Content is King

I was having a conversation with a client today, and I found myself reciting the above phrase, an old one from the dawn of web development and design which still holds true to this day.

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Content is King is the number one rule of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and is the cornerstone of building any successful website. What it means is that putting useful, interesting and unique content onto your website beats any other technique for driving traffic to your website.

While the algorithms which power Google can be fooled by various techniques and tricks, these fixes will only ever be temporary, What Google is designed to do, and what it has a moderately sized army of engineers making it do, is to find relevant content which matches any search entered into it. So to get to the top of the search rankings, all you need to do, is have relevant content on your website.

And in the long term, the tricks and techniques used to fool Google and bring sites without their own relevant content to the tops of the searches will work against those sites, because as soon as the Google Engineer Army discovers one of these techniques is getting used, they add filters to the Google Algorithms which lower the ranking of these sites. Meaning that anyone using these techniques is fighting a constant war to keep their unwarranted ranking on the search engines. Whereas anyone with a warranted ranking has nothing to worry about, and as more people recognise them as a source of good content, their ranking will only get higher and higher, as the Google rankings take this into account.

Getting Personal

For every business one of their key assets is the staff that they employ.  It’s important to know your team, their strengths, and weaknesses, and how you work best together.  Letting people’s strengths flourish while making sure their weaknesses won’t hold them back is just all round good for business.  The right personality in the right position can make a huge contribution to your success.  Sometimes we can mistake a missed opportunity for a failing in a team member, poor performance as a result of laziness or incompetence, when potentially that individual could perform much better if they had a more suited role.  There many surveys and questionnaires designed to help employers assess their staff and measure how that affects their business.

At Scruffy Dug we have all taken the Myers Briggs test, which determines personality types and offers insight into how each type works (there are many sites where you can take the test for free, we used www.16personalitytypes.com ).  From how different personalities approach certain tasks to what type of activity they are likely to excel in to how they are likely to interact, the results cover a wide range of areas, personal and professional – often with unnerving accuracy.  Although there were a few points in each of our results that didn’t quit hit the mark, and many points that weren’t anything we didn’t already know…or at least suspect, the test was nonetheless useful.  In many cases it confirmed what we already knew about the areas we perform best in, and sometimes it’s just nice to know you’re on the right track.  It also allowed us to get a glimpse inside each other’s heads, helping us establish how to interact with each other effectively.

Although I wouldn’t advise basing all personnel decisions on a survey it’s always a worthwhile exercise. It’s good to take a step back and look at the skills you have available, it gives you a basis for structuring your business and it’s a good jumping off point for getting the most from your team.  It can also be a fun exercise and a good ice-breaker when team building or performing quarterly reviews.

With the results being just as candid on negative as they are on positive character traits there’s always the chance of a chuckle…and possibly the odd awkward moment if a colleague claims, “what? I’m nothing like that!”

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Shedding the shell: confidence is essential when starting out in social media

It’s taken as read that everyone has confidence in their new product or service when starting up; it’s a given that you’ll need to be confident whenever you meet someone and tell them about your business.  What often comes as a bit more of a surprise though is finding that you need confidence on your social media platforms and that it can sometimes feel, well, a little unnatural and alien.  First of all managing your online business presence can be an altogether different ball game from running personal social media accounts. The responsibility of getting a message across clearly, creating the right impression and showing the personality of a business can make us retreat into our shells.  As a generally outgoing person and regular twitter user I was surprised to find myself struck by bouts of shyness when it came to putting our business out there.  But effective social media can be pivotal to a new business so you can’t fall into this trap.  You need to feel at ease in order to come out of your shell.

First of all remind yourself why social media platforms are so pivotal.  When networking and social media are used effectively, you are utilising free sources of promotion.  In a previous blog post we pointed out how one tweet can ruin a business and in turn one good tweet can make a business but what’s more likely is that 100 good tweets or Facebook posts will be able to create a continued success.  What a business starting out needs to know is how to use those platforms correctly.

To effectively communicate in social media environments it’s important to be relaxed.  These are spaces to open up conversations about your business, so engage with people.  It’s important to do this in the right way, keep the tone friendly and informal and don’t be afraid to show off the personalities that make your business unique.  You don’t want to have to explain your company over and over, so have a clear profile.  It’s also important to work ahead of time to be able to put across what your business is succinctly so that you are free to engage enthusiastically without bogging yourself down in long-winded speeches.

We will go on to look at customer service in more detail in future posts, but in social media you have a direct, frontline platform to show your customer service skills.  Look at how other people use the platform and mimic the style.  You can and should be conversational in spaces like Facebook, but your company’s Likedin profile would seem strange if full of emojis.  Work with the limitations you’re presented with too, not against them.  Twitter restricts you to 120 characters, which breeds a temptation to link to external sources.  This is fine, but use links sparingly.  Instead find a way to make your message more concise.  They’ve just given you a chance to work on a great elevator pitch and make your message clearer.

Social Media provides a great place for you to build confidence in talking about your business.  It helps you with your customer service, networking and building business communities, which we will talk about at a later date.  Don’t hide from your customer base, let them get to know you. Shed the shell and get out there.

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Yer Maw Brewing!

We’re glad to announce that we’ll be working with Yer Maw Brewing, to develop them a web site.

Looking forwards to working with this new start to build them something as interesting as their name and attitude demands.

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Social-ism!

Was watching the fascinating video below, a Ted talk by Jon Ronson about how one tweet can ruin your life, and was reminded of a recent encounter of how the internet has revolutionised both communication and information.

A couple of us from Scuffy Dug were recently attending a seminar about social marketing, a panel of three “experts” were talking about the best way to use social networks to market your company, the direction the market seemed to be going in, and where best to concentrate your efforts. The panel were eloquent, seemingly knowledgable and entertaining, it was interesting and enjoyable to attend.

Now out of the panel (yes I’m keeping things vague, as I personally don’t want to embarrass anyone), I personally knew one member having worked alongside him in the past. We had arrived early for the seminar, and that had given us a while to stand, and the second member of the panel had stood with us and we’d had a short chat, and I knew his experience, what he was working on currently, and the angle he was approaching social marketing from.

The third member of the panel however, I didn’t know. He seemed the most successful, and was certainly the most talkative. He had a strong grasp on the topic, and while there are many ways of getting “social” wrong, he mentioned the various ethical methods that could be used.

But having not worked with him, and not spoken with him before I reached for my phone and google to find out more about him as he talked.

First result on google in connection with his name and company name, was a story from a national newspaper only 3 months before about him closing down his previous company letting suppliers go without payment for goods he continued selling through his new company, a couple of hundred thousand pounds had gone unpaid to companies which themselves were now having to close down making staff redundant.

Now how that could be connected to ethics of any kind I’m not sure, and am not here to debate. But it certainly appeared that he was no expert in maintaining a good online profile. He went from sounding like an expert to looking like a liar, so me and the other Scruffy Dugger left at the next opportunity.

So if you need any help with Social Marketing, get in touch, we can’t claim to be world renowned experts, but we’ve never ruined our, or anyone elses lives with a tweet or with anything else.

Enjoy the video, it’s eye-opening to see how social media has evolved.

A host, a host, my kingdom for a host!

Well after singing WordPress’s praises yesterday, I realised that I hadn’t discussed exactly where you would put WordPress in the first place. I’d also like to make it clear that I’m discussing the version of WordPress that gets installed on a server, not wordpress.com.

But before that I’d like to apologise for yesterdays picture of a cat which looked like Hitler. I now realise that it was totally inappropriate to use that picture. We’re called Scruffy Dug, not Scruffy Cat. So instead, today I present you with a picture of a Dog, looking like Hitler.

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Awww, isn’t he adorable (the dog, not Hitler).

So, hosting. Web hosting is where you pay for space on some elses web server. You pay your money and you get a little bit (usually 5-50 Gigabytes of space depending on your host) of space on the server. The advantage of this is the cost is a fraction of owning your own server, as the cost is divided between you and the other 50 or so people who are sharing the server between you (plus a cut for the hosting company to make a profit).

The disadvantage is that you don’t have full control over the server, but that doesn’t matter for 99.99% of the site operators out there. Also the sharing of the server can lead to some problems, for example if one of the sites on the server sudden gets really busy, then the server will obviously have a lot more work to do, and every site on it will suffer in performance and load times.

Buying your own server is the alternative, and while it is a possibility, the price is very high, since you not only need to pay for the server, but for it’s dedicated connection to the internet. And these costs build up quickly. So, unless you’ve got a stack of cash burning a hole in your pocket, or you are absolutely sure that your site is going to be the next big thing and in no way can survive sharing space on a server with a number of other web sites, then hosting is the way to go.

Now what should you look for in a hosting company, well, the  obvious really, the more bigger numbers they give you for storage and bandwidth for the smaller the quantity of money the better really. This goes for the number of email accounts and storage for emails as well, the bigger the number the better for your buck.

The other thing you’re looking for is what your account comes with, usually some version of php the most common programming language used on the web), some version of MySQL (the most common database program used on the web), and. FTP (File Transfer Protocol, a common way of putting files onto the web server). But all of these things are standard, and you’ll get them with every email account, the one thing that’s not absolutely standard which I would not consider buying hosting without, is CPanel.

CPanel is another wonderful little piece of software which is installed on the server, and provides you with a web site you cn log into, to control your web site.

Sounds a little odd, but the power of CPanel cannot be underestimated, it gives you control of so much, and give you such amazing flexibility, such as being able to install wordpress, and a variety of other systems with a click. Give you control of your email accounts, etc, etc. The breadth of things CPanel does would fill this and a dozen other similar articles, I personally find it so handy that I would not for a moment, consider buying hosting with someone who does not provide it. It’s common, but not yet universal.

Lastly, the reason why I’m not recommending one service over all the others, although fairly obviously I have a favourite is that your experience with a hosting company is so subjective. Depending on who you share your server with, your site might run smooth as silk, or might crawl, a good hosting company will deal with that, spreading the load, but then again they’re in it for the money, and moving the person slowing everything down to another server either gives them preferential treatment (giving them a dedicated server for the same price everyone else has to share), or just plain moves the problem around.

So while one person may love a service, anyone they recommend to use the service may have the worst experience ever. And as with everything on the internet, people with bad experiences don’t keep it quiet. So when looking around, have a search on google for the hosting company, and see what other people are saying, and avoid the ones with page upon page of horror stories.

I hope this has been of some interest, and if you need any help, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

A Word about WordPress

Behind the scene’s while we’ve been deciding on a logo, we’ve also been writing content for the website, some of it you can already see, but some of it is still hidden as we finish it off.

Now today I’m going to talk about the website and the content management system behind it, WordPress, this might get a little dull and techie, but to stop you getting bored, here’s a picture of a cat which looks like Hitler.

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And I thought 8-Bit Dug looked disapproving . . .

Anyway, in the old days web sites were hand made, and some techie dude would sit down and hand code all of the pages, using the mark-up language HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language). A mark-up language differs from a programming language as all it deals with is the presentation of the data within the page. How images are formatted, which parts of the text are bold, which in italics, etc. This being Hyper Text  Markup Language, it also dealt with Hyper Text, the links which make up the internet. So that you could highlight some text which would lead you to a totally different place on the internet, whether it was used to create a menu, or link you to some further information or a definition of the highlighted text.

While HTML is a simple language, and coding in it is straight-forwards, it was/is time consuming, and creating and updating a web site would swallow hours. There were tools to make this easier, allowing the creation of the document to be simplified, letting anyone who could operate Microsoft Office capable of putting a web site together.

But even after you’d written your pages, there were still technical elements to uploading your pages to a web server, and plenty of pit falls that the inexperienced could easily fall down. And HTML wasn’t a stand alone language, Javascript added reactive elements to web pages, letting things happen on a page without having to load a different page by clicking, CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) brought more advanced presentation elements, allowing web pages to look better, and better present information to their users. And it became a full time job to learn and master all of these.

Then along came CMS (Content Management Systems), these do all of the heavy lifting for the user. Building the links between the pages, storing the images, and allowing a friendly WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) interface. And all of this is done directly on the server. Meaning now you can operate a website from any device. You can upload your photos straight from your phone to the web server, and then incorporate them directly into a web page, a webpage you entered into the CMS like a text message. Content Management Systems have truly revolutionised the way web sites are built and run.

Another massive advantage of CMS’s, is that in these days where there are people aiming to hack into and deface or destroy web sites for no other reason than “they can”, data security is another full time job. Keeping up to date with how websites can be hacked, and simple errors exploited to gain control is vital, but far too time consuming for anyone but a professional. So being able to hand over control of that to a team of specialists, whose product’s reputation depends on their catching and fixing any bugs which might be used to break into a web site is a very comforting idea indeed.

Now, there are many competing CMS’s out there, one of the most popular is Drupal, which for instance is used to run the web site of the White House. We however have chosen WordPress, and we have chosen it for no other reason than we tried it first and are now comfortable using it. There seem to be only slight advantages to using one of these packages over using the others, so as long as we keep track of what developments are being made, we’re as good sticking with what we know.

WordPress is primarily a blogging engine, allowing daily updates to be presented to users from the sites front page, however this capability is expanded vastly by use of Plug-ins. These literally plug into the framework that WordPress provides, and add new functionality. Some functions are as minor as adding a message to the top of every page, others add e-commerce capabilities so you can run a shop, or one we use here, which posts updates such as this one to our social media profiles on Facebook and Twitter.

And all of this functionality comes with amazing ease of use, letting you once you’ve done it a few times, to put a new website together in just a couple of hours, instead of taking that for each page, drag and drop functions allow you to build an attractive, functional and robust web site rapidly, and without typing a single line of code.

So, if you’re interested in having your own website, I recommend trying WordPress, and if you want a little help, then feel free to get in touch and we’ll do our very best to lend a hand and give you the benefit of our experience.

 

Down to business.

So now we’ve got a design, it’s been down to the hard work of using it, so first up business cards,

So here’s Robert and Catherine’s cards. Nothing much to say about them, we kept them simple and fresh with the logo, both highlighted in the rainbow colour scheme we selected, and faded into the background. The background one was tilted to an angle, to stop the vertical and horizontal lines clashing with those of the main logo. The main logo also has the background faded to zero in a spot behind it to keep the text as readable as possible.
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Obviously we’ve been doing work on the website throughout this, so from tomorrow I’ll start filling you in with what we’ve been doing behind the scenes with that.

 

 

And the winner is. . . .

So, we’ve got a winner, and it’s controversial . ..

 

Its 8-Bit Dug

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And he disapproves. But then again, 8-Bit Dug disapproves of everything. Especially me using him as the first image on the page so the real winner doesn’t show as the thumbnail image for this post. 🙂

 

 

So, the actual winner was

 

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So, the rainbow pattern little scamp won. We felt he was much friendlier than the other options, especially the cold dead eyes of the killer dug peeking round the corner. It’s amazing how little details can really swing it for a design, and in this case it really did just come down to the eyes.

As for the colour scheme, the rainbow gradient was felt to be strong enough to stand on its own against both light and dark backgrounds, and while allowing no colour to dominate, it gives a strong showing to purple, which we feel to be the company colour.

Hopefully you will have noticed that the site is now a little more alive than it has been recently. We’ve still got loads to do, but we’ve at least made a start.

Tomorrow, business cards.