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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter - November 2006

Welcome to the latest edition of our monthly newsletter on web search and marketing issues.

In this issue:

To find out more, please read on below and follow the links to the full articles available on our website. If you want to refer to any items included in previous editions, you can find them here.

On to this month's news...

Top SEO problems for business websites

Through our offer to carry out a free website assessment we review a large number of websites each month, which often have common problems. Here we list our top issues which may affect you, or could be useful to avoid in the future!

Flash Websites - Any content embedded in Flash content is invisible to search engines, as Flash is stored in a compiled ‘binary’ format. Therefore, a website which is built entirely using Flash will provide very little content for the search engines to consider. We would always recommend using HTML for a website, and if there is a certain element that requires animation or other functionality provided by Flash, this should be added as an embedded section within the HTML page.

Non-separate URLs for different products or pages - Most search engines are still at the stage where they will only follow standard HTML links to different content within a website, this can mean that any website that can display different content within the same URL (web address) may not be able to get all of its content indexed. This is particularly common for websites that:

In most cases both of the above techniques should really only be used to provide functionality (such as a checkout cart) or tools on a site, and not as the only route to displaying key information or content.

A ‘.com’ or other top level domain not hosted in Australia - For a website targeting the Australian market, this will mean that the site will not appear in ‘pages from Australia’ results on the main search engines. For a new website solely targeting Australia, the best solution is always to use a .au domain such as .com.au, or if the site exists and uses a top level domain, the site should be hosted in Australia.

Duplicate content (the same content on more than one page) - Most search engines will aim to filter multiple instances of the same content so that each piece of content just appears once in their search results, here are two possible situations where this can cause a problem, although more exist:

If you have a website served under more than one domain (such as .com and .com.au), the search engines may filter the website that you would prefer to promote (such as the website with more links coming into it). The solution here is to decide on a prefered website and set up ‘301′ redirects from all the other domains to the prefered site.

If you have a site which can display the same content by typing in two different of URLs the search engines may filter your preferred page, or issue a penalty. It is possible to tell the search enigines not to index all the non prefered pages by adding a ‘noindex’ metatag to the code of each page.

Internet Explorer and Firefox updates released

During October, new versions of both Microsoft Internet Explorer and Firefox were released, marking the latest stage in the competition between these two browsers.

Internet Explorer 7

This new release from Microsoft is a major update, providing a range of new features, many of which aim to match those provided by Firefox on its release in 2004. These include RSS bookmarks, “tabbed” browser windows and an updated look.

As IE7 aims to be more compliant to W3C standards for displaying websites than its predecessor, now would be a prudent time to review how your own site is displayed in this new browser, particularly as usage should start to increase rapidly when it becomes bundled with the new windows ‘Vista’ release over the winter.

Firefox 2.0

This is the latest release to the Firefox browser, which now has roughly a 10% browser market share.

The release mostly addresses small performance and usability issues, rather than adds many new features.

From personal experience we noticed a marked improvement in the speed the new version performed at, although there where some difficulties with the range of 3rd party extensions we use not being compatible yet.

Regarding extensions - overall we find these are the most useful aspect of Firefox, so here’s a quick list of those that can be of most use to marketers:

SEOpen – Provides quick shortcuts to search engine results showing the back links and pages indexed of the site you are currently viewing.

SEO for FireFox – This superimposes information about each result in a search engine listing, showing pages, back links and more. Useful for assessing how tough it could be to rank highly for a search phrase.

Web developer toolbar – Of most use to developers and designers, this extension allows you to view the structure of pages, and also makes it easy to disable features such as the browser cache, javascript, style sheet, and meta redirects – Great for investigating any sneaky tactics your competitors may be using!

Fireftp – A simple ftp program which is embedded within FireFox, allowing you to upload / download files easily.

Latest online advertising data shows further growth

New figures published by the IAB in October show further substantial growth in the online advertising market during the first 6 months of 2006. Total spend fell just short of £1 billion during this period, which indicates that money spent on Internet advertising in the UK is set to exceed national press advertising by the end of the year.

This latest survey from the Internet Advertising Bureau, in conjunction with PricewaterhouseCoopers and the World Advertising Research Centre, shows that despite a depressed UK advertising market overall, the growth in internet advertising spend rose again by just over 40% compared to the same period in 2005, to a recorded level of £917.2 million (compared to £630.5 million in the first half of 2005). This increased the online market’s share of total UK advertising spend to 10.5%, compared to national press advertising which holds an 11.4% share of the market for the same period.

Within these figures, paid search advertising was the fastest growing sector with a 58% rise in spend year-on-year, to £531 million, which also recorded a 58% share of the total online advertising sector. This continues to show the increasing popularity of this sector as advertisers realize the importance of this medium as a measurable direct response tool, as well as a way to develop an effective online presence for their brands.

Online advertising (such as banner adverts) saw a growth of 33% to £216 million during the period (23% share of the total online spend) and online classifieds grew by 23% to achieve an 18% share of this sector and a spend of £162m. The only sector of online advertising that declined were ‘interruptive formats’ (such as pop-up adverts) as spend on these fell by 9% to £7 million.

These figures are therefore further confirmation of the popularity of online advertising as a substantial and effective part of the marketing mix for many companies now, and that search marketing in particular is the sector that continues to attract a high level of spend, making it an increasingly competitive market in many business sectors.

So, if your business is yet to take advantage of search advertising, or if you want to increase your current level of spend to maintain your share of this market, speak to us today.

Book review: The Unusually Useful Web Book

This month we review The Unusually Useful Web Book by June Cohen. This book covers a wide range of areas involved in building and promoting a website - with each section providing checklists, case studies and expert interviews. The book would be of particular use to website owners or project managers, who whilst not needing in-depth knowledge, do need a firm understanding of all aspects and opportunities for a web project.

Read the full review here.

We hope you've found this month's newsletter informative. Please contact us if you need any more details on the items covered, or our advice on any aspect of your website's performance. Also, if there are any issues you would like to see in future editions of this newsletter, please submit your suggestions.