Friday, 21 June 2013 19:20

Why you should consider a theme

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If you move within circles of web designers, you might sometimes get the impression that using a template as a basis for a website design is a bad thing.

I guess it's maybe the equivalent of choosing a new house- you can draw up a plan, hire an architect, buy a plot of land, dig the foundations and place the first brick, or you can choose a house with a structure you like and then redecorate, maybe add an extension. Think of the time/labour implications of doing either.

The typical objection to a template site would be that you don't want your site to look like anyone else's. Given the clean look of a lot of modern web design, and the fact that the choice of template designs and layouts available today is massive, you'll only need to visit a site like themeforest to get a general idea of the variety available to you, and additionally, there are many businesses such as Rockettheme which specialise in templates for specific website platforms (content management or e-commerce).

As such, the likelihood of you finding something that will both suit your taste and (once customised) be unique in your online market is very high. This saves us a lot of design time (interpretation, alterations) which we can put towards optimisation, social network integration and content.

The best themes are also very flexible, so typically we can use as much, or as little of the theme design you choose.

It's not the best choice for blue chip companies, because they have the budget for full time development and site management, but for the vast majority of small to medium sized businesses it makes a lot of sense.

  • Because we save time coding the way a menu should work, we're able to properly optimise the site
  • Because we know you already like the layout, we can start work on content faster.
  • Because the theme is already responsive to mobiles and tablets, we can get cracking on your social networks.

The truth is that the vast majority of sites are built on a theme of some type. Web developers typically have a library of structures we can use for specific layouts, and banks of code for slideshows and menu structures are available online. Even if you aren't using a commercial theme, it's unlikely you are getting something coded from scratch.

It's also worth considering how many times you've left a site because you recognised it was built on a theme versus the number of times you've left a site because the design or layout was bad.

To sum up, using a theme for a website means you can get a better optimised online marketing tool for a price that is the equivalent of a new site design and build from a traditional web design agency.

You can see the theme this site is built on here. Have a browse through some of their other templates, we use them a lot.

We still offer bespoke design where it suits the client, but this approach will usually be the best choice for any business which wants to get a professional looking, well optimised site online fast, and on a small business budget.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013 01:39

LinkedIn Ads: Where did my clicks go?

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"Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half." - John Wanamaker

I was reasonably confident this quote was a remnant of a bygone era, especially when it comes to internet marketing, where campaign success is measurable beyond John Wanamaker's dreams. That was until I tried out advertising on LinkedIn.

A while back, I received a promotional email from LinkedIn, touting their ads, and offering a trial of £30 worth of advertising for a sign up fee of £4.

I figured I'd give it a go and get a little experience setting up their ads whilst boosting a bit of brand awareness.

I set up a simple ad with the only real targeting criteria being Edinburgh.

Set the bid around £1.50 per click. LinkedIn was recommending £2 per click, but no justification for that figure was provided during the process. Budget of £8 a day would mean my wee campaign should last 4 days and bring around 20 visitors to the site before the trial budget ran out. I set it to end in 4 days time.

Impressions for the first day looked impressive, almost too good to be true considering the relatively tight targeting, then the ad seemed to stop running. No impressions the next couple of days, and no explanation. I left it and came back to it the following week.

The campaign had stopped as per my settings, but had only actually been visible for one day.


Ad Impressions

I still had most of the budget left, so upped the bid to around £2, and restarted the ad with the same criteria as before. Got an email a couple of days later to say it had finished, so I thought I'd have a look at the stats.

Strangely, as you'll see above, despite my raised bid, the impressions were lower for the 2nd run.


LinkedIn Clicks


Linked ins ad stats were telling me they'd sent 19 visitors.

So I checked google analytics to see what they'd been up to, and it told me that LinkedIn had sent 11 visitors in the same time period - 10 of which had come via my ad campaign. Only 6 were from Edinburgh.

Half my advertising budget seemed to be unaccounted for in analytics.

Given the way the targeting works when you set up LinkedIn ads, geo-targeting is based on the user's profile details, rather than their ip, which I guess is arguably acceptable. "All of the targeting options and values are either directly entered by members on their profiles or algorithmically derived from information entered by members."

Telling me that they'd sent nearly twice as many visitors to my site as they had, isn't. Especially at £2 a click. Half my advertising budget effectively disappeared.

Given the solid reliability of Google Analytics, I'd side with their stats over LinkedIn's every time.

I wonder if anybody can offer an explanation for where half the money I spent on LinkedIn advertising went?

I recently found myself in a situation with time to kill, and only my wife's ipad as company. I started playing with Paper, a great little drawing/painting app, and after my 2nd or 3rd terrible rendition of "a thing in the room", I decided my unique artistic talents were probably best put to use for this site, rather than attempting to become the digital JMW Turner.

So - here are 8 questions that you should ask anyone who offers you search engine optimisation services, rendered in pretend ink and watercolour, and then digitally framed in an attempt to make them look a bit more grandiose.

They should hopefully help you figure out if you're talking to someone who is actually going to be able to help you, or is selling you internet snake oil. Of course, you will have to be able to decipher my handwriting in order to use these, so please accept my apologies for that first hurdle in advance. Edit: since my unique handwriting was proving difficult to decipher, I've added the content as a subtitle under each pic! Mrs. Lee from Primary 4 would be so disappointed with me....

Show me a site that you worked on, ranking for a competitive keyword. Explain what you did.

Done this before?

If it's a decent agency, they should be able to show you a few sites that they've already managed to get to good positions, for reasonably competitive keywords. If they're only able to show you sites ranking well for very long, or obscure searches, it's not a good sign. Once they do show you some, contact the example site owners and ask them for a reference.

Give me 5 examples of sites you'd include in a link-building campaign. Explain your choices.

What's a good link?

You're looking for sites that are relevant to your business, are well established, and hold a certain element of authority. It's worth asking how they'd go about getting the links too.

What technical changes will you be making?

Testing definitions of SEO

This question will allow you to gauge just what you'll be spending your cash on. You need keyword research, a site plan, and on-page optimisation at the very least. Unless your site is already technically optimised, you don't just want link-building, as all the links in the world aren't going to help if your pages are targeted badly.

Do you offer any ranking guarantees? For which keywords?

What is a guarantee worth?

SEO guarantees are the chocolate teapots of digital marketing. A good answer to this question would involve your SEO explaining factors like keyword competition levels, competition site strength, and long-tail keyword opportunities. If they actually do mention a guarantee, try telling them your brother is starting a cereal company and wants to rank No. 1 for "Cornflakes". See how quickly the guarantee unravels.

Are you comfortable working with the platform my site is built on?

Technical Knowledge Test

Just do a quick check to find out if they have experience working on your site's platform. Plenty of people know their way around Wordpress, but would be faced with a time consuming learning curve and potential mistakes if they were asked to optimise a site built on Drupal.

Explain 'schema' microdata to me.

Up to date?

This should reveal a little about whether the person you're speaking to is keeping up to date with SEO best practise. They should talk about how Schema microdata allows you to ensure google understands exactly what an item on your website is. (typical example - when you use the word Avatar, are you referring to the film, a picture or the incarnation of a Hindu deity?) Schema allows you to tell search engines exactly which, and is also really useful for local business sites. (Cat is 100% decorative)

I've been working on new meta-keywords with my nephew. Can I send them to you to build in?

Are you going to tell me it like it is?

Or just agree with me. Firstly, adding meta-keywords is a complete waste of time on the vast majority of websites, Secondly, how did you and your nephew go about selecting these keywords? Did you research them, or just brainstorm a massive list. If they just say 'yes', they're happy to accept your money, but aren't going to provide you with expert guidance.

My friend got 1000 links for 5 dollars, can you do the same?

Are you going to royally screw up my site?

Spammer test: If they say yes, put down the phone immediately and go wash your hands.

Scottish Independence - Search Trends and Speculation

A snapshot of independence related searches.

With a date for Scotland's independence referendum now set, I thought it might be interesting to have a wee look at which related terms people have been typing into Google. Maybe there are some obvious trends that might shed some light on the current mood of the nation regarding the independence debate.

edit: if you've arrived on this page looking for more information on the respective sides of the debate regarding Scottish independence, have a look at this site I set up on the back of the research below.

Keyword Research

So we kick off with the Google Keyword Tool, and some of the keyword research that usually tells us how an SEO client's customers search for their products or services. In this case, I had a look at terms related to 'Scottish Independence' and 'Scotland Independence'.

The statistics below tell show the approximate average number of times the queries have been typed into Google, in the UK, on a monthly basis (based on the previous 12 months).

The figures themselves are what Google refer to as 'Exact Match' (The search volume for that specific keyword and close variants) - So pretty much exactly the terms that are typed in.

The other match options are 'Broad Match' (The sum of the search volumes for the keyword, related grammatical forms, synonyms, and related words), and 'Phrase Match' (The sum of search volumes that include the whole phrase or near variants of the whole phrase.)

I've gone for exact match stats in this case in an attempt to remove any potential ambiguity (so the actual number of similar searches is much greater than those shown below, but they're a good relative guide).

Types of search

For now, we'll split the searches into informational, for, and against. (note: I'm limiting the keyword numbers a bit so only the top related searches are included below - otherwise you'd be scrolling through tables for a long time.)

Informational Keywords

Keyword Local Monthly Searches (United Kingdom)
[scottish independence] 12100
[scottish independence poll] 1900
[scotland independence] 1900
[scottish independence pros and cons] 720
[scottish independence referendum] 590
[scottish independance] 390
[independent scotland] 390
[should scotland become independent] 390
[scottish independence debate] 210
[reasons for scottish independence] 210
[scotland independence poll] 210
[scottish independence for and against] 170
[scotland independence referendum] 170
[will scotland become independent] 170
[independence scotland] 140
[independence for scotland] 140
[indyref] 140
[should scotland be independent] 91
[scottish independence consultation] 73
[alex salmond independence] 73
[scotland independance] 73
[scottish independence 2014] 58
[scottish independence arguments] 46
[scottish independence statistics] 46

'For' Independence

Keyword Local Monthly Searches (United Kingdom)
[arguments for scottish independence] 210
[benefits of scottish independence] 58
[advantages of scottish independence] 46
[scottish independence pros] 22
[argument for scottish independence] 16

'Against' Independence

Keyword Local Monthly Searches (United Kingdom)
[arguments against scottish independence] 320
[cons of scottish independence] 36
[problems with scottish independence] 12
[negatives of scottish independence] <10
[the price of scottish independence] <10

Still Undecided

So looking at these searches, it would appear that the vast majority of related Google searches are being made by people who are looking for more information. You could infer that they are still gathering information and haven't yet made any firm decisions. The for and against search volume is pretty evenly matched, and actually - the intent behind those searches is not entirely clear. What does the person searching for "arguments against scottish independence" actually want with the results?

Are they arming themselves with arguments to convince friends, or simply trying to understand the potential negatives? It's a difficult call to make.


So with the keyword research (average monthly stats for the past 12 months) as a starting point, we can now take that data over to Google's trend tool and see what it tells us about the changes over time.

Let's have a look at the searches for 'Scottish Independece' and 'Scotland Independence' since 2004.

And the same searches over the past 12 months:

Regional interest is as you'd expect:

Google suggests some related terms too:

It also tells us which searches are rising in frequency:

For vs. Against

Not very scientific, as the research shows people use a wide variety of terminologies in their searches, and this is just a comparison of two, but of interest nonetheless.

What is this telling us?

From my perspective, I look at those searches and see a lot of undecided people searching for important information. Think of the volume of searches done, and then think about which sites appear in Google's search results for those informational queries.

The sites that appear for these results, are the ones that these internet users will be basing their opinions on. They'll be reading the facts and opinions of those sites - which will ultimately affect their opinion, which in turn will have an effect on the way they vote in the referendum, and in turn, will potentially have an impact on the future of Scotland.

So, the question is: do 'Yes' or 'No' biased sites dominate the search results for the popular searches? Or do we have neutral sites at the top of the results pages, awaiting the undecided voter?

Search Results for "Scottish Independence"

Keyword Country
scottish independence GB
Position URL Title
1 Scottish independence Poll Finds Deep Divisions Over Whether To ...
2 Scottish independence | Politics | The Guardian
3 Scottish independence - Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia
4 BBC News - Q&A: Scottish independence Referendum
5 BBC News - Scottish independence: Referendum To Be Held On 18 ...
6 Scottish independence Referendum Date:September 18 - Politics ...
7 Salmond Names Scottish independence Referendum Date
8 Date Set For Scottish independence Referendum - UK Politics - UK ...
9 This Week\'s Big Questions: Could Scottish independence Happen ...
10 Scottish independence » Spectator Blogs

Search Results for "Scotland Independence"

Keyword Country
scotland independence GB
Position URL Title
1 Scottish independence - Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia
2 Scottish independence | Politics | The Guardian
3 Scotland: Independence Referendum Date Set
4 BBC News - Q&A: Scottish independence Referendum
5 Yes Scotland: The Campaign For An Independent Scotland
6 Salmond Names Scottish independence Referendum Date
7 Scotland independence Referendum Set For September 18, 2014 ...
8 Independence | Scottish National Party
9 Alex Salmond To Set Scottish Independence Referendum Date In ...
10 Scottish Independence Referendum Bill - Scottish Parliament

Search Results for "Scottish independence pros and cons"

Keyword Country
scottish independence pros and cons GB
Position URL Title
1 The Proper Pros and Cons Of Scottish Independence? - Hard-Copy
2 Pros and cons Of Scottish independence | Scots ... - The Week
3 Krent Able – The pros and cons Of Scottish independence….. | The ...
4 Scottish independence - Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia
5 Economics Of Scottish Independence - Economics Blog
6 Glasgow University First To Cast Scottish independence Vote ...
7 Scottish Independence: The Battle
8 Headscrolls: Scottish Independence: Pros and cons
9 Should Scotland Go For Complete independence?
10 Can Scotland Pay Its Own Way? | Politics | The Guardian


Unsurprisingly, lots of Scots are turning to the web with their independence related queries. Even less surprisingly, lots of them haven't made up their mind yet, and are still gathering information.

The issue of the bias of the websites that they are presented with by Google is analogous to the choice of newspaper your local newsagent has on the shelf. It's just that in this case, you're a lot more likely to select something from the top shelf, and the publications on the top shelf are therefore the ones that will be shaping opinion the most.

It's probably a good thing that's not the case in your newsagent.

Anyway - We'll revisit this topic as the referendum approaches, so you should follow me on Twitter here (or any of the social networks on the top right of the site) if you want to be informed when we do.

I'll leave the debate over which sites are biased or not and what that implies to the comments section - please get stuck in.

Thanks for reading,


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Try Advertising On Google

Google Adwords Vouchers

If you'd like to try out advertising on Google, or on websites related to your business, we have introductory offers available that allow you to test out the results with very low risk (we have these because we're Google Partners).

Our current offer gives you a £75 credit when you spend £25, so effectively £100 worth of advertising for £25. (You need to be new to adwords to be eligible).

Additionally - if you want to give this a go, we'll give you a free consultation to get things started and ensure you the budget is spent wisely, make sure it's all measurable, and give you a review once the budget runs out.

For £25, it's a no-brainer - give us a call now and you could have extra business on the way tomorrow.