Saturday, May 12, 2007

UK Software Copyright Police

4,500 new trading standards officers are to be given powers in the UK to check businesses' compliance with software licencing laws from April 2007. The new powers come under the Designs & Patents Act, 1988 and are likely to result in court appearances for those not in compliance.

Businesses are therefore advised to check that not only are their software licences in order but also to make sure that they only buy new software from reputable suppliers. Alternatively, they could try open source alternatives - Open Office is the open source alternative to Microsoft Office for example.

Read more about the 'software copyright police'.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Want a website, not sure what's involved?

My Leicester web design agency has just published a simple 'what's involved' guide to companies who are about to embark upon commissioning their first website. You can read the web design checklist here.

From getting an ISP (internet service proider) through to marketing your finished website, this is a very brief checklist or starter's guide.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Search Engine Optimisation - it's the customer, stupid

The classic story is that when Bill Clinton was running for President, he had a reminder on his desk saying, "It's the economy, stupid", just to remind him of the core issue at stake.

Yesterday, at the East Midlands EBusiness Expo at Nottingham, Hugh Jackson of MediaCo could well have used a similar analogy, "It's the customer, stupid", when outlining the key issues to remember when considering search engine optimisation. At the end of the day, you should always remember to write copy for the potential customer, since its the customer who will buy (or not), not the search engine.

Jackson outlined the importance of keyword analysis, of avoiding flash-intensive web design, of using CSS & good coding standards, good use of keyword phrases in page titles and headers, etc. These can be called the classic 'on-page' optimisation techniques. However, he also stressed the importance of good copy, web copy that engages the end user - "It's the customer, stupid"! There's no point in spending time & money gettting the search engines to deliver clients that you then alienate by poorly written copy.

From our perspective, as a web design agency, Jackson's overview was reassuring, since it seems to imply that we are following best practice when designing and optimising our client's websites. We tend to start the design process by understanding our client's objectives, the market they are operating in, and the customers they are attempting to reach. We then undertake keyword research and analysis, using tools such as WordTracker. We then try to ensure that we know the themes, the target audience & how to reach them, and that we have the client on board, before we start to actually design and build the website. Finally, we increasingly use services of the Leicester copywriter Gist Consulting when budget allows - in order to make sure that we're remembering that it is actually all about the end user or potential customer.

However, there was a sting in the tail of Jackson's talk. On page optimisation is only part of the story. 'Off-page' optimisation - essentially strategic link building - is of almost equal importance but is also getting harder! Google now smells a link farm as if it were down wind from a real pigsty. As the net becomes more cluttered, the worth of good quality links will grow and they will become harder to find. So, expect to pay more to appear in relevant directories, for example, in the near future.

As web designers and search engine optimisers, we will need to ensure that clients begin to get a real appreciation of the difficulties and costs involved in off-page optimisation. This may not be an easy story to sell to our customers, but if we don't then we will ultimately fail them. We too have to remember, "It's the customer, stupid"!

Yahoo PPC changes

At the East Midlands EBusiness Expo in Nottingham yesterday, Richard Firminger, regional sales director at Yahoo!, gave us a brief overview of where Yahoo! (or is it Overture?) are in terms of new channels, etc.

Of most immediate interest to me, at least, was the overview he gave of the 'Panama' changes to the Yahoo search marketing platform currently being rolled out in the USA. Essentially, ads will be turned around almost instantly, rather than within 3 days as currently, new ad testing tools will be included (much like Gooogle Adwords already offers), more advanced analytics, & the minimum bid is being reduced to 5p - effectively allowing advertisers to target the 'long tail' more economically.

When can we expect to see these changes in the UK? Q2 it seems. Now, is that Q2 of this year or of the next financial year?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Optimisation takes time

We recently launched a website for a new client - on the Tuesday it went live, on the Wednesday I got a call asking why he couldn't find it on Google!

Now, we have had client sites indexed within 2 days, but that's not the usual experience. Getting into the search engines is also only the starting point. It takes time & patience to search engine optimise a website correctly.

So, please, a little patience!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

New UK Website Regulations

Since Jan 1st, 2007, all UK company websites must have the following information:
  • company number
  • registered company address
  • VAT number if VAT registered
  • in the case of an investment company, the fact that it is such a company
For more details go.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Holy Grail - Google #1

The most common question that a web design client asks me is, "How do we get on the first page of Google?"

Well, here's a few tips. They're not exhaustive nor are they guaranteed to get you to the top, but they are some of the things that we do during a web design project and we've had some excellent search engine optimisation results. Before we dive in though, a little explanation first; when we talk of keywords we're really talking of singular words or phrases. So your keyword maybe websites or website design, its just that we make no distinction between singular words or phrases when talking about keywords.
  • Know your audience, know their keywords. Before your designer starts with layout, colour schemes, etc, you should do your homework on what your customers are looking for, what terms they use when searching for your service and then tailor your content accordingly. We use WordTracker to analyse what terms people are using & find niche keywords. So, while in your trade you use the term 'site services' to describe your industrial cleaning service, you might find out the following:
    • Optimising for 'site services' means you'll be competing overwhelmingly with people selling website or computer maintenance services. Its also a very popular term, so very competitive.
    • That using 'industrial cleaning' is both a less competitive and a more accurate descriptive term for what you are offering - and its what people are more likely to use when searching for your type of service.
  • Local vs national terms. Is your service a local one? If so, its often far easier to get top billing for a term like 'leicester copy writing' than it is for 'vibratory bowl feeders' or 'organic tampons'. Don't forget to target your local market if its at all possible.
  • One page, one target. Try not to target too many keywords on one page. For example, suppose your company provides web design and ecommerce solutions. Split these into two separate pages. Target and optimise each page accordingly. So one page is devoted to marketing your 'web design leicester' service, while the other one focuses on 'ecommerce' and 'shopping carts in leicestershire'.
  • Avoid keyword stuffing. Related to the above point, avoid putting too many keywords in the title of your page. Too many dilutes your scoring, so less is more.
  • Links. Try to get good quality links to your site from other 'quality' sites, and try to ensure that they use one of your keywords in their link text. Perhaps this needs a little more explanation:
    • Quality site is a website that is popular and well respected. So, if you are a member of a respected trade association (say the Federation of Small Businesses in the UK), make sure that your website is included in your company details in their online directory.The same goes for your Yellow Pages advert on
    • Link text: Imagine you sell estate agent property listing software. If possible, rather than using your company name in a link from another site, get them to use that keyword text instead.
  • Quality website build. If your website is well constructed underneath the hood, then a search engine will have an easier time indexing your content. Too many graphics or too much Flash is wasted on the search engines - they can't read images.
  • Dont forget the aesthetics. A cheap and nasty website will always be a cheap and nasty website, even if it is well ranked.
Well, that's not everything but its a few useful pointers to begin with. Perhaps I'll add more tips later.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Google Mail & Your Google Account

I've had a Google account for some time. With it I manage my company Adwords account, check up on client sites using Analytics, publish my calendar, etc, etc. Running an web design business, its an invaluable tool.

Recently a friend sent me an invitation to open a gmail account, which I duly did. Everything went tickety boo. Then I was locked out of my Google account - Analytics, Aswords, Blogger, etc, were all inaccessible using my normal login. So, I whizzed off an email to Analytics support. Back came the response that I'd changed my account email address - which is also my login.

No I hadn't, not least to my knowledge. No, I had - least my gmail login is now my Google account login! This is done automatically for you it seems. That was the first I'd heard of it & I can't remember reading in the Gmail info anything that said this would happen. Perhaps I'd ticked some box without realising the 'global' implications of so doing.

Whatever, just be careful. Signing up for Gmail may have ramifications for your existing Google account!

Star Office Support Bugs Me

Yesterday I had to apply a patch to Star Office 8 - saw a story on The Register
telling of a vulnerability. Even though I'm a paying customer of Star Office (or Sun), no product notification was received. No mention was made of this issue on the Star Office official site either. Not good customer support!

And then the Sun support site is horrendous. The actual patch is delivered to Windows users as a .jar (Java Archive) file, which means didly squat to most Windows users. How user unfriendly is that? Only after you've unzipped the jar file do you realise its got a .exe file within it. How many average users would even know what to do - the readme file is pretty oblique too.

It's often the little things like this that kill off a really good product. Star Office (& its free counter part Open Office) are really good products - they're more than adequate for at least 90% of the Microsoft Office user base. Yet, poor support will cripple it.

It's time that Star Office came with some form of auto update facility, so that users don't have to search the Sun/Star Office support site to apply patches.