SEO Friendly Content Management Systems

Over the years I’ve received a few questions on this blog or at conferences about search engine friendly Content Management Systems (CMS). Is there such a thing? What are the best ones?

Before the days of WordPress, there were really only a couple of CMS options that provided the flexibility for search engine optimization. But now there are SEO friendly CMS systems popping up everywhere.

But before you decide on a CMS for your site, there are still some crucial aspects you need to consider.

Stephan Spencer has written a helpful article to this effect called How to Choose Content Management Systems for SEO. He breaks down CMS features into the following categories:

  • critical
  • important
  • desirable
  • optional

Then he explains why the various CMS features meet those categories and how they impact SEO.

Great stuff!

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Top 10 Dumbest Social Network Sites

After being inundated with what I call “invitaspam” day after day from obscure social networking sites, today I’ve finally had enough.

An invitation to join a site called Scribd from somebody I didn’t know was the straw that broke this particular camel’s back and I decided to bitch about it on Twitter by creating my list of Top 10 #dumbsocialnetworks:

“I’ve been sent too many invitaspams lately so fighting back. Here’s my Top 10 list of #dumbsocialnetworks, in reverse order, Letterman style”

Here they are:

  • 10 – No. 10 of the Top 10 is Scribd a “social community sharing original writings with friends, family & the world.” VOMIT
  • 9 – Sitting in spot 9 of the Top 10 is Ecademy “Market your business & get found on Google” because you can’t do that on own?
  • 8 – At number 8 in my list of Top 10 dumb social networks is Gooruze “a ranked advice community”. The concept is ok but I just CAN’T get past the name.
  • 7 – Number 7 is WAYN. Yes, in caps. Makes me imagine I’ll be greeted on the site by some guy with plumber’s crack, wearing stubbies and holding a beer.
  • 6 – In position 6 of my Top 10 is Yedda“Actively finding the best answers from the most relevant people”. Shame that many of those people are spammers.
  • 5 – Sitting at number 5 is Unyk. An online address book for people who don’t know how to use Gmail.
  • 4 – At number 4 of my Top 10 #dumbsocialnetworks is Naymz, who like to use retro spam. Specifically, keyword stuffing and lots of it.
  • 3 – Number 3 on the list is Plurk. Tired of your other social networks? Spam friends, family and complete strangers with endless Plurk invitations!
  • 2Grouply is our Number 2 on the Top 10 dumbest social networks. Hand over your Yahoo ID & they’ll override your privacy settings & data mine your info, yay!

And drumroll please for the Number 1 on my Top 10 dumbest social networks list…

  • 1 – Claiming the number 1 spot for dumbest social network is Plaxo: “Hi, I’m updating my address book for the nth time today. Please take a moment to scream”

I’m not alone in my hatred of Plaxo. Apparently it was voted one of the 20 most annoying tech products in 2007. Thankfully, the self-updating address book company decided a couple of years ago to stop clogging up our In boxes with those super annoying contact update request emails.

Oh and before you’re tempted, the next person to send me a Plurk invitation gets Plaxoed in the head.

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Webstock 09 : Bruce Sterling – The Web is all Turtles and Duct Tape

Live blogging The Short and Glorious Life of Web 2.0 presentation at Webstock 09 by Zeitgeist Author and Wired Blogger, Bruce Sterling.

Bruce starts by saying, here in New Zealand, we have lost sight of Web 2.0. Mistakes have been made. You think it’s the world of tag clouds, drop shadows and fonts.

Web 1.0 was the Britannica online while Web 2.0 was Wikipedia. Web 1.0 was portals while Web 2.0 was search engines. The canonical definition of Web 2.0 was coined by Tim O’Reilly: “.. the network as platform spanning all connecting devices, apps that make the most of blah blah blah…..”

The definition is thesis-long and reads like a Chinese takeout menu says Bruce. He then showed a slide of the visual flow chart of the defintion (see below):

Web 2.0 looks like a social network. Add some scenery and pictures to this Web 2.0 diagram and it becomes a Webstock Conference (at this point there is some sniggering in the audience).

You can’t break it down and analyze it. What’s exciting about this 5 year old flow chart is the pieces that are utter violations of previous common sense e.g. the web as platform. Native web logic is a new turtle, sitting on another, older turtle, sitting on another older still turtle. Just like platforms sitting on clouds. (This imagery has me grinning because I actually have a ceramic representation of the turtles on turtles analogy on my bookshelf).

AJAX is an acronym. How the hell can you make an acronym of an acronym? (more sniggering). Everybody knows that Web 2.0 with it’s JavaScript binding everything is made out of AJAX. After all Sun built Javascript. Javascript is the duct tape of Web 2.0 – it’s the ultimate material that will bind anything. It’s the glue of mashups.

Bob Metcalf, the inventor of ethernet had to eat his words claiming that the Internet would fall over. We’ve used JavaScript to duct tape the turtles all the way down. What’s with this blog business? Most of the things we call blogs today have zero to do with weblogs. True Weblogs are basically records of web surfing. Bruce’s own *blog* is consumed with link rot. He blogged stuff that is now in mystical 404 Land. (At this point the sniggering in the audience has turned to a little bristling and some vexed looks. Tweets fly about the room with the same theme – is Bruce Sterling giving us geeks a public spanking for worshipping Web 2.0?)

The phrase Web Platform is weird. Up there with *wireless cable* and *business revolution*. What about *dynamic content* – content is static for Pete’s sake. It is not contained.  And don’t forget *collective intelligence*. Google apparently has it and therefore it matters. Businessmen and revolutionaries alike use Google.  Bruce sees Larry and Sergey as the coolest Stanford grads ever, with their duct-tape ridden offices (more laughter).

Geek thought crime is the assumption about what constitutes *collective intelligence*. This attitude makes you look delusionary. He’d like to see a better definition such as: *semi autonomous data propagation*. I paid attention to Web 2.0 because I thought it was important. I supported Tim’s solar system invention and thought Web 2.0 people were a nifty crowd. The mainframe crowd were smarter than Web 2.0 people – the super selective technical elite. Problem was that all sense of fun had been boiled out of them.

The telephone system was the biggest machine in human history, but the users couldn’t access the cables or the pipeline. Unlike now = where everyone gets their hands on the components. But I’m not nostalgic for the old days, after all nostalgia is not what it used to be.  Look at Microsoft: the place where innovations go to die (loud guffaws, including one from me and we all rush to tweet that little gem).

Next for the web is a spiderweb in a storm. Some turtles get knocked out. The Fail Whale fails. Inherent contradictions of the web get revealed. Prediction: the web stops being the fluffy meringue dressing of business. What kind of a world do we live in when pirates in Somalia can make cell phone sonar calls via super tankers? We’ve got a web balanced on top of a collapsed economy.

Next is a transition web. Half the world’s population is on the web and the rest are joining. We need to know how to make the transition. During Web 2.0, we sold ourselves to Yahoo. In the transition web, we have no safety net. We’re all in the same boat. I’m bored of the deceipt, disgusted with cynical spin etc. etc. Let’s get on with real lives. (Bruce’s rant continues, but at this point I am seriously rapt and stop typing to be able to pay more attention).

To experience the full spanking by Bruce, see his own transcript of the presentation.

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Webstock 09 : Russ Weakley

Live blogging Open Web, Open Data, Open Panic? presentation at Webstock 09 by Author of “Teach Yourself CSS in 10 Minutes”, Russ Weakley.

Russ works at the Australian Museum. He had an idea for the museum web site about four years ago and it has taken this long to get to the pre-launch stage.

The public services world is about analysing, justifying and strategizing. The commercial sector is fast but the public service process is incredibly slow. This has had one unexpected benefit: Having to defnd every aspect has meant that we had to carefully think about many issues before launch.

The museum’s site was launched in 1994. It grew enormously and now has 43,000 pages plus 16 sites. Sounds good? Nope, trouble in paradise. It’s hard to maintain, users can’t find content, so there’s lost relevance. The site provided a one way contact stream but this is no longer relevant in a Web 2.0 world.

Four years ago we went to management with an idea: To build a rich, interactive web site concentrating on 4 objectives:

1) Communication. Interaction, not static. Allow users to communicate with museum and each other.

2) Allow users to share their own content

3) Provide new and easier navigation pathways

4) Allow all staff to publish easily

Management reaction? Initial shock! Than 1 year of silecne, 1 year of discussion, 1 year of planning, 1 year to build.

The overall concept:

– site has 3 levels, categories, sections and assets

– every piece of content will be an asset, no more web pages

– there will be a range of different types of assets

– wanted assets and sections to exist in multiple locations

Traditional model of site design doesn’t work because things are boxed together in a static location. We wanted it to have a dynamic, multiplicet model.

– every asset will have five different navigation methods. New asset pages show “other sections”,

– in new model, users can comment on any asset

– users and staff can add tags any asset

– author and user tags will provide new methods of navigation and richer search

– allow users to collect favourites and sets and share them with others

– upload their own images, movies, audios, comments, stories

– allow people to apply for expert status

– Wanted the system to be seamless. Allow users to move seamlessly through any type of content

What about staff? Every staff member will become an author

– allow staff to publish assets directly (after training). Initial management concern but now overcome with approvals in place.

– allow staff to own their assets

– allow users to create their own focused, passionate and personal blogs

– allow microblog to create instant news

Russ talks about how his bosses’ first day at the museum involved taking a chain saw to a dead whale in the museum carpark. Also mentions the discovery of Mr Blobby in the deep sea off New Zealand. This type of stuff makes priceless social media juice. Why waste it? Let’s give staff the ability to share such stories with the public.

– the system will allow authors to publish all content via one simple system

Questions asked by management about the new system:

1) When we go live, can we all sit back and relax? (no, we will need to work very hard to build the site and grow communities)

2) Will we moderate comments and tags? (no, we will use a simple login and allow all comments, tags, uploads)

3) Will a forced login alienate some users? (Yes, however we will review process after a 6 month process)

4) What if the information in comments is wrong? (Deal with it. Let the comment trail educate. Mistakes benefit everyone). Therefore clearly identified author comments are important.  Allow the community to self-moderate.

5) What about tags that are irrelevant? (Misspellings are useful because it allows more people to find information, no matter if they can spell or not. Long-tail keywords add to searchability of site. Just because they’re not relevant to you, doesn’t mean they’re not relevant to someone else.

6) Who is going to take responsibility for the comments? (Authors are responsible for comments associated with blogs.)

7) What if we are inundated with comments? (Nah, won’t happen)

8 ) Should we allow staff to publish? (Yes)

9) Should we have a single voice? (What? No answer to this. Can’t provide a single voice. Have different voices for each different asset)

10) How will we encourage tags and comments? (answer comments, encourage commenting, reward good behaviour, promote outside the site, eventually – let it go)

The new site strategy for the Australian Museum has been a long, painful journey. Despite the frustration, it’s also been a lot of fun.

Enjoy your own journey!

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Webstock 09: A Mashup Case Study

Live blogging a Mashup Case Study presentation at Webstock 09 by founder Adrian Holovaty:

A mini Google Maps app was actually developed before Google did it by a NZ developer using the Google API. Got Adrian thinking and he developed which then morphed into was a mashup of crime data put together from the Chicago Police Dept’s web site and published together with Google Maps. Searchable via route, area, block or neighbourhood locations (e.g. barber shops, restaurants), even via mobster activity. Google’s rollout of Street View added even more data.

They then added Flickr data, user material etc. This eventually became, a news feed for your block. You can go to the site, select a city and choose your neighbourhood to see all news relating to your neighbourhood that has been written about in local media. The goal is to find the news that is very specific to you that may be buried on the major news sites by national or international media stories.

The data includes restaurant reviews, product launches, feel-good stories, lost and found stories etc. You can search via trends e.g. all restaurants with particular food safety violations e.g. vermin. You can search via RSS feeds in your neighbourhood, real estate listings, press releases etc.

How Does it Work?

Complex technology is used to pull all the data together. The site uses natural language processing including datafeeds from portals, search engines, media agencies, APIs like Flickr’s, geocoding API, Craiglist, Yelp, Valpak, Trulia. Government resources.

How to Best Make a Successful Mashup:

Lesson 1: Take advantage of existing data

Lesson 2: Sort by date – this adds value

Lesson 3: The more effort it takes, the higher the reward. Unlike Google. Google likes convenient, centralized, USA building-permits databases. Anything else is too much work. Be the anything else.

Lesson 4: Governments are opening up. Be nice and appeal to civil servants (and librarians!). Plot cities/agencies against each other. Governments shouldn’t build interfaces into their data, they should offer an API so others can pull out RAW data.

Lesson 5: Avoid using maps as a crutch. Google Maps is not the app. Use it as a tool to create an awesome app – push data, don’t pull.

Lesson 6: Permalink everything. Anything that can be a link should be a link. Used as example. There’s a special place in hell for session cookies.  EveryBlock gets a LOT of link love and rankings for long tail search queries from Google because of permalinks. Granular Permalinks future proofs a site.

Lesson 7: The simplest way to granulize URLs: Use attributed URLs E.g. Date / crime/dates Type: /crime/types/ Address: /crime/addresses/  Location: /crime/locations/  Then drill down further e.g. /crime/locations/hotels/  Flickr and Delicious use that. Use the Django databrowse to look at database schema and create a directory structure to suit!

Lesson 8: Move Beyond Points – web apps that use geo-spatial info should respect usability. Points aren’t everything. Bubbles aren’t everything. Use lines to make the maps more usable. Use polygons, use transparencies. Don’t overlay data on data. Use GeoRSS to geographically encode objects for RSS feeds.

Lesson 9: Roll your own maps – Google maps is great, BUT use it intelligently. Use colors, fonts, text size, behaviour at zoom levels, road widths, languages etc.

Lesson 10: Make a mashup!

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