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On the subject of Technology

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Matt

December 19th, 2014.

Trends That Will Dominate eCommerce in 2015

Due to the increased use of technology, particularly mobile devices, such as smartphones, eCommerce is expanding and evolving at an exponential rate. eCommerce sites are having to adapt and evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of technology. From the emergence of responsiveness optimised web design to the increased use of video content, eCommerce has changed a great deal in the past decade. These changes are set to continue in 2015. Next, year here’s what trends we expect to dominate eCommerce in the coming year.

Mobile Payments will be in Demand

People are using their phones for everything from sending text messages, to making purchases online, and often, they don’t want to use a card, because they worry about security, and because it’s inconvenient to enter card details. Mobile payment systems make paying from your phone a simple process, and no card details are necessary.

13618923175698510597464_9bcd47278a_bPayments made using mobile phone payment systems are increasing. By 2017, it is predicated that mobile payments will account for 3% of the international eCommerce market. This means that websites that allow consumers to pay using a mobile payment system, like Zong, will have an edge over their competition. In 2015, mobile payment systems will likely become much more prevalent among eCommerce websites. Mobile payments systems will likely become more refined and easier to use in the coming year too.

Quality Content will be even more Important

According to statistics, content marketing methods are 62% less expensive than traditional marketing methods are. While content marketing is much less expensive, in gets three times as many leads as traditional marketing does. In 2015, creating high quality content will be even more important for eCommerce websites. Nowadays, consumers are exposed to more advertising than ever. From television adverts to pay per click adverts on Google, consumers see advertising everywhere. This means that consumers tend to tune out advertisements and other things that they don’t perceive to be useful, valuable or relevant to them. This is why content marketing is one of the most effective methods for engaging customers, establishing trust and building a loyal brand following.

Content marketing methods, like social media, articles, blog posts, newsletters, and videos are more effective than television advertisements, and other traditional marketing methods, according to marketing trends. In 2015, if eCommerce websites want to compete in the market, they need to produce valuable, relevant, and informative content that customers will find useful.

Mobile Optimisation will be Essential

According to statistics, 15% of physical goods purchases were made from a mobile device and 32% of all online purchases are made from a mobile device. Optimizing your website, advertisements, and emails for mobile devices will become even more important by 2015. Next year, eCommerce sites will need to make their stores mobile responsive. Stores need to be convenient and accessible for mobile users. If an eCommerce store isn’t mobile responsive, it will lose out on a large percent of the market, and it will struggle to compete with competitors.

Social Media Marketing will become more Diverse

Social Media Marketing will become even more important in 2015. As mentioned earlier, outbound marketing methods, like television adverts, are losing their effectiveness, whereas content marketing is maintaining its effectiveness. Social media is an important part of the content marketing process. Next year, however, it won’t just be Facebook or Twitter that the eCommerce sites will be utilizing. More well-rounded social media platforms, and image-based sites, like Pinterest, will also be utilised more predominantly. Ultimately, in 2015, eCommerce sites will have to diversify their social media marketing efforts to suit their audiences.

Flat-Design will Dominate

Flat-design for websites will dominate in 2015. It’s already becoming increasingly prevalent, with large corporations like Google and Microsoft implementing it. A flat web design is clean, features neat lines and crisp edges, and utilizes flat, two dimensional graphics. Unlike other web design trends, which feature, shadows, gradients, garish graphics and other bold design elements, flat-design is minimalist, and uses a less is more approach. A famous example of a flat design user interface is the Microsoft Windows 8 interface.  Flat-design is becoming popular because it looks clean and neat to the user, it’s easy to read and navigate and this type of design is easy to make responsive.

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Retargeting Ads will become more Prevalent

Retargeting ads are incredibly effective, and will likely become more prevalent in 2015. According to statistics, retargeting can increase your ad response by up to 400% and three out of five consumers say that they notice adverts for products they have already viewed. Using browser cookies, an eCommerce site can track the sites, products and pages that their customers visit. After these customers have left the site, and are viewing other websites, the items they viewed will be advertised.

Fashion retailer New Look is a prime example of a large company that utilises retargeting ads. For example, if you view a pair of shoes on New Look, when you leave the site to look at a news website, for example, you will see adverts for the shoes and anything else you may have viewed the New Look site. Statistics have shown that just 2% of first visits to a site result in a sale. Ad retargeting can significantly increase your conversion rate.

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Matt

November 30th, 2014.

How the Reddit Algorithm Works

Reddit is a social networking platform and news website. On Reddit, users of the site can share links to content online, and also post their own unique content directly to the site. Other users can then up-vote or down-vote this content and leave comments. While Reddit is primarily a social platform, it can be a valuable asset for online businesses. Ecommerce sites can use Reddit to promote their content, and increase the visibility of their products or services. With 114.5 million unique visits each month, Reddit is a platform that can vastly increase your businesses’ visibility.

Using Reddit

When you visit Reddit, you’ll see a front page that lists links posted by other users. The website also contains subreddits, which further categorise content into areas of interest, such as fashion or fitness. Each subreddit has its own front page too. Having your link feature on the front page of Reddit provides you with maximum visibility. Many Reddit users aim to get their link posted on the front page. To find out how Reddit ranks its content, you need to understand how the Reddit algorithm works.

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The benefit of having your content featured on Reddit is , outside of the huge traffic that it brings, it gives your content exposure to influencers. Bloggers and journalists often use Reddit for story ideas, so getting visibility on the platform often translates into exposure on other prominent sites a few days later.

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How the Reddit Submission Algorithm Works

As Reddit is an open source website, its code is freely available. The site’s algorithms are written in Python and the sorting algorithms are executed in Pyrex. Reddit has a story algorithm that it always uses, which is called the Reddit hot ranking. With the Reddit story algorithm, the number of votes and the submission time of a link have the largest effect on where a story will rank.

This is because Reddit implements a logarithm function in its algorithm. With this type of algorithm, the first votes on a link are more valuable than later votes on a link. For example, the first 10 up-votes will have the same value as the next 100 and so on. This means that as a link gets older, its ranking will slowly degrade, as the impact of the up-votes it gets becomes less significant. Conversely, it is also important to get some initial traction on a submission in order to give it early visibility.

Reddit ranks an item by calculating the number of votes a link has and then subtracting points based on how old that link is. This means that newer links generally rank higher than older links. This keeps the front page fresh, and ensures that links with thousands of up-votes aren’t stuck on the front page for weeks or months at a time. Stories that get a more equal range of up-votes and down-votes will generally be ranked lower than stories that have a larger percentage of up-votes.

How the Reddit Comment Algorithm Works

For comments, Reddit uses a different algorithm, as using the hot ranking algorithm wouldn’t be practical. For comments, it is most logical to list the best rated comments prominently, rather than giving precedence to the older comments. Instead of using the hot ranking algorithm, Reddit uses a confidence sort algorithm based on the Wilson score interval for its comments.

With a confidence sort algorithm, the best rated comments that the system has the most data for will be ranked the highest. For example, a comment with ten up-votes and 1 down vote will rank higher than a comment with only 1 up-vote and no down-votes, even though the latter comment has a 100% up-vote rate. The comments are ranked by data sampling and the date the comments are submitted isn’t an active factor.

Understanding the basics of the Reddit algorithm can help you to better understand the way that the platform works, and be able to use it more effectively.

Mobile-Payments

Matt

October 17th, 2014.

The Growth of Mobile eCommerce Payments

From cash to credit cards, the way consumers pay for their purchases has significantly evolved over the past few decades. Now, however, the evolution of payment methods is accelerating, thanks mostly to the prevalence of technology in society.

According to statistics, there are currently six billion mobile phones in use throughout the world, and 88% of Europeans own one. Many consumers now browse eCommerce websites from their phones.

Research-gives-insight-in-the-mobile-payment-user-base-and-penetration-worldwideIn 2012 alone, people spent $25 billion on purchases that they made from their mobile phones. Now, 32% of all purchases online are made from mobile phones. As a result of the growth of mobile platforms, by 2018, according to Goldman Sachs, international e-Commerce will see a growth of $638 billion. By 2020, it is estimated that the majority of people will make purchases using their mobile phone.

The popularity of mobile phones is changing the way consumers shop. Often, people don’t feel that using their credit card or debit card to pay for purchases is safe or secure. The need for a more convenient and secure way to pay for purchases has led to an increase in mobile payment systems.

What is a Mobile Payment System?

Mobile payments require a mobile payment processing platform.  Many companies, from PayPal to Amazon now offer such options to their customers. There are four types of mobile payments:

  • Contactless Near Field Communication
  • Premium SMS Based Transactional Payments
  • WAP Billing/Mobile Web Payments
  • Direct Mobile Billing

Popular Mobile Payment Systems

All of these mobile payment platforms vary in the models they use. However, they all eliminate the need for registration details, passwords and credit cards or debit cards.

Zong

Zong is a mobile payment organisation, which allows its customers to make payments online, via their mobile phones. The company, which was acquired by eBay in 2011, operates in forty countries, including the UK. Zong now has 60 million users in the UK. Customers in the UK can use Zong if they are on the Vodaphone, Orange, O2, T-Mobile, 3 or the Virgin network.

To use Zong, you simply click on the red Zong symbol, and a box will appear. You need to enter your mobile phone number into this box. Then, you will be sent a secure pin code, which you will enter online to make your purchase. With Zong, a consumer’s purchase is charged through their mobile phone bill, by their mobile network.

PayPal Mobile Payments

PayPal is a well-known digital wallet and online payment system, which has been making it easier for consumers to shop online. Now, the company is offering a mobile payments system, called PayPal Mobile Payments. The company first tried the NFC payments model, but found it too complex and limiting. The system now is very simple.

First, you have to activate your mobile phone number and pin number. These will be your mobile login details. Then, either online, or through apps, you can shop using this payment system. You simply select PayPal as your payment option, and then enter your mobile number and pin number to make your purchase. This payment system is compatible with iOS and Android apps, and it allows you to pay via phone, tablet, and many other mobile devices.

Amazon Payments/Amazon Mobile Payments Service

Through the Amazon Payments system, consumers can make purchases online, in a way that is more secure and more convenient. Through the Amazon Payments system, Amazon is offering the Amazon Mobile Payment Service (MPS). With this system, customers can make purchases with their mobile phones.

To make a purchase using the Amazon Mobile Payment Service, first click on the “Pay with Amazon” button. You will then be taken to page hosted by Amazon Payments, where you will use your Amazon login details to sign in. From there, you can select a payment method that you already have on file with Amazon. Once you’ve selected a payment option, you’ll return to the merchant’s site, where you can make your purchase. You can use the Amazon Mobile Payment Service to make purchase from any mobile device.

Netsize

Netsize is a payment platform, which allows its users to make purchases from their phones and other mobile devices. The company works with over 160 mobile networks in more than 50 countries. Netsize offers many mobile payment models, including WAP billing, in-app billing, and operator billing.

Text2Pay

Text2Pay is a mobile payment system, which makes purchasing products online, much easier. The payment system operates in over fifty countries. To make a purchase on Text2Pay, you need to click on the “Pay by Fone” button. Then you will need to enter your mobile phone number. You will then be asked to enter your post code, so that Text2Pay can verify that it matches the details for your mobile phone number. After this, you will be sent a pin number, which you will need to enter to complete the transaction.

Boku

One of the largest mobile payment programs, Boku operates in 66 countries, and is partnered with over two hundred mobile phone networks. Boku is a very safe, and convenient mobile payment system, and it offers excellent customer services.

To use Boku to make a purchase, you need to select the “Pay by Mobile” option. You will need to enter your mobile phone number. Then, you need to click “Yes” to confirm your purchase. Purchases that you make using Boku will be charged directly to your mobile phone bill. This means that you don’t need to use credit cards, debit cards or bank accounts to make your purchase.

With the rise in smartphones, apps and tablets, mobile payment systems are becoming an integral part of eCommerce. As the amount of purchases made from mobile devices continues to grow, more and more eCommerce sites are sure to begin offering mobile payments.

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Matt

October 3rd, 2014.

A Guide To Improving Your Page Load Speeds

Many businesses may think that page load speeds are not very important, and why would they? Most of us these days have super fast conversion-rate-page-load-timebroadband Internet, fibre optic is being rolled out and 4G provides users with speedy mobile Internet. So what does it matter if a webpage takes 0.5 milliseconds longer to load than others? Well for one, Google takes into consideration page loads speeds, and will rank websites with faster load speeds higher in their search rankings. Major ecommerce giant Amazon, reported in 2006 that for each 100 milliseconds they speeded up their page load speeds, directly correlated in a 1% increase in overall sales. Interested now? We thought so, here are 11 ways to improve your websites page load speeds.

1. Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)

A CDN (such as Cloudflare) works by placing your files across several different servers around the world. For example, when you get a visitor from Brazil, they will download your website files from a sever that’s closest to them. Using a CDN can reduce as much as 60% bandwidth and greatly minimises the number of requests visitors make to your site. Using a CDN also helps your website become less susceptible to DDoS attacks, as files are distributed over several locations

2. Compress your images

Images are a major factor when it comes to page load speeds. There are several ways to compress images without comprising quality, for WordPress users we suggest downloading the Smush.it plugin. This will automatically reduce the size of every image on your site without distorting the visual appearance. Also, before uploading images to your server ensure that they are compressed as much as possible using a free programme like Irfanview

3. Spring clean your database

A problem with website platforms such as WordPress, is the size of your database can become very big in a small amount of time. Once you start making post revisions, adding plugins and extra widgets, your database can become a big drain on your server resources. Depending on the platform you use, there’s several ways to reduce the size of your database, from manually deleting files you don’t need, to downloading plugins that do all the hard work for you.

4. Compress your website

We mentioned the benefits of compressing images, but all your other files eat bandwidth too. Using server compression applications such as Gzip, will speed up page loads speeds by compressing all your website files into smaller compressed files. Hor hosting company should be able to install this very easily.

5. Don’t let others hotlink your images

‘Hot linking’ an image is when another website uses your image on their website, that’s sourced back to your website database. This results in bandwidth being taken for free by other websites for your images. There’s certain plugins you can use to stop this in WordPress, or by adding code to stops others from hot linking your pictures.

6. Sort out your broken links

Going through your website and fixing all 404 errors and broken links not only helps your site save bandwidth, but improves your Google performance and improves your visitor experience. If you site has many broken links, users are much more likely to leave your site, check your Google Webmaster Tools to see if you have any broken links or errors  and fix them. Alternatively, download the Broken Link Checker plugin on WordPress. Fix your links and watch not only your bounce rate fall, but your site speed up.

7. Is your code best practice?

If you hired a coder to create your website, did they use the best coding practices? It’s quite possible to have two identical websites that both look and respond the same, while being created from two different blocks of code. Using as little coding as possible is a sure fire way to improve page load speeds and reduce overall file sizes. If you’re not a coding expert, and chances are you’re not, ask someone who is to quickly look over your code and ask them what they think.

8. Ask Google

Google offers many amazing free tools you can use for your website, one of them being PageSpeed Insights. Simply enter the URL of your website and hit analyse. Once complete, Google will give you feedback on how your website loads up on desktop and mobile devices, and what further action you can take to help speed up your site.

9. Enable browser caching

Browser caching is an awesome tool all website owners should use, it work by allowing your previous visitors to save your sites commonly usee files on their local machine. So the next time they visit your site, they can access the files directly from their computer without having to make another HTTP request to your sever. Perfect!

10. Reduce your plugins

Less is more when it comes to installing plugins on your site. The more you have the slower your site becomes, and the more problems and security threats you open yourself up for. Any plugin you don’t require or no longer use, delete them. If you have a feeling a particular plugin is reducing the page load speed of your website, deactivate it and run a speed test to see whether it was slowing down your site. You might be surprised to see how much damage one small plugin can do to the page load speed of websites.

11. Use a faster web host

Not all web hosting companies provide the same quality service, depending on who you use, makes a tremendous impact on your website speed and performance. Popular budget host providers are names to avoid if your website drums up a lot of daily traffic.

Page-Load07Further Tools to check your website performance

Along with using Google PageSpeeds, there are several other free tools to check your website performance, they include:

Pingdom – is a great free tool that allows you to test the speed of your website, and monitor how quickly users can download files from your site.

Which Loads Fastercompares two sites against each other to see which one loads faster. It’s best used to compare your site with your competitors to see where you are falling behind.

WebPageTestallows you to check the speed of your site from several locations around the world. Users can create simple tests from testing page load speeds to video capture and visual comparisons.

Web Page Analyser – works very much like PageSpeed Insights in that it measures the speed of your website and gives you advice and tips on how to improve performance and efficiency.   As it stands today, around 48% of all Internet users come from mobile and tablet devices. The need to reduce file sizes and increase page load speeds is increasingly important. if your site takes too long to load, users will click back and head on over to your competitors.

Follow our 11 tips today and watch your page load speeds become faster than ever before.

Use the free tools listed in this article to test the speed and performance of your website. After making the 11 changes, run the tools again and let us know how your website got on in the comments below.

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Rob

September 3rd, 2014.

How should you respond to Google’s announcement that Site Security is part of the ranking algorithm?

We’re always telling our clients that following Google’s best practice is the best strategy to ensure longer-term success in the search results.

So it’s no surprise that every small announcement of changes to their algorithm now gets picked up upon quickly and generates a rush to ‘comply’ regardless of the detail.

Recent announcements about site speed and site security have prompted clients to immediately worry about how their sites will fare, and in most cases these worries are simply unfounded.

Site speed

In our opinion site speed is really important for the user. Whilst Google will also look at this metric it is way down its list on important factors affecting page/site rankings.  Matt Cutts himself even stated that these changes would affect less than 1% of all queries,

You’ll notice that the current implementation mentions that fewer than 1% of search queries will change as a result of incorporating site speed into our ranking. That means that even fewer search results are affected, since the average search query is returning 10 or so search results on each page. So please don’t worry that the effect of this change will be huge. In fact, I believe the official blog post mentioned that “We launched this change a few weeks back after rigorous testing.” The fact that not too many people noticed the change is another reason not to stress out disproportionately over this change.

Site owners seem happy to panic about site speed and security before addressing more fundamental (and infinitely more important) aspects such as page mark-up, site structure and hierarchy, and on-site copy.

It goes without saying that a fast site will improve usabiltiy and help conversions and this is as good or better reason for addressing it than for a Google announcement.

HTTPS

Recently Google announced that they will treat sites served with https better then sites that aren’t using a secure certificate.

https (1)This means that you would need to buy a secure digital certificate.  (Apparently google is part owner of a large SSL company, so this might explain things).

As with site speed metrics, this is way down on Google’s list of priorities in the ranking algorithm, and we do not consider that it is a particular band wagon to be jumping on with the aim of improving search results. Google themselves admit that

“For now it’s only a very lightweight signal—affecting fewer than 1% of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content—while we give webmasters time to switch to HTTPS. But over time, we may decide to strengthen it, because we’d like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web.”

Google certainly has history of implementing changes which website owners feel obliged to comply with, only to backtrack on them later.

So our advice is to implement HTTPs on your site only if you feel it is required for other reasons than just search (eg customer confidence), we have outlined the possible pros and cons for you below,

Pros

  • Your site is protected by an additional SSL layer
  • A minimal algorithmic gain in rankings, implementation is certainly unlikely to result in any visible rankings changes
  • An increase in trust from site visitors, especially important on sites offering more sensitive data or transactions

Cons

  • The initial connection to your site may be slower, especially if you have to implement 301 redirects from non https pages
  • Cost of an annual SSL (if you don’t already have one)
  • In some cases you may lose referral data
  • You’ll need to ensure all https pages are correctly 301 redirected to the newer https versions
  • Need to update your internal link structure if you’re using relative URLs for internal links
  • You may find that many products don’t support the use of https
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Matt

December 17th, 2013.

Good Guy Google – Nine Awesome Things Google Have Done That You Didn’t Even Know About

Love them or hate them, almost all of us these days use Google as our default search engine, and for increasingly other services beyond that, from email to analytics, document storage to translation. Some strange few even use their social media offerings.

But are Google ‘good’ as a company? There is plenty of deserved criticism surrounding privacy and tax avoidance amongst other things. supposedly Google still work on the simple premise of ‘Don’t be evil’, although many would claim that this ethos went out of the window a long time ago. Even Eric Schmidt has since come out and said that the claim was stupid.

However, Google do do a lot of ‘good’. Here are ten of the best examples of ‘good guy Google’, and of the search engine giant doing things that, while not driving their profits higher, help to benefit – potentially – all of mankind. And no, this isn’t a paid Google post..

Google.org

Google.org is perhaps the best example of Google doing good, as it exists purely to develop technology with a positive social impact.

Google-Flu-2013-France2Projects range from Google’s role in advertising and coordinating crisis response efforts, to heavily subsidised (or free) versions of Google’s commercial products for use by non-profit organisations.

Most impressive of all, however, are the Dengue and Flu Trends services, which detect the earliest indications of an outbreak of flu or dengue fever based on the number of people searching for symptoms and treatments.

These can predict epidemics even before doctors have noticed a significant increase in patients presenting with the relevant symptoms, allowing production of the right medicines and vaccines to be scaled up in preparation.

Googling ‘Suicide’

Search for ‘suicide‘ and you might expect the usual helplines and support services for your country or location to be among the top results anyway.

However, Google go further than that – in the UK, you’ll receive a specific message (which, admittedly, still appears below rather than above the sponsored links) telling you to call the Samaritans for help.

In the US, you’ll be presented with an equivalent message for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, while in either country, the organic and sponsored results alike are packed with organisations who can offer advice and support to those going through troubled times.

Breaking Boundaries

Perhaps more than any other big brand, Google work to open doors – figuratively speaking – in developing countries, in order to give people there access to information on as much a free a basis as possible.

The company itself is physically present in over 60 countries worldwide, and the majority of its search results are served to non-US customers.

Google Search itself is available in over 130 different languages, while Google Translate translations can be manually improved by international readers to give a better version of the text than is possible through automated translation.

This is helping to make every web page – regardless of its original language – accessible to web users worldwide, putting all countries and nationalities on a level footing in terms of their access to knowledge and information.

Google Doodles

google-steve-jobs-link-1317903191When Google’s homepage logo changed to a ‘Doodle’ – originally a stylised version of the logo that paid homage to a famous person born on that date, or some other such achievement – it used to be big news.

These days, Google Doodles appear much more often, and are much more complex, often involving some kind of game or other interaction.

However, they also serve to raise awareness of scientific achievements, independence days and cultural celebrations, helping to unite people all over the world every time they make a search.

In rare instances, Google will also add a text message below the main search box on their homepage – they did this, for example, as a mark of respect to Apple innovator Steve Jobs upon his death – and this is a further means by which they can raise awareness, as well as showing a little of their human side on what is otherwise a sleek corporate homepage.

The Return of Authorship

It’s worth taking a moment to look at some of the more recent ‘good things’ Google have done specifically for the way the web works.

For instance, since introducing their own Google+ social network, Google have made it possible for authors to effectively connect their work directly with their Google+ profile.

This in turn allows seasoned professionals to be given added significance in the search results by placing their author image alongside their work.

Supporting Journalism

The web has often been portrayed as the enemy of traditional journalism, with print news publications finding it difficult to compete with real-time ‘news’ via social networks, and to maintain editorial standards in the face of bloggers who are often not subjected to the same levels of scrutiny on grammar and spelling.

In February 2013 though, Google took the first plainly visible steps towards overcoming that (outside of simply carefully selecting the sources of content that are included in the Google News search index).

A total of eight students from 2,300 applicants were selected for fellowships at seven different organisations with links to journalism, from research centres and training facilities, to action groups that aim to protect investigative journalists while they carry out real-world research.

The response to the scheme was so great, Google had to extend the application review period by a full week, and received an application every two minutes on the last day of the deadline; the chosen students will also spend a week working at Google, and learn about how the worlds of journalism and technology can overlap in the years to come.

Safer Internet Day

Each year, on Safer Internet Day, Google make efforts to raise public awareness of online security – particularly among those users who might not be so experienced at using computers or searching from smartphone handsets.

The brand’s commitment to security is built into its products – Google Chrome automatically updates to apply any new security patches, while both Google Search and Gmail transmit data only via encrypted connections.

But its public awareness efforts go beyond automation, encouraging best practices among human users of its services, and of the kinds of technology on which those services are delivered.

In 2013, for instance, the Safer Internet Day campaign from Google focused on issues like locking and password-protecting PCs, laptops and mobile phones, to prevent unauthorised access.

Scrolls and Santa

In December 2012, Google made two announcements with close links to Christmas – one of which was a frivolous bit of fun, while the other was a major archaeological advance.

Google-Santa-Tracker-4-600x358Once again, the search engine ran its annual ‘Santa Tracker’ service, giving people worldwide the ability to “see where Santa’s headed next” on services like Google Earth, and on devices ranging from PCs and laptops with the Chrome browser installed, to Android-powered mobile devices.

Around the same time, Google unveiled the further digitisation of the Dead Sea Scrolls, putting 5,000 images of the scrolls online, and with detailed information for 900 individual manuscripts.

Google provided the storage for the data – which includes colour images at 1,215 dpi resolution, along with infrared scans – and added supporting information through Google Maps, their own imaging technologies, and even YouTube integration.

Whatever your religious beliefs (and that extends to non-religious beliefs like atheism too), Google strive to cater for cultures and communities of all kinds through these kinds of projects, whether they are academic in nature, or simply a fun way to celebrate an important date on the calendar.

Google Goats

goats2In 2009, Google stopped using noisy, air-polluting lawnmowers to clear the grass and brush from the hills around their Mountain View headquarters (a necessary task to reduce the risk of a grass fire close to the building).

They instead hired a herd of goats to come and eat their way across the hillside, clearing vegetation as they went.

‘Mowing’ using goats takes the company about a week each summer, and has the dual benefits of reducing carbon emissions while also naturally fertilising the land – and for approximately the same cost as using petrol-powered industrial mowers.

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Sergio

December 11th, 2013.

Coming Summer 2014: .UK’s Biggest Domain change

 

Summer 2014  will see one of the biggest domain modifications in the UK ever. The roll-out of .uk domains will allow companies who currently use ‘.co.uk’ or ‘org.uk’ domains to also register for  ‘.uk’  e.g.  datadial.co.uk will be able to register datadial.uk.

Nominet will offer the current holders of the .co.uk or org.uk up to 5 years to register the domain before it is released to the general public.

In the event that one company holds .co.uk and another holds .org.uk, the shorter domain will be offered to the holders of the .co.uk domain.

If a domain is not currently registered to .co.uk or .org.uk, the domain will be available on a first-come, first-served basis on launch day.

So in essence, if you have a .co.uk or a .org.uk, you will be able to simplify it to .uk next year.

 

pjoene

Joe Joe

June 25th, 2013.

The 3 Options for Making Your Website Mobile and a 4th.

All of the briefs we’ve received this year have included a request for a ‘mobile version’ of the proposed new site.

But what does this mean? And do I hear the creak of an overloaded bandwagon?

Just as 2011-12 was the year of the Social Strategy [with no specification as to what that actually means], 2013 is fast becoming the year of the Mobile Site. 

Yes, it’s true that mobile use is increasing:

chart

Source Monetate E-Commerce Quarterly.

But how should you respond?

People could be accessing your website from any number of devices (such as phones (of all shapes and sizes), tablets (of all shapes and sizes) and even smart TVs (of all shapes and sizes). So, as a website owner, you shouldn’t be asking whether you should be considering mobile options, you should be asking which mobile options to consider – or shock-horror, opting to do nothing.

So  there are 4 main options available to you. Each has its pros and cons, so let’s get the run-down:

 

#1 Responsive Web Design

What is it?

In a nutshell, this is designing your site so that its layout responds to the device on which it is being displayed..

Advantages

–          Streamlined: The site is hosted on the same domain and uses the same URL so there are no SEO issues or redirecting issues.

–          Consistent with Desktop Content: The same content is just presented in a different layout.

–          Low Maintenance Cost: Although initial build costs may be slightly higher, the cost of maintenance and updating should be lower (as you are only maintaining one site).

Disadvantages

–          Slower Loading Times – If you are adapting an old site to a responsive site you may find that it is not fully optimised for mobile and is slow to load. However, if you are building a new site and taking a ‘Mobile First’ approach, this shouldn’t be a problem. But 3G and 4G coverage remains sporadic and unstable – so some content may take time to download.

–          General Usability – Mobile users will generally have a goal in mind when accessing a website. Whether it’s buying, reading or checking-in, they may not want to go through the same process as a desktop user. They may expect a stripped down version of the site similar to an App.

–          Lack of Mobile Features You won’t be able to get the same level of integration from a responsive site – features such as camera, photos or calendars.

–          Lack of Zoom - if you are used to pinching and zooming into websites on mobile in order to be able to read the tiny text then you will not be able to on a responsive website.

Whether or not to go responsive divides opinion. We’ve been experimenting on our own site with responsive design and generally prefer the regular layout, when viewing on an Iphone.  But all sites and companies are different and user needs should be a chief consideration.

 

#2 Dedicated Mobile Site

What is it?

Dedicated mobile sites are purpose built versions of the original website which are hosted at a new domain address (usually by adding ‘m’ before or after the original address: m.tesco.com or www.argos.co.uk/m/.

The web server normally recognises which device is being used and serves (delivers) the appropriate site to display.

Advantages

–          Different Content – A site purpose-built for mobile will usually have features which can load more quickly on mobile platforms, and you can dispense with some of the superfluous elements found on the desktop version.

–          Speedy Development – Compared with alternatives, a mobile site can be built relatively easily. This is less labour-intensive and subsequently less costly than other mobile options.

–          Mobile-Focussed – Development for the mobile platform means that navigation and usability are friendlier for mobile users.

Disadvantages

–          Slower Service – Redirection from main sites to mobile sites takes time. It may only be seconds, but it still damages the overall user experience.

–          Double Maintenance – Essentially two sites need to be managed; adding new functionality would need to be done twice.

–          SEO Issues – Since the content (and therefore the traffic) is split across two URLs, there’s the chance that your overall SEO will suffer. However, there are ways around this which I’ll outline later in this article.

We built a mobile shop-page for an automotive client. The desktop site’s main focus is selling car parts, so we stripped it down to the essentials to make it easy for mobile users.


 #3 Mobile Apps

What are they?

Apps are programs that are saved to the device. They’re relatively small (compared with full websites) and they tend to serve one function (reading articles, shopping, checking-in). They can be a useful way to allow mobile users to access one of your site’s main utilities, or to promote your brand (with a game or similar App).

Advantages:

–          Completely Mobile Friendly - Apps have the distinction of being native to the device, so they can access and utilize any of the phone’s capabilities (Camera, Calendar, Maps etc).

–          Offline Options – While some Apps require the internet to function fully (social platforms), many others can operate offline, or cache data when an internet connection is available ready for when one isn’t.

–          Quicker Loading Times – Since the App is self-contained, loading times should be quicker. Of course this depends on (and is limited by) the device’s memory and processor power.

–          Push Notifications - Apps have the ability to update you with the things you need to know. Such as when you receive a new friend request on Facebook, or when you’re near a public toilet.

Disadvantages:

–          No Cross-Functionality – Apps are made for specific platforms. iOS Apps will work on iphone or ipad, but will not be usable by Windows devices – or any non-Apple devices for that matter. This means Apps must be developed for each platform, which is expensive.

–          Updates – Apps need to be constantly updated and tweaked. This is in terms of both user-feedback and changes to the device. This can be time-consuming and costly.

–          Downloading – Apps have to be downloaded for use. Success in the App world may require considerable marketing and promotion.

We’ve applied appropriate aptitude to developing an App for a company that focusses on standardised testing. The App allows mobile users to practice the tests wherever they are.

The 4th Option

So those are your three options regarding adapting to mobile.  There is of course a fourth option and that is that of doing nothing.  Most website operate perfectly satisfactorily on mobile and indeed users who know your site will welcome the fact they do not need to relearn where everything is on the page and the new navigation options.  This is a strong argument for keeping the status-quo which is not receiving enough credence now that the dash for “mobile first” has been triggered in marketing departments.

So in conclusion beware of the bandwagon, think about the implications before you jump.  If someone says “Mobile first” to you ask them what they actually mean and what they want to achieve.

If you would like any more information, please get in touch.

And as a special thank you for reading this far, I’ll now present a guide on how to optimise mobile sites for SEO in the form of a Shakespearean sonnet:

You’ve built two sites; one desktop, one mobile,

But now you’re concerned that your traffic’s split,

And now you’ve come to visit Datadial,

To fix your SEO a little bit.

There are two points that must be mentioned here,

Two tags to put in your HTML,

(On each version of the page – let’s be clear)

They are two tags, and they both start with ‘Rel’.

Rel=”alternate” on the desktop

Make sure it points to the mobile and all…

And pointing back, just so it doesn’t flop

On mobile: Rel=”canonical”

But other things cannot be avoided.

Like linking to mobile, just like I did:

 

So basically add some links in the HTML of each page that look like this:

Desktop: <link rel=”alternate” href=”http://m.example.com/page-example”>

Mobile: <link rel=”canonical” href=http://example.com/page-example>

 

xcatttt

Joe Joe

January 3rd, 2013.

How to Manage your Brand Online

 

xcatttt
Customers are selfish lovers. They want to receive a lot more than they want to give, but treat them right and they’ll stay with you forever.

Advertising, reputation and great offers have always been at the forefront of all marketing; but the world is changing. TV spots and billboards aren’t enough anymore.

In a digital age, where choice is encouraged and variety is celebrated; how do you keep your customers’ eyes from wandering? Let’s take a look at some key aspects of ensuring your brand stays strong online.

Domain names

Make sure your web address is as simple as possible. Leave no room for error in spelling, reading or punctuation of your company’s web address.

Learn from the mistakes of French tree-surgeons ‘Les Bocages’: ‘www.lesbocages.com’.

 

 lesbocages

And never be afraid to abbreviate to make the address more memorable and remove any room for error, as in Cancer Research UK: ‘www.cruk.org’.

 

cruk

 

Authentication

Customers love a brand they can trust. Featuring endorsements on your page from other trusted online service providers can be a ringing thumbs-up in terms of brand appeal.

Authentication exists for both payment transfer services and any sensitive data entry services.

 

authentication

In any case, having an international corporation’s logo as a stamp-of-approval on your site can only help to improve your brand’s reputation in the eyes of your customers.

First Impressions

First impressions are everything in business. You wouldn’t want a customer to walk into your shop and be met with a messy, confusing or overwhelming store layout and the same should apply to your website. Matt (?) gives an excellent idea on how not to design your website right here at the Datadial blog. For an idea of a nice way to design a website, look to your own favourite websites. For me, the Reddit interface is massively simple and uncluttered; while Facebook seems to be in an eternal battle for usability, updating several times each year.

 

 reddit

Reddit Takes ‘Understated’ to the Extreme

 

Customer Service (e-chat)

Customers like to believe you’re willing to help them whenever they might have a problem. Many online services offer a kind of helpline in the form of e-chat services. This would be especially useful in cases where technical support is likely to be required, but don’t overlook the benefit of offering this facility for things as simple as order tracking or site navigation. Simply offering a helping hand can be enough to encourage your customers to trust in your brand.

 

live chat

 

Take Rewards Online

We’re all familiar with that sly loyalty trick: coupon collecting. Collecting wrappers and tokens from sweets, drinks and cereal boxes is nothing new, but linking these items to exclusive online content will drive traffic to your website and revamp your presence on the web. Encouraging social media users to Tweet, Share, Like and Comment on your competitions will further increase involvement and exposure to a wider audience.

 

mycoke

 

Create Content

If we’ve told you once, we’ve told you 1,000,000,000,000,000 times: Content is King. In the big bad world of internet marketing, the only guaranteed way to get people to engage with your brand and thus build your brand’s reputation is to create fresh new content that is relevant to your target audience. If you’re offering the latest industry news; the best competitions and the most entertaining media, you’ll see a high amount of traffic and a big boost to your reputation.

Viral Content

In the same vein as content creation is viral marketing. Suddenly the greedy customers who only want to receive are paying you back with page views and backlinks. And they don’t even realise how much they’re helping! If you post a totally original super hilarious video on your site and it goes viral, you’ll see the page (and your site) grow in strength as interest grows.

Think of something like the not-even-slightly household name ‘BlendTec’. You’ve probably already forgotten the name, but you’ve definitely seen their viral marketing campaign. ‘Will It Blend?’

 

If videos aren’t your thing, you can take advantage of the spreadability of online content by sharing stories about your brand. Whether intentionally or not, Sainsbury’s were on everyone’s digital lips last year when they followed a 3 year-old girl’s advice to change ‘Tiger Bread’ to ‘Giraffe Bread’.

Whatever your brand, don’t look at Online Marketing as a challenge to overcome. Think of it as a tool to increase your exposure and improve your reach.

buy now

Joe Joe

December 7th, 2012.

5 Tricks Online Retailers Use to Make You Go All the Way.

There are a million and a half blog posts about how Online Retailers keep their drop-off levels down; but what methods do they have in place to make you loosen up with your spending.

Charities have been doing it for years. Getting you to put your hand in your wallet is their speciality. Just when you thought you would ignore their pleadings something tugs at your heart strings. A little niggle that says “do it now, you know you want to”. Anyone who’s watched Jeremy Kyle knows what I’m talking about. Right after the Foxy Bingo guy announces the break, you’re confronted with 4 minutes of hunger-ravaged children reaching out from the Plasma Screen. It’s emotional Blackmail.

But it’s effective…

Online retailers are getting in on the action too. They haven’t quite gone down the guilt road yet (though I’m sure they would if they could) but they are playing with your mind to get you to ACT NOW and not go elsewhere.

…Pulling on the purse strings if not pulling on the heart strings.

It’s even more difficult to create that sense of urgency online, especially when it’s so easy to check prices and offers on other retail websites. Even a website has the right product at the price you’re willing to pay; you would more than likely check elsewhere. So the only weapon left in the web retailers’ arsenal is the notion that if you don’t buy something there and then, you’ll lose it forever.

So let’s see what online retailers do to keep us from doing a wider search, making a coffee, talking to the wife, walking the dog, looking up trivia from The Godfather, looking up how tall Andre the Giant was, looking up the longest recorded flight of a chicken, sitting on Reddit for 2 hours and then going to bed having forgotten we wanted to buy anything in the first place!

1) Act Now to Avoid Dismemberment. I mean Disappointment

You’ve probably seen this on concert ticket sites especially. “only 2 tickets available at this price – book now to avoid disappointment.” Is this really true? Can it really be the case that every time I search for an airline ticket, only 2 seats are available on the flight that I wanted to take? It’s the travel-ticket equivalent of a Saw trap.

‘All your life you’ve enjoyed a leisure of choice when buying things online, but now you have 30 seconds to decide, or lose… everything!’
It’s incredibly persuasive and a panacea for retailers who are faced with an audience of fence-sitters and flip-floppers.

2) Safety in numbers

‘17 others are looking at this item now’.

’29 people are watching this item’

‘143,343,123 people are scrambling for their card details so they can buy this item and you can’t!’

Talk about putting the frighteners up! Nothing invokes a reaction like a bit of competition. Regardless of whether it’s true or not, these stats make you feel two things:

a) This product is in high demand and might run out.

b) This product is popular, so it must be good.

Suddenly certain things like price comparisons seem less urgent. I was going to go and see if I could get it cheaper elsewhere but I can’t risk losing out to other shoppers. I might never see a Self-Stirring Mug at this price again!

The painful things about these methods is that you actually have no idea if it’s true of not. It could just be automated. But does the risk outweigh the reward? Probably not.

3) What’s in a Name?

‘Wayne in Manchester also bought this item’.

Although this isn’t one of the sweat-inducing panic-purchase inducers we’ve come across so far, it could be the push needed to get you to click ‘buy’. Chances are, ‘Wayne in Manchester’ isn’t your friend or financial advisor, so why does his opinion matter? It’s possible he’s not even real! But the fact that someone bought the item is enough of an endorsement to tip even the most frugal shopper over the edge.

If you don’t believe me; think of all those times you’ve been looking at an item on Amazon and thought ‘Nobody’s interested. There must be some hidden catch I’m not seeing.’ Or you’ve been browsing Ebay and seen an item with no bids: rather than thinking ‘wow. I must have stumbled on a bargain’, you think ‘I must be missing something here!’.

Maybe this says something about mob mentality, maybe we just like to follow the herd. It works well all the same, and ‘Wayne in Manchester’ is presented as the spokesman of wise purchasers and his presence on the page alone is enough to egg you on to buy something.

 

 

4) Is that a ‘Buy’ Button on Your Page, or Are You Happy to See Me?

Basic as the big [BUY NOW] button seems, it’s the dominant feature of the page.

For those of us who have gotten to grips with Traffic Signals, Green means GO! GO, GO, GO! So it’s no mistake that the only colour on the page is green, and subsequently the whole page screams ‘BUY BUY BUY’. Psychologically, we’re hopefully still capable of exercising some decorum; we are free-thinking people after all. But with structured, thought-out tricks like this, turning away has never been harder.
Even as I write this I want to click on the screenshot image, just to do as I’m told. It really sucks you in like a blackhole (or maybe a greenhole?). You have no chance.

5) And That’s Not All!

As well as all the mind games and emotional turmoil these companies make us go through to convince us to buy things; occasionally they’ll throw you a treat to sweeten the deal. Like when I recently bought 77 Antique Globes. The Price-Tag of £60,830.00 seemed a little steep and I must confess I was in two minds about whether to click ‘Buy’. But when I realised that the company offered Free Delivery, I couldn’t help but go ahead with the purchase.

Now I’ll never be lost again. But I will spend the rest of my life cursing myself for falling for the ‘free delivery’ option. Other sales incentives (also known as ‘close incentives’ or ‘things that are so cheap we can give them away for free without affecting our profits’) include ‘10% off your next order when you buy now’ and ‘Free warranty up to 30 days!’.

So now we’ve identified the ways in which online retailers fishhook us into a sale, we can go back to shopping online with a renewed sense of freedom. There’s no way any of us will ever fall for those tricks again.

Voyeur

Joe Joe

November 29th, 2012.

Rise of the Digital Voyeurs: What is Your Role in Social Media?

 

Every day we sign into Facebook, Twitter , Google+ and a plethora of other Social Media platforms. The content shared on these sites is limitless, and with new content being created and shared every day, the power of Social Media has never been stronger.

We are constantly told about the benefits of Social Media as an Online Marketing Strategy, but one question that I’ve been pondering is: What do the 700 million people who use these sites actually use them for?

I propose a three-pronged method of identifying social media users.

1) Those who seek to create new content for their online audience for a multitude of reasons and in a multitude of ways. (Creators)
2) Those who enjoy nothing more than engaging with online content and sharing it among their family, friends and professional peers. (Amplifiers)
3) Those of us who sign in just to see what our friends and family have been up to. (Voyeurs)

The spread of users across these three categories is far from even. As the following diagram comprehensively explains, the people responsible for creating new content are in a tiny minority, while most people are quite content to just observe what other people are creating.

 

So what type of user am I?

There is no easy answer to this question. I imagine most people fall under ‘a bit of each'; but here, I will give each User-Type a profile and you can see which you most identify with.

Creators

These are the people at the top of the content waterfall. People who focus on creating web content. Here are the different types:

Type 1: Raising Awareness/Expanding a Fan Base/Increasing Exposure

The creators with the most exposure are big brands with big followings. A company like Coca-Cola push new content all day every day. They want to keep people interested in their product and spread the good word. If people are sharing new pictures, competitions and media around Social Networks, it’s free promotion for the company and everyone’s a winner.

There’s obviously a sliding scale with the multi-nationals at one end and independent companies, artists, musicians and people trying to build a fan-base at the other end.

(If you’re on the digital marketing team of a big brand; an unsigned musician; or a celebrity, this is you).

Type 2: Staying Current/Inspiring Ideas/Informing

Other creators might be Bloggers or companies who offer online services. They spark discussion about topics and, as their content is shared in email or social networks, they build more of a following. New content is important for these people. Staying fresh and current in the SEO-driven world requires a focus on innovative ideas and compelling writing.

(If you’re a Blogger, SEO or Redditor, this is you)

Type 3: Have-a-Go Heroes

The final type of creator is anyone else who posts on any Social Media Platform. The people who Tweet about their breakfast; or Instagram pictures of the weather; or update Facebook after a successful bowel movement. The people who just want to share their lives with their contacts. Features such as ‘Checking-in’ and ‘Tagging’ on Facebook enable these users the opportunity to be as detailed as they could possibly be when creating new content. The more they tag, the bigger their audience becomes. Mobile technology means that essentially anyone with thumbs can be this type of creator.

(If you have an internet connection, this is probably you)

 Amplifiers

The Amplifiers of Social Media can be broken into similar sections, as such:

Type 1: Shameless Self-Promoters

This is the type of Amplifier who tries to get their own content as much attention as they can. For example, a Blog-Post writer at an internet marketing company might Tweet a link to his post for his followers to see. His Twitter account is linked to his Facebook page, so it will also post the link to Facebook. He might then post a link to the page on Reddit; Submit the page to Stumbleupon; +1 the page on Google+; Pin the page on Pinterest; e-mail the page to all of his friends; write a letter containing the URL to his Great Aunt; Spray paint the link under a railway bridge or just go door-to-door asking people to visit his page. If he’s lucky, his followers, friends and associates will give the post the same treatment; retweeting it and sharing it around their own online networks and this will get the post the recognition it deserves.

(If you are trying to increase exposure to your own content, this is you)

Type 2: Subject Gurus
These are the types of Amplifiers who are considered (by themselves at least) to be experts in their field of interest. They will follow anyone who shows an interest in their subject and retweet, comment and increase awareness of the content they view to be of a high standard. This could be @DogFoodCentral Retweeting your comment about the new biscuits you bought your Labrador, or it might be @MattCutts raising awareness of your worthwhile post about Google’s Interpretation of HTML Tags. In any case, these are people who have an online following interested in a particular subject. They acknowledge that responsibility by sharing the best content in that field.

(If you are an online expert on anything, this is you)

Type 3: Fankids

These are the people who share content from their favourite bands, celebrities or artists. There are pages and sites dedicated to sharing the content put out by pop-cultural icons from all walks of life. Many artists have modern-day Fan Clubs in the form of Fan Pages and Groups on Facebook. There are also a growing number of Twitter accounts dedicated to Retweeting people talking about the artist. For example the frankly confusing account dedicated to 2010’s 4th Place X-Factor Contestant, Cher Lloyd:

For an example of the hype that can be created by Fankids, look at a fairly innocuous Tweet from  a young boy named Justin Bieber:

That was Retweeted by more people than could fill Wembley Stadium.

Take a moment to process that…

Now, I’ve got nothing against Justin Bieber. I’m sure he’s completely deserving of the attention he receives for quoting other people’s lyrics. But I’m sure if an 18 year old boy doing an Apprenticeship at a local City College had Tweeted the same sentiment, it might not have generated quite the same buzz…

Fankids share their love of artists to an alarming level of dedication, making them a huge part of the Amplification process.

(If you are obsessed with someone online, this is you)

Type 4: Keyboard Keensters

This applies to anyone else who interacts with online content. Casual Social Networkers who either want to get involved with the technology or just keep up with their friends. They will retweet @sportsquotesoffical or whatever sage advice is being handed out by @charliesheen that day. They will comment on each other’s photos with material that 5 years ago would have been confined to a text message or phone-call. They will like their friend’s status updates, share photos from their favourite singer’s pages; but still be fairly restricted to slightly extended group of people that they probably see on a day-to-day basis anyway.

(If you spend much of your time on Social Networking sites, but don’t like posting, this is you)

Voyeurs

This is less easy to break into different segments since we are all guilty of it in some way. By Voyeurism I mean the idea of looking and not touching. Seeing but not interacting. The idea of voyeurism conjures up a lot of negative connotations, but I think it is exceedingly appropriate here– especially in an age where privacy is flouted just as much as it is protected. There’s something kind of perverse about how most of us use Social Media. Every day we log on and trawl through updates of people we probably wouldn’t even think about were it not for this fairly unnecessary level of connectivity.

I’m in the age bracket where people start to have children. I’m sure having a child is the most precious thing in the world, and I’m sure when I have children I’ll want to share it with everyone I know. But at the same time, I find it almost unsettling that I’m being exposed to an enormous number of such life events by people I barely know and may never physically meet again. We invite people who are essentially strangers to share in our successes and failures, knowing that they probably don’t care. We watch people’s lives go by in our Newsfeeds and learn more about them than we care to know; but in many cases we wouldn’t even say hello if we passed them in the street.

And we still log on every day to do the same.

Looking but not clicking.

…Welcome to digital voyeurism.

So Why Should I Care About This?

It’s important to recognise who will be using your content and what they will be using it for. If you want to get a killer video out there; or you want more people to spread your latest blog post you need to think of ways to turn Voyeurs into Amplifiers, and Amplifiers into Super-Amplifiers. You might offer a prize for the 1000th Retweet or comment. You might reward commenters by commenting back with feedback. People like to know their opinions are being heard, and the more links you build on that personal level, the more people will connect with your company and the more they’ll come back. Get visitors active, and then reward their activity.
As a planet, we’ve never been so connected. The next stage for online commerce is activating the potential to interact with all of their potential customers. Things like Google Authorship are a step away from online anonymity and a stronger sense of community.

Put the effort into engaging the visitors to your site and you’ll see the benefits in no time.

googled

Joe Joe

November 27th, 2012.

Google Authorship: Your Agent, Promoter, and New Best Friend!


 

 

‘Google Authorship’. You’ve probably heard it being bandied around and if you haven’t taken the time to look into it, now’s your chance. Google Authorship will arguably prove to be the most significant tool for building rankings that Google has ever introduced; and if you’re smart about it, you can start benefiting immediately. This post will explain what it is, its implications and how to use it, so it’s a great place to start. Before we begin, it’s important to say that Authorship and AuthorRank are separate, but inescapably linked. Just like nobody ever talked about Tom without mentioning Jerry, it’s hard to talk about Authorship without thinking about AuthorRank.

 

What is Google Authorship?

Nutshell time!

Google Authorship is Google’s strategy of linking web authors to their online content. So anything you write online can be linked to your online profile (no prizes for guessing it’s your Google+ profile). Google haven’t officially said that this will lead to a writing-quality based ranking system; but they’ve implied it pretty heavily. In 2007, Google patented something called ‘Agent Rank’. You can take a look at the patent here , but if you’re not versed in patent law, Bill Slawski gives a pretty good run down over in February 2007.

Obviously we’re now spoiled by blogs explaining where they were going with this patent, but with the advent of Google+ and Authorship the theories are starting to become an impending reality.

Be Careful

It’s important to remember that Google Authorship and AuthorRank are separate entities.
You can read all about Authorship at the horse’s mouth; but broadly, it’s the link between authors and their content. AuthorRank is the rating system associated with this link. Authorship is in operation now. AuthorRank isn’t.

In a lot of press stuff the G-team has been saying the main focus of Authorship is to link authors to their content. Google Software Engineer, Othar Hansson appears to be obsessed with the fact that it puts your picture next to your post on SERPs and the psychological benefits of this in terms of connectivity. In his words, it’s Google’s way of ‘making the internet more human’. It’s a lovely sentiment, but cynical-old-me still thinks this is all part of the much bigger AuthorRank picture. And that’s not a bad thing. AuthorRank will be a great way of promoting online content based on the merit of its production and weeding out spammers. It punishes anonymity, but celebrates connectivity, and that’s surely a step in the right direction.
AuthorRank isn’t officially in use yet, but the buzz around it has become almost deafening and smart money is on it being run as an operational algorithm very soon.
But, back to Authorship…

Why should Authorship bother me?

Why shouldn’t it? This is the first chance we’ve been given to associate all of our online work in one centralised beacon. If, like me, you originally avoided the Google+ hype, change your mind now, or you might just get left behind.

There’s never been a better reason to join up. It will ensure you get the praise you deserve for the stuff you’ve written in your field of expertise by linking to similar articles you’ve written. In fact, that plan is already in action. Matt McGee has found that as soon as you’re finished reading an article by an author signed up to Authorship, you press ‘back’ on your browser and Hey, Presto! You’re presented with more articles on the same subject from the same author. This is the perfect type of promotion and will benefit your traffic in no time.

Pros and Cons of Authorship (and, inevitably, AuthorRank)

Let’s take a look at the effects Authorship could have on your business:

Pros
– Association with good writers and good content is bound to have a positive influence on your site’s PageRank. AuthorRank will undoubtedly go hand-in-hand with PageRank!
– People will be able to interactively see the merits of your site by clicking the author links on each post.
– Verified quality writers will encourage more people to link to your site. It’ll work wonders for Domain Authority.
– What if that writer who’s earned you all those Click-Throughs leaves? Well, they’ll always be tied to the domain that published their content. So even if they stop writing for you, as long as you both stay on top of your game, you’ll both benefit.
– You’ll get more Clicks because people will trust that smiling Rich Snippet of yours more than they trust a farmed-in link.
– People will be more willing to contact you with their thoughts. That means you’ll be able to engage more with your audience.
– Spammers will be much more easily identified. No Authorship will mean no verified author. Quality content will be rewarded.

Cons
– If you rely on one writer for a high ranking/readership and they leave, you’ll have to work extra hard to keep on top and stay fresh. But there’s nothing new there!
– Authorship can’t be attributed to your company, only to your writers.
– Authorship can’t be attributed to a team, only to ONE writer.
– It acknowledges the achievements of individual writers rather than a whole business.
(But the kudos is shared by association, so everyone’s a winner.)

One point which is a mix of a Pro and a Con: a lot of people have been reporting that their Rich Snippets have taken weeks or even months to show up. Generally, Google seems to giving it on a priority basis to people they think have earned it. That is, people who are getting a lot of traffic for a lot of posts. It seems a little harsh to begin with, but at least this way you know Authorship has truly been earned.

At face value, the pros seem to outweigh the cons; and the cons concerning companies benefiting from the writing of their employees seem to be part of an on-going morality battle. Is it OK for an employer to take credit for their employees work? That’s a question for another time on another blog. But in any case it would seem that Authorship unequivocally promotes and celebrates individualism and, to bang the Marxist drum, denies the power of anonymous corporatism.

How Can I Get On Board?

2 Things you’ll need for Authorship before you start out:

– Online Content (you already have that though, right?)
– A Google+ Profile!

I don’t have Google+!

Let’s start from the start. I’ll show you how to set up a Google+ profile from Scratch; using the perfect blank slate: me!

Step 1: We’ll pretend like none of us has a Google account and start from the front door. Head over to Google+

Step 2: Fill in the Details form

Step 3: After a verification process, you’ll be presented with this box:

Step 4: Get your photo up! This will be the photo used in your Author Rich Snippet.

Step 5… and Get Involved!

There are plenty of posts around the web that can give you a complete overview of what Google+ has to offer, but since this post is about Google Authorship I’ll leave you with one piece of advice:

Use Google+ as much as possible. The more you engage with your profile and the circles you build, the more you’ll gain from the service and the more strength you’ll have around the web.

So how do I link between my profile and my posts?

Well, there’s a lot of ways this can be done. The process can be quite confusing, but Rick DeJarnette gives a decent overview.

NB. It’s still a little jargony in places.
I’ll break it down as best I can in a second, but if the HTML stuff gets too much, feel free to watch this video of Matt Cutts and Bond-Villain-in-Waiting, Othar Hansson looking uncomfortable and explaining the HTML coding in very accessible terms.

For Sites with One Author:

If you have an email address on the same domain as your published work:

Step 1: Head over to the Authorship sign-up page and fill in the form.

Step 2: Click ‘Verify’ in the Verification Email.

Step 3: In the ‘Edit Profile’ section of your Google+ profile, you’ll now find you’re a ‘Contributor to’ the domain of the email.

Step 4: Start writing as much as possible at that domain. The more Google sees people are looking at your content, the more important Google thinks you are and the sooner you get your picture on the Search Page.

If you don’t have an email address on the same domain as your published work:

This may also be useful for posts in blogs where you’re a guest poster.

The best way in this case is to include a hyperlink with an HTML “rel=author” tag at the bottom of each page you write.

Basically, rel=”Author” is a way of telling Google that the author of this page is at the other end of this link.

The complete HTML link will look something like this:

<a href=”https://plus.google.com/101369752982717498462#101369752982717498462?rel=author”>Joe Shervell</a>

And behave something like this:

Joe Shervell

Now go back to ‘Edit Profile’ on your Google+ page and edit the ‘Contributor to’ section to include the site you posted to. It may be more beneficial to give the exact URL of the page, like this:

But reportedly listing the domain’s homepage will still work fine.

My site has multiple authors.

That’s ok, so does ours!

Step 1: Make sure you have a Bio Page set up for each writer. Something like this.

Step 2: Set up a Hyperlink from the Content Page to the Bio Page, but make sure you include our old friend, the rel=”author” tag.

Step 3: Set up a Hyperlink from the Bio Page to your Google+ profile, but this time include a rel=”me” tag. Simply put, Google will read this as you saying ‘this is me’.

Step 4: Head back to “Edit Profile” on your Google+ profile and enter the URL of the bio page in the “Contributor to” section.
That’s about the size of it!

But I use WordPress. What about me?

If you’re WordPress savvy then it’s really straight forward:

Step 1: Grab yourself a copy of a plugin like this one.

Step 2: Install it (It’s all explained in better detail right here)

Step 3: Fill in the information on your WordPress User Area.

Step 4: Keep posting and sharing and Google will notice you and give you your well-earned Rich Snippet.

So I’ve Set Up Authorship. Now What?

By setting up Authorship you’ve put yourself on Google’s radar as a writer, and that’s a huge step in the right direction. When AuthorRank does arrive, (and it’s not a matter of if, but when?) the more prestige you’ve earned as a writer, the better.

Use your Google+ profile to interact with your community of readers. Write about what you know, and write about it well. Google will see you as someone worthwhile in the field and give you a better rating in the rankings battle. This ‘writing about what you know’ is an important point. If you’re Noam Chomsky, then Google will recognise all the stuff you’ve written on Language Acquisition and if you decide to blog about it, you’ll be rewarded with high rankings based on your previous work. If you’re Noam Chomsky and you decide to write a blog post about Animal Husbandry in the Serengeti; you might not get the same level of respect.

That seems like an important point; one that I’m loathe to gloss over. Google Authorship can reward expertise. If you build a following and recognition as a writer in a certain field, then it will be reasonably safe for Google to assume that anything you write on that subject will be of a similar calibre. That’s not to discourage you from branching out into other fields; but if you do, make sure you have a community willing to accept that change or you might be punished by negative response.

To sum up neatly; Authorship is essential to let Google know you are a legitimate and quality writer who isn’t out to scam or spam. In the future, AuthorRank will come into the equation, and when it does, make sure you’re ready by building a big following and professional group now on Google+.

And even if we’re all wrong about AuthorRank… what’s the harm in having Google’s Seal-of-Approval on your work?

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