Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Leak Detection - An announcement from Smart Energy Systems

We've been asked to help spread an announcement on behalf of one of our clients, SmartEnergySystems.ie, who are keen to raise awareness about the issue of leaking pipes over the Christmas period. Not only are leaking pipes an environmental hazard, it’s a huge drain on our limited safe drinking water supply. Frozen pipes can burst in extremely cold weather which only exacerbates the problem. Undetected water leaks are the main reasons for loss of water supply at this time of year. The public's cooperation in conserving water use (including not allowing taps to run continuously) is also greatly appreciated to allow water levels to return to normal. Water is our most valuable natural resource and we must conserve it. Smart Energy Systems have an emergency response number, 0818 288 050 and are available 24/7 for urgent leak detection. The company is operating right throughout the Christmas period and can be reached at any time to deal with emergency leak detection situations.

Alan Treacy, Director, has this to add:

Remember: Leaks on your premises are your responsibility, and will not be repaired by the council or water providers. Insurance companies will only settle claims once the leak is found and repaired, and subsequent leaks may not be covered by insurance. Underground leaks will require specialist leak detection equipment in order to be found. An undetected leak can cost a business thousands of euro and it is in a companies own interest to detect and repair them as fast as possible. Leaking water =leaking money. We would recommend carrying out a simple water audit on your supply to establish if a leak is present which can be done in under 5 minutes.
For instructions on how to carry out the simple check visit http://www.smartenergysystems.ie/simple-water-audit/
For leak detection enquires/concerns contact Smart Energy Systems Ltd (SES Ltd) on 0818 288 050 or email info@smartenergysystems.ie for a no obligation free consultation/advise.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The New LinkedIn Recommend Button

LinkedIn have added a new Company Recommend Button for websites and blogs. Similar to the Facebook "Like" button, which is quite consumer orientated, this button is must have for business websites.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Google and the Sponsored Links Text

Google's first strategy to generate an income from it's Search Business was the Google Device. Described as a "Search Appliance" and displayed as a bright yellow rack server box, it wouldn't really have become the billion dollar system that AdWords is today.

But Google was right to stray away from the other monetisation routes of the day - like Yahoo's $299 search-inclusion service. This meant that the Google Search results were "organic" (or algorithmic) and influenced by a community rather than than by paying advertisers.

This was a major shot in the arm for smaller companies. Because Google had reduced the number of results from any domain to just 2 per 10 results, while a big brand may have been number 1, there was plenty of room for newcomers. Consumers could, for the first time, gain unbiased views on products and services, quite often not available in their own town or peer group. It was a major boon for the little guy - the consumers and the brands!

When Google appointed a new (and current) CEO, Eric Schmidt, he helped Google develop the AdWords system (also called Pay-Per-Click/PPC) and paved the way for Google's epic IPO. One of the more curious aspects of this, is that while Google has a strong policy on Paid for clicks (and we abhor paid for links), they've previously opted to name their AdWords adverts "Sponsored Links".

We welcome the correct use of the word Ads, in-line with FTC ruling that forces bloggers, writers, twitter users and other digital content creators to acknowledge client or otherwise commercial links, mentions or recommendations as such. This has caused huge confusion, and its not helpful to people who have clearly been confused between a number 1 organic ranking and a number 1 advert (aka sponsored link).

This has to be one of my all time favourites (note: organic rankings change cyclically but the point is valid):

Sunday, October 17, 2010

10 years of Google

A look back at how and why Google displaced thousands of search engines - to become the largest driver of traffic on the internet today

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Introducing WebCare.ie - our next startup

Today I'm delighted to announce the start of our newest venture, WebCare - a complete website support and maintenance company in Ireland. WebCare will be based beside Primary Position in the National Technology Park in Limerick, where the first team is already setup and working.

We've been involved in the web space for a long time. In 1996 we developed our first website for a company in South Africa and its been go since then. Since then we've worked for over 500 companies, some of them are the biggest and best known in Ireland and we've kept professionally tight lipped about them all. But we're very proud of the work we've done nonetheless. The return comes through the many recommendations we get, even years later.

Throughout this time, we've come into contact with many businesses who have had websites designed - and are very happy with them - but need someone to help update and maintain the site. Image editing, replacing PDF's, editing content, adding pages - all that kind of work that many people just hate doing. Well, at WebCare - we love doing it!

I've known the co-founders since my days in DELL in Limerick. James has been a long term business partner and a great friend. He's also my best man at my upcoming wedding in December. Gene was director of Engineering and hugely capable. He's the most respected boss I've ever had and its a hugely satisfying to still be working with him 12 years on. Together, we have years of experience in providing customer focused services.

WebCare already has a comprehensive range of support and maintenance packages - but we want to grow the range of services and the way in which we deliver them - we're all about providing the best we can for our clients and look forward to hearing back from people in terms of what else we can offer them.

It's also great to be able to be involved in creating a new startup, especially in Limerick, where we all met and cut our teeth. Limerick is a great city, as good as any other, regardless of the media portray it. It's arguably the safest city I've lived in  - and I've lived in 3  (Cape Town and Dublin too). The people are great, the city is compact and easy to get around. The location is perfect - Cork, Galway, Tralee, Tipperary, Killarney, Dublin - all accessible within an hour to two hours.

And a massive thank you to everyone who has wished us well or is already working with us ( the hosting companies, the designers, the partner companies, the platform providers) - we've been so well recieved and it's only our first day! And welcome too to the new clients that have signed up with us - well, not so new maybe as many of them have been clients for years!

Thank you.

Our new startup - what I've been up to

This week we've started another new company - Webcare - and it will be based alongside Primary Position in the National Technology Park in Limerick.
For as long as I can remember, I've always been fascinated with Business and Technology. My dad gave me an Epson HX-20 laptop PC when I was about 8 years old -  it was literally the first laptop PC on the market. It was dual 0.9Mhz (yip 0.9) processor and I taught myself to programme it by the age of 10.

I also setup my first my business as an IT Consultant in Cape Town in 1995 while I was studying a B.Comm degree. I dropped out after my second year and never looked back. In 1998 my family returned to Ireland and I went to work for Dell. What a fantastic job - a software engineer in the worlds biggest computer company - geek heaven on earth.

I went on to start another company in 2002 and invested in or directed several (or more) other startups that were later sold (not at huge profits mind you). For me, its the love of startups - I love being involved with them. Business and Technology.

In 2010, I teamed with my old friend and long time business Partner, James and with Gene. We'd worked together in Dell - James in Engineering and then Sales and Gene was Director of Engineering. I got on so well with them that we remained working together even after we'd all left.

From our background in building and developing web solutions for other companies, through

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Great Irish Online Survey : 2010

We plan to run a survey in a couple of weeks that we hope to get responses from Irish consumers regarding shopping habits, attitudes towards brands, payments, security, design and continuity. Respondents may be involved in the web industry but we'd like to separate the results out as much as possible.

The overall aim is to get a better idea of how people buy online and how to improve the experience for everybody. It should also establish some facts on which Web UX can be improved.

If you are involved in the Irish Web Industry - a shop owner, designer, PR, agency, industry body for example - and would like to help create, publish and invite respondents as a partner, then we would like to hear from you. We'd also like to publish any special offers/freebies that partners would like to give.

The data will be shared with partners equally for their own analysis.

The Great Irish Online Survey : 2010

We plan to run a survey in a couple of weeks that we hope to get responses from Irish consumers regarding shopping habits, attitudes towards brands, payments, security, design and continuity. Respondents may be involved in the web industry but we'd like to separate the results out as much as possible.

The overall aim is to get a better idea of how people buy online and how to improve the experience for everybody. It should also establish some facts on which Web UX can be improved.

If you are involved in the Irish Web Industry - a shop owner, designer, PR, agency, industry body for example - and would like to help create, publish and invite respondents as a partner, then we would like to hear from you. We'd also like to publish any special offers/freebies that partners would like to give.

The data will be shared with partners equally for their own analysis.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Should every business be on Facebook Fan Pages? No....

If only to start a balanced debate on what companies are really achieving through Facebook, I've started a debate on the Irish Webmasters Forum about it. With facts like "400 million potential" customers on Facebook, its quite scary for business owners - who need, more than ever, to make more sales - to ignore.

That makes this post very hard to write. Its been on my mind for months now. Facebook and in particular fan pages, are being sold as a cure-all, ignore-at-your-peril, never mind the obvious must-have for businesses. If only it was that simple....Well I've discussed it with lots of smart people that I really know and I think it's worthwhile opening up the topic for a little bit of discussion.

But 400 million customers? So Irish taxi drivers will be able to magically overcome geographical and legal (not forgetting commercial) constraints and pick up punters in New York? And Irish accountants and solicitors will be able to get work in Japan and Mexico. Because Facebook will bring you together.

Not forgetting language barriers, exchange rates (remember Ireland is still at the top of the top most expensive countries for things like mechanics, accountants, solicitors - well any skilled labour) etc.

Working in Primary Position puts me in unique and privileged place - we have access to over 200,000 visits per week through Irish websites that come from a variety of different sources - Direct, Search and Referral.

Visits from Facebook fall into the Referral variety. The % makeup between Search and Referral varies from 90% to 50%. Sometimes traffic from Direct/Referral spike with events, news, e-zines. Its all part of the rich tapestry of online traffic. Facebook accounts for less than 1%. That's an absolute fact. Many have very successful Facebook fan pages with 000's of fans. Naturally grown too.

While Facebook is an exciting, useful, fantastic tool - generating less than 1% of your traffic means that you have to generate 99% from somewhere else. Facebook is good for peer referral, peer review and a good indication of how people see your brand/product/service. Its a good traffic recycler (maybe the visitor didn't buy but he can recommend you) - but its not a core generator. Generate 100 visits from Search to get 1 Facebook fan - probably need to have 1000 really. That means a lot of work.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Want to sell online? Try Facebook...

A very interesting idea was sent to me this week. A shopping cart for facebook. A facebook application that you can literally add to your profile or possibly even your fan page. It lets you sell directly through facebook, without having to send people back to your site.

I think this could be a really good idea for some people and it brings more and more of a person-to-person commercial element on the site. It looks quite good and the little test drive I gave it demonstrated it was quite workable. It was also developed in Ireland, which I think is also cool.

We have quite a few B2C clients that I'm hoping will be able to make good use of this. It also looks quite good for Charities who will be able to take donations straight from their followers. I'd also love to know what other people think. You can find the app here http://www.facebook.com/Vendorshop

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Domain names and Northern Ireland

This has been an issue for a while. With most situations, we advise businesses to create localised content when targeting different countries (in both their own language and their target markets), Northern Ireland is in a difficult position. Forgetting the political situation, Northern Ireland is part of of the .UK ccTLD group. This includes co.uk, .com.uk, .org.uk, and so on.

Ireland on the other hand has the .IE ccTLD extension, and for reasons unknown to me, doesn't have the .gov.ie, .co.ie, .org.ie subs. Which means the Governments' domain names are as exclusively recognisable as that of countries who do have a .GOV.xxx domain TLD.

Most people in Northern Ireland, with a UK/NI ISP, would have Google.co.uk (or Bing.co.uk or Yahoo.co.uk*) as their home page. Therefore their results are "localised" to UK results. Bear in mind that Belfast does have a UK Local Search (Dublin currently doesn't, at time of writing).

Thus business on either side of the border may have to consider having a .IE and a CO.UK for their business - which adds a bit of a nightmare to their content management and online Brand development.

As with .COM's, the lack of availability of domains on a global and national space is a growing problem. Many companies share the same names, and even with regional ccTLD's, the problem persists, as company names aren't always exclusive (unless protected by Trademark or other Registration). The problem is exacerbated for Northern Ireland, which is growing in it's connectivity with its neighbour to the South. There is no real border anymore, calling Northern Ireland from the South doesn't require an international extension.

The problem is, in part, that the web is still governed by a US-centric view of the world and a continued lack/resistance to localise, due in part to the pervasive myth that having a .COM (or indeed any TLD) is going to make your business global. Worse is the frightening trend that many Web design companies-cum-online marketing types still sell .IE domains only to companies clearly targeting other countries.

Its for this reason that I've never been a big promoter of the .EU domain. I just don't get it's point. Its no more relevant to someone in France or Ireland or Italy than any other domain bar their own. Given the different population and area sizes of some countries - and their own regional independence questions, perhaps the .EU needs to be localised. :-). The .IE covers a much smaller population than do .FR, .IT and .DE - so their localisation issues are probably much greater.

Thank you to @IvanODonoghue who pointed out that Scotland and Wales are probably in a similar predicament, as are maybe other ethnic groups living as part of a wider national

*Yahoo however, includes .CO.UK as potential Irish matches, particularly if hosted in Ireland

Monday, May 17, 2010

Just Google It! Advertising, Quad Bikes and CTR

A couple of companies are now running "Just Google It" advertisements - both as sign boards and on radio - loosely based on Imagine! Broadbands WiMax ad (for which they didn't rank until they changed their page title - which I suggested although I doubt they picked that up from me). I think this is quite a clever idea - although I'm not really sure if it's working for them yet.

The most recent ads I've seen are one for an adventure centre (Quad Bikes) in the middle of the country somewhere around Mountrath I think and the new Advertising ad by Advertising.ie. In the first instance, the adventure centre used a person's name (I'm still not sure why it's so common to trade under your name in Ireland but there you go) - which I struggle to remember. Possibly because the name was quite common and that I've never met that person but if it had been Irish Adventure Centre for example, I might have a better chance of remembering it.

The "Advertising" campaign is quite clever - the radio advert demonstrates the companies full range of services but alas, despite registering the domain of the same name, the site ranks #3 in pages from Ireland. Also, I couldn't remember if the ad said "Advertise" or "Advertising" - it turns out it it was the latter - and they don't rank at all for "Advertise".

If you're going to rank #3, then you have to consider the other 9, 18 (including indented), 36 (including youtube, live, suggested, adwords) places that you've now brought people in front of that don't connect to you.

This is what I mean: see the image links and adwords on the side and middle?

The links at the bottom offer video and suggested search.

Certainly, the user will be able to find the site they are looking for - but the online marketing person should have built a wider profile to provide better auxillary results pages to increase the click through rate.

From initial analysis using the Google CTR tool for organic results, we can tell that even if your domain and company name exactly matches the search phrase keyed - unless you have more than one result on the home page, your Click-Through-Rate can be as low as 50%. This is a fary cry from the originally touted 75% average CTR for the #1 position - we haven't seen anything close to 75%.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Bizcamp Limerick is back on!

That's right! Bizcamp Limerick is back on at the Kemmy Business School at the University of Limerick on the 8th May, 2010. Visit Bizcamp.ie to register to attend and/or talk. Last year's Bizcamp Limerick was an outstanding success and its great to have a follow up event! We also have a LinkedIn group and twitter account @bizcamp - so please stay in touch.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Visitor Optimisation : Tracking Telephone Calls in Google Analytics

Google Analytics has become one of the most widely used tracking tools for web developers, owners and SEO's. And for good reason - it's easy to integrate, its easy to use and understand and it's always evolving. Previous server-side applications like AWStats have suffered from a lack of development and an inability to correlate visitors and action. This is where Google has excelled and this is why they've dominated the Web Visitor Statistics market - better User Experience.

But one form of conversion tracking has been notoriously elusive - Telephone calls. Web developers around the world are building calls to action on every page - most well designed websites don't make the user click through a minefield of pages to get to a companies contact information (so do intentionally, where they prefer users to create an account and help themselves). And tracking the telephone call conversions has been a huge issue for many SEO's and online mareketeers - with many choosing to avoid it.

Google have suggested a couple of ways to track this on their Analytics Blog - one of them is to use unique telephone numbers (for AdWords, Organic leads etc). However, I think the proposed solutions add cost and possibly raise more questions/issues than they answer:

  • What if you get two phone calls from visitors on your site at the same time?

  • What if the user saves the number and calls back later, when their session is closed?
This has been bugging me (and countless other webmasters no doubt) for years. What we need is a simple, cost-effective and in-session solution. And here at Primary Position, we think we've found it! A conversion tracking system that tracks enquiries inline and keeps the conversion in session, to make it easier to follow where an enquiry was made from.

This procedure is quite simple, but its implementation should be quite powerful, so we've decided to give it away for free. For the next couple of weeks we'll be demonstrating the concept and how it works with a select group of web designers. There'll be no fee or licence costs or anything at all - it will be freely available to the general public during April 2010.

We'll also be listing blog posts about the concept - so please let us know if you review it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Google Snippets - Geo Location and Country Location

One of the many reasons Google Search became so dominant was that it was the first to offer localised searching by default. Yahoo, for example, has always been particularly bad - especially in Ireland. PrimaryPosition.co.uk (as do several other .co.uk ccTLD's) ranks for SEO in "Pages from Ireland only" in a search for SEO! Click here to see that search.

Google is now displaying the country it thinks a site is best fitted too. Geo-Targeting, or associating a website with a country (or more), is a really simple concept. The US-centric nature of the world's biggest search engines for the last 20 years (dominated by Google for the past 8 or 9) has meant that .COM's are often seen as global and previously (before 2004/5) sites ranked regardless of location - which suited most US surfers just fine. Top Level Domains (TLD's : .COM, .NET, .ORG etC) can be assigned to any country and sometimes span more than one. This has often caused a lot of confusion, with many first time webstore owners (and some others) belieing that .COM's (in particular) are global and show up equally everywhere (which really isn't the case)

Having a domain attached to a country makes sense. If you were searching for a plumber, coffee shop, accountant, cinema, online store, having results from other countries doesn't make a lot of sense. Google went further with their Local Business Listings but the new snippet - showing the country or Geo-Target is an interesting development - and one I hope will clear up that misunderstanding.

Having localised sites for your clients ultimately gives the surfer what they want (maybe not the website owner but hey, Google's customer is the user) - so this might be interesting for a lot of people to see.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

SEO News - Newspapers jump on the blackhat bandwagon

I've noticed recently that newspapers are popping up intermittently for searches related to SEO. It started with an article in a UK newspaper. News and UK sites often appear in Irish searches - more so in Yahoo! where UK sites (with .co.uk Domain names/ccTLD's) often outrank Irish sites even in "Pages from Ireland" only searches.

I noticed the first article appearing late in 2009. The newspaper (I think it was the Guardian) lamented that its journalists had somehow sacrificed their writing in favour of adopting SEO techniques. Rather, that they were trying to use popular search words and other "SEO" techniques to get more traffic - as traffic was thought to be the equivalent of readership. Which its not really. Readership is a subset of traffc, as we really know.

Today I balk at the snippet above - the Belfast Telegraph have created a post with words quite unrelated to their article. It could have been called "Blackhat online Marketing Techniques" - but instead they went for big hitter search phrases.

I quite agree with the debate around spam and online marketing. Its getting very big. We get hundreds of requests every month from (mostly) Asian based link-building sweatshops with assembly line style link bulding in 0 authority link farms. These shops turn out tens of thousands of rubbish back links. If you're a blogger or a website owner, this is probably where you're getting all those junk e-mails and rubbish posts on your blog. One dodgy Irish SEO even extolled their virtues recently on the Irish Web Master Forum, but thankfully the rest of the Irish web industry wasn't impressed.

Sound good - tens of thousands of inward links to your site? Don't be fooled - a page with 100 outbound links on a "farm" of 100,000 pages with millions more isn't going to impress users or Google. People who buy these links are probably guilty of adding to the growing web of spam building up. More on this in the next post.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Google Analytics - Faster new Asynchronous Analytics Tracking

Google have announced a new Asynchronous Tracking script for Analytics. The new snippet decreases a webpage's loading time over the previous urchin/script as it is inserted higher up the page source thus not slowing down the page load on the client side (rendering). This is a nice feature as the Google Analytics code can add significantly to the time between page download (request) and the time it takes for the user to see the page (rendered).

New Script example:

<script type="text/javascript">
var _gaq = _gaq || [];
_gaq.push(['_setAccount', 'UA-XXXXX-X']);

(function() {
var ga = document.createElement('script'); ga.type = 'text/javascript'; ga.async = true;
ga.src = ('https:' == document.location.protocol ? 'https://ssl' : 'http://www') + '.google-analytics.com/ga.js';
(document.getElementsByTagName('head')[0] || document.getElementsByTagName('body')[0]).appendChild(ga);


Read more here: http://code.google.com/apis/analytics/docs/tracking/asyncTracking.html

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

New websites & Projects

Congratulations to Tynan & Co, the 100 year old firm of Limerick Solicitors, who have just launched their new website. Tynan & Co. have just entered the digital age with their first ever web presence - and we're delighted to be working on their SEO and Web Marketing programme.

We've also started the launch of the first website for the new Connect Limerick website. Connect Limerick are a business networking group in Limerick and are seeking to promote and encourage business networking in the Mid West. Primary Position is delighted to be a sponsor and member of the group and website.