Posts filed under 'SEO Tools'

My Recent Job Interview with Google at the ‘Plex’

Outside The GooglePlex

Well I kept it a big secret from you all because I didn’t want to jinx myself – but I was invited recently to an interview with Google (it was the ‘exciting little company‘ I spoke about a couple months back in a post about an upcoming interview).

The position was to be based at Mountain View, California, and as part of the great Webmaster support team – along with neat and very bright people like Adam Lasnik, Vanessa Fox, Aaron D’Souza and Matt Cutts.

The position was ‘Webmaster Trends Analyst’, something I felt uniquely attracted to – I’ve a strong background in stats (from my undergraduate degree and time running scientific trials with the Sugar industry), have run several ecommerce sites and have a Master’s Degree in Computer and Comms Engineering – as well as being a regular poster on the Google Webmaster Forums – so I love hearing about what other folks are up to.

It was an exciting opportunity – so accordingly I took some valuable time off my PhD to prepare – before hopping on the plane for the 13 hour flight to San Francisco.

It was a great experience, but unfortunately I didn’t get the position.

I was disappointed.

As I wrote to one of my contacts about it:-

“so, either I’ll start looking for work again or I’ll bite my bum, put the pedal to the metal and get back into the PhD.

G was going to be a great fit because working with people like yourself would have been a ‘learning’ experience rather than just a job – I hate the 9-5 ‘office worker’ style culture of uni, but love the learning side.

My main problem when it comes to being hired is that of previous job experience..

I start to look like a jack of all trades but an expert at none.

Imho I thought that would be what would get me the job with G, as I’ve been told it makes me a pretty powerful educator – and a great interface between nutty engineer / scientist types and the general public.”

But let me take a step back here for a moment – I need to emphasise that I found the whole experience incredibly rejuvenating and irregardless of the fact I wasn’t successful, I still feel honoured.

If Google were to turn around today and say they wanted to employ me, I’d say yes in an heartbeat.

Why? Because any company that actually recruits internationally for a position known as ‘Webmaster Trends Analyst’ is a company that has a conscience. I don’t see such a position advertised at Yahoo. I don’t see such a position advertised at MSN… actually, I don’t see such a position advertised ANYWHERE.

When I was going through the interviews, one of the interviewers (and I hope I’m not out of line here) actually spoke about the fact that Google pulls together information from heaps of different resources (blogs, forums etc) on a regular basis and tries to quantitatively (from qualitative signals) assess ‘webmaster sentiment’ – and use it as an early warning system to alert them if things (like an algorithm change for instance) have had any unforseen impact. That made me sit back and go ‘wow’.

I count myself very lucky to have been interviewed by a great company with a social conscience like Google and dearly hope an opportunity pops up soon and I get another crack at it (You can contact me if you know of one).

But enough of that – the whole experience was a complete blast – let me show you a few photos.

This first photo is the centre of the Googleplex – it’s a neat place. I like the fact that I seem to have captured a black crow in mid-flight right below the Google sign 🙂

The GooglePlex

Took this photo on a toilet break at the ‘plex’ – judging from the pace of the interview I figured that time is a commodity in short supply at the googleplex, but this pic (right above the urinal) really rammed it home “Testing on the Toilet” – an A4 page giving thought provoking code tips to the engineers. 🙂

“Testing on the Toilet” - Google takes their debugging seriously :)

I got the opportunity to do a fair bit of sight seeing while I was there…

Highway 101

The Golden Gate Bridge (with me in front of it).

You’ll notice in all of these photos that I’m wearing one of two shirts – bloody Qantas sent all my luggage to Helsinki on the way over, so I had only a pair of shorts, a pair of moleskins, the shirt I wore on the plane and one I bought for the interview (this one) for the whole trip – don’t get me started about QANTAS.

The Golden Gate

Across the Golden gate bridge from San Fran is a beaut spot called ‘Reyes Point’ – here’s a photo looking back towards San Fran from there (with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background).

A View From Reyes Point Across the Bay to Golden Gate Bridge

A pretty flower at Reyes point – I believe the plant is called Pigface – why, I don’t know 🙂

A Pretty Flower - Why do they call this plant ‘Pig Face’?

A ‘Hummer Limousine’ – Wow!

Hummer - Limousine

Another pretty flower in San Fran (are you a REAL Aussie! That’s so COOL! I want a photo with you!!) – the people were very friendly at “Kell’s Bar” – I love a good Irish Pub, and this one was a beauty – it’s just off Columbus.

Friendly People

The owner (right) and head barman of Kell’s Bar..

The Staff at Kell’s

They shouted me quite a few Guinness’s – here I think that magical brown ale is starting to have its curative effects 🙂 (I am not too sure whether the spooky red eyes were caused by the camera or the Gazillion pints of Guinness)

16 Gazillion Pints of Guiness Later..

The morning after – one of those famous cable trams in San Fran.

One of those Cable Car’s San Fran is famous for

My Hotel was right in the centre of SF (Sutter and Powell) – I got it for a nightly rate of like $69 – it was fantastic

My Hotel

Just a pretty picture of one of the brass fire hydrants they have all over the place in San Fran.

Just a Pretty Picture

Some San Fran street art- this was in Chinatown – San Fran has the best Chinatown I’ve seen in any international city – I felt like I was back in Beijing.

Some San Fran Street Art

On the way out of San Fran – you can see the city itself and the Bay Bridge top RHS.

I loved San Fran – it was such a vibrant colourful city – I hope to go back there someday soon.

San Fran From Above - on my way home

QANTAS strikes again – I had to wait 18 hours for my flight back – by the time I took this photo (the time on my watch is AM by the way) we’d been locked in LA airport with no food or refreshments all night waiting for our plane which was recursively only going to be ‘another twenty minutes’ all night.

Some rather unfortunate baggage handler had managed to run into the wing with the mobile stairs, causing severe damage to the port side aileron.

I felt sorry for the parents with little kids – the time on my watch is AM – roughly 20 hours after the plane was meant to leave.

Bloody Qantas.. 5am in the morning - still waiting

33 comments June 18th, 2007

SEO_WordPress: Plugin to maximise search engine positioning in WordPress

Wordpress, like many other CMS (content management systems) creates duplicates of your posts all over your website.

Having duplicate content can lead to less than optimum search engine listing, and is one of the factors that cause ‘supplemental results’ in Google.

In the following article I describe a wordpress plugin I’ve developed to help address these issues.

You can download the plugin now by clicking here or read the full article.

Continue Reading 130 comments June 16th, 2007

More Blogs Using Blix Krieg..

Just thought I’d throw another few links to some new blogs I’ve seen hit the ‘link-o-radar’ recently.

As you all probably know, I develop the wordpress theme that you are looking at (get it at my blix krieg download page) which is a wordpress 2.1 compatible version of Sebastien Schmieg’s Blix theme, and incorporates adsense (inspired by additions from SEO Dave).

I also do a fair bit of ‘blog-optimisation’ for people, including help with installation, customization and SEO considerations to help make blogs a financial and social-networking success.

Whenever someone installs my theme, I get pinged, and I often go check a random selection of them out on a weekly basis.

Here’s a few from this week which I liked:-

Triathlete Dad – Regular commenter on this Blog, Susie J, has finally convinced her husband Dave to join the club and get a blog. Dave’s blog is lining up to be a real success – he talks of his inspirational change from (slightly) overweight technical rep to triathlon-racing superdad.

This is one blog I’ll be watching – certainly the content is well written, and from an income perspective, I think the ads that adsense is pulling at the moment are extremely relevant to the content and likely to produce a good return.

Horse Logos – not a BlixKrieg blog but rather a Zen-Cart based ecommerce site I’m in the process of helping set up for a customer. I’m proud of how this is going – coming along nicely and indexed in less than a week.

Working for Cats  – a nice Blix Krieg based blog about CATS – again, I was comissioned this week to help the owner make a few mods. Amongst other things, we widened the default theme out a little and fixed a few SEO problems.

Midwestern NGO – a non-profit organisation dedicated to helping developing countries. Welcome to BlixKrieg!

Lotan’s Blog Space – A blog about conservation in Israel and interesting things like living in an eco-dome. I love the work these people have done to the theme, and especially the background art – looks great, two thumbs up!

Just a small comment about comments – I’d highly recommend to Lotan that he enables comments without registration – users and readers are what makes a blog, and being able to make comments tends to get readers interested, and keep them. Plugins like akismet and bad-behaviour are extraordinarily brilliant at filtering spam – but if you are really concerned about unsolicited comments, you can enable akismet AND require that first time commenters comments are reviewed by you before they are given un-fettered access – I’m willing to help you if you’re not sure, Lotan.

name not included – A commercial site that’s pinched the theme and removed acknolwedgement. I wasn’t going to include this one as when I visited they had taken the footer out – ie removed backlinks to wordpress and this theme. That’s a pet peeve of mine, as the development of this theme is largely driven by traffic we get. But, I’ve decided instead to add this no-followed link as you might like to see what they’ve done.



1 comment March 16th, 2007

Targeting your Buyers – Google Adsense Tips, Tricks and Latest Gossip Part 3

In part three of this series about some tips and tricks I learnt during my recent visits to the Google Adsense Conference in Brisbane, Australia, I’m going to write about ‘targeting’ your ads to your content.

People get grumpy about the relatively low income they receive from adsense ads on their blogs – essentially, they want to know how to make moneyfrom their blogs, and having heard of the rags to riches stories of bloggers making hundreds of thousands of dollars from advertising online, they want a slice of the action – and why the hell not?

So now I need you to take a deep breath whilst I take you through some of the latest guidelines for helping google to serve ads that are more likely to be of interest to your customers.

Basically, to have a site that makes money you need at least three things:-

  1. Website Traffic.
  2. Relevant Content.
  3. Relevant Ads, and a high click through rate from those ads.

Those are the three key ingredients for making money from Google Adsense, and lacking any 1 of them will be to the detriment of the others.

Assuming you have good traffic (and I’ll be writing tutorials on that in the near future) and compelling content, all that remains is to encourage a high ‘click thru rate’ on your site.

I have to admit, on this site, the content is generally great and informational, but I’ve previously simply relied on the google adsense code to serve ads that are likely to be clicked on. I’ve tried out image ads, I’ve tried out text ads, I’ve tried out different colours and positions for the ads – and I’ve seen minor changes from doing so.

Alot of the time, though, I think I go a bit too by being too solutions oriented – For instance, someone has a problem, I’ll try to solve it for them, they leave happy, I get good feedback from them and probably generate traffic through referrals – that’s all great, and it’s a part of my growth strategy at this early stage of my blog

So, having the content, I hope the ads will be clicked and everything will be fine from there – but I’ve been finding this isn’t the case – on my other comercial sites, I end up with click through ratios (CTR – the percentage of visitors that click on ads) of less than 1%, whereas on my product based sites I get closer to 10%.

I started to think for reasons this may be – perhaps my readers are ‘ad savvy’ and have a form of blindness to the ad content – perhaps I am providing what they need – information, and they have no need to follow my ads to get more of it.

Someone suggested to me that I should leave articles I write ‘hanging’ so that the reader feels compelled to look at the ads to find more information – not a bad idea, but it goes against the ethos of this blog to an extent. I think the real answer is to write my articles in such a way that they want to take the next step, and offer, in the advertisements, companies and individuals that may help them do so.

Enter stage right adsense section targeting– this was released last year, and is an incredibly simple way to ensure that your ads are ‘micro targetted’ to the niche group viewing your pages. So why haven’t we all heard about it? I think alot of website and SEO people have kept this one to their chests a bit, as it’s a fantastic tool that can really help dramatically increase your returns and make the SEO people look worth their weight in gold.

But you don’t need to be a big shot blogger to imlplement this code – all you need to do is place tags around the content you think is most appropriate to your audience.

the tags are <!– google_ad_section_start –> and <!– google_ad_section_end –>

When google adsense bot sees the <!– google_ad_section_start –> tag, it expects that any information appearing between that tag and the end tag should be used by it when it considers what sort of ads to serve.

So, for example, I have taken an abstract from a recent Wired Magazine Article about how Yahoo has missed the boat when it comes to website advertising.

I found a paragraph in their that speaks about Hollywood, TV Shoe, Theaters, TV Sets – all things that aren’t really spoken about much in the rest of the article, but that I think will bring commercial ads about technology – things that some of the geeks reading this blog might be interested in.

    The truth is that when Semel worked in Hollywood, he understood more about how movies and TV shows made it to theaters and TV sets than virtually anyone else on the planet. Early in his career, during stints in New York, Cleveland, and Los Angeles, all Semel did was sell movies to theater chain owners. He’d show up at each theater — there were only a handful of national chains then — with a list of the movies Warner was going to release over the next few months, and each owner would bid on the movies he wanted.The truth is that when Semel worked in Hollywood, he understood more about how movies and TV shows made it to theaters and TV sets than virtually anyone else on the planet. Early in his career, during stints in New York, Cleveland, and Los Angeles, all Semel did was sell movies to theater chain owners. He’d show up at each theater — there were only a handful of national chains then — with a list of the movies Warner was going to release over the next few months, and each owner would bid on the movies he wanted.

In the next paragraph, I’ve found interestig information about the infrastructure of Yahoo – keywords like servers, technlogy, redesigning a database, redesigning a user interface – all are rock solid keywords that should hopefully trigger ‘mediabot’ to deliver an interesting combnation of consumer products ads and advertising for high grade database and server technology.

    But now, despite Semel’s achievements in Hollywood and early success at Yahoo, Silicon Valley is buzzing with a familiar refrain: Wouldn’t an executive with a little more technology savvy be a better fit? Semel has been Yahoo’s CEO for nearly six years, yet he has never acquired an intuitive sense of the company’s plumbing. He understands how to do deals and partnerships, he gets how to market Yahoo’s brand, and he knows how to tap Yahoo’s giant user base to sell brand advertising to corporations. But the challenges of integrating two giant computer systems or redesigning a database or redoing a user interface? Many who have met with him at Yahoo say he still doesn’t know the right questions to ask about technology. “Terry could never pound the table and say, ‘This is where we need to go, guys,'”one former Yahoo executive says. “On those subjects, he always had to have someone next to him explaining why it was important.” One could have made a convincing argument two years ago that such deep technical knowledge didn’t matter much. But now we have empirical evidence: At Yahoo, the marketers rule, and at Google the engineers rule. And for that, Yahoo is finally paying the price

The Lesson endeth for today – tomorrow we will see the results and expand upon them to make some money 🙂 Don’t be alarmed if it doesn’t look like it’s worked at first – it can take 24 to 48 hours.. patience 🙂

15 comments March 12th, 2007

How to Count Inlinks / Backlinks to Your Site using Yahoo

What are inlinks (Backlinks)?

Inlinks (also known as backlinks) are an important measure of the ‘popularity’ of your site – the greater the number of other sites that link to you, the more likely it is that you will have a high Pagerank (PR – see a definition of pagerank here).

Does Google show Backlinks I have to my site?

Yes, but not accurately. There are two main ways:-

  • You can use the link: modifier in a google search (eg but it’s known far and wide as being very inaccurate – in fact google claims that it is deliberately inaccurate.
  • You can also use Google Webmaster Tools, and the ‘links tab’ in those tools, but these are also known to be out of date and inaccurate.

A More Accurate Backlink Count – Yahoo Site Explorer

Yahoo, in my honest opinion, has the most up-to-date way of counting links to your site – it is called Yahoo Site Explorer.

How to use Yahoo Site Explorer to Count Inlinks (Backlinks)

Here’s a brief step by step guide to using this Yahoo Site Explorer Feature. (You can click on the thumbnails to get a full size view).

Step 1 – go to and enter site: followed by the name of your site in the search box (eg This will take you to Site Explorer.

Step 1 - go to yahoo and enter your site.

Step 2 – At the top left hand side above the search results, click on ‘inlinks’

Step 2 - Select inlinks.

Step 3 – In the Leftmost ‘Show Links’ Box, click on ‘except from this domain’ – This stops Yahoo from including links from within your own site.

Step 4 - Choose Whether you want to show inlinks to your entire site, or just this page.

Step 4 – In the next drop down box across (to:), click on either ‘Entire Site’ or ‘Only This URL’ – I’d suggest ‘Entire Site’ is best, but you can check links to individual URL’s using the other option, which can be handy.

Step 3 - Use the drop down menu to exclude inlinks from your own site.

Step 5 – Voila! You can now see how many inlinks you have, and where they come from.

Step 5 - Voila! Your inlinks.

Other Tools

I have a WordPress Plugin that will give you a count of other sites linking to you automatically – it’s called the wordpress yahoo sidebar widget, and you can see it here.

30 comments March 7th, 2007

Targeting Ads – Google Adsense Tips, Tricks n Latest Gossip Part 2

Adsense and Off-Topic Ads

So, you’ve got your blog / website, you’ve signed up for adsense, and you’re all ready to make money – but you keep getting weird, off-topic ads.

This is part two of my series about Tips and Tricks with Google Adsense (see part one here), and I’m going to use it to tell you about something called Adsense Section Targeting. First up, I’m going to give you a few insights I gathered from Michael Gutner (Partner Manager, Google) during my recent conversation with him.

How Google Adsense Works

When you place adsense ads on your site, an automated software robot (called ‘mediapartners’) usually comes to look at the content of your new page within a few minutes. This content is then run through a rather complex algorithm. The algorithm looks at things like:-

  • The textual content of your page.
  • Keyword Density (ie, what words and phrases appear regularly on your page)
  • What sites your page links to.
  • Your pages header, and keywords in the url.

Once that’s been done, adsense tries to work out what your page is about, and then, according to Michael, it aims to display the ads that will maximise your income by a combination of these two factors:-

  1. Presenting ads that are contextually relevant to the content of your page, and therefore likely to be clicked (called a high click through ratio, or CTR).
  2. Presenting ads with the highest possible return per click (called effective Cost Per 1000 impressions, or eCPM).

When Adsense Gets it Wrong

Sometimes, however, adsense seems to get the whole show wrong. As an example, I recently wrote a story about getting pages out of Google’s supplemental index, in which I talked about ‘infant pages’.

Next time I looked, I had ads on that page about colic and baby products.

Does this mean that Google thinks my page is about infants? NO – the adsense robot is a completely seperate entity to the google indexing robot – and I don’t think it works quite as hard at times to work out the real context of a page.

So, probably what has happened is that the adsense robot has checked my whole page and figured out that serving ads for the keyword ‘infant’ would be great, because it is a lucrative keyword.

What’s a lucrative keyword? Well it’s like this – advertisers compete for keywords – in a kind of automated auction – so if I’m wanting to sell acme widgets, and I know I make $1000 per widget, I’m likely to pay more for ads to appear on pages with the keyword ‘widget’ than someone who sells less profitable ajax brand widgets.

It seems that ‘infant’ is probably a lucrative keyword, and in a perfect world, I’d get really high earnings from having ads about infants on my page.

That’s really clever, in a way, but really, it’s quite obvious to me as a human being that the technical types on my site are probably quite unlikely to be looking for baby products, so my CTR (number of clicks per 100 ‘views’) is going to be quite poor.

Adsense is a computer algorithm, not a human, so it’s ocassionally going to make slip-ups – that’s a given.

So, to get more contextually relevant ads on that page, I can either remove the keyword that’s confusing adsense, or I can use a relatively new tool from Adsense – enter, stage right, a little thing called Adsense Section Targeting.

(stay tuned – more on this shortly)

4 comments March 7th, 2007

How to show your indexed pages..

I know this one will be fairly elementary to alot of our readers, but there was a question on the Google Webmaster Help forum recently about how to show which pages google has indexed from your site.

The answer isn’t hard – you simply use the site modifier in a google – so, for instance, to see my indexed pages – type in google search.

There is one ‘gotcha’ however – often google doesn’t show ‘all’ the pages it has indexed – to show them all, you need to go right through to the very last indexed page, and you’ll see a link to show all the pages – the picture (which you can click on to enlarge) below should make it self explanatory.

You’ll note I’ve circled some supplemental pages – these are pages that google, for whatever reason, doesn’t think are really ‘up to scratch’ for inclusion in their main index. You can find out more about supplementals in my other articles here



Google Site Search Instructions

Add comment March 2nd, 2007

Google Reinclusion – Tips and FAQ

Many people have a bit of trouble trying to find where to request reinclusion in Google Webmaster Tools – There’s a picture of the relevant page at the end of this post to save trying to explain it in words 🙂

Click on the picture for a full size version.

A reinclusion request can be useful if:-

  • You have taken over a website, which has been banned or is under penalty, and you want to request that Google gives you a ‘clean slate’
  • You’ve done something that violates the Google Webmaster Guidelines and want to plead your case for reinclusion or a removal of any ‘penalties’ that you believe you may have incurred.

My tips? Be succinct, honest and outline in dot points what you have done to make sure that your site is now more worthy of being reincluded in the google index.

I’ve found that whilst they don’t usually provide a personal answer, banned sites are reinstated within about 30 days of such requests, if you’ve made a strong argument.



Where to request reinclusion?

3 comments March 1st, 2007

Great SEO Tools?

Susie, one of the 1000+ users of my Blix Krieg theme, recently asked me what the best tool is for web development – I told her firefox (the alternative to internet explorer) is a really useful tool.

You can get heaps of plugins for it that show you things like PR and validate your HTML – it really is great (for some good plugins, see John Muellers Oy-Oy site, in my blogroll). So anyway, if you want firefox too, just like Susie – click on the link above to get your own copy..

And yep, everytime you download it from here, I get a donation from Google, so if you haven’t got it, and you like my blog or my theme, help me out and get it here 🙂 Out of interest, Susie has an interesting post on her blog about “where she is from” – she’s entering it in a competition and wants our help to vote for it – I’d suggest you visit – she’s an ex journo, writes well and her blog is a nice read Susie’s Competition Entry



7 comments February 17th, 2007

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