Archives for July 2007

Harry Potter font looks like Yahoo logo?

First, a non-spoiler review of Harry Potter: I liked it a lot. If you enjoyed the other books, you’ll really like the final Harry Potter.

But you know you’ve been concentrating on search too much when you look at the book spine of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and the first thing you notice is “Wow, that font looks a lot like the font that Yahoo! uses for their logo.”

Don’t believe me? Sarah McFalls made a similar freeware Harry Potter font that she called Lumos.

Then I followed these short instructions to install a TTF font on an Ubuntu machine.

Now compare the two fonts:

Lumos font


Yahoo logo

Pretty close, huh? At least, the Y, A, and H looked similar to me. 🙂

Short bits

– This one’s kinda fun. Rand Fishkin was in town, so we invited him over to the Googleplex. We arranged on a simple trade: we’d feed him if he’d give a talk about search/SEO from his perspective. I think everyone benefited. 🙂 You can read his trip write-up.

– Mitchell Baker is asking for suggestions on how Thunderbird should be organized going forward. It’s true that Firefox gets a lot more attention/3rd party development than Thunderbird. I’m torn, because on one hand I think I’ll be using web mail from now on. The idea of locking my data/email into one computer is too fraught with problems for me now. On the other hand, I still think email is nowhere near where it should be. There are so many archival formats (qmail/maildir, mbox and all its many flavors), yet I haven’t seen that many tools that let you distill email into insights. I can look at my server log traffic in an easy graphical view; why can’t I graph my email volume by day-of-the-week? Or take my history of routing emails and auto-suggest “This email should be routed to this team” or “Historically, this other person is an expert on this subject”?

– It looks like Steve from Feedburner is jumping in with both feet at Google:

So far, it’s been a blast. I’ve always kind of been a tech junkie and Google is tech junkie’s heaven, so there you go. More than that, it’s hard to find a work environment anywhere with such a collection of intelligent, talented people. It’s a big company, so of course there are elements of a big company creeping into the culture, but I have to say it’s less like a bigco than any other bigco at which I’ve ever worked.

Part of that has been a full dive into using Google tools. Personally, I don’t know how I lived without Apps before this. Anyone with a small company should definitely look at using this internally.

I’m really excited that Feedburner has joined Google. Feedburner is one of those rare companies where I emailed a bizdev person to say “I don’t know if we’re talking to this company, but every experience I’ve had with them has been really positive, they make a great product, and they seem very cool to boot.” (I harbor absolutely no illusions that my email made any difference, but I felt like I needed to chime in because I was actually paying Feedburner money each month and felt like I was getting a great service.)

– My wife has just handed me Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows after finishing it herself, so I may be scarce for a few days. 🙂

SEO tip: Avoid keyword stuffing

Alex Chiu claims to have invented an immortality device:

Alex Chiu web page

Wow, who wouldn’t want to stay young forever? But there’s a snag. Alex claims that Google doesn’t include in its index because, you know, Google is trying to suppress the immortality device. Here’s part of what one of his pages says:

Alex Chiu message

I wonder if there could be some other reason that the domain doesn’t show up in Google? If you go back to Alex’s eternal life page and look at the bottom of the page, you’ll notice a very small textarea:

Alex Chiu text area

Hmm. It’s just a few pixels by a pixels, but it looks like there’s some text in there. So if you view the source of the page… uh oh:

Alex Chiu text

“Internal vaginal aphrodisia doping hardware?” Huh? And what does a “plasma tv advanced chart” have to do with immortality? It looks like about 50KB of keywords are stuffed into that tiny textarea, from celebrity names to complete nonsense like “tupac kazaa hospital” and “alien cemetary.”

If I were wondering why I didn’t show up in Google, I would review our webmaster guidelines and read the information listed under Don’t load pages with irrelevant keywords. As always, webmasters are free to do what they want on their own sites, but Google reserves the right to do what we think is best to maintain the relevance of our search results, and that includes taking action on keyword stuffing.

Webmaster console features?

What do you want to see the Webmaster Central team do next? About 10 months ago, Google Blogoscoped asked what people wanted next. It’s time to ask that question again, because the team has made great progress. From the original thread:

– See the backlinks for my site: DONE. Site owners can now see their own backlinks.

– Verify an IP address is really Googlebot: DONE, not in the webmaster tool, but by using a reverse+forward DNS lookup.

– An option to easily remove URLs from the index: DONE. Google’s URL removal tool has been ported into the webmaster console, and it allows site owners to see and revoke their self-removals.

– Show how many people are subscribed to my website’s feeds in Google Reader: DONE, but not in the console. Google Reader now reports these numbers when fetching feeds. Feedburner will give you even more stats for free.

– Communicate with webmasters in an authenticated way: DONE. Just last week, Google added a webmaster message center to provide authenticated communication with site owners. The Webmaster Central team has done of ton of other stuff in the last few months as well.

So let’s ask the question again. I’m going to try doing a poll (it might not work with Google Reader, so you might have to visit my actual blog page). I sat down and thought of a few features that might be cool, then added some suggestions from the original Blogoscoped thread. Vote for your favorite feature below, or leave a comment if you have a different idea. Please note: I’m sure the Webmaster Central team will be interested to see what people like, but remember that these are just suggestions. Even if something is #1 in the poll, it’s still only a suggestion. The Webmaster Central team has to be free to pursue whatever they think is the most important.

(The votes from this poll are now gone, but I’m including the options from the original poll.)

What should the webmaster central team do next?

  • More information about penalties or other scoring issues
  • Tools for detecting or reporting duplicate content
  • Show PageRank numbers instead of none/low/medium/high
  • Show links on your site that are broken
  • Score the crawlability or accessibility of pages
  • A way to list supplemental result pages
  • Some type of rank checking
  • Tool to help move from one domain to a new domain
  • Tell Google the correct country or language for a site
  • Diagnostic wizard for common site problems
  • Option to “disavow” backlinks from or to a site
  • Fetch a page as Googlebot to verify correct behavior
  • Show causes of 404 errors
  • Tell Google a parameter doesn’t matter
  • Show pages that don’t validate
  • Integrate “Add URL” feature
  • Ability to show/download all pages from a site (e.g. if your server crashed)
  • More documentation and examples

Changing how I handle emails

This past week was pretty hectic:
– On Monday, I flew up to Kirkland and back to catch up with the Webmaster Central team.
– On Tuesday, I drove up into San Francisco for a Web 2.0 dinner
– On Thursday, I hosted a visitor from Italy.
– On Friday, I ate Buck’s in Woodside for the first time.
– On Saturday, I spoke at WordCamp. I’ll check with Google PR to make sure they’re okay if I put up the PowerPoint. In the mean time, Stephanie Booth live-blogged it.

I also managed to talk to folks on my team and get work done, but I didn’t have a lot of spare time (e.g. to blog about some of the stuff above). When I looked back over the week, my biggest time sink was email. Handling email is getting to be the largest fraction of my time.

I’ve tried all kinds of tricks to reduce the email load:
– I archive any mailing list that I don’t really need in my inbox.
– I try to check email fewer times during the day.
– I write replies to emails, then save them as drafts for a while before replying, so I don’t get stuck in a cycle of replying, getting a response, and quickly emailing again.

This week (with a little prodding from a friend), I realized that it’s still not working. I’m barely keeping my head above water, email-wise. I need a different approach. I can see a couple options:

1. Go “lossy.” Let a few emails drop on the floor. I’m already doing this from time to time, like when someone emails out of the blue asking for an interview or something that would take too long.
2. For emails from outside Google, shard the workload and ask for help.

I’ll probably do both, to some degree. If you’re emailing me from outside Google and expect a personal reply, you might want to lower your expectations going forward. If I can reclaim some of the time that I spend on email, that will let me spend more time with my webspam team, my wife, and blogging about random stuff. 🙂