Archive for the ‘Website Projects and SEO’ Category

Googlebot cannot access CSS and JS files

October 18, 2015

Thousands of websites started receiving this message relatively recently. It’s to do with mobile friendliness and it requires a change to the robots.txt file. Thanks to the following sites that provided the solution:

Look for the messages in Google Webmaster Tools to see which sites are affected.


Our Studio Blog has Moved

January 3, 2014

The Tinstar Graphic Design and Studio Blog has moved – we’ve brought it back under the wing of our main website. Come by any time.

Vantage Broking, Clean and Simple

November 8, 2013

Clean and simple. That may not describe the petrochemical industry, but it certainly fits the new Vantage Broking website, just finished.

Vantage Broking, Oil & Petrochemical Broker

It’s been a while since we got our teeth into a simple, small HTML website – and this one (for a European oil & petrochemicals broker) was a pleasure to work on. When developing a website, a business owner can easily be distracted by what everyone else is doing and adding to their website. This simple truth, though, is that if a visitor can ascertain what a company is all about within a couple of seconds, then the job is done.

Onto the next!

The Contract Chair Company website

October 2, 2013

So much has changed in SEO since we started working on The Contract Chair Company website so many years ago. TC3, as we like to call them, are a contract furniture supplier with a showroom in Hammersmith, literally underneath the arches. Our remit over the years has changed as radically as the online landscape. In addition to the actual design and construction of the website (build in partnership with digital supremos Group Brand), today we consult on everything from appropriate use of social media networks to on-page SEO. Our account with helps us enormously with the latter – we can run reports that cover what needs to be done to improve the website down to the nth degree.

With Google’s recent Hummingbird algorithm update the landscape is set to shift yet again – but as ever, we always take Google’s line with regard to website content. If the content is useful, unique and written primarily for the user, it has a much better chance of ranking well that something spammy and keyword-heavy. This wasn’t always the case. In the case of TC3, there’s now a large section of the site given over to essential furniture guides – it’s definitely not just another furniture catalogue.

We’re very proud of the results.

Contract Furniture Website

Google announces a new Link Disavow Tool

October 18, 2012

Google’s Matt Cutts announced the launch of a new Google Link Disavow Tool yesterday which has been much anticipated in the SEO industry. For those websites that have plummeted in the Google rankings as a result of lots of low quality, spammy in-bound links, this could be the alternative to having to build an entirely new website.

The problem with Google is that is keeps moving the goalposts in its pursuit of of the ‘perfect’ user experience. It used to be possible to fool the search engine into thinking that your website was the best thing since sliced bread just by adding a stack of hidden keywords to the bottom of your web page. Those days are long gone.

The next big thing was link building. Get as many links from other websites to your website as possible. The theory has long been that if Google sees lots of links on other websites that point to yours, then  your website must be worthwhile and should be raised up in the rankings. This theory has generated a mass market for link builders; some good (white hat) and many bad (black hat).

It has reached the point where there are so many poor quality ‘toxic’ websites out there that getting a link from them can now actually damage your website rankings; and this is more common than you might suppose.

The problem for these sites is that once they’ve been penalised by Google, there’s no coming back from it. This is because it’s nigh on impossible to get bad quality links removed from blacklisted, poor quality websites. Bing brought a ‘disavow’ tool into play first, meaning that a list of toxic links can be submitted to the search engine so that they can remove them from their determination of how your website should be ranked.

The news that the Google has brought this party to town is potentially huge – depending on how they act on it.

Is it a trap?

And then of course there’s always the possibility that Google have created this tool in order to entrap black hat SEOs via their Webmaster Tools account. If someone submits a bunch of bad links they they (presumably) have been responsible for, Google will then know (by looking at the list of websites in the account) what other websites to consider for a penalty.

It reminds me of a story I heard about the entrapment of a group of graffiti artists. An advert was put in the paper inviting local graffiti artists to meet up in order to demonstrate their artwork. Lots of people arrived and they were all encouraged to sketch their ‘tags’ to demonstrate their style. In doing this they confirmed their identity and thus the source of all the graffiti in the neighbourhood. They were arrested and charged.

I like to think that Google wouldn’t be this devious…

The new EU Cookie Law and Google Analytics

April 30, 2012

With the arrival of the new EU Cookie Law, Google Analytics will be targeted as an ‘undesirable’ use of cookies without user consent. This means that websites using Google Analytics will have to display a popup window to arriving visitors, letting them know that the website uses cookies and asking if they consent to their use.

If ever there was a law created for the internet by people who have no idea how the internet works, this is it. Even the ICO website (the lawmakers) took months to comply with its own regulation, and there is still a huge amount of ambiguity about the best implementation of these consent windows.

A few things do seem to be clear:

  • Google Analytics is not exempt from the law
  • Cookies that track items in a shopping cart through to check are exempt
  • Implied consent is not acceptable in the form of a simple privacy page explaining what cookies are used
  • Most people will ignore the law and wait to see what happens

Tinstar has put up this page in answer to the law, although whether it will satisfy the lawmakers remains to be seen. It will, however, not ruin a visit to the website and will not make the internet more ugly and user-unfriendly.

More information Menu Drops Down Behind Flash Element – Four Fixes

December 6, 2011

In an effort to improve the Google crawl rate, loading time and general SEO good practice on a number of our clients’ websites, we began to replace some of the older Javascript menus with CSS3 versions.

In order to speed up the coding process I searched around to see if I could find a CSS ‘menu creator’ which could do the donkey work, and which would create CSS that I could subsequently edit. Thus I came across which seemed to tick the boxes.

I bought a license and went to work. Initially I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t much control over the features, such as drop shadows etc. There only seemed to be an option to select a pre-designed template. If any further editing were required, it was clear that I’d have to do it myself.

What it is really good at though is offering the ability to construct the menu structure quickly and easily. You can also set basic settings such as menu width and submenu fading; although the latter became a thorn in my side…

Once I’d created my first menu I brought it into Dreamweaver to see how it worked within the website, and to ensure that none of the Flash elements were affected. Unfortunately they were. For at least an hour I struggled to get the menu to work in (surprisingly) Safari. All other browsers (except IE6) worked fine – but in Safari the menu was hiding behind the Flash element underneath.

Normally if a dropdown menu disappears behind a Flash element there are a number of possible fixes.

Fix 1.
Adjust the z-index value of the menu DIV to be higher than that of the DIV containing the Flash object.

Fix 2.
Add the following code parameter to the OBJECT tag of the Flash item:
<param name=”wmode” value=”transparent”>

Add the following code parameter to the EMBED tag:

Fix 3.
If Fix 2 doesn’t work try adding the following code parameter to the OBJECT tag of the Flash item:
<param name=”wmode” value=”opaque”>

Add the following code parameter to the EMBED tag:

Normally these fixes would help, but in the bizarre case of the menu, it did not. The menu appeared above the Flash item in Firefox, (Windows & Mac), IE7 and 8 and even Opera… but not Safari.

Fix 4.
After pulling my hair out for a while it occurred to me that I had turned off the ‘Open with fade’ option under the submenu tab; but the submenus were still fading in. I found the piece of code in the generated CSS:

ul#css3menu1 li>ul{
opacity:0;-moz-transition:all 0.5s;-webkit-transition:all 0.5s;-o-transition:opacity 0.5s;}

…and deleted it. The CSS generator had simply ignored my request to remove it from the menu. After doing this, all was well and menu worked perfectly.

One other slight annoyance though… if I entered an ‘&’ character in a menu item, it messed up the code and produced this in the source code:


Easily fixed though – I just had to go through with a search and replace with:

&amp; Verdict

A handy way to familiarise yourself with CSS dropdown menus and a fast way to create the bones of a nicely compliant dropdown menu. There are a few glitches as detailed above, and a very poor help section, but overall I think that the time I’ll save will be well worth the money.

If you want a menu to work in IE6, this one is not for you – although I compromised by including the following script in place of the menu (only to appear in IE6):

<!–[if IE 6 ]>
<span style=”text-align:center;”>In order to correctly view the navigation on this site, please upgrade your browser from Internet Explorer 6 to the <a href=””>latest version</a>. Other browser options include <a href=””>Firefox</a&gt;, <a href=””>Chrome</a&gt; and <a href=””>Safari</a&gt;. Alternatively, please navigate our site via our <a href=””>Sitemap</a&gt;. Thank you.</span>

500 Error Messages, Magento Picture Zoom and Add to Cart Not Working

January 10, 2011

I just threw an entire weekend away (and with the nicest weather we have had for sometime) sitting staring at my laptop trying to figure out why my functioning local version of Magento refused to transfer to my remote host without breaking. It took long enough to transfer the files across (with the occasional one failing and needing to be re-submitted) – but then it took twice as long to find out why my picture zoom had broken (no matter what theme was active) and why the Add to Cart button led to a blank screen on Safari and a 500 error on most other browsers.

After foraging Google for answers, I got the impression that the js Javascript folder might need to be replaced, so I re-uploaded it. This fixed the zoom problem but not Add to Cart.

So another browse led me to assume that all the permissions had been messed up during the FTP transfer. Rather than attempt to change the permissions manually on thousands of files and folders, I was led to a very hand php script called magento_cleanup.php which, when run, will do exactly that – reset all the permissions to the correct format (755 for folders, 644 for files and 550 for pear scripts).

Copy the file to your main Magento directory and point your browser to it.

As satisfying as this was, it didn’t fix the problem. I resorted to Maglance, a place to post projects and recruit Magento freelancers. I thought I would put it in the hands of the experts. I got some helpful suggestions before anyone actually bid on the project, and one request was for me to:

  • Turn on system and exception logging in admin: System/Advanced/Developer: Log Settings.
  • Rename the file errors/local.xml.sample to local.xml
  • Delete the contents of the var folder

I did this and the site completely broke. I could no longer access the front or back end, and a MYSQL 5000 error kept telling me that the site couldn’t connect to my database. This led to a flurry of comments from the freelancers suggesting (understandably) that I must had done something the database or app/etc/local.xml file – even though I had done nothing of the kind.

By this time I had spent Friday night, all of Saturday until 3am and half of Sunday (interspersed with episodes of Pride and Prejudice to calm me down) struggling with the beast. I hadn’t wanted to delete everything and start again, but actually, that’s exactly what saved me.

The following steps led me to 11.30pm on Sunday night, got the site working and gave me a peaceful night’s sleep:

  1. Make a backup of the (working) local site in System/Tools/Backups – and download the database backup
  2. Create a new MySQL database with a different name and user name than the one used before and import the backup data into it
  3. Edit the two fields in the core_config_data table for web/unsecure/base_url and web/secure/base_url replacing them with the new (remote) location of your new Magento directory
  4. Upload (!) the entire website again to a new (differently named) directory
  5. Once uploaded (a couple of hours later, hopefully without errors) edit the app/etc/local.xml file with the new database details
  6. Delete the contents of the var folder (if you uploaded it – the obvious answer here is not to upload your old local cache files)
  7. Gaze in wonder and relief at your working site! Zoom, Add to Cart and everything else worked again.

New Berthon Website Goes Live

January 14, 2010

We’ve been working on the new Berthon Boat Company website for the last four months to a very specific deadline… and we hit it! In time for the London International Boat Show 2010 in Docklands, went live. Berthon is a Lymington based boatyard, yacht brokerage and marina, and is internationally known in yachts sales and quality of service.

What particularly struck me when working with Berthon was the incredible history of the company – the site of Lymington Marina was first developed for shipyard use in 1272… The marina itself was opened in 1968 by none other than the Earl Mountbatten of Burma; a remarkable man.

Alongside the Berthon site was designed the UK Linssen Yachts website, for whom Berthon is UK distributor: Also finished in time for the London Boat Show, the Linssen Grand Sturdy (great name!) 25.9 won Motor Boat of the Year 2010 – a great start! I love her builders’ in-house name for her – ‘little cutie’. Sentimentality about steel boats is alive and well and living in Holland!

The Early Internet Promise and SEO Today

June 25, 2009

I remember when I first started dabbling in the Internet. The studio I worked in first got a working dial-up connection in 1995. We’d heard so much about the World Wide Web / Information Superhighway and the world it was opening up that the tension in our little New Forest Garage-Conversion Studio was palpable.

I think we were using one of the early incarnations of Netscape Navigator in conjunction with an Apple Powermac 6100/66 (I still have it), and suddenly (or more accurately: gradually) a page appeared before our amazed faces.

I can’t really remember what the page contained (it was largely grey I think) I just remember the excitement of the moment. Our hunger for Internet-delivered information reached fever pitch when we typed “star wars” into Yahoo and actually got a page with Darth Vader back.

So what was so exciting about the rather drab-looking pages that were returned? Not much – but it was the possibilities and promise of huge things to come that I found so enthralling. The fact that there was now the potential to communicate by a means other than phone or letter to someone on the other side of the world was nothing short of historic – and the potential for businesses to make those people clients by publishing their company brochure online was intriguing.

Fourteen years later I’ve lost none of my enthusiasm for dabbling in new trends and technologies on the Internet, which now presents me with a very different landscape. I sometimes have the feeling that I’ve ‘missed the boat’. There are millions of people trying to achieve the same thing online now – which mainly consists of getting to the top of Google – but then I look at some of their content and feel heartened that I can do better. Richard Branson’s concept of taking a good idea that’s been executed badly, and doing it better (and therefore more successfully) has always struck me as a simple, common sense approach.

Internet users today have become much more savvy, jaded and cynical with much of the content they come across, which makes it more important than ever to present them with something of use. And in a nutshell, that’s what Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is all about (or more accurately: website optimization for search engines) – creating something of use that people can learn from. People like getting something for nothing, and that’s how companies today need to gain their trust.

Of course, there’s a little more to it than that – but not much. The hard part is creating something of worth – which is why there are so many people attempting to pull the wool over Google’s eyes to get their sites to the top – because they have nothing of worth to offer. This is where to get ahead of the competition.

In theory, if you have useful, original content, the easy part is tweaking the structure of a web page to help Google (and other search engines) read and understand what the page is about. Specifically, using the primary keyword or phrase in the page title, meta description, meta keywords, H1 tag, body text and navigation. Then it’s a case of getting other worthwhile sites to link to yours, and Bob’s your uncle!

Well, OK, there’s a little more to think about… but it’s a good start.

We’ve come a long way from the blocky grey pages of Netscape and Internet Explorer with their clumsily animated icons which kick in when an Internet connection is made. Websites today can be breathtakingly beautiful, uniquely educational, humorous or even physically destructive to your PC if you’re unlucky enough to come across a Malware site. However, the big difference between the Internet today and the Internet of old is the rise and rise of social networking.

The phrase ‘Web 2.0‘ was coined in order to demonstrate that it’s the users that have taken over from the companies. With Google’s help, the users drive the Internet today using the evolving systems of Facebook, WordPress, Blogger, Flickr, MySpace, YouTube and even Twitter, the latter of which has been responsible for an astonishing and unprecedented exchange of information and ideas in the turbulent Iran.

So the sooner that businesses realize that they are ‘guests’ in the users’ kingdom, the sooner they’ll start having more success getting their message across. And it’s a brave, new altruistic world out there – so they need to stop trying to take… and start giving.