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We have written before about the rapid growth of the internet and the fact it is predicted to become much more popular over the coming years. This has become that much clearer now that technology giant Cisco has released the results of a study into current and future internet use. They predict that by 2015, the number of internet-capable devices will outnumber humans 2:1.
To put that into perspective, it essentially means that within four years, there will be roughly 15 billion internet ready machines on planet Earth. Despite so many devices, it is predicted that around three billion people will be connected to the internet – around 40% of the world’s population, meaning that people who have internet access will be more likely than ever before to own more than one internet-capable device.
This raises both plus points and negatives. To start with the good things, it is obviously fairly positive for anyone who relies on the internet for their livelihood. Web designers, copywriters, online businesses and more look set to be kept in decent business over the years to come as more people start to use the World Wide Web and the number of websites proliferates. It’s most likely good news for the majority of web users too, as with more people coming online, you’d hope that there’d be a corresponding improvement in internet-capable machines.
There are some potential problems that come out of these developments as well, though. Cisco says that online traffic is set to quadruple, which is only going to exacerbate current issues with the web. One of these issues relates to IP addresses. You are probably aware that your laptop, tablet PC or other internet device has one of these IP addresses (or, more specifically, and IPv4 address). This is what identifies them so they can send and receive data online.
When the IPv4 system was created back in the 1970s, there were around 4.3 billion addresses created. Of course, back then, that was plenty, but no one predicted just how many web devices would be around in the future. IP addresses are allocated by the Internet Assigned Names Authority and, in February 2011, they gave out the last batch of the current addresses. It’s thought they could all be distributed as early as August.
Luckily, there is an updated version of the IP address, known as IPv6, but just as it has been a struggle to get web users away from out-dated technology such as the IE6 web browser, it has also been hard to get companies to adopt the new IPv6 system. The new system offers trillions of addresses, but the rush to adopt it hasn’t been quite as efficient as the IANA might have hoped. The good news is that there is a world testing day for IPv6 on 8th June so progress should be made fairly soon, but unless swift action is taken, web users might find themselves in possession of web-ready devices that can’t actually connect to the web.
Another interesting fact raised by the Cisco report is that by 2015, the average US resident will own seven web connected devices. Also, by 2015, tablet computers are expected to account for around 6% of all web traffic, which means that they will be responsible for more traffic than was handled by all web-connected devices in 2006. Every second in 2015, 1 million minutes worth of online videos will also be streamed online – this is predicted to be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, growth areas for the internet. Wi-Fi is also expected to be more prominent than fixed broadband within the next 5 years and by 2015, web traffic will measure at 966 exabytes.
These are figures that even a few years ago would have seemed staggering. Like when money starts to roll into the trillions, it begins to get harder to imagine exactly what it looks like, but it seems safe to say it’s fairly easy to imagine the enormity of this growth. The infrastructure of the web needs to be updated – and fast, to avoid users being unable to get online with their devices.
Well. They say that it often takes an impending crisis for decisive action to be taken, so we hope that the distribution of the last IPv4 addresses in the coming months provides the wake-up call that it is increasingly clear is needed.
You may have thought that wallets have always been ‘mobile’, but the concept of the mobile wallet has just reached the digital age. On 20th May 2011, the QuickTap system was launched. It’s the brainchild of Orange and Barclaycard, and the idea is that customers can pay for purchases under £15 using their mobile phone. Of course, in order to use the system, you have to have a special phone (a Samsung Tocco Lite) and be a customer of both Orange and Barclaycard. As long as you meet the criteria, however, you can make what are known as ‘contactless’ payments, which are supposed to make paying for your shopping much more efficient.
Whatever your thoughts on this development, it does raise an important issue – namely that of the growing trend for mobile internet devices. As of the end of 2010, there were an estimated 5 billion mobile phone contracts in the world (although we presume at least some of these were for phones sitting defunct in drawers and down the back of the sofa). Smartphones are now said to be outselling desktop computers and, increasingly, people are using those smartphones to access online services. Despite all this, there are still relatively few businesses that have developed specific websites for mobile devices. The tendency is still to think in terms of what we could call the ‘mainstream internet’ and not pay quite enough attention to the potentially huge mobile internet market.
Mobile marketing is something that businesses increasingly need to take note of. It’s said that in 2009 alone, mobile advertising revenues grew by 85%. With the introduction of the iPhone and increasingly sophisticated Android devices, it’s highly likely that the boom has grown even further since. So, if you run a business that is looking to develop its online strategy and make the most of popular technologies, what are some of the things you should be thinking about in terms of mobile phones?
Mobile websites. Somewhat obviously, mobile websites are one of the biggest issues to consider. As more people use their internet-capable smartphones to access the internet on a daily basis, it’s more important than ever before that they can access your site from their phone. After all, if they are looking to use their phone to buy some clothes online and have the choice between using a site that’s been especially designed for mobile phones and one that hasn’t, they’re more than likely to go for the tailored site. Regular websites tend not to display properly on mobile phones due to the smaller screen size, making them hard – if not impossible – to use. You can still keep the basic design of your site for the mobile version, but it would definitely be useful to talk to a specialist web designer to work out how it can be adapted.
Smartphone apps. You will no doubt be aware of the vast array of apps you can now get for smartphones. Arguably, Apple has cornered the market in this respect, but Android and BlackBerry also make use of mobile apps. Increasingly, businesses are designing their own apps that their customers can download and use on the go. Some of these apps are for entertainment only, while others offer services that customers might find valuable. For example, Tesco has a shopping app that allows you to do your weekly shop from your phone. You can get satnav apps to help you find your way to places and others that allow you to access services from certain businesses. There are issues to consider in terms of pricing (that is to say, whether you intend to charge for your app or not), but it is an increasingly popular option and a potentially good marketing move for businesses.
Social media. One of the biggest uses of mobile internet relates to social media. Lots of people access their Facebook and Twitter accounts from their phones, so this could be a good chance for businesses to develop their marketing and engage with their customers. Any business that doesn’t have social networking accounts is missing out, so this is definitely an issue worth considering more generally as well as in relation to mobile marketing.
Location capabilities. We wrote a couple of weeks ago about how businesses can utilise local search during the London Olympics next year. This is an important aspect of mobile internet as it offers opportunities for companies to not only strengthen their current business but also seek new business. Local search often links to social media, as it allows people to ‘check in’ to places using the social networking accounts on their phones. When they check in, they can then often receive rewards such as money off vouchers and, in return, you benefit from their business.
Overall, mobile internet services are set to become more important over the coming months and years. For now, businesses aren’t penalised too much for not making use of the capabilities, but as more and more companies do catch on and start using mobile marketing, it will become more important that others follow or else risk being left behind. With so many options and potential for good results, it certainly makes sense to make the most of this growing trend.
For a free quotation on Mobile Application Development, contact us today.
A while ago, we wrote a couple of posts on what is known as the Google Panda (or Farmer) update. For the uninitiated, this was an algorithm update released by Google that was designed to improve the search engine rankings of good quality sites by weeding out sites considered to be low quality so they couldn’t reach the top of the rankings just by being good at SEO. Naturally, websites that are filled with good content don’t have anything to worry about from this update or any of the others that Google has released since. Low quality sites, though, have been affected.
This is great news for web users as it means they are more likely to find what they are searching for on the internet and they can trust search results more, but what about those websites that try really hard to get it right but still fall foul of closely guarded search algorithms? Just as some chefs refuse to give out details about their best-loved recipes, search engine giants such as Google look after their algorithms just as closely. This obviously makes good business sense for them, but if you are the owner of a website that has been affected by the Panda update despite your best efforts, it would be helpful to know where you’re going wrong.
So, when it comes to building high quality websites that will help you to do well in search engine rankings, what do you need to consider?
According to Google and almost any other internet authority, a lot of it is to do with trust. People need to be able to trust your website and the content on it. This doesn’t just mean keeping it free of bugs and viruses, but also developing your site to be a good authority on the topic about which you are writing. For example, what qualifies you to write about a particular subject? Does that come across in the content you write? Those sites that feature ‘shallow’ content tend to be the ones most affected by Google Panda and other algorithm updates, so even if you are expert at SEO and keyword placement, you need to make sure what you write actually says something, too. You can read more about site content in our previous article 'Unique Content: Why Site Text is THE Most Important of SEO Tips'.
In a recent blog post on their updates, Google asks a question that encapsulates the essence of this well: ‘Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?’ This is not just important for e-commerce sites but for all sites as it relates to a wider issue about trust and image perception. When people use a company’s website, they are buying into the business as a whole and so it’s important that the online face of the company comes across well. As well as making sure all your articles are factually correct, have good grammar and are relevant to what you do, they also need to be relevant to your brand.
All companies have a brand image – some spend more time on it than others, but they all have one and so you need to keep this in mind when looking to develop a high quality website. Do your web design and the style of your web content reflect your wider image? If someone reads your website, would they easily be able to associate it with the way they know your company offline? These might seem like philosophical questions with no straightforward answer, but they are definitely worth considering when it comes to creating your website.
Keeping all of these things in mind, here a few tips that might help you in building high quality websites and improving your search engine rankings:
Think about the big picture. This is also advice that Google offers in the blog post mentioned above and it makes sense. A lot of attention has been given to the Google Panda update – with good reason – but it is not the only algorithm update and nor is Google the only search engine. Think holistically about your website to see if it is meeting its aims and whether it provides a good experience for web users.
Don’t forget the details. The overall impression given by your website is really important, but the individual pages matter, too. The content on all of your web pages needs to be relevant and of a high standard. If it isn’t, then this can have a negative impact on your search rankings even if most of your site is really good. One bad page can also change how web users see your site, so it’s worth spending some time going through the website to make sure everything is of a high standard. Ask yourself questions: if you were looking for information on a specific topic, would your webpage give you the answers you were looking for? If not, it might be time to think again.
Write for your web users. We’ve said this in previous articles, but it’s worth saying again: you need to write your website for the people who will be using it, not the search engine algorithms. Write for your audience and you’ll most likely do well in Google rankings anyway because your focus will be in the right place.
Learn from your competition. Look at other websites to see what works and what doesn’t. What would inspire you to share a webpage with a friend? Are there any sites you find really inspiring? Are there any you think are dreadful? Why? How can you make your site better? In websites as in face-to-face business: the need for innovative, high quality work matters on the internet just as much as it does elsewhere.
The internet is often seen as something of a dichotomy. On one level, it is a vast global tool that transcends governments and borders. On another level, it is extremely local and is sometimes said to have helped bring the world closer together. It is this local facet to the internet that we will be exploring this week. More specifically, we will be looking at the growth of local search tools and how businesses can benefit from them, particularly in relation events such as the London Olympics 2012.
What is local search?
At its most basic level, local search allows web users to place geographic restrictions on their search terms. For example, if you were searching for a restaurant, you wouldn’t just type the term ‘restaurant’ into Google because you’d end up with results that weren’t useful to you. Instead, you’d specify where you would like your restaurant to be, such as ‘London restaurants’ or, in the case of our Olympics example, ‘London restaurants close to the Olympic stadium’. The effect is to constrain the search so web users receive more accurately tailored results that are more likely to be relevant to them.
As well as aiding search terms, local search has also recently expanded into social networking. For example, Facebook has recently adopted a feature called ‘Places’ that allows you to ‘check in’ to locations and name people you are with. There are also services such as FourSquare, which also allows you to ‘check in’ and give recommendations of places for people to visit.
Similarly, Google also offers a Places service, with optional mobile search results tailored to the exact location of the mobile phone conducting the search. This type of service, tied in with apps for iPhone and Android such as AroundMe create a new level of experience for the Internet user to locate information close to the spot where they are actually standing. So, if they are standing right outside a main Olympic venue, being able to find restaurants or bars close by, particularly ones that are reviewed and recommended, provides an invaluable modern-day tourist guide feel to the best places to eat and drink.
Increasingly, businesses are starting to pick up on the potential for local search features such as those offered by Facebook, Google and AroundMe and they are now promoting special offers and discounts for people who ‘check in’ to their locations. Further Smartphone apps are being developed to allow people to use these features on the move and to identify local offers by doing a quick search on their phone. They then benefit from money off and other promotions at their favourite retailers, while the businesses benefit from having people checking in to their locations and making use of their services.
These kinds of tools makes it invaluable and impossible for businesses to ignore, although to build up an optimised local business marketing campaign takes time and a lot of expertise. So to be ready for the games next summer, you should really be considering making a start now.
How can this help businesses during the Olympics?
It has been almost impossible to miss the fact that the Olympics are coming to the UK in 2012, even for us as web designers, London. The prime beneficiary of this will be London as this is where the Games are based, but with athlete training facilities across the country and some of the events taking place in other locations, there is potential for businesses right across the country to benefit. More people will be coming to the country during the Olympics, which is in itself good for business, but it’s also possible for companies to significantly enhance those benefits by making use of local search.
Probably the main way of doing this is to set up your business with local search services like Facebook, FourSquare and Google so that web users who make use of those facilities will be able to easily find you. With so many tourists in the country for the Olympics, they will all be looking for specific services and you will have more chance of being located if you are featured on one of these increasingly popular apps.
You can then add specials and offers to your features to entice people to use your services. After all, if someone has the option at eating at a restaurant that’s offering a 20% discount for new customers and one that’s offering no discount, they’re most likely to go for the one with the discount. You will still benefit as it is business you wouldn’t have otherwise received and, if you deliver on your promise of a quality service, that customer is likely to bring you repeat business.
It might be tempting to focus solely on new customers during the Olympics, but it’s important to remember your regular customers, too. It’s highly likely that they’ll still be trying to use your business even while the city is bustling with tourists, so you can help win their loyalty and compensate them for any inconvenience by offering discounts to your regular customers, as well.
You should also consider customer satisfaction seriously. Most location-based services also now carry an element of user reviews. And a significant amount of research has been done to clearly indicate that Internet users will now trust third party reviews almost as much as a review from friends and family. That’s powerful – it really means that if you pick up bad reviews, no amount of local search optimisation or offers are going to entice people through your doors. You have to treat them well while they’re there to be absolutely sure you get the reviews you deserve, and so future clients too.
Is this sustainable?
While we have been focusing on the London Olympics, local search also has long term benefits. More and more people are using ‘check in’ facilities on their mobile phones and, while people might once have searched for businesses in the Yellow Pages, they are now increasingly using local search capabilities. They can offer you a good way of getting ‘word of mouth’ recommendations and promoting your company to people who may not otherwise have been able to find it.
In brief, local search can help you to promote your business and also to attract new customers. As well as being good for new business, however, it can also help you to maintain your regular customers through offering them exclusive discounts and promotions in return for their continued loyalty. Local search may still be a relatively new market, but it’s certainly a growing one, and certainly something that’s here to stay. Google’s priority particularly for 2011 is local, so if you haven’t already considered it – now is the time to do so.
If you would like expert advice and a free no obligation discussion about promoting your business through local channels, please contact us today.
Published on April 8, 2011
Tags: Web Design London
An ecommerce website is a really good way of managing a business’s online operations and, if it’s done properly, it can boost trade, make your business more efficient, and bring more customers your way. For the uninitiated, an ecommerce site is one that allows things to be bought – displaying products and accepting payments (Amazon is probably the most famous example of this). Read on for 10 of our top tips on building a good ecommerce site.
1. Sort out your web hosting
As with any website, when you’re building an ecommerce site, you need to have web hosting. If you are employing a web designer to build your site for you, this is more than likely something they will be able to sort out on your behalf. It ensures that your site will actually be there to view when people search for it and stores all of your content. Make sure your hosting is in the country where you intend to do the most business, and try to use a domain name that has the country’s extension too (for example, .co.uk for a UK-focussed site). You should also make sure the hosting is fast and reliable (at least 99.98% uptime on a regular basis), and you can check this using sites such as Web Page Test and Web Hosting Stuff.
2. Get a good web design
If you are trying to sell something through an ecommerce site, then your site needs to appear worthy and trusted enough for people to part with their money. This means spending time getting the perfect site design, one that reflects quality, trustworthiness and your brand. Again, this is something a good web designer will be ideal for helping you with, as they know what works and what doesn’t and will be able to capture your vision in a quality design. Whatever you do, unless you’re already a really good designer don’t try this at home! Internet consumers are highly experienced now and can spot the difference between a company that’s invested in their web site with a professional design and build, and one that hasn’t. And good design conveys a far higher level of trust in a company than one that has poor design.
3. Make sure the site is easy to navigate
You also need to make sure it’s easy to get around your site; if you’re trying to encourage people to buy things from you, then they need to be able to do it with a few clicks of the mouse. If you’re building a large site, then you could incorporate a search engine to make it easier for web users to navigate, but no matter what sort of site you’re building, all the pertinent information needs to be accessible within a couple of clicks from the home page with the ability to move around the site without having to use the Back button on the browser.
4. Focus on your target market
Your target market is where a lot of your business is going to be coming from, so making sure your ecommerce site caters to them is vital. It’s a good idea to talk to your web site developer about the type of people you’re hoping to target with your site, so their needs and preferences can be built into the website design. Whatever you do, don’t try and build a ‘one size fits all’ site; first focus in on a specific market and build the design and navigation to that market’s requirements then if that’s successful, look to expand your brand and offering.
5. Find the right shopping cart software
Obviously, with an ecommerce site, the ‘commerce’ part is extremely important. You need to integrate shopping cart software into the site early on. This works to process orders, issue invoices, and calculate VAT. There are several off the shelf packages to choose from although they do cater for all needs so can sometimes be unwieldy and difficult to manage. Some are also not suitable for gaining good search engine positions. Additionally, if you’ve got specific requirements for your product display or checkout process, you may find that they are lacking or too inflexible to cater for your needs. That’s where a custom ecommerce site comes in to fill the gap where off-the-shelf online stores cannot work as you need them to.
6. Know how your payments work
Linked to your shopping cart software is the matter of payments. The focus and size of your website will probably play a part in how you handle payments received through your site, but you need to have an understanding of how it all works no matter what type of site you’re building. There are two basic concepts; an online payment provider that integrates direct with the site such as PayPal or Google Checkout or a bank and payment gateway arrangement where the bank provide you with a merchant number, this is integrated with payment gateway system, that in turn integrates with the web site. The most common UK system right now for this approach is SagePay (linked to any bank’s merchant number), followed by Barclays ePDQ (naturally, linked to a Barclays merchant number). Each of the two approaches comes with different costs which will be dependant on your business model, so it is worthwhile investigating both routes to decide which is most appropriate for you.
7. Write appropriate, catchy content
As with any website, it’s important that your ecommerce site is populated with appropriate, catchy content, as it is this that will help to sell your products and bring in businesses. Remember that you are writing for the web so you should also consider search engine optimisation when writing content in order to maximise your chances of ranking highly in search engine results. Bear in mind that Google doesn’t like lack of content or repetition, so if you simply use short product descriptions or copy description from other sites, such as the manufacturers’ sites, you are unlikely to do well on Google. Unique content of at least a couple of hundred words per product is the ideal.
8. Know how to market online
Linked to the point above is knowing how to market your ecommerce site online. SEO (search engine optimisation) plays a big part in this, so think carefully about the keywords you want to promote in each article or blog post, and on each product and information page. You also need to think about how you intend to attract business to your site, particularly from beyond your target group. You could, for instance, think about affiliate programmes, linking with blogs and developing your social media presence to disseminate your message, or possibly looking at paid advertising such as Google AdWords pay-per-click marketing. All of this is part of building a strong, identifiable, trustworthy brand that consumers instantly associate with you and your business.
9. Expand your networks
In order for your ecommerce site to be a success, you need to know how it fits into the wider market. Before you begin building the site, research your competition and investigate how they do things. Think about what works well and what you’d like to change, as well as where your site could fit into existing services. It can also be a good idea to network with other sites, as suggested above, in order to boost your publicity and, hopefully, your traffic.
10. Grow your business
Finally, when you’re building your ecommerce site, it’s not quite enough to think about where your business is at present; you also need to think about where you want to go in the future. Your ecommerce site is something that you should build into your wider business plan so that it can be expanded upon and developed as time goes by. Having a vision for your site is important, as this can make all the difference between a growing, dynamic website and one that just stays still.
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