Thursday, 19 January 2012

FIRST POST and competitor woes make you think.

So after many promises to start blogging but completely failing to do so I have bitten the bullet and gotten on with it... so to get it out the way... FIRST POST!

Todays main point of interest was to see one of applegate directories (who I work for at the time of writing) competitors went down today! At the time of writing business magnet was down for 26 hours. Life will be interesting for their head of IT I am sure, tbh I am surprised there is not at least a holding page there; it looks suspiciously like a major infrastructure failure given that even their DNS servers are dead...

The interesting part of a competetor failure is the way it makes you look at your own infrastructure. We currently run mirrors of all the servers at applegate, in some cases triple, even 4 way redundancy to handle load spikes, their are currently 12 servers in the applegate cluster. I am working with the head of IT to get competative quotes for the next generation of servers, vitualisation would seem a wise route, but think about it... 12 servers, 24GB RAM, dual quad core chassis on each, just how big will the hypervisors have to be??? 3 hypervisors will mean 96GB RAM on each to deal with any DR issues, 16 cores minimum! Big iron for a single website. Our discussions with Rackspace are getting interesting!

The next most interesting  discussion today has been one of SEO. Yes that old bugbear has raised it's head again, I am sure I will be discussing it a lot in this blog! Applegate has a lot of very 'old school' SEO techniques throughout the site, mostly revolving around multi-level repetative internal linking. It makes for a very complex user funnel... more sieve actually, it's very difficult to work out user flow through the site, but it does give very high ranking to some very unexpected pages, nearly all our index pages are page 1 in Google for instance, often number 1 page 1 in bing! yet the advertising on these pages is very under utilised... I think that may change very soon :)

The recent changes I pushed through with hotlinks now seem to be making serious headway. Certainly sales are reporting *massive* uplift in referrals. The big issue has been with Google analytics not reporting the referrals correctly. It appears that on Internet Explorer referrals are mis-attibuted to the first referrer ever used, so if the site was initially found through Google, that is where all further referrals are attributed. Seems to work fine in Firefox or Chrome, funny that! We found a fix, having implemented it on the 15th of January we have seen an immediate upturn on clients analytics, finally some headway!

More to come in future blogs, once I am convinced on the Google analytics fix I will document it more, in the meantime I have reported it on their forums to see if it gets recognised!

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