Category Archives: Google

Posts concerning web site development with regard to Google’s ranking methodology. Also, posts dealing with some of Google’s beta programs.

I asked Virgin Mobile USA today if, assuming I bought one from the Google Play Store, I could activate the new Nexus 5, and this is the response I received on Thu, Oct 31, 2013 at 9:44 PM:

Thanks for contacting Virgin Mobile Customer Care.

We want to let you know that is not possible to activate a non-Virgin Mobile phone like an unlocked one because our system only recognizes the unique serial numbers that our phones have. You will need to purchase a Virgin Mobile phone.

You can check our great phones and prices by clicking the link below:

If you need additional assistance, feel free to let us know how we can assist further or contact us at 1-888-322-1122 (or *VM from your handset). You can reach us from Monday to Friday 6am -10pm and Weekends 6am -9pm. As a reminder, please include your Virgin Mobile phone number and PIN on all replies.

This is interesting, because as far as I know, Virgin Mobile actually uses the Sprint network, and Sprint is one of the carriers that will support the Nexus 5.

That’s right, the Nexus 5 will be sold through Sprint and T-Mobile, with only Verizon Wireless opting out of carrying the device. Updated at 3:26 p.m. PT: Google came back and confirmed that AT&T won’t be selling the Nexus 5, but it will be able to run on its network.

So, it looks like I’ll be jumping ship to T-Mobile after nearly two-and-a-half years as a satisfied customer of Virgin Mobile.

For years, has had a Google rankings nemesis in For much of the time that I’ve spent watching the results for the search phrase ‘ardamis’, has consistently ranked #1, and typically landed in second or third place. But at some point in 2011, and my recollection is that this was occurring pre-Panda, moved to the top spot and has stayed there since.

Google search results for ardamis on March 15, 2012

Google search results for ardamis on March 15, 2012

The top 10 results returned for ‘ardamis’ as of March 15, 2012, while not signed in to Google, connecting from Chicago, IL, using IE9:

  3. //
  4. //

I can’t really explain why a post from 2005 on configuring a setting in Apache would be the second best page on the site, but I guess I’ll take it. My properties do pretty well, for what isn’t a highly competitive phrase. Items related either to or me personally appear in positions 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10.

I’ve done some comparing of these two domains, and I am still unsure why Google is currently favoring


I felt pretty confident that geography and Google’s focus on local search would mean that North American users would be returned results that favored, so long as they were not obviously searching for travel information about Greece. But this isn’t proving to be a safe assumption. Even more strange is that it’s the Greek language version of the page that Google is ranking first, even before the English language version. This promotion of a foreign-language page is very odd.


Google Toolbar Page Rank (I know, I know, but it’s one of many metrics I’ll use) shows getting a 5 and getting a 3. I won’t make too much of this, but I wanted to point out that the toolbar PR is not equal.

I ran the list of URLs on the first page of Google through the Open Site Explorer to get a better sense of how strong the pages and domains were, and comes out on top.

URL Page Authority Domain Authority Links 45.29 34.3 433 23.65 34.3 33 74.06 69.38 149621 42.18 69.38 29

As the table shows, the home page at has significantly more Page Authority than the home page at, the domain has more Domain Authority than, and has 300 times the number of inbound links. (Although, the vast majority of inbound links come from footer links in the various WordPress and Plogger themes I’ve designed. See below.)

Author attribution

The pages on all contain verified authorship markup linking them to my Google Plus profile, and I get my profile picture next to my pages in the results.

I don’t detect any author markup on

Structured markup

The pages on contain structured markup (HTML5 microdata as described at and hCard microformat). The Rich Snippets Testing Tool returns no warnings for Rich snippets from the pages at are displayed as part of the page data in Google’s results.

The page at does not contain authorship or rich snippet markup.

Site links

In July of 2009, had a Toolbar Page Rank of 6 and 3 one-line sitelinks, before later disappearing. Then, in October of 2010, the sitelinks returned for awhile before disppearing again. I last noticed the sitelinks in January of 2011.

(I would point out that the site still shows sitelinks when searching for my name.)

Inbound links

I’ve developed and released a WordPress theme and a few Plogger themes, and put links back to and the theme’s post in the footer. These links have helped the home page gain nearly 2 million inbound links, with the Apricot WordPress theme’s page gaining nearly 1.5 million and the most popular Plogger theme’s page gaining just over 70,000. That’s a lot of links.

Page Speed

Google’s Page Speed Online tool awards a Page Speed Score of 96 (out of 100), while gets a score of 68 (out of 100).

I have put quite a bit of effort into optimizing the performance, and I’m pretty happy with a 96.


Post-Panda, I combed through and weeded out the posts that I was unsure about.

Other domains

I also own and, and have one-page placeholders at these domains with links back to


At this point, I wonder if is suffering a penalty somewhere. Maybe all of those footer links are actually hurting the site.

Or maybe the combination of a country code top-level domain and a real geographic location is just incredibly powerful when compared to a random word attached to a .com domain.

Google, what is up with your Google+ profile badges and your Google +1 buttons being different sizes?

There is a neat wizard for creating the code snippet for a Google+ profile badge. We get to pick an image size from one of four options, if we want the image to be hosted on Google’s server. (And why wouldn’t we?)

Small (16px)
Standard (32px)
Medium (44px)
Tall (64px)

OK, those are pretty acceptable, I guess, but I would really like to see something in the 20 to 24 pixel range.

What about the wizard for the Google +1 button?

Small (15px)
Standard (24px)
Medium (20px)
Tall (60px)

Wait, what?!? You’re using the same labeling, but the sizes are totally different. Not only that, but none of the sizes are shared between the two buttons. The Standard profile button is 75% larger than the +1 button. Grrr.

The Google +1 button wizard has more options, including a field where you may specify the path to an image, and the button itself is more dynamic. The profile button wizard is very basic, but it is easy to edit the HTML output to use any image. If forced to make my own image and host it, coming up with a custom profile button is clearly less involved.

As a third option, the configuration tool for the Google+ brand page badge makes it possible to essentially combine the functions of both buttons. While the badge takes up a large chunk of real estate, it is probably the best choice, as it looks good, has some bold colors, and adds some extra Google+ stuff (thumbnail images, a counter) that you can’t get from the basic generator.

Google’s Panda update and Google+ has motivated me to start using more cutting-edge technology at, starting with a new theme that makes better use of HTML5 and microformats.

I rather like the look of the current theme, but one of the metrics that Panda is supposedly weighting is bounce rate. Google Analytics indicates that the vast majority of my visitors arrive via organic search on Google while looking for answers to a particular problem. Whether or not they find their answer at, they tend not to click to other pages on the site. This isn’t bad, it’s just the way it works. I happen to be the same sort of user – generally looking for specific information and not casually surfing around a web site.

In the prior WordPress theme, I moved my navigation from the traditional location of along side the article to the bottom of the page, below the article. This cleaned up the layout tremendously and focused all the attention on the article, but it also made it even more likely that a visitor would bounce.

For the 2012 redesign, I moved the navigation back to the side and really concentrated on providing more obvious links to the About, Portfolio, Colophon and Contact pages.

I’ve been a fan of the HTML5 Boilerplate template for starting off hand-coded sites, and I’ve once again cherry-picked elements from it to use as a foundation. If you’re interested in a running start, you may try out the very nice Boilerplate WordPress theme by Aaron T. Grogg.

The latest version of the theme also faithfully follows the sometimes idiosyncratic whims of Google Webmaster Tools’ Rich Text Snippet Testing Tool. Look, no warnings.

Just a few weeks behind schedule, but a long time in the works, I’ve finally pushed the new WordPress theme for Ardamis live. Basic and elegant (I’m trying to establish a trend here), the theme also should outperform its predecessors in both page load times and SEO-potential. The index and archive pages should appear more consistent, and all pages should provide more complete structured data markup ( as well as The comment form has been outfitted with an improved approach to reducing comment spam.

The new theme is pretty light on the graphics, due to increased browser support for and subsequently greater use of CSS3 goodness for box shadows and gradients. I’ve reduced the number of image files to two: a background and a sprites file.

Only half-implemented in the previous theme, the new look, “Joy”, makes much better use of structured data markup, or microdata. Google is absolutely looking for ways to display your pages’ semantic markup in its results, so you may as well get on board.

The frequency of spam comments increased dramatically over the past two months, according to my Akismet stats, so I’ve gone back to the drawing board and developed a better front-line defense against them. The new method should be more opaque to bots that parse JavaScript while still being invisible to human visitors leaving legitimate comments.

In sum, I think Ardamis should be leaner, faster, and smarter (and maybe prettier) in 2012 than ever before.

I have an Android 2.2.1 device, and I keep noticing what may be a glitch in the scrolling. This happens in all applications in which scrolling occurs, but most frequently in Twitter. I’ll be slowly scrolling along, swipe… swipe… swipe… trying to catch up with dozens of tweets, when all of a sudden the scrolling takes off lightning fast.

When it takes off, it goes much faster than I’m ever able to make it go, which leaves me with the impression that I’m invoking a feature. But I can’t purposefully recreate this accidental fast scrolling. The closest I could come was when I lifted my finger at the end of the swipe, and my finger was near the top of the application. But I can’t swear that this is where my finger is each time it happens.

Others before me have wondered whether this is a bug or a feature.

The thing is, I’m not even trying to go fast, I’m actually doing slow, short swipes while trying to scan a screen’s worth of content at a time, so when it starts scrolling quickly, I have to mash my finger down to put on the brakes, then scroll back to wherever I was.

Update 08.27.11: Could the fast scrolling happen when I scroll at the same time extra data is being lazy-loaded by the browser or app? So, I scroll a little bit, and the page starts loading some images, and before it’s done rendering, I scroll again. The page then finishes loading the images and processes the scroll event, but due to some glitch, goes berserk.

As of April, 2011, the home page of has over two million inbound links, with over 2,800,000 total inbound links to all pages on the site.

This is an increase of 1,200,000 inbound links to the home page alone since July, 2010. I calculate that the home page is gained an average of 150,000 inbound links a month during the last eight months. That’s pretty amazing.

April 2011 Inbound Links

But I continue to be disappointed in the Site Performance area of Webmaster Tools. Try as I might, Google still thinks my site is crushingly slow, with average load times of 2.9 seconds, even though my independent tests suggest that the site consistently returns pages in less than two seconds.

April 2011 Site Performance

I’ll keep at it.

As of early October, has its Google sitelinks back. I first noticed them back in July of 2009, when Ardamis had a toolbar PageRank of 6. Changes to Google’s algorithm later cost the site the sitelinks and reduced the PR to 5, which is how the site has appeared for the last year or so. Three months ago, in July of 2010 and one year after the sitelinks appeared, I noticed that all of the pages combined had over one million inbound links.

This is what a Google search for ardamis returns:

Ardamis' Google sitelinks

Ardamis' Google sitelinks

The second result returned, Final Fantasy XIII freezing on Xbox 360, is among my longest posts, has 91 comments, and enjoys some of the best inbound links of any page on the site, including from the forums at, Kotaku and GamesRadar.

The third result is my primary competition for the term ardamis, which briefly held the number one ranking a few months ago. That site has some one-line site links.

The actual mechanics of obtaining sitelinks remains a mystery, but there are plenty of people who are willing to speculate (and a few brave enough to promise they can deliver them for a price).

I’ve been posting more frequently, the site uses the WP-Paginate plugin and according to Google’s Webmaster Tools, the home page alone now has well over one million inbound links, but otherwise it’s been business as usual here.

Ardamis home page one million links

Over one million inbound links to the home page of

I’m not going to speculate about how to get sitelinks or whether one or more of the changes in the last year was the catalyst, but Google does say to use descriptive and non-repetitive anchor and alt text in a site’s internal links and to keep important pages within a few clicks of the home page. These are very basic, fundamental things that any site should do, but it bears repeating.

Are you new to SEO? Do you have a basic understanding of how web pages are built, and want to tweak yours for better rankings? I’ve wanted to collect a few authoritative, practical, and non-technical resources on SEO for my clients for some time. The good news is that it’s easier than you think to build a page that does a number of things that the search engines like. The guides below should help explain what to look for when evaluating whether a site has been developed with an eye for SEO.

Google has created a compact Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide of best practices that developers can follow to improve their sites’ crawlability and indexing. This guide is available as a PDF.

The SEOmoz Beginner’s Guide to SEO provides comprehensive information you need to get on the road to professional quality SEO. Read it online or download it as a PDF.

SEOmoz’s CEO and co-founder wrote a very nice article on building the perfectly optimized page that explains the most important on-page factors and how they affect rankings in today’s environment.

Sometimes, a client will ask for SEO as though it’s something to be tacked on after the site has been built. Happily, good development practices benefit human visitors as well as SEO, and they go into every site I build, as I build it, from the very first line of code. I’ve written up a list of on-page factors and other considerations within a developer’s direct control that are important not only for SEO, but for good web development in general, at Aleph Studios | SEO Consulting.

I’d like to note that, as of today, Google Webmaster Tools is reporting over one million inbound links to pages on

one million inbound links

One million inbound links!

I’ve been spending quite a bit of time on lately, giving it a new look, working at improving the site’s navigation, cultivating some inbound links, and posting more regularly. It’s rewarding to see that the effort is paying off.

Over the last few days, I’ve been concentrating on reducing page load times by sending the proper headers and compressing files.

I’ll give it some time and see how performance improves.

According to Google’s Webmaster Tools’ performance overview, with Super Cache running, a single minified CSS, a single minified JavaScript, etc. but no compression or header tweaks:
On average, pages in your site take 2.8 seconds to load (updated on Jun 28, 2010). This is faster than 53% of sites.

The chart illustrating page load times is pretty much all over the place, but at no time has the site dipped into the 20th percentile, indicating a ‘fast’ site. I’m trying to change that.