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The website that grew, part 8

27th September 2012
Categories: tWtG

Kate decided to try adding 10 products to the ecommerce package she'd bought, 5 different types of cheeses in two sizes.

After photographing the cheese on her iPhone, she uploaded product descriptions, photos and prices.

The off-the-shelf commerce system made her put things in categories, so she eventually decided to put two of the cheeses into a category called "strong" and three into a category called "smooth".

On the design side, she had to choose from a number of colour templates, which didn't quite match the "Smiths Fine Cheeses" site, but looked OK.

When everything was ready, she added a link from the Smiths Fine Cheeses site to the new shop site.  The address of the shop site was, but that didn't matter, as customers went directly from Smiths Fine Cheeses and weren't particularly going to notice.

A couple of months passed, and there were two orders on the system - Kate's first test order for some Smooth and Creamy Oxfordshire Cheese, 500g, and an order from someone in Oxford for some Buckinghamshire String Cheese, 2 x 500g packages.  The order from Oxford caused some excitement as they worked out how best to wrap and post the cheese.  The shop had some great cheese boxes but they hadn't thought about the outer packaging.  They realised after processing the order that the postage and packaging cost way too little at £2.50 and ought really to be more like £4.00.

Another month passed and no orders.  The profit on the one genuine order was more-or-less wiped by the problem with the packaging price, and the cost of the ecommerce package at GetYourDomainsNowUK.Biz was £8.99 per month, so the net loss so far was £26.97.

Meanwhile the real world shop itself was flourishing.  Due to some new developments in Aylesbury, more passing trade was coming through the door and buying the speciality cheeses on offer.  

But Kate was bothered about the online shop, and decided to speak to Hugh again.  

More on that next time!

One Simple Message

21st September 2012
Categories: marketing, usp

I was at a meeting this morning where the speaker advised adherence to one simple message in your marketing, citing the example of Heineken, who, discovering that the one purpose of lager was to refresh, came up with the famous campaign about Heineken 'refreshing the parts other beers do not reach'.

It was an inspirational talk, only slightly marred by the fact that the speaker went on to discuss a mind-bogglingly confusing array of products and services, some current and some in the pipeline, relating to their own business.

It's challenging inside our own business, when web design isn't a new thing and there are so many new companies barging in on the market.  Do we find a niche, like websites relating to care of aardvarks, or do we stick to what we do best, designing, building, and improving websites?  And where's the USP (unique selling proposition)?  Surely that's what everyone else does - isn't it?

Niches are very important, but it's not necessary to have just one, and at Oxford Web we have been digging fairly deep niches in four main sectors - membership organisations, education, small to medium sized businesses, and public sector - and so we like to think that we have something to talk about in each of those niches, and that we understand the needs of customers in those sectors.

So what's our one simple message?  "Making websites work".

When people ask us for a website, be it "only four pages" or "hugely complex" (our customers' own words, which were turned on their heads) we help them think about who they're aiming at, and how to say it on the home page with a simple message, leaving the "inner" pages of the website to explain everything in more depth.

What's your one simple message?

Can SEO be bad for your website?

18th September 2012
Categories: google, seo


Let's assume that search engines work for users - that is, the search engines have the best interests of users at heart. If I search for "Oxford Web Designers" I want links to the best web design companies in Oxford, and if I search for "Aylesbury Cheese Shop" I want a cheese shop in Aylesbury. The search engines want to understand this, and their no.1 priority is to provide this information, before bombarding me with ads and other services - because without the quality information, there is no core service around which to hang the ads and the subsidiary stuff. 

Some commentators would like you to believe that this is not the case, and cite good evidence, but in the case of Google, ultimately, the overwhelming evidence - over the last 14 years - is that they believe in this core service.

When you run a search on Google, its job is to return a list of web pages in some sort of order. And the order is a combination of relevance to the search phrase and importance.

It's mildly complicated for a computer to find out how relevant a page is; it's immensely difficult for a computer to rate one website above another. It's difficult enough for a human, and humans can normally make use of more information - for example in rating the BBC website I use the knowledge I have about the BBC's offline activities (TV, Radio and so on). I also happen to have worked for the BBC (as a temp at BBC Worldwide, in my youth!).

Google has very little to go on in comparison, but over the years has added many measures to its measuring toolkit (also called its "algorithm" by some). So for example Google will find out about:

  • how long your website has been around
  • how much content you are adding to your website
  • how other websites rate your website, and how important those websites are

These major measures of importance are not a secret, and that's where the problem lies, because there's a whole industry built around tricking Google into thinking their customers' websites are more important than they really are.

And when I say "tricking", I mean cheating, lying, and generally spamming the internet with a load of junk.

For example, there are SEO people who generate thousands of robot-built pages in order to trick Google into thinking that a website's content is growing. Or SEO people who generate fake websites linking to their customers' websites.

When search engine people say they use "white hat" techniques, by the way, what they mean is "black hat". Nobody actually admits to being "black hat".

What they're trying to tell you with the "hat" business is that they're wizards who employ magic (that's a warning sign already), and that they're techniques generally fall under Google's radar.

But Google generally finds them out - as we know from the "panda" and "penguin" updates. And your website rank will suffer as a result.


Search engine marketing, done right, identifies what people are searching for when they want to find your product and service, and how to make your website genuinely more relevant and important.

If you're doing it right, you are not going to suffer, because, as all the evidence suggests, Google is genuinely interested in promoting relevant and important websites.

A genuine search engine marketing company will help you to:

  • Analyse the market
  • Create relevant niche pages
  • Structure the information
  • Build genuine content and links

And your website rank will not fail to grow.

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01865 596 144

Oxford Web is a trading name of Alberon Ltd, registered company no. 5765707 (England & Wales).