Inaugural #SBS Winners Event

Small Business Sunday is a weekly Twitter competition hosted by Theo Paphitis. It’s free to enter and the winner gets exposure to Theo’s 250,000 (and counting) followers.  Should you require more information, check out this post.

The competition has been running since 2010 however the first official event takes place this month. If you’re a member of the #sbs club, all you need to do is DM “I’m in” to @RymanStationary and you will receive further instructions. From there, you should receive the following invite along with a response slip:

Small Business Sunday winners event sponsored by Ryman

March 5, 2012.

Inaugural #SBS Winners Event

Congratulations on being an #SBS winner and thank you for making contact!

In response to numerous requests, at last, the very first Small Business Sunday event for winners takes place on Friday March 30! It’s at the Edgbaston Stadium, The Warwickshire County Ground, Edgbaston, Birmingham B5 7QU.

The event starts at 12 noon. There will be light refreshments plus sarnies and even the odd tipple that will be served from 12.30 PM.  I will give a short talk at 1.30 PM but what’s most important is that I hear what you have to say because this is a great opportunity for you to shape the future of #SBS. There will be plenty of time for you to mingle and the event will finish at about 4.00 PM.

As there will be several hundred guests, a Q&A session provides the perfect opportunity to share common learnings and knowledge.

As demand is strong, the tickets are strictly limited to two for each winning business. (I understand that some people find it difficult walking into a room of people you don’t know… although come to think of it, having met some of you, I somehow doubt it !)

I would like to say a big Thank You to the team at Ryman Stationery who have agreed not only to help me organise the gathering but also to sponsor it! This means that the event is free of charge. (Tickets are not transferable and cannot be sold !)

I very much look forward to meeting you on Friday March 30.

With best wishes

Yours sincerely

THEO
@TheoPaphitis

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I hope to see you there!

#sbs SEO freebie for Dottie Designs

In October last year I completed an #sbs SEO freebie for Susan Bonnar of Dottie Designs and in this post I am simply repeating what I said at the time with a few small tweaks. I am doing so as I noticed Susan asking the twittersphere for help on meta tags. They’re easy when you know how :0)

Wondering what #sbs SEO freebies are all about? Check out this post. Never heard of Small Business Sunday? Read all about it here.

Hi Susan,

Firstly, congratulations on your #sbs win last Sunday. As promised, I have gone through your website and provided some suggestions below.

Before you read on, it may help if you look at this post (http://ceo.smartergroup.biz/seo-is-easy-when-you-get-the-hang-of-it/) on my blog which splits SEO into three areas of importance – on-site content, on-site signposting and off-site back links. I follow this framework whenever I review a website.

On Site Content

For the most part, you’re doing quite well here. To improve things further, it would be worth considering:

– image names
– URL structures
– page titles
– page descriptions + keywords (sometimes called meta tags)
– your blog

Image Names

In respect of image names, take this page as an example:

http://dottiedesigns.co.uk/ourshop/

The image names are as follows:

http://dottiedesigns.co.uk/siteimages/21/9/1/219192/2210505/c_313545.jpg
http://dottiedesigns.co.uk/siteimages/21/9/1/219192/2210505/c_313711.jpg
http://dottiedesigns.co.uk/siteimages/21/9/1/219192/2210505/c_314915.jpg 

With images, you have 70 characters at your disposal and you should try to use at least 50. Image names should take a standard structure which includes your company name as well as any product information. For the images above, I would suggest filenames along the following lines:

Dottie Designs – Keepsake Boxes – Jonah Pirate Treasures.jpg;
Dottie Designs – Guestbooks – Butterfly Patterns.jpg; and
Dottie Designs – Photo Albums – Blue Butterfly Cover.jpg.

You may be able to come up with better descriptive terms than I have done, which illustrates why I believe SEO should be done in-house. You know your business better than any SEO company and as such can do a much better job of the optmisation 🙂

This applies to all of your product images. While you won’t be penalised for using your current numbering system, it won’t be doing anything positive for your site.

URL structure

Moving on to URL structure, consider the following:

http://dottiedesigns.co.uk/ourshop/cat_313545-Keepsake-Boxes.html and
http://dottiedesigns.co.uk/ourshop/cat_313548-Boys-and-Girls-Keepsake-Boxes.html

Again, you won’t be penalised for the numbering system but at the same time it could be better. As the two categories above follow on from one another, consider the following alteration:

……./dottie-designs-keepsake-boxes.html and
……./dottie-designs-keepsake-boxes-for-boys-and-girls.html

Additional sub categories should follow the same pattern.

Moving onto page titles, again this an issue of consistency. For example, your “About Us” page title is “About Dottie Designs”. However your “Blog” page title is simply “Blog” – it would make more sense to have this as “The Dottie Designs Blog”. Inconsistent page titles won’t harm your blog, but it would benefit SEO if they all have the same prefix (DottieDesigns).

I’ll be honest, I’m not familiar with the software you have used to build your website so I can’t just point you to the appropriate settings menu at this point. However, that’s not a major issue as you can manually edit page titles without any knowledge of code. Taking your homepage as an example, the first few lines of code are as follows:

<title>Welcome To Dottie Designs</title>
<meta name=”keywords” content=””/>
<meta name=”description” content=””/>

Essentially you have a (short) page title but no meta description or meta keywords.

To see this for yourself, locate the folder on your computer where you save your web pages and right click, then select “open with notepad”. Editing the page titles is as easy as changing the text between the <title> and </title> tags.

Page descriptions & keywords

From the code I have pasted above, you should be able to see that you haven’t defined any keywords or a page description. Google doesn’t pay much attention to keywords these days but I tend to use them anyway – whilst they don’t get much traffic, there are other search engines out there and you never know, one day Google might meet its match!

With keywords, I tend to use 10-20 on every page on my website: the first few will apply to the whole website and the rest will be specific to that particular page.

Taking your Christening Albums page as an example, you could use the following keywords:

<meta name=”keywords” content=”dottie designs, bespoke cards, bespoke albums, personalised albums, personalised cards, christening albums, christening photo album, new baby girl album, new baby album (and so on…)”/>

To appreciate the importance of the page description, check out this Google site:search of your domain. You will no doubt notice the section of text under each of your links isn’t particularly helpful to someone who is trying to quickly determine what is on any of your pages (as and when they show up in a Google search). Turning up in a Google search is one thing; attracting someone’s click is another!

You can rectify this problem by populating your page descriptions. Use no more than 160 characters and use good English – this is not a place for keyword spam! Taking your homepage as an example:

<meta name=”description” content=”Dottie Designs, a Theo Paphitis #sbs winner, sell personalised cards, keepsake boxes and photography albums on-line and in boutiques across the UK.”/>

Utilising your blog

Finally, and perhaps the most significant issue, is the fact your blog is currently hosted elsewhere. Blogs are a fantastic way to ensure your website always has fresh content, however they are far more beneficial when integrated to your site. To their credit, Google provide fairly decent guidance on integrating a blogspot blog with an existing website:

http://www.google.com/support/blogger/bin/static.py?page=ts.cs&ts=1233381

On-Site Signposting

I’m really pleased to note you have a sitemap (http://dottiedesigns.co.uk/sitemap.xml).

To make sure you are getting the full benefit from your sitemap, sign up for a free Google Webmaster Tools account at https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/home?hl=en. From there, click on “register sitemap” and follow the on screen instructions.

Off-site back links

At the moment it looks as though you have only generated back links from Yell.com and the occasional Tweet. It would be beneficial if you could supplement this with profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ (all free to join). Whenever you add a new product or upload a new blog post, post a link on these sites and over time you will build up a decent amount of quality back links.

You can further supplement the above with active participation on relevant blogs or forums. So long as you aren’t spamming your products or services, the majority of blogs/forums will allow you to place a link to your website in your signature.

Final Thoughts

You’re off to a good start, but with some time you could vastly improve the SEO score for your website. However, it may be that some of the changes simply aren’t possible with the tools you are using at the moment (create.net). If not, I would strongly suggest you consider WordPress (wordpress.org). Not only is WordPress free and highly customisable, it provides the easiest way to run a company website with an integrated blog.

In passing, I note you are using an @aol.com e-mail address. Depending on your hosting company it should be relatively easy to set up [username]@dottiedesigns.co.uk. While this isn’t really an issue from an SEO perspective, there is plenty of research out there which suggests free e-mail accounts can impact the credibility of your website.

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Gran Turismo 5 DLC: Kart Space I & II

Over the weekend I downloaded the a DLC bundle for GT5, available on the PSN store for less than a tenner. Amongst other things, it includes a new track called Kart Space which available in four configurations: Kart Space I, Kart Space I (reverse), Kart Space II and Kart Space II (reverse).

The following video was recorded with my AVerMedia Game Capture HD and features the 125cc GT go kart being driven round Kart Space I, head to head against a friend of mine:

If you’d like to see the other Kart Space layouts and more of the GT5 DLC, make sure you hit the subscribe button over on YouTube.com/iKingOfHouse.

How to transfer web hosts (mini rant)

Shortly after the demise of Smarter Housing I had a run in with my web hosts, who wanted £220 before they would release smarterhousing.co.uk. As the company had ceased trading there was no way I could justify paying this fee and, even if I could have, there was the matter of principle: it costs nothing to release a domain name! I could have accepted some kind of admin fee but this would need to reflect the work involved – entering a URL, username, password, clicking on a couple of links and entering less than 10 characters of text.

How to take control of your .co.uk domain name

I’d pretty much forgotten about the fiasco with my previous web hosts until one of my SEO clients mentioned they were in a similar situation. A couple of weeks ago they mentioned they were paying £60 per month for some very basic hosting: the same kind of hosting that I can offer for £10 per month in conjunction with 34SP. Obviously, they liked the sound of saving £600 per year and asked me to take control of the domain. Sadly, their hosting company also control their domain and wanted a bounty of £180 in order to release it.

If you’re in a similar situation or just want to move a domain from one registrar to another, this is an easy process.

Step 1: Update the IPS tag to that of your chosen registrar

When you move a mobile phone from one network to another, you require a PAC code. Domain names are similar, except you need to alter something called the IPS tag.

All of my domain names are registered with LCN.com and the corresponding IPS tag is “LCN”. To find out the tag for your chosen registrar, give them a call. Next, you’ll need to notify them of the incoming domain name. LCN do this by way of a domain transfer form, which is easy enough to find via the customer admin panel.

Once you’ve told your new registrar that they can expect any given domain, ask your current registrar to update the IPS tag. More often than not, they will do this for you free of charge. If they get the huff – which I note is quite common with companies who charge excessive amounts for monthly hosting – you will need to get in touch with Nominet on 01865 332233. Give them the e-mail address which was used when registering your domain and they will send you a link to reset your account details. The process will cost £12 but you can then manually update your IPS tag to that of your chosen registrar.

Step 2: Edit NS (Name Server) records 

Once you have completed step 1, you will notice your .co.uk domain appear in the control panel of your new registrar. Sometimes the process can take 5 days but LCN have always done this in less than 48 hours.

For the moment, your domain name will be held with your new registrar but your hosting will still be controlled by your current provider. To migrate your hosting, you will need to go into your domain names then advanced DNS settings to update the NS records.

Before you do this, make sure you have a copy of your website files. Log into your existing FTP and locate the folder that contains index.html / index.php. This is often in a directory called HTTPdocs (note – *NOT* the same as HTTPSdocs). Download everything to your computer.

Your web hosts will be able to provide your name server records. They will look something like this “NSx.yournewhostsdomain.com/.co.uk” and you will usually have two to update. All you need to do is overwrite the existing values with those of your new hosts and wait for the information to propagate across the internet. Sometimes this can take as little as 1 hour but don’t panic if that isn’t the case: it can take up to 24 hours.

Step 3: Upload your files to your new hosting company

Remember those files you downloaded from your previous host? Throw those up into your new FTP and hey presto, you have successfully migrated your website from one hosting company to another.

Some clarification

The above example assumes that your current hosting company also controls your domain name. This is often the case when you ask a third party to build and host your website. In the event you control your own domain the process of migrating hosts is even easier. Sign into your domain admin panel and update the Name Server records to those of your new hosting company.

Please note that the above is specific to .co.uk domains. If you’re having trouble migrating a .com the process is slightly different but I’m happy to help.

The happy secret to better work (Shawn Anchor – TEDxBloomington)

It’s fair to say I am a massive fan of  TEDxTalks and think the majority of their presentations are absolutely fantastic. Despite this, I have only blogged about two of their videos – Nigel Marsh on Work – Life balance & Rory Sutherland on Charitable Yield Management.

The reason for this is very simple: there isn’t time write about all of the TEDxTalks that are interesting, thought provoking or amusing. However, once in a while I will see a presentation that has particular relevance to my own set of circumstances. For example, Nigel Marsh suggests we can improve our work-life balance simply by redefining the time scales on which we base our measurements. His message has been hugely beneficial to me as a father and business owner. In the case of Rory Sutherland, I was compelled by his thoughts on consumer behaviour given varying amounts of choice. Implementing his ideas – not that risky when you consider he heads up the biggest marketing consultancy in the UK – immediately resulted in higher sales for my businesses.

Thanks to Google, I can post the most relevant videos to my blog and ensure I can find them again quickly in future. In the process, I may be posting up something that benefits others.

Watching Shawn Anchor’s “Happy Secret to Better Work” reminded me of something I wanted to blog about last year but never found the time: the importance of a positive state of mind.

Shawn Anchor – The Happy Secret To Better Work  TEDxBloomington

Way back in July 2010 when I was dealing with divorce, heavily restricted access to my son and a failed business, I read a book by which really helped me to get my life back on track.

In a nutshell, focussing on the positives in my life – a fantastic son, good friends and family and a wealth of business experience – helped me to turn things around in a matter of months. Almost two years down the road I’m healther, happier, wealther and – most importantly – getting regular access to my amazing little boy.

If you have time, I really suggest you read “I Can Make You Rich” by Paul McKenna. This isn’t a “get rich quick” scheme but I guarantee you will wake up feeling richer and, in turn, begin to enjoy greater successes in life. When I find the time I promise to blog about this book in more detail!

At the time of writing, the book is on offer over on Amazon:

Paul McKenna – I Can Make You Rich – from £6.92 – Amazon.co.uk

Paul McKenna – I Can Make You Rich – from $11.66 – Amazon.com

#sbs SEO freebie for Daddy Natal

Welcome to the #sbs club, Dean Beaumont and Daddy Natal!

Dean Beaumont, the only fully qualified male Antenatal Educator in the UK, provides unique targeted support for expectant and new dads, through his business Daddy Natal: Antenatal Classes for Men run By Men.

The Basics of Search Engine Optimisation

Regular readers of my #sbs SEO freebies will know that search engine optimisation can be broken down into three areas: on-site SEO, code and off-site SEO.

‘On-site SEO’ concerns all of your content, covering page titles, meta descriptions, keywords, text, images, video, maps and anything else you can squeeze into a webpage. ‘Code’ acts as a facilitator, ensuring your content is displayed in a logical fashion and can be picked up by the search engines. ‘Off-site SEO’ is the way in which you interact outside of your own domain.

In respect of DaddyNatal.co.uk, my observations are as follows:

On-site SEO

My primary concern is the lack of of page titles or meta descriptions.

Taking your ‘About Us’ page as an example, this is the information being presented to Google:

<meta name=”keywords” content=”Mantenatal, daddynatal, expectant father, baby, dad, pregnancy, antenatal classes” />

In essence, you are giving Google a list of keywords to regarding the content on that particular page. This technique is outdated and you would gain much more benefit from defining page titles and meta descriptions.

For your Home, About Us, classes, Dads’ info centre, Media Centre and Work With Us pages this needs to be done manually.

Simply open up the code in your chosen editor (notepad works just fine) and add in the following:

<title>Describe your page in 70 characters. I always like to put the company name at the front.</title> <meta name=”description” content=”Enter an easy to read, 160 character summary of the content on that page.”> <meta name=”keywords” content=”Enter 10-30 comma separated keywords. I like to put general terms at the front and specific terms at the end”>

For your About Us page this could be something along the lines of:

<title>DaddyNatal – Support For Expectant and New Dads – About Us</title>

<meta name=”description” content=”Daddy Natal offers unique, targeted support for expectant and new Dads.  Find out about us and our services here.”>

<meta name=”keywords” content=”DaddyNatal, Daddy Natal, Expectant Dads,  Expectant Father, New Dads, New Fathers, Antenatal Classes, About Daddy Natal, About Us, About Dean Beaumont”>

I would suggest using the “DaddyNatal – Support For Expectant and New Dads” as a prefix to all of your page titles. Similarly I would go with the same set of keywords, replacing “About Daddy Natal, About Us, About Dean Beaumont” with appropriate terms for your other pages.

Thankfully you only need to do this manually for the pages mentioned above. For your blog, there is a much easier solution.

Code

Allow Custom URLs

Log-in to your WordPress admin area and navigate to Settings on the left hand menu. From there, click on Permalinks. In the page that opens, select the “custom structure” option and enter the following:

/%postname%/

Then click save.

From now on, all of your posts will be given an SEO friendly url as opposed to the “?id=postnumber” you are getting at the moment. If you want to customise URLs even further, there will now be a space directly under the post title (when creating/editing an entry) which allows you to manually choose a URL.

WordPress – /%postname%/

Allow Custom Meta Descriptions

On the left-hand menu, navigate to plug-ins and then select “add new”. Search for “All In One SEO pack” and click download, then install. Once the plug-in is activated you will note three new boxes beneath the main content area whenever you create/edit a post.

If you can’t see additional ‘title’, ‘description’ and ‘keyword’ boxes then you need to enable them in screen options. To do this, create a new post and from within the editor scroll to the top of the page and click on screen options and tick the box next to “All in One SEO Pack”.

You will then need to go through all of your old posts and create a 160 character page description. Leave the title and keyword boxes blank.

As a quick fix for your page titles, navigate to Settings > All In One SEO pack from the left hand menu. Under “Post Title Format” enter the following:

%post_title% | %blog_title%

This will append the name of your blog to all of your post titles, so you don’t need to edit them manually. If you prefer to have your blog  title at the front, simply change this to:

%blog_title% | %post_title%

Play around and you will soon get the hang of it. You can’t really break anything through this menu.

Off-site SEO

Start sharing your articles on social media sites like Facebook, Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn. To make your life easier you can add social media sharing buttons on all of your posts and pages.

To do so, navigate to the plugins > add-new menu from within WordPress. There are hundreds (thousands?) available but I like to use Sexy Bookmarks. Type that in the search box and hit install: it’s that simple.

Adding in social media sharing buttons also increases the chances that other people will share your content, which is effectively outsourcing our own link building efforts.

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Once the page titles and page descriptions are tidied up I’d take a look at your image names – as per the instructions you noted on this post for Alyssa Smith.

When all of that is taken care of I’d suggest your get yourself a sitemap. I cover the importance of these, and how you register them with Google Webmaster Tools, in this #sbs SEO freebie for FrenchPolishes.com. To do so just go to your plugins menu > add-new and search for “Google XML sitemaps”.

Install the Google XML sitemaps tool and run it once to generate your sitemap files. Once up and running, this will update automatically every time you edit your content. You will note a space for “additional pages” in the settings > xml-sitemap menu. Make sure you add in your non-Wordpress pages here (home, about us, etc)!

Unfortunately I didn’t get into the tricky 404 search plug-in I mentioned in my response to your comment on the #sbs SEO freebie post but that can wait for another day. I’ve dealt with the important stuff first.

Should you have any questions please feel free to drop them in the comments below. Good luck!

Adam

Costa Concordia memorabilia

Since news broke of the Costa Concordia disaster, I have been keeping track of rescue attempts via the Sky News website. I am sad to note official rescue efforts have now been called off, despite the fact more than 10 people remain unaccounted for.

Whilst it is unlikely that anyone would be alive after such a long time, having a body (dead or alive) gives some element of closure for the friends and family of those involved. My heart goes out to all those people who will now be dealing with the “what if” factor.

Costa Concordia disaster

Cashing in on disaster: Costa Concordia on eBay

It should come as no surprise that eBay is now flooded with Costa Concordia memorabilia. That said, Sky News reported two items which I really didn’t expect. I was unable to find the first, for t-shirts reading “I survived Costa Concordia”, and can only assume they have been removed due to severely poor taste. The second relates to a Costa Concordia poker/casino chip, which has a buy it now price of more than £1,100! Bidding currently stands at £573 (20:32 31/1/2012).

Costa Concordia poker / casino chip - authentic?
Costa Concordia poker / casino chip – authentic?

Is this authentic? I have my doubts. The seller has pictured their cabin key next to the chip but neither seem to exhibit any signs of water damage. I suspect this is a case of a former passenger trying to cash in on recent events but would be happy to be proved wrong.