Tag Archive: Business Advice

Has your web developer covered all the SEO bases?

Search Engine Optimisation

We’re all trying to make sure our web pages are best placed in the search results on the key search engines such as Google or Bing and these days it is much more of a meritocracy than ever before; the genuinely good websites rising to the top for their sphere of authority.

That’s not to say that they can’t be influenced. Please dispel any ideas of the black hat techniques of the past and concentrate on writing quality websites that are genuinely better than their compatriots, better content, better written, better composed, better liked, better coded, basically fundamentally better by any real measure.

Today we’ll consider ten key on-page items that make websites perform better in the search results. In other editions we’ll go deeper into this as well as looking at other off page factors. Follow us @Toucan_Group for later editions of the SEO Checklist.

Let’s now look at the on-page items that we consider mandatory for good SEO in this session. There are hundreds of items to consider but here is a snap shot of ten very important on-page items. Don’t shoot the web developer if these are not implemented exactly as prescribed here in your site as it can depend on the brief you’ve given them and the mission for the site.

To check many of these you’ll need to see the code that makes up your pages. This is browser dependent but is normally under a term such as “view page source”. In Chrome on PC, right click and you get that option.

  1. Keywords in the Title Tag
    The title tag is the webpage’s second most important piece of SEO content and it therefore provides the search engine a high SEO ranking.
  2. Title Tag Starts with Keyword
    Title tags that start with a keyword invariably perform better than title tags with the keyword elsewhere in the word order.
  3. Keywords in Description Tag
    This is a less relevant tag than in the past however these still make a difference to ranking with some search engines.
  4. Keyword Appears in H1 Tag
    H1 tags are the next most important item to get right after the title tag. These send another relevancy signal to Google as they reinforce the title tag.
  5. Word Count
    The extent of the content on your page with more words expanding on the relevant topic is a ranking signal and will affect the Search Engine Results Position. A bare minimum of 100 words is a fair rule however 300 words of more will give better results.
  6. Cross linking within the site using Keywords
    In the text within the site use links on the keywords to navigate to other sections of the site. Google picks up on these as items that are of high relevance within the site.
  7. Page Loading Speed in a browser
    Google and Bing monitor page loading speed as a ranking factor. Poorly built sites with no code minification, bloated code, badly compressed images and alike all increase page load time. For an impartial test of your site go to https://tools.pingdom.com/
  8. Duplicate Content
    Never use identical content anywhere in a site, it will be spotted and the site penalised in the search results as it is a negative indicator of quality. This includes all tags, meta and image except the keyword tag.
  9. Image Optimisation
    Images with a page provide search engines relevancy signals and usability factors. Use the file name to be descriptive, use alt text to describe the image so that text readers for partially sighted get an explanation and consider adding title, description and caption.
  10. Page html errors
    Poorly coded web pages are indicative of a poor website. If the code doesn’t comply with standards then there’s a chance the search engine spiders may even baulk at indexing it altogether and not all browsers will render it properly. The standards book is W3C and they provide a validation tool athttps://validator.w3.org/. Once again don’t cane your web developer too much if there is the odd Warninghowever if there are many Errors, then you should delve further.

Further publications will deliver further manageable bite-sized advice on this enormous topic. All announced @toucan_group.


 

This information has been written and collated by Simon Thomas, active in commercial web development and online marketing since 1996, who understands the need to stay current with standards and methods almost week by week.

simon@toucanweb.co.uk
@toucan_group
01279 871 694T Bird 72ppi

Has your web developer covered all the SEO bases?

BT to switch off business phone network

 

Most businesses with more than a handful of employees use ISDN  telephone lines.  After 2020 BT will stop training ISDN engineers – and in 2025 it will switch off the ISDN network.  Businesses will need an alternative in place well before then so it is prudent to find out when your current telephone contract ends and start considering your options many months in advance.

“Old fashioned” telephone handsets send an analogue signal along analogue phone lines.  Modern telephone equipment can convert analogue voice signals into digital data “packets” which can then travel via the internet rather than telephone lines.  This technology is called “Voice over IP” (“VoIP”).  Because VoIP signals use the internet, anyone wishing to use a VoIP telephone needs a reliable and fast data connection.  A leased line or fibre connection is best – ADSL can sometimes cope with a couple of additional voice signals but this often results in poor call quality (upload speed is generally the limiting factor).

VoIP systems offer two main alternatives, with many permutations underneath.  Some companies might wish to retain their existing telephone system or switchboard (PBX).  If the system is not too ancient it can have additional circuit boards fitted to allow VoIP channels (called “SIP trunks”) to replace ISDN lines.  It is not necessary to have one SIP trunk per staff member, i.e. a company of 50 employees might have 20 SIP trunks as not every employee will use the telephone simultaneously.

The other alternative is to replace the physical PBX/ telephone system with a “virtual PBX” in the cloud.  This is called “Hosted VoIP”.  Employees access a web portal to configure the system which allows a huge range of functions (hunt groups, failovers etc).  Each user needs a VoIP handset which plugs into a data socket identical to that used by their pc.  In contrast to SIP trunks, each handset needs its own VoIP channel.  In most cases VoIP handsets arrive pre-configured and are “plug and play”.

There are many variations to the above and migrating to a new technology is an opportunity to consider how (and where) your staff will work in the future – do they need a fixed handset on a desk, or a mobile handset or headset ?  Will they work from home ?  What about video calls and conferencing ?  Integration with CRMs ?

For impartial advice on the above please contact me – even if your existing contract does not expire for some considerable time.  We can then diarise the project for a future date and plan accordingly.

 

BT to switch off business phone network

Tina Dulieu wins International Coaching Award

Tina Dulieu, of Coaching Dynamics, was delighted to be named winner of The International Coaching Awards 2015 as The Small Business Coach of the Year at a glittering ceremony in December 2015.

Tina said ‘It was a real honour to be recognised by my own industry’s professional bodies both in the UK and internationally for my work in helping businesses grow and be more successful.  I couldn’t ask for a better accolade and accepted the Award with pride.  My family were there to see me win, it was wonderful!’

Details attached and also at www.coachingdynamics.co.uk/news.

Tina Dulieu wins International Coaching Award

iOS9 and data usage

Education Item:

Apple’s latest operating system contains a new function called ‘Wifi Assist’ which is switched on by default.

When the signal strength of 3G or 4G mobile data is greater than your wi-fi router signal the app automatically switches to receive mobile data instead.  You think that you are connected to free wi-fi but are actually eating up your mobile data bundle.  If you are on an unlimited data plan this might be acceptable as it will give you uninterrupted service when moving locations – if however you (or your staff) have a fixed data bundles then you might see mobile data use increase unexpectedly.

The app is accessed via Settings>Mobile Data>WiFi Assist.

One possible compromise is as follows – iOS9 includes the ability to control which apps have access to mobile data and which can only use wi-fi.  Users can restrict non-essential data-intensive applications (such as media streaming) to wi-fi, and allow more critical functions to use mobile data as required.  This option is accessed via the same Settings>Mobile Data menu.

iOS9 and data usage

Printers. Offering comprehensive printing services locally and nationwide. from ProntaPrint Bishops Stortford has updated their news.

The quality of your business stationery and marketing materials reflects your company’s standards. 

Business cards in full colour and with matt lamination are your introduction to other business contacts as well as prospective clients.  Brochures are an ideal way to portray your company’s products and values and leaflets or flyers which can be printed for distributing as well as postcards.

Follow up those initial meetings with well-produced letterheads and then enforce your image, presenting quotes and tenders using presentation folders or our professional binding service.  Finally, we will then produce quality invoice paper as either NCR duplicate pads or invoice sheets.

Promotions
Get your exhibition or event noticed with our Specials on Large Format Printing and Promotional Items.

Printers. Offering comprehensive printing services locally and nationwide. from ProntaPrint Bishops Stortford has updated their news.

We believe in giving you real value for money with fast transactions and lower rates.

Helping to advance your business…

As part of our ongoing commitment to supporting SMEs to grow their business, Annecto is proud to offer cash advance product to provide financial assistance.

Our innovative scheme aims to help customers improve cash flow and profitability.

There are times that a business needs a lump sum investment to help it grow – boutiques needing to invest in next season’s stock, restaurants wanting to refurbish their premises, or simply those needing a boost to pay an unexpected bill or to help with cash flow, but as an independent business or SME, applying to a bank to access funds for such ventures involves a time-consuming due diligence process and a lot of red tape.

Annecto uses real-time business insight to understand each business’ individual performance to provide financial support. By evaluating a business’ performance according to its chip and pin transactions, we can then advance a business the required sum, leveraging it against their future transactions.

For example, if a restaurant processes £10,000 a month through its chip and pin transactions, we can secure the owners a £10,000 sum to invest in new supplies, equipment or refurbishment, allowing them to improve their offering and grow their business further – all without upfront fees and security.

It couldn’t be simpler – a factor rate is added (typically 1.2 – 1.35) to the advance making the product completely transparent, and offering a real advantage to businesses in that rather than having a fixed repayment term and sum as with a business loan, the repayments are deducted via a percentage of each day’s transactions (typically 15% – 25%).

In other words, the deduction varies according to how successful business has been each day – if takings are lower than average, then the repayment reflects that.

The average advance is repaid within six to nine months, and represents an accessible means to short-term funding – the perfect solution for entrepreneurs investing in the growth of their business.

Want to know more?

We believe in giving you real value for money with fast transactions and lower rates. from AnnectoUK.co.uk has updated their news.

ESOS-new energy reporting regulations for large enterprises

As of 2012, UK large enterprises employed nearly 11 million people with a turnover of £1.6 trillion, and consumed approximately one-third of UK energy.

Somewhere between 4,400 and 6,400 UK enterprises already monitor and report energy consumption under legislation such as the CRC, however the EC wished to extend these activities beyond passive monitoring to include detailed recommendations for efficiencies.
On October 25th 2012 the EC agreed the ‘EU Energy Efficiency Directive’ (‘EED’).  Article 8 of this legislation requires each Member State to instruct every ‘large enterprise’ to conduct an energy audit by December 5th 2015, repeating every four years thereafter.  Consultation ceased on Oct 3rd 2013 and in June 2014 the DECC will announce final details of the UK’s version, called the ‘Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme’ (ESOS).  Approved assessors will carry out Article 8 compliant ESOS assessments to measure energy consumption and recommend efficiency measures.  It is estimated that if enterprises implement just 6% of recommended improvements, energy consumption will reduce by 3.3TWh annually by 2016.
Approximately 7,265 UK enterprises will be affected, occupying between 170,000 and 200,000 buildings.  Entities certified to ISO50001 or ISO14001 or where current Display Energy Certificates, Green Deal Assessments, Climate Change Agreements or Green Fleet Reviews are likely to be deemed already ESOS compliant.

Who will it affect ?
A ‘large enterprise’ is an entity engaged in an economic activity, employing more than 250 staff with a turnover greater than € 50m and/or a balance sheet over € 43m.  Some charities, CICs, unincorporated associations and certain universities are theoretically included (11% of the 7,265 enterprises will be not-for-profit).  Public bodies (defined as ‘contracting authorities’ in Directive 2004/18/EC) are exempt from Article 8 because a separate Article – Article 5 – addresses energy efficiency in the public sector.  Universities and colleges financed mostly by other ‘contracting authorities’ will be considered public bodies for the purposes of the EED however some universities – due to their specific funding arrangements – may not be exempt.  SMEs will be exempt unless part of a larger eligible ‘group enterprise’.  In this case eligibility will be determined by the highest UK parent company (as defined under the Companies Act 2006).  In the event a ‘large group enterprise’ is deemed eligible, all subsidiaries – SMEs or not – will require an energy audit.

What do I have to do ?
Audits must be completed by 5 December 2015 and then at least every four years thereafter. Depending on the compliance route chosen, organisations may need to notify the scheme administrator that they have conducted an ESOS assessment, and potentially disclose any key action taken in their annual reports.

What will a typical audit comprise ?
An ESOS assessment seeks to go beyond merely measuring an organisation’s aggregate energy use to incorporate measurements of the efficiency with which it uses it.  It is intended that assessments quantify energy use relative to headcount (or relative to turnover) which will enable comparisons between assessments and potentially within industry sectors.  It will consider variations over time of the energy use within key buildings/operations/transport activities.  The assessment will include clear guidance as to where cost-effective energy savings can be applied.  It is intended that ESOS assessors have discretion as to the granularity of data they collect and as to the parameters by which suggested improvements are deemed cost-effective.
Entities with current Display Energy Certificates or Green Deal Assessments could potentially be deemed ESOS compliant.  In the same way, a transport fleet which has undertaken a ‘Green Fleet Review’ within four years might be deemed already compliant otherwise such fleets will require their efficiency monitored (including “grey” fleets of employee’s own vehicles).

Who will do the assessments ?
Large enterprises will need to identify an approved ESOS assessor (either existing competent staff member or external) to complete the audit. The Government has yet to define a route by which individuals will receive ESOS accreditation.

What will ESOS assessments cost ?
A rough estimate for the initial ESOS survey is £17,000 with subsequent assessments costing in the region of £10,000.  These figures exclude the cost of implementing any recommendations.

ESOS-new energy reporting regulations for large enterprises

Do you still have a home landline ?

Landline rentals rose an average of 38% in the past five years.  Some providers had steeper increases – Virgin Media customers saw their landline costs increase by 45% and BT customers by 42%.  Research on behalf of Broadbandchoices.co.uk discovered that 37% of households would cancel their landline altogether if it wasn’t needed for broadband access.  In May 2014, TalkTalk will implement a swathe of line rental and broadband price increases.

So why have most UK households still got a landline ?  In the past some lenders regarded a fixed landline on a credit application as a sign of stability, but this is becoming of less importance.  The main reason is that for most people life without wi-fi is unthinkable, and (with the exception of Virgin Media’s fibre optic network and 3G/4G) a copper landline is still the only way to get connectivity.  What can be done to minimise the cost of using a domestic phone line ?

  • Last September BT raised call costs by 6.5% (more than twice the rate of inflation). BT Answer 1571 and aller ID – previously free – are now chargeable at £1.75 per month.  Consider if they are useful, and cancel if not.
  • Avoid calling premium rate number wherever possible.  Call to directory enquiry services cost upwards of £2.39 per minute, and continue to charge at that rate if they make the onwards connection for you (directory enquiries provider ‘118118’ were recently fined £80,000 for incorrectly advertising their charges).  Premium rate numbers have their own regulator, PhonepayPlus.  Before ringing talent show voting lines check the likely charges on their website.
    Pay for your landline yearly and not monthly.  Most providers will offer a discount – with BT this equates to £11.75 per month rather than £15.99.
  • Paying by Direct Debit will save between £24 and £60 per year.  Only the Post Office does not surcharge non-DD payments.
  • If you are receiving Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance or other assistance you might be eligible for ‘BT Basic’ which will reduce your line rental to £5.10 per month rather than £15.99.
  • Make maximum use of any bundled 3G/4G mobile minutes rather than making landline calls.
  • Consider calling via an override provider – users access cheaper call routing by dialling a prefix (such as 18185 or 1899) before the main number.  Further information can be found here.
  • Virgin Media can supply broadband without a conventional landline by using its fibre optic network but – unless bundled with other products – costs might exceed the landline route.
  • As of 23 January 2014, if broadband, mobile phone and landline providers increase prices on fixed contracts, customers have the right to cancel without penalty.  Guidance can be found here.

Do you still have a home landline ?

Will you still be running Windows XP on May 13th ?

On Tuesday 8 April Microsoft stopped supporting Windows XP, Office 2003 and Exchange 2003.  Launched in 2001, XP had a projected 10 year life but in 2007 Microsoft decided to extend support until April 8th 2014.  From now on security patches will no longer be issued and hackers will form an orderly queue to attack vulnerable XP systems.  On the second Tuesday of each month Microsoft issue security patches along with technical explanations of the vulnerabilities these rectify.  Hackers are likely to use this information to reverse engineer unpatched weaknesses in XP – the next “Patch Tuesday” is May 13th.

Who still uses XP ?

  • 27% of the world’s pc’s
  • 75% of UK companies still have XP running somewhere in their organisation
  • 85% of NHS computers
  • 85,000 HMRC computers
  • 95% of ATM machines worldwide

Why haven’t all XP users upgraded to newer versions of Windows ?
XP has been around so long that many proprietary systems (factory production systems, booking systems, databases etc) require it to run.  An upgrade is therefore not a simple matter of paying a licence fee and installing a more modern version – the ramifications are far wider and more expensive.  Other applications are coded to run under Internet Explorer 7 which is incompatible with Windows 7 or 8.  Expensive hardware (such as ATM machines) often cannot interact with more recent Windows versions.  The problem is so acute that the government’s central buying dept – the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) – is paying Microsoft £5.5m for one years’ extended security support for Windows XP/Office 2003/Exchange 2003.  This will buy government, the NHS and some charities and educational establishments more time to upgrade their operating software.
Another consideration is that Windows 7 – considered to be the closest ‘modern’ Windows version to the late lamented XP – will cease to receive mainstream support from January 13th 2015.  Extended support and security fixes – the type of support which has just ceased for XP – ends on 14th January 2020.  Users might be forced to leapfrog straight into 8.1, a very different animal.

Does this affect me ?
Do you accept payment by credit card ?  Financial services providers who continue to use XP without purchasing continued security support from Microsoft (approx. $200 annually per pc) are likely to be considered uncompliant with the requirements of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).  The Information Commissioners office (ICO) has issued a warning to organisations that are uncompliant or fail to maintain secure systems are at risk of fines under the Data Protection Act.  Being well-intentioned offers no protection – the British Pregnancy Advisory Service was recently fined £200,000 for unwittingly failing to protect medical and personal information from hackers, despite the fact that no apparent harm resulted.  The ICO’s powers extend to criminal prosecution and imprisonment.

What can I do ?
If you are stuck with Windows XP, ideas to minimise your risk can be found here.  Microsoft has also issued some guidance notes, which can be found here.

Additionally – if you use Internet Explorer versions 6 to 11 – you should read this.

Will you still be running Windows XP on May 13th ?

Rising from the Ashes

Rising from the ashes

We have all probably faced the situation of discovering that a company with which we have been trading has mysteriously apparently goneoff the face of the earth only to reappear after a few days in a slightly different guise.  The end result is for instance that the old company owes us money which does not get paid, but then appears to go on trading whilst ignoring previous liabilities.  More than a handful of clients then come us and ask how this magical process has been achieved.  They want to know is it legal.  They rather hope that it is not.

In the trade this is known as a pre-pack.  It arises when a company goes into administration.  It is the unsecured creditors who are at risk.  It deserves explanation.

What is a pre-pack?

A pre-pack is the name given to an arrangement under which the sale of all or part of a company’s business or assets is negotiated with a purchaser before the appointment of an administrator. The sale is completed by the administrator  shortly after their appointment. This reverses the standard process, where the administrators start marketing the business after they have been appointed. The purchaser may be a competitor or, as is often the case, the existing management team.

What are the advantages of a pre-pack?

  • The main advantage of the pre-pack process is the speed with which it can be concluded. For example:
    • the costs of the administration process can be reduced, which can result in a better return for creditors;
    • key staff can be retained because they do not have the time to seek alternative employment;
    • more jobs may be saved than in a normal administration process;
    • if stock has a limited shelf life, there is more scope for it to be sold at full
      value; and
    • adverse publicity, media speculation or damage to the goodwill of the business may be reduced.
    • Some unsecured creditors, such as suppliers, may be engaged by the new business.

Often there is no other option. The alternative would be liquidation and the immediate cessation of the company’s business.

What are the disadvantages of a
pre-pack?

 

Lack
of transparency

Pre-pack arrangements are generally made quickly and in
private, albeit with the co-operation of secured creditors. Unsecured creditors
are often unaware that a pre-pack is going to happen, so they do not have the
opportunity to protect their interests by considering and voting on the
pre-pack proposal.

 

Lack
of accountability

Administrators involved in
pre-packs do not have to obtain prior approval for their actions from the court
or creditors in the same way as they do in a normal administration. There are
no specific regulations which deal with pre-packs, which can lead to a lack of
confidence in the openness of the procedure.

They
do not maximise returns for unsecured creditors

A pre-pack sale of a business is often conducted with
limited marketing compared with a normal administration. It is therefore
impossible for the proposed administrator to test the market fully because of
the risk of the company’s financial difficulties being leaked. Consequently,
the assets of the company may be sold at an undervalued price or the goodwill
of the business may not be valued accurately because of the speed of the sale.

Writing-off
liabilities using a pre-pack is a short-term fix

A pre-pack doesn’t subject the company to a
restructuring, which is often necessary if the business is to survive in the
longer term. It is debatable whether a business that has already failed will do
any better under the control of the same management team.

Pre-packs
are similar to the outlawed practice of creating “phoenix” companies

Creditors tend to be suspicious of pre-packs when the
business is sold back to the original owners. Under the pre-pack guidelines,
administrators have to disclose to creditors the name of the buyer and whether
there is any connection between the buyer and the company. There are concerns
that there is the potential for abuse of the process by directors seeking to
purchase the business at an advantageous price and simply avoiding paying
creditors.

Issues for directors of a pre-packed
company

    • The directors of
      a company who are involved in a pre-pack need to make sure that they do
      everything they can do to minimise loss to creditors. Directors should
      take independent legal advice, especially if they acquire an interest in
      the company’s business and assets through the pre-pack.

 

  • The Insolvency Service has indicated that it will use its enforcement powers to penalise any directors who misuse the administration process to seek to gain a benefit themselves.

 

 

Rising from the Ashes