ENGINE Is Hours Away from Doing DrupalCon DC

We’re excited to do lots of Drupal here in DC. So excited, IN FACT, that we’re working on websites right now instead of sleeping and dreaming about working on websites.

Day 1 of DC was pretty sweet. We threw down at beloved and historic Ben’s Chili Bowl. I also saw many, many dead trilobites and Grandmaster Flash’s original turntable at the National Museums of Natural History and American History, respectively.

We’ll keep you so posted. First session’s in four and a half hours!

Avoiding the Two Worst Kinds of Web Content: The "This Little Piggy Training Manual"

This Little Piggy Content (We We We, all the way home)

Most companies think customers want an encyclopedia entry. You know… We think nobody is better than Us, We think cavemen are funny, Our former CEO buys shoes with ’90s comedians, We We We, Us Us Us

You see this kind of bad thinking all the time. Pick a TV commercial at random. What is it really about? You or them? Chances are, some company spent money to tell you how much they like themselves. Instead of how they can make your life better!

Even worse than writing like a little piggy?

Training Manual Content (T.M.C.)

The kind written by someone who thinks customers can be impressed by acronyms made of big words (A.M.O.B.W.). You know, the kind that flattens you with dense jargon and technical terms (D.J. & T.T.) even though you’re there to shop, not clock in. Fancy words like utilize (why not use?) make things even worse. Vague content is hard to trust… there’s a reason government agencies facilitate outcomes instead of help people.

How to avoid bad content?

Try this: Say a potential customer steps into your building. She asks what you can do for her. What do you say? Do you get misty-eyed about your founder’s secret recipe? Do you whip out your most dazzling acronym? Or do you try to solve your potential customer’s problem?

That sounds boring. I have a story to tell.

Great! Having a story worth hearing is the ultimate.

Now, think about it this way. Personalization is great… There’s a time and a place (maybe even on your site) for stuff about you. You want your customers to feel like they know you. But remember: your customers’ priority is what you can do for them. Thus, this is your priority too.

Three Best Things, 11/2/09 - 11/8/09: Derek Jeter Needs Your Help On His Facebook Farm

  • I’m sure many people caught the dichotomy between the New York Times’ puff piece on scammy Facebook gaming company Zynga (aka the people behind FarmParty or whatever) and TechCrunch’s super truth-diggy journalism on the same subject. Fake Steve collated the whole story well, so we’ll roll with his perspective.
  • You know when you hear those stupid woe-is-us “91% of American high school seniors have never heard of Thomas Jefferson, Barack Obama, or God, but they know all the words to every rock ‘n’ roll song by Lil Diddy” things? You know how common sense always tells you that can’t possibly be true? Somebody finally put it to the test: Yes, the kids are allright. Of course they are. I mean, they have freaking Wikipedia to fall back on.
  • The Yankees’ payroll is larger than the payrolls of several other teams combined. This may be possible to repeat often enough, but Joe Posnanski isn’t taking any chances; in fact, he’s written the perfect antidote to watching the Yankees try and squeeze into Everybody Doubted Us hats and We’re Just Having Fun Out There shirts.

Luxury Rentals Manhattan Goes Live

Real estate broker Luxury Rentals Manhattan knows the ins and outs of New York City. But there was one avenue they hadn’t mastered: the web. Updating their website with their rapidly overturning inventory was a daunting time commitment.

LRM wanted a site designed to index hundreds of New York apartment buildings, showcasing descriptions, images, space and amenities, developer details… But they couldn’t let indexing turn into a ‘round-the-clock project. They wanted a practical way to deliver all this to their users. They also wanted a sharp-looking site. And it had to be easy to use. And inviting to both search engines and potential customers. And loaded with well-written content on all things Manhattan real estate.

With a loft-y goal—running the web’s best Big Apple apartment marketplace—Luxury Rentals Manhattan chose Engine to design, build, and carry out the solution.

The ENGINE Solution


We delivered an effective, clear, and easy-to-use site. It’s topped with a focus on user-centered SEO and well-written content. May we walk you around?

Content Management Solution: Drupal

LRM’s primary reason for doing up their site was simple: they wanted to manage their content better. We knew the best solution.

LRM is now powered by the award-winning open-source option: Drupal. It’s a mouthful, but when customized for a specific purpose like LRM’s, Drupal makes life easy.

It turned out to be the perfect foundation for all sorts of features… a hierarchical tagging system, geotagged apartment profiles integrated with Google Maps, blogging, contact forms, apartment search forms, slideshows… Lots of cool, simple stuff.

Design Solution: Look Sharp, from Interface to Images

When you think of researching real estate, what comes to mind? A bumrush of whitened teeth and cheesy headlines? Duck and cover, here come the old-guy glamour shots!

LRM deserved better architecture—a classy blue, white, and gray color scheme, photos of beautiful buildings instead of tan-in-a-can men, and a UI that explains itself. They wanted their site to project helpful, not desperate.


Content Creation Solution: User-focused Articles and the Luxury Rentals Manhattan Real Estate Blog

Having a way to add tons of details about each listing was a great content cornerstone. Next, LRM wanted to take their content through the roof. So we put their site in position to be an authoritative source by researching and writing original articles and pitching in to the company blog.

LRM wanted a site packed to the vaulted ceiling with quality content. Instead of focusing on what’s great about LRM, our strategy was to explain things that New York real estate buyers want explained.

We wrote link-worthy and keyword-rich articles on each major Manhattan neighborhood, plus other useful content—not only will all this content turn up on Google search result pages, it’ll establish LRM as a local authority on what New York buyers really need to know.

LRM went a step further and took advantage of Engine’s blogging experience, asking us to create posts for their company blog. With each blog post, LRM is increasing their fresh content advantage. As their site gains age and trust, all this content will bring in more and more eyeballs.

SEO Solution: Content First, Links Second

With their luxury apartment expertise, LRM is very familiar with the value a good concierge adds to a building. How great is expert insight into where you can best invest your time? Engine turned LRM’s site into a kind of “web concierge,” making it easy for potential customers to find exactly what they need. “Searching Google for apartments near empire state building, ma’am? I’d recommend Luxury Rentals Manhattan.” Best part is, this concierge is always on the job.

Straight “out of the box,” Drupal is great for search engine marketing. Engine boosted Drupal’s SEO magic by installing a huge tagging system.

Focusing on traffic generators that didn’t involve buying ads, we used directories and social bookmarking sites like Delicious to add a little link juice. We’ve found in the past that this is a good way to get a steady trickle of traffic.

We also hit all the basics, like writing keyword-based anchor text, showing LRM how to apply alt text to images they post, and using PathAuto to create search-engine-friendly URLs. And, since we’re still working with LRM even though the site is delivered, we’re also planning a link-building campaign soon.



For this solution, we used Drupal, Views, Thickbox, and various customized modules, among others.

Luxury Rentals Manhattan’s Immediate Payoff

After showing LRM how they can easily maintain their listings (and the rest of their site) with Drupal, we handed the keys over to them.

Immediately after opening their virtual doors, LRM’s site was already ranking #1 for several long-tail keywords. Translating into an increase in leads overnight. Obviously, Manhattan real estate is extremely competitive, so the site’s best days are still to come.

LRM eagerly began adding new building profiles (and removing profiles for SOLD buildings). They’re able to keep their site current with very little effort or behind-the-scenes web-nerdery. LuxuryRentalsManhattan.com is turning into a towering success.

Take a tour for yourself at luxuryrentalsManhattan.com.

See anything you like? ENGINE can create a website for you.

Click below to learn more about some of the services we delivered for Luxury Rentals Manhattan, or, as always, contact us.

Three Best Things, 6/14/09-6/20/09

  1. Fan-made video for Kanye’s “Robocop.” Count the references… I spotted Battletoads, Double Dragon, and Punch-Out!, and maybe Contra and Metroid. Obviously Mega Man. The slickest thing about this video is how, by including Kanye’s bear mascot thing as the boss, it hits the big secret of Kanye’s relationship songs: he’s not exactly the good guy.
  2. Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive
  3. One of Seth Godin’s best ideas yet—his call for open-source scholarly databases to replace the useless textbook industry. Too good an idea to happen, of course.

All-new GreenBuildingsNYC.com: Open to the Public!

We’re delighted to announce the all-new GreenBuildingsNYC.com is live.

gbNYC has long been New York’s premier source of green real estate news and insights, but they wanted to keep growing and offering more. So they partnered with a major Manhattan real estate broker and hired us to rebuild and redesign their Wordpress blog as a fleshed-out Drupal site, packed with new features like socially moderated products, building listings, and more, with even more cool features on the way.

Helping to combine one of New York’s most trusted authorities on green real estate with a high-end Manhattan condo broker, ENGINE expanded gbNYC’s range of services beyond any other competing site’s. The new gbNYC is up and running, but its best is yet to come.


Having trouble targeting page titles with CSS when using Views?

Sometimes, in a Drupal-based site, I want to do something to a certain title with CSS, which is easy if the title is on a node. But what if the title is on a View? Well, I’ve used this simple snippet with success to give the title of the Views page a unique id, allowing you to target it with CSS.

In the page.tpl.php file of your theme, find the area of code where your title is set. Insert the following code above.

 $illegal = array("'", ",", " ", "-", "/", "&", ":", ";", "|", "–", "—");
 $uniquetitleid = 'title-'.strtolower(str_replace($illegal, "", $title));

Then, replace the following code (or similar):

if ($title): print '<h1 class="'. ($tabs ? ' with-tabs' : '') .'">'. $title .'</h1>'; endif; 

with this:

if ($title): print '<h1 id="'.$uniquetitleid.'" class="'. ($tabs ? ' with-tabs' : '') .'">'. $title .'</h1>'; endif; 

This code simply takes the title of the page, strips some characters, converts it to lowercase, and turns it into the unique id for the <h1> element that contains the title. Obviously, this code won’t be very helpful if your title is based on arguments – unless you are wanting to make certain argument-based titles look different for some reason. Let me know what you think.

Three Best Things 7/20/09 - 7/26/09

  • The continuing saga of this post likening the hassles of being Jay-Z to the diplomatic challenges that face a global superpower. Specifically, how does The Big Guy deal with annoyances from The Little Guy? Not the first time somebody’s compared rapper spats to international conflict, but this one really sparked a wide discussion. This followup listed reactions from bloggers and journalists in various fields. But wait, there’s more — interviews, NY Times articles about the original blog post, etc. (Tangentially related: Nas lost.)
  • Did you know Zenith Radio invented a service that was pretty much Netflix, pay-per-view, and Hulu… in 1951?
  • Henry Louis Gates’ 1995 article on race and crime in modern America.

SPECIAL 40th Anniversary BONUS: The Times’ post-moon-landing retraction of its polite 1920 claim that space travel is impossible.

The Associated Press: Fighting SEO with SEO

Someone help me make heads or tails of this pair of quotes from this article on the AP’s latest inlink policy.

Quote 1:

Taking a new hard line that news articles should not turn up on search engines and Web sites without permission, The Associated Press said Thursday that it would add software to each article that shows what limits apply to the rights to use it…

Quote 2:

Each article — and, in the future, each picture and video — would go out with what The A.P. called a digital “wrapper,” data invisible to the ordinary consumer that is intended, among other things, to maximize its ranking in Internet searches.

(Subtle emphasis mine.) Does this juxtaposition make any sense to anyone? Do they want to rank or not? And how hard will Google rain down on these mystical search-altering “digital wrappers?”

In which century does this organization exist?

(ht Fimoculous)