Welcome back, hope you are learning lots from my series of SEO Tips. This week we’ll take a look at some common methods of separating words in your URLs and page titles, and which should provide you the best results in the search engine result pages (SERPs).
Separators in URLs
Depending on how long the developer has been creating pages, how they were trained and the system they use, they often develop a favorite method (right or wrong) and stick with it. Unfortunately for me, my coding skills were developed before the ‘net took over the world and my brain still wants to use underscores as separators. I’ll explain why that’s not a good idea shortly. But, my point is that you may see different developers doing different things, and having no idea that what they are doing is right or wrong – it’s just the way they have always done it.
Some people just smoosh all the words together like “PortlandMaineHomeSales.php”, which to us humans looks OK, but Google will see this as one big word. Don’t do this if you can help it.
People who started creating documents after Windows (and Macs) gained popularity often want to use spaces in their file names. In most cases, web servers and browsers (firefox, internet explorer, etc.) can handle spaces fine and will deliver the pages. However, spaces get translated to “%20″ by the browser, this makes the page URL look confusing for your visitors. For example, you might create a file named “four bedroom ranch style homes.php” on your web site. It will load just fine most of the time, and the engines will see each word individually. However, when displayed to your visitors, it will look like this; “four%20bedroom%20ranch%20style%20homes.php”. Not so nice to look at, is it? Additionally, the “%20% is saved by analytics programs making it difficult for you make heads or tails of your traffic.
I’ve already told you that using the underscore “_” character is a bad idea. This is because Google treats the underscore as a connector, not as a separator. For example, in a URL you may have something like “/quahog_rhode_island_home_sales/”. To us humans it reads fine, we can clearly see there are five distinct words there. However, Google just sees one big word. As such, this URL will not be returned for a query of “quahog rhode island home sales”. Well, that’s only half right – the page might be returned, depending on its content, but the URL will not contribute to its success in the SERPs.
That just leaves us with the dash, or hyphen “-“. As you may have guessed by now, this is the preferred method of separating words in your file names and URLs. In one of his webmaster videos, Matt Cutts tells us that if we are already using underscores, and they are working fine – leave them alone. However, he does say Google prefers dashes.
Separators in page titles
When it comes to page titles, all of the rules above also apply. But there are a couple additional characters that people will sometimes use. The ampersand “&” and the pipe “|”. Google treats each of these as a word separator, so either one is fine to use. As with all things Google, Matt Cutts hints in another video that it’s best to do what your users like.
Separators in domain names
When it comes to domains, Google does things a little different. Because domains are so important, and (sometimes) difficult to acquire, Google put some extra steps in the algorithm when it comes to processing them. Unlike in directory & file names, Google is able to recognize when multiple words are squished together in a domain. I’m sure that they prefer they be separated by dashes (less time required to analyze the words), but it is not required and there is not impact on rankings. It is also easier to communicate your web address to someone when dashes are not used. Most people understand the spaces are omitted when you tell them a domain name, so when you say “hey, take a look at today’s agent genius dot com”, they know to visit agentgenius.com. Put that dash in there and it’s not so clear, perhaps even a little confusing to have to say “go checkout the latest post on agent dash genius dot com”. Obviously, we can’t always get the domain we want without using hyphens, but whenever possible I recommend you avoid them.
There you have – word separators in a nut-shell. No geekery and hopefully not too much controversy for the commenters 😉
Will cash still be king after COVID-19?
(EDITORIAL) Physical cash has been a preferred mode of payment for many, but will COVID-19 push us to a cashless future at an even faster rate?
Say goodbye to the almighty dollar, at least the paper version. Cashless is where it’s at, and COVID-19 is at least partially to thank–or blame, depending on your perspective.
Let’s face it, we were already headed that direction. Apps like Venmo, PayPal, and Apple Pay making cashless transactions painless enough that even stubborn luddites were beginning to migrate to these convenient payment methods. Then COVID-19 hit the world and suddenly, handling cash is a potential danger.
In 2020, the era of COVID-19, the thought of all the possible contaminants, traveling around on an old dollar bill makes most of us cringe. Keep your nasty sock money, boob money, and even your pocket money to yourself, sir or madam, because I’ll have none of it! Nobody knows or wants to know where your money has been. We like the idea of taking your money, sure, but not the idea of actually touching it…ewww, David. Just ewww.
There is no hard evidence that cash can transmit COVID-19 from one person to the other, but perception is a powerful agent for changing our behavior. It seems plausible, considering the alarming rate this awful disease is moving through the world. Nobody has proven it can’t move with money.
There was a time when cash was King. Everyone took cash; everyone preferred it. Of course, credit cards have been around forever, but they’ve always been just as problematic as they are convenient. Like GrubHub and similar third party food delivery apps, banks end up charging both the business and the consumer with credit cards. It’s a trap. Cash cut out the (greedy) middle man.
Plus, paying with a credit card could be a pain. Try paying a taxi driver with a credit card prior to, oh, about 2014 when Uber hit the scene big time. Most drivers refused to take cash, because credit cards take a percentage off the top. Enter rideshare companies like Uber. Then in walks Square. Next PayPal, Venmo, and Apple Pay enter the scene. Suddenly, cabbies would like you to know they now take alternate forms of payment, and with a smile.
It’s good in a way, but it may end up hurting small businesses even more in the long run. The harsh reality of this current moment is that you shouldn’t be handling cash. No less an authority than the CDC recommends contactless forms of payment whenever possible. However, those cabbies weren’t wrong.
The banking industry has been pushing for a reduced reliance on cash since the 1950s, when they came up with the idea of credit cards. It was a stroke of evil genius to come up with more ways to expedite our lifelong journey into crushing debt.
The financial titans are very, very good at what they do, at the expense of all the rest of us. The New York Times reported on the trend, noting:
“In Britain alone, retailers paid 1.3 billion pounds (about $1.7 billion) in third-party fees in 2018, up £70 million from the year before, according to the British Retail Consortium.
Payment and processing companies such as PayPal (whose stock is up about 55 percent this year) and Adyen, based in the Netherlands (up 72 percent), also stand to gain.”
All kinds of related banking-related industries stand to benefit as well. Maybe we’ll go back to spending physical cash one day, but I don’t think there’s any hurry. Fewer old grandpas are hiding their cash in their proverbial mattresses, and the younger, most tech-savvy generation seems perfectly content to use their smart phones for everything.
We get it. Convenience plus cleanliness is a sweet combo. I only wish it weren’t such a racket.
If this trend towards a cashless future continues, there may be a possibility that travelers in the future may not experience what it’s like to fumble with foreign currency, to smile and shrug and hand over a handful of bills because they have no idea how many baht, pesos, or rand those snacks are. They may not experience the realization that other countries’ bills come in different shapes and sizes, and they may not come home with the most affordable souvenirs (coins and bills).
We shall see what the future holds. Odds are, it may not be cash money, at least in the U.S. I hope the cashless movement makes room for everyone to participate without being penalized. We’re in the middle of a pandemic, people. We need to find more ways to ease the path for people, not callously profit off of them.
Google Maps will soon display traffic lights
(TECH NEWS) The addition of traffic light positions to Google Maps promises to boost navigation accuracy. Now you won’t run a light while looking at navigation.
At over 150 million monthly users, Google Maps’ value is not to be understated. With a new feature that shows traffic light positions rolling out to select devices and locations soon, one can expect that trend to continue.
A common issue with navigation via an app–especially when navigating solo–is a lack of precision that can lead to confusion, missed exits, potentially dangerous driving, and, worst of all, spilled coffee. By adding the location of traffic lights, Google Maps will improve both landmark recognition and automated navigation by providing drivers with more accessible information.
It’s worth noting a couple of arguing points, the first of which is the assertion that Google is starting from scratch on this feature. They aren’t. In fact, Japan-based Google Maps users have had access to traffic light positioning for years; Google is simply expanding the feature to include a larger number of cities and population density.
In a similar vein, Google also isn’t the first company to implement an ease-of-access feature such as this. Apple Maps has incorporated traffic light recognition since the release of iOS 13, and while its use is hit-or-miss (my iPhone 11 fails to pick up most traffic lights in my admittedly rural town of residence), the option to have Siri direct users to the nearest traffic light rather than saying “in 213.7 feet, turn left” is helpful.
That said, Apple Maps is a service which sees a little over 20 million monthly users–a far cry from Google Maps’ monthly base. For Google, accuracy and speed of updates will be paramount for a successful, routinely helpful launch.
At the time of this writing, Google plans to release the traffic light feature in New York, San Francisco, and a few other United States cities. The feature will be available on Android devices–sorry for now, Apple users–and will ideally expand to encompass most of the country if the initial release is successful.
It will be interesting to see how comprehensive Google’s coverage is and how quick the company is to adjust positioning of lights as cities do what cities do best. For now, if you have an Android device, keep an eye on your Maps app–good things are coming your way.
Plastic bags are making a comeback, thanks to COVID-19
(BUSINESS NEWS) Plastic bags are back, whether you like it or not – at least for now.
Single use plastic bags are rising like a phoenix from the ashes of illegality all over the country, from California to New York. Reusable bags are falling out of favor in an effort to curtail the spread of COVID-19. It’s a logical step: the less something is handled, generally, the safer it is going to be. And porous paper bags are thought to have a higher potential to spread the virus through contact.
It’s worth mentioning that single use plastic bags are considerably more
environmentally efficient to manufacture compared to paper, cloth, and reusable plastic bags. Per unit, they require very little material to make and are easily mass produced. It also goes without saying that they have a very short lifespan, after which they end up sitting in landfills, littering streets, or drifting through oceans.
In the grand scheme of things, it’s hard to deny that single use plastics have the potential to be as dangerous to humans as COVID-19. Coronavirus is a very immediate existential threat to us in the United States, but the scale of the global crises that stem from the irresponsible consumption of cheap disposable goods, also cannot be overstated. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch isn’t going anywhere. (And did you know that it’s just one of many huge garbage patches around the world?)
So… what exactly are we going to do about the comeback of plastic bags? Because to be honest, I used to work in grocery retail, and it is difficult and often unrewarding. So, I wouldn’t exactly love handling potentially contaminated tote bags all day in the midst of a pandemic if I were still a supermarket employee. You couldn’t pay me enough to feel comfortable with that – forget minimum wage!
I used to have a plastic bag stuffed full of other plastic bags sitting in my kitchen, like American nesting dolls, before disposable plastics fell from grace. (I’m sure some of y’all know exactly what I’m talking about.) This bag of bags was never a point of pride. It got really annoying because it just kept growing. There are only so many practical home uses for the standard throw-away plastic shopping bag. Very small trash can liners; holding snarls of unused cables, another thing I accumulate for no reason; extremely low-budget packing material; one could get crafty and somehow weave them into a horrible sweater, I guess.
I don’t miss my bag of bags. I don’t want to have to deal with another. Hey, Silicon Valley? Got any disruptive ideas for this one?
Even if we concede that disposable plastics are a necessary evil in the fight against COVID-19, the fact remains that they stick around long after you’re done with them. That’s true whether you throw them out or not.
I’m not trying to direct blame anywhere. Of course businesses should do their best to keep their customers and staff safe, and if that means using plastic bags, so be it. Without clear guidance from our federal government, every part of society has been fumbling and figuring out how to keep one another healthy with the tools they’ve got at hand. (…Well, almost every part.)
The changes to the state bag bans have been cautious and temporary so far, which is a small relief. But nobody really knows how much longer the pandemic will rage on and necessitate the relaxations.
I won’t pretend that I have a sure solution. All I can really ask is that we all be extra mindful of our usage of these disposable plastic products. Let’s think creatively about what we might otherwise throw away. We must not trade one apocalypse for another.
Will cash still be king after COVID-19?
Google Maps will soon display traffic lights
Plastic bags are making a comeback, thanks to COVID-19
Scammers are taking advantage of the unemployed
PopCom designs smart vending machines to automate regulated products
HEROES Act could increase unemployment stimulus benefits, add return to work bonus
A closer look at the HEROES act, and who stands to benefit the most
The White House pushes for $450 per week return to work bonus
Managing bipolar disorder and what I wish my employers understood
Google Glass didn’t succeed, but Apple’s AR glasses might
Anti-surveillance mask – creepy, ingenious, or potentially illegal?
Amy’s Ice Cream founder on Austin’s business risks and rewards #WhyAustin
Turns out a lot of people are in between introverted and extroverted
P. Terry’s founder on the booming economy in Austin #WhyAustin
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