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Search Engines

Google Advanced Search: Site Syntax

In the The most basic SEO test I touched on a technique for restricting Google to only searching your specific domain. In this blog I want to expand a bit on that functionality.

Ways to use this kind of search

  • You can add site:yourdomain.com to any search. It doesn’t have to be stand-alone. It’s just one of the many advanced option in Google search so feel free to pair it with image searches, phrases, negations, etc.
  • You can use it for any site, not just your own. Many people use this trick when frustrated by a particular site’s poor on-site search algorithm.
  • You are not restricted to the entire domain. You can also restrict to a particular directory on a domain, like dijonmarketing.com/blog, for example.

A site search is something I do on a very regular basis and is a great tool to add to your advanced googling arsenal.

Best Practices

Using GSuite in compliance with HIPAA

HIPAA is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. In short, it requires any organization that handles protected health information (PHI) to act as trustworthy and cyber-secure stewards of that data. Most often people associate this with doctors’ offices. You wouldn’t want your personal health records to be publicly available. Nor would you want your data sold to advertisers to monetize your most private data, likely without your knowledge.

Any organization that will collect or store PHI must be aware of the laws regarding HIPAA and ensure those systems for collection and storage are also HIPAA compliant. Enter GSuite, or Google Workplace, as it is most recently branded. It is fully capable of protecting data within its ecosystem, but your organization must first opt in for this type of protection.

This Google Help Article: HIPAA Compliance with Google Workspace and Cloud Identity has the most up to date information on how to enable these features in your instance. Essentially, you just need to check a box and and answer a couple of simple yes/no questions. Inside the Admin Console, navigate to Account > Account Settings > Legal and Compliance. There you will find Security and Privacy Additional Terms for Cloud Data Processing Addendum to Google Workspace or Cloud Identity Agreement. Review the appropriate clauses and if your organization fits and requires this additional layer of security, click Review and Accept.

Best Practices

Bitnami bncert-tool manual update to pull new certificates

Using free SSL certificates from LetsEncrypt is a great way to keep your site and your users secure. The only downside is that each certificate is only good for 90 days. Either you need to remember to renew your certificates every 90 days or you need to set up auto-renewal on your hosted server. If you’re using Bitnami packaged app for WordPress, then it’s easy! The bncert-tool will automatically check to see if your certificates are nearing expiration and automatically update them without needing anything from you.

… Until it does. This week I got notified by two different sites that their certificates were nearing the expiration date. That normally doesn’t happen because they’ll get renewed automatically well in advance. When I logged in to investigate, I saw that even manual attempts to renew the certificate were failing. The issue ended up being that I needed to upgrade my bncert-tool.

Bitnami bncert-tool References

Learn About The Bitnami HTTPS Configuration Tool is a great resource with everything you need to know about setting up bncert-tool. The command to upgrade is simple and takes only a few minutes to run and then you will be able to renew your SSL certificates.

sudo /opt/bitnami/bncert-tool

If your tool is out of date, this command will inform you of that fact and ask if you would like to upgrade. Just hit ‘Y’ and Enter and the update will happen in the background in a matter of seconds. Once it is complete, you can run the same command a second time. This time it will walk you through the process to update your certificates.

I upgrade mine and my clients’ servers once per year. This is to get the latest Bitnami stack as well as the upgraded security features for each new revision of PHP. So this should be a rarity that an update of the tool is required in between annual server migrations. But just in case you’ve run for a long time without checking, be on the lookout for expiration notices and take action!

Search Engines

How to remove a URL from Google search results

Every so often, you may wish that a particular page of your website would suddenly disappear from Google. It might be that you’ve sunset a particular program and don’t want organic searchers to find your organization for related keywords anymore. Maybe an intern accidentally published a work-in-progress page unveiling an upcoming event you’re not ready for the world to see. Whatever the reason may be, it does happen sometimes that you need a result to disappear – and fast.

Just deleting the page is usually sufficient. Google’s crawlers will eventually discover that the address they’ve indexed leads to a 404 “page not found” error. They’ll then remove it on their own. But that could take weeks. Even if users won’t arrive at the page in question and view the content, your domain could still be linked to that particular search term much longer than you’d prefer.

Google Search Console to the rescue

There is an option to immediately (albeit temporarily) remove a particular URL or a pattern of URLs from Google Search results. Log in to your Google Search Console account and choose Index > Removals from the left-hand navigation. Select Temporary Removals > New Request. Here you can enter the URL in question, or choose “Remove all URLs with this prefix.” That second option is useful if you want to remove an entire directory of content.

As mentioned, this is not a permanent solution. But it is fast and effective for those emergency situations. You may find yourself having to submit a new request after about 6 months if you haven’t taken steps to permanently rectify. Only by deleting or completely obscuring the content from public crawlers will you permanently have it disappear from search results.

Best Practices

Confirm Nonprofit Status on PayPal

PayPal can be an easy and low cost way to power donations on your nonprofit’s website. Their layouts contain specific options for donation buttons. You can define set donation amounts, optionally include a custom amount, and have a checkbox for recurring monthly donations. They take care of the transaction, the cybersecurity (which is the biggest deal), and connect to your bank account, all for 2.9%+$0.30 per transaction.

But wait … you can get all of those same great features but at a reduced rate of 2.2%+$0.30 if you confirm your nonprofit status with PayPal.

Steps to confirm nonprofit status

  1. First, make sure you have an active PayPal account. It will need to be a business account set up as a Charity.
  2. Visit https://www.paypal.com/charities
  3. Click on “Get Started”
  4. Log in to your nonprofit’s PayPal account
  5. You’ll be asked to provide identifying information like your charity’s EIN number, a recent bank statement, and account holder identity.

Once you are confirmed, you’ll enjoy lower fees on every transaction allowing each donation to have an even greater impact.

Search Engines

What influences personalized Google search results?

Google search results pages are always changing. You might get different results than a coworker for the same search query. You might even see different results for yourself on two different occasions. What all goes into personalizing Google search results just for you?

Search Result Influences

  • Search History – This one can be especially confusing if you search specific terms related to your organization often. Google will start to remember what you clicked on the last time you searched and may artificially bubble your preferred results to the top. If you are evaluating your current performance for a set of keywords, using a different browser or an Incognito tab can help avoid this bias.
  • Geographic Location – This one is sometimes obvious. If you search for “pizza near me” naturally you want your results to be restricted to within a certain radius of your current position. But it isn’t always so hyper local. What country you’re in, for example, can factor heavily into the results.
  • Time of Day – You might rightfully expect different results for a certain search at noon versus midnight. Certain ads may have “day parsing” activated that would only show them during potentially peak search times for related keywords.
  • Device – This was a big push recently towards “mobile first” indexation. Doing so allowed mobile-friendly designs to rank better for mobile searches. When you’re on a smart phone with the smaller screen, having content tailor suited for legible display is an obvious advantage. With the push toward more mobile searches every day it makes sense you might see different results than when you’re on your desktop computer.

Hopefully all of these enhancements (and there are certainly many more) provide a richer, faster, and more convenient searching experience for most users. But it’s important to keep it in mind especially if you are trying to demonstrate a search ad or organic ranking performance.

Best Practices

What is Cross Browser Testing?

Cross Browser Testing is a way of making sure your website is going to look great for all of your users. Just because everything is aligned and beautiful on your development PC, doesn’t guarantee that anyone who visits your website will see the same thing. Users will be on:

  • Different Browsers like Chrome, Firefox, Edge, or Safari
  • Different OS like Windows, Android or iOS
  • Different versions of each browser (some really old)
  • Different devices like PCs, laptops, tablets and mobile phones

If you neglect to test your website on any of those platforms, you run the risk of a sub-par experience for an entire subset of users. It can be a lot of extra work, especially when you find unsupported functions in a particular environment. But it is the hallmark of a well designed and robust website.

Several testing tools exist. My favorite one recently changed from a free tool to a paid subscription. So you may not get out of it for free. But you can definitely at least have a few different browsers installed on your personal PC and do some high level compatibility checks before deploying to production.

Or you could always go the lazy route and put a banner at the top that says, “This website is best experienced in Google Chrome.” (Don’t do that.)

Google Ads

AWQL is now GAQL

AWQL is now GAQL. What does that mean? Let’s start with an acronym check:

  • AWQL = AdWords Query Language
  • GAQL = Google Ads Query Language

This is a somewhat overdue rebranding of a proprietary scripting language available inside of Google Ads. Since they renamed AdWords to Google Ads in mid-2018, this has been off brand for quite some time. Regardless of the name, the embedded query language is a JavaScript-based SQL query-like language that allows for the automation of certain tasks within a Google Ads account.

To learn some ways I use this to automate Google Grants accounts check out AWQL Example: Pause One-Word Keywords and Using AdWords Query Language (AWQL) for Google Grants Compliance.

But there is just a little bit more to the upgrade than a simple renaming. The language itself has gotten an overhaul and some of the API calls and functions have been upgraded to be more user friendly and efficient. Each individual script must be migrated to the new platform – and in doing so you may find some code not working. The first thing to try is to copy and paste your code into a brand new object instead of upgrading an existing one. Almost all functionality should be backwards compatible and not require any rewrites, but if you find yourself in that situation, this Query Migration Tool from Google may be needed to update your data call requests.

Social Media

How to un-suspend your Twitter account

I have had a Twitter account for Dijon Marketing for years, despite never having tweeted. The primary reason I got it was so nobody else could – a little brand protection. I have an all but unused Instagram account as well. Some day I may choose to share content on either of these accounts like I do regularly on Facebook.

But when I logged into my Twitter account for the first time in a couple of years, I was met with a message telling me my Twitter account was suspended. Possible reasons included:

  • Posting spam
  • Leaving my account unsecured
  • Abusive tweets

Well certainly none of those described me!

The first thing I did was ensure I had a backup email address and phone number. Just in case it was a security issue. I already had both set. Then I clicked the button to contest my account suspension and filed an appeal.

Within 2 minutes, I had received an email that my account had been reviewed and unlocked for my use. If you find yourself in a similar situation, follow the prompts to contest it. If there is a real issue or if there has been a violation of the terms of service, they will let you know and you can work to remedy it from there.

Search Engines

How to remove a Google Business listing

If your business or organization has permanently ceased operation, you’ll want to remove it from Google Business. Your Google Business listing will return results in both Google Maps and Google searches. Customers may try to find your website and reach a 404. They may try to call you and get an out of service phone number. Even though you’re not looking for conversions anymore, this is still a poor user experience.

To close a business listing, you’ll have to be an administrator of the business account. Assuming that’s in place, just head over to business.google.com and choose “Info” from the menu on the left. That will lead you to a page where you’ll see these options:

The tricky part here is that you may be tempted to choose “Remove listing” hoping to immediately remove all traces that your business ever existed. That’s not what this button does. “Remove listing” will remove this business from your account so you can no longer manage it. It will not stop it from appearing in searches or remove it from public view.

The best option is “Mark as permanently closed.” This will cause it to be returned less often in searches. Certainly for generic searches like “pizza near me” or “best massage parlor” it won’t be returned because it is not a relevant result. It might still come up and show “permanently closed” for very specific branded searches.