Serious security flaw found in IE

In case you're not following me on Twitter, this is a must read new story reported by the BBC today (December 16, 2008).

Security experts around the world are recommending that everyone (at least until Microsoft issues and emergency patch) stop using Microsoft's Internet Explorer broswer (IE) and switch browsers due to a major security flaw in the browser.

Read the full news article at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7784908.stm

While security problems are nothing new to IE and other browsers, it is extremely rare if not unheard of for security experts to issue this type of warning. I strongly suggest that you read the full article for more detailed information.


Tracking Clicks on Off-site Links - Made Easy with WebTrends SDC

One of the biggest questions many of us in web analytics have faced over the years was tracking visitors ow who click on which links that take users to 3rd party websites (external links). This is critical if you run banner ads, sell links, have partner sites etc.

Over the years a number of solutions have been developed. Some of these worked reasonably well and have included using third part tracking tools or creating redirection page or script. In any option it always required a middle layer that user would be directed to first and then redirect them to the external site. This solution, while it work, created a point of failure and potentially a bad user experience.

With the introduction java script tracking web analytics (WebTrends SDC, Google Analytics, Omiture etc.) it became possible tag the HTML code (specifically the "a href" tag) with an on-click or on-mouse down function that execute the tracking java script file and pass a series of variables to the data collection server. While this method works, it requires additional web site programming which generally required IT resources and testing.

WebTrends has come up with a way with their new SDC java script (relased earlier this year) to simplify this whole process. When building your SDC java script using the WebTrends Tag Builder simply select "Off-Site Links" as an option under the "Event Tracking" tab and generate your SDC script.

Once the script is uploaded, all works perfectly and clicks to off-site sites will appear in the top pages report with the title extension of "Offsite:URL".

At last something made simple. And please remember, if you need help with your WebTrends configuration please feel free to contact my company as that is one of our specialty.


Self Referrer

Just got asked an interesting web analytics question. The client was reviewing the "Referring Domain" report in WebTrends and noticed a lot of direct traffic and that the site itself is listed as a referrer. They wanted to know why.

This is a question that I'm frequently asked by users of various web analytic products, and so I thought I'd post my response for others.

Direct traffic (as reported by WebTrends) comes from the following sources

1. People entering the web site URL directly
2. People having added the web site directly to their bookmarks and then clicking on the bookmarked site
3. People clicking on a link in an email
4. Other possible sources for links that are not part of a web site
5. People who choose to hide the referring web site information (a setting now available in some browsers)

In the report where the website is listed as its own referrer is a bit harder to explain, but here is my explanation:

Every page has a referrer, so when someone browses from one page to another page within the site, the site is in itself a referrer.

Normally, these should not appear in a referrer report (many analytics products strip this data out), but WebTrends does show this data under certain circumstances. What a site self referring traffic generally means is that someone was on the site who's visit session had time out (stayed on a page more than 30 minutes) and then clicked on a new page. So that a new visits was initiated and the visits referrer is now the site itself. There are a couple of other possible causes of this, but this is the easiest one to explain and understand.


The New Google Interface

In case you haven't noticed the change yet in Google you will. Starting last week Google started to rolling out the ability for individuals (who are logged into their Google account) to start customizing their search results and even commenting on them.

This is all handled through what is called the "Google Search Wikki". So now you have the ability to move specific results up or down and even delete them. On top of it, you can leave comments for the whole world to see next to the listing forever.

Now this might seem like a good idea and is part of what I mention in a previous post on why Search Ranking is going to become meaningless. So is that day here now? Is Google on the right track? Will it last?

Let's tackle these questions one at a time.
1. No the day of search ranking being meaningless isn't here yet. Despite the ability of users to customize their results, how many will. How many know they can even do it and why would they want to. Sure you might want to delete your competitor from your results, but then how would you know what they are up to?

2. Is Google on the right track? That's hard to say, the feature most certainly has a cool factor to it, but what happens if I accidentally delete a listing, how do I get back? How many users have to delete a listing or move it down in their results before Google adjusts the natural listing? Are listing now not susceptible to attack by larger competitors who can have all their staff delete specific listing? Of course for us SEO, we could use it to fake search results to show how good a job we did. Just kidding of course.

3. Will this last? I don't think this will be going away to soon, but I can't really see people jumping on board. How many of us search on the same topics time and time again that we would really want to customize are listings. There are a few subjects that I do conduct regular searches on when looking for new content. I personally would have preferred it, if Google would have simply allowed me to sort the results by publishing date.

The last option of adding comments, does seem like a good idea. Let's see I like what I found on the other end of the listing so I go back to the search again and write a favorable comment. Who has time for that. The site on the other end doesn't match what I want so I hit the back button immediately and add a nasty comment (somewhat likely). Now there are going to be hundreds if not thousands of comments next something I want click on, do I have the time to read all the nasty stuff people have left. Hmmmmm

So let's give it some time and lets see if it will last.


My Twitter Experiment

All those who know me, know that I don't jump quickly to the latest and greatest Internet gadgets. This is not to say I am slow to adopt good ideas, I just need someone to show me the practical side of it for business. And this has brought me to my Twitter experiment.

If you have never heard of Twitter (www.twitter.com), you are not alone. Yet this simple tool is quickly gaining a foothold among teenagers, socially active technos and most top-end bloggers. For those who don't know what it is here is the simplest definition. It is a micro blogging tool which limits your posts to a mere 140 Characters. As with any social networking tool, people follow your Twitter posts (Tweets) and you can reciprocate by following their posts. My reluctance to Twitter was more of what did I have to Tweet about and who would want to follow my Tweets.

Two weeks ago I was in the UK at a conference and several people asked me what my Twitter ID was to which I had to answer "I don't tweet". I was greeted with a look of disappointment. So upon my return to Toronto, I quickly set-up my Twitter account (@aknecht - http://twitter.com/aknecht/) and started my experiment. Here's how the experiment went.

Step 1 - I linked my Twitter updates to my Facebook profile status (Friday)

Step 2 - I added Twitterberry to my BlackBerry for easy updates (Sunday)

Step 3 - I started to follow a couple of people related to the PubCon Conference I was about to attend

Step 4 - I started to Tweet (Sunday)

These simple actions soon proved to be very valuable. Before I knew several people (Facebook Friends) were following my Tweets. From this several people attending PubCon found me and started following my Tweets. For the experiment, I committed myself to Tweeting as often as possible.

Twitter Experiment Results

By the time I landed in Las Vegas (Monday afternoon) I quickly discovered that all PubCon related announcements were no longer going to out by email, but by Tweets (at least I had that covered). Next I started to see people Tweeting about dinner and where to go and where to meet. Before I knew it I had dinner plans with someone I had never met or even had contact with before Twitter. We met up (Tweetup) at a restaurant at my hotel and found each other. Of course there was some confusion as someone else who was going to join us who had simply described himself as bald with glasses (gee that could be me). Once we got that settled the three of us had dinner and a great conversation.

PubCon started the next day and the conference almost crashed Twitter. Everyone was Tweeting (at least 90% of all attendees -including myself) what sessions they were attending, issue during the session etc. By the end of the first day of PubCon, I must have Tweeted at least 10-15 times. It seemed as with each Tweet I got more followers. What a strange occurrence as just a year earlier at PubCon 2007 almost no-one Tweeted.

By day two, several people came up to me and said they enjoyed following my Tweets in Facebook. That night at the hotel bar, I ran into someone who I wasn't sure would recognize me, but of course he did and said, "Hi Alan, I opened up Facebook today and there you were all over my home page with your tweets." It was a positive response. The only person to voice negative feedback came from my wife, who just thought I was abusing Facebook for business and bragging purposes. I took to the old adage that most negative comments go unsaid so I took my wife's words to heart.

So after a week of Tweeting to my hearts galore, my experiment came to an end. Through this experience I learned a few things.

  • 1. If you're going to Tweet a lot don't hook it up to your Facebook account, but encourage your friends to follow you on Twitter if they want
  • 2. Get a variety of apps loaded up on your computer to help optimize your Twitter experience (my personal favourite right now is TweetDeck)
  • 3. Link your cellphone to Twitter (SMS messaging or through a phone application)
  • 4. Tweek responsibly and they will follow
  • 5. Talk to other Tweeters about Tweet etiquette or read the book "Twitter Revolution" by Deborah Micek & Warren Whitlock (I devoured this book on the flight home from Las Vegas) which contains lots of excellent tips
  • 6. Start Tweeting

The reality is there is no real business model for Twitter right now and who knows if they'll survive long term. For now, I equate the Twitter phenomena at the same state as the web was in the mid 1990's people knew it had potential, but they didn't yet know how to take advantage of it for business. Yes it was in the hands of a few geeks and look what we turned the web into.

For the socially active party goers this is a must have tool. Start following all your friends and have your friends start following you and there will never be the need for a phone call again or at least while you're out party hoping.

Happy Tweeting


Getting SEO Right the First Time

After thinking about my session at PubCon yesterday and if we as a group of panelist (Mark Jackson, Lyndsay Walker Blahut, Aaron Wall, myself and our moderator Todd Friesen) had one thing we were trying to stress I cam up with the following. "Get in the project plan!"

Once you strip away the advice on how to and why you should use h1 tags, why writing good description meta tags and why using clean & valid XHTML is important, it really boiled down to you need to make the whole SEO process part of the project plan and part of everyone's deliverables.

You can't let the graphic designer get approval on a design that can't be marked-up in an SEO friendly way. Just the same as you can't let the html developer, the server management team or the back-end database programmers get away with it either.

So how do you do this, the answer is simple, but it is the execution that is hard. Step 1, get everyone educated on search engine optimization, how it works, the impact of different components on SEO and why it is important to your organization. Next make it part of each persons project deliverables. If their deliverable is not SEO compliant, then they haven't finished their job and need to go back and get it right. Of course, this means allowing enough time (budget if you are outsourcing it) for them to get it right. Just because it looks good or works from a technical point, doesn't mean it is. None SEO compliant feature must be treated as a web site bug and fixed on a high priority basis.

2 Minutes with Matt Cutts

At a evening networking event at PubCon I had the chance to chat with Matt Cutts about some rumors I was hearing about things under development at Google. He was able to proved a clear and precise answer. So here are my questions Matt's answers:

1. What's with the indexing of Flash, what works and doesn't work? Matt was able to confirm what I had hear from Adobe last month, but that Adobe wasn't 100% sure. Google is only capable of finding links within the Flash file and unraserized text.

2. Is Google working on OCR for graphics and imaged pdfs? Matt - Google is now successful (at least to the limits of OCR) processing PDFs that were converted to images (you can't select text in these), but they are not yet working on trying to apply OCR (optical character recognition) to page images. Matt mentioned, that he has asked out this and even suggested it to the team, but so far no traction with the Google development team.

We went on to discuss how even if they got this working, the issue of OCR and different typeface would pose a huge issue and be very open to major mistakes.

So for now as I always state in my presentation we are still left with the 3 things that search engines value for our SEO projects - "words, words and words"

PubCon Day 2

Day 2 at PubCon turned out to be another inspiring day. It all started around 9:00 am with an truly inspiring keynote by George Wright from Blendtec. His keynote focused on how he took a $50 branding budget to purchase a few items video tape the owner of the company testing the company's blenders.

While it the story may sound simple, the video went viral and before they knew it this small blender company for Omaha was being featured on national news shows, and late night television. The resulting impact on sales were almost through the roof. A the legend of "Will it Blend" was born. Before long who knows, perhaps "blendtec-it" will become a verb of the likes of "google it".

As for the rest of day, there was a great session on web analytics despite the rep from Google pushing Google Analytics a bit too much. However between the pitches there was some good info.

My session on Organic design went well and we had nearly standing room only in our vast room. I didn't like the microphone they were using, but it was clear that the attendees were impressed with what all the panelist had to say.


Why SERP Rank is meaningless

Why Page Rank is meaningless

While at PubCon, I attended a session where Bruce Clay was speaking. As part of his address he stated something that I've been saying for years, "A page's rank in the search results is meaningless".

He went on to point out that the search engines are changing how they decided which page to rank. Most of us already know about how they adjust the results based on the users search location (someone in Las Vegas will get different results than someone in New York), many may not be aware they have started monitoring user behavior. This means they adjust the results based on what you as a searcher tend to search one. If you click on more product reviews than commerce site when searching for products, review pages will trend upward in your search query resutls.

Bruce feels that these types of changes are going to be even more wide spread come some time in the 1st quarter of 2009. While time will tell, Bruce pointed out as a community SEO and SEM specialists need to stop focusing on the rankings in the SERPS and start embracing web analytics. This latter point what I've been saying, preaching and teaching for years.

As with all conferences, the best things happen between sessions and that's when Bruce and I got to speak for about 3 minutes on this subject. During our brief conversation, our thoughts and opinions were identical that we as a community need to use web analytics to measure the quanity and quality of the traffic generated by search engines. We both agreed that being number 1 is important for corporate ego, but the truth that needs to be conveyed is what traffic do you get for which terms and how do they convert on your site.

Chance conversations like this is why I love conferences like PubCon. It gives everyone the chance to discuss ideas and concepts with peers and industry leaders ensuring that we as a community can than transfer this knowledge with confidence to co-workers and clients.


PubCon Day 1

It's still the early hours here in Las Vegas and just a few hours before the start of PubCon, but I've already learned something. While in London last week for SMX, many people kept asking me if I'm twitting. To which I had to say no.

Given that numbers I realized that Twitter was starting to come to age and I better start Twitting. So I set-up my Twitter account and loaded my Blackberry with Titterberry. Didn't do much with it except link it to my Facebook account and thought so what. Who really wants to follow what I'm up to and how will I take advantage of it. Well then I headed to PubCon in Las Vegas.

I quickly started following the PubCon Twit and from there as they say the rest is history. All major social activities having anything to do with PubCon are being delivered via Twitter. Quickly several people started following my Twit and before I knew it, I had dinner plans with people I had never met before.

It got so crazy I was getting upset that my Twitterberry utility wasn't giving me live feeds like others around me that I realized the importance of the need for live feeds at least from a social aspect. So will I keep it up once I'm back at home, only time will tell - but my gut feel says yes and just another utility grabing more of limited time.



Well it's been a few days since I got home from SMX London and had a chance to reflect on the whole event. I must say that I was completely impressed with the sessions and the speakers.

Two sessions (beyond my own) really standout and both occurred on the second day. The first was SEO and Web 2.0. While the session didn't provide me with much new information, it was the way the information was presented especially the presentation by Mikkel DeMib Svendsen. I'm a big fan of Mikkel since he has officially gone white had and I had to love it when he said "I'm not that technical".

My other favourite session was the session on Local Search. Unfortunately it was the last session on the last day and I could only stay for about 1/2 of it as I had to get to the airport. There was a ton of great information once again presented in a way even the most non-technical person could understand. For anyone who attended this session, I hope they took good notes so they can apply this way of presenting their data to their clients and/or bosses.

Overall, I found it well worth my while to attend SMX London.

Next stop, is PubCon in Las Vegas starting tomorrow. Look for regular updates.


SMX London - Day 1

We are just about to start day 2 here in London of SMX. Yesterday's turnout was about what I expected, but perhaps a bit smaller. However, organizers were pleased with the turnout.

From the people I chatted most were very familar with the concepts of SEO and PPC and appeared to be more focused on the advanced tracks.

My session with Offir Cohen, Richard Gregory and Kelly Gillease went very well with a small but attentive audience. Chris Sherman monerated this panel and did his excellent job.

Only complaint that I can have against this conference is the lack of free wireless Internet access. While the conference venue did offer it, it was at the steap cost of 5 pounds per hour or 20 pounds per day. As such, I was unaware of anyone who opted for the wireless.

I'll provide a more detailed summary once I'm back home in Toronto and before I head off to Las Vegas for PubCon next week.


Final Thoughts on Web Builder

It's the next day and I've had some time to reflect on my brief stay at Web Builder 2.0.

In my previous post I mentioned that I was disappointed with the turnout and had hoped for maybe 20 people to attend my session. As it turned out, a mere 5 people turned out. Fortunately these people were well focused and receptive to the ideas and concepts I was presenting.

With a turnout like this, its hard to believe that there will be a Web Builder 2.0 in 2009. I was thrilled 3 years ago when this conference was brought back. Unfortunately after 3 years, it hasn't gained any traction and in reality has been losing ground.

I guess that the concept of a well round and broadly focus conference to the whole web team sounds good on paper, it just doesn't work. One of the attendees mentioned to me at lunch that we wishes he could get his boss to one of these events. As it would open his eyes to what really needs to be done.

The best part of this conference, like all conferences was the opportunity to reconnect with peers and make a few new friends.

I'm now back home and focusing on my session this coming Thursday here in Toronto to the Canadian Marketing Association. I'm positive there will a lot more there on Thursday then the 5 I faced on Monday.


Web Builder 2.0 - Day 1

Well it's day 1 for Web Builder 2.0 and I'm a bit dissapointed but also pleased.

Turns out that there were a mere 100 or so attendees registered for this unique web conference, this is the only conference that bring the entire web team (developers, managers, programmers etc.) to a single conference. The number of attendees is disappointing but the fact that the conference was allowed to proceed is what I find pleasing. These days many companies are taking any opportunity save money and killing this conference, most likely would have saved lots of money.

For those who put aside the current economical turmoil and are attending this event they now have a great opportunity for more personal attention from the speakers and a great opportunity to meet and network with everyone.

David Verba is currently about 1/2 way through his kick-off keynote "Creating Great Products and Services for an Uncertain world". So far, its interesting with some great examples and lots interesting tibits.

My session will follow the keynote. With 5 different tracks happening at the same time, it is going to be interesting to see if I even get 20 people into my session given I'm up against Steve Mulder (Reich Interface Design) and Sandra Niehaus (Web Design for ROI) and DL Byron (Blog -Oriented Architecture). All are equally great speakers covering equally important subjects.

I'll be keeping my fingers crossed hoping for 20 attendees.


Canadian Marketing Association Roundtable

Next week (Thursday October 16) I'll be one of 3 speakers at this months CMA's Roundtable here in Toronto. The topic is Demystifying Web Analytics. I'll be giving the first talk and will be covering the fundamentals of web analytics.

This should be a great event and price is right for those of you in the Toronto area. It's $80 for member and $100 for non-members.

For more information see the RoundTables web page at:

WebBuilder 2.0 Las Vegas

This is a reminder for anyone attending next weeks WebBuilder 2.0 in Las Vegas that I'll be presenting on Monday morning. My topic is Web Site Design and Web Analytics. Basically how to work in the concepts and needs of web analytics into your design strategy before a single line of code is generated.

Unfortunately, this year I won't be sticking around for the entire conference as I have to be back in Toronto the next day. However, I should be at the conference to a little after lunch and then I need to head back to the airport.

So if you're attending the conference, be sure to look me up and say hello.


Google Chrome Reporting in WebTrends

In case you missed the big news a couple of weeks back Google released its browser called "Chrome". New browsers are nothing new, but because its from Google the speed at which users are trying it is higher than if it came from some unknown company. Now if you're using WebTrends On-Demand or Google Analytics, you don't have to worry about it showing up in your web analytics report of user clients.

However, if you are using a locally installed web analytics product (like WebTrends) then you need to tweak your software to start reporting on it. For WebTrends users, I've found some great instructions on just how to do this from WebTrends. These instructions can be found at: http://www.webtrendsoutsider.com/2008/adding-the-chrome-browser-to-your-reports/
For other web analytic products check with your manufacture and please post links to any guides as comments to this post.


It's Web Conference Season

Several things happen in September. First the unofficial end of summer with the return of kids schools. Secondly all the fall conference start their marketing efforts.

This year is no exception and I'm happy to be speaking at 3 different events during the next few months plus my usual private corporate training and speaking sessions.

Here is a list of my up-coming talks, I'll post more on the individual events shortly.

October 12 - Web Builder 2.0 (Las Vegas,) Nevada)
October 16 - Canadian Marketing Association (Toronto, Ontario)
November 11 - Pub Con (Las Vegas, Nevada)

Topics range for discussion on web analytics (CMA & Web Builder) to SEO friendly design (PubCon). You can view the various conference web sites for details of my talks and other speakers. If you're thinking of attending any event remember they all offer early bird specials so register early. If you are attending let me know and look out for me and be sure to say hello.

More on each event shortly.


Google Twins & How to be Number 1

Ever do some "Echo Surfing" (search your own name in Google or another search engine) only to find another person with the exact name. While finding a Google Twin may more common for some than others, what happens if that other you represents something you're not and has the potential to damage your reputation. What if a potential employer or client Googles your name and finds them instead and thinks you are them and there are some not nice things out there about them.

This is something that all of us and not just those of us who choose to be in the public eye (like myself) have to start addressing. Think your name is so unique, try Googling yourself with both the correct spelling and common misspellings of your name. I might be the only "Alan K'necht", but there is at least one other "Alan Knecht" out there.

Perhaps, these are some of the reasons that the Canada's National Post reporter Brianna Goldberg, decided to see what happened when she Googled herself and her subsequent drive to dominate the top 10 results for her name on Google.

Her journey to Google domination including quotes and advice from myself and another expert are contained in her article entitled "Google Twins: I want to be number 1" (http://www.nationalpost.com/life/story.html?id=743136).

This article makes a great read and provides lots of useful information. Let's help show the world the power of links by adding the article to your Stumble Upon, Digg, etc. account or better yet, blog about it and link to it with the words "Google Twins"” in the link text.


The First Live WebCast Wedding - Celebrates 10 Years

It's hard to believe that it was 10 years today that the first live broadcasted (webcasted) wedding on the web took place. This wedding was truly original not just by being the first wedding to use Internet technology (others relied on e-mail or the once might IRC), but it was the first to stream a live video and audio stream to a world-wide audience. The wedding was streamed live, but it also integrated gesture based virtual reality into the stream (think Wii 10 years ago, but even better). Back on August 13th 1998, the concept of streaming anything across a dial-up connection was unheard of. It was a few months later that Victoria Secret rocked the world by streaming their fashion show using a high speed connection.

How do I remember it so well? Easy, I was groom and my wife of 10 years was the lovely bride. At that time in history this was real big news. Several local TV stations were on hand and the wedding was featured on several local (Toronto) 11:00 news shows. On top of that, the netcasted (as it was referred to then instead of webcasted) wedding was featured on several national TV shows and was written up in numerous national publications including Macleans magazine and several international publications as well.

The buzz around this wedding and the wedding's web site, existed long before sites like YouTube or MySpace existed and allowed family and friends to really share in the whole experience even if they couldn't attend. Why am I writing about this now and how does this relate to theme of this blog that's easy to answer. The wedding generated 100's of links to the wedding web site (now archived at www.knecht.ca/algo) and the web site was one of the top search results on any search engine when searching on "wedding" or "netcast" or any other related phrases. Yet over the years, all those links and all but one web reference (http://www.montrealmirror.com/ARCHIVES/1998/122498/august.html) have vanished from the web as if the wedding didn't occur or was never document. So is the life of the Internet and the web. The lesson to learn from this from an SEO perspective is simple – never stop building links to your site. Those great links that exist today might gone tomorrow.

Fortunately, for my wife and me, we have the video clips of the t.v. shows, and copies of the printed articles safely stored away. Recently upload the collection of video clips to the web.


A New Search Engine (A new kid on the Block)

Earlier this week a new search engine was announced to a certain degree of fanfare and pride. The new search engine Cuil (pronouced "cool") is an interesting search engine at best.

Enough articles and reviews have already been published discussing the developers backgrounds and their former relationship with the likes of Google, so I won't go there. What I will focus on is the quality and usability of the search results.

Ad of today, Cuil claims to have index 121,617,892,992 web pages. This is far more than Google ever claimed and to my knowledge one of the highest amount amongst all search engines. My opinion on this is "So What?". Have the biggest collection of pages means nothing if you don't produce high quality results and have a highly usable search engine.

Back when Google was starting out, I was a reluctant convert. Many kept showing me this new search engine and telling me how much they liked. What they liked was it was clean and simple (unlike the best search engine of the time Alta Vista), but it didn't support complicated searches and as a result the quality of results was some what limited. Of course, Google addressed these weaknesses early on to become the powerhouse it is today.

So let's take Cuil through its paces.

  1. Starting interface is simple and clean and with that lovely black background (reminds me of 1996 or was that 1997 when all web sites had to have a black background just because.
  2. Cuil doesn't support even a basic boolean search - I tried using a plus sign "+" between two phrases and it returned unrelated results - remove the + sign and you get better results, but not what I was looking for
  3. There is no advanced search option (i.e. if you want to exclude a specific domain from your search)
  4. The search results - now this is different.

I'm going to focus on the search results and what I do and don't like about them.

  1. There are no ads (Great for now, but for how long)
  2. A clearly visible filter for safe searching (great for keeping out questionable material from you surfers)
  3. The choice of displaying results in either 2 or 3 columns
  4. Interesting images appear next to each search results


  1. You get to choose between a 2 or 3 column results page - the columns are very narrow making it very difficult to read the result summary. It would have been better if Cuil would have embraced liquid design and allowed the columns to fill the browser window instead of a restricted width. The current design only looks good if you're using a monitor set at a resolution of 800x600 (how year 2000).
  2. There are interesting pictures next to each search results - sometimes these images are related and other times they are not. From what I could tell is Cuil has some stock images it uses if the page doesn't provide one that it wants to use based on the theme of the page. A search on my name "k'necht" yield a few results with my picture next to it and other times I have no idea of what the picture is of or how it is related to the result.
  3. Quality of the results - I found this the weakest part of Cuil. Several sites that I can easily find using Google, Yahoo or Live (always show up in the top 10 if not the top 5) and are import sites for the search term, don't show up on page 1 and in some case don't appear until page 1.

So what is clear is that Cuil has a unique approach and a completely different algorithm than 3 major search engines. Time will tell if they will be able to tweak this to start producing better quality results instead of just more pages. And lastly I appreciate their different approach to displaying the search results, but it does require a tiny bit of tweaking.


Web Builder 2.0 Here I Come Again

Once again I'm happy to announce that the best all round web development conference I've ever attended is happening again. This years Web Builder 2.0 conference will take place October 13-15 in Las Vegas Nevada at the Mirage Resort and Casino.

As with all previous Web Builder conference (except the inaugural on back 1997) I will be a presenter. I will also keep my streak alive of attending every single one (yes I was there back in 1997 when CNet kicked off this conference known then as Builder.com conference).

I've asked this year to simply reprise my address from last year. The subject matter is "Building Web Sites with Web Analytics in Mind". As so called "Web 2.0" development techniques continue to be adopted this is becoming very critical. As well Marketing Departs and senior management are now demanding even more detail of web site performance than ever before. So talks like mine where explain how both management and web development must work together to build not only a functional and effective web site, but one that can easily be measured and be flexible enough to adapt to the ever changing demands of management for measurements.

As I posted last year, this is the only conference I know of that brings together the spectrum of staff involved in web development to a single conference. In past years, I seen web project managers, hardcore java an dotnet programmers, graphic artists, usability specialists, SEO experts, marketing managers and others in attendance at this conference. This is the one conference to bring the entire team to.

So be sure to look into attending. There is an Early Bird registration special and more information at http://webbuilderconference.com/2008/default.aspx.

SEM Canada Postponed

Said news from last week is that SEM Canada scheduled for September 4th and 5th had to be canceled. I really was looking forward to this conference as the slate of speakers was outstanding.

Granted having a conference the day after Labour Day when many heads turn back to work or getting the kids off on their first day back at school may have not been the wisest, but to the idea was sound.

So the good news is that SEM Canada is still scheduled to happen, but his time it is being scheduled tentatively for October 2009. This will give the organizers much more time to secure event sponsorship and build registrant momentum. I know that I have already agreed to speak at this event and I can only hope that the slate of speakers will remain mostly intact.


Don't Forget About Dial-Up Users

To many of us who been in the Internet business since the mid 90's we remember all the issues about dial-up connections and slow speed. We knew how to design nice looking sites with small page size.

Over the past few years with the expansion of broadband access many have forgotten about the dial-up user. Well here is an interesting article about how many current dial-up users are sticking with their slower internet connections.

So with this thought in mind, here's link to the article:
Study says many dial-up users don't want broadband


WebTrends 8.5 Upgrade Success

Following the issues in my previous post, the upgrade completed successfully.

The only minor complaint were the status screens. While there has been a major improvement in terms of providing accurate time estimates, one has to remember that these are estimates and not to put too much faith in them. At least this time round, WebTrends provides a screen per module so can monitor the progress.

One one of the first screens the count got down to 5 minutes remaining and after about 3 minutes it jumped back up to 6 minutes which was about right. On the last of these screens it sat at 14 seconds for what seemed like a eternity. Fortunately it was about 6.5 minutes.

The whole upgrade on my test server (4 profiles) took approximately 45 minutes once I shut down the WebTrends Scheduler (see previous post).

I did run into one minor problem after the install. When I tried to run a profile update the update failed. I also tried to run a new profile and it also failed. After some investigation, it turned out that despite entering a new license key during the install (as early posted), WebTrends didn't retain the new 8.5 key, but instead retained the original 8.1 key. A quick delete of the old key and I activated the new key and all is good. WebTrends is now up and running and generating report data. (this issue has been reported to the WebTrends technical support team)

I'll now be putting WebTrends through its paces and should be able to report back on the quality and stability of the new GeoTrends module in a day or so.

WebTrends 8.5 Upgrade Issue

Still in the process of upgrading and ran into another minor issue.

In this instance, the upgrade had problems stopping the WebTrends Scheduler service. After 40 minutes I called tech support to report the problem. Here is the solution in case you run into the same problem.

1. Open your Task Manager
2. Click on the Process Tab and sort the list by Image Name
3. Stop the process WTxd.exd

Once this is done, the upgrade proceeded as expected. Word of caution you should wait at least 10 minutes before performing the above steps.

According WebTrends technical support a way to avoid this problem in the future is to stop all the WebTrends services manually before the upgrade with the exception of the MySQL service. The Upgrade need to talk to this database during the upgrade.

One of the major changes in this version is a new backend database. Say good-bye to MySQL and say hello to MS Express (MS SQL Express). So a major part of this upgrade is converting the old data base over. So be sure to make a full and proper back-up of everything before starting the upgrade.

WebTrends 8.5 Upgrade GeoTrends & Other Issues

I'm in the midst of upgrading my WebTrends test server from verison 8.1a to 8.5 and came across two issues. So I thought I would post these on the fly just in case anyone is planning on installing the upgrade today.

1. License Key - version 8.5 would not accept my current 8.1 license key. The reason for this is unclear as I was the first person to call into WebTrends tech support on any 8.5 issues. The problem may have just been with my key (I have a unique key for test and evaluation purposes only) or an issue with 8.5. The matter was quickly resolved by the phone call when a new 8.5 license key was issued.

2. GeoTrends - On the install screen where you point WebTrends to where your GeoTrends dat file is located, there is a warning message telling you that you must uses Geotrends version 8.200801 or later (presently this is the most current version).

I hadn't download this file before so off I went to download it. By going straight to it through the WebTrends FTP interface (FTP.webtrends.com/geotrends) it was going to take over 3 hours to download as it is over 800 megs and the site throttles download speeds (max I was getting was 76 kb/second). However on the install screen, they provide a download now button. It took just over 30 minutes for downloading from this alternative site. So if you have the time go the usual road and download it overnight, otherwise plan on 30 -45 minutes to download the dat file as part of your upgrade process.

I thought the downloading the latest dat file was a bit funny as WebTrends has been upgrading my GeoTrends database (at least according to my log files), but according to tech support, the newer GeoTrends is structured differently and version 8.5 takes advantage of this new structure.

That's it for now. The upgrade is in the process of shutting down all the WebTrends services. It's been trying to shut down the scheduler now for at least 5 minutes, but that seems normal given past experiences with WebTrends.


WebTrends 8.5

WebTrends 8.5 was just released today (June 30th).

I'm in the process of downloading it and will report back my findings and recommendations about upgrading shortly.

Here's hoping issues with Geotrends have been resolved and that the new database for the backend is more stable and flexible than the previous MySQL.

If you're feeling adventurous you can download and try it for yourself at

Here are some of the new features as reported by WebTrends:
Analytics Reports and report Administration
New calculated measures provide support for user-configured formulas. Configure calculated measures in custom reports during configuration, or create them at report time to provide new insights in real time. Report users can rearrange existing columns or add new ones on the fly.

Analytics Reports
New Web 2.0-focused reports provide enhanced out-of-the-box tracking for Rich Internet Applications (RIA), RSS feeds, streaming media, and customer-generated media.

WebTrends Administration and WebTrends Accounts
New user roles provide consistent, streamlined user rights assignments and custom groupings when creating or modifying users in WebTrends On Demand or Software. Use preconfigured roles included with your implementation, or create roles fine-tuned to your organizational needs in WebTrends Administration.
WebTrends Analytics On Demand administrators now assign user roles, not rights, in WebTrends On Demand Accounts.

Other points to note:
The user interface no longer requires Java
Analytics Reports - Analytics Reports Calendar now defaults to monthly rather than daily.

Stay tuned for my review. I should be finished putting through its paces by the end of the week.


SEM Canada - Early Bird Discount

Here is the heads up on the next conference I'm scheduled to speak at. I really got excited about this conference after meeting the organizer Laura Callow last week at SES Toronto. She is a warm and friendly person, who is giving this conference a truly personal touch. As well several many of the speakers at SEM Canada were in attendance here in Toronto. We share the excitement of another search engine conference here in Canada. During various discussions, we acknowledge that this will be a different type of conference and how we are all being challenged to deliver something new and exciting during our sessions. Conference organizers are now offering a early bird discount of $695 for the two day event valid until July 7th.

I must admit, that most of the following post was so well put by Jim Hedger, that with permission I have reposted with only a few minor adjustments and some trimming. Now the essences of Jim's post:

The organizers of the SEM Canada conference scheduled for the 4th and 5th of September in Calgary have secured an "A" list of speakers including myself (Alan K'necht), Jane Copland, Todd Friesen, Ken Jurina, Cindy Krum, Bill Slawski, and Richard Zwicky, SEM Canada is now working on filling the most important seats in the conference, the audience.

According to conference organizer Laura Callow, local interest from Calgary and Edmonton is booming with several large companies in two of Canada's most prosperous cities booking space for their staff. International attendance numbers, which are vital for the conference's success, remain a hurdle as ID requirements for international travel are confusing for some US residents and high fuel surcharges have increased the costs of traveling. To bolster local support and turn that support into hard cash, SEM Canada is organizing a Test-My-Site taster conference.

In order to promote sales, SEM Canada is offering readers an enormous discount on the early bird rate. Until July 7, registrants can purchase a full, all-inclusive 2-day pass for only $695, down from the original early bird rate of $895, similar to the discount already offered to SEOmoz Premier members.

From the standpoint of a business developer, attending SEM Canada makes financial sense. Those who participate in the SEM Canada conference are likely to find a larger pool of potential customers than those attending similar SES or SMX events. There are few search marketing conferences held in Canada and the event in Calgary is the only multi-day conference on search marketing in western Canada. With a stable resource based economy, western Canada is the only part of North America seeing sustained economic growth at this time. The business market in western Canada, while served by amazing local talent, is still wide-open for search marketers to enter. There simply aren't enough of us up here to satiate the growing need for effective search marketing.

SEM Canada will be a far more intimate show than SES San Jose or the SMX East conference scheduled for one month later in NYC, giving attendees a chance to meet and really get to know some of the most influential names in the industry. It will also be a successful show, at least from a biz-dev standpoint, for those who attend.

Organizer Laura Callow recently emailed all speakers with a personal message for anyone interested in attending SEM Canada. "Please also ask your subscribers to contact me personally via email to put their names down on our hotel discount list I will call them back after they email me, or they can call me on 403-714-6170. We like the personal touch. Well I do…" Let's hope the personal touch works. The SEM Canada conference could be highly beneficial to the entire search marketing industry.

So I hope to see you there.


SES Toronto 2008 Review

Well another SES Toronto has come and gone. This annual Search Engine Strategies (SES) conference in Toronto is the one annual conference here in Toronto that I look forward to each year. As mentioned previously, I spoke at this year's conference (4th year in a row) on the topic of Keyword Research along with Christine Churchill and Michelle Pruitt (from Microsoft) and Louis-Dominic Parizeau. Our session was moderated by Anne Kenndey. While I was impressed with the quality of speakers on the panel as well as virtually every session attended, I can't help but feel a bit disappointed with year's conference

The networking opportunities and chances for everyone (speakers and attendees) to mix and mingle with most speakers were on par with previous years. I personally got a chance to get together with the usual suspects of with Jim Hedger, Richard Zwicky, Ken Jurnia, Andrew Goodman, Greg Jarboe, and Lyndsay Walker. In addition, I also got to reconnect with Bryan Eisenberg who I hadn't seen or chatted with in about 7 years and finally meet in person Laura Callow (organizer of SEM Canada scheduled for September of this year).

I was especially impressed with Incisive's decision to include an Orion panel session purely dedicated to measuring success in Web 2.0 world and another session focused on the analytics aspect of search engine marketing. While the Orion session my not have been as technical as I wished, it more or less met the demands of most attendees. What I found most disappointing was the lack of vendors at the show. My best guess would be at most there were 12 booths with the biggest sponsor being the Yellow Pages. The small size of the Google and Microsoft booths reflects poorly on them and the respect they have for the Canadian market. SES Toronto until now was not only the premier search engine conference in Canada it was basically the only one (this year there will be SEM Canada in Calgary), so why didn't they have a bigger and more technical presence at the show?

Another disappointment over previous years was the attendees. I'm used to a mix of beginners and experienced SEO people. This year excluding the speakers, I ran into only a handful of people had any SEO or PPC experience from the attendees. During my session I asked how many of the audience had keyword research experience and only about 10% raised their hands. This compares to over 50% who raised their hands last year during the same session.
Several of us have an uneasy feeling that this may be the last SES Toronto for a while. Nothing can be confirmed, and while Incisive was selling booth space for next June's SES Toronto, there was no attempt to presell it to the attendees (no banners, no announcement unlike when Danny Sulivan ran the conference). Here's hoping I'm wrong.

I am next scheduled to speak at SEM Canada right after Labour Day in Calgary (more on this line up shortly), with any luck I'm hoping to speak at SES San Jose in August and perhaps at Danny Sulivan's SMX East in October.


Web Analytics & Mobile Devices

Here is a link to an interesting article about the issues of measuring traffic from mobile devices and the short comings of the traditional web analytics products http://searchenginewatch.com/showPage.html?page=3629590

Of course, this article can't capture everything, but it missed one big point and the one I've been standing up for years on. While the article talks about the short comings of using java script based tracking (like Google Analtyics, Web Trends SDC etc.), it didn't talk about my standard recommended approach.

This approach means setting the user cookie at the server and not on the web page and recording this in the log file. Most mobile devises (to my limited knowledge) do accept first party cookies even if they won't execute most java scripts. So with the cookie controlled by the server and not the web page, you can track unique visits.

What I found most interesting from this article was the percentage of people who do some web browsing from their mobile devices in the use (19%). Here in Canada I don't know of many who except in an emergency would do any browsing (unless their phone supports WiFi). Of course the cost of data plans here is ridiculous hight when compared to the USA.

Regardless if this percentage is high or low, the reality is people are starting to surf from their mobile phones and we better be prepared to measure and analyze this traffic. Anyone who's attended one of my web analytics or WebTrends training classes lately knows I do reference this issue with mobile browsing and its growing impact on the world of web analytics.


SES Toronto 2008

Search Engines Strategies Toronto is back for its 5th year here in Toronto. This year's event will take place June 16 -18th.

For the fourth year in a row, I'll be speaking at this year's event (June 18th at 12:45). My topic for this year's conference address is "Keyword Research". This is the same topic as last year's address, but I promise to update my slides and give out some new information.

Joining me again on this year's panel is Christine Churchill of KeyRelevance. I've gotten to know Christine not only at SES, but at other search conferences throughout North America. She not only brings a big smile and sunny disposition to each presentation, but a wealth of knowledge and insight developed through years of hands on experiences.

SES Toronto, to my great delight is also increasing its focus on web analytics. Anyone who has ever attended one of my talks knows that I firmly believe that you can't do and SEO or SEM without sound analytics in place. That's why I'm thrilled to see June Li (Clickinsight) (June and I have teamed up before in Toronto to speak on the topic of Web Analytics) and Bryan Eisenberg (Future Now Inc.) two of the leading authorities on web analytics speaking at this year's conference.

So if you're only going to attend one search engine conference in Canada this year, make SES Toronto. As reminder to people in the US north east, Toronto isn't that far to travel and it is a very cosmopolitan place (the most multicultural city on the planet) with lots of fun activities and despite the recent increase in value of the Canadian dollar, it still is a relatively affordable place to travel to.


WebTrends 8.1a - Reissued

During a routine call to WebTrends technical support a couple of weeks ago, I was asked an interesting questions by them. The question was "Which download of WebTrends 8.1a was I using?".

This question took me a second to digest. I dug a little deeper to only discover that some time in the middle of January of this year, they posted a revised version of WebTrends 8.1 on their FTP site. This posting had no fanfare and no announcement. I guess they just assumed that anyone installing 8.1a would simply download the newer version automatically. They didn't think about people like myself and my firm to help companies install their product. We keep the latest version of WebTrends on our USB keys so our clients don't have to download them.

Not being told there was a revision is a little disheartening.

However that being said, I've personally did one complete install of WebTrends 8.1a from stratch and was by far the smoothest install of 8.1a I had to date. In fact, there were any problems what so ever. Of course, this client had a properly sized server with ample RAM and hard drive space.

I just completed a reinstall of 8.1a on my company's test WebTrends sever and all went smooth. We're going to be doing a bit more testing, but it is starting to look like the upgrade to WebTrends 8.1 might finally be good enough to recommended it clients. Let me test it a bit further before you take that big jump.

However, if you're planning on simply installing it from scratch on a new server without porting all your existing data, I'm very happy to now recommended it. As always, read the installation guide first and make sure you have a minimum of 3 gigs of RAM or 4 gigs of RAM per processor if you're planning on using the WebTrends GeoTrends module.

As always, if you can afford it, I recommend having a firm like my company (K'nechtology) or WebTrends itself come out and help you install and configure the product plus get your WebTrends Administrators some training. WebTrends is not a simple product to manage and a lot more difficult to install correctly than an out of the box product like MS Office or Adobe Photoshop.


European Link Building

I'm happy to announce that my firm K'nechtology Inc. has just been engaged to by Shred-it UK a firm specializing in secure mobile paper shredding and confidential waste destruction to help develop and implement a UK focused link building strategy.

K'nechtology has worked for years with the Shred-it UK's parent company Securit (www.securit.com) implementing various SEO and SEM strategies throughout its world-wide operations plus managing its web analytics software and measuring the success of all on-line marketing activities.

PubCon 2008

The dates for PubCon (http://www.pubcon.com) 2008 have just been announced. This years PubCon is happening November 11-14 and once again will be held in Las Vegas.

While the speakers list and agenda haven't been finalized, it looks highly likely that I'll be speaking during at least one session at the conference. If this year's conference is anything like last years conference it promises to be highly informative, a great networking opportunity and one great time.

So block off these dates and get ready to say hello to Vegas. One word of advice, don't plan on leaving early on the 14th. This has traditionally been the day of the big networking event and something you really don't want to miss.

As always as I know more, I'll post more on this event.

New SEM Conference

I know its been a while since I posted, and now I have a backlog of news items. So here is the first one.

A new Search Engine Marketing conference has been announced. The conference entitled SEM Canada (http://www.semcanada.org/) will take place in Calgary Alberta on September 4 and 5. At a cost of $895 Canadian for a two day event, this conference has a very attractive price tag.

The conference features some great speakers including Andy Beal, Christine Churchill, Todd Friesen, Ken Jurina, Richard Zwicky and of course myself. As it stands now (agenda hasn't been completely finalized), I'll be speaking at two sessions and moderating a 3rd.

For those who've never been to Western Canada this is a great excuse. The conference is on the Tuesday and Wednesday right after labour day, so I'd suggest flying out early and spending the weekend in mountains (i.e. Banff or Lake Louise) or head out to one of my favourite spots in Canada the Alberta Bad Lands especially Drumheller and Dinosaur Provincial Park.

More on this conference as I find out, but for now check out SEM Canada web site and think about registering.


Search Engine Market Share and Web Site Traffic

An interesting article in today's issue of USA Today Money section (unfortunately not on-line article to link to). It's a story about the rise, fall and future of Yahoo.

I won't go into details of the article, but the article itself contained the following information:

Search Engine Market Share for December in the USA
1. Google 4 Billion searches Market Share 56%
2. Yahoo 1.27 Billion searches Market Share 18%
3. MSN 995 Million searches Market Share 14%
4. AOL 340 Million searches Market Share 4.7%
5. ASK.com 160 Million searches Market Share 2.2%

Source Nielsen Online

So is it any surprise when working on an SEO project that in virtually all cases we only concentrate on Google?