Category Archives: Promotion

Ways to promote your site, or attract an audience.

Carbon Neutral Website Development

Carbon Neutral Websites? Check your smug factor!
Carbon offsetting is very trendy right now. Just last week my boyfriend purchased a wind power offset. I was sort of surprised as we’d never discussed offsetting, and asked him what his motivation was. "It’s for the electricity that I use, this card makes government purchase wind power." The thing is, we live in Seattle, where electricity pretty darn green already and there’s a program for utilities customers to contribute to directly.

Via the 9Rules Network I ran across Darren Stuart’s suggestion on the Web2.0 Show that websites developers become carbon neutral and that not only is it a good thing for the Earth, but it’s a great for marketing. A lot of people chimed in right away with "Oh yeah…I’ll plant a tree! Great!!" kind of stuff. A quick search for “carbon neutral website” indicates the trend has already begun (at least it has in the UK).

There’s more to offsetting than planting trees

I was both excited to see that environmental responsibility is becoming so mainstream and at once dismayed at this continual emphasis on mindless offsetting. Like most political and scientific issues, the devil is in the details. Many early offset companies actually hurt more than helped, through poor planning and lack of follow through. The validity of tree-planting offsets remain questionable both as to the long-term effectiveness of successful programs and the lack of ability to guarantee said trees will remain healthy and protected long enough to do any good in the first place.

And then there’s basic concept of carbon offsetting. Many have criticized the practice as allowing people guilt-free passes for ongoing irresponsible behavior. I agree that it should be only part of a persons efforts to do their part. I mean if you’re driving an unnecessarily gas guzzling car, indulging in excessive and unnecessary trips or think recycling only has to do with your computer desktop then purchasing a bunch of offsets shouldn’t be your only focus! I’m already gritting my teeth at the inevitable trend of smug “carbon neutral website” banners on the sites of people who’ve never even bothered recycled their hazardous electronic equipment.

Now, lest I wreak of smug myself, I must announce: I am no saint. I don’t own a car, I walk to work, I bus or bike whenever it’s reasonable. I recycle avidly (including compost and proper disposal of hazardous materials) at work. But I must admit, I don’t recycle at home as well as I could because our landlord doesn’t offer options (or take opinions!) so it’s not convenient. I borrow my boyfriends gas hungry work truck usually only when I need it, but occasionally when I’m just feeling lazy. I indulge in long, hot showers. And more I’m sure. All I’m saying is, if you’re going to offset and especially if you’re going to toot your horn about, research your options and choose responsibly!

Should you purchase offsets? And if so, which ones?

The Wikipedia entry ‘Carbon offset’ is currently very informative and cites a plethora of references, both skeptic and optimistic. This should keep you busy for a while and help you determine whether it’s the right choice, or the first choice for you. The article Shifting Into Neutral by Emily Main on National Georgaphic’s Green Guide web site should help you understand the basic differences in available offsets. Then head on over to TreeHugger.com for the latest on carbon offset providers.

Major Search Engines Agree to Sitemap Standard

Excellent news for web designers…there’s just one sitemap standard to worry about for all the major search engines. Google, Yahoo and Microsoft agreed, this bears repeating, agreed to use the same Sitemaps protocol to index sites around the web.  Visit sitemaps.org to learn how to create an XML file that tells spiders where to go and what has changed. If you’ve already been using Google sitemaps, it’s the same protocol.

Read more on TechCrunch.

Google’s Sitemap Buzz

Google’s Sitemap Generator is not exactly easy to use, but the potential the Sitemaps program has to reveal important content buried in complex or dynamic architectures is very promising.
After trying to install, configure and run the Google Sitemap Generator my server for a few hours I realized three things: 1. I don’t know anything about Python, 2. running shell scripts is harder than I thought it would be, and 3. Google is really expecting a lot out of your everyday web designer.

I mean, I can follow directions, I even taught myself Perl back in the day but for some reason, I’m missing something. So I added a search my RSS feed aggregator to look for blog posts related to Google’s new Sitemap service and related tool, the Sitemap Generator, which was unveiled just two days ago, hoping it would create enough buzz that better tutorials would surface. Although, there has been a lot of talk (and 23rd World was even quoted – whoopee!), no one seems to have reviewed the generator tool itself.

In fact, the only mention anyone makes of using the generator script (that I could find) were two instances of problems. Fortunately there’s already a PHP script solution for us folks running WordPress blogs and I suppose I could make one the old fashioned way until then. Okay, maybe abbreviated versions. As long as we’re handcoding, stream of conscious offers some good advice:

1) Don’t set your priority really high all the time. Google folks are not stupid. It will penalize you for making everything have a high priority. My advice is set everything at 0.5 and set a few high priority pages as .8, or 1.

2) If you run a dynamic site, then this is really for you — you can make sure that google knows about every page. Even pages that are not linked to.

Just to rephrase the priority thing, Google explicitly states that the priority is only used to compare pages within your site, so if you had them all at 0.5 it would be no different than if they were all at 1.0. It’s is simply an opportunity to create emphasis. This is really a great idea, and I would personally advise people to de-emphasize portal and about pages, placing emphasis on keyword rich pages and blog posts themselves. This program has a lot of potential. You see, Google can see hierarchy in terms of site architecture, but not everyone’s actual important/relevant content is in the top tiers (although, ideally it should be). I can’t wait to get this generator script thing worked out. Please let me know if you’ve had success with it and/or if you could lend a Unix command line novice a hand!

Google’s Local Business Center Tool

Google‘s new ‘Local Business Center‘ was announced today and has already recieved a lot of coverage, mainly relating it’s signifigance to growing rivalry between Google and Yahoo. Internet business news aside, I’m curious about it’s potential benefits as a marketing tool.

To test it out, I used my gmail login for my account information, which worked. I then entered a client’s business name and address, which quickly took me to an existing listing, and upon my confirmation, to a google map depicting the office’s exact location. This frightened me a little, because it was so easy and I could just imagine all the ficticious entries people could make. But Google thought of that and I was relieved to see that a pin number would me mailed to the address I entered for verification.

Options for a business listing include standard contact information, including the designation of an email address (which I declined, lest spambots be drooling over Google listings), website address, business category and a 200 character description. Conveniently, the form shows your word count in real time so you can really play with it to get just the right key words in there! It comes as no suprise that 200 characters does not make many words. Using conjunctions, informal tone and substiting the word ‘and’ with an ampersand is highly recommended.

According the confirmation page, I will recieve two letters of confirmation. That is, one letter to the address of the original listing they detected and one to the address after modification – in this case, the addition of the +4 zip code extension.

I noticed the business category listings were limited and seemed to be retail oriented, although were at least a dozen services. I wonder how many categories they will expand to after people submit their suggestions. In the case of the business I listed this time there was a vaguely related category available but not the professional category…e.g. ‘Services – Landscape Designers’ vs. ‘Services – Landscape Architects’ where the former indicates anyone asserting opinion on the design of a landscape and the latter category indicating another level of service and requirement of liscensure to practice as such.