tenpastmidnight blog

Making hay while the sun shines

Will blog spam fixes stop Google being swamped by blog results?

I was talking to Mr Budd about Google PR the other night at the Wired Sussex Christmas party. He said his 'Page Rank' dropped from 7 to 6 during the last update and while we both agreed that PR isn't the be all and end all of SEO, it still annoyed him that he'd dropped.

After a bit of chat we came to the conclusion that it was because his home site is his blog, and it's mainly linked to by other blogs. Comment spam on blogs is where people or robots automatically post messages in the comments with links to the sites they are promoting. The comments are generally badly-written sales-speak and have no relevance to the blog or post it is attached to. David has had a problem with this recently and the problem has got so bad that technical fixes are being used for the problem, put in by the people behind Movable Type and other blogging systems.

These fixes generally involve all links mentioned in comments being changed so they re-direct through a page on the blogger's own website which then delivers the visitor to the website that the link was originally pointing to. Depending on how you do this, it can mean search engines like Google do not see the link, which means they do not give the target site any Page Rank for the link in their calculations.

This helps stop comment spam because it means it is not worth placing those sales links, as the search engines do not recognise them and therefore rate the target website as being popular. However, it has a negative effect because legitimate comments are also losing the benefit of the links, making them seem less popular than they were - which is probably what has happened to Andy's site. There are probably as many people linking to him from when he comments in other people's blogs, but the links are not being picked up by search engines due to the technical fix to stop comment spammers. Andy's not a spammer, but he and all the other legitimate users get caught up in the same net.

While this situation is not ideal, it may have a side benefit. Various people on the BNM list have complained in the past about Google's results having lots of blogs at the top of the results with unhelpful posts about whatever they are trying to look up. Personally I haven't seen this problem for over a year, but some people are still complaining about it, and it used to be a pet peeve of Andrew Orlowski, one of the writers for The Register. Now these fixes for links are coming in which do not transfer Page Rank, many blogs will be seen as not as popular / not authority sites by Google, so they should naturally drop down from the top rankings they have been enjoying in search results.

So, if the high-up blogs in search results 'problem' is solved, we could have spammers to thank for it. It's a weird world.

Bears and Sushi

Yesterday I went to a Brighton Bears basketball match with David, thanks to tickets from one of our clients, Ida, who was then kind enough to take us out for sushi.

I'm not particularly in to basketball and was never good at it at school, even though as I'm quite tall people presume I would be. It took me a while to get in to the game, especially as we arrived a bit late because David's train was delayed. However, by the end of it I was getting pretty entertained by the whole thing, although I feel a bit sorry for the Plymouth Raiders as the 95-55 Bears win doesn't really reflect how much effort they were putting in. With a little extra luck for the Raiders the scoreline would have been a lot closer, but to my amateur eyes they did look outclassed by the Bears many times during the match.

Similarly, I'm not particularly in to sushi. Actually, that's not really true: I'd never tried sushi as I have a standard Western not-touching-that reaction to eating raw fish. However, the restaurant above Yum Yums on Sydney Street served us some very excellent sushi and I've no qualms at all about going back and having some more (I'll have to remember it's only open Thursday, Friday and Saturday.) Apparently it is one of the best chinese restaurants in Brighton and their sushi is much better than the much more expensive Moshi Moshi fare. I've always been scared off from Moshi by their prices, so if the cheaper place is also much better that's delightful to hear!


I'm putting together a little research for checking what happens with image maps and whether they are spidered. Hopefully Google will be it's normal efficient self and I'll know what I need soon. The pages might have to wait a little longer for Yahoo's spider (Slurp) to come along, I'm not sure how often it visits.

SpiderTest update

Thanks to feedback from Matt and now a contact through Ecademy pointing out that the table-recognising code in SpiderTest was up the swanny, I've now fixed it. So check out the new, improved SpiderTest, it looks very much like the old, unimproved one.

It's still possible to inadvertantly con the tests so it doesn't realise you have nested tables when you do, so I need to improve the code with some extra loops to make sure it still picks them up.

Also I discovered a while back that many spiders apparently don't like image maps. I want to carry out some testing to find out if that's true and if it is I'll add a warning in to ST that any links in image maps should also be replicated elsewhere so the pages they point to get spidered properly. This will be added to the long list of other stuff I need to do to ST until I'm completely happy with it.

New site for the Farm

I've been working with Simon Bloom to put together a new site for the Farm, a networking group for people in the new media industry in Brighton.

As it uses CSS for the layout rather than tables, I submitted it to this CSS Tableless Web Sites list, where I also noticed Matt's site. Hopefully in a couple of years (or less) a list like this will seem quaint rather than pointing out people using the best current site building techniques.

Work blogging

I have set up WordPress on my PC so I can keep track of what I'm doing every day. I used to use a text file at a couple of previous jobs, but as it's a log of what I do, weblogging software seems a sensible system to use. WordPress was very easy to set up, as I have phpMyAdmin all ready set up to create the datasource and user. I have heard complaints about how difficult WordPress is to change the look of and this will give me a chance to play with it before deciding to use it somewhere live where the public can see it.

WordPress's controls seem good, and it's difficult to be down on a piece of software code-named after a jazz legend.

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