Which of These 8 Newburyport Websites Will Lose Google Rank?

Technology and change go hand in hand — and the latest occurs on April 21, 2015 when Google changes its algorithms and begins penalizing any website that is not mobile responsive. Webmasters were alerted in February. Websites that fail the Googlebot test risk removal but definitely demotion from the Google database.

I plugged 8 local websites into Google’s free mobile checker and here are the resulting screenshots:

Newburyport Police
Newburyport Police

Newburyport Schools
Newburyport Schools

Newburyport Public Library
Newburyport Library

Newburyport Youth Services
Newburyport Youth Services

Newburyport Chamber of Commerce
Newburyport Chamber of Commerce

Newburyport Daily News
Newburyport News

Newburyport Current
Newburyport WickedLocal

…and the City of Newburyport’s website
...and the City of Newburyport's website

Which do you think passed the test?

All but two. The police and youth services failed and, unless their websites are edited in swift time, could be demoted from Google.

As for the others, some look OK but most of them have horrible mobile layouts. If a picture speaks 1,000 words, what do these screenshots say about who/what they are supposed to represent? Which inspire you to read and scroll around? Which motivate you to click out?

P.S. Regarding the city’s official website, I think it has a long way to go to improve. But, I couldn’t find any other city website in the north shore that was much better. In fact, even the state website is poor compared to other states. Here’s my review on that.

Stop Writing Reactive Laws

Councilors Jared Eigerman and Meghan Kinsey are cosponsors of a 35-page proposed law to create a Smart Growth District across 49 acres abutting the MBTA station. If you visit this PDF link and scroll to page 51, you can read about its purpose and features.

The city council received that document in January and the planning and development subcommittee is vetting its merits. The best lawmaking, in my mind, is when we are proactive. The problem with this proposal is it is reactive.

MINCO Corporation was the winning bidder in an MBTA land grab to buy 11 acres and build one or more 5-story apartment buildings, currently slated to include 80 units, of which 20% or more would be deemed affordable. They talk about this project on their blog. For reasons I don’t understand, the mayor and other officials want to increase the city’s rental housing stock (currently under 30% of all housing) and this construction proposal bodes well with them.

The company can’t build anything unless the MBTA grants them permission and the state agency gave them a June 1 deadline to learn of their intent. MINCO can’t tell the T anything unless or until the city council creates the SGD. See how it’s reactive? Do you understand why there’s a rush for the city council to approve this law and why I, for one, am skeptical about rushing?

I look at this 49-acre plot (of which MINCO is referring to 11 acres) and I also look across Route 1 where a different developer, Hall & Moskow, wants to infill 5 acres of land off Cottage Court and also build a mix of affordable and other housing stock. This parcel also seeks a rezoning change.

Ed Ramsdell is the chairman of our Zoning Board of Appeals, and in a 2012 op-ed by Michael Sales, he said that creating multiple overlay districts is comparable to spot zoning. Nobody likes spot zoning because of potential illegal and unethical reasons; and our 2001 Master Plan frowns at it.

Even if you sway me to believe that overlay districting and multiple rezoning efforts are not examples of spot zoning, the fact remains that the city council is being asked to make these zoning changes in reaction to development proposals. Sorry, but that’s being political and it’s not good government. Let’s write laws that are proactive without any construction proposals on the table. That’s why Master Plans are created and that’s why we should write laws.