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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.

Discovering your brands voice

brand voice

This weeks post will examine the concept of voice in branding, the article I am examining is ‘Finding your brands voice’ by Liz Evangelatos

Liz defines voice as ‘the feeling a brand gives a person because of its marketing’

I’m more familiar with the concept of voice from copywriting and content development but I’m assuming the two are closely related; my definition of voice is slightly different ‘Voice is the style of writing employed and the impression you wish to convey of your organisation to your intended audience’. I ditched the idea of comparing voice(branding) with voice(copywriting) as I felt it would be rather a dull read only of interest to marketing/branding professors

Defining your voice

My voice has rather uncharitably been described as ‘old man formal’, its a label I’m more than happy to wear as its actually what I’m like up to a degree, and I’m comfortable with so my communication reflects who I am and is authentic. I do have a sense of humour please don’t tell anyone ;).

Role of Voice in Marketing Plan

Liz asserts that ‘This is a subject you should devote a considerable amount of time to in your marketing plan before you ever write your first message’ and I completely agree, as I tend to travel light and prefer to keep things simple, I am after all only a SME/Microbusiness my voice is ‘friendly – personable, authentic and knowledgeable’ so there no 40 page documents precisely defining it, a larger organisation could afford to do this. I try to discuss technical subjects in a way readily understood by my target audience, so there is a degree of soul searching every time I use an acronym, and I generally avoid jargon. Voice generally informs everything I do, i.e. I’m informal on Facebook and talk about topics Id never consider on Twitter, this is as various social networks have different characteristics and I try to tailor my voice according to social network, its only an online way of minding your Ps & Qs.

Parting thoughts

I agree Completely with Liz’s conclusion that ‘Your brand’s voice is a difficult thing to articulate well. You’ll know you’re on the right track when you feel the voice you’re using is true and authentic to yourself, your product or service and people seek you out because they’re comfortable with you. And at that point, you have built a relationship. ‘(source: askforliz.wordpress.com)Liz uses examples from her personal life in her article which is something I very rarely do, being quite a private person (it took me a month or open up on twitter ), voice is strictly a personal choice , details like Liz imparts in her article highlight how genuine the authenticity of her writing, this is in my opinion a good thing, elevating it above a lot of bland corporate guff, Carl Potts Designs offer content development packages designed to interest your potential customers, in addition I offer social media management services tailor made for Small Businesses to discover how I can boost your online marketing, contact me today!

What is Social Search and how can it help my business?

Social Search
I’ve examined the roles of Authority & relevance when determining Search Engine ranking in previous weeks on this blog; this week I will examine the role of Social Media when determining SERP rankings, this is frequently generally referred to as social Search.

What is Social Search?

Social activity such as liking, sharing, commenting or +1 votes does correlate with high ranking websites however it doesn’t actually cause it is backlinks which causes sites to rank more highly Widely shared content will lead to more backlinks to that content resulting in higher search rankings, this confirms that social media is what the military refer to as a force multiplier, in a nutshell successful use of social media will amplify the impact of your content

Social Media as Force Multiplier

A force multiplier refers to a factor that dramatically increases (hence “multiplies”) the effectiveness of an item or group (Source: Wikipedia)

The Social Graph

First I’d like to clarify what exactly is meant by the social graph, this is NOT the traditional diagram with X & Y axis you may be familiar with from Maths at School, instead the social graph maps the connections and shared interests of your social network, in Social Search a persons search results are influenced by their Social Network in contrast to traditional search which uses backlinks & algorithms to determine Search results. Trond Lyngbø suggests that

‘In the algorithmic ranking model that search engines used in the past, relevance of a site is determined after analyzing the text and content on the page and link structure of the document. In contrast, search results with social search highlight content that was created or touched by other users who are in the Social Graph of the person conducting a search.’

Advantages of Social Search

With Social Search Connections are valued more highly that backlinks this should cut down on the amount of link spam, a further benefit is that Social Networks act as a form of intermediary or arbiter. Content, which is deemed excellent i.e., gets shared a lot then it should have an impact on search rankings, in this way social networks serve to validate content hopefully minimizing the abuses of link building seen in the past. Such as buying links & link farms, there will always be some companies trying to take shortcuts to good search engine results such as trading in backlinks or social shares, hopefully the search engines will rapidly adapt to counter these abuses
Searchengineland.com suggest

Ideally, you want to gain references from social accounts with good reputations. Having your own social presence that is well regarded is important. So participate on relevant social platforms in a real, authentic way, just as you would with your web site, or with customers in an offline setting.(source:Searchengineland.com)

Parting thoughts

Social Search represents a challenge for smaller businesses, especially where they are strapped for time, as it takes an investment of time to build up a decent network. It certainly underlines the importance of good quality website content otherwise your social network will have nothing to talk about or share. Carl Potts Designs offer both Social Media management and engaging content development services specifically designed for Smaller Businesses to discover more contact me today.

I know its important, but what exactly is website content?

(Original Image Flickr:Mauro Toselli)

(Original Image Flickr:Mauro Toselli)

This weeks blog post I’ll return to a topic previously, that of website content, as its such an important topic I’ve no major issue with revisiting this territory, hopefully you’ll find it interesting as well, I’ll be looking at content from a small business perspective such as a tradesman’s website.

Why is content important?

Content is important for a number of reasons including the following

• A website which answers all of a potential customers questions is going to create trust in your company or service, it makes me think this is a person who I can do business with
• It will immediately set you apart from your competitors, Small Business websites often feature little or no real content (a few stock images doesn’t really count for much in my opinion), I’ve got nowhere near the amount of content I’d like to get on my website yet! (It’s a work in progress)
• It will attract visitors (and backlinks) to your website leading to better search Engine Rankings
• It’s the modern way to promote your business, rather than hard sell tactics which serve to irritate people why not provide them with the information they are looking for already?

What exactly is Website Content?

This is the $64,000 question; Text, images, video and audio are all forms of content as are documents such as eBooks & Whitepapers; Blog posts are also a form of Content, really this is only the tip of the content iceberg, depending on your industry things such as apps, slideshows and infographics are an easily shared and popular form for content to take, it all depends on the business you are in, for a clothes shop photographs of the latest ranges of clothing and analysis of fashion trends would be great content, for a tradesman good quality photographs of your latest projects would be perfect as would case studies of projects. Good Quality Content puts your business forward in the best possible light, it is questions of content quality we’ll look at next.

What is great quality quality content?

Of all the definitions of good quality content I’ve seen the best is that from Content expert Kristina Halvorson

‘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)

In a nutshell great content is

a. Interesting
b. Useful
c. Answers Customer questions
d. Supports business goals (such as attracting new customers)

Returning to the tradesperson’s website example the questions (as a potential Customer) Id want answering are

• How good is this person’s work?
• How professional are they?
• Is the customer service of good quality?
• How happy are previous customers with the work they received.

The content I’d be looking for would be good quality photographs, testimonials, case studies and reviews, if all of those questions were answered to my satisfaction and the price was reasonable then the chances are good that I’d attempt to become a future client of that person.

Boost Click through Rates(CTR) with better Meta Descriptions

Meta Descriptions

Meta Descriptions


This weeks Search Themed post I’ll be examining Meta Descriptions, I’m well aware that this is not the most exciting of topics, and is unlikely to get me invites to glamorous and exciting parties, a common problem for those who work in IT and blog on IT related topics, however like many who work in IT I don’t actually want to go to glamorous parties, so its not really a problem. What I do want to do is make sure my website makes a great impact on Search Engine Results pages (SERP), by doing this hopefully I can attract more potential customers, which is something I find profoundly interesting, I’m sure you will as well

What are Meta Descriptions?

Meta Descriptions are the way in which web developers can describe the contents of their web pages in a format readily understood by Search Engines, if done correctly Meta Descriptions are displayed on SERPs they are not visible when visiting a site, unless the underlying HTML code is examined something the typical website visitor is pretty unlikely to do. Meta Descriptions are limited to 170 characters (including spaces) long should be concise and contain your best keywords, the character limit means that the number of keywords that can be included is limited, this means that keyword stuffing is a bad idea.

Meta Description best practises

The following list contains the best practises for creating effective Descriptions
• Contains call to Action
• Important Pages have unique descriptions
• Contains a clear description of your company/page contents
• Avoids non alphanumeric characters
• Makes selective use of your best keywords

Each of these best practises will now be examined in further detail.

Important pages have unique descriptions

Matt Cutts, the head of the search spam team at Google advises that is best to ensure that every page has a unique description; it is better to page descriptions empty rather than than having duplicated page descriptions. The practical approach to this Cutts suggests is to ensure that the most important pages all have unique page descriptions.

Calls to action

Calls to action encourage the reader to take a particular course of action, very basic examples include things like ‘Call us today’ or ‘Check our latest offers!’, this is important when getting the potential customer to take a particular course of action.

Avoids non Alphanumeric characters

Google tends to remove non-alphanumeric characters such as quote marks from descriptions so it best not to use them to differentiate text within the description.

Makes selective use of your best keywords

I find that businesses often have a tendency to want to target every possible keyword known to mankind in their particular niche, I feel this is ill advised, its better to target the important keywords well rather than overdo it, if you are targeting keywords you need good quality content to back it up. Standard Good practice holds true, text should be written with the reader in mind rather than for the benefit of Search Engines.

Facebook Automation & Scheduling Image Shares

(image src Flickr William Warby)

(image src Flickr William Warby)


For many smaller businesses finding the time and resources to operate a social media channel can be difficult this is where automating social media with suites such as hootsuite, buffer can be a real help. This week’s post will examine some of the potential pitfalls of automation; there will also be a practical how to guide for automating shares on Facebook, so it’s a 2 part post this week

Common Automation mistakes

Over automating

Overreliance on automation is one of the common mistakes and it is an easy trap to fall into, this is where all the posts to a channel are automated, and the channel looks like its maintained by machine, no one with the exception of Michael knight wants to spend all day talking to a machine and an automated twitter channel doesn’t offer the sparkling interactions with the likes of KITT. Personally I really dislike automated ‘thank you for following me ’ style direct message on twitter they are completely lacking in sincerity and gives a poor first impression, I try to greet new twitter followers with a personalised message developed after reading their profile, it generally receives a positive response, in a world where numbers appear to mean everything, its nice to retain the personal touch, writing the message generally takes less than 30 seconds. As Carville and Taylor argue ‘it’s still important that we provide a human touch’ (Carvill & Taylor 2013), personally I regard Social media without the human touch as just noise. It’s important to ensure that your social media retains the human touch, arguments & flame wars I don’t think its possible to overdo the human touch with social media.

Just because the means of automating something exists doesn’t mean you need to use it.

How to Schedule Facebook Image shares

Scheduling Shares from Facebook is actually fairly simple and a great way of fitting relevant, top quality content into your pages stream,now I’ll run through the process

1. Find and like a page with relevant good quality content

For this example I’ll like the Ste Petersburg times page which I know is a fantastic Facebook page full of great photography and interesting articles, as I have an interest in Russian History, I won’t run through this part as liking pages is very straightforward, there is a weird old trick (the secret currency of the internet) to enable you to do

2. Find a photo you like and feel is appropriate for your community

& copy the URL(web address)

screenshot1

PAste the URL of the image you wish to use

3.Paste the URL into the status box of your community

screenshot2
There’s no need to hit post straight away, wait a second or two for a preview of the image to appear, then you can delete the URL add your own message, then schedule the post like you would any other

What is findability? and how it can improve your website

findability

Image Source: Flickr


A Commonly encountered argument is that “content without access is worthless” findability is the art of making sure your content is easily found. Wikipedia defines Findability as “Findability is a term for the ease with which information contained on a website can be found” Findability expert Peter Morville defines Findability thus
“the ability of users to identify an appropriate web site and navigate the pages of the site to discover and retrieve relevant information sources”(source: Wikipedia)

Informationarchitechted provide the following definition:

Defining Findability

‘Effective Findability retrieves content in context. Therein lies the crux of Findability. It cannot be attained simply by search – even a powerful search. Findability provides intuitive interaction between the user and the content. It provides multiple ways at getting to content, each tailored to a specific type of retrieval need, which includes necessary controls over security.’(informationarchitect.com)

I think an easy way to picture findability is to facilitate the creation of information trails which give users the impression they are on the right track to getting the information they need, as stated context is a defining characteristic of findability. Although findability is used interchangeably with a number of different terms such as searchability and indexability there are subtle differences between them it is this confusion I will attempt to clear up now.

indexability

Indexability is the ability of search engines to index and retrieve the contents of a website, this is where Flash websites have fared badly in the past; poorly coded JavaScript can also cause indexing problems. site hierarchy is an important consideration where indexability is concerned.

Searchability

Searchability is a closely related term which is concerned with how easily ‘specific content within a site may be accessed when using a search engine (deep linking) afhill.com defines Searchability thus

‘Searchability refers to the idea that site visitor can easily navigate to the specific information he’s searching for within the site’ (source: afhills.com)

I feel the difference is related to the means of locating content within a website using an internal search engine. Where findability refers to the way that the site and content is organized this includes factors such as taxonomies. Informationarchitect.com suggest that A fundamental difference between Findability and its predecessor and component, search, is where the burden of effort lies. Under Findability, the burden of intelligent con- tent processing is placed on the content itself (source: informationarchitect.com). Now that we’ve got some working definitions I’ll look into ways that the findability of content can be improved on your website.

Taxonomies

As Discussed previously context is a fundamental factor when considering the findability of data. When considering both findability and usability and usability a lot of data is paid to taxonomies. Taxonomies refers to how content is organised a readily understood example of a taxonomy is in music players such as iTunes where music files are sorted into albums, genres and artist. Having a robust taxonomy is vital when organising larger music collections when considering both findability and usability this is where there is a degree of overlap between the two disciplines, well structured content leads to logical website navigation
, Well-structured content makes the process of locating it intuitive.

Parting Thoughts

In an era where content is seen as vital it is imperative that site visitors can quickly and easily locate the information they want failure to achieve this will drive visitors to other sites and may cost your company sales and goodwill

What does Penguin 3.00 mean for your business website?

Google Penguin

original image (Flickr:Ville Miettinen)


This weeks post will examine the recent Algorithm change by Google that has been given the nickname Penguin 3 by the Search Engine Industry websites & observers. There is some disagreement concerning the size & impact of the recent Penguin update with some observers suggestion it is more a refresh than a full scale algorithm update, whatever the scope of this change Google started rolling it out Friday October 17th, with the complete process expected to take a few weeks in total (seoroundtable.com)

What are Algorithms?

Algorithms are the calculations performed by Search Engines such as Google and Bing which determine the rankings of the Search Engine results pages (SERPs) for given search queries, the exact nature of Algorithms is a closely guarded secret of the search engines, as the search engines are constantly striving to provide ‘better’ results Algorithms are constantly being updated

What is Penguin?

Penguin is designed to ensure that websites have good quality backlink profiles and to reduce the influence of spammy or poor quality backlinks, the first Penguin update was introduced in April 2012.Previous Penguin updates have lead to real concerns throughout the Search Engine industry with Google introducing a disavow tool so webmasters can refute backlinks from poor quality websites

Backlinks?

Backlinks are links from other websites back to your website, Google and the other search engines treat these as votes for your website, the logic being websites that are useful and provide good quality content will attract lots of backlinks naturally, predictably some webmasters tried to game the system by buying links from poor quality websites known as link farms, it is this sort of backlink which Penguin targets sites with poor quality link profiles being demoted in the Search Engine Results pages(www.seroundtable.com)

Penguin penalises Smaller Businesses?

There has been some suggestions that Google favours Larger businesses and that it is beyond the resources of Smaller businesses to employ specialist SEO teams developing website content designed to raise a companies SERP rankings, I agree completely with directtrafficmedia’s conclusion

‘As you can see, Google does not make it easy for small businesses to do well in search results. It is now more important than ever for online businesses to understand the environment that their site exists in. An SEO strategy is needed in order to avoid penalties, with budgets being put aside for external agencies or in house SEO. It is no longer acceptable in the world of search engine rankings to just build a site in the cheapest and simplest way possible and expect good rankings. Every small online business owner is now also an SEO, without it, online businesses cannot succeed.’(directtrafficmedias.co.uk)

Parting Thoughts

Penguin underlines the importance of building a healthy backlink profile and not resorting to artificial means of boosting number of backlinks. It would be naive to assume the trading of backlinks has disappeared completely, however it does appear to be less high profile/obvious than it was a few years ago. The best way to ensure your website has nothing to fear from this or future penguin updates is to avoid link buying schemes and to develop good quality website content which answers the needs of clients and attracts backlinks naturally. Linkarati suggest that ‘However, ‘Penguin was very effective at finding and punishing spammy and automated links. This prompted a fundamental change in the SEO industry as automating your link building to create thousands of irrelevant links was no longer effective’ (Linkarati.com). The Monthly Carl Potts Designs newsletter covers topics such as Penguin regularly and provides suggestions how smaller businesses can compete effectively online, Sign up using the Contact Form on this website.

How to deal effectively with negative feedback

This weeks blog post was inspired by the trolling legislation the UK Government aims to introduce (personally I’m ambivalent about the need for it) I’ll focus on negative comments on social media. In my opinion part of what makes online communities so exciting is the fact communications can be either very positive or extremely negative in nature. It would be unrealistic and rash to assume that all communications you’ll receive are going to be positive in nature, this weeks post will examine how your company can prepare for negative comments & feedback and how to handle situations which go awry.

The Dangers of remaining quiet

A number of experts argue against ignoring negative feedback in the hope it will fade away instead they argue that social media is about being social and you need to ensure with those complaints the public brings to your attention are handled professionally, there are numerous examples in books of companies which have handled online incidents in a calm and professional manner so these potentially sticky incidents can serve to impress customers and generate new leads and business. Meghan Sullivan (www.kunocreative.com) convincingly argues

We can’t help but think that negative opinions are toxic, spread to other customers like a virus and taint our image in the marketplace. In an attempt to maintain control, we think these comments should be eliminated, or if not eliminated, hidden. Downplayed. Kept quiet, made to go away, swept under the rug. Hence, the knee-jerk reaction when it comes to building a presence on social media to actively delete negative comments, or not allow comments at all. The problem is, if you’re not going to let people talk to you, then why are you on social media? One-way communication isn’t very social. (kunocreative.com)

I have encountered this attitude and approach before where negative feedback is ignored and deleted rather than tackled head on, it is understandable if misguided, answering critics promptly can defuse awkward situations can the best way to do this is to prepare a contingency plan.

5 P’s approach

When dealing with irate customers it is easy to lose ones temper in return, this is the worst approach to the problem either on or offline. If you r response follows these 5 p’s you should be able to resolve the problem successfully

1. Prompt
2. Polite
3. Professional
4. Proactive
5. Personal

Prompt

Your response should be with 24 hours, less if at all possible

Polite

This is a fairly obvious point however it can be surprising how much online communication is less than polite.

Professional

Proactive

this is a less obvious point if there is an incident, there is every chance there is a shortcoming in your companies procedures, this will need to be examined and steps taken to eliminate or reduce the chance of it being repeated.

Personal

Again this is a less obvious point but it is in my opinion equally important, nothing irritates me more than interaction, which appears insincere, and in the worst cases to be copy/pasted and corporate in tone.

Parting thoughts

Viewing negative feedback as an opportunity rather than a problem could transform your companies’ success and image online, I’m aware this sounds somewhat glib but I genuinely mean it, if you can resolve issues confidently while others fail to deliver then you will stand out from the competition.

Creating “Mobile Friendly” Content

mobile-content

Original Image (Flickr:mobilyazilar)

This week’s blog post develops the theme introduced last weeks, that of mobile computing, this week will specifically address content tailored for a mobile audience. Given the increasing use of mobile devices, (smartphones and tablets) it makes sense to ensure that your website content is readily consumable by mobile device users, this week blog post will examine how can website content be tailored for a mobile audience.

Research has shown that mobile users value convenience highly as Jessica Davis infers:

‘Mobile users are known to abandon their attempts to visit any website if it takes more than a few seconds to load’ Jessica Davis (zemanta.com)

Key point

Mobile Users expect websites to load quickly & to be convenient for them to use on a mobile device, if your website fails to meet their requirements they are quite likely to leave it and go elsewhere for the information they need

Mobile Content guidelines

Snappy Headlines

Copywriters need to use smaller headlines to grab the attention of mobile users; this coincides with the shorter tail of search for mobile users (in short mobile users tend to use smaller search queries)

Images

Images also need to be smaller download sizes to be suitable for mobile phone users; there are two main technologies for adjusting the size of images adaptive & responsive. Additionally there is a need for caution to be exercised when selecting website images, detailed high-resolution graphics which may look perfect for desktop users maybe unreadable for mobile audiences.

Forms

Forms are another design consideration that requires careful attention to detail; otherwise what is a perfectly good form for desktop users could be a usability nightmare for mobile users. Given the low tolerance of mobile users for slow awkward interfaces failing to design with them in mind and accounting for the characteristics of mobile browsers (such as field zoom on forms) could be a costly mistake.

Key point

Mobile devices display things differently to desktop equivalents, your usability testing needs to take this into account otherwise you may fail your mobile audience

eBooks

In addition to these website usability considerations, content such as eBooks should not neglect mobile audiences, with care it is possible to ensure that mobile users can enjoy eBook content.

Parting thoughts

Given the impressive growth of mobile computing it would be ill advised to neglect mobile users when developing a company website. Having a responsive website is an excellent starting point but mobile considerations need to influence every aspect of the website including the content it contains. Bloggers such as Susan Waldes (searchengineland.com) have bemoaned the lack of consistent quality control on the mobile web, Waldes suggests that ‘the mobile web of today reminds me of the regular web of 1999’(searchengineland.com) even larger companies such as Marin & LinkedIn are guilty of these inconsistencies when providing content which fails to meet the expectations of mobile users. Given the rapid growth of mobile computing with it predicted to account for a greater share of UK search traffic than desktop by 2014.Surely it makes sense to differentiate your brand by developing a website & content which comfortably exceeds the expectations of mobile users?