Monthly Archives: July 2010

With @andersoncooper in New Orleans, LA "keeping them honest" it appears as though nobody is at the wheel at CNN.com. CNN recently started including ads on their world famous, PageRank 10 homepage but, all seems to have run amok. I wonder what Anderson or Ford Motor Company for that matter, would say about fully clickable sidebars, possible cloaking and hidden links? I'd suggest avoiding all three...

CNN ad with fully clickable sidebars

Fully clickable sidebars like CNN's help artificially inflate ad revenues and other metrics by increasing the number of accidental clicks.

CNN ad as seen by users

As you can see there is a large Ford ad covering most of the page.

Google's cache of CNN homepage shows no ad.

As you can see there is no Ford ad.

According to Google, cloaking is "serving different content to search engines than to users." Other sites serve ads in similar ways so, it will be interesting to see what if anything happens in this case.

UPDATE: Since my post CNN has fixed their site, removed the fully clickable sidebars and resolved possible cloaking issues or at least for now. That is what I call keeping them honest!

The goal of image search is to return relevant useful images based on the user's query. Image searchers exhibit behavior that is much different from users in other verticals. Because of the subjective nature of images and ease of consumption, Image searchers also view lots of images and image SERPs. These users place less value on ranking position and increased value on image quality. Google's new image search design allows users to browse multiple pages from a single URL and provides various filtering options to increase quality. Bottom line, POWER image searchers are going to love the new Google Image search interface.

Be sure to also check out Barry's and Greg's related posts.

I noticed in the news this week that a possible Russian spy has been working at Microsoft and couldn't help thinking about a post I made last month.

My post "Did the Russians take Bing?" is about a two month old, PR2 domain name owned by an individual in Saint-Petersburg Russia and pointing at a Microsoft IP. According to reports, the alleged spy had a menial job at Microsoft yet attended Saint Petersburg Polytechnical University, one of the top schools in Russia. As it turns out the domain in my post is registered to an address located only a few miles from Saint Petersburg Polytechnical University.

The two month old domain had a PR of 2 and looked identical to Bing at the time but, is totally different now. Users could easily have mistaken this "site" for Bing. In fact, when I first arrived, I thought the site was Bing. What caught my eye was that Google was driving users and potentially market share to Bing. In fact, I arrived on the site by clicking on an organic result at Google. Sure, I know folks try anything and everything to trick or game Google but, this just seemed like an odd case and really stood out to me for some reason.

The domain was little more than a Bing mirror owned by someone other than Microsoft but, now has a PR 5 and 1,000,000 pages indexed. Since my post, the domain has been pointed away from a Bing IP at another US based IP which is shared by another domain which is... you guessed it, registered to someone else in Saint-Petersburg. I've attempted to contact both owners to see if there is a spy connection but haven't received a reply.

Is this a case of international espionage, a clandestine communication channel uncovered or just total coincidence and an unusual spam technique that appears to be working at least on some levels? I'm not sure, but I think it's an interesting situation either way and perhaps even worth further investigation….

Experiment:
To determine if hosting impacts site speed according to the Site Performance feature in Google Webmaster Tools.

Hypothesis:
Hosting can impact site speed.

Background:
"80% of the end-user response time is spent on the front end." The preceding statement could be interpreted to mean that back end hosting has little impact on front end site performance.

Procedure:
To test this experiment, an existing site was replicated at a new and separately hosted IP address. DNS was changed from the original host IP to the new host IP. A few days later, DNS was changed back to the original host IP. A few days after that, DNS was again changed to the new host IP from the original host IP.

speed graph illustrating hosting impact

Result:
According to Google's Site Performance tool, pages at the new host IP (dashed line) loaded much faster than pages at the original host IP (solid line). There appears to be an obvious and immediate improvement of more than 50% when DNS was initially pointed from the original host to the new host. Similarly there appears to be a decrease in speed when DNS was pointed back at the original host IP from the new host IP and increase when pointed back at the new host IP again. Since DNS was pointed at the new host IP, site speed and performance have continued to improve according to Google Webmaster Tools.

Conclusion:
This experiment seems to indicate a strong correlation between changes in hosting and changes in site performance. This correlation is no real surprise given, the new host is highly rated as fast and reliable. Conventional wisdom is that "hosting" doesn't impact site performance but, I think it's worth testing just in case your site is one of those rare exceptions. :)