Why you should still avoid embedding text in images
Googlebot crawls your site. It finds images. Does it have the ability to opine on the contents of any image? No. And yes. Googlebot is just a crawler. Does Google scan books and make the contents available digitally? Yes. But Google is a lot of things. Just because Google Maps can give you directions to grandma’s house doesn’t mean Googlebot can. (I’m not necessarily saying it can’t, FWIW!)
I don’t know how to super-elegantly make this analogy, but Google can do a lot of things, however, that doesn’t mean that Googlebot does all of them. Another example might be Google Deep Dream. Just because Google can use AI to make weird pieces of psychedelic art from your pictures, doesn’t mean that Googlebot does that to every image on your site. (In fact, Google does that to none of your images, unless you tell it to.)
So yes, Google can look at an image and figure out what other images it’s like. Google can tell you what words are in there. Google can tell you meta information about those words. But can you, or anybody reputable tell me that Google definitely is doing that for all images on all sites by default?
Until that happens, err on the side of common sense.
‘I’m still going to put text in my images’.
Fine. Me too. But we can at least be smart about it.
When I realized in that previous blog post (about an iDrive security breach) that text in an image would be the most effective way to convey information to my very small, very specific audience, I did it. But I didn’t stop there. I also added my new text augmentation of those images to one of the available meta-data fields. Witness what control-u shows:
The text content I added to those images doesn’t appear as selectable/parsable text anywhere on the page, but it’s in the code, so Google will see it. I’ve no doubt this meta data isn’t as important as regular on-page text, but it’s far better than nothing.
What’s more, using “alt” and “description” meta data fields falls under usability best practices for visitors with vision impairment. Screen readers can read meta data. Good meta data vastly improves the user experience for blind people. So, if you don’t care about good SEO, maybe you care about good UX.
Dan Dreifort consults on search and usability. He sometimes blogs about SEO 101 bits, like this. …Mostly so he can just send people a link rather than typing things out repeatedly. Lazy? Maybe.
The unique email address I use to access iDrive started receiving spam in February 2018. It wasn’t just any spam; these sophisticated phishing emails were sent to an email address only iDrive had, and also contained my username/login.
When I contacted iDrive, they blew me off.
Then they blew me off again. More accurately, they gave me plenty of lip service, denial, and smoke far up my ass. (All the while admitting other people had contacted them regarding the phishing). This continued for several calls over several weeks. Until I posted publicly on twitter.
iDrive CEO Raghu Kulkarni promptly contacted me.
We talked about the difference between companies reacting appropriately to breaches:
idrive trying to convince a whistle-blower there wasn’t a breach, despite hard evidence. (How does one prove a negative, anyhow?)
In exchange for deleting my tweet, Mr. Kulkarni agreed to set up a crisis communications plan. Within a week’s time, he promised to get all levels of iDrive customer support on board with an appropriate response, should a similar problem arise in the future.
More lip service
Weeks later a friend who signed up for iDrive because of my recommendation contacted them regarding the phishing attempt. He received the same brush-off I did.
iDrive does not take data security seriously.
I only have evidence of a third party accessing email addresses and usernames. Did they also gain access to other allegedly secure bits? I don’t know. Probably not. All the more reason to just react appropriately, and send an email warning customers that somebody gained access to a subset of clients’ usernames and email addresses. …With a little note about how to avoid sophisticated phishing attempts. …Phishing they have hard evidence of. iDrive doesn’t want to do this, clearly.
How did this iDrive breach happen?
Maybe an employee had this info on their laptop or PC, which was then infected with malware. The malware shared the data.
Maybe a former or current employee sold the data to spammers or used it for personal gain?
I can tell you one thing for sure; as in many cases, nobody seems to know. I don’t know how it happened. iDrive won’t even admit there was a breach. What we do know is that iDrive would rather brush evidence of a minor breach under the rug than address it properly.
What would iDrive do after a more serious breach?
I don’t trust them with my data anymore. I’m looking for a new data backup provider. I’ve been with iDrive for years. I really wanted them to do the right thing so I could stay with them. Alas, I don’t trust them, now.
Screenshots of both phishing spams I received are included below. I can only assume the spam continued for others; I set my iDrive email address to return a server error upon message receipt, so I can’t tell you. Spam sucks. So do companies that don’t take security seriously.
Idrive vs. Backblaze
Happy to be done with iDrive. Backblaze is MUCH easier. I don’t need to pick and choose what I backup because they back it ALL up. …And I’m assuming they’re going to keep my personal info safer than iDrive did. Not that the bar is high.
Dan Dreifort consults on SEO, UX, and sometimes crawls out of the woodwork to opine on infosec, too, it would seem. His band SynthBandDotCom is an intentional trainwreck, sometimes.
AT&T just installed fiber to my house. It’s fast. I get a steady 949 Mbps up and down. I had no complaints about the 160 Mbps/14 Mbps I was getting from Cox, but my inner geek couldn’t say no to faster-for-the-same-price.
The install was pretty smooth, but during the bumps, I would type nonsense URLs in to see if things were working. Most of the domains actually existed, but when I hit something that wasn’t live, I got the AT&T-branded page telling me the page I’m looking for isn’t available. Well, it said that somewhere within the mess of ads. Call it what you will, it’s DNS hijacking. Amazingly, AT&T allows users to opt-out of “this service”. But some ISPs don’t.
End ISP DNS Hijacking
Before I noticed that opt-out, I took a minute to update my Redirector settings appropriately. No more AT&T DNS hijacking. (I’d previously used it to prevent Cox from hijacking my DNS).
It works in FireFox, Chrome, and Opera, and Redirector is good for more than stopping DNS hijacking. It’s a versatile browser usability enhancer.
Use Redirector to Help Your Favorite Charity
I don’t have a car, and I loathe shopping, so I regularly shop with Amazon for things I can’t get by foot or on my bike. I made a valiant effort to remember to use Amazon’s Smile program special URLs to help my favorite charity (Death With Dignity National Centers,) but I’d usually forget. The AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price of eligible products to the charitable organization of your choice.
I didn’t want to leave those easy donations on the table, so I searched for something that could remember for me. Enter Redirector. Now, every time I click an amazon link, or type amazon.com into my browser, I’m taken to the smile.amazon.com version of that page, instead.
I’ve uploaded an image of my Redirector settings at the bottom of this post in case you too want to more frequently, passively donate to your fave cause, or if you want to stop your ISP from hijacking your DNS. It’s easy. For the latter, you can use the same DNS hijacking forwarding URL I use, or copy the PHP snippet from that page.
I’ve been using Advanced Web Ranking (not to be confused with Advanced Web Ranking Cloud) for eight years. Read riveting tales from 2010 wherein I try to find a replacement for WebPosition, eventually deciding on AWR. Things were simpler then; there weren’t many players in the ranking software space, and almost everything was desktop-based.
Fast forward to 2018. When AWR started shitting the bed a month ago, I was faced with more than three dozen contenders for my search engine querying and reporting needs, almost all of them cloud-based or SaaS. I could have ferreted out even more vendor options, I’m sure, but when I added the 40th vendor/software suite to my spreadsheet of rank tracker candidates, I stopped. (Full list at end of this post.) Daunting. “If you can’t find what you want from 40 vendors, there’s something wrong with you.” I said that out loud.
So, what exactly did I want? That’s an important question. My criteria are similar to those of many, but might very well be different from yours. Keep that in mind as you read on. Oh, and if you don’t have any interest in SEO software, you should probably stop reading and have fun with some of the non-SEO posts on this site, or go contemplate a tree, or something.
If you’re still here, let’s dig in for rank checking software comparison.
What I did NOT want
I already have great sources for keyword research, backlinks, competitor analysis, website violations/improvements, and some other important SEO metrics. Sometimes I subscribe to a service for a month and do what I need to do. Sometimes I lean on one of my colleagues who already has a subscription to one or more vendors. Several of the SEO software vendors I considered are full-service suites of sorts, and therefore often priced themselves out of the SEO ranking software market.
At most, I do keyword research and backlink audits quarterly for existing clients so it doesn’t make sense for me to pay for it every month. If you’re looking for a 360-degree SEO suite, this rank tracker comparison might not be for you.
Historical Ranking Data Import
Although I’m not importing data for all projects when I migrate, I’m importing historical ranking data for most of them. (A couple clients wanted to archive old data and start fresh.) Some vendors like RankTrackr (not to be confused with SEO PowerSuite’s Rank Tracker) and Tiny Ranker don’t have a way to migrate SEO ranking data from your old projects to their platform. With them, you’ve no choice but to start with a fresh slate in reports. Other companies say they’ll import data for a fee, including SERPBook and SEMRush.
Caveat: Your data might not be in the format they want. Look before you leap.
Ability to Pause/Stop SEO Projects
Sometimes clients leave for a few months. (See my post from a week ago about why SEO clients leave.) Sometimes you’ll have cause to pause a project for years. It doesn’t happen often, but about half of rank trackers surveyed don’t allow you to pause. Or they offer janky workarounds: “Just delete the keywords and save them on your computer. When you’re ready to start again, add the keywords again!”
Who won’t let you pause an SEO project? SE Ranking, RankTrackr, Tiny Ranker, RankRanger, and others. SERPFox is one of a few non-pausers to offer what I consider sub-optimal workarounds, but SERPFox at least preserves your data, somehow.
I’m accustomed to being able to upload several HTML reports for each client. While there are several candidates who offer access to an API so you can cobble together your own reports, I don’t want to do that. I’m also not interested in reporting software that only generates static PDF reports and/or ugly CSV spreadsheets. These are comparatively horrible ways to display report data. Rank Ranger, SE Ranking, RankTrackr, and others all fall short here.
Vendor Support Hours
Chances are, after you’re all setup with your new rank tracker, you’ll seldom need support. But take it from somebody who’s needed a lot of support from Advanced Web Ranking over the past month: you’ll care about support when you need it. AWR is in Romania, I’m in California. AWR is at the support desk when I’m asleep, and vice versa. I open a ticket on Monday. I receive a response on Tuesday, to which I reply. Wednesday I get their reply, and so on. The weekend comes, and the snail’s pace of support slows to a stop. …And that’s when they bother to respond in a timely manner.
Support availability matters sometimes. Do yourself a favor and weigh candidates support hours in your process. Spoiler: I ended up picking two vendors. One of them offers perfect support hours for me, the other one, not so much. The latter is half a world away, which is unfortunately not uncommon with the ranking software bros.
Don’t let companies fool you; updating your keywords’ rankings every day, or every hour isn’t adding value for you. Well, if you’re playing at the most vaulted, vaunted levels of SEO, I suppose you could argue that point, a little, but if your clients need detailed reporting more than once a month, you should find different clients. Spend more of your time DOing SEO, and less time measuring it. Anyhow, several vendors offer different plans/options for different scanning/querying frequencies. I don’t want hourly or daily scans because I’d be paying for unused fluff. Some services, like SEO Rank Monitor, SEMrush, and others only offer daily tracking.
Obviously, you sometimes won’t want to wait a week or longer for keyword rank data. SerpBook and Rankinity get around that thusly. SerpBook gives you a bunch of monthly credits for on-the-fly, ad hoc rank checking, e.g. for research, in addition to your regularly-scheduled data, and the latter is a granularly-priced pay-as-you-go service, so…
Well, this is as good a time as any to talk about pricing and cost.
It’s so hard to compare different products’ pricing models. …No two vendors define their pricing the same way. It’s almost totally incongruous.
Comparing SEO Reporting Software Pricing – Not easy.
On January 31st, as I was deep in this ranking software comparison, I guest lectured part of a class on Digital Media and Analytics within Columbia University’s Strategic Communications Program. My spiel (“Serendipity: Two UX ROI Stories”) was last on the docket, so I got to enjoy the first hour of Ethan McCarty‘s class.
While much of the class discourse (analytics/meaningful data/correlation vs causality/etc.) resonated with my experiences, I was particularly moved by Ethan’s reflection on his experience choosing and comparing web metrics software suites.
“Buying any kind of SaaS (such as SEO software) is kind of like buying a mattress,” said McCarty. “They all might have similar feature sets, but each vendor names things differently, accentuates their own strong points and usually does a pretty good job of obfuscating their weaknesses. They are also all sold on different pricing schemes which makes comparison shopping grueling even if you’re a diligent spreadsheet-keeper. You may as well buckle and get the one you find most comfortable to use,” he said, speaking of both SaaS solutions and mattresses, natch.
Mattresses, am I right? It was comforting to find a sense of simpatico. We are not alone. This sucks for almost every discerning consumer, it would seem. I had to ask most vendors several followup questions to try to figure out how they actually priced their services.
How do we define rank-tracking pricing units?
“Keywords” are the near-universal pricing unit in the ranking space. But different vendors define that word conflictingly enough to make apples-to-apples pricing comparisons almost impossible. That’s why it’s in quotes there! I kid you not, the number of “keywords” I have varies by MORE than a factor of ten, depending on the vendor. It’s nuts! What’s worse, getting straight answers regarding a vendor’s definition of “keyword” is akin to pulling your own teeth. Not fun.
We’re dealing with several variables, depending on the vendor:
Keywords (kw) – number of different keywords in the project
Search Engines (SE) – # of different search engines to be queried
Depth (d) – number of SERPs of data you want to gather (ranged from 1 to 30)
Projects (p) – number of, in my case, clients
Frequency (f) – how often do you want to query for data?
Sites (ws) – number of websites you want data for (e.g. your site/s + ‘competitors’)
Vendor SE Ranking defines a keyword as one keyword in a project regardless of the number of SE. Well, you can add up to five SE, and that kw still counts as one “keyword” in their pricing model. I didn’t catch how deep (d) their data delves into the SERPs, but they offer different pricing for three frequencies, ranking from one day to one week.
Some vendors, like AWR Cloud, SerpBook, and others count Google-US, Bing-US, and Yahoo-US as a single SE unit. But they count other SE and location-based SE as individual units. But AWR Cloud only goes a few pages deep for a “keyword” while SERPbook digs to 10 SERPs and still calls it a “keyword”.
Some rank checkers count a keyword as a single SERP. So if you want to check ranks 1-40 (four SERPs) for a keyword in a single search engine, that’s four “keywords”.
Rankinity, as hinted earlier, charges per kw-se combo, with pricing for each pair delivering 10 SERPs.
Some charge only once for a keyword-se combo, regardless of the number of projects in which it appears while others will count each project-keyword-se instance as a separate “keyword”.
Some rank trackers, like SerpBook essentially charge extra for competitor rankings. (“keywords”=kw*SE*s) while other rank trackers will gather ranking data for several sites/urls, for the same keyword, without counting it as extra “keywords”.
Those are just a few examples. The myriad definitions of the “keyword” pricing unit are beyond my tired brains’ abilities to concisely summarize. Sorry! The takeaway is: Make sure you know what their “keyword” is, and how it differs from other vendors you’re considering.
Plan Pricing Break Points – Important Future Thought
Some companies, like SEMRush and Web CEO limit how many projects you can have. Add your 6th project and you have to jump from the former’s $99 “pro” plan to the $199 “guru” plan, (or the latter’s identically modeled “Startup” and “Corporate” plans,) even if you weren’t close to the other price-resource-unit limits of your subscribed service level.
Other rankers charge more to add additional “users”. …I’m telling you, it’s complicated.
Which Search Ranker / Reporting Solution did I choose?
As I hinted before, I originally picked two. Rankinityand SerpBook. But then I learned SerpBook counts each competitor as an individual set of keywords, and that priced them out of the top spot, and maybe even out of honorable mention. BUT they’re still a great option if you don’t want to track much (or any) competitor data. Alas, they’re not a good match for me, because I like to keep an eye on the competition. …I often find it actionable.
Using Rankinity to check once a month is a great value, and I’m still waiting for them to finish importing my data. They said it’ll be a few more days.
But I’m optimistic. …And I’m willing to pay a little extra for the elbow grease that might be required to massage my data into place.
The Proof is in the Pudding
That’s an old proverb dating back to the 1300s meaning: You can only say something is worthwhile after you’ve tested it. As of this writing, I tested what I thought was a top finisher enough to know they’re not a great match for me. I’m still in bed with Rankinity, and after digging into the honorable mentions, below, I’m left with RankWatch in second place.
Because I want to go with two vendors simultaneously, and one of my first picks didn’t pan out, I spent more time digging into RankWatch, WebCEO, SE Ranking, and SEO Rank Monitor to find a replacement. As of this editing (a month after publication) I still haven’t signed with RankWatch, but I will, soon. If they don’t pan out, I’ll update yet again.
Thanks for reading. While I can’t answer specific questions about specific rank-checking candidates, I’m happy to opine on more general bits. Please use the comments section, or if you’re feeling shy, send me an email or something. The rest of this blog post is me kvetching about AWR, and the aforementioned list of competitors. Good luck!
Regarding Advanced Web Ranking
I’ve been unable to run reports without zany errors for over a month now. AWR wasted countless hours of my time denying the problem was theirs. They blamed my proxy provider. So I switched to a different batch of proxies. Nope. AWR still blamed my proxy provider. So I switched to another proxy vendor and dedicated proxies. No dice. AWR said those proxies too were to blame for my continued problems. So I switched to a different batch of IPs. Same problem. (Shoutout to Trusted Proxies. They helped me troubleshoot and were always quick to respond.)
I gathered and presented evidence to the contrary over and over again but Advanced Web Ranking denied any responsibility. At one point, they went nine days without responding to an email or trouble ticket, of which I sent MANY.
So, needless to say, I’d already decided to move on by the time they picked up conversation again. Then a few short days later, on January 31st, AWR apologized and they sent a mea culpa. They’re unable to fix the problem. (Even though competing desktop rank tracker “Rank Tracker” doesn’t suffer from the same problem. …I tested.)
I pre-paid for a couple years of AWR and they gave me a full refund. While the last bit of road to the end was unnecessarily bumpy, at least they ended the relationship with class.
List of SEO Rank Trackers Compared Herein
Note re: crappy data: When I started this task, I didn’t know I’d write this blog post, so I didn’t preserve my data at first. If I determined a candidate was far from the mark, I just deleted their row from the spreadsheet. When I’d whittled down to a couple dozen, I realized I should stop doing that! (#destructive) However, I’m not made of time, so later, as I determined a vendor wasn’t a good match for me, I stopped gathering data for that vendor. The more I whittled the list down, I kept adding more criteria. So, when I mention a list of vendors lacking a particular trait in the criteria sections above, it definitely doesn’t imply all other vendors DO support it.
Here are the twenty-four I compared:
Advanced Web Ranking Cloud
SEO Rank Monitor
Dan Dreifort consults on UX and SEO. He’s trying to find more people with whom to make music in San Diego. Dan also likes food and film. He just ate some ice cream and he’s seen five of the nine 2018 Best Picture nominees, so far. His vote goes to Aronofsky’s un-nominated “mother!” – Best allegorical thriller, EVAR!
I’ve blogged twice before about firing SEO/UX clients, but there are other reasons practitioner and client separate.
What are some reasons to part ways?
The best reason: “Dan, you helped us sell all the inventory. We’re done. Thanks!” (Only happened once: Hawaii housing development)
One of the most annoying reasons: “Some guy in a suit came into our office and shook my hand. They’re cheaper, so we went with them.” (Has happened twice, both clients came back.)
A middle of the road reason: “We’re growing so fast, our goals are ambitious. You’ve helped us, but we’re necessarily somewhat inefficient and crazy-swamped organizationally, so we’re going with a 360-degree, all-inclusive agency who can handle everything under one umbrella.” (Has now happened a few times, including today.)
…It’s not like I can’t help this last subset of organizations in the next step of their SEO/UX journey, (I’ve driven ambitious budgets to success-city before,) but sometimes it makes sense to move on to the next step. There’s a decent chance their new agency will kick ass or at least continue to add value. But there are no guarantees; I’ve seen these moves fail miserably, too.
The good thing about today: I’ve moaned about this client for years. (Ask them, they’ll tell you.) As a thought experiment, I took a 2-month sabbatical from them this past summer. But I stuck with it and helped them grow. Anyhow, I’m thrilled that we’re both moving on. After a fruitful 4+ year engagement, this is a good parting. #Healthy
Hell, just a few hours ago I sent a note to one of my referring agencies telling them fficient SEO & UX is at capacity and not accepting new clients for a while. …Maybe I’ll revisit that thought in a month or two.
Wherein Dan talks himself into buying one via this arpeggiator pedal roundup/shootout. (Spoiler alert: I bought the Tararira.)
What is an arpeggiator pedal?
An arpeggiator is a sequencer. A sequencer plays a series of sounds based on a source and parameters set by you, the user/musician. In the case of an arpeggiator pedal, the “source” is whatever you plug into it: guitar, bass guitar, synth, toy, etc. The parameters are the pedal knobs and buttons, controlling things like: pitch, tempo, order, steps, scale, key, etc. We’ll leave it at that for now.
Why do I want one?
Keep in mind: My criteria for an arpeggiator are likely different than yours. That said, they’re fun. I recently picked up an Electro-Faustus Drone Thing, and this guy seems to have fun pairing it with arpeggiators, so…
EarthQuaker Devices Arpanoid
First I saw the Earthquaker Arpanoid. (Link immediately above). I wanted it.
Its small size and lack of a zillion knobs and whistles belie its nifty factor. However, it lacks a few things I’m looking for: per-note/step pitch control, CV or midi control, tap tempo, etc. And because it lacks features, it doesn’t so much arppegiate as it plays scales. At $225, it’s definitely ‘affordable’ in this lineup.
AARP stands for Automatic Arpeggiated Repeating Patterns, which seems redundant, right? Also questionable product naming, what with the AARP being a 38-million-member thing, and all. Regardless, the AARP v1 has almost everything I want: tap tempo, eight pitch knobs, etc.
While looking for one, I learned about the upcoming AARP v2, but I’m not as attracted to its menu-driven interface (vs. all the knobbies on the older version.)
Regardless, both AARPs are currently unavailable, and you have to be on your Instagram game to snag one from the limited supply when v2 is released circa Q4 2017 or Q1 2018. Price unknown, but certainly higher than the v1’s $275 price tag.
Dwarfcraft Devices PitchGrinder
At $350, it’s not the most affordable option, and while I like that it crunches the signal down to 8-bit awesomeness, it lacks some features I want (external control, pattern control diversity, etc.). Another cool bit about the PitchGrinder: Its “Glide” knob acts as a portamento effect, controlling whether the pedal jumps or glides from pitch to pitch.
Hologram Dream Sequence
$425. It’s much more than an arpeggiator, but I’m not looking for more-than-an-arpeggiator, and I don’t want to spend that much. Furthermore, the UI isn’t setup for a great arpeggiating UX, if you know what I mean.
But it has midi in and out, and an assignable expression pedal insert, and it’s feature-rich. So maybe it’s your jam?
Bananana Effects Tararira
$269 + $20 shipping. This one might be my jam. It doesn’t break the bank – at least in this space, and speaking of space, it’s small, which is a plus. Each of the eight steps is knob controllable. …And if we’re grading on quantity of buttons and knobs, the Tararira is the clear winner, scoring a whopping 19 in the controller bells and whistles column.
^That was my original blurb on the Tararira. Then I bought it. Additional thoughts:
The Bananana Effects Tararira is everything I hoped it would be. (Fun and weird!) It has just about everything I want in an arpeggiator pedal. But if you want me to nitpick, I could say this:
Par for the course with boutique pedals these days, the bottom of the Tararira is plain ole metal. I added four rubber feet to help it stay in place a little.
The scale, step and divider knobs are smooth-spinning, without a tactile hint when you spin to another value. …So you kind of have to visually know where the knobs are, which is tough because they’re small and black, with scant visual cue as to which number value/setting they’re pointing. I plan to remedy this with a little white paint and a tiny paintbrush, or something. If I find appropriately sized and calibrated clicky knobs, I might solder those in instead. But I doubt I’ll find any. Bananana Effects clearly had to make some minor sacrifices for the sake of size and cost. Worthy trade-offs for most consumers, I think.
I’ve no doubt I made the right choice in picking the Tararira. I look forward to many hours of noise-making weirdness with this pedal. You should get one.
Other arpeggiator pedals considered:
Eventide H9 – Billed as “a complete pedalboard in one pedal,” I find it way too separated from effect controls. If you want presets, this might be for you, but if you want knobbies, not so much. $399 + you may purchase/download additional algorithms (read:fx) for more $.
That’s it. I hope to get up the nerve to buy one of these toys soon. Thanks for reading!
Dan Dreifort consults on UX and SEO. He’s been in hardcore noise-punk band ‘Cat Shit’ for over a year now. Accordingly, he and pals are getting ready to scare trick-or-treaters with noise from: Microbrute, Theremini, Drone Thing, and guitar through sundry fx pedals on Halloween. #LureThemInWithCandy
2. Step two: Google is slowly scrubbing its former SEO guru Matt Cutts from its pages. Until new guru John Mueller (no relation) gets a new video on that page, here’s the video that used to be there. Watch it. If you don’t want to watch that first 8-minute video from Cutts, here’s his 3-minute version. Sure, Cutts himself admits (sheepishly) to not using a meta description on all of his personal blog posts, but that doesn’t mean you should be lazy, too.
3. Step three: Some guy on the internet (me) has this to add:
Be mindful of your keywords while crafting titles and descriptions. Use a verbatim or synonym keyword instance or two when appropriate, but don’t keyword-stuff and don’t use keywords unrelated to the content. On larger sites, many of your titles and descrips will NOT contain keywords.
Meta descriptions are ideally between 120 and 156 characters (not words!) including spaces. They can be longer (but should not be shorter) from time to time as long as the “important” stuff occurs in the beginning. Use regular old sentences most of the time in a description.
Titles should be 30 to 65 characters (not words!) including spaces. They can be longer (but should not be shorter) from time to time as long as the “important” stuff occurs in the beginning. Try to get closer to the top end of characters. Use Title/Headline Case for Titles.
Why do we care about titles and descriptions?
Remember, titles and descriptions have two audiences:
Googlebot/SEO: We want Google to rank us well. Google pays attention to titles and descriptions.
Humans/UX: We see titles and descriptions in the SERP, where great language will influence us to click on the listing.
While I’m not suggesting you directly instruct people to click on your listing; you should write something engaging, using your keyword concepts when appropriate. …without telling them to “click”.
“Learn” – “discover” – “find out how…” – are okay, but writing something interesting w/out a CTA is okay, too. If you’re not a fan of click-baity titles, (I loathe them,) avoid that
Regardless, don’t neglect these important opportunities to communicate with your human and robot audiences. The content in these crucial content pieces should be unique; don’t just parrot something you wrote in the body text.
Your Company Name in Titles / Descriptions?
Unless your site doesn’t rank well for your brand name, you should almost never use the client/website name in descriptions or titles, because it would be a redundant waste of precious SEO space. As much as you should omit the website/client name from almost all titles/descriptions, if a page is about a person or a thing, you should probably mention the person or thing in the description. The only other reason to stuff your brand in every title: the brand manual mandates it. (Consider rewriting the manual!)
Should I auto-append anything to my titles, site-wide?
As long as you don’t go overboard and don’t get lazy because of it, sure. Why not? Keep it short and classy. Or don’t do it. …This is more of an opinion than a well vetted SEO fact. Good luck.
PS – New logo for my fficient.com consulting biz is above. I’m going to do a post on the logo process some day. …This postscript is mostly to force me to write it up.
PPS – It strikes me that I should explain why I don’t use title/description best practices on this blog; I can’t. Well, I could, but it would be a pain in my ass. This site is on wordpress.com. If I leave it there and want to edit titles/descriptions, that’s another $20/mo in hosting to upgrade to the business plan. Worth it to a business, but my sales are all word of mouth. I could switch to self-hosted WordPress, but that’s annoying, too. Please add this to the (growing) list of: Please do as I say and not as I do.
PPPS – I’m pretty sure something like the image below used to be on the Google titles/descrips guide. Here’s an image showing where title and description usually appear in SERPs, and how sometimes they don’t.
Dan Dreifort consults on search and usability. To the dismay of his wife and cats, he makes sounds with iCurd.com, synthBand.com, and gurtrudeStein.com.
So, your SEO maven hooked you up with optimized landing pages, but they’re relatively orphaned. (Nobody’s linking to them much, not even you, from your own site.) Should you link to them from your other site pages, like from your blog? Yes. …And no.
Intralinking Case Study (Hypothetical)
Keyword: blue widget
SEO Landing page: …/blue-widget/
Obviously, you mention “blue widget” on other pages too. (If you don’t, get on that. You’ll never rank for a keyword if you only mention it on one page; Google can quickly suss that you’re trying to game the system by optimizing a single page for a keyword.)
Are you selling widgets? Presumably, you have one or more “blue widget” product pages, too, whether or not you’ve opted to make them text-rich pages. (Content is king. Your product pages should be troves of information, but unfortunately some brand identities don’t allow for that.)
So you blog.
You should blog. Be an expert in your field, publicly, often.
You mention blue widgets in a blog. …Hell, you write a blog post about blue widgets. You’ve used several variations on your core “blue widget” keyword in that blog. How can you best use those keyword iterations as link anchor text to other content on your site?
Head to Google.com
Type this in the Google search field:
site:[yoursite.com] [the keyword you’re trying to boost]
…Swapping for your domain and your keyword for the [bits in brackets].
If your blue widget SEO landing page is new, it probably won’t be toward the top of that list yet. You should then definitely link to that blue widget landing page to get it some traction. But what if your landing page is #4 on the list, and a few of your product pages take the top three spots?
Keep it Natural
Sometimes, link to the blue widget landing page. Sometimes link to one of the product pages. We want to tell Google that our whole stinking site (or at least considerable chunks of it) are good pages for them to consider for blue widget Google search results.
So, I should link to several of my pages from my blog?
Maybe a couple. Sometimes just one. Often, not at all, unless you have a good reason to. Blogs shouldn’t be salesy or pitchy. Blogs are for engaging, not selling.
With rare exceptions, I highly recommend against linking to a singleresource multiple times from a single page. But similarly, don’t pack your blog post full of links to every related product and page.
It’s ham-fisted. If your content is overstuffed with links, people can quickly see that over-stuffing; they’ll likely feel like they’re being “advertised at” so to speak. …Google’s even more keen at that assessment; Google knows when you’re stuffing all of your content with links. Keep it natural. (Somewhere between zero links and ‘too many’ links, on average—that’s your goal.)
Anchor Text Variation
Mix it up. Don’t always use “blue widget” verbatim to anchor the link to your other “blue widget” content. “Our blue-tinted widgets…” is fine anchor text. Do you use a synonym for “widget”? (whatever your ‘widget’ is!) Using that synonym as part of anchor text is a great idea! Not everybody searches the same way, and the more ways you’re able to describe your products, the better.
Linking to third party URLs?
Yes. If your brand manual allows it, definitely link to relevant third party content sometimes, or even often. Just don’t link to your direct competitors. No need to help them!
Most of my clients’ blogs do NOT intralink to their own content from their blogs, but they do link to interesting content on other sites from their blogs. That’s best practices, if you can afford it.
Be aware of your keywords when you’re blogging.
Note that most of your blog posts don’t need to link to your own content, but if you’re a brand-strong blog, (i.e. an inbred blog, or otherwise unwilling to link to other sites from your blog,) and that works for you, (lucky,) you can err on the side of always linking to your own supporting content.
site:yoursite your keyword – is the syntax to find out what pages Google likes already. Don’t fight Google, just nudge them.
Don’t always link to the same page; pick a few to regularly reinforce.
Mix up the anchor text, too, if it makes sense.
Linking to other sites is fine. But consider adding “nofollow” to sites you don’t want to help.
Dan Dreifort consults on SEO and UX. He also likes making noise with other musicians.
…Which is fitting, because it’s a tale of things hidden under a rock.
It starts on a farm
My Granddaddy John grew up on a farm in Virginia. It was a big farm. It is possible that his family owned slaves before the Civil War – I don’t know when they acquired the property. Anyhoo. He grew up in the country doing a lot of physical work and hunting and so on. He graduated from UVA when he was something like 17, so they made him wait a couple years before attending their medical school. After medical school he moved to Chicago and met my Grandmother, Jennie, who was from a posh family. She was considered fun but not bright. The closest thing her brothers did to work was playing polo. So they got married and bought a house, had 3 kids, then WWII started.
So, John enlisted and was sent to the east coast of Australia to train as an army doctor in the Pacific Theater. While he was there, he fell in love with Australia. He loved the kangaroo hunting and the strong, outdoorsy people. He felt very at home there. And, he fell in love with a nurse. I don’t know if she was a fellow American or an Australian nurse.
When training was over, John went into the Pacific Theater and endured the horrors of sewing up young soldiers until eventually he contracted such a bad case of malaria that they sent him back to Australia to recover and discharged him, or the war ended – more facts I’m unsure of. At that point, he decided that he was not leaving Australia and planned to start a new life with this nurse. But his older brother wrote him a letter, reminding him that it was his duty to return to his wife and children in Chicago, and basically shamed him into returning.
John was a very strict father. He returned to find Jennie and the children (my mother was the youngest) living with her parents. The children had a live in nanny. John thought they were spoiled and made them work outside while the other children in the neighborhood were playing. Also, he loved the opera before the war, but never attended again when he came home. He drank too much whiskey. Jennie loved parties, but stopped entertaining because John became embarrassingly drunk. He was a mean drunk, and his children did not cross him.
By the time I came along, he had mellowed out. He spent most of his time in his favorite red chair. My entire life, he had two watercolors hanging on the wall next to his chair. I always assumed they were landscapes of Virginia, but once he died, and my grandmother died, and my mother died, and my father died, they came into my possession. Then, I looked up the artist and discovered that they were landscapes by an Australian painter which he brought back with him. My entire life, while he sat in his favorite chair, he was looking at Australia.
Somebody claiming to be Cameron Arballo from Works of Life called both my wife’s and sister’s places of employment and left threatening messages saying that he knows where she/we/I live, amongst other creepy things.
I guess the moral of the story is, if you don’t have a great experience with one of Cameron’s many charities, don’t say anything about it or he (or somebody claiming to be him) will threaten your family.
If you’ve had bad dealings with him or his charity, this guy is looking for evidence and would appreciate your help.
Division of Charitable Solicitations, Fantasy Sports, and Gaming
Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett
312 Rosa L. Parks Avenue, 8th Floor
Nashville, TN 37243
Office 615-253-4575 Fax 615-253-5173