Author Archives: Roland

Will Google Mark Your Website as Unsafe?

Many internet users trust Google implicitly and assume they will deliver websites which are safe and secure. Google illustrate this by labelling the site as either secure or not secure, with a padlock icon next to the URL. Over the last few years the company have been changing their approach to how they distinguish between secure and unsecure websites, more specially when it comes to http and https.

Hypertext Transfer Protocol or HTTP is a way of facilitating communication between systems- for example between a browser and server. Although this protocol has been utilised by the majority of websites, it does have one massive flaw and that is security. HTTP data is not encrypted which means it is incredibly vulnerable to hackers and possible theft of data. HTTPS or Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure attempts to fix this problem though the use of Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates. This SSL certificate encrypts the data when it’s moving between the browser and server- securing it against theft or loss.

Google is trying to encourage site owners to make the jump from HTTP to HTTPS but obviously this is a big undertaking and their plan is very much a long term one, with numerous smaller steps involved. At the beginning of 2017, Google started the process specifically with website that collects sensitive data such as passwords or credit card information- marking them as unsecure on Google Chrome if they didn’t have a HTTPS connection. Obviously a “not secure” label on a website can have a negative effect on a company’s reputation and many websites have moved from HTTP to HTTPS as a result.

October of 2017 brought another change in policy with Google warning that any website that used a HTTP connection and allowed for any inputting of data would be labelled as not secure- even if it’s only a search box. Furthermore, it was also at this point that Google labelled all HTTP pages as not secure when people were browsing using their incognito mode on Chrome. The idea behind this being that users expect a certain level of privacy on Incognito and this would place further pressure on HTTP websites to make the change.

The next big move from Google isn’t far off- July 2018 will see the release of Chrome 68 and it is at that point that Google will being marking all HTTP websites as not secure. As this is quite a bold move, it’s expected that many of the remaining sites that haven’t migrated to HTTPS will do so before or at this point in order to avoid the dreaded not secure label.

Considering these changes are coming very soon, any websites that haven’t made the switch to HTTPS should really look in to implementing the change. Not only will you avoid having an “unsafe” website, it has also been shown that Google rewards HTTPS websites in their search ranking- with a modest boost.

There are clearly some issues which are dissuading site owners from migration- most notably cost and the perceived complexity of the process. The actual process itself isn’t as complex as it may seem, it’s basically buying and installing an SSL certificate. Even more surprising is that the cost isn’t substantial- you can get an SSL certificate for a small yearly subscription. In fact, you can even get a free certificate from Let’s Encrypt. Fortunately, there are a plethora of detailed guides online which outline each step of the process, including purchasing, installing and verifying your certificate.

It’s also worth noting that migrating from HTTP to HTTPS will technically appear as an URL change so you will have to make sure to update all hard-coded links but there are tools out there that can help. Furthermore, this URL change can also temporarily affect your website traffic but this will normalise within time.

Any websites that don’t migrate to HTTPS before the July deadline will risk a not secure label and a potential loss in visitors and maybe even revenue. It has never been a better time to make this change.


Is big data for little companies?

Big data has drastically transformed the business landscape in recent years. Companies have always collected data but not necessarily used it to it’s fullest potential. Rather than storing data in a folder or on a disk, never to be seen again, businesses can employ the big data approach and use this information as a way to gain valuable insight.

Big data involves the analysis of large sets of statistics, whether that be consumer information, revenue, advertising, footfall or ever social media. This data is collected and analysed in order to find patterns that would otherwise be difficult, if not impossible to recognise using standard methods. The information which is produced from big data can offer a wealth of benefits, including financial, promotional and organisational, just to name a few

The reason that big data has become so popular in recent years is because it is now much more affordable and easy to use thanks to the evolution of technology. However, there does seem to be a disconnect between this new type of analysis and smaller businesses. Many small to medium companies won’t even consider big data because they assume it’s suited to larger organisations and out of their reach, but this just isn’t the case.

It is true that larger amounts of data does facilitate more accurate results and this may seem to benefit larger companies but any amount of data can be useful. This is particularly true if the business in question hasn’t been analysing much or any data previously, which tends to be the case with smaller companies.

So why are so many smaller businesses failing to embrace big data? It’s likely that there is a number of factors behind this. Money is probably the main issue, with many smaller companies assuming that they wouldn’t be able to afford the cost of the equipment, software and personnel required to utilise this new technique.

Another problem is the assumption that utilising big data techniques would require a designated department or member of staff with the expertise to run it. The majority of small business owners employ a small number of staff and don’t have the budget in place to hire new employees, never mind a whole team of specialists.

The concept of big data itself can be quite intimidating and many business owners feel that they don’t have the full understanding in order to get the most value from this tool. Even if they are able to collect and analyse the data, there is a worry that they won’t be able to fully utilise the results in any meaningful way.

Although understandable and very common, these worries are often misconceptions and are holding companies back from embracing an invaluable tool. Thanks to the rise of another huge business trend- self service solutions, companies are no longer forced to modify their own infrastructure in order to utilise new techniques, they can simply outsource.

There are many online organisations that offer self service big data solutions, levelling the playing field for every company, no matter how large or small. These services not only help businesses to collect and analyse their own data, they also convert the raw data in to meaningful, simple to understand information. This information is incredibly useful and can be used to make informed decisions that will hopefully cut costs, streamline processes or attract new custom.

The best part of the self-service approach is that it doesn’t require new software, hardware or personnel and is therefore much more affordable, straightforward and infinitely more attractive to smaller businesses.

In the past, techniques such as big data may have been more accessible to larger, richer companies but thanks to the continual evolution of technology- this is no longer the case. Fortunately, the breaking down of technological barriers is helping to create a much more egalitarian business landscape.

In fact, it’s worth noting that there are advantages that smaller companies have over their larger competitors when it comes to big data. For example, they benefit from a much more flexible approach to change- meaning they can react to data in real time. Larger companies tend to be fixed and have many more moving parts- therefore modifications are complex and require more time.

It has never been a better time for smaller businesses to adopt a bigger approach to data.

So where do you start?  The choice is yours but one company we have worked with may be worth a call

Is it possible to Improve your productivity and save money at the same time?

All businesses, no matter how large or small aim to increase productivity. Improving overall efficiency can offer a wealth of benefits, including speeding up production, less down time and less waste. However, many companies worry about the cost of implementing these new procedures, whether it be through training, software or actual physical modification. Fortunately, there is a way to improve productivity as well as saving time and money.

Customer Relationship Management System

Customer Relationship Management or CRM is a system which aims to streamline the overall approach to customer information. Companies can utilise specialised software which collects all relevant consumer data, such as orders, feedback, marketing and contacts. Businesses are then able to access all relevant information at a single location, with additional tools such as analytics which allows users to process this data. Therefore, companies can use this information to spot trends, patterns and potential problems.

The use of a CRM system can lead to changes within the company and its approach to customer service, potentially boosting productivity. Also, by combining each section into a single outlet, you can connect employees within a single system and this also offers a potential for savings in time, money and effort.

Employee Performance

The overall effectiveness of a company’s employees is gauged through a number of processes, usually involving paperwork and manpower. Businesses can opt for a more efficient approach to appraisal through the use of a tailored online system. Employee information such as attendance, punctuality, goals and feedback can all be located within a single platform, saving time and effort.

Collecting all of this information into a single location increases visibility and makes it easier for business owners to judge productivity in real-time. Therefore, issues can be identified and remedied well before they become a larger problem.

This can also be beneficial to employees themselves as it offers a clear and simple outlook of their performance and information on objectives. Furthermore, companies can utilise this system as a way to motivate workers, as those who meet their targets can be rewarded or promoted.

Business Intelligence Platform

Business Intelligence Platforms collect large amounts of company data and then analyses this information in order to gain insight. This is actually a form of big data, a popular technique which is completely transforming the business landscape. The concept behind big data is that users can utilise tools to find meaningful patterns within large sets of data- that would otherwise seem random or insignificant to the human eye.

There seems to be a misconception that big data is best suited to larger companies but this isn’t the case. Any business, whatever the size will collect data, whether it be on costs, sales, promotions, employee performance and customer information. Therefore, any business can utilise tools such as a business intelligence platform as a way to make sense of this data.

What is particularly useful and efficient about employing a business intelligence platform is that it can do the work for you. As well as collecting and analysing company data in real-time, it can notify users with any pertinent issues which may arise from this information, e.g. an employee with poor performance, a product which is selling well or a decline in profits. It may require an initial investment but the benefits that it can provide in terms of productivity will create substantial savings in the long term.

Business Intelligence software can also help to automate many processes, such as data entry which means employees have more time for other tasks. There is also an added benefit of removing human error, reducing mistakes and ensuring a higher quality of data.

Even more impressive, these platforms can provide vital insight into how business owners can cut costs. By analysing large amounts of data on manufacturing and supply, companies can be alerted to ways in which they streamline their finances. Again proving that the initial investment will pay for itself, many times over.

So where do you start?  The choice is yours but one company we have worked with may be worth a call

Is Native Advertising Really Effective?

Native advertising is major trend within the marketing world at the moment but many people don’t actually know what it is. Although this new technique may not be very well known, it’s becoming much more prevalent and it’s likely most people have already seen a native advertisement when surfing the internet.

So what actually is native advertisement? It’s the name given to paid adverts which are created to mimic the content of the platform they are on. For example, a promoted video on Youtube, a paid ad in Google’s search results or a sponsored article on a news website. The whole concept behind native ads is that they “blend in” and are therefore more likely to be engaged with. To put them in to context with other marketing techniques, they’re a middle ground between banner ads and traditional content marketing.

Sponsored advertising can be found on a wide range of websites and platforms but it tends to be concentrated on social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.) and major publishing platforms. Basically any online locations which attract a high level of content consumption.

There are specific benefits to native advertising which is why it has become so popular in recent years. As we’ve already mentioned, one of the main advantages to these types of ads is that they don’t look anything like standard advertisements. This is important as many people have become so accustomed to traditional banner ads that they don’t even see them anymore- it’s called “ad blindness”. Native advertisements look and act like content and even when consumers know that they are sponsored, they’re still more likely to engage with them.

There is empirical data to back up the idea that native advertising is more successful than traditional marketing. For example, the MMA report found that users were 40% more likely to interact with native ads with factors such as attention (3x more) and recall (2x more) also higher when compared with display adverts. Further research seems to corroborate these findings with a study from Sharethrough finding that consumers looked at native advertisements 53% more frequently than display ads.

As well as the initial engagement, native advertising also offers benefits in the way in which consumers interact with it. The use of sponsored content is much more likely to leave a lasting impact, with the brand being able to build a meaningful relationship with the user. With so much wariness around business in general in recent years, the ability to reach out to the consumer and create a connection is worth its weight in gold.

Another positive aspect of this technique is that consumers are much more likely to share these ads via social media, which is basically free advertising. This also opens the door for the possibility of “going viral” – when your ad is shared exponentially and reaches a massive audience. The likelihood of sponsored content being shared is dependent on many factors such as the platform it’s on, the title and the images used but the potential is definitely there.

Although it’s quite clear that there are many advantages to utilising native advertising, there are also some drawbacks. One of the obvious disadvantages is that native ads require content production and are therefore more resource heavy when compared with display ads.

Arguably the biggest problem with native advertising is the potential for backlash. More specially, consumers who feel like they have been “tricked” into engaging with a piece of content, only to find that it’s an advertisement. Sponsored content is always labelled as such but since the idea is to blend in with the platform, it’s not surprising that many users assume they are just looking at normal content. This has been reflected in research by CivicScience that found that 61% of respondents thought that sponsored content harmed the credibility of the publication in question and 54% don’t trust sponsored content. Considering one of the benefits of the native technique is being able to build a better relationship with consumers, these figures are worrying.

There is a possibility that native advertising is still too new for us to gauge the lasting impact it will have on the marketing world. There may be a novelty effect happening now and consumers will become just as exhausted with native ads as they have become with display ads. However, it is also possible the sponsored content marketing is the next big step in advertising and an invaluable tool for companies to interact with potential customers.