Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Making sense of Wikileaks and what it means for Government

Two very different men spent much of December in prison. What links these two is not just their incarceration (by Chinese and the UK courts) but because they have, in their own way, been accused of challenging the power of the state.

Liu Xiaobo is the spokesperson for political reforms in China, a campaigner for human rights including the freedom of speech and of the press. He recently won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize for his long and non-violent struggle despite being held as a political prisoner in the People’s Republic.
Julian Assange is the figurehead for Wikileaks, a website that has recently released more than 250,000 diplomatic cables (internal emails) that have embarrassed and angered the US Government. He spent much of December pacing around a small stone room in Wandsworth prison.
Both men are heads of movements that some say subvert the very fabric that is needed to hold governments and society together. Others say these men stand as the standard-bearers of the one thing Governments can no longer hold onto... information.
Viruses such as colds (or something nastier) are usually spread by humans coming into contact or near contact with other humans. Typically the bigger the population, the more and faster the virus is spread.

Information can therefore be seen as having the same properties as a virus, a pretty virulent one! It used to just utilise humans as hosts, but with each successive technology from books onwards it can infect more people, more efficiently and more effectively. Once man could write down and copy information, it could be given to others, and now with the Internet and the social media technologies that sit upon it, information can be spread globally, instantly.
The speed and scale of information transference now creates big problems for those organisations who want to restrict it, typically Governments. Huge amounts of data can now be copied onto media the size of a fingernail or transferred at megabit speed. Secrets that would previously be accessed by a handful of individuals are no longer secret for very long if that system can allow the replication of the information virus (e.g. by having it collected to the Internet or by allowing any form of electronic copying from it). For example: The recently leaked cables of Wikileaks were apparently taken off a computer that allowed compact discs to be updated, which meant a single disgruntled American security operative could copy the information to his Lady Gaga CD!
So what do Governments do about this? Well, I think they have three options;

1. Continue to do what they have been doing so far (ongoing treatment). This means they do nothing drastic and carry on trying to lock down access and copying ability of computers that have access to secret information. However, given the viral nature of information, this will no-doubt mean there will be further breaches in the future. Just like trying to prevent the common cold, this situation becomes futile and acceptance of the situation results in regular infection. It’s also likely that reoccurrence of the situation will result in the eroding of trust in Western Governments and those they work with.

2. Be heavy-handed about data breaches (quarantine). Although Julian Assange’s stint in prison is not as a direct result of his Wikileaks activity (he’s accused of sexual offences in Sweden), only a few would doubt that there aren’t forces at work behind the scenes to try and get him to a court in the USA for ‘Cablegate’. However, it is possible for America and others to adopt a more zero-tolerance approach to those who compromise their information security boundaries. After all, it has had a stricter approach to terrorism (Guantanamo Bay anyone?) than it does for other crimes (the courts, right to legal counsel, etc.). However, adopting more Chinese-type approaches has huge potential human rights consequences and is definitely not the activity of a modern and progressive Government.

3. Understand and adapt (look for a cure). This is not the 1900’s, it’s the Information Age. Wikileaks may have caused an example to have been made of Mr Assange (especially if he does get carted-off to the USA to face trial), but also gives the ideal opportunity for self-reflection about the storage, treatment and classification of what exactly should be considered secret in a digital world.

The openness and transparency of the ‘modern always-connected’ organisation is a reality that companies and brands have had to accept in recent times. Is it not the time for our Governments to do the same?

Hopefully, before evryone goes Gaga!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Weather - The only thing to stop eCommerce's progress?

eCommerce is a growing market and if you listen to companies like PayPal at le Web this week, there is still a huge untapped online selling opportunity out there.

So what has put a fly in the digital ointment?

The weather! Yes, thanks to the reliance on the traditional infrastructure of road and rail, your physical delivery from the virtual world still needs to be delivered to your door. It therefore suffers when snow, ice or the wrong sort of leaves land around the time when the clocks go back.

If you are in Scotland right now and you are about to order your presents from supermarket chains Tesco, Sainsbury's or Asda then you may find you are too late. These companies have stopped taking orders online (but not for groceries yet, so make sure you order enough ASAP) and others such as Amazon and Firebox are experiencing significant delays to their delivery schedules.

eCommerce may be a huge commercial force right now, but mother nature is showing she's an even bigger one!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Social Media, Secrets and Wikileaks

Here's a video interview I did on the problems Wikileaks causes for Governments and what a secret actually means in the modern era of social media communications.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday Times iPad app

Is an tablet wielding future of news worth hedging your bets on? Well... the Sunday Times released its iPad app today and I'm sure it will be an instant success (as its free to those who have a weekly Times subscription).

It is perhaps a shame that you now have a second app, with the orginal still able to access The Times news on the move....

Friday, December 3, 2010

Digital Toolkit - A Presentation

I've had a lot of interest in the Digital Toolkit postings I've done recently. So to explain the entire process, I've put up all the diagrams as slides here:

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Instant eCommerce

We have been asked to build an instant eCommerce presence for the launch of Tanya Rose's new book 'Travel Secrets'

If you want to buy the book in advance of the launch on Monday, just click the PayPal button below

Update 7 December:

The website is now up and running at

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The diminishing value of links

"Build links" is the usual advice you get if you want to improve the traffic to your website.
As we all have been told by SEO professionals and the search engines themselves, the way to get higher placed in organic results is to have great content and to have high ranked sites link to yours.

Simple stuff!

So, unsuprisingly, the typical approach is to use social media such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs and other such services to build links to your site.

But hold on a minute.... how much value is a link from one of these sources?... well, if our research is correct.... very little and some times none at all.

How come? Well, there's a certain piece of code that a lot of social media sites wrap around links to external sites called "no follow". This basically tells the spiders of Google and the like not to go down this link, perhaps because the content cannot be trusted.

So in effect, all the links you build or encourage within these sites do not count towards your SEO efforts.

What's worse is that even some blogging platforms now, by default or by user choice, also use this "no follow" code. And on top of this, so do some social bookmarking and news sites. Ouch!

And you thought this SEO and Social Media stuff was easy
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.5

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Why isn't your annual report in HTML?

There's a growing trend over the last few years to put company annual report online. However, just sticking the print version on your website as a PDF (Portable Document Format) docuemnt just doesn't cut the mustard any more. In fact, in this recent research from Nexxar, in the UK two thirds of our top companies now produce their annual reports in HTML format.

Now I've previously covered the topic Company Report -The Next Generation, and in last year's posting I explained the benefits of delivering your Annual Report in HTML format. However what surprised me most about the finding's of Nexxar's research, was not that there are still a lot of companies holding onto their old formats, but that a number of the top French companies in the CAC40 have actually stopped producing HTML reports (and seemingly gone back to PDF or image-based reports in JPG format).

Have I missed something here and there's a reason for this? Or has the overall business climate contributed to a completed backwards step in how annual reports are now delivered online?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The eCommerce bar is being raised all the time

The year so-far has seem a lot of new websites introduced or re-launched onto the market by traditional high street retailers. Most of these examples show that its not just the pure-play companies that can build their digital sales offering, but also those who have a very visible presence in our physical lives.

Yes, there are noted examples where this hasn't been the case, such as H&M's highly criticised implementation, and some site are still poorly designed, fail basic accessibility criteria and leave their users to the hard work. But the majority of sites launched this year show is that it is possible for retailers to learn from the past (and their peers) and implement a site which is a much better example of best practice eCommerce.

Sure, most of the UK-focused high street eCommerce sites aren't actually ground-breaking and hardly any seem to be implementing Social Commerce functionality right now.... but its fair to say the bar is being raised all the time. This not only means a potentially improved visitor and conversion rate for the retailer, but a better experince for the site visitor.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A million likes and now what?

There's a race going on by major brands to build up the amount of followers they have on Facebook in a perceived effort to gain popularity and influence. Almost daily, those of us who work in online & social media hear claims such as the one made by Burberry today that it:
".... currently boasts three million Facebook fans, which it says is the highest number of any luxury brand"
For many companies it now seems quantity is everything in social media. Its a numbers game where bragging rights to the next million milestone are the most important currency of online interaction.

But hang on..... What's the point of having all these vaguely-attached followers who have just clicked on a button saying 'like'? Where's the customer engagement? Where's the qualitative metric of improved brand recognition?

Perhaps someone had best start reminding some of these brands that a 'like' button is just that? Its a "corresponding or agreeing in general or in some noticeable respect". It really isn't the statement of 'love' they are making it out to be and just maybe they had best learn quickly how to utilise this new-found Facebook fanaticism to improved online sales?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Conversion and performance calculations

A quick tip:
When working out what level of site volume and performance you need to test your website with, always speak with the person responsible for improving site conversion.
It's no use testing the site with a 2% 'look to book' ratio, if the clever people working on converting prospects to orders are looking to change their content and marketing plans to get closer to 8%. This 4-fold increase could mean the difference between site stability and downtime.
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.3

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The digital conversion toolkit

Following up on my two recent posts on the cusotmer aquisition path, including the digital PR toolkit and the digital marketing toolkit, I thought I would complete the series with this one on online conversion.

My prompt to complete this posting was ceated by my arrival of the new O'Reilly book 'Conversion Optimization' which I have to review ASAP.

Digital conversion tools are those methods you would use to turn viewers into customers, browsers into buyers, lookers into bookers... and the customer acquisition cycle would not be complete without them.

Here's a breakdown of the tools you can use off-site

User Journey Optimisation:
From creating a usable way for customers to put products into their shopping basket, through to a seamless checkout/payment experience, the efficiency of the interface is key. I guess this is a pretty big subject in itself and just a footnote in this posting does not do it justice. However, suffice to say, if you're not optimizing your user journey to increase conversions on your website... then you probably need to take a good hard look at why you're doing this in the first place!

A/B & Multivariate Tools
Using tools that allow you to use and compare two or more different set of content, imagery or layout are now common practice on large eCommerce websites. Its a way to check what wording or template is leading to better sales very quickly and enables site to find what's working better, quicker. And furthermore.... do you want a way for your website to automatically improve your purchase ratio without actually doing any further fancy technical coding? Then consider using Google Optimiser, which is a dynamic multi-variate testing website tool that plugs into Google's Pay-Per-Click and Analytics functionality.

Yes, I know its old-hat compared to what I've just described, but asking customers for their views on your website (e.g. the layout, etc.) is a basic but assured way of getting ideas on what aspects of your site aren't optimal.

Search & Social Marketing
Why have I put this lots into a posting about conversion when search and social marketing aim to get customers into your website and not through it? Simple!
If there are specific keywords that visitors type into search engines that means they then far more likely to go on  and spend money on your site, are those ones worth focusing on rather than the ones that just get loads of traffic that lands, takes a look and then disappears to the next site? And if there are images in your Facebook adverts that do the same thing.... shouldn't you be looking more closely at these ones?
Note: Affiliate marketing campaigns tend to convert the highest out of all. But I'll leave this subject for another day

Now this means a lot of different things to different people and again deserves more than a few lines here. But online CRM or eCRM as its know (usually centred around email marketing and its integration with the target website) is a powerful tool to ensure that you identify, communicate with and convert customers as efficiently and effectively as possible.
Note: I'm sure I'll follow this posting up with more eCRM stuff in the future

Do you know that targeted emails can produce a far higher conversion rate that organic or pay-per-click visitors? Yes, simple old email is still one of the most effective means of securing a sale online, assuming you don't bombard your recipients with messages and your email can get users to the site in the first place.


Unless your products are available everywhere (in which case they are probably highly commoditised and therefore you're probably aware of all that I'm describing and more) then you should take every chance to communicate to your customers what your products are all about. Aside from the SEO benefits of great content, customers do tend to need  encouragement and you also need to clearly explain things such as your delivery options, returns policy and trading terms & conditions.

Sure.... analytics won't give you instant conversion improvement, but acting on what you find and analyse really can do. If you're still not using analytics to understand customer behaviour and map that all-important transaction funnel... then I recommend you do so immediately.

Delivering personalised content on new sites is one thing, but providing recommendations based on what a user has previously looked at or bought is a very sensible way to encourage them to purchase. Obviously the more you can then provide relevant suggestions (perhaps even based on what friends have bought), the better your eCommerce operation could be working.

In short.... make sure everything on your site is working as hard as it can to turn visitors into customers.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

plate spinning for professionals

I've not posted to this blog for about two weeks now... As I've been busy, really busy. Perhaps its why I'm writing this posting in bed at 1am in the morning, knowing full well I have to be up in 5 hours time.

However, it hasn't stopped me from pulling my thoughts together. It's just that I haven't managed to construct them into a meaningful posting recently.

Therefore I thought I'd quickly make a list of all the thing I'd currently like to blog about if I could:
Windows mobile 7
GAP and its logo uturn
The Social Collective conference I attended last week
The Internet Retailing expo I attended today
The strategy of online customer touchpoints and why its do hard to map them
Website performance

Btw: if anyone wants to write these posts for me , is be most grateful.
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.3

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Increasing customer value on travel websites

Having worked on a number of travel sites in my career, it is surprising to see that some travel companies still aren’t looking to maximise online customer value at every opportunity.

However, there are different ways of doing this online, each with their own merits, approaches and supporting technologies:

1. Increasing customer revenue per transaction

This is the strategy of trying to get as much out of each online customer order as possible. In ecommerce terms this is known as AOV (Average Order Value) and is a key metric that most travel websites live & breath.

The enabler of this maximisation is a decent user experience within the booking process that should give the visitor enough information to make all the booking decisions they need and presenting the relevant opportunities for:

  • up-selling: trying to get the customer to order the better option of what they have selected (e.g. room upgrade)
  • cross-selling: trying to get the customer to buy additional items that enhance their stay (e.g. car hire, excursions, etc.)
2. Increasing customer revenue per complete booking cycle

Once the customer has done their booking and left the site, that’s not the end of the sales relationship with them… that’s the beginning. The opportunities to increase the value from each customer will depend upon their budget, circumstances and how they want to spend their holiday (relaxing, touring, playing badminton, etc.). But failing to recognise these opportunities is potential lost revenue and may actually mean the customer misses out on something they didn’t know about.

The two enablers of this activity are:

  1. Marketing to the customer and informing them of the relevant opportunities you offer (e.g. via email, telephone, etc,)
  2. Allowing the customer to return to the site to easily upgrade and to incrementally buy items they want by themselves.
Care should obviously be taken not to bombard your customers with too much or unnecessary messaging and don’t forget that each different type of person will be have their own decision cycle/timings.

Hint: The idea is to understand these different customer types and be able to market to them in a better & better revenue-generating way as they lead up to their eventual stay.

Also, you have to make the self-service functionality of you website easy enough to be used by anyone… if it becomes a complex application that only a travel agent with a PHD* could understand, then you will unsurprisingly find that this service isn’t used very often. (* and there aren’t too many of them around)

3. Increasing lifetime customer value

A person booking with your site once is a sale, a person booking twice is a retained online customer. In my experience, marketing to the retained travel customers is usually easier than marketing to a new customer…. They have previously used your services and you know information about them that will help you speak to them in more relevant and effective way (assuming they didn’t get a completely negative experience previously).

Therefore it should be in very travel website’s interest to encourage existing customers to book more often that they currently do and to try to increase their order value each time. Eventually you should get to calculate / measure the value of a customer over the entire time they want to do business with you (their CLV or customer lifetime value )

For this you need to consider using CRM systems and processes which pull together customer information such as purchase history, AOV, etc. and then need integration into online systems for personal emails, etc.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Measuring Social Media activity across your business

If you work for a larger company with multiple divisions (and marketing initiatives) then there is a good chance that you have more than one piece of social media activity going on at once.

There's also a pretty good chance that these different initiatives are not connected and may even be duplicating effort (or worse, working against each other).

So what do you do?

1. Audit all activity
Firstly, do an audit of all activity involving social media across your company.  Create a list of everything from those business Twitter accounts in the USA office, through to those Facebook Pages created by the German Marketing team.

2. Measure reach, impact and engagement
How? Well, for reach, its a numbers game. With services such as Twitter its easy to see the number of followers an account has and its just as easy to record the number of Facebook 'likes'. Counting up the number of people who have 'like'd each clip* or are following your channels on YouTube is obvious. Also most blogging platform now either provide statistics for the number of visitors to your blogs or allow you to integrate Google Analytics or other stats package into each page.
*YouTube also allows users to give each clip a 'thumbs down' plus has basic stats built into it now

However measuring impact and engagement is a different matter and I would therefore suggest you look at these methods as a starter:
  • Twitter: 
    • Look at the number of re-tweets each account gets, this will give you some idea of how valuable the followers regard the postings.
    • Measure clicks on hyperlinks. You can do this either by looking at your referrer information in your site analytics package (assuming the links point back to your own site), or if you use a service like which integrates with Twitter, this will show you the clicks on each Tweet.
      Hayden's tip: Use Google link search to see how many people hyperlink to your Twitter account e.g.

  •  Facebook

    • Look for the amount of comments and 'likes' on postings. Obviously the more followers you have, the greater the likelihood of having comments and 'likes'...
      Hayden's tip: To get a real measure, work out your average number of responses per posting and divide this by your total number of followers.. and then measure this over time.
  • YouTube, Flickr, etc.
    • Both these sites allow commenting on each respective file uploaded and YouTube even allows video responses to be posted. Reviewing this feedback over time will give you some idea of the content that people find interesting (in a positive or negative way - so remember to )
      Hayden's tip:
  • Blogs
    • Comments are the obvious way of measuring engagement with your blog content and because they are easily spider-able by search engines and social tools, you can use a variety of methods to understand the quality of the people contributing to them (e.g.
      You can also use your analytics package to measure more factors about engagement such as the amount of time spent on each page (paid for analytics applications may even have a specific way of working this out, such as this method from WebTrends)
      Hayden's tip: Again use Google to measure the number of inbound links to each blog: e.g.
There's obviously lots of other social networks to assess and the ones you audit and measure will depend upon the countries your business is active in. But without first taking stock of your entire social media presence, there's no way you decide which efforts are working and which are not.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

SEO and eCommerce Merchandising

At Ideal Interface we have various clients who have eCommerce websites. Having done SEO work for them, including strategy and implementation consulting, I thought I'd post on some ways you can leverage your online trading site to benefit your company's search engine optimisation efforts.
  1. Give you products the names that people are looking for
    If you want to target search users who are looking for a "red patent shoe", then calling your product "scarlet platform brogue" isn't going to help as much.
  2. Provide decent product descriptions
    The supporting content you provide on the page will help the search engine spiders to understand your page better. Also try to include alternative words to target the long tail of search (Hint: you might want to mention "scarlet platform brogue" here, but again only if people will search for that term)
  3. Ensure your site navigation (and therefore your directory structure) includes keywords and that these are replicated in your page titles and breadcrumbs.
    E.g. footwear > shoes > smart shoes > red patent shoe
  4. Use of on-site search for keyword research
    Take a look at the terms that users type into your on-site search and you'll learn a lot about what they are looking for. Obviously these will be different to the terms that users type into the major search engines (e.g. they don't tend to search too often for your site name in on-site search, rather your brands or products) but they will be terms that real users type in expecting to find things.
    You'll also find out (if your search is clever enough) the terms that bring up no products. (Hint: this could either be highlighting a problem with the way you describe products or be an opportunity in the making).
  5. Optimise your entire site to ensure spidering and indexing by search engines
    As well as making sure every page of your site is coded to standards and that you're taking full advantage of Semantic HTML, you should use tools such as the Google Webmaster services that are freely available. 
  6. Create a dynamic sitemap.xml
    If your product catalogue is constantly changing, then I  recommend the use of a dynamic sitemap.xml file. This is a technical file that sits in the root directory of your site and tells the search engines all the indexable pages your have. A sitemap.xml file should be created each time your website product catalogue is created and will save you effort of manually updating it
Does anyone have any further suggestions?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Does Facebook Places mean the end for Foursquare?

As regular readers and followers of my Twitter stream will know, I'm a frequent user of the Geo-location based application Foursquare. I've been using it for most of the year now and I like its combination of gaming (I am currently having a competition with a fellow nearby user to be the Major of our local Pizza restaurant) and tips... where I have been know to give the odd negative review.
However, Mark Zuckerberg made the announcement last week that Facebook will now extended the availability of its geo-tagging service Facebook Places to the UK (and Japan).
Facebook Places has up until this week only been available in the US, but it is now live here in the UK and already seems to be building up users (if my friends are anything to go by). The service is already built into the iPhone Facebook application, however other mobile users (Blackberry, Android, etc.) will have to wait for their developers to catch-up and for now can only use the service via the 'touch' version of the site accessed with a mobile browser.

But with the launch of this service, I am sure I'm not the only Foursquare UK user who thought "hey, why use two applications when one will now do?". Or to put it anther way, given the 500 million Facebook users, does this spell the beginning of the end for Foursquare?

Possibly... but I have an idea... sell the product to a bigger company right now!

But who? Well.... if:
So who's left to buy up little old Foursquare?


Perhaps. Although it also failed to buy Foursquare in April for the assumed $100m+ price tag, you can't help but think that Foursquare's value may have decreased a little now that Facebook has entered the market.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Google Instant - a impact on impressions

As the more astute of you may have noticed, with the introduction of Google Instant search a couple of weeks back, your search query impressions would have increased in your Google Analytics. As per the recent post on Google Webmaster Central blog, you apparently see an increase due to the way impressions are counted.

Apparently the method used for counting impression has changed significantly and if the user stops typing so that the results are displayed for a minimum of 3 seconds, then Google also counts that as a search results impression.

I have to admit I was a bit foxed by this announcement at first, until I realised that it was not page impressions on the target site that had increased, but just the number of search results that contain your URL.

Google has also stated that they haven't changed the way pages are indexed and ranked. So that's OK then.... isn't it?

Well...I'm not so sure. Aren't Google going to factor in the change in impressions (and therefore the reduction in Click-through rate) when calculating things such as the quality score (which is calculated every time your keyword matches a search query)?

Monday, September 20, 2010

eCommerce 101

There's the idea in  most business owners that setting up an eCommerce website is a difficult thing.

It really isn't.

Sure, if you're a large company that needs to integrate a site with back-end fulfillment systems and has a complex and ever-changing product offering, then you're going to need a scalable, flexible online trading service.
But if you're a small to medium sized business and you want to turn your website into a platform for sales.... then you don't need a kingsize budget to get started.  Most of the time it is possible to use one of two methods to get your ecommerce idea off the ground:

1. Hosted
These days, most hosting companies offer a transactional 'online shop' creation service. They range from the very basic templated service for simple products, through to flexible set ups that allow you to build & configure: your own design, complex product catalogues,  multiple currency & delivery options, downloadable products, eBay integration, discounts/coupons, rating systems and much more.

2. Software
By installing an application into your own hosting environment, you can have all the features of the above hosted service plus the possibility of  integration with other business systems (e.g. Finance / Accounts, customer / order management and mail / telephone ordering).

However if you want the very simple ability to transact online, without moving to another platform or installing software, then you want to consider adding PayPal to your existing site. You simply sign up for a basic business account, drop a button onto your website and either have an instant payment (even taking credit cards) or have a shopping cart  if you have more than one product or service.

eCommerce doesn't have to be difficult

Friday, September 17, 2010

Google Instant – a radical change?

Last week Google changed the search landscape yet again with the launch Google Instant, which transforms its search engine result pages (SERP’s) from a static list of results to an AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) powered set of results. Now Google has been using a cut-down version of this technology for several years in its predictive text within the search box….. but what is impressive about this change is that the search results now update with every keystroke.

The whole SEO industry is continuing to deliberate about whether this is a big change or a small change for search engine optimisation professionals. Both way, it is a change that does have an impact, but then everything Google does (and it does a lot all the time) has an impact on SEO.

Suffice to say that the principles of SEO have not changed and Google has admitted that it has not changed it algorithm, just the way results are presented. But it is fair to say that after a week since its introduction there is now an additional layer of complexity for SEO people to deal with.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The digital marketing toolkit

If you have read my recent post on The digital PR toolkit and the slightly older one about the AIDA customer acquisition process, then this one on the toolkit available to digital marketers will come as no surprise.

To quickly recap.... if we follow the AIDA customer acquisition steps as shown below, then there is a relevant role for digital PR, Marketing and Conversion specialists throughout the entire process.

The second circle shown above is what I believe is the scope of the online marketer's role in the steps to obtaining customers (I'll hopefully talk about how you keep them in subsequent postings). And taking just this circle on its own, we can show the different tools available.... again with the on-site tools shown within the sphere and the off-site ones placed outside.

The first thing you that regular readers of this blog will realise, is that there are some tools mentioned here that were also covered in my previous Digital PR Toolkit posting. This is because the roles of online PR, marketing and conversion have now blurred.

Here's a breakdown of the respective tools:

  • Online Advertising:
    Media such as animated banners and buttons may have gone out of vogue somewhat, but there is still a lot of online media inventory available out there and its now possible to target the site or demographic sector you are after reaching. With the general ubiquity of greater broadband speeds now available, other richer formats such as video or interactive adverts are now gaining greater prominence on a lot of pages.
  • Affiliate Marketing
    Sometimes seen as the murkier side of the industry, there is no doubt that paying someone a commission to grow your sales for you is of significant benefit. Yes, there are the downsides in that you could end up competing with affiliates when running your own activity, needing the obvious communication and management between both parties.
  • Search Engine Marketing
    Advertising through Google, Yahoo, Bing and the like is a directly-attributable way of growing website traffic and leads for your business. Making sure you have identified the correct keywords and setting the right budget is something pay-per-click specialists know all about!
  • Search Engine Optimisation
    Why pay for traffic when you can gain prominence in search engines results for free? If you have focused an entire marketing budget on directly measurable clicks (e.g. via PPC), you would probably have missed the opportunity to promote your site up the organic rankings as well.
  • Micro-sites (or one-page microsites)
    Sometimes you either don't want to or just cannot make changes to the main organisational website to support a customer acquisition campaign. This could be for a number of reasons, including: timescales, budget, flexibility of design or just because you want a different campaign-specific URL. Then a microsite (or even just a clever one-page site) is often the most practical approach.
  • Email Marketing
    Email was one of the first Internet applications and is still an effective tool for marketing to new and existing clients. Just make sure your email marketing campaigns area working as hard for you as they possibly can. (Hint: Just because its an older technology, it doesn't mean you should stop being innovative in its use)
  • Competitions
    Some may see this purely as a tool for gaining leads (or email addresses) and to a certain extent that's true. However a clever competition can be sponsored or contain various questions that could segment your audience better (Hint: to be able to market to them better in the future). There is also a huge opportunity missed by so many online competitions to drive customers through to websites at the end of the competition form.
  • Sponsorship
    Although many see sponsorship as a brand-building exercise rather than a marketing one, in the online world sponsorship on some sites can contain clicks through to the target website and help in the customer acquisition process.
  • Social Media Marketing
    In the last few years, advertising spend has started to follow users into social media. And with one main reason... that's where Internet users are spending so much of their time. Sure, there needs to be a mindset change in creating a two-way dialogue with consumers rather than just a one-way monologue as conventional marketers do... but the integration of paid advertising with social media engagement creates a potent mix that most online marketers will not be able to ignore.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Customer Interaction Technologies

Back at the end of 2008 I blogged about the use of CIT (Customer Interaction Technologies) and how they could help fill the opportunity gap between low cost-to-serve channels such as websites and high ones such as face-to-face contact or telephone-based customer services.


Although its been a while since I posted these thoughts I've recently uploaded the entire presentation that these slides were based on up to Slideshare and it is now embedded below.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Building client understanding of SEO services – part 2

In my earlier posting on this subject I covered why the lack of information about how Google actually uses its Page Rank algorithm makes it difficult to tell a client expressly how much SEO work is required.

But this is not the only factor in why it is so very hard to quantify what’s needed to improve a sites search engine visibility. There are bunch of other factors that can affect the amount of time and effort required.
For example:
  1. Lack of clarity of the exact search requirements (Dear Client, exactly what keywords are you looking to target and why?)
  2. The target site is badly coded
  3. The target site has little or no relevant content
  4. The subject material of the site is operating in an incredibly competitive online market (potentially with each competitive site using their own set of SEO consultants to promote it)
  5. The time and effort required to inform / educate / chase a client
As you can see, there are so many variables.. but still some less-than-professional companies still offer a 'boxed' £100 solution to SEO. I'll leave you to decide if you think this is a good approach.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The new journalism

There's no doubt that the role of journalists have changed and you would now be hard-pressed to stick to the exact dictionary definition of a journalist in all circumstances:
This was a subject raised a few months ago by the BBC broadcaster / presenter / journailst Andrew Marr in his article about the demise of traditional journalism:

On reflection I think journalism has changed and will change again as both the media and population as a whole embrac their use of social media tools to communicate and inform each other of what is happening around them.

The intelligent jouralist is one that learns to weild these new tools.....

Friday, September 10, 2010

Social Media brandjacking

I've mentioned the topic of online brandjacking quite a bit in the past and have covered topics such as domains and cyber squatting, brand trademarks in PPC campaigns and Google Sidewiki.
But with the growing use of Social Media, occurrences of Social Media Brandjacking have also increased.

So what do I mean by Social Media Brandjacking?

1. Handle squatting
This is when brands have their names or products taken by someone who pretends to be them. This happens a fair bit on Twitter, where it has picked up the term "Twitter Jacking". Its a growing trend where opportunists have freely stolen the names of companies, celebrities or even fictional characters.
Looking back, I believe this activity gained mainstream attention in Summer 2008, where someone called 'Janet', supposedly a spokesperson for the oil company firm Exxon, posted messages at (now a protected account). And more recently, as if BP didn’t have enough problems with a certain oil spillage in the Gulf of Mexico, the Twitter account @BPGlobalPR started gaining far more followers than the real BP PR team!
Note: The account is now a voice for Anti-BP sentiment, with over 190,000 followers.

2. Brand fans have created an online presence in Social Media (usually Facebook)
So your chief exec finally walks past your office desk and says "I think we need a Facebook site for our brand x". Whilst this is undoubtedly a move in the right direction, you know that a Facebook page has already been set up by well-meaning fans of the brand and they are already posting their opinions and comments there.This is a more difficult situation to manage and its often not intentional social media brandjacking... so if it happens to you, tread carefully, very carefully!
(Hint: Sometimes its better to watch, slowly participate and provide assistance when required)
This does therefore once-again raise the interesting question about who actually owns the brand and who should curate the content that appears on social networks.

3. Brand detractors / critics have created an online presence in Social Media
Its relatively easy to set up a Facebook Page for any company if they haven't done so already (although hopefully most should have by now). If this page has postings or comments that have obvious false information or things that are harmful to your brand then you *may* have a case for taking action as claiming this is a scam or an infringing on your intellectual property.
Its also pretty easy now for brand critics to attack a brand on social media sites by constant negative commenting or posting alternative content. For further information I recommend reading Jeremiah Owyang's posting: Prepare Your Company For Social Media Attacks

One thing is for sure, brandjacking on social media sites is an activity that is likely to increase as more and more people sign up to these networks.

Is you company prepared?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The elusive ROI of Social Media

Between July and August 2010, Aberdeen surveyed 65 retailers regarding their use of social media marketing to interact with customers

Results indicate that 85% of these organizations have an initiative in place to help manage brand reputation and encourage revenue-building consumer interactivity.

However, despite its pervasiveness significant challenges remain to achieve a full return on investment (ROI) from social media adoption. For example fifty six percent (56%) of retailers in the same survey indicated that they are unable to quantify the effect of social media.

What's happening?

Teens and Fashion online - retail, mobile and social habits

Working with our client River Island over the last few years has meant I have come into contact with many young, fashionable and beautiful people (Could there be a more disliked bunch? And no, according to Mrs Sutherland this apparently doesn't make me any of the above by default!)

Its also interesting to see the staff there as a cross-section of the Generation Y and Millenial demographic that is now becomming the new workforce. They live online, they work online (well, the ones in the thriving eCommerce and Marketing teams that I speak to on a daily basis do) and they socialise online using the obvious social media sites of Facebook, Twitter, etc.

The work we have done with them has meant this thirty-something consultant has also seen how high street retailers have now firmly embraced the new breed of mini celebrities and digital-savvy fashionistas that have grown in number and prominence over the last few years.

With virtually every cell phone now having a camera, teens are walking into changing rooms and happily snapping pictures of their fashionable mates. They are then either texting it to their friends or posting the photos to their Facebook profile for instant fashion feedback.

These online friends and the technology to instantly share is playing a huge role in fashion that retailers are only just starting to tune into. In understanding and analysing these habits..... the clever retailer will find new ways to engage with this audience, build a relationship and hopefully drive sales.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Building client understanding of SEO services – part 1

I’m always talking with potential new clients about the different services we provide at Ideal Interface, with most seeing the advantage in our offerings of: digital consultancy, website design & delivery and online marketing. However the search engine optimisation service we offer is sometimes harder to quantify to a prospect, so I thought I’d air my thoughts in public on how to build a client’s understanding of SEO and clarify just how difficult it is to say “x effort equals y outcome” and why all-so-often we have to state “it depends”.
Lets just start from a common understanding that hyperlinks are the currency of the web. This is particularly true in two ways:

  1. The Google 'Page Rank' is basically a measure of in-bound quality links to a site. It is this rank that dictates how highly Google displays the pages/site when a keyword is entered.
  2. People follow links.... this means they click on page content, banner, emails, etc. and this converts to offline leads and online sales.
Therefore both people/money/revenue and SEO 'juice' follows links and therefore they are crucially important.
However if you asked a prospect what a link to their website gets them in business, then a lot of them probably won't have a clue. Unless they have a comprehensive web knowledge then they won't know whether links from one domain are worth a fortune in sales or are worthless for leads, etc.

But they should! Analytics are free these days (using Google Analytics & others) and it is very easy for professionals with this knowledge to tell which links & URL's are driving business...
The opposite is true for SEO. Its very hard to tell which links from other sites give your site a boost in the search engine results pages (SERPs) - although an SEO professional can make an educated guess as to which ones are the most important.

Google (and about 90% of all UK searches are done via this search engine these days) doesn't tell us this specific information, probably because everyone with a basic knowledge would then ‘game’ the system…. but it does constantly give out advice (mostly by Matt Cutts) to do all the basics of website design, build and management properly first of all and then the links to your content should come naturally*. Obviously you can 'assist' this position if you know how....

* I am still amazed by how many sites ignore this advice and then wonder why they fail to gain decent organic search traffic. Its basic site stuff.... but it often gets forgotten or de-prioritised.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Dreaming about blogging

Ok, its time for an admission... last night I had a dream that I was asked various questions about my blog. Yes, it has now got to the point where I'm dreaming that I'm interviewed about my posts...

The two questions I was asked are:

Q: Why do you sometimes write posts that don't make a specific point?
A: I write what I want, this includes posts that are less factual and more musings & subjective.

Q: What happens when you eventually run out of things to blog about?
A: If it ever happens I'll go back and comment on previous blog postings I have done.
Which reminds me, I really need to follow up on that Car Companies and Social Media Conversations post I did back in March.

..... how very strange.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Multi-channel dialogue - is your organisation ready?

I've already mentioned how the increased complexity caused by a number of communication channels can create disjointed or even contradictory messaging.

Nevertheless customers still want to trust companies they buy from, despite an erosion of that trust (particularly financial institutions) over the last few years. And (surprisingly) many would still like to build a lasting relationship with those companies.

But this can no longer be done just using one channel of communication (such as the phone or email), there's the need for a more innovative & creative approach to gaining customer trust and enhancing the customer experience at the same time.

A dialogue with the customer has always been a very successful method of building customer loyalty and now newer digital methods such as Social Media are available to engage customers in consistent and continuous dialogues across a number of channels.

But not all organizations are ready for this level of constant communication, despite its obvious way of creating differentiation in today’s market. Is yours?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

How to optimise your press releases for search engines

The roles of the PR company and the digital agency are blurring all the time, particularly in respect of the use of Press Releases for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). As you may have seen in a previous post, my view is:

If your PR agency is not thinking about the ways to make Press Releases more SEO friendly, then I suggest you need to reconsider your PR agency
But if you're either an in-house PR person or are looking to improve the SEO capability of your Press Releases, here's some pointers (assuming you already know how to write one)

  1. Keep your words to between 250 - 900 in number
    Although opinion differs from SEO consultant to SEO consultant on the precise number of words to use in a Press Release, there is a general consensus that focusing on the first 250 is the right approach and that there is minimal value in going beyond 900.
    (Note: a press release must also be at least 250 words to be listed on Google News)
  2. Ensure you have the right keywords in the content and in the right proportions
    Whether your Press Release is going on your own website, posted to news wires or has a different home on the web altogether, search engines can only index content to appear for the those search terms where the content actually contains the words. Keyword targeting has been around almost as long as the search engines have been and is well used by sites to create traffic from organic search results.
    However, avoid the practice of 'keyword stuffing', the act of packing as many repeated keywords into your content in the misguided belief that this will push your page to the top of search engines.... you will apparently eventually get penalised for this action.
    But how many mentions of your keyword is seen as 'stuffing' and how much is fair usage? The answer to this question is usually "it depends" or even "Who cares. Its a myth that Search Engines actually look at this stuff". Its even a question that is pretty hard to answer by those who focus on the mathematics of this stuff (which is essentially decompiling the Google search algorithm, so good luck to those people attempting this!) and each has a slightly different opinion on the subject. However the general advice is to write 'normally' and not create content that 'obviously' abuses the number of times keywords are mentioned. But this doesn't really help you if you are writing content that targets certain search terms and if you're looking for an actual figure.... many experts suggest that your keyword density ratio should be around 1 - 3% of total word usage.
  3. Hyperlink keywords back to your own site
    Many Press Releases are copied in entirety to some news sites and this includes embedded hyperlinks. These links all contribute to your SEO efforts and build traffic to your site.
  4. Ensure the target site(s) uses correct HTML code
    Does it utilise semantic code? Does it use your Press Release header as the page 'Title'? (As the page title is typically given more weight than any other text on the page).

As you can see, there are many ways to improve upon the tradional Press Release to help your Search Engine Optimisation efforts. However, if anyone has an further suggestions I look forward to hearing them and discussing their relevant merits.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The digital PR toolkit

In recent posts I've provided my thoughts on the convergence of digital PR, Marketing and Conversion.
Post 1: Discussing how the roles now blur
Post 2: Covering how SEO is no longer just for marketing
Post 3: Showing the AIDA customer acquisition process
Now I've gone into a fair amount of detail about the process of customer acquisition that they all contribute to and the overlapping roles they play in this process. But now I'm going to cover the respective digital tools and methods that each role can use, based on the model that I created in my previous posts.

The first one up is digital PR and to illustrate this I've provided the diagram below with the simple key:
The things you can do on your target site are within the circle and the tools used off-site are logically outside it.
(Note: I've also tried to group these tools near to similar or relevant ones both on-site & off)

The respective digital PR tools that I believe you can use are:

  • Keyword targeted content
    Are you producing content that whilst being readable also focused on specific keywords typed into search engines?
  • Blog/Editorial
    Have you considered that writing a blog - with whatever name you give it - will also creates great content that user like to read - as well as for search engines - and that could deep link to interesting useful content around your site?
  • Analytics
    If you don't know what works (gets more traffic, converts more users, etc.) then how are you going to do more of it?
  • Press & News Content
    If you're not using this on your own site to highlight your own successes, then you should. If you don;t want to set up your own content managed press area on your site, then either create one using a blogging platform or even just take a relevant feed from your PR company's site.
  • Community
    Providing forums or even just a place for users to comment on articles and blogs gives a sense of community to visitors. Rewarding frequent ones goes a step further. These user generated comments are not just great content to read and spider, they are great PR fodder.
  • Link building
    Encouraging sites to link to yours in their news items and articles (although try to avoid reciprocal links)
  • Social News & Social Bookmarking
    Posting your Press Releases to Digg, Delicious, etc. is a way of getting your story to a wider audience
  • Email
    Both one-to-one and more general email marketing techniques can be used to announce news to those who want this form of communication.
  • SEO
    This speaks for itself and I've covered this already in a number of topics. But if your PR company doesn't already understand and use SEO techniques......
  • Feeds & syndication
    An RSS feed empowers those who want to pull this information and consume it (or re-publish it) in their own way, rather than via email or traditional means.
  • Social Media Press Release
    Consider posting your Press Releases online, with other useful information such as: RSS feeds, links to previous relevant releases, imagery, audio & video, etc.
  • Blogger engagement
    Look for them, understand them, communicate in a relevant manner and build up engagement with them.
  • Twitter
    Make sure you are promoting your releases via this important medium. Also use it to build up a community of followers who you can ask things of (e.g. feedback).
  • Social Media monitoring and tracking
    Listen in to blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc and find out who is saying what.
  • Photo sharing
    Use sites like to build up an online PR image library
  • Video sharing
    Use sites like (although personally is my choice) to build up an online collection of suitable video clips.
  • Facebook
    Its pretty easy these days to build up a Facebook presence and grow a community. Its also quite easy to integrate Press Releases (potentially with comments allowed) and other content from different sources into this popular social media site.
  • Online surveys
    This is a quick way to understand if your content is reaching it required audience and finding out what other information or data they would find useful.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

UK Facebook at saturation point

Following on from my recent post about the numbers and demographics of the total Facebook population in the UK, it was hardly surprising to read that various people are now saying that Facebook has reached 'saturation point' over here in the United Kingdom.

As I have been rather busy in the past weeks (a quick hat-tip to Social Media Influence for pointing out this useful article) I missed the blog entry from Robin Goad at Hitwise . It shows that for June 2010 Facebook now dishes up one in every six Internet pages viewed in the UK. It is also only second to Google in terms of visits, with 25 million of them (making up over half of all social media site visits).
Robin then went on to highlight that not only had Facebook's share of the UK page views seemingly stagnated at around 16 - 17%, but that since the beginning of 2010 the average time on the site has dropped from almost 30 seconds to a little over 27 seconds.

Now what does all this mean? Well, here's my thoughts:

1. This point was inevitable.
The astronomic growth in Facebook's (registered) user base cannot grow to beyond the total potential size of the target audience. For an island of 61.8 million people (with 38.3 million of them between 16 & 64) that's a huge percentage of the population covered.

2. Just measuring page views is too arbitrary
Facebook is not just a social media site for emailing and 'following' people. Its a platform for instant messaging, sheep throwing and even gaming (lets not forget that MafiaWars, Farmville and their ilk require constant input to stay in the game). If an activity or game becomes less popular (or 'sticky') this affects the number of page views of the site.

3. Its still about monetisation
Google may be second in page views, but its still top for visits and overall revenue. This is because Google's aim has always been to give people the most likely sites for the search term entered on the first page of results. In selling adverts alongside these results and encouraging the most relevant ones by making it cheaper to advertise them, Google recognises the value in delivering the least number of pages. It is this business approach that continues to give them the revenue it has done so far.

4. Facebook will develop and diversify
Its already decided to go after Foursquare's lunch with its own geolocation service (Facebook Places is currently only available in the USA) and the acquisition of location-based service Hot Potato. However it is also likely to further develop its gaming platform and could well try and push its way into the gambling sector in the USA (Especially should the 4 year old U.S. online gambling ban be revoked any time soon). Perhaps this is why Google has invested as much as $100 million in Zynga, the developers of Facebook games such as MafiaWars, Farmville and Texas Hold'em Poker.....?
Also check out Niall O'Malley's thoughts on where Facebook could go in this direction.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

One swallow doesn’t make a summer

So you've decided to monitor Twitter, Facebook and blogs as your first step into understanding your cusotmers' use of social media.

But if you wield social media in your work (as well as your play), they you should understand that one negative Tweet doesn’t make a brand backlash. Yup, that's right... one bad review or blog posting doesn't necessarily mean you have to stop what you're doing and do something else.

As Hotel Blogs author Guillaume Thevenot posted just today:
Apart of responding to the consumer opinion through the platform, there is nothing to be done. Unless you think there is some genuine improvement to be made to your product, service delivery, there is absolutely nothing you can do about people giving their own opinion and share this with the world.
Amen! By all means listen to what has been written and challenge any inaccuracies (correctly and with understanding, of course), but one bad comment is exactly that.... just one.

Take for example the new River Island website that I've recently project managed through to implementation. Only yesterday a Facebook group was set up called “Change The River Island Website Back” that up until now has amassed just 10 fans/likes so far .. .. Yes more are bound to sign-up, but its hardly a groundswell of dissent now is it?. For me it is actually a sign of brand familiarity and attachment when the occasional person voices their negative view.

Obviously if the complaints grown or a trend reveals itself over time you need to take action. But always bear in mind (especially if you've done your user experience work correctly in the first place) that there will be plenty of satisfied vistors & customers who show their positive response... not by tweeting their approval, but but returning back to your site and continuing to give you their trade.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Digital PR, Marketing & Conversion - part 2

In my previous post on this subject, I mentioned how the roles between online PR, digital marketing and website conversion now overlap.

I think its fair to say that a lot of communication techniques are no longer just used by one particular role, but are now employed by different communication practitioners for the collective benefit of: informing the customer, creating engagement and winning a fair share of their online spend.

Take SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) for example, is that just the tool of the online marketer these days?

No, it now has implications for:
  • The writing of press releases
    If your PR agency is not thinking about the ways to make Press Releases more SEO friendly, then I suggest you need to reconsider your PR agency
  • Conversions metrics
    For most eCommerce websites, customers convert differently depending upon whether they come via the main (organic) links or via the pay-per-click adverts down the side.
  • Others (e.g. User Experience)
There are now a load of different tools that can be used for a bunch of different communication and activation purposes. The secret is surely in the combination and effectiveness of their use?

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Does your company provide a consistent user experience for each customer contact point across the range of multi-channel options available?

  • Does your website look like your retail outlet?
  • Does your store-based kiosk provide the same information as your call centre?
    (If so, then let me know who you are... as I've not heard of you)
  • Does your customer services team give the same information as your website?
Customers are becoming more sophisticated in their information consumption (see this video for my thoughts on the subject) and therefore they ways to convince them to buy something needs to be more complex too. But this complexity, unless managed correctly, has the potential to be disjointed or even contradictory.

But what are companies doing about this? Well, not enough in my opinion!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Digital PR, Marketing & Conversion - AIDA

If you've been following my recent posts, you'll know I've menitoned the convergence of Digital PR, Marketing and Conversion.

As I see it, they are all part of the overall online customer acquisition process. Each one has a part to play in contributing to the eventual aim of the website (customer sign-up, purchase, forum contribution, etc.).

One of the more familiar references for customer marketing and acquisition is AIDA, an acronym for
Attention, Interest, Desire and Action.

The diagram here shows the flow of a user as they move through the various AIDA states.

Now, although there are 4 different states given here, there are 3 key areas of customer activity. And these areas then map to the 3 disciplines of: PR, Marketing and Conversion:

Its probably fair to say that these 3 areas may change in size and scope depending upon the product or service involved, but as a conceptual model I think this works.
  • PR is mainly involve with gaining initial Attention & Interest
  • Marketing covers all 4 states, but acts by turning Attention & Interest into Desire & Action
  • Conversion is concerned with optimising the path of those who already have an Interest & Desire through to carrying out the required Action
Any thoughts?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Digital PR, Marketing & Conversion

Traditionally there's been a lot of differences between the roles performed by PR and marketing types. And both of them in the past would have claimed that they were little to do with the actual selling of the products & services (although Marketing would undoubtedly have more of a role to play).

However online has pulled apart those traditional roles and there's now a lot of similarities between the disciplines of digital PR and online marketing. Furthermore, the science of ecommerce conversion brings another aspect to electronic transactions which can no longer be seen as entirely separate.

This therefore means there's now a chance that the tasks carried out by internal people or agencies will overlap or be duplicated by each other. Its one of the issues raised by the new communications economy, where old customer acquisition roles no longer fit very well and we have to re-think things.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Digital Strategy - the basics

I'm currently working with a few businesses to trying to help them make the most of digital communications, technologies, sales, etc.

No matter what the size of the organisation is, I recommend putting together a digital strategy. This doesn't have to be a huge document starting with a table of contents and ending with several appendices... It can just start with just a statement of intent and evolve from there. All journeys have to start with a first step in one direction....

Its also surprising when you find out that even the basics haven't been thought-out. So for those who have yet to consider the essentials.... here's a few key pointers and examples to get you started:

Q1: What are your business aims?
To maximise the business benefit of the web. To either improve the financial position of the company by increasing revenue and\or reducing costs or to improve the perception of the brand (which has potential longer-term revenue consequences).
Note: Having actual figures at his point (e.g. x% increase in y) gives your aims some actual meaning.

Q2: What other business strategies / plans do you need to consider?
We need to integrate the company brand & communications approach, our short & long-term sales & marketing plans as well as key parts of the IT and Operations road map.

Q3: How are you going to grow your business online?
Use a combinations of the following:
Acquiring new customers
Retain existing customers
Re-engage & re-activate lapsed customers
Convert all customers better

Have you covered the basics?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Video: How the world now consumes media

The world is a very different place from how it used to be. People consume media in new and wonderful ways.

Our friendly digital consultant tries to make sense of it all.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Bidibot site launches

Bidibot is a penny auction site that specialises in credits for popular poker websites. It is an easy, unique and fun way to either start playing or charge your existing account on sites such as InterPoker, PKR and Victory Poker.

Ideal Interface has been helping the team behind Bidibot in their launch efforts. We're therefore proud and exceptionally pleased to see the site up and working, as well as to watch people bidding on the auctions.

in reference to: Main Auctions | BIDIBOT.COM(view on Google Sidewiki)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Social Media - a long-term perspective

My close friend and colleague Marc Ames uses the phrase "Social Media is for life, not just for Christmas" a fair bit these days (he also says the same thing about Search Engine Optimisation, but then why not!). This phrase is a play on the old advert used to remind people about the commitment required to keep a pet. In changing the slogan to refer to Social Media I think he's making an important point that I'd like to reinforce.

Once an organisation decides to use social media, it needs to keep using it over a lengthy and sustained period. Its not like a short-term advertising campaign when the aim is the quantity of immediate customer eyeballs that see your message and click to do something, its about the quality of a relationship over time.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What is Social Media?

Well.. there's nothing quite like being put on the spot in front of the camera.

Here's a quick interview I did with Iain Macauley from Press Relations on what Social Media is.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Video interviews - the way forward?

I'm a great beleiver in the power of video to make an impact and using it online is no exception. That is, until I'm the person the camera is being pointed at and then I do question if everyone is cut out for a career in front of the lens.

Well recently I was asked for my thoughts on modern business communications & social media. These answers were then filmed ready to be put up to YouTube.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Combatting cybersquatting with Per Per Click

I've been posting recently on the subject of cybersquatting and what you can proactively do about them (assess their impact , create a company domain name process and engage in some Search Engine Optimisation to gain the upper hand).

In this final posting I'm going to suggest an approach to use when all this activity has been exhausted... something that really you should only consider if the cybersquatters are using a domain that is affecting your brand and that has gained a position above your URL in search engine results on your key brand terms.

Pay-Per-click (PPC) activity is a great way to build traffic to your site (and generate online revenue, if that's your business model).
Firstly I should state that engaging in Pay Per Click adverting (PPC) in search engines has no effect on SEO efforts. However it can also be use used to detract visitors away from your competition and also therefore cybersquatters. 

This is not an entirely guaranteed way of distracting users and a lot of search engine users automatically (subconsciously) screen out the adverts in search results in their mind (e.g. those across the top and down the right hand side in Google, etc. are not even seen by the users)  and you should also work to improve your organic site rankings via a proper SEO approach.

Obviously on no account would I recommend or even suggest paying to advertise on the squatted site, it just encourages this sort of activity. In fact some of these sort of sites even make some of their money by having PPC links in them as extensions of the search engine advertising mechanism. You should therefore  ensure that your PPC campaign doesn't use this extended network of advertising and is restricted just to the main search engine you want to target.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Creating a company domain name process

I've been blogging a fair bit recently about cybersquatting and how you can deal with it once it has happened.

However, prevention is always better than cure. So its always worth considering what you can do to ensure your exposure to future cybersquatting activity is minimised.
The best advice I can give on this subject is to create a domain naming process for your organisation. This doesn't have to be complex, but it really should be done if you want to reduce the effect of this nefarious activity.

A basic process is something like this:
  1. Conduct a domain name review within your organisation. This means gaining an understanding of all current and future project/brand names you are likely to be using.
  2. Prioritise this list of brands according to business & brand impact and their availability.
  3. Agree where your cut-off point is . In other words... recognise where the cost of buying and maintaining domain becomes greater than the impact a cybersquatter would have if it got hold of one of them.
  4. Make sure there is one individual (ideally a role not a person, as people move on) responsible within your organisation for the upkeep of this list, domain registration authorisation and liaison with your domain naming company.
  5. Register the domains that are available (or set up a plan of action to get those back that are possible)
  6. Agree a process internally for reviewing domain names going forward. New projects and initiatives come along all the time and its easy to assume that because its done once that you are not susceptible to the same thing happening in the future.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

New Wordle Image for this blog

Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text. Here's one I did yesterday for this blog

Wordle: Press2.0 Blog

Friday, July 30, 2010

Some further misconceptions about social media

There's a lot of talk, blogs and tweets about what social media is and what it can do, etc.

However, there's still a lot of debate about the details (e.g. monitoring platforms, segmented blogger engagement methodologies, sentiment analysis, etc.) and this can all get quite confusing if you're dipping your toe into the water for the first time*.

So I thought I'd quickly post about the popular misconceptions about social media and possibly get some dialogue going;

1.You need to do everything with Social Media to be effective
No. You need to do the relevant things necessary to engage with for your target audience.If you don't have a clue, don't leap in with both feet.

2. Quantity = quality
No. The number of followers you have on Twitter does not equal influence. Its better to have a smaller number of relevant and regular re-tweeting followers than an army of people who couldn't give a monkeys... Sure, if you're Lady Ga Ga, then millions of global fans 'liking' you is what you need to drive your personal brand appeal, which could well affect your iTunes download sales. But if you re making local widgets on a trading estate in Cheshire, then having a bunch of up-turned thumbs on your public Facebook page from Canadian pranksters is just that, nothing more.

3. The boss must blog every day
My favourite one this, as I heard someone on the train the other week telling a colleague "Look, you've got to blog every day, it's the only way you get people to read your stuff and you then get to appear first in search engines".
No, no, no! People.... (like a flasher in a lift) this is wrong on a number of levels! Firstly, as I've stated above, quantity does not equal quality. Its a signal to noise thing...and the signal should definitely prevail over the noise. There's no hard and fast rule that the Managing Director should even blog, especially if they have nothing useful or relevant to say (hand their blog over to their daughter) or can't bother to continue what they've started; consistency is the key here folks.
And as for getting to the top of search engines by blogging daily... as well as being incorrect on a number of SEO points, you have to ask the questions "what would you type into the search engine to get this premier result?"

4. Its information overload
Not necessarily. Sure, you can get deluged in a sea of information. But with the correct listening tools, filters and signals, you can pick up the relevant conversations and buzz without drowning in data.

5. Its complex and technical
No, it is not. And in case you missed this post from me earlier, its not about the technology.. its about the people!
Your suggestions on other social media misconceptions are gratefully received.

*Where have you been all this time? But come on in anyway and leave your preconceptions on the shore!