Just a quick post about a new website that I have decided to spend some of my free time on.
I spend a lot of my time in the kitchen when I get home from work, and usually am cooking up a variety of meals with all sorts of styles. As a result I thought I would start writing a food blog, and have now take the plunge and launched Quick Easy Dinners.
I guess it’s still a work in progress at the moment, as I haven’t had the time to get enough posts on there, but over the coming weeks and months, I’ll be adding a number of food ideas and recipes to the site from myself, and a number of friends and family that have agreed to contribute. I’m still unsure about the template that I am using as well, but we’ll see how things go on.
March 28th, 2010Internet Good Deeds
I recently emailed my MP Mike Hancock,of the Liberal Democrats as like many Internet aware users, I have been very concerned about the rushing through of the Digital Economy Bill.
The bill is wide ranging, although I’m not going to go into great detail here as there is a good start to information about this on the BBC.
I raised some specific concerns as well as using the Digital Economy Bill letter template from 37 Signals – particularly in relation to the methods that would be used to determine who file sharers are – for instance, as I write this blog, there are a number of unsecured networks that I could use to go online with, and download copyrighted material. Then there are issues with business and schools being responsible for any downloaded copyrighted material.
I was also concerned that websites accused of breaching copyright, could with no due process be blocked from being accessed. In short a hell of a lot of power, with very little accountability to prove infringements.
My MP’s response was as follows:
Dear Mr Handley,
The Digital Economy Bill is wide ranging and covers issues such as a new remit for Channel 4, the classification of computer games, plans for switchover to digital radio and the future of regional news on ITV as well as the issue of illegal downloading.
The Liberal Democrats support the creative industries and believe that many aspects of this Bill are vitally important to the continuing success of our radio, television and content industries.
We are also concerned about the financial implications of illegal downloading of copyright material and recognise the importance of protecting intellectual property.
A report published on 17th March 2010 predicted that a quarter of a million jobs in the UK’s creative industries could be lost by 2015 if current trends in online piracy continue.
Commenting on it, Brendan Barber, General Secretary of the TUC, said: “The results of the study stress that the growth of unauthorised file-sharing, downloading and streaming of copyrighted works and recorded performances is a major threat to the creative industries in terms of loss of employment and revenues. The scale of the problem is truly frightening now – let alone in the future if no firm actions against illegal file-sharing are taken.”
For these reasons we do believe that some action is needed and must form part of the Digital Economy Bill.
However, we have opposed – and helped defeat – government proposals (contained in Clause 17 of the original Digital Economy Bill) to give itself almost unfettered powers to act against copyright infringement.
Further, as a result of debates instigated and amendments passed by the Liberal Democrats in the Lords, the government’s original proposals relating to illegal peer-to-peer file-sharing have been significantly improved.
As a result, no action to introduce “technical measures” (whether temporary account suspension, bandwidth throttling or whatever) can be introduced until;
1. soft measures (letter writing) have been used
2. an evaluation of their effectiveness has been undertaken
3. an evaluation of the need for, and likely effectiveness of, technical measures has been undertaken
4. further consultation has taken place
5. proposed legislation is brought before parliament for decision, and
6. there is an explicit assumption of innocence until proved guilty
The Liberal Democrats remain concerned by some aspects of the system for tackling peer-to-peer file-sharing being introduced in the Bill and will take further action in the Commons to scrutinise and improve the legislation. In particular, we are concerned that there will not be enough time for in-depth consultation on the initial code that Ofcom will draw up. We also feel that there is currently inadequate protection in the Bill for schools, libraries, universities and other businesses offering internet access to the public.
We are also unconvinced of the merits of the various technical measures that have been proposed, including bandwidth shaping and temporary account suspension. For this reason we have amended the Bill to ensure that any such measures cannot be introduced without proper consultation and not until evidence has been produced to prove that this is the best available option. We are further seeking to ensure that any measures brought before parliament will be subject to maximum scrutiny in both Houses and that it will be possible for changes to be made to them before a final decision is made.
We are urging the creative music, film and video games industries to work more vigorously to develop new business models which will make it easier and more affordable for people to legally access their products. We hope that this combined with “soft measures” and an effective education campaign will mean that further action will not be required.
Liberal Democrats have agreed at their Spring Conference to establish a working party to address these issues. With at least a year before there will be any attempt to introduce “technical measures”, this will provide an opportunity for the party to consider the outcome of research into the effectiveness of the early stages of the implementation of the legislation in the digital economy Bill.
The Bill has now completed all stages in the Lords but cannot proceed unless it has, as a minimum, been debated at a “Second Reading” in the Commons. We believe that many of the measures in the Bill that do not relate to illegal file sharing are important and must be allowed to go into law. However, in respect of those that relate to illegal file sharing we will not support them in the Commons if we are not satisfied that the procedures in place are fair and allow for full consultation and scrutiny before their introduction in the future.
Mike Hancock MP
February 20th, 2010SEO
I rolled up to Brighton yesterday afternoon to partake in the BrightonSEO mini conference organised by Kelvin Newman of SiteVisibility. It was an afternoon of presentations looking and discussing various aspects of SEO and online marketing.
I wrote a few notes as the day went on, and below is a brief overview of all the areas discussed.
First up was Jamie Freeman, from Message Digital, a self confessed SEO sceptic. I’d been amused by the premise of an SEO sceptic talking at an afternoon of SEO presentations and was quite intrigued by what he was saying.
He’d written a book with 500 web design tips (no mean feat that), and talked about what he considered to be the “Holy Trinity of SEO”, the 3 C’s - Content, Code and Connections (links).
Jamie didn’t really see the need to do SEO as the sites thathe made ranked well using compliant code, with good content and links seemed to happen in their own right. I can see what he is getting at, but things got a little hairy when he asked which of the the 3 was the most important – with the room being full of SEOs, the answers was of course Links, which Jamie disagreed with, as he felt the content was the most important
Some lively debate ensued, with the SEOs in the audience further explaining that tens or hundreds of websites can have great content on a subject – and in many scenarios this is a given – but the majority of the audience felt that in a competitive environment, content alone will not normally be enough to get to those top monetisable positions.
Next up was Andy Keetch from Wired Sussex, an organisation that helps people find the right Digital companies in the area. Andy talked a lot about the Digital Community in Brighton, how they help people find jobs and graduate opportunities in the area, helping organise social events. I was surprised to learn that they work with the region of 1500 companies and it sounded like a very organised community to be a part of, in an area of the country that has a thriving scene.
Whilst there are plenty of Web and Digital Agencies in Portsmouth and elsewhere in Hampshire, there is nothing (that I know of) organised like this in the Hampshire area and it was very interesting to hear how they go about helping that community in so many ways.
Next up was me, from Vertical Leap - I was talking about client goals, KPIs and managing client expectations. I was incredibly nervous at first and spent a bit too much time reading the cards I’d prepared the day before, but after I relaxed a bit more and stopped looking at my prompts I was a lot more confident, and I think my message came across well.
I was talking about the need to really understand a clients “real” reason to engage with an SEO Company – it’s to make money. How that website makes money, and the routes that it takes to make that money differ and the strategies that you put in place to achieve those goals differ – but all it comes down to the bottom line in the end.
I talked about many of the long term relationships I have formed with my clients, and how communicating effectively with your clients about the wins that you gain them were vital.
Clients often have goals to increase rankings for particular phrases, or to hit certain traffic targets, but these are measures that are a means to the end result of making money. Many times, these may be specific goals that you work to for a client as part of a long term strategy, but that ultimately you need to have some short term goals as well to ensure that you are delivering some kind of return on an investment as soon as possible.
I think after battling my nerves I managed to deliver the message of what I was trying to say effectively enough, and have certainly learnt some lessons for future speaking from doing this. I will definitely make a Powerpoint presentation next time, I will just try and speak rather than attempt to read from a prompt and I will try and relax more. I definitely enjoyed it though, and had some good feedback from people as we discussed the days presentations later on.
I really liked his SEO is like a racing car analogy – you can have the best car and driver (website changes – on site optimisation), but that doesn’t mean you will always win a race (the link building part of SEO). He also interacted well with the audience offering an alcoholic prize for the best “worst thing a client has asked you”, but seemed rather disappointed when one of his own employees one the audiences loudest cheer.
Next up was Cedric from Jollywise, talking about some really interesting social media techniques for films like Up and The Boat That Rocked. It seemed like they had some good ways of getting social engagement with Banner adverts as well and it was fascinating to get an insight into some other areas of Digital Marketing that I have not really looked at before.
Steve Purkiss stood up next and gave a demonstration of an SEO Checklist for Drupal – this seemed like a really useful way of ensuring that you have the right modules required to do SEO well with this content management system - I liked the quote of “Obama uses it, it must be good!”.
The next talk was about “cookies” from Nikki Rae of Fresh Egg. This was a really entertaining presentation, that had plenty of audience interaction with me, Paddy Morgan from Pin Digital (who must win the award for travelling the furthest – all the way from Birmingham!), Annabel Hodges (better know to me as SearchPanda), Mark from Fresh Egg and Anna from MAD taking part in a demonstration of how cookies (which Paddy got to eat) go from the person browsing to a website to a sever and back again.
I must confess to not really having the greatest knowledge of cookies and found this a really interesting introduction about them. It was certainly interesting.
The last of the main speakers was Jack from Propellernet, who was taking the opportunity to show off some fantastic new offices they have moved to, with some really good Graffiti artwork. He then talked about how he formed the company and I particularly liked the phrase “block out the noise – focus on the clients”. I was also quite interested in their somewhat different approach to SEO with very tight integration with traditional PR techniques.
After the main speakers were complete, Kelvin then thanked everyone for coming along and mentioned that one more person wanted to speak – in regards to an NDA that had been floating around in recent weeks and introduced a chap called Paul that wanted to speak to us. I don’t know that this is necessarily being widely talked about yet, but I’ve never agreed to not disclose it, so here I go.
Paul explained about his background – he was a blackhat that had controlled millions of millions of links in the past and had used that to propel sites to the very top positions for highly monetisable phrases. He then went on to explain that he was now working with a large number of national and regional Newspapers across the UK and US, and essentially they have had enough of Google taking all the advertising revenues that they have over the years been used to receiving and think they have found a way to “fight back”.
As I understood what was being proposed (and this might be slightly misinterpreted), is that the Newspapers have millions on pages that they don’t gain traffic from anymore, and they are prepared to sell links on these pages, with anchors that you want and large volumes of them – in an effort to a) make the newspapers some cash, and b) manipulate Google’s rankings to gain those websites traffic. As I understand it, this is being planned on a particularly large scale, and I think that we were being offered the opportunity to take part.
I’m not convinced that Paul selected the right audience to talk to about this. Many people in the room had not engaged in buying links at all, and whilst all the SEOs in the room agreed that Newspaper links as a rule do a carry a lot of weight, it seemed agreed that they might not do in the foreseeable future were this to come out in the open.
Paul’s thrust on this was that many journalists have lost their jobs in recent years because of the rise of the Internet and the amount of “free” content that gets put out on the web – often without the “standards” that journalists have to adhere to.
I think that whilst the concept sounds interesting (and quite possibly expensive), that this surely, once out in the open, has very little chance of success in the long term. When Paul discussed his sites, he seemed to be prepared to throw them away if they crashed and burned in the SERPs, but with my clients and their brands that they want to establish for long term success, not take risks for short term gains. If everything he said was true – it sounded effective, but certainly not long term strategies.
All in all, it was a great day and a great evening!
If you were there, and I’ve missed anything important, please feel free to leave a comment!
February 17th, 2010SEO
I’m going to be doing a short presentation at the latest #BrightonSEO event, this coming Friday (17th Feb 10), and am planning on doing it about SEO Goal setting with clients, KPIs that I often (rightly or wrongly) find our SEO results measured by and talk through some of the ways to manage expectations of clients when engaging with an SEO company.
It’s starting at 2pm in the Quadrant in Brighton, and I’m hoping to make some new friends, meet some more people that I speak to regularly on Twitter, and see some folks that I’ve met before and not seen for some time.
So, hope to see some of my readers there! I’m writing this now, and tomorrow night, so if anyone has had any paticularly interesting goals or KPIs set for them, or has had particular challenges with managing people let me know in the comments, and I will see if I can work some of those in too.
I very rarely speak in public (my last was a best man speech), so hope everyone bears with me!
I’ll probably do a write up of the presentation on the Vertical Leap search marketing blog at some point next week if I can fit it in!
February 14th, 2010Social Media
I use Twitter and Facebook fairly regularly and with the latest arrival on the scene, Google Buzz, there are potentially even more services vying for my attention.
I do however, use Twitter and Facebook very differently. The first social networking site that I used a lot was MySpace user, back when I worked at HMV. It proved to be a very good way of finding new music, finding when bands are touring near you, or even if a trek was needed to go further afield to see someone that you really liked. The problem was that it wasn’t a particularly good way to connect with my friends – I “met” up with some folks that I knew on there, but after I left HMV, and my urge to find new music all the time was somewhat reduced, I found MySpace a place that I spent less and less time.
I then moved on to Facebook – and this was an area to really connect with people that you used to know back in school, have met and got on with in short bursts, and wanted to find out more, and to keep in close touch with closer friends that due to busy lifestyles, I don’t see as much as we would like in person.
I like the basic premise of facebook, to send messages, to individual or groups friends, be invited to events, see pictures of their latest events and get notified of birthdays (I have to admit to being fairly rubbish at remembering the exact dates of most of my friends birthdays). I do get a little annoyed with all the little game notifications from Farmville or some coffee shop game, but I have come to get rather blind to these most of the time.
Almost a year ago, I decided to join Twitter, primarily because I thought I should be on it for work (seeing as I work in Search Engine Optimisation). For the first 6 months or so I didn’t really get it, I flitted in and out, I pushed some content that I had written for the Vertical Leap Search Marketing blog, but I didn’t really engage much with what was going on with the others on there.
In the summer, I started to talk to other industry folks a bit more, engaging in conversations about what the latest news was, discussing items and issues that were the topic of the day, as well as sharing a bit of my personality and learning some more about these new people.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the differences between Twitter and Facebook, and for me it is fairly simple. I use Facebook to get in and stay in touch with those people that I really know (or have in the past known) quite well – I’m interested in seeing picture of their weddings, new children (I still find it odd that some school friends have multiple kids these days) and birthday/Christmas celebrations.
Twitter, I use to find more people that I would like to get to know – and I also feel much more of a member of a community as a result of frequent participation, with those that I follow, and those that follow me. Some people I am looking to learn things from, some people I hope I can teach a bit to, and the rest I hope we can have a bit of fun in between.
Some people on Twitter, I’ve now spoken to enough that I consider them friends, even though for the most part I haven’t met many of them. People like supaswag, jaamit, Yoshimi_S, Fearless_Shultz & rhyswynne are all people that are entertaining, engaging and provide useful advice and assistance when needed.In the next year, I want to get to know more people on Twitter, as well as meet more people that I have already spoken to on here, starting with the next BrightonSEO event next Friday – as all the ones I have met so far have seemed really good folks to know.
Should you want to, you can follow me at ismepete on Twitter – and I really know you quite well, find me at Facebook at www.facebook.com/ismepete – although I would prefer that only people that I do know add me on Facebook.
Finally, on to Buzz.
1) I don’t use GMail, so my exposure to this is what I have read online and seen in my Twitter stream.
2) It has serious privacy concerns at the moment, with all sorts of stories arising about potential abuses of this service.
3) I use 2 social networking sites already regularly, and I don’t think that at the moment I have room for a third. Especially one so intrinsically linked with what I do with my email, which I like have closed off to most people.
4) Is this really going to be any more widely used in the long term than Google Wave? I actually quite like Google Wave, but have so few contacts on there to communicate with, that it’s just an empty place. If the masses were to take up Wave (and maybe that it was Google are ultimately trying to do with Buzz) then it might become more interesting, but that isn’t the case (for me) yet.
I’m sure that in the next year or two, another social media website will come along to either replace or take their place with Facebook and Twitter in my social networking life. However, if it’s out there already, I don’t know about it yet, and if it is going to be Google Buzz, then there are going to have to be some changes first!