Nail clippers or scissors? Let's cut to the quick

Nail clippers, found in every Christmas cracker collection since trading with China began, are lethal. Even in experienced hands, they can bring tears to an unsuspecting little boy's eyes.

Okay, I'll grant you that quality nail clippers in the hands of a manicurist are the simplest way to accomplish nails to die for. But the sort I'm talking about, cheap ones dangling from key fobs and available en masse at the five and dime store, can do more harm than good.

Growing pains - from scissors to nail clippers (and back again)

When you're an infant, clippers are useless. Your calcium is in such high demand by other developing parts of your body that your nails simply melt to the touch. Try to clip them and they tear; mothers: they do not cut at that age!

I'm sure many parents, having inadvertently been gouged by their babes-in-arms, would contend that 'soft nails' argument. My response:
"If you'd used baby scissors, you wouldn't have a had problem! Or that, is that a scar...?

Am I biased? Probably...and with good reason

Before I got the hang of nail clippers, mother cut our nails with them. Was she so busy that this surgery needed to be performed as infrequently as possible? Seemingly so, as she'd always scythe right back to the hyponychium. The "quick", to you and me.

When those stainless steel half-moons of death clamped onto that sensitive flesh, boy, did it make you squeal?! Silently, of course. No tears in front of little sister.

Softly, softly...like a man

I didn't have to wait too many years until the successive ingrowing toe nail syndrome. Not to over-dramatise this subsequent episode, but similar (self-inflicted) toenail cutting practises in adolescence almost blighted a promising teenage semi-pro football career.

I knew no better. Once I'd mastered clippers (I was desperate to wrest them from mother's hands), I cut them toenails as far back as I could without drawing blood, just as mother hadn't when we were at her mercy.

Breakdown of fingernail components
I do have a theory. We're talking early 70s, when shoe prices increased with your respective shoe size. I'm sure mother was looking to save a few bob by ensuring that my toenails never came close to leather at the toecaps. I guess we'll never know.

I digress. I must have been going through a growing spurt. During one match, our football club's kit-man/physio/shrink/chiropodist/trainer - I did say semi-pro - saw me hobbling. He pulled me off at half time. After that, he substituted me (joke!).

Upon whipping off my boots and socks, he reliably informed me that my toenails were ingrowing. The grooves along which they ought travel had all but disappeared and the free edge was embedded into the flesh. Both were the result of years of overambitious curtailment.

Where should I cut my nails to?

Toenails ought to be cut with a straight edge, level with the very tip of your toes, I was reliably informed. That way, any pressure placed on the nail bed from the toes beneath would be displaced by the nail itself.

As things stood - literally - the nail beds were curling back over my toes like Turkish slippers. The edges - or lateral nail folds - of my toenails curled underneath themselves like used staples. My toes were a mess.

I later learned that fingernails likewise should not retract beyond your fingertips. Rather, they should follow the fingertip around its lunar crescent. Hence the rounded shape of, you've guessed it, fingernail scissors.

It took a while to get used to holding the scissors with my left hand, but the thought of never having to clamp those half-moon teeth near tender flesh again was all the spur I needed...

Clippers or Scissors - what's the verdict?

Once the precision-engineered blades had removed the scrolling calcium and I'd taken the antibiotics to accompany the flesh-cutting nails (seriously, antibiotics is all they could do for that bit), I swore off nail-clippers for life.

Lethal? Let me rephrase that. Cheap nail clippers are evil in the wrong (or uneducated) hands!

Pressure on the pads, toes or fingers, isn't good if there's no nail beyond to help reinforce your pinkies. As I found out, long term abuse can lead to painful malformation or ingrowing nails. Or both.

It may not be terribly manly, soaking hands until your nails are scissor semi-pliant. But learning to cut one's right hand's fingernails with scissors with one's left hand is one of life's crowning achievements.

Just think, if I'd have ever learnt to kick with my left foot too, perhaps I wouldn't have had to wait for a kit-man-cum-chiropodist to tell me I'd got a problem with my toenails, either...

image courtesy of simplenails4you


UK Google Search Trends Zeitgeist 2013: twerk, rest and play

So, you all thought Britizens were dowdy, pasty-faced stuffed shirts who drank tea and loved Lizzy, did you? Well, you're wrong. Erm, sort of.

Yesterday's article in HITC (UK) has published what we Brits have been searching for online all year.

The die-hards are there, like the Grand National. Universal Jobmatch makes #8 on the list - that says more about our country's status than it should. And, predictably, the Royal Birth extended the 2012 Year of the Brit another 12 months.

There are some surprising entries, though. Twerking, Zumba and YOLO have all featured highly in our fascination with (and lame attempts at) keeping up with the world south of Southampton, west of Weston and east of East Ham.

Does anyone down south really care about what happens north of Watford? You wouldn't think it, but for us in the Midlands and above, north of Northampton, too.

We do seem to have a fascination with death, according to a similar article in The Guardian. Thatcher, Cory Montieth, Paul Walker and Nelson Mandela all made the top ten general searches at positions 9, 4, 1 and 6 respectively.

Top ten Google "What is?" searches 2013

With lists like this one, it's amazing to find out what people don't know as much as what interests them that's gobsmacking. The fourth most searched "What is?" Question in the UK in 2013 was: "What is a prime number?".

Spooning and Zumba also make the list. Where do these people live? Under rocks and stones without access to the media or WiFi? C'mon, people. Stop twerking me off!
  1. Twerking;
  2. My IP;
  3. YOLO;
  4. A prime number (you're kidding me, right?)
  5. Illuminati;
  6. My car worth;
  7. Spooning (come here let me show you! Women only need apply);
  8. Global warming;
  9. Zumba;
  10. The meaning of life.


Sexy VIP e-cigarette advert garners 147 complaints [Video]

The short 21-second ad shown on ITV the other night responsible for the "outrage" is viewable at Mirror Online. The 59-second uncut version is below.

Some of the ads that get past censors in Scandinavia and Australia wouldn't even make YouTube. So when you see mass hysteria for only slightly taboo ads shown on UK TV, you realise exactly why the rest of the world see Brits as prudish.

What makes complaints about the latest VIP e-cigs advert hard to swallow is that it was shown after the watershed.

What would have happened if the full, uncut version had been shown in the break of "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Outta Here", instead?:

So, UK TV audience: what are you objecting to, exactly?

By VIP's own admission on YouTube, the uncut version (above) wouldn't have made it past UK censorship. Even then, there's nothing overtly sexual in the commercial.

True, the actress is all aquiver as if she's about to have an organism when she states that she wants to put it in her mouth. But surely any innuendo inferred is in the mind of the audience?

  • Is the actress stark naked? No!
  • Is there a man in the clip with her? No!
  • Is there any reference to any tangible object she's saying she'd like to taste (actually in the ad only, not the uncut version)? Erm, No!

It's good to see VIP sticking by its guns. Miguel Corral, one of the joint owners of the e-cigarette manufacturers, told the Bolton News:

"Due to advertising regulations we were not permitted to include the product in the ad, so we decided to take a tongue-in-cheek approach to appeal to an adult audience."

What next? Herbal Essences ads gonna be pulled?

If you ask me, the Herbal Essences long-running ad campaign is guilty of exactly the same tactics. There's an actress (with a lot less clothes on than the VIP e-cigarette actress in her LBD, one hastens to add) washing her hair against the backdrop of a jungle waterfall.

Innocent enough, you say? She's been uttering the infamous "Yes, yes, yes!" as she gets herself in a lather for years. And those ads are shown at all times.

Let's hope Ofcom (I didn't know the ITC had ceased to exist - 10 years ago. Wow!) don't react with a knee-jerk ruling.

I like e-cigarettes

I have to admit, after trying patches and gum I thought "vaping" was going to be another let-down. How shocked was I when offered a blast at a party this summer?

Admittedly, they do taste better after six or seven pints of Thatcher's Gold Cider. But, rather than go outside for a ciggy as the breeze takes on a decidedly wintry edge, a vape as I key away on my word-processor is a very happy compromise between me and my good lady wife.

That's not to mention the other benefits I've found from smoking electronically:

  • a lack of tar clogging my lungs, easing my chest;
  • no toxic fumes flooding the house, tainting my aura and staining the ceiling;
  • the cost, compared to smoking 20 normal ciggies a day.

As you'll probably guess from the comments above, my better half is very keen on me giving up smoking. After seeing my eyes light up upon trying one of my buddy's E-lites, she went out and bought me the executive pack.

E-lites Executive Starter Pack

E-lites aren't the cheapest, but they do tend to be the most widely available.

There are many cheaper versions available online in all sorts of styles, with or without nicotine and in more flavours than you can shake a soggy stick (or cigarette butt) at.

The problem most people have is putting faith in brands they don't know. Especially when they're going to be inhaling who knows what directly into their lungs.

What I do now, for choice, trust and price, is get mine from Amazon. The vendors there have a very good reason for providing quality products. Why? Because of the very public review system.

As of mid-December 2013, there are almost 1,000 e-cigarettes and starter kits (on Amazon.co.uk)in the Personal Health section alone. Spoilt for choice, I know.

Okay, it's not giving up. But it's a start. And I might just make a video of me partaking in an E-lite after sexual intercourse and post that on YouTube. See what the miserable sods make of that.

In fact, I could even film the graphic bit, as a prelude. Got to fill the rest of the 30 seconds with something, right???


How You Can Avoid These Escalating Hazards Filmed at New St. Station

Oops-a-daisy, Maisie! You can't go anywhere these days without those pesky escalators sneaking up on you when you least expect it, can you?

I'm sure the eejits captured on film just do it to get on You've Been Framed. I'm also pretty sure that YBF's where the full CCTV footage showing the "danger of escalators" at Birmingham New Street Station on the Express & Star's website is destined for, eventually.

Rail Against the Machine

Network Rail has begun its Christmas 2013 Safety Campaign in earnest by issuing a video that depicts three numpties failing to tackle that most dangerous of obstacles: The Escalator!

Is Network Rail just poking fun? On the evidence, they have every right to. But on average, more than one person a day falls foul of these evil mechanisms. An incredible 418 "escalator escapades" have been captured on video across the UK's busiest railway stations year-to-date.

But it does seem that people are learning to spot the danger signs. This year's total number of incidents represents a drop of almost a fifth on last year, when 512 victims succumbed to these silent assassins. That's still way too many for both the rail company and, of course, the HSE, hence the heightened and radical campaign this year.

How dangerous are escalators to humans? I mean, really?

The newly-released footage shows how mischievous these mechanical monsters of modern technology can be when left unattended and unsuspecting numpties clamber aboard. As a result, there are two distinct messages we can glean from Network Rail's campaign this winter; if you're:

  1. carrying heavy shopping, use the elevators;
  2. wearing high heels, hold the hand rail.

Point two is blatantly obvious, to both seasoned and virgin travellers. But the problem is that unattended elevators tend to smell of wee, especially in December. What's more, with carriage limited to around 2,400lbs, lifts can hold no more than four Brummies at a time.

The point of note here is neither obesity nor using the elevator as a urinal. No, it's repeatedly listening to that droning Birmingham accent.

Being subject to those elongated vowels for any longer than the 10 second ride between platform and ground level has been known to turn elevators suicidal, even moreso than Marvin The Paranoid Android. That's why so many lifts at New Street Station break down, both on a mechanical and emotional level.

But back to the numpties. Rather than exit an elevator smelling of B.O. and recycled ale, inter-city shoppers would rather take their chance with an escalator fail.

That's it. Blame the beer…

Puddles of piddle in paranoid prisons aren't the only concern, it seems. It's one thing carrying too much Christmas Spirit whilst sporting Stilettos. But Network Rail allege that many incidents are caused when that particular genie is let out the bottle and finds its way into the alcohol streams of merry-making daytrippers.

But isn't that stating the obvious? Let's face it, Saturday afternoon drunks struggle to negotiate the stationery pavement, let alone an over-zealous escalator ascending toward the ozone (okay, The Pallasades) at such speed. When you've had a few, those escalators...they become a challenge, y'know?

After one too many in the Trocadero, there's a very delicate art in holding onto:

  • your balance,
  • that swift half you've purloined from said boozer,
  • and your dignity.

At least without spilling any.

If guys and gals can't go out and have a few sherberts at Christmas without having to face the swathe of dangerous escalators reportedly attacking innocent travellers, I don't know what the world's coming to.

But I am pleased to report that, to date, no numpties captured on film have been fatally wounded. Yet. But if this menace to society is left unchecked, who knows who'll be the first victim on a stairway to heaven. You have been warned; here's Network Rail with the last word:

"Everyone in this video made a full recovery. Please tread carefully!"


Anaconda swallows drunk man(?) outside liquor store

No wonder he's hissssing at the onlookers. If the geezer he swallowed was that rat-arsed not to notice his sleeping bag had got fangs and a dislocating jaw, I bet the snake's got a shocker of a hangover, too!

Man-eating Anaconda
Is it a man-eating anaconda? Or wind?

Okay, it's a good photoshop if it's fake (Is it? Vote in the poll below↓). But we've all been blind drunk enough not to struggle when someone's slipping a warm blanket over us, right?

For this poor drunken bum, I guess he never reckoned on sharing his last bed with the gastro-juices of a 15' anaconda. I mean, who would?

One minute you're propping up a shop doorway with your bottle of Turpentine in a brown paper bag. Next minute, you're talking to something hissy, slimy and serpentine that's only got one thing on its mind. Yeah, we've all been there too, right? (What, never been to Wolverhampton?)

Is it a drunk or the worst case of serpentine constipation ever?

The figure's not decidedly human, but I can't imagine a snake swallowing anything else remotely that size even similar. Too big for a goat. Not small enough for an elephant. They're rarer than drunks in doorways, anyway.

And another thing: how on Earth are they ever going to confirm that it was the wino, anyway? Something tells me there'll be no fingerprints. And what about the guy's teeth? Does the pathologist just wait for the snake to "go" and try and reassemble the dentures?

I mean, you can't blame the anaconda. But you can bet it's gonna be cut open to verify the remains...
...what little there'll be left. How gruesome a job would that be? Nuh, uh! Gimme the job of rebuilding the dentures.

Poor thing. It only popped out for an Indian and look at the fuss it's caused...

Cast your vote: is the photo real?


Shopper caught masturbating in Sainsbury's meat aisle banned from everysupermarket in UK

Oi, Grandad! Come here! Shit, too late...

I've heard some wanky wacky stories in my time, but Eugenio Freitas' escapade in Sainsbury's takes playing with your meat and two veg a tad(pole) too far.
The guy had already been copped exposing himself in supermarkets in 2010. Now it appears a 10-minute frame of pocket billiards was caught on CCTV last summer to add to his offences.

The episode concluded with the grandfather pocketing the pink after being confronted by red-faced staff in the Newcastle-Under-Lyme store. Unbeknownst to him, they'd been homing in on his cue action due to his suspicious loitering.
Mr Freitas had ‘fully intended’ to go shopping on July 8 but became overwhelmed by his ‘excessive sexual drive’.
The guy's obviously got a problem with his meat. Not only has he now been banned from every supermarket in the land, but I also suspect that abattoirs and slaughter houses in Staffordshire will be wary of would-be employees looking to give more than their 110%.

Wonder if he's related to Hannibal Lecter...?


Beer bullies blamed for Marijuana ad being pulled from NASCAR

Marijuana ad pulled from jumbotron at NASCAR Brickyard 400

An advertisement that said marijuana was less harmful than alcohol was pulled off a jumbotron outside the NASCAR Brickyard 400 in Indiana on Friday.

The Marijuana Policy Project said in a news release that Grazie Media, the company that owns the huge billboard, had condoned the running of the ad…

Continue Reading at Raw Story...


Walk (diagonally) in Harry Potter's footsteps using Google Maps

Have you ever fancied walking in Harry Potter's footsteps and experiencing the thrills and spills of Diagon Alley for yourself?

Well now you can, right from your very own browser.  Diagon Alley has been added to Google Maps!
[googlemaps https://maps.google.com/maps?cbll=51.690875,-0.417249&layer=c&cbp=13,293.7,,0,2.04&hl=en&gl=uk&ie=UTF8&t=h&panoid=u1gcE6cVKELE_xgImwtVHQ&source=embed&ll=51.69053,-0.416965&spn=0.000522,0.001507&z=19&output=svembed&w=562&h=314]

If you've ever wondered whether the alley where Harry, Hermione and Ron go to get their Hogwarts' supplies is real, whether The Leaky Cauldron does indeed open up to a secret passage safely hidden from Muggles in the back streets of London, well now you've got your answer.

It's very real and the living proof is embedded into Google Maps for all to see.

A brief (and recent) history of Diagon Alley

The first glimpse we Muggles got of the infamous road was when Hagrid tapped on a common-or-garden brick wall (for all intents and purposes) that lay beyond The Leaky Cauldron.

Not only was it our first glimpse, but it was affirmation for Harry Potter that the wizarding world was alive, well and all too accessible as long as you had a friend in magic to take you there.

The affable Rubeus Hagrid had walked Diagon Alley many a time and soon helped the young wizard pick a wand from Ollivander's Wand Shop (or does the wand pick the wizard?), purchased Hedwig the owl from Eeylops Owl Emporium for Harry's 11th birthday and a whole manner of other school supplies in anticipation for the orphan's first term at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Diagon Alley appears in many of Harry's adventures

The misguided attempt to reach the street using The Weasley's Floo System, sending him instead to Borgin and Burkes, gave us our literal interpretation of the name as Harry's command was interpretted as diagonally, not Diagon Alley.

It was at Flourish and Blotts school supply shop on the alley that Lucius Malfoy first met Harry Potter and learned of the young wizard's blatant disregard of the taboo that surrounded mentioning Lord Voldermort's name.

It was not a coincidental meeting.  Malfoy slipped Tom Riddle's Diary into Ginny Weasley's schoolbag and the whole Chamber of Secrets escapade was to hinge around that very act.

The darkness sets in

In later films, as Voldermort's return became undeniable and wizards and witches no longer felt safe walking the streets day or night for fear of Death Eaters, Diagon Alley became a somber place.

In the desperate search for the Horcrux' that would eventually decide the battle between Potter and Voldemort, the good versus evil tug-of-war that dogged Harry until the end of the Second Wizarding War, Diagon Alley was oft to be found home to snatchers.

This abandonment of the restaurants and boutiques that had once made the Alley so resplendent left it open to the abuse of Voldemort's cohorts and wizards who had no choice other than to risk its perils.

Thankfully, since Voldemort was once again banished, Diagon Alley is once more a light, colourful place.

The posters of Death Eaters who were 'wanted' are nothing but memory and the shops, including  Fred and George's 'Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes' and Gringotts Bank, are bright, prosperous places once again.

Ollivanders' Wand Shop almost 2,500 years old

Despite records indicating that Ollivanders owned a wand shop on Diagon Alley since the fourth century BC, this particular post code still eludes Muggles.

Even having geographical locations on the Google Map, Muggles may yet struggle to find Diagon Alley.

Legend has it that The Leaky Cauldron, through which the Alley is accessed, is situated on Charing Cross Road.

Although everyone knows of its existence, even that the pub lies between a record shop and a bookshop, Muggles have been cursed with a type of selective blindness that makes the ancient boozer invisible to anyone other than members of the wizard world.

Beware of Knockturn Alley, the 'dodgy place'

If you do find it, be wary of Knockturn Alley, a side road off the main alleyway housing the aforementioned Borgin and Burkes where Tom Riddle worked after leaving Hogwarts.

Borgin and Burkes is just one of many shops trading in artifacts of the Dark Arts along Knockturn Alley, that even Hagrid referred to as a 'dodgy place'.

However, as well as giving Tom Riddle employ, it was also where Draco Malfoy, Lucius' son, travelled to when assisting Voldemort's closest allies to gain access to Hogwarts through an ancient vanishing cabinet, an act that would eventually cost Dumbledore, headmaster of the school and mentor to Harry Potter, his life.

But you've got to get to Diagon Alley first.  If you know to a good old-fashioned fireplace that looks like it's been around for a while, why not try a sprinkling of Floo Powder and see where that gets you.

Remember, speak clearly as you command you destination or else who knows where you may end up or, indeed, who you may bump into along the way...


6 Best Practises for your Business Blog

Thanks for visiting Feckless. I've moved this post to A Copywriters Toolbox, renamed it and brought it bang up to date.

It now covers best blogging practises for businesses in 2016 and beyond. Thank you and see you there.


Woman with MS gets stuck in Charity dumpster

A woman suffering from Multiple Sclerosis found herself in a bit of a pickle as she ended up putting herself in a charity dumpster in Oklahoma at the weekend.

Allegedly, the woman had contributed items to the charity bin and, after being unable to account for its whereabouts upon returning home, became convinced that her tennis bracelet had accidentally followed the three bags full into the donation bin.

The following morning, she took a table along and successfully used it to hoist herself into the dumpster to have a ferret around for her lost jewellery.

After a while, it was apparent that she was unable to get back out of the Positive Tomorrows bright red dumpster and had no choice but to call 911, reporting to the fire service that she was 'in a bit of a pickle'.

The fire service approximated that the elderly-sounding woman, who has remained nameless, spent up to two hours inside the box and was possibly dehydrated given how hot enclosed metal containers like the donation box get, even in the early hours of the morning the woman had chosen to retrieve her lost bracelet.

It was unclear whether the woman found it, although her attempts were probably hampered by another charitable soul who actually threw in a black sack of clothing whilst she was in there.

I dunno about you, but an elderly woman sneaking to a charity bin in the early hours of the morning and not wanting to pipe up when someone was actually there who could have raised the alarm for her?  Pride, vanity or guilt, do you reckon?

That bracelet, methinks, is about as real as the clothes the emperor wore in the prophetic tale that Lady Godiva would re-enact many years later on horseback in Coventry...which happens to be where the old gal who fell in the dumpster ought to be sent if she had indeed spotted something she fancied for herself going into the charity bin and literally threw herself into the task of retrieving it.

Weird news: Oklahoma woman stuck in charity bin calls 911 – video | full story on Metro News.

What do you think?
Was she out to purloin someone else's charitable gift or did she genuinely lose her tennis bracelet, along with a little dignity?

US Poverty Spread over 20 years - look familiar?

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="970"]Poverty Sprawl Gif - US Poverty Two Decades of US Poverty[/caption]

This shocking gif courtesy of Gawker.com is from The Atlantic Cities publication and shows the amazing spread of poverty over the last 20 years in and around New York.

You can see Newark airport (just about) on the left, through the centre of the map to Jersey City and finally across to New York. Each dot represents 20 people and, as you can see, the dots are getting more compact as we reach the present date.

Colour coded for convenience, the ethnicity is as follows:

  • pale blue = white/Caucasian

  • golden-yellow = black

  • green = Hispanic

  • red = Asian/Pacific

And, no, I'm not going to jest about where the red dot on an Asian's head comes from for fear of getting lynched, not that savvy Indians need council houses these days, anyway.

It's a real indictment on the US economy that so many more people nowadays live below the poverty line. But if you look at many other conurbations across the 'civilised' world, I bet there would be a similar pattern.

From The Smoke to Stoke - heck, it's no joke

At least there aren't moves to ship indigenous inhabitants from The Big Apple up to Ontario. Lost me?

Check out this article in The Guardian from February, 2013.

London families, 761 of them from Camden (they were not alone), were threatened with being shipped 200 miles up the M6 to Stoke when Welfare Reform kicks in proper.

Why? Because the cap on their benefit no longer avails them of the minimum affordable rent in The Smoke, so they've got to up sticks and go live somewhere more affordable.

One thing's for certain: the gap between those who have and those who have not is only going to get wider over coming years, no matter which side of The Pond you happen to live.

This was indemnified further this week; last week, the UK Government told Civil Servants they're no longer automatically entitled to an inflation-matching pay rise from now on. Conversely, MPs informed us this week that they'd voted to give themselves a £10,000 per year pay rise.

There'll be a riot bigger than last summer's before this lot passes, you mark my words.


Is Google winning the keyword stuffing war?

One of my pet, pet hates is content thievery. I don't mind the odd <blockquote>, providing it sends a link back to my original article, but that's about it.  Plagiarism sucks.

There are many types, but these are the three aspects of plagiarism that really grind my gears:

  • mechanical article spinning and subsequent keyword stuffing
  • curation without the curator adding their own take on the article
  • blatant plagiarism, passing others work off as your own

The article chosen that ground my gears to dust commits at least two, if not all three, of the aforementioned heinous crimes.

If you've ever been across to zebedeerox.com, you'll already have seen the rants I've had at Google for throwing obviously keyword-stuffed, non-native blog-posts that have been spun with software into my blog feed by way of alerts.

If ever there's a reason to dissuade you from buying article spinning software, just set up a Google alert in a popular niche and see what turns up in your inbox.

Google thinks its got spamming covered?  Not by a long shot.

Don't want to take my word for it? Want proof?  Here's double proof.

According to Mike Geary, you struggle to get any relevant abs or six pack keywords into AdWords to link back to a weight loss site because of the amount of sites out there in the niche that are just pure crap.

After reading the article in question, I know what Google and Mike mean.

So you'd think that the weight loss niche, as Google has already fired a warning shot across its bows, would be a niche they're monitoring consistently for keyword stuffing or duplicate content, wouldn't you?

The answer's yes, by the way. Or at least it should be.

When I was researching an article for my abs workout and nutrition site just the other night, I wanted clarification on the benefits of water for weight loss.

I knew the cleansing benefits for the intestines but was a tad uncertain of the relationship between the liver and kidneys in the whole hydration cycle.  So I put that exact search into Google.

This is the SERP, page 1:

SERP for keyword-stuffed weight loss article
SERP for keyword-stuffed weight loss article
Coming in at number four was an article on exercise4weightloss.com simply entitled Water and Weight loss.

No, I'm not going to credit it with a link as it doesn't deserve one.

However, it does highlight the benefit of having accurate titles and meta descriptions (breadcrumbs) for both SEO and human readership.

I clicked through as it looked like the perfect result for my query, even choosing it over results 1-3 in the SERP.

More keywords stuffed into article than stop words

After the first two sentences, I couldn't believe what I was reading.

Especially having moments ago read this Whiteboard Friday article by Rand on SEOMoz about the impact on SEO and readership of duplicate/low quality content versus unique content.

The article wasn't about keyword stuffing per se, but it did happen upon how Google is striving to reap out low quality and duplicate content since the Panda update.

However, in one of this week's Webmaster Tools videos, Matt Cutts reiterates that Google is taking action on keyword stuffing, treating it as web spam, which sort of ties up my argument quite nicely.

keyword stuffing in weight loss article
keyword stuffing in water benefits for weight loss article
So if low-value sites are being penalised, as per Rand in the SEOMoz video and Google is taking action against sites that are keyword stuffing as per Matt Cutts, how in the name of everything that is pure and quality content, did this article appear on Page 1 of Google:

The words water, weight and loss appear in the first 109 words more than all other words, even stop words apart from 'is' and the full stop itself.

How on earth can that be natural, quality content and not stuffing stuffing?  

Assessing verbs, adjectives and nouns against the stop word count is no way to measure keyword density, of course.

Nonetheless, anyone who's an active blogger will know that stop words far outweigh the rest of the content by volume in every quality article they've ever written.

Whilst I agree in principal with many of the arguments in Rand's duplicate content Whiteboard Friday article, in practise Google is yet to deliver the results against the spam it purports to be actively targeting.

As a matter of interest, I ran the immediately visible content on the landing page (wrapped around an AdSense unit, no less) through NoteTab Light to check the keyword density.

keyword density report for weight loss and water article
keyword density for the weight loss/water article run through NoteTab Light (Fookes Software)
Whilst Matt Cutts and every SEO worth their salt from here to the bottom of the deep, deep blue keeps reminding us that we should forget about a mythical 'perfect' keyword density, there has to be a point where the Google indexers state: that's keyword stuffing.  Or has there?

According to Rand in the video, there's certainly no mythical percentage that Google reads as "okay, you've hit the maximum duplicate content percentage we'll allow, so we'll penalise you."

So why would we think that there's a tipping point for keyword density, especially if the site hosting the keyword-stuffed article 'adds value', as Rand attests happens when Google checks for duplicate content?

If you've swiped someone else's content but your site has more social share activity, traffic or domain authority, Rand's even suggesting that the practise is fair game in Google's eyes.

Intrigued, I checked the Water and Weight loss article through Copyscape, thinking it was worth the five cents just to ease the developing itching curiosity burning away beneath my eyelids.

Have a stab at what I found?

Not only was the content not unique, but it also appeared four other times on the internet:

  • A snippet from somewhere else on the same site
  • 541 words straight, as in word-for-word, in a forum (which came first, chicken or egg? wouldn't like to bet)
  • and twice snippets appeared on a Nigerian 'news' site  

Why can't Google list duplicate content in the order it was published?

According to Rand - or it may have been in the comments below the article - Google cannot yet determine in its results which article was published first in the instances of duplicate content.

First of all, I'm no techy, but I'd say that was a load of old pigswill.

Rather, Google will choose not to list SERPs in that order as the articles that were the progenitors of the content may not be running ads that would make Google money.  Perhaps .gov or .ac sites, you know?

Domain authority sites, however, would be running some sort of AdSense program or attract so many visitors that sponsored ads would be clicked more times than castanets in a Flamenco dancer's world record bid for the longest solo performance outside of España.

I digress; if I'd have published that content first, even in the knowledge that it was more stuffed than a turkey on December 25th, I'd have the date showing next to the post.

Webmaster 'Julie' (mm?) obviously hasn't the conviction to post dates next to her articles, a practise 'she' stopped in 2011, by the look of things.  Suspicious?  You bet, Watson.

What can we surmise from all of this evidence on keyword stuffing and duplicate content?

My advice to everyone is this: write for your audience.

Don't get caught up in keyword density, but have a very clear outline of what you want your post to be about before you start to write it.

The chances are, if you know what you're trying to say and can transpose thought to word at least a little cohesively, the search engine crawlers will know what you're on about, too.

If it helps, write your keywords down or have them on a floating sticky and slip them into your article where they fit naturally.  Do not force them in like in the article written by 'Julie', even if it does mean your page ranks highly.

Attracting traffic and/or page rank is one thing; retaining/converting customers is another entirely

The article, make no bones, reads awfully from start to finish.  I even felt sorry for the little subscribe button beneath the article; it must be a very lonely widget indeed.

Ask yourself this if you're trying to promote an affiliate product or trying to sell your service: would you choose to fill your own inbox with content put together by someone so desperate to sell you their product that they compromise their content for the sake of the sale?

Check out Julie's amazon side bars and 'about' page, which even has an affiliate link to a site-builder, to see what I mean about desperation seeping through the content like blood through the brickwork in a 4-bed in Amityville.

Articles like the Water/Weight Loss one in the example have to be the exception that proves the rule.  At least, I hope against hope that that's the case.

Yet, I can't help but think back to the crap Google used to send against my alerts and pass off as 'content', almost with a smug 'job well done' as the notification hit my inbox.  It makes me think twice (and shudder).

Plagiarism sucks, keyword stuffing sucks and poor quality content just drives your customers away in droves.

If you've got a fantastic site with a brilliant product and a huge gap in the market waiting to be filled, draft your article/promo/press release/e-mail, list your keywords and pay a professional blogger to re-write it.

So the aforementioned article is still holding onto its miraculous page 1 status with such dire quality; who's going to stick around to read it after paragraph two (other than some sad sod who's gonna rip it to pieces)?

I honestly hope that the keyword stuffers and content thieves who read this article think twice about messing about with a genuine author's content, but I doubt it.

Until Google comes clean, lists similar results in the order they were published and takes down sites with reams of duplicate content, the practise will continue.  And us victims will whinge about it until stops...
...thank you for listening.

Oh, the final keyword density for the word water was 5.92%, appearing 66 times in an article of less than 1,000 words.  That even beat the amount of full stops, period.

The word weight finished on 2.33%, loss on 1.71%.  I rest my case, m;lud.

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Joburg Open - 4-under/T55 makes the cut for weekend golf action

Curated from: Scoop.it - UK Golf; see full-blown, original article on Get Thet, Go!

"The Joburg Open has reached halfway, thus the cut. No surprise really, but the South African golfers are all over the leaderboard like ants over jam scone on a picnic table [Ed - WTF?]"

Zebedeerox's insight:

Charl Schwartzel sits just five shots off the pace as he looks to win the Joburg Open for the third time in four years in Johnnesburg, this weekend.

Branden Grace came between Schwartzel and that prestigious honour last year.  This time around, there are four other South African golfers and Chile's Felipe Aguilar all with their eyes on the prize and very much in contention.

Fisher Jnr & Sterne lead the way, T1 on -15 going into the penultimate day at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Course.

George Coetzee occupies third place on his own, three shots off the leaders.

Then comes Schwartzel, Aguliar and yet another South African golfer, Keith Horne, all on -10 at the halfway stage.

UK Golf's best chance of bringing a slice of the €1.3M purse back to Blighty is Tommy Fleetwood.  He and a clutch of golfers occupy T7 a shot further back on -9.

Whilst the action pre-cut has taken place on both the West and East Golf Courses, the pairings for the weekend's golf action will all play on the East Course.

First tee-off is five to seven in the morning; Robert Jan Derksen gets us under way.  The leading five pairings, including Charl Schwarzel and Tommy Fleetwood, all tee off around noon, local time.

They're two hours in front at the Joburg Open, so please remember that if you fancy slipping 50p each way on Schwarzel to log on to SKY Bet by 9:30-ish, latest.

Golfers you fancy further down the field, you'd better log on a tad earlier.  The top 20 at Joburg at the halfway point are listed in the European Tour's leaderboard screen-shot, above.

Thet Watson's tip for the 2013 Joburg Open

Watch out for Italy's Lorenzo Gagli, is my advice.  He's -8, seven off the pace.  That's certainly doable, especially considering the leaders have each saved 15 shots from par over the first two days' golf.

Coverage in the UK is on SKY Sports 3/3HD.  Programmes start at 10:30am, both Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th Feb.

Therefore the leading pair, Trevor Fisher Jnr & Richard Sterne, will have just about teed off in the morning when we join South Africa live on SKY.

If you're interested in what's going on over on the PGA Tour this weekend, coverage of the third day at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am comes live from California immediately after day three at the Joburg Open is wrapped up. Same channel, SKY Sports 3/3HD, 6:30pm.

I sincerely hope you've picked the winner and had a few pence on him.

The remaining four golfers post-cut from 10-Tee-20-Vision, my Fantasy Race To Dubai team, and links to all sorts of other useless golf information you'll find through the link at the top of the screen.

Laters, guys,

Thet Watson. xxx



Is your landing page scaring off potential customers?

Español: Logotipo "Scaring" contra e...
"Scaring" (Photo credit: Wikipedia; CC 3.0 Sharealike)
Over on Empire Avenue this evening - only the second time in 2013 (slaps wrist) - I was inexplicably drawn to the Blogging Community there.

Now, I work on freelance sites and have always shied away from jobs asking to 'review my site' when there's an attached wage.

When people want me to do it for free, I've got no problem.  I'll die skint, but I'll surely go to Heaven.

Such was the case tonight.  A guy named Rahul was obviously experiencing problems with his blog's bounce rate, customer engagement and encouraging clicks, let alone commissions.

Does your blog work hard or work smart?

A lot of work had gone into setting out the blog, a double row of page tabs across the header, drop-down menus and ad placements (lots of ad placements).

All of the work, however, meant a lot of fuss with no real boundaries (word of the day, boundaries - fourth time) to keep the content reigned in:
  • Text from ads seemed to spill over into the article itself
  • A 'you-are-here' path hovered inexplicably between an ad under the fold and above the article title (No shit, Sherlock?)
  • And nothing seemed to begin or end anywhere.
I tried as best as I could to point these errors out gently and hope the gentleman was not offended by the response his plea for help generated:
Jason Darrell: Hi, Rahul. I have a couple of initial thoughts about your blog.
Firstly, the content. You're obviously a guy with a passion for iPad. The majority of users have a passing interest, although they may like to keep up [with the trend] to an extent.
On your front page, the first snippet - or great block - of text you see is:
"Apple just announced their brand new 128GB iPad with Retina display on a press release. The new 128GB iPad was first rumored by 9to5Mac as they saw support for it on iOS 6.1 Beta 5 logs. This is not a redesign or a new model for the iPad. You still get the same A6X Chip..."
That's way over and above most laymen's comprehension of the product/niche and the majority, I suggest, are turned off by that depth of techno detail.
My second observation is the layout of text. Recent studies have confirmed that surfers scan web copy, not read as in the traditional sense of a book or broadsheet newspaper.
Current thinking is that by reducing the size of paragraphs, a page looks more appealing for the average surfer.
Furthermore, text interspersed with H2 & H3 headers and relevant, non-overpowering images will also help to keep your bounce rate down.
An example of what I mean can be found on a new blog I've just started, here.
And tertiary, if I was being ultra-picky, the 'How to start a blog' ad between the fold and the article is extremely confusing.
This is especially true as there are no boundaries to restrain the text, thus retain the reader's attention.
That ad may look better moved to the sidebar and be less obtrusive.
This would allow the article to sit directly beneath the fold/list of tabs across the top of the page.
Likewise, the 'You Are Here' map across the headline - is that necessary, at least where it is?
Perhaps if it was placed beneath the article - when the tabs are out of site - a path would have merit.  But it's in the way at the top.
Why not try getting the tab for the page upon which the surfer resides turn a different colour the others to signify where they are?
Google is very keen on delivering its surfers the goods as soon as they land on a page they've ranked for the search term query.
Your site may be being affected in the rankings due to the amount of code, ads and widgets between the Head and the Body of the article.
I hope this has helped, Rahul; to recap:
  • by speaking in terms consumers can comprehend (dumbing it down),
  • by making clear what is and isn't the article (stright to the article) and
  • by removing all ads between the tabs
then the article, its content and the clear headline will:
  1. reduce bounce rate as customers will feel more at ease on site and
  2. will please Google (lay-out, time on site and possible clicks/shares), subsequently achieving the rise in rankings and availing you of more page views.
Sorry if [the review] sounds harsh, but the solutions to your two queries are really very simple to implement; it's just knowing what the problems are, half of the time, that is the problem itself.
All the very best, bud.
Jason D, aka Zebedeerox  

What on-page barriers are there to customer engagement?

In my eagerness to be first to respond to Rahul, I forgot the most blindingly obvious barrier to engagement and retention within the article itself:
Jason Darrell: Hi, Rahul - sorry bud. One last thing.
The huge ad in the middle of the article. It just screams: "I want to sell to you and earn a commission."
Sure, have a small picture as you do in the article preview.
However, you already have the prices listed beneath the article.
I would consider linking those lines to your sales gateway rather than the picture.
Hot-linking images is yet another frowned-upon activity by Google going on on your blog.
Okay - I'll leave you alone, now.
All the best,
J. xxx
With Google weighting readership more and more, it pays to understand what's expected of a landing page.

Furthermore, ask yourself these three key questions and answer them truthfully:
  • How did your customer find your landing page?  
    • Was it through an optimised link or Search Engine?  
    • Either way, does your post deliver what the breadcrumbs or the anchor text in the link told the customer they were going to get?
  • Can your customer differentiate immediately where the snippet of information is they came looking for compared with everything else on site?
  • What does your call to action say about you?
    •  Does it add further value to your review or article?
    •  Or does it reek of desperation and a none-too-conspicuous sales pitch that would have a customer heading for the door if you were in a car showroom?
I'm no SEO expert, but I have picked up a little along the way.  Writing for the many expert webmasters who've given me a chance in this crazy, molten marketplace has at least made me a little knowledge-rich, if not yet able to retire to Clacton-on-Sea.

For further reading, please feel free to check out the related articles below that go into more depth than my overview on Empire Avenue of Rahul's site.  

Alternatively, drop us a comment with your own thoughts and pop in a link back to your own site in the process.
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Think like the customer to attract long-tail keyword traffic

In the last post, we looked at using broader anchor text as the base for your outbound links and how those links should comprise a whole thought.

The same SEO tactic applies whether you are linking to another of your own articles or to another domain. 

There are, however, other distinct advantages to stretching your links over longer anchor-text.  Firstly, we'll look at long-tail keyword search.

How do you decide what phrases to use for your long-tail keywords?

There are two methods - think like an average Joe customer or be more scientific and use Google's External Keyword Tool.

In this post, we’ll look at your article, what traffic it’s trying to attract and how to think like a customer to attract relevant visitors. Tomorrow, we’ll look at the Keyword Tool.

Before you do either, decide what the keyword(s) for your article are going to be, both primary and secondary. They should be, in all circumstances, what your article is about.
photo credit: Ed Yourdon via photopin cc
If you are ranking for a keyword phrase, surfers expect to find answers for their query when they land. Immediately. If your article even looks like going off-topic, they'll 'bounce'.

Ideally, you want one primary (focus keyword), and two or three secondary to support the focus keyword so your post does not look like Spam.

The fewer keywords you use, the more specific your post will be. Don’t try to rank for ten keywords with one post - you ‘dilute’ your page’s strength.

Don't over-complicate long-tail keyword research 

The first option, then: 'think like a customer'. It's probably best if we look at an example, rather than go in and out of Meg's arse for an explanation.

If your article is about the migration of ducks from Iceland to the Indian Subcontinent in winter, make sure the keywords you use are distinct.

You could choose the word 'ducks' as your main keyword and then 'frozen', 'Iceland' and 'Indian' as your secondary keywords.

Logical, Captain? Erm, let's look at the results, Spock, before we corroborate your evidence.

If you put those four words alone into a Google search tool, comma separated, you'll see a list of Iceland stores around the UK that sell Chinese and Indian frozen duck.

English: Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea) a...
Find your Ruddy Shelduck, not the nearest Iceland
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Great if you're throwing a last-minute dinner party. Bog useless if your article is about the migration habits of the Ruddy Shelduck or Ring-necked duck.

If, however, you then type in the phrase: “duck migration frozen iceland to indian”, you get a completely different set of SERPs.

And that's purely because your second search is more specific. The insertion of 'migration' ('to' is a stop-word and not indexed) tells Google a completely different story.

This is where the use of long-tail keywords comes into its own. Think of phrases that someone would enter into Google search if they were querying the information your article sets out to explain.

For the above example, you could target: “When do ducks migrate from Iceland to India?” or, ”How long does it take for ducks to migrate from Iceland to the Indian Subcontinent?”

Your anchor text would be “ducks migrate from Iceland to India/the Indian Subcontinent”. Delete as appropriate to the query you target.

Your link should then go to an article on your site relevant to that phrase or an authority site in your niche with similar or more in-depth information.

And there you have the complete ‘think like the customer’ loop:

  • customer search query
  • strong long-tail keywords to match  
  • relevant link to sales/authority page 
  • your reputation enhanced 
  • maybe even a sale 

And that’s all because you’ve provided the customer with what they came for by anticipating how they would be searching for it.

Join us tomorrow when we replace the blue-sky method with the blue chip way of doing things.
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The Tweenies Jimmy Saville episode causes public backlash

"Come along and play with The Tweenies" took on a deep and sinister turn last week. An episode of the popular CBeebies programme was aired depicting Max as serial predator Jimmy Saville.

Facially, Max from The Tweenies bore little resemblance to Jimmy Saville. However, the blonde bob, dripping gold and light-colored Tracksuit combined with the infamous guttural jungle call left viewers in no doubt.

The Tweenies' puppet was indeed a representation of the post-humously shamed DJ and TV host, Jimmy Savile.

The episode in question saw The Tweenies characters dressing up for a disco. The idea of setting the disco to a Top of the Pops background was not such a bad idea, theoretically.

However the choice of Jimmy Saville is a faux pas that set the OFCOM phones ringing, the Twitter stream buzzing and those whose eyes are on Scotland Yard and the Yewtree report hardly believing what they were seeing.

246 complaints about The Tweenies episode

The BBC wasted no time in issuing a frank apology. It seems that Aunty is washing her hands of everything that Jimmy Saville touched and stood for. Guilty of both bank-rolling and covering up for the paedophile as accused, do you think?

That seems to have been the problem in the first place: too busy scurrying around the country covering up for Jimmy Saville's molestations to take action. It makes you wonder how the Beeb kept his criminality under wraps for so long.

The extent of the DJ and TV host's sordid reign is finally coming to light. 28 police forces have now received 450 reports of abuse, 34 of which are rape. More than 200 of those reports have been confirmed.

The extent of depravity of Jimmy Saville's world is shocking. A joint report issued by The Yard and NSPCC suggested that child abuse was Saville's raison d'etre. Moreover, that he spent 'every waking minute' thinking about it.

The apologies seem hollow. For the ill-advised showing of The Tweenies episode, made in 2001 (just to put the record straight), yes, it was insensitive. But for how Jimmy Saville was allowed to get away with everything he did for so long unapprehended is simply unforgivable.

He's beyond retribution in this existence but, if there is a Heaven and Hell, let's hope Jimmy Saville is getting everything he deserves now and for all eternity.

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Rod Stewart autobiography reveals roadie took Rod's driving test

In the world of rock and roll music, it's taken for granted that Head Roadie = Wing Man. For Rod Stewart, Roadie on the occasion of passing his driving test was about as literal as one could get, the only Wing in sight, that one chancing it with a prayer...

[caption id="attachment_44019" align="aligncenter" width="646"]Rod Stewart - Atlantic Crossing Rod Stewart - Atlantic Crossing (c/w Celtic scarf!)[/caption]

The year's 1967, Rod Stewart is making the transition from The Steampacket to The Jeff Beck Group and about to ditch pro-soccer for rock and roll.

Very soon, he'd 'find [him]self a rock and roll band that needs a helping hand' in The Faces, with the summer of love but a few seasons away.

Few rock and roll stars have achieved the continued success - and the opportunities of free love that presented themselves (and probably still do) as a result of fame and fortune - that Rod Stewart has.

At the height of his skin-tight trousered, spiky-boufanted rise to chart-topping success, the women were, by his own admission, in and out of his bed like a production line.

Being a true Scot in every sense of the word, 'wine, women and song' seems to have been a phrase penned for Rod the Mod. Well, swap 'wine' for 'whisky', and you're probably even closer to the mark.

Would Rod Stewart have been eligible to drive in '67?

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="290"]The Jeff Beck Group in 1967. Front: Jeff Beck.... The Jeff Beck Group in 1967. Front: Jeff Beck. Rear (from left): Aynsley Dunbar, Rod Stewart, Ron Wood. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)[/caption]

Turning up for a driving test reeking of stale perfume and last night's scotch fumes would in no way have enamoured Rod Stewart with any driving instructor.

In Rod Stewart's autobiography, released October 2012, he admits to sending his head honcho, roadie Pete Saunders, to take his driving test in his place.

Pete passed the driving test under Rod's real name and, to this day, the renowned Celtic fan has never taken a driving test in the UK.

To be fair, it was probably not the brainchild of Rod himself.

The autobiography goes on to reveal that it was Roadie Pete - tired of chauffeuring Rod Stewart (and no doubt an endless procession of totty) around London - who suggested the ruse.

London back then was the place to be, with Rod Stewart in demand all over the capital.

Pete had enough on his plate rigging up the sets without having to worry about getting the star of the show from A to B in between performances.  If you now what I mean?

One day, the Wing Man simply strolled into a driving test centre, registered as Roderick Stewart of Highgate, London, took the driving test and passed it there and then on behalf of the man of the moment.

Rod Stewart does, however, now drive legally under his own name. He eventually sat his own driving test following one Atlantic Crossing to The States eight years later in 1975.

Photo Credit: mightymoss via Compfight cc