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?

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This time next year Rodders, I DON’T want to be a millionaire…

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A shout out to the legendary line from the BBC classic sitcomOnly Fools and Horses“, but with a slight twist.

No, not the one bought to you by Chubby Checker, although it is a cracking song!

What twist then?

Well, I’ve been doing website design for local businesses in Blackpool, Preston, Lancaster and surrounding areas for 1¾ years now and I’ve been encountering a worrying trend.

Many of my clients have been trading for a number of years and obviously when enquiring about a website, they want it to bring in more customers.

BUT… and this is the twist…

Not too many!

“Porquois?”, I hear the French readers ask

Why indeed? Exactly what I said the first time a self-employed businessman said what I thought equated to “I want to be comfortably off, but not rich”.

In fact, what they were actually saying was “earning more money just isn’t worth the hassle”. WTF?!?

What they were referring to was Britain’s over-bloated legislation, bureaucracy and health and safety culture, which cripples our business at all levels.

Y’see, gaining more work eventually means that you need help to fulfill the extra demand.

To employ or NOT to employ?

And that’s where it begins for most businesses. Introduce an employee and all of a sudden you’re faced with:

PAYE, health and safety training, fire safety training, risk assessments, audits, inspections, sick pay, maternity leave, paternity leave, added insurance, ad infinitum.

Suddenly the businessman is buried under a mountain of paperwork and bills that prevent them from doing the day job. i.e. the bit that actaul makes them money.

And after fighting their way through this minefield of bureaucracy, many are faced with the dawning realisation that despite having a much higher turnover, the add-on costs of having staff (combined with paying them of course!) means that they themselves aren’t actually any better off than before!

They’re effectively flogging themselves to death on the governement’s behalf to provide a livelihood for others.

Not so “Casual” labour…

The admin and cost involved also means that casual labour is becoming a thing of the past for all but big organisations.

This in itself is ridiculous as it is small businesses (particularly tradesmen) that are more likely to require it. Keeping regular staff might not make financial sense for a one-man band, but dipping into the labour market when you land a big job definitely makes sense.

And with millions on the dole, it makes sense for the country too.

Not to implicate anyone I’ve ever done work for, but the end result is often “cash in hand” work, where the governement receives no tax and ironically the individual does not benefit from the very health and safety which is supposedly so important.

And then we have…

Where there’s a blame there’s a claim!!

Come the revolution brother, these parasites should be the first ones against the wall.

Oops! Bit too harsh?

No-one is suggesting that people placed in genuinely dangerous situations which they’re not trained to handle shouldn’t be compensated, but common sense needs to apply.

Why should a chap who has manufactured wrought iron gates and railings for over 25 years without managing to seriously injure himself  pay out compensation to some pillock stupid enough to drill through their own hand or weld without provided goggles?

The answer is simple. He doesn’t, because he chooses not to employ anyone.

For him on his own, health and safety consists of one thing: good old fashioned “common sense”. Add an employee into the mix and the law starts to apply, along with the risk that that employee really shouldn’t be allowed to use scissors, let alone a blow torch.

Keeping it in the family

One option many businesses use to get round some of the risks and extra costs of  employees is to employ family members either to fill in when busy or as permanent staff.

A husband and wife team I worked with in Lancaster offering embroidered clothing were a perfect illustration of this, both working full time on the business regardless of current demand.

Even where they’re not an official partner or employee, many a husband or wife of a self-employed person find themselves dragged in every now and then to help with fill-in tasks, answering the phone and paperwork.

Avoiding the dreaded VAT threshold

The other huge hurdle that many small businesses don’t want to cross is the dreaded VAT threshold and all the extra administration and costs it brings, combined with the need to put your prices up and therefore risk losing some of your hard won existing customers.

Working with a plumber in Blackpool, he asks the obvious question. If I can come to your house and unblock your toilet for £50, why would you want to pay me £60?

What Hope For Britain?

Without getting overly political, but if that’s the understandable attitude of our small businesses, how are we to compete with the likes of Germany, Japan and America on the economic world stage.

Is it any wonder our unemployment is so high when businesses are so actively discouraged in so many ways from reducing it?

Surely it is in the country’s interests to stem this flow of legislation?

And having raised the issue and asked the questions, there I leave it. The myriad of factors to blame are far too many to be covered here and would require a much longer post. Perhaps my next one?

Is it all bad?

Well, obviously not. I have also dealt with many small businesses that employ staff and have worked through everything outlined above, but there is also a pattern to those businesses. See if you can spot it.

How easy is it to erect scaffolding on your own, fit double glazing or parcel up and post hundreds of thermometers a day for your on-line mail order company?

Answer? Nigh on impossible.

Thought you’d spot it.

In Conclusion…

Whilst I’m now nearing being well established and comfortably in work without needing to regularly check direct debits aren’t going to make me overdrawn, I’m still a long way off needing staff.

I’ll cross the bridge when I come to it, but I think the answer has already been made for me.

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.

Are printed T-Shirts interesting enough for a post?

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Hmmm… A difficult question to answer? I’d guess that a quick straw poll would almost unanimously turn up a “No” verdict, but let’s see how we get on…

Before we bgein, if you haven’t already, reading my Why being a Web Developer is interesting… post may help provide a little context as this post broadly follows on from that one.

Printed T-Shirts?

I recently completed a website design for a Lancaster company, that specialises in printed and embroidered clothing in Lancaster, Morecambe, Heysham, Kendal and surrounding areas.

Whilst putting their site together, I was plunged into the heady world of printing on t-shirts, as well as bags, other clothing, ceramics, jigsaws and even cheese boards!!

Now let’s be clear, this is not the cheap shoddy t-shirt printing you used to get on Blackpool and Morecambe sea-fronts, which lasted all of three washes before flaking off.

Modern printing is of high quality, lasts wash after wash and some types can withstand temperatures of up to 80°C.

“Some types?”, do I hear you say? Ah yes, for as I now know, there are several methods of printing available dependent on your needs. The four I learnt about were screen printing, transfer printing, decorative film printing and sublimation.

For screen printing and sublimation, I’d suggest you follow the relavent links through to Wikipedia for a much better technical explanation than I could muster.

Transfer Printing

With transfer printing images are printed via a computer or scan onto a high quality transfer sheet. This is then heat-pressed onto the garment to produce a lasting print.

Prints can include full photographic images or any other design and can be applied to both light and dark garments.

Used for a single items upwards, this method is ideal for things like personalised gifts and photos on stag and hen party t-shirts.

Note, you can buy cheap kit versions of these for your home printer at PC World and the like, but I can tell you from experience that they don’t last and will quickly leave you with an unwearable t-shirt with a murky flaky picture in the middle of it.

Decorative Film Printing

This method is used for logos and text, such as individual names and numbers. Lettering is cut out from the decorative film and applied to the garment in up to 3 layers, allowing for a combination of colours and styles.

True to its name, the decorative film itself comes in a wide variety of colours and styles, such as flock, glitter, sparkle, leopard print and other special effects.

Ideal for names and numbers on personalised teamwear and sportswear such as football shirts and for company names on printed workwear.

Screen Printing

Designs for this method are completed on a computer and printed straight to the garment using silk screen printing.

Typically, this is used for volumes of 25+ identical garments and so is ideal for things like marketing promotions and giveaways.

Sublimation

Used for high quality full colour photographic images from a single item to large numbers, sublimation is ideal for white (only) clothing, as well as promotional items and personalised gifts such as mugs and mouse-mats.

In Conclusion…

Bored? Well, you can’t win them all. You probably won’t enjoy my forthcoming post on embroidery either!

Interested? Know of any other methods that I haven’t included? Why not post them below and help celebrate the interesting world of printing.

Why being a Web Developer is interesting…

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Okay, it’s an established fact and one that my fellow I.T. nerds (or geeks if that’s your preference) are more than aware of. Computing, being a software developer, hardware techie or anything remotely related to the world of I.T. is dull as dishwater as far the rest of society is concerned.

Every I.T. professional will tell you that when at a party or gathering of any kind with friends, family or strangers, they’ve learned from bitter experience not to talk about what they do, let alone try to explain it to anyone.

The truth is nobody cares or is the faintest bit interested. You can see their eyes glaze over and their anxious glances over to the other side of the room where another group is having a much more interesting conversation. Probably about football or shopping as the classic line from Trainspotting goes.

So why is being a Web Developer interesting?

Well I suppose I ought to be truthful and say that for some people it won’t be. There is a section of society that doesn’t really have any thirst for knowledge of anything beyond the most recent infantile incumbents of Big Brother, the laughable wannabees on X Factor or the latest tragedy to beset Albert Square.

So what is this knowledge that is so interesting? Well, as established above, it isn’t website development itself, but rather anything and everything else.

When creating a website for a customer, the conscientious web developer (aka me) will take the time to get to know and understand something of the customer’s business to ensure that the site delivers as expected, is found on Google for the appropriate terms and makes sense to visitors.

In this way, being a web developer is interesting, because for every job you do, you learn a little bit more about how the world works.

So what have I learnt?

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve produced websites for a plumber, a portrait photographer, a house removals company, a qualified Sky installer and someone who makes wedding cakes, but with the exception of moving house (which I’ve done once for myself, twice for my mother and several times for friends), I wouldn’t now class myself as being skilled in any of said fields.

I’ve overtightened valves when removing a radiator, would be terrified of being responsible for someone’s precious memories, I don’t enjoy walking on sloped roofs and my culinary skills stretch as far as putting a pizza on the top shelf for 10 minutes.

It’s the snippets of information or new facts that you pick up that make it fun. For example, before doing a website for a company that does shot blasting I had no idea what it was. In fact, even after the customer had explained it I wasn’t sure. Good old Google to the rescue once again…

Curious? Take a look at the following Google results:

One of the most interesting pieces of work I’ve done to date was a Search Engine Optimisation (aka SEO or getting a website to appear on the front page of Google in lay terms) job for an on-line shop that sells thermometers.

For a start, who’d have thought there were so many types of thermometer? I learnt the correct temperature for cooked chicken and where to stick the thermometer in to measure it, what a reference thermometer is, how an infrared thermometer works, the required temperature for making jam, the legal required temperature for a workplace, how a thermometer is useful when trying for a baby and much more.

Why haven’t I included details of all that I’ve learned here? But then what would I talk to you about if I met you at a party?

In conclusion…

I’m not sure how useful all of this is, but if like me you enjoy learning new things, web development is officially interesting. And who knows, some of it might just pop up in a pub quiz some time in the future…

How much should a web page cost?

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In my current role as a self-employed website developer for small to medium businesses, I pride myself on being reasonably priced. I’m happy to make enough money to provide me with a decent income, but without ripping the customer off.

Now, I’m  not talking about a whole website here, just adding an individual web page with up to a side of A4 of text and 2-3 photos to an existing site.

Sounds simple doesn’t it? Copy and paste some text, resize the images, place and label them appropriately, add links to the new page elsewhere on the site, add suitable page labelling and titles and publish it. All done in less than an hour. Total = 1 hour.

But what if?

But what if the customer is not very good at writing content and you end up having to edit it to make it suitable or even write it from scratch? Total = 2 hours.

And what if you don’t know anything about the subject matter and need to do some research via Google and Wikipedia? Total = 3 hours.

Or the photos they supply are exceptionally poor and need serious editing / tidying up? Total = 4 hours.

And excessive emails are required to chase up content or approval for it? Total = 4.5 hours.

Plus maybe a site visit might be necessary to agree final content? Total = 5.5 hours.

Then add-on the time for creating and sending an invoice. Total = 6 hours.

However, what if they don’t pay up and you end up chasing the payment with emails, phone calls and / or a site visit. Total = 7 hours.

And finally, bank the cheque, transfer monies out of the business account and do your books for the tax man. Total = 7.5 hours.

Too cheap?

Now, it’s not often that all the above factors come in to play, but at the proposed new minimum wage, that equals:

7.5 hours x £5.93 = £44.48

which is more than I’m charging! And that’s before the tax man takes his cut.

So if you’re in Blackpool or the surrounding area and you’re looking for reasonably priced website design, give me a call, but make sure you do it quick, because I might just be putting my prices up.

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