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What I’ve Learned from 10 Years with Clinical Depression & Anxiety

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I have put off sharing my experiences with mental illness for a long time because I wanted to be “fixed” before I could feel like I was in a place to be giving advice to others.

I would have felt like a fraud to be telling others how things can get better, when I kept taking the odd step backward with my own mental health.

But here’s the secret: there is no “fixed,” and that is OK.

There isn’t a black and white divide between being happy and struggling through. And that is why we need to learn to give ourselves a break when we stumble or have a bad day, or a bad month. It’s OK.

I have always been a deeply private person; feeling more comfortable listening than holding the attention of others.

However, when I see others suffering, I feel that there is a greater need to do what I can to give those people out there some advice, and a bit of hope. So I’ve decided to put my privacy aside for this article.

That’s why I’d like to share my experiences with mental illness, and the lessons I’ve learned along the way. I hope it helps even one person feel less alone.

It’s thanks to my own support network as well as a much-needed push after reading Navah Hopkins’ great article on Search Engine Journal which inspired me to finally show this post the light of day, after years of going backward and forward between writing out my thoughts only to back out and scrap them.

My Experiences with Clinical Depression & Anxiety

I started experiencing symptoms of severe clinical depression at the age of 15.

As someone well-versed in hiding my emotions, I have always noted the surprise on doctors’ faces — both on the day of my diagnosis and on multiple occasions over the years — when I would come into their office with the most convincing smile and politeness I could muster, and then score in the mid-20s on the NHS Depression in Adults questionnaire.

Alongside depression, my anxiety levels soon started creeping up and I have been struggling with a combination of both for more than 10 years now.

Depression and anxiety are a really difficult combination to deal with.

The depression will sap you of your drive and energy, and the anxiety will be sending you waves of panic because you aren’t being as high-functioning as you could be.

The two are at constant war with one another. You’re sinking further underwater and losing touch with the world around you, but also feeling alarm bells ringing inside at the same time.

This is something I still struggle with, but where I am now compared to where I was 10 years ago is astonishing when I stop and think about it.

I was a very unhappy and lost teenager who couldn’t see a way forward for myself. I felt that applying to university would be dishonest because I didn’t see a future for myself, and I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time as I didn’t think I’d be around long enough to actually go.

I did apply, however. And with a combination of multiple visits to the campus doctor, a course of strong antidepressants and postponing my final year and graduating a year later than expected, I made it through with a degree to show for it.

My journey into technical SEO hasn’t been all smooth sailing, which I have written about previously. However, I have now reached a point in my career where I’m really proud of what I have achieved.

I have developed the internal strength and mental control to face new challenges, such as publishing articles and research pieces to wide audiences, as well as delivering technical talks at digital marketing conferences around the world.

By no means has this journey been easy; my progress has been down to a number of different factors that I have had to work really hard at over the years.

That’s why I’ve decided to put together some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned through my own experiences, in the hope that they can help others.

1. Open up & Talk

This is the first and most important step to getting better.

I know it can be overwhelming to consider letting someone else know how you’re feeling inside, because they’ll never understand and they’ll think you’re ‘crazy,’ right?

Wrong.

The people who matter will want to help you, and they will not judge you or see you any differently.

I’ve been surprised by how understanding people have been when I’ve told them about my illness, whether that’s family members, friends, or even bosses. It can be scary to strike up that conversation, but you’ll feel so much better once it’s out in the open.

Choose a few select people to tell about your illness and build your own support network of people who will be there to check in on you.

This will help to start clearing those feelings of loneliness, and your network will also be able to provide you with the support you need to go and talk to a doctor who will be able to help you plan out your recovery strategy.

2. Practice Mindfulness

This has been one of the most effective methods that have helped me over the years.

I’ve attended a variety of different types of therapy sessions in my time, but something really clicked for me in one particular CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) session.

I was given a thought sheet, which is a piece of paper with different columns where you write down your worry or negative thought, and then fill in the following details:

Thought-Sheet

At face value, I thought this was a basic method that wouldn’t be useful. I initially thought I would humor the therapist by trying it out.

However, the first time I filled it out I was able to see how unwell I really was and how unhealthy my existing mental processes were.

At that point, I had gone through 23 years of my life by letting my mind run completely wild with negative thoughts, never once pulling them up and questioning their validity.

But once I could write them down on paper and see a blank column for “facts that support the unhelpful thought” and a full column for “facts that provide evidence against the unhelpful thought,” everything changed.

Writing down your thoughts is step one, the next step is to practice this process internally, which is also known as mindfulness.

Restructuring the way you think is a challenge, but it’s essential to be able to live a happier, healthier life.

It can feel really alien at first to monitor your own brain for negative thoughts and then work through them one at a time, but it does work and starts to become a normal part of the way you think.

It takes practice and perseverance. Trust me.

Thinking about your own thoughts can feel exhausting at first. Training your mind in this way can feel like exercising a muscle that you’ve never used before.

But over time it gets easier, and the process becomes more immediate. When negative thoughts crop up you’ll be able to cut right into your internal dialogue with questions such as:

  • “Is there any evidence that I’m doing a bad job?”
  • “What about the time that x complimented me on my performance?”

3. Find an Exercise Routine That Works for You

When I’m feeling down, the last thing I want to do is leave the house, let alone physically exert myself.

But I always feel so much better once I’ve forced myself to go for a run or attend a gym class. It helps you push the reset button on your brain and return to the rest of your day with a calmer mind.

I’m someone who is really motivated by seeing progression, so signing up to a gym near my house has been great for me.

There are some classes that run through similar combinations of moves each week, and I’m able to see myself progressing as certain moves get easier for me each session, which gives me a real sense of accomplishment.

Push yourself to get out of the house a few times a week and go for a walk, a run, or a swim, anything. Just go and do something that can get your endorphins flowing. You’ll thank yourself for it once you’ve finished.

4. Give Yourself a Break

Don’t beat yourself up for having a tough time. This is where having anxiety can be a real problem when you have a low mood, as it fills you with overwhelming thoughts that you don’t have time to feel sad and that you’re letting yourself and everyone else around you down for not being at your best.

First of all, stop and breathe.

Whenever I feel like this, I practice a simple breathing exercise. Three slow, deep breaths. That’s it. This always works wonders for me and helps me reset.

And-Breathe

Secondly, this is perfectly normal. Every single one of us struggles from time to time.

Recognize when you’re feeling overwhelmed and just take a step back and practice some self-care until you feel like yourself again.

Take some time to rest as well as doing some of the things you enjoy. I know that depression can rob you of your ability to enjoy things, but taking a break to rest first really helps to open me up to more positive feelings.

A “self-care” day will look different for everyone.

For example, my ideal rest day would probably involve a lie in, playing video games, a yoga session, a bubble bath, and a walk in nature where I can pet some dogs.

If I’ve had a tough day, my partner will take me out on a walk to our local park to look at dogs. It’s simple but it works every time!

5. Give Back

Nothing can pull me out of a dark place like seeing someone else hurting. Helping someone else with their problems can transport you away from your own darkness.

Make a note to check in with the people you care about every now and again and see if there’s any way you can support them.

We all like to brush things off and say that everything is fine, so instigating a genuine conversation with someone about how they’re feeling can be incredibly impactful. It’s important that we all take the time to acknowledge and check in with each other on a deeper level.

As well as helping people in your immediate network, think about other ways in which you can use your own experiences to give advice and support to others struggling with mental illness. It might be starting a blog on mental health, or raising money for charities like Mind or Samaritans, for example.

As painful as it can be to suffer from a mental illness, I believe that it gives you the superpower of enhanced empathy.

You know what it’s like to hurt, so you have a heightened sense of the pain in others and wanting to help them feel better so they don’t have to experience the kinds of things that you yourself have felt.

Embrace your powers and share them with the people around you.

In Summary

I’ve made a lot of progress with managing my mental health up until this point, but I’m not completely “fixed,” as this is an unhealthy idea that isn’t realistic.

Instead of striving for a place of perfection, we need to keep working toward being more understanding and forgiving of ourselves over time.

This post originally was published on Medium, and has been republished with permission of the author.

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Image Credits

Screenshot taken by author, August 2019
In-Post Image: Max van den Oetelaar/Unsplash



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TripAdvisor says it blocked or removed nearly 1.5 million fake reviews in 2018

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The majority of consumers (80% – 90%) routinely consult reviews before buying something, whether online or off. The powerful influence of reviews on purchase behavior has spawned a cottage industry of fake-reviews, a problem that is growing on major sites such as Amazon, Google and Yelp, among other places.

Just over 2% of reviews submitted were fake. TripAdvisor is one of those other places, where reviews form the core of the company’s content and the principle reason consumers visit. How much of the review activity on TripAdvisor is fraudulent? In its inaugural TripAdvisor Transparency Report the company says that 2.1% of all reviews submitted to the site in 2018 were fake. (A total of 4.7% of all review submissions were rejected or removed for violating TripAdvisor’s review guidelines, which extend beyond fraud.)

Source: TripAdvisor Review Transparency Report

73% blocked by machine detection. Given the volume of review submissions TripAdvisor receives – more than 66 million in 2018 – that translates into roughly 1.4 million fake reviews. TripAdvisor says that 73% of those fake reviews were blocked before being posted, while the remainder of fake reviews were later removed. The company also says that it has “stopped the activity of more than 75 websites that were caught trying to sell reviews” since 2015.

TripAdvisor defines “fake review” as one “written by someone who is trying to unfairly manipulate a business’ average rating or traveler ranking, such as a staff member or a business’ competitor. Reviews that give an account of a genuine customer’s experience, even if elements of that account are disputed by the business in question, are not categorized as fake.”

The company uses a mix of machine detection, human moderation and community flagging to catch fraudulent reviews. The bulk of inauthentic reviews (91%) are fake positive reviews TripAdvisor says.

Most of the fake reviews that are submitted to TripAdvisor (91%) are "biased positive reviews."
Source: TripAdvisor Review Transparency Report

TripAdvisor says that the review fraud problem is global, with fake reviews originating in most countries. However, it said there was a higher percentage than average of fake reviews “originating from Russia.” By contrast, China is the source of many fake reviews on Amazon.

Punishing fake reviews. TripAdvisor has a number of penalties and punishments for review fraud. In the first instance of a business being caught posting or buying fake reviews, TripAdvisor imposes a temporary ranking penalty.

Upon multiple infractions, the company will impose a content ban that prevents the individual or individuals in question from posting additional reviews and content on the site. It also prevents the involved parties from creating new accounts to circumvent the ban.

In the most extreme cases, the company will apply a badge of shame (penalty badge) that warns consumers the business has repeatedly attempted to defraud them. This is effectively a kiss of death for the business. Yelp does something similar.

Why we should care. Consumer trust is eroding online. It’s incumbent upon major consumer destinations sites to police their reviews aggressively and prevent unscrupulous merchants from deceiving consumers. Yelp has been widely criticized for its “review filter” but credit the company for its long-standing efforts to protect the integrity of its content.

Google and Amazon, in particular, need to do much more to combat review spam and fraud. Hopefully TripAdvisor’s effort and others like it will inspire them to.


About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes about the connections between digital and offline commerce. He previously held leadership roles at LSA, The Kelsey Group and TechTV. Follow him Twitter or find him on LinkedIn.

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10 Key Checks for Assessing Crawl Hygiene

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When optimizing our websites for crawlability, our main goal is to make sure that search engines are spending their time on our most important pages so that they are regularly crawled and any new content can be found.

Each time Googlebot visits your website, it has a limited window in which to crawl and discover as many pages and links on your site as possible. When that limit is hit, it will stop.

The time it takes for your pages to be revisited depends on a number of different factors that play into how Google prioritizes URLs for crawling, including:

  • PageRank.
  • XML sitemap inclusion.
  • Position within the site’s architecture.
  • How frequently the page changes.
  • And more.

The bottom line is: your site only gets Googlebot’s attention for a finite amount of time with each crawl, which could be infrequent. Make sure that time is spent wisely.

It can be hard to know where to start when analyzing how well-optimized your site is for search engine crawlers, especially when you work on a large site with a lot of URLs to analyze, or work in a large company with a lot of competing priorities and outstanding SEO fixes to prioritize.

That’s why I’ve put together this list of top-level checks for assessing crawl hygiene to give you a starting point for your analysis.

1. How Many Pages Are Being Indexed vs. How Many Indexable Pages Are There on the Site?

Why This Is Important

This shows you how many pages on your site are available for Google to index, and how many of those pages Google was actually able to find and how many it determined were important enough to be indexed.

An indexability pie chart in DeepCrawlBar chart showing indexed pages in Google Search Console

2. How Many Pages Are Being Crawled Overall?

Why This Is Important

Comparing Googlebot’s crawl activity against the number of pages you have on your site can give you insights into how many pages Google either can’t access, or has determined aren’t enough of a priority to schedule to be crawled regularly.

Crawl stats line graph in Google Search ConsoleBar chart showing Googlebot crawling in Logz.io

3. How Many Pages Aren’t Indexable?

Why This Is Important

Spending time crawling non-indexable pages isn’t the best use of Google’s crawl budget. Check how many of these pages are being crawled, and whether or not any of them should be made available for indexing.

Bar chart showing non-indexable pages in DeepCrawl

4. How Many URLs Are Being Disallowed from Being Crawled?

Why This Is Important

This will show you how many pages you are preventing search engines from accessing on your site. It’s important to make sure that these pages aren’t important for indexing or for discovering further pages for crawling.

Bar chart showing pages blocked by the robots.txt in Google Search Console

5. How Many Low-Value Pages Are Being Indexed?

Why This Is Important

Looking at which pages Google has already indexed on your site gives an indication into the areas of the site that the crawler has been able to access.

For example, these might be pages that you haven’t included in your sitemaps as they are low-quality, but have been found and indexed anyway.

Bar chart showing pages indexed but not submitted in a sitemap in Google Search Console

6. How Many 4xx Error Pages Are Being Crawled?

Why This Is Important

It’s important to make sure that crawl budget isn’t being used up on error pages instead of pages that you want to have indexed.

Googlebot will periodically try to crawl 404 error pages to see whether the page is live again, so make sure you use 410 status codes correctly to show that pages are gone and don’t need to be recrawled.

A line graph showing broken pages in DeepCrawl

7. How Many Internal Redirects Are Being Crawled?

Why This Is Important

Each request that Googlebot makes on a site uses up crawl budget, and this includes any additional requests within each of the steps in a redirect chain.

Help Google crawl more efficiently and conserve crawl budget by making sure only pages with 200 status codes are linked to within your site, and reduce the number of requests being made to pages that aren’t final destination URLs.

Redirect chain report in DeepCrawl

8. How Many Canonical Pages Are There vs. Canonicalized Pages?

Why This Is Important

The number of canonicalized pages on your site gives an indication into how much duplication there is on your site. While canonical tags consolidate link equity between sets of duplicate pages, they don’t help crawl budget.

Google will choose to index one page out of a set of canonicalized pages, but to be able to decide which is the primary page, it will first have to crawl all of them.

Pie chart showing canonical pages in DeepCrawl

9. How Many Paginated or Faceted Pages Are Being Crawled?

Why This Is Important

Google only needs to crawl pages that include otherwise undiscovered content or unlinked URLs.

Pagination and facets are usually a source of duplicate URLs and crawler traps, so make sure that these pages that don’t include any unique content or links aren’t being crawled unnecessarily.

As rel=next and rel=prev are no longer supported by Google, ensure your internal linking is optimized to reduce reliance on pagination for page discovery.

Pie chart showing pagination breakdown in DeepCrawl

10. Are There Mismatches in Page Discovery Across Crawl Sources?

Why This Is Important

If you’re seeing pages being accessed by users through your analytics data that aren’t being crawled by search engines within your log file data, it could be because these pages aren’t as discoverable for search engines as they are for users.

By integrating different data sources with your crawl data, you can spot gaps where pages can’t be easily found by search engines.

Google’s two main sources of URL discovery are external links and XML sitemaps, so if you’re having trouble getting Google to crawl your pages, make sure they are included in your sitemap if they’re not yet being linked to from any other sites that Google already knows about and crawls regularly.

Bar chart showing crawl source gaps in DeepCrawl

To Sum Up

By running through these 10 checks for your websites that you manage, you should be able to get a better understanding of the crawlability and overall technical health of a site.

Once you identify areas of crawl waste, you can instruct Google to crawl less of those pages by using methods like disallowing them in robots.txt.

You can then start influencing it to crawl more of your important pages by optimizing your site’s architecture and internal linking to make them more prominent and discoverable.

More Resources:


Image Credits

All screenshots taken by author, September 2019



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Google explains why syndicators may outrank original publishers

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Last week we reported that Google has updated its algorithms to give original reporting preferred ranking in Google search. So when John Shehata, VP of Audience Growth at Condé Nast, a major publishing company, posted on Twitter that Yahoo is outranking the original source of the article, Google took notice.

The complaint. Shehata posted on Twitter, “Recently I see a lot of instances where Google Top Stories ranking syndicated content from Yahoo above or instead of original content. This is disturbing especially for publishers. Yahoo has no canonicals back to original content but sometimes they link back.”

As you can see, he provided screen shots of this happening as evidence.

No canonical. John also mentioned that Yahoo, who is legally syndicating the content on behalf of Conde Nast, is not using a canonical tag to point back to the original source. Google’s recommendation for those allowing others to syndicate content is to have a clause requiring syndicators must use the canonical tag to point back to the source the site is syndicating from. Using this canonical tag indicate to Google which article page is the original source.

The issue. Sometimes those who license content, the syndicators, post the content before or at the same time as the source they are syndicating it from. That makes it hard for Google or other search engines to know which is the original source. That is why Google wrote, “Publishers that allow others to republish content can help ensure that their original versions perform better in Google News by asking those republishing to block or make use of canonical. Google News also encourages those that republish material to consider proactively blocking such content or making use of the canonical, so that we can better identify the original content and credit it appropriately.”

Google’s response. Google Search Liason Danny Sullivan responded on Twitter: “If people deliberately chose to syndicate their content, it makes it difficult to identify the originating source. That’s why we recommend the use of canonical or blocking. The publishers syndicating can require this.”

This affects both web and News results, Sullivan said. In fact, th original reporting algorithm update has not yet rolled out to Google News, it is just for web search currently:

Solution. If you allow people to syndicate your content, you should require them to use the canonical tag or make them block Google from indexing that content. Otherwise, do not always expect Google to be able to figure out where the article originated from, espesially when your syndication partners publish the story before or at the same time that you publish your story.

Why we care. While the original reporting change is interesting in this case, it is somewhat unrelated. If the same article is published on two different sites at the same time, both sites can appear to the search engines as the original source. If these sites are syndicating your content legally, review or update your contracts to require syndicators to either use canonical tags or block their syndicated content from indexing altogether. If syndicators are stealing your content and outranking you, Google should be better at dealing with that algorithmically, otherwise, you can file a DMCA takedown request with Google.


About The Author

Barry Schwartz is Search Engine Land’s News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on SEM topics.

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