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E-Business Secrets

How 130,000 pages from one site get into search engines
Secrets for making content more available

By  Brian Livingston February 26, 2002  

I reported last week that ISBN.nu, an online book-price comparison service, had succeeded in getting more than 130,000 of its Web pages indexed in the Google.com search index. What's even better is that ISBN.nu doesn't store anywhere near 130,000 HTML pages on its server. Almost any content-rich site can use the secret of how the service's owner, Glenn Fleishman, accomplishes this trick.


ISBN.nu allows surfers to type the name of a book and quickly compare the prices and delivery times offered by such online booksellers as Amazon.com, BN.com, and Half.com. Fleishman grossed about $100,000 in 2001 through affiliate payments from these booksellers for books his users purchased. His expenses are about $30,000 per year, most of which is spent leasing up-to-the-minute databases of every ISBN (International Standard Book Number) that exists. It all works out great for a guy who says he now spends only five hours a week maintaining the site.

Almost all of Fleishman's 130,000 indexed pages are price-comparison pages for a particular book, such as "Gone with the Wind." He got so many of those pages indexed in search engines by designing his site from the beginning to make it friendly to search engine "spiders" (software robots that search for text). Here's how:

1. ALPHABETICALLY ORGANIZED LIST. One jump away from ISBN.nu's main News page is a page listing numerous books in alphabetical order by title. A search engine spider will quickly find this link by searching a mere one level down from his home page (which they all do).

2. LINKS TO ALL OTHER BOOKS. The alphabetical page contains links to the first book that starts every letter of the alphabet. (B="Baby's First Easter," and so forth.) In turn, the pages that show prices for individual books also link to the next book and the previous book in alphabetical order. For example, the next book after the "Baby's First Easter" page might be "Back to the Farm."

3. SPIDER FOOD. Fewer than 4,000 of the most recently searched books are retained as static pages on ISBN.nu's server. Instead, most pages are dynamically generated. This means each page is created on the fly, so to speak, when a spider comes calling. Fleishman says this consumes no more CPU processing time than serving a static page from disk.

4. A ROBOT PLAYGROUND. Because every page is linked to a few other pages, search engine spiders happily keep chomping away at ISBN.nu. Best of all, spiders continually find new material that's genuinely relevant to someone searching for a particular book.

Fleishman says the key to the engines respecting and indexing his dynamic pages is that they look and act exactly as they would if a human being clicked the same links. Search engines try to downgrade or even ban sites that use "cloaking" to fool robots. But Fleishman says he's discussed his dynamic pages with some of the leading search engine executives. They have no problem, he says, as long as his content is the same for humans as it is for their spiders.

It's quite a nice e-business, considering the amount of information contained in the Web site of this one-man operation.

ISBN.nu's alpha list that leads to all other books:

http://www.isbn.nu http://bri.li/?4e50

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The hassles of trying to type a text message on a cell phone keypad are legendary. Who wants to press 2-2-2 to type the letter "c"?

DigitWireless.net has recently revealed a novel solution. Look at the 12-button keypad on any cell phone. Now imagine small, raised, diamond-shaped keys in the "negative space" between the numerals. Each diamond key bears a letter of the alphabet, a punctuation mark, or a function such as Shift.

The company has also developed a standard Qwerty arrangement with tiny, raised buttons. This style of keyboard is only 3 inches wide, smaller than a credit card.

Nice as this may be, Nokia is already selling a mobile called the 5510 in Europe and Asia that you may find superior. Imagine a cell phone turned sideways, with its LCD screen in the middle. Now imagine the left half of a small Qwerty keyboard on the left half of the handset, and the right half on the right. It's comfortable to hold, and it's faster to type on with two thumbs than using the "2-2-2" cell phone method. The phone is also an MP3 player and FM radio (with headphone jack).

DigitWireless Fastap keypad for new cell phones:

http://www.digitwireless.net http://bri.li/?7560

Qwerty keyboard that's smaller than a credit card:

http://www.digitwireless.net http://bri.li/?7948

Nokia 5510 cell phone with horizontal Qwerty layout:

http://www.nokia5510.co.uk http://bri.li/?9888

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1. AOL accused of billing for unordered merchandise

http://www.silicon.com http://bri.li/?418

2. How NYTimes.com increased ad buyers with a new idea

http://www.contentbiz.com http://bri.li/?800

3. Study shows 10 best practices of online retailing

http://ecommerce.internet.com http://bri.li/?be8

4. Jack Valenti replies, 'Hollywood seeks streaming film'

http://www.washingtonpost.com http://bri.li/?fd0

5. Now music fans are downloading entire boxed CD sets

http://www.nytimes.com http://bri.li/?13b8

6. New service aids sites bullied by big-time lawyers

http://siliconvalley.internet.com http://bri.li/?17a0

7. Novel payment technologies may bring you more cash

http://media.guardian.co.uk http://bri.li/?1b88

8. Adobe GoLive 6.0 goes after Macromedia's LiveMotion

http://www.theregister.co.uk http://bri.li/?1f70

9. HTML Tip: Convert graphical RTF files into Web pages

http://www-106.ibm.com http://bri.li/?2358

10. Court won't ban sexy coed site from residential area

http://www.cnn.com http://bri.li/?2740

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Viewers of the film "Star Trek IV" may remember a hilarious scene in which Scotty, who's time-traveled with the rest of the crew back to the 20th century, whips up a solid retaining wall made of "transparent aluminum."

Maybe that wasn't so far-fetched. Sci-Fighter.com, a TV and movie fan site, whipped up a minor frenzy on the Internet last week by reporting that scientists had successfully created transparent aluminum, boasting three times the strength of hardened steel. The fanzine lent the idea credibility by linking to a German-language news article from the weekly magazine Der Spiegel.

Unfortunately, it looks like the site suffers from static Klingon. A better translation of the article revealed that the scientists succeeded with alumina (a ceramic material), not aluminum. It's still a translucent substance with three times the strength, etc. But it's not transparent aluminum, so the site printed a retraction. You might still want to beam up for a look.

Says sci-fi site, Transparent aluminum is now a reality!

http://www.sci-fighter.com http://bri.li/?c380

Oops, retraction: It's actually translucent alumina

http://www.sci-fighter.com http://bri.li/?c768

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E-BUSINESS SECRETS: Our mission is to bring you such useful and thought-provoking information about the Web that you actually look forward to reading your e-mail.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: E-Business Secrets is written by InfoWorld Contributing Editor Brian Livingston (http://SecretsPro.com). Research director is Ben Livingston (no relation). Brian has published 10 books, including:

Windows Me Secrets:

http://www.amazon.com http://bri.li/?0764534939

Windows 2000 Secrets:

http://www.amazon.com http://bri.li/?0764534130

Win a gift certificate good for a book, CD, or DVD of your choice if you're the first to send a tip Brian prints: mailto:Brian@SecretsPro.com.

Brian Livingston is publisher of BriansBuzz.com. Send tips to him at brian@briansbuzz.com.

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