What businesses should take from ‘Safer Internet Day’

By Rob Newburn, Head of Information Security & Managed Services, Trustmarque

Today marks the tenth anniversary of Safer Internet Day. While predominantly aimed at children and young people to help raise awareness of security and safety online in an increasingly tech-driven world, there are lessons that professionals and businesses can also take away from it. Continue reading

iPhone 5 is the most searched term on the internet

By Abigail Phillips

 

New research shows that Apple’s iPhone 5 searches up a staggering 594% in the lead up to Christmas, despite a slump in its sales performance. According to data from independent digital marketing agency, Greenlight’s Brown Goods Sector Report- Issue 14, in November 2012, iPhone 5 was queried more than 4 million times, accounting for 34% of all Brown Goods-related searches.

However, having just last week released the newly built BlackBerry 10, the search volumes for the term ‘BlackBerry’ totalled 246,000 compared to 301,000 in August. Continue reading

Glued to the screen- Two thirds of us need the internet to function

By Abigail Phillips

 

The internet is clearly engrained into the daily routine for most people, but when you step back and look at the statistics, it can be pretty staggering.

Research (and an infographic) by Siteopia has found that two thirds of people admit they ‘need’ the internet to function in everyday life. Add to that the fact that we don’t go longer than 90 minutes during the day without checking Facebook, Twitter or e-mail, and you’re creeping towards a full-fledged addiction. Continue reading

Digital Marketing Show announces new expert speakers

By Francesca James

Back in 1979 Buggles and Trevor Horn were lamenting that “Video Killed the Radio Star”. This could probably now be paraphrased, “Digital Killed the Video Star” referring to the demise of Blockbuster and HMV.

Whether this is strictly true or not there is little doubt that major organisations are focusing on digital like never before. Continue reading

That’s The Way The Cookie Crumbles

Saturday 26 May marked the deadline for compliance with the EU Cookie Law, one year later than originally planned. The UK Information Commissioner’s Office can now enforce an EU directive which will make it illegal to use cookies on a website without first obtaining the visitor’s “informed consent”.

Whilst the law is designed to protect internet users’ privacy, its implementation has severe implications for UK companies.  But, with around 95% of UK sites, including the majority of government sites, failing to meet the deadline, and the cost of compliance for UK SMEs estimated at £10 billion, the cookie is starting to crumble.

Cookies are small text files placed on a computer when users visit a site – they are used by the majority of websites for a variety of reasons, from keeping users logged in to tracking browsing habits. Whereas previously websites had to allow users to opt-out of cookies, the change in legislation means that users must now opt in before cookies are placed on their computers and mobile phones.

The law now requires a user’s “informed consent” before websites can deposit cookies on their device – however “informed consent” can mean different things in different circumstances, and presumes a certain level of understanding on the part of the user. With this ‘open to interpretation’ nature of the regulations, simply getting up to speed and understanding what the law now requires will be the first of many hurdles for UK SMEs.

Existing cookies will have to be audited and website privacy policies will need to be updated to present clear information about the cookies. Businesses will also need to ensure their website now includes a mechanism for obtaining consent, and may have to make additional technical changes in order to test for consent. This undertaking is not insignificant and could negatively impact small businesses that don’t have the resources to comply.

User experience will be compromised by an array of different consent solutions, which could ultimately impact on user retention and uptake. Data for commerce driven websites, such as metrics and return visitor statistics, will be lost.

Some third party apps will also be affected. Google Analytics, estimated to run on over 50% of websites, is an entirely cookie-based solution so is not compliant with the legislation without website users’ consent. Websites dependent on sales from advertising will also be badly hit.

The legislation will give those outwith the EU a usability, advertising and reporting advantage over UK domestic websites. Additionally, the cost of compliance is estimated at £10 billion and it is a burden that only EU companies will have to bear. At a time when the UK economy needs every assistance, it seems absurd to be enforcing a law that will put British firms at a clear competitive disadvantage.

Notwithstanding the law being deferred for a year, it was estimated that 95% of UK websites would fail to meet the deadline. Considering this included most of the government’s own websites, the punishment for non-compliance, fines of around £500K, seems unlikely until the government gets its own house in order.

The law needs to be revisited to specifically target the problem it’s trying to solve, instead of this broad-brush approach which disadvantages UK companies that are simply using cookies for site analytics and to improve user experience.

By Michael Newman, my1login CEO

Is There A Place For Small Business On The Mobile Web?

With internet marketers hailing each of the last 10 years or so as ‘The Year of the Mobile’, it seems as though the reality is now upon us.

With each month that passes, new and more mind boggling figures are released –

  • A third of us are now using smartphones to access the web
  • Access to the web via a mobile device is set to dominate desktop and laptop by 2014
  • Mobile search queries on Google have grown 3000% in the last 3 years.
  • There are now more than 500,000 mobile applications

The majority of big businesses, including the web’s Godfathers, Google, Amazon and eBay, have reacted with developments of mobile optimised websites and smart phone apps to service their existing customers and attract fresh consumers using the new platform. These tailor made solutions for mobile users aim to – and in most cases succeed in – making the experience of searching and shopping from a handset as easy as from their desktops.

But is this new frontier strictly the domain of the web’s power houses, or are there equally enthralling opportunities for the nation’s bread and butter – small business?

If you look at the analytics for just about any website these days, you will likely see a rising number of people trying to access from a mobile. The truth is that mobile search may just have a bigger impact for smaller, more localised businesses, than for their large national or international cousins.

The vast majority of searches made on Google mobile are local in nature, as consumers look for information relevant to their current location when they’re out an about.  Any local business who takes advantage of this new on-the-move consumer by making sure they’re visible on this platform will likely see a boost to their business.

What makes a successful mobile website?

A mobile optimised website answers the needs of those users who are on the move and therefore have little time and more immediate needs.

  1. The site needs to render correctly for whatever size of screen the user is viewing on. Also, navigation on mobile handsets is far easier up and down than left to right, so a single column site is essential.
  2. The most important information must be the easiest to find. Often when people are out and about, they are looking up your site to find out where you are or to contact you directly. Therefore make sure there are direct & clear links to a map, directions, and a ‘click to call’ button to make all of this as easy as possible. Where possible, make use of the handset GPS to ensure directions are tailored to the individual.
  3. Decide which are the five or six most important pages on your website, and include large, clear buttons allowing users to navigate directly to those pages.
  4. Keep text brief, and in short paragraphs – don’t go beyond 100 words on any page.
  5. Images should obviously be light, and relatively small, so as to not slow the load of any page.
  6. Rather than including a search function, pre-select common searches and replace them with a button allowing users to just click to find that information.
  7. A mobile site’s look and feel should not stray too far from the main site. Your company logo should be on the top of the site and similar colours, fonts and branding used to identify that they’re on the right site, just a mobile version.
  8. Give your users the option to switch to the normal version of your site. Some smartphones can properly handle normal websites, so users should be given a choice.

By Abby Hardoon MD & Founder Daily.co.uk

Can A Blog Really Build Your Business?

CEOs and small business owners are blogging more now than ever before.  But is this really the way to seek out and engage with that core of loyal customers who will spend their hard earned money with you no matter what your baying competitors lay before them? Or is it just another way to fruitlessly flitter away your precious time?

Rough estimates currently put the number of worldwide blogs at around the 100 million mark.  We live in an age where everyone can instantly have a potentially global voice.  Undoubtedly, of those 100 million blogs, a vast majority might well be regaling readers with the side splitting antics of their domestic house cat and have no relevance (or no interest) to your customers but, rest assured, whatever expertise you and your business possess, there are going to be people already writing about it.

And with vast competition vying for the short attention span of any reader, those considering starting a business blog should carefully decide whether it will help or hinder their business.

Writing and maintaining a top notch blog is a unique and powerful tool to engage with customers on a personal level.  But it’s not easy. So what are the dos and don’ts of business blogging, the tricks to utilise and the traps to avoid?

For all the answers, just read my personal blog at …

Not really.

How to engage your audience and attract followers

Do Not Sell

When you cease being a business person and don that comfortable jumper of a regular citizen (also known as a consumer) you will no doubt be aware that we are all marketed to incessantly. From pop ups to banners, to flyers, to those mid-evening long distance phone calls, we are constantly having the latest and greatest must-haves thrust before us. The last thing we look for, therefore, in our quality ‘consumer decision making, product/service evaluation time’ is for more of the same.

Make sure your blog a resource for readers interested in your business or the wider industry and not a sales pitch.

Become an industry expert

Use your blog to educate and inform. Be the voice of reason, of calm and authority in your chosen field. If you sell cars, give people the insider knowledge of what they should look out for before buying a new car. If you sell insurance, simplify for your readers the complicated Ts & Cs – help them to understand what’s important and what they can ignore.

Always look to gain their trust and their respect.

Commit to your Blog & follow through

Blogs are a slow burn. They take time to build and inevitably there will be a period at the beginning where you will require persistence in your task, even when you feel you are (and you may well be) writing for just the merest smattering of readers.

With the unfathomable power of sharing links to attractive content through social networks, an articulate and morally sound voice of authority and reason within any industry will find its readers. So commit to it, make sure your blog’s content is of value or is, at the very least, enjoyable to read for your target audience. Spread the word of its existence through your website, your own social media pages and your existing company contacts. And then trust the process.

More followers mean more business?

Whilst business owners might enjoy having a blog that’s popular, it’s of little use if it doesn’t grow the business itself.

A general increase in awareness of your business through a popular blog is a wonderful thing. The hidden gem though is that potential customers are able to get to know your organisation and its leaders personally, as though you were sat with them on a comfortable sofa enjoying a glass of single malt.

Whether intentionally written about or not, a blog will, nine times out of ten, provide real insight into your company’s ethics and character and, when it comes to consumer decision making, the importance of these factors should certainly not be underestimated.  What you are meticulously cultivating is that illusive animal – consumer trust.

We all buy from companies we trust. Maybe we trust that they will give us the very best value or at least won’t steal our money, maybe we trust that they know more about what looks good to wear than we do, but we buy from them, and return to them, because we have, for one reason or another, formed a positive association with what they stand for.

So if the time is right for you, clear your diary, build your blog, clear your throat and … begin.

By Ken Builder, MD WebEden.co.uk

Technology Headlines: Yahoo, Apple and Eduardo Saverin

The news that Yahoo chief executive, Scott Thompson, had stepped down this weekend was not the only major technology news. Here is a look at a selection of the other leading technology headlines.

Apple have announced that they will stop using the phrase ’4G’ in their iPad adverts, as it is deemed misleading given that 4G is not widely available in the UK and the iPad will not work with it when it is.

Facebook’s Brazilian born co-founder, Eduardo Saverin, has renounced his US citizenship ahead of the company going public on Friday. His decision means he will avoid paying around $600m (£373m) in tax when he picks up his share of the site’s stock offering.

Sticking with the social media giants now as Facebook have announced plans that will allow users to may a small fee in order to further promote their posts. At present trials are being carried on with users in New Zealand.

How To Harness The Power Of Cloud

Jonathan Edwards, managing director of Integral IT, which recently launched YorkshireCloud.co.uk, a cloud computing service tailored for small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs), gives his tips on how to harness the power of the cloud.

1. Cloud computing is 100 per cent reliant on an internet connection, so you should always have a plan of what to do when your main connection fails. A cost effective method is to buy a 3G capable router and pay around £10 per month for a broadband dongle. For larger organisations, always have more than one internet connection.

2. Make sure you’re certain that all your company applications and software work in the new cloud environment. Moving most of your IT into the cloud and then spending £8,000 on a new onsite server, because one of your applications doesn’t work, is a waste of time, money and effort.

3. Most people don’t know that cloud computing can be delivered using several different pieces of technology. These products have different pros and cons but more importantly, different pricing. Don’t pay over the odds for wonderful technology that you won’t use.

4. More often than not, you will be charged per gigabyte of data that you host in the cloud. It is always best to cleanse your data before you migrate. You will probably find data that isn’t needed anymore or can be archived onto different media. Is your company server really the right place for your wedding video?

5. Cloud computing becomes a utility similar to your electricity and you pay for what you use. If you have ten users, you pay for ten users. Make sure you understand exactly what your tariff consists of. How much are you paying per gigabyte of data? You don’t want any nasty surprises at the month end.

6. If your current IT company lets you down, then you can hire another one. It’s not as easy in the cloud. Your provider holds all your data. Make sure you ask them how long it takes for them to respond to any problems and ask if they have an uptime guarantee. It should be 99 per cent.

7. Six months after buying a new server for the office and replacing all your PCs isn’t the right time to make a move into the cloud. Consider cloud when your hardware and software are ageing and a refresh is needed.

8. Google and Microsoft are big cloud providers; but where is your data being kept? Somewhere in Europe or somewhere in the world is the best answer you’ll get. Chose a cloud provider who can tell you exactly where your valuable company data is kept and even take you to the data centre if needed.

9. Cloud computing is a service. Don’t be forced into long contracts. There is absolutely no reason why you should be signing a three or five-year contract with your provider. You should be able to leave freely with a month’s notice.

10. Many cloud providers don’t provide IT support. There will be still times when you need help with IT issues like printers or the internet connection in your office. Make sure you try and chose a provider who includes this in your monthly fees.

Jonathan Edwards, managing director of Integral IT