On the recent discussion of seach engine optimisation using the Screaming Frog web-spider tool there were some visual representations of the structure of the Fireplace Aquarium site. These do a nice job of illustrating the higher-level structure, but don’t convey a good sense of the internal connectivity of the various pages. Browsing the interwebs on the topic I came across an interesting implementation by Kiran Tomlinson, done while a PhD student in Computer Science at Cornell.
Below is a view of the Fireplace Aquarium site generated using Kiran’s app that shows the direct linkages between resources. Pages are blue spots, images or any other internal non-page resources are green spots, and anything external is shown as a red spot. The graph is zoomable and slideable and you can hover over the individual nodes to show which resource they represent and highlight direct connections to other resources. Try click-dragging any one of the nodes to see what happens.
Time lapse sequence following major aquarium plant trim
Major trim and replant
8 days post-trim
20 days post-trim
34 days post-trim
About a month ago I revised the layout of some of the aquarium plants. I didn’t like the look of all the stemmy/rooty bits of the Lobelia showing up against the front wall of the aquarium so I planted a row of dwarf Cryptocorynes in front to grow into a low cover. The problem though was the lobelia were already crowded against the front. When one of the lobelia plants came loose it was an opportunity for a do-over and I removed all the lobelia except the smallest plant closest to the left side and replanted lobelia trimmings taken from the removed mature plants in a line a bit farther back from the front wall. Some of the ludwigia was also looking a little ratty with heavy algae cover on some of the lower leaves so I did a pretty aggressive takedown there as well.
Looking for a replacement epiphyte for the failed Anubias nana ‘Snow White’, I’ve plumped for Bucephalandra caterina. There just isn’t much availability for aquatic plants in general in the United Kingdom recently, and the availability of Anubias and Bucephalandra varieties seems extraordinarily poor especially for the smaller size varietals. I managed to score two pots from Pro Shrimp, as grown by Aquadip, and they arrived today.
Species and varietal names are not very well defined for Bucephalandra with several hundred types known (or claimed). There’s some question as to whether Bucephalandra caterina is (or is not) the same thing as Bucephalandra ‘Mini Needle Leaf’.
Bucephalandra caterina pots are each their own individual plants
I was expecting each pot to be composed of a number of plantlets that could be easily teased apart and planted separately, like the Cryptocoryne lutea ‘Hobbit’, but this was not the case. Once the rockwool was removed from the roots it was clear that each pot was its own defined thing that was not obviously subdividable. I suppose I should have expected that from a plant that grows from a rhizome, but I was thinking of the Anubias nana ‘Snow White’ tissue culture pot where there were many individual plantlets even though Anubias also grows from a rhizome – that might be a difference between growth in pots vs. in tissue culture. I thought about cutting the Bucephalandra in half with sharp scissors, particularly the one on the left that sort of looked like it had a semi-obvious point where it could be divided, but in the end decided to plant them ‘as is’.
Did you arrive at the Fireplace Aquarium by way of a search engine like google or bing? How search engines choose which sites to show and in which order can be influenced by ‘search engine optimisation’ or SEO. An important aspect of SEO, in addition to having interesting and informative content, is having the technical aspects of a website sorted out such that the website facilitates the content instead of getting in the way. Currently, I’m working on the following pieces:
No broken links, missing pages or ‘404’ errors or other obvious sources of user frustration
Informative meta descriptions for web pages so search engines don’t have to guess what to say
All images have an ‘ALT’ text description to aid the visually impaired and help search engines understand the messages images are conveying
Verifying that search engines know about all the different pages they might decide to index using Google Search Console (or similar)
Add headings that match questions Google searchers have asked* and provide helpful answers to those questions.
How to use Screaming Frog for SEO
A really great tool to help accomplish the above is the Screaming Frog SEO spider. You download and run the app**, then point it at your website where it then ‘crawls’ all the interconnected pages exactly like the search engines do, collecting information you can query in a user-friendly way. For example, you can click a button to see a list of all the broken links in your website (or ideally, see that there aren’t any broken links). Similarly you can query which pages have meta descriptions, which images have ALT descriptions, and what those descriptions say. It’s also easy to generate a list of all the web pages, and indications as to which can be indexed by search engines, and then to compare that list with pages actually indexed by google or bing etc. Where the search engines have missed some pages, you can point the engines to those pages specifically.
How to make a Screaming Frog sitemap
One of the cool things you can do is to generate visual sitemaps, either based on the directory structure, or the route in which the SEO spider crawls the site, and see those as either a tree graph or force-directed graph. The graphs can be exported in either SVG or HTML format; unfortunately, WordPress doesn’t play well with SVG, so I converted the SVG saved output to PNG using Gimp and you can see two versions of the results below.
Making the sitemap is easy. Launch up Screaming Frog and type the base address of the website into the ‘Enter URL to spider’ address bar at the top, press ‘Start’ and wait for the scan to complete. Then select your visualisation of choice from the Visualisations menu. Once the visualisation comes up, have a play with the settings by clicking on the small gear icon in upper right corner of the visualisation window. When it’s looking how you want it to, click the diskette icon to the immediate left of the gear icon to bring up the save screen, pick where you want the visualisation to be saved, select either ‘svg’ or ‘html’ format from the dropdown menu at the bottom right of the save screen, and then press ‘Save’.
*Real world example: I clicked the ‘Performance’ tab in my Google Search Console and found I was getting queries for “screaming frog visual sitemap”. I then did a google search for “screaming frog visual sitemap” to see what people wanted, and the search result page helpfully said:
People also ask:
How do I make a screaming frog sitemap?
How do you use a screaming frog for SEO? [really, that’s what they ask]
So I made level 2 headings corresponding to those two questions, and then (hopefully) provided some helpful answers. If you found these answers were helpful, you could thank me by linking to my site from your website, ideally with a “do follow” link. 😀
**Screaming Frog is a UK-based outfit (which is nice) and provides their SEO spider free of charge for use with smaller websites (less than 500 URLs). They claim versions for Windows, macOS and Ubuntu, however, I develop Fireplace Aquarium on a Chromebook running Debian linux (the testing repository) and much to my surprise (and delight), the Ubuntu .deb file installed using gdebi without incident and seems to run just fine under Debian.
I changed the domain name for the Fireplace Aquarium from aqua.egads.uk to niade.com. Dreamhost (my web hosting provider since 2005!) made the WordPress domain changeover process super easy: register and host the new domain name, go into the web hosting control panel, push the appropriate button and in a minute or two everything is switched over.
What to do with the old domain?
It’s poor form to deactivate the old domain and let anything out there with links or bookmarks pointing to the previous site break with 404 errors, so I instructed the old web pages to automatically redirect to the corresponding new versions for three months or so. Naturally, Dreamhost made the redirect process super easy as well. After Google got all the pages switched over in the index, I deactived the old domain.
From time to time I have a poke around at what might be available in short and usable domain names, ideally with the .com TLD. The usual result of this exercise is “not much”, but in this instance niade.com was available and since it reminds me of ‘Naiad‘ – freshwater nymph – it has a vague watery/fishy feel to it that seemed appropriate.
Web browser fish icon
The ‘favicon’ is a small 16 x 16 px graphic you can see before the web page title in each tab of your web browser. The niade.com favicon is an homage to the 5-banded barb (Puntius pentazona).
It’s been seventeen weeks since the Cryptocoryne lutea ‘Hobbit’ was planted so it’s time to take a look at how the emersed growth form from the shop compares to the submerged growth form in the tank.
6 weeks after planting
17 weeks after planting
In the corner
17 weeks after planting
Aquarium plants for commercial sale are, for economic reasons, almost exclusively grown “emersed” – the roots of the plant and whatever media they are planted in is kept submerged underwater in the nursery but the leafy part of the plant is grown in the open air. There is a massive difference to the plant, however, in growing with leaves in the open air vs. leaves that are always submerged underwater, and so plants will very often have a different form of leaf, sometimes dramatically different, after they get established in the aquarium. You can see the effect in the Fireplace Aquarium with e.g. ludwigia and lobelia and now here we see it with the Cryptocoryne lutea ‘Hobbit’.