Friday, January 29, 2016

Will One Line Of Code Help Your SEO?

There's been quite a lot of discussion online (and a little offline) about a recent blog article called: How I Sped Up My Site 68.35% With One Line of Code

I think the biggest buzz about this article has been in the SEO community, who suddenly got all excited about a magical way to speed up web pages. Mentioned by Moz (the organic optimisation industry's catnip) you could be fooled into thinking that one person had suddenly found a way to massively boost a site to the top of the results pages.
Note: For those who don't know, the speed a page downloads is cited as one of the numerous factors taken into consideration when search engines such as Google rank (judge) your site... having a much faster page load speed with just one little line of code would be fabulous.
But alas, that's not the case.

You see, I think this article is misleading as it explains how to use an HTML tag called "rel-prerender".

For those who don't know, the rel-prerender tag is used on a website to place into computer memory the next page the site developer expects the users to click on. For example, Google sometimes use it in their search engine results pages (SERPs) to make the experience of clicking on the first result much quicker.

To explain how this works on your own website, let's imagine you are on page 1 and want to automatically call-up page 2 behind the scenes (so that it appears very quickly). You therefore insert the "rel-prerender" tag in page 1 to call up page 2 before it is clicked on.

Where might you use this?
Well you might us it on a login-page (page 1) where the logged-in page (page 2) is usually the next step. You can even use it in an eCommerce site to pre-render the shopping cart I guess.... BTW: DO NOT DO THIS!

But as you would expect, there's a catch. Pre-rendering page 2 is the act of requesting a view of it in advance. So people arriving on page 1 can trigger a page 2 view without ever seeing it and in many cases they won't. This means that in some analytic packages this is recorded as a page impression (not in GA, it's clever like that) and ads on that page may be triggered even when nobody's there to see them. Plus it also adds load onto your servers whenever a page is requested, so don't tell your tech support person you're adding further load onto the system that may never be used.

So does it have an effect on SEO? Well I may be wrong.... but I really can't see how it helps organic site optimisation as you are not speeding up the render of the page you want to appear in the SERPs (Page 1). What you are actually doing is speeding up the potential delivery of the next page (page 2) you expect the user to see.  And that's not SEO, that's a caching strategy.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Forget Agile Development - You Need Agile Marketing

The term agile development is now pretty much established as the way to get web functionality built and launch. Focused on delivery of a minimum viable product it aims to build 'something but not everything' in a given time frame. It is so successful now, that marketing and commercial types have come to expect that their technical team or web agency can create nearly all of what they want in record time.

So now its time for a new term. So forget Agile Development for now, your business needs to adopt the practice of Agile Marketing!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Digital Dinosaurs Will Die Out

At a recent presentation I talked about how it was still sometimes hard to get senior stakeholder buy-in on digital projects. You'd have thought by now that most senior managers or executive teams would have read the odd press article on digital transformation or listened just enough to an industry consultant on where the future of communications, technology and innovation are taking us.

But no, there are still the digital luddites who want to dig their heads into the analogue sand and fail to grasp that there's a revolution happening in most organisations.

Luckily, like the dinosaurs, these digital deniers will become fewer and fewer until they not just become the minority... but they become virtually extinct. Hopefully!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Disrupt Or Get Disrupted

There's a couple of phases that have been going around in my head for the last week or so.

These are:
- If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem
- Change is the only constant

Both reflect my feelings about the current progress of digital transformation across a range of industries. From taxi services through to financial institutions, new models of working based upon technology and data, have now disrupted existing companies and sometimes entire markets.

So if change is happening all the time....

Who is leading your disruption?
You probably have at least one person in your organisation who is the advocate of digital change. They may be a lonely voice shouting about the need to 'embrace change', 'test and learn', ' fail forward' or 'adapt agile'. Or they may be a senior manager with the drive, staff and responsibility to push digital to the top of the agenda. either way, these people need the support of the exec team and remit (including budget) to trial new things that could mean the difference between your organisation being a Blockbuster or the next Netflix.

When will the change happen?
Most of us are among the disrupted rather than the disruptors - Only 7% of companies surveyed by Gartner in 2014 felt they were truly digital and of the remainder, only 83% felt they would be digital by 2017.

An inability or resistance to transform and adapt in an ever-changing world is a big failure these days. Nothing stays the same for very long in business and This Shit is Gonna Get Faster.

Don't be complacent
Larry Page and Sergey Brin once said "Google is not a conventional company. We do not intend to become one." Does your organisation run on apathy and complacency? If so... change get it or stand a significant chance of disruption!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Will better distribution help eCommerce in Scotland?

If you live in Scotland, and in particular the West Coast of Scotland from the Clyde Estuary up to the Hebrides, you will no-doubt have seen the Oban Express van as it whizzed past.*

However last week logistics group John Menzies acquired Oban Express with the wonderful claim that it could “transform e-commerce in remote parts of Scotland”.

The aim is that this take-over should give this large facilities and distribution company a greater geographical reach, by including the 45-strong vehicle fleet that typically runs between Glasgow and the West. This acquisition, driven by online retailing, also follows the purchase in June of this year of AJG Parcels of Inverness.The integration of both companies into the group should apparently "help keep down the cost of deliveries on behalf of national carriers to more isolated areas".

However, in my opinion, there can only be a truly better ecommerce delivery approach in Scotland if:
  1. Companies such as Menzies invest in these recent purchases and grow the capacity of their operations in remote areas.
  2. Travel networks (e.g. roads) are improved
    E.g. it doesn't matter how far or fast the van goes, if it is stuck behind a slow driver on the single-carriage all the way up to Fort William or waiting for a land-slide to be cleared on the Inveraray road.
  3. Big and small ecommerce companies alike stop charging unfair amounts for deliveries to the Scottish Highlands and Islands.
    E.g. I live 12 miles from Glasgow and was recently charged a premium by one company for shipping a small parcel (a mobile phone)!
  4. This is accompanied by the roll-out of decent broadband internet, which is still incredibly patchy across a lot of the land north of the English border.

* Dear Top Gear, here's an idea. Stop featuring bloody Italian supercars or unobtainable Aston Martins on your programme and do a piece on the amazing handling & performance characteristics of the Ford Transit and Iveco vans driven by the courier services to the North of Glasgow!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Think Like A Start-Up

In my recent session at the Marketing Society I talked about the need to think like a start-up.

I'd therefore like to clarify further what I mean by this:

1. Support a test & learn culture
I was once told "The biggest issue with failing in not failing.... it is failing to pick yourself up again afterwards", but this is only part of the approach you need. You must also foster a culture that supports failure when it inevitably does happen, by encouraging innovation and testing to find out what works (and learning from those things that don't).

2. Be prepared to pivot
Accepting you are wrong is a humiliating experience and it is also a viable business strategy if your proposition or market isn't working. Lots of start-ups have changed their business model or product to suit a better customer need.

3. Learn from everyone you can
Big businesses tend to know a lot about their current situation (e.g. their products and typical customer attitudes & other insight). However start-ups learn quickly... they have to. But in my opinion it is their approach to fast learning that interests me.
They ask everyone, from people who have used their website or app just once... through to mentors and others who have done similar things many times before.
They ask about their product or service: what people liked, what they didn't like and more importantly how it could be improved.

Does your company do these things?

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Do Hearts Not Stars Indicate Twitter's Plans

So today Twitter has traded the star “favorite” icon / button for a heart-shaped "like" one. This change takes it further away from it's origins as a stream of personal updates to being more of a sociable social network.
The heart, the almost global symbol of affection, moves Twitter closer in interactions terms to Facebook (which has had the 'Like' button for ages), Instagram and even Periscope (the app-based personal video streaming service owned by Twitter which uses hearts as an instant method of feedback).

But does this move also signal something else?

It has been well publicised within the tech & online community that Twitter hasn't been without more than its fair share of issues. Culminating this June with the departure of Dick Costolo as CEO and the instatement to the role of co-founder & Chairman Jack Dorsey. 

Could this move be an attempt to be more like bigger competitor Facebook (which since April 2013 also owns Instagram)? This may make Twitter more popular or useful in the Social Media community... which may in-turn make them more attractive to a buyer. 

But which large tech player would consider buying Twitter at this stage? Something to look-up on Google I suppose :-)