Category Archives: Google

Google reviews must include text

I tell my SEO (Search Engine Optimization) clients that “Five-star Google reviews are like gold”. One client listened and encouraged customers to write reviews . . . which his customers did. Unfortunately, while they scored my client as a five-star vendor, their reviews included no text. None.

These five-star reviews with no text are, as far as I can tell, worthless. Google places them at the end of review lists, and seems to give them no value. They seem to provide no SEO benefit.

Moral: To receive SEO benefit, ensure that your customers include some text when they create a review of your business. A review of three or four sentences is fine.

T-mobile updated my SGH-T399 phone

(Originally published December 9, 2015) Last week,  without warning,  my Samsung SGH-T399 Galaxy Light phone from T-mobile began to download and update its system software to version T399UVUAOH2. Stagefright Detector now reports that my phone is no longer vulnerable to the Stagefright virus.

My phone’s About screen reports that its Android operating system remains at version 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean), but its kernel is now dated August 25, 2015 (Korean standard time).

t-mobile stagefright 480w

  • Tip: If your Android phone is vulnerable to the Stagefright virus, you can reduce (but not eliminate) its vulnerability by, within the Messaging app, turning off the Auto retrieve setting. The Stagefright virus arrives within an SMS (short message service) multimedia message, so if your phone is vulnerable, you do not want to download these messages.

Update, February 27, 2016: T-Mobile again updated my T-399 phone. It still reports Android version 4.2.2, but now reports baseband version T399UVUAPA1 and is dated January 4th, 2016, 20:32, Korean Standard Time. According to T-Mobile’s note that accompanied the update, it improves voice over LTE (VoLTE) and unspecified security features.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695



Listen to articles on your Android phone

When you want to read an article but don’t have time to sit down and read every word, have your phone’s @Voice Aloud Reader text-to-voice app read the article aloud to you.

@Voice app iconFirst, display the article on your phone (probably in a web browser). Press the Share button or icon, and choose the @Voice Aloud Reader. Allow a few seconds for the @Voice Aloud Reader app to start, load the article’s text, and begin reading.

On my Android 4.2.2 phone, the female voice is remarkably clear. It tends toward a monotone, and occasionally messes up (especially abbreviations), but is quite listenable. Within the @Voice Aloud Reader app, you can pause, rewind, etc., the reader.

Just plug in your earbuds, start up the @Voice Aloud Reader, and go!

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Google’s mobile-friendliness

website-mobile-friendly 480w

April 21 was the date that Google set for roll-out of their algorithm that was to deprecate websites that weren’t mobile-friendly. So far, I haven’t noticed any change in search results.

I’ve been busy. I’ve rebuilt three clients’ sites, and am finishing a fourth client’s site. Then I’ll rebuild my own website.

As usual, I’ve found that there is no “one size fits all” solution. I built two of the smaller sites using Squarespace. For these last two, larger sites, I’m using self-served WordPress platforms.

I’ve gotta get back to work.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

It’s time to update websites

Until recently, I’ve regarded websites that are mobile responsive as desirable, but not essential. Around last November, Google began adding the phrase “mobile-friendly” to search results for websites that are mobile responsive.

is your website mobile friendly 200wLast month Google announced that on April 21, they’ll update their search algorithm. It’s expected to reward mobile responsive websites with  higher search result rankings.

I’ve been busy updating clients’ websites to make them mobile responsive. This has meant moving them to new platforms. I’ve moved small websites to Squarespace without too much pain, but I’ve learned that Squarespace doesn’t allow navigation menu nesting deeper than two levels, which disqualifies it for websites of more than a couple dozen pages. I’m working with a few mobile responsive themes on WordPress; it’s probably the route I’ll follow for my own website.

As usual, I’ve learned (again) that there is no single perfect answer. We just have to work around flaws and hide the blemishes.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

A few words about eBay

loudspeaker imageI listened to an informative 22-minute audio clip titled Going Going Gone by James Surowiecki and published by Wired magazine in 2011. Mr. Surowiecki discusses the rise and fall of auctions on eBay and claims that consumer behavior and expectations have radically changed as a result of the web, eBay, Google, and Amazon. eBay auctions grew like mad through about 2007, then began to lose steam. Auctions comprised only 30 percent of eBay sales in 2010.

eBay logo in crosshairsI think that one flaw in the eBay auction model is that the time that an auction ends is preset. A real world auction ends only when bidding stops. The eBay auction model encourages “sniping” — waiting until the last second before placing a bid. (I use eSnipe. It works well. Why put your cards on the table early?) Sniping discourages new eBay bidders.

The growth of Amazon Marketplace has hurt eBay. So has Google: shoppers use Google to easily find even rare items across the web.

Like Craigslist, eBay’s failure to police its neighborhood has resulted in a chaotic marketplace. On the other hand, Amazon’s tight control of its sellers has created a relatively safe, stable marketplace.

If you’ve ever bought or sold on eBay, this is a worthwhile listen.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

MBAs are lousy CEOs

Fortune magazine, in its December 1st edition, has published an intriguing article titled Google’s Larry Page: The most ambitious CEO in the universe.  It quotes a Google manager who’s worked with both Apple’s Steve Jobs and Google’s Larry Page:

Fadell, who before founding Nest led the development of the iPod and iPhone at Apple, says Page and Jobs approached innovation in radically different ways. “Steve was a marketer who really loved product and got the user-experience details right,” Fadell says.  “Larry is a serious technologist and someone who is really steeped in science and in theory, and he has a real love of product.”

Larry Page and Jeff Bezos
Larry Page and Jeff Bezos

I relate to Page’s approach, but Jobs’ obsession with user interface certainly also led to revolutionary products. Note that neither leader was an MBA or lawyer.  Jeff Bezos, an ace programmer (not an MBA), is taking Amazon where no retailer has gone before.

Steve Ballmer and Randall Stephenson
Steve Ballmer and Randall Stephenson

In contrast, Microsoft was led into near irrelevance by Steve Ballmer, a sales manager with an MBA.  The entity that calls itself AT&T is busy making enemies of its customers everyone under the leadership of MBA Randall Stephenson.  (This genius caused his employer to lose six billion dollars, yet took home 21 million dollars that year.) General Motors’ CEO Roger Smith (MBA) drove GM to produce millions of lemons which nobody wanted, leading to their chapter 11 bankruptcy.

For the moment, Google is in good hands. The jury’s still out (see Apple’s Software Quality Problems) on Apple’s Tim Cook (MBA). Even Microsoft may be headed in the right direction, now that Satya Nadella is CEO. True, he has an MBA degree, but he’s reputed to be a product guy — not a numbers guy.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Samsung SGH-T679 not charging

Occasionally, for no apparent reason, my Android phone refuses to accept a battery charge. (originally published 15 February 2014)

Samsung Exhibit II SGH-T679 phoneHere’s the only way I’ve found to fix this problem on my Samsung Insight II SGH-T679 with Android 2.3.6 Gingerbread phone:

  1. Remove charger
  2. Turn off phone
  3. Remove battery
  4. Remove SIM card
  5. Remove SD card
  6. Wait at least 3 minutes. (I’ve had to wait as long as 60 minutes.)
  7. Replace SD card
  8. Replace SIM card
  9. Replace battery
  10. Turn on phone
  11. Plug in charger

This reset procedure works for me. It may or may not work for you. (8 Oct 2014) It also works for my new SGH-T399 phone.


7 August 2014Samsung charger This may or may not be a coincidence, but I’ve found that since abandoning third-party battery chargers and returning to a Samsung manufactured charger, my phone’s battery behaves better, without loss of charging function.

I’ve also stopped buying third-party batteries. They’ve been short-lived. I found what seems to be a genuine Samsung battery on Amazon. The combination of genuine Samsung battery and Samsung battery charger seems to provide both longer battery discharge times and better charging behavior.

I’ve not needed to resort to the charging system reset procedure since installing the genuine Samsung battery and using the genuine Samsung charger.

Extra credit article: How to prolong lithium based batteries

Also see: Repair and prevent battery charging problems on GSM phones.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

YouTube Android app bloat

Over the past year or so, the YouTube app on my Android (Gingerbread) phone has been hogging ever more resources as its reliability degrades with each update. Last week I uninstalled Google Play Services, which freed almost 100 MB (megabytes)! Google Play Services apparently provides user ID services to Android apps Gmail, Google+, and YouTube.

YouTube 2.3.4 for Android
After I uninstalled Google Play Services, the YouTube app refused to run, claiming that it needed Google Play Services. I uninstalled the YouTube app updates, which left YouTube app version 2.3.4 installed. It runs fine, and the system drive now has almost 100 MB more free space.

Older version outperforms newer versions

A bonus is that the older 2.3.4 version of the YouTube app is more stable and more responsive than the newer versions. This is another chapter in the long story of programs that improve as they mature, and then degrade as their publishers stuff them full of unnecessary features.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Which service providers encrypt your data?

The EFF has moved its “Who has your back?” report. It’s now at The report explains,

We’ve asked the companies in our Who Has Your Back Program what they are doing to bolster encryption in light of the NSA’s unlawful surveillance of your communications. As of now, eight companies—Dropbox, Facebook, Google, Microsoft,, SpiderOak, Twitter,and Yahoo—are implementing five out of five of our best practices for encryption.

Graphic by Electronic Frontier Foundation

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Math and The Simpsons

Last December, mathematician Simon Singh spoke to Google employees about the role of math in The Simpsons.

simpsons-higgsThe math references in The Simpsons episodes are only a few seconds long but contain timeless questions. Mr. Singh tells about them as well as math references in Matt Groening’s Futurama in this entertaining YouTube video, which was recorded at a recent Google gathering.

Mr. Singh discusses Math and Futurama in his office.

Manage your Android device’s files

Until recently I used ASTRO File Manager on my Android phone to copy, move, delete, etc files and folders. It did most of what I needed, but could be unbearably slow and resource hungry.

ES File Explorer screenshot imageI now use ES File Explorer. What a terrific program! It’s much quicker than ASTRO and its refined user interface reflects a product that’s been polished by many hours of work. I can quickly tag groups of files and move them to a new folder, even one that doesn’t yet exist. (To access the Move command, first press the Select button and select one or more files which you wish to move from the current folder to a destination folder. Next press the More button in the bottom right corner of the screen. Next choose Move and define the destination folder for the files you’ve selected.)


imageES File Explorer includes other useful tricks. It can provide lists of folders sorted by size of folder content. (Within ES File Explorer, click on the globe/phone icon in the upper left corner. A menu should appear. Under Tools, choose SD Card Analyst.)

It can turn your phone into a wi-fi hotspot.

You can find ES File Explorer in the Google Play Store.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Google Maps for bicycles needs work

Last Thanksgiving, I again cycled 19 miles to a friend’s house. Again, Google Maps on my Android phone helped, but revealed flaws in its bicycle routes. It tried to route me about four miles out of my way.

While on Stirling Road, rather than routing me directly westbound on Stirling Road, Google Maps wanted me to head a couple miles north to Griffin Road, head west to Flamingo Road, then head south for about two miles to Stirling Road.

google maps bike route

This route would make sense only if Stirling Road were impassable. In fact, Stirling Road is friendlier to bicycles than Griffin Road. (Google Maps correctly suggested that cars use Stirling Road.)

Afterward, I used Google Maps’ user feedback facility to inform Google of this bug. With luck, Google will correct it before next Thanksgiving.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Microsoft, Apple et al as patent trolls

When Nortel (née Northern Telecom) went belly up, its assets went up for auction. Microsoft bought a block of more than 600,000 IP addresses from Nortel for $7.5 million. A consortium comprising Microsoft, Apple, BlackBerry, Sony, and Ericsson was high bidder at $4.5 billion for Nortel’s patent portfolio. Google bid, but lost to the consortium.

Rockstar logoThat consortium has named itself Rockstar and become a NPE (non-practicing entity – a polite term for “patent troll”). On its website, it calls itself “an intellectual property (IP) licensing company”. It has sued Google, Samsung, et al for patent infringement by Google’s Android operating system. The suit was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas — the favorite venue for patent trolls.

Android really bugged Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs. According to biographer Walter Isaacson, Steve swore,

I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong. I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.

The majority of the industry press disagrees with Steve:

Apparently Rockstar consists of a handful of ex-Nortel software people, who’ve spent the last 18 months diligently looking for patent infringements. Rockstar itself has few assets aside from its patents, and is clearly acting as an agent for its principals. The existence of Rockstar seems to allow Microsoft, Apple, et al to disavow knowledge of the dubious dirty work done by patent trolls . . . while still doing the dirty work of patent trolls.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

EFF’s Security Report

The Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) has begun publishing its Who’s Doing What report, which contains the results of EFF’s survey of Internet service providers’ internal security measures.

We should all examine this report to learn how secure our entrusted data are. It will help us more wisely choose service providers of all kinds — from your ISP to email, retail sales, and search providers.
EFF Crypto Survey
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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Google wins book scan rights

On Thursday, a federal judge ruled that Google’s ambitious book-scanning project doesn’t violate the copyrights of the books’ authors or publishers. Judge Denny Chin of the Southern New York US District Court ruled in favor of Google and against the Authors Guild. His ruling states that Google’s project conforms to “fair use” copyright exemption. Wired published a full report on the ruling. The Authors Guild had demanded $750 from Google for each scanned book, which could have resulted in a cost of over $3 billion if Google had lost.

ScannerlivreThis ruling ensures that long-forgotten books will be searchable. Google scans the books, but makes only snippets available for reading on-line. Apparently this restriction convinced the judge that Google’s project did not violate copyright.

The Authors Guild, which first filed their lawsuit in 2005, is expected to appeal the decision.

ballfourThe plaintiffs are “THE AUTHORS GUILD INC., and BETTY MILES, JOSEPH GOULDEN, and JIM BOUTON, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated”. Jim Bouton?! His insider’s look at baseball, Ball Four, was hilarious. It was first published in 1971. I have no idea why he was named as a plaintiff.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

FCC’s Mobile Speed Test

The FCC has released a test version of a cellular data transfer speed measurement app for Android devices. It’s available from

fcc-test-resultsThe FCC has published the Android app’s open source code on its Github site. They’ve promised an iPhone version. It’s being developed by

According to the app’s FAQ, “the application will run continuously in the background, periodically performing measurements.” I’m not enthused about having this app running continuously. I’ll probably uninstall it after each measurement run.

A feature of this app that I like is that it collects and reports “cell tower ID” and “cell tower location code” — data that may help my quest to pinpoint the physical location of T-Mobile’s nearest cell site. It also reports received signal strength in dBm.

The speed test data are collected from your mobile device and aggregated by the FCC. Let’s hope that they use the data to hold the carriers’ feet to the fire.

One reported problem is that the app, when testing over a WiFi connection, thinks that it’s connected via LTE. Also, it may have contributed to problems I had with other apps today.


If you examine the screenshot, you’ll see that although T-Mobile claims that the wireless connection (which was HSDPA when I snapped the screenshot) is “4G”, the download speed is a wimpy 1 Megabit per second. This disproves T-Mobile’s claim that HSDPA+ is “4G”. (The ITU specifies that 4G system mobile phones have a minimum peak download speed of 100 Mbps.) Maybe the FCC or FTC will do their jobs and slap T-Mobile for false advertising.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Android and Adobe Flash

Adobe Flash continues to be a security nightmare. Adobe stopped supporting Flash on Android devices earlier this year, which uninstalled Flash from all Android devices. Eventually H.264 and HTML 5 will replace Flash. In the meantime, if you absolutely must have Flash on your Android device, here’s how: Caveat Lector.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Nobody loves Oracle

Poor Oracle. Poor Larry Ellison. Their yacht is about to lose the America’s Cup and last week Google added insult to injury.

MySQL vs MariaDB logosThe Register reported that Google intends to migrate all of its products that use MySQL, which is owned by Oracle, to MariaDB. This probably involves thousands of servers. Wikipedia has already replaced MySQL with MariaDB.

What is MariaDB?
When Oracle bought Sun Microsystems in 2010, it acquired the popular open source OpenOffice and MySQL products. Soon some OpenOffice developers split and created LibreOffice, which is built on the same code, but is not controlled by Oracle.

Then Monty Widenius, a key creator of MySQL, and other MySQL developers left and created MariaDB, which is built on the open source MySQL code. MariaDB ( is not controlled by Oracle, either. (The name? Monty’s daughter is named Maria.)


There’s no love lost between Oracle and Google. Oracle would dearly love to provide the database for Google’s search engine, but Google instead built its own database, called BigTable. As far as I know, Google buys nothing from Oracle other than (maybe) support for MySQL.

Over the past few years Oracle has claimed in federal court that Google’s Android operating system contains code stolen from its Java compiler. (Java was created by Sun and its compiler is now owned by Oracle.) Google has won that copyright infringement lawsuit, but Oracle is appealing the decision.

Did the friction between Oracle and Google influence Google’s decision to abandon Oracle’s MySQL? What do you think?

Extra credit questions: Does Oracle care? Why?

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Exodus from U.S. web services begins

Web services that are based outside the U.S. are touting their immunity from NSA searches. Startpage is a Dutch search engine that boasts of its concern for user privacy. front pageIt defaults to communicating via Secure Sockets Layer (https), so there’s a prayer that even a US-based user will be able to search the web without the NSA looking over his or her shoulder. The European Union has much better computer user privacy laws than America.

This is the start of an exodus from U.S.-based web services of all kinds. Governments and corporations around the world are beginning to reduce their exposure to overzealous U.S. federal government snooping.

I don’t blame them.

Traffic via TOR (The Onion Router — a service that anonymizes users) has increased 500 percent since Mr. Snowden’s NSA snooping revelations.

Before Microsoft bought Skype, Skype conversations were private. Microsoft caved in to federal government demands for a Skype back door. Now that the extent of the NSA’s snooping has been revealed, US corporations that caved, such as Microsoft, will pay a price as they lose business to non-US competitors.

How about iPhone sales or Windows sales?

How will the NSA’s snooping and acquiescence by American corporations affect international sales of American products such as Apple iPhones, Cisco routers, etc.? How about Microsoft Windows? Microsoft is known to have cooperated with the NSA. What guarantees that its products — both software and hardware — don’t contain back doors?

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Google as hardware manufacturer

With today’s introduction of the Motorola Moto X smartphone, Google has hit three consecutive hardware home runs:

  1. Nexus 7 tablet $230
  2. Chromecast video streamer $35
  3. Moto X phone $200 with cellular contract




Nexus 7 smartphone
Nexus 7 tablet

Chromecast video streamer
Chromecast video streamer

Moto X smartphone
Moto X smartphone

All three products set new price / performance benchmarks.

Ten years ago, who would have guessed that Google would not only be manufacturing hardware, but would be setting the pace in hardware? Kudos to Google.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Search engines ordered to clearly define ads

The US Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Protection Bureau last week ordered that Google, Bing, and other search engines that display paid ads, do so in a manner that clearly tells the user “this is a paid ad, not an organic search result”. According to the FTC Press Release,

The updated guidance has been sent to the general-purpose search engines AOL,, Bing, Blekko, DuckDuckGo, Google, and Yahoo!, as well as 17 of the most heavily trafficked search engines that specialize in the areas of shopping, travel, and local business, and that display advertisements to consumers.

The FTC’s letter to search engines with updated guidance concludes,

. . . . consumers should be able to easily distinguish natural search results from advertising that search engines deliver. Accordingly, we encourage you to review your websites or other methods of displaying search results, including your use of specialized search, and make any necessary adjustments to ensure you clearly and prominently disclose any advertising. In addition, as your business may change in response to consumers’ search demands, the disclosure techniques you use for advertising should keep pace with innovations in how and where you deliver information to consumers.

Until now, Google has displayed its advertisers’ paid ads on a pale yellow or pale pink background at the top, bottom, and right margin of its search engine result pages. Users may confuse the paid ads (which are selected by the user’s search phrase) with organic search results. Google calls this system AdWords. It’s their cash cow. Will clear designation of ads affect Google’s ad revenue (99% of its income)?

Zdnet article: FTC issues new edict to search engines over ads

Google Search Results Page

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Improve your Google search results

You probably use Google every day with good results, so why visit Google guide? explains,

googleguide615x57If you’re like many people, you use only a small number of Google’s services and features. The more you know about how Google works, its features and capabilities, the better it can serve your needs.

To improve search accuracy, I use Google operators such as “cache:” or “site:” every day. What are they? Read

Here’s a simple tip: when searching for Jeff Albertson, enclose his whole name in quotation marks — “Jeff Albertson”. Google’s results will exclude all other Jeffs and all other Albertsons. This works with most search engines.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Google search has changed again.

On May 22, Google began using its new Penguin 2.0 search “algorithm adjustment”. According to Google, it closely examines a site’s links’ quality and emphasizes its social links. One result is that Google now lists only one article by a single author, regardless of how many articles he’s written, on a WordPress site.

Google continues to change the rules as the game progresses. On a few occasions over the years my website has suddenly fallen from number 1 for a given search phrase to oblivion for many weeks, and only slowly recovered. In the meantime, I lost business. There was no explanation from Google.

Google giveth and Google taketh away.

The occasional wild swings in Google search results makes me suspect that the algorithm may have gotten away from them: too many cooks.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695