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Archive for May, 2006


aerlingus.com winter travel sale

Tuesday, May 30th, 2006

Well the headline really says it all I think, but anyhow I got an email from the aerlingus.com guys earlier on about their current winter travel sale. I didn’t see advertisements about this sale on TV or hear them on radio (others maybe did though) so I decided to post a little message up here which hopefully will get picked up by the ‘Irish blogosphere’ perhaps via the excellent ‘IrishBlogs.ie‘ or the equally excellent ‘The Community At Large‘ and thus let more people know about this than otherwise would have.

The sale is for flights between the 7th of November and the 20th of December (inclusive) from Dublin, Cork and Shannon Airports (although most deals are from Dublin of course) to many of the major european airports which Aer Lingus services. Amazing prices as low as €1, €5 and €10 are being offered for one-way flights to places like London, Paris and Vienna respectively. The sale because it’s a 3 day sale only lasts for eh… 3 days so you have to convince yourself and all your buddies to go on that booze filled week to Prague and then of course book your tickets on www.aerlingus.com before midnight on thursday the 1st June. Seriously though, with so many different cities on offer you should be able to find something that takes your fancy.

As mentioned above, I got ‘word’ of this sale from an email Aer Lingus sent out to me, this of course was not spam, it was something I specifically signed-up for. I highly recommend you do the same, hit the www.aerlingus.com homepage and check out the ’sign-up for email offers’ box which is about halfway down the left hand side of the page.


An overview of the new Dublin Airport website

Monday, May 29th, 2006

Well folks I just got back from the sunny Algarve in Portugal yesterday afternoon. The touchdown of flight FR7067 from Faro at around 3 yesterday (Sunday 28th) brought an end to a very enjoying couple of days in the family place in Albuferia with some College friends. The trip consisted of some boozy nights out with the local portuguese people and other tourists on the ‘Strip’ but also involved some pretty heavy ’socialising’ with the good auld Irish tourists and ex-pats in the main Irish bars such as Erins Isle and Father Eds. When not sipping on €.27 cent bottles of beer by the pool or downing €2.50 pints in one of the aforementioned bars we were stuffing our bellys with amazing T-Bone steak, which in one place in particular was practically the size of a keyboard. One thing is for sure, the portuguese do a mean steak.

Anyhow while I was walking through Dublin Airport it reminded that their website was to be relaunched recently so after wading through 154 emails since Wednesday for the AKA Marketing.com website (please don’t tell me to get a Blackberry because I won’t listen) I decided to check the Dublin Airport website to see if the new site (located at DublinAirport.com) was live, it was and here’s a couple of paragraphs about it.

The new site was launched a couple of weeks ago, April the 7th to be precise. The web design house who took on the responsibilty of the redesign was Red Sky. Red Sky are well known and have worked with AIB, VHI and Fianna Fail to name just a few of their clients, their focus is on creating websites with strong accessibility and usability without comprising on asthetics.

The new DublinAirport.com site homepage is well constructed and contains information which visitors will most likely want when visiting an airport’s website such as live flight information, local weather information and the latest airport news which at the moment includes items about Ryanair’s new European routes, departure floor improvements and the relocation of Bank Of Ireland’s Bureau de Change desk. This news more than likely runs off a content management system so non-technical people would easily be able to update it, therefore it is very likely to be kept up to date.

The layout & navigation is an integral part of any website design, thus I will continue to talk about it for a couple of lines. The layout of the new site seems to follow generally accepted web standards which everyone is familiar with such as navigation along the top, navigation along the left, main content in the middle and then a right sidebar for advertisments or other bits and bobs. The navigation along the left often breaks into different sub-sections depending on the current page/section being browsed, this is done in such as way as to make it easy to figure out where in the site hierarchy you are. The homepage of the dublinairport.com site is available via a link on every single page, this is a big plus as often visitors will arrive at one of a site’s inner pages via search engines such as Google, Yahoo or MSN and will be looking for a handy way to find the homepage. Standard issue stuff really as far a layout and navigation is concerned then.

In terms of accessibility, the new design is quite good (the accessibility statement page mentions that an audit is currently going on so it might improve further when feedback comes in) and avoids many pitfalls which make a site less usable to those with disabilities such as the use of exact pixel or point measurements when specifying font sizes in CSS which means pressing ‘Ctrl’ and the ‘+’ buttons together does not increase the size of the text on the page in Internet Explorer; it still works in Firefox though for some reason. Other ‘features of accessibility’ include access keys for quick access to important pages and structured H1, H2, etc. tags which allow screenreaders to read through a page in correct sequence. Standard accessibility features such as alt and title tags are of course seen throughout the site too. Accessibility is very important to the web in general and dublinairport.com certainly does not cut any corners in this respect.

The web design company, the homepage, the layout & navigation and accessibility of the site have been covered so far. Lets talk then in terms of the actual content of the site. There are (from what I can see) five distinct areas of content on the site targeted towards the actual ‘user’ of the airport. I’ll first list them as links (which all open in a new window) and then go into a little bit more detail on each one, they are ‘Flight Information‘, ‘Plan Your Trip‘, ‘To & From The Airport‘, ‘At The Airport‘ and ‘Shops & Restaurants‘.

The flight information section contains live arrival and departure information, flight timetables but also an interactive ‘Destination and Airlines‘ page where you can find out which airlines fly to which destinations, the times for these flights and whether or not they are direct or stop-over flights. The plan your trip section is full of useful information and also includes an ebookers.com interface to make booking a holiday easier. The section contains pages which cover topics such as Airport Security, Check-in, Passports & Visas, Imports & Customs, Foreign Currency & Banking, Car Rentals, Packing, Travelling With Pets and content regarding people with Reduced Mobility. 

The to & from the airport section contains information which is helpful for those visiting Dublin for the first time and contains information about travelling to and from the airport via taxi, coach, bus etc. The designers have even put in a ‘By Rail’ page which clarifies the fact that Dublin airport actually has no rail links just in case tourists are wondering if they can travel to the city by rail and I’m sure there will be plenty of those as nearly every major airport has some sort of rail links… expect Dublin airport of course, everyone can thank the ‘Department of Transport‘ for that.

The next section is the at the airport section. This section will allow any interested party to find out more about the facilities and services available at the airport, one of the content rich areas in this section is an excellent interactive maps page featuring all the different areas of the airport. Below the maps various shops, toilets, kiosks, etc. are listed and when one of the items in the list is clicked upon then that shop, toilet or whatever is highlighted on the map, very useful indeed. Other pages and sub-sections in the at the airport section include (among plenty of others of course) lost property, Internet access, baby changing facilities, postal facilities, religious facilities, customer services and aiport security.

The final section which is targeted towards the ‘user’ of the airport then is the shops & restaurants section, as the name suggests it covers all the shops and restaurants in Dublin airport, the information it gives includes the names of the individual shop or restaurant, its location and its opening hours. 

As mentioned above these five sections are aimed at the ‘user’ of the airport, but the site also contains a B2B section which focuses on the business aspect of the Dublin Airport Authority such as Doing Business with Us, Airport Developments, Health and Safety, Career Notices, Media Centre and the Environment amongst many others. For those of you that don’t know who the Dublin Airport Authority are they are basically the management company which manages all issues of the airport. They are a state owned company.

After going through an overview of the main sections above let takes an overhead look then at the good points and bad points about the newly designed site. The major attraction of the new site is the overwhelming amount of useful information covering just about everything and anything regarding the airport. The site is only new and thus many pages might not be indexed in Google yet but a ’site:www.dublinairport.com’ query already returns over 200 pages and considering the nature and aims of the site this is pretty darn good. This information is ‘packaged’ in a very user friendly and clean design which should be appealing to everyone (well almost everyone) including those with disabilities and difficulties using the Internet. In my opinion another clap on the back must be given to the design company for their use and reference of external resources (I believe in not reinventing the wheel) which are very useful to tourists and holidaymakers such as ebookers.com for easier booking of hotels/holidays and the AA Ireland route planner to help people find their way around the city and country a lot easier than they otherwise could have.

When I said ‘well almost everyone’ above this was in relation to in my opinion one of the major downfalls of the site, which is the lack of any non-english versions. An airport website for an airport that claims to be ‘international’ which is without support for German, Italian, French etc. speaking people is a big flaw. Even in the actual airport itself many signs are written in many different languages to facilitate non-english speaking people, not everyone is a Paddy or a Yank (no offence intended to my fellow Irish or indeed American people of course). A minor issue with the site is the lack of a sitemap which would enable people to get a quick overview of all the different sections and pages on the site, of course this is just my opinion but considering the emphasis Red Sky’s design team have paid to accessibility and usability I’m sure others will agree with me.

In closing then the Dublin airport site is now very very impressive. It is a site that looks good, is easy to use and is filled with excellent content, this in most people’s view is what makes a great site.

kick it on kick.ie


kodak - top quality customer service

Sunday, May 28th, 2006

Nothing major here like insider trader information or betting tips for the weeks horse racing, no not at all. In this blog post I basically just want to commend camera company Kodak for their customer service and in particular the customer service they gave me in relation to a specific problem I was having with my digital camera. The digital camera is a Kodak EasyShare V550 and it’s got some pretty nice features such as top quality motion capture. Anyhow I bought the camera in November or Decemeber I can’t remember exactly, but it wasn’t a year old when it broke so it was still covered by the warranty (for legitimate reasons only though… or so I thought) which comes with the camera when you buy it.

‘Broke’ is very generic I know so let me tell you that the specific problem I was having was with the lens, which seemed to be jammed in place and because of this forced the camera to shutdown almost immediately. Now the reason why the lens was jammed in place was because I dropped the camera, I know I’m stupid and I should expect problems if I go around dropping expensive kit like there’s no tomorrow, but it was an accident and accidents happen. To make matters worse though I of course had to ‘fiddle’ with it to try and fix it but only ended up damaging it more.

I wanted to get it fixed as soon as possible, but after being quoted €200 for it to be repaired from a camera repair shop on Grafton Street and then being told by that same shop that there was no way Kodak would fix it under the warranty as there was clearly impact/fiddle damage on the lens I was not very optimistic about the camera or my wallet.

Not wanting to spend €200 on repairs for a camera that cost about €380 in the first place and because I’m a bit of a chancer I decided to ignore the opinion of the aformentioned camera repair shop and give Kodak customer service a call to see if they would fix my camera even though it wasn’t their fault it was broke. I’m very happy I made that call. The support person was very helpful and insisted they would fix this strange faulty lens issue that came from ‘nowhere’. Two days later a UPS courier picked my camera up (complete with extra bubble wrap) from my place of work, the camera was bound for the Kodak camera repair center in Germany. Cost to me so far was about €3, for a box and bubble wrap to store the camera. Today (the package actually arrived on Thursday but I was in Portugal) barely 10 working days since I sent the camera on its way with UPS, I opened a package without having any idea of what was inside, I didn’t think it could be the camera so soon. To my delight though it was the camera equipped with a nice new and fully functioning Schneider lens.

I’m certain that when the repair people at Kodak in Germany seen the damage on the lens they knew that it was dropped or banged and that they didn’t have any obligation to fix it under warranty. Fair play to the Kodak guys though they fixed it anyway and hence they go way up in my estimation because those of you that read my first post on this new blog (located @ http://www.akamarketing.com/blog/11-myhostie-lets-here-it-for-the-little-guy.html) will know that I consider customer care/support/service to be very important when purchasing anything. Kodak will definitely be getting my cash when I decide to change camera models, I can tell you that for a fact.


Setanta sports backers to invest in Bebo

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2006

Just spotted there that Benchmark Capital, the financial backer of everyones favourite Irish sports channel Setanta has agreed to invest $15M / £8M in Ireland’s favourite social networking website Bebo.com. The investment is to allow San Fran based Bebo (pronounced bee-bo) to challenge MySpace for Global market share in the social networking industry but particularly in the UK, where MySpace is the more dominant of the two sites, but not by far. 

If your from Ireland and have not heard of Bebo where have you been? I thought I was bad for only seeing the first ever episode of Lost two weeks ago. Anyhow as mentioned above it is a social networking site which basically allows everyone to keep in touch with their friends, family and enemies (if they want to) regardless of where in the world they are located. The idea is that everyone who signs up gets a personal webpage which has interactive features such as a blog, a whiteboard (drawing), a flashbox (swf movie) as well as an area for comments to be added. Another very important feature of Bebo and one of the main reasons for its growth is the ability to build up your own network of friends and have them listed on your personal webpage. It is these features that have allowed Bebo achieve over 500,000 Irish members with an estimated 5,000 new signups a day from Irish IP addresses. With this latest investment of $15M / £8M it can only get bigger and better so watch this space.


Search engine optimization podcasts of interest

Sunday, May 21st, 2006

Although blogging seems to be the way of things these days, other new sources of information such as podcasts must not be overlooked. Podcasts are basically radio type broadcasts which can be downloaded and listened to whenever someone wants as opposed standard broadcasts which must be tuned into to when they are on, with standard broadcasts if you miss the exact timeslot you miss out.

Don’t let the name podcast mislead you into thinking they can only be played on Apple’s Ipod. They are in fact usually just plain MP3 files which can be played on PCs, Macs and of course all kinds of MP3 players. I’m not sure why these type of files ended up being called ‘podcasts’ but presumably it was to do with the popularity of Ipods at the time. Wikipedia’s podcasting page has more information for those that are interested.

Many useful search engine optimisation podcasts are available for download over the Internet. A good place to start looking for podcasts is Yahoo Podcasts, for this post though I have picked out four podcasts which I think are quite helpful.

The first two podcasts are published by Joe Balestrino, the self proclaimed Mr-SEO. The first of the two broadcasts covers how to avoid the sandbox or indeed minimise the amount of time spent it it and is about 22 minutes in duration (although the sandbox talk only lasts for about 14/15 minutes). I like how Joe Balestrino suggests that pretty much as soon as you get your domain name throw it up there on the web, with say even just three or four pages of raw content with no regard for design, layout or aesthetics. The point being that when you have finished your design/development and launch your site for ‘real’ you will spend less time in the sandbox. It is located at Mr SEO, how to avoid the sandbox.

The second podcast from Joe Balestrino located at Mr SEO, listener questions lasts over 45 minutes in duration. In it Joe takes listener questions which cover issues such as linkbaiting, domain registration, articles as duplicate content and more. Good stuff from Joe, not so sure about the very cheesy intro to his podcasts though, oh well nobody is perfect.

The third and fourth podcasts of interest include interviews with none other than Matt Cutts. Cutts is the guy that works in Google and is the person many of us webmasters turn to for the latest ‘inside scope’ on the Google algorithm.

The third podcast is as mentioned above an Interview with Google engineer Matt Cutts. It’s about a year old, but don’t let that put you off as there is some pretty good information to hear which is helpful to both the newbie and experienced search engine optimizer. Matt talks about how the net judges your content, why targeting small phrases initially is the way to go, keyphrase density and some other issues too. It is located at Matt Cutts Interview #1 and lasts just over 13 minutes.

The fourth podcast is another and later interview with Matt Cutts, where he again talks about a varierty of issues. Matt talks about duplicate content, the Google sandbox, hiring SEO companies and a couple of other things. This podcast is almost 24 minutes long and is located at Matt Cutts Interview #2.

Hopefully you find the podcasts interesting and helpful. I personally think it’s a nice change to be able sit back and listen to all the information rather than constantly be reading through all the search engine forums and blogs out there. If you would like to save a podcast rather than listen to the streaming version be sure to right click on the podcast link and click ‘Save Target As’. Saving the podcasts one by one has the advantage of allowing you to a) listen to them offline and b) to put them onto your portable MP3 player so you can listen to them pretty much anywhere.


Google SEO and their 80/20 rule

Friday, May 19th, 2006

Search engine optimisation or optimization (with a ‘z’ or is that ‘zee’ if your from across ‘the pond’) techniques are constantly evolving. This evolution is in response to the evolution of search engines such as Google, Yahoo and MSN. Google in particular has come to be seen as the most sophisticated and advanced search engine as it is armed with an array of anti-spam technology.

Google’s increasing use of anti-spam features has meant that optimising websites for Google has become much harder and it’s now not just a case of opening your websites source files in notepad, adding some keywords into your various HTML tags, uploading your files and waiting for the results. In fact in my opinion and I’m sure others will agree with me, this type of optimisation, commonly referred to as onpage optimisation will only ever be 20% effective at achieving rankings for any keywords which are even mildly competitive. Those of us who aced maths in school will know this leaves us with 80% unaccounted for.

This 80% corresponds to offpage optimization. Offpage optimization is all to do with the amount of links pointing to your site and its pages, the actual linking text (anchor text) of these links and the quality of the pages which the links are on. Offpage optimisation is now for sure the overwhelmingly dominating factor which decides where a site will rank in Google. That then is what I mean by the 80/20 rule, I’m not talking about the pareto rule which means that in anything a few (20 percent) are vital and many (80 percent) are trivial, I’m not sure that applies to SEO.

What is the logic behind this then, why does Google give so much ‘weight’ (80%) to offpage optimization efforts and so little (20%) to onpage optimisation. Well simply put it is all about the quality of their results. Whereas onpage optimisation is completely controlled by the webmaster and can thus be abused by an unscrupulous one, offpage optimisation is something that is not controlled by anyone as such by rather by other webmasters, websites and indeed the Internet in general. This means that it is much harder to conduct any underhanded or spammy offpage optimisation methods in the hope of gaining an unfair advantage for a website in the Google SERPS (Search Engine Result Pages), this does not mean it is impossible though. 

Let’s elaborate for a paragraph or two just why offpage elements such as incoming links are deemed by Google to be such a good measure of relevancy, thus making offpage optimisation the most effective method of optimisation by far. Take the anchor text of incoming links for instance, if Google sees a link from SITE A to SITE B with the actual linking text being the words ‘data recovery london’, then SITE B has just become more relavent and thus more likely to appear higher in the rankings when someone searches for ‘data recovery london’. SITE B has no control over SITE A (in most cases…) and Google knows this. Google can then look at the link text and say to itself, why would SITE A link to SITE B with the specific words ‘data recovery london’ if SITE B wasn’t ‘about’ ‘data recovery london’, there is no answer so Google must deem SITE B to be ‘about’ ‘data recovery london’.

I said ‘in most cases’ above because often webmasters have multiple sites and would crosslink them with keyword rich anchor text, but there is only so many sites and crosslinks any webmaster can manage, again Google knows this and so as the number of backlinks and occurrences of keyword rich anchor text grows (and with that grows the unlikelihood of anything unnatural like crosslinking going on) so to does the relevancy of the site which all the backlinks point to. Imagine hundreds or thousands of sites all linking to a website X with variations of ‘data recovery london’ type phrases as the linking text, well then Google can be pretty dam sure that website X is ‘about’ ‘data recovery london’ and feel confident about returning it in the top 10 results. This is why they place so much importance (80%) on offpage ranking factors such as links; they are simply the most reliable way of checking what a site is about and indeed how well it covers what it is about. This reliance on hard to cheat offpage factors is what produces the quality search results we all know, love and use everyday.

The moral of the story from an SEO point of view then is to spend less time on those little website tweaks which you think might make a big difference (but won’t) and work hard on what really counts, what really counts is how the web ’sees’ your website, the more quality (keyword rich) incoming links your website has the better the webs ‘view’ will be and therefore the better Google’s view of your website will be. What Google thinks of your website is very important, as they ‘look after’ websites which they like.

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