Online payment systems
 
An ecommerce website is a great way to boost your business's revenue, but before you start making sales online, you'll need to select an online payment system for your site. Eager ecommerce entrepreneurs have many different payment providers to choose from - here are some important things to consider before making your decision:
  • Will this payment system make it easy for my customers to pay me?
  • Does this payment provider have a good reputation for security and reliability?
  • Is this payment system reasonably cheap to use?
  • Is the interface for managing payments and refunds easy to use?
Here at Designer Websites, we are extremely well-versed in the selection and implementation of online payment systems. We have built ecommerce platforms for hundreds of businesses, and in this blog post, we will look at three of the most popular payment providers on the web. Do they meet the above criteria? And how will their services suit your business?
 
 
Sage Pay logo
 
Sage Pay is a well-known payment gateway provider that caters to more than 50,000 customers across Europe. We at Designer Websites recommend Sage Pay to most of our ecommerce clients. Why? Well, let's go back to those three all-important questions...
  • Will this payment system make it easy for my customers to pay me? Yes. Sage Pay's user interface could scarcely be more straightforward - it's simply a case of entering your details and clicking 'Proceed'. The system also has tokenisation capabilities that allow users to save their details and skip all that tedious typing next time around.

  • Does this payment provider have a good reputation for security and reliability? Sage Pay have a Trustpilot rating of 9.6 out of 10, which should give you a good idea of how trustworthy they are. Furthermore, the Sage system uses a variety of fraud prevention tools and security measures to ensure that payments are completely protected. 

  • Is this payment system reasonably cheap to use? Sage Pay's ecommerce system is one of the most cost-effective on the market, offering a range of reasonably-priced payment plans to suit businesses of all sizes. In our opinion, their charges are more than reasonable.
  • Is the interface for managing payments and refunds easy to use? We believe that the MySagePay console is one of the best features of their payment gateway. It is incredibly intuitive, comprehensive, and simple to use.
 

Worldpay logo

 
Many of our clients ask us to integrate Worldpay into their ecommerce websites, so we have a lot of experience with this system as well.
  • Will this payment system make it easy for my customers to pay me? Again, yes; Worldpay is relatively good and makes taking payments online easy. However, the Worldpay interface is not as user-friendly as that of Sage Pay. 

  • Does this payment provider have a good reputation for security and reliability? Worldpay's ecommerce system is very secure, but their Trustpilot rating of just 4.1 out of 10 reveals some serious problems with their service levels, reliability, and customer management. 

  • Is this payment system reasonably cheap to use? Worldpay isn't the cheapest payment provider, but they are far from the most expensive. It does depend on your payment plan, but this can be quite a cost-effective choice for some online sellers. In some cases, they are cheaper than Sage Pay.
  • Is the interface for managing payments and refunds easy to use? Um...no! We think that the interface is very poor (at the time of writing this article), and sadly this lets Worldpay down significantly. They do have some nice features, but the interface is generally very clunky and awkward to use. 
 
Paypal logo
 
PayPal needs no introduction - it is probably the best-known payment system on the web. If you've ever bought anything on eBay, there's a good chance you used PayPal to pay for it. But is it the right choice for your business?
  • Will this payment system make it easy for my customers to pay me? Yes - if the customer already has a PayPal account, transactions can be completed in a couple of clicks. Even if they haven't registered an account already, it's very simple to sign up, and once they've registered, they'll never have to enter their card details again (unless those details change).

  • Does this payment provider have a good reputation for security and reliability? They wouldn't be so popular if they didn't! That being said, PayPal have an extremely poor rating on Trustpilot (just 2.1 out of 10), with many people complaining that the company's customer service is very bad indeed.

  • Is this payment system reasonably cheap to use? This is the biggest problem with PayPal: they know how popular they are, and they know that many online shoppers now expect all ecommerce websites to include a PayPal option. For this reason, they are perfectly happy to make you pay through the nose for their services, taking a sizeable percentage of every sale they process (more than 3% in some cases - this can really add up if you're taking a lot of orders via PayPal). In particular, Paypal is very expensive to use if you take a lot of transactions; if you don't, they may be a good choice.
  • Is the interface for managing payments and refunds easy to use? Yes - they have clearly spent time designing this for ease of use and it shows. The interface is both very functional and very easy to use. 
 
Further Reading:
New Modelmakers website

As one of the UK's leading providers of architectural models and interactive displays, Modelmakers wanted to make sure that their website represented their brand in the best possible light. While the existing Modelmakers site was functional and ranked highly on Google and other search engines, the company's owners were concerned that mobile visitors might not be receiving a satisfactory experience from the website, which had not been designed with smartphones in mind.

With mobile and tablet users accounting for more than a quarter of Modelmakers' overall site traffic, it was clear that this situation had to change. We were asked to create a new, responsive design for modelmakers-uk.co.uk, which now looks great and functions superbly on mobile devices as well as on larger devices such as laptops and PCs.

This project's most crucial requirement was the need to preserve Modelmakers' branding and high rankings whilst updating the site and improving its user experience. Our designers achieved this by adapting the old design into a dynamic new look that automatically adapts to the screen on which it is being viewed; meanwhile, our SEO and UI specialists worked carefully to make the site better without losing any of the elements that have made Modelmakers such a successful enterprise to date.

Click here to take a look at the new and improved Modelmakers website, or visit our Web Design page to find out how we can update your website and improve its performance across all devices.
Block referrer spam

If you use Google Analytics to track the performance of your website (and you definitely should!), you may have noticed something strange going on in your traffic reports of late. Does this look familiar to you?

Referral spam

If you've seen URLs like buttons-for-your-website.com and 100dollars-seo.com in the 'Referrals' section of your Analytics account, then you - like countless others - are a victim of referral spam. This is when spammers send phony visits to your site so that their name will appear in your Analytics reports.

Hold on - why are people doing this?

For the spammers behind buttons-for-your-website.com and the like, fraudulently appearing in somebody else's Analytics report is like a very unorthodox kind of advertising.

Allow us to explain. When your website gets referrals from a site you don't recognise, your first course of action will probably be to check out that site and find out why you're receiving traffic from them - for all you know, somebody has written a blog post about you or reviewed one of your products. So you type buttons-for-your-website.com into your browser's address bar and press enter...

...and that's how they get you. As soon as you visit your new referrer's website, their shady marketing tactic has worked and they've won. Bear in mind that these spammers have most likely been targeting many thousands of websites; your one inquisitive visit may not seem like much, but multiply it by a hundred thousand and you may begin to see what these people stand to gain by inserting themselves into other people's Analytics data.

The end goal of all this varies depending on which spammer you've been hit by; some want you to sign up for their SEO service or install their button on your blog, whilst others simply get money for every hit their website receives.

Is this a problem?

At first, you may not see much reason to do anything about these referral spammers, but the more they do it, the more your Analytics data will become skewed and inaccurate. For example, Analytics might tell you that you received 3,000 visits last month - a new record for your site - but, upon closer inspection, you'll realise that roughly a third of those visits came from spammers instead of real people.

In short, referral spam makes Google Analytics much harder to use properly, and if you want to get a truthful impression of how well your site is performing, we strongly recommend that you take action.

So how do I block referrer spam?

We're glad you asked. Broadly speaking, there are two types of referral spam: bot referrals and ghost referrals. In this blog post, we'll tell you how to tackle 'em both.

Part 1 - Terminating Your Bots

Some spammers use bots to invade our Analytics accounts, setting up programmes that automatically visit people's websites over and over again. Since Google Analytics can't differentiate between a legitimate session and an automated one, these visits will be counted alongside all of your real customers, and after a while they'll really start to pile up.

Here's how to block bot referrals and put an end to your own personal robot uprising:
  • Log into your Google Analytics account and click on the Admin tab at the top of the page.

  • In the right-hand column, select your preferred View and click Filters. Then, on the next page, click + NEW FILTER.

  • Select Create new Filter and give your filter a sensible name, like this:
Death to spam
  • Under Filter Type, click Custom. Then, click Exclude and, from the drop-down menu, select Campaign Source.

  • In the box marked Filter Pattern, type the name of the website(s) whose referrals you wish to block. If you are blocking multiple referrers, separate each website name with a | rather than a space. You should end up with something like this:
buttons-for-your-website.com|100dollars-seo.com|www.event-tracking.com
  • Click Save to apply your filter and lock the specified websites out of your Analytics reports. Note that you may need to add more websites to the Filter Pattern field further down the line - if so, just add a | to the end of your original list and add the new sites as above.

Part 2 - Exorcising Your Ghosts

Ghost referrals are tricky. These spammers never actually land on your website (not even via an automated bot, like the spammers covered in Part 1); instead, they send information straight to Analytics saying that they've been on your pages.

Fortunately, there is a way to stop them. Here's our step-by-step guide to busting ghost referrals and restoring peace to your Google Analytics reports:

  • On your Google Analytics reporting screen, set the date range to show the past year's worth of data.

  • On the left-hand side of the screen, click Audience > Technology > Network. Then, just underneath the main line graph, you'll have the option to set a Primary Dimension - set this to Hostname instead of Service Provider.

  • You will now be shown a list of hostnames that have used your website's tracking ID in the past year. Your main site URL will (hopefully) be the most prominent, but you'll probably see a bunch of others that aren't so familiar:
Hostnames
  • Make a note of all valid hostnames on this list. This will include your domain name, but it may include other sources too - if you have pages on the domain/server in question, it's probably a legitimate source of Analytics data. In the list above, www.henstuff.co.uk (main website) and freedapromotions.us2.list-manage.com (mailing service) are valid hostnames; the others are spam referrers.
IMPORTANT! You may find that google.com and other seemingly reputable names like mozilla.org and firefox.com appear as hostnames in your Google Analytics report. However, since you probably don't have any pages on the Google servers themselves, this traffic is almost certainly spam. Some spammers fake a 'google.com' hostname to appear legitimate and escape the attention of site owners like you. Don't be fooled - ignore these hostnames!
  • Once you've made a list of all valid hostnames, click the Admin tab at the top of the screen. Then, go the right-hand column, select your preferred View, and click Filters.

  • Click the + NEW FILTER button; then, on the next page, select Create new Filter and give your filter a sensible name, like this:
Ghostbusters reference
  • Under Filter Type, select Custom; then, set the filter to Include > Hostname.

  • In the Filter Pattern box, type each of the valid hostnames you noted down earlier. Again, use the | vertical bar to separate hostnames instead of spaces. Your filter pattern should look like this:
www.henstuff.co.uk|freedapromotions.us2.list-manage.com
  • Click Save to finalise the new filter and block all traffic that isn't using a legitimate hostname.
One final tip: after you've applied the filters described above, it's a good idea to create a new View in Google Analytics (without any filters). This will allow you to compare your filtered, spam-free traffic with Google's raw data and spot any genuine traffic sources you've accidentally blocked.

Need more help managing your Analytics account? Get in touch with Designer Websites now.
HawkinsThomas website

HawkinsThomas are a team of chartered financial planners with offices in both London and Cardiff. Their company motto - "Life is not a rehearsal" - should give you a good idea of how HawkinsThomas operate; they aim to help their clients live their lives the full without having to worry about money.

This lifestyle-focused approach to financial planning is very refreshing indeed, and when the HawkinsThomas team asked us to create their new business website, we were determined to provide a solution that reflected their positive, dynamic attitude. The new site would have to look fresh and modern whilst maintaining the firm's professional image; it would have to present the available services in a simple, eye-catching way; and it would have to be optimised for mobile devices, as well as for desktop computers.

The new HawkinsThomas website went live yesterday, and we're pleased to report that all of the above criteria have been well and truly met. The site has a sleek, attractive design that's perfectly suited to the firm's professional yet friendly image, and the navigation makes it extremely easy for potential clients to contact HawkinsThomas for more information. Also, the site is fully responsive, so whether you view it on a PC, an iPad, a smartphone, or any other device, you'll get a truly outstanding user experience.

Visit www.hawkinsthomas.co.uk to learn more about HawkinsThomas and see our latest work for yourself.
First Encounters website

With spacious, modern clinics in Cardiff, Bristol and Swindon, First Encounters Ultrasound are among the UK's top providers of 4D ultrasound scans. Their sonographers use state-of-the-art imaging equipment to capture in utero footage of unparalleled quality, but until this week, the company's website did not reflect this commitment to the latest, highest-quality technologies. The site looked outdated and was difficult to navigate, particularly on smartphones and other devices with relatively small screens.

Clearly, it was time for an upgrade, and so we at Designer Websites were asked to improve and modernise the First Encounters website to give the company's clients a better online experience. To this end, we created a functional, responsive design that looks just as good (and works just as well) on mobile phones as it does on PCs; we also implemented a robust online booking system that allows expectant parents to select a scan package and make an appointment without even picking up the phone.

The new First Encounters website looks fantastic, and we feel that it is a great representation of this cutting-edge company and the services they offer. If you would like to take a closer look at your unborn baby, visit www.firstencounters.co.uk today!
What is PPC?

PPC simply stands for Pay Per Click, a form of internet marketing that you only pay for when one of your ads is clicked. It's a great way of attracting potential customers or service users to your website instead of waiting to be found amongst the millions of organic search engine results.

There are many different types of PPC around these days. It is most commonly seen on large search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo; however, it has more recently spread to social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. While social media PPC takes a different format, the fundamentals are the same: you only pay for the ad when somebody clicks on it.

For the purpose of this blog post, we're going to look at the basics of search engine PPC. Search engine pay-per-click advertising essentially allows you to bid for your ads to appear at the top of Google's results page so that, when someone types in a search query that is relevant to your service or products, your ads will be triggered.

For example, if you need to buy a sash for your friend's hen night, you might head to google.co.uk and enter the phrase hen night sash.

After entering the search query, you will be taken to the search results page, and this is where you will find adverts and organic listings for companies who are trying to solve your problem. As you can see from above, the first three listings (framed in red) are adverts, with Google Shopping results on the top right and more adverts underneath them.

Note: The results framed in green are Google's organic listings - this is where our SEO team will help you to appear!

At this point, you spot an advert from a company (Henstuff) selling Hen Night Sashes from £0.75. When you click on this advert, you will be taken to that company's website, and they will have to pay a small charge to Google.

A lot goes into building a successful AdWords campaign. First, you must research the keywords that are most relevant to your business; then, you must select the right keywords for your campaign (ideally, you want to target cheap keywords that will attract lots of customers to the right stage of the buying process). After that, you must organise these keywords into relevant ad groups and create landing pages on your website that are properly optimised to drive conversions. If done properly, all of this work won't go unrewarded - a carefully-targeted campaign will see you pay less every time your adverts are clicked, meaning higher profits for your company.

Would you like to try pay-per-click advertising for your company? Here at Designer Websites, we have a team of PPC experts who will help you to get the best possible results from Google AdWords and other platforms. Get in touch today!