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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up the Search Rankings, this is an older view of SEO one commonly held by customers personally I feel its hopelessly out of date/touch and SEO Snake Oil Salesmen have done the industry no favours at all, lack of content is the major problem I find with small business websites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.

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.

The Importance of human input


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.

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.

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


PAste the URL of the image you wish to use

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

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