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Whiskey and Aspirin Design Blog, Notes, and Portfolio of Tyler Cole 2010-03-14T20:25:38Z Copyright 2007 WordPress Administrator <![CDATA[The Funniest Words on the Web]]> http://www.whiskeyandaspirin.com/?p=12 2007-06-10T20:32:25Z 2007-06-10T20:32:25Z SEO very exact answers.]]> Everybody knows that websites ranking first on Google for popular search terms get a lot of referrals, but how many referrals are "a lot"? Does the first search result drive significantly more traffic than results two through five? Last August that question got a lot easier to answer when America Online inadvertently released the search history of over 650,000 members. Within days, SEO bloggers had downloaded the data, done the math, and posted some very exact answers.

According to the AOL data, websites with the first search result received approximately 3.5 times as many referrals as the second result, 5 times as many as the third, 6.9 times as many as the fourth, and 8.6 times as many as the fifth. Something worth noticing is that the relationship between search result rankings and click-through rates isn’t linear as you might expect. It actually looks like this:

Average CTR for First Ten AOL Search Results

AOL Data

Obviously it pays to be number one.

I’ve now seen these numbers posted on several websites, but I’ve yet to see anyone test the AOL predictions against actual data or other, more influential search engines like Google. Three things now allow me to perform just such a test.

1.I track Google search referrals through Google Analytics on my website Inherently Funny.
2.Each week for the past two months I’ve been tracking the Google search result ranking of Inherently Funny for the term "funny words".
3.Last week an Inherently Funny page moved from the fourth to the first search result for "funny words" on Google.

Granted, a few weeks of data produces a very small sample size, but here’s what I found. During the week of May 20-May 26, Inherently Funny ranked fourth on Google for "funny words" and received 637 referrals. Two weeks later, Inherently Funny ranked first and received 1,328 referrals. Here’s how the two weeks compare by day:

Google Referrals for "Funny Words" by Search Result

Day 4th Result 1st Result Increase
Sun651372.1 times
Mon1022302.3 times
Tues1182281.9 times
Wed1112071.9 times
Thu1031821.8 times
Fri851952.3 times
Sat531492.8 times

According to the AOL prediction, I should have seen seven times as many referrals after moving from fourth to first in Google's search results. Instead the number only doubled. So why the discrepancy? I have a few ideas.

1.Most usability experts would agree that AOL members are less sophisticated than the typical web users, and an unsophisticated user tends to click on the first link he or she sees on a page. This could mean that click-through rates for first results are higher on AOL than on other search engines.
2.Meta description quality increases click-through rates. I’ll let you judge for yourself how enticing the Inherently Funny meta description is compared to the competition, but a well-written meta description would help close the click-through rate gap between the first and fourth result.
3.I assume most users skip indented results, so if a fourth result had an indented result above it as Inherently Funny did, the click-through rate may more closely resemble a third result.
4.Seasonality could affect some search terms (but probably not "funny words").
5.My sample size was very small.

While the last point is inarguable, I may still be able to address the sample size issue because Inherently Funny has begun moving up the Google result rankings for "funny things", an even more popular search term than "funny words". During the past eight weeks, Inherently Funny has ranked fifteenth, eleventh, tenth, ninth, and seventh for "funny things". Here’s what the numbers look like so far:

Google Referrals for "Funny Things" by Search Result

Day15th11th10th9th7th
Sun2027172428
Mon3429414425
Tues2043384344
Wed2830394140
Thu2428294152
Fri2143334050
Sat2319251727

I plan to share additional data as it comes, but of course, reaching number one is not easy. That said, I’ll end this post with a shameless plug—if you found this post useful and want to see further testing, please consider adding a link on your website to the Inherently Funny funny things page using "funny things" as the text of the link. (More than anything else, a search term included in the text of an external link helps a page rank high for that term.) Your links will help Inherently Funny capture the first result, and hopefully the data recorded will be useful to everyone.

Many thanks to Jason Kreider for originally alerting me to the AOL data.

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Administrator <![CDATA[Anatomy of a Website]]> http://www.whiskeyandaspirin.com/?p=11 2006-08-27T23:14:46Z 2006-08-27T23:14:46Z Ecommerce SEO Web Design Make Money with the Internet in which I posited three rules for building a revenue-generating website. I ended the post by claiming I had a few ideas for such a website and promised that I would update this blog with a case study once I had built something. The good news is that now, over a year later, I’ve finally put the finishing touches on a new website called Inherently Funny, a database of funny names, funny songs, and more. Of course, the requisite bad news is that the site makes almost no money. There are a lot of good reasons for this—for one thing, I only followed one of my three rules for building a revenue-generating website—but despite this lack of success, I don’t believe Inherently Funny was a wasted effort. Whether or not my idea for an online database of jokes without punch lines was any good, building the site did remind me that good web design requires more than simply knowing HTML and Photoshop. Good web design is in fact a holistic practice requiring the additional knowledge of search engine optimization, web usability, and web analytics. I wouldn’t expect anyone to simply take my word for it though, so what follows is a discussion of each of the three fields and examples of how I applied them to Inherently Funny.]]> In July 2005 I wrote a blog post called Make Money with the Internet in which I posited three rules for building a revenue-generating website. I ended the post by claiming I had a few ideas for such a website and promised that I would update this blog with a case study once I had built something. The good news is that now, over a year later, I’ve finally put the finishing touches on a new website called Inherently Funny, a database of funny names, funny songs, and more. Of course, the requisite bad news is that the site makes almost no money. There are a lot of good reasons for this—for one thing, I only followed one of my three rules for building a revenue-generating website—but despite this lack of success, I don’t believe Inherently Funny was a wasted effort. Whether or not my idea for an online database of jokes without punch lines was any good, building the site did remind me that good web design requires more than simply knowing HTML and Photoshop. Good web design is in fact a holistic practice requiring the additional knowledge of search engine optimization, web usability, and web analytics. I wouldn’t expect anyone to simply take my word for it though, so what follows is a discussion of each of the three fields and examples of how I applied them to Inherently Funny.

Search Engine Optimization
Placing high in search engine results is the easiest, most cost-efficient way to drive traffic to your website. While you can’t control everything about search engine performance (especially your competition), you do have control over the following.

1. Domain Name
Search engines reward sites when search terms appear in the domain name. (It’s one of the reasons Travelocity ranks first on Google for the search term “travel.”) Knowing this and knowing that “funny” would be an important search term for my website, I selected inherentlyfunny.com as my domain. I was lucky it was available, though, so if you can’t find a good domain name, start thinking about subdomains as well. For example, if you want to create a website about an 80’s sitcom and www.mytwodads.com is unavailable, you instead can register www.twodads.com and then create the subdomain my.twodads.com through your webhost service.



2. URLs
Search engines also reward sites with URLs that include search terms in natural language. This, for example, would be a great URL for a page about raccoon eating habits:

www.raccoons.com/raccon_eating_habits.html

Instead of natural language search terms, though, most dynamically generated websites produce URLs comprised of confusing query strings. When I first built Inherently Funny, my URLs suffered this same problem. For example, my URL for the Funny People page originally looked like this:

www.inherentlyfunny.com/results.php?cat=people&page=1

By adding fairly simple URL rewrite rules to my site’s .htaccess file though, I was able to change that same URL to this:

www.inherentlyfunny.com/categories/funny_people_1.html

Notice that it’s much easier to scan and that the words “funny” and “people” appear together to form the phrase “funny people.“ This seems to work especially well for the MSN search engine.

3. Page Titles
A concise page title that accurately describes the content of your page in common search terms is essential. The page title (seen at the top of a browser and in the head of the source code) of my Funny People page is simply “Funny People - Inherently Funny. ” Please note that the search term is listed first and the name of the website is listed last.

4. Search Term Density
Search engines also reward sites with pages that include a search term 10-15 times. For example, the Funny Things page contains 13 instances each of the words “funny” and “things.” Make sure to spread your terms out and don’t go overboard though—a search engine will likely consider your page spam if you use a term more than 15 times.

5. Semantic Markup
Semantic markup simply means coding a headline as a headline and a paragraph as a paragraph. In other words you should use the H1 tag for the most important headline on the page and the H2 for the second most important headline on the page. Search engines will look at these headlines for information about the page, so the more search terms you include in headlines the better. You can see an example of semantic markup by viewing the source of any page on Inherently Funny.

6. Website Footprint
The greater your website footprint (i.e., total number of pages), the more pages search engines will index and the greater chance someone will land on your site. That said, most new sites start with a limited amount of content, so it’s helpful to find creative ways to repackage that content on several distinct URLs. For example, on Inherently Funny each entry can be viewed by comments, category, author, or tags. As a result, a single entry like “Spuds MacKenzie” can appear on four separate URLs with four distinct page titles. (Please note, because Inherently Funny is always adding content, some of these URLs may have changed.)

Spuds MacKenzie - Inherently Funny
www.inherentlyfunny.com/comments/Spuds_MacKenzie.html

Funny Animals - Inherently Funny
www.inherentlyfunny.com/categories/funny_animals_1.html

Tyler’s Funny Entries - Inherently Funny
www.inherentlyfunny.com/submitters/tyler_3.html

Entries Tagged 80’s -Inherently Funny
www.inherentlyfunny.com/tags/80's_1.html

7. External Links
Having other sites link to your site is the single most important factor in search engine optimization, but I’m mentioning it last because it’s also the factor over which you have the least control. Ideally your site will be popular enough that other sites will voluntarily link to it, but it also helps to get the ball rolling by setting up a reciprocal links program like I’ve done on the Inherently Funny links page. Don’t be discouraged, though, if you’re having trouble getting links. Very few sites currently link to Inherently Funny, but because I otherwise executed well on items one through six, the site nonetheless appears on the first result page for the following competitive searches: Funny Phrases (Google and MSN), Funny Words (MSN), and Funny People (MSN).

Web Usability
Good search engine optimization will pull visitors to your site, but unless those visitors hang around for a few clicks, your optimization efforts will be for naught. To keep visitor clicking, you must build a site that’s easy to use, so here are a few usability basics to keep in mind.

1. Page Load Times
A usable website requires pages that load quickly. So how quick is quick enough? Usability authority Jacob Nielsen claims that “hypertext browsing requires response times of less than one second for the user's navigation to feel unencumbered.” That doesn’t mean, of course, that pages that take longer than one second to load will cause your site to fail. It does mean, however, that if you do break the one-second threshold for high-speed connections you should have a good reason for doing so. To diagnose a slow page load, it’s helpful to understand that when you click on a link two distinct things must happen before a page appears in your browser. First, the server must communicate with the database and run any server-side scripts required to assemble the HTML file. During this assembly, site traffic, server and database hardware, poorly-designed databases and programming scripts, and overall page complexity can all delay a page load. Second, the browser must download the assembled HMTL file and any additional CSS files, images, or external client-side scripts it references. The size of those files and the speed of a user’s connection will affect the page load time during this stage. An easy way to check file sizes is through a free service like Web Page Analyzer. I’m happy to say that according this tool, the home page of Inherently Funny takes only 0.5 seconds to load.

2. Interface Conventions
The internet has matured considerably during the past ten years, and a number of interface conventions have emerged. Most users now know, for example, to find the site logo in the upper left, the menu bar across the top or along the left of the page, and the site search at the top right. By leveraging these existing conventions you can ensure that users needn’t waste time learning a new interface. When designing Inherently Funny I wanted to allow users to sort columns by both submitters and ratings, but I was initially unsure about how to lay this out. Instead of designing a new interface, though, I simply copied Apple’s iTunes and assumed that anyone who knew how to use the iTunes sort functionality would also understand how to use my site. Before trying something new, see what major sites like Google or Amazon do and check out Yahoo’s free Design Pattern Library.

3. User Feedback
When a user commits an error, he or she has a right to expect friendly, informative feedback. For this to occur, designers must build with the expectation that users will make mistakes. There’s no better way to explain this than to demonstrate, so go to the Inherently Funny submission page, scroll to the bottom, and click submit. Because you haven’t filled out the form, the site returns a set of short error messages and—just as importantly—highlights the missing fields on the page. Now choose a category and click submit again. Notice that the site remembers the selected category even though other errors still exist on the page? Too many times sites frustrate users when one improperly completed field triggers the loss of some or all of the other data entered. In this case, the usability issue occurs because a programmer hasn’t taken the extra step to temporarily store the data. Please note, building a site that’s easy for users often means it should be difficult for programmers.

4. Informal Testing
You probably lack access to a formal usability lab equipped with video cameras and one-way mirrors, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t benefit from usability testing. Simply grab a friend unfamiliar with your site and spend a few minutes watching him or her use it. Ask your friend to perform a few tasks, and as you’re watching, avoid the urge to explain the site or dismiss difficulties as peculiar to that user. Watching a friend use Inherently Funny for less than two minutes actually prompted a significant design change. It’s not necessary to give the details of this change, but it is important to note that I wouldn’t have spotted the issue without this exercise.

Web Analytics
Almost every industry from advertising to the military to Major League Baseball has at one time or another undergone a transformation at the hands of statisticians. Few industries, though, are as suitable for statistical analysis as the internet, and you can now track everything from page views per visitor to the exact path a specific user take through a site. Happily for small web designers, Google has taken the very enlightened view that what’s good for designers is good for the internet (and what’s good for the internet is good for Google) and has provided a great suite of web analytics software for free.

The obvious question is what to do with all this information. The larger the website, the more interesting the answers, but at the most basic level web analytics allows web designers to implement designs not only because they look nice, but because they demonstrably perform better as well. For example, I originally designed Inherently Funny with a set of ads at the top of the page. I chose this location for no other reason than I liked how it looked. After launching the site and recording a few weeks of data though, I decided to test what would happen if I moved the ads immediately beneath the logo. Two weeks later I had enough data to show that this small change had actually improved my ad click-through rates by 40%. Feeling greedy, I then added a third set of ads to the page. Not only did this not produce a higher click-through rate, users must have felt the site was too ad-heavy because page views per visitors simultaneously dropped 20%. Even though each page had more ads, the data showed I was serving up less ads total, so I quickly removed the third ad and abandoned the experiment. Of course, you can use web analytics to run more sophisticated tests with more informative results, and many websites explain how to do just that. A great place to start is the Traffic Analysis section of Sitepoint.

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Administrator <![CDATA[From Author to Reader to User]]> http://www.whiskeyandaspirin.com/?p=10 2005-12-28T17:28:39Z 2005-12-28T17:28:39Z Databases Last weekend I finished several fixes and additions to this website, and now, with the exception of the Notes section, Whiskey and Aspirin is complete. The Notes section will feature a searchable database of design-related quotes, so today I began reading Build Your Own Database Driven Website Using PHP & MySQL, a how-to programming guide written by Kevin Yank and published by Sitepoint. While I’m looking forward to using this book to study databases in practice, in many ways I’m even more excited about studying databases in theory. It may sound geeked out and soulless, but over the next few years I expect databases to fully transform our art and culture and, in the process, become the subject of a large body of critical work. So before I start delving into technical details of databases, I thought I would take one last opportunity to write about the subject as a non-programmer.]]> Last weekend I finished several fixes and additions to this website, and now, with the exception of the Notes section, Whiskey and Aspirin is complete. The Notes section will feature a searchable database of design-related quotes, so today I began reading Build Your Own Database Driven Website Using PHP & MySQL, a how-to programming guide written by Kevin Yank and published by Sitepoint. While I’m looking forward to using this book to study databases in practice, in many ways I’m even more excited about studying databases in theory. It may sound geeked out and soulless, but over the next few years I expect databases to fully transform our art and culture and, in the process, become the subject of a large body of critical work. So before I start delving into technical details of databases, I thought I would take one last opportunity to write about the subject as a non-programmer.

Some of the best critical writing I’ve read about databases actually appears in an introductory book to typography, Ellen Lupton’s Thinking with Type. It may sound odd that a typography book would include a discussion of databases, but it’s a testament to the breadth and intelligence of Lupton’s writing that it does just that. I plan to write a full review of Thinking with Type later, but for now, I want to focus on a single claim of hers, that “the reader, having toppled the author’s seat of power during the twentieth century, now ails and lags, replaced by the dominant subject of our own era: the user. ”



I should quickly give this statement some context, but since I’m sure to butcher Lupton’s explanation, I encourage you to read pages 63-76 of her book as well. Twentieth century art and culture were dominated by Modernism and Post-Modernism, and whereas Modernism deified authors and consecrated artistic works as acts of creation, Post-Modernism deposed the “work ” and replaced it with a “text ” to be interpreted not as the author intended, but from the critical framework of the reader. As dramatic as this transfer in agency from author to reader was, however, Lupton’s quote identifies an even larger transfer —our as-yet-unnamed digital age has introduced the user, a new agent capable of not only interpreting a text, but reassembling it into an original work as well.

So why does Lupton make this point in a book about typography and what does this have to do with databases? As explained in the chart (figure 1) and paragraphs below, advances in the technology of typography have enabled each of these transfers in agency.

Fig. 1 Modern Post-Modern Digital
Agent Author Reader User
Technology Mass Production Indexes Databases
Action Create Interpret Create and Interpret
Consumption Linear Contingent Hyperlinks

1. Under Modernism, mass production and mass commerce lead to popular novels and the celebration of the author. Works were read from front to back as the linear transcriptions of the author’s spoken word.

2. Under Post-Modernism, typographic innovations such as page numbers, headers, tables of contents, and most importantly, indexes, all grew in sophistication and provided additional entry points for the reader, separating the text from the work, circumvented linearity, and empowered the reader.

3. During our current digital age, databases and hyperlinks allowed text to be navigated like never before, enabling the consumer to not only create new relationships between texts, but also to record these acts of creation. This is the essential point—by recording these acts of creation, databases created the user.

It might be helpful to look at a couple real world examples, and a good place to start is the database-driven website www.hotornot.com. Visitors to this website are good examples of users, because to navigate content they must rate photos, and by rating photos they contribute to the database. Of course, the value of these contributions as works of art is debatable, but as a less controversial example, consider contemporary DJs. DJs are also clearly users, taking samples from existing songs (i.e. taking text of original works) and reassembling them into original music. Again, by the act of using the database (in this case, all of recorded music) they are creating new music and adding to that same database. For me, the most exciting implication of database enabled users is not DJs (whom I generally loathe), but the idea of collective expression and wisdom. A book is largely the effort of one author, but a database can be the product of literally millions of people and therefore much smarter than any one individual. (Look for a future post on James Surowiecki’s book The Wisdom of Crowds for more on this subject.)

I’d like to conclude this post by mentioning the danger in all this, that in addition to becoming raters of photos or musicians, users can also become their own news editors. In other words, by simply setting a few preferences, a user can filter website content so that it provides only the news and opinion he or she wants to hear. Unfortunately, this only creates an echo chamber. If nothing else, the linearity of books and newspapers force readers to occasionally come across an opinion different from their own. Uninformed, ignorant users are bad for democracy and, more than anything, this consequence of databases would seem to be responsible for the divisive state of American politics. Frankly I’m surprised this isn’t mentioned more.

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Administrator <![CDATA[Celebrity Sightings Week]]> http://www.whiskeyandaspirin.com/?p=9 2005-11-02T10:48:57Z 2005-11-02T10:48:57Z Miscellaneous SEO

Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick: I spotted the couple with their kids in the Times Square subway station. He was wearing a floppy hat and she had celebrity hair. Really, I've never seen a head of hair like that on a normal person.

Claire Danes: I saw her chasing her dog on Spring Street. She caught the dog.

Shannon Doherty: I’m actually a little unsure about this one, but the woman in question certainly looked pissed-off enough to be Shannon Doherty. Whoever it was, she and several beefy guys were struggling to catch a cab on Spring and Lafayette. ]]>

Why write about celebrity sightings on a design blog? I have a reason, but really it’s just an excuse, and there’s no excuse for the bad taste that follows. That said, given that celebrities are searched on Google in disturbingly frequent numbers, this post is partly an exercise in search engine optimization and hence the somewhat inaccurate but search engine friendly title, “Celebrity Sightings Week.” What follows then is a list of stars I’ve spotted in my years and weeks in New York.

Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick: I spotted the couple with their kids in the Times Square subway station. He was wearing a floppy hat and she had celebrity hair. Really, I've never seen a head of hair like that on a normal person.

Claire Danes: I saw her chasing her dog on Spring Street. She caught the dog.

Shannon Doherty: I’m actually a little unsure about this one, but the woman in question certainly looked pissed-off enough to be Shannon Doherty. Whoever it was, she and several beefy guys were struggling to catch a cab on Spring and Lafayette.

Richard Dreyfus: The only celebrity to ever approach me. He asked for my help in pushing past a police blockade during an antiwar rally shortly before the start of the second Gulf War. I politely declined. (I liked Stakeout as much as the next guy, but Richard Dreyfus is one celebrity I’m not going to jail for.)

Carmen Electra and Casey Affleck: I didn’t see the Maxim pin-up and Ben Affleck’s younger brother together, but I did see them 15 minutes apart on the same block in SoHo. This made me wonder—what’s the protocol when two b-list celebrities meet? A head nod? Sex?



Vicent Gallo: I spotted the actor/director walking a bizarre, long-eared dog shortly before Christmas 2003 on Prince and Crosby. I would have dismissed the dog as a clever attempt to draw attention away from himself if the dog hadn’t, in fact, drawn more attention to him.

Anna Gasteyer: She, her husband, and I all shared a pole on a Manhattan-bound C train. I played it cool and read a magazine, but the subway suddenly stopped short and her husband fell on me. The former Saturday Night Live star apologized and gave her husband a dirty look.

Maggie Gyllenhaal: Maggie Gyllenhaal is one of the few celebrities I’ve seen twice. The first time was outside Economy Candy on the Lower East Side. We made eye contact and both quickly looked away, she in the crap-I’ve-been-recognized way, and I in the be-cool-you-don’t-want-Maggie-Gyllenhaal-thinking-you’re-a-creep way. The second time was at a nearly empty Fort Greene bar. My friend tried giving her the eye for an hour and finally yelled out “Maggie” as she left. Once safely in a taxi, she tentatively waved, and I quickly looked away in the crap-my-friend-just-gave-Maggie-Gyllenhaal-the-creeps way.

Kate Hudson and Chris Robinson: I spotted the actress and her rock star husband wearing sunglasses and pushing a baby carriage outside Balthazar on Spring Street. I suppose the pair were two of the biggest celebrities I’ve seen, but to this day I remain pretty bored by the encounter.

Jim Jarmusch: The legendary indie director and I made eye contact while passing each other on Bowery Street, but he quickly looked down, probably because young white guys that look like me must stop him all the time. (Well, him and Maggie Gyllenhaal.)

Heidi Klum and Seal: They were another couple I saw pushing a stroller in SoHo. Seal is doughy. Heidi Klum is the most beautiful woman you or I will ever see.

Moby: Moby is the only celebrity I would cross the street to avoid. Honestly, I can’t imagine someone possessing a more negative vibe. When I lived on the Lower East Side I often passed him outside his restaurant Teany, and each time something inside me shriveled.

Ric Ocasek: I spotted the rock star buying children’s software by the armful at the SoHo Apple store. No lie, Ric Ocasek looks like a rock star.

Chris Parnell: I saw the Saturday Night Live bit-player twice in one week, first at a Times Square movie theater and then later hitting on a girl in a SoHo deli sandwich line by talking about SLR cameras. If my two sightings are any indication, the guy spends a lot of time alone.

Natalie Portman: Natalie Portman is the only celebrity I’ve ever wanted to see, so I was somewhat shocked to stand near her for several minutes at a free MIA concert in Central Park. Eventually she looked at a baby, got in line for a beer, changed her mind, and left. I, on the other hand, have never been the same.

Amy Sedaris:I saw the frequent Letterman guest standing against a limousine in the West Village. The driver asked her if she'd like to sit inside and she squeaked that it was too nice an evening for that.

Eric Stolz: I spotted the actor exiting the Chelsea Piers parking garage and riding his mountain bike like a madman.

Mena Suvari: I passed the actress freshly divorced and looking more attractive than I expected on a busy West Village street the night the Red Sox beat the Yankees in game seven of the 2004 ALCS.

Hillary Swank and Chad Lowe: Both were wearing sunglasses and shopping on Prince Street. Hillary Swank looked severe. Chad Lowe looked short.

Paul Walker: Not much to say about this encounter outside a restaurant on the Lower East Side except that, though Paul Walker is often derided as a leaden actor, there was something very nice and smiley about him. He was like the anti-Moby.

Michele Williams: I saw her through the window of Spring Street Natural dining with a floppy-haired musician who I believe was Ben Lee. I had a celebrity crush on Williams at the time, so I panicked and kept walking.

I’ll keep this entry updated each week with more celebrity sightings. Please feel free to leave comments on any stars you’ve spotted in New York.

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Administrator <![CDATA[Website Copy Optimization]]> http://www.whiskeyandaspirin.com/?p=8 2005-09-24T18:24:01Z 2005-09-24T18:24:01Z SEO

1. Research Search Engine Friendly Keywords
Before writing anything, you should first use a tool like Wordtracker to research optimal keywords. For example, if you were writing an illustrated web article about tattoos, Wordtracker could tell you whether “Pictures of Tattoos,” “Photos of Tattoos,” or “Images of Tattoos” would drive the most search engine traffic to your site. (Of course, I used “tattoos” as an example because “tattoos” will itself drive more search engine traffic to my site than a word like “spleen” or “vacuum.”) After completing the research, open a Word document and place the two to three best keywords at the top. You will be constantly referring to these keywords in step two.]]>

If you've reached this post by searching Google or Yahoo for tips on optimizing website copy for search engines, then the steps I'm about to present for writing search engine friendly copy must work. If, however, you reached this post some other way, that probably means you're a friend or relative of mine, in which case you should trust me anyway. Regardless, below are the three steps I've developed for website copy optimization.

1. Research Search Engine Friendly Keywords
Before writing anything, you should first use a tool like Wordtracker to research optimal keywords. For example, if you were writing an illustrated web article about tattoos, Wordtracker could tell you whether “Pictures of Tattoos,” “Photos of Tattoos,” or “Images of Tattoos” would drive the most search engine traffic to your site. (Of course, I used “tattoos” as an example because “tattoos” will itself drive more search engine traffic to my site than a word like “spleen” or “vacuum.”) After completing the research, open a Word document and place the two to three best keywords at the top. You will be constantly referring to these keywords in step two.

Note: Before I wrote this post, I assumed that I would be optimizing for “Search Engine Friendly Writing,” but my Wordtracker research revealed that “Website Copy Optimization,” “SEO Copy Writing,” and “SEO Writing” were actually the phrases I most needed to optimize for.



2. Write Your Website Copy Using Keywords
If you haven't already noticed what this requires, then you haven't been paying attention. As you write, you simply need to work as many of the keywords listed at the top of your document into your copy as often as possible. (I've highlighted in light gray all the words and phrases I've included in this post for search engine optimization.) If you can't use a full phrase like “website copy optimization,” go ahead and use “copy optimization.” As long as it's not excessive, the more times you use keywords the better, and, if possible, place the keywords higher rather than lower on the page. Also, feel free to uses variations of the keywords, like “optimize” instead of “optimization,” and to hedge your bet, don't hesitate to include a few relevant words or phrases not in your two to three top keywords. For example, in this post I've used “search engine friendly writing” four times even though it was not one of my top keywords.

For most writers, this approach will be a new paradigm—instead of choosing the word or phrase that reads best, a writer will often have to compromise and choose the word or phrase that will drive the most traffic. That said, continue to write your best prose as naturally as possible and when in doubt, don't be afraid to choose what reads better as well-written copy will always drive more traffic to your website than single instances of a keyword.

3. Apply Structural XHMTL Markup to Your Website Copy
Search engines evaluate keywords based on their structural importance, so words and phrases that appear in headlines are considered more important than those that appear in paragraphs. This means you should cram your headlines with as many keywords as possible, and make sure they're marked h1, h2, or h3, and not with a structurally meaningless tag like <span class="headline">. Finally, make sure your chosen keywords also appear in the title of your web page as search engines consider this the most important information on a page.

Still have questions about website copy optimization? Feel free to leave a comment below and I will do my best to answer it.

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Administrator <![CDATA[Weird Typography]]> http://www.whiskeyandaspirin.com/?p=4 2005-08-10T20:24:43Z 2005-08-10T20:24:43Z Typography

1. The word “alphabet” is simply a joining of the first two Greek Letters, alpha and beta.

2. The correct terms for describing the difference between “ABC” and “abc” are majuscule and minuscule, but most non-typographers prefer uppercase and lowercase. The origin of these more common terms is surprisingly literal—printers once assembled pages from subdivided drawers or “cases” of wooden letters, and because minuscules were used more frequently, these letters were kept at waist-level in the lower of the two cases.]]>

Growing up, I thought a lot of dumb things. I never really believed, for example, that people actually lived in Brooklyn—to me the borough and its off-kilter residents seemed as made up as Riverdale and an adolescent garage-band called the Archies. Now that I actually call Brooklyn home, however, nothing much surprises me anymore. The idea that I spend free time reading typography books rather than collecting baseball cards, for example, is no longer a cow-kick to the head. In fact, the explanation for how I dropped baseball cards for typography is simple. I inadvertently learned the origin of the ampersand and never looked back. That etymology and nine other weird and surprising typographical facts appear below.

1. The word “alphabet” is simply a joining of the first two Greek Letters, alpha and beta.

2. The correct terms for describing the difference between “ABC” and “abc” are majuscule and minuscule, but most non-typographers prefer uppercase and lowercase. The origin of these common terms is surprisingly literal—printers once assembled pages from subdivided drawers or “cases” of wooden letters, and because minuscules were used more frequently, these letters were kept at waist-level in the lower of the two cases.

Figure 13. The ampersand (figure 1) is both a ligature (two letters printed as a unit) and logogram (a single character representing a word) because it combines the letters “e” and “t“ to form “et,“ the Latin word for “and.“

4. While majuscule letters were originally chiseled in stone, minuscules were always handwritten, and, as a result, many minuscules are simply easier-to-write versions of majuscules. For example, “b” is “B” without the second loop, “e” is “E” with the upper two arms closed, and “l” is “L” reduced to a single stroke.



5. While often mispronounced to rhyme with “reading,” “leading” should correctly rhyme with “bedding” as this synonym for line-spacing takes it’s name from the small strips of lead that once separated lines of type on a printing press.

Figure 26. Letter systems can be either ideographic (in which characters represent words and concepts) or alphabetic (in which characters represent sounds). The distinction, however, is seldom clear-cut. The letter “A,” for example, began as an Egyptian ideograph for ox (notice the horns when “A” is viewed upside down, figure 2), but evolved into the alphabetic Phoenician character aleph. The Phoenicians, by the way, gave the world its first alphabetic letter system, and hence the term “phonics.”

7. Italic type is so named because it originated in Italy.

8. Because paper mills once required giant water wheels to turn wood pulp into paper, river water was often used in the fabrication, and the resulting “watermarks” eventually identified the paper manufacturer.

Figure 39. Because mechanical restraints limit typewriters to monospace letters, typewriter fonts (figure 3) feature particularly long serifs to help fill in the gaps.

10. English letters are Roman, but our numerals are Islamic. (Of course, Roman numerals exist, but we seldom use them.)

Know any other weird or surprising facts about typography? Please feel free to share them in the comments below.

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Administrator <![CDATA[Make Money with the Internet]]> http://www.whiskeyandaspirin.com/?p=6 2005-07-10T18:22:51Z 2005-07-10T18:22:51Z Ecommerce SEO

1. Your website must “own” a popular niche keyword.
Any website with an ad-driven revenue model is dependent on traffic, and the best way to drive traffic to your site is by optimizing for search engines. Many separate efforts encompass search engine optimization, but perhaps most essential for generating revenue is identifying niche keywords. Niche keywords are phrases that many users search for but which few competing websites serve. For example, you might find that several websites are already optimized for the keyword “dog photos,” but that very few are optimized for “dog pictures.” If research also shows that a large number of internet users actually search for “dog pictures,” the phrase would be a very good keyword. Online software like Wordtracker can tell you both how many searches are done for a particular keyword and how many competitors for that keyword exist.]]>

I should start this post with the disclaimer that since I make little money off this or any other website, the advice that follows is nothing more than my own dreamy conjectures. That said, if you intend to generate website revenue, you could probably do a lot worse than considering the following three rules.

1. Your website must “own” a popular niche keyword.
Any website with an ad-driven revenue model is dependent on traffic, and the best way to drive traffic to your site is by optimizing for search engines. Many separate efforts encompass search engine optimization, but perhaps most essential for generating revenue is identifying niche keywords. Niche keywords are phrases that many users search for but which few competing websites serve. For example, you might find that several websites are already optimized for the keyword “dog photos,” but that very few are optimized for “dog pictures.” If research also shows that a large number of internet users actually search for “dog pictures,” the phrase would be a very good keyword. Online software like Wordtracker can tell you both how many searches are done for a particular keyword and how many competitors for that keyword exist.

2. Your website must generate its own content.
Once you have driven a lot of free traffic to your site via search engines, you must then deliver as many ad impressions to that audience as possible. This requires substantial amounts of frequently-updated content, but your site won’t make any money if you must produce that content yourself, or even worse, pay someone else to produce it for you. The majority of site content must therefore come from your users. (Sites that employ this model well include College Humor, IgoUgo, Designologue, and most famously, Hot or Not.) Please note, getting users to submit content is no easy task, but photos are much easier to gather than original copy.



3. Your website must cover topics desirable to advertisers.
Even if search engine optimization has given your site free traffic and self-generating content has produced a lot of ad impressions, you still won’t earn much from your website unless the ads pay well. For example, animal rights ads pay poorly because few advertisers bid on the topic and the ones that do have little money to spend. (On Meat Junkie, an animal rights website, I only average $.03 a click, so even at a somewhat optimistic click-through-rate of 1%, it still would take 3,000 ad impressions to even earn a dollar.) A better choice for generating website revenue would be a topic like travel since travel ads often earn more than $.50 or per click. Wordtracker is also useful for researching which topics pay what.

So what are some possible websites that could fit all three criteria? I have a few ideas I’m not sharing at the moment, but when I try one out I’ll update this entry with a case study. In the meantime, please feel free to add your own thoughts or suggestions in a comment below.

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Administrator <![CDATA[Some Practical Writing Advice]]> http://www.whiskeyandaspirin.com/?p=3 2005-05-10T21:41:13Z 2005-05-10T21:41:13Z Miscellaneous I’m currently working at a writing desk in front of a mirror and just realized that for the past half hour I’ve been giving myself the eye. This, needless to say, has added nothing to my productivity, and were I not in a hotel room with the furniture screwed firmly in place, I would remove the mirror and face the glass firmly against the wall.



Anyway, don’t write in front of a mirror. I, for one, am too easily distracted by the sight of myself sipping tea. And to make matters worse, I just got a new haircut.

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