Monthly Archives: April 2012

Can the same keywords be used on different web pages?

This is a great topic. It is really important to add keywords properly to your site or visitors will not easily find it. Keywords can and should be repeated, but repetition should be used in moderation and very discretely.

How to avoid keyword stuffing
When I look at the source code for a site, I often see the same few words repeated over and over in title tags, page descriptions, keyword tags and throughout the page. This can be a bad thing for your site.

There is a tipping point at which Google starts to see over-use of one or more key words as a kind of spam called “keyword stuffing”. At this point, your site will not receive as high a ranking in their results. See a, b, and c below. Which site uses keyword stuffing? Not sure? Read on!

Each keyword should only be used once in the title tag. However, variations of it can be used in the description. An example would be “dentist Vancouver” as part of the title and “Vancouver dentist offers a full range of dental services” as a phrase in the description.

The title tag allows 65 characters to be used, so there are plenty of opportunities to use other phrases besides “dentist Vancouver”, such as a description of services offered. What counts as a variation of a word? Google sees “dentists” plural as a different word than “dentist” singular. You can use quite a range of endings, like dentist, dentists, dental and dentistry, and they will all be seen as different words. The same holds true for words with variations ending in “ed”, “es”, “ion” or “ing”.

I would recommend using as many variations as possible. You not only avoid Google’s poor impression of your site, but you will pick up more visitors to your site because you can’t count on every single visitor typing “dentist” and no other variation of it.

What about WordPress and other blog-type sites?
I recommend you install a plugin called Headspace. This creates a place below the text for each page where you can type in a title and description. Your Google results will be much superior to using tags alone. In fact I do not recommend tags. WordPress users in particular should avoid using the tag function of WordPress, and should download a free and easy to use SEO plugin instead. (Tags of course may be your only choice if you are hosted on

How does Google use your title tags and description tags?
Google uses the keywords and descriptions you enter to annotate your site in the results, as shown in the picture above. By writing them yourself, separate from the page content, you draw Google’s attention to a proper description of the page instead of allowing Google to randomly select any text.

You are also providing a targeted message to your visitors. Your words form the first impression of your site and encourage people to link to it.

The following three descriptions were found by typing “dentist Vancouver” into Google. These are the Google results that visitors are seeing when they search for a dentist.  I have copied them here as they appeared in the annotations.

Which one do you think was written with Google and visitors in mind? Which one was stuffed with keywords without much thought to how it would look to visitors? And which one do you think Google randomly copied from the original web page?

a) Vancouver dentist provides general dentistry and teeth whitening with the latest technology in a downtown dental clinic. Emergencies and new patients are welcome.

b) Dentist downtown Vancouver, dental services including dentist tooth extraction, dental Implants, dental surgeries by dentist, white fillings, dental root canal

c) Welcome to Vancouver’s Smile City Square Dental. Enriching Lives. One Smile at a Time. Vancouver’s Smile City Square Dental is dedicated to transforming, …

Invasion of privacy online

I know I’m not the only one having trouble with the rapidly increasing assault on my privacy while I use the Internet. It’s getting downright creepy.

A couple of weeks ago I was looking at a weekender bag on Roots. The next day it was featured in an ad on another site I was browsing.

“Hey look – there’s the bag I want!” I said. “That’s so funny it’s in an ad!”

A few days later it wasn’t very funny anymore. The Roots bag began to stalk me as I moved from site to site, regardless of the site I was on. It got to the point where I really didn’t want the bag anymore because it was so popular and over-exposed.

Of course, that wasn’t really the case at all. Roots had left a little script behind on my own computer in the first place. This “cookie” continued to neatly insert the image of the bag at every opportunity it could find over the next few days. They obviously weren’t going to let me forget about it.

I soon noticed my Facebook ads were getting rather pointed as well. A certain (ahem) health product I had been researching began popping up in numerous guises – and from a variety of companies – in the right side column. I assured myself that of course no one else knew the topic of my search – unless they happened to use my computer. But tonight while on Facebook I noticed the names of two people I do know, who must have clicked on an Ikea ad in Facebook. Or perhaps they visited and picked up a third-party cookie (scripts placed on other websites to track your browsing information).

No offense to Cate and Brian, but I really don’t want to know that! I don’t want ANYONE to know if I visited Ikea, and I don’t want to know who else did!

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with Ikea, and I’ve long ago given up the idea of personal privacy in many aspects of my life. There’s just something very doppelganger about these little scripts tip-toeing around after me and other people I know, and waving to everyone else to announce everything we do. It’s…  weird. It’s also completely relentless.

Recently a friend posted an article from the San Francisco Chronicle about social reader apps. It outlines how Facebook’s idea of “frictionless sharing” has grown. “No activity is too big or too small to share,” Facebook claims. I guess that includes my search for a small nameless health product. (Heck – wait a minute – you’ve probably already know what it was!)

And the whole thing is utterly pervasive. The Washington Post Social Reader gets your name, profile picture, gender, user ID, friends list, the networks you’ve joined and anything you’ve posted publicly. Under the default setting, it can also post every article you read through the app, the people you’ve “liked” and more. Yahoo’s social reader gets most of that, plus your e-mail address, birthday and permission to post the videos you watch. Google has dedicated itself to capturing every site you visit and letting your friends know if you “plussed” it. In 2011, Google Buzz drew criticism for violating user privacy because it automatically allowed Gmail users’ contacts to view their other contacts. In February this year, Google announced it will now combine user data across all of its services –  including search, Gmail, YouTube, Google+ and Google Docs.

How can these companies proceed as if nothing is wrong?! A post on Venture Beat  confirms the worst:  One in every 10 US consumers has now been victimized by identity theft. Online public data can be used to predict the full 9-digit social security numbers of nearly 5 million people.  More than 900,000  sites employ Facebook “Like” buttons, feeding yet more information directly into Facebook. Both Google and Facebook are currently facing 20 years of privacy audits, but they keep rolling out information I really don’t want to know, and show no signs of slowing down.

I digress. I am currently online at a news site that is displaying ads for malware, dog heartworm medicine and bicycle panniers – all topics I’ve researched in the past couple of days. While it is heartening to know that Google slowly “fades” cookies from its history of me over two or three weeks, I have a feeling this says more about Google not wanting to get too bunged up with data about my searches than it does about giving me some breathing room.

Logging off here.

Malware: Case of a Malicious URL

Last week I was showing a site to a client when my spam blocker, Avast, opened the red warning window shown below.

The original client has a beautiful website that showcases her artwork. A couple of years ago we created a WordPress blog as an add-on to the basic html site. She was on her way to a residency in Europe and blogged about her work for several months. Although the blog is no longer active in the sense that she continues to add to it, it is a valuable photo archive and journal of her experiences.

It was surprising to us that she had  been hacked since the blog is not active at this time. Some searching through the source code soon led us to the answer. The blog section of her site had acquired a patch of javascript that had been inserted by a wandering bot into the source code near the top. This javascript re-directed anyone who connected to her blog to go instead to a spam site. This type of “malware” directs visitors elsewhere when you type the URL or click on a link to an URL.

The javascript code itself was not contagious from one site to another, and my own Avast program recognized it as malware, as did the Norton anti-virus program of the other visitor. But the loud alarm and red flag of the spam blocker would doubtless scare off anyone from further exploring her blog. We quickly removed the offending code and her site is back to normal.

This type of “infection” generally occurs when  you don’t have the most recent version of WordPress. WordPress updates its own platform on a regular basis and there are pros and cons to updating it yourself – see our earlier article on WordPress updates. Talk to your developer on a regular basis and ask him or her to check your current version of WordPress and see if any updates are recommended. Although we encourage all clients to let us perform a major update once a year, there is a strong case for updating sooner. WordPress is the platform on which your entire site rests. It is constantly releasing new versions to patch security leaks in earlier versions. If you don’t perform major updates on a regular basis, you are leaving your site wide open to this kind of nasty behaviour. And if you don’t host with a company that does regular backups, you risk losing everything if a more aggressive attack gets through.