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Mac OS Leopard – simple fix for dock folder icons 4 November, 2007

Posted by Adam in Blogroll.
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Like most people there are many things about Leopard I love – and a few annoying things I hate! One of them is that when you drag a folder to the dock and it automatically creates a stack (or grid) the Dock icon takes on the icon of the first item within the folder. In the case of my Applications folder which I keep there – for me that’s 1Password – which I already have locked in to my Dock – hence two of them now live there!!  It suddenly dawned on me this morning a simple way to solve this however – just create a new folder and give it a name such as 01folder – voila your Dock folder now looks like… a folder! What’s more in the case of Appliacations, or any folder that contains unique icons you see them hiding just behind helping to indicate that it’s a stack! Simple – but very effective. 


The art to writing Google friendly copy that won’t turn website visitors away 13 October, 2007

Posted by Adam in Blogroll, Business, General, Web marketing.
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A client recently asked us at Rokk Media how much weight should be given in writing copy to search engine spiders, as opposed to site visitors.

Taking Google as an example, one of the ways that your site will achieve a reasonable Google position is how relevant Google believes your site is when people are searching for certain key terms (don’t get hung up on individual words per se – nobody searches on one word – e.g. Fish – they are more likely to search for a particular type of fish, or a more descriptive term such as “store that sells tropical fish”). A good example of where this is important is with a site we launched recently promoting a local angling club.

This site has Google adverts embedded in the page – and Google decides which adverts to serve up dependent on the content it finds in the site. One of the things I love about implementing Google Adwords in a page is how instantly you get feedback on how relevant Google thinks the content it! Where there is very little text, or where what is there has few specific terms – Google serves up completely unrelated adverts! It’s doing it’s best to match relevant adverts, but without really strong textual clues it doesn’t stand a chance.

So, as an example – “We pride ourselves as an organisation on the quality of fishing that we can offer our members” – is a meaningful and heartfelt opening sentence to you and me – but as far as Google is concerned only one word – fishing has any relevance. What does that mean to Google? It’s a partial clue – but it could simply mean a place that sells fish. Instead it could have been written “As an association of keen anglers and fishermen, we pride ourselves on the quality of fishing available in the rivers and lakes around Anytown”. As you can see the difference is subtle to the reader, but to Google we now have Anglers, Fishermen, Fishing, Rivers, Lakes and a place – Anytown – seven words that can be used to match up fare more relevant adverts (or visitors searching for those terms).

Some sites really go overboard and have reams and reams of keyword stuffed text. Google bait although you also risk being penalised for keyword stuffing. But to casual visitors to the site it can also be off-putting waffle and can just as easily turn them away. Bearing in mind that the object for many sites is to convert visitors into customers that’s the last thing that we want.

So – bear in mind when writing copy that the art is in saying enough without writing too much. Write a list of the kinds of words and phrases you believe your customers may use to find your products in Google –
and make sure these are reflected in the relevant pages of your site. If your site has been up and running for a while, make sure you review what search terms people are actually using to find you by using Google Analytics or a web traffic statistics application, and then better tailor your copy accordingly.

Remember that your customer is king – but Google is the coachman that brings them to you. Without suitable directions your site may as well be at the wrong end of a one-way street!

How to increase website sales conversions 8 October, 2007

Posted by Adam in Blogroll, Business, General, Web marketing.
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We at Rokk Media (www.rokkmedia.co.uk) are being asked more and more these days to check out an existing website with a view to increasing it’s effectiveness.

A recent email for example asked what do about plummeting sales from the enquirers website – despite being right in the middle of their traditional high season!

This was my reply:

There are two major obstacles to success for all websites as I’m sure you’ll appreciate – first get visitors to it, second push the right buttons for conversion once they are there (sales, enquiry, page visit etc).

You have been investing in PPC, which is one way to achieve the first objective (although by no means the only way) – but it’s difficult to know how effective that money was spent without knowing the terms, geo-targetting etc.

With regards the second issue I would say from an initial view of your site that although the e-commerce aspect works well – with some ‘scriptaculous’ to make it feel interesting, it is quite a bland and uninspiring design – particularly given the dynamic nature of the sport itself [note – website sold items relating to a specific sport]! The home page for example contains a good amount of text to help with SEO page referencing – but from a potential shoppers perspective there are no ‘enticements’ to lure me further in such as special offers, client testimonials, etc. For example – all prices include p&p is a great incentive – yet visually it almost disappears in the page in amongst the sea of text. I would want to give that home page a major make over with eye catching imagery and calls for action. as a minimum.

Above and beyond that are questions such as customer loyalty – do you keep in touch with them post sale with incentive deals etc? A professional email marketing solution such as our own at www.KKORespond.com can help in that direction.

Unfortunately all of the above will cost money.

There are a few things that you can do yourself today, at no further cost other than your own time however that could help at least with driving traffic through to your site – create a blog (free – http://www.blogger.com, http://www.wordpress.com etc) and add regular posts in and around the sport with clear and regular links back to your site. Aim for it to become a fountain of wisdom or commentary. This will be used to back-link your site and could dramatically increase traffic throughput with little effort. Approach suppliers, local clubs, colleagues etc to add a link to your site from theirs. Again building back-links. Post comments in other peoples blogs or forums answering questions in and around bowling topics – and add your website link as your signature (don’t use this to blatantly advertise your site as you will get blackballed!).

Hopefully these tips may prove useful for your website as well.

Side by side in harmony 3 April, 2007

Posted by Adam in Blogroll.
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For a while now I’ve harboured a secret desire, a wish to see two great protagonists live harmoniously side by side, and this week I can proudly announce I have seen the dawn of my dearest wish!

Windows XP running on an Apple Mac OSX – at the same time?!? Yes, it’s true. Thanks to the truly superb Parrallels application – for no more than a few pounds and a copy of Windows XP Home Edition (legit I might add) a Virtual Machine version of the MS Behemoth runs at break-neck speed with no obvious lag or hit on either OS. Of course there is bound to be a penalty somewhere down the line by sharing processor power and RAM, but I can happily report that for everyday activities such as running MS Office, surfing the net, updating accounts software etc there is absolutely no sign of a drop off in speed on either platform.

Of course the faster the Mac the better the experience. My experiment features an iMac 20 with 2gb of Ram and a fairly hefty processor – and I would imagine anything less than that spec is going to start to creak. With the addition of a second monitor attached to the Mac with the WinXP VM expanded to full screen you can blissfully fool yourself into thinking you have two separate machines running – and miracle of miracles – with Parellels you simply move your mouse from one monitor to the other to control that OS – no need for fancy key combinations, or to close one while moving to the other – truly majestic coding!!

 So, here’s the plan. The WinXP VM will be used to run my office apps while the Mac will be used for creative work (which it truly is the platform of choice for). If needs be – for example to work with a PC font that doesn’t exist on the Mac – I will just crack open the PC equivalent of the app in question (for example Fireworks). I have duel licenses for our creative applications so it’s not a problem.

At the moment I leave my PC running on the network and drag work files and documents across the network (blisteringly fast I have to say – gone are the days I remember back in the early nineties of waiting ten minutes to drag a five megabyte file from one machine to the other!). However, I think the next phase in my master plan will be to get a fast external drive and use that to store work files. The advantage of this is that either OS can have access to the files and the whole box can be unplugged and taken off-site for security at the end of a working day.

I wonder if I can run Linux, Mac OSX, and Win Vista all on one machine at the same time – hmmm…?

Bubble 2.0 ? 9 November, 2006

Posted by Adam in Business, Web marketing.
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A recent post on a forum I contribute to posed the question of whether we are seeing another Internet bubble a la the late 1990s.

It’s true that a relatively low barrier to entry has seen a glut of web-based applications emerging and only a small percentage will survive the long-haul (due to a flawed business plan). But personally I don’t think this equates to a bubble in the ’90s sense. There have been some big buy-ups of late – but when people like News Corp (Rupert Murdoch), Microsoft, and Google get involved – you can bet your sweet mitzie that these purchases weren’t taken lightly. Bubble 1.0 was all about hype – there were some good ideas but the infrastructure wasn’t in place for most of them to be realised. Now though, with over 70% of the UK having taken up broadband and a massive shift in how we digest media and interact online, things have permanently changed at the cultural level and this is what the big guys are buying in to – social sites with lots of membership potential.

if anything the real casualty is old media which is gradually imploding on itself as it’s once completely valid business model based on eyeballs and adverts gets diluted amongst an exploding cosmos of new media channels. This is one of the main drivers behind the recent upsurge in website purchases of course – and I can only see that lasting for a while yet as one by one the tottering giants of yesteryear seek to bail out in a buy-up frenzy.

Like all things it will settle down, and in the meantime the smart money is into the longtail – apparently !?!


Psst… 8 November, 2006

Posted by Adam in Web marketing.
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We hope to have some really interesting news regarding search engine optimisation solutions for our clients very soon – watch this space!

Amazon will eat itself 8 November, 2006

Posted by Adam in Business.
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For a company renowned for building a reputation for staying one step ahead of the game, surely Amazon’s shift towards allowing other ‘stores’ to sell and fulfill orders under the Amazon banner is a big mistake for its customers?

It’s done in such a way that it’s difficult to tell at first glance whether you are buying from Amazon or someone you have no relationship with, or knowledge of their trustworthiness. For Amazon this model is great as gradually they can reduce their stock and fulfilment commitments, but I think it sucks for customers. Here’s why. I bought five things from them the other day – not particularly high ticket items, some gel wrist pads, a case for an iPod – that kind of thing. However I later realised that out of the five items only ONE was actually sold to me by Amazon – the rest where inadvertantly bought from these leech ‘stores’ which nestle under the Amazon umbrella. The thing is that every one charged seperately for postage – and in some cases close to the items cost! If I had bought all these items from the one store – which I believed I was doing – I would have been charged postage for the order – not per item – so I’ve actually ended up paying as much for carriage as I have for the items I bought!!

This is surely short-sighted of Amazon and an example of when a good idea for the company may be a bad idea for customers – and therefore, ultimately, for business.

Web 2.0 – a jolly jaunt with cheese 7 November, 2006

Posted by Adam in General.

I was lucky enough to blag a free ticket, ahem, attend a conferencelast night (6/11/06) in Taunton, Somerset concerning the topic of Web 2.0. Not only was my good friend and colleague Bill Wells (of 2.0 Ltd – I kid you not!) organising the video recording of the event (for future vidcast), but ‘podcast-rockstar’ Paul Boag (http://www.boagworld.com/ – reputedly the worlds’ most subscribed-to web design podcast), someone who was hugely influential in Rokk Media moving to Web Standards, was one of the guest speakers.

The event was well attended, and probably one of the most professional I’ve been to in these here parts – so congrats to all involved.

The theme of the evening was the hot-topic de jour – “Web 2.0” buzz or bizz – hype-full or hope-less!

Speakers included Dan Hilton from Rubberductions, Simon Price from Bristol University (who demonstrated some amazing applications for gathering and interpreting web-based data which he insisted was Web 1.5); and two very eloquent Pauls from the BBC – who showed some amazing web-based applications that the Beeb have been working on. Finally Paul Boag who took a swipe at the hype filling a very entertaining 20 minutes or so.

Most speakers, possibly with the exception of Simon, showed how Web 2.0 can be fairly neatly boxed into a huge take-up of broadband fuelling a massive growth in social network/communicate centric sites that use cool technologies like AJAX and Ruby On Rails (among others), and a clean, matter-of-fact design approach aimed at getting straight to the heart of the proposition. Paul Appleby from the BBC was also keen to point out that the web is Darwinian – evolving, gene-like, and could not therefore be realistically likened to a software application in the version x.0 mould – fair point Paul!

After the speakers concluded with a Q & A (a much nicer term than FAQ – what went wrong there in Web-lore?), a sumptious buffet of rustic fare was provided – apples, cheese, scones and strawberries – oh yes.

On my way back from the event, battling to keep from crossing lanes on the motor-way in a 3 foot visibility pea-souper, I mulled the wise words of the five speakers and something else occurred to me. Thinking back to the eleven or so years that I’ve been involved in web design and development I can see a definite growth-curve emerging – but not so much with regards to the technology or appearance of sites (in fact I can probably show you a duplicate example of anything that exists today that emerged in a previous time). The growth I have seen, is in the understanding and appreciation that clients have for the Web – and how it can enhance and rocket-fuel their individual businesses.

Ten years ago – for example – you couldn’t give away a Web Site! In fact the bulk of our ‘hot prospects’ were “The Internet you say? Oh yes, heard of that – could you come over and show me what it looks like?”. Ten years later and the landscape couldn’t be more different. Clients come to us now knowing exactly what they want out of their web presence, fully aware of the power an online presence can have on their success of their business.

From our point of view this is fantastic. No longer do we have to go through the painful process of convincing our clients that the Web is the way to go!

For me that’s the real evolution of the Web.

Rokk on!