What’s Important to Search Engines and What’s Not

This is an outstanding article, full of great advice.  The author (Jill Whelan) is a long time search engine optimizer whose advice I’ve followed for years with success.  I trust her advice over that of many, many other people.

One example:

* The majority of the site will be static, as static pages are easier for search engines to crawl and rank properly.

‘Fraid not. Dynamic pages are just as easy to crawl and rank as static pages. Most websites today are dynamic because they’re simply easier to maintain. The search engines have figured out how to crawl and rank them just fine for many, many years now. It’s true that there are specific things you need to watch out for when creating a dynamic site, but most developers are aware of the worst of the issues. You certainly should consult with an SEO if you’re changing content management systems, or if you’re having problems getting your dynamic URLs spidered and indexed. But there’s no reason to have only static pages on your site because you’re worried about the search engines being able to index dynamic pages.

Full story at http://www.highrankings.com/advisor/not-important-to-seo/

One More Way to Answer “What Is A Blog”?

About a year ago, I tried to give an alternate way to think about “what is a blog“. 
Since then, I’ve also become a big fan of Pajama Market.  Great minds think
alike; on the same day, Brian came out with his “what
is a blog
” post, I was trying to explain them in a private florist
forum.  Here is my attempt:

This single post isn’t a deifnitive answer, but a discussion

A blog is a web-based application. Some people confuse them
with a traditional website, and some use blogs instead of websites, but blogs
are actually different. If you think about a traditional website, the
navigation is very structured, and content is arranged usually hierarchically.
The design of a webpage can get very complex, and may contain a considerable
amount of content. It often takes a lot of work to create and maintain a
traditional website, sometimes involving special software tools and technical
knowledge. When a visitor returns to a traditional website, the new content is
not readily apparent.

On the other hand, blogs are designed to be very
simple. Content is shown in order of date added, with the most recent posts at
the top of the page. After a certain time period or number of posts, older
content rolls off the bottom. The blog application automatically creates the
navigation. Posts are arranged by date, and into categories (a.k.a. tags).
Clicking on a tag brings up all posts in that category, arranged from most
recent to oldest. There is typically only one or two levels of navigation in a
blog. The page layout of a blog is very simple.

Adding a new post is
easy. You simply log in, click the “new post” button, and use a rich text
editor, same as posting here. Very, very similar. No software necessary other
than your browser.

Different blog applications differ in their
capabilities. The software we use at FloristBlogs.com has some very advanced
features, but is easy to use.

On many traditional websites, there was often a
“what’s new” or “announcements” page, that was cumbersome to work with, and
just as difficult to update as the rest of the site. A blog is a far superior
way to replace a “what’s new” page.

One of the limitations of a website
is knowing who is linking to to you. Blog applications are designed to talk to
one another. When I post a link on my blog to someone else’s blog, my software
sends a message called a “trackback” to the other person’s blog. They know
immediately that I linked to them, and can follow the trackback to the post
which has the link. Trackbaks were originally shown along with post comments,
but trackbacks have become heavily abused by spammers, so the trackbacks are
now rarely displayed, if the functionality is even enabled at all.

obvious follow-up is whether to have a blog, or a website, or both. This
depends on your business, but in our case, I’d recommend both if possible.
They serve different purposes. A website should be considered an additional
shop, while a blog is a marketing channel.

I missed a few points in my definition, which Brian covers in his post at http://www.pajamamarket.com/pajama_market_small_busin/2007/01/what_is_a_blog.html
Worth a read.

Pittsburgh “Ready for a New Day” Launch Tour – Feb 1, 2007

Microsoft Across America is bringing their Launch Event 2007 to Pittsburgh on Feb 1, 2007. The event will be held at Sheraton Station Square, which is an awesome location finally. Attendees go home with Office 2007 Pro and Groove 2007. You may wonder why Groove, but after you see the cool stuff it can do, you’ll dig it. Full info at http://www.microsoft.com/business/launch2007/signup/default.mspx.

Free Accounting Software from Microsoft

This is not one of those crazy “Bill gates will pay you a dollar for everyone who reads this e-mail” things–this is real. Microsoft is giving away Microsoft Office Acocunting Express 2007 for free. This is the latest version of their small business accounting package, aimed at the Quickbooks crowd. In the past couple of years, Microsoft has begun offering “Express” editions of many of its products for free. These editions have most of the basic features one needs, and for many people, is all they’ll ever need. If you outgrow an Express edition, the upgrade to the Professional edition is pretty simple–just buy it. The Pro edition is aimed at the QB Pro/Peachtree crowd. Along with the free software, Microsoft is running a contest for the best small business idea. The winner gets $100,000 and free retail space in NYC to get your business started.

Full story and download at http://www.ideawins.com/

UPS vs FedEx: Who walks the walk?

The talk goes something like this:

FedEx–“When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.”

UPS–“Moving at the speed of business.”

I have 300+ identical packages to ship next week.  No flipping way
amd I making the labels one at a time via a website.  I know both UPS and
FedEx have PC-based shipping software for their accounts, so I decided to
acquire such.

I started with FedEx.  I registered online, complete with FedEx account
number.  In order to obtain the software, you have to call your account
rep.  Not knowing who that was, I called the general support number, spoke
to a nice rep, explained what I needed.  The support rep sent a message to
my account sales contact.  This was about 8:30 pm on 12/5, and I didn’t
leave with a warm feeling anything was going to happen.  The next day I
realized I gave the nice rep my wrong extension, called back, spoke to yet
another nice rep, and gave my correct extension.  Another message was sent
to my acocunt sales contact.  Even with the wrong extension, the main
number on the account is correct.

So, my Plan B was UPS.  I registered at www.ups.com, complete with account number, and
filled out the online request form.  This was right arount 3:00 pm on
12/6.  At 1:00 pm on 12/7, I had WorldShip 8 in my hands.  22 hours
from request to delivery.  Still nothing from my FedEx guy nearly 40 hours
later.  Looks like 300+ packages are going UPS.  On a personal note,
I’m a little torn by this.  I grew up in Louisville, where UPS is
based.  But I now live near Pittsburgh, where FedEx Ground is based. 
Either one is a home-team to me.

Small businesses have weird needs.  Sometimes (as in this case) we have
huge shipments all at once.  Business owners  are pretty much 24/7
living their business.  This phone tag stuff is so ’80s.  Hard to
believe it’s so tough to give your business to a company

Configuring Windows Live Writer for Live Community Server

Windows Live Writer is a brand new blogging tool from Microsoft.  It’s easily configured for use with a number of blog applications, including Community Server.  FloristBlogs.com uses the Express edition of Community Server, and this post will help you configure Windows Live Writer for use with FloristBlogs.com.  The steps below will only need to be completed once.

  1. Download Windows Live Writer from http://windowslivewriter.spaces.live.com/blog/cns%21D85741BB5E0BE8AA%21174.entry.  Save the file somwehere you can find it again.
  2. When the download completes, find the Writer.msi file and double-click to start the installation.
  3. When installation has completed, you’ll be able to start the program from the Start menu.
  4. When you start the program, you’ll see the welcome screen below.  Click Next to continue.

  5. You need to choose “Another weblog service”, and click Next.

  6. Enter the information for your blog.  Your URL should be similar to below.  Remeber that the subdirectory for your blog is “blogs” (plural), not “blog” (singular).

  7. Live Writer will analyze your blog to try and determine some features of your blog.

  8. Live Writer will need to be configured for Community Server by selecting it from the drop down list.

  9. You need to change <hostname> to floristblogs.com, as seen below.

  10. Live Writer will again scan your blog.

  11. If your configuration information is correct, Live Writer will display your blog information.  Click Finish and Live Writer will start.

  12. Live Writer’s interface is a simple rich text editor, similar to Word but far more basic.  You can easily choose categories, add photos, enter and format text.

  13. Community Server doesn’t support direct uploadingof photos into galleries, so you’ll first have to upload images to your photo gallery and then add them to your blog by using Insert >> Picture from Web.  Then, enter the URL of the image from your photo gallery.

  14. As you edit your post, you’ll be able to see the formatting, and choose options for formatting images in your post.

  15. Just to the right of the Save Draft button is the preview button.  One cool option is the ability to see your post exactly as it would look without publishing it by choosing Web Preview.  You cannot edit your post in this mode; you’ll have to change back to Normal mode to resume editing.

  16. Inserting a hyperlink is easy.  Highlight the text you want to turn into a hyperlink and click the globe and chain icon on the toolbar.  Enter the URL’s information, including its relation.  Setting the Rel to “tag” adds the link to your site’s tagcloud, and signals sites such as Technorati to add the link text to their tagcloud.  Setting Rel to “nofollow” means that Google and other search engines should ignore this link.

  17. When you’re done, click the Publish button to add the post to your blog.

There are a lot more features than covered here.  For instance, you can open old posts to edit them, then publish the edited post (which will correct the version online).  You can save drafts and edit them later.  You can also configure several blogs, if you have more than one.

Even though Community Server doesn’t support direct upload of images, Live Writer can upload photos to an FTP folder on your site.  The configuration for every website will be different, so we’re not going to go through that here.  This makes adding images very easy, but your readers won’t find the images in your photo gallery.  You’ll also have to add a watermark manually to all images, where the Community Server photo gallery will add the watermark automatically.

<semi-correction 8/16/2006>

The Metablog API, used by Community Server (as well as most blogging platforms) doesn’t support image upload.  Community Server does have an API for directly uploading images into galleries, which is used by Chiwi’s CS Gallery Manager.  If you have a lot of images and want them in your galleries, this app might be a great help.  With any luck, someone will add a plug-in for WLW which will support CS galleries.

If you’re using Chiwi’s app, the address you need is http://<siteurl>/photos/galleryservice.asmx.  Remember to replace <siteurl> with your site’s URL.

Blogging: You Don’t Need To Be An Expert

Interesting post by Chris Garrett:

Blogging is not necessarily about expertise, in fact you might be at a disadvantage if you think that is the case.

What I think sets apart a good blog from a bad one in most cases is not the knowledge or experience of the blogger but how interesting they make the content.

(full post at http://performancing.com/node/3477)

Jennifer Laycock has some commentary on this post at http://www.searchengineguide.com/searchbrief/senews/008094.html:

Since article and blog writing advice often tends to center around the need to share unique and informative content, many small business owners shy away from the idea of blogging. Garrett points out that in reality, it’s not necessarily what you know, but how you present it, that makes the difference.

We florists have a lot of interesting content—from the touching stories, to the crazy arrangements, to helpful tips.

Dotster Worries Domain Names Are Running Out

Registrar-turned-cybersquatter Dotster is worried we’re running out of domain

Dotster Inc, which is currently trying to fight off a cybersquatting
lawsuit filed by a major US retailer, said the large number of domains being
registered worldwide points to a possible “drought” in future and, in a press
release, plugged a number of services it offers to help customers find a
suitable domain.

(source: http://www.cbronline.com/article_news.asp?guid=4EFB00BF-D653-461E-B4E8-7FCC52080182)

“The growth rate of people registering dot-coms has just skyrocketed,”
Dotster Vice President for Marketing George DeCarlo said. “There’s definitely
a shortage of usable domain names in dot-com,” added Antony Van Couvering, a
principal in Names@Work, an Internet consulting firm in New York

(source: http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/52141.html)

Given Dotster’s alleged “domain kiting” practices, it’s tough to take their
warning as being in the public interest.  Besides, they make their money
selling domain names, so if they can create some hysteria, then get ICANN to
approve a new TLD, well, that many more domains to sell or squat.

Mozart never worried about running out of musical notes, even though there’s
an even more finite number of those.  Most of the obviously catchy names
are probably sucked up, but look how many new sites are being created every day
with names you never would have imagined (Flickr, Squidoo, Technorati,
Memeorandum, etc.).  Names are as much creativity and marketing as they are
availability.  In Pennsylvania, there can be only one The Bloomery.  We have the fictitious
name registered, and no one else can use it.  So new shops have to think of
another name, no matter how much they may like ours.  There’s another one
in Massachusetts, and until we didn’t renew the obvious .BIZ domain name, they
were kind of screwed for their website (I think they now have it).

Established businesses, especially small businesses, are the ones who have
suffered most.  My friend Cheryl found that parkwayflorist.com was taken,
so she had to register parkwayflorist-pgh.com.  Not
as catchy, but if that’s what people see on your vans, or on your business cards
and delivery tags, that’s what your customers will use.  If you’re a new
business, and if a website is going to be important, you might want to check
domain name availability.  If you’re established, you may have to get
creative with domain names.  Perhaps good variations of your business name
and location are taken, how about business type and location?

The other The Bloomery just has to deal with the fact we got the domain name
first.  The real aggravation is domain squatters or domain kiters. 
The problem is that a domain dispute is so time consuming, expensive and
complicated that business owners find it easier to be extorted than legally
correct, and end up shelling out $500 for a domain name, as opposed to the $1500
UDRP filing fee (just to get the ball rolling).  Fix that process and some
of the problems will go away.

Holding Domain Names for Ransom

A recent thread in the LED
was started with the following warning:

A very common problem (in Russia at least) is where registrars, ISPs
and web development companies will register a domain in THEIR name instead of
the CUSTOMER’s name — later, holding the domain for ransom

(full post at http://www.led-digest.com/content/view/405/55/)

This was followed with some discussion in the next day’s post (http://www.led-digest.com/content/view/406/55/). 
I recount one story myself in that issue.  If you need to convince someone
why they should register their own domaian names, these are some good

How The Floral Vertical Industry Uses The Internet

The local flower shop is one retail operation which has translated well to the Internet.  From the hundreds and hundreds of local florists (such as www.bloomery.com) to the huge players like FTD and 800–Flowers, websites have made it easier than ever to send flowers to friends and family.  But our business to consumer website is not the only way florists are embracing the Internet.

Before you could get “whatever it is” at eBay, we florists could participate in online Dutch auctions held in Holland, Miami and California.  The end result is better selection and higher quality for the floral consumer.  There are several private forum sites where florists gather to exchange tips and commiserate, and www.floristblogs.com has a growing roster of prominant florists blogging for consumer benefit.

The latest installment ’s , a subscription site for online training of the latest techniques.  J presents his lessons in 10–15 minute videocasts (or webisodes, or blogscasts, or whatever you want to call them).  J is a very talented designer who should be kept far away from caffeine.  Incidentally, J trained at the , and you’ll find their blog at http://floristblogs.com/blogs/avant_gardens/default.aspx.

For a long time, “vertical integration” was one of the big buzzwords surrounding Internet business.  The floral industry is one where, while it’s taken time to get here, is pretty integrated from top to bottom, and left to right.