John Andrews is a Competitive Webmaster and Search Engine Optimization Consultant in Seattle, Washington. This is John Andrews blog on issues of interest to the SEO community and competitive webmasters. Want to know more?

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October 16th, 2006 by john andrews

CSS layouts, the box model, and IE7

If you know me you know I don’t disclose my sources. My first job as an Engineer was with a small instrumentation manufacturer, and I learned that business intelligence (including vendor lists and employee directories) is very, very valuable. As a Biomedical Engineer working in New Jersey, word was “the parkway goes both ways” suggesting employees flipped back and forth between companies up and down the turnpike. Competition was good for innovation then, too.

Lately I have been asked many times about my sources for CSS layouts and stylesheets, especially ones that work with IE7. I use a compressor for my js and CSS, which strips comments and labels, and I simply won’t send any referrals to my CSS people. They are busy enough as it is. Sorry.

But I will suggest that if you look hard enough you will find plenty of quality CSS resources that are on the edge of practical efficiency (as opposed to the theoretical edge of CSS, which I can’t appreciate in my competitive work). A few resources I really enjoy are cssplay.co.uk for ideas (I liked it better before it got to 3.3 million page views per month, alas) and Layout Gala for box models.

I know I will regret sending competitive webmasters to these resources. Did you get a load of Stu Nicholls latest CSS-only gallery script? It’s simply beautiful. Another photographer working in CSS and it really shows. And if you have any SEO sense about you look at the code. Add a Flash top nav bar and it’s SEO heaven!

CSS is one area where I have a hard time arguing against outsourcing. Markus over at AUBlog posted his own experiences with two services that build valid CSS pages from your design comps. It doesn’t get any easier than that. He had good results from both PSD2HTML and XHTMLized, with each charging less than $150 for the first page, and more for optimized pages. The turn around time might be the most attractive feature though - 3 hours in some cases. Wow. Both provide portfolios of live sites so you can inspect code.

I don’t know how good it is, but Sitegrinder promises valid CSS pages direct from Photoshop. In 3 minutes. Before you write it off, take a look at the Pro version feature set. I know it sounds like a dream too good to be true, but if it’s as advanced as it sounds (no slices, pure CSS for box styling, etc) it could be a must have tool for kick-starting pages. If anybody knows better, post a comment!

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October 12th, 2006 by john andrews

The Best SEO Advice of All: Pay Attention to Attention

I don’t consider myself a role model for SEO, and I don’t mean to give “advice” on SEO. Tips, yes, because they are logical, technical, and can be tested. But advice? The trick about understanding advice is, authority is granted, not taken. You only have “authority” if someone grants you that authority in their own mind. I may give advice based on my own experiences and perhaps knowledge and/or judgement, but that advice is received by YOU in light of the authority you grant me. Let’s see how you do.

My best advice on SEO for those looking to succeed in SEO is “pay attention to attention”. It’s all about attention. It’s almost about nothing but attention.

Do I have your attention? Is that good for you right now? Pay attention to where you place your attention.

Now pay careful attention to what I am about to say. I worked in medical rehabilitation and some of that work involved cognitive attention measurement, as well as the quantification of mental and physical fatigue. I spent a good portion of two years learning how to best measure physical fatigue at the neuromuscular level. I build sensitive analog electronic instruments, developed digital signal processing algorithms, and built computer-based medical instrumentation that measured muscle activity. I teased out new information on neuromuscular control, using brain imaging and external brain stimulators. All the while colleagues in our laboratories looked closely at muscular sclerosis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and brain functioning in both healthy and impaired populations.

We all knew that attention… the attention of the human subjects of our experiments, was the key to understanding almost everything. If only we could control attention, we could make good measurements. But attention remains at the will of the people.

Attention is at the center of fatigue. Every “ounce of attention” you give away takes energy from you. Energy you would have spent succeeding. Mental fatigue is a very real thing, with physical correlates.

I believe attention is the key to success in SEO. If you are an SEO building your own sites, all you need to do is pay close attention to the task at hand and you will succeed. There is so much opportunity for profit on the web that almost any endeavor will succeed if executed. The problem, is staying focused. EVERYONE wants your attention. EVERYONE is earning profits from YOUR attention.

Forums are attention-stealers. They can derail your efforts. SEO web sites are attention stealers. Pay too much attention to SEO and you will fail in your endeavor, not because SEO doesn’t work (duh) but because you didn’t get your job done. You got “distracted”. You missed the boat.

The news is an attention stealer. Your phone is an attention stealer. Your radio, iPod, and computer operating systems are attention whores. Advertisements are based on the concept of gaining (and holding) your attention. Web pages (landing pages) are attention tour guides. Promotions are attention con artists. You want a challenge? Analyze how a meditation home study vendor markets his wares on the Internet. Hey! Over HERE! Look! I can show YOU how to gain BACK control of your ATTENTION! There’s a job I’d enjoy, if for nothing else but the irony.

Build a community, a web-based service, a blog, or an affiliate sales site and you will succeed if you work hard and pay attention to only what matters, not allowing yourself to be distracted. That’s how the successful ones have done it, and that’s why they pitch their “how to make money fast” programs to YOU. Attention is the key. Attention is the currency. Keep yours, and gather everyone else’s. It really is that simple. Are you paying attention?

When I was a kid I rode the public bus home from school because of lacrosse practice. I rode the Manorhaven bus from Mineola to Flower Hill, where I transferred to the #23 Northern Boulevard bus. The #23 ran through some very prosperous neighborhoods in Nassau County, on it’s way into Queens, a mostly blue collar (at that time) borough of New York City. So I rode the #23 with the day workers, returning from cleaning homes and pools, ending their days on the bus ride at 7pm. But the Manorhaven bus was a connector through some of the poorer neighborhoods of central Nassau County. When I rode the Manorhaven bus, I rode with many un and under-employed thugs and scammers.

Lemme see your watch“, he said to me as he sat down in front of me, turned the wrong way in the seat of the bus, arms extended almost into my lap space. His five teenaged friends had almost simultaneously moved over to my side of the bus as if following him, taking their places in the seat next to him, across from him, next to me, across the aisle from me, and (I sensed), behind me. “Gimme your watch“, he insisted.

No“, I said. I was still uncertain of what was going down, but I was pretty sure that giving this guy my watch was not going to be wise. Nor, I doubted, would it be the end of the encounter. I was only 16, but I was no idiot, and this guy was not much older than me in years.

Why not? Lemme see. I won’t take it“, he assured me with a smile. With his questioning his arms flayed about, as if he had learned gesturing from an Italian but didn’t understand that most of Long Island’s gesturing Italian role models did not have the limbs of NBA all stars. His arms were way too long, and too close to my face.

Let me alone“, I said.

I looked past him to the front of the bus. The bus driver did not glance in the big rear view mirror. I waited. He didn’t glance. That’s odd, I thought. He’s always glancing back here…shooting his attention briefly down the bus aisle, once every few seconds, as he drove the bus. Today he seemed stiffly forward-focused. I was all alone on a crowded bus. Me and my five new found, watch-deprived friends.

Where is your attention? Did you lend it to me for a minute, like I didn’t lend my watch to the teenaged intimidator on the Manorhaven bus?

I would never have seen my watch again had I “let him see it for a sec”. And your attention, which I may have just conned out of you by asking “let me have your attention for a minute” will never come back to you, either. It has been spent. Gone. Energy cannot be created nor destroyed, but it sure can change hands. Your mental energy just transferred to my traffic log to enhancing the “time on page” in my analytics report. Left behind in the space in your brain is (hopefully just a little) mental fatigue. A little “lactic acid” that now needs to be cleared.

Pay attention to your dream and stay focused on your task to sell your ebook or build back links or write articles or analyze SERPs or sell your wares. The rewards will come. Break’s over; back to work. Don’t get distracted. And as you build properties, focus on gaining the attention of the search engines. Craft your landing pages to focus attention on your call to action, your pitch, your price point, or your value position. Find the visitor that has attention to spend, and provide a means for the transfer of that attention away from them, and over to you. Then cash it in.

It really is that simple. Pay attention. get them to pay attention. It’s all about attention.

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October 12th, 2006 by john andrews

Are you going to Pubcon in Las Vegas?

I haven’t participated in any WebmasterWorld things for a while. I tired of it, got annoyed by the mods and community, and pretty much saw no value to it. Now I am re-considering Pubcon because it is so mixed up now. So big, with so much going on and so many people all mixed up in it… maybe it will be good to go. Big enough to get lost in, and not have to deal with some of the less-desirable parts?

Are you going? Why? Why not? I wonder if anyone who reads this blog will be there. That might be interesting.

Update 10/14: I decided to go and booked the trip. I skipped Tuesday but will stay till Saturday morning. I hope I get to meet people there.

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