Thursday, May 30, 2013

How To Build And Write a Blog for Good SEO Practices (Tags and Categories)

Blog Writing, Tag, Category Best Practices and SEO Premises. 

Please keep in mind that I'm am by no means, the end all of information on this issue.  All I've done here is compile a few notes I've shared with friends and then, thought to myself, "Hey!  I should compile these into a post!  That, and I thought I'd quit pestering my buddy.

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If you're starting a blog and are wondering about some simple things you can do to help gain a little bit of traction on the internet, I think I have some decent, basic insights to that. Especially after battling the web for the last few years with various blogs and seeing what works and doesn't work for my site.

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As far as your blog's SEO (Search Engine Optimization), there are some simple things that can be done to help your blog start to get more traction on the web.  Or at least, simple starter things that won't set you back.

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Using Categories and Tags Properly

According to WordPress.com support, the maximum number of relevant tags or categories, total, per post should not exceed 15.

Categories and tags are ways to put your articles into bins of content.  It's a way to label and mark them for reference, and could be viewed as a keyword sort of reference.

(In WordPress.com blogs, these are "FILED UNDER" or, as the world of blogging might call it, categories.  And TAGS.  Or, as the world of blogging might call it, um, tags.

One thing you want to do is try to minimize the # of cats and tags and be as smart as possible about picking them. 

It's like categories (or cats) are the titles of a book, and tags could be viewed as the chapters of the book. Another way to look at it is categories could be considered a table of contents and tags are references to the subject of the post.

In other words, categories collects groups of posts under that heading.

It's been suggested that the fewer, the better, of both.

Over on Brusimm.com, I've kept my categories to a bare minimum.  The reason being that you want the references to each article to be smart and efficient so folks can end up navigating faster between articles.

At this time, I might have more than 5,000 posts, but I only have a few categories.  And if need be, a sub category or two.  Of course, with that many posts, categories can get pretty numerous.

For example, when I write about a movie, I choose the category of entertainment and its sub-category of movies. 

Second, you SHOULD NOT have tags with the same name as the categories.  You've already labelled your article movies to a degree with the category, you don't need a tag for movies.  If you have to have a tag, then don't use the cat of movies.

So in my imaginary post, I am now thinking about choosing a tag.

If my article were about a movie called Gasbutt, where stupid people fart, and everyone evacuates buildings and runs down the street away from the farting people, and if they didn't run away, they'd suffocate and mutate into green clouds of gas, then my tag(s) might just be Gasbutt.

But my other tags WOULD NOT BE

fart, farting, evacuate, buildings, running, people, butt, mutate, suffocate, green, gas and one of my personal favorites that shows off one's real expertise or inexperience at the hobby, "blog!"

So that's Category: Entertainment/Movies
Tagged gasbutt.

Also I learned from personal observation that Google just might frown on too many tags and duplicate cat/tag naming.  (I can't prove it, but I've seen some things I've done and seemingly paid a price for that deed, that make me believe that.)

It's tough to back up and choose the minimalist approach to articles.

Keep in mind, if your blog name has movie or TV or something subject related, more than likely you won't need that cat or tag.  If your blog is Bruce's Car Racing, you seriously don't need a cat or tag with car, racing or car racing.  Your site title will more than likely cover that aspect that Google, Bing and Yahoo are looking for.

And Google and those guys has learned to read content, so they know what they're seeing when the web bot comes by.

Blog Titles

When naming your article, give the title a good name.

When you try being catchy, with a title like, "Oh No, Look What Broke!," think of this way:  Who on the web is using Google or Bing to search for Oh, No, Look, What or Broke?

No, they'll be looking for broken MP3 player.  SO it's important in how you phrase your titles.   I like to label my fix articles, "How To Fix My (item name here)"

The simpler approach to titles:  If I wanted to find this, what would I ask? Think about it.  If you go on the web looking for something, how would you phrase your search to look for it? (And keep titles to or under 70 characters.  SEO guidelines note that Google only sees those first 70 or so characters.)

Yep, that's what I'm talking about.  Much like the title of this very post.

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

An Important Post for Fans and Readers of Bruce's Stuff on Brusimm

Hey gang, I thought I would touch base with you, via this and my Facebook post, on a change I will be attempting, a test, so to speak, on where I post what these days.  And I have to do it via this venue because I have a wicked troll pestering my site, Brusimm.com.

As some of you probably noticed, Brusimm went down last week because of technical issues with having a shared hosting service account with HostGator.  It's not HostGator's fault.  Up until this year, they've been fairly bullet-proof and reliable.  It's a combination of factors.

I don't have the money to pay for a dedicated server, and shared hosting has its limitations.  Last week, the tech department gave me three reasons over the course of the 24-hour period that they had shut me down, as to what the issue was.

So pick one: 

Too many posts in my WordPress installation.  (Never mind how other sites can have thousands of posts and not have issues.)

Too many plugins.  (Never mind how simple most reputable plugins are, or that I've cut back on plugins over the last few months.)

Google's over-zealous web bots that scour my site, and hence the server my site is on, sometimes apparently get out of control and impacts traffic to the other sites hosted on the server.  (Not that you see this as some sort of common issue with dedicated websites, but it is what it is.)

Now I don't equate the following to HostGator, but I have it on fairly decent authority that sometimes, questionable hosting companies will pull some fascinating stunts to force users to upgrade. 

This seems like one of them, but I also like swearing by this hosting company that was recommended by a trusted peer.  And being I've had near monthly show-stopping issues over the last few months, well, it got me to thinking how best to proceed.

(To WordPress.com users, this is a WordPress.org issue, for self-hosted sites.  If you're using .com, a completely different entity, this is not something you need to worry about.)

So to help alleviate my situation,

I can't reduce my plugins.  I've got what I've got for good reason.

With every new post, I've been deleting 2 to 5 older, non-relevant posts from the 2009, 2010 years.  This, in the hopes of reducing the footprint of my blog on HostGator's servers, and to start minimizing the traffic impacts that Google creates when they scour my site.

And yet, since I'm so damn chatty about things, oh what should I do?

I've decided to start using my other sites that are custom domains hosted with Google's Blogger tool. 

I have no post limitations, I can post to any Facebook page vie RSS Graffiti, and still get my stuff out to Twitter... sort of.  (I've to to work on refining that aspect.  Each site has its own Twitter account, but I'll be needing to get them all over on Brusimm's Twitter account by RT'ing manually.  For now.)  That should not be hard, using another tool at my disposal, TwitterFeed.

About that "Troll," I have a persistent commentor on Brusimm who won't go away. 

I've tried blocking his email's IP address, but it changes.  I've tried blocking his user name, but he changes that.  I've tried blocking his email address, but he's been changing that.  I started blocking his email ISP provider (It's a rare one), but he's changed ISP's and email providers. 

He's pretty persistent, or bored, or what have you.  So I did not want to post this on Brusimm, because if he caught wind of this there, I'd have a harder time beating his comments and tracking his efforts.

So, sorry about this end-around, but it's what I had to do, short of turning off comments on the site.

Later gang!

-Bruce

Of Cell Phones, Radiation and Tumors

Do you remember way back in the early days when some folk were suggesting that cell phones could be bad for your health?  Do you, like myself, remember a very curious case where one man's brain tumor was the size and shape of his old cell phone's antenna?

Well, "experts" have always said that there isn't a health issue or strong correlation between heavy cell phone usage and other issues.  (Bear in mind those studies were also funded by the very organizations that were developing and selling cell phone technology.)  Hence, most good  and curious studies seemed to have been done overseas, where no money is at stake when a company says that they saw some form or correlation of issues.  It makes sense.  Why destroy your company's livelihood over some facts?  Right?

(Ok, I'm getting a bit snarky there)

So check out this piece I came across today...

Over on MNN.com, they did a piece on how some ninth-grade students did a quick study on the potential of cell phone radiation effects on humans.

To test a theory, they took six trays of plants and placed them in one room, while in another room, they placed six more trays of plants next to some computer routers.

Per their calculations, they estimate that the same type of radiation is emitted by their router that is emitted by a cell phone.

They let their quick growing plants take root and twelve days later, when they went to check on them, it seemed that the plants, Lepidium sativum, a type of garden cress, that were next to the router, did not grow, while the other test plates grew quite nicely.

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In a great article covering the issue on ABC News, there's the valid argument that maybe the heat from the routers caused the non-growing condition.  So there's that, despite the students being diligent about the moisture content of the test plants.

The ABC article goes on to point out a similar test where ash trees were subjected to various kinds of radiation for a three month period, and the trees started developing sign of radiation sickness.

Interesting things to ponder.  That's for sure.  I think I'm going to be using my speaker-phone mode, at arm's length from now on!  LOL.

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sources: MNN, ABC News.

A Victim of Pandas and Penguins as Google Takes Over My Life


This is an insight of my experience trying to play Google's web rank game.  (And finding a MUCH EASIER way to add a picture to my Picasa album, by posting an image with this post.  LOL.)

Here we go. 

It started a few years ago when Google stopped reporting top search queries to website owners in their Analytics package.  Curious, but it is what it is.

Then they pulled their social media tracking tool from usage.  No biggie, it only took a name, then located every single social network that name participated in.  It wasn't a very useful tool to the general public, though I'm betting it is to Google.

Then they started to refine how they snag search results and ranking them. 

They started applying huge updates to their search process, called Panda and Penguin.  Both updates destroyed my own web traffic.  Despite being an honest and upstanding web-citizen, unlike some out there that still rank.

Of the updates, Google said they wanted to give more credit to the originating news and info sources.  But after test upon test with my own material, I don't see that panning out.

Then, while NO ONE was picking up the mantle of the Google+ community, suddenly we found (or heard) that if you become part of that community, then you can have a better author ranking on the web because of it.  (Didn't the Justice Department slap Microsoft's hands for trying to pool their resources and product offerings like this?)

But even though I've attempted to jump through that Google+ hoop, it has not helped in any way, shape or form for me or my primary website.  Plus, if I decide to experiment with a blog, if my experiment is a bad one, then that will ding me, across the board.  If I understand their "Author Ranking" intent correctly. 

So they've got me jumping on their bandwagon, "interacting" with my community, and still, nothing.

Still, a victim of Pandas and Penguins.

Today I was trying to tool around with Picasa webs, Google's online photo product.  That's when I realized, while waiting several minutes for it to let go of my browser, that even G+ uses the damn thing.  And trying to interact with it was frustrating.  Not to mention, trying to sort and organize seems more painful than most other photo hosting sites.

Sadly, this post was motivated so I could add an image to my Picasa album, because Facebook is developing a whacky "image requirement" in posts.  I know that seems confusing, but basically, if I don't add an image, FB grabs the first image it can find, which was in my side-bar.  So I'm adding the above post image, so I can then snag the Picasa link to it, and add it to my sidebar.  THEN, if FB doesn't change much for a few weeks/months, I won't be needing to worry about what image it puts up with my RSS Graffiti postings to my FB pages.

Yes, complicated, and annoying to try to have a simple, honest online existence, and find that if you're not one of the big guns, you are the dust between the keyboard buttons!

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Bruce E. Simmons,
Owner/Editor/Writer:
Brusimm on Twitter & Facebook & G+ ;
The parent site for this blog.  (Ignore that g+ link, seriously, I wouldn't want to put you through yet another Facebook-like experience!)
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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Hostgator: A Great Hosting Site, When They're Not Taking Your Site Offline

Since HostGator pulled my site down, I've had time to ponder, write and ponder more.  This is my most recent experience with what happens when something goes afoul with a shared hosted website!  For most folk, this is probably going to be a boring read.  For others, like beginning webmasters or bloggers, it could at least be a unique read of one fellow blogger's experience.

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Today (5-22-13) I had my primary blog shut down by HostGator. (Again).  Yep, this isn't my first experience getting my site shut down by HostGator.

Disclaimer: As a shared hosting provider, the customer service for most inquiries from HG has been quick and efficient.  Over the last few years, since early 2010, I knew that when I submitted an eticket, I'd get a fairly quick reply.  The HostGator team has been quick , efficient and friendly.

On the down side, I've also submitted etickets 14 times for my website being offline intermittently.  In almost all of those cases, the site was down for mid-day maintenance and usually returned to life within minutes of my discovering it was down.

Yet since December of 2012, my site has been the target of overloaded processes or issues three different times.  In each instance, well, it's been pretty exciting tackling these issues.

And since the beginning of 2013, I get a different vibe from the customer support of this very popular hosting company, which is giving me second thoughts about what I'm doing here, when they keep me waiting from 1.5 to 3 or 4+ hours with replies?

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HostGator was recommended to me by a friend I trust.  And when you look around at reviews of different hosting providers, the organization is usually at the top of the different lists. (Lists compiled pre-2013)  But I'm not sure or recall if those lists are focused on shared hosting.  And one other thing that came to mind today, was another trusted peer who suggested that shared hosting companies tend to have issues develop or make statements that promote their more expensive hosting opportunities.

That came to mind because today while my system warning email was telling me about my issue, one of the potential fixes was to upgrade to a dedicated server.  Can't afford that, but thanks!  (How odd, I thought.)

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Today's issue was:

"This message is to advise you of a temporary block placed on your database. The database associated with the script in "<my database>" was found to be consuming an inordinate amount of mysql connections, to the point of degrading overall system performance."

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Other or past issues:

On 4-21-13 my account was not getting backed up because I had too many inodes (files).  Yes, you do have unlimited bandwidth and disc space.  But you have limits on the number of files you're allowed to have.  I found that to be interesting.

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On 3-12-13:  "I apologize, but I was forced to suspend the directory {***} as multiple scripts inside were causing high loading issues on the server."

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12-18-12:  It appears that a crawler robot (or robots) was causing a high load on the server, and due to this affecting all of the other accounts on the system, we were forced to take immediate action for the health of the server.

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At the time of writing this paragraph, I've been locked out of my site's database for 13 hours.  3 hours ago I submitted my IP address to have access to my database so I can apply one of their recommended fixes.

(I was killing time waiting for a reply by looking around at other shared hosting options.  It looks like I have competitive options out there like InMotion, BlueHost, Hub, and a whole bunch more.  I hate the idea of leaving HG, but my LOW TRAFFIC site that's impacting their server seems to keep having issues over there of late.

{ Here are some of the other options I happened to see recommended out there while tooling around and waiting for responses (UPDATE 6/13: I just learned that bluehost is owned by the same company that took over HostGator!):
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My latest observations, as of when I wrote this section, is that my access to my site has been restricted to me for 24 hours.  And now, rather than at least having a stagnate site up and my not posting to it, the entire site has been taken offline. 

THIS IS NOT the HostGator I first signed up with.  Prior to 2013, if you had an emergency, they seemed to be right on it and rarely kept you waiting.

This year, it feels like a completely different experience.  As if they've changed hands or management.  This could be the cost of company growth.

I looked at my tickets I logged with HG and it seemed that 1 to 2 hour gaps between communications (not something I'm used to):

HostGator Notice:  01:54:27 PM | Mar 12th, 2013
             my reply: 02:01:18 PM | Mar 12th, 2013
HostGator reply:    04:03:45 PM | Mar 12th, 2013
Me:                      04:34:45 PM | Mar 12th, 2013
HostGator Final reply: 05:37:29 PM | Mar 12th, 2013

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Todays fun:

HostGator Notice: 10:28:32 AM | May 22nd, 2013
My reply:              03:04:45 PM | May 22nd, 2013 (Weird time stamp... I contacted them around 7ish my time.)
After using Live Chat to EXPIDITE the process:
HostGator:            11:44:07 PM | May 22nd, 2013
My reply:              12:38:43 AM | May 23rd, 2013
HostGator reply     01:25:54 AM | May 23rd, 2013
My A.M. reply:      08:17:56 AM | May 23rd, 2013
HostGator             11:21 AM | May 23rd, 2013

It feels obvious my emergency is not their urgency or even, seemingly on their radar.  But that's my emotional opinion on an alleged presumed situation on their end.  I'm sure they are working very hard on various issues, and mine only being one of them.

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I did notice an interesting tidbit in their latest reply from 9+ hours ago... in that they told me I have too many posts, comments and plugins and that's why my site was causing server issues.

(So first it was a script, and now it's too many posts.)

Yet a few weeks ago I had ripped out a few hundred older posts and was running quite fine until yesterday.  And I never came close to those original post numbers from a few weeks back.

And now that my functionality has returned, they apologized for the wait because they have a high number of tickets today (eh?) and it seems that now, I've been informed that search engine robots were the cause for my issue.  So this malarkey about my database and other things seemed a bit off.  They suggested that I control the robot crawl rates.  Which I did the last time this happened.  And high number of tickets?  Was that the issue for my waiting around last time also?

All just valid questions rumbling around in my mind.

But so be it, I did my best to comply with their issues.

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Days like this really make you think, that's for sure!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Akismet is Good, But It's Not That Good

Akismet is the friend of all bloggers.  It snags suspected spam comments and known spam comments.  And over time, many folk become rather accustomed to it doing its job.

But I found a serious flaw with Akismet that is rather disappointing or maybe could be looked at as annoying.

On a few occasions I've had someone come to the site to be a troll and I just decided enough is enough.  So I told Akismet to spam the user.  Sure enough, next time back it worked on him.  But then he changed how he was signing his comments, and he was getting through the filter again, despite coming from the same IP address his other name came from.

So I spammed that comment.  He changed his user name, again, same IP, and I had to manually remove his troll comment again.  And again, and again and again.  I was getting ready to just spam all blackberry addresses, since this visitor was coming from a Blackberry address, but decided against it.

So the user used different user names and he came in via a few different IP addresses.  Maybe 3 different ones.  I always thought Akismet was IP based, but it seems that maybe its not.

Of course, as a blogger, you could pay the $5 per month and get an API key and then, it would probably go to town on this cretin.  And I may just do that.  I haven't been using it for that long, and overall, it does seem to work.

But I thought you should be apprised.