John Battelle wrote an excellent article describing his experience with Google Checkout. I highly recommend the read if you are considering using Google Checkout for shopping this holiday season or as a merchant. Here is a snippet:

It seems Google is obviating the merchant entirely vis the ongoing data relationship with the buyer. The registration screen states: “‘Google’ will appear by the charge on your credit card statement. Your card number will not be shared with the seller.”

Why on earth would anyone want this to be the case? To lose your relationship with the buyer? What information *is* passed back to ToysRUs? What rights do I have to that information, and to know how it’s used between Google and the merchant?

Check out John’s post for the full article.

Two excellent questions are answered in this article:

A.) Which steps should I follow when optimizing my dynamic website?

B.) Can you maintain the integrity of my design while implementing SEO?

QUESTION A) Which steps should I follow when optimizing my dynamic website? – Chriz R. Read more…

Question: There are a number of wire services (like PRweb) for submitting
press articles to online news feeds. Is it recommended to use a few of them
for article submission or am I running the risk of having my article
submitted to any particular distribution partner more than once. Is there
any advice you can give me regarding which services distribute to which
distribution partners and how to select which ones to use. – Frank O. Read more…

This was Google's holiday logo in 1999
In a bid that is sure to raise the interests of many e-tailers, Google has announced that it will be providing free merchant services for the holiday season. Say what?! Yes, FREE.

For those of you who are not familiar with transacting online suffice it to say that this promotion could save participating e-tailers hundreds if not thousands of dollars this holiday season. Read more…

On November 1st, 2006 in Victoria, BC, Canada, StepForth is providing a 2 hour workshop to budding entrepreneurs on the basics of search engine optimization. The workshop is run by the Entrepreneurial Learning Foundation (ELF), a not-for-profit foundation devoted to supporting young entrepreneurs. Read more…

In a recent interview with Matt Cutts (a popular software engineer from Google that handles Spam) on WebmasterRadio Matt noted that Google has run across a few sites that had been hacked and in a manner that wasn’t immediately apparent to the site owners. Jim Hedger wrote an article which summed up the entire interview and I highly recommend the read. For the purposes of this posting, however, I want to focus on how to determine whether your site has been hacked. Read more…

Do you want to advertise the physical location of your business for free and get a little extra Google exposure? Thanks to Google Maps this is possible and not many people (read ‘your competition’) seem to know about it.

First I think I need to show you what I mean here. As an example click here to see the location of my company, StepForth Search Engine Placement Inc. on Google Maps (no you don’t need Google Earth to do this). What should appear is a map of my home city, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada along with a marker identifying my business location and a comment balloon providing address and detailed information. This information was placed on Google with my input, entirely free of charge. All that Google needed to do was confirm my physical location by sending a letter in the mail with a code that would allow me go online and verify my physical address. That is it, as simple as pie!

Read more…


Ever wondered how websites get premier first place result layouts like the one shown in this picture? (See this sample ‘live’ here or simply type in “Canadian news” at Google.) Rumours have persisted for a while as to how these listings are created but Google has finally updated the webmaster’s help guide explaining these listings called “Sitelinks”. Read more…

When I sit down with new clients and discuss the status of their new or existing site they are often shocked when I am forced to inform them that their site is not search engine friendly. Encountered with a blank but slightly shaken look I then explain that this means their site has a particular problem that is hindering search engine rankings. Often this is represented by an inflexible design, overuse of advanced web technologies, or simply a weak navigation scheme. As a result, if they were to continue with the site as it stands they are unlikely to attain competitive search engine rankings. Read more…

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Thursday, August 10th, 2006

Google XML Sitemaps – The Basics

Google XML Sitemaps have been around for a while now and many webmasters are starting to become familiar with them. They can help you to achieve up to date indexing in Google, and, in a round about way, play a small roll in assisting with rankings. Sitemaps are not needed by everyone, but can be of significant use for many website. This article will touch on the basics of what they are, who can use them, and how to implement them.

What is a Google XML Sitemap?
In short a Google XML Sitemap allows webmasters to submit a master list of all their site’s pages to Google for indexing. This information is stored in an XML file along with other relevant information where specified by the webmaster. It can be as simple as a list of URL’s belonging to the site, or can include, last modified date, update frequency, and priority. The purpose of this Sitemap is to have the most recent version of your URL’s indexed in Google at all times.

Who needs a Google XML Sitemap?
XML sitemaps can generally help any site needing to be indexed by Google; however, small sites may not see the need for this. For example, if you have a small 10 page website that seldom sees any of its pages updated and your entire site is already in Google’s index, the XML Sitemap is not necessarily going to help much. It is best used when trying to keep the latest versions of your pages current in Google. Large sites with an extensive list of URL’s will also benefit, especially if 100% of their pages are not appearing in the index. So a general rule of thumb, if you have either a dynamic or large site, Google XML Sitemaps just may benefit you.

Will using XML Sitemaps improve my Google Ranking?
In most cases this will not improve your rankings, however it can help. By having the most current version of your site in Google’s index, this can speed up your movement in the results pages. This is because if you make an update to a page for optimization purposes, Google’s index will have this page updated more quickly than without the XML sitemap. What this essentially means is that with more frequent spidering you can help influence what version of your site is in the index, and ultimately, help with rankings by decreasing response time.

How do you create the XML Sitemap?
If you have a very small site, or a lot of time on your hands you can create your XML sitemap manually, but for the vast majority of webmasters, automated tools are an absolute must. There are a number of available solutions for this. One of the simplest methods of creating XML sitemaps is through the use of VIGOS GSitemap This is a free, easy to use tool that will help you create your XML sitemaps with ease. There are also number of downloadable and online tools listed on Google’s site which cater to both beginners and seasoned professionals alike.

Submitting your XML Sitemap to Google is relatively straightforward. After the file has been created the first thing you want to do is upload the file to your server, preferably at the root level. Log into the Sitemap console using your Google account login. From here you can add a site to your account. Simply enter your top level domain where it says “Add Site” (see fig 1.0). This will add the domain to your account and allow you to then submit the XML sitemap

(Figure 1.0)

After this is done it will take you to a screen with the summary for this site. You will see a text link that says “Submit a Sitemap”.

Clicking here will take you to a screen to enter the online location of the XML sitemap. (see fig 1.1). Click “Add Web Sitemap” and you are on your way.

(Figure 1.1)

Once this is complete you have the option of verifying your Sitemap. This can be done by placing a specific meta tag on your home page, or by uploading a blank html file with a file name provided by Google. Verification will allow you to access crawl stats, and other valuable information regarding your Google listing.

Below is a basic example of an XML Sitemap.

<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?>

<urlset xmlns=”http://www.google.com/schemas/sitemap/0.84″
xmlns:xsi=”http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance” xsi:schemaLocation=”http://www.google.com/schemas/sitemap/0.84
http://www.google.com/schemas/sitemap/0.84/ sitemap.xsd”>

<url>
<loc>http://www.stepforth.com/</loc>
<lastmod>2006-08-09T04:46:26+00:00</lastmod>
<changefreq>Weekly</changefreq>
<priority>1.0</priority>
</url>


<url>
<loc>http://www.stepforth.com/company/contact.html</loc>
<lastmod>2006-08-08T04:46:26+00:00</lastmod>
<changefreq>Never</changefreq>
<priority>0.5</priority>
</url>

</urlset>

Implementing an XML Sitemap is generally straightforward and worth the effort. Taking the time to implement them is well worth it as there is no negative down side to this tool provided by Google. Every little thing adds up in terms of obtaining site rankings and frequent spidering by Google is certainly one of them.

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