Author Archives: Dave Fielden

BlueTree CMS Objectives

Why BlueTree Created a New CMS

Motivation Behind BlueTree CMS

With a steadily growing user base, it seems like a good time to talk about why BlueTree developed its own Content Management System, or CMS.

The primary reason: we can no longer use our favourite CMS, Adobe® Contribute®. Adobe now has a new business model, with high monthly fees, aimed at big corporates. You can still buy Contribute, but it’s no longer being developed. We have to find a solution for existing clients, and we can’t recommend obsolete software to new ones.

There are plenty of good CMS’s around,” says Mark, “many of them free. We’ve used quite a few, including one of the most popular, for years, on behalf of our clients. However, it’s become clear that there is a gap in the market. Many small business owners want to write and maintain their own website content, but lose patience due to the technical demands of their CMS.

“They end up paying people like us to update their websites. They all have better uses for that money!”

It’s not that small business owners aren’t capable of doing it; many do so with great success. It’s more that there’s so much to learn – most simply do not have the time. Starting a new business or growing a small enterprise is demanding enough on its own.

We’ve Made CMS’s Before

As luck would have it, we’ve developed several Content Management Systems, for other companies. They were very specialised, aimed mainly at maintaining professional knowledge bases. One of them helps managers with the special requirements required to help staff with “hidden abilities”. The design may look odd to you but, in fact, it’s highly specialised, being designed for people with Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, and other  conditions, who look at the world in different, often very productive, ways. Sadly, the owners of Key 4 Learning have retired in 2012 and the website no longer exists.

In building these systems, we’ve had to write hundreds of “components”, small parcels of Internet code, from which we built each one. Think of them as Lego bricks, each with its own particular function. We clip them together to make the CMS. They have one big advantage over Lego, however: we can copy them; we don’t have to break up one model to make the next.

So, why not fill that gap in the market, and use our components to build our own, simple CMS, one that a time-strapped small business owner can actually use?

Users Requirements From Their CMS

So, what would we need to provide for our target customers? Remember, they’re entrepreneurs. They know all about their field, they’re very skilled, dedicated, and highly motivated. Often they know less about the Internet, and how to use it for sales and marketing. And they’re very short of time.

There’s no way a piece of software can do all this, so we need more. BlueTree CMS is a complete package, which includes all the service and software you need to start and continue your Digital Marketing journey.

Our CMS must be:

  • Easy to use: anyone who can use a word processor must be able to use it;
  • Quick to learn: just the features you need, not those you don’t;
  • Secure: only authorised employees should be allowed to make updates;
  • Always available: updates should be possible always, from anywhere in the world;
  • Never interrupted due to out-of-sync plug-ins or underlying software components;
  • Fully supported: a skilled web-master on call should you ever get stuck.

There are other features that people new to Digital Marketing perhaps don’t know they need. A first website is often simply an on-line brochure. However, you quickly realize your website is a business asset that can save costs and deliver revenue, generate sales and engage with customers.

We’ll explain these issues, as much as you need to know about them, when you come to see us. BlueTree CMS handles many of them automatically. Those it can’t, it leads you through. Some examples:

  • A mobile-friendly design, since most local searches are done “on the go” these days;
  • Encrypted: that little padlock in the address bar that indicates you can’t be hacked
  • Fast-loading web pages, to rank well in search results;
  • Automatic image optimisation, for fast web page download;
  • No limits on pages, images or documents (i.e. forget “up to 5 pages, £250”);
  • Automated techie tasks, so you neither need to understand, nor perform them;
  • Automatic XML sitemap, used by search engines to find the pages on your site;
  • User-managed web page names, important for good search results;
  • Control of meta-tags, also used and rewarded by search engines;
  • Web page rename function, with automatic redirects so you don’t duplicate content.

What other website features, design and commercial, would our customers require?

  • An efficient, collaborative design process, that harnesses your imagination and our Internet experience;
  • Social media auto-posters, with a review capability prior to publication;
  • No surprises: fixed price quotations, no up-front payment and a money-back guarantee;
  • You’re in control: only pay for each stage when you’re happy.

BlueTree’s Requirements From Its CMS

Naturally, we can’t afford to do this out of the goodness of our hearts: it must be commercially viable. In essence, it must allow us to give great service to our customers – they pay our wages. It must never get too complex, but it must continue to improve in other ways, particularly, ease of use, and cost to support.

So, to provide us with a sustainable, growing business, our CMS must have:

  • Low support cost: single set of source code, so all clients receive every improvement;
  • Scalable architecture: so we can always add new clients without affecting existing ones;
  • Popular programming language: so it’s easy to find new staff to develop it;
  • Up-to-date technology: so we can capitalise on the latest Internet trends;
  • No risky add-ons: all functionality integrated, so we avoid any website downtime due to version clashes;
  • Hacker-resistance: separate maintenance and deployment servers;
  • No cross-contamination: no connection between different clients’ websites;
  • Acceptable revenue stream: so we can pay ourselves and continue to invest in improvements;
  • Continuous improvement plan: harness clients’ ideas – they’ll know best;
  • Responsible use of Open Source components, so we have no third-party software licence issues;
  • Extensible design: so we can add special features if clients require them;
  • Simplicity: easy to use, so we must provide a way forward for those who outgrow it.

In Conclusion

We’re now well on the way and we have our first batch of clients, with more in progress.

If you’d like to join them, or just find out a bit more, please go to our contact page or click that “Get in Touch” button, to the lower right of your screen.

Google’s Mobile-Friendly Website Warning

example of a mobile-friendly websiteOn this page you can read about:

  • Google’s warning, and what it means for website owners;
  • What makes a website mobile-friendly;
  • Ways to check your website;
  • Three methods of mobile-friendly implementation;
  • Google’s mobile-friendly web page testing tool;
  • What to do next.

Google’s Warning

Google has announced a change in its search algorithms. From April 21st, 2015, websites that are not mobile-friendly may appear lower in mobile search results than those that are.

Google thinks mobile-friendliness is important, and rightly so. Searches on mobile devices outstripped those on desktops and laptops last year. See the stats here. We monitor clients with nearly 70% of website visits from mobile devices.

They send webmasters an email when their web crawler, “googlebot”, finds pages that don’t comply. The mails arrive from the Webmaster Tools Team, with subject, “Fix mobile usability issues found on [website name].”

What Makes a Website Mobile-Friendly?

Mobile-friendly websites change their display to suit the user’s device. The same content will look different on a laptop, tablet or smartphone. It should be easy to use on any of them.

Is Your Website Mobile-Friendly?

Easy Ways to Check

You can check your website by looking at pages, first on your laptop or desktop, then on a tablet and smartphone. They should respond well to the mouse on your static devices, and equally well to taps on touch-screens.

For a more thorough check, use just your lapfloating pane controltop by changing the width of your browser window. If you’re viewing full screen, click this button next to the Close button, top right.

This makes a smaller window that you can re-size by dragging the corners, sides, top or bottom. Hover your mouse over the right-hand edge of the change-window-widthwindow until you see a double-headed arrow, like this. Hold down the left mouse button and move it slowly to the left. See how (if at all) your web page changes its appearance as the width reduces.

If it isn’t mobile-friendly, and the right-hand side disappears, then you have work to do.

mobileAdGraphic480x240

Methods of Mobile-Friendly Implementation

For an example, try squeezing your browser window with this web page. As the device gets smaller, the browser gets narrower. See how:

  • three images re-size and drop one below the other;
  • then the images shrink to fit;
  • the width of the text reduces;
  • the menu, contact and user log in buttons change position;
  • the get in touch button remains visible always.

This is what’s known as a “Responsive” website. Word on the Digital Marketing block suggests that responsive sites will appear higher in search results than those using other methods. Google defines two more methods:

  1. “Dynamic serving”, where the server sends different HTML depending on the user’s device;
  2. “Separate URLs”, which requires owners to maintain two separate websites, one called www.example.com and the other, say, mob.example.com.

If you’re into the detail, see Google’s guide to mobile-friendly websites.

Mobile-friendly Web Page Tester

You can check any web page using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Testing tool. Just copy and paste any web address into it.

Google’s Webmaster Tools now have a Mobile Usability section. It tells you which pages on your site fail the test, and why.

example of a false positive result from Google's mobile-friendly testBeware of False Positives

Google’s tool can make mistakes. Here’s an example, the owner of which will remain nameless :-). Google thinks this home page “awesome” but actually isn’t.

You see their cookie policy warning; nothing else. This obviously works for googlebot, but isn’t much use to human visitors.

The web page uses a third-party cookie policy script that googlebot thinks is a whole page.

What to Do Next

There’s no need to panic. It’ll take a while for googlebot to crawl the entire world-wide web. And if your business doesn’t rely on Google searches, you can relax for longer. However, with more than half of all searches done from mobile devices, you’ll still want to make this change.

NB: this only affects mobile searches, your website should still look OK – and retain its position in search results – on static computers.

  1. Check your website using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Testing tool.
  2. Keep checking your position in search results on your mobile phone. Make sure you’re not logged into your Google account when you do this, as Google shows you what it thinks you want to see, not what a new visitor would see.
  3. Ask your web designer to make your website fully responsive. Make sure they fix the whole site, not just a few pages.

If they’re busy, there are some things you may be able to do yourself, using your own CMS, to tide you over. NB: you’ll still need to get the job done properly, as soon as you can.

  • make sure your fonts are big enough to be read easily on a smartphone;
  • don’t put touchable buttons or phone numbers too close together;
  • remove Flash animations, which are not supported on all mobile platforms.

If you want some help, give BlueTree a call. 0117 339 0095.

A Search Engine That Doesn’t Track your Every Move

What’s This All About?

Well, from time to time I Google, “search engines” just to see what comes up. There are quite a few. More than you might imagine.

Though it may take a while, the influence of mighty companies always wanes. It only takes one new upstart to grab the world’s attention and the market leader starts to make mistakes. Maybe this is Google’s nemesis, maybe not.

What if there were a new search engine that doesn’t harvest my on-line life for commercial gain? One that’s simple, clean, and it doesn’t tell me I’m missing out by not being logged in to my account? Just like Google used to be, in fact.

So What’s New?

Top of my search results was an engine called DuckDuckGo.

That’s impressive too, as it proves Google really does try to give users the best results it can. DuckDuckGo is, after all, Google’s competitor, albeit a small one.

What’s Special About DuckDuckGo?Duck duck go search engine logo

DuckDuckGo’s most obvious feature is that it doesn’t recognise you, remember you, store information about you, nor tailor search results for you. Every user making the same query gets the same results. Google delivers different search results depending on location, device you’re using, and whether you’re logged in to your Google account.

Next is the way it works. DuckDuckGo doesn’t crawl the entire worldwide web in the way other search engines do. Instead, it uses developers’ interfaces to other search engines, along with publicly available information from sites like Wikipedia. Altogether it has around 50 sources, which it filters and sorts using its own algorithms.

It’s a bit simpler than Google and it seems to work quite well.

Read all about DuckDuckGo on Wikipedia.

It’s in the news right now because Apple iOS 8 now offers DuckDuckGo as an alternative search engine.

Quick Search Test

To compare its results with Google, I tried a couple of searches. Not a great test, but since I wanted to do these searches anyway it seemed a good idea. I used the Firefox web browser, so they were both on the same footing.

Search 1: Buy a Kettle

Our electric kettle at home has broken and we need a new one. The best buy in Which? is the Dualit 72400, so I searched for that. This product is available worldwide and its has a relatively long lifespan.

Here are the top four results from Google, plus some ads:search results for kettle using google

As you can see, Google displayed three ads at the top this time, then the real search results. It doesn’t display the same ads, nor even the same number, every time. I used google.co.uk, so it knows I want to buy my kettle in the UK, even though I’m not logged into my Google account. It’s just given me UK-based web pages.

Here are the DuckDuckGo results.search results for kettle using duckduckgo

Two ads from DuckDuckGo and then the first result is the same as Google’s. Both also have the Which? website at position four. However, DuckDuckGo included some .com results, which aren’t much use to me.

Google does this quite often, too, which is irritating, and it’s easier to convince DuckDuckGo that you want to search UK sites only.regional search selection on DuckDuckGo

Top right on DuckDuckGo’s search results page is a region selector button. One click sets it. This takes three clicks on Google and it doesn’t always offer the option, so then you’re forced to add “UK” to your search query – too many keystrokes :-(.

How to convince Google you only want to see UK sites.
Click Search tools > Any country > Country: the UK.change region method on google

They used to let you do this before searching. Can’t imagine why they changed it.

Search 2: Local Entertainment

I want to buy some tickets for what promises to be a very entertaining show at the Tobacco Factory in Bristol, “Elizabeth I: Virgin on the Ridiculous”, performed by “Living Spit”. We saw another of their productions in Portishead in June and it was very funny indeed.

This seems a good test because I’m looking for something that is a) local, and b) has a short lifespan. Here are the top four results from Google.

search for show using googleAnd here’s DuckDuckGo’s effort: much the same…show search using duckduckgo

They both have the Tobacco Factory website first and one other in common: Visit Bristol. The other results from both are equally useful.

Conclusion and Next Steps

Fom this very limited test, it looks as though DuckDuckGo may be a usable search engine, despite being relatively new. Its ethos is quite different from Google’s: it’s not out to make lots of money. It’s worthy of further investigation.

I’m going to continue using Google in my Chrome browser, which is permanently logged into my Google account. This always tailors search results specifically for me: it knows my age and gender, where I live, what I search for, my favourite travel destinations, the things I buy, my circle of friends and same things about them. Think how Google can influence my search results – and the way those very results influence what I do.

Interesting! Useful too, until (if ever) that influence is misused.

I use Firefox for development and research and I’m switching to DuckDuckGo for that. And I’ll definitely use it in Avast SafeZone, when I search for websites where I’m going to enter credit card or bank details.

If you’ve tried DuckDuckGo, we’d really like to know what you think of it!

How to Check and Improve Web Server Response Time

Introduction

In our previous post, we dealt with the time it takes you web pages to travel over the Internet and into your browser. We also discussed why fast response is important. Now it’s time to look at the other element of website response time: server response time. In this post we examine,

  • how to find out if your web server is slow,
  • how to fix the problem.

Is My Web Server Too Slow?

What Is “Too Slow” and Why Does it Matter?

Widely available research tells us that, variously, half of Internet users will leave a web page if they’re not hooked within three seconds, or two seconds… The longest I’ve come a cross is eight seconds.

So, taking the easiest target, if your web page takes 8 seconds to load, half of your potential customers will have already left by the time it appears. With average conversion rates of 1% or less, that means you need over 100 clicks on your ad to get one person interested. And remember, this is just interested, not a real customer by a long way.

So, 8 seconds is far too slow. NB: 8 seconds covers both server response time and page load time. Try 2 or 3 seconds instead for the server alone.

How to Check Server Response Time

Method 1: Ping It

“ping” is a command we use to monitor clients’ server up-times. Handily, it also tells you how long it took to send a tiny packet of data across the Internet and receive a reply.

You need to know your web site’s IP address, and how to use a command prompt. I use Windows 7, so I click the Start button and type cmd into the search field. This is the old DOS window, for anyone who can remember that far back.

Windows cmd showing ping command

  1. At the command prompt, type ping, followed by your website’s IP Address, followed by Enter or Return. E.g. “ping 78.31.107.141”.
  2. You see the time our server took to respond, 32 milliseconds.
  3. To close the cmd window, type “exit”.

Method 2: Pingdom

Fortunately, there is an better way.

Pingdom is a service provided by a Swedish company. It tracks website performance and downtime. Not only does it take away all the hassle, it also keeps history, and shows charts of your site’s performance over time. It’s free for occasional use on a single website.

  1. Set up an account, log in, and identify your website for checking.
  2. Let it run for a day or more.
  3. Log in to your dashboard, where you can see an up-to-date summary: down-time and server response time.
    a section of the pingdom dashboard, showing downtime and response time over your chosen time period.
    This shows there’s been no downtime over the last 24 hours, and the response time was fine too, average 386 milliseconds. That’s very good.
  4. Click the icon I’ve indicated “choose report” and select Response Time.

Poor Response Time Example

chart showing average hourly response time for February sixth.

NB: this chart comes from a different website, which we won’t name. It shows hourly average response times on Feb 6, from 00:01 hours to 24:00. You can see that, after 6pm or so, response time was OK, well below half a second. However, all through the working day it took over 3 seconds just to get a response from the server. You can hover over a point on the graph and Pingdom displays the detail (white box, top of picture).

This is not a good result. Sadly, this website’s graph looks similar every day. Users are losing interest.

pingdom get startedTry Pingdom’s free tool on your own website! Go to their website and click Get Started Now.

TIP. Several people with whom I’ve discussedpingdom logout button Pingdom had trouble logging out of their account for the first time. It isn’t dead obvious how to do it. Look for the “on/off” symbol, towards the top of the screen, to the right of your login name. Being yellow, it’s hard to spot, but it turns red when you hover over it.

How to Fix The Problem

OK, we’re talking about the carriers, here, everything that happens between your browser and the website you want to view. We covered the website’s contribution in an earlier post.

There are two main components: the speed of your Internet connection and the time it takes the web server wake up, find the web page you requested, and send it back.

Step 1: Is it your Internet Connection or the Websites’s Server

Because Pingdom pings from a fast Internet connection, we can ignore the download speed issue. If Pingdom sales a site is slow,then it’s on a slow server. If Pingdom says the site is OK, and the ping command from your own device shows a slow response time, then your Internet connection is the problem.

Step 2: How do you find an ISP with satisfactory performance?

We need to stress that most web hosts, most of the time, will provide satisfactory performance. You might suffer a bit at peak usage times, but that’s all. Here’s a good way to find one.

  1. Find other business’s websites, people you know, and use Pingdom for a day or more;
  2. If they’re OK, ask who their ISP is;
  3. If they’re not OK, point them at this post ;-).

You could also look at PC Pro’s annual web hosting awards and pick one from around the top of the list.

Web Pages Should Load Fast

How to Measure Your Website’s Speed

In this post we examine the importance of making your web pages load fast, the effect of slow pages on usability, and a little bit about how to improve things.

Page Load Speed is Important

Ever had to wait ages for a web page to load? What did you do? Hang around, or look for something else? The modern world, fuelled by the Internet, is making us all very impatient. This study into user reactions to slow page loads was published as long ago as 2009; imagine what the figures are today!

  • 47% of people expect a web page to load in two seconds or less.
  • 40% will abandon a web page if it takes more than three seconds to load.
  • 52% of online shoppers claim that quick page loads are important for their loyalty to a site.
  • 14% will start shopping at a different site if page loads are slow, 23% will stop shopping or even walk away from their computer.
  • 64% of shoppers who are dissatisfied with their site visit will go somewhere else to shop next time.

chart showing bounce rate vs increasing page load speed

chart showing how pages per visit drops as page load speed increases

Now here are a couple of charts to emphasise the point. They show bounce rate and the reduction in pages viewed per visit, compared with page load speed.

Bounce rate measures the number of visitors who arrive at your page and then immediately go away to another site. The inference being that they didn’t like what they saw (or couldn’t be bothered to wait for another page to load).

Source: Web Performance Today.

Apart from frustrating your visitors – the very people you want to impress – there are other implications, too.

 

  1. Search engine spiders will give up if a site loads too slowly, so your pages won’t be indexed in a timely fashion.
  2. Slow pages depress your AdWords “quality score”, or QS; this in turn increases your cost per click, adding to on-line marketing costs or reducing the number of times your ad is displayed.

How to Measure Page Load Speed

Google thinks the speed of the Internet is so important they’ve developed a tool called PageSpeed Insights to measure it. It’s easy to use. Just go to PageSpeed Insights, enter your website’s address, and click the go button.

enter your website address and click "analyse"After a few moments thought, the tool will rank your website, scores out of 100, for both mobile and static (those conected to a landline) devices.

score out of 100 for mobile and static devicesInsights’ focus on mobiles has intensified over recent months as mobile devices account for a rapidly-growing proportion of all Internet traffic.

So you can see our scores here, above. Now try yours!

What the Scores Mean

So what is a good score? Whilst 100/100 is perfect, presumeably, the law of diminuishing returns will ensure that few sites ever get there. I’d say that:

  • over 90: awesome,
  • over 80: great,
  • over 70: might be fine,
  • under 70: better do something about it.

bluetree.co.uk usually scores 96 or 98/100 for static computers, 86 0r 88/100 for mobiles. However, when first developed it scored only 78. We experimented with the new design to see how close we could get to the magic 100/100. You can read all about our experiments here.

Easy Speed Up for Your Website

The PageSpeed tool kindly offers a list of suggestions on how to improve your website. Most of them are a bit techie for many people, but some of them are obvious – and easy to remedy:

  1. Images can be very big, and very slow to load, so:
    a) don’t have too many,
    b) make sure they’re the correct size,
    c) compress them to make sure the files are as small as possible.
  2. Make sure there are no surplus characters, or spaces at the end of lines and paragraphs: it’s easy to introduce extra characters (and extra download time) if you copy and paste from Microsoft Word, for example.

How Fast is Your Web Server?

One last thing: we’ve been looking at what you can do to to improve your website download speed. That’s changes to your website to improve the transfer speed. There’s another element that’s harder control: your web server.

This is just as important. We’ll look at how to measure server response in our next post.

How to Recognise an Internet Rip-off

Ripped off on the Internet

My Cousin was Ripped Off

Today my young cousin, Sarah, nearly 17, applied for a provisional driving licence via www.drivinglicence.uk.com. This site looks official, and invites you to “APPLY NOW” for your new or replacement licence. She checked “First Provisional Licence (with a view to passing a test)” and pressed the NEXT button.

Panel accepting fee from non-DVLA driving licence websiteThe site then made it very clear that she would have to agree to the £50 fee before going any further. This page shows the Visa and MasterCard logos and “guarantees” that “Your information is 100% secure.”

Now, £50 is what your first provisional licence costs, so that all look fine. Let’s get on with it!

Trouble is, when you’ve finished this process, you still have to pay another £50 to the DVLA for your licence. The “service” this website provides is simply to collect your details and pass them on to the DVLA. You can avoid the extra £50 charge by going directly to the DVLA’s own website, at www.gov.uk/apply-first-provisional-driving-licence. Note the “.gov” in the website address, or URL.

Sarah’s mum was incensed, naturally! “How,” she said, “Can we get the money back?”

Sadly, the answer is, “With great difficulty, and you’re unlikely to succeed.” It’s just possible you might win a prosecution in the Small Claims Court. After all, one could argue that the panel above is misleading. It does imply that the £50 you’ll pay them is the “Application Fee” for your provisional licence. Sarah believed so; they’ll say you’re applying for their service.

Is it Legal?

Probably yes. It may be morally wrong, but it is probably legal. The website makes it very clear that it has nothing to do with the DVLA, which issues driving licences. It is also very clear that the service will cost you £50, that their (very long and likely to remain unread) terms and conditions apply, and if you continue then you’re committed to the fee.

To be fair, Google does try to encourage sensible website choices. The relevant .gov websites appear before drivinglicence.uk.com (and others – yes, there are others) in many search results. And there are plenty of discussion forums that warn against scams like this. Check Mumsnet and Money Saving Expert

So What Should We Tell Our Kids?

dot gov logo

“Look for dot guv, love!”

If you’re looking for any service provided by the government, make sure you can see “.gov.uk” in your browser’s address bar. Most have this government website logo, too.

Where to Look for .gov

Here are some examples (at the time of writing) in Google Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer. Also look for a little padlock and the code, https:// to the left of the web page address.

a dot gov web page example in Google ChromeGoogle
Chrome

a dot gov web page example in FirefoxMozilla
Firefox

Microsoft’s Internet Explorer is different in that the padlock appears to the right of the address.

a dot gov web page example in IEMicrosoft
Internet
Explorer

 

Local Search Marketing

Introduction

People often ask, “How do I get on Google page1?”

The answer, as with so many questions like this, is, “It depends.”

Since we at BlueTree aim to help local small businesses succeed using the Internet, our focus is narrow enough to be able to answer the question. We’ll do it in the form of a story. If you are a local business looking to improve your Internet search marketing, you could try a similar approach.

A Local Search Marketing Story

A couple of years ago, one of our clients was struggling. They run a children’s day nursery. Each child stays with them for a limited time, because soon they’ll go to school. And the nursery is similar to an airline: if they don’t keep their occupancy high, they lose money.

They really have to keep their sales pipeline full. The trouble was, their traditional marketing was failing and their pipeline was definitely not full!

Now, they’re on Google page 1. For a long time now, they’ve been in one of the top three positions. But here’s the thing: now over 50% of their new business comes from the Internet.

This Is How We Did It

We used a three-stage approach.

First, we made them a new website. The old one looked tired and its construction wouldn’t support the next phase of the operation. Google rewards a properly constructed website, built to recognised standards and to Google’s own search engine guidelines.

Second, we started to get them “noticed” on the Internet. By “noticed”, I mean getting links, or references, from other websites. Google counts and grades these links. A link from a good website is positive, and a link from a bad one counts against you. A link from a popular website is worth more than one from a website that few people visit.

We searched Google for business directories that list our nursery. We used searches that suited the business, like “childcare” and “nursery school”. We claimed our listing in all the top directories. Eventually, we claimed 40 in all, but you may not need to do so many. Make sure your content is consistent across all of them, BUT: don’t use identical wording, have a different description that contains the same message. Google doesn’t like duplication, it likes confirmation.

This gave us what we call, “in-bound links” to our website, lots of them. Gradually, we saw their search position rise.

Third, we started regular monitoring and continuous improvement. Things change. Company things, like our nursery won Ofsted Outstanding grade. Our competitors respond, and jump ahead of us, so we add some more content. It has to be something useful to our customers, remember. Then Google changes the rules. They do this all the time, but they don’t tell you how, you have to guess. There’s a global network of people guessing, and you can spend a lot of time keeping up. This is the main reason it’s worth paying somebody else to do it. They can share this time and knowledge over many clients.

The best thing to remember is that Google loves useful, unique content, so we’ve been adding more and more. Not too much, just enough to keep ahead of the competition.

What Shall We Do Next?

Let’s look at what’s changed in the Internet recently. Just a couple, out of many things:

  1. Over the last few years, somebody invented the i-Pad, the Smartphone, and tablet computers. This month we hear that, in the UK, mobile devices like these account for a staggering 80% of all searches leading to restaurant bookings, for example.
  2. The proportion of Google searches that are local: 43% and rising. You don’t need to include your town in your search any more. Google knows where you are.

For businesses like us, with local markets, this is important. How does this affect what we do for our nursery?

We optimise the website for mobile devices. Then we survey our customers and ask what social media they use, Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, LinkedIn – or what?

As a result we set up Google Plus and Facebook business pages first. Then we’ll see how it goes. No point in wasting time (and time is money) on the others if that’s all we need to do!

How Do Facebook and Google Plus Help Our Nursery?

They give us a great way to engage with our customers. We publish interesting things on our business pages, like “Santa’s visit on Friday”. We encourage our customers to comment. We respond to their comments, build a rapport with them, so they keep coming back.

If our customers find it useful, we get some credit, some Facebook Likes, and we’ll climb back up the search results pages.

With Google Plus the effect is even more marked. For example, if someone is following you on Google+, the chances that they will see your posts in Google’s search results go way up in their search results. And so will their own followers. Wow!

Takeaway

The technology that supports local Internet marketing is advancing rapidly. Businesses with local markets can keep up, or fall behind.

Spend 20 minutes watching this TED lecture and get a clue about how Internet search technology has reached the position it has, and how it might develop in future. Then think about what you need to do about it.

Make an E-Christmas Card

E-Christmas Card Reasoning

E-cards seem like a cop-out to traditionalists, fine for a later generation. This can be true if you send the same card to everyone on your mailing list.

However, by sending a personal message with each card, you find a little time in your busy life to keep in touch with people you like and respect.  It’s the same as sending a physical card by post, except that:

  • it’s kinder to the environment, using less paper and fuel;
  • it saves you money, in cards and postage;
  • it saves time and fuel, as you don’t need to go buy and post them.

Now you can donate the money you’ve saved to your favourite charity!

BlueTree E-card

Our e-Christmas card is personal, one for each recipient. We send individual emails, with a link to a single page containing a general message for all recipients. We personalise it using a “to=” parameter. If you click this link, you’ll see an example.

We can change some of the text on the web page using our Content Management System, or CMS, but it changes for everyone. The individual message is in the email and the parameter.

Make Your Own

The “to=” parameter is too complex for the CMS. However, you can easily make an on-line e-card of your own, and keep the personal message for the email.

We’ll post more on how to do this later.

Another Email with Links

This Spam Email is from Fedex – NOT!

Here is another example. Read about the first here.

There’s usually a flurry of mails like this around Christmas. People can be taken in more easily if they’re expecting a delivery, as many do at this time of year.

Example of spam from Fedex

How to Spot It As Spam

There are two give-aways in this mail, on top of the time of year, which should make us all more vigilant:

  1. The word, “postrider”, which looks like a word made up by someone who couldn’t translate it from another language;
  2. The format of the “Get Postal Receipt” button, which looks very unprofessional.

What to Do Next

Our advice is always the same,

  • Don’t click any links, nor open any attachments;
  • Delete it or mark it as spam;
  • If you feel public-spirited, and it claims to be from an organisation, search for what they want you to do about spam.

Fedex has a whole micro-site about spam, which makes useful reading. It contains examples of common spam emails.

Finally, here’s a page with how to report spam to lots of major organisations. Thank you Marjolein Katsma.

How to Google Yourself

Search meWhy Google Yourself?

Well, your on-line image is important, and it’s easy to lose control of it. If you’re in business, “Yourself” also means “Company.” It’s important to monitor what people see when they Google you.

Google is Clever

The trouble is, Google tries to give you the best result for you. It uses everything it’s got, and bends the results to favour things it thinks you want to see. This is usually fine when you search for a restaurant or another business, but not when you search for yourself.

You need to see what others would see.

Browse Privately

Web browsers these days have a Private Browsing mode. At the end of this post we’ve included some hints on how to turn it on in different browsers.

Private mode means your browser neither uses, nor keeps, a history of the pages you visit. It won’t leave cookies or any other local files, no trace of your presence on the computer you use. Use Private Browsing:

  • when you don’t want to leave a trail on someone else’s computer;
  • for banking transactions;
  • to check your real position in search engine results;
  • to buy your spouse’s birthday present.

Beware: You’re still leaving some sort of trail behind on the search engine’s server, so if you want total privacy you need to look further than we can tell you.

But that’s not the end of the story!

How to Google Yourself

  1. Start your web browser;
  2. Don’t use a mobile device, like your phone or tablet, because they tell search engines too much about you and your location; the search engine will skew your results;
  3. Open a private browsing window (see below for how to do this with your favourite web browser).
  4. Make sure you’re logged out of everything: Facebook, LinkedIn, Trip Advisor, Trade Association – everything;
  5. Especially make sure you log out of all Google apps, like Gmail, YouTube, Picassa…

Almost ready: tell the search engine where want to be for your experiments. In this Google example, it knows I’m in Portishead so it might show me results for this area when I don’t want it to.

google search options showing how to change location
Click “Search tools” (1) and then use the drop-down (2) to choose the location you want. The default location is that of your ISP’s server. Ours is in Guildford, Essex, so it isn’t much use for my local searches anyway.

You can enter a post code, county, city, or UK. Google will tell you if it doesn’t recognise the area you’ve chosen.

Now you’re ready.where to look for Google image search

  1. Search for your name, or the name of your business;
  2. Try common misspellings;
  3. Now do an Image search, and Maps – see right.

Now What?

Did you like what you found? Yes? That’s OK then.

If you didn’t, then it’s time for a chat with your marketing guys!

And finally, don’t forget to Bing yourself, and Yahoo yourself too…

How to Start Private Browsing in Different Web Browsers

Most browsers support the shortcut, Ctrl-Shift-P. Here’s a selection of other ways to start it. They all open a new window or tab.

How to start Firefox private browsing

Firefox

Click the Firefox button, then Start Private Browsing. If you’re using the menu bar, it’s under Tools.

 

start in-private browsing in IE

 

 

Internet Explorer

Click the Tools icon, then Safety>, InPrivate Browsing. It’s also in the File menu.

How to start Private Brosing in Apple Safari

 

Apple Safari

Curiously, Apple has it under the Edit menu, though it does just the same as in other browsers.

 

 

 

Opera's method to start Private Browsing

Opera

Opera button, Tabs and Windows; now choose New Private Window or Tab.