One of those occasions when an out of the blue phonecall gives a warm glow. SEO does actually work!
A firm of design and construction engineers found me through a web search and looking for help with a development project to take place on the Somerset Levels. They had forthcoming planning and a public meetings approaching where the proposals would be put forward for examination and were acutely aware of the importance of communicating their ideas clearly the first time. Key, therefore, to present in a clear unequivocal way that eliminates misunderstanding and presents the project in its best light.
The project comprised of the construction of an Anaerobic Digester plant and because of its location considerable effort had been put in to minimising the impact it would have on the surrounding area. I was asked to provide costs for a 3D visualisation model of the plant to include an animated fly round and 3D fly through together with photo montaged high resolution images showing the plant blended into photographs of the surrounding area.
Having successfully pitched for the work I began developing the model from the 2D plans and schematics. Communicating daily with the client on detailing and technical specifications and finally delivering a range of output formats in good time for the client’s meetings.
The Client was delighted with the results commenting that although the public meetings were always going to be challenging they felt much more confident in presenting the case and being able to move forward with the application process.
The term ‘personalised’ and ‘bespoke’ does not necessarily mean what you think. In many cases what is meant is a standard templated design with just the names changed. Couples looking for something really special that reflects the importance of their day want more; even if a templated solution is acceptable trying to find one that exactly fits with the arrangements being made can often be almost impossible.
One couple who contacted me recently were planning to get married in the French Alps. This young man had proposed on the mountain top under the stars during a snow boarding holiday, such romance; so they wanted to go back to be married in the same place. However there was also a more practical side to this choice which would provide another snowboarding and skiing holiday opportunity for all their friends and family.
When arranging weddings that are far from home all sorts of extra considerations come in to play such as differing accommodation, length of stay, directions to the church and venue, flight details, airports and so on. A simple reply card just won’t do.
This particular couple also wanted the invite to represent the area which was very special to them. The solution I offered was to create an A5 sized folder displaying photographs of the Villa where they stayed and the surrounding scenery. The snow capped log cabins and mountain scenes were of course ideal to create a romantic setting. The invite would be printed litho on a high quality coated 350gsm card and using a special silver ink to represent snow flakes and to echo the white and blue theme. Using a folded outer with a pocket on the inside back cover would then also provide a facility to include customised invite and RSVP cards to guests according to where they might be staying and how they would be travelling.
I’m pleased to say the couple were delighted with the result and had received feedback from invited guests who felt extra special to have been invited.
A second job in similar vein was for a couple who wanted something unique that would not be replicated anywhere else. In addition, as their church and venue were well out into the country they wanted help their guests with travelling to the venue by organising coach transport. I therefore produced a range of cards with directions and pick up times. Each invite could then be customised to the recipient with pick up points and directions according to where they were travelling from. A version with different copy is also planned to send informal photographs of the day back to guests.
If you would like more information about how I can help make your guest feel special please call 07770 750327
The figures just released on Retail Sales over the Christmas period is a good indicator on the power and continual rise of online shopping and trading. Increasingly it is not just components such as cameras, computers and non perishable easily posted items that are purchased online. Retail businesses generally and particularly in creative, fashion and interior furnishing sectors need to focus on how they can maximise sales and drive their margins by using online marketing channels.
As a case in point a Client I have worked with over many years contacted me a couple of months before Christmas. He had recently been appointed as marketing manager of a specialist, sustainable flooring company in Bristol and looking to see how digital marketing could expand sales of new products, drive special offers and stimulate interest and imagination in potential customers. Whilst their core business was in providing personalised, high quality carpeting and flooring solutions for commercial and domestic customers locally, they now wanted to reach beyond their business base in Bristol and the South West.
I therefore spent some time going through their business marketing model and identifying where modern technologies and marketing channels could be used to drive the business. They already had a good working web site so the key areas were identified as follows:
1. Email promotion of special offers and new products to their existing customer database.
2. Instore digital signage to create product awareness and stimulate customer interest.
3. Website promotion of special offers, fashion items and accessories.
4. A new web module enabling web customers to create their own flooring design from a wide range of options, have it made and delivered all online.
5. Using Social Media channels to create conversation, interaction and awareness.
Following these initial discussions in October Applause has now provided the following digital media solutions:
- Product photography
- Digital signage programme running on plasma screens in store
- A new special offer sustainable rugs feature on the Naked Flooring website
- A ‘Happy Christmas and New Year email to existing customers with special offers on fashion items and new product and we are shortly to go live with a new ‘My Rug Creator’ feature.
- If you would like your own customised Sisal Flooring - click here!
I am also now working with their team to develop and create engaging social media conversations through SM channels. In addition I will be helping their team analyse web traffic and direct sales result to determine the return on their investment.
Postcript: ROI achieved in within four weeks of the site module going live!
The Wales and West Wine and Beermakers Festival is traditionally held on the late spring bank holiday and this year coincided with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. The event was a huge success attracting some 450 enthusiasts from all over the country.
After the event the management team were straight on to working on the 2013 event and immediately realised that because all the promotional material had been themed to the Jubilee a complete refresh would be required. A good point then to rethink the whole strategy and an opportunity to start with a fresh new look. Applause were asked to look not only at a new concept but to come up with ideas on how potential visitors who are not necessarily involved with clubs and affiliated associations could be attracted to the show
We suggested the potential of getting online retailers on board; as they are in regular contact with individual home brewers who buy supplies from them, by providing them with mailers to send out with orders WWWF could reach out to these potential customers. The idea was well received and we subsequently were able to sign up 8 major retailers who were happy to help.
WWWF were also keen to make their website more up to date and to consider creating an online booking facility. The existing site was now showing its age, built in 2006!, so they had had their money’s worth but time to refresh. The intervening years have seen the development of much more sophisticated and easy to use content managed systems such as WordPress, Joomla and many more. It was felt the WordPress would be the easiest to set up and understand and we have therefore created the site on this platform.
We have created a DL size mailer for the online retailers to send out providing a postal tear off, plus email and links to their new web registration facility. The usual 6pp A4 brochure plus 2pp booking form and A5 leaflet were redesigned and the website rebuilt from scratch using the WordPress platform. This provided the additional advantage of a CMS system that would allow members of the management to update pages themselves and also make a much easier transition when volunteers joined or left the team.
Bollywood Spice the highly successful Indian and Nepalese restaurant and take away based in Warmley, Bristol is on the move to bigger premises. Situated in Longwell Green The Barrs Court Inn once part of the the Barr’s Court Estate is a magnificent stone built barn with almost cathedral like proportions. The Estate, once owned by the Newton family has now disappeared under the ring road, new housing estates and the Aspects Leisure Centre. The barn is I believe the only surviving reminder and was converted to a pub in the eighties.
The pub, once renowned for it restaurant and guaranteed to be choc a bloc on a Saturday night, has become rather tired but now destined for a new lease of life as a multicultural restaurant and takeaway. Getting into conversation with the Bollywood’s owners whilst enjoying some of their brilliant cuisine; it turned out that they were looking for some way to see how the grade II listed building could be adapted, and how much change they could effect. We agreed that I would create a virtual model of the building and provide a range of 3D visuals showing the possible options. The visuals could then be put before the authorities and builders to assess what could be acceptable to planning and within the available budgets.
Restaurant owner Naz Abdul was delighted with the results, as he explained, “it was difficult for me to visualise how we could turn the barn, a huge open space, into a cosy restaurant. Applause were able to provide accurate visuals from any angle within the building, change the lighting, fabrics and fittings till we could see just the effect we were looking for. We were then able to supply planners and builders with a clear understandable picture of how we wanted the interior to look and avoid expensive mistakes.
We are also able to add value by using the graphics in our planned online and print marketing. Applause are also currently working with us to create new branding, website and marketing materials. This is a really exciting project and we are looking forward to a grand opening shortly.
Having spent a couple of months tucked in the corner of 5.1 and for most of that time wearing a coat, woolly and two pairs of mountaineering socks; the landlord, Tim, decided it was time for me to move. All very amicable but I suspect it was something to do with the heater under my desk going flat out all day trying to thaw my feet.
So I’m now in 4.2, distinctly less rustic and barn like and with the summer upon us no need for heaters – yet!
Anytime you want to pop in I’ll meet you in here or of course the Bocabar !!
There are almost 15 billion online searches every month. Is your website sharp enough to capture those searches that relate to your business and create potential sales?
Virtually everyone who uses a computer understands that Google, Yahoo, Bing and all the other search engines are designed to find relevant answers to the queries you make. Type in ‘Patio Barbeque’ and you will be rewarded with suppliers from all over the country. However since you may prefer not to drive hundreds of miles, perhaps a more local search would be useful. Modify the search to ‘Patio Barbeques in Bristol’, in my case, and this will return the local suppliers required.
From the opposite perspective if you run a business selling barbeques how will your website capture my search and entice me into your store. OK, that’s an easy one – by having a great website and being ranked first on page one.
You’re not there? Find out how you can apply a sharpening stone to your business website, generate traffic, website rank and sales.
- The search engine quest
- Key words and phrases for my business
- The tools you will need
- Tens, hundreds or thousands?
- The competition
1 – The Search Engine Quest
A search engine’s job for life is to supply accurate and appropriate answers to people’s questions. For example ask Google how many centimeters in a foot and 30.48 comes back instantly. Search engine companies spend huge sums perfecting the process of matching queries with answers. If you want to figure in their answers you have to help them, read on to see how.
2 – Keywords and Phrases for my Business
Researching and establishing the right key words and phrases for your business is really the first thing to be done even before you build a website and will save a lot of work later on. However its fair to say that most site owners approach this after their site has been constructed. It is a threefold process: 1. research relevant key words, 2. identify the amount of search traffic they generate, 3. determine the strength of the competition. This will be time consuming but worth it when done properly. You often see advertisements from companies asserting that they will get you on page one instantly, however, more often than not, if you probe deeper you will find these listings of little or no value simply because no-one is actually using those terms. The first two tasks therefore are to find key phrases that relate to your business AND potential customers who are using that term, the third is to analyse just how strong the competition is for those key words. For example, if you run a small book shop and want to rank for the phrase ‘books and novels’, you’ll find your competitors for page one are Amazon and nine other massive organisations all of whom have thousands of pages on their website, millions of backlinks and mostly page rank 5 and above. Forget it, you’re not going to get past them! The trick therefore is to find key phrases that, to go back to my restaurant theme, are little back street gems. They relate to your business but perhaps in a more niche area, and Amazon is nowhere in sight. The Google Adwords key word research tool is ideal for this task.
3 – The Tools needed to help Search Engines to find You
When a search engine looks for an answer to a query, it goes through the billions of pages in its databases looking for matches and those that it finds are graded in order of importance. Of course we would all like to know exactly how that grading process works and needless to say they aren’t going to tell us! So common sense is probably the best measure here – if you want to find a good restaurant what do you do? Ask your friends, look for a recommendation in a local publication, see how many stars it has, is it busy, does it look inviting. If a restaurant passes all these tests you walk in. Although the methods and algorithms are incredibly complex this is pretty much what a search engine does to determine whether a site is worth recommending. So apply these principles to your webpages; is the page relevant to the search, ie does it contain the search term in all the right places; does it have interesting and unique content; is it easy to navigate and are related topics all linked and easy to find; do other people find the website’s content valuable and interesting and have shown this by linking to it.
These are the basic building blocks of well optimised, professional web pages and Applause can provide help and advice for anyone who needs more information on how to achieve this, but here I want to concentrate on how to determine what those key phrases should be in the first place and how they affect your web strategy.
4 – Tens, Hundreds and Thousands
So to summarise, the essence of keyword and phrase selection is to work hard on finding those still relevant to your business with hundreds or thousands of searches per month but with less then ten large competitors. Remember, do not be disheartened if there are a number of insurpassable competitors on page one; like the joke about the two missionaries who come face to face with a lion, when one puts on his running shoes, the other exclaims ‘ you’ll never outrun that lion’ to which he replies ‘no, I just have to outrun you!’
5 – The Competition
So you have identified the key phrase search terms that you want to target, now you need to assess the competition. To do this you need to consider the key metrics search engines use to determine the importance of a website and compare your competitors’ to your own.
- Age of website
- Page rank
- Amount, relevance and uniqueness of content
- Presence of key words in domain, title, description, meta tags, head and content of the web page
- Links within the website
- External links
- Links to recognised web directories such as DMOZ
Take each key phrase, if you find the competition is too strong move to another until you find competitors who are within range. Do not spend months optimising your website for a key phrase where you have little prospect of surpassing the competition.
A valuable tool for this analysis is Market Samurai or the SEOMoz toolset amongst other alternatives.
6 – Winning
Finding and competing for the right key phrases is critical. Even if many hours of work moved your site from position 100 to position 20 for a given phrase it might look, and is, a huge achievment but it is unlikely to generate any return for the investment of time and energy. Spend your time building site performance in less competitive areas, once you have successfully built page one status, traffic will increase and generate links. As the relevance of your site builds so will page rank and soon you will be able to compete at a higher level, taking on the competitors who, at the outset, were considered to be out of reach.
I hope reading this article will give an insight into what you need to do to give your website a competitive razor edge. Applause is an small independent business specialising in digital media and marketing. If you would like help or advice on any of the aspects of the above article please call 0117 933 4416 or browse these web pages for more information.
‘Black is black’ so the old Rolling Stones lyric went, but when it comes to print, not always. I came across this problem recently when working with a client who likes black even more than Steve Jobs who, it is reported, spent something approaching a hundred thousand dollars getting the right sort of black for Next computer cases in the eighties.
The problem arises when you produce graphics with a background that graduates to black in say Adobe Photoshop and then import those graphics into page layout programme Adobe InDesign in this case, which also has a black background. The two black merge and create an invisible join and the job is done… right? ….wrong! Whilst it might look OK on your screen when printed or output to pdf the Photoshop black is grey and sticks out like a sore thumb. See example below.
As you can see the oval Photoshop vignette to black is visible against the background black in InDesign. The problem relates to the way the two programs create their black swatches and the final image processing when creating the final pdfs for print. (If you don’t see a difference increase the brightness on your monitor)
However help is at hand, if you have experienced this problem and been tearing your hair out trying to fix it, here is a simple step procedure to remove the problem.
In Photoshop or other image editor
1. Make sure your file is using the CMYK colour space.
2. Ensure the printer profile is the same that to be used in InDesign (I use the default setting)
3. The black swatch that you use to create black needs to be set to C100, M100, Y100, K,100
In preferences set ‘Appearance of Black’ to rich black
Do not use the default black swatch in InDesign to create your background. Create a new black swatch in the swatches tool panel and as in Photoshop set its CMYK values to 100 each and use to set the background colour of the piece.
I hope you found this short article useful. If Applause can help with any of the tasks in your digital day please call.
When learning a new subject or skill, especially if self teaching, a continual and easy access to learning resources is a fundamental part of the process. This is particularly relevant in pan global, multi language and multi cultural situations where connection to the internet or provision of modern computer equipment may not be available.
In my own experience, it’s a huge benefit to have manuals, tutorials, video all at hand so I can instantly cross reference from one media to another, mix animated demonstration or video with detailed study in text form and listen to audio description without having to consider the Internet. As, whilst an almost inexhaustible library of research material, it can also be quite frustrating. Setting aside the issues of connectivity and bandwidth, for the provider the cost of delivering constant access to such large quantities of media rich applications on a continual basis going forward can be prohibitive. For the user constant online access over a long period of time to media rich material can also be expensive consequently the benefit of having everything on your hard drive in your own computer is clear.
A company with huge expertise in this area is International publisher Macmillan Education. With over 150 years of publishing experience and operating in over 130 countries they work with local teachers, students, institutions, and educational authorities to develop high-quality coursebooks, supplementary materials and digital products to suit the needs of classrooms around the world.
At the end of 2010 Macmillan asked Lemon Digital and Applause to provide an interactive DVD resource for two of their forthcoming projects; ‘Learning Teaching’ a training manual first published in 1994, now revised as a third edition and to be complemented with a DVD training video produced by MTJ Video in Oxford and a range of digital publications provided in pdf format; ‘The Business’ a DVD resource bank at pre-intermediate to advanced level, containing a massive resource of video, worksheets, teachers notes, authentic listening activities, Powerpoint and more.
Both interactive Enhanced DVDs were to be distributed world-wide and required accessibility across a wide range of media platforms, basic DVD player, PC and Macintosh computers Applause were asked to develop the programmes which would then be exhaustively tested across virtually all known combinations of hardware and software by Testronic Labs in London. Both titles passed out with flying colours and are now available on Macmillan’s website.
Guy Jackson at Macmillan commented “The Enhanced DVD was a steep learning curve for us but Applause worked tirelessly and patiently on both projects taking complete responsibility for the builds. We handed over the assets and let them get on with it!”
You have an amazing new packaging idea, a new product development, an architectural proposal or a creative concept for a conference or exhibition space but it’s still on the drawing board or just in your head . You can enthuse your client, excite them with potential and gain competitive advantage by using photo realistic 3D visualisation to bring the subject alive.
Photo real image creation has been a specialism at Applause since the days of ‘comping’ colour transparencies, working with such clients as Westland and Racal (now Thales Group) to provide visual representations of complex projects under development. More recently we have worked in the events industry providing pre-build 3D simulations of conference and exhibition stand creative concepts. And now expanding the skillset to cover a wider range of applications, delivered as high resolution still images, HD, standard or streaming video.
Clients are often not really sure if they like an idea until they see it; also with complex long term projects it may be necessary to demonstrate work in progress as a final situation. In these circumstances it can be a real advantage to be able to show exactly how things will look. Illustrating packaging in variety of colours and label designs, showing how seating will work in a particular event venue or just how good stainless steel, glass, acrylics and marble can look in a new build are just some of the ways photo real 3D can help. A particular advantage in high value projects where expensive materials and high labour cost will be involved.
Take it a stage further and add animation, fly your customers Peter Pan style, take a micro journey through places a camera wouldn’t fit, create the ‘impossible’ to interest and engage your customers.
Here are just some of the potential applications:
- Confex & Event Visuals
- Architectural Photo Realism
- Product Simulation
- Photomontage and Digital Retouching
- Packaging visuals
- Video Wall and Studio Backdrops