The Internet Marketing Driver: Glenn Gabe's goal is to help marketers build powerful and measurable web marketing strategies.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

.htaccess for Windows Server: How To Use ISAPI Rewrite To Handle Canonicalization and Redirects For SEO

ISAPI Rewrite, .htaccess for Windows Server.If you’ve read previous blog posts of mine, then you know how important I think having a clean and crawlable website structure is for SEO. When performing SEO audits, it’s usually not long before the important topic of canonicalization comes up. Canonicalization is the process of ensuring that you don’t provide the same content at more than more URL. It’s also one of the hardest words in SEO to pronounce. :) If you don’t address canonicalization, you can end up with identical content at multiple URL’s, which can present duplicate content issues. And you don’t want duplicate content. For example, you don’t want your site to resolve at both non-www and www, at both http and https, using mixed case, having folders resolve with and without trailing slashes, etc.

In addition to handling canonicalization, you also want to have a system in place for handling 301 redirects. A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect and will safely pass PageRank from one URL to another. This comes in handy in several situations. For example, if you go through a website redesign and your URL’s change, if you remove campaign landing pages, if you remove old pieces of content, etc. If you don’t 301 redirect these pages, you could end up paying dearly in organic search. Imagine hundreds, thousands, or millions of URL’s changing without 301 redirects in place. The impact could be catastrophic from an SEO standpoint.

Enter ISAPI Rewrite, .htaccess for Windows Server
So I’m sure you are wondering, what’s the best way to handle canonicalization and redirects for SEO? If you conduct some searches in Google, you’ll find many references to .htacess and mod_rewrite. Using mod_rewrite is a great solution, but it’s only for Apache Server, which is mainly run on linux servers. What about windows hosting? Is there a solution for .net-driven websites?

The good news is that there is a solid solution and it’s called ISAPI Rewrite. ISAPI Rewrite is an IIS filter that enables you handle URL rewriting and redirects via regular expressions. It’s an outstanding tool to have in your SEO arsenal and I have used it now for years. There are two versions of ISAPI Rewrite (versions 2 and 3) and both enable you to handle most of what .htaccess can do. Actually, I think so much of ISAPI Rewrite, that it’s the topic of my latest post on Search Engine Journal.

So, to learn more about ISAPI Rewrite, the two versions available, and how to use it (including examples), please hop over to Search Engine Journal to read my post.

ISAPI Rewrite: Addressing Canonicalization and Redirects on Windows Server


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Monday, February 15, 2010

How to Upgrade Your HDTV Firmware [SAMSUNG] – And Get Rid of Annoying Audio and Video Problems

How to upgrade your Samsung HDTV firmware.It’s no secret that HDTV’s have taken off. That’s for good reason, considering the incredible image quality that HD provides. So, as people buy HDTV’s and set up HD service with their cable providers, you might think everyone is extremely happy in TV-land. But running some searches in Google for HDTV audio, video, or image problems shows you that everything isn't perfect. Like many other gadgets and electronic devices, HDTV’s run software (AKA firmware). That software often needs to be upgraded as bugs and other problems are addressed by the manufacturer. Therefore, if you end up running into weird issues with your HDTV, don’t immediately think that your TV is shot. You just might need to upgrade your HDTV’s firmware. And that’s exactly what I’m going to walk you through in this post. If you’re not technical and are afraid of terms like “firmware” or “upgrade”, don’t worry. I think you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to upgrade. Also, I focused on Samsung in this post, but the process should apply to other manufacturers. Definitely check out the support site for your specific TV before making any changes.

Samsung HD Audio Problems
I bought a Samsung HD TV a few years ago, based on researching various manufacturers and models. Samsung received outstanding reviews overall, and was consistently called the innovator in the industry. I now have two Samsung HDTV’s and have been happy for the most part. However, over the past year, one HDTV started giving us audio problems. The audio would drop out and you wouldn’t be able to get it back unless you cycled through the various ports (HDMI2, HDMI3, AV1, etc.) Yes, that got extremely annoying, especially when it started happening multiple times per day.

Placing Blame in the Right Spot
So I did what most people would do. I mistakenly blamed the cable company. :) I switched cable boxes (multiple times), I switched out wires, tested various setups, etc. Nothing helped. For whatever reason, I didn’t think that the TV was the problem (based on having it for a few years and that Samsung had such an outstanding reputation.) But upon further research, I noticed many other people had the same problem. During my research, I also noticed several links to Samsung’s support site to download the latest firmware (which some people claimed would fix strange audio or video problems). After going through the process of upgrading my HDTV’s firmware, the audio problems that we were experiencing were 99% gone. It’s not perfect, but much better than it was. It’s now rare that the audio drops out.

After fixing the problem, I started explaining the situation to friends, family, etc. I noticed that most of the people I was speaking to had no idea you could upgrade your HDTV’s firmware (or how to do it). Based on upgrading my firmware, I had numerous requests to email the instructions for how to complete the upgrade. So instead of emailing dozens of people, I’ve decided to document the process here on my blog. Without further ado, let’s jump in.

How To Upgrade Your HDTV’s Firmware (Step by Step)

Note, you will need an empty USB flash drive to complete the process. The flash drive will be used to transfer the firmware upgrade to your HDTV. If you’re not familiar with USB flash drives, they are inexpensive, fast, and provide various storage capacities. They can be purchased at any electronics retailer and typically start at $10-$15 for 4-8GB of storage.) Here's a link to Google Product Search for USB flash drives.

Finding and Downloading the Right Firmware

1. Visit the support website for your specific manufacturer. I’ll walk you through the Samsung website, since I own Samsung HDTV’s. Visit the site and look for a link for "downloads" or "get support".

The Samsung HDTV Support Website.

2. Enter your HDTV model number. Note, I would always use the exact model number to ensure you download the correct firmware.

3. Once you see the downloads available for your TV, click the link for “firmware” or “download firmware”. Save the file to a directory on your hard drive. The download will probably be either a zipfile or an executable file. You will ultimately need to unzip the file (if it’s a zipfile) and drag the folder or contents of the zipfile to your flash drive. If it’s an executable file, then you just need to drag it to your flash drive (covered in the next step.)

Downloading the correct firmware upgrade for your HDTV.

4. Insert your USB flash drive into an open USB port on your computer. It should show up as another drive (in My Computer or Windows Explorer). Drag the file you downloaded to your USB flash drive. If you downloaded an executable file, then just drag that file to your flash drive. If you downloaded a zipfile, you might want to unzip it prior to dragging the files to your flash drive.

USB Flash Drive.
USB Flash Drive in Windows Explorer.

5. Once you transfer the executable file to your flash drive, double click the file to extract the folders necessary for the installation. This will place the necessary files on your USB flash drive. You will probably see a new folder or two after executing the file. Note, it’s recommended that you use a blank USB flash drive. If you have files already on the drive, I would clear them out prior to going through this process.

Installing the Firmware Upgrade on Your HDTV

6. Connect your USB flash drive to the USB port on your TV. For my TV, this was located on the back panel of the TV and was labeled “Wiselink”.


7. This next step definitely depends on your manufacturer and model of TV. Use the TV’s remote (not your cable remote), and access the main menu. For my TV, I simply clicked the “Menu” button on the remote. Scroll down to the “Setup” tab and then find the option for “Software Upgrade” or “SW Upgrade”. When you select “SW Upgrade”, choose the option for “USB” (which was the only option I had). If you downloaded the correct firmware for your specific TV, then you will be prompted to install the upgrade. If you proceed, then you should see the firmware upgrade being installed.

HDTV Menu to Access Software Upgrade via USB

Note, DO NOT DISCONNECT THE USB DRIVE while the installation is taking place. Doing so could cause serious problems with your HDTV (like corrupting your firmware or damaging your TV hardware).

The TV should automatically turn off and then back on after the install is complete. Once the TV turns back on, you should be good to go.

Congratulations, you just upgraded your firmware. :)

Are You Ready to Upgrade?
So there you have it. If you are experiencing technical issues with your HDTV, don’t start shopping for a new model just yet. Instead, it could be that you need to upgrade the TV’s firmware (which is pretty straight forward and shouldn’t take you very long to complete). Also, if you experience any problems or have questions about the upgrade, definitely contact your manufacturer’s technical support. They can make sure you have the right firmware version for your specific TV.

Happy viewing.


{Disclaimer: I highly recommend contacting your TV manufacturer's technical support team prior to upgrading your firmware. I am not responsible for any technical problems or issues you experience during the upgrade.}

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

How To Create A Google News Sitemap and Submit It Via Google Webmaster Tools

Creating and submitting a Google News sitemap.As Twitter and Facebook boom, the need for real-time search grows more important. When people want information about breaking news, they Google it. It’s their initial reaction... And if you're not there, you might as well not exist (even if you have the greatest article on the web about the subject at hand.) So, when I’m analyzing websites that contain articles and posts that could be considered news, I'm obviously interested in seeing the amount of traffic coming from sites like Google News. After checking referring traffic levels, top content, and trending, I check to see if a Google News sitemap exists. I’ve always been a believer that if Google provides a way to send it structured data with additional information about your posts and articles, you should use it (period!) Unfortunately, many site owners don’t take the time to set up a Google News sitemap. I think it sounds harder to do than it really is, so they just brush it off. As you probably can guess, I think that’s a bad idea. :)

Google News Being More Than Google News…
When searching for a hot topic, some people head straight to Google News, however, many simply search on Google’s homepage or via their Google Toolbar. The way your listing shows up will vary depending on where the user searches. For example, thanks to Universal Search, news content is being mixed into the organic listings for targeted queries. For example, you might see a thumbnail and headline in a Google News one box at the top of the search results. See the screenshots below for a few examples.

Example of Google News one box in search engine results.

How Google News content can show up blended into the organic search results.

I’ve found that news content ranking in the organic listings can be a powerful driver of highly targeted search traffic (for obvious reasons). By the way, having your listing show up in the SERPs (with associated thumbnail) substantially increases your chances of click-through. Check the latest Google heatmap study to see the effect of Universal Search on user behavior if you don’t believe me. :) It also provides a great opportunity to gain valuable readers and subscribers, since you might be viewed as an authority site by visitors (since you rank highly in Google News.) Don't underestimate how powerful top rankings can be credibility-wise.

So, how do you make sure Google has the necessary information about your latest articles, posts, and content so you can have a chance of ranking in Google News (and as part of Universal Search)? One way is to provide a Google News sitemap. Let’s dig deeper.

What is a Google News Sitemap?
In a nutshell, a Google News sitemap is an xml feed that enables you to tell Google about your latest content, including information like publication date and news tags or keywords. In addition, as part of the keywords you provide, you can include Google News categories. You might already be familiar with xml sitemaps, or the xml feeds you provide Google and the other search engines that contain all the URL's on your site. Google News sitemaps are similar, just tailored for news-related content. Note, Google requires that the information contained in the sitemap is less than three days old, so you wouldn't want to provide a running list of URL's in the feed. Instead, you would want to make sure your latest posts and stories are included. For example, if you provide the latest in electronics or search engine marketing or celebrity news, then a Google News sitemap containing your latest articles would be a smart feed to employ.

What Information Should You Provide In A Google News Sitemap?
You should create a Google News sitemap using the sitemap protocol (which is what you are probably using to create your standard xml sitemap). The core elements of a news sitemap include the namespace/URLset tag, your list of URL’s, publication date of each URL in W3C format, and optional news tags (which can include Google News categories). There's no limit to the number of keywords you can provide, but Google recommends you keep them fewer than 12. Click here to see a full listing of all categories used by Google News.

A Quick Example of a Google News Sitemap:
Let’s say I ran a website covering the latest in baseball. To keep this example simple, here is what my Google News sitemap would look like if it contained two new articles: (Can you tell I'm optimistic about the Yankees this year?)

Click the image below to view a larger version:
A sample Google News sitemap.

Submitting Your Google News Sitemap
Once you create your Google News sitemap, you should submit it via Google Webmaster Tools. Note, webmaster tools was just updated (June 10, 2009), and now you can find the sitemaps tab by clicking the plus sign next to Site Configuration (the first listing in the left navigation). First, upload your sitemap to your website (in the root directory of your website). Then submit your sitemap via webmaster tools by entering its location in the text box once you click the sitemaps tab.

Submitting a Google News sitemap via Google Webmaster Tools.

Including a Reference to Your Sitemap or Sitemap Index File in Robots.Txt
You would also want to include a reference to your sitemap in your robots.txt file. If you have more than one sitemap, then use a sitemap index file, which can contain references to up to 1000 sitemaps (although you will probably never come close to that number). In addition, each news sitemap should not contain more than 1000 URL's. If your sitemap contains URL's older than 3 days, they will be rejected. If you have more than 1000 URL’s for your news sitemap, break them into separate sitemap files.

Here is what you would enter in your robots.txt file on a new line. Note, you would either enter the location to the sitemap file itself or the sitemap index file, which would reference several sitemap files.

Sitemap: {sitemap_location}

Google Webmaster Tools and Error Messages
Be sure to monitor your news sitemap in Google Webmaster Tools to view any errors being encountered by Google. Google will notify you and provide the exact error message, which can be extremely helpful. There are a number of errors that can occur, such as date not found, date too old, empty article, etc. You can find a full list of Google News sitemap errors here.

Moving Forward With Your Google News Sitemap
Based on what I’ve explained above, my hope is that you are ready to create your own Google News sitemap. It’s relatively straight forward to create and submit and can help you notify Google of all the news-related content hitting your website(s). In addition, if you automate the creation of your Google News sitemap, then it can work for you without having to dedicate any additional resources to it… It’s one of the projects I often recommend knocking out before other, more time-consuming SEO projects. Good luck and stop back and let me know how it worked out for you. I’d love to hear your thoughts.


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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Hacked Gmail Accounts: What To Do If Your Gmail Account Is Compromised By Hackers

How to recover your gmail account after it has been hacked.The morning of March 2nd started out fairly normally. I moved quickly to get ready and jumped on my computer to check email, twitter, my feeds, etc. So I launched Outlook and happened to see an email from one of my good friends Matt Leonard (or @mjleonard if you are on Twitter). He's a great guy and a smart marketer so we're in touch often. The email was sent from Matt's gmail account and the subject line communicated the urgency of his message.

Apparently, Matt flew to Nigeria the night before to attend the Tinapa Opening Ceremony. {???} He ended up staying at a hotel, which was attacked by armed robbers. {OK...} They took all of his money and his wallet. {???} His email explained that he needed money badly, to the tune of $1500 so he could settle his hotel bill. {LOL} He seemed very scared and he emphasized that he needed the money sent as soon as possible. As you can imagine, I was genuinely concerned for Matt... {sarcasm}

Yes, Matt's gmail account had been hacked and I'm sure many people received the same email I did. Here was the original email:

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Subject: *****URGENT REPLY NEEDED *********

I am in a hurry writing this message, I had a trip to West Africa *NIGERIA* on visiting the TINAPA OPENING CEREMONY, Unfortunately for me all my money got stolen at the hotel where i lodged from the attack of some armed robbers.Right now,I'm without money and I'm even owing the hotel here, the hotel telephone service is disconnected,i have only access to emails,my mobile phone can't work here so i didn't bring it along, please can you lend me $1500 so i can return back and settle the hotel bills i would return it back to you as soon as i get home, I am so confused right now.You can have it sent through western union money transfer. My passport is with the Embassy here so i cant use my name to collect it now, But you can have it sent directly to a western union Manager here and i would get it through him as he helps the people here in the hotel to receive the money, I have already spoken to him, please let me hear from you so i can collect his full name and address where you can send the money tomorrow please,or if possible today. I am waiting for your reply.

Thank you. I look forward to your positive response.



OK, this was absolutely ridiculous, but being the good friend I am, I still wanted to reach out to Matt as soon as possible to let him know what was going on. I was pretty confident he didn't know yet. Now, I didn’t know if his actual account was taken over. I simply thought that someone was blasting out emails using his address as the sender. There’s a difference between the two. So, I created a new email (which was sent to his gmail account) informing him that his email address had been compromised. Unfortunately, that was the only email address I had for Matt...

It was a brief email that looked like this:


Hi Matt.

I just received a spam email from your gmail acct. Not sure if it's
widespread or not, but wanted to let you know.

It was one of those Nigerian schemes.

Let me know if you have any questions.



It was only a few minutes when I received an email back from Matt. My guess was that he wanted to quickly thank me for notifying him of the scam. I opened the email and was shocked to see that the original email from Matt wasn't a joke! Matt was in fact in Nigeria at a hotel and needed money. {sarcasm yet again}

You see, “Matt” actually responded to my email!

Holy smokes, the scammers who hacked Matt's gmail were answering emails right from his account! I'll admit it, that creeped me out. Read their response to my email below:

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Subject: Re: Email Spam
To: Glenn Gabe


Its not a scam mail, i am really there now. i need you to help me with $1500, i shall pay you as soon as a i return. i hope to read from you asap. below is the info where the money will be sent to....


So, I direct messaged Matt via Twitter notifying him of the hack, this time using only 140 characters or less. :) Before long, I received a DM back from Matt that he was handling the situation. He thanked me, and got back to fixing the problem. So, after Matt recovered his gmail account (and after he got pummeled by jokes on Twitter), I asked him about the steps he took to recover his gmail account.

After this happened to Matt, I asked myself if I would know what to do... I really didn't. I'm sure I would eventually figure it out, but I didn't know the exact steps. So with Matt's assistance, I decided to write this post to document the steps you should take to recover your gmail account after it has been compromised.

So in Matt’s own words, here’s how to handle the situation:

The process was pretty simple.

First, from the Gmail login page, select "I can not access my account".

Gmail, I cannot access my account.

Second, select the radio button "My account has been compromised". This will show a new prompt below "Please fill out our account recovery form to help us process your request as quickly as possible". Follow that link.

Gmail, my account has been compromised.

From the Account Recovery page, select "I believe someone has taken over my account" and fill out as much information as possible.

In my case, Google had contacted me pretty quickly via my alternate email with instructions to reset my password. {Glenn: Make sure your alternate email is active. You can check this from your Google account settings. You can also add additional email addresses just in case.}

Some other useful notes from Matt:
I'm not sure how someone hacked my gmail account. I did make a mistake by using the same password on way too many things. My main passwords are now individually unique. Passwords I set up for vendor accounts are no longer the same as I would use for other more sensitive services, like online banking.

Matt’s Tips to Protect to Your Logins:
1. Avoid unsecured networks
2. Don't use the same password everywhere.
3. Don't duplicate your email password with any login elsewhere (if you do, someone can use your email to login to your other accounts).
4. Change passwords periodically.
5. Don't share your passwords with anyone. Even if they're not going to abuse it, they may not store it properly.
6. Know where you enter passwords. 3rd party Twitter apps that require passwords are a perfect example of sites that people will enter their password without much familiarity aside from a tweet referral.


So there you have it. If you wake up one morning and everyone is asking how and why you checked into a Nigerian Hotel, forgot your wallet, ran up a $1500 bill, and now need money, you'll know how to handle it. :) And definitely feel free to connect with Matt on Twitter. It's ok to joke around with him about the situation. He's a nice guy and has handled the jokes with grace. But don't go too far, he can bench press 375 pounds and used to be a minor league hockey player. ;-)


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Sunday, February 08, 2009

How To Track Flash In Google Analytics (GA) Using The Google Analytics For Adobe Flash Component (GAforFlash), Part 1 of 2

Tracking Flash in Google Analytics Using the GAforFlash ComponentI wanted to start this post with some quick points about flash:
* flash content can be extremely engaging.
* flash apps are a great way to create something viral.
* flash is currently used extensively on the web for everything from video to games to product demos.
* Creative Directors love flash.
* Brand Managers also love flash.
* But unfortunately, flash has been hard and confusing to track...

I apologize if you were feeling pretty good about flash until the last bullet! ;-) That is the reality, though.

Why Has Flash Been Confusing And Hard To Track?
Let’s take a quick look at why flash tracking has been an issue. First and most basic, there are many people that don’t know you can even track flash applications. That’s a tough obstacle to overcome, right? Second, the Analytics team is sometimes not involved during the planning of flash-based projects or campaigns. I’m sure some web analysts reading this post probably believe that’s an understatement! Third, you need to coordinate mechanisms for tracking flash with both flash developers and analysts. Fourth, there has been confusion about how to actually track flash even if you already have your flash developers and analysts in the same room. Last (at least for this initial list), some people will focus on the end result (conversions only) and not track the specific elements on the website that lead to the conversion. i.e. As long as people buy something or sign up, I don’t care what they do on the site. As you can probably guess, I’m not a big fan of the latter… I think the more information you can gather about how visitors interact with your website, the more you can optimize the website to increase conversion (whatever conversion is for your specific business).

Yes, You Can Track Flash
I’m here to tell you that you can track flash and you can see how visitors are interacting with your flash applications. The approach I am going to show you is a more elegant method for tracking flash than what's been used in the past. My hope is that this two part series can save you from a potentially embarrassing moment. You know, when your CMO asks how the 6 month flash development project that cost $75K, that looks incredible, is highly engaging, and wins awards is contributing to the success of the website. Unfortunately, many people run for the hills at that moment, or act like they didn’t hear the question (Chevy Chase-style). I’d hate for you to say, “We’re not actually sure Mr. CMO…” ,and I’d rather hear you say, “Absolutely, here’s detailed reporting of how visitors are engaging our flash content, as well as the tangible effects on conversion.” Yes, I want you to be the flash analytics rock star. :)

Introduction to the Google Analytics for Adobe Flash Component (GAforFlash)
The GA for flash tracking component enables you to track specific events and functionality in your flash movies and seamlessly communicate with Google Analytics for tracking. It gracefully handles any DOM issues that could cause problems in other types of flash tracking using GA. It’s an open source initiative between Google and Adobe Systems and you can find more information on the Google Code Project website.

OK, But What Is It Exactly?
There are two components you can use in flash that enable you to track events, pageviews, conversions, etc. One is a simple flash component that you can customize in the component inspector in flash and the other component involves importing the tracking libraries into your project and then making calls to GA from within your ActionScript code (AS3). I’m going to cover the second approach, since it gives you the most flexibility. And don’t get scared with the way it was explained above. It’s actually straight forward if you are comfortable working in flash.

A Quick Tip For The Code-Averse:
I’m going to walk you through my example step by step in Part 2 of my series on tracking flash in google analytics. If you have worked in flash and written some ActionScript code, I’m confident you will be able to follow along. If not, grab your flash developer and your web analyst and then schedule a working lunch. You can all walk through my example together as a team. After going through my second post, I have a feeling you will collectively brainstorm several ways to use the GA for flash component to track your flash elements, websites, and applications.

So Are You Excited To Start?
Good, then you’re ready to read my second post, which covers how to track flash in Google Analytics using the GA for flash Tracking Component.


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Saturday, December 06, 2008

My 2 Part Video SEO Series on ReelSEO, Using SWFObject 2.1 With Flash Video

Glenn Gabe's Guest Post on ReelSEOIf you’ve read my blog before, they you know I’m passionate about online video, video SEO, and how interactive video can be used for marketing and advertising. When it comes to video search resources, I’ve been a big fan of ReelSEO for a long time. They provide excellent coverage of the space and have a wealth of experience with video search. Needless to say, I was excited when they approached me about writing a guest post for the site.

My two part series went live this week and it covers providing alternative html content for your flash video projects using SWFObject 2.1. Please check out my posts below and I recommend subscribing to ReelSEO. I’ll also be writing more posts for ReelSEO in the future and I'll make sure to notify you here on my blog when they go live.

My 2 Part Series on SWFObject 2.1 for ReelSEO:
Video SEO Tip: Using SWFObject 2.1 to Provide Alternative HTML Content (Part 1 of 2

Video SEO Tutorial - Using SWFObject 2.1 to Provide Alternative HTML Content (Part 2 of 2)


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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

YouTube Insight, How to Optimize and Enhance Your Online Videos Using Analytics

YouTube Insight, Optimizing Your Video Clips Using AnalyticsToday I get to write about two of my favorite things, Web Analytics and Online Video. Lucky me! Given that YouTube just surpassed Yahoo as the #2 search engine, I think it’s safe to say that many of you probably visit YouTube regularly to watch videos online. In addition, I know some of you are taking the next step and producing your own videos to share with the world. That covers watching, producing, and sharing, but there’s another concept I wanted to introduce today, and that’s optimization. Did you know that YouTube gives you access to a video analytics package free of charge, right in your YouTube account? It’s called YouTube Insight and it gives you the ability to constantly glean insights from your video clips and viewers. Video producers that use Insight already know its power, but I still think many people don’t know what to do with it, or more importantly, how to optimize their videos using the data provided by Insight. If you’ve read my blog before, then you know how I feel about the importance of web analytics. Well, this is simply an extension of web analytics, but specifically for your own YouTube video clips. Let’s dig in.

What is YouTube Insight?
YouTube Insight is a video analytics tool that provides you with valuable information about your video clips (and your viewers). Insight gives you several reports, including views, popularity, discovery (how people find your videos), and a new piece of functionality called hotspots. Insight Hotspots enable you see which parts of your video are hot (higher engagement) and which parts are cold (less interest and engagement). I will explain more about hotspots below.

Improving Your YouTube Videos with Insight
Let’s face it, producing videos is darn time consuming. I began shooting and editing video in 1995 and one thing I learned very quickly was that producing a video is not easy and takes a lot of time. So, if you are going to spend the time to brainstorm, script, shoot, edit, and publish videos for YouTube, then you are probably going to want to know what works and what doesn’t. For example, which videos are more engaging, which garner most of your views, how popular were they compared to other videos, which parts of the video were more engaging, etc. You want to know this information so you don’t waste valuable time in the future.

Accessing YouTube Insight
You can access Insight in a few different ways once you have logged in. First, you can access your Insight Dashboard by clicking the Account link in the top right of your screen. Then you can click YouTube Insight from the Performance and Data Tools section located near the bottom of the page (left side).

First Click Your Account Link, Then Click YouTube Insight on Your Account Page:
YouTube Account Link

YouTube Insight Link

The second way to access Insight is by entering the My Videos Page (Uploaded Videos) and clicking the Insight button (for each video). The button for Insight is below the video information and is next to Audio Swap.

YouTube Insight Button Located on My Videos Page:
YouTube Insight Button

Insight Dashboard (a snapshot of all videos)
Your Insight Dashboard functions just like a dashboard in any web analytics package and gives you an aggregate view of your videos (your channel). For example, your dashboard will show you which videos are most popular, how many views your channel is getting, which geographic regions hold the most viewers, popularity of videos in your channel, demographics of your viewers, etc. It’s a great way to get an overall view of how your channel is performing. That said, you really should drill into each video to gain the most valuable information… Aggregate data at the channel level doesn’t really give you actionable information.

Tip: When you are ready to analyze a specific video, you can either click its name in the Views tab of your Insight Dashboard or you can go to your My Videos Page and click the Insight button under each video clip. If you always want to begin by analyzing specific videos, then you might start your visit by accessing the My Videos Page instead of the dashboard.

You can click the Visits tab to see the number of visits each video received in all countries, or in specific regions. You can change the timeframe on the graph and you can choose a specific country from the dropdown on the right. Then, let’s say you choose the United States, you can click on specific states to see your visits per state. To change the date range, you can click the Zoom links in the top of the graph for 1 day, 5 days, 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, or Max. Or, you can use the slider below the graph to quickly change the date range of your report.

YouTube Insight Views:
YouTube Insights Views

Insight also gives you the option of seeing how popular your videos are compared to other videos in the selected region during that timeframe. Just like with visits, you can click a country on the map to target that region, or you can drill into a region to get more granular. For example, you can click a state in the US to see the popularity within that state. You can also click specific countries within a region like Turkey within the Middle East or China within Asia.

YouTube Insight Popularity:
YouTube Insights Popularity

Discovery (or Traffic Sources)
OK, who else is addicted to checking traffic sources for their website in their web analytics package? It’s hard not be, right? The Discovery tab provides the traffic sources for your video clips. I love it. In a nutshell, it's how people found your video. There are five links within this section and they include:

YouTube Search, or which keywords people are entering to find your videos on YouTube.
Related Videos, or other videos on YouTube where your video thumbnail showed up as a related video and people clicked that thumbnail to get to your video.
Embedded Player, or which sites have embedded your video clip (using the embed code in YouTube).
External Links, or websites that link to your video clip (AKA referring sites).
Google Search, or keywords people are entering in Google to find your video clips.
Google Video, or keywords that people are entering on Google Video to find your video clips.
Other, or links to your video where there is no referring URL (AKA Direct Traffic). This might be a person emailing the link to someone else, IM’ing the link, etc.
YouTube Other, or other pages on YouTube that are linking to your video clips (not related videos).

YouTube Insight Discovery:
YouTube Insights Dicovery

Insight provides some basic data regarding the demographics of your viewers. For example, you can see the age range and gender for viewers. In addition, you can click on a specific gender to see the age range within that gender. So, you can click Female and see the age range of your female viewers. {Marketers, can you say Test Group?} More on this later.

YouTube Insight Demographics:
YouTube Insight Demographics

New Addition: Insight Hotspots (and Coldspots)
YouTube just recently made this feature available. Using Insight Hotspots, you can see which parts of your video are more engaging (or less engaging) as compared to other videos of similar length. As the video plays in Insight, there is a graph on the left side of the screen that displays whether that segment of video was hot or cold. If it’s hot, fewer people are leaving your video at that point, or even rewinding the video to see that part again. If it’s cold, more people are skipping that segment or leaving the video at that point. I’ll explain more below about how to use this feature to enhance your videos, but needless to say, it’s an outstanding addition.

YouTube Insight Hotspots:
YouTube Insights Hotspots

This All Sounds Great Glenn, But How Do I Use Insight To Optimize My Videos?
Just like web analytics, having the data available is one thing, but using the data to enhance your efforts is another. Don’t fear! I’ll explain some basic things you can do in order to glean insights from your reporting to optimize your future videos.

1. Your Ad Hoc Focus Group
Companies spend a lot of money testing their creative to understand what will engage targeted viewers. Well, you can use Insight Hotspots to see what is working in your videos and what isn’t, and for free! You can see which parts of your video people like (rewind and watch again) versus don’t like (they skip through or exit the video). For example, you might find that physical stunts are extremely hot where dialogue is cold. Or you might test a few different versions of a video to see which angles yield the highest engagement. Does humor work, action, or a combination of both? Using Insight Hotspots, you can begin to take guesswork out of the equation and make decisions based on data (which is always a smart move!)

2. Using Insight For Keyword Research
I spend a lot of time talking about the importance of Keyword Research for SEO. It’s an incredibly important process to go through in order to optimize your website based on what people ACTUALLY search for (versus what you think they search for). With Insight, you have access to YouTube searches that lead to your videos, Google searches that lead to your videos, and Google Video searches that lead to your videos (and all for free). By analyzing these keywords, you can start to understand the ways in which people search for different types of content and then you can use that information to optimize future videos (and the text content you provide for those videos like your descriptions, tagging, titles, etc.) For example, are people searching for a category, a specific product, do they enter questions or is it by major keyword?

3. See Which Videos Spike Quickly Versus Providing Sustained Visitors
You might find that an entertaining video has a spike in visitors and then fizzles out, where an educational video builds traffic over time and constantly drives viewers your way. Since you can view visits trended over time, then you can start to get a feel for the lifecycle of specific videos. The more you know about the different types of content you produce, the more you can tailor future content to meet your specific needs (or the needs of your clients).

4. Understand Related Videos That Drive Viewers To Your Video Clips
You can start to learn which types of videos are considered “related” and which videos drive the most viewers. The more you understand the videos that drive people to your own clips, the more you can target future content to that target audience. For example, maybe you had a lot of visitors from How-To videos. You might use this angle in the future to make sure you show up there again, or to capture that traffic from the start...

5. Learn Which Websites Link To Your Video (Referring Sites)
Checking your external links, you can see which websites are linking to your video clips on YouTube. From an SEO standpoint, this provides a great opportunity for link-building. For example, if a site in your industry is linking to your YouTube clips, then maybe they would want to link to your website as well. Links are the lifeblood of SEO and finding topical and relevant link opportunities is extremely important. Note, you can’t see specific URL’s in Insight…you only get domain information, which is a little frustrating. That said, you can probably track down the specific webpage by doing a site command in Google. :)

6. Find Out Which Video Clips Go Viral
If you see a lot of viewers from “Other” in your discovery report (direct traffic), then that’s probably from email, IM, etc. Basically, someone sent around the link for your video to their friends, coworkers, etc. If you had a high percentage of viewers from Direct Traffic, then you might have found something that gets people talking. You can follow this path and test out future videos using similar types of content.

7. See Which Geographic Regions Watch Your Videos (Countries And States)
Are your videos more popular within certain countries or regions? Why were they more popular? For example, did you get a lot of traffic from New York when you shot a video in Times Square? Did you get a lot of traffic from Massachusetts when you showcased Boston Baked Beans in your video about the Best Ideas for Sunday Dinner? On the flip side, did you get a lot of viewers from Hawaii to a video about Surfing the Web on Your Blackberry? Were they interested in surfing or a Blackberry??

Produce, Upload, Analyze, and Refine
Let’s face it, videos are not easy to create (good videos). They cost money, take a lot of time to produce, and a huge amount of effort to pull off. If an average blog post takes a few hours to brainstorm, write, edit, and publish, then a good video takes 4-5X that at least to brainstorm, script, shoot, edit, publish and share. Given the time commitment involved, I highly recommend using YouTube Insight as your video analytics package to glean insights from your viewers in order to optimize and enhance your future clips. If you don’t, then you’re just flying blind. As you can probably guess, I’m against flying blind and you should be too, especially when someone hands you a free analytics package like YouTube Insight!


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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Using Keyword Discovery for Keyword Research, Some Commonly Overlooked Features and Functionality

Commonly Overlooked Features in Keyword Discovery.If you’ve read any of my posts about SEO or SEM, then you probably know how strongly I feel about keyword research. I believe performing extensive keyword research is critical to understanding what people are actually searching for versus what you think they are searching for. Opinions are nice, but you should always try and back your decisions with real data (at least as much as possible). In case you are interested in learning more about Keyword Research, you can read my blog post about using Keyword Discovery and WordTracker. I’m a fan of both tools, but I must admit that I’m a bigger fan of Keyword Discovery (KD). Actually, I couldn’t imagine focusing on Search and not having KD by my side. But something hit me about a month ago…I was overlooking some of the outstanding functionality included in Keyword Discovery. Actually, based on my conversations with other marketers, I believe many aren’t using all of the power of Keyword Discovery… So I’m going to help you (and them) by identifying some of the functionality that might be easily overlooked. Let’s get started.

Global Premium Database, Historical View (Past 24 Months)
Keyword Discovery enables you to choose various databases to tap into while performing keyword research. Their Global Premium database holds a few billion searches, looking back 12 months. But, did you know you could actually look back 24 months? Yes, you can and it’s simple to do. Just click the checkbox for “Historical” while searching for keywords.

Historical Keyword Research (24 months) in Keyword Discovery

Why would you want to search historical data?
Depending on the keywords you are researching, there are times you would definitely want to see back past a year. There might have been specific things happening in the past 12 months that would skew your data (think about a presidential election) or a new movie that comes out.

X-Ref (Cross Reference Tool)
I love this tool. Let’s say you are researching a prospective client’s website and want to check a competitor’s site for the keyword set you just searched for. Easy, just click the x-ref tab and Keyword Discovery will prompt you for a URL. Enter a competitor’s URL (the exact page you want to check) and KD will display how many times those keywords show up in the title tag, meta keywords, meta description, and in the page copy on your competitor’s webpage. Keep in mind, the cross reference tool will check at the page level and not at the domain level. This is important…you wouldn’t want to run back to your client and show them one page’s data thinking it was for the entire site. However, it’s a great way to check other pages that rank highly for the terms you are targeting.

For example, let’s enter the keyword “Halloween” and cross reference (my favorite online Halloween shop). Keyword Discovery returns the following results for the homepage:

Click the image below to see a larger version:
Using x-ref to cross reference another webpage in Keyword Discovery.

There are times where you want to see the volume for several keywords working together, but ordered in a different sequence. This tool will enable you to target your selected terms (only those terms) and show you all the permutations in the database. This can help you decide which permutations to target (based on the volume of searches you find). To use the tool, simply enter the keywords you want to target, separated by commas.i.e. keyword1,keyword2,keyword3

For example, let’s enter apple,nano,video:
Viewing all permutations for a set of keywords in Keyword Discovery.

Language Translation:
There are times you will be targeting languages other than English. Well, if you are setting up projects in Keyword Discovery to organize your work, then you can also translate your projects into other languages. Yes, this is a very cool piece of functionality that KD provides (although it’s somewhat hidden). Simply create a project, research keywords, and populate that project with those keywords. Then open your project and scroll down to view the icons at the bottom of the results. You will see the Babel Fish icon (a yellow fish icon). When you hover your mouse over the icon, it will say “Translate Keywords”. When you click the icon, you will be prompted to translate your project from English to either Spanish, French, German, or Italian (or vice versa). Select which translation you want to perform and click submit. Voila, your keywords have been translated. Note, you probably wouldn’t want to just take these translations at face level. It’s a good starting point, but I would try and work with someone fluent in that language before implementing a campaign. ;-)

Using language translation in Keyword Discovery.

Trending Graphs
This feature isn’t overlooked as much as the others, but it’s worth mentioning here. Whenever you perform research in Keyword Discovery, there is an option to view trended data for each keyword (as shown below). This enables you to view keyword data over the past 12 months graphically and is extremely important if you are targeting terms that are seasonal. Think about “roses” and Valentine’s day. You can view charts based on historical data, monthly, trended, and you can see market share by engine. This data can help you and your clients map out strategies for targeting groups of keywords throughout the year.

Viewing trending graphs in Keyword Discovery.

Now Don’t Overlook These Great (But Commonly Overlooked) Features!
If you are currently using Keyword Discovery and don't use these features yet, I think you will be pleasantly surprised. If you aren’t using Keyword Discovery, you should be. I don’t view it as a nice-to-have, it’s a required tool in my arsenal. Once you are comfortable researching keywords, working in the interface, and understanding what the data means, then definitely test out the features I listed in this post.


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Monday, June 16, 2008

Video SEO, How to Optimize Your Video Clips for Organic Search

Video SEO, How to Optimize Video for Universal SearchI've received a lot of questions recently about optimizing video for Natural Search. This is primarily due to the surge in Universal Search, which is where the search engines are mixing in various types of content into the search results. For example, news, images, video, etc. Now, there's no shortage of blog posts and articles out there about video SEO and the point of my post isn't to cover every aspect of optimizing video for search. I just wanted to cover some core best practices, based on my experience. If you want to check out some additional resources after reading this post, ReelSEO provides some outstanding video SEO information, blinkx has a whitepaper on video SEO, and most recently, Brightcove released its 2008 video SEO playbook. I recommend checking out all of these resources and determining the best way to move forward for your given project.

Let's move on. Optimizing your video clips for natural search gives you one more way to get your content ranking in the search engine results pages (SERPs). In my conversations about video SEO, I’ve found a lot of misconceptions about how to best optimize video for search, so I’ve compiled this list of best practices so you can get off on the right foot.

Without further ado, here are some best practices for optimizing video for natural search:

1. Create a separate page for each video clip.
In order to optimize the core html elements for the video clip in question, you should provide a separate html page for each of your video clips. In e-commerce terms, you can think of this page as a product detail page for each video clip. More about optimizing the core html elements of this page below.

2. Optimize the filename and URL.
Create a descriptive URL structure and filename for your video clip. For example, if you were a golf instructor and created a video clip for how to hit sand shots, your URL and filename might look like the following:

And, your video clip might have the following filename:

3. Optimize the HTML elements on your page.
I mentioned this earlier and it’s actually not unique to video… When you create a unique page for each video clip, you definitely want to optimize the title tag, meta description, H1, H2 (if applicable), and content (copy, images, etc.) surrounding your video clip. In order to properly optimize these elements, your text content should be based on keyword research. If you don’t know what I am referring to, check out my post about using Keyword Discovery and WordTracker for finding the keywords that people actually search for on the web versus what you think they search for. For example, the keyword "golf lessons" is searched for 3.7x more than "golf training".

4. Use descriptive anchor text when linking to your video page:
Don’t underestimate the power of using descriptive links. Using our golf example from earlier, don’t link to the page holding your video clip with non-descript text like “View Video” or “Play Video”. You should use descriptive anchor text like “Learn how to hit a golf sand shot.” or “Golf Lessons, Hitting Sand Shots.” Again, base your anchor text on keyword research (the text you place in your link).

5. Use SWFObject to provide search engine friendly alt content.
{If you want to provide crawlable, alternative html content in place of your flash movie.}
Earlier in the year, I wrote a post about how to use SWFObject 2.0 to provide search engine friendly alt content for your flash movies. If you are using flash video on your website, and I’m sure many of you are, then SWFObject is a great way to provide crawlable html content in place of your flash movie. One piece of advice (and it’s mentioned heavily in my post about using SWFObject), don’t overdo it when providing your alt html content. You should only provide content that is also in the video clip. For many, it’s tempting to provide too much content (or content that’s not present in the video clip). Don’t do this…it can end up hurting you. It’s technically cloaking, which is providing a different version of your content to the search engines versus people visiting your site. I recommend providing an optimized H1, H2, thumbnail, along with an optimized summary of what is contained in the video clip. You can also provide a video transcript if you have that available. Mix this content with the other html elements we optimized earlier and you’ve got it covered.

6. Provide a video sitemap.
You can provide an xml sitemap containing your video clip information (for all of your video clips on your website). Video sitemaps are an extension to the sitemap protocol and are similar to the xml sitemaps you already provide to Google and the other engines. If you aren't providing xml sitemap files to the search engines, then I’ll have to cover what they are and how to create them in another post! ;-) As you can probably guess, video sitemaps are tailored for video content. The sitemap contains additional information about your video clips, such as video location, duration, thumbnail image, etc. You can learn more about a video sitemap on Google’s website, but needless to say, it’s a smart way to go.

7. Provide an MRSS feed.
You probably already know of RSS (Really Simple Syndication), but what about MRSS? Well, it’s an extension of the RSS standard specifically created for describing media content. In a nutshell, it’s RSS for multimedia. The spec contains elements for describing your video content like file size, description, thumbnail, content, etc. Video search engines like Blinkx let you submit your MRSS feeds in order to show up in their search results. I highly recommend using MRSS.

8. Submit to video sharing websites like YouTube and optimize the listing:
You should upload your videos to sharing sites like YouTube and then optimize the listings in your account. That includes optimizing the title, description, tags, providing links back to your site, etc. Just like earlier, you should base this content on keyword research for your specific video content. Note, the YouTube versions of your video clips might very well rank above your own site clips. It’s up to you how you want to proceed, and it’s worth testing out with some of your clips to see how the search engines handle both your YouTube clips and your own site clips. I definitely recommend testing this, as it gives you an opportunity for another listing in the SERPs, but your ultimate decision might be based on your specific business model.

Break a leg!
OK, I bet you’re chomping at the bit to run off and optimize your video content. With Universal Search results increasing and the number of people watching video on the web also increasing significantly, you should definitely take the time to optimize your video clips for Organic Search. Now, if you don’t already have video content, make sure you read my post about how to create a YouTube video. It can definitely get you moving in the right direction. Then, following the best practices listed in this post and you can hopefully create killer videos and also get killer rankings to boot. Nice.


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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

QuickTime Pro, A Powerful and Versatile Video Tool for Web Marketers

QuickTime Pro, the handy video tool from Apple.OK, hypothetical situation. You’re working on a tight deadline for a web video marketing campaign. You’re close to finalizing several creative elements for your client and you just received the final video clips on cd-rom (they unfortunately exported the clips for you). It ends up the person sending you the clips didn’t know the format you needed them in, so you’re left with a few files in varying formats and dimensions. None are optimal, by the way. What do you do?? Well, my hope is that you’ll know exactly what to do after reading this post! You’ll use QuickTime Pro to transcode those videos into a format you can use across marketing channels, whether that’s for uploading to YouTube, for use on mobile devices like iphones or blackberries, or for distribution via cd-rom or dvd-r. In my opinion, QuickTime Pro is a phenomenal tool to have in your web marketing arsenal. Sure, it doesn’t replace a full blown editing system like Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere (by any stretch), but it’s fast, has some great features and can save you a lot of time. Let’s dig in.

What is QuickTime Pro?
I know you’ve all heard of QuickTime Player (QT), but Apple also provides a wealth of features bundled into their QuickTime Pro product. It’s only $29.99 and can really save you a lot of time (no, I didn't mean to rhyme that...) You just need to purchase a registration key and then enter that key into your QT Player (in your preferences). QuickTime Pro comes with a number of handy features that you’ll end up using all of the time (once you know that they are there!) You see, QT Pro is part of QuickTime Player, so you won’t find a unique application or interface for working with clips. Using QT Pro, you can convert clips to a number of formats, you can perform some minor editing, and you can even combine clips, creating a separate QT movie from the original you opened! You can encode clips using the H.264 and AAC codecs, which provide maximum quality at extremely small file sizes. More on this later… Even though most people would think that they are just in the standard QT Player while using QT Pro, looks can be deceiving… Let’s take a look at some of the most useful features of QuickTime Pro for web marketers.

Useful Features of QuickTime Pro:

Converting Video Clips to Other Formats (Transcoding Video Files)
So what can do with QuickTime Pro? The short answer is plenty! In my opinion, the most useful feature is its import and export capabilities. You can open a wide range of formats using QT Pro and then easily transcode them to other formats (convert them). Check out the technical specs page to learn more, but it’s a ridiculously handy tool to have around. You can easily convert your clips to a number of formats, including MPEG-4, AVI, QT Movies, DV Stream, etc. (See the screenshot listed below.)

Exporting video clips using QuickTime Pro (transcoding video).

The export feature is available for any format that QuickTime can open, and it can import quite a number of formats… So, if you needed a version of your video for mobile devices, for YouTube, for providing a downloadable version from your website, and on cd-rom, then QT Pro can help you… It can handle all of those tasks quickly and efficiently. Even though I have several professional level editing systems here, it’s sometimes easier to convert video in QT Pro. And yes, it's great for performing basic edits… On that note, let’s take a look at some of the basic editing features built into QuickTime Pro. Read on.

Basic Editing in QuickTime Pro:

Trimming Based on In and Out Points
Do you have 30 seconds of footage that you want to export from a 90 second clip? No problem, you can easily set the in and out points and then trim the clip. Just set the in and out points using sliders while in QT Pro (in the QT player) and then trim the clip by selecting Edit, Trim to Selection. You’re left with the 30 seconds you want to export… Then, export the clip in the various formats you require. Now, what about if you have two clips that you want to combine? Next feature please!

Trimming video clips using QuickTime Pro in and out sliders.

Combining Video Clips by Using Add to Movie
I actually just ran into this situation last week. I had 2 clips that I wanted to combine for a mobile version of a video. QT Pro lets you easily select the second clip and then add it to the first clip. Simply click Window, Show Movie Properties to bring up the Tracks Window. You can select the video and audio track and then click Extract. This will create a new movie containing the tracks you selected. Then click Edit, Select All. Then Edit, Copy. Go back to your original clip and set the playhead at the end of the clip. Then click Edit, Add to Movie and walla, the second clip has been added to the end of the first clip. Nice. Now you are ready to export the final combined clip to a number of formats. It’s a great feature, very simple but powerful.

Combining video clips using QuickTime Pro Add to Movie.

H.264 Video and AAC Audio
If you’ve dealt with video recently, you’ve probably heard of the H.264 codec. It’s an incredible video format (and part of the MPEG-4 standard), that gives you outstanding video quality at a low file sizes. H.264 can be used for web video, mobile video, cd-rom, etc. Whenever I need to upload a video to YouTube, I go with H.264 and I’m never disappointed. Simply open your clip, select File, Export. Then choose QuickTime Movie and select H.264 from the video codec menu. You can set the data rate, frame rate, frame size, etc. You can even add filters, deinterlace your video, etc. It’s fast and provides outstanding quality. You won’t be disappointed!

QuickTime Pro also let you encode your audio using the AAC codec, which also provides outstanding quality (rivaling uncompressed CD Audio) at small file sizes. It’s an extremely efficient audio codec and part of the MPEG-4 specification. As a side note, most of the music sold on the iTunes Music store is encoded using AAC. Enough said.

Back to Our Hypothetical Situation…
Let’s jump back to our hypothetical situation mentioned earlier to see how you would handle it with QuickTime Pro. Let’s say you were sent a 3 minute clip for your web video marketing project. You really just need 90 seconds of it. You will need a version for YouTube, a version for mobile devices, and a version for DVD-R for a presentation. It ends up that the clip was exported from Final Cut as a self contained QT movie. You open the clip in QT Pro and set the in and out points to the 90 seconds you want. You trim the clip by selecting Edit, Trim Selection. You are now left with just the 90 seconds you want. Next, click File, Export and you are presented with the Export Dialog Box. Let’s start with the H.264 version for YouTube. You want the highest quality file, so set the data rate, frames per second, and audio encoding properly (the actual settings depend on a number of factors. Maybe that's another post!) Select H.264 as the video encoder for video and AAC for audio. Export your clip to a directory on your hard drive.

Now let’s tackle the mobile version. Select export to iphone, which provides a great format for mobile. The file will be an .M4V and can easily be transferred to your iphone or blackberry. Now, let's say there was a 10 second video clip with a call to action edited late in the game. You just grabbed the 10 second clip and want to add it to the first clip, which will give you a final, 100 second video. No problem. QuickTime Pro to the rescue! Open the original clip and click View, Movie Properties. Select the video and audio tracks by control clicking each track in the window and click Extract. Go back to your first clip and position the playhead at the end of your video file. Then click File, Add to Movie. You’re done. Easy, right? Then export to whichever format you need…

QuickTime Pro Summary
In closing, although this post was just an introduction to QuickTime Pro, I hope you can see its power. It’s definitely a great weapon to have in your web marketing arsenal. It has saved me numerous times… Now, it won’t replace your editing software like Premiere or Final Cut, but it’s still a great tool to have around (especially at the $30 price point)! It does a great job for quick edits, opening several formats, and then exporting or transcoding to a number of other useful formats. It just may save your marketing campaign some day. :-)


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Friday, April 11, 2008

LiveHttpHeaders and SEO, How to Check Your HTTP Response Headers for Red Flags

Using LiveHttpHeaders to Check Your HTTP Response Codes for SEODoes your website throw a 302 when it should throw a 301? Does it throw a 200 when it should be a 404? Are there 500’s thrown on your site that look like 404’s? Do you think I’m insane yet? Hear me out…

Whether you understand the introduction above or don’t know what I’m talking about, there’s still something extremely important for you in this post. Every time you load a webpage, your browser REQUESTS a file and then the server provides a RESPONE to that request (also called a Response Header). Response headers can help you identify critical issues on your site (especially from an SEO standpoint). Now, you probably have a few key questions.

1) How do I check my response headers?
2) What should I be looking for?

Although I can’t cover everything about response headers in this post, I will answer the two questions listed above and provide some examples along the way.

Let me start by answering the first question since it’s the easiest… I highly recommend using LiveHttpHeaders, an add-on for Firefox that displays http headers in real time (as you browse webpages). This tool can save you a lot of time and possibly help you diagnose some serious SEO-related issues. I will answer the second question later in the post.

Install LiveHttpHeaders Now:
First, visit the LiveHttpHeaders project website and install the add-on. You will need to restart Firefox after installing LiveHttpHeaders. Once restarted, you can trigger LiveHttpHeaders in two ways. You can click Tools, LiveHttpHeaders, which will trigger a new window where you can view header responses in real time as your browse the web. You can also click View, Sidebar, LiveHttpHeaders to view response headers in a sidebar within Firefox. I prefer the new window, since I have dual monitors and it doesn’t take up any browser space. :-) Either way works fine.

To quickly test it out before we go any further, go and visit Google with LiveHttpHeaders running. When you hit the homepage of Google, you will see a bunch of information scroll by in LiveHttpHeaders. For our purposes, let’s look at the top of the window (the first piece of information sent back to you). I have stripped out some of the information you don’t need to focus on for this example.

GET / HTTP/1.1
User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv: Gecko/20071127 Firefox/
Keep-Alive: 300
Connection: keep-alive

HTTP/1.x 200 OK
Content-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8
Content-Length: 2547

I have bolded the response code, which shows 200 (or ok). 200 is a good thing... and now I can explain more about response headers and codes. By the way, where you see 200 in the window is where you would also see other response codes like 301, 302, 404, etc.

Back to our two questions for a minute. The second question was “What should I be looking for?” In a nutshell, you should be looking for the file requested and the response code sent by the server. Let’s start with a definition of a response header and identify some core http response codes.

As I mentioned earlier, when you load a webpage, two things happen. There is an http request (by your browser) and then an http response is sent (by the server). There is a response code returned as part of the http response. Some of the following codes might be familiar to you, and others aren’t. If you focus on SEO, then get to know them…they can really help you diagnose problems on your website.

Some of the most common http response codes are:

200 – ok (the webpage was returned ok)
301 – Permanent redirect (seo friendly) J
302 – Temporary redirect (don’t use this unless you absolutely have to!)
400 – Bad request (uh, not good)
401 – Unauthorized (you need to be authenticated)
403 – Forbidden (doesn’t matter who you are, it’s forbidden)
404 – Not found (not necessarily a bad thing…I’ll explain more later.)
500 – Internal server error (something went very wrong processing the webpage…)
502 – Bad gateway (also not a good thing)

Why are http response codes important? One of your goals as an SEO is to enable the bots to easily index your site. You don’t want them to get caught up in any way, shape or form. For example, 302 redirects are not the SEO-friendly way to tell Google where a page you removed now resides (you should use a 301 redirect instead). So constantly providing 302’s would be a very bad thing to do. Or how about throwing a 200 (ok) when you really should be throwing a 404. For example, the page isn’t there, but you just told Google that it is. Again, not a good thing to do. Therefore, finding 302’s, 404’s, 403’s, 500’s, etc. is critical to creating a clean path for the bots, which means you can have more of your content indexed and at a solid frequency. Let’s take a look at how LiveHttpHeaders can help you out.

Checking Your Response Headers:
Let’s take a look at a hypothetical situation. One morning you wake up and decide that you want to increase your natural search rankings. You launch an SEO initiative and get moving quickly. The first thing you want to do is to audit your current site structure (since you know that without a sound and clean structure, you’re dead in the water). So as part of your audit, you want to ensure your response headers and response codes look ok.

You fire up LiveHttpHeaders and visit your website:

* You hit the Homepage, 200 returned,
* You visit a Top Level Product Category, 200 returned,
* Then you try and visit a product detail page and you hit a 302 redirect. Hold on… You find that all links to your product detail page go through a 302 redirect. This was implemented as part of a recent code change. This is something you would want to change ASAP. The content on your product detail page is obviously important so you wouldn’t want to be throwing 302’s prior to the bots hitting those pages…
* But it doesn’t stop there. You know that you changed dozens of older product pages recently and created new URL’s. You check out the old URL’s and find 302 redirects to the new product pages. You would want to change that too… and provide a 301 redirect from the old page to the new page, safely passing link power from the old page to the new one.
* Then you check out some product categories on your site that have been removed completely (you won’t be selling those products anymore), but you find 200’s instead of 404’s. A 404 (page not found) is the proper response code to throw in this situation, as it will tell the engines that the page has been removed and that it should be de-indexed. You don’t want the page to be indexed if it’s not actually there, right?
* Last you check some newly added pages and find they are not displaying correctly. It looks like they aren’t on the site, which means you should see a 404. But…the server returns a 500 (or internal server error). Again, not a good thing as the bots traverse your website content and this is something invisible to the naked eye as you test your website. You would need to be checking response codes to find this issue…

OK, I think you get the picture! Keep in mind that a full SEO assessment covers much more than just checking response codes, but it’s an important part to revealing SEO-related issues. And you know what? Sometimes it’s darn easy to find a serious issue that can be resolved fairly quickly. For example, providing a 302 redirect right on your homepage! Or throwing 200’s for any page that’s been removed from your site.

Think Like a Bot:
I’ll end this post with an analogy. Imagine you needed to check every room in a 10 story hotel to document the type of TV that’s in each room. But the elevators don’t work properly, some of the staircase entrances are locked, and every now and then the room numbers change on you. Would you have an easy time completing your task? Would you keep trying to come back to “index” each room? Or would you stop a few rooms in and say, “Hey look, Lost is on.” And then sit back and watch the show….and forget about the TV’s (or your content). ;-)


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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Using SWFObject 2.0 to Embed Flash While Providing SEO Friendly Alternative Content

Providing Alt Content for Flash Using SWFObject 2.0
Or is it friendly? More on that later... While mapping out and building your website content, chances are you have come across a situation where you really want to utilize flash versus html content (for some functionality). Although flash can provide an extraordinary level of interactivity, the problem (SEO-wise), is that flash content cannot be indexed by the search engines (at least for now). So, you might find yourself wanting to use flash for a given task, but you might also be struggling with the lack of search engine friendly content. I have been developing with flash for over 10 years and I also work extensively on Natural Search projects, so believe me, I feel your pain. :-) I wanted to write this post to introduce and explain SWFObject 2.0, the latest and greatest version of the popular flash replacement library.

A Quick SWFObject Disclaimer:
Unfortunately, I (or anyone else for that matter) cannot tell you that using SWFObject is entirely search engine safe. In a perfect world, providing an accurate, alternative html version of your flash content is extremely beneficial. I’m sure that Google and the other engines would have no problem with developers using it that way. But…and it’s an important but, there will always be those who exploit something like SWFObject for cloaking.

Let’s define cloaking: Providing one version of your content to the search engines while providing a different version of content to visitors. i.e. Altered content meant to trick the search engines.

You can easily see why this could be problematic for the search engines… There has been much debate about whether SWFObject is search engine safe or not, and I cannot give you the answer. That said, I think if you utilize SWFObject to provide alternative content that directly reflects your flash content, then you should be fine. I will show you how to do this later in the post.

SWFObject 2.0 Versus SWFObject 1.5
So what’s the difference between SWFObject 2.0 and SWFObject 1.5? Well, 2.0 is the latest version of the package (thank you Captain Obvious), which enables you to provide alt html content for your flash content using standards compliant markup. Version 2.0 will replace 1.5 and other forms of flash replacement like the flash player detection kit and UFO. That said, SWFObject 1.5 is still a great solution and you may choose to keep using 1.5 until you feel comfortable using 2.0. However, you will probably want to use version 2.0 based the benefits of the new process. :)

Static Versus Dynamic Publishing
There are 2 ways to use SWFObject 2.0, providing alt content using standards compliant markup (called static publishing) and inserting alt content using unobtrusive JavaScript (called dynamic publishing). Using dynamic publishing with SWFObject 2.0 is very similar to using SWFObject 1.5, where using static publishing is the new process. In this post, I will cover the standards compliant way (static) to use SWFObject 2.0 to embed flash content in your webpage. Let’s get started.

Download SWFObject 2.0
First, visit the Google Code Project for SWFObject 2.0 and download the zipfile containing the files you need. (FYI, you should download You can also download the official documentation and always have it handy. Extract the files to your hard drive and then copy the contents to your working directory. That way, you always have the original as a backup….good lesson from my programming days. :) View the screenshot below to see which files and folders your swobject2 directory should contain.

Folder Contents for SWFObject 2.0

SWFObject and Static Publishing
Let’s implement the standards compliant version of the package to replace your flash content with alternative html content. The alt content should directly reflect the content contained in your flash movie.

1. In your swfobject2 directory, open the index.htm file, which uses the static version of swfobject 2.0. Use this file as the template for your own implementation.
2. Look at the source code to follow along. In the head of the document, you will notice the following line of code:

Adding the SWFObject JavaScript Library to Your HTML Document

3. This line of code adds the SWFObject JavaScript library in your document. Including this code is a necessary component for the package to work properly.
4. Next, let’s hop down to the html portion of the document. Note, I have changed the code below to reflect my own flash movie and alt content. You can still easily follow along, though:

Click the image below to view a larger version:
The Nested Object Tags When Using the SWFObject Static Method

5. The code above includes a series of nested object tags, which enables the SWFObject package to provide cross-browser support. When adding your own content, you will need to replace a few items:

a. Replace “swfobject2-exampleb.swf” with the name of your actual flash movie. Note, the swfobject download includes a file named “test.swf”, so if you want to run the page using that flash movie, you should be good to go.

b. Change the width and height to match your actual flash movie’s width and height. My flash movie is 400x300.

6. About half way down the page, you will find a div tag for your alternate content. This is where you will provide alternate html content that directly reflects your flash movie's content. Feel free to use any html tags here to provide your alternative content. As you can see in the image below, I described my flash movie content in HTML.

Click the image below to view a larger version:
Providing Alternative HTML Content for Your Flash Movie

7. Let’s move back to the head of your html document for a second. You will need to register your flash movie with the swfobject library. Note, my page uses "exampleID" for the outer object tag id. You can use whatever you like or just keep the current id. You will see the following lines of code:

Register Your Flash Movie with SWFObject

8. The three parameters contain:

a.The id of the outermost object tag (myID). Note, you can change the id of the outermost object tag, but it must match what you enter in the JavaScript code when you register your flash movie. So, if you entered “flashID” instead, then you would need to enter “flashID” when you register your flash movie in the code above. Again, I used "exampleID".

b. The version of the flash plugin you are targeting (9.0.0), and

c. The name of the express install flash movie (if you wish to use one). Note, express install will display a standard dialog box that will enable your visitors without the required plugin version to download the flash plugin. I have noticed some buggy behavior with the express install functionality, so I just provide my own link to the flash plugin. Therefore, I enter false as the third parameter.

SWFObject 2.0 Code Generator
That’s all you need to do in order to use the standards compliant version of SWFObject 2.0. I know that opening the hood and working with code directly can be tough for non-programmers, so the creators of SWFObject have been nice enough to create a code generator for you. I didn’t want to mention it until after you went through the code so you can get a good feel for how this works. :-) I know…tough love! You can download the generator from the Google Code Project. The generator presents a form where you can enter the necessary information about your projects and then it generates the right code for you. I actually find it easier to drill into the code, but that’s what I’m used to!

A Working Example
Here is a simple example of using the standards compliant version of SWFObject 2.0. After viewing the flash content, you can click View, and then Source in your browser to see the alt content in the html. I also uploaded a webpage where I am forcing the browser to show you the alt content. This is what visitors would see if they didn't have the required version of the flash plugin. In addition, the static version of SWFObject 2.0 doesn’t rely on JavaScript to provide your flash content, so your visitors will see your flash content even if they have JavaScript turned off. A nice benefit. When you look at the source code, you can see an additional parameter I added for turning off the standard right click menu. You need to add this in two locations (both object tags) as you’ll see in the code. You can use a number of flash parameters and the SWFObject 2.0 documentation lists them for you. i.e. menu, loop, quality, wmode, etc.

Adding parameters within your object tags.

Click to Activate this Control
I know…Ugh. I won’t go into how or why Internet Explorer 6+ users must click to activate a flash movie, but it’s extremely annoying (especially for flash developers that work hard on creating killer flash movies!) Unfortunately, the standards compliant version of SWFObject 2.0 doesn’t alleviate this problem, where the dynamic versions of both SWFObject 2.0 and 1.5 alleviate the problem! Go figure. If you are looking to get rid of the dreaded “click to activate” message, then use the dynamic version of SWFObject 2.0 or 1.5 (not covered in this post). I may detail using the dynamic version of SWFObject in future posts, but this post is already getting too long! ;-)

OK, that was a lot to cover, but now you have a way to provide alternative html content for your killer flash content…and the search engines can index the alt content to boot! Again, nobody can guarantee that this is 100% search engine safe…thanks to some bad people who exploit this functionality. That said, if your alt content directly reflects your flash content, you should be ok. Used properly, this enhances the accessibility and usability of your site and will enable your killer content to be found by the search engines.

Just don’t go nuts when providing your alt content… :)


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