Blog posts written during February 2011

Startups NI holiday for up to 10 Employees

Wednesday Wednesday, February 23, 2011 by Ian Pettman

So you are just starting your new Agency. Wouldn't it be nice if the government helped you along by giving you a holiday on the NI payments for your first few employees? Well they have: it would be even better if they told you about it so you could claim it!

The details: employer's NIC, limit of £5,000 per qualifying employee, limited to 10 employees.

To apply, and to find further details: follow this link to the site

SEO truths and myths

Saturday Saturday, February 12, 2011 by Ian Pettman

There is a lot of talk about SEO. Some of it is good, some of it is bad. Some people seek to cloud SEO in a mist of inpenatratable jargon. Then there are some people and organisations that try to paint a simple picture. A bit like most things in life, some people are naturally helpful, some make a song and dance about eveything.

For a site to be successful in a commercial sense, it needs to be credible. The basics: spelling and grammar need to be correct. The aesthetics: pages need to have a standard consistent layout that is pleasing to the eye. There needs to be a solid feel about the site. Remember up till now your visitors probably have not even heard of you. There needs to be information that makes your company look like the bona fide reputable merchant it is or is trying to be. Actually there is a legal requirement for certain information. Postal address, company registration, even a privacy statement if your site has a contact page (and it should).

The web robots also know as spiders that "crawl" your site to decide on its ranking need to find what they want too.

Many SEO companies will "guarantee page 1 ranking".  Please understand this may be an empty promise. Page rank is not everything. For example, we have a page: which contains "agf kjj bk lkj" (without the spaces). There are no inbound links to it, no SEO for it. (That is why I have not printed the URL in plain text here.)  It's just an unusual collection of letters. So type or copy the letters in to your browser search (less the spaces) and you will find our single page. It may be the only page that Google finds.  Simply, page 1 ranking is not everything. It has to be page 1 for a term people are likely to search for. On the other hand, page 1 ranking for a term the people search on regularly when they want your product is gold dust.

So how do we get Page rank? It takes work, time and effort, then more time and effort. It may be your own work. It may be an SEO company's work, working for you. Whichever route you take, you need to measure your or their performance. Here are some FREE SEO tools to get you started in measuring what you or your SEO company achieve.  It typically takes a week or two on an active site to ensure new content is indexed (searchable). You should see results within a month from analytics. Once it starts moving, a little PPC campaign may help.

If you found this interesting, then this will probably interest you more:

Where has my cloud data gone

Saturday Saturday, February 5, 2011 by Ian Pettman

Last month (January 2011) a photo blogger, by accounts named Mirco Wilhelm from Zurich logged on to his Flickr account to find that his entire library of nearly 4000 photos from the past five years had been deleted!

The back story is that Mirco had apparently noticed that someone appeared to be "stealing" his photos i.e. copying them and using them without his permission. He was understandably upset at this. So he complained to Flickr over such copyright infringements in manner designated by Flickr. If Marco was upset before, it's true to say he became incandescent at the subsequent actions of Flickr. Marco's colourful (possibly offensive to some) blog (link at the end of this blog) covers the details.

So what is the small print when using the cloud e.g. Flickr, Google Mail, Google apps, Facebook etc as far as them protecting your cherished (in some cases vital) work, data, pictures etc?

Clearly the actual wording and specific rights for storing and maintaining data may and does vary across cloud hosts, cloud applications and cloud applications account types. It's not very far from the truth to say that it always boils down to the word "sorry".

Put simply your free service does not include a free backup service. Even your low cost "Pro" account does not include a free backup service.  If your data goes missing through hardware failure in the cloud or (as it appears in this case) operator error, your comeback is nothing, rien, nichts, ziltch, niente, nada, whichever language you choose.

Why is this? Well storage is cheap and becoming cheaper, however backing up may double (at least) the cost, eating into profit margins. Even the storage costs of a recycle bin will increase operating costs at a time when margins may be pushed and buyer's decisions (for paid for services) are heavily driven by the lowest cost offering.

So let us be clear, in these situations, the term "Pro" is just part of the marketing men's way of swinging a paid premium. "Pro" does not mean a "professional" approach.  Even though "Pro" may in your mind, the mind of the paying customer, be associated with a "proper" approach. In many ways it is similar to "comprehensive" in insurance where there are five pages of exclusions for act of God etc....

So if you are looking at basing you business on a cloud offering then it is essential that you factor in backup costs of that cloud data (if possible). Even in a small commercial environment: it may be preferable to have your company data on your own computers in your own offices and backups at your own home.


Related links

Marco's colourful (possibly offensive to some) blog here.

Another take on the story here.

Mirco Wilhelm photo bloghere.

Flickr's efforts ironically in amongst the thankfully restored photoshere.

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