Why does Google not index my page titles properly?

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Aaaargh!! I hate you Google! For the love of all that is sacred, would you please stop arbitrarily deciding how page titles on my websites should be indexed?

Web Designers such as myself spend ages setting up pages with the correct keywords, title, h1 tags et al…

…and it is so frustrating to see you override them nonsensically, resulting in the page slipping into ranking obscurity on page 12 of any given search.

Yes, we’re fighting with everyone else to get our website recognised for the most potential searches, but when the pages are labelled well and match the unique content within, why has Google just taken to ignoring our efforts completely?

I think we’ll use the <h1> tag?!?

So, I’ve got page with a <title> tag as follows: Fiona Wills Accounting Services Ltd – Mobile Accountants Lancaster / Bookkeeping Lancaster / Payroll Services Lancaster

The content of the page has information relating to accountants, payroll, book-keeping and importantly the town Lancaster.

What does Google index? The <h1> tag!

Now obviously we’re not going to create a <h1> tag with the above mouthful in it and we don’t want to have to create separate pages for Accountants Lancaster, Payroll Services Lancaster and Book-keeping Lancaster.

The resulting website would be enormous and creating suitable unique text would be near impossible.

For that reason, we have chosen a shorter <h1> tag of “Accountants, Lancaster”, which nicely sums up all of the above.

But that would be useless in a search…

Indeed it would! Hence the reason it is so annoying that Google has selected that as the page title.

So come on Google, sort your act out and index our pages in the way we label them. And which you’re at it, do the same for the Accountants Garstang and Accountants Preston pages too!

Additional

Is is a few months since I created this post and Google is now not playing ball with another of my sites.

Google, for pity’s sake the <title> tag reads Apex Scaffolders – Scaffolding Hire Lancaster / Scaffolding Contractors Lancaster / Scaffolding Lancaster. Please index it as so!

It is ridiculous that I need to put a link in a blog to try to get you to look at the website properly.

The Farce Continues

The frustration is incredible. You create a page to match a search term and Google are arbitrarily opts to index it incorrectly and serve up something less appropriate in the search results.

I would like the following page to display as created please Read Mobility Workshop – Wheelchair Hire, Sales, Powered, Second Hand, New, Wheelchairs – Blackpool, Fleetwood, Thornton, Cleveleys, Poulton, Lytham, Kirkham, St Annes, Garstang NOT in the way you have opted for!

Why can’t they just use the <title> tag they’re given? How is it that Google thinks it knows what you want your page to be called? If the tag doesn’t reflect the content, then fair enough, don’t index it or reward it, but if it does, then why change it?

Google Instant Test #1 – Emergency Scaffolding North West

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Well truthfully, it’s the third test, but you’ll only know that if you’ve also read my I Hate Google Instant!!! and recent Google Instant vs Internet Explorer posts.

Y’see I’ve become rather obsessed with the pointless refreshes that Google makes to display unwanted search results before I’ve finished telling it what I’m actually looking for.

Obsessed?

Okay, so I am eating normally and going outdoors every now and then to soak up some vitimin D, but it does really annoy me. Read my previous posts if you want the full details.

Anyway, I’m determined to find out what the maximum number of these pointless screen refreshes might be when looking for a legitimate search term. The last posts revealed 11 and 8 respectively, but I’m sure we can beat that!

Here we go…

We’re going to search for ‘Emergency Scaffolding’ in the North West of England. How long before Google gets there I wonder:

  • E – gets me E! Online, an American entertainment news site featuring celebrity gossip and pictures. Hmm… Great, but will it hold my house up?
  • Em – pulls up Empire Magazine, a film review publication from the UK. Yeah, I need scaffolding as my exterior wall is looking like it might collapse after a fire. Not sure I want to read a review of a remake of Towering Inferno thanks…
  • Eme – now I get Emeli Sandé, a singer apparently. Oh good, now I’ll have something to listen to while I wait for the scaffolders to arrive!
  • Emer – brings up Emerald Publishing Group. Er, sorry no!
  • Emerg – results in a Wikipedia definition for the word Emergency, just in case I wasn’t sure…
  • Emergency – gives me a list of emergency tax codes from HM Revenue & Customs. Nope!!!
  • Emergency S – and now I get the Wikipedia page for the emergency services. They’ve already been thanks…
  • Emergency Sc – gets me Emergency Scotland 2011. WTF?!?
  • Emergency Sca – over to a forum page about getting an Emergency Pregnancy Scan. Nooo!!
  • Emergency Scaf – appears to get me what I want as the top result is a scaffolding company in Manchester that operates in the North West, but wait a minute… Under that are several London companies and national companies. Where are my other local solutions?
  • Emergency Scaffolding Nort – well, we’re in the right zone. We’ve got scaffolders, but now they’re in Northampton. Keep trying…
  • Emergency Scaffolding North – excellent, back to scaffolders from (North) London. Oh, and one from North Wales…
  • Emergency Scaffolding North Wes – and we’re finally there!

Just one letter off what I’d have to have typed if I’d done it in full and after suffering 12 unecessary screen refreshes. I’ve eventually got what I wanted though i.e. Emergency Scaffolding North West

Did you say 12? Yes, indeed I did. A new record methinks!

In Conclusion

Why not have a go yourself and see if you can beat it? No prizes I’m afraid, just the kudos of knowing you’ve outsmarted (ahem) a search engine?

P.S. Sorry Google, but it’s too late! Whilst faffing with screen refreshes my wall has collapsed. Off to a bed and breakfast for me tonight…

Google Instant vs Internet Explorer

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Well it’s now nearly nine months since my I Hate Google Instant!!! post and things are no better. In fact, if anything, it seems to be getting worse.

I’ve now given up trying to use Internet Explorer (IE) to do Google queries as I’m sick of having my browser freeze up completely as Google tries to constantly update my screen with interim premature results that have no relevancy to what I’m looking for.

No IE bashing follows…

Now, I know the populist view might be to blame Internet Explorer as an inefficient browser, but I’m sorry to disappoint you all by telling you that it works fine with everything else.

You’d almost think it was a conspiracy though. Are Microsoft trying to force me onto Bing or is Google trying to get me to use Chrome? Well, I’m happy to disappoint both of them. I’m now on Firefox using Google, which still slows to a crawl unnecessarily, but at least doesn’t hang completely.

Sadly, like many other people I can’t ditch Google as despite its recent pointless and irritating improvements, it is still the best search engine for results. Sorry Bing, but you need a lot more than a new name if you want us all to switch.

But what is it for?

Exactly! As per the last post on this subject, we return to the question that has been on everyone’s lips for quite some time, “what exactly is Google Instant for?”

If I wanted the results for half the word or phrase I’m looking for, then surely I’d only be typing half the word or phrase in the first place?

For Example

Let’s take the role of a potential customer for the company of Swap yer for a driveway? fame. So I’m looking for someone who does concrete driveways in the Blackpool area. Here goes:

  • C – pulls up Currys. Er, no I don’t need any electrical equipment thanks..
  • Co – brings up Comet. Hmmm… Didn’t I just say I don’t want any household electrical items?
  • Con – gives me Congestion Charging. Well, it might be useful if I ever go driving in London, but right now I’m in Lancashire..
  • Conc – results in Concorde. A Wikipedia definition? I know that the cost of a new driveway might be equivalent to what it used to cost to fly on Concorde, but I hardly see how it is relevant. Keep trying Google…
  • Concr – after a brief screen freeze, I get the Wikipedia definition for Concrete. Well, we’re getting somewhere I suppose. Did you know that the word originates from the Latin word “concretus” (meaning compact or condensed)?
  • Concrete D – gets me one of those awful internet directory sites promising to get me the best pattern imprinted concrete installer in my area, whilst bombarding me with Google AdSense adverts…
  • Concrete Driveways – I now get Paving Expert, a very interesting site with a forum, faqs and more about paving and pattern imprinted concrete created by former installers who now do consultancy work for large urban projects. Not much use for my humble dwelling!
  • Concrete Driveways B – and next is  a local patterned concrete supplier for the Bristol area
  • Concrete Driveways Bl – and finally Blackpool! Wahoo! We’re there.

Okay, so that’s eight wholly unnecessary screen refreshes before I get to what I was after, namely Concrete Driveways Blackpool.

And was it faster? Nope!! In fact, the slow down and occasional freeze means that it takes longer. So what’s the point?

No better than spam…

And here’s a thought. Spam (unsolicited email, not the meat of Monty Python fame) gets a bad name for a number of reasons, one of them being that worldwide it accounts for significant unwanted network traffic, making servers work much harder for no reward.

Well, could Google not be said to be doing the same? We’re not talking about advertising here, but worldwide, Google Instant must be using exponentially more bandwidth than is necessary and for little result.

Even customers I’ve spoken to whose browsers do not freeze have said that they largely ignore what’s happening on the screen until they’ve finished typing!

No solution in sight…

And after all this time, and the internet awash with blogs posts like this one, Google still hasn’t taken the hint and provided a foolproof way to disable it.

It can be disabled using Google’s settings screen, but that means it gets stored in a cookie which is lost as soon as internet savvy individuals like myself clear down their temporary internet files. i.e. every time my browser closes.

C’mon Google, please, please, please either get rid of this useless irritating gimic or give us a querystring value that we can pass to turn the damned thing off.

And relax…

Right, rant over. Time to get back to work.

I Hate Google Instant!!!

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Aaarghhh!!! I bloody well hate Google’s new predictive search results thingy (aka Google Instant). Why Google? Why? What have your loyal users done to you?

Why do you wish to punish us? Why have you taken something that worked and made it into something that doesn’t? Why, given the groundswell of opinion (for I know I am not alone in this), have you not changed it back?

What’s So Bad About It?

Well, how about the way my screen freezes up whilst I’m typing? Which in turn causes missing letters if I type fast as its too busy refreshing to acknowledge my keypress. And the fact that it is actually now slower to show results? Plus the other irritating new feature that when you use your cursor key now, instead of whizzing down the screen quickly so someone who knows what they’re doing can quickly scan the results, it steps slowly through the results one at a time.

But the all time most unforgivable thing about it is the most obvious: The fact that I never ever want the results for half the word or phrase I’m typing, because if I did…, I’d only be typing half the word or phrase in the first place!!!

An Example

Let’s look at a fairly typical example. I’m sat at work and I want to find somebody local who supplies workwear and other clothing embroidered with my company logo or slogan, so I set off typing “Embroidered Workwear Lancaster” into Google.

  • Em – pulls up Empire Magazine. A movie magazine with film reviews? Er, no thanks…
  • Emb– brings up Embarassing Bodies. A TV show examining problems with people’s privates? Can I wear them to work? Noooo!!
  • Embr – gives me Embrace. An English Indie band? Some cool tunes, but not really what I’m after..
  • Embro – gives me a Wikipedia definition for Embroidery. Well, we’re getting nearer, but I already know what it is thanks. Now I know about it’s origins too. Great, but if I had wanted that I would have typed “What is Embroidery” or “Definition Embroidery” or maybe “History of Embroidery”?
  • Embroidered – firstly gives me a screen freeze, then Logos 4 Polos. Well, that is what I want, but I want someone local who I can go and talk to about my needs…
  • Embroidered W – gives me another supplier, but not local…
  • Embroidered Workwear – and another…
  • Embroidered Workwear L – sighs… and another…
  • Embroidered Workwear La – one more…
  • Embroidered Workwear Lan – another…
  • Embroidered Workwear Lanc – hey, guess what…
  • Embroidered Workwear Lancast – and eventually…

Wahoo!! At last!! The thing that I was searching for: Embroidered Workwear in Lancaster

And it only took me two less keypresses than if I’d had to type it in full, along with 11 pointless screen refreshes and a screen freeze. Now, had I been typing quickly that screen freeze would have caused me to miss characters so it would have taken longer.

And that in essence is the point. It does take longer! And what’s good about that?

So Google, Please Take Note

If you’re going to introduce new features to the world’s most popular search engine, why not try them as an “opt in” feature rather than alienating your user base and driving them elsewhere?

But more importantly, sometimes just because a thing can be done, doesn’t mean it should be. This feature sounds lovely as a concept and I’m sure it was, but in reality it is a steaming pile of bovine droppings! 2/10. See teacher after class. Do not pass go!

In Conclusion

Well, I’m still going to use Google as even despite these glitches it remains the best option available… For now?

Okay, all I have to decide now is whether to be formal and wear a shirt, less formal and get an embroidered polo shirt or go casual with a printed t-shirt.

Why I strongly dislike Search Engines!!

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Okay, so I know it’s probably not best thing for a web developer to say, but it really needs to be said! Search engines are a pain in the proverbial back-side.

Now, please don’t misunderstand. I use Google (still the UK search engine of choice) every day and I pride myself on being able to manipulate the results to find what I’m after.

And also, don’t get me wrong, website development itself can be a challenging and rewarding pastime, but its ugly sister, search engine optimisation is anything but. It is instead a frustrating and illogical nightmare.

Illogical nightmare?

Yep, that’s definitely the right word. Creating websites using programming languages and tools is done using a set of rules that on the whole make sense and generally behave as you’d expect (with some notable variations on how different browsers render HTML and CSS elements).

However, search engine optimisation (or SEO – the act of trying to increase a website’s position in Google et al), is based on a random set of rules and algorithms created by the search engine in question.

These change on a regular basis and are most certainly not based on logic, rather a desire to ensure that previously successful and therefore overused SEO techniques do not work.

So what are these crazy rules?

Well, suppose I do a website for a Blackpool based building contractor who amongst other things, specialises in property refurbishment.

When somebody types “Property Refurbishment Blackpool” into Google, we want their website to appear in the first 2-3 pages of the search results. After all, as we all know, beyond that and nobody will ever look at it.

How do we do this? Well, if there’s one thing Google has always liked, it is unique and regularly updated website content.

Unique? Hmm, he’s a builder and although there’s a lot you can say about building, the likelihood of a local builder coming up with anything revolutionary is highly unlikely. Regularly updated? Er, he’s a builder, NOT a journalist. He quite rightly spends his days building, rather than writing interesting building articles or keeping a diary about his ongoing building work.

Or take another example, what about an on-line store selling thermometers? Their website content is regularly updated with new products, promotions and reviews, but as with most companies, they’re in a competitive market.

What else can we do? Well, Google really likes (apparently) organic links to your website from social sites such as blogs and forums. Great, but let’s face it, when a customer buys a digital thermometer the first thing they think isn’t “I know, I’ll go and stick a link on a relevant forum about how much I like this thermometer”.

They may, at some point in the future; if they do use a forum; and the forum allows links; and they did like the thermometer; and someone happens to ask if anyone can recommend a thermometer; and they see that person’s post; and they can remember where they bought the thermometer; and they have the inclination; they MAY post a link to the website where they bought the thermometer and say “Here, try this one…”.

It all sounds unlikely…

It sounds unlikely and it is, because virtually none of this happens naturally. Sites achieve top ranking in many cases because their owners dedicate significant amounts of money and / or time to the aforementioned search engine optimisation (SEO).

Website content, reviews, links, comments, articles, etc. are nearly all created artificially to make Google et al believe that a website is important and should be prioritised above others within their search results. Virtually none of it is natural (or organic) which ironically, is what Google purports to like.

There’s a huge amount of content out there that exists solely to promote business websites and the internet is becoming clogged up with it! So much so that search results often show that content rather than the types of business it is intended to promote.

In the real world, builders create a website as a one-off exercise to advertise their business. They only want to change it when they start offering a new service, swap their mobile number, move premises or have a new project they’re particularly proud of, etc..

But that’s all good for you isn’t it?

Well it is and it isn’t. As stated, I don’t actually enjoy SEO work. Plus, you try going to talk to a local tradesman and say it’s going to cost more to promote your website than it is to create it.

And that you can only really guess how much money might be required. And that if Google decides to change its algorithms overnight, their precious good ranking could be lost and further money and effort may be required to re-instate it.

But the thing that really irks me is that it doesn’t make sense and I think Google can do better. Popularity and linking makes sense for social sites, hobby sites, special interest sites and the like, but not for businesses.

Internet users do not naturally link to boring and functional business sites, they rarely blog about them (unless they’ve been dissatisfied with their service) and they certainly don’t write articles about them!

For these reasons, it is stupid of Google et al to score business sites in the same way as other sites.

In conclusion…

Could be a better solution on the horizon? Google already seems to be trying to build a better business directory via it’s maps function.

Sadly though, as long as business websites are ranked alongside others and Google uses algorithms rather than human judgement to rank sites, there’s going to be a continued need for SEO of some kind.

And eventually I’m just gonna have to charge more for doing it…

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