11 September 2007 at 20:09, mcrilf wrote...

Top 10 tips for SEO

Well...11 tips get one extra for free...ok, so they're all free...anyway...

I recently joined Smorty, a blog advertising brokerage, and found this easy guide to SEO on their site which has 11 great tips for search engine optimising your site.

It's nicely written (especially for beginners) and has lots of links to great, practical tools to help you optimise your site such as a keyword density checker (has a nice keyword cloud view), duplicate content checker.

I particularly like their keyword suggestion tool which, given a URL, identifies the theme of the page and then suggests keywords on the same theme, ordered by the volume of searches per month for that keyword. Very nice.

The article is well worth a read. In fact, I wish I'd written it myself!

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Sunday, 9 September 2007 at 20:57, mcrilf wrote...

Got a design...need XHTML template?

At my day job we're always in need of someone to turn our web designs into decent, cross-browser compliant (X)HTML. So I was really interested to stumble across Their claim really caught my eye:

PSD2HTML delivers hand-coded markup to any specification in under 8 hours

Now that's a great promise. And with the prices they quote (around $200 per template) it's gotta be worth a try.

I'll let you know how we get on with them.

Update: We're just about to test these guys out, plus one of their competitors HTMLBlender. I'll post an update when we get some results back.

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Saturday, 8 September 2007 at 09:11, mcrilf wrote...

Shopping cart software

Some time ago I was looking for a shopping cart package to use for a friend's online store I was building (Coochi - they sell baby bathing aprons). I looked at a whole load of packages but none of them really ticked the box as to what I needed, so I ended up building my own.

I'm sure I included Ashop commerce at the time of my review but I recently re-visited them as once again, I was looking at alternative shopping cart software. Back then it didn't grab me, but they must have upgraded since then and I have to say that what they are offering now is impressive.

As well as a shopping cart which is easy to use for the consumer, the admin system is great. It offers everything you'd expect:

  • category management
  • order processing
  • customer management
  • gift certificates
  • custom templates

but also has some great advanced features like:
  • product feeds for submitting your product catalogue to, Google base and others
  • accounting package integration to QuickBooks and MYOB
It's also nice to see that they pay attention to producing a shopping cart that is search engine friendly.

You can see the admin system and a demo store on their website and they also offer a free 10 day trial, so if you're currently on the lookout for a shopping cart, it's well worth a look.

This has been a paid review - and I’ve given my honest opinion about the Ashop commerce service

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Friday, 7 September 2007 at 15:20, mcrilf wrote...

Facebook opens up to Google search

If you’re a Facebook user, you’ll want to be aware that soon they will be opening up your profile to Google search. The BBC reports

The function will initially allow anyone who is not registered with the site to search for a specific person.

More controversially, in a month’s time, the feature will also allow people to track down Facebook members via search engines such as Google.

The public search listing will show the thumbnail picture of a Facebook member from their profile page as well as links allowing people to interact with them.

The default setting is that you will be made available to Google and the like, unless you opt out. Of course, this raises privacy concerns…and I’m sure will cause a number of Facebook users to question how much of their information is freely available.

If you want to opt-out of being publicly searchable, you’ll find a tick-box in the Search Privacy settings of your Facebook account - as shown below.

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Monday, 3 September 2007 at 20:24, mcrilf wrote...

Coffee like you've never seen it!!

Although it's off my normal topics, I just had to share this awesome Coffee art video...

Coffee Art - video powered by Metacafe

Amazing...I'm going to have to practise that!

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Wednesday, 29 August 2007 at 18:27, mcrilf wrote...

Google "launches" (shhh) behavioral targeting...or not, as the case may be

Not if you ask Google, that is, since it is trying to distance itself from the term behavioral targeting. But what they are doing amounts to something not a million miles from it though...stitching together different search queries to produce search results that become increasingly focussed, based on the combined terms used in the different queries.

Try searching for Paris and then hotel. You'll notice that on the second search, the ads are for hotels in Paris.

As Enquiro reports, the launch of this new functionality was kept low key. There were a couple of articles written about it on ClickZ and SearchEngineLand.

Is this behavioral targeting? Sounds to me like it is. But as Reuters reported, Susan Wojcicki, Google vice president of product management for advertising is distancing Google from this term. Reuters quote her saying:

"That is not something that we have participated in, for a variety of reasons," Wojcicki told reporters at a briefing at the company's headquarters in Mountain View, California.

"We believe that task-based information at the time (of a user's search) is the most relevant information to what they are looking at," she said. "We always want to be very careful about what information would or would not be used."

Although on the face of it, this is a useful technology, I'm sure there are many people out there who will become even more uneasy about their privacy and just how much the mighty Google knows about them.

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Monday, 27 August 2007 at 09:09, mcrilf wrote...

Stories behind the startups

David Askaripour, founder of the Mind Petals Entrepreneur Network has just released his Entrepreneurship Guide which reveals the real stories behind a range of entrepreneur start-ups. From online wine store which gives you hints and tips on wine to suit your personal taste, to which gives women home-improvement know-how in a friendly way.

Have a read of the entrepreneur profiles - there's something to learn for all of us. Thanks to all of them for sharing their experiences.

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Saturday, 25 August 2007 at 17:04, mcrilf wrote...

The biggest opportunity on the web?

I was interested to read about (as in 'you versus me') which, some say, is one of the biggest opportunitues on the web at the moment. uvme is a new business which pre-launched last month and has since attracted nearly half a million associates (they can't all be wrong!). Its founders, Tom Brodie and Len Fitzgerald, launched the very successful Virtual World Direct Ltd back in 2002 and are set to create an even bigger success with their latest venture,

From their website:

uVme is a fast-moving and unique business that combines three of the most exciting phenomena on the internet: ONLINE GAMES, SOCIAL NETWORKING WITH INSTANT LIVE COMMUNICATION, and Social Marketing. is (will be when it comes out of pre-launch) a skills-based gaming portal. The skills bit is important and differentiates the business from online gambling. The online gaming industry is currently worth around $5.2 billion - and uvme is providing all the tools to enable anyone to share in part of this.

The concept is simple: you join and they give you a website with stacks of skills-based online games. As people play these games, you get paid. As well as the website, they provide marketing support, customer service and more.

Effectively, they're providing you with all the tools to build an online gaming business - all you need is a little time to bring players to your website. And when they have fun, you earn money.

During the pre-launch phase, is free. The website you get enables you to start building a network of players and associates, in preparation for the full launch around the end of September.

Although I've always been sceptical of 'sounds too good to be true' schemes, this one has caught my eye and I've signed up. With the online gaming industry growing 4 times as fast as the growth in the internet, the potential opportunity is too good to pass up. As the internet is growing up, more and more people of all ages are turning to it for entertainment. And with in-game advertising predicted to grow 70% year-on-year, the big advertisers are banking their money on it too. This industry is set to explode.

If you want to find out more, visit my uvme site here and let's share in some fun...and money.

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Friday, 17 August 2007 at 19:25, mcrilf wrote...

Google drops supplemental results label

Firstly, I've not been asleep...just on vacation with no web access (a temporary escape from this online world!) and am now back.

When I set up my online gift store it was partly an exercise in on-page optimsation. The site runs on Cafepress' API and therefore (since Cafepress sells millions of products) has the potential for having thousands upon thousands of pages. The site's navigation (not the primary nav!) changes with every search (since it shows latest searches) and so every page is very dynamic. It gets crawled by Google pretty frequently (I'll dig out the logs and post about it sometime).

But...I think I over-did the on-page optimisation and although I got indexed pretty quickly, I ended up in the supplemental results index, which of course wasn't great since these generally show up only if there aren't many relevant results in the main index. I made some changes to the page titles, H1s etc (generally removing over-use of keywords) and watched over some time. Gradually, more and more pages came out of the supplemental results...but this was over a few months.

I recently checked and found that none of the results were in the supplemental index...or so I thought... After a little digging, I found (as reported by Google has now dumped the supplemental results label as explained in this excerpt from their blog:

"Since 2006, we've completely overhauled the system that crawls and indexes supplemental results. The current system provides deeper and more continuous indexing. Additionally, we are indexing URLs with more parameters and are continuing to place fewer restrictions on the sites we crawl. As a result, Supplemental Results are fresher and more comprehensive than ever. We're also working towards showing more Supplemental Results by ensuring that every query is able to search the supplemental index, and expect to roll this out over the course of the summer.

The distinction between the main and the supplemental index is therefore continuing to narrow. Given all the progress that we've been able to make so far, and thinking ahead to future improvements, we've decided to stop labeling these URLs as "Supplemental Results." Of course, you will continue to benefit from Google's supplemental index being deeper and fresher."

I guess this is good news in general since it sounds like even though the supplemental index still exists, Google are moving more towards getting rid of it altogether.

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Tuesday, 31 July 2007 at 19:40, mcrilf wrote...

Problogger confidential

I just got word of the latest Problogger Confidential series - a call with blogging mastermind Yaro Starak. The call will cover how to make a solid income through part-time blogging.

Register here for the call at 9pm Eastern time on Wednesday

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Tuesday, 24 July 2007 at 07:41, mcrilf wrote...

Paid submission...a rip off?

I receive a whole host of search engine related emails and feeds and a common recurring theme from one of them is the old 'Get listed in 48 hours, GUARANTEED'. I've never believed in paid submission to search engines - if you optimise your site properly, you don't need to.

There are some tips & techniques that you can use to get your site into search engines quickly which I'll post on soon. One of them that I've used is to add your site's feed to your personal MSN or Yahoo! page. Effectively, you're telling these search engines about your site...and a short while after adding your feed, you'll start to show up in their results pages. That, coupled with adding a Google sitemap should have you well on the way to being indexed.

What techniques do you use to get listed quickly? Have you ever used a paid submission service? And has it been worth the cash? Leave a comment and let me know.

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Saturday, 14 July 2007 at 08:54, mcrilf wrote...

Choosing the right domain name

Selecting the right domain name for your latest online venture is a major choice you'll need to make...and one which you should spend some time mulling over.

There are a couple of schools of thought worth noting here:

Keyword-rich domains
On the one hand, your domain name could contain search keywords that you are targetting in your niche - for example, which gifts. There is some debate over how much having search keywords in your domain helps. From my perspective it isn't the best choice if you're trying to build a brand. After all, flickr isn't called is it?!

Brand / uniqueness
Another approach is to go down the brand route - build your brand around a unique name (for which, of course, the domain name is available). The down side of this is naturally that when you start out, no one will be searching for your name. But if you structure your site properly from a content hierarchy / SEO perspective and ensure your pages are appropriately optimised (good title tags, keywords in h1 tags etc) people should start to find you. Of course, you'll probably need to work a bit harder to get your brand out there, but once word of mouth starts, you'll begin to pick up inbound links and your rankings in the search results will start to gain ground.

If you plump for the brand route, the next decision has to be a name itself. Businesses can spend (literally) millions on this but it's not necessary to do so. I found a nifty set of domain tools that might at least give you some inspiration - I like the six letter random domain names which have inspired me. The page shows different domains every time you refresh it. Many of them are unpronounceable, but if you persevere you'll find gem or two!

Remember...choosing a domain name is one of the most important things you'll do for your venture. With all that effort you'll put in to building links to it, you'd better make your choice wisely. So take some time.

Let me know how you went about your own domain name choices.

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Thursday, 12 July 2007 at 20:08, mcrilf wrote...

Creating Killer Flagship Content

All bloggers want to be noticed and admired by an active readership...why else spend countless hours writing (ok, well, there is the pleasure of purely recording something, but ultimately without a readership it's a bit fruitless).

So it was with interest that I read Chris Garret's free e-book on Killer Flagship Content. He likens flagship content to the "go-to" stores within a shopping mall...they're the things that attract the mall's footfall...and the smaller stores benefit too with passing trade. In the same way, flagship content on your blog attracts readership, and that readership will generally stick around to see what else you're writing about. It's a nice metaphor - and like most great ideas, it's very simple.

Chris' e-book goes on to suggest 10 ideas for creating flagship content - from tips, to FAQs and more. And then suggestions on how to promote your content. His writing style makes the info-packed 14 pages easy to read so you can devour it in 30 minutes. But go back and read it again to pull out the practical tips that apply to you as a blogger. There are plenty there.

Whether you're just starting out in life as a blogger...dipping your toe in the water...or even if you're an old hack that just needs a few ideas, Chris' book is well worth a read. Grab your copy here.

Right...I'm off to brainstorm some of my own killer flagship content ideas...

E-book image copyright Chris Garrett

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Twitter and Jaiku on iPhone

Although I'm a Jaiku fan more than a Twitter fan, you might want to know that you can now Tweet on your iPhone thanks to PocketTweets. Nothing to download, just point your iPhone at and get tweeting where ever you are.

Get updates to the PocketTweets service from their own Twitter stream.

Of course, Jaiku has an iPhone interface too so you can use their superior service as well (and no, I don't work for Jaiku!)

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Tuesday, 10 July 2007 at 21:01, mcrilf wrote...

Build links with Jaiku

I just joined Jaiku which, I have to say, beats Twitter with its eyes closed.

Apart from it having a very sweet AJAX interface, it has some nice features which help us SEO-ers. The principle one of which is the ability to add multiple feeds to your Jaiku presence.

Any feeds that you add (which could be feeds from your blog, a Google blogsearch or whatever) show up as entries in your presence with links to the original page...with the title as the link text...all without 'rel=nofollow'. Thanks Jaiku guys, you rock!

So you can build posts with keyword rich titles, pull them into a Jaiku feed and you've got automatic inbound links to your site. Then all you need to do is put your Jaiku presence on your site and once again you've got a nice 3-way link relationship.

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Monday, 9 July 2007 at 08:45, mcrilf wrote...

It's good to link to

I've just been reading the seo blog with interest. His thoughts on backlinking are worth a read and turn classic site-promotion thinking on its head a bit. Rather than (hmmm...perhaps as well as it better) promoting your own site to gain search equity, promote sites that already link to you. Build their importance and thereby your own by the fact that (more important) sites are already linking to you. Give them some link love and the love will be rewarded.

Of course, you can see both your own visibility in search using the site: operator (like this) and how many sites link to you using the link: operator (like this). By using the latter, you're effectively creating the perfect 3-way link structure which is known to be better than utilising link farms (which of course suck).

But search engines don't generally index their own SERPs (although Netscape results do get into Google SERPs), so LZZR suggests building an intermediate feed of results pages (such as that from Google Blogsearch) that will then itself get included in results.

So in short: add links to feeds of searches that return sites that link to you where ever you can...and watch the love flow in. LZZR suggests places like Squidoo which allows you to publish feeds directly on your lens.

I'll be watching the love with interest and will report back here on this blog.

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Saturday, 7 July 2007 at 00:51, mcrilf wrote...

Cool wormhole camera trick

Wormhole Camera Trick! - For more of the funniest videos, click here

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Friday, 6 July 2007 at 20:12, mcrilf wrote...

Website grader - how 'good' is your site?

There seem to be website 'graders' popping up all over the place at the moment. I blogged about BlogJuice the other day and have come across another tool that analyses any site you point it at and gives SEO tips about how to improve it.

It's called and apart from having a nice AJAX interface and a very wacky 'I'm busy doing stuff' animated icon its results are well laid out. You give it your URL, keywords and competitor sites and it'll give you a score out of 100.

For this site, they gave me 49. Plus some useful pointers that I hadn't noticed already (a couple'a META keyword issues). Interestingly, they also flagged up in a big red box "Website running on" and pointed me to this article about why that's a Bad Thing. Some of the points they make there (like the 301 redirect thing) are valid. But the blogger platform is fine with me right now.

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Thursday, 5 July 2007 at 16:54, mcrilf wrote...

More tags means more pages

I discovered something interesting today. I wanted to see how much visility this blog has in Google so I did a quick search. The results showed something which I hadn't really ever considered...but when you think about it becomes obvious.

There were results in the Google SERPS for pages with titles that I didn't remember writing posts for. Such as 'bloglines' in the snapshot below...

Of course, these pages originate from the tags that I've added to each post. Which (of course) got me thinking...each tag represents an optimisation opportunity since it gives my one post numerous different URLs and titles with appropriately rich keywords. Nice.

Is this something you're using on your own blogs from an SEO perspective?

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Wednesday, 4 July 2007 at 20:41, mcrilf wrote...

No more landing pages

I came across an interesting blog the other day extolling the virtues of no more landing pages and it got me thinking. The argument goes (from their blog):

"No more landing pages does not mean no more landing experiences. To the contrary, our point is that the landing page has itself become indiscriminate, boiled down to a one-size-fits-all, single page format. It may be better than nothing — although with many crappy landing pages out there that’s questionable — but we can do much better as marketers."

I guess there is some truth to this. But let's extend this thought a bit further by asking why we online marketers build landing pages in the first place? Of course to increase conversion. But increase it over what? The page that a visitor would find themselves on if the landing page didn't exist of course.

Landing page conversion optimisation is about matching user experience to user expectation. If someone is coming from a search result, make sure the page gives them what they're after. But if the content and (critically) usability design of our main content is good enough then there should be no need for specific landing pages. (Of course SEO is key ensure visitors find the content that is appropriate to their search.) We should look at each page on our sites and ask "what would I do if this was the first page I see?" Does the page lead me down a path (to 'conversion' in whatever sense that may mean for the site).

So I agree with the principles behind the no more landing pages thought. By building great content and focusing on usability and user goals, every page on a site should create a great 'landing experience'.

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Blogging success

I've been watching the rise and rise of the blogosphere since it first started and have always wanted to be a successful blogger.

But how do you define success?

  • I guess readership numbers is a great indicator (I'm watching the rise on this one)
  • Number of feed subscribers
  • Influence has got to be another (are you the first to break a story which spreads through word of mouth)
  • Plus revenue generated by your blog
For me, the first 2 are about having great content that people want to read. Like that great movie Field of Dreams there's somewhat of a 'build (write) it and they will come' philosophy here. Of course, an element of sowing the seed to get a critical mass of readership helps and I'm starting to do that now.

The 3rd is about having a great story once you have critical mass.

Monetizing your blog has to come last in that list. I'm testing a number of ways as I said in my first post. Some of the links on my blog (not all!) are affiliate links. I've also signed up to to see if I can generate revenue by writing about stuff on my blo for various organisations. Effectively, we're talking ads on blogs but for me the content I write (the ads) will have to be relevant for this blog and interesting for people to read otherwise I'll never fulfill the first 3 of my 'success' goals.

It'll be an interesting exeriment anyhow and I'll keep you posted on how it goes. Once I have a level of critical mass, I'll release some readership numbers. And I'll let you know how much revenue has been generated too. So keep reading!

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Monday, 2 July 2007 at 20:07, mcrilf wrote...

Apple's iPhone, first-hand

Personally, I'm looking forward to getting my hands on a iPhone despite demand here in the UK being soft. Jim Dalrymple has had one for the weekend and reports on its shiny gorgeousness over at MacWorld. Despite a few tiny niggles, it comes out with a big thumbs up.

Thumbs being the operative word according to Apple when it comes to using the iPhone!

For those of you stateside who have managed to get hold of one, let me know just how wonderful it is.

For those of us in the UK, we'll just have to wait until the end of the year when it's available over here.

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Sunday, 1 July 2007 at 20:57, mcrilf wrote...

10 Blog Traffic Tips

In every bloggers life comes a special day - the day they first launch a new blog. Now unless you went out and purchased someone else's blog chances are your blog launched with only one very loyal reader - you. Maybe a few days later you received a few hits when you told your sister, father, girlfriend and best friend about your new blog but that's about as far you went when it comes to finding readers.

Here are the top 10 techniques new bloggers can use to find readers. These are tips specifically for new bloggers, those people who have next-to-no audience at the moment and want to get the ball rolling.

It helps if you work on this list from top to bottom as each technique builds on the previous step to help you create momentum. Eventually once you establish enough momentum you gain what is called "traction", which is a large enough audience base (about 500 readers a day is good) that you no longer have to work too hard on finding new readers. Instead your current loyal readers do the work for you through word of mouth.

Top 10 Tips

10. Write at least five major "pillar" articles. A pillar article is a tutorial style article aimed to teach your audience something. Generally they are longer than 500 words and have lots of very practical tips or advice. This article you are currently reading could be considered a pillar article since it is very practical and a good "how-to" lesson. This style of article has long term appeal, stays current (it isn’t news or time dependent) and offers real value and insight. The more pillars you have on your blog the better.

9. Write one new blog post per day minimum. Not every post has to be a pillar, but you should work on getting those five pillars done at the same time as you keep your blog fresh with a daily news or short article style post. The important thing here is to demonstrate to first time visitors that your blog is updated all the time so they feel that if they come back tomorrow they will likely find something new. This causes them to bookmark your site or subscribe to your blog feed.

You don't have to produce one post per day all the time but it is important you do when your blog is brand new. Once you get traction you still need to keep the fresh content coming but your loyal audience will be more forgiving if you slow down to a few per week instead. The first few months are critical so the more content you can produce at this time the better.

8. Use a proper domain name. If you are serious about blogging be serious about what you call your blog. In order for people to easily spread the word about your blog you need a easily rememberable domain name. People often talk about blogs they like when they are speaking to friends in the real world (that's the offline world, you remember that place right?) so you need to make it easy for them to spread the word and pass on your URL. Try and get a .com if you can and focus on small easy to remember domains rather than worry about having the correct keywords (of course if you can get great keywords and easy to remember then you’ve done a good job!).

7. Start commenting on other blogs. Once you have your pillar articles and your daily fresh smaller articles your blog is ready to be exposed to the world. One of the best ways to find the right type of reader for your blog is to comment on other people’s blogs. You should aim to comment on blogs focused on a similar niche topic to yours since the readers there will be more likely to be interested in your blog.

Most blog commenting systems allow you to have your name/title linked to your blog when you leave a comment. This is how people find your blog. If you are a prolific commentor and always have something valuable to say then people will be interested to read more of your work and hence click through to visit your blog.

6. Trackback and link to other blogs in your blog posts. A trackback is sort of like a blog conversation. When you write a new article to your blog and it links or references another blogger's article you can do a trackback to their entry. What this does is leave a truncated summary of your blog post on their blog entry - it's sort of like your blog telling someone else’s blog that you wrote an article mentioning them. Trackbacks often appear like comments.

This is a good technique because like leaving comments a trackback leaves a link from another blog back to yours for readers to follow, but it also does something very important - it gets the attention of another blogger. The other blogger will likely come and read your post eager to see what you wrote about them. They may then become a loyal reader of yours or at least monitor you and if you are lucky some time down the road they may do a post linking to your blog bringing in more new readers.

5. Encourage comments on your own blog. One of the most powerful ways to convince someone to become a loyal reader is to show there are other loyal readers already following your work. If they see people commenting on your blog then they infer that your content must be good since you have readers so they should stick around and see what all the fuss is about. To encourage comments you can simply pose a question in a blog post. Be sure to always respond to comments as well so you can keep the conversation going.

4. Submit your latest pillar article to a blog carnival. A blog carnival is a post in a blog that summarizes a collection of articles from many different blogs on a specific topic. The idea is to collect some of the best content on a topic in a given week. Often many other blogs link back to a carnival host and as such the people that have articles featured in the carnival often enjoy a spike in new readers.

To find the right blog carnival for your blog, do a search at

3. Submit your blog to To be honest this tip is not going to bring in a flood of new readers but it's so easy to do and only takes five minutes so it's worth the effort. Go to Blog Top Sites, find the appropriate category for your blog and submit it. You have to copy and paste a couple of lines of code on to your blog so you can rank and then sit back and watch the traffic come in. You will probably only get 1-10 incoming readers per day with this technique but over time it can build up as you climb the rankings. It all helps!

2. Submit your articles to This is another tip that doesn’t bring in hundreds of new visitors immediately (although it can if you keep doing it) but it's worthwhile because you simply leverage what you already have - your pillar articles. Once a week or so take one of your pillar articles and submit it to Ezine Articles. Your article then becomes available to other people who can republish your article on their website or in their newsletter.

How you benefit is through what is called your "Resource Box". You create your own resource box which is like a signature file where you include one to two sentences and link back to your website (or blog in this case). Anyone who publishes your article has to include your resource box so you get incoming links. If someone with a large newsletter publishes your article you can get a lot of new readers at once.

1. Write more pillar articles. Everything you do above will help you to find blog readers however all of the techniques I’ve listed only work when you have strong pillars in place. Without them if you do everything above you may bring in readers but they won’t stay or bother to come back. Aim for one solid pillar article per week and by the end of the year you will have a database of over 50 fantastic feature articles that will work hard for you to bring in more and more readers.

I hope you enjoyed my list of traffic tips. Everything listed above are techniques I’ve put into place myself for my blogs and have worked for me, however it's certainly not a comprehensive list. There are many more things you can do. Finding readers is all about testing to see what works best for you and your audience and I have no doubt if you put your mind to it you will find a balance that works for you.

This article was by Yaro Starak, a professional blogger and my blog mentor. He is the leader of the Blog Mastermind mentoring program designed to teach bloggers how to earn a full time income blogging part time.

To get more information about Blog Mastermind click this link:

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How juicy is your blog?

Just came across the interesting Blog Juice Calculator. It's a free tool from Text-Link-Ads which gives your blog the once-over and indicates how popular it is. It uses a combination of rankings, inbound links and subscriber numbers from bloglines, technorati, alexa and others.

I'll be monitoring the juiciness of my blog with interest ;o)

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Thursday, 14 June 2007 at 17:03, mcrilf wrote...

Usability & holistic SEO

SEO should never be seen as an activity separable from the build of a website. It should be totally integral to that build - taken into account when defining

- the site architecture (how do I structure the site in a way that search engines will like?)

- the design (should I use graphical headers and if so, how can I make these search-engine friendly?)

- and the copywriting (what keywords should I be including in my copy?).

The guys over at have some interesting view on web usability and SEO. Including “No matter how hard you try, there is always something wrong with your website“…there are always improvements that can be made to usability that affect conversion, referral and traffic.

Here’ their list of top 10 things that drive visitors crazy - that we should all take note of when designing our sites.

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Monday, 4 June 2007 at 06:42, mcrilf wrote...

Like, do I need another one?

How many social networking sites does the world need. I just stumbledupon which, I'm sad so say, I wasn't aware of until now. But now what? Do I join?

Do I heck.

I can't even find the time to keep up with my buddies on linkedin, myspace, facebook, minti, twitter and cafepress...and balance it with a real life outside the internet.

Sorry, I'm outta there.

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Tuesday, 29 May 2007 at 19:41, mcrilf wrote...

Nice way of looking at keyword research

Rob Taylor runs an internet marketing video blog and has recently posted an interesting alternative to traditional keyword research tools.

He suggests using (not and their ’search inside’ feature. This, for any given book, provides you with a list of ‘Statistically Improbably Phrases‘ (SIP) - these are phrases which Amazon considers significant. It works by looking for phrase matches across all books (that have the ‘Search Inside’ feature) - and where a phrase appears in a large number of books, it is marked as a SIP.

Gathering keyword phrases like this and using them in optimised content could really pick up long-tail searches around particular topics.

View the whole video where he talks about it here.

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Sunday, 20 May 2007 at 07:11, mcrilf wrote...


Do you tweet? I'm not sure I'm into Twitter yet, but I think it might grab me soon. Like I've got time to keep that up too? As well as the four kids, the day job, this blog and the other side-lines...oh yeah, and have a life too? Hmmm...

But I love - nice mashup of Google maps and Twitter

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Monday, 14 May 2007 at 22:38, mcrilf wrote...

Wow. Just came across this great photo library resource with some fantastic images on it. Most of them (like the one above) are available for reproduction and sharing under the creative commons licence.

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Thursday, 12 April 2007 at 22:13, mcrilf wrote...


We have a new baby in our house. Well, she's nearly one now...but it seems just five minutes ago that the tears were welling up in my eyes as I saw her for the first time as she was delivered screaming into this world.

She's our 4th daughter (and, yes, our last!) so we're pretty au-fait with babies. We thought we had all the baby gumph that we'd ever need, but recently came across this really cool baby bathing apron from Coochi. It's a wearable towelling apron that you put on before you bath the baby, and when you get them out of the bath, it un-poppers so you can immediately wrap it around them in one smooth move without fear of them slipping through your fingers. If only we'd had one for our other 3 girls!

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Thursday, 8 March 2007 at 03:27, mcrilf wrote...

OK, so I'm a tech-geek

My online addiction might, I suppose, have something to do with my career. I spend my life online, thanks in the main, to my 'real' job as technology geek for a marketing agency. So once in a while this blog will contain tech stuff. Like now.

I found this awesome site the other day - has some brilliant examples of how the web can be - giving users an interactive experience that's as good as using a client, non-web, application.

My personal favourites have to be:

Some fantastic stuff there for all you AJAX lovers.

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Thursday, 1 March 2007 at 19:23, mcrilf wrote...

Earning a crust

Some time ago I stumbled across CafePress and loved what they do. It’s a great business. They print stuff on all sorts of products from T-shirts to mugs, mousepads to CDs. They sign up shopkeepers who earn money by selling their own designs on CafePress’s products using an e-commerce system provided by CafePress. You can get started for free with a basic store or pay $6.95 per month for a fully customizable store. CafePress handle everything from ordering, printing, stock control, customer service, returns - the lot! So all you have to worry about is the creativity of your designs…and the marketing of your store.

So I signed up, uploaded a few designs and now I get a regular (3 figure) income every month. It’s not going to pay the mortgage, but it’s something. It’s a start. They also have an affiliate programme that is managed by Commission Junction, so you can earn 15% on sales that you refer - this also brings in a small amount every month for me.

If you’re a budding artist…or even if you can string something funny together to go on a T-shirt or two, I’d urge you to sign up. And it’s fun to know people out there are wearing your designs!

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Friday, 16 February 2007 at 07:59, mcrilf wrote...

Nice API - Yahoo! term extraction

Tag clouds abound these days - and are, I think, a nice way for users to discover deeply embedded content within a site. Useful tag clouds are built on the idea of extracting useful keywords from content. So how do you go about doing that without extracting all the noise - after all, the word ‘the’ probably appears frequently in your content, but you sure don’t want to display that in your tag cloud.

One nice way might be to use the Yahoo! term extraction API. In short, bung it some content and it’ll return you a list of relevant / related tags. It uses the Yahoo! search technology and will filter out all the chaff for you. So you could, for example, display a post on a forum and use this API to provide the user with a list of significant and related keywords to search (eg) blogs, technorati or wherever.

Further reading can be found here and here with the official documentation in the Yahoo! developer network.

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Sunday, 28 January 2007 at 21:44, mcrilf wrote...

It is just me?

Its around this time of year that my blood pressure rises above its normal stressed level. But the release is fact, in just over 3 weeks the kids will have broken up from school and there'll be the relief of summer holidays at last. No more worrying about the school run, getting them to ballet lessons on time (twice a week), music practice, school play rehearsals (seemingly endless at the moment), parents evenings and more.

And to increase the pressure that little bit more, work is manic too.

It can't just be me feeling this...but is this how life is supposed to be? When do we (my beautiful wife ane I) get time for us. How is it that we're both so shattered in the evenings when we finally stop organising the house, getting the kids to bed, finishing that last document for work...

So I've taken to blogging as an outlet. A way of just offloading. Of recording mood and feelings. And somewhere to record loads of (possibly fairly random) stuff that I find online on my daily journey along the hyper-inter-web-thingy...because I'm a web addict too. What did I ever do without it? But will it solve my stress problems? Hmmm...

Of course, this blog is part of an experiment too - so I might try to make a few dollars here. And therefore please be aware that links you see on this blog may have affiliate referral codes within them.

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Monday, 15 January 2007 at 17:39, mcrilf wrote...

About me

Hi, my name is Matt Hardy (aka mcrilf) and I'm the guy behind this Its an Online World blog.

I'm 39, married with 4 daughters (yep, you read that right!), I live in the UK and work full time as technology director for a successful marketing agency. I've been involved in the internet marketing business for over 10 years now, so this blog is a culmination of years of experience - learning from successes as well as mistakes.

I have a special interest in SEO and blogging so this blog is aimed at those topics. I will, however, post on general industry news from time to all helps to keep me (and hopefully you readers) up to date on what's happening in this online world of ours.

When I'm not entertaining the kids, working or blogging, I run a couple of other sites: one selling cool baby t-shirts, one selling adult t-shirts and a search engine enabling people to find unique gifts designed by thousands of independent designers. It is the learnings I've picked up from optimising these sites that has fuelled my interest in SEO and added to the experiences recorded on this blog.

I hope you'll get involved in the discussions raised here - subscribe to my feed and please let me know your thoughts by leaving comments where appropriate.

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Monday, 1 January 2007 at 21:15, mcrilf wrote...

Search results

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