How not to improve your search ranking, part 1*

The internet and ‘search’ revolves around hyperlinks. Including links on a webpage allows readers to navigate to other pages without having to type a new url (uniform resource locator, or web address) each time they wish to change the page they are viewing.

They serve a variety of purposes and, when used correctly, increase the quality of a page. However, from the perspective of search engine optimisation (SEO), they potentially route traffic to an external site and can have a detrimental impact on search rankings.

Having links pointing to a website is good for its own SEO. It helps the search engines locate the site and if lots of places link to a particular page, the search engines would expect this to be a ‘useful’ page. This is strengthened if the page which is linking is already popular itself. This is strengthened further if those sources are of a similar nature, and further still if the two sites mutually link to each other.

For example, if a new website (site A) is about widget x, and links to a well established site (site B) also about widget x, this is strengthened if site B links back (backlinks) to site A.

When the internet was in its infancy, websites would be ‘rewarded’ by search providers if they had lots of links. Over time, designers would therefore create lots of arbitrary links to improve their ranking, until ‘spamming’ negated any impact this had. Consequently, search providers started penalising sites which had many links without backlinks.

With regard to *this* site (as I learn web design and SEO), I updated the ‘about’ pages to include links to references in the media in order to evidence my work and create an element of trust. With only a few of those sites linking back, I suspected that the overall impact on the search ranking would be detrimental. And this appeared to be the case. To quantify this, a search term that previously placed my site onto page 4 subsequently placed it on page 6.

This is contradictory to the evidence portrayed by seomoz in the video (blog here), which implies there is a positive correlation between the number of external links on a page and higher rankings.

 

In my quest to enhance my understanding, I have the opportunity to remove the links to see what happens. I don’t want to remove them as I believe they enhance the quality of the content and they help develop that level of trust. However, I am interested to establish if the ‘damage’ is permanent and irrecoverable, together with ways in which I can subsequently improve the page rankings.

*I don’t yet know how many parts there will be

I could be dreaming

At the end of a holiday and on Sunday nights, I will often have anxiety dreams about the subsequent return to work. They may involve forgetting a crucial item, inadequate preparation, or another similarly important failure, but their reasoning is the same; the stress of the following day is playing on my mind.

Outside of work, I also suffer from these dreams if I pressure myself to perform, typically in the build-up to a race. I have lost count of the number of times I have turned up to the start of a marathon, realised I have forgotten my shoes/race number/vest/lucky socks*, but carried on regardless, and then woken up. Tony Audenshaw (of Marathon Talk’sTony’s trials) suggests this is a good thing as it ensures extra preparation – and those mishaps will not occur during the event itself. However, it is true that I have never** turned up to a race without any of those aforementioned items.

I had a similar dream this week. I had just met the people joining me on my next challenge and we were discussing our preparations. I was talking through some of the things I had brought with me and realised I had forgotten my camera. While I acknowledge this isn’t the greatest of catastrophes, it was obviously playing on my mind.

Further into the dream, it also transpired that I had forgotten any electrical cables, so I wouldn’t be able to charge other electronic devices. This upset me further as I could not figure out how to use my phone to make calls and take photos, as there was no way that the battery would last the duration. Wanting to give no indication of any weakness, I kept all signs of panic to myself.

That was until someone pulled out a map of the route.

For the most part, the route largely looked as I had anticipated. However, further scrutiny indicated a shear drop the other side of the track I would be running along. I would have to spend the duration of the event contending with the fear that one wrong step would result in me plunging to my imminent death***. I couldn’t understand how I had made such a significant oversight.

It was soon after this that my alarm woke me up.

I know exactly why I had this dream, and can analyse every single aspect. It is the natural pressure that I put on myself and the subsequent anxiety that I hope to perform. Nerves are normal and a good thing in that they demonstrate a comprehension of the magnitude of the task in hand. From conversations with other people (well, runners and teachers), I know that I am not alone in these kinds of dreams. However, this dream was different to any other that I have ever had for a single fact that frustrates me.

It is one year until the event is due to take place. Am I seriously going to have to contend with these dreams throughout 2013?

*I don’t even have any lucky socks
** to date
*** the waiver I have to sign states “falling off the trail could cause severe injury or death”, but nothing about shear drops greater than 1000m, as implied by my dream

Running up that hill

Those of you who followed my run from Paris to London from its conception until its completion will be aware that I used it as a focus during a difficult period. Ever since, I have been thinking about how I could find a new challenge, selecting something that would be sufficiently extraordinary to motivate me to a similar level.

Well, that selection has now been made…

In the meantime, if anyone is looking to join me on a mountain marathon as preparation, please let me know. Jungfrau, OMM and Saunders are possible additions to those I have already entered. All options will be considered.

A new home

Originally posted 2nd November 2012

It has been a while since I last blogged, but not been without reason; earlier this year, I started teaching myself how to design websites (having previously dabbled with html).

Writing prose was replaced with writing code and this website (www.simon-levy.co.uk) is the latest stage of that. This also means the blog has moved from its former web address.

The site has been written from scratch. By me. In notepad*. Everything contained within it is my own, and is currently a ‘work in progress’. There are some aspects that I like and others that I don’t like. I have uploaded some bits to establish if I like them, and others to demonstrate that I don’t like them. Have a look around and let me know what you think**. Test things to see if they work, or try to ‘break’ them and demonstrate that they don’t.

Some features include:

  • Contact form (hopefully with spam filters)
  • Customised error pages (e.g. for going to a wrong page)
  • Different experience based on the device or screen/window size you are using (e.g. mobile/tablet)
  • Race time predictor and mile split calculator (particularly for runners)
  • Galleries (with scrolling and navigation features)
  • Blog integration (although I hope to improve this so that the styling closer fits that of the remainder of the site)

The site currently utilises css, html, javascript, jQuery and php (although I have also been learning python). It needs to be tested on a wider range of browsers and requires javascript support to be fully functional (but should still work in a limited fashion without).

At present, the site doesn’t ‘do anything’ in particular. This may change as it develops. I hope you like it.

*Everything except for the WordPress installation of the new blog pages
**It would be appreciated if you can let me know if you like what you see and/or how you think it could be improved

Quitting is forever

I had always hoped that Lance Armstrong was innocent. He has successfully fought numerous forms of cancer, undergone brain surgery and chemotherapy and subsequently gone on to win seven consecutive Tour de France titles.

His quote epitomises his battles:

“Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.”

His feats are monstrous and his story is akin to that of fairytales; too good to be true.

L’equipe, the French newspaper, and USADA, the US anti-doping authority, have taken this literally and continually tried to find him guilty of drug taking during a period in which the sport was plagued by such corruption.

Lance has protested his innocence throughout, and been supported by the UCI (International Cycling Union) and USA Cycling, while USADA have broken their own rules and have arguably acted corruptly themselves (see here and here for some detail). However, he was given until 0600 this morning to decide whether or not to continue fighting USADA’s charges, and he declined. His statement (here) details the reasons – referring to “the toll this has taken on my family, and my work for our [cancer fighting] foundation”.

Following this announcement, the UCI and WADA* (the World anti-doping authority) are to monitor the situation. This is the same WADA whom the BOA (British Olympic authority) had to conform to in order to allow Dwain Chambers, David Millar and Carls Myerscough among other convicted drugs cheats to partake in future Olympic Games. The fact that the USADA can inflict a lifetime ban, yet the BOA cannot bemuses me.

I maintain that I hope that Lance is innocent. Drugs cause corruption throughout sport and it is very difficult, if not impossible, to keep sport entirely clean. His achievements are still enormous, regardless of the ‘truth’ – he still suffered seriously from cancer and, in the aftermath, cycled faster than anybody else in seven consecutive tours; these are facts.

All of this leaves me with one thing playing on my mind. That is why has he decided “enough is enough”? Referring back to his own quote, above, this is quitting. He will have to endure this pain forever, leaving me to assume one thing: that he must be guilty. I hope to be proved wrong.

Right angled triangles

This is my second attempt at creating a ‘prezi’ presentation. It is currently ‘in progress’ and I am still not certain of the best way to ‘store it’ for future access, so have placed a link here for the time being.

With this particular prezi, I haven’t yet decided if I want it to include trigonometry, or if I want this to be separate.

Solar System

These are a few resources regarding the solar system, for reference, in case I wish to find them in future.

All known planets to scale via xkcd:
http://xkcd.com/1071/
Interactive solar system:
http://www.sunaeon.com/#/solarsystem/ or http://www.sunaeon.com/
The universe to scale:
http://www.space.com/10900-solar-system-planets-scale-infographic.html or http://dailyinfographic.com/…jpeg