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E-Business Secrets

Site multiplies its Google listings with one change


By  Brian Livingston October 22, 2002  

An e-commerce site that depends upon traffic from search engines has multiplied its pages in Google's index more than 30-fold by making a simple change.


I wrote in E-Business Secrets on Feb. 21 about ISBN.nu, a one-man operation that makes side-by-side comparisons of the prices and delivery times for specific products offered by various online booksellers. If a visitor then buys a book from, say, Barnesandnoble.com, ISBN.nu receives a small percentage of the sale price for referring the visitor to the e-tailer.

Glenn Fleishman, the Webmaster behind ISBN.nu, said in February that he expected to gross about $80,000, with a net of $50,000 this year. That's a pretty good take for a site that was then consuming only five hours a week of maintenance from its owner. More than 130,000 ISBN.nu pages were at that time included in Google's index, sending thousands of visitors a day to Fleishman's service.

By the end of February, however, the number of ISBN.nu pages in Google's index suddenly dropped to only about 4,000. When I inquired about this, a Google spokesman told me that ISBN.nu hadn't been singled out in any way, but wouldn't provide more specific details.

I deduce that ISBN.nu fell victim to a Google tweak I warned about in the Jan. 24 issue of E-Business Secrets. In short, Google introduced around that time a new method to eliminate "link farms." These are sites that consist of nothing but links to other sites. Because link farms usually point to pages that are worthless or adult-oriented, Google constantly changes its search methods, trying to eliminate junk from its rankings.

The story has a happy ending. Fleishman recently made a change in his site that increased the number of his pages in Google's index from 4,000 to about 100,000 today. How he accomplished this is a story many sites can benefit from:

JULY 15: Fleishman changed the style of his links to online booksellers. He'd been using each book's ISBN (International Standard Book Number) to direct visitors to his own pages, such as isbn.nu/123456789/bn. Clicking such a link re-directed visitors to a page at Barnesandnoble.com. Fleishman revised all these links so they pointed directly to each bookseller's books. For example: barnesandnoble.com/123456789.

JULY 31: The Google robot, which "crawls" most Web sites once a month or so, began re-indexing ISBN.nu's pages. The crawler had been failing to follow most ISBN.nu links because every page consisted entirely of redirects. But now, the bot followed the links all the way through more than 100,000 ISBN.nu pages.

AUGUST 22: When Google switched over to its new monthly index of the Web, ISBN.nu's pages in the index jumped from 4,000 to more than 90,000. The numbers of pages has improved to over 100,000 since then.

The drastic omission of his pages in Google caused Fleishman's monthly revenues to drop 60 percent, he says. Within weeks of the new index coming out, however, his gross had doubled to roughly $50,000, annualized. That doesn't restore his earnings all the way back to where they were at the beginning of the year. But it's not chicken feed.

ISBN.nu is unusual because almost all of its links pointed to internal pages that were then redirected to external pages. If your site has the same design and you've recently noticed a dramatic drop in the number of your pages that are included in the Google index, try changing your linking methods.

For the current number of ISBN.nu pages in the Google index, click here: http://www.google.com http://bri.li/4e71

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Once in a while, a book comes along that actually breaks new ground. "The Design of Sites" is such a work. It advances your thinking by showing not only what's worked for other e-businesses, but why.

Co-author Douglas van Dyne and his collaborators assemble the qualities of Web sites into "patterns." They then mix and match these patterns as necessary to form correct approaches for particular purposes. These include e-commerce sites, community sites, and so on, with many elements that overlap and apply to all.

Gorgeously illustrated with full-color photos and Web shots, "The Design of Sites" will open your eyes: http://www.amazon.com http://bri.li/020172149X

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1. Web sites aren't required by law to be accessible to disabled, court rules: http://www.news.com http://bri.li/439

2. Pop-up ads get worse -- now your browser doesn't even need to be open: http://www.cnn.com http://bri.li/821

3. Your e-business can profit from these lessons of failed dot-coms: http://www.refresher.com http://bri.li/c09

4. Holder of "e-commerce patent" is suing small sites: http://www.microenterprisejournal.com http://bri.li/ff1

5. Opponents of "patent" holder have banded together to stop his suits: http://www.youmaybenext.com http://bri.li/13d9

6. Questionable business is forced to refund dot-usa domain name fees: http://www.demys.net http://bri.li/17c1

7. Music industry reduces fees temporarily for some streaming Webcasters: http://www.cnn.com http://bri.li/1ba9

8. Weaknesses in eBay's online fraud-prevention system upset consumers: http://www.washtimes.com http://bri.li/1f91

9. Adobe announces a new Document Server for developers of e-processes: http://www.internetnews.com http://bri.li/2379

10. Bothered by telemarketers? Try this "counterscript" to throw them off: http://www.xs4all.nl http://bri.li/2761

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If you're reading this e-zine, you need "How To Dance Properly." That's right, you know who you are. It's a good thing there's a site with 10 short, easy videos on how to do it right. Now you can impress geeks and gURLs alike.

On top of the great dance moves, this page is a blessed relief -- videos that don't play music on your PC speakers! If you want that, though, you don't have to go far in this site. It's ZeFrank, a Webby award winner with 75 or so different games, wacky animations, and various diversions, some of which use, um, improper language and sound effects. One of my favorites is "Naughty Bird." Tsk, tsk. This is a falling-down-funny site: http://www.zefrank.com http://bri.li/c3a1

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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 Vickie Stevens. 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 for a book, CD, or DVD of your choice if you're the first to send Brian a Top Story or Wacky Web Week he prints. mailto:Brian@SecretsPro.com

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

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