Category Archives: Web Development

HTML <title> Elements Play Significant Role In Search Engine Optimisation

Approximately six months ago, I mentioned that I was going to conduct a small test regarding the impact that optimising the HTML <title> element has from a search engine optimisation stand point.

In December when I wrote that, #if debug was a very new site – in fact it has been online for exactly one month. It’ll come as no surprise that no one knew about the site, in fact even to this day a limited number of people know about the site. Fortunately though, I do have evidence to suggest that more know about it now than they did in December!

In the announcement, I had said that a 10% increase in traffic would have been considered a success. Given that the site was taking approximately 60 visits per week at that time – optimising the <title> attribute would need to increase that to around 65 visits to be considered a success.

In the image above, you can see if the effect of optimising the <title> element in the HTML. The change was made at the marker point directly above the 25 in “Nov 25, 2007 – Dec 1, 2007”. I’m not sure what caused the dip in traffic immediately after the change, however once it recovered – the increased traffic has been maintained or increased. The marker point second from the right delivered a whopping 67 visits for the week and as such I’m going to claim this a victory (even if it is very very small!).

In the following few months, this tiny site has grown from zero visits and has steadily been increasing month on month to a lofty figure a little over 400 visits per month! I realise that isn’t a lot of traffic by anyones measurement, however for a site that has had very little effort put in and next to no attention directed its way – it isn’t half bad.

.htaccess Inheritance Gotcha

I recently set up a subdomain within a CPanel hosting account and ran into a strange problem.

After the subdomain was built, DNS propogated, FTP access and a database set up – I uploaded the latest version of the ever propular WordPress blogging software. As the installation instructions suggested, about two minutes later WordPress was up and running. Unfortunately the image overlays for the TinyMCE rich text editor were not displaying correctly; the buttons were present but the overlay that depicts a capital B for bold or an I for italics were not showing.

Knocking off the simplest things first:

  • F5
  • CTRL+R and CTRL+F5 to force the browser to reload all content
  • Cleared browser cache
  • Uploaded the wp-includes folder again, in case any of the images failed to upload successfully
  • Checked that I could view the images in question manually in the browser by typing in the URL, which worked

at this point I was beginning to draw a bit of a blank as to what it might have been.

As is often the case, I left the problem alone for a little while and the solution popped into my head. To enable the friendly URL’s within WordPress, I needed to either make the .htaccess file writable or upload one with the appropriate configuration in it. As a matter of simplicity, I copied the .htaccess file from the main WordPress installation on the site and dropped it into the subdomain installation. Copy and paste, the bain of all evil.

Back in May 2006, people from MySpace were hotlinking images from my site. The cost of popularity from my anonymous MySpace friends was pushing my web hosting account well over its monthly data limits and I was forced to block their access using some simple rules in my .htaccess file.

Since I copy and pasted my .htaccess file into the subdomain (which resides in a folder under the primary account) – the settings in the parent .htaccess file were inheriting into the subdomain account. The result was that any requests from the subdomain that didn’t meet the hotlinking requirements were being blocked by Apache and mod_rewrite.

The solution of course was straight foward, remove the restrictions in the .htaccess file that I had uploaded into the subdomain and suddenly the images from the WordPress admin and TinyMCE started showing up as you’d expect.

A work collegue of mine would term this a junior error.

Rapid Development Using Django

In February, Jesper Nøhr wrote about taking an idea from conception to profitable web site in 24 hours. The project involved building an advertising product for the indie crowd, so they could advertise their products throughout other web sites in a similar fashion to how Google Adwords & Google Adsense works.

The final product named The Indiego Connection, allows advertisers to sign up and their account is manually verified to make sure that it meets their indie requirements. Once their account has been approved, they can go about configuring their advertising, which is then displayed throughout other web sites.

The really interesting thing for me about this project was the technical aspects of it, which involved:

Jesper wrote the front end of the site using Django, as he uses it for his day job. Given the demanding time frame that the product was built in, I expect that as many of the existing applications were utilised – such as auth. The prototype for the advertising server was built using CherryPy and once Jesper was satisfied with how it was constructed, moved that into Erlang for the lightweight threading and performance.

About 24 hours after starting the project, Indiego Connection was pushed into the wild. Word got out about a free advertising product for the indie crowd quickly and within hours they had over 100 users.

In any sort of normal environment, working an idea from start to finish in 24 hours would seem nearly impossible; especially if technology is involved. Through clever use of the tools, its allowed Jesper to rapidly develop a complete product in a short space of time.