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Do people still use QR Codes?

Do people still use QR Codes?

QR Code about QR Codes

I've been looking around and got to ask - do people still use QR Codes?

Those delightful looking warped barcodes spent most of 2012 plastering all manner of printed materials, but now seem like they're nowhere to be seen (in my opinion at least).

From a marketing perspective QR codes were brilliant because-

  • They are free and easy to make.
  • You could track how many people scanned it, providing a rough ROI on printed ads.
  • You could become rather creative in how they're presented. For how not to make a QR code see some epic failures here.

Last year every magazine or paper I looked through seemed to have one, but the phase seems to have passed. For me though the reality hit; it takes a lot of effort from the users perspective. Why? Because -

  • You have to own a smartphone.
  • You have to download a QR reader app beforehand.
  • When you want to scan something, you have to locate your phone, unlock it, open up the app, and then try and scan the object.

All in all some people will still do this and scan a code but that is a lot of hurdles to get through, especially when (in my experience) some QR codes refuse to scan. 

So, now they appear to have vanished from a lot of what I read. However, if you search for 'qr codes' in Google news, you get a massive list of pretty impressive uses for them (such as this 'smart' nappy) which goes far beyond simply adding them onto printed adverts.

Resized & cropped image credit to Jefferson National Expansion Memorial | cc


So the floor is open to you - do you, or your business still use QR codes? Or have you given up with them? Are they good, bad or downright ugly? Add your comments using the button below and I look forward to seeing what people have to say...

 

My Trip to Florence: Website Marketing, Tourism & Ice Cream

My Trip to Florence: Website Marketing, Tourism & Ice Cream

In May I headed off to Florence (or Firenze if you're Italian) and like any well organised tourist I spent a decent amount of time planning what to do via the tourism websites.

This is isn't a travel write up (although the history, food and ice cream were all amazing) but instead a quick post about a couple of issues which I noticed about the Florentine tourist websites and their online marketing efforts.

Incorrect Pricing:

The major website for the city is www.visitflorence.com. Although full of information it's not the most beautiful website in the world, but I used it a fair bit to dig out the main places to go.  On one of the afternoons we went to the Basilica de Santa Maria Novella, a church which has some absolutely beautiful works of art. According to the website, it was €3.50. In reality it was €5. The exact same pricing problem happened when we went to the Boboli Gardens.  

I completely realise that a €1.50 price difference isn't a major thing. Actually both places were definitely more than worth the admission price - but it starts to get you thinking, if the information is wrong at Visit Florence, what other facts are wrong? 

If I lose trust in a website I'm not going to come back to it, so with most of the other places we visited I googled them directly to find the correct information for each attraction. 

Dodgy Navigation:

The Uffizi is one of the world leading galleries, famous for works by Michaelangelo, Da Vinci and Botticelli and is definitely a worthwhile place to visit.

Booking tickets was strongly advised due to the queues, but on which website? If you google 'Uffizi Gallery' there are three seemingly identical websites:

  • www.uffizi.com
  • www.uffizi.org
  • www.virtualuffizi.com

After 15 minutes of discussion it seemed like www.uffizi.org was the official website (based on its better design). We tried to book with them but the website then sends you to another website, this time: www.florence-tickets.com.

After spending close to 40 minutes going between different websites we eventually gave up suspecting that one or all of them could be dodgy sites; certainly not sights that I'd trust with my card details.

Whilst I was writing this it actually turns out that uffizi.org also wasn't the official site . It is in fact www.polomuseale.firenze.it. Double checking this it does appear as the Number 3 result for 'Uffizi Gallery' in Google, but the result was in Italian, which I wouldn't click on.

Why am I even mentioning this?

Well, Florence relies heavily on tourism as part of it's economy. English speaking people make up a large proportion of visits, and people will spend an intense amount of time studying websites both before and during their holidays. 

Coincidentally we visited Florence at almost the same time of the release of Dan Brown's latest novel 'Inferno' which is based in the city. If the previous experience of Rome's boost to tourism from 'Angels and Demons' is anything to go by, tourism in Florence should be on the up.

If a site is making it unintentionally difficult to find accurate information, buy tickets or do anything else, you're going to lose peoples trust, lose visits, and ultimately lose out financially. So, it made me wonder how much revenue could Florence be missing out on? 


It all comes down to the visitors experience on a site. If you make sure every detail is checked, and the process from start to finish is as easy, fun and painless as possible then you won't be turning business away.

And the Ice Cream? In one word - Amazing. If you visit, check out 'Grom' which has the most brilliant variety of different flavours. 

5 Tools you Need For a New Website

5 Tools you Need For a New Website

Launching a new website is always a slightly scary but pretty exciting experience; but is everything done? From previous experience I'd recommend that you use, add or set up the following tools so that once you've launched your new site it could save you a lot of hassle in the long run. 

Google Analytics

Why use it? I could just say it's free and brilliant, but if you want more details, it's also because it's an excellent marketing resource for working out how people are finding and using your site. Analytics can show you the location of your visitors, their time on site, and the keywords they used to find you; as well plenty of other useful statistics.

How to Install - Visit Google Analytics, register and work through the instructions to correctly install the tracking code on your site.

Website Speed Tester

Using something like Pingdom will help you to begin ironing out any speed issues which users may encounter on your site. Just put in your website URL here.  

Hubspot Marketing Grader   

Another simple submit your website kinda site, the marketing grader will scan your website to see how it well it performs. It checks a lot of different things from making sure your social media accounts are linked to your website to checking if your blog has an RSS feed. It then tots all of the information up to give you a score.

Some of the items on there aren't especially relevant if you're just starting off (like saying you don't have enough blog posts) but it provides a great source of information for knowing how to start to improve your site.   

Google Webmaster Tools

In essence webmaster tools keep an eye on your site to see if it's working correctly. The package will let you know about any problems with your site that will prevent it from being properly indexed on Google, plus it offers a whole load of other useful information.

How to Install - You can register here. Two things that you need to do once added:

  • Upload an xml sitemap; this will allow Google to crawl your website more easily to make sure it gets indexed. 
  • Robots.txt: Add any pages you don't want to be indexed into the robots.txt file. More info about them here.

Google Structured Markup Tool

By now you'll have probably noticed that a number of search results will have an image of the author to the left hand of the result. The research suggests that having this can help with click through rates in search results, so it makes sense to set this up. All you need is a Google+ account, and to follow these instructions. It's a fairly simple thing to do, and once you're done, you can check it's working using the structured mark up tool.


I'm sure there are a whole host of other tools out there, but these are just a selection of ones to get you started when a site has just been launched. If you know of any others though then add them onto the comments.

A look at Online Marketing in London

A look at Online Marketing in London

A few weeks back I got to spend some time up in London. The capital seems like a world away from my home of rural North Devon, especially when you take a look at how the internet is accessed and consumed there. 

 

So here are a few things I noticed (in a completely unscientific and subjective way) when you compare London to Devon - 

 

Foursquare finally makes sense:

I stayed in Farringdon, and using the Foursquare app I could bring up at least 20 places to eat and drink all within a 5 minute walk.

Back home in Barnstaple, there’s still plenty of businesses, but virtually none of them are signed up. For the ones that are registered, there’s not much happening. It’s a bit of a Foursquare ghost town and never really made sense. 

It's a shame really. Firstly, because it’s a free source of marketing. Secondly, because the app works brilliantly to give a businesses' reputation a boost as you can see genuine tips and photos from other people. 

Wifi Works:

 

The number of wifi zones in London was impressive. In the city you could pick up a signal in most places that you couldn't down here. I even sat in a park and picked up a signal! Better still the wifi is fast, making it much easier if you want to do almost anything online.  (I know I shouldn't be that enthusiastic about this fact, but would never be able to do this at home!)

Well, what do you know - Mobile is Massive:

 

Standing on the tube I was impressed by the number of people using tablet devices, both for reading on the commute, but also for day to day work. In Devon though, I don’t think I've yet seen anyone in a public area pull out an Ipad.

 Digital engagement on mobile devices must be huge, which reinforced for me how important it is for a website to be optimised for mobile. 

Resized and cropped image credit to Nicolas de Camaret | cc


All in all, the way people access information seems massively different depending on where you are in the world, something which I didn't really think about before. It is though definitely something I'll be keeping in mind on future marketing campaigns.

Why would you Post Tweets to Facebook?

Why would you Post Tweets to Facebook?

My frustrations with cross-posting

Do you post Tweets to Facebook? Or do automatically add Facebook Posts onto Twitter? If so I want to hear your reasons why.

The ability to automatically cross update posts on the two sites isn't anything new, but what baffles me is why so many businesses continue to do so? n my mind if you're a business which does cross updates it just shouts that you can't be bothered.

Facebook and Twitter are two entirely different forms of social media, with different audiences and different environments, so why would you share exactly the same thing? Just because the functionality is there doesn't mean that it has to be used.

All in all I just think that it's not a very sociable thing to do. I also think in the longer run it damages your marketing efforts as people see that your providing them with a second hand experience. 

Some of the reasons why you shouldn't cross post:

Adding Tweets to Facebook

  • You have over 60,000 characters worth of space to potentially use - why stick with 140? 

 

  • Not everyone uses Twitter, so @, # and RT don't make sense to many.

 

  • Any #hashtags you use can't be searched.

 

  • Saying 'thanks for the follow' makes no sense.

 

 

Adding Facebook Posts to Twitter

  • Writing more than 140 characters - you're message is oddly cut off 1/2 way through with a link back to Facebook.

 

  • Making image only posts gives you a random Facebook URL linking back.

 

  • Saying 'Thanks for the like!' doesn't makes any sense.

 

  • If you add a link, people have to now go from Twitter>Facebook>Site putting an extra hurdle in your way.

 

How to Fix It?

The easy answer is to disconnect your Twitter and Facebook accounts from one another, and write your posts out separately. If you really can't resist the need to cross post something, I'd suggest setting up a Hootsuite account. Here you can select which posts you cross update each time rather than having it set up where you cross-update everything.

The actual content you're talking about doesn't need to change, but the way you tell it does. The style in which you say something on Twitter and Facebook is crucial if you want people and customers to do business with you. 

It would be good to hear from businesses on this and their experiences with cross posting; why you do it, or why you avoid it, so feel free to add your comments below.

Resized and cropped image credit to Thomas Leth-Olsen | cc

The Real Facebook Timeline Cover Dimensions

The Real Facebook Timeline Cover Dimensions

Facebook Cover Image

The Ideal Cover Image:

If you're looking for that perfect image for your Facebook timeline cover the best dimensions to use are 851px by 315px. But something which plenty of websites fail to mention about cover photos is that visitors don't see the whole image.

For businesses on Facebook, the timeline cover photo on can be the crowning glory to a fantastic page. There are plenty of businesses who will put a huge amount of effort into sourcing the correct image which will show everything that's great and good about them.

Picking the star image can be a time consuming affair, but it will all be worth it when people come to visit your page. right? Well, no as most people won't see most of your image.

What really happens...

The image above is my current timeline cover photo taken at Saunton Sands, which I'd like to think fits the bill pretty well for a cover photo.

But if you actually visit my page you're actually going to see this. -

Facebook Cover Photo

- Somehow a pair of legs isn't really what I was going for.

The Facebook timeline cover photo is one of the largest most important features of your business page and can have a massive first impression on people coming to your page. So it's incredibly frustrating that after your page loads the effort you've put into your cover photo is hidden away and prettily easily ignored.

You can always scroll up to the top of the page to see the full image, this isn't going to be done by everyone, so anything left above the fold could be missed. Instead the most important piece of real estate on a timeline cover photo is always going to be the bottom of an image.

What to do?

This is something which I think is always going to prove frustrating, and makes trying to locate 'the' perfect image that little bit harder, but it shouldn't be impossible. When you're next updating your cover image, you might just have to be a bit more creative. If you're lacking inspiration then have a look at some of these great examples here.


So, although the dimensions for a Facebook cover photo are 851px by 315px, you're probably going to end up seeing far less. Although the width is still 851px, you'll probably only see a bit more than 105px of the height of the image from the bottom.

Why Blog Content Needs to be Managed

Why Blog Content Needs to be Managed

You write a great blog post and post it to your social media channels. You get some mentions, you get some traffic. You might even get a couple of links, and you sit back waiting for it to rank. But what then?

Your blog content needs to be managed. Over time virtually all blog posts can either mature like a fine wine, or decay into the mouldy tub of takeaway which lives at the back of the fridge. 

Once you're post is written it shouldn't be left on the shelf forever, but should be lovingly looked at every now and again to make sure everything is looking as good as it should. And why should you manage your blog content? Because of the following things:

Your post is time sensitive: 

Industries such as online marketing change quickly - very quickly. If you're post is out of date it can be annoying on the one hand and down right damaging on the other.  Two examples:

When writing an old post on Ifttt I came across a huge number of other posts explaining how brilliant the Twitter recipes were. BUT, Twitter launched it's new API back in September 2012, which meant Ifttt had to remove all of its Twitter triggers. So, 7 months down the line, all the blog posts are out there now full of redundant info about recipes which you just can't produce. End result - it's annoying and time is wasted.

If you're a small business searching around for information on how to improve your SEO you're still more than likely to come across blog posts which were written a few years ago. These were the days before Google Panda and Penguin when things were altogether a very different ball game. 

But if I come across you're blog post, say from 2010, and don't know anything about SEO. Well, why wouldn't I follow its advice? The information in the post could be badly out of date by current standards, but if you're the one who wrote the blog post way back when, the bottom line is that your blog post could do more harm than good.

It's not just your advice that wastes time, but it could really damage a business when they ending up attracting a penalty from Google for poor SEO.

Your Post has Mistakes:

If you've ever written a blog post in a rush then there's a chance you've missed something. Do your images have correct alt text's? Could you write a more compelling meta description? What's your spelling like? They're all things which can easily be missed out or done wrongly, so it pays to spend some time making sure everything is correct.

End result - it can help click through rates if you appear in search results and means you won't lose business when people leave due to sloppy spelling.

Your Post doesn't have Relevant Internal Links:

If people have taken the time to read something you've written then they might also be interested in something else which you've published. With relevant internal links to other useful information you get an increased time on site from your visitors and they get a better user experience by finding lots of quality information.

Example: Say I've written a post on marketing with Twitter. People might also be interested in the article I've written on Facebook so I can provide a link to it. Simple. But whenever you add a new article it pays to go back to the Facebook article and link back to the Twitter one.

If you've put in the effort to get someone to your site, then you may as well keep them there. So with each new post that's added you could always add relevant links back from older posts.


All in all a blog is a fantastic thing but  if you're dedicating your time to write engaging, well written posts, make sure you put some of your energy managing what you've already written to be as good as it can be.

How to try and rank for your own name

How to try and rank for your own name

How I’m trying to outrank an assassin..

Like most people in the marketing industry, it’s vitally important that I rank for my own name in SERP's and stand out for all the right reasons. So what happens if you search for Dan White?

At the time of writing - you won’t find me. Sad times.

Instead you’ll probably come across Dan White; the man who assassinated San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk (the events of which were turned were turned into a film

Unfortunately for me, Mr. White dominates the rankings for almost all searches around my name. So I’m trying to get tactical to ensure if people are looking me they get yours truly. To do this I'm trying the following:

Buying the Right Domain Name:

The most important thing seems to be to buy a domain name of your name -  and then hook it up to a website or blog which is all about you. My name isn't the most common name on the planet but it’s not rare either. 

Annoyingly my exact name has already gone for both .co.uk and .com domains, so I opted to pick a website address which is as close as possible to my name. www.danieljameswhite.co.uk covers all bases as I hope it might rank for both www.danieljameswhite.co.uk and for my full name - should anyone ever search for it.

Note: If you're thinking of doing the same thing, but aren't yet ready to start your own website or blog it might still be worth bagging your own domain name sooner rather than later. There's almost 7 billion people on the planet, and a growing percentage of them are using the internet, so get in there before all the others.

Appearing for a longer tail result:

If people are looking for me I'd hope that they will carry on to search for me even if they don't find me straight away. If I can’t rank my name on the first page of Google for 'Dan White' then I'm hoping I can start appearing for searches that are for 'My name + My Industry.'

Getting around (the internet):

Any new site is going to take time to build up enough momentum to start outranking other pages in SERP's. As I want to start gaining traffic from the start I'm making sure my name is spread around the internet via my social media channels. LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook accounts can all be set up and optimised. These sites carry a huge weight in the online world, so should mean that one of my social profiles should appear in search results even if my website isn't.

Drastic Measures: Changing my name?

I did thinking about changing my name via deed poll, although this is a bit too extreme at the moment. The other alternative would be to use a pen-name. Did you know the author George Orwell was actually called Eric Blair?

If you were to pick a unique name then appearing in the search results for it should be a doddle. The downside though is when people come across your alter ego, how do they know that, well, you're you?

If you write an awesome blog post that you want to later use as part of a portfolio, but it hasn't got your name on it then how do you prove it's yours? Identity theft is all too common, so anyone could be trying to me (now that is a scary thought).

> I think I might leave this idea alone for now unless I get seriously desperate.

This is something which is very much a work in progress, so when I get on Page 1 of Google I'll get this post updated to see if the ideas above worked.