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Saturday, May 27, 2006

Google Adsense Site Down Memorial Day Weekend

Google Adsense administration pages apparently down Saturday morning of Memorial Day weekend May 27, 2006. When attempting to log in to Adsense user control panel near noon today, Google returned an error page apologizing for any inconvenience caused by the outage.

As seen in the above partial screen shot of the error page. (Larger view here)

Adsense users are a particularly skittish bunch who often log in to check their income statistics in their account reporting admin page. When you do a search for "Adsense Site Down" at Google, you'll see a long list of forum posts returned, but when you visit each one, none are current of course, due to latency of the Google search index. But a "Google News" search doesn't turn up anything as of this writing either, meaning this hasn't hit the geek news sites yet.

I turned up the error page after a lazy morning with the newspaper and Saturday morning coffee, but it is still down over an hour later. Adsense publishers often get warnings of upcoming "System Maintenance" or "Planned Down Time" from the Adsense team by email, but nothing of the sort came ahead of this outage. The error screen also clearly states "temporarily unavailable, please try back later" and not "planned maintenance" so this is clearly an outage and unplanned.

There was a planned change to the appearance of the Google ads because many Adsense publishers routinely remove the blue border of the standard default ad colors, which are adjustable to match site color schemes. The most recent communication from Google was the announcement that they would make this change system-wide. The Google notice:

We're writing to let you know about a coming change to the appearance of your Google ads. Your ads currently display the default Google color palette, Seaside (formerly known as Mother Earth). In the near future, we plan to update the default palette to Open Air, a new palette containing the same set of colors, but without the blue border. We've found that many publishers prefer the cleaner look of this palette and have also seen that a blended color palette performs better for them -- attracting user interest while still maintaining the distinction between ads and content with the 'Ads by Google' label.

Perhaps this change threw a monkey wrench in the system as they attempted the change-over? Google won't reveal the total number of Adsense publishers but it has been rumored to be a huge number, and if a system-wide change in code is in the works, I can imagine a ghost in the machine. Here's hoping they get it under control and back in order. The traffic on my best performing site is substantially higher on this Saturday morning than it is most other weekends and I'd hate to think those visitors who are attracted by the Adsense ads on that site are getting free clicks. ;-)

As of 4pm Saturday, the Adsense site appeared to be back up - possibly before that - but that's the next time I was able to check.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Internet Search Engine Safety Study

The Safety of Internet Search Engines as it relates to spyware, trojans, tracking and spam emails is discussed in this McAfee report. The report is clearly intended to increase business for the security company, but shouldn't be dismissed simply because it is intended for business PR through tie-ins with McAfee Security software sales.

I often warn relatives and friends to use care in their internet use.

  • I tell them never to open attachments sent through email unless they are certain what the attachments are and expected to receive them.
  • I warn them not to download ANYTHING from sites they know nothing about.
  • I implore them not to make purchases from unsecure sites and to look for the little lock in the corner of their browser window and the https: in the browser address bar.

But despite all of the standard warnings issued to everyone, someone is inevitably fooled by spoof emails and fake phishing sites. It is impossible to prevent loved ones from visiting dangerous sites that they've found in internet searches and approving activex installs served by web sites they visit.

McAfee has taken this problem for searchers and turned it into a PR dream for their security software sales by offering a free plug-in calledSiteAdvisor, available for FireFox or IE browsers. The browser plug-in turns internet searches into a safety rating list by adding small red (for dangerous or spammy), yellow (for questionable), and green (for tested and positively reviewed) icons to the search engine results list.

The plug-in also puts a McAfee safety rating indicator in the lower right corner of the browser status bar along the bottom - with color coded status for each site visited and the ability to check reports made by others about each domain visited.

The reason that this plug-in is news for search is that it provides those little icons in the red, green and yellow stoplight colors to be displayed beside every search result. When a user hovers over the icon beside the search result with their mouse, it displays information about the site, including spammy emails sent from that site upon registration, links to other red coded sites - and user ratings of every site in the search results list displayed for every search you make.

This visual safety cue, the information provided by hovering over the icon beside search results and the status bar color coded "SiteAdvisor" window allowing further information from the McAfee database all makes for a more comforting, if not entirely safe, surfing experience. I'm recommending this to Mom for sure and other friends and relatives to make searching and choosing from among search results, a bit more safe and comforting experience.

McAfee SiteAdvisor interestingly rates Google and Yahoo as safe - even though their own study shows a high percentage of results which link to "red" sites and the browser plug-in is intended to help protect users from those results at search engines.

This is a pretty funny position to be in when it is the reason for the need for that plug-in in the first place - to prevent searchers from visiting links to dangerous web sites. Those links to unsafe sites show up on every page of search engine results pages - yet the engines are listed as safe. McAfee must have seen the irony in this and over-ruled the ratings for the search engines.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Google Checker Software Application Not Necessary

The following quoted comment came from the LED discussion list this morning.
"... a free Windows app that will take a list of web sites and see if they're indexed by Google."
The following response is mine...

There is no need at all for a "Google Checker" software application to see if your site is banned. All you need to do to find out, not only if you are indexed by Google, but how many pages from your site they know about, is to use the query operator "" - (remove quotes) replacing "foo" with your domain name.

It isn't surprising that a software application was developed to perform a simple domain search because so few people are aware of these powerful search operators offered by Google. A list of special search operators. If you simply visit the "Advanced Search" page at Google and fill in the proper boxes, they'll form many of the special queries for you:

"On top of that, [Google Checker Software App] will crawl your site(s) and check all of your outbound links to see if you're linking to any sites banned by Google, which can damage your pagerank."
If you think you are possibly linked to banned domains, then you probably fell for one of those ridiculous linking campaigns pushed by link sellers or linking software that links indiscriminately to anyone who links to you. Don't link to anyone if they are not a customer, a testimonial or an informational site relevant and useful to your own site visitors.

If anyone emails you asking for a link, visit their site to see if it is useful and relevant to your site visitors. Make sure they are not competitors and see if they are included in Google using that "site" query and while you are at it, check them with a "link" query if you consider giving them that link. If they have useful and relevant links, have good PageRank and could be useful to your visitors without competing with you, go ahead and link to them.

I've got a page at my site with my linking policy on it - basically it says I don't link to anyone unless they provide a useful article, whitepaper or some other valuable content for my site.

Once most people hear that, they inevitably drop the request for a link from me. If they respond with an article that fits my site - I'll usually post it and link to them. Nobody gets something for nothing. If the article or report they provide is not useful to my visitors or is simply a sales letter for their product, then they don't get a link either.

ALL outbound links you place on your site should be visited manually - by you - before linking to them to check for value and relevance to your site visitors. If you suspect they may be banned from Google, use the "site" query operator on their domain name - if they don't show up in Google results (using the "site" query operator) with at least one page, then they are banned.

If that site is not a client or a relevant related business that is useful to your site visitors and you haven't visited to check that value - why are you linking to them? Of course some worthwhile domains you've linked to in the past may be sold or may have expired when the company owning the domain went out of business and if you have hundreds of pages with outbound links on old pages. This feature of that software app may be useful. Dead links are harmful to your ranking. I may try it myself for this feature.

Mike Banks Valentine

Monday, May 15, 2006

SEO & Site Redesign Errors

I'd like to redesign my website but am concerned as I'm number one in most major search engines and get 2500 visitors a day, plus sell many books daily.
Robert Joy LED #2160


Using the "" query - Google shows that they know about 65 pages at your site. Whatever you do, keep your existing filenames for all of those pages and don't remove that existing content. If you must remove any of the previous pages, be sure that you implement a 301 permanent redirect to send the search engine spiders as well as visitors who may find those previous links in search engine results pages. Instructive 301 Permanent Redirect article.

You might also consider adjusting your title tags (without dropping your existing keywords from those tags) if you want to rank for anything OTHER than Wedding Ceremonies - as that is the same title tag on almost every page of your site. Keeping the existing body text would be wise as well. If you must re-write it extensively, consider making new pages rather than changing the existing pages. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

If you don't want those old (existing) pages visible - just don't link to them from your new menu - but do keep them on a sitemap linked from your index page. You appear not to have a sitemap currently.

I'm currently working to recover rankings for a client that had about the same number of pages, but their re-design dropped two-thirds of those pages entirely. The method I used to save the rankings was simply to take previous text from the old design and paste it into the new design template and apply the old filenames to 60 pages - then write title tags which reflected the content on each page.

If that content had been unavailable, I would have proposed that we add 50 pages or so of text - but writing the content over again would be vastly more expensive than using the existing - already ranking text in the new design template.

I was just contacted last week by a web design company that was doing a redesign of a well ranking site and didn't want to lose ranking. Apparently it is time for lots of re-design and spring cleaning of tired and musty sites - just don't can your old text and be certain to keep your old filenames in that cleanup. I wrote an article on this in October of 2004 which I constantly refer people to who ask about SEO and site redesign.

Good luck with your re-design and continued good ranking!

Mike Banks Valentine