About Carl

Carl is the owner and founder of Carl Potts designs his interests include web design, MMO gaming, history, typography, old school dance music (especially acid house) he is currently trying to learn Russian

Why developing a content marketing mindset will enable to you leave your inspiration woes behind

This week I wish to examine want to examine what I call the ‘content marketing mindset’ a year ago I would have thought there is no chance of me developing 40 odd weeks worth of blog posts, I’d say it’s the content mind-set and a bit of self discipline, I’ve turned creating a weekly blog post into a habit (yes, I am somewhat pleased with myself), I think that nearly every successful blogger has tapped into this vein of creativity, its what in previous ages was known as the muse

Ok, so what exactly is the content mindset?

This is similar to what some observers describe as ‘the publisher mind-set’ (source inc.com), which appears to be about regularly developing content, Personally I’d say the main focus of the content mind-set is slightly different it focuses on the needs of the customer rather than the need to be constantly publishing new content, I’m not an advocate of the content for contents sake approach it leads to a web full of underwhelming content, i.e. does this content answer a question my customers are asking? or will it enable them to develop a better understanding of online marketing and managing an effective website ,is there a concept or idea which causes a lot of confusion to those outside your industry? These concepts are frequently quite simple when broken down and explained properly, understanding this will enable people to make better-informed decisions, this is frequently

Easily overcome the most difficult hurdle

As with so many thing the biggest hurdle is actually getting started, finding a topic to cover or content to develop generally is that difficult first hurdle, fortunately developing a content marketing mind-set makes this a lot easier. I am constantly thinking is this a question or topic of interest to my customers? As with social media, listening is everything, listening to people either in face-to-face communications or via social media provides constant source of inspiration, to paraphrase the Guardian ‘learn to think like a customer’ I find that every day I am constantly attempting to view things from a customers perspective and looking for gaps in the content currently available on the web.

Parting thoughts

This week examined what some experts call the content mindset; my argument is that developing lots of good quality content does not need to be intimidating(I was very nervous about it at first plus I’ve only just begun to develop website content, it just requires a constant willingness to see things from a customers perspective this is a constant attitude personally I am always on the lookout for inspiration, especially when talking to customers or potential customers. If your site has lots of useful good quality content then both your customers and search engines will love you for it, so it’s a mindset well worth developing, personally I like helping people. Developing a content mindset is in my opinion an essential step on the way to successfully implementing content marketing within your organisation, without it you’ll be struggling to find inspiration.

By |March 20th, 2015|Content|0 Comments

The Danger of SEO Misconceptions

image source :(Flickr India Amos)

image source :(Flickr India Amos)

This weeks post is inspired by a phone conversation this week, it concerned the lack of understanding the caller had about SEO, for those offering SEO service, as I do (the exact packages I will offer are currently being developed) I feel this could be a real problem, given the constantly evolving nature of Search Engines its completely unsurprising that the public’s perception of SEO is behind the time, SEO tactics which worked in 2005 are now (2015) markedly less effective, there appears to be a misconception that some arcane keyword related wizardry will boost search engine rankings and magically send you to the top of Google, sorry to disappoint you there is no shortcut if you are worried about poor search engine rankings of your website the solution is actually quite simple provide a website full of good quality interesting & useful content and you will attain good search rankings, anyone promising instant top page rankings in Google is a con artist trying it on, as this quote from wikimotive.com illustrates

For others, ones that have a peripheral knowledge of the field, they associate SEO with sketchy tactics, spammy comments, and just generally black hat tactics. The reality is that true SEO is nothing like that, but these kind of perceptions can be hard to get past. (Source: http://wikimotive.com)

by black hat tactics the author means SEO methods which Google do not approve of such as buying links & spamming the web with links, poor quality duplicated website content, I’ve covered black hat vs. White hat in a previous blog post so I don’t intend to examine the merits of both approaches here, white hat meaning SEO tactics the Search Engines do approve of such as good quality content & lots of it, this Content based model is not likely to radically change in the next few years although it will certainly evolve , I feel that if the SEO industry is to gain a better reputation these misconceptions will need to be addressed by practitioners.

Parting thoughts

What worries me is that someone will probably offer the caller or someone very like her a load of glib promises about being top of Google in next to no time as far as I know it doesn’t work like that historically it has been possible to use dodgy methods & tactics (some of which is regarded as black hat it violates Google guidelines), given the constantly developing algorithms leave less of these loopholes for this type of trickery to exploit, its you versus Google’s staff of 100s if not 1000s of PhD holders guess who is going to win. Dr Pete Meyers touches on this in his moz.com article, I feel the route problem is a lack of understanding from the general public and far too many people more than happy to exploit that desire for quick and easy great SERP rankings and widespread myths regarding the nature of SEO,I generally get one email a week from abroad offering me all sorts of services, many of which are no longer effective or never were effective or necessary, sorry you don’t need to submit your website to Google or have 100s of badly written articles submitted to various websites, a website cram full of good quality useful content is going to rank well in Search Engines

Quick Glossary

SEO – Search Engine Optimisation
Whitehat – SEO tactics which follow Google guidelines
Blackhat – SEO tactics which violate Google guidelines

By |March 6th, 2015|Content, SEO, SME Online Marketing|Comments Off

Why Content requires Commitment

Original Image: Flickr Peter Mooney

Original Image: Flickr Peter Mooney

This weeks post was inspired by an article on the Searchengineland.com website, it is of interest because it examines where a number of regular topics here converge namely content marketing, search engine optimisation local search, my target customers are primarily small local businesses so this is of particular interest to me and I’d imagine of interest to small local businesses In the article Chris Silver Smith examines the types of content which produce tangible benefits and highlights strategies which are now much less beneficial such as guest blogging, this is a constantly evolving arena as search Engine algorithms develop over time to counter spammy tactics. I’m eager to develop website content and improve the Search Performance of this website, Silver Smith examines a few types of content and analyses the effectiveness of these tactics from a SEO perspective.

Guest Blogging

Guest blogging is a prime example of a now devalued tactic. I’m often inundated with emails offering blog posts & articles to be submitted on my behalf (which is why Google now place much less weight on blog posts for SEO purposes) I’ve covered this in a previous post on this blog

Blogging

Silver Smith suggests that

A blog can easily be a foundational element for performing content marketing and social media marketing, and they’re so easy to do that there’s little excuse not to have one.(source:searchengineland.com)

I often encounter quite a lot of reluctance to commit to maintaining a company blog, I’m not sure what the root cause is here, perhaps it’s a lifelong dislike of writing developed in school also there is an inaccurate perception of what blogs are about, many people seem to associate blogging with vitriolic rants obsessed with popular culture, sure some blogs are like that but the overwhelming majority are not, the web abounds with company blogs that stalled after literally a handful of posts this brings us to what I consider the most important message from the Silver Smith article, which is ironic because this very blog was stalled for quite a long time, lets say 6 months

Parting thoughts

Personally I feel the salient point of the article is the emphasis on the need for long term commitment to creating good content, its this hurdle I feel that most small businesses fail to clear. Chris Silver – Smith argues

Most of the time, content marketing requires steady, consistent production over time for the beneficial effects to noticeably accrue. I’ve seen a lot of businesses that publish 5-10 blog posts and then run out of steam. Perhaps they’re not imaginative enough to come up with ongoing topics to post about, but it seems more likely they lose the initial enthusiasm and motivation.(source:searchengineland.com)

This failure to Commit to long term Content creation has been noticed by other observers it certainly tallies with my own findings. Derek Halpern at social triggers.com implies that

It turns out that most people who start blogs quit within the first 3 months.(source:socialtriggers.com)

if content is to deliver, the results that businesses want (better website traffic, more engaged customers/visitors,better Search Engine results) then these results are NOT going to come overnight

By |February 27th, 2015|Content, SME Online Marketing|Comments Off

Why SMEs don’t need to be afraid of Social Media

(image: courtesy Flickr Lara 604)

(image: courtesy Flickr Lara 604)


This weeks post is inspired by a conversation I had with a client over the last few weeks, it concerns the viability of social media for smaller businesses, the major reason this small business owner was wary of Social Media was the dangers of gaining a negative online reputation as one of this competitors had a nightmare with disgruntled customers online, this was in my opinion a real missed opportunity as his business served an extremely social media savvy demographic (students). Social Media books abound with tales of companies, which get it wrong on social media so I won’t soft soap readers with a saccharine vision of social media loveliness however I will examine the reasons why companies and brands generate such online anger from disgruntled customers and practical steps smaller businesses can take to reduce/eliminate these dangers, its not all bad news these customer problems also provide companies with an opportunity to shine, every cloud … Firstly lets examine the problems

Problem 1:Slow or no response to online queries

Times have changed, customers don’t rely as much on the telephone for customer service, these days they tweet and they expect tweets to be responded to in a prompt and professional manner, again Social Media books generally feature an example where companies have failed to provide a response on a hardly staffed twitter account, unsurprisingly this leads to angry and irritated customers some of who will be quite vitriolic about your company quite publically, as so often is the case online this is a two edged sword, Excellent customer service may be rewarded with quite visible praise which will give your company a positive online reputation and good word of mouth

Solution 1: effective listening with a smart phone

If you are overloaded with work the last thing you need is to be sat monitoring the company twitter account at your computer so lets examine ways that make it easy to monitor the companies twitter & Facebook accounts without tying you up, I’ll try to do this on a budget without signing up for expensive social media monitoring accounts

Solution1.1 Gmail

Gmail’s tabbed organisation makes monitoring social media updates (such as a mention or a direct message) in the social media tab extremely easy the good news is that its free and available for both iPhone and Android

Solution 1.2 Hootsuite

If Gmail is not enough then hootsuite makes a good addition, it’s easy to integrate all of your social networks into one easily monitored app(available both iPhone and android) this means even small businesses won’t be caught napping when someone tweets them with a customer service request, Facebook and Twitter both offer dedicated apps which mean its easily possible to monitor your companies social media accounts

Parting thoughts

Social Media doesn’t need to be a no go area for Small Businesses with a bit of forethought and preparation its easily possible to ensure that your companies social media accounts are adequately monitored, speed and the quality of your response is the make or break factor here

By |February 20th, 2015|Social Media|Comments Off

Where SMEs are failing to address the content problem

Small Business Content
This weeks post has been influenced by a conversation with a potential client who was concerned about the low SERP (Search Engine Results page) ranking of his company website, a quick perusal of his site showed it had negligible useful content, this is a recurring problem I find with small business websites, the overwhelming majority have very little in the way of website content, for some it maybe a problem but it is also an opportunity to differentiate your company from the competition. Fortunately its in an industry where developing interesting and useful is quite possible, its not a nightmare scenario industry like creating a social media campaign for an undertakers (which is an intellectual challenge I feel I’ve solved in my own time and is a project I’d probably avoid ha ha ☺ .SEO is not a quick fix and it would be dishonest to infer that making one or two tweaks to the website would result in much better SERP rankings, In 2015 Good SERP rankings require good Content, Kristina Halverson’s definition is still the best I have encountered so its worth repeating, if you have a site chock full of great content you wont need to worry about SERP Rankings or backlinks it will attract them quite naturally

‘Great Content meets users needs and supports key business objectives it engages and informs. It’s well written and intuitively organised. It keeps people coming back for more. ‘(Halvorson & Rach 2012)

Most if not all Small Businesses I deal with want to achieve good Search Engine Results Page (SERP) Rankings, yet there appears to be a reluctance to develop website content, this may be down to a lack of resources or understanding of how important good content is

Finding Inspiration is easy!

Look at the websites of similar companies to yours located elsewhere (either in the UK,USA or elsewhere in the world) there is no need to write War and Peace(in fact its preferable if you don’t) it does need to be good quality, well written and original, not simply copy & pasted from elsewhere, Google takes a dim view of plagiarised/pilfered content.

Parting thoughts

Observers point to a number of common failings with Small Business websites however I’m unconvinced that social media buttons are a priority on a site with little or no content worth sharing, I’ve tried to utilise social media for companies with content free websites and it’s a semi impossible situation to rectify ‘hey come along and see this website there’s nothing of interest on it’ isn’t exactly a tempting proposition for would be customers.

My Content plans 2015

I understand it’s a bit rich me saying all this when then my site is not exactly abundant with content, there are a definitely plans to add more during 2015, there remain one or two technical challenges I need to overcome before I can implement those plans.Once I had added the content to my website then I aim to offer content development services tailored for smaller businesses, if you are interested contact me today.

By |February 6th, 2015|Content|Comments Off

What exactly is SEO?, Defining SEO

Defining SEO
This week’s blog post is inspired by an on-going disagreement with a friend regarding the value of SEO.I think its important, She believes that good quality content is more important than SEO I broadly agree with that however its SEO which allows you to research what content your customers are looking for. I think the root of the disagreement lies in our understandings of what SEO is, I’ll try to explain how I see SEO, you may of course disagree and you are more than welcome to leave a comment below should you wish to

My view of SEO

The fundamental aim of SEO as I see it is to make it easy for your customers to find your website, this involves market research (keyword research) to discover what your customers are searching for be it information, products or services. The owner of the website then develops good quality website content which answers the questions of customers Nothing particularly controversial so far if you ask me, it’s the standard white hat perspective of SEO, all of this in my opinion makes good sense from a business perspective.

What I feel SEO is not

I don’t feel SEO is about merely researching keywords and then developing a website packed full of keyword stuffed rubbish, buying loads of high page rank backlinks and then hoping that ones website flies up the Search Rankings, this is an older view of SEO one commonly held by customers personally I feel its hopelessly out of date/touch and SEO Snake Oil Salesmen have done the industry no favours at all, lack of content is the major problem I find with small business websites
As far as I can understand it the other facet of online marketing my friend disputes is the need for greater website traffic and the desirability of converting a certain percentage into paying customers. Which as I understand it is pretty much the standard model for online business

Parting thoughts

Personally I tend to take the long-term view and I’m writing from the perspective of Smaller Businesses I feel that the Black Hat methodology is a fairly short term always looking over your shoulder to see what Google will do is no way to develop a solid SEO/Content strategy, the white hat approach which consists of developing good quality website content of use to customers (Good quality content is by definition useful/interesting/entertaining), ethics aside I feel that the web is better served by developing websites chock full of great content rather than spammy/underhand tactics designed to give temporary Search Engine Ranking boosts, this ethos also applies to buying backlinks & followers, I can completely understand the temptation to do it when your Company website needs more traffic but I eschew that mentality because in my opinion its short term and unethical. I’ve noticed my blog posts now reflect my opinions a bit more I’m much happier with this and I hope you are as well; if you disagree please feel free to post a comment. I offer SEO & Content Consultancy services please feel free contact me to find out more so we can discuss what’s right for your company.

By |January 23rd, 2015|Content, SEO|Comments Off

What exactly is Adaptive Content?

Adaptive content
This week’s blog post will examine one of hottest trends in the content marketing sector, its already attracting the attention of major players such as Copy Blogger and the Content Marketing Institute, so I’ll start by introducing the concept.

What is Adaptive Content?

In a nutshell adaptive content is perfectly useable content whatever device is used to view it, the technical description for this is device agnostic. Bunt, Carenini & Conati define the adaptive presentation of content as ‘how to present Web-based content in a manner that best
suits individual users’ needs.(Bunt, Carenini & Conati 2007) Charles Cooper defines adaptive content as ‘Content that is designed to adapt to the needs of the customer’(Abel, Baillie, Reifer, Johnston et al 2014)
A fairly straightforward example of adaptive content is the book recommendations presented on sites such as Amazon based on users recent purchases and viewing. Research has shown that personalisation on eCommerce sites can have a dramatic impact on conversions or sales

Personalised Data

Adaptive content goes further than mere Cosmetic Changes, in addition to responding to screen size & orientation of the device being employed it also displays relevant content it is for these reasons that adaptive content is often categorized as personalization where the data presented is tailored to meet the perceived needs of the user/searcher. The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) suggest that

Adaptive content + marketing rules = personalized delivery (source: contentmarketinginstitute.com)

By marketing rules here I mean instructions designed to identify who is viewing the data and their perceived interests. Adaptive content tailors itself to meet the requirements of the person interacting with it

Multi Channel or Omni Channel?

The CMI suggest that Adaptive content is more than a multi channel technique it was they define as ‘Omni-channel’ and personalisation should shape the user experience across all the channels that customers use on their buying journey by Channels here the CMI mean social networks such as Facebook Twitter & Instagram in addition to other channels such as the Company blog and website and email marketing.

Parting Thoughts

With the explosive growth of mobile computing, adaptive content makes perfect sense for companies wishing to provide mobile users with the optimal experience

The Challenge for businesses

Farnworth and Morris at Copyblogger suggest that the technology for implementing adaptive content is not really there yet, I know I’d struggle to find a way to implement it, I’m sure that 2015 will find companies developing solutions, I’m not as yet convinced that adaptive content is a realistic proposition for smaller businesses online as it requires a lot more resources than static content to develop, it does make perfect sense for larger companies such as amazon to implement it, it is certainly a trend I will keep my eye on this year.

By |January 16th, 2015|Content|Comments Off

The Importance of human input

Automation

Source( Flickr:vintage clockwork macro by
Sergei Golyshev)


This weeks post is inspired by a topic I heard covered in Rose & Pulizzi’s ‘This old marketing’ podcast which is released by the Content Marketing Institute, the feature which grabbed my attention was a part of 2014 in review where they analysed offense inadvertently caused by The Facebook Year in review app

So what’s the problem?

The major talking point the hosts analysed was the inherent dangers of using algorithms to generate content. The Facebook app was including life events such as family deaths & divorces in the year in review. Obviously this was causing concern to those affected( I caught a whiff of this on my own friends list)

The Case for automation

Automation helps when there are problems with finding time for the development & curation of content, the Facebook app gave Facebook users who frequently have rather limited IT skills access to a feature they enjoyed, it certainly attracted a lot of interest from those on my friends list, within certain limits Algorithm controlled automation is fine

Parting thoughts

This is a debate I cannot see going away anytime soon, the limited time available for those developing content will always mean there is no shortage of vendors attempting to develop time saving solutions for the curation or development of new content. Personally I agree completely with Rose & Pulizzi’s conclusion that human input is always required in the development or curation of content as no algorithm will ever match human empathy & understanding for deciding if content is appropriate for inclusion on a website or social network.
Most larger network sites (i.e. all the newspapers) have content suggestion engines such as Outbrain providing content suggestions there often appears to be little or no consideration of content quality in these engines ‘Lose weight or wrinkles’ through this weird old trick adverts look a bit incongruous on the websites of High Quality broadsheets but it happens an awful lot.

The Importance of Human Input

Both the Facebook Year in review app and the content suggestion engine examples highlight the importance of human input in the content selection process, where its possible for people to be deeply offended this is obviously an important consideration. I suspect Facebook will reuse the ‘year in review’ app next year, perhaps with a few minor modifications, however the whole issue does have implications for those who automate content curation & Social media, I don’t feel that algorithms are yet advanced enough to leave out human input and they possibly never will be, People and companies will continue to try and automate the content curation process.

By |January 9th, 2015|Content, Social Media|Comments Off

This is why we can’t have nice things (from an SEO perspective)

chinese whispers

Source Flickr:theGiantVermin)


Whilst researching this weeks blog post. I came across an interesting sentiment from Matt Cutts from his infamous ‘the decay and fall of Guest blogging’ post from January 2014 its one it’s a sentiment I’ve felt for quite a while if I’m being honest

Ultimately, this is why we can’t have nice things in the SEO space: a trend starts out as authentic. Then more and more people pile on until only the barest trace of legitimate behavior remains.(source:mattcutts.com)

This is why we can’t have nice things

I’d adjust this to read ‘Ultimately this is why we can’t have nice things online’ as this behaviour is repeated constantly. If the rumour went around that wearing a Wizards hat boosted website rankings and traffic you can bet you’d see a few Gandalf wannabes walking around town, then six months down the line websites selling wizard hats would be sprouting everywhere and the spam emails would be starting (again) as the webs version of Chinese whispers kicks into gear. We’ve seen this pattern repeated numerous times as a good idea is ruined by those seeking to abuse or shortcut the system. So what is the business Owner to do? I can understand the temptation to cut corners online obtaining backlinks or followers by illicit means but it runs counter to my beliefs and values and ultimately benefits no one as we have a web full of full of sound and fury signifying nothing which is how I see things currently with so much poor quality pseudo content readily available. So in 2015 I’ll focus on being excellent in my own small way (yes, I need to improve the quality & amount of my content I’m quite aware of that).

Don’t raise your voice; improve your argument. ~ Desmond Tutu

My vision for 2015

This quote I found on twitter illustrates my personal vision for 2015.I’ll focus on improving my content & argument, a site redesign is well under way on my test server. I think that’s a vision which will hold true indefinitely a site packed full of good quality content has nothing to fear from algorithm changes, I can see good quality content being the cornerstone of search performance for the foreseeable future, if done correctly content marketing as a paradigm, with genuinely great content will have a great future. I dont feel that theres any realistic shortcuts to this goal

Disclaimer: I’m being silly Wizard hats have no impact on search rankings whatsoever I’m just illustrating a point.

By |January 2nd, 2015|Content, SEO, SME Online Marketing|Comments Off

Art last the Penny drops! I’ve joined the twitter conversation

Social-Conversation

Okay, so the penny finally dropped and I joined the twitter conversation, and to be honest I love it! By nature I’m a bit shy and reserved, no one would describe me as quiet

Social Media for the self employed

As a small self-employed businessman I struggle to find the conversations with my colleagues which frequently generate new ideas the so called ‘Water-Cooler’ effect,, being British I spent much of my time making fresh cups of tea and having a ‘crack’ with my mates, much to the chagrin of my previous managers ;)

My new ‘Chatty’ approach

Being completely honest I struggled to come to terms with some of the behaviour on twitter (I’ve been on there for 3+ years but only recently have I started to take it seriously) on reflection can see that my initial approach was flawed, this is despite reading a number of books on Social Media, and the new chatty approach is paying much better dividends in terms of both followers and engagement. This is far more in keeping with my own values & beliefs, using Social Media in an authentic and helpful way rather than playing what I term the twitter numbers game, following thousands of people in the hope that 70% will follow me back, to be quite frank I cannot see the point of that apart from building up a huge list of disengaged followers which looks impressive at a glance. I find this honest approach to social media a lot more rewarding as I attempt to support local businesses and what I personally regard as worthwhile causes,I find it fairly easy to be professional yet helpful & friendly while avoiding the corporate guff which is all to common on some social media channels, I know when I’m looking at obvious click – bait and I don’t care for it at all

Parting Thoughts

I apologise for the slightly disjointed nature of this week’s blog post as preparations for Christmas have meant that life is rather hectic around here at the moment. I’m looking forward to applying this ‘new/old’ approach to my social media in the New Year.As I’m treating myself to a week off next week. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the regular readers of my blog, ’Thanks Mum!’ ;) and to wish them a happy new year! I’ve got a fairly major redesign of the site on my local server, which is not quite ready to take live yet. It’s more an evolution that a complete redesign.

By |December 19th, 2014|Social Media|Comments Off