Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The rubbish that spammers write

It is easy to criticise people who send spam emails. They are probably written in a hurry and by people who don't have English as their mother tongue.

But there is also a part of me that likes to read them and to get a little amusement at the same time. I therefore thought I would share some snippets of real emails that I have been sent in the past... so you could smile as well. These aren't all just examples of bad grammar; some are factually incorrect and others just plain absurd.

We provides Guaranteed first page ranking in Google.
You have to say this with a pirate accent. But more importantly... any agency that offers to guarantee you a first page listing on Google is either lying or using black hat SEO techniques.

We use 100% white hat stuff.
Made out of stuffed white hats one assumes. Aside from the unprofessional approach, any SEO agency that isn't prepared to share a little more of their methodology might well have something to hide.

Hello Dear, How are you doing
I'm fine, thanks for asking. Being over familiar in email correspondence to someone you don't know is just as bad as being too stuffy and stiff to those you do.

This is not A spam please
ReAlly? Nothing says "this is spam" like an email subject line saying it is not.

So come on, has anyone else got any funny / cringe-worth examples?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Is F-Commerce really working?

Facebook Commerce (or F-commerce as it is colloquially known), the practice of buying items within the walls of Fortress Facebook, took a knock today. The slightly unsurprising news is that the Social Network transaction platform Payvment is closing soon and handing over its customers to a competitor. This removes a key player from the market and will be a sore lesson to those that put up the $8m investment.

F-commerce for over a year now has been heralded as the new wave of online retail. However the hype and the reality haven't come together in an online proposition that really works for most purchases. It's fair to say that Facebook does not always work for all kinds of online commerce situations.

Even Payvment's CEO recently stated: "Social product discovery and social commerce have very little in common with the considered purchase process" 

What this means is that Social commerce is apparently better at delivering impulse purchases for products or services that the user wasn't necessarily looking for. Meaning that more expensive items that have a longer purchase cycle than just 'see it, like it, buy it'  aren't suited to F-commerce.

Payvment's CEO Jim Stoneham gives more details in his interview here however insiders and analysts must surely now be looking at the other players in the market to see how they fare.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

BT tablet email does work on iPad - sort of

You've gotta laugh. I got an email from BT Broadband recently with the subject title "Get your tablet connected for free with BT Wi-fi".
I assume this would have been a useful newsletter telling tablet users how to connect their device to their home connection to save on mobile data usage.

However, the irony is that when opening and viewing this email on my iPad... I get the view you see. No content and no imagery. Oops!

For me this highlights the need to test any emails you send out across a range of devices and different email clients. Especially the one you want to target.

Note: I am using a first generation iPad which has (purposely) yet to be upgraded to the very latest version of iOS.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Becoming a top UK blogger

Blogging is its own reward. I blog here because I want to and for no other reason.

However, I was nicely surprised to be included in a list of one of the top UK online marketing bloggers; recognised not just for blogging but for my overall social sharing about online marketing.

This list was produced by Lee Odden from TopRank for his presentation to Search Engine Strategies in February and after its publication I was contacted by Lee for my perspective on the following questions:

Q: Please share one tip for others that are trying to stand out in the online marketing space. How do you become one of the most influential people about online marketing or whatever thing you want to be "known" for?
A: The best way to stand out from the crowd is to have a well thought-out perspective on a topic. It is not enough to merely copy what others say or even to aggregate lots of other sources. It’s your voice, use it. In my blog I try to go into some detail on specific subjects, which means I not only have to understand it, I have to be able to know it enough to explain it clearly to others.
(This actually helps me develop a rounded knowledge rather than just facts)

Q: Content is the vehicle for connecting with fans, friends and customers. Share an example of really creative digital content that you've seen from a UK company. It can be something you've worked on for a brand, or just something you've seen in your experience as a digital citizen.

A: For me, although 2012 was dominated by everything quintessentially British… The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in the rain and the Olympics where nearly every person in the UK was stunned at how well we did…. for content marketing it wasn’t a British thing that I was most impressed with. It was the Red Bull Stratos mission where Felix Baumgartner’s jump from space saturated digital channels such as YouTube (where it was shown across the world) and obviously across Social Networks. Red Bull has now completely turned itself from a drink (via being a lifestyle product) into a brand that creates its own events and consequently generates a whole raft of content behind it.

Getting recognised for being a top UK online marketing blogger is a huge accolade and one I'm incredibly grateful for, thanks.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Multi-channel digital attribution – what's next?

If you had read the recent eConsultancy report called‘Making Sense of Marketing Attribution’, you would know that the majority of websites are either not carry out any form of attribution or are still apply a last click approach. In this report the client-side marketers responding said that only26% were doing marketing attribution beyond last click … where the last channel used gains all the credit for the acquisition.

The online sector has been gradually moving towards digital multi-channel attribution, although it is still early days. The aim of these efforts is to understand the different online channels or touch points used by customers in their online paths to conversion on eCommerce sites, but:

 There is still little maturity of the attribution market, meaning there are several bespoke offerings and no real common standards between suppliers
  The current attribution methods used are basic in their mathematical modelling
  They are online-only, with no consideration for other non-digital channels (e.g. TV or outdoor)
In my experience, there is very little being done to look at the bigger picture that appropriately considers not just the journey and interactions across the disparate online channels, but also the offline ones…and it is here I think there is an opportunity.

I really think that businesses and their agencies need to move away from single channels of data (e.g. website analytics. TV viewing figures, etc.) and also beyond the basic online only attribution models. They need to understand the entire user journey that leads not just to a transaction, but to a longer-term relationship. Only then can business truly understand the influence that different devices, channels, proportional activity and other factors (such a peer recommendations) have on purchasing and subsequent behaviour.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Are you wasting your digital analytics?

It's pretty clear to me that a lot of organisations still haven't moved their website analytics beyond the collecting and reporting stage (and some haven't even done that very well).

What's the point of collecting data and getting it turned into pretty graphs? Especially when all it does is:

1. Get ignored or misunderstood
Have you ever had a report sent to stakeholders who really don't do anything about it? ("so this 90% average bounce rate is good?")

2. Not get sent to those who actually need it
Has anyone considered that your content / editorial / CMS team might find key metrics on site engagement useful?

3. Not get actioned
"Yes we know that users aren't finding content down at the 4th level of navigation, but it would take too long to change things now"

If you find this happens in your company, then you're missing out on the contribution of a valuable business resource. I'm not saying you need to send analytics reports to everyone all the time or that every single observation needs to be acted on immediately... But there is a role in:
  • Educating specific staff and partners about what these figures and graphics mean.
  • Making sure that you have the correct reporting structure
  • Prioritising and escalating the changes required that could deliver meaningful improvements.
Are you going to do this or waste an opportunity?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Ecommerce and SEO advice : what to leave out

In my latest opinion piece for The Drum, called 'Search Engine Optimisation fundamentals for e-commerce sites', I have spent several hundred words explaining how ecommerce sites can use Search Engine Optimisation techniques to improve their organic rankings.

This is my 5th article in my online column about eCommerce and rather than it be a subjective piece, I wanted to produce a more factual article and dip into some technical elements too. However, in writing it there was quite a lot of SEO topics that I missed out, mainly because I wanted the article to be understood by the majority of The Drum's readers, who are more likely to be creative and marketing types rather than those at the sharp end of online site optimisation.

So what did I miss out? Well here's some things I didn't cover:

1. Webmaster tools insights that are relevant to online retailing

2. Micro formats, such as the star ratings for products that can then get fed into organic results

3. Canonical references and robots.txt techniques to reduce crawl bleed

4. Multiple sitemap.xml files for content, catalogue, etc

Was I wrong not to include these? I don't think so. Besides, it would then have meant I couldn't write this article :-)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Blue Monday : tips to help beat winter depression

If you haven't heard already, today is officially Blue Monday. Yes, the 21st January is the most depressing day of 2013.

If you find yourself at a low point at this time of year then you're not alone. Although today is supposed to be the worst day (although it was apparently originally given this title by a travel company, one of the many retail markets that usually see January as a busy month for bookings) a lot of people generally find January pretty hard-going. Me included. Although I do not officially have a recognised condition such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), there is no doubt in either my mind, or my wife's, that I get a form of winter depression.

For myself it is undoubtedly a combination of factors, including a lack of daylight and weather (and moving to Scotland 6 months ago surely hasn't made a positive contribution to this), as well as a post-Christmas dip in energy and finances. This is then amplified by the need to sort out and pay not-only my quarterly company VAT bill but my yearly personal taxes.

But if you suffer a similar effect, here's a few things I have found that can help counteract the January blues:

Regardless of whether you feel the need to shake-off those extra Christmas pounds or not, get out and get your heart pumping (personally I've just ordered myself cycle trainer and have set my sights on competing in Scotland's only closed road cycling competition in May). But even if you don't have much time or the hefty credit card bill means you can't get that gym membership you wanted... any form of exercise can potentially release endorphins. So go walk the dog briskly, run to work or just get out and get some air through your lungs.

I'm lucky that the office I currently work in has big and wide windows that let lots of light in. However previously I've worked from home at this time of year in a north-facing room shadowed by trees and sometimes even worse... in an office with no natural light, where I really felt the effects. If you work in a similar environment, I really recommend you doing all you can to get the most chance of daylight. Swap seats with a colleague near the window, walk outside in your lunch break or even get yourself a SAD lamp such as this one:
(My friend Alan swears his lamp really helps his productivity in the winter months)

Tell people how you are feeling:
Yes, I know it may sound a bit daft, but tell you family, friends and colleagues how you feel can help... Particularly if you're a bit down. Don't bottle it up and stew in your own juices... share your thoughts during the winter months.

Here's hoping you have a good 21 January. But if you suffer in a similar way or have any other tips on how to combat the winter blues, I'd like to hear your thoughts.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Russell & Bromley finally gets going with eCommerce

I’ve been fairly critical of shoe retailer Russell & Bromley in the past, mainly because their online property has been poor. So I was surprised and somewhat pleased to hear that they have eventually launched an eCommerce site.

But hardly setting the world alight, Russell and Bromley have decided not to launch with an all singing and dancing multi-channel tablet-optimised site… but have gone for a very mediocre online trading site instead.  Using Venda’s Software-as-a service cloud offering (BTW: shouldn’t that be shop-as –a-service) they have finally put women’s shoes, men’s shoes and handbags for sale via their site.
So given my criticisms of their site before; I thought I’d provide my initial thoughts on this Internet retailing launch by one of the last High Street entrants:

Design :
It’s not that I dislike the creative approach they have taken…  OK, perhaps I do slightly… but what I would have liked from a brand that clearly sets itself up to be of high quality is a site that oozes prestige and refinement. Instead we get a ‘me too’ formulaic & grey-on-grey site that fails to impress. Model shots are scare & aren’t particularly good quality and  product zoom functionality was hard to find (and even non-existent on some product detail pages)…perhaps the only saving grace is the high quality of the actual product photographs.

Grey text on white backgrounds (or sometimes vice versa) is never good for on-screen legibility. But add in the use of serif fonts and a small point size and you’ll have even a hearty share of the good-sighted users squinting at the screen. It’s therefore unsurprising that there’s no obvious accessibility page/ statement anywhere… 
Even the navigation seems to be missing a forth menu item, perhaps they are waiting for another product category to come online soon?

With no 360 product spin (surely a useful way of showcasing women’s and men's shoes these days?) , no video and no further useful fit functionality the site hardly cuts new ground. Yes, with a Google Page Speed of 92% the site is fairly optimised, but I have the feeling that’s more down to Venda’s platform and system than anything else.

With no blog, short & basic product descriptions, no user generated reviews and no text on the category landing pages… R&B is showing how not to use content to sell product. Maybe it doesn’t need to and the products sell themselves?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Ideal Interface website gets its sitelinks back

In October last year I rebuilt the Ideal Interface site, with the aim of making content easier to update and creating a mobile-specific version. The effort to do this was mentioned in this post:

One of the consequences of moving to Wordpress's own hosting service was the need to change from a 'www' URL prefix to . This unfortunately meant that our listing in the Google SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) not only dropped in comparison to what it was before, but also lost its sitelinks.

For those who don't know, sitelinks are those links shown below some of Google's search results that allow users to jump straight to pages below the homepage, thus allowing them to quickly find the information they're looking for. However, Google only shows sitelinks for those sites it deems appropriate, based upon how easy it is for the search engine to find key pages and their relevance.

For now, we have just two sitelinks, compared with four that are presented for larger and more relevant sites, however this is a good step forward in the recognition of our site by Google (and in the SEO work of our own site).

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Bye bye Blockbuster

Only last week we had the news that Jessops has gone into Administration and then yesterday HMV the entertainment retailer announced its plans to do the same.  I'm also pretty sure that some of you also had the conversation around "who's going to be next?" in some sort of retail Dead Pool.

However, I don't think anyone was expecting an announcement within 24 hours that another major retailer had gone the same way. But today it was announced that Blockbuster, the video and game rental chain has gone into Administration too, making that three large High Street operators already this month.

There's no doubt that Blockbuster faced increasing competition from Internet-based services such as LoveFilm, as well as the overall trend of downloading and streaming movies and even games via the Internet. Blockbuster did make in-roads into a streaming service, but this functionality was not  available outside the United States.

A lot of commentors will no-doubt mention that this result has been predicted for some while, but I think this episode from South Park a while back pretty much sums up the situation...

Monday, January 14, 2013

Why I want the Samsung Galaxy S4

It may seem strange to readers that I'm looking forward to the launch of a mobile phone that hasn't even been announced yet. But yes... I admit it, I'm eagerly awaiting the launch of the new Samsung flagship phone, the Galaxy S4 despite it not even being announced yet.

You see... I currently have an iPhone 4S that I've had since the end of 2011 (so only 14 months in reality). But, several weeks ago the power button broke on it, just a few days after its 12 month warranty period had passed. Despite a trip to my friendly local Apple store, the annoying news was that a fix required a replacement phone, which would cost me £130 (just a few weeks before Christmas).
Not willing to trade the kids presents in for a replacement mobile, I now I have a leading smart phone with one major issue: turning it off and on is no longer a feature.

So now I really want a new phone and to be honest, I want an Android handset again. In fact, I missed having an Android handset the day I took delivery of my iPhone 4S. And I missed it even more when I dropped the bloody Apple product in the first week of ownership and shattered its glass rear. Normal glass, the type that breaks into a million child-unfriendly pieces and makes a lovey crunching noise when you then go an buy a cover to put over it. Glass people. GLASS FFS !

Could I go and get myself a Samsung Galaxy S3? Or is that a Galaxy SIII? I'm not so sure Roman Numerals really look good on a modern communication device... which in that case would make the phone I now want the "SIV" (and I'm pretty sure that could be pronounced "sieve").
Sure I could! But now I'm pretty sure the S4 is due to be announced pretty shortly and made available not long after that.... and I want one!

I was teased even further last week when Samsung unveiled a flexible, foldable smart phone prototype at the 2013 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.
But even seeing a folding LED screen due out in a couple of years couldn't abate my desire for the new Android S4.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Let Jessops survive online

The retail world was again hit with more doom and gloom on Wednesday, as it was announced that the troubled photography chain Jessops had gone into Administration. Having managed to avoid a similar situation in 2009, when its bank HSBC swapped debt for equity, the Administrators were called in as Jessops became the first large retailer of 2013 to topple. However today things went from bad to worse as PWC closed all the stores and put the following holding message up on the website:
Customer Notice

The Jessop Group Limited (in Administration)
Edward Williams, Robert Jonathan Hunt and Matthew David Hammond of PwC were appointed as joint administrators of The Jessop Group Limited on 9 January 2013. With effect from 11 January 2013, Jessops online and retail stores have ceased trading.
A gloomy forecast for the year ahead, as well as increasing completion from online traders, has been given as the cause. But is there still life in the Jessops brand and proposition?
I hope so. As a previous customer in the store, I found it to be a really positive shopping experience, staffed with friendly and knowledgeable people.

As a Multi-channel retailer, with a presence on the High Street and online, it may well not survive. However as an online could surely be some possibility that it continue:
  1. The brand still exists in the hearts and minds of its customers
  2. The domain name still has a lot of clout online
As of today (according to, the domain had::
  • A global ranking of: 17,441
  • A GB ranking of: 472
  • And 1,682 in-bound links
Although it may not be possible, the best thing to do right now to preserve the integrity of the online brand is to bring the website back. Shutting the eCommerce site has not only stopped visitors looking at the available products (you stopped being able to buy them on Wednesday) but is slowly ruining the online credibility of a once successful site.

Or to put it another way... even if the Administrators redirected the URL to the Cameras landing page on via an affiliate arrangement, they would still get around 5% of every subsequent sale!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Where are all the Scottish eCommerce Consultants?

I've lived in Scotland for around 6 months now, having moved here from London. I've therefore been doing all I can to promote and develop the eCommerce market north of the border... I've met with quite a few prospects, clients, industry leaders, agency folk and anyone else I can to increase my business network in Glasgow, Edinburgh and further afield.

However, there's no getting around it, the ecommerce market in Scotland is on average) less mature and smaller in scale than that of London or The Midlands.

This also means that I've not found many eCommerce consultants knocking about, who do what I do:
  • Strategic advice (incl multi-channel retail)
  • Business analysis and benchmarking
  • Programme Management of large / complex projects
  • User experience best practice and conversion improvement
  • Digital analytics and insight
  • Online marketing optimisation
In fact, a search on Google for "Scottish eCommerce Consultant" just tends to mainly bring up old job adverts for roles that are neither really eCommerce or Consultant focused.

So if you are a digital or eCommerce consultant based in Scotland, or just want to know what one does in more detail, please get in touch.