Scam Alert! Domain SEO Services

If you own or manage a domain you need to read this.

I manage quite a few domains and, as such, see a fair number of domain communications each month.  One recent e mail stood out.  There was something about it that wasn’t quite right.

  1. It had no letter head or logo and the sender was not who I have my domains registered with.  In fact the layout and style of the message is deliberately ‘vanilla’.
  2. Whilst this domain is up for renewal this year, I knew it was in October and not the Spring when the renewal was due.
  3. The wording was both very lengthy and hard to understand.  Again a deliberate ploy to confuse anyone that receives such a mail that it really needs to be acted upon.
  4. The incentive to “Buy Now” seemed just a bit too forceful and smacked of a con.

So what is it?

Well it isn’t a domain renewal notice even though it has a domain name, a duration of service and even a start date.  It is an offer to buy “Domain SEO Service” and  “to purchase a search engine traffic generator”.

No clear details are given on what these products will do for your website.  The one thing that is clear is that Google takes an incredibly dim view of attempts to artificially increase a sites ranking in the search results.  So much so, that sites have been penalised and in some cases banned when it has been discovered they have tried to manipulate the Google search results.

It is not worth the risk.

You do not need to pay to have your domain name submitted to and indexed by the search engines.  This could be the worst $75 you might ever spend.

You DO need to engage someone to help you optimse the content of your site and effectively focus it around your chosen keyword(s).  Your web designer should be able to advise on how best to go about doing this.

This Domain SEO Service Expiration Notice is a very clever and cynical scam.  It deliberately creates a sense of apparent urgency around the renewal of a service and hopes that the recipient either is in too much of a hurry to read it or not knowledgeable enough to know that it is unnecessary.  The originators know that in many small and medium sized businesses, the staff are working flat out and spending 5 – 10 minutes trying to work out whether something is genuine, is time they simply do not have.

If / when you get your domain renewal notice in the mail, or something that looks like one; read it very carefully before acting upon it.  It may not be quite what it seems.

iTunes GRRRRR

Podcasts are a great way to make use of time that would otherwise be wasted spent commuting, exercising or doing mundane chores. In another post I’ll share some of my favourite podcasts but one thing seems common to most of them…..

The presenters frequently ask listeners to go to iTunes to like and subscribe to their podcast. I understand this can raise the profile of a podcast meaning it has a better chance of getting even more subscribers. However, as an Android user I have no intention of going anywhere near iTunes for any reason, ever.  In fact, when I hear this it just shows how lacking in awareness the podcast presenter / producer is and how blinkered they are to think that every listener will be using an Apple device.

I’ll personally buy a beer for the first podcaster I hear acknowledge the fact that you can access and subscribe to podcasts through other means besides iTunes.

Sharp Practices by Web Designers

Recently, I noticed in my Facebook feed the name of a local web designer that was new to me.  Being curious and wanting to keep abreast of the competition, I looked them up.  I was disappointed to discover they had adopted a number of tactics that were clearly pushing the boundaries of what could be described as honest.

It got me thinking, I am the only web designer that is entirely truthful on my site and in my marketing?

So, what was this new entrant doing that was misleading and potentially dishonest?

Their Facebook ad looked like this…

Taken at face value (as many potential customers will do), this is  an unbelievable bargain.  Even outsourcing to the cheapest and least skilled offshore supplier imaginable, there is no way a ‘professional’ website could be created for £49.  And of course, it isn’t true.  Following the link to their website reveals that the real cost is £49 per month (oh and on top of that there is an ‘initial set up’ fee of £199 as well).

Assuming the business maintains the website for five years, it will have really cost an eye watering £3139 before any VAT / sales tax has been added.

Secondly, the business in question had a glowing testimonial from a garage owner who seemed delighted with the service provided.  It sounds as if the new website had already born fruit and was bringing in new business.  Oddly, there was no link to the site in question which seemed peculiar given the situation.  Stranger still, a search on Google for Prestfield Motors returned no matches whatsoever.  In fact, there were no matches for Kenny Sinclair and the motor trade in Edinburgh.  Zero, nil, zilch, zip.

It was a fake testimonial from a fake business alleging benefits that were utterly fake.  It got me wondering who was in the picture, was this really Kenny Sinclair or was he a fake too?

Of course he was a fake!  Using the ever so handy Google Reverse Image Search facility revealed that ‘Kenny’ is a prolific chap.   He appears on a hair loss website in South Africa, an Arizona skin clinic site, a UK house sale site as well as countless social media sites.‘So what’ I hear you say, don’t we all embellish the truth a bit?  Well, yes and no.  It depends on how far you take the embellishment.  In this case, the deliberate attempt to mislead on pricing is pretty close to the widely discredited and highly disliked technique of “bait and switch“.  The use of a stock image in a testimonial whilst you are awaiting a photo from the customer is understandable but deliberately creating a fake identity, a fake business and a whole fake story to sell your services is downright dishonest.  As soon as a potential customer realises your claims are unfounded they should begin to question everything you say.

For example, is your support as good as you claim?  Is your uptime really as high as you indicate?  Are you truly based in the local area or are you a front for a “pile it high, sell it cheap” offshore operation?

It is all about credibility.  Most customers do not want to do business with a firm that feels it is OK to deliberately mislead and be dishonest on their website.  Why would you trust a firm that did this?  After all, if they do this on their own site, there is a good chance they could do it on yours too.

Whatever your line of business, think carefully before making unclear, misleading or entirely false claims on your website.  The consequences will inevitably come back to bite you.

Seasons Greetings

Seasons greetings from QD Design

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

Christmas is a wonderful time to take a break from the rush of work and
rejuvenate for the year ahead.
Hope you are able to enjoy time with family and friends. Sending you best wishes for 2017.
Thank you to all our customers, past, present and future.  We hugely appreciate working with you.
 
QD Design will be closed December 24 to January 4
and will return the first Wednesday of 2017.*
*For urgent issues or emergencies, please call or text.

Why DIY websites frequently fail to deliver

Pitfalls of DIY web Design

Recently I participated in a Marketing Seminar at the Business Gateway in Aberdeen, facilitated by the excellent Liz Pirrie.  Listening to the great bunch of people passionately describing their businesses – animal welfare, fitness trainers, payroll services, pollution control consultants, luxury soap manufacturer, the variety was huge – and their hectic days; it was obvious that as a small business owner you have many, often competing, priorities ….

  • Sourcing and managing suppliers
  • Fulfilling customer orders
  • Client / customer communications
  • Product / service development
  • Filing accounts
  • Forward planning and scheduling
  • Updating details in the customer database / CRM
  • Market research
  • IT “housekeeping”
  • Networking
  • Exercise and health
  • Time for family and friends

I was exhausted just listening to them!  It got me thinking, ‘why, when you have so much on your plate already, would you ever would ever consider making your own website’?

It is true, if you require a website for your business, you are faced with a bewildering range of choices.  ‘Doing it yourself’ using one of the apparently “easy to use” template based services can be very appealing.

However, is it such a good idea?  Are there any drawbacks to using a template driven site builder for your businesses website?  Yes there are, and before opting for a DIY template website, here are seven you should be aware of before opting for DIY.

 1.  Learning Curve – The adverts for these services are full of people smiling happily whilst they create an amazing looking website in less time than it takes to rustle up a sandwich. It is largely a con.  As with any tool, working out how to use it, and use it effectively, takes time.  Business owners can often take 40 – 50 hours to learn how to use the web development tool and then craft the finished website for their firm.  Whilst the business owner has been beavering away creating a website, what else could (perhaps more importantly – should) they have been doing?  And, have they truly saved any money by doing it themselves?  Take those 40 -50 hours and multiply by the hourly rate charged to a customer.  They may well find that a professional web designer would have cost them less (and created the site far more quickly) than the business owner has managed to do themselves using a template.time flies

2.  No differentiation – Using a template means that everyone that adopts that tool starts out with the same basic framework. More than likely, the resulting website will resemble each other.  Access to the same font packages, same image galleries and same basic colour schemes all but guarantee a site is going to be similar to other sites derived from the same source.  We all want to stand out, we all want our business to look different; using a template significantly reduces our ability to reflect our businesses true identity in our website.

sheep
Don’t be a sheep and use a template, employ a web designer instead!

3.  User Experience – Whilst a template does allow you to create a website, will it be a good website and will it work for your customers? Most of us make a snap decisions about a product or service in the first few seconds of viewing its website.  Without a good understanding of User Experience (UX) and thus User Interface (UI) design, the business owner employing a template is stuck with the UI and UX that the template builder had in mind.  Poorly placed navigation links, hard to read colour combinations, unresponsive designs will all drive the site visitor back to the search results and onto another site – another potential customer lost.

 4.  Transfer-ability – In many cases, you can’t easily move a site or its contents when it is based on a template service. If the business happens to outgrow the service provided by the template hosts or gets fed up with their less than stellar support, they might discover they are stuck with the template hosts as they are not be able to download their content to go elsewhere.  They are not far short of being a “hostage”!Hostage to the template

5.  Backups – Most templates back up their systems in case of a crash but don’t necessarily protect you from yourself. If you accidentally delete an entire page from your website it may be gone for good.  As an aside, if a site is created in a template it is worth backing it up to your local machine so you have the text and images just in case you remove something important.  Imagine how long it would take to restore an entire page of information, source the graphics you previously used and re-configure the links you had on the page.

6.  Total cost – The template will cost more in the long run. Most templates are based on a monthly fee.  This can be upwards of $25 / £18 per month.  Add that up over a couple of years and compare to site hosting fees.  Over the course of a few years the small business will have spent more than it would have taken to have their site built by a web designer and have it hosted.templates cost you more

7.  Lastly, Value versus Cost – Yes, going down the template route might appear to be cheaper (though you might be questioning this now too) but will the website give the business the Value it needs and requires?  A good website will help to draw customers to a business whilst a poor one might actively turn them away.  Small businesses usually have a very specific goal in mind for their websites.  Attract, engage, retain and convert visitors to customers.  If a site fails at any one of these stages then it clearly hasn’t succeeded as a business tool.  Knowing how to attract, engage, retain and convert visitors is what you are paying the web designer for.

Do your business a favour and don’t trust to luck and a template.  Engage a web design professional to make your business website a success.  It will let you get on with successfully managing your business!

QD Design have been making outstanding websites for smaller businesses and start-ups since 2004.  We know exactly the challenges small business face and can help and advise on the best options for any small business looking to get onto the web.

14 Ways to Increase Website Traffic

The prime purpose of virtually every website is to be a “shop window” to the world.  Most businesses I speak with want to significantly increase the traffic to their web site.  And, once there, they want to covert more of that traffic to active, loyal and long standing customers.  Your “shop window” may be fantastic but if no one stops by to view it, it isn’t doing much for your business.increase-traffic

Here are 14 ways to get more traffic to your site and to convert that traffic more frequently.

1) Easy navigation
Around each page, between pages and back to the home page from any level within the site.  When visitors get lost or confused on a site, they typically go to elsewhere.  The navigation should be obvious and readily accessible from every page on the site.compass-nav

2) Responsive design
Yes, I know this is nothing new but if the visitor on a phone cannot view the site, they will vote with the back button and go elsewhere.  Ensure that everyone, regardless of device, can see your site as you want them to.

3) Compatible and tested with multiple browsers
Whilst you no doubt have a favourite browser, your visitor may use an entirely different platform.  Does your site work equally well in ALL browsers? Did you check this?

4) Page speed
No one likes to wait.  People drift away if the page is slow to load and rarely return to a slow site if they can help it.  There are many tools you can use to evaluate page speed and make improvements to a site  Google Developers Page Speed Test is one we at QD Design use frequently.speedo

5) Dead or broken links
Nothing says “unloved” website more than a broken or dead link.  It is a real turn off for visitors.  Either check your links by hand or use an on line link checker such as Broken Link Check to see if there are any that need updating.

6) Testimonials
Genuine testimonials from real clients can count hugely to converting visitors into customers.  If appropriate, include a video from them talking about your product or service.  This is just about the most powerful advocacy you can get for your business.

7) User interface / user experience
A website has to meet the needs of the visitor / customer and not pander to the whims and desires of the site owner and designer.  A site that is easy to read, easy to navigate and free from irritating distractions will convert many more visitors.  For additional advice on UI / UX, check out this great info from the guys at UX Myths

8) Language appropriate for your audience
Write in their language; avoid jargon, slang and any colloquial phrases that people may not understand.  Always bear in mind that your website is a tool for the visitors and not a vehicle for you to show off.dictionary

9) Answer visitors questions
In other words, try to predict what questions brought them to your site and what information will satisfy them.  If you don’t know, then you may have missed something vital to help convert visitors to loyal customers.

10) About us
Few people want to do business with someone / something they don’t know.  Ensure your site has an ‘About Us’ section that says who you are and what makes you tick. Present your human face to your visitors (you are human aren’t you)!

11) Pricing
Similar to the ‘About Us’ point above, visitors rarely feel comfortable doing business with a firm where the prices are hidden or unclear.  If you can, show your pricing structure openly so it saves any embarrassing moments when the customer realises they cannot afford you / your services.

12) Live chat
When you are providing a service and customers need to interact directly with you, a chat tool is often preferred to e mail as a means to get / give information quickly.  If you have the staff and can run a live chat to engage with customers, you should see a significant increase in customer enquiries made through your website.
chat

13) Simple, short forms
Should you want to create an e mail list then all you really need  from the visitor is their name and email address.  Asking for other data, e.g. street address, phone number, date of birth – I know it is only so you can wish them Happy Birthday on their big day – massively puts people off from signing up as they may have genuine concerns over how that data may be used, shared or stored.

14) Finally, no snarky exit ‘pop ups’
You know the sort of thing, emblazoned across the screen as you go to leave a site is a huge banner saying,  “No thanks, I really don’t want 20 amazing ways to make my life awesome”  When pop ups try to make you feel bad about not clicking a sign up or try to make you feel dumb that you could be missing out on something, they have overstepped the line.  There is a reason why the visitor hasn’t click your button and trying to force them into doing it now probably isn’t going to work.  They will just leave and in most probability, do their best never to come back.

What would you add to the list to get more people to visit your website? Leave your answers below in the comment box.

New website – what next?

New website checklist
Website just gone live, surely it’s time for a break?

You have just completed (or your designer has) your brand new website.  The site is live and after many weeks of frantic effort you can finally take a break, sit back and admire the newly launched site, right?

Wrong!

Unfortunately, the hard work continues; in fact some may say, it has only just begun once the site has gone live!  Any parent will tell you that the birth of a child is just the start of years of effort and commitment during which they see their loved one grow and develop.  A new website is spookily similar (though maybe with fewer sleepless nights and less tantrums)!

In essence, once your website has gone live you need to….

  • Drive traffic to the site to attract new visitors
  • Keep the content fresh to retain existing users and ‘convert’ new users
  • Measure site effectiveness and your marketing progress
  • Improve the site’s user experience

5 Vital Tasks for any New Website

Here is the QD Design checklist for how you can do this once your site has gone live.

  1. Use Social Media to promote the site and bring in traffic.
    Simply launching a site will not automatically bring people to it. You need to promote the site to your users, customers and potential customers through a focused and targeted strategy.  Ask yourself, where do my potential customers typically ‘hang out’ on social media.  Are you there too?
  2. Make it easy for people to share your content.
    You have created some amazing content, with insightful text and great images. social-sharingPlacing Social Media sharing buttons on pages will make it easier for people to share the site and in turn bring others to view it.
  3. Traffic logging.
    You should have set up (or the designer should have on your behalf) some form of traffic logging for the site. Of the many traffic monitors available, the biggest and probably best is Google Analyticslogo-gaNow is the time to begin querying the data it provides.  This can help you see where visitors to your site are coming from, how long they stay for, and at what time of the day the site is most popular.  If you are selling goods and services through the site you can even begin to track how far a visitor gets through the buying process before they abandon – very useful for refining your pricing, your product descriptions or your product promotion.
  4. Develop more content.
    ‘What’, I hear you say, ‘it has taken weeks to develop the new site and you want me to create even more new content’?  Yes, I’m afraid so!  content_developmentGoogle search hugely prefers sites that are up to date and have new content over ones that are static and remain the same month in month out.  Developing new content pleases both the Google search engine as well as your audience. New content is a great reason to contact your audience and promote the site even further.
  5. Optimise the user experience.
    Use tools such as Google Webmaster and their Page Speed Insights to check how quickly the site loads and what you can do to make it even faster. You should already have checked how it works on different sized devices but go through each and every page, top to bottom, ensuring the design does truly work.  code-820275_640Optimize image sizes and the white space around them to ensure that great content isn’t missing from the viewers eye.  Create a list of improvements to work upon come the date of the first site review.

If your chosen designer doesn’t have a process for continually improving your website, are they truly the right person for the job?  There is more to web design than just devising the site itself.  At QD Design we know that the design and deployment is the (relatively) easy part, maintaining and improving the site to achieve your business aims over the long term is where the hard graft is really needed.

QD Design can assist you every step of the journey; get in touch to find out what we can do for you.

Shopping Safely Online

According to the Centre for Retail Research in the run up to Christmas 2014, on line shopping in the UK comprised very nearly 25% of all sales made.  This was up a whopping 19% on the year before.  We spent over £17bn on-line in the six weeks before Christmas 2014.

As the BBC reported Scammers, hackers, thieves and crooks of all persuasions are gearing up to take advantage of our increasing adoption of online purchasing and are planning even more cunning ways to part us from our money.

Here are 10 ways to shop safely on line….

  1. Visit familiar websites that you know and trust; if you find a site offering incredible deals way down on page eight of a Google search , there is likely to be something awry.  If the deal was that good, it should have appeared on the first page or two.
  2. Be aware of ‘look-alike’ sites that either use a misspelling of a real business name (e.g. johmlewis.com) or a different ending to an existing web address (for example .net rather than .com or .com.uk instead of .co.uk).The ‘look-alikes’ are sometimes all but identical to the real sites since the crooks have simply cloned the site they are pretending to be.  Always check in the address bar of your browser to make sure you really are where you think you are.
  3. Look for the lock icon.When sending details of your credit card always look to see if Secure Socket Layer encryption has been enable.  This is shown by the web address changing from http://www.. to https://www.. (the all important ‘s’ indicating that it is a secure connection).Depending on your browser you should also have visible confirmation that a secure connection is now in use.  A padlock is added either in the status bar or right next to the site address in Chrome.  If you are being asked for your card details and there is no padlock the absence of the lock icon should have alarm bells ringing immediately.You wouldn’t stand in the middle of the street shouting out the details of your credit card, so why do the equivalent on line!
  4. Keep your browser and computer operating systems up to date.  Same goes for your anti-virus and other security programs.  Hackers in particular, attempt to exploit known weaknesses in programs.  Omitting to update key software is like leaving a window open in your house.  You are making it easy for the crooks to gain entry.
  5. Consider using a browser with the Safe Browsing function installed.  Browsers that incorporate Safe Browsing include Google Chrome, Firefox & Safari.Safe Browsing warns the user when they are about to access a site that may have potential threats.  More than 5 million warnings per day for all sorts of malicious sites and unwanted software are provided by Safe Browsing.
  6. Credit rather than debit.  The payment protection afforded by using a credit card rather than a debit card is usually greater.  Whilst no one ever wants anything to go wrong, at least this might offer a little more peace of mind.  Even better than that, try switching to a payment service such as PayPal.
    These services never reveal your credit card to the online merchant meaning that if you do inadvertently fall foul of a look-alike site, then at least your card details are still secure.
  7. Exercise caution when downloading new apps.  Only download apps from trusted sources such as Google Play (for Android) or the Apple App Store (for Apple devices).  Cyber-thieves have deliberately made similar looking apps to existing ones that can harvest sensitive information.If in doubt, thoroughly read the reviews of the app before installing it to see what other users have to say about that app.
  8. If something seems to be “too good to be true”, it probably is.  Unsolicited email containing details of incredible bargains are almost always bait to get you to access a site that cyber-crooks will use to steal data, information or money from you.A common ploy to encourage people to click a link in an email is to make the offer time sensitive, “Hurry, only available for 24 hours“, or saying it is for the “first 200 customers only“.   Even if the mail comes from a friend you should still exercise great caution; it is easy to ‘spoof’ an email message so that it appears to come from someone other than the true sender.
  9. This is a good time to check that you are using strong, unique passwords for all of the sites where you have set up an account. Using weak, easily guessed passwords or using the same password across multiple sites is simply making it easy for the cyber-thieves should your details fall into their hands. If you are not sure what makes a good password, here are some great password tips from Google.
  10. Finally, once you have those strong secure and unique passwords in place, you don’t want to forget them (which let’s face it, is easily done when you have tens of sites where you have an account). Password vaults such as Keepass or LastPass are an excellent way of managing numerous passwords.
    Keepass Lastpass

Shopping on line is convenient and brings a world of choice and convenience to your front room.  Done with a reasonable amount of caution, it is no less risky than shopping on the high street.  Done with less awareness and a degree of carelessness or naivety, and you face a chance of getting scammed, fooled or sadly robbed.

Take care and above all, stay safe.