Tumblr Photo Posts and Google - Update 2015

Bob Leggitt | Monday, 2 March 2015 |



Just a quick post for Tumblr users interested in getting their photos found on Google. It’s been difficult in the past to find Google-friendly workarounds for the Tumblr Photo Post, which has always been blighted by very poor SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) potential.

Specifically, in Photo Posts, there's been no provision for adding a proper title, which Google can recognise as such. Google needs titles in order to understand which text on your blog is key information. With no easy way of adding a machine-recognisable title to Tumblr's Photo Post format, Google has been unable to do this, with the usual result that the search engine struggles to work out which bits of your page it should try to match with primary search terms. That means the posts are much less likely to be found.  But since the latest revisions to the Tumblr posting interface, it’s been possible to quickly and conveniently designate a machine-recognisable title for your Photo Posts.

WHAT THIS DOES

Tumblr Photo Posts still don’t get a proper, designated title. However, the new Tumblr interface allows you to select ordinary caption text and turn it into a heading. Without getting too technical, what the function does is to mark your selected text with ‘h2’ Heading tags. You won’t see the tags – you’ll just see your text get larger. But Google will see the ‘h2’ tags, and when it does, it’ll know that text is important. Important enough to be considered a title. If your ‘h2’ title reflects what’s in your photo, you should have a much better chance of people finding it on Google.

HOW TO DO IT

Start a new Photo Post and upload your photo(s) as normal.

Beneath your photo(s) in the caption box, type a title you feel will match the search term people will use to find your post. For example, if your photo depicts a Scottish fishing boat, and you believe people will search Google for a picture of a Scottish fishing boat, type the phrase Scottish Fishing Boat. Now select this text, and a line of tools will pop up above it. On the mini toolbar, click the ‘H’. This instantly turns your text into a heading. You'll see it grow in size straight away.



You may also want to add some ordinary text in separate paragraphs, underneath. This is a good idea, as the more information Google has about your image(s), the wider the net you’re casting for web surfers' more elaborate 'long-tail' search terms.

Now publish the post. The Heading/Title will look larger than the other text in the Tumblr dashboard, as below. It's beneath the photo, rather than at the very top of the post, and that'll be the case on your blog too. But that doesn't matter to Google. Your text has the right invisible marker tags, so to Googlebot, it's effectively a title...



DISCLAIMER

Always remember that many other people are optimising for the search engines too, and that Tumblr still has deficiencies as compared with other blogging platforms or software. This is not a magic wand that instantly puts images on Google regardless of all other factors. You need to be clever in finding the gaps and niches which other publishers haven’t covered, and you need to be clever in the way you match your titles and word your captions. But using the Heading function on the new Tumblr toolbar will help, and it’s a step in the right direction for a post format that was previously almost impotent in terms of befriending Google.
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Reflex Reds Guitar Pickups In Retrospect

Bob Leggitt | Friday, 20 February 2015 |

Whilst trawling through the obscurities of the 1980s the other day, I was reminded of another long-forgotten facet of the period’s UK rock guitar scene. When I say the word Reflex, I’m heading not in the direction of Duran Duran’s 1984 hit single, but in the direction of Rhino Music’s active pickup range. Released in early 1988 after a good three years of R&D work, which included feedback from Shakatak’s Keith Winter, and Marshall amps demoist Geoff Whitehorn, Reflex Reds were a selection of premium guitar pickup sets, clearly designed to compete directly with EMG, but on their own terms and merits, rather than as copies.



Contrary to some present day advice, Reflex Reds were not introduced as a budget or ‘price-drop’ brand. Upon release, the HSS set cost £170, and twin humbuckers came in at £140, so there was no intention of trading on reduced price. This was premium territory, with a premium price tag. Some of the confusion may be down to the parallel range of Reflex Blues, which is sometimes considered today to have been a sonic alternative, but was in fact essentially a budget option. Reflex Blues were much cheaper than the Reds, with the sets retailing at a max of around £70 in the late ‘80s.

Reflex Reds were a departure from the then existing active pickup technology in that they housed the electronic gubbins within a separate ‘black box’ rather than in the pickup units themselves. The thinking behind this was pretty sound. For one, it dramatically increased the battery life, because power was only required for a single component rather than two or three. The system also allowed the EQ (tone) pot to be separated from the Level (volume) within the overall circuit, which made for much more specific, precise and accurate control over each. It would also make updates/upgrades potentially cheaper and more viable, since a complete revision to the sound could be accomplished merely by switching the ‘black box’, rather than changing the full set of pickups.

The main pros and cons of active pickups are well documented, and applied to Reflex Reds just as with other products. On the plus side, all of the pickups could be built to humbucking spec (even in single coil size), and the active electronics could tailor the frequency range and harmonics to hit an exact tonality. The result would be very low noise, even with characteristically ‘single coil’ sounds. There would also be the scope to push the definition and fidelity of active pickups well beyond the capability of passives. On the minus side, guitarists hate messing about with batteries, and the sound will by nature be processed, so it’s bound to be less ‘organic’ and natural than the tone you get with passive pickups. What to one person would be ‘hi-fi’, would to another be ‘sterile’.

Back in the day, reviews of the Reflex Reds were mixed, but all active guitar pickups tended to suffer some level of negative bias in the press. With so many guitarists preferring a passive setup – reviewers among them – conclusions like “They’re good if you like actives” were often the best these technologically advanced products could hope for. It was different in the world of bass, but it could be hard to get a truly objective assessment of active lead pickups. In Guitarist magazine’s first Reflex Reds review, which hit the streets in April 1988, Neville Marten described the sound of the HSS set, used clean, as “stunning”. He wasn’t so keen on the twin humbucker setup (bridge position in particular), but that was the version without the RG2X mid boost ‘black box’, which permitted a much fatter tone and fared a lot better. Marten’s review was about the most objective I saw, but whilst it was predominantly positive and informative, it didn’t make you think: “Okay, I must have those”.

As you can see in the 1980s adverts I’ve posted above, early celebrity users included T’Pau, Saxon and Shakatak, but Reflex was a major, expensive project and I’m guessing the company would have been hoping to get a much longer list of really big names on board. The fact that Reflex were such latecomers to the active pickups scene probably didn't help, and in any case even the well-established EMG didn't exactly break the likes of Seymour Duncan and Di Marzio out in a sweat when it came to guitar pickup sales. Rhino/Reflex had to be admired for looking forward, when so many other pickup manufacturers were almost exclusively looking back for their inspiration.

Buying sets of Reflex Reds here in 2015 is going to require considerable caution, since the essence of the output comes from the ‘black box’, and not the actual pickups. Even though the pickups were sold individually as well as in sets, I wouldn’t suggest buying them in such fashion today. You can’t just pop down to the nearest dealer and get the rest of the kit, along with a load of gen on the different ‘black boxes’ from a sales advisor. You really need the full kit, with proper documentation as to which ‘black box’ you have, what it does, etc. The same pickups will sound different if you use them with a different ‘black box’, so do beware.

Reflex Reds were, however, a high quality product, into which went a lot of thought money and time. With a full, original kit, you could expect high spec, studio-quality sound, although whether or not that high spec sound would be to your taste, is another matter.
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The Laney Pro-Tube AOR 30 Combo (1980s)

Bob Leggitt | Thursday, 19 February 2015 |

Living in the West Midlands region of the UK – site of manufacture for the Laney range of guitar amplifiers – I was almost inevitably going to start seeing and hearing them as soon as I got involved with the local live music scene. I first got to talk to a guitarist using a Laney Pro-Tube AOR 30 combo in September 1985, at a central Birmingham bar called Peacocks. I was using a secondhand Peavey Deuce at the time, and whilst I liked the Peavey per se, I struggled to make the overdrive do what I wanted, and I most typically found myself using a Boss pedal for distortion, rather than the amp’s own preamp gain.

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Vestax / Vesta Fire Guitar & Musical Instrument Effects

Bob Leggitt | Monday, 16 February 2015 |

If you asked a guitarist to name an effects brand today, Vestax and Vesta Fire would probably be among the last answers you’d get. You’d probably have to wait for some middle-aged diehard to come along, recalling his teens and early twenties, the smoky bars of the ‘eighties, his Columbus ‘Les Paul’, his Sound City combo, and… oh yeah, that trusty little Vesta Fire Flanger he used to plonk down on the stage floor...

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The Seymour Duncan JB Humbucker

Bob Leggitt | Saturday, 14 February 2015 |

Over the years, when I’ve pulled my 1960s Gibson ES-345 out of its case, guitarists have been drawn to it like industrial-strength magnets. They’ll ask if it’s all original, and I’ll say: “Well actually, I’ve put a Seymour Duncan JB in the bridge position.”. They’ll peer closely at the pickup and look a bit puzzled, then I’ll explain that I switched the pole screws and put on the original cover so it looks in keeping with the rest of the guitar… And then their faces will develop this expression which just says: “Like, why have you removed a genuine 1960s Gibson humbucker and replaced it with an off-the-shelf SD???”… Then I plug the guitar in, and they’re like: “Ah. That’s why.

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