Ready To Take Your Blog to the Next Level? #FridayFinds

by Sherryl Perry on June 28, 2014

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Are you using the new “fetch and render” tool in Google Webmaster Tools? Do you have an XML sitemap? Are you wasting money on SEO services? In this week’s Friday Finds series, find a tutorial on how to create and upload an XML sitemap for your website (along with an explanation of what xml sitemaps are). Also, learn about some SEO services that you don’t want to invest in, some great blogging advice and tips and advice on blogging to become a highly paid expert. As always, I hope you find this week’s #Friday Finds helpful and you learn something new here.

Do You Use Google Webmaster Tools’ Fetch & Render?

As a quick reminder for anyone who is a webmaster (and yes – a WordPress blog is a website), an XML sitemap is a file that is created for the search engines. (FYI: The acronym XML stands for “Extensible Markup Language” which means that the data is in a format that is easily understood by the search engines.)

XML sitemaps contain important metadata with information such as: when the page was last modified, how frequently it changes and how it ranks in importance relative to other URLs. There are WordPress plugins available to handle this (including the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin that I’ve mentioned before). Do-it-yourselfers can handle xml sitemaps without a plugin in 3 easy steps:

  1. Generate a free XML sitemap (on a site like xml-sitemaps.com) and download it to your computer.
  2. Upload your sitemap to the root directory of your website (usually public_html)  using either your website host CPanel or an FTP (file transfer protocol) program like Filezilla.
  3. Submit your sitemap to the search engines using Google and Bing webmaster tools.

After you’ve uploaded your sitemap to the root directory of your website, you need to submit it to Google using their Webmaster Tools.

Google Webmaster Tools Add XML Sitemap

#1 – Click on “Crawl

#2 – Click on “Sitemaps

#3 – Click on “Add/Test Sitemap

#4 – Key “sitemap.xml” (Note: You should already have uploaded your sitemap.sml site to the root directory of your website. Your root directory is usually named public_html.)

#5 – Click on “Submit Sitemap”.

After submitting your sitemap, click on the “Fetch as Google” link (in the left-hand crawl menu). The following screen will appear:

Google Webmaster Tools Fetch and Render

  • With “Desktop” selected, click on the “Fetch and Render” button.
  • If Googlebot can successfully fetch your page, you’ll have the option to “Submit to Google Index. (I always select the option to index my URL and all pages linked to it.
  • Note: You can submit your URL to Google’s index up to 10 times a month.
  • While you’re on this screen, you can also fetch your site as it appears on: Mobile: Smartphone, Mobile: XHTML/WML and Mobile: cHTML

Don’t forget to submit your website URL to Bing to be indexed too! While you’re in your Bing Webmaster Tools, connect your social media accounts to Bing if you haven’t already.

What Is the New “Render” Google Webmaster Tools Feature?

The fetch tool in Google Webmaster Tools has been around for quite a while now but the render feature wasn’t introduced until May 27th, 2014. So, what’s so great about this and why would you want to use it?

The difference between “fetch” and “fetch and render” is that the render feature will show you how Google displays your page on your desktop and some mobile devices like smartphones. Equally important, (at the bottom of the screen), it shows any resources that are blocking Googlebot from crawling.

For more info and screenshots about this new feature, be sure to read Google Webmaster Tools Adds Fetch & Render By Device Type by Barry Schwartz on SearchEngineLand.com.

Are you Paying for SEO Services that You Shouldn’t Do?

There are lots of SEO tips that you can easily incorporate into your blogging routine. I’ve blogged before about some basic SEO tips and some tips that are more advanced. What about paying to have your website optimized for the search engines?

Sure there are plenty of legitimate SEO professionals offering services and products to help you. What about the services that are offered by companies where SEO is not their core competency? What if these add-ons are simply to supplement their revenue streams and aren’t really the best choice for us?

In 6 SEO Services You Shouldn’t Waste Your Money On by Travis Biffen on WebsiteMagazine.com, you can discover six services that Travis warns aren’t the best investment. I’m not going to go into great depth on these because it’s a quick read and you can easily digest the info yourself. For a sneak peak of the six companies that are featured, I’ve bullet pointed them here:

  • GoDaddy SEO services ($2.99 per month)
  • Yellow Pages (plans start at $295 per month)
  • Yelp (pay to have the good reviews show)
  • Dex Yellow Pages
  • Yext
  • Rank Pay

BTW – Since we’re talking about GoDaddy here, are they really that bad for website hosting?

Have You Read this Useful Information Bloggers can Use Now?

I don’t usually share roundup posts in my Friday Finds but this week, Adrienne Smith’s article Thankful Thursday: Influencers, Blogging Tips, Automate, Google, Results (on AdrienneSmith.net) caught my eye. In case you missed it, this week, Adrienne features five bloggers:

  • Konrad Sanders writes about his experience with influencer marketing.
  • Neil Patel shares his 30,000 page guide on marketing automation.
  • James blogs about dominating the SERPs (search engine result pages) without backlinks.
  • Adam Connell shares some great tips to incorporate into writing and publishing your blog posts.
  • Sherryl Perry’s article on blogging tips you may have missed is included too. :)

I’m not going to share the links to the above posts or disclose what info the authors have shared but I do encourage you to read Adrienne’s article yourself when you have a few minutes. (Well, maybe more than just a few because you’re going to want to read the full articles too.)

Have You Seen this Blogging Advice from Jeff Bullas?

Whether you’re new to blogging, thinking about starting a blog or have been blogging a while and hoping to create and package information products, this post should give you some inspiration and actionable ideas to help take your blog to the next level.

In his article, The 3 Key Steps to Becoming a Highly Paid Expert by Jeff Bullas (on JeffBullas.com), he narrows blogging down to three key steps:

  1. Publishing
  2. Promoting
  3. Packaging

One of the things that I enjoyed the most about Jeff’s post is the three case studies that Jeff featured including Tim Ferris, Guy Kawasaki and Darren Rowse. Additionally, he shares a link to download his book “Blogging the Smart Way – How to Create and Market a Killer Blog with Social Media”.

Over To You:

Are you using paid SEO services that are a waste of money? Have you tried using the new “fetch and render” feature in Google Webmaster Tools? Did you find the tutorial on XML sitemaps helpful? Which of this week’s Friday Finds did you find the most useful?

You can connect with today’s featured authors on Google+ at: Adrienne Smith, Jeff Bullas, Travis Biffen, Barry Schwartz and me.

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Kevin Duncan
Twitter:
July 16, 2014 at 4:18 pm

Hi Sherryl,

I regularly read Adrienne’s blog, but somehow I missed this “Thankful Thursday” one! I’m not sure how I missed it…

Yes, I’ve tried Google’s fetch and render! I like it. I already had other tools I used for ensuring how my blog looks on tablets and mobile phones, but fetch and render lets me see what on my site (if anything) cannot be crawled. Good stuff.

Thanks for the info…
Kevin Duncan recently posted..There is no magic formula for achieving blogging successMy Profile

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Sherryl Perry July 16, 2014 at 6:23 pm

Hi Kevin,
I’m glad you found the post that you missed on Adrienne’s here. I’m a big fan of hers and several of her regular readers have found their way here.

Google Webmaster Tools are really handy. The render tool was a nice addition. I honestly didn’t hear about it right away though. Somehow, I missed hearing about it when it first launched.

Thanks so much for adding your insight here.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..Want To Improve Your Social Media Game? #FridayFindsMy Profile

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Sudipto
Twitter:
July 15, 2014 at 2:03 am

Hey Sherryl,
Thanks for sharing this informative post with us. Fetch and Render is new tool for me and I never used it but it seems interesting and helpful. I am surely gonna use it.
Sudipto recently posted..Best Android Phone Under 7000My Profile

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Sherryl Perry July 16, 2014 at 6:20 pm

Hi Sudipto,
Thanks for letting me know that you found my post helpful. The render tool is a nice way to check how your site displays on different devices.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..What Blogging Tips Are You Missing?My Profile

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Ryan Biddulph
Twitter:
July 6, 2014 at 4:19 pm

Hi Sherryl,

Enlightening read for me. I’m learning more about Webmaster Tools, and Adrienne’s post was an absolute winner.

Jeff Bullas is really growing on me too. His blog flat our rocks. I dig the idea of a round-up as well to spread the word for your friends.

When I was a newbie – like 3 weeks’ worth of new – I foolishly invested money in an SEO service that was not up to snuff. OK, it was bad, and it was my fault because I did little research on the service. Lesson learned.

I haven’t invested since, but if I do, I’ll be doing my homework to buy into reputable companies with skilled work forces.

Thanks much for the share.

Ryan
Ryan Biddulph recently posted..Why I’m Closing out this Blog and Starting an Exciting New BlogMy Profile

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Sherryl Perry July 7, 2014 at 10:48 am

Hi Ryan,
When I was a newbie, I fell for one of GoDaddy’s SEO offerings too. I think it may have been the $2.99 a month offering that Travis Biffen referred to. (Back then, it may have been $1.99.)

It’s easy to believe some of the promises that companies make, especially if they have a decent reputation. I am still working with a client who I met during a website workshop that I taught. He had invested thousands of dollars with AT&T Yellow Pages. They had created his site for him and he was continuing to pay them for SEO services. His site had not had any optimization done at all. They hadn’t even named his images with keywords. It’s really buyer-beware out there.

Good luck with your new blog! I can’t believe you’re closing down your current one. I’m very interested in hearing what you’re up to. (I know you’ll keep us posted.)
Sherryl Perry recently posted..Ready To Take Your Blog to the Next Level? #FridayFindsMy Profile

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Sarah July 6, 2014 at 3:25 am

Hi Sherryl,

This is a very helpful entry! I learned a lot through this post. I thought SEO was everything, I’m glad it was all cleared up. Thanks for sharing this!
Sarah recently posted..How to Help Save the Planet EarthMy Profile

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Sherryl Perry July 6, 2014 at 1:20 pm

Hi Sarah,
SEO is important as it can be a source for free organic traffic. I think most of us who have been blogging for a while agree that SEO traffic pales in comparison to forming a network of engaged supporters who will promote your blog.

Thanks for joining the conversation. It’s nice to meet you here.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..What Blogging Tips Are You Missing?My Profile

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Ravi Chahar
Twitter:
July 4, 2014 at 3:14 am

Hey Sherryl,

For every blog sitemap is the main key which is required to make search engine aware about our blog activity. As how many posts we have written and no. of pages. Search engine can’t get any information about our blog if we don’t submit our sitemap.

I have used fetch option in the Google Webmasters but haven’t used fetch and render. I will check it today for sure.
As you have told it’s really good to show the relevant appearance at mobile, desktop, smartphones.

Thanks to you for bringing it into light.
I hope you are having a great weekend.:)

~Ravi
Ravi Chahar recently posted..Add Facebook Like Box To Your Website In The WidgetsMy Profile

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Sherryl Perry July 5, 2014 at 2:06 pm

Hi Ravi,
What you say about sitemaps is true. One of the things that I run into though is that many bloggers aren’t techie at all and some don’t even realize that a WordPress blog is a website. Therefore, we need to treat it as one.

The render tool is cool. Unfortunately, I still haven’t switched over to a responsive website theme. So, I didn’t want to use screenshots of my own site. Thankfully, Barry Schwartz has some great examples in his article on SearchEngineLand.

Thanks for dropping by. We had a wonderful holiday weekend celebrating the 4th of July. We got a lot of rain on the outskirts of Hurricane Arthur but even then it was relaxing. I hope you’re off to a great week!
Sherryl Perry recently posted..Google Website Signals SERPs and Title Tags #FridayFindsMy Profile

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Neamat Tawadrous
Twitter:
July 3, 2014 at 10:36 pm

Hi Sherryl,

This is my first time commenting on your blog but I visited it last week from Adrienne’s place. Great Information here!!!!

Well, I don’t pay for any SEO services but I do use the WordPress “SEO by Yoast” plugin you mentioned. I like it and it is doing the job for me.

I heard lots of good stuff about the Webmaster tools but I am not yet familiar with it but after reading this post, I have to check it out with the new feature the Fetch and Render.

Just last week, I installed the plugin for the XML-sitemap and I submitted it to Google Webmaster Tools, that’s all. I need to explore the webmaster tools further.

Thanks Sherryl for the heads up. Happy 4th of July and enjoy the long weekend.

Be Blessed,

Neamat
Neamat Tawadrous recently posted..10 Mistakes That Can Kill Your Blog Success!!!My Profile

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Sherryl Perry July 5, 2014 at 4:44 pm

Hi Neamat,

It’s wonderful to meet you here! I know we’ve been following each other on Twitter and have been sharing each others content. It’s nice to me know that you found me on Adrienne’s site and that you find my articles informative.

That’s great that you’ve been using Yoast’s plugin. My WordPress theme has SEO built in. Otherwise, I would be using it too. It’s a great plugin and I often recommend it to clients.

Google’s Webmaster Tools (GWT) can be very useful. Last year, (when I lost a significant amount of organic traffic due to Google’s algorithm changes), I used them to discover over 1,200 incoming links from a spammy site. (That was just one piece of a bigger problem.)

Another time, GWT alerted me to a problem with Google’s bots not being able to crawl my site. (A plugin had altered my robots.txt file.)

Happy 4th of July weekend to you too! Here on the south coast of Massachusetts, a lot of fireworks were postponed due to Hurricane Arthur. So, our festivities have been prolonged. Longer to celebrate, right? :) I’ll be by to visit your blog soon.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..Tips for Bloggers | Before You Press that Publish ButtonMy Profile

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Carolyn Nicander Mohr
Twitter:
June 30, 2014 at 5:15 pm

Hi Sherryl, Very cool. I didn’t know about Fetch and Render, but I just did it and resubmitted my home page to Google Webmaster Tools. But why should I do this? I know I can submit it up to 10 times per month but is there an advantage to doing it?

I didn’t see anything listed after the Fetch and Render was completed so I’m thinking that’s a good thing?

Google has begun to start showing me love again so I want to be sure I don’t mess it all up.
Carolyn Nicander Mohr recently posted..Google’s I/O Conference – A Look at Tech’s Exciting FutureMy Profile

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Sherryl Perry July 1, 2014 at 11:34 am

Hi Carolyn,
The render tool is pretty cool. The mobile version of my site is nothing special. (I’m just using a plugin not a responsive theme.) So, I didn’t include screen shots of how my site renders. Instead, you can see Barry Schwartz’s screenshots on SearchEngineLand.com. (They’re much more impressive.)

After I searched and rendered my site, I saw a list of URLs that are being blocked. I expected that because I have blocked the bots from crawling directories like my WordPress plugins (in my robots.txt file).

Not seeing anything blocked is a good thing. Congrats on the Google love! :)

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Adrienne
Twitter:
June 30, 2014 at 3:19 pm

Hey Sherryl,

I use the plugin for my sitemap and when I helped my nephew with his blog I did the same. I’m all for coding but some things I guess I’m more comfortable doing than others. Since that’s not my area of expertise I wasn’t really aware that you could code the sitemap but I should have known better. I wasn’t familiar with this new addition but will have to check it out.

I have never paid for SEO services but I’ve had so many people email me literally livid that the people they had hired to help them had practically buried their site now in the eyes of Google. You know what I’m always complaining about how Google teaches us to do one thing and then years later changes their minds and now we’re being slapped. Not that I’ve ever build backlinks unnaturally but so many people were just in a darn hurry to get ranked yesterday. Oh well, they suffer for having done that later.

Thank you for sharing my roundup post, knowing you don’t really do that I’m honored. I literally had about 12 on my list for this month so picking which ones to chose from was hard but these really just stood out to me, yours included. I appreciate that.

I haven’t read Jeff’s post but I have so many bookmarked to read I’ll probably never get through them all but will have to make sure I get to his. His stuff just rocks.

Thank again Sherryl and glad you enjoyed your weekend. I’m sure you’ll make this a wonderful week as well.

~Adrienne
Adrienne recently posted..Jon Morrow Said To Ignore Most Popular BloggersMy Profile

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Sherryl Perry July 1, 2014 at 10:28 am

Hi Adrienne,

There’s no coding at all in my solution. Sites like xml-sitemaps.com generate the code for you. All you do is submit your URL, wait for the file to be generated and then download it. (It’s free if you have 500 pages or less.) The only tricky part is uploading the file to your root directory. If you’re already familiar with Filezilla (or another FTP program), it’s pretty simple.

I don’t pay for SEO services either but I vaguely remember falling for some sort of scheme years ago from GoDaddy. It may have been that $2.99 a month that Travis mentioned in his post. Although, I fell for it back in 2003 (when I was building static HTML sites for a business we were launching). It probably was $1.99 a month back then. :) I don’t remember how many months I wasted money on that before I realized that it wasn’t necessary.

I agree with you that it’s really unfortunate that people have paid for SEO efforts that have hurt them in the long run. Trying to stay out of trouble with Google isn’t easy. Some people were slapped by Google for running AdSense ads! It makes no sense sometimes.

The reason I don’t usually share roundup posts in my Friday Finds is that I’m already sharing so much that I don’t want to overload my readers with additional reading. Your roundup was really good. You narrowed your list down from 12 to 5 and I made the cut? Now, I’m honored. :)

I think Jeff’s post will resonate with you and it’s not a long read. You should be able to skim through it fairly fast.

As always, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, experiences and insights with us. I can’t believe it’s the week of the 4th already! There’s always so much to see and do and the weather has been gorgeous. You enjoy your week too!

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Jeannette Paladino
Twitter:
June 29, 2014 at 12:43 pm

Thanks, as usual, Sherryl, for all the good advice. I also use Yoast’s plugin. I don’t remember if I submitted my site to Bing, but I intend to check, as Bing is third on my list for traffic following Google (which is the elephant in the room), and direct traffic. I agree that most SEO services, especially for small businesses, aren’t worth the money. If you’re in a unique niche then Google AdWords is a possibility. A friend’s husband is an attorney and pays about $100 a month for a Google ad in his city because he provides a very targeted service. The ad is responsible for referring most of his business.

I’ve started to check out the sites you recommend — so much to do and so little time!
Jeannette Paladino recently posted..You Don’t Build an Audience With Great Content, Says Jon MorrowMy Profile

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Sherryl Perry June 30, 2014 at 9:13 am

Hi Jeannette,

That’s terrific that Bing is third on your list. The last time I looked, my Bing traffic was slowly growing but I don’t believe it was anywhere near that. (I need to check my analytics again.)

You are absolutely right about Google AdWords being a worthy investment for niche businesses. I used to use them quite a bit when my husband and I were marketing a business opportunity together. (I tapped into that experience when I’ve blogged about pay-per-click advertising.)

There is so much to do and so little time! I’ve been trying to step back a little from blogging and re-strategize what I want to accomplish this year. Plus, I’ve been making more time for family. So, I have posts that I need to go back to and finish following the links too.

I hope you have a great week! I hope some readers here follow your link and check out your post. I’ve already left my two cents in the comments. :)

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Dermot Gilley June 29, 2014 at 9:43 am

Hi Sherryl, creating a XML sitemap every so often “manually” can be tedious, sometimes error prone and be forgotten every so often. I always advise clients to use a plugin to do it automatically and in harmony with Google’s guidelines (there are some that create dubitable XML). Since Yoast’s SEO plugin I actually let everyone use that and only that plugin as it also looks after other SEO aspects, such as meta descriptions etc. At first was puzzled as it creates two sitemaps, one for pages, one for posts, and puts these hierarchically into a “collector” sitemap called sitemap index (cf. http://ratheryes.com/sitemap_index.xml), however, I found that Google actually seems to look favorably at the setup (I suspect it is because pages are more static, posts are more volatile and added to more often and this lets Google directly understand the nature of the links “sitemapped”.
Dermot Gilley recently posted..What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)? Internet Marketing 101My Profile

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Sherryl Perry June 29, 2014 at 11:36 am

Hi Dermot,
Thanks for your suggestion. I personally don’t like to use plugins for functions like submitting sitemaps and I’ve never had an issue creating sitemaps online. I do usually test them first and in retrospect, I probably should explain in step #3 to test your sitemap before adding it.

Yoast’s plugin is wonderful and it handles so many functions that I totally endorse your recommendation to use that. Having said that, there are some of us who use WordPress themes with SEO built in. I don’t know if the new version of Thesis works with Yoast’s plugin but I know that the version that I use doesn’t. So, while I don’t have his plugin installed here, I do use it on client sites.

Thanks for the additional insight into how Yoast’s plugin creates two sitemaps. I did not know that! I really appreciate your comment and as soon as I get a chance, I’m going to hop over to your blog and check out your SEO post. (I’m always on the lookout for good content to share.)
Sherryl Perry recently posted..How Safe Are Your Backlinks? #FridayFindsMy Profile

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Ilka June 29, 2014 at 8:29 am

Hi Sherryl!

Thank you so much for your post. You really save me lots of time browsing around with your great summaries and information.

I don’t use any paid SEO services. I do use the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin you mentioned; and I really love it.
Ilka recently posted..Introducing 10 famous female scientists – the first three!My Profile

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Sherryl Perry June 29, 2014 at 9:43 am

Hi Ilka,
I’m glad you found my post helpful. Good for you for using Yoast’s plugin! My WordPress theme has SEO built in. Otherwise, I would use it too.

Years ago, I met a man in a class I was teaching (on the basics of building websites). He owns an asphalt paving company and he shared his experience of dealing with AT&T Yellow Pages. (He was spending thousands of dollars on their services) They had built his website for him and promised all sorts of SEO benefits.

This man agreed to my looking at his site and using it as an example for the class. We started by searching for his site and it was buried deep within the search results. Then, I moused over some of his images and the names of his pictures were things like “img00022″ which told absolutely nothing about his site. (It could have been as simple as naming one image “asphalt-driveway” and adding meta-tag info for alternate text and a description.)

Although it wasn’t a class on SEO, I used the opportunity to explain to the class some of the basic tips of optimizing your website. The class loved it and it became a lively discussion. That was in 2011 and this man has been a client since then. :)

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with us. I hope you’re having a wonderful weekend.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..4 SEO Tips to Optimize your WordPress BlogMy Profile

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Leora
Twitter:
June 29, 2014 at 7:40 am

Google Webmaster has great tools – thanks for the introduction to the new Fetch and Render. I will have to go back and read the articles in Adrienne’s article – have not figured out how to keep up with all this. Perhaps that is why small business owners pay for those services – they don’t know how to keep up, either.
Leora recently posted..Resize or Crop an Image with PixlrMy Profile

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Sherryl Perry June 29, 2014 at 8:16 am

Hi Leora,
Google Webmaster Tools are great. That’s how I discovered that spammy site last year that had all those links to my site. That could have potentially hurt me if it had still been there when Google performed their recent webspam actions.

I have to go back to Adrienne’s article myself. I didn’t finish reading all the articles she included.I had to stop to create some new topic myself. (I haven’t figured out how to keep up with all this either. :) )

Thanks for dropping by and kick-starting the conversation!

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