Bill Hartzer https://www.billhartzer.com Bill Hartzer is a search engine optimization consultant based in the Dallas Fort Worth Texas area that provides SEO Audits and Link Audits of websites. Fri, 29 May 2015 23:56:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 I Always Write My Own Content https://www.billhartzer.com/pages/i-always-write-my-own-content/ https://www.billhartzer.com/pages/i-always-write-my-own-content/#respond Fri, 29 May 2015 23:55:55 +0000 https://www.billhartzer.com/?p=6020 If you ever seen any content written or any other type of content on the web with my name on it, then I was the one who wrote it. In fact, even though there is over 1,000 blog posts here on my blog and over 100 pages of online marketing, SEO, social media, and domain name content here on this website, I wrote it all. There was a time a few years when I accepted a few guest blog posts, but they always had the other writer’s name on them. And, by the way, those have all been removed from the site. So what you see now is what you get: content written by me.

It seems as though the internet marketing, social media, SEO, and content marketing industries (can we call it one industry now, called website marketing?) have a real bad habit of outsourcing content to others, and even seems as if there are a lot of “experts” out there who are outsourcing content more than ever now. And they’re putting their own name on it.

If a piece of content has YOUR name on it, then you must take full responsibility for it.

And there have a been quite a few posts that I regret posting, some I’ve taken down and you never really saw them because people involved with what I was wrote about made a fuss. So I took the content down, no problem. I always take full responsibility for all the content that has my name on it (Bill Hartzer), and, like it or not, I never have outsourced content and I never will.

Sure, it would be easy to pay someone $50 or $100 (or more) to create some great content, put my name on it, and then get all sorts of great recognition from having written it. But that’s not my style, and it never will be. When my upcoming book(s) are out, they’re not going to have been written by a ghost writer. I will personally write the content.

If your content has issues, or if it even ends up being a case of plagiarism, then take full responsibility for it. There’s been an unfortunate case of someone who has been highly respected for many years (even by me) who was just called out, publicly, for plagiarizing content.

Neil Patel

This case is very unfortunate for both parties involved, and the one doing the plagiarizing is going to have his reputation dragged through the dirt. Already I can see several people in my industry now having a different perspective, and will probably not be highly respected as he once was in the past.

I know that everyone isn’t a prolific writer or blogger like I am (yes, people have called me that in the past). I have been writing content for 35 years, and was a technical writer, writing technical software manuals on IBM mainframe computers in the early 1990s for several years–so I can typically generate more written content, faster, than a lot of people. I understand that some people are not writers, and never will be. That’s fine. So outsource to a great writer and concentrate on what you do best (whatever you do). But if you’re going to do that, read every single word that is written, then edit that content before it’s posted publicly in your name.

After all, your reputation is on the line.

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Will Bing Webmaster Tools Change Their Name? https://www.billhartzer.com/pages/bing-webmaster-tools-wont-change-their-name-anytime-soon/ https://www.billhartzer.com/pages/bing-webmaster-tools-wont-change-their-name-anytime-soon/#respond Tue, 26 May 2015 20:58:03 +0000 https://www.billhartzer.com/?p=6005 twitter-no-name-change-bing

Of course this is just speculation on my part, but it does not look like Bing Webmaster Tools has any plans to change the name of their product anytime soon. I was having a conversation on Twitter today where a friend from Microsoft mentioned that a name change wasn’t on the radar.

But, of course we know how that goes. Plans can certainly change at any time.

As you might recall, Google recently changed the name of Google Webmaster Tools to the Google Search Console, a move that has surprised many veteran Google Webmaster Tools users, such as myself.

Google Search Console

Although Google Webmaster Tools is going through what looks like a re-branding to another product name, Bing won’t be changing their name. Frankly, this is good news, as I think the name, Webmaster Tools, really should reflect what, and who, those tools are for:

These are Webmaster Tools. I don’t think that anyone without the knowledge or access as a webmaster of a website should have access to these tools. So, they’re Webmaster Tools, and they should remain that way.

Naming the Google Webmaster Tools something like “search console” is inappropriate, since that gives another connotation: that someone other than webmasters belong using them. What do you think?

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Interview With a Small Business Owner Crushed by Google https://www.billhartzer.com/pages/interview-with-a-small-business-owner-crushed-by-google/ https://www.billhartzer.com/pages/interview-with-a-small-business-owner-crushed-by-google/#comments Mon, 18 May 2015 15:25:00 +0000 https://www.billhartzer.com/?p=5986
Google crushes small business

May is small business month, so as a follow-up to a blog post I wrote recently, I tracked this small business owner, Ira Zoot from TicketStub.com, and interviewed him. Mr. Zoot originally claimed that he, as a small business owner, has been crushed by Google. He’s been only for over 10 years, and, in the past several years Google has taken steps through various algorithm changes and other policies, to crush his business online.

Bill Hartzer: What’s your name what kind of small business do you own?

TicketStub.com

My Name is Ira Zoot and I’ve owned Ticketstub.com for the last 12 years + which is an online ticket reseller of premium and sold out event tickets.

Bill Hartzer: How long have you been using Google for your business needs?

I’ve been using Google for Ticketstub.com for the last 12 + years and had been using Google on other projects for years before that.

Bill Hartzer: Do you use any other media/social outlets to market your business?

Of course, I use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus as well as more traditional offline marketing methods. I am working toward doing a much more intensive social media marketing campaign to go along with the marketing done with Google, Bing, Yahoo and other online resources.

“You shouldn’t have relied solely on Google for your traffic and revenue”

Something I keep hearing from people is … “You shouldn’t have relied solely on Google for your traffic and revenue”. Well, I didn’t but the fact of the matter is as an online Ticket reseller I need to be highly visible. Those people who are most interested in buying tickets primarily use Google. Google holds the market share for search and it is where serious customers who more often convert are looking.

Any business that is solely online needs to find the best demographics to make it’s products or services visible them. Which in my case it means Ticketstub.com needs to be well ranked on Google. Also, on the other search engines, social media and other channels as they are important as well but they can’t replace the eyes I get from Google.

Bill Hartzer: Has your business suffered from the various changes to the search algorithms Google has made? If so, how has it suffered?

semrush small business owner

Ticketstub.com has seen an almost 70% traffic and revenue hit, starting at the beginning of 2013 and hitting that low by May 2013. Never recovering from that point on to today. Whatever it was that Google thought was so terrible effectively removed or demoted my rankings from all the most important keywords and strings for performers, events, venues for my business.

I think it’s needed to say that I’m not a search engine optimization expert by any stretch nor am I just some whiny “sore loser”. I’m just a small business person who’s worked very hard for 12 years to build a trusted, successful web business (as a ticket reseller affiliate ) who was affected by these updates in a massively destructive manner. Up until these last couple years being an SEO guru/expert wasn’t something that was required to rank well as long as you did the best you could to honestly get your site out there.

The above isn’t an excuse. I do take ownership of my “failings” … I wasn’t as diligent on checking these things due to my lack of SEO knowledge and the ongoing success of the site/business in spite of that. There was never any other overly apparent indications there were any serious site issues existed — as business was as good as ever.

We never had any warnings or penalties on the site by Google. If I had it would have gotten me to move quickly to address them. So, the needed website improvements slipped by me until I starting seeing significant traffic declines and revenue losses and by then it was too late to do anything about them.

The average traffic for Ticketstub.com® prior to Google’s “quality” updates was approximately 1500-2000 visitors a day, and during the last holiday season 2000-3000 visitors a day. Ticketstub.com had a yearly gross revenue in the low to middish $7 figures consistently for most of it’s existence.

ticketstub.com traffic cost PPC

Gross revenues that any small business would be extremely proud — or for that matter any brick and mortar business would be extremely proud of. The majority of my sales coming from organic search engine traffic with a small percentage coming in from the Google AdWords campaigns I had been running. Which btw … I haven’t been able to afford to do any paid advertising for the past year and a half as a result of the devastation to my business.

Another thing Google was/is allowing massive competitors to infringe on my registered US Trademark 96% of the time for over 9 years now. Requiring me to burn through my ad budget too the tune of just under a million $ over 9 years just to stay close on my own exact match trademark. I guess I was a quality enough business for Google to take my money for ads.

For those who don’t understand why companies have trademarks on their brands or what it is. A simple definition would be: It’s a symbol, word, or words that are legally registered with the USPTO (USA) or established by use as representing a company or product. Protecting that brand legally from misuse or profit by other than the TM holders.

Google claims allowing other companies to bid on competitor’s TM’s “creates competition”. However, it eludes me how small businesses like mine can be “competitive” with corporations that spend more in one day on Adwords than we have per month … but I’ll leave this for another time.

After Google turned Ticketstub.com into “collateral damage”, I’m lucky if I see 200 visitors a day on the site. Fortunately, my mobile apps have been getting traffic and have been one of the factors keeping Ticketstub.com alive. But due to the massive lost revenue, the monies having to be expended trying to figure out why this happened yet alone how to fix the site has left my business and personal finances hanging on for dear life.

I’ve basically hit a wall financially … I’m having to sell other business assets in order to raise money to pay for all the development work, the SEO, the marketing that I can’t do myself. It’s at the point I can’t even get other sites started to bring in new revenue as doing that all costs sizable amounts of cash which I no longer have.

Now, Google is essentially requiring people to be SEO experts as well as coding experts. Things that regardless of how much I want to be those things there isn’t enough time in the day for me to effectively learn them. There is no way anyone who isn’t an expert can keep up with these intensive new requirements and even then it’s extremely difficult to do. Up until the recent Mobile updates Google rarely if ever bothered publicly making information available in a time frame that would have allowed so many site owners like myself get anything changed and save our livelihoods.

It’s understandable … to a point … as Google doesn’t want to give those people who are “gaming the system” a heads up on how to hack the new algorithm. The problem with that is that it leaves the “regular folks” and even the SEO experts in the dark on how to effectively comply with those changes and not end up being negatively affected.

Those companies that haven’t been hit as hard or at all are those with SEO teams on staff or that have the budgets to hire SEO agencies to monitor and update their site. How is it that a small business owner that as a result of this experience is either completely broke or left with barely enough to cover their bills can hire this now required staff?

Simple answer … we can’t and Google doesn’t have the decency to offer even the slightest real assistance to those of us they called “collateral damage” who are willing to do whatever is required to comply. We obviously don’t even count for anything to Google.

live spam screenshots google

Bill Hartzer: Do you understand why Google goes after web spam so intensely?

For those who don’t know what “WebSpam” is: Webspam (also referred to search spam) is a phrase used to describe webpages that are designed to “spam Google search results” using SEO tactics that are against Google publishers guidelines. Pages that use webspam to improve search engine results page (SERP) rankings typically use black hat SEO tactics such as keyword stuffing or cloaking, the latter of which involves employing misleading redirects and/or doorway pages of websites.

Of course I understand what it is. I’ve been working on the internet in one form or another since I got my first domain in 1995. Its no secret that there are people who are “blackhatting” gaming the system for ranking/traffic and the revenue that comes with it. I understand that there have been and still are “affiliates” out there doing lots of unacceptable things to get traffic and sell whatever they sell.

I have never subscribed to doing those things with Ticketstub.com.

I dedicated myself to building an honest, trusted, popular brand/business when I first set up a ticket site. Over the decade + before getting crushed I achieved and smashed through my goals. This is/was easily supported with 10 years of Google Analytics, statistic and revenue data … which Google didn’t care to make an effort to look at even after I literally begged them too.

“Google is unfairly setting “rules” flatly across the board for all sites.”

Google is unfairly setting “rules” flatly across the board for all sites. Google seemingly took nothing into account about how different types of websites/verticals have different “quality requirements” and needs than their sweeping flatline determination of what’s quality or not. They assured that many small businesses like mine were going to be crushed by their updates.

For instance, my customers have very uncomplicated needs from Ticketstub.com.
`
1) They come to the site knowing what event they want to attend.
2) They look at our inventory for tickets that work for them.
3) They select those tickets and go to our checkout … pay for those tickets and they leave.

Our customers have no interest in hanging out on Ticketstub.com to read the news, performer information, sports scores or to watch videos. There are specific sites that offer those things much more effectively since those are their main focus. My customers come/came because they liked my brand/site, the way I did business in an honest manner the way I would want to be treated. Those things being required on Ticketstub.com now by Google just serve to distract customers from buying tickets … which for a retail site … it’s a bad model to be made to follow.

Obviously to me, in part Google was/is prejudging my/any affiliate ticket website with a similar inventory feed as being duplicated spammy, garbage of no value to searchers. In my case, completely without taking any details/realities of Ticketstub.com®’s long standing business into account when ranking or penalizing which makes their judgment erroneous.

This “prejudice” against affiliates is nothing new either. DMOZ lived by this erroneous opinion, Wikipedia as well, by thinking that “all affiliate ticket sellers are garbage”and therefore aren’t allowed pages talking about their history. Again, never taking any of the details or realities of each ticket seller website into account.

Granted as mentioned above, there is a multitude of affiliate websites that are crap and do game the system. But the reality is that all of them aren’t subscribing to these deceptive and unacceptable practices being attributed to them. Ticketstub.com® has never been nor ever will be one of those kinds of affiliate ticket websites, as my 12 year history clearly shows.

In reality, all of the major Ticket resale/broker sites are “affiliates”. In that they integrate the same various broker feeds and sell inventory they don’t own but get a % of the sales just like us. They sell the same products in the same markets to the same people.

How is that different than what my affiliate ticket business does? It’s not. Of course, my site Ticketstub.com is on a much smaller scale. What does set me apart from them … is I don’t have the budget to pay for full time SEO or hire a firm to do my SEO and police my site 24/7 or spend the fortune on Adwords chasing companies that have massively bigger ad budgets than I do.

A “real world” example would be Sam’s Club, Costco, Walmart, Target all being treated as affiliates. Why? Because all of these “big brands” sell the same products at essentially the same prices in the same markets. But still people choose the particular business they’ve come to trust and who they’ve found something they like about them better than the others to go buy those products at. Which means even tho these business have the same products they still offer something which their customers value causing them to choose that business over the others.

It’s absolutely no different than my surviving and thriving in a brutal niche like ticket sales. I offered and delivered what my customers wanted and expected, so they come back and they tell others of the good experiences they had with my business. My offering similar inventory doesn’t diminish the quality of my business anymore than having similar inventory diminishes the quality of the above big brand stores.

Just because Ticketstub.com has an inventory feed from an aggregator that others utilize as well doesn’t mean should be shot down or excluded as spammy garbage. Just popping a feed on a site and calling it a business does not a business make. All the above is a pretty solid indication Ticketstub.com® isn’t a spammy, duplicate template ticket website.

Ticketstub.com is a business that deserves fair treatment, fair notice and a reasonable timeframe to comply with massive changes. What Google has done to my site and some many other honest small business owners is immoral and unethical in not giving us a reasonable chance to comply. Google has destroyed many thousands of small businesses and their future with unreasonable search algorithms which don’t look at most of the important facts about the verticals they serve, the site history that actually determine the facts and whether trashing it is justified.

Worse is Google has made no efforts whatsoever to offer assistance to those of us who were “collateral damage”. Basically telling us tough luck go figure out how to comply or go hire people who can do that for you. Easy for Google to say … they didn’t just have their income ripped out from under them and no longer have the financial or knowledge resources.

So … sure. I understand why Google goes after spammers as hard as it does. They deserve it and Google has every right to do that. But to call legitimate businesses/sites like mine spam and without value based on no detailed, factual information is pure nonsense. Google destroyed many thousands of legitimate websites owned by honest, hard working small business owners like myself who never spammed anything or anyone … who’s livelihoods depended on these sites isn’t just wrong … it’s evil.

Bill Hartzer: Do you think Google have gone too far in their punishments in sweeping manner that not only effects spammers but a multitude of sites that weren’t engaging in those practices or just weren’t SEO experts?

That’s an easy one. Absolutely and positively … yes.

Bill Hartzer: Do you think Google does enough to help businesses they called “collateral damage” get back rankings they were erased from so they can continue to do business and grow?

This is another easy one. Absolutely not … Google in my experience couldn’t care less about helping people like myself that were undeservedly devastated. I tried many channels including getting my story to Matt Cutts … (who I have no idea if he even read it … but I was able to see that he or someone working his mail opened mine. ). The best I ever got was from a Google press agent telling me there is nothing they can do to help and referred me to a faq link. Which was worthless in what it offered.

Google could have prevented all of the devastation by simply offering a simple site where one could enter their url and it could be checked against the new algorithms. There are a number of sites that became available way after the fact put out by non Google companies to both assist people and too sell recovery services.

I can’t believe that a company like Google that hires some of the smartest people in the world … could have “mistakenly” caused all this havoc for small business owners like me. I think it was just a matter of it being easier to just disregard us as the “collateral damage” they called us and shrug off all of our pleas for help as insignificant to the “bigger picture”. Legally they are untouchable, so they have been able to do whatever they wanted without any accountability, consequences or for that matter morals or ethics. The larger companies are loving this … Google wiped out or set back pages in rankings the smaller competitors with some clicks on the keyboard.

Bill Hartzer: Have you found yourself able to get your site to recover without using Google as a main source of traffic that converts? Have you been able to get your site to recover in general regaining traffic and revenue that was lost?

At this point … I have been able to mostly stop the “bleeding” and if not for my mobileapps and site I would have been bankrupt at this point. Over the last 2 years I’ve tried a multitude of things to get things back on track and none of those helped.

Through lots of hand holding and diagnosis I’ve been made aware that there are a number of issues that need to be addressed and I am doing my best to do that.

I’m still in the dark as to what Google could call a negative since they won’t tell me what the initial causes were. I’m going to have to have the site extensively audited, then have to the developer go in and fix everything that’s found in the audit. Then, once that’s done I need to hire an excellent SEO to get things back on track & then monitor the site. Then comes my having to bang away on social media and will likely need to hire a firm to get the saturation that is needed there.

Which is all going to cost me a small fortune requiring me to sell assets and with no guarantee it will make a difference at all. I’ve considered just starting with a fresh site from the ground up but I’m concerned I will just make matters worse as paths will change yet again. I’m just a small business owner with limited resources that has been driven to the brink of madness by this experience.

I am bound and determined to regain & further my business traffic, revenue and visibility pretty much regardless of what it takes. I built and delivered a high quality thriving service before and I’ll do it again. Though … it would be better than great if Google would work with me to reconsider the automated slashing that I’ve been dealt what I truly believe to have been unjust or if preferred … that my business was “collateral damage” of these updates.

Bill Hartzer: Do you feel that Google “owes” you good ranking/position?

Of course, I’m aware, Google can do whatever it wishes. Google is totally in the drivers seat and I am at their mercy. Not thrilled about that, but over the last couple of years I’ve come to accept as it’s part of the business. I appreciate what being included in Google’s search results offer in value and exposure to my business and myself. That being said … I spent over a decade playing by the rules doing the best I can, never getting a warning or penalty and creating a trusted business and brand. So, I’d like to think that given the documented track record of my site I’ve at least earned the ranking I had previously.

Bill Hartzer: If you could offer Google some advise concerning these issues what would it be?

I realize as many other online business owners do … that Google is really the “only game in town” and being excluded will make it almost impossible to survive yet alone thrive.

Being that Google does control the search market to the level it does … I think they should consider the moral, ethical side here … not just the profits or board members. In my opinion unethical, immoral and “corporately evil” to destroy small businesses and lives of these small business owners like me. People who’ve dedicated themselves to working ridiculously long hours, sacrificed many things to build their business, don’t have the resources of the large corporations and have shown the desire to do whatever is within their means to comply with Google.

Especially in an economy that is as way down and extremely difficult for small business as is the current economy. Google should care more about those like myself that have been so loyal, dedicated and have contributed to the growth of Google.

Google should stop thinking only about the large corporations with the very deep pockets and remember that the “little guys” are no less important. That or change their motto from “Don’t be evil” to “gimme the money”.

Bill Hartzer: Thanks Ira, for telling me your story about TicketStub.com, and for allowing me to get more awareness about small businesses. I know it’s been tough for small businesses to continually adapt to Google’s changes in their algorithms and policies.

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Even Huge Institutions Can’t Move Their Sites Properly to a New gTLD https://www.billhartzer.com/pages/even-huge-institutions-cant-move-their-sites-properly-to-a-new-gtld/ https://www.billhartzer.com/pages/even-huge-institutions-cant-move-their-sites-properly-to-a-new-gtld/#respond Mon, 18 May 2015 14:05:56 +0000 https://www.billhartzer.com/?p=5993 moving to a new gTLD domain name

As you may already know, I am an advocate of the New gTLD domain names. Whenever possible, I recommend moving away from a .COM domain name to a New gTLD domain name if that new domain you’re moving to is “better”. Meaning that if you can get a keyword-rich domain (with the keyword in the ending), that ultimately will be the better choice for your site. The New gTLD domains, however, have been slowly been adopted, and what it’s going to take is for more and more mainstream businesses to start moving to a New gTLD. That way the public will be much more accepting of the New gTLDs.

One of the first major sites that I saw was Mr. Jim’s pizza, who not only have MrJims.Pizza up and running, but they are advertising that URL on local television here in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Well, unfortunately they haven’t actually moved, though. They just put up a “copy” of their main site on the same URL. If you go to http://www.mrjims.pizza you’ll see the same exact site as you do on http://www.mrjims.com:

mrjimspizza

Having the same exact site on your New gTLD as your .COM is a cop-out. It’s not right, and is, in fact, duplicate content. When it comes to Google, you’ll search for “Mr. Jim’s Pizza” and you’ll always get the .COM site first, as the New gTLD won’t show up. That’s Google’s duplicate content filter at work: they index and rank the first version they see, and then the others are considered to be duplicates. They may or may not be indexed, depending on how many links those copies have pointing to them.

Having the same exact site on your New gTLD as your .COM is a cop-out. It’s not right, and is, in fact, duplicate content.

I am utterly disappointed when Barclays PLC, the huge banking institution in the UK, announced that they were moving away from .COM domains and, in fact, moving to .Barclays domains–but also have duplicate sites up and running.

Barclays PLC has a duplicate copy of their site at http://www.barclays.com and at http://www.home.barclays/ and actually can be very confusing to customers. Is their site www.home.barclays or is it www.barclays.com?

barclays-home-page

Barclays PLC, which publicly announced that they are going to move from .COM to .Barclays, yet they have to separate sites up and running now, two different copies. One plan could be to have both sites up and running for a period of time and then set up the redirects. But, in fact, I wouldn’t do it this way, I don’t recommend it. I would, in fact, simply have a small version of the Barclay’s home page on the new www.home.barclays site, announcing the upcoming change.

Ultimately, Barclays moving to New gTLDs is a a huge win for the New gTLDs, and a welcome site. I’m just not a fan of how these huge institutions are going about moving and “not” redirecting their sites to the new domains properly.

When it comes to other companies that are moving to a New gTLD, I am not sure that these businesses like Mr. Jim’s Pizza actually have plan in place for moving. It could be that they’re just buying these New gTLD domain names, putting up a copy of their site or configuring the DNS so that the same site appears, and waiting. They could, in fact, be waiting to see if the New gTLDs are not a fad. At some point they may move, but I suspect that for now they will keep the duplicate copies of their site in place.

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Microsoft’s Bing Does Not Support HTTPs SNI https://www.billhartzer.com/pages/microsofts-bing-does-not-support-https-sni/ https://www.billhartzer.com/pages/microsofts-bing-does-not-support-https-sni/#respond Thu, 14 May 2015 16:20:20 +0000 https://www.billhartzer.com/?p=5983 In an interesting post on GitHub, the user tkrotoff has apparently contacted Bing Webmaster Support with questions about why Bing Webmaster Tools will not accept his website’s sitemap file. He is trying to tell Bing’s Webmaster Tools about his sitemap file and it give him an error when he submits the file. His website, https://osteo15.com/, uses HTTPs SNI (Server Name Indication).

Bing_Webmaster_Tools_does_not_support_HTTPS_SNI_·_Issue_#16_·_tkrotoff_osteo15.com_·_GitHub_-_2015-05-14_11.14.20

One response he gets from Bing Technical Support is that it’s “apparently a server issue which could be addressed by your web host provider”.

Then he got another response, saying that they would forward it to their research department.

It’s been several weeks now and nothing has been received.

He has tested Bing’s lack of support for SNI by moving one of his websites and turning off SNI…and was able to verify the sitemap in Bing Webmaster Tools.

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Google Removing Domain Names From Search Results Increases Internet User Vulnerability https://www.billhartzer.com/pages/google-removing-domain-names-from-search-results-increases-internet-user-vulnerability/ https://www.billhartzer.com/pages/google-removing-domain-names-from-search-results-increases-internet-user-vulnerability/#comments Thu, 07 May 2015 17:07:07 +0000 https://www.billhartzer.com/?p=5971 On Thursday, April 16, 2015, Google announced that they are beginning to remove the domain name from the mobile search results. Rather than displaying a URL in the search results or a domain name, Google has begun to display a website name or a website name and a breadcrumb of the website’s page. Domain names generally have been removed from the mobile search results. This move by Google is wrong, and ultimately increases internet user vulnerability to potential fraud and deception. Furthermore, it undermines the whole entire Domain Name System as we know it.

A simple search for “best domain names” using in iPhone, shown below, is a good example of this.

mobile search best domain names

The same search query, on a desktop (a Macbook Pro Laptop) reveals a different search result, showing the domain names in the search results:

desktop-search-best-domain-names

As you can see, the mobile search results don’t display domain names. There are a few cases where a domain name will show up on a mobile device in Google’s mobile search results, like for HTTPs sites. I have confirmed with a contact at Google that this is actually a “bug” and HTTPs sites are actually supposed to be included in this removal of domain names on mobile SERPs, and last time I heard they were going to get it fixed.

What Google Tells Site Owners
Rather than displaying a URL in the search results or a domain name, Google recommending that website owners use “a website name instead of domain name”, signaled by schema.org markup code. Simply put, website owners can choose their website name that may be displayed, rather than use a domain name in the mobile search results. It is still up to Google as to whether or not the domain name or a website name is used, but given this new option, most likely it is suspected that Google will use the website name that the website owner chooses.

Google points out, in their official announcement, that they have site name requirements (https://developers.google.com/structured-data/site-name). Some of the Site name requirements specifically mention domain names:

– Be reasonably similar to your domain name
– Be a natural name used to refer to the site, such as “Google,” rather than “Google, Inc.”
– Be unique to your site—not used by some other site
– Not be a misleading description of your site

While I recommend using structured data on your website, the option to include (or change) your site name in the search results is nonessential, redundant, and gratuitous. The search engines can obtain a websites name from other data provided, such information in a Title Tag, site content, or even information provided near a copyright statement on the website.

Allowing the website owner to choose their website name for display in the search results where the domain name is completely removed from display opens up the search results to fraud and deception. Simply put, dishonest website owners can choose a website name that does not describe the website or is fraudulent: a website owner could pretend to be another “brand”, fraudulently leading visitors to think that their website is another website or brand.

According to one of my sources, Google is fairly confident that there is (or will be) a strong enforcement program to prevent bad behavior.

I talked to my mother-in-law, and she did a few searches on her mobile phone, including a search for “best domain names”. We talked about those mobile search results, and she was concerned. “It’s just not right that they don’t include domain names. I don’t know what I’m clicking on..” was her comment.

To an extent, my mother-in-law is right. If we are searching for a restaurant’s website, if the domain name isn’t displayed, we don’t know if we are click on the restaurant’s website or a review of that restaurant, on another domain name.

The Domain Name System
The current system, the Domain Name System, allows for only one website to be associated with one unique domain name. When seeing a URL, i.e., a specific domain name in the search results, Internet users are more likely to click that search result when they recognize and trust that domain name. By removing domain names entirely from the search results, Google is compromising the trust that Internet users have in the Domain Name System.

According to the Domain Name Association, a “recent survey by security experts NCC Group indicated clearly that Internet users trust search results when they can examine the web address before clicking on the result. Search results without the additional indicia of authenticity provided by the web address are at the bottom of the trust pile.

Users most trust websites accessed through bookmarks. Sites accessed by typing the web addresses are the second most trusted source of information, followed by search results when the user can verify the destination by the web address or other indicia of reliability that accompanies the search results. Only 25% of Internet users trust search results without something more.”

A recent global Domain Name Preference survey conducted by the Domain Name Association in 10 countries indicated that 81% of Internet users check the web address before clicking on a search result.

There is a reason why Internet users don’t trust these new mobile search results, without domain names. These are some of the comments posted to the Google blog announcing the change and other blogs:

“This is not good for who spend nights creating good content and such great news for spammers.

“ This is a bit like telling people to have blind trust and just click the link sending them to a domain they don’t know and hope for the best.”

“Google said for years that building up trust for your website/domain name was very important so people knew they could trust going to certain sites found in search results.”

“As I understand it, the best element to check fake sites (the URL) will be hidden!”

“Not being able to see the domain means I cannot tell what site I am on for sure.”

“I want to know the URL I am visiting. In some cases, you cannot even tell what company it is by the “Real Name” especially when not in the title and what if I never heard of the company how does this help me? … I am sure the spammers will have a field day with this.”

“Trust is an issue. Black hat Search Engine Optimizers will stuff their site’s Internet address with keywords… So the breadcrumbs will say ‘Guaranteed Weight Loss. Fastest Results. Money Back Guarantee.’”

“This will denigrate the ability of SMEs to compete. Many SMEs barely comprehend what a domain or webserver is, let alone adding meta info to the web address to generate quality breadcrumbs, and changing your menu structure is so difficult for most site owners.”

“Spammers and phishers are going to love this. —- Right. Spammers. Phishers. Hackers.”

“This is a bit like telling people to have blind trust and just click the link sending them to a domain they don’t know and hope for the best. We all know that many searchers also pay attention to the domain name they are being sent too as they are trustworthy.”

At the end of the day, Internet users will have lost a valuable tool for safely navigating the Internet and Trademark owners will be more open to abuse. Removing domain names from search results undermines the entire Domain Name System as we know it.

Added:
CSC’s Digital Brand Services has a great post on their blog that gives some recommendations about how to deal with this change by Google:

“From CSC’s perspective there are two important issues for brand owners to consider:

1. Naming. The new format can lead to deceptive naming practices that could result in fraud, phishing and brand abuse, as well as competition with other trademark owners seeking the same company, product or service name breadcrumb. We encourage brand owners to monitor mobile search results, work with their website administrators to take action and develop a naming strategy to make sure search results are clear.
2. Traffic costs. This trend may be part of Google’s attempt to drive more traffic through its search engine. For brands, this could impact direct navigation to websites and lead to increased competition in search, potentially increasing search marketing costs and impacting online revenue. CSC encourages brand owners to stay connected with their customers by promoting their primary domain names and apps to drive traffic directly to their own web properties.”

I agree with CSC, there is the potential for deceptive naming practices. You need to monitor the search results and, especially for companies that have affiliates, make sure that your affiliates are not deceptively trying to manipulate this.

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Small Business Owner: Google Crushed Me https://www.billhartzer.com/pages/small-business-owner-google-crushed-me/ https://www.billhartzer.com/pages/small-business-owner-google-crushed-me/#comments Wed, 06 May 2015 22:16:17 +0000 https://www.billhartzer.com/?p=5967 Google crushes small business

An interesting post was written by a small business owner, sharing his experience about being crushed by Google. In the article, he claims that after working hard for 12 years building his online business, Google reduced the site’s traffic from 2000 visitors a day to a few hundred a day: all without warning.

The small business owner claims that Google hasn’t, and apparently won’t tell him what he did wrong. I contacted this small business owner, and he confidentially told me about his website, and shared the Google Analytics data with me. From what I can tell, the site has not been hit by any of the major Google updates that have occurred in the past few years. Specifically, the site doesn’t appear to have been hit but Google Penguin or Google Panda.

Take a look at the SEMRush data, which seems to support his story:

semrush small business owner

When I reached out, the small business owner (who wishes to remain anonymous right now) had this to say:

“This has been an experience I never could have imagined I would ever have. After a decade of running my site very successfully, honestly and building a very solid brand only too have it just trashed by Google as “low quality”. Google has/had 10 years of Analytics and Adwords data that clearly showed I was a legitimate, trusted, profitable business … yet that apparently didn’t count for anything.

It’s interesting that during the decade before the drop off … we never got any penalties or warnings. We spent just under 7 figures on Adwords that Google apparently thought my site was a legitimate, quality enough business to place ads. Money on ads I could have spent elsewhere with better results since Google allowed a gigantic competitor to bid me into oblivion on my exact match TM and remain at the top of the search for approximately 96% of the time.

The only thing I think Google “owes” me is solid information on why they crushed me after a decade of honest, hard work which was supported by Google’s own Analytics. At least that would have given me the chance to regain what I lost instead of beating my head against the wall . At this point as I said I’ve managed to stop the bleeding. But in order to move forward and “maybe” regain some of what was wiped out it’s going to cost a small fortune that I don’t have to spend.

No longer can an individual run a small business site without being an SEO and coding expert. Or being able to afford to hire SEO and coding expert. Who can only hope to be good enough to keep up with Googles in flux guideline changes they until recently never announced.

I honestly don’t know how any small online business that sells products or god forbid is an “affiliate” can survive with Google telling us along a single guideline what our businesses “must have to be a quality site and experience” for our customers or get bounced. Every business vertical requires different things and having things that it doesn’t require hurts those businesses … as it has mine. For a decade I learned and knew what my customers wanted when they visited and spent significant amounts of money on my site that could be demonstrated tangibly.

Then Google comes along and without bothering or caring to even provide us with a way of knowing what to fix before their “quality” updates just “erases” us. Of course in the process making those giant corps who have on staff SEO and spent more money than most small countries see in a year should up on the top of the searches … all the while allowing them to infringe on competitors TMs in Adwords to further crush them … which Google calls “competitive”. Not sure how it’s competitive to allow giant companies to make small businesses burn through their MUCH lower ad budgets just trying to stay close on their own exact TM’s. Maybe I’m missing something?”

He told me about having issues with organic rankings, but also with Google AdWords, regarding trademark issues: other companies bidding on his trademark, which Google allows.

I know this is frustrating, and Google won’t give you specific advice regarding a particular site. The only help they give is access to the Google Product Forums, which may or may not be helpful. Google Webmaster Tools isn’t very helpful, although it does give data and will notify you of a manual penalty.

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Facial Recognition: Microsoft Website Tells You How Old You Are https://www.billhartzer.com/pages/facial-recognition-website-tells-you-how-old-you-are/ https://www.billhartzer.com/pages/facial-recognition-website-tells-you-how-old-you-are/#comments Thu, 30 Apr 2015 19:20:31 +0000 https://www.billhartzer.com/?p=5956 A website by Microsoft is using facial recognition to tell you how old you are. And if you ask me, it’s actually pretty accurate. Well, in at least most cases that I tested. The website, called How Old Do I Look?, allows you to find an image by searching on Bing.com, or you can upload your own photo. Their facial recognition algorithm will analyze the photo and tell you how old the person in the photo is. Or, if there are several people in the photo, it will look at all the faces and determine how old they are.

I took a look at a few of my own photos, and, well, let’s just see how accurate this website is.

This photo of me, (taken about two years ago) says I’m 74:

Bill Hartzer

And here’s another photo, and I am apparently 63 years old. Well at least it’s getting better.

Bill Hartzer

Now this one? Well, I’m closer to 50 in this photo. It’s me speaking several years ago, at a Pubcon conference. Still had the mustache.

Bill Hartzer

Now this one here, taken around 2005 or so, I am apparently 39 years old. Those photos keep making me younger and younger! I was actually about 36 years old when the photo below was taken, so they have it within 3 years.

Bill Hartzer 39 years old

And finally, well, yeah. 33 years old. That’s right! Not exactly, though, it’s actually been touched up a bit with Photoshop. It’s about 13 years off. My latest headshot photo, taken last year.

bill Hartzer head shot

It’s kind of interesting to play around with this site and the technology, I am surprised that Microsoft chose a domain name that has a hyphen in it in order to show off their facial recognition technology. As you can see, it’s still got some work to do, but I suppose that if you were to combine that facial recognition technology with the search data that Microsoft has, along with Facebook data, the I could only imagine the power of facial recognition nowadays.

Oh, and let’s try one more photo, the now infamous Bill Hartzer & Matt Cutts photo. Let’s see how old Matt Cutts is in this photo:

Bill Hartzer with Matt Cutts 2012

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ZDNet Buys Domain Name: Immediately Gets 2 Year Old Trusted Site Banned in Google https://www.billhartzer.com/pages/zdnet-buys-domain-name-immediately-gets-2-year-old-trusted-site-banned-in-google/ https://www.billhartzer.com/pages/zdnet-buys-domain-name-immediately-gets-2-year-old-trusted-site-banned-in-google/#comments Wed, 29 Apr 2015 17:50:39 +0000 https://www.billhartzer.com/?p=5950 google bans domain name

ZDNet recently bought a new domain name from the domain name aftermarket (a domain name auction), and almost immediately got their trusted, authoritative, 2 year old website banned in Google. ZDNet wrote a scathing article on their site, blaming Google for the error, claiming that Google got it all wrong. But, that’s not the case. Google absolutely got it right, and was correct in banning the site in Google. Here’s how ZDNet bought a domain name, redirected their trusted, authoritative site to this new domain name, and then got their website banned in Google.

It all went down like this. Here’s a quick timeline of the events, and how buying a domain name got their site banned:

– ZDNet runs their CXO-Talk.com website for two years. Adds great content on the site.
– ZDNet decides to purchase CXOTalk.com at a domain name auction.
– ZDNet bought the domain, failing to do their due diligence on the domain.
– ZDNet redirects CXO-Talk.com to CXOTalk.com, their new domain.
– Google immediately bans the site, and gives site owner a “pure spam? message in Google Webmaster Tools.

The plan was, ultimately, a good one. Getting rid of the hyphenated domain name and moving it to the non-hyphenated version of the domain. I have always preferred using a non-hyphenated version of a domain name, a domain name without a hyphen, because, mainly, it will end up in sending traffic to the non-hyphenated version of the domain name. Ideally, you should own both versions, and redirect the hyphenated version to the non-hyphenated version.

cxotalk.com sales price
According to NameBio.com, ZDNet paid $207 for the domain at a GoDaddy auction on April 9, 2015.

So, ZDNet did have a good plan, which was to buy the non-hyphenated version of their current site, and then start using it. But in this case, their plan backfired on them. And oh how did it backfire! Google banned the domain name and banned their site, although they thought that it contained great, authoritative, trusted content. So what wrong?

Before redirecting the CXO-Talk.com domain name to the CXOTalk.com domain name, they didn’t do their due diligence on the CXOTalk.com domain name. It turns out that the domain name was a “throw away” domain name, used by blackhat spammers to generate gibberish content on the site. The content on the CXOTalk.com domain was so bad that it got banned in Google. So, once they were done using it (and spamming the heck out of it), the owners of CXOTalk.com sold the domain name to an unsuspecting buyer.

That buyer was ZDNet.

What ZDNet failed to do was properly check out the domain name. They didn’t look at the history of the domain name. They didn’t look at the Internet Archive of the domain. They didn’t check out the backlinks of the domain name. It was the backlinks of the domain that gave it all away: it was linked from all sorts of other spammy websites, hosted in other countries. If you look up the backlinks for CXOTalk.com on Majestic.com, you’ll see what I mean.

When ZDNet redirected their CXO-Talk.com domain name to the banned website with all the former spam, they essentially “combined resources” into one domain name. All of the history of both domain names, along with all of the backlinks and other search engine data and ranking factors that Google takes into account, are combined. And, rightfully so, Google banned both domain names, which was now one domain: CXOTalk.com.

Whenever you buy a domain name, it’s is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT to do all of your “due diligence” on that domain name, and literally check everything possible. The last thing you want to have happen is something like what happened to ZDNet. Their trusted, authoritative site was banned in Google. All because they bought a domain name.

Update: According to @mkrigsman, Google has lifted the penalty on the domain.

My Verified Domain Service Handles This For You
After having been in the SEO business for nearly 18 years, and having bought and sold domain names for over 15 years, I have seen what can happen with domain names, and especially aftermarket domain names. You can buy a domain name that had a great former website on it and redirect it to your current site. If that domain name has traffic from the links going to it, then your site will benefit from that. But if you buy a “bad” domain name, like ZDNet did, it can be a disaster: you can get your good website banned.

Along with Globe Runner, we will soon be launching a new service that will “thoroughly check out” a domain name and verify that’s it good to use for commerce on the web. There are over 30 factors that are manually checked, many that you have not even though of, and we manually check them all. I have personally developed this proprietary process. We are so confident that there will be no problems with a domain name that we have verified and approved, that we are offering a guarantee, up to $50,000. Essentially, if you find a problem with a domain that we verify as being approved, and we can’t fix the problem, we’ll buy the domain name from you, up to $50,000, based on the amount you paid for the domain. Getting a domain name verified and approved will give you piece of mind.

We haven’t officially launched this service yet, but if you would to get an invite to sign up for this service, sign up for my newsletter; I will give out invites to all of my current newsletter subscribers as soon as they’re available.

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Google Shows Bing Search Results URLs as Links in Google Webmaster Tools https://www.billhartzer.com/pages/google-shows-bing-search-results-urls-as-links-in-google-webmaster-tools/ https://www.billhartzer.com/pages/google-shows-bing-search-results-urls-as-links-in-google-webmaster-tools/#respond Fri, 24 Apr 2015 19:41:42 +0000 https://www.billhartzer.com/?p=5944 In Google Webmaster Tools, Google is reporting Bing’s search result URLs as actual backlinks to a website. Google has as history of sometimes making a mistake and indexing Bing’s search results, like I found a while back. But this is the first time that I have seen that Google is actually telling webmasters that there is a link to their website: and that link is a Bing search result URL. Google shows Bing search results URLs. Definitely something that I don’t think Google planned on.

Take a look at what I’m seeing in Google Webmaster Tools. I was investigating the crawl errors, and noticed that there was a page that supposedly had an error (and it does) so I clicked to see where that URL is linked from. And low and behold, it’s linked from Bing’s search results:

Google shows Bing search results as link

I’m not going to reveal the actual URL that Google has linked in this case, as it would reveal a client’s URL and some other information that I don’t think is relevant in this case. But here is a sample of the Bing search result URL that Google says is linked:

https://www.bing.com/search?q=bill+hartzer&qs=n&form=QBRE&pq=bill+hartzer&format=rss

By me linking to that URL, let’s just see if Google picks it up and indexes it, as they have done in other cases.

Notice that the URL is a result of a search query for my name, bill hartzer. I took added &format=rss to the end of the search results query and that brings up an RSS feed of the Bing search results. That’s actually useful, as you could put that URL into your RSS reader if you so desired, to monitor the search results at Bing (if you wanted to do that).

But nonetheless, somehow Google has decided to index or crawl the Bing search results (they had to crawl that URL in order to actually have the URL in their index… ) in order to tell me that it’s a link to my site in Google Webmaster Tools?

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