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IFTTT Loses Gmail Service

IFTTT Loses Gmail Service

Much of the info in this post is from an article on engadget.  I became aware of the situation as I was working to build an IFTTT applet that would change my office lights to red if a website went down and I got an email about it from Uptime Robot.  That applet can probably still be made but just not using Gmail anymore as a trigger.

From Endadget:

Google’s push to tighten third-party API access is already going to cost the world Google+, but a change that more of you might notice is coming to IFTTT. The service sent out emails alerting users that their “recipe” scripts involving Gmail triggers and an action that could create a draft will go away as of March 31st. According to Google, the shift is a result of the Project Strobe sweep it announced last October.

IFTTT said it worked with Google to keep the integration that will support triggers to Send an email, or to Send Yourself an email, but the API lockdown that’s coming would’ve required too much work to change its services. Otherwise, integrations with Google will still be the same, but anyone relying heavily on the automated scripts may want to double check things before they get a surprise in a few days.

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Ultimate SEO”Ultimate SEO”

Creating A Private Blog Network: PBNs In 2019 For SEO

Typical Parts Of A PBN
Each PBN site will include registering the domain, setting the name servers and hosting the site.

First and foremost the most important aspect of your Private Blog Network is randomness.  Consider what pattern or foot print your PBN might have and avoid that commonality.

patterns that give away a PBN
Patterns and commonality to avoid in building a Private Blog Network

Good PBNs Are Random, Start With Different Name Registrars

First off you need private domain registration, if not private then you’ll need people and addresses from all over.  If you always use Godaddy you’re going to have to try out others to avoid a pattern.  Incidentally if you always use Godaddy you’re getting ripped off as they will charge you for privacy and many others don’t.  Some popular Name Registrars are 1and1.com namesilo.com namecheap.com cosmotown.com each of these can save you a considerable amount over Godaddy considering they offer free private registration and using more than one breaks a pattern.

Each time you add a new site to your PBN you need to approach it from the beginning as if you’re playing a character in a story who has never made a website before, when I say that I mean if you know you have a site on Host A and you like that host you’re making decisions based on previous sites and are more likely to create a pattern.  Forget Host A how would you find a host for the first time?  Google popular web hosts and pick a cheap new partner.

One thing that’s really beneficial about building PBNs that is more helpful to you in the long run is the forced exploration.  After you’ve built ten sites on ten hosts using ten registrars and ten WordPress themes you’ll be able to write three top ten lists and rank the best of the 720 combinations that were available to you.  It’s a lot of practice and as you’re avoiding patterns and repetition you’ll find yourself stepping out of your norm.

Vary Your Web Hosts

Speed of a web host is important normally but not necessarily when your building a PBN.  While you want your primary or money site to load in under 3 seconds its perfectly fine if your PBN site loads in 7 seconds and that opens the door to all manner of generic no name web hosts.   Your primary goal with multiple web hosts is to utilize a different IP address.

Organizating A PBN Gets Complex
Considering the complexity that can quickly arise when seeking randomness of your sites.

The only two big issues with this model …

Organization OF PBN Resources

What site is down?  Oh….well which domain registrar did I use?  Am I using their nameservers, someone else’s?  Where did I point that to be hosted?  Sure these aren’t that annoying to answer with a 10 site network, but try answering it when you’ve built and scaled up to 200 sites using 7 registrars, 20 name servers, 150 different IPs … it becomes unmanageable as you find yourself searching for your site more than you are building new sites, and why are you having to search?  Maintaining a site is essential, as updates roll out to WordPress, plugins get updated and hackers exploit new vulnerabilities.  If you log into every site you own and spend 5 minutes on each site your 200 domain name network will take 16 hours … or two days a week and consider that you only spend 5 minutes on a site, you likely didn’t fix any issues and took no breaks!  It’s time to consider an apprentice or spreadsheets that fully document every aspect of your network, or both.

Uptime Monitoring

Somewhere around 100 domains I figured out I needed to approach this like an enterprise would and have actual uptime monitoring allowing me to see the state of the network easily.  UptimeRobot allows you to set up 50 monitors on a free account.

Uptime Monitoring Your PBN

In the real world 94% Uptime is horrible.  Consider that in the last 30 days I had a recorded 104765 minutes sites were down in this sample of sites.  I had issues with a server getting attacked by someone using 1700 servers causing a DOS attack.  Why?  Anyone’s guess … usually its a game to them and they aren’t paying for those 1700 servers but they’re other people’s hacked resources being used to grow their network.

You may be interested in MainWP or InfiniteWP … Godaddy provides Godaddy Pro.  You need to be mindful that these only work when they work and will they give away a signature pattern?  Likely they can create an easier management solution but easier is dangerous.

Costs Ballon And Randomness Prevents Savings

As you scale up from 10 to 20 to 50 sites your going to wake up one day and realize youre spending hundreds of dollars a month on infrastructure and all of your time will now be consumed with maintaining your network.  Adding someone to help you is going to increase costs and take your time to train them in being effective at maintaining the network.  Be careful who you bring in to help you, friends are obvious choices but when they get upset about something unrelated to the network they could leave you high and dry.  Worse yet, they are the most likely to teach you a lesson by bailing on you for a couple weeks.  Trust the people who are in it for the money … pay them more than they can get at a retail job to build loyalty to your mission. They need not be technical people but they need to understand that if a site is down, Google can’t index it and that backlink is missing now.  They need to be able to follow a logical progression and understand the parts that are in play to help you maintain the site.

The obvious answer to addressing costs is to bundle services and make sure you’re utilizing resources in the most effective manner but that is accomplished by making patterns.  You can’t find cost savings by giving away your sites.

Cloudflare Allows Consolidation And The Pattern Is Indistinguishable

Cloudflare Use For PBNs
Cloudflare allows some consolidation while masking the pattern

12,000,000 sites utilize Cloudflare’s free services which include masking your host servers IP, CDN services and security.

Cloudflare offers the ability to hide among the masses.  Who is Cloudflare?  They stand in front of your server and take the brunt of the internets crap.  Upwork.com, Medium.com, Themeforest.net, Chaturbate.com are among the names using Cloudflare.com services.  Some estimates suggest that Cloudflare is about 8% of the entire internet.  Thats huge!  At one point they found themselves protecting the Israeli government’s network as well as the PLOs.Cyber Warfare: Cloudflare In The Middle

Using Cloudflare is hiding in plain sight and free.  I recommend it but in a mixture capacity still have some sites out side of their network just to avoid any one bottleneck, it would seem odd if 100& of the sites linking to a domain are using Cloudflare….remember they are 8% and while the largest chunk of the internet they aren’t the internet.

This article has focused mainly on external and infrastructure concerns of building a PBN.  This is really a third of topic and in the coming weeks I’ll include two more posts that address on site content issues of building a PBN and site design considerations for a network of sites.

Ultimate SEO”Ultimate SEO”

The Best Site To Buy Your Domain Name

Name Silo Best Registrar

Name Silo Best Registrar

Hands down The Best Site To Buy Your Domain Name is NameSilo.com.  They deal with all manner of TLDs (the last few letters after the last . in a name i.e. .com) and they are consistently cheap to register, they come with FREE Privacy Protection (Which Godaddy Charges Like $8 For) AND heres the kicker … when you need to renew the next year ….

Godaddy’s .com is 17.99 + 8.99 Privacy or $26.99Name Silo $8.99 + free

Now that might not be a big deal if you have one .com address and you just like paying 3 times the price for stuff.  But we are currently operating about 200 domains and NameSilo.com will save Ultimate SEO about $3598! There isn’t any other trade off I can think of … Godaddy provides lots of add on stupid services like email ( comes with your hosting usually ) … Website Builders … look like website builders sites look.  Hosting but I prefer AWS which is what they are anyway.

Scroll to the bottom and you’ll find the complete listing of NameSilo’s renewal costs for domains.

Network Solutions is the absolute worst registrar I’ve used in twenty years of buying domain names.  My experience runs from 2018 to 2019 with only one domain name, I was skeptical of them and bought just the one address as a test and they failed in every opportunity and then some.  I say and then some because 3 or 4 months before my name had to be renewed they couldnt bill the card on file ( I didnt want them too ) so they emailed and I ignored it…they suspended the domain pending email verification!

I had been tipped off to issues from the start when their website kept crashing or the forms kept forgetting what was going in to them…it took me multiple attempts to order the single name.  I then pointed the DNS as I wanted but nothing happened for 3 days…so I created a ticket and had a run around issue when finally they gave it turned on….I lost a couple weeks there.  It also then stopped working magically a week later and was down another week.  They also have Auto Opt In services you need to be watchful for…like email.

I had months of paid time that I didnt get from them … I was ignoring their promotional crap.  So they turned me off until I verified my email again.  Outrageous I immediately started the transfer process out.  Here are some more people’s Network Solutions stories…..the worst place to buy a domain name.

The Second Worst Place To Buy Your Domain Name

Is with your hosting company.  I prefer checks and balances and your hosting company already holds all your files over your head…dont give them your name too.  It may be free but for 8 bucks pay someone else so no matter what your host company says or does you can take your name and run.

BTW No one paid us or gave us anything for free, this is what Ultimate SEO actually thinks.  Here’s the prices from our pick for Best Site To Buy Your Domain Name.

Name Silo

$8.39
.net $11.79
.org $10.79
.club $9.00
$9.89
.biz $12.79
.life $23.99
.icu $6.59
$6.99
.info $12.67
.top $7.19
.store $43.99
.xyz $9.29
.ac $42.99
.academy $23.99
.accountant $11.50
.accountants $73.99
.actor $29.99
.agency $15.99
.airforce $23.99
.apartments $37.99
.archi $51.95
.army $23.99
.art $10.69
.asia $11.79
.associates $23.99
.attorney $29.99
.auction $23.99
.audio $114.99
.band $18.99
.bar $54.99
.bargains $23.99
.beer $23.99
.best $80.00
.bid $2.75
$11.50
.bike $23.99
.bingo $35.99
.bio $51.95
.black $40.45
.blackfriday $114.99
.blog $22.99
.blue $12.84
.boston $10.50
$11.99
.boutique $23.99
.builders $23.99
.business $15.99
.buzz $27.99
.ca $8.99
.cab $23.99
.cafe $23.99
.camera $37.99
.camp $37.99
.capital $37.99
.cards $23.99
.care $23.99
.careers $37.99
.casa $6.09
.cash $23.99
.casino $114.99
.catering $23.99
.cc $9.99
.center $15.99
.charity $22.00
.chat $21.99
.cheap $23.99
.christmas $53.99
.church $23.99
.city $15.99
.claims $37.99
.cleaning $37.99
.click $8.59
.clinic $37.99
.clothing $23.99
.cloud $8.99
.co $22.49
.coach $37.99
.codes $37.99
.college $52.99
.consulting $23.99
.coffee $23.99
.community $23.99
.company $6.99
.computer $23.99
.condos $37.99
.construction $23.99
.contractors $23.99
.cooking $23.99
.cool $23.99
.coupons $37.99
.courses $27.99
.credit $73.99
.creditcard $114.99
.cricket $11.50
.cruises $37.99
.dance $18.99
.date $2.75
$11.50
.dating $37.99
.deals $23.99
.degree $34.99
.delivery $37.99
.democrat $23.99
.dental $37.99
.dentist $29.99
.design $35.99
.diamonds $37.99
.diet $114.99
.digital $23.99
.direct $23.99
.directory $15.99
.discount $23.99
.doctor $73.99
.dog $37.99
.domains $23.99
.download $2.75
$11.50
.earth $18.99
.education $15.99
.email $15.99
.energy $73.99
.engineer $23.99
.engineering $37.99
.enterprises $23.99
.equipment $15.99
.estate $23.99
.events $23.99
.exchange $23.99
.expert $37.99
.exposed $15.99
.express $23.99
.fail $23.99
.faith $6.35
$11.50
.family $18.99
.fans $53.99
.farm $23.99
.fashion $23.99
.feedback $329.99
.film $65.99
.finance $37.99
.financial $37.99
.fish $23.99
.fishing $23.99
.fit $23.99
.fitness $23.99
.flights $37.99
.florist $23.99
.flowers $114.99
.football $15.99
.forsale $23.99
.foundation $23.99
.fun $16.99
.fund $37.99
.furniture $37.99
.futbol $9.99
.fyi $15.99
.gallery $15.99
.game $329.99
.games $13.99
.garden $23.99
.gift $14.99
.gifts $23.99
.gives $23.99
.glass $37.99
.rocks $9.99
.gmbh $23.99
.gold $73.99
.golf $37.99
.graphics $15.99
.gratis $15.99
.green $53.99
.gripe $23.99
.group $15.99
.guide $23.99
.guitars $114.99
.guru $23.99
.haus $23.99
.healthcare $37.99
.help $22.99
.hiphop $114.99
.hiv $195.99
.hockey $37.99
.holdings $37.99
.holiday $37.99
.horse $23.99
.hospital $37.99
.host $69.89
.hosting $329.99
.house $23.99
.immo $23.99
.immobilien $23.99
.in $6.89
.industries $23.99
.ink $22.99
.institute $15.99
.insure $37.99
.international $15.99
.investments $73.99
.io $31.99
$42.99
.irish $11.99
.jewelry $37.99
.jetzt $15.99
.juegos $329.99
.kaufen $23.99
.kim $12.85
.kitchen $37.99
.la $27.99
.land $23.99
.law $80.00
$85.00
.lawyer $29.99
.lease $37.99
.legal $37.99
.lgbt $33.99
.link $8.69
.lighting $15.99
.limited $23.99
.limo $37.99
.live $18.99
.llc $23.99
.loan $2.75
$11.50
.loans $73.99
.lol $22.99
.love $23.99
.ltd $15.99
.maison $37.99
.management $15.99
.market $23.99
.marketing $23.99
.mba $23.99
.me $14.15
$15.99
.media $23.99
.memorial $37.99
.men $2.75
$11.50
.menu $27.99
.miami $13.99
.mobi $15.15
.moda $23.99
.moe $13.99
.mom $27.99
.money $23.99
.mortgage $34.99
.movie $219.99
.mx $36.99
.navy $23.99
.network $15.99
.news $18.99
.ninja $13.99
.observer $9.99
.one $7.99
.online $15.99
$26.99
.ooo $90.00
.organic $53.99
.partners $37.99
.parts $23.99
.party $2.75
$11.50
.pet $12.84
.photography $14.50
$15.99
.photo $22.99
.photos $15.99
.pics $22.99
.pictures $8.99
.pink $12.84
.pizza $37.99
.place $23.99
.plumbing $37.99
.plus $23.99
.press $52.99
.pro $12.84
.productions $23.99
.promo $12.84
.properties $23.99
.property $114.99
.protection $2,079.99
.pub $23.99
.pw $17.25
$18.00
.racing $6.35
$11.50
.realty $9.99
.recipes $37.99
.red $12.84
.rehab $23.99
.reise $73.99
.reisen $15.99
.rent $49.99
.rentals $23.99
.repair $23.99
.report $15.99
.republican $23.99
.rest $28.99
.restaurant $37.99
.review $6.35
$11.50
.reviews $18.99
.rip $13.99
.global $53.99
.rodeo $23.99
.run $15.99
.sale $23.99
.salon $37.99
.sarl $23.99
.school $23.99
.schule $15.99
.science $6.35
$11.50
.security $2,079.99
.services $23.99
.sexy $43.99
.sh $42.99
.shiksha $10.89
.shoes $37.99
.shop $26.99
.shopping $22.99
.show $23.99
.singles $23.99
.site $23.99
.ski $34.70
.soccer $15.99
.social $23.99
.software $23.99
.solar $37.99
.solutions $15.99
.space $17.25
$18.00
.storage $529.99
.stream $2.75
$11.50
.studio $18.99
.study $22.99
.style $21.99
.sucks $218.99
.supplies $15.99
.supply $15.99
.support $15.99
.surf $23.99
.surgery $37.99
.systems $15.99
.tattoo $34.99
.tax $37.99
.taxi $37.99
.team $23.99
.tech $39.99
.technology $15.99
.tel $10.79
.tennis $35.99
.theater $37.99
.theatre $529.99
.tickets $389.99
.tienda $37.99
.tips $15.99
.tires $73.99
.today $15.99
.tools $23.99
.tours $37.99
.town $23.99
.toys $37.99
.trade $2.75
$11.50
.training $23.99
.tube $23.99
.tv $26.99
.university $37.99
.uno $11.99
.us $6.99
.vacations $23.99
.vegas $43.99
.ventures $37.99
.vet $23.99
.viajes $37.99
.video $18.99
.villas $37.99
.vin $37.99
.vip $11.99
.vision $23.99
.vodka $23.99
.voyage $37.99
.watch $23.99
.webcam $6.35
$11.50
.website $17.99
.wedding $23.99
.whoswho $22.99
.wiki $22.99
.win $2.75
$11.50
.wine $37.99
.works $23.99
.world $23.99
.work $6.09
.ws $20.99
.wtf $23.99
.yoga $23.99
.zone $23.99
.travel $88.00
$95.00

Ultimate SEO”Ultimate SEO”

Adwords And Google Data Studio: Wordstream Alternative

I’ve been managing Google Adwords campaigns for political campaigns mostly but recently I stepped out into managing the Adwords campaigns for an IT consulting company. It’s a little bit of a challenge I’m not going to lie. More than just matching the search with the keyword I need to attract only business customer and cut out residential. So as you can image someone Googles “IT Help Desks” and they might be looking for a specific help desk, a personal help desk or a help desk to contract business services too.

Wordstream Free Alternative

In Ultimate SEO‘s  struggle to compete in this expensive market I tried Wordstream out for a week and a half of so and thats really not enough time to get much actionable help. I was pulled into a sales demo consultation and sure it seemed like it could offer insights but WOW … the expense associated with that out paced any other SEO tool I use. I felt the main task Wordstream was completing was organizing and presenting the data in a way that I could see the areas of need. Google Data Studio has been doing that for me in SEO for over a year now so I’ve tried my hand at making a Google Adwords Google Data Studio report with the aim to save about three hundred a month from getting Wordstream.

google data studio adwords

google data studio adwords

Data Studio Adwords Template

Google Data Studio also lets you copy reports that others make available and you can attach your own data respository to populate the report. Basically if you want a Google Data Studio Template for Adwords you’re welcome to copy this report in Google Data Studio.

I’ll come back in a month and let you know how this free product helped or didn’t help me rather than paying PPC software provides.

Ultimate SEO”Ultimate SEO”

MAJOR GOOGLE SEO CHANGE FOR SOME: Website Traffic CREDITED To Where Google Chooses

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

In Search Console, the Performance report currently credits all page metrics to the exact URL that the user is referred to by Google Search. Although this provides very specific data, it makes property management more difficult; for example: if your site has mobile and desktop versions on different properties, you must open multiple properties to see all your Search data for the same piece of content.

To help unify your data, Search Console will soon begin assigning search metrics to the (Google-selected) canonical URL, rather than the URL referred to by Google Search. This change has several benefits:

  • It unifies all search metrics for a single piece of content into a single URL: the canonical URL. This shows you the full picture about a specific piece of content in one property.
  • For users with separate mobile or AMP pages, it unifies all (or most, since some mobile URLs may end up as canonical) of your data to a single property (the “canonical” property).
  • It improves the usability of the AMP and Mobile-Friendly reports. These reports currently show issues in the canonical page property, but show the impression in the property that owns the actual URL referred to by Google Search. After this change, the impressions and issues will be shown in the same property.

Google Search Console

Google Search Console

When will this happen?

We plan to transition all performance data on April 10, 2019. In order to provide continuity to your data, we will pre-populate your unified data beginning from January 2018. We will also enable you to view both old and new versions for a few weeks during the transition to see the impact and understand the differences.

API and Data Studio users: The Search Console API will change to canonical data on April 10, 2019.

How will this affect my data?

  • At an individual URL level, you will see traffic shift from any non-canonical (duplicate) URLs to the canonical URL.
  • At the property level, you will see data from your alternate property (for example, your mobile site) shifted to your “canonical property”. Your alternate property traffic probably won’t drop to zero in Search Console because canonicalization is at the page, not the property level, and your mobile property might have some canonical pages. However, for most users, most property-level data will shift to one property. AMP property traffic will drop to zero in most cases (except for self-canonical pages).
  • You will still be able to filter data by device, search appearance (such as AMP), country, and other dimensions without losing important information about your traffic.

You can see some examples of these traffic changes below.

Preparing for the change

  • Consider whether you need to change user access to your various properties; for example: do you need to add new users to your canonical property, or do existing users continue to need access to the non-canonical properties.
  • Modify any custom traffic reports you might have created in order to adapt for this traffic shift.
  • If you need to learn the canonical URL for a given URL, you can use the URL Inspection tool.
  • If you want to save your traffic data calculated using the current system, you should download your data using either the Performance report’s Export Data button, or using the Search Console API.

Examples

Here are a few examples showing how data might change on your site. In these examples, you can see how your traffic numbers would change between a canonical site (called example.com) and alternate site (called m.example.com).

Important: In these examples, the desktop site contains all the canonical pages and the mobile contains all the alternate pages. In the real world, your desktop site might contain some alternate pages and your mobile site might contain some canonical pages. You can determine the canonical for a given URL using the URL Inspection tool.

Total traffic

In the current version, some of your traffic is attributed to the canonical property and some to the alternate property. The new version should attribute all of your traffic to the canonical property.

MAJOR GOOGLE SEO CHANGE FOR SOME: Website Traffic CREDITED To Where Google Chooses

MAJOR GOOGLE SEO CHANGE FOR SOME: Website Traffic CREDITED To Where Google Chooses

Individual page traffic

You can see traffic changes between the duplicate and canonical URLs for individual pages in the Pages view. The next example shows how traffic that used to be split between the canonical and alternate pages are now all attributed to the canonical URL:

Mobile traffic

In the current version, all of your mobile traffic was attributed to your m. property. The new version attributes all traffic to your canonical property when you apply the “Device: Mobile” filter as shown here:

In conclusion

We know that this change might seem a little confusing at first, but we’re confident that it will simplify your job of tracking traffic data for your site. If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out on the Webmaster Help Foru

Ultimate SEO”Ultimate SEO”

Bad Backlinks: 100 Sites You Don’t Want A Backlink From.

Bad Backlinks

UltimateSEO.org has backlinks from about a thousand domains.  In a recent review of these I found an odd reoccurring link from multiple domains but all with the same content and titles.  I was introduced with “The Globe” which charges sites to NOT list them or makes money from SEOs paying them to not backlink to them.  At $36 a link they’re likely insane and I bet its bringing in some money.  But before we go all crazy and start paying Ransomlinks (if its not a word I claim it … Ransomlinks are backlinks from bad sites meant to lower your SEO score unless you pay to not be linked too.)

In reviewing the situation I ran across a list of the most disavowed sites.  I figured Id share that with you below, but before I do what outcome did I choose for these bad links pointed to my site?

  1. Option 1 Pay: Heck No! Then the terrorists win.
  2. Disavow: No! Don’t use disavow unless Google has placed a manual action against your site.  I’m skeptical anyhow of the tools purpose and Google itself says there is no need to use the tool unless you’ve been penalized and told by them you are being penalized.
  3. Do Nothing: Yes! Don’t do anything. Google likely knows about the Ransomlinks scheme and has already penalized the site by deindexing it.  There are so many random domains its going to be a mess to address so let it be unless you have a seen a negative affect.  In other words…before you saw your leg off wondering if that spot is cancer…stop and find out.
  4. An idea: 301 Redirect Them…seriously…all of these links point to a subdomain that until now hasn’t existed.  Most others who are talking about this site note a similar subdomain targeted.   I could create the targeted subdomain and redirect all links to it from my site back to theirs.  🙂  

I’m opting for the third as I dont have any indication that Google cares about these Ransomlinks.  They may actually bring some random traffic of use so redirecting them would take that from my site.

What do would you do with “Ransomlinks”

And now the most disavowed sites…

Most popular websites disavowed by webmasters

1 blogspot.com
2 blogspot.ca
3 blogspot.co.uk
4 ning.com
5 wordpress.com
6 blog.pl
7 linkarena.com
8 yuku.com
9 blogspot.de
10 webs.com
11 blogspot.nl
12 blogspot.fr
13 lemondir.com
14 blog.com
15 alonv.com
16 tistory.com
17 searchatlarge.com
18 dvpdvp1.com
19 typepad.com
20 nju-jp.com
21 bluehost.com
22 wldirectory.com
23 tumblr.com
24 hyperboards.com
25 directoryfuse.com
26 prlog.ru
27 informe.com
28 ligginit.com
29 theglobe.org
30 pulsitemeter.com
31 articlerich.com
32 weebly.com
33 the-globe.com
34 blogspot.no
35 theglobe.net
36 articledashboard.com
37 dig.do
38 seodigger.com
39 cybo.com
40 fat64.net
41 bravenet.com
42 cxteaw.com
43 askives.com
44 mrwhatis.net
45 insanejournal.com
46 xurt.com
47 freedirectorysubmit.com
48 commandresults.com
49 sagauto.com
50 internetwebgallery.com
51 freewebsitedirectory.com
52 ewbnewyork.com
53 000webhost.com
54 tblog.com
55 directorylist.me
56 analogrhythm.com
57 snapcc.org
58 bravejournal.com
59 weblinkstoday.com
60 m-pacthouston.com
61 linkcruncher.com
62 tripod.com
63 cogizz.com
64 niresource.com
65 over-blog.com
66 ogdenscore.com
67 free-link-directory.info
68 alikewebsites.com
69 folkd.com
70 djsonuts.com
71 uia.biz
72 bangkokprep.com
73 forumsland.com
74 punbb-hosting.com
75 hostmonster.com
76 blogspot.in
77 siteslikesearch.com
78 bookmark4you.com
79 siliconvalleynotary.com
80 listablog.com
81 poetic-dictionary.com
82 linkspurt.com
83 cultuurtechnologie.net
84 azjournos.com
85 exteen.com
86 articletrader.com
87 blogspot.com.au
88 delphistaff.com
89 altervista.org
90 media-tourism.com
91 woodwardatelier.com
92 holdtiteadhesives.com
93 lorinbrownonline.com
94 tech4on.com
95 popyourmovie.com
96 trilogygroveland.com
97 foqe.net
98 directorybin.com
99 eatrightkc.com

52 Tools And Counting: Mostly Free SEO Tools – I Actually Use

There are actually a couple lists of tools on this page.  Check them out and come back for more in the future.  What you wont find in this list is a tool that has asked or paid or communicated with me concerning the list.  This is an honest collection of what I want to keep links too.  If you want to be on the list feel free to maybe comment?  If I find it useful and use it I’ll add a link.  Otherwise maybe someone else will like it from your comment link and they can make there own list. 🙂

seo tool

seo tool

Over 50 SEO Tools, Mostly Free

As I go through my SEO day I type the same addresses over and over to get to a collection of useful tools.  So I decide to post them as links once and for all, for my own benefit but also for others who may come here for a backlink indexer but find there isn’t one … but there is a list that includes one of the best.

A quick highlight of some of the tools and how I plan to build on this simple list.  First, I’ll address the second thing I noted…I plan to build the list out from its initial 52 to hopefully a hundred with the promise I’m not just adding crap tools or duplicate tools over and over.  Now as a highlight of some of the best tools on this list I’ll put some details in the coming weeks in a section below the list. There is also another mini list that includes tools for text and html below the main list.

More Tools – Text and HTML Free Tools

I’ve turned 40 today so I figured I’d make a top 40 list of tools and guides. The first one I’ll note I didn’t use for Web Design, I just used it to make a choice for me.

Generate Random Choice – When you’re on the fence and need some decision help.

Random Word Generator – Brainstorming

Adwords And Titles

Capitalize the First letter of Each Word In A Sentence

Free Photoshop Like Web Tool

Pixlr

Site Speed

Compress HTML Code

Uncompress HTML Code

CSS Minifier

Merge CSS OR JS Files

Testing

CSS HTML JavaScript With Output Test Environment

Fast Web Design

Hexadecimal Color Picker

JavaScript Popup Maker

HTML List Generator

Convert URLs to HTML Links

CSS

CSS Beautifier

HTML Modifiers

HTML Formatter

Convert line breaks to paragraphs

Remove Duplicate Lines

CSV

CSV to XML Converter

Text Format And Order Modifiers

Alphabetical Order Tool

Remove Line Breaks from Text

Date And Time

Epoch Timestamp To Date

Time zone list – HTML select snippet

Multi-Domain Strategy In SEO … Risky But Lets Have Some Risk

So I feel like its everyone’s dream to be a media conglomerate, why buy one newspaper when you can buy 100s?  Well, SEO and the internet are one big community…so in the analogy … why build multiple newspapers in the same city?  No one would do that and it’s about the same with the internet or at least it should be…but everyone wants to have multiple top ranking domains.

Real Life Examples Of Multiple Domains

There is only two ways this could work out…

  • Your brand is merging with another equally powerful and recognized brand and dissolving either brand will leave a huge gap that competitors will fill fast than you can with your one brand.  Example … Zillow bought Trulia for 3.5 billion they represent the number one and number two home listings sites.  They have continued to operate two sites in the same niche because anything other than what they have now is less than optimal.  SO … you can do the same when your billion dollar company buys out your #2 competition for 4 billion or so dollars.  Until then…this first scenario doesn’t work for you.

zillow has a multiple domain strategyTrulia Is In A Multiple Domain Strategy

  • Your brand is buying a vertical business…(word for it escapes just now but its not the point so moving on) Let’s say you make eyeglasses, you make almost all of the eyeglasses.  So you buy the stores that sell them and then you buy the vision insurance company too.  Thats what I mean…Your original business was production and you dealt with retail outlets, you couldn’t make hardly any more glasses so you expanded vertically in the supply chain.  Its the story of that famous eye glass company you know that owns all the others… Luxottica.  Never heard of them well…they did a “Multi-Domain” strategy and you have heard of these companies… EyeMed, Target Optical, Pearle Vision, Lens-crafters, Sunglass Hut, Glasses.com … theres more but you get the point.  A consumer believe they have choice in the market but thats because you let them.  Combined all these companies are 1/4 of all eyewear value in all the little pieces of that industry.  They command it.  Your new domain JimmysBestTshirtsThatRFunny.info is not them you need one domain…so buying 8 other T-shirt domains wont help you other than maybe you got a better name than that monster.  Now the key part of this strategy though is vertical integration…your retail store isn’t competing with your vision insurance company and its not competing with the factory … they’re all buyers of each other till a consumer gets it.

Increased Competition But Not Sales

Thats really about it.  You’re likely going to have room to grow in the sector you are in for sometime and you wont have the funds to buy up a fourth of the world’s T-shirt makers so focus on your one domain.  Why?  Well…changing the names to protect the guilty.  I had a client who insisted on multiple domains we’ll say they were a tour company that ran guided tours of Liberty Island in NYC.  Its a weird niche just cause you don’t have to have a guided tour to see the Island but because of the demand and popularity several companies sprout up and sale tickets to a national park property.  Its easy money with online sales being where its at … but if you have 5 competitors sites you figure well lets add two more so now there are 7 sites and your competition adds 2 sites thats 15 now plus your 3 …. so we now have 18 sites all competing for the same audience and the same experience.  Did you know that it’s really hard to rank up to the top 3 spots with one site?  So now to benefit from what you’ve done you need to rank up 3 times that and fight off 15 instead of 5 other sites.  We didn’t even have a second page until now in search results and someone has to be on it.

Multiple Domain Canabalism SEO

When Multiple Domains Don’t Work

So thing about your multiple domains, assign keywords to one … then move to the next domain … don’t assign the same keywords and the same role to that site, you’re just competing with yourself.  Also you’re diluting your search traffic maybe combined you have 30% of the traffic but Google doesn’t see that, it sees 15% here and 10% at this second domain and only 5% at the last site.  Say a competitor has a site thats at 16% his one site will out rank your three because you’ve split up all your efforts and resources.  Thats the problem with the Multi Domain Strategy.

When Might You Use Multiple Domains?

I like to think I don’t do that.  I have UltimateSEO.org and its SEO.  I have CLoud502.com and it is cloud computing and I have data502.com and its Data Analysis.  Related?  Of course but very different.  A person googling “AWS servers” isn’t going to click on a site about SEO.  You find niches for the domains and target the audience and keywords for those domains.

So in the end, before you grow to more than one domain ask yourself if this new domain will have a different audience than the first.  If not and if you can argue the same keywords fit both sites, you need one site.

So don’t eat yourself up with Multiple Domains.  I’ll be posting in the next day about my addition of UltimateSEO.net .. how I intend NOT to canabalize this site.

Related posts:

What Is Domain Authority Why Should I Care?

Domain Authority is in my opinion the single greatest indicator of a sites ability to compete organically for search traffic.  It is a great question and its simply complex.  Keep in mind Domain Authority or DA as we shall refer to it pretty much here on is the single best number to predict ranking ability and we know that the top 3 positions consume over half of all searches so it can be directly attached to traffic.

A few disclaimers: Domain Authority is not a Google creation it is from Moz.com and it is their educated guess at how Google see’s your authority.  But it is not Google’s so remember that.  Secondly I am going to go over this in a higher level and use some half truths for simplicity.  If you want the whole truth just read the articles or Google the topics discussed for greater detail.  Finally, most of what I will show you are other people’s guesses as to what goes into Moz’s Domain Authority which again is a guess about Google’s metric on a site.  Google doesn’t tell us exactly and they shouldn’t, Moz doesn’t tell us either because they want you to pay for it.  Moz isn’t the only one guessing, a lot of folks guess and some include Majestic’s Citation Factor and Trust FactorSEOProfiler has it’s LIS.  For simplicity and since I’m the one running this show we’ll focus for now on Domain Authority by Moz.

Now it’s a simple number from 1 to 100 but it isn’t like a ladder with even steps, as you climb the steps get bigger and it takes more to gain a level.  So from DA 1 lets say you gain 5 backlinks and two are from sites that have a decent DA 40 and Moz bumps your score up to a DA 3.  If you gain 5 more links to your site and they also have similar metrics as the last bunch you might assume you’re set to have a DA 6, but you get surprised when it is reported as a 4.  Another set of 5 and it stays a 4.  DA levels are harder to improve the higher you get your site.

What Determines Domain Authority?

Links?

Domain authority is the best metric because it provides us with a single number but its based on some rather key and diverse factors.  Yes, it is backlinks but its so much more than that…but it is largely backlinks or incoming links from other domains.  These serve as citations, they’re references from other entities that acknowledge publicly that this site they are link too, yours is authoritative.  Coupled with “anchor text” or the words that make up a link that aren’t the address they can define a site.  More on that towards the end.  This is anchor text it has a link but the anchor text serves as the vanity description of the content at the other end of the link.  The link comes from another site to yours and depending upon that site’s authority the link is more or less powerful than another.

domain-authorityWe’ll talk in greater depth about SEO Backlinks but for now let’s just understand that backlinks are votes from other sites.  Not all backlinks are created equal.  The more backlinks the more authority, and one vote per site.  So 800 links from another site you own are not worth 25 from 25 sites.

In the graphic to the left links are the blue AND red slices of the pie and together they make up 49%.  The next biggest element is SOCIAL MEDIA MENTIONS.  I do that in all caps because I’ve always included social media as an element of reports I offer in client proposals and I get told often they don’t care about all that.  I just sit back and scribble down that they don’t know what they don’t know yet.

Social Media Mentions

Sure you need an account and you need followers but to get those followers you need to post regularly.  Five or Six times randomly during the year isn’t regular.  Thats why so many people feel social media doesn’t matter because they were unable to tap into the great interest on Facebook in their widgets.   News flash no one is really going to be interested in your widget but you and a handful of individuals.  Thats why your messages need to have more than just “buy our widget.”  If you are a church for instance a weekly devotional or prayer list is better than telling people to come on Sunday week after week.  The biggest mistake is not including a link to your site in your post.  While there may be a link off of your profile page to your site your message can be repeated by others and each repeat or share is from their profile. It may mention you and likely link back to your profile but that is still one link to your site.  Include a link.

social media mention with link

Domain Age Matters And It Should

So you’re going out there and you found a domain name thats available and you want to outrank your competition in a month.  SEOs laugh out loud around the globe…Highly unlikely, it’s partly you lack street cred.  I’d love to rank number one in the keyword Louisville SEO but I don’t.  I’m the 89.8th result.  MatthewLeffler.com is 352 days old as I am writing this.  The top result for Louisville SEO is 9 years and 207 days old.  Indirectly they’ve got 9 years worth of content, returning traffic and backlinks than I have and so they are given a bonus for that longevity.  Partly to prevent searchers from getting a completely different result every time a new domain picks a keyword.   Its easier though as you age, the difference between 5 yrs and 9 years is trivial and the distance between 1 day and 1 year is a stretch.  Sometimes buying an existing domain thats relevant to your business will give you a way around this, but you’re at the mercy of what is for sale and like a foster kid you don’t know about it’s past.

Brand Search Volume

Nobody said SEO was fair

Sometimes in SEO it feels like you’re swimming with Joan Crawford.  This one I feel is a bit much … brand search volume is how often people are looking for you.  Well isn’t that impossible until they know about me and the reason they don’t know about me is because you have me on page 4?  Couldn’t brand search volume arguably be covered in social media mentions and backlinks?  We’ll now that we got those out of the way, nobody ever said life was fair, Tina.

I’ve decided that I’ll figure out a way to sneak a reference to a favorite movie of mine into every post from here on.

But I digress, so your brand search volume does make sense to be included because people searching for Coca Cola do not want to see Pepsi.  I’m from deep Coke territory and even Taco Bell has stopped asking if I want a Pepsi.  So has Google it appears.

Incidentally I would suspect that local plays into this heavily.  Google knows where the searches are coming from so they understand the foot print of your business.  Which is why Googling the best landscaper in town is different in each town.  Food for thought if you build a regional powerhouse and expand into a new city.

Domain Authority Case Study – Project No Wire Hangers

Sorry I wont make this all about that movie but we all know …. NO Wire Hangers.  For our purposes hangers are domains and they can be wire or wooden.  Depending on the hanger or domain your attempts to rank for a keyword will be affected, like the clothes you hang on them.  I’ll show you several domains stats that I have built completely alone over several months.  It hasn’t been a dedicated effort so these numbers could have been better but the effort has been the same.  Some are older than others some are the same age. We’ll dissect these domains and metrics extensively.

Matt’s Project Hangers

URL Moz DA Moz PA MozRank External Links
seandelahanty.com 29 / 100 27 / 100 2.70 112
cloud502.com 28 / 100 24 / 100 2.40 134
votelouisville.com 23 / 100 19 / 100 1.90 4
matthewleffler.com 23 / 100 23 / 100 2.30 112
data502.com 22 / 100 21 / 100 2.10 12
matt2.info 20 / 100 16 / 100 1.60 51
seandelahanty.org 18 / 100 19 / 100 1.90 36
forbrent.com 16 / 100 11 / 100 1.10 0
countyattorney.info 14 / 100 10 / 100 1.00 0
seodata.cloud 12 / 100 16 / 100 1.60 11
chriscoffman.rocks 8 / 100 6 / 100 0.60 4

Feel free to look into them and make some assumptions.  You may find tools that I have discussed previously useful in “auditing” the domains.  Much like a Sciencetologist audits a person with toys and wild claims so does your SEO and look we have just about as many acronyms.  Now go and let your Thetan figure out where the keywords were in the graph.  Spoiler … anchor text that you had no control over … officially.  Here is a further reading on the power of anchor text…in 2004 “Miserable Failure” was George W. Bush’s Whitehouse biography page and no one optimized it for that.

Miserable Failure

Related posts:

Web Site SEO Visualizations

Web Site SEO Visualizations
I’m a visual person as I believe most of us are which is why I am fascinated by these images of sites that I have visualized.  Green dots are working pages, blue dots are redirects and orange dots are pages that don’t exist or are forbidden.  The connecting lines represent link structure of a site.  The larger a dot the more traffic it receives.

[…]

ZF takes 35 percent stake in autonomous driving specialist ASAP

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Car parts maker ZF Friedrichshafen said on Friday it acquired a 35 percent stake in ASAP, a Germany-based maker of software and testing systems for autonomous driving applications and electric vehicles.

ASAP specializes in car-to-x communication, human-machine interfaces and electronic architecture and last year generated sales of 84 million euros. It employs 1,100 staff.

ZF’s Chief Executive Officer Wolf-Henning Scheider recently said ZF will invest about 12 billion euros in electromobility and autonomous driving over the next five years.

A purchase price for the ASAP stake was not disclosed.

Reporting by Arno Schuetze, editing by Riham Alkousaa

Odds Are, Your Next Governor Will Be A Democrat

In the midterm elections for the House and Senate, Democrats are very likely to win the majority of votes, but they face structural barriers to winning the majority of seats. In the House, for instance, we project that Democrats would need to win the popular vote by somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 to 7 percentage points1 to be favored to actually take control of the chamber, a result of partisan gerrymandering after the 2010 election and Democratic voters’ tendency to cluster in dense, urban districts. And, of course, Congress isn’t the Democrats’ only problem: In the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by almost 3 million votes but lost the Electoral College.

In gubernatorial races, however, there’s no gerrymandering or Electoral College to worry about. So in some ways, they’ll make for the purest test of whether there really is going to be a “blue wave” this year.

And in FiveThirtyEight’s gubernatorial forecasts, which we (finally!) launched on Wednesday, the gubernatorial news is good for Democrats. They are projected to wind up with governorships in states representing about 60 percent of the U.S. population, compared with 40 percent for Republicans.

True, Democrats will have a hard time winning the majority of states, because the GOP is projected to do well in small states such as Wyoming. But the number of states is a stupid metric: Being the governor of Texas is a hell of a lot more important than being the governor of Vermont. Higher-population states, because they have more seats in the House, will also be more important in the redistricting process that will take place after the 2020 elections, when governors elected this year will still be in office.2

So as our measure of gubernatorial success, we’ll simply be counting up the number of people projected to be under each party’s control. Texas will count 44 times as much as Vermont, because there are 44 times more people there.

Democrats begin with an edge in the population count. Although each party controls seven states from among the 14 governorships that are not up for election this year, the states the Democrats hold are more populous. Specifically, Democrats have about 42 million people under their control — based on the states’ projected populations as of Election Day3 — while the seven Republican states have 26 million people.

In states not on the ballot, Democrats start with a lead

Population in states where governors are not up for re-election

Democratic governor republican governor
State Population* State Population*
North Carolina 10,365,000 Indiana 6,780,000
New Jersey 9,193,000 Missouri 6,217,000
Virginia 8,590,000 Kentucky 4,532,000
Washington 7,423,000 Utah 3,100,000
Louisiana 4,753,000 Mississippi 3,043,000
Montana 1,059,000 West Virginia 1,859,000
Delaware 971,000 North Dakota 754,000
Total 42,354,000 Total 26,285,000

* Projected as of Nov. 6, 2018.

BASED ON DATA FROM THE U.S. CENSUS BUREAU

Democrats are poised to add to that advantage on Nov. 6, however. Among the nine states with populations of 10 million or more that will elect new governors next month, Democrats are clear favorites in five (California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Michigan) and modest favorites in a sixth state (Florida). Republicans are clear favorites only in Texas, where incumbent Greg Abbott is likely to be re-elected. The Ohio and Georgia races are toss-ups.

Democrats are well-positioned in high-population gubernatorial races

Race rating according to FiveThirtyEight’s “Classic” forecast as of Oct. 17

State Population* Solid D Likely D Lean D Toss-Up Lean R Likely R Solid R
California 39,982,000
Texas 28,320,000
Florida 20,992,000
New York 20,266,000
Illinois 13,106,000
Pennsylvania 13,074,000
Ohio 11,887,000
Georgia 10,516,000
Michigan 10,159,000
Arizona 7,023,000
Massachusetts 6,965,000
Tennessee 6,794,000
Maryland 6,148,000
Wisconsin 5,900,000
Minnesota 5,657,000
Colorado 5,598,000
South Carolina 5,046,000
Alabama 4,960,000
Oregon 4,151,000
Oklahoma 3,976,000
Connecticut 3,677,000
Iowa 3,191,000
Arkansas 3,056,000
Nevada 2,995,000
Kansas 2,968,000
New Mexico 2,136,000
Nebraska 1,943,000
Idaho 1,725,000
Hawaii 1,445,000
N.H. 1,367,000
Maine 1,363,000
Rhode Island 1,080,000
South Dakota 878,000
Alaska 751,000
Vermont 637,000
Wyoming 587,000

* Projected as of Nov. 6, 2018.

BASED ON DATA FROM THE U.S. CENSUS BUREAU

Republicans will make up ground in small and medium-sized states. Indeed, they’re the favorites (specifically, about 2 in 3 favorites, according to our Classic forecast4) to win a majority of states. But Democrats are highly likely — although by no means certain5 — to govern a majority of the population after the election. Even if Republicans win all the toss-up races and all the races our model currently rates as leaning Democratic, they’d come up a little short of a population majority given the states that Democrats have in hand already. Accounting for each state’s population on a probabilistic basis,6 Democrats currently project to have 194 million people under their control after the election, or about 60 percent of the population, compared with 135 million for Republicans.

Methodology-wise, our gubernatorial forecasts are largely the same as our House and Senate forecasts. There are three versions of our model — Lite, Classic and Deluxe — that blend together different forecasting techniques in different ratios. Specifically, these techniques include

  1. A polling average, after polls are adjusted in various ways.
  2. CANTOR, a system that makes projections based on analysis of polling in similar states.
  3. “Fundamentals,” a regression-based method that evaluates non-polling factors such as fundraising that predict election outcomes.
  4. Expert ratings, such as those put together by the Cook Political Report.

In all versions of our forecast, however, polling is by far the largest ingredient in states where there’s a lot of polling. For more detail on our gubernatorial forecasts, including how they differ from our congressional forecasts, see here.

Perhaps the most important difference between gubernatorial races and congressional ones is that partisanship is much less of a factor in governorships. Specifically, it’s only about one-third as important — so, for example, a state that’s typically 15 percentage points more Republican than the country overall in congressional races would only be about 5 points GOP-leaning in gubernatorial races. As a consequence of this, incumbents tend to be favored even when they come from “opposite-colored” states. Republicans Larry Hogan of Maryland and Charlie Baker of Massachusetts are heavy favorites to win re-election despite being in deeply blue states, for example — not just according to the polls, which have them well ahead, but also according to the fundamentals component of our forecast.

On the flip side, few things are truly inevitable in gubernatorial races, especially in states without incumbents. Democrats are competitive in Oklahoma, for example, while Republicans have a fighting chance in Connecticut, despite it being a blue state in a blue year.

How different versions of our governors forecast compare

As of Oct. 17

Inputs Forecasts
State
Polls
CANTOR
FundAM.
Experts
Lite
Classic
Deluxe
Hawaii D+23.2 D+25.8 D+38.7 D+32.3 D+24.3 D+31.4 D+31.7
New York D+20.0 D+20.7 D+26.2 D+24.6 D+20.0 D+22.1 D+22.9
Rhode Island D+11.2 D+22.2 D+33.5 D+7.5 D+11.2 D+19.5 D+15.5
California D+15.2 D+10.0 D+32.0 D+23.2 D+15.2 D+18.4 D+20.0
Pennsylvania D+14.6 D+14.4 D+18.4 D+16.4 D+14.6 D+15.4 D+15.8
Illinois D+17.9 R+4.6 R+9.3 D+12.9 D+17.9 D+12.7 D+12.7
Michigan D+11.0 D+4.1 D+14.7 D+9.3 D+11.0 D+11.6 D+10.8
Maine D+7.4 D+5.3 D+18.0 D+2.3 D+7.4 D+11.3 D+8.3
Colorado D+7.7 D+3.5 D+15.4 D+7.5 D+7.6 D+10.4 D+9.4
Minnesota D+7.9 D+5.1 D+17.4 D+11.1 D+7.9 D+10.2 D+10.5
Iowa D+4.9 D+2.0 D+14.7 D+0.8 D+4.9 D+8.0 D+5.6
Oregon D+4.4 D+18.0 D+14.0 D+5.3 D+4.4 D+7.9 D+7.0
New Mexico D+6.2 D+5.0 D+10.5 D+7.5 D+6.2 D+7.4 D+7.4
Connecticut D+5.3 D+5.7 D+8.5 D+5.3 D+5.3 D+6.2 D+5.9
Florida D+3.7 0.0 D+0.8 D+2.3 D+3.7 D+3.2 D+2.9
Wisconsin D+5.1 R+8.1 R+7.6 D+0.8 D+5.1 D+2.2 D+1.8
Georgia R+0.8 R+2.3 D+0.1 R+0.6 R+0.8 R+0.7 R+0.7
Nevada R+1.0 D+2.3 R+1.4 D+2.3 R+1.0 R+1.1 D+0.1
Ohio R+0.6 D+1.3 R+4.6 R+0.6 R+0.6 R+1.3 R+1.1
Kansas D+0.3 R+5.0 R+9.1 R+2.9 D+0.3 R+2.4 R+2.5
Oklahoma R+3.4 R+10.5 R+12.1 R+5.9 R+3.4 R+6.4 R+6.2
South Dakota R+0.6 R+7.7 R+16.4 R+3.7 R+4.6 R+10.9 R+8.5
Arizona R+10.5 R+12.1 R+18.4 R+11.3 R+10.5 R+11.5 R+11.4
Alaska R+19.6 R+2.3 R+0.6 R+6.9 R+19.6 R+12.3 R+10.5
Vermont R+12.2 D+0.3 R+15.7 R+22.5 R+5.5 R+13.4 R+16.4
Tennessee R+16.6 R+7.7 R+6.0 R+14.9 R+16.6 R+14.3 R+14.5
Idaho R+11.8 R+10.0 R+18.0 R+21.9 R+11.0 R+15.0 R+17.3
N.H. R+14.0 R+8.0 R+20.8 R+7.7 R+14.0 R+16.1 R+13.3
South Carolina R+18.9 R+4.0 R+13.0 R+18.2 R+18.9 R+16.1 R+16.8
Alabama R+19.1 R+7.9 R+16.3 R+21.5 R+15.1 R+17.1 R+18.6
Maryland R+18.8 R+0.6 R+15.5 R+11.3 R+18.8 R+17.6 R+15.5
Texas R+19.2 R+14.8 R+17.1 R+21.6 R+19.2 R+18.9 R+19.8
Nebraska R+26.7 R+22.2 R+23.3 R+26.7 R+22.7 R+22.9
Wyoming R+23.6 R+25.2 R+25.0 R+23.6 R+25.1 R+25.0
Massachusetts R+36.5 D+1.5 R+19.8 R+28.7 R+36.5 R+29.3 R+29.1
Arkansas R+36.5 R+17.7 R+22.7 R+29.7 R+35.6 R+30.4 R+30.1

We’ll cover the most interesting gubernatorial races on an individual basis in subsequent updates, but here are a few comments about races that I know people will have questions about. Democrats Andrew Gillum of Florida and Stacey Abrams of Georgia are striving to become the first African-American governors of their respective states and the first elected anywhere in the South since Douglas Wilder of Virginia in 1989. Gillum has had a small but fairly consistent lead in the polls, and our model gives him a 70 percent chance (about 7 in 10) of winning. Abrams is in a toss-up race that tilts ever-so-slightly toward her Republican opponent, Brian Kemp. The race is close enough that voter registration protocols in Georgia, which Kemp oversees as secretary of state, could make the difference. (Check out my colleague Perry Bacon Jr.’s article on these races for more detail.)

Although there generally isn’t a big conflict between polls and fundamentals in our gubernatorial forecasts, there are a couple of high-profile races where fundamentals nudge the forecast toward the GOP. In Wisconsin, incumbent Republican Scott Walker trails Democrat Tony Evers by 5 points in our polling average, but the fundamentals think he “should” narrowly win re-election. The Classic version of our model evaluates this race as leaning Democratic, but with Walker having a better chance than polls alone would suggest. And in Kansas, where the controversial Republican secretary of state, Kris Kobach, is running, polls show a true dead heat against Democrat Laura Kelly, but the model classifies the race as leaning Republican on the basis of the fundamentals.

Alex Bregman Is Not Interested In That Crap Out Of The Zone

With two outs and a man on base in the ninth inning Sunday, Alex Bregman grimaced after connecting on a Craig Kimbrel offering. He had just missed a game-tying homer, instead hitting a fly ball that fell into Andrew Benintendi’s glove on the warning track in front of the Green Monster for the final out. Game 2 of the American League Championship Series was over. The series was tied, and Fenway Park collectively breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Even Bregman’s outs are increasing the heart rates of the opposition this October. Bregman became one of the best players in baseball during the season, and he’s elevated his game even further this postseason. Though in a small sample of just five postseason games, the 24-year-old has a .417/.708/1.000 slash line fueled by 10 walks (against one strikeout). He’s reached base in 18 of his 24 plate appearances this October.

Bregman’s batting eye — along with opponents’ unwillingness to give him much to hit — is making some history. According to Major League Baseball research, Bregman is just the first player to draw 10 walks through five games of a postseason since Dodgers outfielder Jim Wynn did it in 1974. The only player before Bregman to draw at least three walks in back-to-back postseason games was Cubs outfielder Jimmy Sheckard — in 1910.

Bregman, a spoil of tanking for the Houston Astros as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 draft, is getting something akin to the Barry Bonds treatment. Over his past three postseason games, the LSU product has drawn eight walks, matching Bonds in 2002 for the most by any hitter over a three-game span in postseason play.

Consider the pitches Bregman has seen this postseason and the restraint he has shown:

Bregman entered play Tuesday having been thrown 103 pitches this postseason (20.6 per game). Of those pitches, only 40 have been in the strike zone. Only J.D. Martinez, Yasiel Puig, Gleyber Torres and Christian Yelich have seen a smaller share of pitches in the strike zone than Bregman has.1

Of the 63 pitches thrown to him outside the strike zone, Bregman has swung at just six, the lowest chase rate among any postseason batter to have seen 50 pitches. Consider his take on this full-count pitch Sunday night, in the charged Fenway environment against hard-throwing Red Sox reliever Ryan Brasier:

Bregman’s improved discipline is not just an October development: It’s what fueled his 2018 breakout.

Only Joey Votto and Andrew McCutchen chased pitches out of the strike zone less often this season than did Bregman, who swung on just 18.1 percent of those pitches. Mookie Betts and Aaron Hicks ranked fourth and fifth.

Bregman has improved his batting eye since reaching the majors in 2016. He dropped his out-of-zone swing rate by 5.8 percentage points from last season. Yasmani Grandal, Ian Happ and Gregory Polanco were the only players to make greater year-to-year improvements in laying off of balls out of the strike zone.

“He’s having quite a season because of the preparation he’s doing, the lessons he’s learning, and the application in the game has been unreal,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch told the Houston Chronicle in September.

While strikeouts continue to set record levels each year in the majors — from 21.6 percent of place appearances in 2017 to 22.3 percent in 2018 — the Astros posted the game’s lowest strikeout rate last season (17.3 percent) and the game’s highest slugging mark en route to a World Series title. This season, only the Cleveland Indians (18.9 percent) struck out less often than the Astros (19.5 percent).

Bregman embodies this teamwide trend. The infielder is not just more selective in terms of swinging at pitches in the zone; he’s also finding pitches he can pull and drive for power. In 2018, he recorded just the sixth season this century of at least 30 home runs and 50 doubles with fewer strikeouts than walks.

The Astros teach that a hitter should swing at a pitch only if he can conceivably drive it for an extra-base hit. Astros hitting coach Dave Hudgens told The New York Times last summer: “I don’t want guys swinging at a pitch unless they can hit a homer. I don’t want guys swinging at a pitch unless they can do damage. If you go in with that mindset, you’re not going to miss your pitch as often.”

Bregman has always hit more balls in the air than on the ground. He ranked fifth this season in total volume of line drives and fly balls with 334. But he also increased his pull rate, perhaps encouraged by the inviting proximity of the Crawford Boxes at Minute Maid Park to the right-handed batter’s box. His quick hands and short arms allow for a short bat path. And by crowding the plate, he’s able to cover the entire zone and pull outside pitches. His 24 home runs hit to the pull side (left field for Bregman) tie for sixth in the majors. This is all before getting to other aspects of his game like his defense at third base, which has looked exemplary so far this postseason, giving the Astros two shortstop-quality defenders on the left side of the infield.

The Astros didn’t know they needed another superstar, but they have one in Bregman, who is challenging Mike Trout and Mookie Betts for status as the best player in the American League. As the Astros battle for a World Series berth, Bregman might be the best player in baseball when it matters most.

Check out our latest MLB predictions.

No, LaCroix Isn’t Poisoning You Like You’re A Giant Cockroach

Two weeks ago, a hullabaloo broke out over a lawsuit alleging that canned seltzer from LaCroix contains an ingredient found in “cockroach insecticide.” Suddenly, the canned water with the cult-like following didn’t sound so appetizing. But there was never any bug killer in the seltzer. Instead, the incident highlights an uncomfortable truth: Food and beverage production is essentially chemistry. Any discomfort we feel about that fact isn’t based on science.

LaCroix has drawn fans with its claims to be “natural” and free of many things found in other sodas and bottled waters — sugar, calories, artificial sweeteners and artificial flavors. But a new lawsuit filed by the law firm Beaumont Costales contends that LaCroix includes “synthetic” ingredients, including limonene, which the lawsuit claims “can cause kidney toxicity and tumors,” as well as “linalool propionate, which is used to treat cancer; and linalool, which is used in cockroach insecticide.”

It sounds like scary stuff. But even if the chemicals are in the water, raising the alarm about them is a little bit like warning about the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide — a substance that’s a major component of acid rain, that is known to corrode and oxidize metals and that can be fatal if inhaled. It is also better known by its common name, water.

Similarly, limonene, linalool propionate and linalool are common plant chemicals and far less nefarious than they might seem from the lawsuit’s description, said Gary Reineccius, a flavor chemist at the University of Minnesota. Linalool, for instance, is found in many fruits. “It’s a key to blueberry. If blueberry didn’t have it, it would taste totally different,” Reineccius said. It’s true that linalool is sometimes used in products that help control cockroaches, but implying that linalool is insecticide is like saying that citric acid (the thing that makes lemons tart) is a kind of paint remover simply because you found it on an ingredient list at your hardware store. Limonene is another naturally occurring plant compound (also found in some prized cannabis strains), and linalool propionate is found in ginger, as well as lavender and sage oils.

The lawsuit claims that these ingredients have been listed by the Food and Drug Administration as synthetic, but that’s misleading. It’s true that these three ingredients appear on FDA lists of synthetic flavorings, but that’s just because they can also be synthesized in a lab. When they’re made that way, the FDA calls them “artificial” flavoring, and when they are extracted from a plant or animal they’re considered “natural,” though the FDA does not verify that labels of food products are accurate. So what’s really at issue here is not what ingredients are in LaCroix but how these ingredients were produced. In response to our questions, LaCroix’s parent company, National Beverage Corp., pointed us to a press release that insists that “natural flavors in LaCroix are derived from the natural essence oils from the named fruit used in each of the flavors.”

“There’s really no difference” between chemicals synthesized in a lab and the same chemicals extracted from plants, Reineccius said. “From a scientific standpoint, they are exactly the same. There is no risk from one versus the other.” The major difference, he said, is that they cost a lot more to derive from plants than to make in the lab. “It’s exactly the same chemical, but you’re going to pay three to five times more for the natural one. The customer pays through the nose, it’s foolishness.”

Although the FDA defines what a “natural” flavor is, it doesn’t currently have any official definitions for what “natural” means when applied to a whole product. FDA press officer Deborah Kotz said the agency would expect the term “natural” to mean that nothing artificial or synthetic had been added. The FDA recently called for public comment on the use of term “natural” for describing food products, Kotz said, and the agency is currently reviewing these comments to determine whether and how to define “natural” products.

The lawsuit highlights the disjunction between the things a food or beverage producer might call “natural” flavor under the FDA’s rules and the common understanding of what “natural” means, said flavor historian Nadia Berenstein. “The idea of ‘natural’ is radically undefined,” she says, but from a cultural standpoint, the word tends to evoke a mystique of pureness or wholesomeness. She said the relative naturalness of various foods started to become important to consumers when food production became industrialized, which made it difficult for people to know what had happened to their food between the farm and the grocery store. Justifiably or not, the term “natural” may give consumers a reassuring sense of purity and a belief that the product is free from adulteration.

But the ingredients and techniques you use to whip up a pleasant “natural” product in your kitchen might not be well-suited for commercial production. If you’re at home and want to make a fizzy, fruity drink, you might squeeze a little grapefruit juice into some sparkling water. But a drink that’s being commercially sold has to do many things a homemade drink doesn’t. “It has to be relatively uniform, it has to be shelf stable, it has to conform to safety regulations,” Berenstein said. The squirt of juice might perk up a glass of seltzer at home, but when the beverage is produced on a industrial scale, the juice could be subject to issues like sedimentation and oxidation that make the end product less appealing.

And so food chemists use their tools to create products that taste good when they reach your table. When you read the phrase “natural flavor” on a label, you might assume that, say, a coconut beverage contains some extract of coconut, but in fact some coconut flavoring is actually derived from castor oil. “It makes a beautiful coconut flavor, and it’s perfectly safe and wholesome,” Reineccius said. “You can label it ‘all-natural,’ but it’s not from coconut.” To food chemists like Reineccius, that’s a shining example of science at work. Some companies are trying to boost their sales by closing the gap between what the word “natural” can legally cover and what their customers generally understand it to mean. A LaCroix competitor, Spindrift, aims to capture consumers turned off by flavors created in the lab, natural or not. The company’s sparkling waters are made with fruit and no other flavoring.

The great irony here is that, as food scientist Sarah Taber pointed out on Twitter, the whole reason that bug killers might contain things like linalool in the first place is because “makers realized people don’t want to spray ‘chemicals’ in their house to get rid of bugs, and preferred natural plant-based repellents.” Turns out, there’s no way around it: All the products we buy contain chemicals.

CORRECTION (Oct. 16, 2018, 5:55 p.m.): A previous version of this story incorrectly said that some coconut flavoring is distilled from castor oil. It is derived from the fermentation of castor oil.