“Ahhhhh!” is the sound of countless SEO companies crying out in anguish, according to this article from CNET.
This is a good thing for the internet I feel. How often have you done a Google search and ended up on a circular journey through link farms and affiliate sites, trying to find the actual answer to your query?
Google is sick of this as well. They are now going to start penalising sites that appear to have been purposely over-optimised for searching in an attempt to ‘game’ Google’s search engine algorithm.
According to Matt Cutts from Google, “We are trying to make GoogleBot smarter, make our relevance better, and we are also looking for those who abuse it, like too many keywords on a page, or exchange way too many links or go well beyond what you normally expect,”
Unfortunately for companies that have built themselves around offering this sort of service, this change will require them to re-think their strategies. From our point of view, we will continue to say what we always have – the best way to get recognised by Google is by providing good content!
Posted in General
When using an analytics package, it’s hard to go past the free and full-featured Google Analytics package. While it is easy to set up, I seldom see people making full use of the tools available within the package.
As well as simple tracking of hits and visitors, here are some of the more advanced fatures you should be taking advantage of:
A goal is whatever you want your users to be doing on your site. This may be purchasing a product, signing up for a newsletter, or just spending over 5 minutes browsing your site. If you set up goals on your site you can easily track all these specific abilities and view data about them. For example, you could find out how many people who received your newsletter went on to buy a product, or find out which banner ad lead to people singing up for your newsletter. You can also set up multi-step goals, such as a 4 stage shopping cart. The goal completion tool will then let you see how many people started this action, how many finished, and at which point people dropped out. This may lead you to change aspects of your site when you realise why visitors are not completing their orders.
If you sell product from your site you should implement the e-commerce tracking built into Analytics. Your developer can add some code to your site that reports back to Google every time a product is purchased. This information includes the product name, price and quantity. After this is implemented Google Analytics will show you which sections of your site are generating the most income. An interesting perspective on this data is given by using the Site Overlay feature. Turning this on will show a dollar value above each link and clickable graphic on your site – giving you a quick way to see where your money is coming from.
You are not limited to the set of reports that Google Analytics provides out of the box, you can also create your own detailed reports. You can graph pretty much any 2 figures against each other, you can also add custom variables to your sites to track specific users’ behaviour. For example if you have users who log in from different departments, you can add a custom variable to track which department they came from. You could then build a custom report that segments the activity data based on the user’s department.
These are just a few of the many customisations that Google Analytics allows. Come and chat to us if you think you’d like to explore these on your site!
Posted in Online Strategy
“About as much as a car.”
Is my standard answer to this question. In fact, if this question comes up early in the discussion then it’s a red flag to me and my team that this client is going to need help with understanding exactly what we do here.
A good web development company is far more than a team of developers who will magically create all the great ideas coming out of your head. A good developer will take the time to understand your business from start to finish, they will ask questions like:
- Who is your target audience?
- How do they find you?
- What are your other current online and offline marketing activities?
and most importantly
- What is your measure of success for the project you are trying to engage us for?
Many companies looking to move online have built a website without thinking about the bigger picture. How do you know if you got value for money for your website? Having a clear goal to strive for is a must. A goal needs to be simple, e.g. “100 sales per month within 6 months”, or “2000 signups to our newsletter in the next 3 months”. Once you come up with a target, and agree on it between yourself and your developer, it will be much easier to evaluate your site’s performance. If you haven’t reached your target, then don’t panic – just sit down with your developer and go through the analytics. This gives you a chance to refocus and work out your next goal together, perhaps your initial goal was too ambitious.
Any website needs to be thought of as an integral part of your business, not just an expense that needs money thrown at it. Consider the overall return on investment of the work you are getting done, then you can ask the question “How much will this website make for me?”, which is a much more exciting question to think about!
Posted in General
Putting an application in “The Cloud” is something I’ve been hearing a lot about lately, but what does this mean?
In the good old days (about 5 years ago… a lifetime in internet years), the standard way to host your web site would be on a web server. A web server is just a computer like the computer you are using now – the only difference is that is has more powerful and fault-resistant components such as hard drives, network cards and memory. This server computer would live in a data center somewhere and serve your website to all who should choose to view it. If you were on a ‘shared’ hosting plan, you would also be sharing this computer with several other websites. If this server was to fail in some way, all of the websites that are on it would also fail. There would be no way to reactivate the web sites until that computer was repaired, or the data was transferred to another computer.
This was seen as a problem for a number of reasons.
- The single point of failure mentioned above.
- If your website became very popular, then the machine it was hosting from would have to either be upgraded or replaced. Both of these actions can require costly downtime.
- If you run a business that has seasonal spikes, such as retail stores at Christmas time, then it can be expensive to maintain a server environment that has the capacity to support that traffic even at times when it is not needed.
Along comes The Cloud. The Cloud is a concept that describes hosting your application on a virtual server, rather than a physical server. Behind the scenes of your virtual server are several real servers, but these are hidden from you. All you see is a single machine that you interact with the same way as you used too, but is much more flexible. If a real machine fails, then the virtual machine doesn’t necessarily fail because there are several other physical machines that can instantly take over hosting your site. Rather than paying for a hosting server, you are paying for a certain amount of processing power and disk space. At peak periods, when you are expecting lots of hits, you can pay more to silently increase the capacity of your ‘slice’ of the cloud. After the peak period you can then return your server configuration to support your normal load.
Of course there are downsides to moving to a cloud-based environment. The cost of a basic web hosting service is probably more than what you would get elsewhere, so if you have a smallish site it’s probably not worth the trouble. Also, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security thinking that your data is safe in ‘the Cloud’. Earlier this year a large part of AWS (Amazon Web Services) went down and several high profile sites were unavailable for some time. If you have a highly mission critical site, ensure you have a backup and failover plan in place – the cloud isn’t 100% reliable, it’s just more resistant to failure than other hosting options.
I hope you enjoyed this short overview of the Cloud, if you have any questions, please email me!
Posted in General
“We need an app!”
Is what I hear when many business owners start talking about their online presence. This is the wrong way to think, don’t put the technology in front of your business objectives. Instead, think more like this:
“We need to be available to users when they are on the road”.
That sounds like a better thought out strategy.
There are several ways to reach your users when they are not at their main computer. One of these ways is through an app, another is a mobile-enabled web site. A mobile enabled website is simply your existing website with some extra programming to make it work better when viewed through a mobile device. There are many differences between apps and mobile sites, here are some of them:
Run natively on the device, can be faster than web sites
Lock the user into your experience, good for branding
Full access to the devices hardware, e.g. GPS, camera, accelerometer
Require the user to take the steps to install them from an ‘App Store’ or similar
Can be very expensive
Mobile Web Sites
Much cheaper than apps to develop
No installation required
Limited access to device hardware
Quite often when you sit down and go through your requirements, you’ll find a mobile website is more that adequate for your needs. Other times you will be requiring functionality that can only be provided by an app. Make sure you explore both sides of this decision, don’t be bullied by your developer to go down one or the other path because it is more favourable for them.
Posted in General
Hire My Ride is a website that allows you to search, view, list, enquire and make a booking on ANY type of “ride” (cars, bikes, boats, buses, planes, etc.) for ANY type of event or occasion, Australia wide!
Bitcraft was approached to build a website for Hire My Ride, an online car hire aggregator. We used the PHP-based Kohana framework for the site with a MySQL database backend. There were a few unique issues we had to solve with this site:
- The design necessitated several thumbnail sizes for each car image uploaded. As well as this, the client required all images to be ‘watermarked’ with the company logo to avoid theft of images. The upload process had to be as simple as possible to allow end users to easily add and update their images. To solve this we used the great ‘Uploadify‘ JQuery plug-in. This is a Flash based uploader that allows several simultaneous uploads to happen at once. This all happens through AJAX calls so the process happens without the users needing to reload the page. After upload, a callback routine is triggered that processes the images into the various sizes and adds the watermark, all using the PHPThumb image manipulation scripts.
- The site needed to be highly search engine optimised. This is a very competitive market and so it was vital to get the site as high up in the search results as possible. This was done by having all URLs in the site reflect the keywords relevant fo that page. The URLs represent the categories and sub categories of cars as well as the names of the cars. As well as this the client was given the ability to create specific landing pages that reflect possible search queries, for example : http://www.hiremyride.com.au/wedding-cars.
It’s early days yet but already the enquiries and bookings have started coming in. We look forward to seeing this business grow in the future, we will definitely be coming along for the ride!
Posted in Our Work
Search engine optimisation. everyone talks about it, but what is it exactly?
In broad terms it is the process of tweaking your site to to give it maximum visibility on search engines. There are countless websites and blogs that talk about the many ways to do this, so I’m not going to repeat all that information here. The key things you need to know about this are:
Have relevant, up to date content. When Google sees that your page is always kept fresh with new content then it will give higher priority to your site, than one that doesn’t change very often.
Increase inbound links. An inbound link is when a website links to you. Google uses this network of links on the internet to work out which sites are important. A site with many links coming to it can be considered a good source of information, even more so if those links are coming from other high profile websites.
Use keywords in your content. Think about the search terms that people will use when looking for your site, and use those terms within your site. Google only has a few words to work with when deciding what search results to show, if you have those words on your site it’s highly likely that your site will be returned in those results
If you are aware of those three things you will be streets ahead of many of your competitors. In future posts I’ll go into detail on these and more techniques you can use to improve your SEO.
See you round!
Posted in Online Strategy
All Abroad Baby – global inspiration for mums and their little ones.
It’s a great concept – there are a lot of people out there who love shopping overseas for the baby gear. This is a site that offers reviews, opinions and special offers with a focus on shops that ship internationally.
We built this site using WordPress – the super extensible, customisable framework for ‘bloggy’ sites. We had to make some fairly major modifications to the framework. The site doesn’t really work like a blog, there was no requirement for comments or RSS feeds. However when the concept was described to us, WordPress seemed to be the ideal fit.
After much hacking around under the hood we were able to build a site on a limited budget to get the business off the ground. Now it’s onwards and upwards for AAB, plenty of new features are planned for the future.
Posted in Our Work
Short answer: No.
Long answer: Nooooooooooooooooooo.
The acronyms above are probably some of many that you hear when talking to developers. “ASP.NET sucks!”, “Java is expensive!”, “PHP is for babies!”, etc…
Behind these technologies are the programming languages described above, very quickly:
ASP.NET – Developed and supported by Microsoft. Excellent tools available to assist developers. Software licenses can be costly. Actually this is more of a development framework than a language, the framework supports multiple languages within it but lets not complicate things too much.
Java – Developed by Sun Microsystems in the 90s and sold to Oracle in 2010. A very powerful language and used on many high traffic sites. Developers can be expensive.
PHP – An open source scripting language. Free to use and widely available on many web hosts.
ColdFusion – Developed by Macromedia which was then acquired by Adobe. A powerful yet easy to use tag-based scripting language. It was a big player in the early 2000s but is now falling out of favour due to, in my opinion, no compelling reason to use it over better known (ASP.NET) or cheaper (PHP) options.
We also have several sites that are in maintenance mode using Cold Fusion.
As a client, in need of a website, you don’t need to be too concerned about the actual language your development company is using to produce your product. The real test of a good product is in the quality of company and the people that produce it. In the future I’ll go into more detail of what constitutes a well built website, but for now just understand – if you don’t know the difference between the above languages, then the choice of which one to use probably doesn’t matter to you.
Posted in General
“The programmer, like the poet, works only slightly removed from pure thought-stuff. He builds his castles in the air, from air, creating by exertion of the imagination. Few media of creation are so flexible, so easy to polish and rework, so readily capable of realizing grand conceptual structures.”
― Frederick P. Brooks Jr.
We have this quote up on the wall in our office. I have always found it inspiring and hope that in some small way this will inspire the developers working here.
Programming is an extremely creative process. We need to take a nascent idea that is floating around in the head of the creator and turn that into a language a computer can understand. The simpler a task is to perform for the end user, the more work has gone into it from a developer to hide that complexity from the user. Here is another quote that developers can relate to:
What we do is never understood, but only praised and blamed.
Posted in General