If you would like to find out more about any of these articles,
or would like help delivering your business objectives,
please do get in touch.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Google have launched 'mobile friendly' labels.

It's official - Google have launched labels which advise people who are searching on mobile devices whether the website is mobile friendly.

This will be rolled out internationally over the next few weeks and it will look like this:

What constitutes a mobile friendly website? According to this post on the Google Webmaster Central Blog, mobile friendly websites:
  1. Voids software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash
  2. Uses text that is readable without zooming
  3. Sizes content to the screen so users don't have to scroll horizontally or zoom
  4. Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can easily be tapped.
You can check to see if Google consider that your website is mobile friendly here.

The implications are clear. 

If you do not have a mobile friendly website, it is now time to prioritise it.

Your share of visitors looking at your website will only increase; and now your rankings with Google are likely to be adversely impacted if you do not have a mobile friendly website....

Our own Content Management System

I am often asked why we have developed our own Content Management System (CMS) to support our websites and why we don't simply use Joomla, or WordPress, or any of the other available systems.

There are a number of reasons...

1) Most businesses have unique requirements.

Your web presence needs to deliver specific functionality to suit your business objectives.

We find many publically available systems are not as good at matching our clients specific requirements.

By developing our own system, we can build functionality to suit you rather than trying to change your business behaviour to suit a third party CMS.

2) We have control over the destiny of the system

We don't have to wait for a third party to build a new module; or use an untested plug-in found in publicly available directories. So, if you want to add, for example, a client log-in area, or a Customer Relationship Management system at a later date, we can do this for you.

3) Competitive advantage

Because the CMS is built for you, it can help you stay ahead of the competition. It supports you, rather than confining you.

4) Easily modified and updated

We know the nuts and bolts of the system. We have written the code from the ground up and so we know how to best modify the system. Because we have invested time in developing the system, we are always looking for ways to improve its functionality and make it easier to use.

Moreover, we have a number of clients, including websites funded by Wiltshire Council, who rely on us to keep the system up to date and bug free.

5) Less costly in the long run

Businesses grow and businesses change. Our CMS will grow and change with you. You will not be investing time and money in a system that cannot move with you. Moreover, there is no licence fee - you pay us for the work we do to build the CMS and that is all.

If you would like further information on our options for keeping your website up to date, then please do get in touch.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

8 years

According to LinkedIn, I am celebrating an eight year work anniversary today. I knew I started this business some time in October 2006 but I didn't realise it was today.

After spending over 15 years working for well known brands like Kodak, Thorntons and Courage Brewery, I took the opportunity of taking redundancy from an ever decreasing Kodak business and trained myself in the art of web design.

Why? Well I always liked design. My Art O Level grade wasn't the best (although I did pass, still life wasn't my forte). However, I did do well in the design modules. It may be in the blood - my Grandfather, Father and oldest brother are all architects.

In addition, one of my favourite projects at Kodak was working in the Category Management role. It involved understanding consumer behaviour in store via data analysis and observation. The objective was to make the complex category of photography easy to understand for consumers which in turn encouraged them to buy more.

This was ideal training for web design. Making websites that are easy to use, easy to find what the site visitor wants and to deliver on the objectives of the site.

My initial three objectives are still relevant today:

1) Focus on the person looking at your website

2) Keep the design simple

3) Clear, concise content

So, thank you to everyone who has supported and encouraged me.

I have some very loyal clients who go back almost to the start. Thank you Berkeley Castle, Spetchley Park Gardens, Land Rovers UKPeter Moore Lets and From You To Me. Thank you also, to all my clients. For those that have been around for a couple of years, I hope to be still working with you in five years time too!

For From You to Me, today is doubly special as it is their Big Boss Man, Neil Coxon's birthday too. Happy Birthday to both of us!

For old times sake, here is my very first website. The Straight Hair Company used to be run by my good friend Darren. He has since fled to New Zealand but he assures me it had nothing to do with the website....

Thursday, 7 August 2014

SEO - it's about good content and not second guessing algorithms

SEO is changing. 

Two recent articles caught my eye and explain what is currently happening.

In the first article, Econsultancy argue that SEO is not as complicated as you think:
"Google is very public about why it keeps making its search algorithms more complex; it wants to serve the best, most relevant content to its users."
Secondly, this article from Mashable questions whether we are coming to the end of SEO:
"SEO is not going to get easier. It's going to get harder and eventually will most likely be next to impossible - because Google's algorithms are always a step ahead of the marketers trying to game them. And with no keyword reporting, a major support system for SEO has been, quite simply, taken away."
And if you want to hear it from the horses mouth, please read this article in the Google Webmaster Tools blog entitled 'Create Valuable Content.'

I'm happy about these changes. They mean we have to focus on our users and not on anonymous search engine algorithms. It's time to relax and concentrate on writing great content. This in itself will encourage more people to visit your website and more people to share it.

I suggest creating a medium term month content plan (e.g. six months) for your website and social media channels. This plan should be aligned to your business and marketing objectives and should play an integral part in delivering these objectives.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Website behaviours in China

This second article on China online is an introduction to website behaviour in China.

The first article about online market trends in China is here, while the next one will focus on social media.

China presents a massive opportunity for UK businesses; but at the same time presents many challenges. Business is done differently and online behaviours are also different....

E-commerce in China

Currently 250m of the population shop online. This is less than 50% of active internet users.

There is less trust for retailer websites and most consumers prefer using a third party platform (such as Amazon although it has very low market share in China).

Popular  websites include:

TMall - this is the largest website (over 50% market share) and due to the high set up costs is only for more established brands. Businesses need to be registered in China. TMall stock a lot of well known fashion brands including M&S, Asos and Burberry.

Alternatively, if you do not have a local Chinese office, you can sell on TMall Global. You can ship from the UK but a deposit, annual fee and commission are still payable.

Taobao is the equivalent to Ebay. No deposit is required to gain listings and so can be a cheaper entry to market.

VIP.com, Jumei, jd.com, and yhd.com are other third party platforms.

Amazon is present in China. Although this provides the simplest way to list brands and test the market in China, their market share is low at around 2%.

The most important day in the e-commerce calendar is Singles Day on 11th November. It started as a day for giving gift to single people but it has grown into much more than that.


Given the high entry costs, it may be simpler and more cost effective to test the market by having your own Chinese focused website, hosted in the UK.

The firewall used to make this option impractical, but speeds have improved and this is now a viable option. You will need to check if your speeds are ok. If not, hosting in Hong Kong can be an alternative option.

You won't be able to register a .cn domain name unless you have a business registered in China so a .com will have to suffice.

Aliplay can be a good payment gateway. The Chinese currency is not traded on foreign markets and so they will collect funds for you and pay you periodically. They also take care of import duties.

Cash on delivery is normal in China as not everyone has credit cards.

There is no Google Analytics in China but they do have an equally good service called Baidu Tonji.

Website usage

Users in China interact with websites differently to the West.

The average age of internet usage in China is currently 25 (much younger than the average age of 42 in the USA).

Eye tracking studies show that users in China will spend longer on each page and like to see detailed information. They need to be reassured, they want to know who you are, what you do and the benefits of your products on each and every page. Minimalism should be avoided.

Users are willing to scroll and scroll down pages; provided the information is useful.

Consumers are sceptical and suspicious. Consumer advocacy is key and goes a very long way in building your brand. Product reviews are taken very seriously.

After-care and trust are very important in China and details of your customer service needs to be prominent. Websites commonly have Live Chat as a sign of trust and availability.

Consumers are used to freebies and discounts. In fact, the more generous you are, the more your brand is considered a success!

For mobile usage, Android is far more popular than iOS.

I hope that you have found this article useful. My thanks to the UKTI for hosting the recent event from which much of this information was gleaned.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Using the internet to export to China

Yesterday I attended a UKTI seminar on E-commerce in China.

Why you may ask? Because, as everyone knows, China is a rather large economy and one that continues to grow. Although none of my clients currently export to China it can only be a matter of time when they, or a new client, does; and I want to be ready to help!

I learned a lot and will split my observations over three articles. This first one will focus on general market trends, the second on how and where to sell online in China; while the final article will focus on social media in China.

The Chinese market

After years of very high growth, the Chinese economy is now 'slowing' to around 7.5% per annum. This is considered to be 'better quality' growth in that foreign investment is now encouraged and wealth is now spreading beyond the Eastern coast and into the interior.

The Chinese economic model is now shifting from an export-investment model towards greater domestic consumption. This offers greater opportunities for exporting high quality consumer goods from the West.

Traditionally, exporters have focused on Beijing and Shanghai. However, not only are these two cities already saturated with competition, it also ignores the rapid growth elsewhere in China. The size of the country makes it difficult to retail goods in every area which is why e-commerce can provide a good solution especially as the infrastructure is rapidly improving.

Being a large country, not only does the climate vary from sub tropical to very cold, but the population also vary in terms of attitude and even size! Understanding a very wide range of consumer profiles is essential.

The Chinese consumer

Estimates for 2020 suggest the middle class will grow to being 71% of the population in advanced cities, 67% in developing cities and 42% in emerging cities.

Middle class isn't measured on how much they earn or how big their house is, but how much disposable income they have (normally high due their being the inherited beneficiaries of the one child policy...) and their aspirations.

The statistics below are from Social Media Today.

About 45% are online - that is 618m people. However, internet speeds do vary greatly across the country.

A similar number are active users of social media.

Mobile phones penetration stands at 91%.

Register your trademark now!

The most important thing, repeated again and again, was even if you are not ready to export to China yet, it is worth spending around £1000 on trademarking your name. Once your application is in, you have protection even though the process can take 12-18 monte to complete.

There are many stories of brands exhibiting in Europe, or even just exporting to one country and someone trademarking the name in China. It can take years and cost thousands of dollars to regain your brand name....

Friday, 20 June 2014

the boathouse, Bradford on Avon Marina

My latest project has been to help launch the newly refurbished boathouse in Bradford on Avon.

This was formerly the Beef and Barge which had closed a few months ago. Although in a prime spot looking over a marina filled with narrowboats, the pub had struggled and was in need of a major refurbishment.

Fortunately, the new owners of the nearby Widbrook Grange Hotel saw an opportunity and grabbed it with both hands!

I have worked with the hotel for some years and was asked to set up a holding page for the new pub and then a full website for launch.

Social Media Strategy

In addition, I set up their social media profiles and managed their online marketing in order to create a buzz ahead of the launch.

With a new refurbishment, there is a ready made story. I visited every few days, took photos throughout the process and posted them online. Countdowns to the reopening, 10% off vouchers and a steady release of news all helped to generate a buzz.

It was interesting and rewarding to see how the Facebook Page grew so quickly. Clearly there was a willingness amongst the local community to see the pub re-open and lots of excitement at seeing the refurbishment happen.

Within one month, we grew Facebook likes to over 1500 by the opening (way ahead of our target of 1000). Admittedly, we did spend some money on Facebook Ads but they were targeted on the core audience and the high levels of engagement proved that the adverts were working.

Twitter wasn't quite so popular. However, it did reach people (in particular local businesses and journalists), that were more active here than they were on Facebook; and so it was important to cover both platforms.

Email Marketing

I also designed their email newsletter templates and we devised a 10% off voucher to encourage sign ups. This was publicised via Facebook, Twitter and the website and succeeded in substantially growing the number of subscribers.

"Everyone knew about it"

Chris, the General Manager, reported that when they handed out flyers in the centre of Bradford on Avon a couple of weeks before the opening, everyone had heard about the boathouse reopening.

Why was the marketing activity such a success? 

Because it was a multi channel approach. It encompassed both traditional marketing and online marketing. Traditional marketing activities included:

  • Banners were put up outside the pub - as it is situated on the road between Trowbridge and Bradford on Avon, it was very visible to lots of people. 
  • Local press - articles were published in the Wiltshire Times, the Community website and Local Life (where they ran a competition and included a recipe from the menu).
  • Flyers, with vouchers which encouraged people to try the menu in the first few weeks of opening, were handed out in town and distributed to local businesses.

This multi channel activity demonstrates that social media does not make traditional marketing redundant, but compliments it. 

The good news is that the pub was fully booked over the first weekend and continues to be very popular.

The boathouse is a welcome addition to the Bradford on Avon pub and restaurant scene and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to contribute to its successful launch.


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