James Royal-Lawson

Web management


The Online Communications Podcast

This week I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Jon Buscall of Jontus Media for his Online Communications Podcast.

It was great fun chatting to Jon. Our professional lives cross-over in many different aspects and converge towards our mutual understanding of business needs.

During the podcast, we discussed a number of topics, and although it felt afterwards as if all of the smart things to say came to me afterwards, Jon has edited together a really good show!

In episode number 7 we chatted about:

  • web marketing
  • content management systems
  • design versus usability and
  • using Google to your advantage

Meta descriptions on

From August 2009 until the point of writing this, each of the weekly articles published by Gerry on his website has contained incorrect meta description content. In this short video I highlight two of the ways in which this has a significant impact on his web presence.

Update 22nd August

Gerry has in his latest blog post fixed the problem and said a little thank you on Twitter. Little things, easily fixed. It’s really is worth giving your site a regular health check.

5 Articles worth reading… (Spotted: Week 26, 2010)

Why I Still Blog

Hans Kullin asked and answered Why do I still blog? last week on his blog, this week, John Cass gives his answer. Both provide some interesting insights into the ever-evolving blogosphere.

Yahoo Style Guide

July 6th Yahoo will launch their book, which will cover grammar, punctuation, web accessibility and writing copy that helps SEO. The companion web site has some useful articles too.

10 Reasons Why Your Analytics Are Failing & 13 Tools To Help

The reasons listed here are quite a nice analytics “basics” overview. Covers a lot of things that are all too often overlooked.

Serving Static Content from a Cookieless Domain

You are all (as you’re clever, web-savvy people who read this blog), already serving your static content from a seperate domain. This is a good explaination of why (and how) you should make sure that your media domain doesn’t serve up cookies with all the media requests.

Sitemaps: One file, many content types

Now all specialized sitemap formats can be rolled into one file. Sitemaps, and how Google are enhancing them, is a “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” situation. Google want to serve accurate, useful, search results – and we all want our pages, images, videos, etc to be included. Get scratching.

The Times and Rupert commit search engine suicide

Forget SEO, News International is covering new ground in SES (Search Engine Suicide). They announced in March that in June 2010 a paywall on all content would be put in place. That happened earlier today.

302 Redirect

For a while earlier today, today’s paywall launch was search engine suicide due to the way that tens of thousands of timesonline articles indexed by search engines were being redirected.

Pretty much every URL for a number of hours today was being redirected to an index-page on a different domain, which then also displayed a paywall notification layer.

Here’s an example:

http redirects times article June 2010

There you can see the “302 Moved Temporarily” redirect. This tells Google and other search engines is to keep checking this URL as at some point it will start to serve content of its own again. Google generally honours this type of redirect and uses the content of the destination page for indexing and ranking purposes.

What we can spot here though is that The Times article we tried to read (“Fears that vuvuzela horns could harm World Cup football fans hearing” from June 9th 2010) is being redirected to a different top level domain and this is the case for every redirect I’ve checked. Tens of thousands of articles are being redirected to the same URL. This is starting to look to Google very much like the old hijacking trick by spammers.

301 Redirect

But it doesn’t end there. Once we’ve followed the first redirect, we then get hit by a second one. This time a “301 Moved Permanently” redirect status code.

http redirects times article June 2010

This tells us (and the search engines) that has been moved forever and should not be shown in indexes any more and any “value” (Pagerank) the old page has should be transferred to the URL pointed to by the redirect, which is

Pop goes your index

So what does this mean? Well, Google will receive same page for all articles, plus that content is being served from a different domain to what it started with. The likely hood is that the entire site will be dropped from the index as punishment for spamming tactics. Best case is that the 60,000 plus articles currently indexed by Google will be replaced by

Update: 20:31

Whilst I’ve been writing this post, the redirect behaviour has changed a number of times. It seems to be stabilising and reflecting what The Times outlined in their announcement. Articles from that are currently indexed by the search engines are still available, for free, and don’t redirect anywhere.

New articles published after the launch of the paywall are being 302 redirected to the,uk start page with a paywall “login” splash.

Screenshot Google June 2010

This means that no new Times article content will be indexed by Google; it will just receive very similar content for every URL. We are going to see News and opinion from The Times, sign up now for an exclusive preview of the new Times website” or something similar a lot for Times pages in search results from now on.

Update: 16 June 2010

If the erection of the paywall wasn’t crazy enough, I’ve also spotted that The Times have stopped updating all of their RSS feeds

Why on earth would you stop feeding article teasers to thousands of loyal readers who have taken the time to subscribe to your news feed? Surely these are exactly the kind of people who might actually pay a few pounds to get through the paywall!

10 Articles worth reading… (Spotted: Week 21-22, 2010)

The need for speed on the Web

“Customers are highly highly impatient” – Page loading times aren’t just an search engine optimisaton factor, people know what they want, and they give your page very little time to deliver it before moving on…

Efficiently Rendering CSS

The art of optimising page speed is not confined to network requests and server configuration. How you construct your CSS styles also pays a significant role.

Button Color Test: Red beats Green

There’s a fair bit of data out there saying that green and red buttons generally work best for “calls to action”, with red being the better of the two. Here Performable present data saying that red is as much as 21% better.

Google Studies How Search Behavior Changes When Searchers Are Faced with Difficult Questions

Not only is the paper from Google a great read, you could lose yourself for weeks reading all the other interesting papers cited!

Web Safe Font Cheat Sheet v.2 – Including Google Font API

An updated Web Safe Font Cheat Sheet also including Google Fonts. As a bonus the article takes a look at the results (and problems) with using the Google Font API as it is…

Identifying staff tasks

Hands on advice from James at Step Two on how to identify and collect intranet tasks. Tasks, rather than structure, should be your focus when improving an intranet.

Web Execution (Web Team): A Definition

Lisa, as usual, has published a detailed and well thought out article. This time explaining her suggestion of how to structure your web-team into an operative part and a management part. Doesn’t sound too revolutionary when I write it like that, but in reality it is.

10 words I’d ban from all websites

Catherine Toole, CEO of UK-based firm Sticky Content, lists 10 works she’d ban from websites. I think she did very well to restrain herself to just 10…

Your website is not a project

We spend six figures on a new [site], but usually can’t justify a single full time editor.” A number of very good points in this post.

Eye Gaze Data and the Correlation With Mouse Movement

Mouse movement and eye movement bear very little relation to each other – Mouse tracking *without* eye tracking will give you a distorted impression of behaviour.

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