, Fire Barrier Domain Name as Good as .com?

Fire barriers are a a piece of material that you use to protect areas of your home from fire. Its a competitive market in some areas and a company I have been working for was looking to move their site up the Google rankings.
To help with this we set up a microsite with specific copy aimed at the key phrase and used the domain This is the first time I have used a .co domain as really a replacement for the top level .com, but in theory we should now also be thinking of .co in the same way.
So what has happened? Over the last couple of months the site has really struggled. For some reason the home page didn’t get picked up by google despite frequent changes and a secondary page really struggled too.
Despite the competition I really would have expected a .com to do much better, so even though I’m not testing side by side, I have to conclude that the .co domain is not given equal authority to the .com domain.
Let me know if you have similar experience, but in the meantime if you are interested in fire barriers and your in the UK. Try, they really know what they are doing and seem great to deal with.

Smartyhost sucks

I tried the new Google Chrome browser yesterday and went to one of my sites to test it. I was amazed when it through up a malicious site warning so went to investigate.

What I found was some code had been added after the closing HTML tag on the page which pointed to Google-analysis. At first I thought this was some odd response of a beta browser to google analytics but on further investigation found it to be a Trojan.

At this stage I thought it could have been either our ISP trying to track our usage or our host, so I uploaded the page again and the problem disappeared. In further investigation I found that our hosting provider Smartyhost has had problems with this as far back as March of this year, and there was quite a few reports of infections and reinfections after the code had been removed.

I phoned up smartyhost support and asked them to explain why this had happened, why it has not been fixed 6 months later and why they had not informed their customers. The guy couldn’t really answer but said to stop reinfection I should change my password, and write a complaint by email.

First I went to change my password and found that I was warned not to do that due to certificate issues as I logged in. I know that smartyhost have taken the thankfully unusual approach of signing their own certificate, but am unsure if this is the problem or they have further infections. Eventually I decided I was not game to do this.

Having had all these issues I sent what I think was a strongly worded but business like email to them asking for a response in 4 hours, which I think is reasonable especially as they have had 6 months to work up a stock reply. 6 hours later and no response.

The moral of this story is that Smartyhost does not seem able to cope in any way with this sort of issue and I would strongly advise you to think twice before using them. If you are already with them I would probably say change your passwords if you date and get out fast!

Latency – A bigger issue than I thought

I have recently completed some tests to see whether a site that our sister company manages has a latency issue and is suffering from being hosted in Europe, rather than here is Australia.

I have to say that when I initially looked at the tests I did think that there would be some effect, having seen delays in the download of some files over the past year or so, however I was not really prepared for the effect that I actually saw.

Firstly to do the test I used Firefox with the web developer toolbar, Firebug installed. Web developer toolbar allows me to switch off caching, so that I could see files as they would be if they were coming to a new user. Firebug includes a “Net” feature that actually let you track when the browser made a request and when it was returned. It also looks at the total time it takes to complete the page.

So the test simply involved setting up a rough duplicate of the home page, hosting that locally, then navigating to both with cache turned off and checking the response time. Note that some of the local files did give errors (which actually resulted in a larger download), these were spacers etc I couldn’t find in the files.

The results….the time to load the page reduced from a massive 36.51 seconds for 300kB, to 14.7 seconds for 350kB when hosted in Australia.

I should also mention that I tested the European hosted page on a high speed connection, and got exactly the same speed. This would seem to indicate that speed on that site is latency limited. My feeling is that this 14.7 seconds for the Australian hosted site is bandwidth dependant (my work struggles at times). I will check this out further and update the posting.

The conclusion: It may seem reasonable to have a large corporate site hosted in a single location worldwide, where content can be tightly controlled. However judging by our tests, the customers user experience will be severely degraded to a point that the site may become unusable.

My advice would be host locally, or if you have to host overseas, check your speeds carefully to ensure you will have returning visitors.

New Window or Not – That is the Question

To the web design purists, this is a simple question. I no case should you open up a new window, because it breaks the back button functionality and may disorientate your viewers. However in my tests I have come up with a few rules that on our b2b business site ensure that our customers have the experience they want.

My first rule is with pdfs. Most pdf’s on most commercial sites are brochures or white papers that tend to be saved or printed for later consumption. If this is the case then open these up in a new window. That way it seems that our customers actually get less disoriented, and they can decide what to do with the pdf later. Personally I think that there are a few reasons this works. The first is mentioned above, the second is that pdf’s open up in a plug in that doesn’t have the traditional look of a web page and in fact has it’s own menu bar in most browsers. The last reason is that pdf’s aren’t web pages. Usually the only navigation open to you is the back button. So in that way it is easy to get disoriented if it is not isolated.

My second rule is a simple one, and to a large extent it is being superseded with newer technologies, but if you are not using ajax, and want to add in supplementary information, but still allow the main page to be viewed I would recommend a new window or a …wait for it…pop-up window. I know, I know, no one likes pop-ups, but is that really the case. If I ask for more information and it happens to be in a pop-up, I really don’t mind, and that has proven to be the case with our customers too.

Google Analytics New Code

I am just about to implement the new Google Analytics tracking code. One of the features of this is said to be cross domain tracking. This would be useful for us as I run more than 1 website with links between them, but are Google doing a doubleclick on this?

When I say that what I mean is that Doubleclick is notorious for putting a cookie on your system, then tracking you across the many sites they serve ads to. This invades the users privacy but allows them to build up a profile of who you are and what you like.

As Google has just acquired Doubleclick, are they trying the same trick? Wouldn’t allowing it’s users to track across domains, also allow Google to do the same across the many sites where analytics is installed.

I have to say I am a big fan of Analytics and am contantly amazed by the complexity and new features that are brought online, and for free. I am going to continue with the upgrade, but I am a bit worried about it!

Intranet for partner

I am just trying to get a mini intranet site together for my partner. She is a visual merchandiser and wants to share images, calendars etc with colleagues in different states.  At the moment I can’t decide between Google Apps and a Ning Social network.

On the one hand the Google Apps ensure that I can brand the site for free, give great calendar, email integration, but there isn’t much in the way of photo sharing. On the other hand Ning gives a great social experience with images, but no calendar. Has anyone come across a good solution for this?

I guess I could set up subdomains for each one but there is so much repeat stuff in there.

Happy Easter

Hope you all have a great Easter. I am going to try to keep my hands off the eggs a bit tomorrow (I am writing this on Saturday night).To give you an update on, handing out the cards in the city to commuters really didn’t have a significant effect on my stats. The mobile stuff is so tricky, as you can’t promote it as a traditional site, and there are very few avenues open. The next attack will be via traditional methods too. I am going to look at putting some press release in magazines and the paper, to see what that brings. I have also bought another domain, which being international should help the organic page rankings, even though wouldn’t be that great for the user.btw – If you do have a look at tad and see the news and weather. I am also working on a way to get these more up to date. For some reason, even though I am using the same method the news comes through okay, but weather and TV are coming through sporadically or not at all.

Tad cards handed out in Brisbane

The cards for got handed out yesterday. I am waiting with bated breath to see if anything happened to my stats.

I am also going to write press releases etc over this weekend and see if I can shoot them off to a few places so that hopefully it will get picked up.

Mobile marketing is pretty tricky. I am not sure how to approach the SEO or the traditional marketing side really. Standard websites are much easier!