telapost https://www.telapost.com Tue, 20 Feb 2018 06:29:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://www.telapost.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/cropped-favicon-32x32.png telapost https://www.telapost.com 32 32 How To Report a Company’s Fake Positive Google Reviews https://www.telapost.com/report-fake-google-reviews/ https://www.telapost.com/report-fake-google-reviews/#respond Tue, 20 Feb 2018 06:29:13 +0000 https://www.telapost.com/?p=6109 gmbRecently a client brought to my attention a business in their area who rapidly accumulated dozens of 5 star reviews. Interestingly, they already had half a dozen negative reviews. A lot of people are afraid to leave businesses a negative review, so if this many people stepped forward to leave a bad 1 star review, they clearly upset a lot of folks.

I’ve always wondered how to report a competitor’s fake positive Google reviews. I myself once owned a brick and mortar business for 13 years and had dealt with companies giving themselves fake reviews in the past but in many cases they just gave themselves half a dozen and gave up. But in this case, the business is rapidly accumulating reviews.

So, I figured out how it is done, witnessed the process in action, and now I’m here to report on it.

How to report fake positive reviews

You can flag individual reviews left in Google when viewing a business’s reviews, but if they look like normal reviews or not contain vulgarities or hate speech, Google is not going to do anything about them. But, I do have actionable advice:

  1. Obtain evidence of the incentive. This is the most important step. You need a screenshot of their offering, a URL clearly showing where they are incentivizing reviews, a photo of their flyer, or clear proof. Some businesses advertise their payment for reviews on their website or on social media such as Twitter or Facebook. If a business has obtained 4 or 5 reviews in the last 10 years and then suddenly received 70 in just a few days from people who have clearly never used their services, this may be enough “proof” as well.
  2. Present the facts. Check your emotions at the door and head over to the Official Google My Business community forum. Type up exactly how the reviews are being purchased or incentivized, the dates the misleading reviews were left and post this in one tidy post in the forum.
  3. Locate a “top contributor”. These forum members may find your post on their own. If they do not, ping them or track them down in the forum so they see your post. If you have a legitimate case, they will use their superpowers to escalate your report from the forum to Google. Do not beg, they only care about the facts and keeping Google’s data accurate.

Example threads where people have successfully had fake positive reviews removed:

Fake reviews are unethical, deceptive and possibly illegal.

When most people find a business online they simply see the star count or star rating of a business and proceed to trust Google and contact the business. Very few end users will go through dozens of reviews, scrutinizing each one.

Fake positive reviews are so deceiving. Not only is this against Google’s policy, there are laws against it put in place by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC does not want people incentivizing people’s reviews. It is against the law. It’s rare the FTC actually takes action against people, however they do sometimes make an example out of someone for misrepresenting their business.

Getting fake positive reviews is a bad idea. You’re going to upset other business owners in the area. I’ve personally been in business for a little over two decades now and have always found it to be in my best interest to simply be good, honest and treat everyone, even competitors, respectfully.

Have you seen a business buying fake reviews?

We would like to hear your story; please feel free to comment below.

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Ad Networks on News Publisher Sites are Serving Spam, Malware and Fake News https://www.telapost.com/publisher-sites-serving-spam/ https://www.telapost.com/publisher-sites-serving-spam/#respond Fri, 02 Feb 2018 22:08:41 +0000 https://www.telapost.com/?p=6075 News organizations are allowing ad networks to display Fake News and fraudulent website scams on their sites via content delivery platforms and ad networks. Will the FTC take action against these publishers and advertising platforms, or continue to allow Americans to be scammed out of millions of dollars?

I have been documenting quite a few scams on this site lately, just because, well, nobody else is doing it. People email me and thank me for it every day. In fact, one reader’s response was so thorough it is now its own article: Rob Gronkowski Fake News Primal XL [Scam].

Unsuspecting users are being tricked into signing up for “free samples” of testosterone boosting, skin beauty, weight loss and brain enhancing supplements. Many of these people would not normally be tricked except they clicked on a headline on their local news website.

Even major publishers such as CNN are occasionally serving these “ads”.

Once people arrive at the destination site, they are tricked into paying the shipping and handling fees of a new pill only to later find out they’re being billed $90 – $100/mo from a company and they have no idea how to stop the recurring charges on their credit card.

There are several problems here:

  • Publishers are struggling to make money, so they must monetize their site with ads
  • Some ad networks knowingly let these “scams” run at the expense of unsuspecting web users
  • The sites people land on often are imitating well known news sources such as Business Insider or Fox News.

The FTC is aware of the problem and has charged companies in the past. They still recommend that people turn in these websites but the sites keep popping up.

The Newsmax Ad Network

My local news station is WRAL. They have been running deceptive Newsmax advertisements for several months now. Thousands and thousands of people have read my scam articles, which tells me that tens of thousands of people are being ripped off. If I didn’t have morals I’d jump right into this deceptive practice and become a millionaire. It’s very easy to set up a fraudulent website and trick people, especially when reputable news organizations will knowingly post your ads for you for only a few cents.

This is what the newsmax ads look like on WRAL:

It isn’t just WRAL in Raleigh North Carolina, Newsmax ads are everywhere.

And it isn’t just Newsmax; while shortlived, I’ve even seen Google Adsense distributing malware.

How the scam works:

In general:

  • A user will be on their local news site and see an ad either in the main content or on the sidebar of their website. The ad usually looks just like a news headline. In fact, in many cases there is no text which clarifies to the unsuspecting user that they are looking at an advertisement. As seen in the image above, an ad may just read “FDA Green-Lights $5 Memory Booster cures brain fog”.
  • The user clicks onto the paid advertisement to be presented with a page impersonating a website such as Fox News. The page is all about a pill which is supposed to sharpen their brain. There are then fake news stories about Bill Nye, Donald Trump, Bill Gates, Dr. Oz or any other well known person saying that the pill is an amazing, revolutionary breakthrough.
  • Users are then told they will get a free bottle if they pay $4.95 for shipping and that there is a deadline and they must act immediately before supplies run out. There are fake Facebook comments which look like user reviews as well.
  • People sign up and turn in their credit card information only to later discover they’re now being charged $90 – $100 each month for a subscription. There is usually a warning for this at the very bottom of a page – where nobody will ever look – buried in teeny tiny grey on white print or even on a completely separate web page.

A complete break down of how the brain boosting scam works is available here.

The solution

I think website owners, especially trusted news organizations, need to take some kind of responsibility for what is on their website. They can’t just hide behind “I had no idea” anymore. The problem is glaringly obvious, and at this point consumers are losing millions of dollars. The idea of trying to profit 15 cents from an ad click when a user may lose several hundred dollars is ridiculous. That’s like when a meth addict steals a $9,000 air conditioner unit to get $25 for the copper in it. It’s just… wrong. Would you knowingly buy new HVAC units from a meth addict just to make a few bucks?

I think the FTC needs to take action against the advertisers pushing these ads and the publishers knowingly allowing them to be displayed on their website.

Believe it or not, one of the worst offenders is Yahoo. Yahoo’s home page is loaded with spam and malware.

Is this Fake News?

Almost all of the scams involve completely fake news. The websites are NOT Fox News, they just look like Fox News and say “Fox News” at the top. They also include quotes from Bill Gates, Donald Trump, Bill Nye, Stephen Hawking and more. Other times the stories are completely made up and about Shark Tank, Vanna White, Amazon, Sally Field,

In fact, if you’re an advertiser on one of these news networks it appears they’ll let you put anything you want up as an advertisement, no matter how untrue it is.

In the case of WRAL above, people have absolutely no idea that they’re clicking on an advertisement. The headlines are indeed Fake. Essentially, news organizations all over the world are knowingly distributing Fake News.

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Rob Gronkowski Fake News Primal XL [Scam] https://www.telapost.com/rob-gronkowski-fake-news-scam/ https://www.telapost.com/rob-gronkowski-fake-news-scam/#comments Fri, 02 Feb 2018 07:57:51 +0000 https://www.telapost.com/?p=6090 People everywhere are being redirected to fake, lookalike websites from legitimate news websites. They click on a link which appears to be part of the news website and next thing you know, they’re on a fake site reading a fake story by companies and affiliate marketers trying to trick people into signing up for a $90/month subscription.

The content below comes from Shane Wilcutt. Shane emailed me with such great detail I decided to publish their story here (with their permission). Shane had found my documentation of a very similar scam here for a testosterone pill: Fake Fox News & Shark Tank Content Showing on CNN.com.

Rob Gronkowski Fake News and Primal XL

Early this AM I placed an order for a free sample of Primal XL, which I was directed to through the latest “fake news” story about Rob Gronkowski’s supposed suspension for using performance enhancing drugs.  I’m a huge Patriots fan and was initially drawn in out of concern for my team.  We need the Gronk!
Anyway, I ultimately (and stupidly) ordered a free sample of the Primal XL product, for a modest shipping charge of $4.95.  I had to navigate through a couple of additional screens after providing my CC info, and when it was all said and done, my order had been confirmed for one free sample of Primal XL, $4.95 S&H, a free sample of Primal Male, $4,90 S&H, and an additional charge for $1.95 which was itemized as Insurance.  I did not sign on for the latter two charges, and that was the first sign that something was wrong.

Soon after I placed my order, I received an email receipt confirming my order.  It was a generic form, with no identifying information related to the company except © Primal XL.  This was the second red flag, and it got my attention.

I proceeded to search the internet and ultimately found the article you wrote in February 2017, almost exactly a year ago.  I can’t believe they’ve been getting away with this for so long.  After reading the extensive list of comments at the end of your post, I realized that I had to take action.  I’m a graduate student and single parent of a 16 year-old, and we have been living off student loans for about 18 months now.  It has not been easy, but we’ve managed to get by.  All of this is to say that I can’t afford to be scammed.

My first action was to send an email to “Primal XL’s” customer support email address.  I quickly decided that wasn’t good enough.  I did some more digging and found a customer support hotline number.  When all was said and done, I made four phone calls over the span of about an hour.  As I peeled back the layers, I was shocked and appalled with the complexity of this scam and the anonymity of the company that is running it.  Here’s what I ultimately discovered:

  • The contact information provided on their (many) websites gives a physical address in Denver, CO, and a customer support hotline number
  • I made my first call to the hotline at 5:45 AM CST, where I received an automated message stating that business hours were between 7a and 9p (Mountain time, I assumed).
  • For some unknown reason, I called the hotline again at 6:05a CST, and to my surprise, someone answered.  After a lengthy conversation with a CSR, my order was cancelled
  • I requested that this CSR transfer me to a supervisor, and she agreed to transfer me, and after 10 minutes on hold, I hung up.
  • I called a second time, and eventually made contact with a supervisor.  When I asked her for her company’s name and location, she started to back-pedal.  I told her that while I had been led to believe they were located in CO, the time discrepancies now made me suspect that they were actually on the east coast.  She said something like “Well, you just said you found our address in Denver.”  I know that’s what I said, but is that what you’re saying.  She stated unequivocally that yes, they were located in Denver.
  • I called the hotline a third time, determined to get a straight answer.  The second supervisor I spoke to was very receptive to my request, and she eventually provided me with contact information for a home office located in Orlando, FL.  Just as I suspected.  However, she gave me a generic customer support email and a PO Box address.
  • By this time, I had received two separate emails confirming cancellation of two separate transactions (initially generated from a single order).  I also received one email verifying that that a single charge had been refunded back to my account.  When I checked my bank statement, I discovered I had been charged for three separate transactions, for $4.95, $4.90, and $1.95
  • I called the hotline again, and spoke to another sympathetic CSR who assured me that all three transactions had indeed been cancelled, processed, and refunded.  She also provided me with transaction numbers for each of the three refunds.  When the call ended, I was nearly convinced that I had been taken care of.  However, when I cross-referenced the transaction number provided in the refund confirmation email, it did not match any of the numbers that were provided for me.  This was the last straw.
  • I called my bank’s consumer fraud hotline and was told two of the transactions had been generated from California, and the third from Canada.  I reported the charges as fraudulent, despite the supposed refunds.
  • Next, I went to the local branch of my bank, told them my story, and cancelled my debit card.  Despite the inconvenience of being without a debit card for two weeks, I at least feel comfortable that I will not be responsible for any current or subsequent charges.

All of these minor details may be excessive, but I feel compelled to tell someone my story, and I suspect that you will appreciate it.  In the age of electronic transactions and blatantly deceptive advertising campaigns, someone has to stand up for the little guy.  My story is a perfect illustration of the patience, diligence, and knowledge of the system which is necessary to protect yourself.  Unfortunately, I fear that I am among a very small minority of people who know how to advocate from themselves (my graduate degree will be a Master’s in Social Work).  That’s why I have such a tremendous amount of respect for the work that you do.  IMHO, consumer protection work represents a vitally important check on a capitalist system which has gone off the rails and is completely out of control.  I’m quite sure that, after all this time, such a scam can only continue because it is technically legal, achieved by carefully manipulating the loopholes that inevitably exist in our Federal laws.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my time as a graduate student, it’s that you have to pick your battles.  As much as I’d love to right all of the wrongs in this world, if I get too fired up and take things too personally, I am bound to burn out quickly.  I’m still learning to accept this reality, as evidenced by this communication.  However, I can’t help wonder if something more can be done.

On that note, I was hoping you might provide me with some insight.  If one were so inclined, who might they contact to file a grievance?  I’m certain that no one incident will lead to meaningful action, but I have to hold out hope that cumulatively, if enough people voice their concerns, maybe something can be done to stop the unscrupulous and predatory practices which are running rampant in our country.  I know I can’t set the world on fire by myself, but I’ll be damned if I’m don’t do my part, whatever that may be.

Thanks in advance for your diligence, your dedication, and your time.  If you are able to respond to this message, I would greatly appreciate it.

Thank you Shane!

Thank you Shane. I have been online since 1988 and love Internet marketing, but this is just taking advantage of people. I don’t know how some people sleep at night. Every once in a while I’ll document a scam or some fake news that I run into on the Internet. Your email was so detailed I just had to put it online for the world to see.

Thank you!

How To File a Complaint

Over the years I have definitely had my problems with online businesses and there are indeed some steps anyone can take to file a complaint.

  1. Write an article warning people of the dangers or your experience. 🙂
  2. File a complaint with the FTC here: https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/. The FTC has charged companies in the past and posts warnings about these sites.
  3. File a complaint with the Attorney General for your state.
  4. If you can find them, file a BBB complaint for them with their local BBB. This won’t stop them but reminds them that they suck.
  5. Dispute credit card charges. It’s a pain in the rear for them.
  6. Complain to the news website hosting the ads. I haven’t tried this just yet. But, I mean at some point publishers need to take some sort of responsibility to what is appearing on their website, even if it’s an advertisement.
  7. Complain to the company placing the ads on the publsiher’s site. A lot of fake news is pushed out via Newsmax and I don’t think they care. But hey why not.

Have you seen a fraudulent Primal XL website?

How did you get to it? Which website were you on when you saw the advertisement? Do you have a similar story to share?

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Super Bowl LII Poll in Google Search: Google Polls? https://www.telapost.com/super-bowl-lii-google-poll/ https://www.telapost.com/super-bowl-lii-google-poll/#comments Fri, 02 Feb 2018 07:13:08 +0000 https://www.telapost.com/?p=6085 In August 2017 I noticed something new in Google’s search results. A poll! I had not seen one before. Just like Super Bowl LII, the poll was for a highly anticipated sporting event: Connor Vs McGregor. You can see the screenshots of the Connor Vs McGregor Google Poll here.

I  believe the Super Bowl LII Google Poll just went live February 1, 2018. It’s 11PM CST 2/1/2018 right now and only 130,000 people have voted so far.

What’s a Google Poll?

It appears that Google will be running their own polls when events are coming up that millions of people will watch. The feature seems to be just for fun. Why not.

Screenshots

I expect the polls to disappear on Super Bowl Sunday after the game ends, so here are the screenshots of the Google Poll just after it went live:

I am not a big football guy and I know a ton of people are rooting for the Eagles. I have Philly clients probably reading this right now, but, hey I voted for the Patriots, just because they seem to win often. That said I do enjoy seeing upsets and will watch the Super Bowl even if I am secretly doing so just to see the commercials… Anyways, after you vote you’ll see the current stats:

What do you think about Google Polls?

Google’s mobile search engine results page will be quite interesting on February 4th when Super Bowl Sunday kicks off…

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Are Tide Pods Dangerous To Eat? https://www.telapost.com/are-tide-pods-dangerous-to-eat/ https://www.telapost.com/are-tide-pods-dangerous-to-eat/#respond Tue, 30 Jan 2018 08:00:49 +0000 https://www.telapost.com/?p=6080

Tide Pods Laundry Detergent

Laundry detergent packets such as Tide Pods are poisonous and extremely dangerous to eat. They are concentrated and come in a variety of different chemicals. Potential effects of eating detergent include seizures, pulmonary edema, respiratory arrest, coma, and death.

Sources:

  • American Association of Poison Control Centers http://www.aapcc.org/press/83/
  • U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission https://cpsc.gov/s3fs-public/390%20Laundry%20Packets.pdf

This excellent YouTube video below explains in full detail exactly what can happen to people who bite into laundry detergent packets and precisely what happens to the human body once detergent is ingested:

Why are kids eating tide pods?

Just like the Cinnamon Challenge or any other Internet fad, the “Tide Pod Challenge” became a thing in late 2017. People chew up a laundry packet and spew soap from their mouths in an effort to impress friends on social media.

Tide released a PSA addressing the dangers of the challenge:

I am not the expert here, but I do know one thing: I once wrote an article about getting more views on Snapchat. Keep in mind, nobody can see your snapchat score – it’s only on your own phone. But people like to see that score go up. I didn’t expect anyone to read the article. I was wrong. That article has been read hundreds of thousands of times. People are reading it right now as I type. The bottom line is a lot of people out there want attention online – that includes kids, teens, and even the Kardashians.

But for what?

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How To Upload Video to Google My Business https://www.telapost.com/how-to-upload-video-gmb/ https://www.telapost.com/how-to-upload-video-gmb/#respond Mon, 29 Jan 2018 07:08:51 +0000 https://www.telapost.com/?p=6072 2018 is here and so is the ability to add video to Google My Business.

The ability has been live for “Local Guides” for about 4 months now. That means that anyone can upload a video to your business listing. The move was expected, as Yelpers have been able to do this for quite some time now.

To add your own video to your Google My Business page:

  1. Log in to the Google My Business Dashboard at business.google.com
  2. Select your business, and go to the photos category
  3. Select the new video tab
  4. Post your video

This is what the screen should look like when you go to upload your first video to GMB:

Business owners with physical locations can now upload images for the business logo, business exterior, interior, team photos, products and more. And, well, yes videos now too.

So, go ahead, create a video for your business and upload it.

If you are signed into a Google Account which is an Owner or Manager of the GMB page, you should see this option right in search results when you google your business name, however, I’ve been seeing the video tab come and go. Just today, I was unable to locate it.

Be sure to upload a video which appeals to potential customers and their needs or desires.

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Google Bulletin – Now Everyone is a Hyper Local Content Creator https://www.telapost.com/google-bulletin/ https://www.telapost.com/google-bulletin/#respond Mon, 29 Jan 2018 06:50:18 +0000 https://www.telapost.com/?p=6068 On January 25, 2018, Google announced Google Bulletin to a live audience in Nashville Tennessee. The people of Nashville and Oakland, California will be the first two markets getting “Bulletin”.

From the official Bulletin page:

Bulletin is an app for contributing hyperlocal stories about your community, for your community, right from your phone. Bulletin makes it effortless to put a spotlight on inspiring stories that aren’t being told.

The first Bulletin users will need Android phones, although Bulletin will soon be available to everyone, everywhere.

Bulletin will likely require users to be logged in to a Google Account. If you use Gmail or Google Maps, you already have one of those. There is no specific “app” to use, users will simply create content right from their phones.

I personally like the “bulletin” name, although Google will likely change it someday. Back in the day before the Internet was popular, people used “Bulletin Board Systems”, which were online systems where local users could communicate. It seems that Bulletin will bring some of this back.

I am guessing that “Bulletins” will appear right in search results just like Google Posts did.

Bulletins will likely essentially be like blog posts although users will not need an app or a website to create a bulletin. This could prove to be very useful to cover local events and breaking news.

Bulletins will have a creative commons style license so existing journalists can reference hyper-local content in their news articles. Bulletins will be able to be linked to, liked and shared as well, and Bulletin authors will have profile pages where past posts may be seen.

For more information on Bulletin, be sure to see this article by Sami Cone who was at the Nashville launch event and took this YouTube video of the launch:

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Congratulations Amazon User – Amazon Pop Up and iPhone X or Gift Card [SCAM] https://www.telapost.com/amazon-user-scam/ https://www.telapost.com/amazon-user-scam/#comments Tue, 23 Jan 2018 21:45:09 +0000 https://www.telapost.com/?p=6058 I was on a legitimate news website the other day in early 2018 on my Android phone (this also affects iPhone and desktop computer users) and up popped up a message for “Amazon Membership Rewards”.

This is NOT a legitimate message; the website is impersonating Amazon.

The message reads:

Congratulations Amazon.com User, you have a chance to get a gift!

Every Monday we select 10 lucky Amazon.com users randomly to receive a gift from our sponsors. This gift is ONLY for users in United States! This is our way of thanking you for your constantly support for our products and services.

The message then offers a fake time limit to respond.

Here’s a screenshot of what the message looks like:

Amazonaws.com and buckets

The message is very poorly written but some people think the iPhone X, Gift Card or Galaxy S8 giveaway is the real deal because they see “amazonaws.com” in the URL. This is because the scammers have taken advantage of Amazon “buckets”. Without going into too much detail, you can host a file in a bucket and you get a URL which looks like one of Amazon’s.

Here’s the offending URL to see the scam in action:

  • http://amazon.com-gift.com.s3-website-us-east-1.amazonaws.com/?_subid=2mmd0mfdpcnsh9fk&_token=uuid_2mmd0mfdpcnsh9fk_2mmd0mfdpcnsh9fk5a65fc207d8245.89857292

Why is my local news website hitting me with spam?

I wrote about this in January 2017. Unfortunately, most publishers are desperate to make money and will let questionable advertising networks post ads on their site. Sometimes these advertisements are pushing out malicious software which can steal bank account information, plaster your laptop with ads, trick you into taking surveys or infect your cell phone. For more information please read: News Websites Accidentally Showing Fake News.

How the scam works

A lot of people who see these messages pop up think that their browser is hijacked or that they have an infected phone. The popup occurs through ads on publisher websites with sneaky javascript. The good news is that your device is not infected. This scam exists to tricking people in to taking surveys.

Some people call these survey scams or survey spam.

For the sake of this article, I decided to play around with the scam and pretend that I was taking the bait for a $1,000 Amazon Gift Card, iPhone X or Samsung Galaxy S8.

So I clicked the link.

First, I was given a quick quiz, which asked me 3 simple questions, such as “Who is the President of Amazon?” (Jeff Bezos, of course).

Upon completing the quiz, I was presented with 3 treasure chests. Yay! lol

I picked treasure chest B and was told to claim my $1,000 reward:

But once I clicked to claim my reward, I was then asked to answer more questions with this screen:

If you haven’t heard of them, this is the infamous “National Consumer Center” survey.

This takes you down a rabbit hole of answering 100 questions. If you use your legit phone number and email address, you will later receive dozens or possibly hundreds or maybe even thousands of “offers” in the mail, by phone, by email and by text.

Here’s a screen which pops up a bit later:

This has been going on for years

If you haven’t guessed by now, you’re probably never going to meet the requirements needed to get a free $1,000 gift card or an iPhone X or a Samsung Galaxy S8. This survey has been around the net tricking users for at least half a decade now, if not much longer.

Did you get tricked by this?

Please let us know in the comments below.

 

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Where Did the HuffPost Contributor Network Go? https://www.telapost.com/where-did-the-huffpost-contributor-network-go/ https://www.telapost.com/where-did-the-huffpost-contributor-network-go/#respond Fri, 19 Jan 2018 05:47:43 +0000 https://www.telapost.com/?p=6049 If you are unable to log in to the HuffPost Contibutor Network blogging platform, you should know that the system has shut down. Most people think it shut down due to a pending lawsuit and so that HuffPost could control the direction of their content.

Where do I contribute now?

For years I have tossed around the idea of creating a place for people to write. If you are interested in this please email me. I have no solid plans in place but I imagine a coop of sorts where writers can write without worrying about some company pulling the plug or deleting all of their content with no notice at all.

Did HuffPost do this due to SEO problems?

Earlier in 2017 HuffPost NoFollowed all outbound links from contributors. The program sucked and anyone could join and it was heavily spammed. I would have killed it also.

Will HuffPost delete the content?

For the moment it seems as if all old content is still live on the site and I have not heard that they will be removing old content. It appears that previous contributions are safe.

Why can’t I log in to the HuffPost Publishing Platform?

If you missed the memo, on January 18, 2018, HuffPost scrapped the blogging platform, just like the scrapped their old name, Huffington Post.

Authors attempting to log in are now greeted with this strange page which just says “Oops! Looks like you are in the wrong place.”:

They did not mention the $23.5 million lawsuit, but they did email contributors this:

Dear HuffPost Contributors,

When HuffPost launched in 2005, it introduced a group blogging platform that revolutionized and democratized online commentary. It allowed teachers, parents and protesters to share space with celebrities, politicians and CEOs while trading ideas on the pressing issues of the day. Over the years, more than 100,000 contributors have posted on the site, with many of you posting from the start.

Today, with the proliferation of social media and self-publishing platforms across the web, people have many more opportunities to share their thoughts and opinions online. At the same time, the quantity and volume of noise means truly being heard is harder than ever. Those who are willing to shout the loudest often drown out new, more-deserving voices. The same has proven to be true on our own platform.

It is with this in mind that we have made the decision to close the contributors platform on our U.S. site. Going forward, when you log in to the portal at contributors.huffingtonpost.com, you’ll see that you are able to access your previous drafts and published posts — and unpublish those posts if you choose to do so — but you won’t be able to post anything new. We won’t be taking down or making any changes to previously published content ourselves.

We’ll still be publishing commentary on the site, we’ll just be doing it at much smaller scale, collaborating with writers to share smart, original ideas and making sure that we’re lifting up the voices that have been left out of the conversation in the past. We hope to keep hearing from many of you in the future, and more information about how to pitch us your ideas will be published on the site.

Thanks for being an integral part of the HuffPost community. Your bold, thoughtful contributions to HuffPost’s contributor platform have helped to make us what we are today, and we are so grateful and proud to have had you with us in this endeavor.

Sincerely,

The HuffPost Team

Were you a HuffPost contributor?

I put an article or two there myself!

Please feel free to comment below.

 

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Introducing the new Search Console (beta) Message – What’s New? https://www.telapost.com/2018-gsc/ https://www.telapost.com/2018-gsc/#comments Tue, 16 Jan 2018 21:59:51 +0000 https://www.telapost.com/?p=6046 In early 2018, many website owners began receiving a message from Google about a new version of Google Search Console. This edition is in beta and users can switch back and forth between the old version and the new version while the new version is being tested. It is likely that we will see new features and tweaks to the new version before the “beta” label goes away.

So far, the most interesting feature is “performance report”. As Google notes, the new GSC performance report shows metrics such as popular pages, search queries, impressions, click through rate and positions. Many people will be happy to find out that there is now 16 months of data, as well.

If you haven’t had the email yet as of January, don’t worry, you will likely receive it later this month or in February 2018.

Below is what the notification looks like:

Introducing the new Search Console (beta)

It reads:

To owner of http://*******.com/,

Search Console is introducing a redesigned product to help you manage your presence on Google Search. The new Search Console was rebuilt from the ground up to provide the tools and insights that site owners and SEOs have been asking for. You can now confirm which of your pages are indexed and get information on how to fix indexing errors. You can also monitor your performance on Google Search with 16-months of data (to enable year-over-year comparisons).

We recommend checking your current status using the new Search Console today, as we will only notify you if your site data changes from the current state.

Here’s a screenshot:

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NAP Consistency and Local Citation SEO Myths – 2018 Edition https://www.telapost.com/nap-consistency/ https://www.telapost.com/nap-consistency/#respond Wed, 10 Jan 2018 20:37:42 +0000 https://www.telapost.com/?p=6026

Your business name, address, and phone number (on other sites) do not affect your placement in Google Local packs. Today, I finally had enough time to sit down and type out some facts on this confusing topic along my thoughts just for you. 🙂

Maybe at one point they did. But IF that were true, it was many, many, many, many years ago. A Google patent from 2006, centuries ago in “Internet years”, did indeed state that Google could “determine authoritativeness” of a business/webpage by looking at additional references of addresses, phone numbers and names of businesses from around the web. That was probably a brilliant idea in 2006, but irrelevant and useless in 2018 and moving forward. Google is far more advanced now.

That said, yes, having your Name, Address, and Phone Number consistent across the web is a good idea, however, most businesses only need to be listed in 1, 2 or 3 places and attempting to be listed in 650 random directories is total nonsense.

Note 1: In every industry, there are indeed a dozen or so local niche specific directories where it may be beneficial to be listed. More on that below!

Note 2: If you want to completely ignore this article and my experience and make your business listings match all over the web anyways, I will help you accomplish just that! Full instructions at the bottom of this article. You can make ’em all match for about $250, no need to pay a recurring fee to be in 650 directories. 😉 There are thousands of companies selling “citation building services” for $20/mo – $1,000/mo and they are all pushing the exact same thing.

A quick vocabulary lesson

  • NAP = Name, Address, Phone Number
  • NAP Consistency = Having your NAP data consistent across the web at local listing providers
  • Local Citation = A local listing in a local directory (eg: hotfrog.com, yellowbook.com)
  • Local Pack = The 3 pack of local listings which displays for local business searches
  • Local Search = Organic results in Google search engine result pages

Google doesn’t need data from 650 places

If you owned Google you would see that their data is pretty good. They know where buildings and businesses are located. Heck, they have pictures of them! If you had all this data would you then go see what BirdPagesLocal.com or YellowBook14.com or ZippyStar123listing.com is up to? No! Google does not care. Bring does not care. Yahoo does not care. Baidu and Yandex do not care. Nobody cares!

How did this myth start? A history lesson

There are a handful of visible people in the SEO industry who sell a monthly service to make sure your listings with completely random websites. Of course, they will tell you that you need their services. These people also put out junk like “Top 10 Google Local Ranking Factors of 2019” style articles and guess what is at the top of the list: Citations! These articles are echoed throughout the SEO industry in what I call the “echo chamber”.

The decent companies selling “citation services” came out in 2016 and stated that Google no longer uses data from all of these random directories.

They all started out with good intentions but now the vast majority of these services are useless.

The myth has gone on far too long. There are now thousands of companies pushing local citations even though they quit helping years ago.

Different businesses need different listings

There is no one size fits all solution.

Attorneys do not need to be listed in MerchantCircle. Restaurants do not need to be listed at the AVVO Lawyer Directory. Hotels do not need Zagat restaurant listings. HVAC companies do not need to be listed with UrbanSpoon or PriceLine.com.

Beware the useless directories

iBegin, LocalStack, HotFrog, MagicYellow, DexKnows, Factual, BOTW, Localeze, InfoUSA, SaleSpider, Corporation Wiki…

Have you EVER heard of any of these websites?

No.

If someone tells you that you need to be in 400, 500, 600, or 1,000 directories like this, they are either incorrect or lying. Larger marketing firms push this knowing that no results will come from the efforts just to make money. While I am completely FOR people making money on the Internet, I am completely AGAINST people knowingly selling useless services, snake oil, sugar pills and fake SEO services.

Niche directories which may help.

Almost all businesses need a:

  • Google My Business page
  • Facebook
  • Yelp
  • Foursquare
  • Apple Maps

Beyond that, some directories do indeed provide a nice little link to your website. This is not a powerful link, but hey it is something. In a competitive niche, the link is useless. If you are in a very low competition niche you can indeed rank well with just directory links alone.

For every niche there are usually 5 – 10 relevant directories available which are worth spending your valuable time on. Simply register, claim your profile and be done with it. You can usually knock most of these out in an hour or two.

Attorneys
Law firms can also use AVVO, FindLaw, Justia, Martindale, HG, Nolo, etc.

After those are exhausted come the more random places I personally intentionally avoid. These are called things such as duilawyerdir.com or truckcrashlawyer.com and are sites with no power which you’ve never heard of. These sites have zero SEO value, your potential clients do not use them, and, they will never result in a new case.

Then come the paid directories. These are human maintained and they charge for their time. A listing with one of these websites generally runs anywhere from $20 – $50/mo. Depending on the amount of traffic the website has and the “authority” of the site, you’ll have to determine if it is worth being listed in these or not. These indeed can have some SEO value to them.

Restaurants
Restaurants should be anywhere people are looking for them. I’ve even found restaurants on AirBNB before, although my Go-To is Yelp. Some restaurant websites include: TripAdvisor, OpenTable, GrubHub, HappyCow, etc. Don’t forget that some people find you via apps such as Weight Watchers and even Snapchat!

Dentists
Dentists are in a world of their own with all kinds of options. In this case, dentists should probably find a “good” SEO guru to handle their listings, if there is such a thing. Wellness.com, zocdoc, everydentist, healthprofs, etc. are just a few of the options. Like attorneys, pay attention to the SEO value of each listing and weigh the pros and cons of being in the directory.

How to rank well in the Local Pack

90% of ranking well in the Local Pack is simply done by ranking well in Local Search Results. If you rank well there and have good reviews, chances are you will rank just fine in the local packs.

Just tell me how to fix my local citations

If you have hired an “SEO Agency” who is sending you monthly reports, they are almost definitely using BrightLocal. These frequently come from a random website such as “local-marketing-reports.com” as a “citation report”. If they are simply marking up BrightLocal’s services, fire them right away. There are a lot of SEO agencies who simply generate these automated reports and charge $500, $1,000, or $2,500/mo for them. You can buy the same thing for $29/mo. Large agencies do not care about $2,500/mo and they will do nothing for you. It is borderline criminal and they should be sued.

Here are your options for building citations.

  1. Have your SEO person build them. As mentioned above, you really only need to be in a few directories and they can be banged out in just a couple of hours.
  2. Hire BrightLocal for $29/mo: www.brightlocal.com/packages/
  3. Hire WhiteSpark once. I personally like WhiteSpark and their people. $279 and they will build you out all of your “essential” citations. Click here for Whitespark’s cleanup service.

Recap

  • The vast majority of businesses are fine being listed in Google, Yelp and Facebook. These are free and easy to use and Google wants information directly from you.
  • There is some SEO value to being listed with 5 – 10 additional niche directories which provide a backlink.
  • Backlinks from most directories help local search results just a smidgin.
  • Local search results help people show up in local packs.
  • Local citations do not directly help local packs.
  • Don’t get ripped off buying citation services when you or your SEO person can just fix them yourself or pay WhiteSpark $279 to fix them all as a one time fee.
  • If you own a multi-location business or a chain or restaurants contact BrightLocal.
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Google My Business “people who called you” and Performance Reports Wrong https://www.telapost.com/gmb-reports-wrong/ https://www.telapost.com/gmb-reports-wrong/#respond Wed, 10 Jan 2018 17:44:20 +0000 https://www.telapost.com/?p=6030 Business owners now receive a neat little recap at the end of the month from Google My Business (GMB). While most business owners are still very confused and have absolutely no idea what GMB is, most are even more confused by this highly inaccurate and misleading report.

Today, January 10, 2018, I received this email from a GMB page that I manage. I happened to own this company before selling it years ago and I know EXACTLY how people find the business as my life basically depended on it for many years. The email is titled “Performance on Google for December 2017”.

Facts:

  • People use Google Maps for directions several times each day via the GMB page.
  • 20 – 40 new people call the business every day. Many of these found the website organically, however at least100 people call via GMB.

What Google says:

  • People use Google Maps for directions twice per month from the GMB page.
  • Only 6 new people call via the GMB page.

Here’s a screenshot of the email that I received:

If you went by the data in the email, you would think the business is dying.

In reality, this company is the oldest, most prominent, highest ranked, most reviewed and highly rated business in its niche.

Why are the monthly Google My Business reports incorrect?

I have no idea why they are wrong or how to correct the problem. Between this, major spam, fake reviews and many more problems, it feel like Google is really letting the Local side of things slip away. There is zero communication coming out of Google My Business lately. I’m not sure if they are secretly working on something behind the scenes or if google plans to scrap Google My Business and replace it with Yelp soon or what…

Only one thing is for certain: it is safe (and strongly recommended) to completely ignore these monthly reports.

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Cannabis Store Category Comes to Google My Business https://www.telapost.com/cannabis-store-gmb/ https://www.telapost.com/cannabis-store-gmb/#respond Tue, 02 Jan 2018 08:07:56 +0000 https://www.telapost.com/?p=6022 I am a little late on this one, but now that recreational marijuana is legal in California as of 2018, I decided to revisit how Google My Business is handling the business category.

For years, dispensaries providing medical marijuana to sick patients were stuck using random categories such as “medical clinic”, “herbal medicine store” or “alternative medicine practitioner”. Now, there is a category called “Cannabis Store”.

I’m not quite sure when this change occurred, but after googling around it appears that they added this category at some point in 2017.

Taking a look at San Francisco, it looks like the Bay Area is on top of this change as nearly all of the businesses selling the wacky tobaccy had this high on their priority list.

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Blog Content Displaying in Google News as Community Updates in 2017 and 2018 https://www.telapost.com/community-update-google-news/ https://www.telapost.com/community-update-google-news/#respond Tue, 02 Jan 2018 07:39:16 +0000 https://www.telapost.com/?p=6018 In December 2017, a client pointed out to me that another local business’s blog content was displaying in Google News. I was perplexed at first, as indeed, an article from their blog was displaying in Google News.

I checked the site out and it did not appear to be configured for Google News. To do this, I went to news.google.com and did a site search by typing in “site:domain-name.com” and received no results. I also looked at the blog’s content, and it was definitely not a blog which Google would accept in to Google News, and then I checked the site for a “news sitemap” (websites accepted in to Google News have a special news sitemap).

Then I remembered an announcement Google made in September 2017 about “Community Updates”.

Community Updates come to Google News

If you have never heard of Google News, it is basically the site news.google.com.

In many cities, especially suburbs like the one I live in, the big city news misses local news and events. They simply do not have the resources to cover all of the news. But, many local blogs do cover local happenings.

On September 14, 2017, Google announced that they are now showing additional local publishing sources like high school newspapers and hyperlocal bloggers to help people find more information about their own communities.

Here’s a screenshot of what a “community update” article looks like in Google News, mixed in with other actual news sources:

Does Google News still drive traffic?

Believe it or not, Google News drives very little traffic. How do I know? I own a website which is approved into Google News and I consult with some other various publishers.

Up until November 2016, being a Google News approved site was a big deal. Back then, Google had a section above organic search results called “In The News”. As more and more Fake News hit the web and Google was made to look bad around the 2016 Presidential Election, they scrapped “In The News” for “Top Stories”. Any google News approved site could simply publish an article and their content would be prominently displayed for 48hrs.

On November 23, 2016, Google Replaced “In The News” with “Top Stories”. Believe it or not, this was first discovered and documented by myself here on Thanksgiving eve. Feel free to read about this here: Google “In The News” Replaced with “Top Stories”. I have also documented by findings the Top Stories algorithm as well.

Since this change, most articles which make it to Google News drive drastically less traffic than they use to. I’ve personally met dozens of website owners who have shut their businesses down now due to the huge drop in traffic.

If you’re actually the source breaking the news you will still get traffic.

How do I get my content in to “Community Updates”?

I believe that what is triggering articles to show up in Community Updates are factors very similar to what is found in the Top Stories algorithm. A couple of those factors include:

  • Are people actively searching for this content? If your article is about a 5K and people are actively searching for answers and your website is the only website with the information, it is likely to show up in Community Updates.
  • Breaking News. If you’re the first to break the news, you will not only show up in Community Updates, you will also likely display in “Top Stories” as well.
  • Recent content. In general, many articles which do make it to Google News / Community Updates have a very short shelf life.

Recap

Here comes the IF THEN stuff:

IF you’re blogging about Hyper-local news OR upcoming events AND you’re the only, or one of the few sources to cover it, THEN you may display in Community Updates.

If you do this, you’ve likely already shown up in Community Updates and not even known about it.

There is no special thing you have to do to show up in Community Updates other than putting out hyper-local content (that enough people are actively searching for).

Also, do not expect to see any noticeable boost in traffic from this. Very few people know that Google News exists.

My guess is that since Google just implemented this very recently, we’ll see a bit more of this in 2018. I do expect they may avoid content which is self promotional and remain focused on hyper local news and local events.

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Website Content a Ranking Factor for Google Local Results https://www.telapost.com/website-content-a-ranking-factor-for-google-local-results/ https://www.telapost.com/website-content-a-ranking-factor-for-google-local-results/#respond Sun, 31 Dec 2017 07:07:15 +0000 https://www.telapost.com/?p=6014 I saw something new today underneath a business’s Google My Business listing in Google Local Results. There was a special section which read “Their Website Mentions”. Google specifically quotes content from the website in local results.

Google Local looks at website content?!

Yes, of course it does. For years, all sorts of businesses produced local packs specifically due to the keywords which they rank for.

For example, I know a real estate agent who didn’t rank organically for “real estate agent”. So, we put together a page for his website called “real estate agent + city name”. Once he ranked organically for that, he was then in the local pack for that particular search (prior to that he was focused on something much different). We did the same thing with “broker” as well.

Google Local Results reading website content

In this case, I had googled “deer processing” to see what would show up. I had just shot a nice buck with my crossbow. Every time that happens, I do a web search to see if their are any processors near me. There never are, and I wouldn’t use them anyways as I enjoy doing it myself.

Anyways, here is the screenshot:

In this case, there is probably no good category for deer processing and with so few local results they had to dig a little. But it still confirms for anyone in denial that Google does indeed know what is on your website.

In addition to the content, Google knows what you have listed as your business name, address and phone number. There are ways to help them along using “markup”, but that is beyond the scope of this article.

Have you seen this?

If you have seen local results in the local pack or in Google Maps like this we would love to hear from you. Please let us know the exact search term used to trigger the result!

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Google Testing Showing Reviews in Local Search and Maps Results https://www.telapost.com/google-testing-reviews-in-local/ https://www.telapost.com/google-testing-reviews-in-local/#respond Mon, 11 Dec 2017 22:55:47 +0000 https://www.telapost.com/?p=5977 On December 11, 2017, I discovered something new in Google’s local search results and also in the Maps results – reviews are displaying for some types of businesses. This appears to be a test at the moment, so who knows if it will roll out to all types of businesses or not. Some businesses, such as restaurants, get different items in the local pack such as “happy hour specials”.

The niche I am seeing reviews displayed for is DUI attorneys. I could not find reviews being displayed for any other type of attorney.

Here’s a screenshot I took for today’s search results for Spokane DUI lawyers:

And here’s a screenshot from maps results:

I know a couple of DUI lawyers in Washington, and one of them is DUI Attorney Dean Chuang. Dean likes the change but wonders if it will stick and if Google will expand the local results to continue displaying the hours of operation as well.

This is a good point, as the hours of operation are not visible when a review displays.

I guess we’ll see where Google goes with this.

Update: I am now seeing reviews in other local listings as well. Hey, I can’t test everything. But while looking at various hospitals I noticed reviews there as well.

In this case, I can indeed say that I do NOT want the hours covered up by someone’s review:

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Ultra Rare Melanistic Black Whitetail Deer Seen in North Carolina WITH an Albino https://www.telapost.com/black-deer-seen-in-nc/ https://www.telapost.com/black-deer-seen-in-nc/#comments Wed, 06 Dec 2017 12:00:20 +0000 https://www.telapost.com/?p=5685 On September 1, 2017, the remnants of Hurricane Harvey were passing through central North Carolina after devastating Texas and blew the transformer out on my property a few acres away from my house. So, we went out for a drive. We are near the new development of Chatham Park and I drove by that, got something to eat, walked around a few stores and were just out looking for the unknown when we found it. My wife spotted an albino deer, or more likely a piebald deer, not sure which but it was indeed a solid white whitetail deer fawn. I quickly turned the truck around and stopped in the median of the road to get a cell phone pic and we saw a solid black deer.

My wife saw it first and I told her there are no such thing as black deer. I was wrong. There was a freaking black deer there. I squinted and thought that it was just a shadow, then I thought it was a goat, then a black dog, then it moved and was eating grass, then it nibbled on the tree above it and followed along with mom and the albino. I couldn’t believe it. A BLACK WHITETAIL DEER!

I Googled it and the first thing I found was a Snopes article informing me that I am not crazy. The black whitetail deer is called a melanistic or melanic deer. According to North American Whitetail, “their bodies produce far too much of the hair, skin and retina pigment known as melanin”.

Black Deer Questions

I’ve asked myself:

Is this the only black deer in North Carolina?
North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission confirmed with me September 19, 2017 that their deer biologist, who has been with them for over 2 years, has never had a report of a melanistic deer in North Carolina.

Did the mom have a black deer and a white deer?
Are they twins or are these fawns from 2 separate mothers?

Does the same gene create both melanistic and piebald or albino deer?
Unknown. Researchers do not know the answers to this question.

Is this the only picture in the world containing both a black and a white deer?
It could be. I scoured the Internet and this is the only picture I could find.

Black Deer Pictures

Please feel free to use these images, just be sure to reference this article as your source. I want everyone to see these images.

Sorry in advance that these pictures aren’t perfect, we did the best we could with a Samsung Galaxy S7 zoomed in from a roadway before the black deer disappeared back into the woods. I have been searching for this deer again daily and yes I have a high resolution camera in my vehicle now.

Click them to enlarge them.

First picture of the melanistic black deer, September 1, 2017, 18:37:52:

Second picture, September 1, 2017, 18:37:53 – this picture was taken literally within 2 seconds of picture #1:

Side by side comparison picture – I had to do this just to be sure I am literally not nuts. I am not. The deer is doing the same thing in the pictures that we saw with our own two eyes – just grazing and nibbling at trees and berries:

September 18, 2017, 17:21:06 – today we spotted the albino deer. Unfortunately, the black deer is not in the picture (I don’ think), but at least we can see this fawn in the exact same place 17 days later and see how much larger he or she has gotten (and also confirm this is not a wild sheep or something):

September 19, 2017:

Tonight I went and stalked the deer. I spotted the albino. I sat still for over 30 minutes watching the albino and then I spotted the black deer! I still could not believe my own eyes. Unfortunately, it was getting dark out. I had my “good” camera but I was only able to get one shot of it before the camera quit taking pictures. It is a Nikon D5200 and it won’t take pictures if it doesn’t have enough light coming in to the lens. Anyways, I did get one very terrible picture, which I’ll post below:

Crazy right?! If you that was crazy, check out this HERD of calico whitetails I found on YouTube:

Update, December 6, 2017: I almost forgot to post this article to the web. This article is going live now. Deer hunting season in Chatham County is underway and apparently nobody has shot the deer yet as I’ve heard absolutely nothing about it.

Have you ever seen a black whitetail deer?

After reading online about various animals which can be melanistic I discovered that black panthers are actually melanistic panthers (thanks Wikipedia). So it does happen with all sorts of mammals, it is just very very very rare for deer to be melanistic. If you have seen a melanistic deer or an albino deer or any other strange deer, please feel free to chime in below.

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Meta Descriptions Can Now Be Up To 300 Characters in Google Mobile Search https://www.telapost.com/meta-descriptions-300/ https://www.telapost.com/meta-descriptions-300/#comments Wed, 06 Dec 2017 08:22:45 +0000 https://www.telapost.com/?p=5959

As of December 5, 2017, I’ve been able to get 300 character snippets in Google’s mobile search results. Google is now showing larger snippets in both desktop and mobile search results, and to better control the snippet displayed you can now use up to 300 character Meta Descriptions.

Some mobile results max out at 160 characters

Some mobile search results are only displaying 160 characters. Others are displaying up to 300. I thought I saw 320 the other day but now I don’t see it.

Notes

Is it time to say goodbye to 160 characters? If this sticks several CMS backends, WordPress plugins for optimizing Meta Descriptions like Yoast SEO, and various SEO audit tools will need to be updated.

Notes: This could all completely change tomorrow but I am betting the changes are here to stay. Also, I’m unsure of what the exact count will end up being. As of December 6, 2017, I’ve been able to get a maximum of 300 characters to display on mobile. More may be available on desktop but it makes sense to optimize for mobile first.

Meta Description VS Snippet

You can manually edit a page’s Meta Description. And in many cases, that is what is shown in Google’s search engine results pages. However, the technical name for what is displayed is a Snippet.

In other words, you describe the page using the Meta Description. What Google shows may be that Meta Description, but when it is shown in Google search results, they call the Meta Description a Snippet.

Google may ignore Meta Descriptions

Google is usually pretty good at generating Snippets and has ignored plenty of Meta Descriptions for nearly a decade now. However, if you have a clear, concise meta description which accurately describes the page, the snippet shown is likely to match your meta description. This does, however, depend entirely on the user’s search query.

Tips for creating Meta Descriptions:

Google understands user behavior. When most people land on a page, they read the first sentence or two and they either contact you or leave the page. That’s just how it works. I always begin my content with a quick, clear accurate description of the page while also making it a call to action. A good rule of thumb is to make that intro the same thing as your Meta Description. And that is option #1 below.

Options:

  1. Match the Meta Description to the first paragraph of content on the page.
  2. Ignore the Meta Description. 9 out of 10 times I ignore the Meta Description all together and Google pulls my quick and clear first paragraph as the Snippet anyways. For important “money pages” aka “landing pages” it makes sense to take the extra step and provide a Meta Description. However, I predict Google will quit using Meta Descriptions all together at some point.
  3. Think. What is the optimal result that a search engine should display? If it is a list or a table, it makes no sense to use a Meta description.

If mobile search continues to display 160 – 300 characters, it may make sense to build out descriptions which have a 160 character sentence with a second sentence which is an additional 100+ words.

Broken Snippets (Google is not displaying my meta description)

With this new December update I have experimented on a few dozen pages. Sometimes Google ignores your meta. Why?

  1. Your Meta Description stinks! This is the most probably cause. But not always.
  2. Google is simply pulling content from the page which it should not be. It happens more than you’d think. They really like lists. If your page has a list on it, they could mistakenly pull that. These mistakes usually fix themselves over time.
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Writing Opportunities for SFist.com Freelancers and Authors https://www.telapost.com/sfist-writers/ https://www.telapost.com/sfist-writers/#respond Tue, 05 Dec 2017 01:37:42 +0000 https://www.telapost.com/?p=5954 SFist.com, the website about San Francisco, abruptly shut down on November 2, 2017. It was part of DNAinfo and Gothamist, and other similar sites which closed up shop included the DCist and LAist. Like these other sites, SFist.com had a loyal following and dedicated group of freelancers.

These sites are the latest to fold under the pressure of making a profit. The problem with news websites though is that news gets old. News is not evergreen content – most news articles have a quick spike in traffic which is gone within hours and then never searched for again after about 48hrs. That is very tough content to monetize.

So now what?

I have a friend who is considering a replacement site. This site would be a cooperative of sorts, or at least a place for people who want to write about the Bay area to be able to do so.

I thought I would add this post here and just put some feelers out.

Are you a San Francisco writer?

If you are a San Francisco freelancer, writer, or simply someone who would randomly contribute to a news or magazine style website about SF, please feel free to email me here. I am simply gauging some interest at this point. Please also feel free to let me know which topics you create content about.

If you have insight as to why SFist closed or ideas about what they could have done differently, please feel free to comment below.

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Meta Descriptions Can Now be Well Over 160 and 320 Characters [Case Study] https://www.telapost.com/meta-descriptions-can-now-be-well-over-160-and-320-characters/ https://www.telapost.com/meta-descriptions-can-now-be-well-over-160-and-320-characters/#respond Mon, 04 Dec 2017 07:33:56 +0000 https://www.telapost.com/?p=5942

As of December 4, 2017, you can now create Meta Descriptions well over the previous 160 character limit. I have now run multiple tests, and while Google can indeed show its own Snippet in search results, you can influence the snippet shown by using a large, 300+ character meta description just like this one.

Update 12/6/2017: After further testing on mobile, I am now recommending a 300 character meta description. See my article here.

Update 12/4/2017: The maximum sized Meta Description I’ve personally been able to “force” Google to display in search as a Snippet is 302 characters. As noted below, mobile searches are “not always” nearly as long. A creative meta description could consist of 2 sentences, one which is 160 characters, and the second which is up to 140 more:

After writing this article, I updated the page’s Meta Description and had the page recrawled. The new Snippet displays exactly what I have as a Meta Description and is 302 characters. Any longer and it was cut off.

My test (on desktop)

I tend to put the most accurate and concise description of a page at the very top of an article, just like I did on this page. I do this for several reasons (most of the time). For my test, I created a page (this one) and copied the top paragraph in to my content management system’s back end as a Meta Description. I published the article and searched for it and ta-da, my 300+ character meta description displayed perfectly in Google’s search results. In this case, I intentionally left the “4” out of the date in the Meta Description to be sure Google was using the Meta for the Snippet. They did.

A recent change

I just published the article “Google Ignoring Meta Descriptions and Enlarging Snippets“. That’s because as of November 2017, Google has suddenly been displaying huge snippets in search results. They are also ignoring people’s meta descriptions and crafting their own snippets, especially if they think their snippet will be a more accurate description of a page than your meta description.

Meta Description vs Snippet

If you are confused by this terminology, you are not alone.

You can manually edit a page’s Meta Description. And in many cases, that is what is shown in Google’s search engine results pages. However, the technical name for what is displayed is a Snippet.

Screenshots!

Ok, here is the screenshot (and yes this site gets indexed very quickly). I’ll have to do a little more testing with this as it appears that my snippet was chopped right at 300 – 302 characters:

(And yes I know my title is “too long” – while 99% of my titles are “just right” I personally never worry about this kind of thing – in fact I sometimes intentionally make them long.)

This isn’t a guarantee

Google has been replacing snippets in search results for at least 7 years now. Just because you have set a Meta Description does not mean that Google will use it.

Tips going in to 2018 and further testing

If you are seeing funky snippets in search results, try making a neat, concise and accurate 240 – 300 character Meta Description for your pages, fetch and render them and see if your snippet improves.

I am personally now playing with meta descriptions which explain everything in 160 characters, and then adding onto that with 140 more. That’s because Mobile search results are frequently still displaying 160 (but can display ~300):

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