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The website that grew, part 4

28th March 2012
Categories: seo, tWtG

Part 4

Time passed, and the website was forgotten.  John took on some of Martin's ideas for improving the layout of the shop, but all in all, the shop simply plodded on.

At the end of one month, Nancy (John's mother and the shop's book-keeper) was going over the accounts and found the £100 paid to the search engine optimisation company.

"What's this, John?"
"Oh, that must be that company the missus hired to put us on the first page of Google."
"Is it working?"
"As far as I know, yes."  John paused.  He called through to the living room where Kate was enjoying a small glass of red wine: "Kate?"
"What is it, hun?"
"Is that search engine thing working?"
"What search engine thing?"
"That company you hired to put us on page one of Google."
"Hang on, I'll check."

Kate fired up her laptop and searched for "cheese shops in Aylesbury".
"Hey!" she called, a few moments later.
"What is it?"
"Looks like it's working fine, we're in the number 3 spot!"

John looked at Nancy and frowned.  Nancy frowned too.  "How is this helping us, John?"
As if having exactly the same thought, Kate appeared in the doorway.  "What are we expecting the website to deliver?" she asked.
"I probably haven't given it enough thought, to be honest." answered John.
"If we fail to plan, we plan to fail." Nancy murmured.

"OK", said Kate, how about we take it out of my brother's hands and talk to a proper web company?  If they're any good, they should help us decide what to do with it, and at the very least it should be sending new customers to the shop.  Half of Aylesbury doesn't even know about us."
"If that means spending more money, .. then I'm not sure." John ventured.
"Look, what if we halt the Google stuff for a couple of months but put the money aside for some website improvements?"
"I don't like to offend your brother, Kate."
"Don't worry about him; he'll be alright."
"OK, let's give it a go.."


Notes

  • When you have a website, have a regular review to ensure that it is working hard for your business.
  • Being no.1 on google is nothing without an effective website.
  • Take advice from more than one person about what makes an effective website.

What you should pay for a website - part 2

27th March 2012
Categories: prices

If you haven't read part 1 of this two-part article, please read it now!

Now we've looked at what your website is for, let's jump straight in to the various types of website:

A high/increasing number of transactions (consumer or business)

If you're already making a net profit, congratulations.  If not, you will probably have a business plan that tells people you'll start making x per month within y months.  In the meantime you have to pay for overheads.  You need to double your efforts to get to this point, including working really hard on milestones, because it doesn't come easy.  At the same time I would double the "y" figure (how many months it's going to take to get into profit) so you can have a buffer against every eventuality. Having done this you should have a sum you should set aside for overheads like staff and premises. Include any stock, but try not to hold too much (but you've thought about this, haven't you?). After that, spend everything on building traffic and a high level of usability into the website.  If this means £50,000 then do it.  If it means £5,000 then do it.  If it means £500 then you probably need to have a re-think, because no matter how talented the web developer and how crazy the deal, this isn't going to rocket you into internet stardom and consistent profits.

After 6 months you will start to see a trend. If that trend is flat or trending downwards, something's not working, and if you can't figure out how to turn it around, it may be best to pull the plug. No-one said entrepreneurship wasn't risky. On the other hand if the trend is upwards, isolate what's causing it and create a budget around a more focussed set of improvements. After that of course, you just need to measure and repeat!

Membership services

Here as with any website, you need to be looking for a web developer who has experience with the kinds of features you want to build. An experienced web developer will know the "architecture" of the planned website before you even meet.  Quite often there will be a "base" piece of software with bespoke elements on top to provide exactly what you need. This "base" software, which may be called a content management system (CMS), should have a minimal or zero cost. It's the bespoke pieces you need to worry about.

The law of diminishing returns will eventually help. Say you have asked for features A, B and C, which seem to be no problem at all for your prospective web developer.  These cost, say, £7,500. Your other 'dream' features D and E cost £5000 each - but won't obviously make as big an impact as features A B and C.  Ask yourself if you need them from day 1 and what benefit they are going to give your business.

Big organisations may benefit more from these "additional" features because their membership will be prepared to - collectively - fork out for them. So while a small trade association may be content with the A B C feature set, larger organisations with thousands of members may be looking at A B C D E F and G (and spending, say, £20,000).

A corporate website for a company whose business is transacted offline (consumer or business)

Having thought carefully about the impact your website could be having on customers, you now need to think about investing in a good website to make that happen.  Not only does your website need to function, it needs to attract business, look good, and keep up with web standards. All this means that going to an instant, do-it-yourself web shop is not an option. But there are a huge range of options, so you need to be guided by someone you can trust, and who's done similar things before. Your first year budget should be in excess of £1500 (for very basic sites) and under £100,000 (because normally if £100,000 is starting to be limiting, then something is probably wrong with the planning or the talent).  Typically, if your website is information-only, you'll be looking at the lower end of that scale, but you must budget for design, which takes up more time if your business has a large "footprint", and content architecture, which becomes more complex the more content you have.

Information only, or peripheral services

This is a bit of a wildcard - for example you may be aiming to build a micro-site with a game, or a mobile site, or some wacky new idea thought up by marketing. However, if you're at this stage you probably have a good idea of how to get people to the website and a good idea of how much profit you will bring in per person.  If you're going to attract 100,000 people and convert half into buying your £10 product, They're going to spend £500,000.  Your net profit on the purchases may be more like £200,000, so a website spend of £50,000 would be OK.

On the other hand if it's going to be difficult to quantify the effect, you may want to leave out the bells and whistles and concentrate on what you can afford.


What are Keywords?

21st March 2012
Categories: google, keywords, seo

Customers often ask if they can amend the "keyword metatags" or add "keywords" to their website.

Keywords have traditionally meant:

1. Words or phrases which people type in to search engines in order to find your website.

2. The keywords meta-tag, a hidden part of your web page which lists a number of keywords (in the hope that search engines will read it and use it to put your website first in the list as a response to people searching using those keywords).

Unfortunately, having your site appear on page one for a keyword is completely unrelated to the keywords meta-tag.

Did I say unfortunately?

This is really quite fortunate, because it makes websites which are really about those keywords (or themes) look a lot better than websites which are not about those themes at all.

So for instance, if your website has a page about lemon trees, which goes into depth about how to cultivate them and how many different types there are, then those clever search engines will identify that page with the phrase 'lemon tree' (and all sorts of other related phrases).

Google won't get any clues from the keywords meta-tag.  In fact, it ignores the keywords meta-tag completely.

Here's a link to Google's article explaining that keyword meta-tags are completely ignored: google says keywords meta-tags are ignored.

So if you want to be no.1 for lemon trees, what do you need?

  • An interesting, readable page
  • Links to that page (preferably from a variety of sources)

Interestingly enough, there are meta-tags which are useful, particularly the 'description' meta-tag, which appears in the list of search results when your site comes up.  Use this to 'entice' people to your website.

For more info, search our website for 'seo'!

Domain Renewal Group (scam alert)

15th March 2012
Categories: scams

We sent a newsletter a while ago warning customers about the Domain Registry of America:

Scam alert: the Domain Registry of America

A contact of ours recently renewed their domain name with the Domain Registry of America. This is a legitimate domain registrar, but they charge way over the market rate for domain name registration, and they will write to you when your domain name is expiring without mentioning that you can renew with your existing registrar. Bin any correspondence from them!

Please be aware that these scam artists have changed their name to "Domain Renewal Group" and we received something from them this morning.

Do not respond.  Bin the so-called "renewal letter".

The end of print publishing?

14th March 2012
Categories: futurology, publishing

The BBC announces today that Encylopaedia Britannica is going online-only, ending a 244 year print publishing run.

With some readers citing tablets, e-readers and phones as better ways to read books than from their dead tree equivalent, is this the beginning of the end? And what am I going to put on my bookshelves in 20 years' time?

You may think it unlikely, but back in the 70s would you have predicted the demise of the typewriter? 

What should you pay for a website?

13th March 2012
Categories: prices

There can be confusion over website pricing at all levels of budget and experience, so we thought we'd put together a 2 part guide on what to pay for your website. In part one (this bit) we'll be looking at what you need out of your website and what it's going to give you, and in part two we'll look at options are different budgets.

So, where are you with your website - what do you need from it and what is it going to provide?

A high/increasing number of consumer transactions

At this level you've perfected an inexpensive consumer product or service which is easy to see online. You have a marketing budget which is a good fraction of your annual turnover (because it works) and you need to perfect the process of buying things on your website so that it's easy and repeatable. In theory you'd like to remove all friction from the process, so people can buy without typing or clicking. Graze.com has achieved this nicely..

Your website is going to go from strength to strength and possibly provide 100% of your annual sales. It's going to find new customers, make them repeat customers and advocates, keep in touch with them, and sell to them again and again.

A high/increasing number of business transactions

Businesses are staffed by people, so be very cautious if you think you can get away with making your website less easy to use than a consumer website! But you may have cornered the market or you may rely on a steady stream of customers fed into the website by other parts of your business. At the other end of the spectrum you will be competing for a share of a large market in just the same way as a consumer site.  Viking stationery is a good example of this. Being a business to business website, though, it will usually have a smaller market than consumer websites, and it may have to work harder to sell, for a variety of reasons including high cost price/low volume, and staff turnover within your customer base.

Your website may provide a significant proportion of your annual turnover. It should also attract new customers and keep in touch with existing customers.

Membership services

This kind of website is similar to the scenario above. It may offer various transactional functions such as membership/event purchases. But it often has a limited market, so once it's cornered the market it doesn't always need to try as hard to woo customers. However, you still need to keep up with the times and offer a great service to members, because if you don't, your members will certainly complain and quite possibly look for alternatives.

Your website will attract and retain members (i.e make money), but also save money through reduced paper administration in your office.

A corporate website for a consumer company whose business is transacted offline

This could be Coca Cola or something much smaller. It may be a information website so that people can, in effect, "self-serve", or it may be marketing focussed, running competitions and games, and creating new interest which inevitably leads back to the product.

This website and your other online activities may not keep you in business, but it probably attracts a significant number of customers to your product and saves a ton of money on customer service.

A corporate website for a b2b company whose business is transacted offline

This could be a website for a company as big as Boeing, or it could be the one you're on now.

While it may not bring in all the business or transact any of the business, it can do a lot of work. People who are in the market for your product may increasingly search for it on the web, so your website can be a powerful marketing tool. It can offer customer service, and it can even have a password-protected customer area to offer specific customer service.

Information only, or peripheral services

There are a lot of very different websites in this category, so it's difficult to generalise, but quite often these websites may mean the difference between retaining and losing customers. So they can be crucial to your business success.

Now read: what you should spend!

The website that grew, part 3

8th March 2012
Categories: seo, tWtG

Some weeks went by, and a customer in the shop remarked "I tried to find you on the internet, but I couldn't."

John told Kate, and Kate did a search for "cheese shops in Aylesbury". She couldn't find "Smith's fine cheeses".

"A site's pretty useless if no-one can find it", she told Harry.

"But you just asked for a website!" he protested.

Kate sighed. "OK, but what can we do?"

"I've got a lot on at the moment. I think you need professional help."

But where to start? Kate had heard of cold-calling web optimisers and spam email from search engine cowboys. She wanted to get it right. So she decided to do a Google search and interview a couple of companies that came up.

She sent enquiries to both, and received the following responses:

1:

"Hi Kate,

Thanks for your enquiry. We can certainly help. I would prefer to meet in person to discuss your needs and then put the right measures in place. Would you be available on Thursday of this week? I'm in town seeing another customer then."

2:

"Hi Kate,

Thanks for your enquiry. With our strictly legal and white-hat optimisation techniques we can put you on page 1 of Google within 1 month, or you pay nothing! We charge £100/month for keeping you on page 1 for selected phrases; see our enclosed brochure for information on satisfied clients. Please reply with your list of preferred phrases and we will start straight away!"

Kate was not available on Thursday and liked the idea of paying a fixed price, so when she'd discussed it with John (who said "Gosh, well, if that's what it takes, I suppose we'd better bite the bullet") she engaged search engine company no. 2 and away they went.

Within a few weeks, the cheese shop was no.2 in Google for "cheese shops in Aylesbury".

Success! Or was it? Find out next time....

Notes:

  • When you plan your website, write down all of your aims, and convey them to your web developer.

Just what is Google Play?

6th March 2012

Have you noticed how giant internet-busting corporations go around treading on each others' toes while explaining very carefully that they're innovating and addressing a bunch of needs to which surely no-one else has given any thought?

For example: Microsoft Silverlight (heard of it?) wasn't "the Bill Gates version of Flash" - it was a new technology for running rich, interactive applications and video in a web browser.

Google+ wasn't "the Google version of Facebook" - it was a great way to share stuff over the internet with your circles of friends.

Well now Google have released something called "Play", and yet again we have to figure out what it is, because they're not telling us plainly and simply that it's the Google version of the iTunes Music Store plus LoveFilm.com plus Apps plus Kindle.

Hang on... iTunes+LoveFilm+Apps+Kindle?  Just when you thought Google had done enough taking over the world.... is this a step too far?  Or is it simply a logical collection of media for storage and play?

Your comments welcome:

The website that grew, part 2

3rd March 2012
Categories: tWtG

Harry sent Kate a proposed design, as an email attachment. It looked like this:

Cheese shop website

It wasn't what Kate expected so she immediately rattled off an email with a few improvements that could be made before she showed it to John:

"Hi Harry

That's great, I like the picture, but could we get one on the home page of John maybe serving a customer? I think it would add a personal touch.

Also can we make it more colourful? It just looks a bit boring at the moment, sorry!

I think having our email address would be good too - the shop email, which is aylesburycheeseshop@GetYourDomainsNowUk.biz. Can you put this somewhere prominent?

Harry was busy the next week, but two weeks later he sent the revised design, which Kate showed to John.

"What do you think of it?" asked John.

"I'm showing it to you. What I think doesn't matter; what do you think?"

"I think it's good, but take off the photo of me and just put the counter on."

"Are you sure?"

"People don't want to see me; they want to see the shop."

"OK, if you're sure."

cheese shop website, revision

Kate called Harry and asked him when the website could go live. He reminded her that he needed the content for the other web pages. After a short delay, they were sent, but Harry had to work out how to buy a domain and put the website on it, as his experience with websites was just a product of tinkering.

After a bit of research, Harry plumped for "GetYourDomainsNowUk.biz" who offered a £2.99/month deal, which sounded quite good.

Finally the website went live, and everyone breathed a sign of relief - the job was done.

Or was it? Find out in the next installment!

Notes: 

  • Before you start a design, get the direct involvement of the people who will be signing it off.

cheese image by Alex Anlicker and published under Creative Commons licence

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