Monday, October 31, 2005

 

What next

I intend to start work on the new Lugo guide this week. The old information was factual, but clinical and not based on any personal experience of the place. I now have a multitude of photos and first hand experience of the province and city, so hopefully I can make it more readable and interesting.

I attempted to make contact again with my sites biggest critique, but have as yet to get a response, I suspect I will hear no more from him which is a shame.

In addition to adding new content to the Galician provinces and cities sections, I am also trying to update and amend some existing pages. To that end I have just added a couple of reviews of two restaurants in Noia, one a pizzeria and the other a seafood restaurant, I will upload them later this week (after the next google spidering of the site).

Hits went up again last week, but I notice that so far today traffic has been on the brink of none existent. The problem that I do of course have, is my limited page counters which are only on about 5% or 6 % of the site’s pages, so in reality I have no accurate assessment of daily page views.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

 

Perhaps I need to do more with this blog

I noticed when reading the blog of another Spanish web site owner I know, that he has had over 10 000 blog hits inside of a year. That is incredibly impressive. I think his blog, which is about Pontevedra and Galicia, is also PR4 or 5 – I need to ask him how he managed that!

I do actually read his blog every day and, as a resident of Galicia, he makes many insightful and amusing observations. I think the key to a good blog is to make it amusing which his certainly is, but then again he does have a daily wealth of new and unique material to add.

I have added a Galician news section to the site which I intend (or rather my wife intends) to update on a twice weekly basis. That combined, with the site blog (not this one), should ensure some all new content at least every two days. The PR of the standard none index pages appear to have moved from 1 to 2, but the main and index pages remain at 4 and 3.

For the first time, google’s last spider of the site failed to index all the new pages, in fact they missed 17 pages which has currently got me puzzled. There must be a reason, but I have yet to figure it out and the spider that I use to check links etc managed to spot every page without any trouble.

I also added a band review of the “2005 Noia August festival” to galiciagide this week with a few pics of some of the performers – it all seem light years away now.

Friday, October 28, 2005

 

Sorted for the next 10 years

After much messing around and even a vague denial that it could be done, my server host has finally secured the galiciaguide dot.com for me for the next ten years at a cost of over one hundred pounds. I guess they make more money long term by getting their clients to renew annually or bi-anually, but there are some distinct advantages to doing it my way.

I will shortly be starting on the updating of one of the main province sections, probably Lugo, with the dual objective of both completing it and getting the overall site page count to 200 plus pages by some time in December. I do however have other projects that are presently placing this on the back burner.

My second article, this time about Santiago, has now appeared on the excellent Spanish-living web site with some photos I supplied to them. I would like to do more articles like these, partly for my own satisfaction and also to promote the site, but my previous experiences of e-zine submissions have made me cautious, so I will stick with Spanish-living for now.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

 

Galicia and food

After the scenery and relaxed hassle free attitude, the thing I probably miss the most (on my return to Britain) from Galicia is the food.

The availability of all kinds of seafood is one plus, as is the existence of the Galician pie called an empanada and my favourite style of chorizo – Pamplona.

It is however the café culture, which is not contrived, pompus, or ridiculously expensive as it is here at home, that is probably the single eating/drinking aspect I miss the most. This is of course aided and abetted by virtue of the fact that most Galicians are still in bed when the Brits are already at work. As a result rushing to work is rarely a problem and stopping off for a relaxed coffee is part of many peoples daily routine. The afternoon siesta also supports more time in cafes and bars, although alcohol is rarely consumed. All told there is a more communal and less “do everything yesterday” approach to life that seems to place far more emphasis on people sitting down with a drink and something to eat.

There are many who would say that this is an example of Galician inefficiency, but everything appears to work and the population are undoubtedly happier and more content than we seem to be here in Britain.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

 

More Foreigners

My wife tells me that the number of immigrants in Galicia has doubled over the last couple of years. The numbers appear small, but since Galicia has a low population, these figures can be misleading.

Fortunately, Galicia has yet to suffer from the Morocan problem in the same way as many southern and central parts of Spain, but no doubt time will correct that.

The history of Spain is such that a “muslim” ingress is seen for what it is, a potential attack on every aspect of Spanish culture, religion and lifestyle. The Spanish also have the British model to look at and they are more than aware that 2000 years of liberties, freedoms and cultural development have been decimated by 30 years of Islamic immigration. Let’s hope they keep their nerve, attitude and cultural heritage, by compelling all immigrants to live a Spanish life style whilst in Spain. After all, that is not so unreasonable is it!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

 

Nothing in particular

For most of Galicia the festivals are now over and the nights, as here in the UK, are drawing in. That said, the ridiculous situation of changing the clocks to such an extent that it is dark by 4.00pm will not be the case anywhere in Spain.

I don’t have a first hand weather report from Galicia this week, although the forecast that I saw said it was pretty good for the time of year.

Having had several weeks worrying over a potential health threat (which turned out to be nothing) I must now get in touch with the guy who lambasted galiciaguide. I had intended to email him about four weeks ago, but that was when the problems started and my mind was else where.

I am hoping that after his initial reaction to some disputed inaccuracies, I might be able to persuade him to contribute some content in the area of culture and history (about which he is certainly very knowledgeable). Hopefully the delay in getting back in touch will not prejudice him.

Finally, the problem with the plagiarized article was never resolved, or at least the one where I had several initially helpful emails from the “editor”. The last response asked for my account details, which I duly supplied, but I have heard nothing since and consider the time spent on this problem greater than the actual ramifications of the problem itself. I will not be getting in touch with them again and will not now publish an article I had written for them.

Monday, October 24, 2005

 

Getting links for galiciaguide

Accepting that google don’t like my site, especially since it ranks so highly on msn, I have banged on a few extra links to some deeper pages this morning. The directories in question have PR3 pages and there are a couple of Galicia related sites on one of them which adds a theme (if you are very imaginative).

Yet to understand why yahoo give me so many 1 and 2 positions on smaller searches, yet have a problem with giving me page 1 on bigger ones. Yahoo still have a backlink issue, in that they don’t spot spam, however flagrant, and so the best way to do well on them is to build up massive numbers of links, links that google will see as unnatural and penalise you for – it’s a catch 21 situation.

I will not be doing any work on galiciaguide for a few days now. I have too much other stuff to do, but will monitor the site to see if it fares any better with G.

I must put some extra links on this page. I will have to find out which other sites I look at regularly and add them.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

 

Things get worse

Yesterday really took the biscuit, the worst daily stats figures I have ever had.

There a couple of possible explanations however. Firstly, I was unable to access msn search for a few hours. If they were down, then as the SE with my highest rankings they would have a big impact on my visitor numbers. Secondly, I noticed that from about mid day to late afternoon google were playing about with things and the site disappeared from there serps as well – it has however re-immerged for now.

Galicia continues to have rain as does much of Europe. Hopefully the weather will improve as my mother, and elder of two nieces, are starting a Mediterranean cruise which negotiates its way around Italy and France.

At this moment I see blue skies here for the first time in 3 days, the temperatures remains very mild, but it has been dull and damp and the forecast is for that to continue – winter is here.

I have a couple of new sites to start work on and need to get going as from next week, so the expansion of galiciaguide will be back to the normal 2 or 3 pages per week. I am also debating contacting google to find out why the site is filtered out from a couple of big searches, but contacting google is reputed to be fraught wit danger – I don’t know if they send hit men after you.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

 

No explanation

A mere one hundred and fifty people viewed the site this week, the worst stats ever.

I can see no explanation for this sudden and extreme down turn and will have to explore the possibility of some crooked webmaster managing to use some kind of redirect to steal my visitors. I really cannot see any other explanation, bar server down time (which does not seem to be the case), and the site has risen, not fallen, on all three search engines over the last two weeks. I should be getting more visitors, not less.

The underlying problem with google does however continue. Although the site seems to have escaped the sandbox on some smaller searches, it remains invisible on the larger ones. The “galicia spain” search is a particular and extreme example. On msn it is number 2, but on google outside the top 1000. Yet using a variety of filter removing searches on google e.g., “allintext” etc, the site should show somewhere between the bottom of page one and the top of page two. If the site had any spam on it I could understand, but it is purely informative with no keyword loading, no duplication, no artificial backlinks and no SEO tricks. Google do suck!

Friday, October 21, 2005

 

Waning interest in Galicia

Although my site has been creeping up the search engine results pages and features at number one, two or three on several relevant searches on google, yahoo and msn, the number of hits I am getting has diminished over the last two weeks.

This is quite inexplicable to me and I can come up with no logical reason as to why this should be happening. Whether at this time of year, the main holiday season being over, less people explore destinations on the internet I don’t know. Personally, it is during the off season that I like to come up with ideas of what to do next time, but maybe that is just me.

I was pleased to see my site leap frog an unpleasant spam site yesterday and move to No. 2 on my most significant search on msn. No doubt the move will be short lived, but any top 3 position keeps me happy.

I have now uploaded all my new Pontevedra pages, 20 in all, with around 50 new photos, although they have as yet to be spidered by the search engine robots.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

 

Writing about Galicia

Galicia as a whole remains in the midst of wet and rainy weather although temperatures have stayed mild for the time of year.

I am now about to commence a series of articles for the excellent “spaninsh-living.com” web site I mentioned previously.

I did an article for them earlier in the year, but was skeptical as to the impact it had on my site, at least on google. It appeared that my site disappeared from several related searches in sync with their new content appearing and it has taken me a while to convince myself that this was purely coincidence. I now believe it was and their link to me is also now up on google.

Hopefully this article writing should prove to be a mutually beneficial arrangement. Their site has a massive readership, high page rank running across most pages, but little in the way of Galician content for the visitors it attracts.

I, on the other hand, have a huge amount of content and some individually high PR pages, but a limited level of visibility, particularly on google.

The idea is therefore that they get more content, which will automatically get their new pages to appear in more searches (which they will do because of their high PR). I on the other hand get some valuable links from their “subject authoritative” site which, firstly gives me some extra page rank with google and secondly gets me some traffic from their site. I also have links from various pages on my site back to them, so it looks like a good deal for all concerned.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

 

Miscellaneous

Very important today is that I wish my wife happy birthday - although why I don’t know, she never reads my blog.

I always notice the blog updates when I log in and it never fails to amaze me how many people feel the urge to write about something personal or sexual, the latter as often in the first as the third party.

It might sound pompous, but I cannot help but wonder if people have something missing from their life’s when they feel the need to disclose highly personal and intimate details about themselves in what are generally anonymous blogs to a generally anonymous readership. Then again, maybe it is I who have the problem since I have no desire what so ever do what so many others deem necessary.

That is all for today, I am very busy!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

 

Galicia articles

I have had some annoying experiences with internet articles I have written recently. Namely, they get copied, altered and worse still, others claim to have written them and actually add them to other sites under their own names.

I even found a case yesterday where one company had plagiarized an article of mine and then removed my name and link from it and added around a dozen links to various pages on their commercial site. In the context of the bigger picture, its not that important, but the total lack of morals and respect for other's efforts in today’s world is beyond me.

Anyway I will be more careful in the future. I have been in touch with a Spanish mega site called Spanish-living.com, for whom I did some stuff in the past, and I think I will confine all my future writings on Galicia to them. They do what they say they will, their site is excellent and it is technically (from a web developers point of view) one of the very few quality sites I have come across.

My Pontevedra pages are now nearing completion and should be uploaded by the end of this month, I only have sections on fiestas and beaches to complete.

Monday, October 17, 2005

 

Flights to Galicia

This year Ryan Air commenced flights to Santiago de Compostela airport and had a massive impact on other carrier’s flight pricing, particularly Iberia.

There is now a new airport in Doncaster, I think named after Robin Hood – don’t ask why, which is adding some new and slightly “off the regular tourist beaten track” routes. Someone mentioned to me that Galicia was a potential route they were considering for the future. Whether this is the case I don’t know. There was a rumour that Easyjet were looking at flying from Leeds-Bradford to Santiago, but shelved the idea when Ryan Air started flying there from Stanstead.

Galiciaguides re-emergence on google seems to have been short lived as the No.1 rankings from a week ago are disappearing as inexplicably as they appeared. Searches on all Galicia related subjects on google now seem to pull out about 70% of totally unrelated results – or of course purely commercial ones. I am at a complete loss as to how google value (if they do at all) site content.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

 

Spamers

The deplorable site that I mentioned a few days ago has now bumped me down a place on a major msn keyword search.

Quite how search engines, with all their sophistication, cannot recognize these spamers is quite beyond me. I have done some natural language processing system design and implementation and its not that difficult to write bits of code to differentiate between a genuine site and a 100% commercial spamer. I really makes you wonder how much of what the search engines claim they can do is actually the case. I can give you half a dozen sites, on all the main search engines, with page one listings on multi million page indexed searches that are using search engine illegal tricks to gain artificial link popularity and key word overloading. Google seem to spot some of this stuff, but yahoo and msn seem totally oblivious.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

 

Secret pages

I have periodically explored some of the “mega” Spain web sites to get an idea of how their on site navigation works – and, I might add, generally not been too impressed.

One thing that I did find on a couple of sites was a series of pages (one, a complete section) that could only be described as “secret pages”. In one instance a page about swim suits had a hidden link (I found it on the code page) that led to a series of site pages (without the standard formatting/style) that were on the brink of been pornographic.

I wonder if secret pages is a trend common to all large sites. There could be some PR benefit and it allows the webmaster to deviate from the normal site theme without anyone knowing. I think I will give it a try, put a counter on the page, and see if anyone finds it. As for a topic, I think I have something in mind.

Friday, October 14, 2005

 

What to write today?

I don't usually struggle for something to write, but having a couple of blogs out there, this is the most specific and difficult one to think up content for.

I think I played hell about google a few days ago (I think it was here), because my site shows very badly in their searches - if at all. Obviously the search engine gods heard me, as the site suddenly started to re-emerge on page one of a plethora of google searches, perhaps I am escaping their dreaded sandbox at last.

I continue working on the new Pontevedra section of galiciaguide.com and have now completed 15 pages of all new content. Its hard work, but nice to mentally revisit all the places I have seen and explored. I hope to post the new pages later this month. I have also started clearing out a number of non reciprocated links in my resources section. It is amazing how many sites have link exchanges, but never get around to actually adding their partners links, or responding to emails. Its a form of trying to cheat search engines and is pretty pathetic when you think about it!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

 

The rain came

True to form, Spain was soaked in much needed rain this week, just as my wife's parents started their latest 2 month stint there. The rain is however much need as both drought and fires have plagued the whole country throughout the summer.

Going back to the behavior issue I mentioned previously, I recall that although beaches are usually fairy quiet and relaxed in Galicia, we did have an instance of that certain attitude of wanting to make sure everyone within earshot could hear someone.

It was at Testal beach and a couple arrived mid afternoon and placed their beach towels 10 metres or so away from us. She promptly removed all but her bottoms (not usual at all at Testal) and he made for the sea once changed. They then had a shouting conversation from sea to beach (50 metres apart) for the next ten minutes, deliberately I am sure, drawing attention to themselves.

Initially I tried to block their noise out, but then realized I could not - why - because they were speaking English.

Why do the English (and it never seems to be the Welsh or Scottish) always have to carry on in a manner that suggests they want everyone around them to know exactly what they are doing, sober or drunk. Looks like we need to find a new holiday destination all over again. - And yes I am English.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

 

A drop in standards

When I first visited northern Spain, the thing that struck me the most was a sense of behaving properly.

This started with courtesy in greetings and extended to what I could only describe as a sense of civic pride. The latter manifesting itself in next to no street litter, no rowdy behavior and a mixing of all ages in all places. i.e. Teenagers not seeming embarrassed about being seen out with their parents etc.

Since my first Galician trip however, I have had to concede that these standards have been in rapid decline. The town of Noia where we stay was littered with rubbish this year - especially on what should be its large and impressive alameda (square). To make matters worse, during a festival at about 2.00am, two drunken (or drug induced) youths drop kicked a glass or bottle which almost hit us. My wife prevented me from doing what I should have done and we informed a near by police officer instead - his only concern was: had any damage to property resulted. Too annoyed to make a lucid response, I gestured to him that he was afraid to confront the situation and was a coward.

In truth this kind of behavior is rare in most of Galicia and the police, when they do encounter it, do not know how to deal with it. This is compounded by the provincial approach that they have, namely assuming that they will know, or know of, the person (or family) in question and therefore they would rather avoid what could turn into some kind of local feud. Regrettably, it is no doubt a sign of things to come!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

 

SEO Con men

A couple of days ago I had a moan about search engine optimisers, or at least those who wear a black hat (the crooked ones). So here is an example.

Yesterday I discovered a Galician real estate site with 33 500 inbound links to it, number one on the list of which was a link from one of my sites.

The link sounded totally unfamiliar and was not the url of the kind of site that I would normally give a reciprocal link to, let alone a one way link. I decided to check things out and, low and behold, discovered that I have never given a link to this site. Yet there it is, on top of the yahoo link list.

Obviously some astoundingly unscrupulous SEO has got hold of some kind of code that tricks search engines (or a least yahoo) in to seeing links that in actual fact are not real. No doubt the client paid a substantial sum for this service, but will ultimately have done so for nothing as the site will soon be black-listed.

Is there another industry where so called professionals indulge in such appalling practices that not only seek to “buck the system”, but also con their clients and give everyone else in the business a bad name.

Monday, October 10, 2005

 

Lucky people

My wife's parents flew off to Galicia for two months today - lucky them.

The weather there has been pretty good all summer and in to the fall, but it is apparently about to change. When I mentioned this to my father-in-law he pointed out that this is not such a bad thing. The whole of Spain is suffering from one of the worst droughts on record and in some parts of the south water is actually being rationed. Yep, you can only get mains water during limited and specified hours of the day. At its worse, this is for only eight out of the days twenty four hours.

Why such a problem in a wealthy (and don't be fooled it is) state?

Well aside from the unpredictive weather data, the present government administration cancelled a series of projects intended to pipe water from the north to the south in such an event. Spain's current premiere (of whom I am not a fan) is actually a complete idiot, probably worse than Blair and almost as stupid as Bush (if that upsets anyone sorry, but we all have our opinions) and obviously could not see the potential damage involved in postponing these projects. That said, if you are in the north and around Galicia, I suppose you are OK!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

 

Photos in the sun

Just before we went to Galicia in July we bought a Casio 5mega pixel digital camera in order to take higher quality pictures. Whilst the detail, particularly if you choose to magnify certain sections or have large prints, is high, the contrast and brightness are appalling, even though most of the shots were taken with clear blue sky.

The digital camcorder we have (Cannon 750i) seems great in all lighting conditions, even when footage is frozen for stills, but the Casio seems to convert a bright sunny day into a dull one. Whilst it is easy to adjust all the photo characteristics on a PC, I find the Casio camera very disappointing and taking prints from it directly is a complete waste of time.

No real point to this entry unless you are thinking of purchasing a digital camera in which case my recommendation is, don't get a Casio - despite what the reviews say.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

 

Nothing to do with Spain

I continue hunting through forums and article related to googles algo filters, but many of the so called SEO's and Webmasters out there are not even convinced such filters exist. Astounding!

Some time ago on a web directory community board (of which I am a member), I defended those involved in SEO work (Inc myself) from a comment suggesting that everyone working in this area was a "self taught hacker".

After reading some of the rubbish written in these forums I actually feel compelled to withdraw my defense.

Quite clearly 90 percent of these highly paid people are complete idiots who speculate without any investigation, knowledge or common sense, as to what the search engines are doing.

As someone who has designed and coded natural language processing systems, I can confirm that every single module in google's highly complex algo is nothing more than a glorified filter. So to all those SEO's out there who claim google do not use filters - stop ripping off your clients based on bad guesses and black hat SEO practices and get jobs in other industries where outright lying is acceptable.

I seriously wonder if there is any other sector of IT where so many ill informed people are able to make a good living.

Friday, October 07, 2005

 

Flying to Galicia via Ryan Air - be warned

Here is a warning for you.

If you are departing Stanstead airport and heading for Santiago de Compostela airport, Galicia, with Ryan Air, check your baggage allowance.

Although Ryan Air deserve a lot of credit for destroying Iberia's monopoly (and inflated prices) on this direct route, they have pulled a "fast one".

The 20kg per person hold allowance that you get with other budget carriers does not apply with Ryan air. Their allowance is 15kg per person. The "plus", if there is one, is that you have a 10kg rather than a 5kg "hand luggage" allowance.

On each of our "check-ins" we have seen at least 50% of travelers fall foul of this stunt, resulting in excess baggage charges (I think of around 4 to 5 pounds sterling per kilo) being applied.

On a different note, it does make you realize that you actually take far more luggage items on holiday than are actually necessary. Additionally, many people take toiletries, sun creams etc that can be purchased easily and cheaply abroad anyway.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

 

Photographs versus reality - Pontevedra

I've been spending the last few days working on "all new" pages for the Pontevedra section of galiciaguide.com and it confirms something that we (my wife and myself) talked about a day or two after we had visited this city.

We actually thought Pontevedra was a bit of a disappointment and although there were some explanations for this, eg festival litter, we would not at that time have placed it at the top of our "not to miss" Galician destinations. That said, reviewing the photos shows a completely different reality and Pontevedra appears, attractive, smart and generally a great place to visit.

It was also strange that another of Galicia's provincial capitols panned out in exactly the opposite way. We thought the city of Lugo to be a great place with an historic and complete town wall and lots of interesting buildings, yet the photos fail to do it justice. It looks drab and ordinary!

Then again, is it the photos that tell the real story and the personal impressions of the day that distort things based on mood, expectations and various other emotional responses. I am no longer sure and will have to review my "verdict" on Pontevedra Galicia!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

 

Weather and other things

Since returning from Galicia and spending September in the UK, the weather here had been pretty good. Plenty of sun (don't listen to anyone who says we had a poor summer in England) and mild days for what is now the Autumn.

That said, my wife noted that the forecast for Ourense in Galicia was 27 degrees C for one day this week. Her parents, my in-laws, fly out there in a week for two months and will no doubt be hoping for more of the same.

Frustration is now setting in as regards my Galicia web site. Firstly, I discover registration problems resulting from "fine print" in my web host providers contract - although it should now be resolved. Secondly, some issues seem to have arisen with one of the search engines which is highly annoying since the site is informative, content rich and none commercial. I think some search engines are trying to be a bit too clever with their algos. And thirdly, Tiscali, my broadband provider, continue to prove themselves incapable of giving me a consistent service - hence the spasmodic additions to this blog.

On to better things, and I am now starting the process of revamping both the Pontevedra and Lugo sections of the web site. It will be a long job as I have around 50 photos of each location, plus video, notes and lots of guide booklets - hopefully I can make a decent job of it.

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