Archive for June 2009


Phorm WILL go live. Soon. Sort of.

June 18th, 2009 — 12:59pm

Controversial online behavioural targeting company Phorm is finally planning its UK launch. Phorm has been the subject of lots of discussion due to their much feared technology that allows them to  track users online behaviour. Phorm analyses user behaviour and then serves adverts specifically tailored to them.

Some online privacy groups have tried to block the roll out of Phorm, which they see as impinging on their online privacy. Some websites – most notably Amazon and Wikipedia – have publicly stated that they will block Phorm from collecting user data.

Despite this, Phorm’s ‘Webwise Discover’ will launch in the UK before the end of the year following a successful trial in Korea in May.

In order to go live, however, Phorm faces the not insignificant job of convincing the major ISPs (Carphone Warehouse, Virgin and BT) to partner with them, since they need the assistance of the internet provider in order to make the technology work.

From a users’ viewpoint, Phorm’s Webwise Discover will simply be a small box overlaid on the corner of their screen, which will contain personally tailored adverts, videos, images or even news stories.

There are a couple of examples of the kind of tailored content the system will be able to produce. Let’s say that based on user behaviour Phorm can work out that you’re interested in the footballer ‘Wayne Rooney’. The next time you surf the internet, Phorm will automatically locate new content and articles about Rooney.

Or taking the example of shopping, you could be on a website looking for a particular product. The system can automatically locate reviews or live auctions for that item.

To lay privacy concerns to rest, Phorm are saying that users will have the option to switch the service off and on at any time. Phorm has also said that the system is completely anonymous, and keeps no record of browsing history or any personal information.

For our part, we believe that the issue of online privacy has been confused by the media. Behavioural targeting such as Phorm means getting a personalised, more relevant version of the Internet. It doesn’t mean that your personal details, or for example your bank account information, is in any way compromised.

And ‘Webwise Discover’ might sound a bit scary at the moment, but once people have the chance to try it out we think many fears will be laid to rest, as people like the degree of personalisation it can offer.

What do you think? As a website builder, would you use Phorm to promote your site to new users? Is Phorm a small step forward for the Web, or something to be avoided at all costs? Leave us comment below.

There are more searches, but less clicks

June 17th, 2009 — 1:42pm

Some research by Comscore, an online traffic measurement company, came out last week. It was covered in some depth over on Techcrunch.

The research is based on US traffic, but it applies here too.

Comscore have basically found that whilst the number of searches rose last year by 68%, the number of clicks on search advertisements went up by just 18%.

Here’s a graph that shows it all:

Comscore are attributing the relative decline in clicks compared to searches to the increasing length of search queries. They say that as the number of 3, 4 or 5 word searches increases, (something we’ve discussed before) adverts are less likely to appear because advertisers are less like to have those word combinations in their AdWords account.

Comscore say: “And this apparently reduces the likelihood that an advertiser has bid to have his/her ad included in the results page from these longer queries, due to paid search advertising strategies that limit ad coverage, such as Exact Match, Negative Match, and bid management software campaign optimization.”

Techcrunch think that this doesn’t explain it enough. They reckon that clicks on adverts have declined because many US advertisers have reduced or stopped their AdWords campaigns.

They say: “Sharper Image, Wickes Furniture, Levitz, Foot Locker, Wilson’s Leather, Ann Taylor, Zales, Mervyn’s, Macy’s, Circuit City and a ton of other retailers are either shutting down entirely or closing lots of stores… All of these companies used to spend tons of money on paid search ads. Those budgets don’t exist any more.”

Another idea is that as Google gets better at displaying more relevant results pages (SERPs), maybe users are less drawn to the sponsored AdWords ads because they find what they want in the organic listings. I haven’t got any evidence for that, it just seems like logical conclusion.

Whatever the reason, once again its a good opportunity for your to get your website to the top of the SERPs. Make sure you are ranking highly for the specific search phrases that people will use that are relevant to your website. Follow our Search Engine Optimisation guide (SEO) to help you achieve that.

Do you find yourself clicking less on ads these days? Or have you never done so? Leave us a comment below.

How to Create Member only pages

June 16th, 2009 — 4:22pm

Members only areas or client only areas can be useful ways of providing privileged information to a select group of your site visitors. This can allow you to create better relationships with these people and use your website to present or distribute information privately with a guest list that you directly control. It’s one of the features that makes WebEden unique among other website builders, and extremely powerful.

We’ve also been asked about ‘paid membership’. By using Groups to create a set of VIP members it is possible to charge a fee before adding a member to that group, though this has to be done manually. So here’s how to do all of these things.

Members only pages

Creating members only areas is reasonably easy and very powerful. It also means that anyone who joins your site will immediately get access to that page so there is no manual work to update the permissions with each new member.

Once again I’ll be using my favourite and highly ranked taxi website www.joeslondontaxis.com. (some of you will remember this from our series of SEO Guide articles).

To create a members only area first click on ‘People’ in the Toolbar and then the ‘Permissions’ tab. Here you will see a list of all your pages on the left, and the permissions settings of the selected page (or pages) on the right.

Every page can have its permissions set individually, or you can change the permissions for multiple pages as once (use the ‘control’ or ‘shift’ keys while selecting pages to select several at once).

I’ve created a page called ‘members welcome page’ which allows me to give a special welcome to my members. If I position this top of my pages list, then this will actually replace the normal ‘welcome’ page for members when they visit the site. Clever eh?

To make the page members only select the page from the list on the left, then change the ‘view’ settings for that page to ‘members only’. And that’s it.

Client only areas

Creating and managing Groups is the key to client only areas. Groups can have permissions set as a whole, and any member who is part of that group will get those permissions. You can add or remove members from Groups at any time.

If you don’t have any Groups you will need to go to the ‘group’ tab first and set one up. I’ve created two groups, one called ‘Clients’ and one called ‘Drivers’.

Next go back to the ‘Permissions’ tab and select the page that you wish to edit from the list on the left, then change the ‘view’ settings for that page to ‘Group’ and you can then choose which Group can see that page, e.g. Clients. I’ve done this for my ‘clients’ page, and also my ‘drivers’ page.

You can then add or remove individual members from that Group to control which ones can see that page. Here I have added 2 of my clients into the ‘Clients’ group, and selected the third in preparation to add him too (or her ;-). This would be the same process if you were creating a VIP section of selected members only.

You can also create members directly for clients by going to the ‘members’ tab and clicking ‘create member’. You can then define a username, password and email for the this client when you create the member. Once the member is created you can add them to a Group on your site so they have the correct permissions. Finally you can email your client with their username and password and a link to the login page. The ‘create member’ function makes it easy to setup client only areas without the client having to do anything themselves.

There are numerous ways you can use this kind of functionality, so have a go and let us know what you think!

Update 28.7.09
To give you a helping hand we’ve put together a video tutorial that shows you how to add members to your website.

And here’s one that shows you how to send membership invitations.

And finally, here’s how to send updates to Facebook and Twitter.

More good news if you sell online

June 16th, 2009 — 2:51pm

Yet another report out this week points to the rude health of doing business online in the UK. This time its all about selling stuff on websites: according to the IMRG Capgemini E-retail Sales Index, online retail sales grew 14% over the last year.

Even though our evening news is filled with stories of financial doom and gloom, and we hear on a weekly of this or that high street chain going out of business, sales over the web are still rising. In April 2009 UK online shoppers spent £10 more per visit than 12 months previously.

The average basket size jumped from £121.69 in April 2008 to £131.76 in April 2009.

Unfortunately the news is not all rosy: whilst retail sales grew on an annual basis, they actually dropped – although just 2% – between March and April this year.

When you look into particular industry sectors for the monthly growth, alcohol sales grew by a whopping 10%, whilst Gifts dropped by a massive -51%.

This drop of course could be down to the type of seasonal variations seen in offline business.

CapGemini Head of consulting Mike Petevinos said: “It’s clear the online market is maturing, with seasonal fluctuations becoming more noticeable in certain sectors as they’re no longer obscured by the 50% plus annual growth rates of the past”.

“Internet shopping is clearly the bright spot in the UK retail sector but this industry is still young and has great potential for further growth” added Tina Spooner, director of information at IMRG.

As a website builder, do you sell through your website? Are you seeing growth or are sales flat, or even in decline? Leave us a comment below.

Social Media – Does anyone know what the point is?

June 15th, 2009 — 2:57pm

We’ve talked about Twitter, Facebook, and other social media quite a bit on this blog. Lots of the issues raised have been about whether or not it is possible to use social media websites to promote your own website.

But if you’re not entirely sure about how to launch your social media campaign, then you’re not alone. Research by McCann Erickson Bristol published this week indicates that two-thirds of marketers don’t have a clue where to start. The research says that marketers recognise social media websites to be more than just a fad, but just don’t know how to best make use of them to promote their own website.

Around 50% of marketers surveyed said that social networking sites – like Twitter and Facebook – were blocked by their IT departments. It’s a bit difficult to market your product using Twitter if your company doesn’t let you use it!

Just over half were using social media ‘profile raising’, 48% for networking and 30% for advertising.

Here’s a table that shows it all:

The advertising agency running the survey was quick to say that brands needed to use social media: “Word of mouth is now more powerful than ever – opinions can be shared with a global audience at the click of a button.” And how best to make use of social media? Presumably the agency think that one way around this is to pay them a large amount of money…

But all cynicism aside, how exactly are you supposed to make use of social media? We’ve covered one possible way to use Twitter. But how about Facebook, Myspace, Bebo and all the others?

If you’ve got a good idea you can share, or have an opinion, leave a comment below.

Swine Flu is good news for WHO. Well, their web traffic…

June 12th, 2009 — 9:57am

Research from Hitwise UK this week showed the impact of world events on Internet traffic. The outbreak of Swine Flu in April boosted traffic to the World Health Organisation and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by more than 200% each in just 4 days.

Here’s a graph from Hitwise that shows their traffic.

And of course it also has a huge impact on what people are searching for. UK searches for ‘swine flu’ increased 58-fold for the week ending 2nd May. Of the 10.9 million different search terms that Hitwise monitored over this period, ‘swine flu’ was the 20th most popular.

And as we’ve discussed before, this booming interest in swine flu has meant the cyber squatters have moved in. This is good news of course if your website is all about flu symptoms. But for the rest of us, we can only watch (with our facemasks poised). Time to use the WebEden Website Maker to write about Swine flu?

Trust me, I’m a Website

June 11th, 2009 — 2:20pm

The office of fair trading (OFT) has this week produced a report into online shopping. According to the report, 30% of internet users don’t shop online because they are distrustful of the Internet

Worryingly, another 20% don’t shop due to ‘personal security fears’ and a further 15% don’t trust the companies that sell online.

In addition, a whopping 72% of online shoppers expressed some ‘concern’ about shopping on the Internet. Of all shoppers, 38% were only ‘slightly aware’ of their consumer rights when it came to online.

The OFT made it clear that the level of confidence in online shopping was too low for the market to reach its full potential.

“Online retailing is the future for many businesses and it’s increasingly important to the economy. If consumers are not confident online, demand will grow at a slower rate” said John Fingleton, CEO at the OFT.

“We must tackle these concerns right now if the online market is to grow at its full potential”, he added.

Minister for Consumer Affairs Gareth Thomas was keen to point out the upsides of the report: “UK consumers buy almost twice as much over the internet compared to their European neighbours. It’s encouraging that the OFT’s survey shows increasing consumer confidence when buying online – but people still have concerns.”

For our part, we believe that consumer confidence in online shopping takes a knock almost every time an Internet related story hits the news. Whether its paedophile rings, online privacy concerns over social networking groups, or PC viruses transmitted online, the mainstream media leap on board any opportunity to shake confidence in the Web. And all the recent stories of Phorm, and the ability for companies to track online behaviour, have done nothing to reassure consumers.

Whilst those of us who are keen users of the Internet know the issues above have nothing to do with whether or not its safe to put your credit card details into a website, those who are new to the Internet can be easily confused.

The Government for its part has pointed towards a forthcoming white paper on internet shopping that sets out proposals to increase peoples’ protection from fraudsters and increase their knowledge of online shopping.

Does lack of consumer confidence stop you getting more from your website visitors? Do you have trouble explaining to less tech savvy friends that shopping online is pretty safe? Has this affected how you have set up a website? Leave us a comment below.

Google the Innovator – Part 2

June 10th, 2009 — 2:59pm

The Google Searchology event we talked about a few days ago produced some other great innovations.

We previously talked about a new sidebar that allows you to refine your search to specific areas such as video, forums, or reviews.

The so called “search options” sidebar in addition includes a “wonder wheel”. Google describe this as a great ‘visualization feature’. It basically lets you refine and improve your search query by successively adding new suggestions to the original query.

The example they gave was a search for ‘DVD’. An original search for ‘DVD’ might be refined – at Google’s suggestion – to “HD DVD”, or “HD DVD vs Blu-ray”, or even just “Blu-ray”. The feature allows you to preview the results, whilst still being able to revert back to the previous search results.

What does it mean for those of us trying to improve our position in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs)?

Well the most obvious issue is to make sure that your website is optimised not just for general search queries in your area, but also specific ‘long tail’ search queries.

In fact, by using this sidebar Google itself is encouraging users to get more specific in their search queries, which makes those even more important to focus on.

And the advantage this brings you is that those longer, more specific search queries will be far easier to optimise for, since at the moment there is far less competition from other sites doing the same thing.

For example, let’s say you run a taxi service in Kent. Rather than focusing on search queries such as ‘Taxi’, or ‘taxi in kent’, you can focus efforts on more specific queries like ‘taxi in sevenoaks’, or even ‘taxi to gatwick from ashford’. Of course it all depends what service you do and where!

So this innovation looks like providing a boost to website builder enthusiasts like us.

What do you think? Leave us a comment below.

I know where you are!

June 9th, 2009 — 3:14pm

Anyone with an eye on the technology news can’t have failed to notice the launch of Google Latitude a couple of months ago. The system allows you to show your current location on a web based map. It works by receiving data from your Smartphone and then publishing it on Google Maps. (If you haven’t got a Smartphone – such as a gphone, iphone, or other – then don’t worry, your location remains a secret!).

Since the launch there has been lots of criticism from people who see this as a threat to privacy. The press has been full of comments like ‘big brother’ and ‘stalking’. Even Google, who are trying to sell us into this idea, say that it lets you “see where your friends are in real time”.

As it stands right now, Latitude could be a gift to stalkers, prying employers, jealous partners and obsessive friends” said Simon Davies, director of Privacy International.

Google for its part has responded by pointing out that the system is an ‘opt-in’ service with simple privacy controls – you only publish your location if you want to.

As an update to the service, Gmail recently added a labs feature that can publish your location in your email signature, when you use gmail.

You can see where Google is headed with this application. A significant proportion of search queries are location specific, EG ‘florist London’, ‘taxi in Manchester’. Google can already deliver relevant results to these queries but it relies on the search query using the most appropriate search criteria. For example, if you do want a shoe shop in Sheffield and you’re searching for ‘shoe shop south Yorkshire’, it won’t automatically know that you’re interested in results from Sheffield too.

So in Google’s eyes, the more it can automate the process of location specific searches – by knowing exactly where you are – the more relevant the results will be.

Have you tried using Google Latitude? Is it a bit stalk-y or just a bit of fun? Or can you see more practical applications to this technology? Leave us a comment below.

Google the Innovator – part 1

June 8th, 2009 — 12:45pm

One reason why Google has remained ahead in the search game has been their level of innovation. Whilst other companies concentrate solely on doing what they do better, Google also has an eye on the future. Their rate of innovation is so great that they actually launched 360 new products last year – what other company could boast that?

Part of the culture of innovation that Google fosters is their idea of ‘me time’, a block of time every week that Google engineers can devote to their own pet projects. Its from these projects that new Google ideas often come.

Google held an even last week that showed that the information they hold is about a lot more than just search engines. “Google Searchology” was also an opportunity to showcase some new features.

First up is ‘search options’. These sit in a sidebar on the main results page, and allows you to refine your search by looking at just videos, forums, reviews, or even just new pages added in the last week.

The feature that Google were keen to highlight is the ‘reviews’ search. If you choose to just search reviews, the results pages show special snippets obtained using “sentiment analysis”. This is Google’s analysis of what people are saying about a particular product or service, often obtained from reviews.

You can find if the reviewer liked a certain product or service, the main advantages and disadvantages and other ‘opinionated excerpts’.

This is looks like being a really good opportunity to boost the amount of traffic you can get from the search engines. Those websites with the best reviews are going to be the ones that generate more clicks. Therefore, if you get a customers or visitor to your website saying something positive about your site, then ask them to leave a review on a well known review site.

Here’s a list of the biggest UK reviews sites, courtesy of SEOmoz.org:

pricegrabber.co.uk
reviewcentre.com
shopzilla.co.uk
ciao.co.uk
dealtime.co.uk
truste-marketing.co.uk
webuser.co.uk
maxxsave.co.uk
dooyoo.co.uk
resellerratings.com

Not all will be relevant to your site: if not, search for reviews sites in your market in order to identify the best ones. In order to find a review site relevant to you, search for ‘your industry + reviews”.

A site with just a few great reviews will find a significant boost in traffic from people carrying out this type of search.

Have you found any good reviews sites that might boost your search engine traffic, and that you want to share here? Leave us a comment below

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