Welcome to the penultimate article in the “building your brand” series, today I want to talk about the usage of social media to help promote your company, a product/service or yourself (personal brand).

To help illustrate the various characters that can be found in social media and to see which best suits you I am going to work with examples of a teenage party (18th birthday or leaving school type thing, where all are invited). The reason for this is that in my view social media is just a like a party, and the hosts are the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Ning, Digg and many others. You or Your Brand are the guests and just like partying teenagers its about “standing out” and “being the best” … not being the little ignored guy in the corner.

@ The Social Media Party

The guy/girl in the corner
Ok so this sounds like I’m being a little mean, but we’ve all seen the little shy guy/girl or person with few friends who is very quiet attending a party but not really doing much. Sometimes they sit alone sometimes with others but none the less they are quiet and unheard. This to me is like creating a for your brand and not shouting about it. Just because you attend the party doesn’t mean you will make any friends, you have to advertise and network to develop the relationships where by people will come and talk to you, or in this case join the fan page or follow your twitter account.

Consider:  If you answer “yes” to the following questions then you should start a conversation, otherwise next time you hear “everyone is doing the social media thingy, so should we” have the guts to say “no” because its not right for you. Do you have content worth sharing? Do you release content worth sharing on a regular basis (including blog posts)? Is your target audience under 35?

The Loudmouth Blabber
The loudmouth is the one that overcompensates for the lack of value they carry by blabbering on … basically decrease in quality in crease in quantity. The person is constantly demanding attention and never listens. This is exactly the same with social media (or blogging) companies whom are constantly “pimping” themselves and the products/services they offer, by not listening to feedback from the crowd you are in essence shutting the door in their face – they are unlikely to want to come back and talk to you (in our case less likely to deal with your business or brand).

Consider: Social media should speak for itself because your content should also, if your content doesn’t talk quality then you stand little chance in social media. In general the higher the quality of product/service the more people will talk about it on the social networks. The theory is that you should only need to post 1 link per post you write, it is then for the community you have to spread the word (from one to another and so on, the viral effect if you’re lucky).

The Sparkling Showoff
We all know who I’m talking about, the people who get out their smart phone or little gadget that does something special, or shows off something expensive or that he/she know one else in the room has (maybe an iPhone or the new iPad). People gather round (follow your group on facebook, follow you on twitter etc) to be closer to the centre of the party. Soon after they gathered begin to dissipate and back off because they realise that the gadget maybe inaccessible (they won’t get a go on it), the person/brand is intimidating or maybe they realise that the person/brand/product is bland and nothing special. This is like launching a new site online, there is a social media buzz and viral effect almost but after a few days the honeymoon effect ends because you haven’t maintained the connection with the others, you’ve decided that instead of you working you will let your product do the talking… not always the best route it is generally the connection and relationship you have with your clients that brings them back time and time again.

Consider: Beauty is skin deep, products and services have a limited ability to talk for you and sell themselves – it is for you to connect and show the real value and resource of your product… it is you whom the connection is with and you whom the community trust – not your service.

The Buzzword Adict
These are the people who namedrop constantly or are constantly talking about themselves and what they have done that is so amazing recently, even though for most people what they do is for them an everyday event! These people are those who go online mention famous names left, right and centre just to get attention – or perhaps they fill social content such as twitter with keywords and links … not only do people pick up on this but they will begin to ignore you and further to this search engines will take little to no notice of these events. The best bet and best practice is to talk naturally and not to act as you think you should be seen, social media is about conversation not campaigning for your product or services.

Consider: Remember what I said earlier it’s a converstation, it’s two way and it should be totally natural. If you decide to use social media it requires commitment to engagement, not commitment to a campaign.

Be a R.A.T.

Sounds like a peculiar thing to tell someone but being the RAT can make your social media branding exercise extra special and give it that x-factor that your competitors don’t have, after all if you are going to be the same as them what is the point – you need to be the best.

Responding Now
British Telecom are well known for having one of the worst customer service records in the UK. Unlike some companies (eg ComCast – telecoms company in the USA) BT are yet to find social media as a route to better service. ComCast offers a twitter conversation (via @ComCastCares) to its customers to help report and fix problems but the minor and major, they are not alone in doing this, one of the AKD partners UKHost4u [we no longer partner with ukhost] also offer a similar service to repost hosting issues or outages. Responding quickly to current and potential customers is of the upmost importance, gaining trust isn’t easy but this is one great big leap you can take towards being trusted. As well as this it also protects your brand because you are acting in a very proactive manner to reduce larger complaints.

Adventure Beyond Competitors
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and do something new or different, something from another industry or that has never been done before. A good way to do this is to offer a competition with a huge prize to draw attention, this is how big brands do it so try it with a smaller brand too, if they do it so can you.

Target Correctly
Targeting your audience is very important, you must target and speak to your audience in the correct tone and manner. Each type of person and audience requires a different approach – for example KFC or McDonalds would target the younger generations trying to take a tone which is “young and urban” maybe even using texting acronyms like Vodafone have done on billboards with the advert “unltd txts” … if you are selling meals on wheels to elderly people online then you may not use social media to begin with but if you do you will need a softer less abrasive tone which speaks on a friendly level with the client.

3 Steps to a Strong Social Brand

1 – planning
Planning your social events can be a crucial point for any business or brand (not so much if your selling yourself as a brand because that is you as a person and should be you talking naturally off the cuff not pre prescribed). You need to determine what you want to show your brand as being (consider brand position), plan what resources you want to show-off and consider why you want to show it off – don’t just do it for the sake of it because you can. Remember quality over quantity. Also plan which social media outlets you will use, facebook and twitter are the norms but if your technical you may want to take a look at Digg or Delicious.
Hint: Writing down your plan means if you go away on holiday the conversation continues.

2 – Implement
This is where the hard work really begins, you need to put your strategy into action – generally unless you’re your own brand this isn’t a one man job (though you can hire an seo like Andy Kinsey) to really help you out. If you get stuck and need help posting tweets on a regular basis you may want to consider auto-tweeting using socialtoo.com

3 – Analysis
Tracking and monitoring your implementation and time on social media can be very important, otherwise you won’t really know the impact it has had on your sales or visitors. There are many tools for doing this, one of the simplest is simply using analytics tools (such as ) but generally this isn’t enough, there are a number of ways to check the number of times a link you post is clicked, several are paid but the one i favour bitly is completely free and they are constantly improving the analytics they provide (also bitly is a link shortening service).

Do you have any tips for using social media for branding? Is your brand currently in need of followers on twitter or facebook? Do you own a successful social brand? If you’ve said “yes” to any of the above then leave a comment below.

For the third (ok, fourth if your being clever) article in this series of “building your brand” I want to focus on your customers and how you can change certain aspects within a brand (and actions it makes) to make the consumer more receptive to the brand, including products or services you offer.

In the recent recession (and I say that knowing the UK has shown economic growth for the last quarter of 2009 and first of 2010) I watched carefully as brand after brand crumbled in the UK and around the globe, including many financial brands which most people were here to stay. Other than the banking fiasco causing the recession around the world, another thing which helped fuel the economic depression (and causes issues for many companies) is that prices are being driven lower. The reasons for this are many and varied, a number of companies believe that the customers have “been empowered with information” and therefore know where to go to compare prices or get it cheaper. In my view this is not so much the case, the drop in prices is down to a lack of strong brands, in the 90′s and early 00′s big brands such as Nike, Adidas, Microsoft and Apple dominated the global markets in many ways, looking at the same brands now adidas is slowly dieing, as are nike and microsoft, apple remains strong due to its market position as being “elite” and not so much for the ordinary punter… they price themselves in the upper market. As I said in my previous post about brand position:

The more obvious the connection is between the brand and the prospect’s daily activities, the greater the chances are that the chances of selling the product or service you are offering.

I recently did some research for these posts (as I do with all posts I make) and subsequently did an analysis of what I found and any data figures I could compare – and it is the 3 significant findings about customer loyalty I want to now concentrate on. The interesting part of this is that these cover all markets and industries not one specifically, the mindset of the consumer the world over doesn’t change very much in respect to these ideas.

Price Advertising = FAIL!

Time is the sales driver, not the price. (ok over generalising here but I will go into this in depth in a post in the future). Lets take the following common examples, when your reading these think carefully about if the product mentioned is changed to something you use on a regular basis what you would do.

Example 1

Slimming Pills – Buy 150 Capsules and Get 28 Free – £29.95

Example 2

1 Months Supply of Slimming Pills, Clinically Proven to Show Results in Less Than 3 Weeks of Continual Usage – More than 20% FREE – £29.95

Example 3

Slimming Pills – Proven to Work in Under 3 Weeks – 20% extra FREE – £29.95

These examples are taken from a discussion with a client selling diet pills Kaloss Trimmers

I admit these aren’t the best examples but lets unpack them. Example one is too the point and shows the sale clearly and effectively, but its lacking a real pull. Example two is very much wordy and as such is wasting the users time from the start, a claim of more than 20% free … so how much is free? also from a good point of view there are 2 time focuses, they do not align (1 month and 3 weeks, so whats the extra week for?) this is a messy advert and another bad example. The third example is clean and concise, it says what the product is, has a time attached and is proven (something easily overlooked in example 2) and declare 20% extra free – it is the combination of a short time period (shorter than most slimming pills) and getting something “extra” for free that pulls the consumer in, and it is this small wording change that can make a difference between them buying from you at £29.95 and from someone else with a similar product at £19.99 …. its about evoking the emotion of feeling that it will work, and you trust the product. Which neatly brings my to my next point …

Emotional Advertising Reduces Price Sensitivity

This may sound a little strange to even those who are market hardened and think they know their customers. But this is a trend that is becoming much bigger and more important on the web and tv, and it is only in the last year that it has really began to boom on the web (& tv) and also pick up in other media such as newspapers and adverts in supermarkets.

Evoking emotion in campaigns makes the advertising campaign around twice as likely to generate much larger sales figures than the “rational” (and boring) advertising of old.

If you can evoke certain emotions or memories, such as making an older person remember a good time in their childhood with an image or an old saying, my research shows that these campaigns does something quite amazing and powerful. The emotional campaign reduces price sensitivity, and means that a brand can take up the “premium” space in any market place.

A great example of this as I’ve already mentioned is Apple. In theory the products that they provide are based on the same hardware that E-machines, HP & Dell provide however they prices are much higher, this in part is due to the operating system being “great” (though i don’t think its that good) and the stylish nature of the products. The products and brand evoke a feeling of being executive and stylish – it makes you feel its high quality and therefore they can ask a premium price for the products they offer.

Loyalty Programs – Bringing Outside Inside

Again I apologise for skipping some detail here but there will be another post in detail about this specific topic, so I will cover the basics here.

One aspect that many brands use to inspire loyalty and promote a brand is to give a loyalty scheme, for example Tesco ClubCard and Nectar your build up points by shopping at various outlets and then you spend the points in store or online. Ok you’ve giving away 1 to 5% (on average) of your sale however you can be sure they will come back and spend that and it will encourage them to build up points because they want something free, we all do, its human nature. So you will get those sales, and if you make it one hundred points = £1 as with tesco the person has to spend £100 on a 1% basis so to get £10 back you spend £1000 (some nice sales begin to build up) and because the scheme only gives you so much and the person wants something nice for free they may be willing to pay any difference upto the amount of points again … so you get approx 50% of a sale … it all builds up.

Other schemes like affiliate schemes mean again you give away the same amount in sales to a person as commission for bringing you a sale, or you give them a  fixed amount say £5 per sale of a TV or Laptop. They do the leg work for you promoting your brand and website, and research shows if you let these people use the affiliation themselves they will also shop with you simply because again they are getting “something for nothing”.

So overall the three points above are things you need to consider in order to create a real base of customer loyalty. If you have any more ideas let us know by leaving a comments or tweeting

Finally – This article as with all of our articles is bought to you by and in association with Andy Kinsey Designs of Manchester whom have today (14/4/10) relaunched their home website andykinsey.co.uk – Again tweet your opinion of the site to @andykinsey

This article takes a break again from the normal SEO set of blogs to take a look at building your brand using business cards. Last week I published an article about why corporate branding is important, and this article is one of a series of follow-on series about building your brand.

Whilst reading this please consider I am speaking from the stand point of which I would take if you was to be an “online only” business client of Andy Kinsey Designs and not from a full overview – though my finally summary is just this.

Just because you are an online business does not mean business cards are useless to you or your company. Business Cards do not become obsolete just because your an Internet based business, they are as much an important brand building tool as those business who operate in a “brick and mortar” world.

Recognition – having brand and business recognition is of vital importance to any company, generally as my (corporate branding) post says this is the job of a good/great logo. Business cards help you go a step further, you can tell more about a company through its business cards than you often can from speaking to a person over the phone. A business card allows you to add colour, your logo (obviously), your contact details, a selective style of font – plus you can even show some information some people may not expect like twitter username or a facebook public url (eg is mine)

How the New AKD business cards look

As I’ve eluded to above a business card is an extension of your company and more so a show of what ideally you would like your company to be.  Lets take my new business card as an example – if you visit my main site (andykinsey.co.uk) you will find that the site is very much based on blue and white, also you will see the big AK Designs logo on the bottom right of the first page of the site (as it is on each page under the menu on this site) , next you will notice the use of a specialised font (this is to make the brand unique and memorable and will appear on any new products from AKD) and finally above in the logo you will notice a little animation … this is to represent a foil overlay I am using to make the card that little extra memorable and there in making the brand more memorable.

As I have said it is an extension of the company brand, a business card is not alone a brand – far from it (even though you are just an internet only business) – your business card as with my own should pull in factors from the work you do, your stationary (letter heads, compliment slips, invoices & receipts etc), your catalogue and of course your website. A business card is simply the final bit of “spit and polish” to any brand.

Something You May Not Know – By producing a set of business cards that are sleek and professional you are fostering the idea that your business card is the first point of contact (as you should consider for everything your business produces in my view) and therefore you are inadvertently increasing the footfall of traffic to your site, increasing the chances of being contacted by the person whom receives the business card but also you are opening the doors to new contacts, as its pretty much a given if you have a unique card and style your business will get mentioned from one person to another (and from business to business). This form of referral where one person shows another your business card is quite rare – and even more rare is when you find out that the person who had your card had a fight with the other person involved to keep the card. This is why at trade shows or conferences you should go with at least 100 business cards to hand, you never know when you will asked for one nor where your next lead may come from (I recall one client I still work with, we met in the gents of a night club, I had a business card handy in my wallet!). Referral by business card also removes a vital step for most websites … your user doesn’t go through a search engine – ok if your very highly ranked you may think of this as an issue (so do what channel 4 sometimes do for new programmes and tell them to search your name … eg “Search: Andy Kinsey Designs”) but for most companies this can be a positive step as they get little and insignificant traffic because they find them selves on pages 6 or 7 (or worse!) in the search engines.

Business cards have long been an essential marketing tool for anyone serious about their business. They still are today, the one tiny little difference about today is today it is about making your brand (and therefore business card) stand out from the crowd.

The other great thing about producing a fantastic business card today is that a number of smaller businesses see them as either a) useless or b) too costly … when in-fact they are neither. a) as highlighted above business cards can be extremely useful in building your brand and therefore useful in increasing your business revenue in the long run. b) other than my previous statement business card and stationary design and printing is not expensive … for example Business Cards from Andy Kinsey Designs cost just £45 to design (plus you get a free letter head design too) – the printing added on top can be anywhere from £30 for 200 high grade cards to £80 for 1000 high grade cards, letter head design print is FREE! (so as you can see its not expensive, and if you just need the text changing for another person in the company add £5 per person Building Your Brand Business Cards user experience brand ) and if you want something a little less glossy for your company then take a look at Vista Print whom offer some nice brand based services.

In Conclusion – If you think business cards are dead and buried you are very much wrong, indeed they could be used to much more effective use today than at any other point in history. Business Cards are an extension and show of what you want your brand to be (eg. fun, vibrant, corporate, sleek or professional)  they alone are not your brand and should not be. And finally business cards can actually increase brand recognition and traffic to your site a huge amount.

So ….

Can YOU afford not to
have a
professional business card designed?

In today’s global market there are companies of all companies and stature, from large globe spanning companies like HSBC to small corner shop businesses … it may not appear at first sight these have much in common (if anything!).

However scratch the surface and you will see that no matter what the company size they are all fighting to market their company using both general marketing tools (adverts, seo etc) but also using the company brand to sell the company. Think of it as saying a small corner shop (eg. Bob’s Shop) maybe well known in a small area but the larger multi-national companies (eg. Nike) are known the world over not just in one single area… the reason for that is the same reason shops like PoundWorld (in the UK) have grown from a single store to a nationwide chain with well over 200 shops! – they have focused on branding … getting the brand right makes marketing a company much easier.

Before we go any further…
What is a Brand?

A brand is the emotional and psychological relationship you have with your customers. Strong brands cause thoughts, emotions, and sometimes physiological responses from your customers (and possible future customers). Let’s take Apple Computers as our example here. We’ve all seen the Apple logo (if not to see it, and if you have refresh your memory). So the Apple logo is used to elicit certain emotions within your mind, it makes you think “glossy”, “high end” and possible “the best”.

But a logo is not a brand, it is merely a representation of the brand. Take another look at the logo, but this time think about the emotions you would have if you have never heard of Apple Computers … you are pretty much left with “glossy” – not saying much for a world leading brand. A logo is simply a gateway to a brand, something everyone can remember. Having a good logo is like placing a shortcut in the mind of a person to make them remember your company. Brands are not made from concrete or steel, they are the thoughts, emotions, and psychological relationships between a business and a customer. And your brand is the foundation of all your marketing activities (not your logo). However, equally there are not many brands without a nice logo … its a combination of both that will bring success and ease of marketing. – If you need help designing or re-designing your brand identity then visit andykinsey.co.uk and get a free consultation today.

So you now understand what a brand is and isn’t … it’s now time to build on this knowledge and begin to understand how to build your brand image and (possibly) more important what your brand image should say about your company.

Your brand is used to suggest your position within all markets (this is generally subconscious in a customers mind). Your brand also dictates your strength within the global marketing network. To build any brand for any company it must be based on the true emotional feelings you wish to evoke (for example if you are a health based company it would be a very bad idea to make your company feel dirty or untrustworthy, you would want to concentrate on the opposites of being clean and honest).

Creating a Brand

To create a brand you need the following four factors: a big idea (something like a mission statement), company values (your ethics and codes of conduct are a good starting place), a vision for the future (where you see your company in 1 month, 1 year and 10 years) and finally, personality (normally this is a group personality, aka being friendly, caring and creative). Once you have these in place you have your “brand” or at least a starting block for you to grow and expand.

This time using Microsoft as our example, they started by simply wanting to be part of the game… soon they realised they needed an office, they rented a motel room! … not much of a brand here… they moved to an office where they we’re seen in a little better light … (they now went to see IBM and signed lisence contracts for DOS … which they then bought from a guy for 50K … they never wrote it … they tweaked it!) … at this point they move into larger offices and are seen as much more professional and a big player in the market – over time the logo changes from a hand drawn sign with not much effort to a pointed logo moving to today’s logo sometime later. (see ) – as you can see the brand developed as the company grew and took off … this is the same with 99% of businesses – the 1% left are generally companies spawned from another larger company.

Now we have a brand we need to market it, we need to market your company to make it memorable. This is all about one word…


If you can create a brand that is strong and a logo that evokes the feelings of your brand then you need your logo to be stamped all over the place, from adverts to websites to other marketing materials (see below how Andy Kinsey Designs can help). To make your brand grow in recognition you need to be your values and achieve your goals, you need to work with other companies and the community to really get known – and send everyone some free promo stuff … it always helps.

Once you’ve got this sorted your home and dry (almost) you just need to get back to marketing both your products and brand … oh and don’t forget work on your websites SEO Why Your Corporate Brand is Important re design user experience optimisation brand

To help promote your company (and/or products and services) you may want to consider the following items (not a complete list): posters, flyers, personalised pens, personalised mugs, personalised mouse mats, business cards, a website (or it’s redesign), press releases, search engine optimisation, social media optimisation and improve your customer care service and record (eg if you get an email, reply within a few hours at the latest – a quick response evoked professionalism).

To help improve your brand Andy Kinsey Designs have become partners with a special company which offers personalised gifts. We will design any type of “gift” including personalised mugs, pens & t-shirts – we then send it off to our partner who will send you the goods directly … This is an exclusive insight into a future service from Andy Kinsey Designs (not yet announced on andykinsey.co.uk!) … if you would like to know more about this service and our exclusive discounts on printing of these materials contact us today.

Andy Kinsey Designs also offer design and print services for all the graphic design services mentioned above as well as brand marketing services.

Before I begin I want to emphasise that I am not saying dumb down your content as a few people mentioned when I spoke to them about this matter in a recent meeting. I am simply saying you need to allow your readers to taste the simplicity of your subject matter.

Lets start with the “non-content” of a site, these are things that aren’t really content but can have a huge effect on your end user experience.

Scanable Navigation
Navigation is something that I have often battled to make effective in a design, more often than not I fall back to the standard links across the top or down the left hand site … but sometimes I play around with navigation to make the design of a site more effective and hopefully increase the users exposure to the real content. There are currently three websites in my online design portfolio (I am currently redesigning how they are shown so there is just 3 not the 8 or 9 i want there) each with a unique but effective navigation, as with the portfolio site itself. Now that you’ve seen some samples of navigation I think you will be seeing that each has 4 characteristics; it is easy to read, easy to find, not made in Flash (or with excessive JavaScript) & doesn’t have links that aren’t needed. Once you get these 4 things correct your navigation will flow and help your site more than you think.

Snappy Loading
The load-time of your site and its various attributes is something of high contention between designers, developers and web-site owners. Some argue that it doesn’t matter how slow your site is these days as “everyone has broadband” – my message to these people is your argument is not only wrong but is also flawed in another way, if you go down the route of load time doesn’t matter why would google webmaster tools now allow you to see how fast your site loads for their spiders? Answer: they wouldn’t speed is important to both search engines and humans. As well as this factor there have been several studies that show you have less than 17seconds to grab the attention of your user before they walk away (hitting the back button), you need to load fast and grab the attention of the user (see the next main point for one way to do this).

Now we move on to the content itself, this is not written in stone as with anything on the web but following these points will certainly help increase the user experience and search engine robot experience.

Make Your Headlines Punchy!
This may sound like common knowledge but the shorter, snappier and more creative your headlines and subheadings the more you will attract the user. However this doesn’t matter if you don’t make them look nice and of course use the heading tags

etc. If you can master this simple point you will gain some nice attention from your users having captured their attention and the search engines will be happy that they can breakdown your content into various sections.

Know Your Audience!
Now this may sound like a bit of a stupid point because as a designer, developer, copywriter or website owner you may think you know your audience. But do you really? Even if you’ve worked in a particular industry for many years ask yourself have you studied your audience, been given feedback on the design and content from your audience, and does your content centre around them or are you search engine heavy in design and content. This last point is really important because you should never ever focus on the search engine when copywriting, you should focus on the user, the readability of your content and attracting the users, it is only after you have done this you can begin to focus on external matters such as search engines.

When considering your content (as with creating you design) you need to ask yourself one very important question, and if the answer is “no” you need to go back and reiterate the content.

Does your content or design meet the exacting needs of your user?

Evaluating this can be a hard battle, the most common of which is the calls to actions on a site. The best way to test this is through a process of statistical analysis of all pages and the content as it changes, sound like months of hard work?  well it can be I admit but Google have a solution that you can use for AB testing – this is the – be warned however that there is a fair chunk of coding to make this happen properly so you will need a developer to hand to make this happen. Having used this a few times I can tell you the results can be amazing and really help a site gain ground fairly quickly.

And finally…

Keeping Your Content Simple
If you are using industry jargon or phrases that are overly complex then you are likely to scare away your users, add to this very few people will search your jargon-ised terms and you like me will be asking why make things complicated for users?

So you’ve read this article and you know a little more about how to make your site easier to use and how to grab and keep the attention of the user. In my view most of the above is the job of a good web designer, they should be able to juggle the complexity of a site with skill and grace to bring the best outcome. It is then the job of the website owner &/or a copywriter to draw the attention with headlines and content with a similar skill and grace.

Before I press publish I want to share with you a quote I found whilst researching this article:

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler” – Einstein

E-commerce SEO is something of a hardship for many, long hours more often than not leading to little if any reward and return on investment. However marketing your e-commerce site correctly and making a few minor changes to your site / coding and you will soon see your ROI improve by a huge margin.

Avoid Manufacturer Descriptions – we all know it’s so tempting to copy and paste what you are given from the distributor or from some other website but don’t! If you really can’t think of anything to write at least rewrite the text enough to make it unique … but make sure it still flows and isn’t full of jargon! – Product descriptions should compel the user to want to buy your product.

SEO Friendly URL’s –  although not always easy to implement having user and machine friendly url’s can make the difference between someone remembering your site (or linking to it) or not. Either way this can mean you get a sale or conversion of some kind or not! – and if you really must pass parameters in the URL ensure that they are at the end and it doesn’t effect browsing if they are missed off!

Create a product RSS feed – so your a website owner/manager or just someone who’s used the internet and you think an RSS feed is just the subscription to your favourite blog … well you are wrong. An RSS feed is simply an XML script which can contain anything from latest blog posts on SEO to a product feed, including images and links! (then go and submit the feed to ).

Tag your products – With the advent of social media, customers have become accustomed with the concept of tagging. Allow your customers to tag products with their own keywords. When you allow users to tag your products, you’ll likely start ranking for slang keywords that you would have never thought of on your own.

Link within product descriptions - Create keyword heavy links from within the product descriptions of one product linking to another. I’ve found this is a very effective strategy for targeting long-tail keywords.
NB: make these absolute aka use http://

Don’t use “view” and “more” type links - ok, so that has your attention you wondering what you should use… well the answer is I lied do use them they are expected and you are there to feed but also defy expectation of your user … everyone has these and so should you but go further make sure any images link to the product page as with the title of the product!  - all links should also include title tags.

Optimise your images - if you can make the file size small without destroying quality do so – every second spent loading your site is a second wasted and second you are closer to loosing a conversion! Also include alt tags to all images these are vital for search engines… after all this is how they index them.

Embed User Tracking - tracking your user is easy with cookies and javascript – do a quick search and you will find many tools that can record what your users are doing and where they click … or if you don’t want all that trouble use and after a while view the overlap map to see what people have been clicking. Also keep tabs on your statistics, but don’t expect miracles remember SEO is a journey and not a destination!

Don’t Use Flash (ahhhhhh saviour of the universe NOT!) - most search engines have no capability to index flash, google and yahoo have little but more often than not don’t pass the first thing they see (meaning they don’t click the links!). With this in mind keep flash to a minimum and definitely don’t use it for your primary navigation.

Make Checkout Simple – many people using the internet will trust paypal and google checkout but linking across to them sometimes makes users feel unsafe and insecure, using integration to your site such that the user doesn’t leave your site keeps these people a little happier. Further to this keep checkout to a minimum don’t force users to register to use your checkout, have a guest checkout and if you can keep checkout to 2 or less pages… who wants to go through 5 pages before you have a confirmed purchase… and with mobile internet growing rapidly a single page checkout means a single load and users are more likely to convert.

All fairly simple ideas as you can see but each one will bring you closer and closer to success and those huge conversion numbers you are driving for, not just one or two a week! (if your lucky)

Finally if you are wanting a cheaper gateway than google and paypal can offer then hop over to Crystals Merchant Services and ask about the online gateway system we can offer. Going further if you own a shop or two also ask about the reduced merchant service costings and rates on credit and debit card terminals.

You know when you visit a site often enough and you notice subtle changes? or when you visit a site from time to time and when you return next time there is a totally revamped site? Well today I’m wanting to talk about a couple of them, well three really.

National Rail Enquiries

Top Redesigns of 2009 re design user experience latest news review

- Best Redesign of 2009 - National Rail Enquiries

New design released December 2009 (the most recent of the bunch) taking what was an old, hard to use website into a user friendly clearly web2.0 based website.

The site now places things where you want them – want to search for a train … its there … want to see if there could be any issues with your train journey … its there – and what makes this better this was all there in the old site just hidden away behind what was a boring almost tabular styling which made for hard reading at times.

The site has gone from having a huge navigation to a more simple 5 button navigation with what appears to be a custom search for Yahoo! (think this was there previously though), the “legals” – ie. links such as t&c contact us etc – are at the bottom of the pages and easy to find. This site has finally come of age offering the same services in a newly formatted way clearly works.

Right down to the details of the clock in the top right hand corner this is a superb redesign and many could learn from the idea of Simple is Best.

Manchester City FC

Top Redesigns of 2009 re design user experience latest news review

- Runners Up 2009 - Manchester City FC

Another totally stunning redesign of a website, Manchester City Football Club pulled all the stops out with this site. They moved from an antiquated few year old site to a 21st century stunner. www.mcfc.co.uk is truly what the web is about, interaction.

Users are drawn in by the almost “flash” nature of the site, buts its usable and friendly (for the user and search engines alike) javascript code. The layout flows through the pages and is very modular, but it’s not boring or over bearing like some sites (including the BBC).

All in all this site has gone from nothing to something amazing, this is a close runner up to NRE.

The White House

Top Redesigns of 2009 re design user experience latest news review

- Third Place Redesign 2009 - The White House

I can hear you muttering back there “he’s mad… nothing from the US gov’t or UK Gov’t has ever been good” … as true as this maybe I must tell you that who ever the US Gov’t employed for  redesign they have done terrifically well!

No more slow loading and hard to find information layout from the White House! instead the site is web2.0 in all its glory, with detail paid to typography and layout above all else. This redesign is for the masses, design to make life at least 90% easier if you visit the site.

Ok so there are a few CSS bugs in the system and it doesn’t validate but none of that really matters because it looks so stunning. (also very few of my sites validate! I don’t hide this) But the CSS bugs do draw back from the experience in some browsers (such as Chrome) so The White House comes a glorious third.

Other Great Redesigns of 2009:

- total revamp … not quite a prize winner
– slight tweeks to front page but total new search styling
AK Designs – total redesign
– small changes to interface = win
Crystals Merchant Services – redesign tweeks better typography and cleaner
Microsoft - total revamp including bing, awesome

What is your favourite website redesign of 2009? let us know below or tweet

Submitted by others:
Chasepharmajobs via

So you’ve decided you want a redesign, and you’ve agreed prices etc with a designer… thats it you can sit back, relax …go and sit on a beach somewhere? wrong

Through my years of experience I have become aware more and more of the stages involved in a redesign of any given website, various types of website require various different aspects of a design process. For example some things may only happen in the development of an e-commerce site and other things may only appear on a blog. So not all of the below are applicable to all sites, but most should be.

Do parts of your existing site work well?

If your answer is yes, then keep them and improve them.

The same goes for if something doesn’t work ditch it and find a new way of doing things, you will find inspiration in the most unlikely of places. For example you need a new colours scheme, look around you… the books, the plants, your living room paint scheme … they all work … go next door look around … more colours… go to the park even more… one of these schemes will suit your needs I bet!

If you want to know if something works take a look at your analytics. What do you mean you don’t have them! … go and install some a few months before you even consider a redesign.

Combination & Mutation

All websites have aspects that belong in a single place, so why do they get splashed all over? Well ok sometimes its just a feed and links back “home” … we love this kind of thing. But with older sites you need to consider if two pages belong as one and need to be more concise you need to make sure they are. Do you have tools such as calculators or postal tracking … keep them simple and remove any obstacles such as them being over 7 or 8 pages… no body wants to site waiting for each page to load.

Think of it as though you are back on a dial-up connection (hard I know)… you have managed to get to your checkout … congrats! … next you want to checkout but it wants you to register (damn!) … so you register thats another 3 pages! … you go back to your cart, theres the address to confirm, payment to process, confirmation and a newsletter sign up… 4 or 5 pages plus your sign up… maybe 3 pages max with a combined sign up for guest users maybe better? – a nice example of this is if you purchase through Kaloss Trimmers … 2 page checkout with auto registration (ok there is a further page for newsletter stuffs but thats life).

What attracts Visitors

Did you install analytics? Good you need them. Check your landing pages, these are hotspots for search engines and visitors, check you exit pages these are freezing and there maybe something wrong with them.

Now check competitor websites what do you like about them, does your site and the competitor site have anything in common? if so this is a good sign and you should consider this a focus point for your visitors.

Graphics are Important

When you get to a site (even this one) the first thing you search for is graphics, a logo … a central feature to draw your attention. Now if your like me and are not afraid of being different then you too could remove all graphics from your main design, but my guess is this wouldn’t be too good for most company websites.

As I have said graphics draw your attention and should be made to stand out from your content, this not only means they look nice but that a user (in their mind) can distinguish between content and graphic making content easier to use.

Graphics include photos, if you have a site from 2006 look at the photography and decide which look dated and are irrelevant, then take a look and see which you can still use (if any). The chances are you need some new ones taking or finding, a good place to start is iStock.

More stuff to Consider

Along with the above you will probably want to consider Screen Resolution, Target Audience (obviously) and Internet Speed of users.

If you have installed analytics then you will probably be able to gain the resolution, browser and internet speed (as well as location and more) quite easily… which make life much easier for both you and your designer.

Its all very well having the best design in the world but whats the point if your users can’t use it or even access it?

Total Redesign or Partial?

This is always a hard question to answer and it depends on a few factors including (but not limited too); budget, success of current site, technologies available & coding of the old site.

There have been great successes with both minor and major redesigns, some are forced through hacking of sites (such as AK Designs) or those who opted for a complete redesign such as Bing.

Of course most of the time the current situation will dictate whether you have a partial or complete redesign of your site. If you can afford to and have time then I advise a full redesign to bring everything up to standard and future proof to some extent, this way you will not be fighting fire with fire as the months roll on and your old site continues to fall apart around you. If you must go for a partial redesign then do so with caution, do not change something that works or waste money on a lot of new graphics you may only use for a few months, a partial redesign is a stop-gap and nothing more.

Moving Forward

Before agreeing to a redesign of your site, make note of the following specifics and advice these are probably the most important part of this article.

Redirect Old Pages

This is where most websites fall down, they do not redirect old urls to new ones, it’s an easy mistake to make not least as it can be time consuming writing the code to redirect.

The best and most common method of redirection is using a 301 – redirect of pages in a .htaccess file. These are relatively easy to understand and use and perform best with search engines.

301 redirects are “permenant” so when a SE sees it it will remember it.

302 redirects are “temp” so search engines will check back at the url periodically.

Whichever you use it will not only help a search engine find your content again but will also re-point your users browser to the new location of the wanted content… win-win

Upsetting Loyal Users

This is where more sites fail than any other area. Well the bigger site redesigns anyway.

We all know the story of how every few months Facebook will make changes to their social network … some users have an uproar but eventually settle down… it’s almost comical as they create groups on facebook to say they hate it… they have nowhere else to go! Facebook is a one off and has a captive audience.

Other sites like bing are a turn on or off for users, most people don’t care though.

However take ebay and amazon and google for that matter, they don’t change what works, they don’t tweak through fear of loss of traffic and loss of revenue… google hasn’t changed much since year 1.

Work with Experience

Experience in redesign is something not many have, mainly because people tend to scrap older websites and start a fresh. But companies these days want to save money, it is a recession after all, so it’s time to look for experience re-designers.

In many ways redesign is harder than a new design! You have to take the existing and melt it in a volcanic brainstorm with new raging ideas, it is a complex event but at the end of the storm you are left with a redesign with everything you want and more (usually).

Also it is good to note that if your site is complex, during the volcanic eruption it will get even more complex, the it will cool down and ideas solidify and become more simple and easy to understand… an experience re-designer will simplify the most complex of websites.

If you are interested in redesigning your website visit my freelance website @ http://andykinsey.co.uk

By now you I am sure are sick of my continual ramblings, so to give you a break I want to recommend some books which I have read (and re-read a few times). Now I can’t swear that everything they say is up to date, of the minute, or even still relevant. However this is not why you are reading them.

By reading these books you will begin to understand the industry and how we think, you may see some interesting trends which help move your site to the next stage, or maybe you will just realise that SEO isn’t quite the walk in the park it once was.

Andy’s Top 5 SEO Books:

– This is one of my most treasured books, its pretty easy stuff to understand.

– Ok its a usability book, but get the experience right and you should have the SEO right.

– there is also and
version of this book but as I’m a php developer this is the one that makes it to my shelf.

– Start from the beginning with this book, simple language in first few chapters leading to the jargon … it can be confusing if you flick to the end, so make sure you start from the beginning.

Finally, – Ok this seems to be the next big boy, seriously appears to be worth its weight in gold. I’ve seen snippets from it and can’t wait for the full version next may … I advise you pre-order now.

Now none of the above are really that expensive and are well worth the few quid you will spend. I full advise you buy one or two of them if you are doing your own SEO or even SEO for a client’s website(s).

If you are a website owner you may prefer a book by our friends @boagworld, the I’ve read the pre-release ebook version and I can’t recommend this book enough. Paul Boag has done a fantastic job & When I can get my hands on the hard copy in a few weeks I will be sorting out a copy for each of my clients. I should add that this isn’t just for website owners it also has its place with designers and developers alike.

Want to recommend a book? Leave a Comment below with a like to the book on Amazon.

Recently one of my posts was published over at boagworld … eran subsequently passed comments about how User Experience (UX) has nothing to do with SEO. Something I couldn’t really disagree with more… but rather than simply state my opinion I want to be a little more constructive and so here are my 9.5 Steps to UX & SEO heaven.

1. Breaking up is hard to do

Check my text page … pretty much unreadable (even if you ignore the Lorem Ipsum) … not very nice right?
Splitting text into short, relevant paragraphs makes it easier on the eyes … eye stress often means the brain will either fall asleep or the user will click of a page … also if the page appears to be overwhelming a user is likely to just click back.

Further than this splitting text into paragraphs makes life easy on the average user… take a look at your screen your not just concentrating on this site, you may have your emails open, some social networking site, maybe another blog or news feed, instant messenger  conversations, your media player the list is endless … if you break things down you encourage someone to finish the sentence and come back… because they know where they were.

2. Remove the Rubbish

Both the users and search engines love relevancy so cut the crap…

Over decorative and flowery language may rub in poetry classes, but not on the internet. Be direct and jargon free in everything you say…

A good example would be:

We offer supportive information for when your machine goes boom or your mouse makes a funny clicky noise…

Where as maybe you should just be saying …. Technical Support.

3. Update your content on a Regular basis

There is nothing more annoying than visiting a site and seeing it was written in the 90′s and has never been updated … unless its some report of course. Its the same for search engines, they like fresh and up to date content.

Make a point of checking all your pages every few weeks, update content where possible… obviously this depends on the type of site you run… for the most part blogs should be left as they are… its static pages that you should be looking at.

Another advantage of refreshing content is that with time comes clarity, so maybe you can become more direct in your text and/or find a better way to display something to the user and search engines.

4. Use Heading tags

Most people are only scanning your text in the first few seconds. If you can grab the attention of the user in that time using a heading you’ve made their experience a little better … and what’s more is that in making the experience better for a user you are helping search engines find relevancy in your content.

5. Important things should Stand Out

If you have something important to say you SHOUT IT … but on the internet you can’t really do that too well… or can you?

Well yes you can and when you are emphasising something there are two little ideas you should consider … if you simply want to emphasise something then use italics … should you just want something to stand out then bold it… or both should you want.

In doing this you also once again draw the attention of the user and the search engines … it makes life easier for all parties.

6. First Impressions Count

It’s believed by many in the web world that you have about 17 seconds (in most cases) to grab the attention of a user…before they get bored. So don’t waste it with a flash loader or flash of any kind…or a splash page even. Instead put the content where it can be seen, don’t waste a user or a search engines time. A search engine will only spend a certain finite time on any given page before moving on … yes it will come back to index the rest but its that first visit that counts… just as with the user.

7. Feedback & Questions

Make it clear where users can leave feed back and questions should they want to.

Blogs are great for this… the commenting system at the bottom of the posts is almost a requirement … so use it!

From an SEO view point the more people comment the more relevant and constructive content you will get on a page.

8. Thinking is bad for your site

In Steve Krug’s book () he makes several interesting points. To some them up, be clear and concise in what you do… clean and crisp with attention grabbing features means that no real concentration should ever be required when visiting your site.

9. If its relevant … Link to it

This is fairly self explanatory. If you think another site has relevant content or your making a citation give them a link. It helps the user and will not water down or leak your websites ranking in search engines. Indeed there are some that believe this may increase your website authority …therefore increasing your search rank.

9.5 Be unique

Stand out from the crowd & do something different.

Over the past few weeks I’ve found that more and more people are asking for a full website redesign… When it is my belief they should actually be asking for their site to be fully SEO optimised, especially during this time of recession.

Now i’m not saying every case that a redesign isn’t what is required because sometimes it is, what I am saying is that you should cover all bases before considering a redesign. If you really think you may need a redesign then you may want to read a previous article i wrote.

Sometimes a better option than redesign is to Optimise Your Site. This yes involves SEO (otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this blog), but more so it involves some fundamental changes to the site structure and climate. This means that you can adapt your current site to your current situation, at a much lower cost than a redesign. Ok I confess the tweaks to yoursite maybe in the design and templating you use… but its more so to do with optimising and speeding up your codebase, your images and most importantly your copy!

So make your content sell your products & services, make copy your salesman today!

Should I out link? I’ve heard out linking is like leaking authority from my site… for FREE!!

This is one of my favourite question at the moment, and i’m asked it many many times a week. Think about it there is nothing more natural thank Linking Out. Look at the Internet, think about if there was never any links… there would be no Internet. “the Internet consists of inter-linked hypertext documents and other resources”[1]. Without linking out it appears as though you have chosen to isolate yourself from the world.

If you read some of my other blogs you will notice my lack of concentration on authority. So tackling the next part of the question is a little harder for me. However, in my opinion a link is a way of allowing your readers to get more information on a particular subject. Looking a little further into this question I believe that if you link out, people will link to you but if your site / articles have zero links then people probably won’t link to you. So you should LOL: Link Out Loud.

After my pages are “SEO’d” how long would it b before search engines re-index them?

Honestly there is no set time. It depends on your site and its attributes (internal and external). Generally it can take a few days but i’ve found for some sites it can be a few hours or it can be upto 6 weeks.

How effective can SEO be?

Again this isn’t such an easy question. If your SEO is performed on a regular basis by someone whom is truly knowledgeable and not just someone who has read about SEO then the results can be very very dramatic. Not just in terms of visitors to your site but also in revenue from your site, if done correctly. If your site is SEO’d by someone not so “expert” then you are likely to find it has no effect, and in some cases can damage your seo.

How many keywords/phrases should I target?

This is another question that is hard to answer, not least because every page is different. I’ve found in some cases zero keywords is the best option, but in some cases upto 10 are required. As a general rule however, I suggest anywhere between 2 and 6 will help. Keywords / phrases are special little things, what you must do over time is play with them and find which keywords for which page best suit, any good SEO will be able to find a few good words for each page without much effort, but perfecting them takes time and expertise.

[1] – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet

In the world of Search Engine Optimisation you are likely to find the most commonly believed tip to getting top search ranks for websites is Keyword Density. However, getting this correct is important, but in your haste you may neglect a few things, one of which is your navigation.

Ok, so design can draw a number of visitors, but not many… and more likely than not they are just looking and will not pay your bills. You want the average person to visit your site and be impressed. There are generally 3 accepted methods of creating a navigation, these are: Flash*, JavaScript, CSS and HTML.


As with most objects on the internet created with Flash (or similar third party software), creating a navigation with Flash will cause problems for some users and search engines. Search Engines struggle to index anything that is not HTML or XHTML (whether this is strict or transitional), SERPs cannot follow links within flash or any other third party script. In addition to this you are limiting your audience by forcing them to use Flash Player**, regardless of if this is previously installed or not it will take more time to load the HTML or XHTML.


A fully JavaScript navigation has become the bane of my life as an SEO. Normally you will find the website owner loves the look of the navigation, how its shadowed, how it fades, and its overall feel. Although better than Flash, JavaScript is still hard to spider and therefore SERP are likely to give up. You need to remember you only get a limited time with a SERP, then it runs off to another site.

(X) HTML and CSS

Unlike the solutions above, HTML and CSS are the best way to go. Using the unordered list
< ul > element is the perfect solution to create any navigation (including drop down lists). You can even add a touch of external JavaScript to make it look nicer, if you wish.

In concluding, I advise you use only HTML and CSS with a little JavaScript. Never use Flash or any similar programs for navigation. And finally regardless of your navigation type, use a sitemap.

*Flash and Flash Player refer to Adobe Flash and Adobe Flash Player.

Working for a local search marketing company has had its benefits over the last year and a half. Not only have I had the opportunity to grow as a web designer, I’ve expanded my skill set to project management, user interface, and user experience design and control. I would have to say that the most valuable lesson that I have learned is the ability to combine Search Engine Optimization with design.

Now we all know that we need to optimize our sites to get them better ranking both in the local and organic arenas. Most of the time we leave this to others, but as designers if we are conscious of some of the major components that make up a well optimized site we can remove most of the extra effort by designing for optimization.

So what can we do as designers that will value / enhance optimization?

1)     Design for content.

One of the most important components of good optimization is valuable content. As we are designing it is important that we focus on content, knowing that content is king. So during the design process we should make sure to be informing our clients about the value of content, helping them understand its value to what we are designing as well as its importance to optimization.

A website without a content strategy is like a speeding vehicle without a driver. Learn why content matters and how to do it right.” ~ A List Apart

2)     Building Sound Architecture.

When laying out a site keep in mind that the architecture needs to be sound. Once coded, does the layout lend to the search engine crawlers being able to crawl the site easily? Is there a solid internal link structure?  As designers, we need to keep architecture at the forefront of our designs; our content will not be used to its full potential if we are not building it around a solid foundation. Using internal links within our relevant content will help the crawlers to visit the pages within our site more frequently.
Not all of us code the designs we create, and at times the site structure has been predetermined, but we have the ability to influence the architecture by our design concepts… We must strive for solid architecture whenever possible.

3)     Don’t Put a Square Peg In a Round Hole.

Know when and where to use your tags, especially tags. Not every title on your page should be an

tag; learn about how to use your tags to effectively guide the crawlers through your site. Find creative ways to display your headings, either by using negative margins, or clean styling. Avoid using images for your headings unless you are using an image replacement technique.

Besides tags it is also important to know when to use graphics in our links. When creating buttons it is important to remember that anchored links are another important element to optimization, especially in the link building process. As designers it is our responsibility to use creative techniques via css or otherwise to add visual appeal to our buttons without sacrificing optimization.


As designers/developers we may not fully understand SEO, that is ok, it is not for us to master optimization (though the more we know the better) but instead to obtain a nice firm grasp of the basics. By doing this we can better equip our clients to get the most out of the product we are delivering, whether we are helping with the optimization, or someone else is taking it on, the least we can do is design the site so it is optimization friendly.

Granted I am no expert on SEO but just by increasing my knowledge base I have been able to improve the services that I offer my clients.

Thanks to Andy for the opportunity to contribute,

~ Aaron I

This is a guest post written by Aaron Irizarry, of www.thisisaaronslife.com . Aaron is a creative geek, he is passionate not only about web design but also web development. I would like to thank Aaron for this article and hope that you enjoy it as much as I did.