Blog – Ourcupboard

webpage meta tags
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Meta Title and Description Tags

Webpages have two primary “meta tags” that are available to edit and can have a huge impact on how search engines list, and how web users interact, with those pages.

The easiest way to explain them is to show them as to how they appear in a Search Engine like Google. A random search performed using the term “Small Business Marketing Tips” shows this search result:

Marketing Tips – Small Business Trends  (The Meta Title Tag)

The best marketing tips for small business and startups. Thousands of expert how-to insights, tools, advice and tested ways for promoting your company.  (This is The Meta Description Tag)

There are “Best Practice Rules” to be followed when constructing these two Meta Tags,

(1) There is a limit to the number of characters available, if you exceed those limits, the text will be truncated and not show in the search results.

(2) The Title Tag should reflect the primary term you want the page to show up for in the search results, should be listed first, followed by the company name,

(3) The Title Tag should make it absolutely clear what the webpage will be about

(4) In the case of the Description Tag, the “primary search term(s)” should be included, as it will be “bolded” for emphasis.

(5) Both of these Tags should be unique, and not duplicated on any other webpage.

The purpose behind the “Title Tag” is to communicate the searcher what they can expect to find on the webpage, and make a determination if that will be a match for what they are looking for. The Title Tag content is a known search engine ranking factor.

The “Description Tag”, although not used as a ranking factor, provides an opportunity to expand on what kind of information will be found on the webpage. This can have a huge impact on whether or not the link is clicked or not.  It is a wasted opportunity not to include a well-crafted Description Tag.

An easy and free tool to determine what your Meta Title and Description tags look like can be found here:

https://totheweb.com/learning_center/tool-test-google-title-meta-description-lengths/

Simply add your webpage in the input block and click the “Generate Preview Button.”

Your Meta Title and Description tag for the page will be displayed as it would be in Google. If your tags are too “short” or too “long” the tool will reflect this.

If you are not comfortable with making permanent changes to your website’s meta tags, an inexpensive option may be to publish a request for help from a freelancer on www.Fiver.com.

If your website is managed by a web developer, these changes can be made with very little effort.

After checking out your webpage Meta Tags, make sure you have updated your Ourcupboard.com Listing

mobile speed test
Reading Time: < 1 minute

How to check your Webpage Loading Speed

Slow loading web pages can undo almost any efforts you have made to increase the visibility of your website.

This is especially true now that mobile use has outgained desktop use for internet access.

Almost half of users that were recently polled said they expected a webpage to load in less than two seconds, 40 percent will not wait longer than three seconds before leaving!

Performing a Web Page Speed Test is one way to determine if there are existing problems that need to be addressed to speed things up!

There are several free online tests that track page loading speeds.

One of the most popular is Googles “PageSpeed Insights” Tool.

Simply add a web page address into the search bar, and click the Analyze Button for your results.

After a quick analysis, your page will be given a score of 1-100 reflecting the page load speed time, as well as any issues that were discovered that are having a negative impact. There will also be suggestions as to how to correct those issues.

As a note, the most common issue with slow loading pages, are pages that have images that are too large in overall size that take too long to load, this is especially true with mobile websites.

Additional website speed tests can be accessed at : Pingdom.com  and GTMetrix.com

Each of these tests only take moments to run and provide comprehensive results and recommendations.

After you have run your website speed tests, don’t forget to update your Free Ourcupboard.com Listing.

mobile friendly website
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How to Check a Website for Mobile Friendliness

It’s just a fact there are more people searching and (hopefully) finding you using their mobile phones.

It’s imperative that your website is considered to be “mobile friendly” by the major search engines.

So what are some things that make a website considered to not “mobile-friendly?”

If a webpage requires a user to constantly “pinch” or zoom in and out just to view the content it’s a mobile friendly issue…

If a webpage is slow to load, because of large image files it’s not mobile friendly

If the text is too small to read without zooming it’s not mobile friendly.

If buttons and links are too close together that causes “cross touching” it’s not mobile friendly.

A quick and easy test on either of these tools will show you if you have any issues or problems that need to be addressed:

Google Tool:Go the Google Mobile Friendly Test

Enter your webpage into the search box and click “Test URL”

Bing Tool: Visit the Bing Friendly Test

Enter your webpage into the box and click “Analyze”

In just a few clicks of the mouse and a few moments of your time you will be alerted to any potential problems.

After you have checked your site’s “mobile friendliness”, make sure you have claimed your Free Listing on Ourcupboard.com!

online reviews
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How & Where to Monitor Online Reviews

Based on the current statistic that 90% of people are searching online to check other people’s experience in dealing with your business before interacting with you, it’s important to know what’s been published online about you.

A simple and effective way to check your online reputation, is to take a few moments and look at the major online sources for reviews.

These include Google My Business, Yelp.com, and Facebook.com.

There are a host of websites that will monitor and alert you to new reviews as they are posted for a monthly fee, however just keeping a monthly tab on the three major sites will suffice for most small business owners.

Once a month, go to “Google Maps” and search your busines name to check for new reviews on your “Google My Business” listing. Go to Yelp.com and your  Facebook page to check for any recent reviews.

A Tip:  Make sure you respond to every review that is posted!

Another effective (and free) way to monitor your business name online is to sign up for “Google Alerts”.

Here’s how to set it up:

Go to https://www.google.com/alerts

In the “Create an alert about” box, enter your business name

Any recent results that were discovered will be listed in the search results listings

Optionally, click the “Create Alert” box

Complete the Options desired (How often, language, region, how many, and an email address to deliver the alerts to)

All future mentions of your business name will be forwarded to the email address you have provided!

Easy, Quick and Free!

After you checked your online reviews, make sure you have claimed and updated your Listing on Ourcupboard as well!

 

online presence
Reading Time: < 1 minute

Check Your Online Presence

It’s important to know how well your business is represented online in the major online information directories, as well as how accurate those listings actually are.

In order to be most effective, you need your business to be listed with consistently with the same name, address and phone number across all online resources.

This is commonly referred to as “NAP”, and is short for “Name, Address, and Phone.”

You don’t want to be listed with a variety of versions across the online landscape, including your website and/or social media outlets.

One way to do a quick search in the major directories is to visit https://moz.com/checkout/local/check . This is a reputable resource that will provide you with an immediate overview as to where and how your business is listed.

Simply add your business name, street address and zip code for your results.

Moz.com will provide you with an overview of how many listings are missing, correct or incorrect by individual search engine or directory.

It’s a quick and easy way (and best of all free) way to find out how and where your business is listed.

Should you choose find inconsistent or incorrect information, you can contact the directories individually and make updates, or Moz.com has a paid options that are available to you .

After you checked your online visibility, make sure you have claimed and updated your Listing on Ourcupboard as well!

yelp loc
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How To Claim Your Local Yelp.com Listing

Visit https://biz.yelp.com/ to Add or Claim your business, click on the “Manage my Free Listing” link

First, look up your business to see if there is an existing Yelp listing

Enter Business Zip Code and your Business Name to Search

IF your listing IS Found, Log in and/or Sign up with Yelp

You will be asked to Verify your business, via your business email, text or by call to the phone number published in your existing listing

After your business has been verified, return to https://biz.yelp.com/  

Navigate to “Business Information” and add/edit Categories, Hours, Business Specialties, Company &Owner Bios.

Navigate to “Photo and Videos” and add Business images and captions

If your listing is NOT found, begin by entering your business information (categories – up to 3), phone, website, address, and e-mail

Click “Add Business”

Log in and/or Sign up with Yelp.com

You will be asked to Verify your business, via your business email, text or by call to the phone number published in your existing listing

After your business has been verified, return to https://biz.yelp.com/

Navigate to “Business Information” and add/edit Categories, Hours, Business Specialties, Company & Owner Bios.

Navigate to “Photo and Videos” and add Business images and captions.

 

More Information here: https://biz.yelp.com/support/claiming

After you have claimed and verified your Yelp Local Listing, make sure you have claimed and updated your Listing on Ourcupboard as well!

bing local places
Reading Time: < 1 minute

Claim Your Bing Local Places Listing

If you have an existing listing on Google My Business, you can import it directly into your Bing listing.

If you have a “claimed and verified” listing on Google My Business, Bing will recognize it and provide you with instant verification of ownership.

Select “Import from Google” or “Claim Your Business” as applicable.

Select a business type, and perform a search on Bing (phone number, or business name and zip code)

If your business is NOT found, click “Create new business”, then Log in or create a Microsoft Account and Log in and follow the prompts.

If your business IS found, Click “Claim your business manually” (they will ask you to do another business search)

Complete the form with your business location information

Enter a Business segment (Hint: use “I’m not sure”)

Now, choose up to 10 Business Categories to be associated with

Enter a short business description

Decide whether you want your full business address to be visible in search results, or just by City and Zip Code

Enter your business contact details (email and social page web addresses)

Add/upload up to 100 photos of your business

Add Your Business Hours & Click Submit

You will now be asked to verify ownership of your business.

The verification can be made via business phone, text, mail, or possibly e-mail.

More information here: Bing Local Places

 

After you have claimed and verified your Bing Local Places Listing, make sure you have claimed and updated your Listing on Ourcupboard as well!

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Claim Your Google My Business Listing!

The first step is to see if you have an existing listing. There are a couple of ways to do this, however, working directly with Google is your best bet.

Visit https://www.google.com/business/ and sign in or create a new Google Business Account.

Type in your Business Name & do a search

If Google HAS your business listed, it will appear in the dropdown list

Select the business, and you will then be prompted to Verify the Business ownership

Verification options are by the phone number or by mail, per your existing listing information

Once you  have verified your ownership with Google, you can edit your listing (business category, business location, business description, business hours, website address, add photo’s, etc).

IF Google does NOT have your business listed, you can request to have it added.

Click the “Add this business to Google” Link after you have completed the search.

Complete the information that is requested, and click “Finish”

You will be requested to verify ownership of the business.

Once the verification process is complete, you will be able to add or edit business information

Additional Information is available at https://support.google.com/business/answer/2911778?hl=en

After you have claimed and verified your Google My Business Listing, make sure you have Claimed and Updated your Free Listing on Ourcupboard as well!

 

Reading Time: 3 minutesWant to start your first vegetable garden? How hard can it be? Just stick a few seeds in the ground and stand back, right? If only it were that easy! Here are 10 garden planning tips to consider before you dig in:

10 Tips For Starting a Garden

1. Pick the right location—ideally, a sunny site! Most vegetables need at least 6 hours of sun a day. Some crops such as broccoli, lettuce, spinach, and other greens will grow well in your less sunny spots.

2. Keep it close to home. A location near your house will make it easier for you to tend your plot regularly and will also make it convenient to run out and pick what you need for a meal.

3. Only grow things your family likes to eat. There’s no sense in spending all your time and energy (and money) growing things you won’t enjoy! Here’s a list of common vegetables to get you started.

4. Water needs to be readily available. Nothing burns out a beginning gardener faster than having to lug water to thirsty plants during a heat wave. Consider investing in a quality hose with a sprayer attachment or even a drip irrigation system.

5. Good soil is the key to a successful garden. Plants depend on the soil for nutrients, stability, and drainage. To grow your best garden, start with well-drained, sandy loam and add as much organic matter as possible.

6. Amend your soil. Compost, leaf mold, or well-aged manure will increase the ability of your soil to both drain well and hold moisture—the sponge factor. However, never use fresh manure! It can harbor dangerous pathogens and will burn tender plant roots. Compost it for at least 6 to 12 months.

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7. Seeds or plants? Most garden vegetables can be directly seeded where they are to grow—lettuce, beans, carrots, beets, chard, spinach, peas, cucumbers, and squash. Things that take longer to produce an edible fruit do better with a headstart. Purchase transplants for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and melons or start your own indoors 6 to 8 weeks before planting them outside. See seed-starting dates here.

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8. Choose varieties that will mature in your growing season. See the Almanac Planting Calendar for planting dates based on the first and last frost dates and length of the growing season in your area.

9. Keep your garden productive by staggering plantings of fast-maturing veggies such as beans and lettuce and replanting other areas as they are harvested. Don’t plant all at once!

10. Use raised garden beds or containers if you don’t have much space to work with. If you have impossibly rocky soil or solid clay, consider building some raised beds that you can fill with good soil. Growing vegetables in containers is another option. If you want an instant garden, try grow bags.

Alternatively, lay down large bags of potting soil in your sunniest location, poke drainage holes in the bottom, make some slits in the top and pop in your transplants. I had a friend who lined her driveway with bags every spring since it was the only sunny spot she had. Her tomato plants were beautiful and she grew luscious peppers, too!

Plan Like a Pro

A little planning will go a long way toward making your first garden a successful one!

To make it even easier, check out the Old Farmer’s Almanac Garden Planner: a drag-and-drop planning tool that will help you lay out your garden beds for a more productive harvest. Try it out free free for seven days—ample time to plan the garden of your dreams!

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Learn More

Learn more about getting started with gardening at our Vegetable Gardening for Beginners page.

What are your tips for starting a garden? Share them in the comments below!

Reading Time: 4 minutes

When there is snow on the ground, it is easy to see who has been visiting the garden when we are not looking. This week, we discovered white-tailed deer. Here are tips on identifying your winter visitors and how to co-exist with wildlife.

It is hunting season in these parts and the deer are on the move. The first inkling we had that they were in our yard was when the seven-foot-tall plastic mesh fence surrounding the vegetable garden had been ripped open and one of the thick metal posts holding it had been knocked askew. Only something large moving at a good clip could have done that much damage. Deer or maybe a wayward moose; we didn’t know since no tracks could be found.

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Five inches of snow later and the yard is full of deer tracks, poop, and evidence of munching.

What Deers Eat

The deer have dined on a big hydrangea which is okay by me. It always needs pruning.

Deer will feed on plants at any time during the year, but most damage to ornamental plants occurs during the winter and early spring when food resources are somewhat limited.

Deer browsing can be easily be distinguished from damage caused by rabbits, woodchucks, or squirrels. Since deer lack upper incisors they knaw at vegetation when browsing, leaving ragged ends on browsed branches. Rabbits and rodents, on the other hand, make a clean cut.

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They have dug through the snow to find tender sedums to eat. We have plenty and they’ll grow back in the spring.

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Following the tracks around the yard, we found that behind the greenhouse three deer had recently bedded down for the night. Surprising that they feel safe enough to do that so close to our house.

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We used to have a large herd of deer that made the hemlock forest down the hill from us their home. Since the hemlock wooly adelgid has decimated those trees in recent years, the deer have found new spots to call home in the 1,500 acre state forest that abuts our property. A few sections of the forest were logged a few years ago and have grown up in young new trees that the deer find delicious. Part of the management program at the state forest is to provide habitat for deer and other wildlife.

Coexisting With Deer

Deer were here long before we moved in and they will be here after we are gone so we look for ways to coexist. Deer are creatures of habit. Once they establish a feeding area, it is very difficult to get them to go elsewhere.

  • The deer fence helps a lot in the summer though there is usually enough natural food for them that they rarely bother the plants outside the fence. As I mentioned, we have a plastic mesh fence. This requires tall wooden posts at regular intervals to support the fencing and keep it taut. Since deer are capable of jumping 10 feet high, the height of the fence should be at least 7 to 8 feet. Sturdiness of the fence is important since deer can push down a poorly constructed fence.
  • Not one to tempt fate or deer, I try to grow the plants they find irresistible—like roses, fruit trees, and beans—inside the fence. It only takes one adventurous doe to decimate a row of soybeans.

  • For individual plants or a small group of ornamental plants, you could always place cages of chicken wire or other fencing around plants or wrapping individual plants with burlap is an option for trees.

See more tips on deterring deer from the garden.

There are plants deer like more than others. No plant is 100% deer-resistant if winter is severe, but some plants are picked over others. See our the most deer-resistant plants.

Tough Winters

After a few good mast years, when the acorns were so plentiful we had to shovel them up, this year there are none. It will make for a rough winter for not only the deer but also the squirrels, chipmunks, bears, and other wildlife that depend on them. Other than the birds, we don’t feed wild animals on purpose but after cutting back some overgrown shrubs including our rangy Sargent crabapples we brought the clippings down the hill away from the house to the brush pile so the deer, birds and other critters could dine on the tiny apples and twigs.

In many communities the deer populations have grown exponentially and herds of marauding deer devour everything in sight. Here we have tough winters, hunters, and coyotes to keep things under control and 1,500 acres of woodland gives them lots of room to roam. They will still show up in the yard looking for food as things get tough but it could always be worse.

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Guess I’ll take a few deer over hungry alligators!

Get outside and look for prints around your garden. You may not have deer but you’ll find that you have other winter visitors in your yard.

See the Almanac’s Animal Track Identification for common animal prints.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Whatever you may think of snow (and snow removal!), remember the old saying, “A good winter with snow makes all the plants grow.” If you are a gardener who lives in a winter wonderland, consider the benefits of snow!

I had almost forgotten how pretty the snow can be, hanging in the trees, blanketing the ground, covering up all the outdoor projects left undone. The neighbors will never know you didn’t clean up those old squash vines. Under a covering of snow all gardens become equal.

Snow Insulates the Soil and Plants

Snow is mostly air surrounded by a little frozen water, and despite how cold it feels to the skin, it is an excellent insulator of the soil.

I fear for the perennials when the temperatures drop suddenly before we have enough snow cover to protect the roots. Without snow, very cold temperatures can freeze the soil deeper and deeper. In wintry climates, this could lead to damage of root systems of trees and shrubs. Snow prevents extreme cold temperatures from harming plants.

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Snow Protects Against Temperature Fluctuations

Snow protects against against wide temperature fluctuations in the soil. Under that cozy comforter of white, the roots of perennials, bulbs, ground covers, and strawberry plants are protected from the freeze-thaw cycle that can heave tender roots right out of the ground.

Snow also helps conserve soil moisture over the winter. Without snow, milder temperatures and the sun could warm the soil surface, leading to damage from soil heaving, which can break roots and dry out plant parts.

Snow is Winter Mulch

Snow is a form of mulch! If you have not yet mulched perennial beds, with snow, you may not have to. If little snow is on the beds, however, it would be good to mulch. In most cases, 2 to 4 inches of mulch, such as straw, pine needles, hay or bark chips, give adequate protection. For some plants, such as roses, more elaborate protection is needed.

You can mulch right on top of the snow. It’s better to wait until after temperatures are consistently below freezing to apply the mulch. Applying too early can smother the plant and encourage disease development.

Snow Adds Beauty

Of course, we can all enjoy the beauty of the tree barks and evergreens contrasting against the white backdrop. Everything looks more visible, from ornamental grasses to that bright red cardinal outside your kitchen window.

Dealing with Heavy Snow

Of course, heavy snow can really weigh down branches, especially multi-stemmed shrubs. Otherwise, the weight of the snow can bend branches to the ground, cutting off circulation of food manufactured by the leaves to the roots. If possible, in the fall, bundle stems together using burlap or canvas. In the winter, take a broom and carefully brush heavy snows from branches as soon as possible but don’t try to remove ice. More damage to the bark probably will occur than if the ice is allowed to melt on its own.

With young trees, you may also wish to wrap the trunks with a commercial tree wrap to help prevent bark from splitting from temperature extremes.

Also, as with regular mulch, heavy snow “mulch” against the trunks of trees hides voles, rabbits, and other critters. It be be worthwhile to remove the snow from young trees so their tender bark is not gnawed away. Just be very very careful with a shovel not to cause even the smallest mechanical injury.

Even though snow removal is a back breaking chore, we need the moisture that each snow crystal provides for our gardens. Next time you are out shoveling, remember the benefits of snow and think of butterflies and apple blossoms!

See a guide to snowflake shapes.

Reading Time: 3 minutesMany trees and plants were important to the celebration of the winter solstice (on December 21) both as symbols and as decorations. Find out their meaning …

After the solstice, the days will start to get longer, and as the old adage says,”When the days lengthen, the cold strengthens.” Even so, I appreciate seeing a brighter western horizon when I get out of work in the evening. The sun begins its climb toward summer and each day brings us one day closer to spring.

Nearly every ancient culture had myths surrounding the return of light after the winter solstice. As the sun coursed lower in the sky, it seemed to ancient peoples that the sun might be disappearing forever.

To encourage the sun to return, bonfires were built, gifts for the gods were hung from the branches of pine trees, and evergreen plants were brought indoors to symbolize everlasting life. If it sounds a bit like Christmas, many pagan ceremonies were overlaid with Christian holidays.

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Plants of the Winter Solstice

Certain trees and plants were important to the celebration of the solstice both as symbols and as decorations:

  • Evergreens were a symbol of immortality, since they were the only trees to stay green when all the others lost their leaves.
  • Yews represented the death of the old year and were a connection between this world and the next.
  • Oak trees were revered for being long-lived. Even though they were not evergreen, they were symbols of eternal life and considered a source of protection, strength, and endurance. In Celtic tradition, the entire trunk of an oak tree was kept burning for 12 hours on the eve of the solstice. If the fire did not go out, it meant the household would be protected and have an abundant harvest and good health in the coming year. A piece of that log was saved and used to start next year’s fire because, as the old log was consumed by the flames, any problems from the old year were thought to go with it.
  • Rosemary, an evergreen shrub in warm climates, was called the herb of the sun.
  • Birch trees symbolized new beginnings.

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  • Mistletoe stood for peace and happiness. Learn more about mistletoe’s meaning and lore.
  • Holly was used for protection and good luck.
  • Pine symbolized peace, healing, and joy.

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  • Ivy symbolized marriage, faithfulness, and healing and was made into wreaths and garlands to decorate during the winter.

In Celtic tradition, one sacred place to be visited during the solstice time is an open area or hill that affords a view of the horizon in all directions. What better way to celebrate than to bundle up and climb to the top of the tallest hill? This is not a time to be hibernating; get outside and connect with the natural world in all its glorious seasons!

Learn more about the Winter Solstice.

Do you celebrate the solstice? Tell us about your traditions in the comments below.