Archive for October, 2007

Update: search or “pay to play”

October 10, 2007

We posted on December 17, 2006 (6 weeks after we launched our online marketplace) that to drive customers to our site and create brand and product awareness, we wanted to be included in the major search engines and to advertise both online and offline. However, because Google did not rank us (at that time) in the top 1000 results for several of our keywords, including espresso cups, cappuccino cups and fondue pots, we decided to participate in “sponsored search”. We were aware that sponsored search is expensive and our early experience indicated sponsored search resulted in primarily low quality visits. So we asked the question: “Should we be patient and wait until we move up in the Google search results, or do we continue to spend on the Google Adwords program knowing that it doesn’t bring quality visits, product sales or even long-term customer relationships?”

We’re pleased to provide an update. The two screenshots below show that as of today, Google organic search ranks our website in the top 15 results (middle of page 2) for espresso cups (2,350,000 results) and top 20 results (bottom half of page 2) for cappuccino cups (1,940,000 results). For fondue pots (1,580,000 results), we rank in the top 90 results (bottom of page 9).

googleespressocups.jpg

googlecappuccinocups.jpg

To achieve this impressive keyword ranking on Google, we have continued to improve the search friendliness of our website as per the earlier post and we have been very patient. We worked and waited almost 12 months!

To improve the site, we have focused especially on page layout using Divs rather than tables (whenever possible – obviously for tabular data, tables make perfect sense) and ensuring that the site uses valid HTML and is CSS compliant. For example, it does matter where your content with keywords is on the page. If you use CSS and have column layouts, the search engines read left to right and top to bottom and give more weighting to content that appears on the top left vs. the bottom right. Also, the search engines cannot read images so you should use alt tags that contain keywords. HTML validation and CSS standards do impact on search rankings, i.e. it is important to understand that search bots that crawl your site are “blind” and do not visualize your site but instead “read” your HTML markup. Bad HTML or unecessary or messy code will negatively impact your ranking. Good HTML like using tags for titles will help Google boost the importance of the title (useful if the title contains your keywords). Using Div tags to lay out your pages rather than tables will help the search bot “read” your page faster because there is less “clutter”, which will also improve your ranking.

You can find advice and tools that should help you to structure your site at googlerankings.com. Also read Google’s FAQ for webmasters and Google’s Webmaster blog with great advice and news about coming features.

The key (pardon the pun) now is to maintain those search rankings. Our competitors can view our keyword rank and keyword usage using a variety of online tools. We are redesigning our navigation to use a pure CSS based navigation bar, instead of the current navigation bar based on HTML tables, javascript and jpg image files (although we do use alt tags). We’ll post about that later.

Honorable mention in eCommerce contest

October 3, 2007

For all the time we put into creating our online marketplace and the website that supports it, for all the late nights and weekends, for learning how to code using PHP, javascript, HTML and CSS, it’s nice to get a little recognition. Read on.

webassist2.jpg

WebAssist announced the winners of its 2007 “Do More / Win More” contest, and terrakeramik.com was awarded honorable mention (4th place) in the “best eCommerce” category.

WebAssist is a leading vendor of software solutions for the Adobe Macromedia Dreamweaver platform. The contest was open to all websites that incorporate certain of WebAssist’s products. terrakeramik.com, running on an Apache/Linux/PHP 5/ MySQL 5 platform, leverages WebAssist’s eCart (shopping cart), DataAssist (database integration), Universal Email, Cookies Toolkit, Validation Toolkit (both client and server side form validation), and SecurityAssist (registration and authentication). WebAssist products are available for PHP, ASP, and ColdFusion. WebAssist’s product suite is supported by first-class tech support as well as professional services for custom implementations.

WebAssist has some cool new products and tools, including a tool to help create CSS compliant websites in collaboration with Eric Meyer (recognized CSS guru), and tools to integrate Google apps, PayPal, Skype and PlayStream video.

A thank you to WebAssist for recognizing our work!

Canadian Barista Championship, Toronto, Sep 16-17

October 3, 2007

Just a quick late post with the results of the Canadian Barista Championship held in Toronto on September 16-17 in conjunction with the Canada Coffee & Tea Show.

The results of the finals (6 best baristi from the open round and 2 regional champions) are as follows:

1st Mike Yung Caffe Artigiano Vancouver, BC
2nd Cady Wu Wicked Cafe Vancouver, BC
3rd Anthony Benda Café Santé Veritas Montreal, Quebec
4th Colter Jones Caffè Artigiano Vancouver, BC
5th Mark Krause Espresso Post Collingwood, Ontario
6th Derek Lucas Buon Amici’s Coffee Victoria, BC
7th Brette Richard 2% Jazz Victoria, BC
8th Kimberly Staveley Matter of Taste Kitchener, Ontario

Both Mike Yung, the winner, and Anthony Benda, the 3rd place finisher, are first time competitors.  Colter Jones, the defending 2006 CNBC Champion, finished 4th. Colter had placed a strong 7th at the World Barista Championship held in Tokyo in July. Mike Yung will represent Canada at the 2008 WBC.

With the Canadian Barista Championship, Terra Keramik continued to supply several competing baristi with our line of handcrafted espresso cups and cappuccino cups. We appreciate the trust placed in our products by Anthony Benda (Café Santé Veritas), Colter Jones (Caffè Artigiano), Andrew Legg (Transcend Coffee), and Jeremie Thompson (Bridgehead Coffeehouses), all of whom competed with our cups.

Andrew Legg and Poul Mark have started a Transcend Coffee blog with photos of the Canadian Barista Championship. Also check out the Dwelltime coffee blog of Barrett Jones, himself a top Canadian barista and brother of Colter.

Several people have posted competition photos on flickr, including Liz Clayton (who wrote a nice article for Barista Magazine), Rich Westerfield of Aldo Coffee, Poul Mark of Transcend Coffee, and James Hoffmann, the current WBC champion.