Broadleaf Timber is one of the UK's leading real wood specialist companies, who have been supplying stunning real wood products throughout the UK and beyond for over 10 years. They dedicate themselves to providing the highest-quality wooden products to their consumers, as they believe the modern day mass-produced materials simply cannot compare to the quality of solid wood.

They work to supply every customer with high-quality and durable wood products that will stand the test of time. Over the course of the decade, they have expanded their product range vastly to include everything from bespoke staircases to a variety of spectacular wooden floorings. They also have numerous impressive showrooms across the country which they actively encourage customers to visit. 

They decided to opt for a redesign of their website in order to provide the best user experience to their customers across all channels. They sought to make their functional e-commerce website fully responsive in order to market their real wood products and services to the widest possible audience across all devices.

To achieve their vision, we provided a complete redesign of the website. Our design team worked hard to ensure the new responsive website provided a smooth and accessible experience for all visitors, across all devices.

The new design also compliments the Broadleaf brand, displaying the real wood products they supply through the use of large, visually appealing images and distinct categories. This redesign works to make it quick and easy for consumers to browse and compare the numerous different wooden products they supply. Amongst the many user-friendly features on the website, there is also a handy feature which allows customers to add products they're interested into their 'favourites' basket and come back to it at a later date. 

We're very proud of the new redesign and if you'd like to have a closer look or you're interested in buying some fantastic quality wooden flooring, just click here to visit the new and improved Broadleaf Timber website!

Would you also like to make your website easily accessible, SEO friendly and fully responsive so you can reach the widest audience possible? You can get in touch with us today to request a free quote. 

When most of us want to buy something, find a location, or get the answer to a question, we go to Google, right? We like the results, we’re used to how it works...we even use the word 'Google' as a verb to mean 'search for information about'. No wonder Google is the go-to search engine for the majority of Internet users.

Today, we'd like to take a look at whether this pronounced user preference for Google might wane due to the ever-changing appearance of their results pages, or if - on the contrary - these changes have helped to make the search engine even better. Before we can answer this question, we first need to understand which aspects of Google have changed and the effects of those alterations.

As you probably know, the pages that appear when you search for something in any search engine (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.) are known as SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). Over the past year or two, Google have repeatedly changed the way their own SERPs look, and the compounded effect of their changes - particularly in the last year - has seen the traditional organic results pushed further and further down the page.

In this article, we’ll attempt to assess the impact of the changing face of the Google SERPs on organic results.

So How Have Things Changed?

More Ad Space

Firstly, there are now more paid adverts at the top of the SERPs than ever before. In February 2016, Google began to show as many as 4 AdWords ads at the top of the SERP, where once there were only 2 at most. This inevitably began to push organic results further down the page. (Interestingly, up to 3 ads now appear at the bottom of the results page too.)

At the present time, paying for ads through Google AdWords is the easiest way to gain visibility on the SERPs - provided you have a big enough budget, of course! Google place their adverts before organic results because it's in their financial interest to do so - they get money every time somebody clicks an AdWords ad. Google ads have been around for many years and most users are more than used to seeing them at the top of the SERPs, and so it seems unlikely that people will stop using the search engine because of this change; however, if Google continue to increase the number of ads displayed before their organic search results, the number of people clicking on those organic results will likely get smaller and smaller.

Here is a typical Google SERP in which the ads are prioritised and take up most of the space above the fold (the point where you have to scroll down to see more). Notice that the only non-paid search result displayed above the fold is the location of a nearby retailer. 

Google SERP for 'tiles'  

Note also that each individual AdWords ad takes up quite a lot of space by itself - this is due to the addition of 'ad extensions' such as review ratings and additional links.

Featured Snippets

Another relatively new feature that pushes the traditional organic results further down the SERP is the featured snippet, which is now considerably more common than it used to be. In short, a featured snippet is a brief extract from a web page that Google thinks will serve as a handy, concise answer to the query you entered. Although these are organic rather than paid, they still take up a fairly large chunk of real estate near the top of the SERP.

Featured snippets are a game-changer for the simple reason that, when they appear, they appear above all traditional organic listings. For some searches, all that's now visible above the fold is a featured snippet and the paid ads section, meaning that these snippets are now arguably more valuable than the coveted #1 organic position. (Some people have even called the featured snippet slot 'position 0' or 'rank 0'). The introduction of featured snippets has changed the way people use Google as they provide users with answers without even requiring them to click onto a web page.

Here's what a featured snippet looks like:

Featured snippet for 'what is a web sling'

Click here to find out how to gain the featured snippet spot for your keywords.

Rich Cards

Rich cards are another way for Google to give you information in the body of the SERP itself (instead of requiring you to click through to a web page). For example, if you search for the title of a film, a rich card with the movie poster, release date, ratings, et cetera will all appear in the form of a rich card:

Rich card for the movie 'Titanic'

Other types of rich cards may be displayed when searching for courses, recipes or events: Google will supply a list of what it finds on offer, rather than having the user manually compare lots of websites one at a time.

As with snippets, this feature allows Google users to get the answers they need without ever having to click onto a website. Rich cards and featured snippets have definitely made things easier for the user, but whether they have made things easier for business owners is a different question.

Local Results (Map Pack)

The map pack is what we call the group of localised results that appears when Google thinks you're searching for a business or a location in a specific place. For instance, if you search for 'tile shop' and Google sees that you're currently in Dinas Powys, your SERP might include a map pack like this one:

Map pack

This is a vastly useful feature for Google users as it allows them to see what's around them at a glance. These results are organic (not paid) and display business information clearly and concisely, so it is a useful feature for business owners as well. The only thing you need to do to be included in this section is to provide your business information to Google through Google My Business.

Shopping Results

Google Shopping Results

AdWords ads aren't the only paid results you might see within the Google SERP these days. There are also Google Shopping results: product-specific listings that appear when your query indicated a desire to buy something. Each Shopping ad includes a price, a picture, and the name of the product in question, along with the name of the website that sells it. Once again, this has definitely improved the experience for the user as they can view and compare an array of information right there on the SERP.

However, as the size and volume of these Shopping ads increase, the organic search engine results are getting pushed further down the page and becoming more visually unappealing compared to the snazzy product images. This decreases the chance of organic search results gaining clicks/conversions, while potentially increasing the number of businesses that might wish to start using Google Ads.

AMP Results

Google AMP result

AMP (Accelerated Mobile Page) results appear when a website has stripped their pages down to the bare necessities so as to improve loading speed on mobile devices. This means taking out unnecessary styling, formatting, bells and whistles while compressing image files and the like to make them as small and as speedy as possible. When a search occurs on a smartphone, Google may prioritise AMP results as these will theoretically deliver a superior user experience.

Many sites are now striving to make their web pages as lightweight as possible using Google's AMP technology. This may mean that non-AMP pages are increasingly left behind as users learn to favour organic results that load more or less instantaneously.

Less Space

With all of the above features and listings jockeying for position, the competition for space on the Google SERP is tougher than ever before. Even if a business ranks towards the top of the traditional organic listings, it will now be much lower down the page overall.

 Google SERP

In this example, not a single traditional organic result is visible above the fold. Instead, the screen is filled with AdWords ads, map listings, and Google Shopping results.

What is the impact of these SERP changes?

As you can see in the image above, paid ads now dominate the top of many SERPs (particularly where the search term is popular and highly competitive). The face of the Google SERP is in constant flux, but it's a fairly safe bet that AdWords will continue to be prioritised. This means that businesses who rely primarily on organic Google traffic may be in for a rough time; for instance, ranking in the 6th organic position for a popular keyword might have driven a lot of traffic to your site in the past, but that #6 slot may now be so far down the page it scarcely receives any clicks at all.

However, it's not necessarily all bad news. Although the traditional organic listings have been pushed down, there is still plenty of organic opportunity above the fold in the form of featured snippets, rich cards, and the map pack.

At the beginning of this article, we looked to address whether all of these SERP changes will impact the way people use Google. To answer that question, we believe Google works to make their SERPs the best they can possibly be for the user (while also endeavouring to maximise their own profits in the process). Google users can gain information quicker than ever before and the SERPs help them make shopping decisions more easily by comparing multiple websites' offerings at a glance. Increasing the number of AdWords ads at the top of the SERP seems to have been chiefly a money-motivated decision, but to be fair, the increasing prevalence of Shopping ads is arguably a user-motivated development, making it easy for searchers to view and evaluate lots of different products in seconds. Businesses may have been adversely affected by the decreased focus on standard organic results, but at the end of the day, Google are more interested in satisfying the people who use Google to search than in placating the business owners who use Google to drive traffic to their websites.

What can businesses affected by these changes do? 

The preference for paid ads over organic results doesn’t look like a trend that will reverse any time soon, meaning that businesses must continue to work harder at their SEO to appear towards the very top of the organic search results. To boost organic traffic and CTR, try to write content that targets the featured snippet box, and make sure you're listed on Google My Business so that you show up in the map pack.

Inevitably, it may also be time to review your paid marketing strategy (or indeed implement one for the first time). If Google AdWords and Google Shopping continue to dominate the top of the SERPs and it is your goal to be a part of that space, budgeting more money for paid advertising may be key. Ultimately, it is a good idea for businesses to try to appear in both the organic and paid results to maximise their visibility, so refreshing your content and paid advertising strategies is the key to staying relevant in the ever-changing SERP landscape. 

Need help driving organic or paid traffic to your website? Get in touch with the Designer Websites team today - our experts will be more than happy to assist you!

Google Fine Digital Marketing

Following a seven-year investigation by the European Commission, it was revealed today that Google will be fined a record-breaking £2.1 billion for abusing its power and dominating search results with its own AdWords-driven shopping services. This is the largest fine to be given out by the EU for a monopoly abuse case.

The case concludes that Google has been favouring its own comparison shopping service and the products on Google Shopping in the SERPS, thereby demoting competitor sites. Under EU antitrust rules, this is classed as illegal and a distortion of the market. The European Commission believes that this practice has denied other companies the ability to compete based on their merits, as well as denying consumers an accurate choice of products and services.

Google fervently denies these claims and stands by their opinion that their method provides consumers with the best shopping experience, making it easier for them to find the products they want.

However, despite their denial, Google has been given 90 days to cease these practices or face further penalties.

So, what could this mean for Digital Marketing?

Well, if Google have to change the appearance of its search engine results, something that they've systematically changed to dominate the online advertising space, then surely this will have a huge impact on their income streams, and on how we advertise websites! Google have 90% of the search market share in Europe alone, and whilst this form of advertising is becoming more and more expensive with its auction-style bidding, there's unfortunately no getting away from the fact that it works, and many businesses rely on it heavily for their businesses.

At the moment, Google generates a massive amount of its income through its advertising platform, and this fine whilst seemingly huge and record-breaking, is nothing compared to the loss they would incur if they had to stop using it. It's hard to see how they will get around this anti-trust ruling, but it will surely have an effect on millions of companies employing the advertising platform, and all those companies like ourselves who are work very closely with it.

Year by year, Google Ads are becoming more of a priority to Google, with the current number of Ads standing at 4 at the top of each SERP. This, along with the introduction of Google Business and local services, means that no organic search results are shown to users ‘before the fold’.

Google Ads

As can be seen in the image above, the entire right-hand side of the page is dominated by Google Shopping adverts. These are also paid for adverts, as can be seen by the small ‘sponsored’ badge at the top of the page. Due to this, most of the SERPs are dominated by adverts which have been paid for by those advertising companies. Google Ads even appear at the bottom of the page, meaning only the middle 10 results are organic. From this, it is easy to agree that consumers may not be provided with the best possible choice when it comes to shopping on Google.

You have to take your hats off to Google for their genius. Where else in the world can you find an example where a business owner pays an advertising company hundreds of thousands, or even millions of pounds in advertising spend, where you can't speak to anyone, you can't get any loyalty discounts, and you even have to rely on their own statistics about the click costs, click stats, fraud clicks, etc. They absolutely dominate this space, they most definitely monopolise, and they do of course favour anything that earn's money for Google! But, is this unfair practice worthy of a fine, or just a phenomenally intelligent advertising platform?

It is unsure what changes Google may make to the world’s most popular search engine, but if they do impose changes it is likely that they will create a new way to fill the gap left by the favouritism of its own Google Shopping channel. Digital Marketers may need to change their methods to fit in with the changes and come up with new marketing strategies. It will definitely be interesting to see where this goes.

However, there is also a chance that Google will not impose any changes at all and just pay the higher fine after the 90-day period. This fine is the first in the three-pronged investigation into the companies practices and so over the coming months, we may see the super-power fined for other anti-trust practices.

For more updates on this story, you can follow our Twitter or our Facebook here!

In this modern day, the influence of social media is becoming increasingly important. Your friends are on it, your family is on it, your dog might even be on it - but more importantly, businesses are on it. With 42% of marketers reporting that Facebook is critical or important to their business, it's clear to see why so many companies invest time in their social media content strategy. 

However, though using social media for your business may seem like the right thing to do, it may be time to consider whether it is actually right for your business. We’ve looked into reasons why social media might be right for your business and reasons why it might not.

Social media is right for your business if: 

  • Social media is right for your business if you’re looking to engage with your consumers on a more personal basis.

    Social media is one of the best ways of gaining an almost friendship like relationship with your customers. By providing your customers with content they will appreciate, such as useful information, discounts, and insider info, this will create a loyal following of consumers from your social media channels.
  • Social media is right for your business if you want to show the human side of your company.

    Social media is an effective way to show the people behind the business. Photos of the office eating cake for someone’s birthday or a recent company achievement really displays the human aspect of the business. Consumers react well to stories, so by telling your businesses story through social media, you will be able to gain their trust.
  • Social media is right for your business if you have a limited marketing budget.

    One of the best aspects of social media is that it is 100% free. For a small business, the kind of exposure free social media platforms bring is invaluable. Paid for social media advertising is a fantastic way of gaining more conversions, but not every business has the budget for this kind of marketing. This is why social media is right for any business looking to gain exposure without spending too much money.

Social media is not right for your business if:

  • Social media is not right for your business if you’re only going to promote your products.

    People mainly use social media to get the latest news and to be entertained, and it seems constant product promotion is quite simply not interesting. The typical rule of thumb is to post 3 informative and helpful posts for every product promotion post.
  • Social media should not be placed on your website if you do not want customers to get distracted by it.

    If your social media buttons are at the very top of your website and are big enough to be distracting, there’s a chance a possible customer may decide to look through your social media rather than your products. If your social media is active and well maintained, this could be a good thing for your business. However, if it is littered with infrequent posts and possible bad reviews, it may be best to remove these click through buttons from your website.
  • Social media is not right for your business if you do not know how to use it.

    Leading on from the last point, social media is not right for any business which does not know how to use it correctly. For example, if you do not have the knowledge that links do not work in an Instagram post; Instagram is perhaps not right for your business. Furthermore, if you do not know what kind of content to post on your social media or how you can benefit your customers with it, it may be best to take a step away from the platforms or hand them over to someone who does have a good understanding of social media.
  • Social media is not right for your business if you spend too much time on it and do not gain enough feedback.

    Finally, social media is not right for your business if you find yourself spending hours upon hours on it but gaining little to none feedback. Especially if you are creating original content, such as images and videos made solely for social media, it may be best to put that valuable time into something that can provide you with solid feedback such as paid advertising. Paid advertising will be able to provide you with clear data on what works and what doesn’t for your business, so this could be more beneficial in the long run.

In Summary

Social media is great for connecting with people, but social media posts are not the best organic marketing strategy for sales or driving in enquiries. If you have a genuine desire to communicate with consumers, alongside providing informative, entertaining and advisory information, then social media platforms can be great for this. However, posts are not an effective way to promote products or services, so if this is your main aim them we would advise that you focus your efforts elsewhere, such as advertising on social media, which can be very beneficial if done properly. We will take a look at this in our future article about how you can get the most out of advertising on social media platforms.

If you think social media might be right for your business or you would like someone else to do it for you, our social media experts can help. Get in touch with us today to request a quote

Snapchat has always been ahead of the game when coming up with new ways to allow marketers to take advantage of social media. Not only can you take a selfie that makes you look like a dog (the future is really here it seems), but advertisers can get closer to their customers than ever before.


Following the success of Snapchat stories, which in the following years was copied by Instagram and Facebook, it can only be assumed that the same may be the case for Snapchat’s new mapping system. Snapchat continues to evolve the way businesses can use social media to promote their brand, so here’s a look at its newest feature.


What is the mapping system?

(https://www.snap.com/en-US/news/)


Snapchat’s mapping system (created by Zenly, then bought out by Snapchat) allows your friends to see your current location, letting you to see if they are near enough to hang out with in person. The feature also heat maps places where people are most actively posting stories, such as festivals or sporting events. Although it does seem quite like Big Brother is always watching, you do have the option to hide your location in Ghost Mode. Basically, the future looks a lot like more dog filters and letting everyone know your every move.


On their blog, Snapchat explains how this feature allows users to “See what’s happening, find your friends, and get inspired to go on an adventure”.


What does this mean for Advertisers?

Social Media Phone


Snapchat is rolling out this feature initially for the users (and a few sponsored celebrity accounts, such as Ed Sheeran), but it wouldn’t be surprising if advertisements soon reach the UK. Snapchat has had a clever history of easing in their customers so that ads seem less intrusive. This was true of its snapchat stories which allow the user to take or leave their sponsored posts.


However, with this new mapping feature it is possible that brand-related location will play a part, creating a new method of advertising via the app. It would potentially enable advertisers to target customers who are in their area, letting them know if they have a sale or an event on near them. Brands could pay snapchat to promote their event within the snap map, gaining attention from users that are in close enough proximity to take advantage.


This seems like an opportunity to advertise local deals that would actually pique customer’s interests. As the new feature has only just launched we are unlikely to see this development in the next few weeks, but it seems like a natural progression for the app.


Social media continues to change the way businesses communicate with their customers so it’s important to be on top of your game. If need help using social media to benefit your business, we are here to help! Contact our social media experts today.

5 reasons to give your website an update (even if it's only a couple of years old!)

New Website Design

How old is your business's current website? One year old? Two? Three? Older?

You may feel like your website is as good as brand new, but things move quickly in the world of web design, and it's a good idea to rethink your site every couple of years. Why, you ask? Well, for a start, it's important to keep your website in line with all the latest guidelines and best practices from the likes of Google, but you also need to ensure that it's frequently reviewed from a usability perspective as well as from a performance perspective.

Over the past 12 months, there have been a huge number of changes to the way in which Google, Bing, and other search engines source and deliver their results. Additionally, voice and mobile usage are changing the way we browse and interact with the Internet in general - search engines have adapted accordingly, but has your own website kept up with new behaviours and technologies?

Today we'd like to highlight five relatively recent changes that, even if your site already has a modern look and a smooth UI, may convince you that it's time to think about a new website design...or at least a bit of an update!

1. HTTP to HTTPS

Back in August 2014, Google made the following announcement on their Official Webmaster Central Blog:

"Over the past few months we've been running tests taking into account whether sites use secure, encrypted connections as a signal in our search ranking algorithms. We've seen positive results, so we're starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal."

Since then, Google have been giving HTTPS websites increasingly preferential treatment in their SERPs; in other words, your website will have a better chance of ranking highly on Google if you switch from HTTP to HTTPS.

Last July - approximately 2 years on from the original Google announcement - Moz.com published some numbers illustrating just how much Google now preferred secure HTTPS websites. They found that, prior to August 2014, only 7% of first-page results used the HTTPS protocol, whereas in June 2016, over 32% of first-page results were HTTPS-secured.

Google want to keep their users as secure as possible online, and over time, there'll be less and less room for non-secure (HTTP) pages within the top results. Switching to HTTPS will safeguard and future-proof your site's ability to rank, and it will give your users a little extra peace of mind too.

Further reading: Why Convert Your Website to HTTPS?

2. Mobile-Friendliness

Did you know that the majority of Internet usage now takes place on a mobile device? If your website was designed for desktop users and can scarcely be used on a small screen, you could well be missing out on a lot of business (since mobile users will likely abandon your site in favour of a mobile-friendly competitor).

Mobile's share of the market will only continue to increase as desktop computers become less commonplace and handheld devices insinuate themselves still further into everyday life. Furthermore, Google started prioritising mobile-friendly websites in its results last year, so you risk losing organic traffic as well as revenue if you do not have a responsive design that provides a mobile-friendly experience.

We recommend using Google's Mobile-Friendly Test tool to assess the mobile-friendliness of your website, then switching to a responsive website design if you score poorly.

Further reading: What is a Responsive Website?

3. Structured Data

A good web developer will use schema tags on your website to help the likes of Google understand the contents of each page. There are loads and loads of different schema tags, but here are some of the most commonly-used:

  • The Product tag is used to identify a product or service.
  • The Review tag is used to identify a review or rating.
  • A tag such as startDate or DateTime may indicate when an event is scheduled to begin.

Using schema tags (also called 'structured data') enables Google to embellish your search results with additional pieces of information known as rich snippets. Rich snippets look like this:

Review snippet

In this example, Google is able to display a rating and a price for the product in question thanks to the website's use of structured data.

Or like this:

Events snippet

Here, schema tags allow Google to display a list of events (complete with dates and venues).

Rich snippets increase the visibility and usefulness of your website's Google results, and there's a chance that Google may one day give websites that use structured data a small ranking boost. If your site doesn't already use schema tags, you should strongly consider adding them in as part of your next redesign/update.

See also: Google's Data Highlighter Tool

4. Featured Snippets

Whereas rich snippets are dependent on your website's code, featured snippets (also known as rich answers) are dependent on your website's content. Here's what a featured snippet looks like:

Featured snippet - What is a web sling?

A featured snippet may also include bullet points, a table, or - as shown below - a numbered list.

Numbered list snippet - How to remove your oven door handle

If you phrase your Google search in the form of a question (e.g. 'where was lord of the rings filmed' or 'how do antibiotics work'), the top result will very often be a featured snippet. This applies to voice search as well as to traditional text searches - for instance, a Google Home device will usually respond to a question by simply reading out the featured snippet for that keyword phrase.

Google is showing featured snippets for more and more searches as time goes by (we've even started seeing them for non-question queries like 'safety goggles'), and if Google starts displaying your competitor's content in a big box at the top of the SERP, there's a very good chance that your organic traffic will plummet as a result.

For this reason, it may be worth rewriting some of the copy on your site with question-type keywords in mind so as to snag as many of those 'featured answer' spots as possible.

Further reading: How to Gain Featured Snippets

5. Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) are Google's solution to the increasingly prevalent expectation that online content should load instantaneously - especially on mobile devices. Website owners can now create 'accelerated' versions of their pages specifically for mobile users, and this is definitely something to bear in mind if you're determined to deliver an outstanding mobile browsing experience.

An accelerated mobile page is essentially a stripped-down version of a normal web page that is specifically designed to load very quickly. AMP pages were originally available only to well-known publications like the Telegraph and the Independent, but the technology is now open to all, which means that you can create lean, fast-loading versions of your key pages in order to please mobile users and (potentially) rank more highly in Google's mobile results.

Using AMP on your wensite will significantly improve the speed with which your website is delivered to users. It may also give you an advantage on the Google AdWords platform to boot.

Does your website need an update or a redesign? Request a FREE quote from the Designer Websites team!

New SunSpaces Website Design

SunSpaces is part of Greensquares, a family of businesses specialising in high-quality, low-maintenance outdoor products. We've already revitalised Greensquares' porcelain tile and composite decking websites this year, and we can now add SunSpaces - the company's contemporary garden room brand - to that list.

Last week saw the relaunch of www.sunspaces.co.uk with a brand new design that we think will help the SunSpaces brand to really make an impact on the increasingly popular garden building market. Large, attractive photographs now dominate each page, and the improved user interface makes it far easier for visitors to browse and compare the various garden rooms, verandas and glass extensions available from the SunSpaces team.

As with PrimaPorcelain and TimberTech (the other Greensquares websites that we have recently redesigned), SunSpaces has also been switched from HTTP to HTTPS - click here to find out more about why we're recommending this to our clients right now.

Need a new look for your company website? Request a FREE web design quote here.

Web design is constantly changing and adapting and as we are now halfway through 2017, we thought we would delve into the world of web design and take a look at the trends which are currently dominating the design sphere. From simplistic to bold, the web design trends of 2017 are certainly something to marvel at. 

Material Design

Whichever part of the web you’re browsing, Material Design is a web design trend that is everywhere in 2017. Developed by Google for Android in 2014, Material Design’s sole purpose is to provide users with a clean and accessible interface. An evolution from Flat Design, Material Design brings some of the usefulness of skeuomorphism (such as layers and depth) back to web design, while still maintaining the simplistic and usable nature of Flat Design.

With its Material Design concept, Google has provided rules for what type of style, layout, pattern, usability a material website or app should contain. These guidelines ensure your website will look both neat and eye-catching at the same time.

Material Web Design 

(https://www.android.com/)

 

Vibrant Colour Designs

While the past couple of years has seen designers opt for the safer colour pallets, 2017 has watched vibrant colours become a popular web design trend. With the popularity of material design leading to criticism that many websites are beginning to look similar, bright and bold colours are a great way to stand out from the crowd.

Vibrant colours can also freshen up an older website or can be incorporated in small amounts, such as adding a strikingly vibrant image to your website. Bright and bold typography can also be used to add this web design trend to your website without changing the entirety of it.

Vibrant Colour Web Design

(https://wellingtonzoo.com/)

Minimalism

Minimalism is a concept that has been around for many years, but this year it is becoming one of the most important web design trends. As it can be assumed from the name, minimalism is a web design trend which focuses on minimal elements on the website and removes any unnecessary elements from the design.

In previous years, minimalism has adopted a reputation of simplistic black and white colour schemes, but this year we’ve seen a turn for the best with websites that adopt both the minimalist and vibrant colour web design trends as shown by R magazineFlatsLife is another beautiful example of the black and white nature of traditional minimalism. 

Minimalist Web Design

(http://www.flatslife.com/)

Brutalism

Although not technically a web ‘design’ trend, Brutalism is definitely a web design concept to keep your eye on this year. Known as the antithesis of web design, Brutalist Design aspires to defy all the traditional rules of web design. Some say it is based on the giant concrete buildings built in the 1950s-1970s – designed to do only its job.

To create a brutalist website, the general rule is to not follow any rules. Colour clashes, text which doesn’t fit in the box, gradients, hard to find links – these are all acceptable in brutalist design and some of the biggest names around are using it. Bloomberg, The Outline and Balenciaga are all examples of brutalist design, and the Instagram redesign has been quoted as ‘paving the way’ for brutalist app design.

Brutalist Web Design

(https://theoutline.com/

By looking at just four of the key web design trends this year, it's clear to see that 2017 has brought a variety of different websites to fruition. We predict these web design trends are here to stay and expect to see them once again in 2018. 

Are you looking for a new website design? Our talented team of expert designers and developers can help you with that. Get in touch today to request a free quote.

ai in digital marketing

On the 25th of May 2017, Google’s AlphaGo AI beat the world’s best Go player in a three game match. The highly complex strategy board game is known for its difficulty and huge set of possible moves, which is what makes this victory such an impressive feat for the champion gaming bot.

Increasingly, we’re hearing about the growing capabilities of artificial intelligence, with many of us encountering and interacting with this technology in our everyday lives without even realising it. With audiences becoming more and more attuned to traditional advertising methods, as well as using a huge variety of tools and platforms to consume and distribute information, it has become the marketer’s primary focus to harness the latest technological innovations in order to reach and engage users.  In addition to the demands of consumers, marketers are also looking to exceed the expectations of their clients by using tools and strategies that will allow them to deliver their services more efficiently.

When they’re not busy toppling board game champions, these rapid changes to the marketing landscape are being led by Google, with the tech giant already playing a huge role in shaping the use of digital technology for both businesses and consumers alike. In fact, their CEO Sundar Pichai recently announced a move from ‘mobile-first’ to ‘AI-first’ over the coming years, which gives a strong indication of how instrumental this technology will be in the future of search. The same can also be said of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, whose own investment into AI technology and machine learning has been well documented, as have the efforts of many other influential companies and emerging start-ups.

While AI is often discussed in terms of its future relevance, it is important to remember that this technology is already being implemented by companies throughout the world, across a variety of industries. To provide us with an introduction to some of the tools and techniques that are being used, and to predict where this may lead us in the near future, here’s a closer look at how AI is shaping the world of digital marketing:

Ads

AI is already influencing ad creation, targeting and measurement, which is only set to increase over the coming years. One of the most interesting examples of these innovations in recent news was the revelation that Mattersight would be using voice analysis to deliver personalised ads on home assistant devices. According to reports, Mattersight will be using their voice analysis technology in order to deduce speaker personality traits, allowing advertisers to target users based on this information.

In addition to ad targeting, companies are also using AI to gather performance data that will allow them to measure the efficiency of their marketing efforts, which in turn will also contribute to greater accuracy in future campaigns. Google recently outlined how they will use this technology to provide attribution precision to users of their Analytics, DoubleClick and AdWords services, debuting ‘Google Attribution’ at their annual marketing conference. The aim of this service is to give users a clear picture of their marketing performance across devices and interaction points, allowing the contributing sources to gain their deserved recognition, as opposed to attributing all credit to the user’s last click.

While creativity is often the most downplayed aspect of AI innovation, it has actually been used to create visual ads for quite some time now. Back in 2015, M&C Saatchi created what was dubbed as the ‘world’s first’ AI Ad for coffee brand Bahio. This was powered by an algorithm which continuously tested design and copy changes, gradually eliminating elements which failed to engage while reintegrating those which proved successful. In more recent times, the same agency has used IBM Watson to create ad campaigns for Toyota, using behavioural data from Facebook to personalise the content.

The biggest obstacle facing AI ad targeting is the objection to data use, which will be particularly challenging in the European market, due to new European Union laws which will come into place in May 2018.  Companies who use data in what is deemed to be a discriminatory or irresponsible fashion could face huge fines, demonstrating the barriers that technology will face as lawmakers seek to ensure that legislation keeps up-to-date with these advances.

Visual Recognition Tools

While their use in security applications may be the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to visual recognition tools, they are also proving to be incredibly influential in the world of digital marketing, both in terms of user engagement and in data gathering. From live videos to memes, a huge portion of our online interactions take place in the form of images and video content, which means that we must have the tools to enhance these mediums and monitor their impact on audiences.

Visual recognition tools have played a vital role in the development and widespread use of augmented reality applications, which have drastically enhanced the ability of brands to engage their customers and cultivate user generated content. Crucially, these tools bridge the gap between ‘real life’ and digital experiences, providing marketers with greater control and insight into user journeys, and providing unique experiences which encourage addictive use (as is exemplified by the surge of business using Pokemon Go to attract customers in summer 2016).

The most recent example of visual recognition being used to enhance online search is the announcement of the ‘Google Lens’ tool at this year’s I/O conference. Combining image recognition and information about the user’s location, the tool uses the camera feature on Google mobile devices to provide detailed information about these locations or objects. This information ranges from simply identifying an unfamiliar object, to performing more complicated tasks, such as logging into a wifi network using an image of the password sticker on the router.

Aside from the obvious ways in which these tools are able to enhance user engagement, they also provide tech companies with the ability to capture data and further enhance their learning ability. Despite the differences in how Facebook and Google are using visual tools to serve users, their aim to use them in order to understand and respond to user needs is fundamentally the same, as this Variety article points out.

Content Creation

If you regularly read news articles and reports online, it’s highly likely that some of the content you’ve consumed has been composed using artificial intelligence. The most famous of these tools is ‘Wordsmith’, a platform created by Automated Insights which turns data into coherent pieces of content. Wordsmith has been used by several high profile names in the industry, including The Associated Press, who have used it to generate sports coverage and quarterly earning stories, freeing up journalist time and extending their ability to cover multiple events.

To give you an idea of how prominent these tools could soon become, technology research and advisory firm Gartner estimated that by 2018, 20% of business content will be authored by machines, listing reports, press releases and legal documents amongst the range of content that could soon be produced using AI. This is supported by the number of content writing tools that have popped up in the past two years, one of the most recent being PingGo, a start-up which allows users to generate press releases based on answers to journalistic questions on their chosen ‘story’. The company was founded by Sarah Lee, the owner of a PR firm, with the aim of making press coverage more accessible to small businesses and projects that do not have the budget to invest in traditional PR.

Although most content writers are quick to point out that machines lack the ‘humanity’ needed to inject personality into writing tasks which require a high level of emotional sophistication, research shows that audiences are finding the content produced by bots to be increasingly informative and coherent, evidenced by Christer Clerwall’s study ‘Enter the Robot Journalist’. For now, computer-generated content still falls short in terms of its readability and persuasiveness, however, this could drastically improve in the coming years.

Another limitation of current content production technology is its reliance on human input, which is required in order to map out the content and provide the facts needed to produce it. This could change as computer intelligence improves, providing content bots with the ability to understand and produce natural language. Back in 2014, Google’s Ray Kurzweil predicted that computers would be more intelligent than humans by 2029. Considering the progress that has already been made in the past few years, it is not difficult to imagine that bots could become capable of highly sophisticated writing in the not-too-distant future.

While it’s safe to say that AI marketing is still a developing platform in the world of digital communications, it is far from being a distant, futuristic entity that has yet to be harnessed. Brands across the world are using AI throughout their campaigns, while tech companies are piling resources into pioneering the technology needed to facilitate these services for users and businesses alike.

Are you looking to work with a forward-thinking organisation who can provide cutting-edge digital solutions for your business? Get in touch with Designer Websites today to find out more about our bespoke website services.

Linking to your own website

When attempting to achieve high Google rankings, there are lots of different factors to take into consideration. For most keywords, you won't get anywhere near the first page unless you have a user-friendly website that is technically sound, loads quickly, and contains excellent content that is ultra-relevant to the topic in question and ultra-helpful for your site visitors.

If you've ticked all of those boxes, congratulations, but the bad news is that you're still not guaranteed a prominent position in the SERPs. There's another ranking factor that still carries a huge amount of sway: links.

How search engines use links

To search engines like Google and Bing, links from one website to another are like votes of confidence. If somebody links to you, then as far as Google's bots are concerned, they're effectively saying 'I endorse this website and believe that it is interesting, helpful and/or entertaining'. Even if the link was created because somebody was trashing your company on a forum, the link itself will still pass 'juice' to your website and therefore improve your chances of ranking in search results.

Of course, it's not quite as simple as 'more links = better rankings'. For one thing, some links are worth considerably more than others - you might have a hundred links from obscure blogs and local businesses, but if a competitor gains one link from a well-known, high-authority website (think BBC News, the Financial Times, a government page), they may well blow you out of the water overnight.

Furthermore, certain links can do more harm than good when it comes to your SERP rankings. Google's quality guidelines warn against creating manipulative links - this means that your website may be penalised (i.e. lose its rankings) if:

  • You pay for links on other people's websites (adverts should be marked with a 'nofollow' tag so as not to pass link juice)
  • You build a lot of links from websites that aren't relevant to yours in any way
  • You deliberately create links for the sole purpose of affecting your organic rankings
  • You participate in shady link exchange schemes, private blog networks (PBNs), etc.

Your rankings may also be adversely affected if you have a lot of links from spammy and/or low-quality websites. For instance, you probably don't want any online casinos or pornography sites linking to you (although this may not apply if your own website falls into one of these categories).

Why not just create a whole bunch of websites and link to yourself?

Genuine organic links from high-quality websites usually don't come along on their own, and link outreach (contacting other site owners to ask if they'll link to your page from theirs) is a time-consuming task that is by no means guaranteed to get results.

With that in mind, it's not hard to see why some webmasters - and some SEO/marketing agencies - have the following thought:

"Why bother begging other people for links when I could just create a few websites of my own and link to myself?"

Here's an example: if your main website is an online store that sells laptop computers, you might set up a blog on a different domain, write a couple of articles about how to choose the right laptop, and cleverly include a few links to your main site - your 'money' site - in the body of each post. You might then repeat this process a few times so that you end up with a number of different domains all linking to your laptop store.

From one point of view, this is a sound enough strategy. Whereas you can spend hours researching and emailing link prospects that you may never hear back from, it doesn't take long to create a simple site using Blogger or Wordpress, and you're guaranteed a new link at the end of it. But is this really an effective way to bolster your link profile and boost your organic rankings?

We'd argue that no, it isn't. Here are three reasons why:

1. It's potentially manipulative - and thus leaves you open to Google penalties.

At time of writing, there's nothing in Google's guidelines on link schemes and unnatural links that specifically forbids creating new websites and linking them to your main site. However, here's what they do say:

"Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site's ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google's Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behaviour that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site."

This statement is deliberately vague - it puts the onus on you, the webmaster, to judge whether your link creation tactics are manipulative or not. If you participate in any questionable linking practices, you're potentially opening yourself up to present and future Google penalties, and as anyone who saw their rankings fall when Penguin and Panda were first brought in will tell you, that's not a risk worth taking.

There is no doubt that the tactic of creating new websites for the express purpose of building PageRank-passing links to your 'money' site could be classed as manipulative. The new sites will likely add no value whatsoever to the web, and the links themselves will probably be a dead giveaway, making it clear that your satellite websites were set up for unnatural SEO purposes and not to serve any particular need.

2. The links will be practically worthless anyway.

Broadly speaking, it's good to have inbound links from a variety of different domains, and it's true that creating a dozen simple Wordpress blogs and giving each one its own unique web address is a quick and easy way to grow your list of linking domains. But here's the thing about links: quantity is less important than quality. As mentioned above, a single link from a high-authority domain is worth more than a hundred links from low-authority websites, and a brand new blog that was created in a hurry and doesn't contain any real content is about as low-authority as it gets.

In other words, you can spend weeks setting up new websites and linking to yourself, but any positive impact on your rankings will be minimal - you're better off spending that time looking for genuine link/collaboration opportunities that will actually benefit your website. (At least then you won't be at risk of getting hit by a thin content penalty!)

But okay - let's assume that you're taking a slightly more considered approach to this. Instead of creating a basic blog page, publishing one or two keyword-stuffed posts containing over-optimised links to your main site, then repeating these two steps ad infinitum, let's imagine that you've taken the time to create a high-quality website that really does add value to the web. You've written a lot of genuinely useful, insightful content; you've given the site an appealing design instead of just using a template; and you've only linked to your 'money' website where it's actually appropriate to do so, perhaps scattering a few other external links throughout the new site for balance. Maybe you've even done such a good job that several other people have linked to your new website, thereby boosting its reputation in the eyes of the search engine bots.

But here's the thing...

3. Why not put all of that effort into your main website?

Creating good content and building a website's reputation is extremely time-consuming, and if you're prepared to do all of the above to ensure that the links on your satellite site(s) will actually have a positive effect, it rather begs the question: why aren't you prepared to do that on your 'money' site?

Instead of using your time and resources to convince Google that your linking site is legitimate, it's surely better to create high-quality content for your main site that will drive more traffic and increase user engagement in the place where it actually affects your company's bottom line.

* * *

One final clarification: what we're not necessarily saying here is that you should never link between two websites that you control. If you own two separate websites, each with its own independent reason to exist, then it's fine to link between them as long as there is a natural reason to do so.

For instance, if you have one website that sells laser printers and another that sells toner cartridges, it may well make sense to link from one to the other - not only will this potentially benefit your Google rankings, it will also provide a better online experience for your users (since someone who buys a printer will naturally want to know where they can buy toner for it in the future).

Worried about your website's link profile? Not sure of the best way to climb the Google rankings? Our SEO specialists can help - contact Designer Websites today to discuss your requirements.

Dementia Tax Google Ad

If you have been following the recent political campaigning for the snap election on June the 8th, you may have read about the recent criticism regarding the Conservatives ‘Dementia Tax’. This policy, which may require the elderly to pay for their care at home with the value of their house, has come under fire by opposing political parties and the public alike.

The policy coined the name ‘dementia tax’ due to the likely-hood it will be the sick and elderly who will face the brunt of this new policy. As many people would also like to leave their home to their families once they pass on, this proposal seems to have struck a chord with many British families.  

In response to the negative press the Conservatives received for this policy, they decided to use Google Ads to advertise their own version of the policy under the title ‘The So-Called ‘Dementia Tax’ – Are You Getting the Truth?’ whenever someone googled the phrase ‘dementia tax’.

Here’s a look at why buying Google Ads for ‘Dementia Tax’ backfired on quite a big scale for the Conservatives.

  • Buying the adverts for ‘dementia tax’ legitimised the term Dementia Tax

Despite the general consensus, Dementia Tax is not the actual term for Theresa May’s policy. However, by buying the adverts for the ‘dementia tax’, the term has now become legitimised with around 448,000 exact match results on Google Search.

By legitimising the term, this also provided journalists with every right to run articles with the term ‘dementia tax’ which lead to an onslaught of articles criticising the Conservatives tactics.

A lesson to take away from this if you’re looking to use Google Ads for your business is to ensure you bid for the correct term and provide users with the exact thing they are searching for. The issue with the Conservatives advert was that if someone was searching for ‘dementia tax’, they most likely already knew about the negative press the term was receiving. 

Dementia Tax Legitimised

  • Google Ads are open to everyone, even your rivals

 Soon after it was discovered that the Conservatives had bought a slot on the front page of the ‘dementia tax’ search, with their article ‘The So-Called ‘Dementia Tax’ – Are You Getting the Truth?’, the Labour Party also bought their own Google Ad for ‘dementia tax’. Their article named ‘The Dementia Tax – Get the Real Facts’ with a meta description ‘The Tories Have Failed to Tackle the Social Care Crisis’.

Not only did this article undermine the Conservatives article, it also made it clear to the public that these were bought adverts. Because it is an advert, it may lead the users to believe they will receive a skewed version of events by clicking on it.

Dementia Tax Rivals

  • Google Ads cost money per click

Traditionally, Google Ads are used by businesses that wish to advertise what they’re selling. This is because the sale of their products will even out the cost of the advert.

In the case of the ‘dementia tax’ Google Ad, the conservatives are not gaining any revenue through their Ad and are instead losing money advertising for this term because it is purely just information on the policy.

Another unintended effect of this campaign was that some Twitter users even proclaimed they would click on the ad only to lose the Conservatives money.

Dementia Tax Cost

  • Google makes it clear that an advert is an advert

As can be seen in the pictures above, Google Ads come with a neat little ‘Ad’ box in light green next to the article. This makes it obvious to the user that this search engine result is an advert which has paid to be in the top position. Although it has been found that 64.6% of people click on Google Ads when they are looking to buy an item online, this may not work as well when the advert is for an article.

Many users will have a preference for their source of journalism, and so might bypass the Conservatives ‘dementia-tax’ Google Ad altogether. Advertising about policies is marginally more difficult than advertising a product, and the Conservatives lack of understanding in this department is what led to their downfall with this campaign.

After reading this list of how not to use Google Ads, if you did want some help with your own PPC Advertising our experts are here to help. To request a quote for help with PPC, just click here.

At this year's Google Marketing Next Keynote 2017, Sridhar Ramaswamy, Bhanu Narasimhan, Bill Kee, Karen Yao, Roshan Khan and Jennifer Liu announced a range of new and exciting Google updates which will be provided to the public before the end of the year. Many of these updates strive to make many everyday marketing tasks quicker and more accessible to everyone, alongside working to improve every businesses conversion rates. 

If you happened to miss this year's Google Marketing Next Keynote, we've put together the top 10 useful features and insights we took note of while watching the presentation.  

1. The Introduction of Google Lens

Google lens will now allow you to view the world through Google. Whether it is a restaurant you want to see the reviews for, a flower you don’t know the species of or the password on a wifi router, simply direct your Google lens at it and all the information you need to know will become available. 

2. New Beta AMP Landing Pages

With each second your page needs to load, the bounce rate increases by 20%. Google is introducing the option to have new AMP landing pages wich will speed up your ads vastly, leading to an increased conversion rate. 70% of people search for something before they buy it, so it is in your best interest to ensure your ads are the first thing they see. 

3. Introduction of Location Extensions and Store Visits

Google will soon be introducing location extensions to the general public, which means that when your video advert is displayed, your businesses location, opening times and distance away from the nearest store will appear beneath the video. This will hopefully improve the rate of consumers visiting businesses in person, which can then be tracked through the store visits data Google introduced 2 years ago. 

4. New Tools to Measure Store Sales Will Link Google Ads to Offline Sales

91% of people decide to buy a product after seeing a relevant ad, which is why Google are introducing two new tools which will allow you to see how your ads directly related to offline sales. The first will allow you to import transaction data into AdWords to see store sales and revenue at the campaign level you use for search and shopping campaigns.

The second new tool will allow you to take advantage of Googles 3rd party partnerships to get store sales data. Their partnerships cover 70% of credit and debit card transactions in the US, and paired with the previous store visits Google map data, this new feature will be able to link offline purchases to online ads. 

5. Customer Patterns and Life Events To Link to Google Ad Targeting

New Customer Pattern and Life Event data will help businesses understand where people shop and when life's biggest events take place such as graduation, moving and getting married. This key information will allow businesses to make their ads even more targeted to their key consumers.

6. Follow Your Customers Buying Path with Google Attribution

Instead of all your data being based on last click attribution, Google Analytics will soon let you see precisely what adverts lead the consumer towards buying your product. Therefore, instead of the analytics stating your consumer came through organic traffic, you will now be able to see if they saw an advert for your product 1 week ago, watched a youtube video for your product, had a retargeted ad and then finally searched for your product directly. 

Through unique reach information, you will be able to see exactly how well your adverts performed which will contribute to making more precise marketing decisions in the future. 

7. Google 360 Will Manage All Campaigns in One Place

It has been found that there is a shocking 40% higher bounce rate from mobile landing pages when compared to desktop. Google is working to improve this figure with new landing page features on Google 360. A new landing page tab will include reports about each of your current campaigns, so you can keep an eye on it at all times and pay attention to the pages that are not performing as well as they should be. 

8. Google Adwords and Google Optimize Will Soon Integrate

Adwords will also be integrating with Google Optimize, meaning different variants of your landing pages can be tested on different members of your audience. This A/B split testing is available for use on web pages at the moment, but bringing it to landing pages is sure to provide the most insightful analytics for business.

9. DoubleClick to Introduce DoubleClick Bid Manager

This feature will use machine learning to analyse past campaigns and recommend the right inventory, audiences and budget based on your goals. It will also provide an estimated impression volume and reach, which will be a useful insight for many campaign managers. This is currently available in beta and will be provided to all customers in the coming months. 

10. Google Home To Develop Local Inventory Knowledge 

The Google Assitant is getting smarter and can now tell you precisely where you can find a shop selling the product you are searching for. If a company would like their business information to be available to Google assistant, they must submit their local inventory data to Google. Google Assistant will then be able to provide your consumers with directions, opening times and price of the product consumers search for. With 20% of all searches now being made by voice, this update will be widely useful for many businesses across the globe.

For more information about any of these features, you can watch the full presentation below:

If you'd like to use some of these new features for your business but need some guidance, then you've come to the right place, our development teams and SEO team are already working with these features and can help your business take advantage of them too. Contact us today to request a website optimisation quote. 

How to Use Google Optimize

Late last year, Google released a free version of Google Optimize on an invite-only basis. However, in April 2017, Google Optimize was released globally to the general public without the need for an invitation. This is big news for website owners because Google Optimize is a free A/B testing platform which allows you to quickly create and test different variants of your web pages to see which versions are most effective.

This will be a great benefit to many businesses as it eliminates the need for hours of tedious coding, testing and analytical analysis. If you're new to this tool, read our handy step-by-step guide to Google Optimize below - remember, if you don't want to use this tool yourself, our SEO experts can perform split tests for you in order to improve your website's performance.

A Guide to Google Optimize

About Google Optimize

Let's say your website isn't doing as well as you'd like and you want to change a few things to see if you can boost your conversion rate. Instead of completely replacing your old web page with a new version, Google Optimize allows you to create an alternate version of your web page and set it to be shown to some of the people who visit it. The rest of the time, the original version of the page will be shown. This A/B testing experiment allows you to see which version of the page works best; all you have to do is tell Google what your 'goal' for that page is (e.g. a purchase or enquiry form submission), and Google Optimize will measure which variant is better at achieving the goal.

To put it simply, Google Optimize allows you to edit the look and content of your pages and test parallel page variants without writing a line of code yourself. Experiments can be set up in minutes, and they will begin gathering data right away.

How to Use Google Optimize

Before you begin using Google Optimize, you need to ensure you have a clear goal in mind for the page you're testing. There is no point editing a page without a reason, so have a look at your website's analytics and look closely for areas that could be improved. Reasons to conduct a Google Optimize test may include:

  • Trialling different versions of your contact/enquiry page to see which one converts better
  • Changing the look of your homepage in an effort to reduce bounce rate
  • Revising the layout of a product page in order to boost sales
  • Rewording a blog post or information page to improve reader engagement

One of the best features of Google Optimize is that it is integrated with Google Analytics, making it tremendously easy (assuming you already use Google Analytics) to review the data your experiment generates.

Step 1 - Add the Optimize Snippets to Your Website

In order for Google Optimize to work, you first need to add the Optimize snippets to your website. This is essentially a line of code that must be added to the Google Analytics tracking code that should already be on your website.

You can find your snippet by going to the Container page on your Google Optimize account and clicking ‘Install Optimize Snippet’. From that point, you will be able to click ‘View Snippet’ which will provide you with a modified Analytics tracking code to use.

Install Snippet

To run experiments on your website, you need to add the snippet to the HTML code on the pages you want to experiment on. Be sure to place it as early as possible in the source code.

For more information on how to complete this step, just click here. You may need to ask your web developer to add the code for you.

Step 2 - Create an Experiment

Once you have created your Google Optimize account and added the snippet to your website, you will be able to find a blue button that says ‘Create Experiment’ on the Container page. 

Create Google Optimize Experiment

The next page allows you to name your experiment and enter the URL of the page you would like to edit. After this step, you can choose which type of experiment you would like to conduct - the options are as follows:

  • A/B test (tests different versions of a web page)
  • Multivariate test (tests multiple variants of multiple sections on a page - currently in beta)
  • Redirect Test (tests different destination URLs - allows you to create two totally different pages with different URLs and see which one is more effective)

For the purpose of this guide, we're going to focus on the A/B test option as this is probably the one you'll use most often.

Step 3 - Test the Variants

This is where the magic happens! At this stage, you will be able to create the different variant(s) of your web page. To get a good understanding of how well a page is working, ensure there is an even split between the variants and the original version. Make sure you set objectives prior to running the experiment to ensure you get as much information out of the test as possible.

Percentage

After this stage, you can edit your variation with Optimize's visual editor tool. Once you've downloaded the Chrome extension, you can start to edit the text, layout, fonts, colours, and many other parts of your page - basically, implement any change that might make the page more likely to achieve its goal.

Once you have finished retooling your page, you can click 'Save' to go back to the experiment page. You are then free to create another variant or start running the experiment with the variants you've got.

Step 4 - Run the Experiment

Google recommends letting your experiment run for at least 2 weeks before analysing the results, but the longer you run it, the more data you'll gather and the more confident you'll feel when you declare which variant works best. Especially if you’re editing a page that tends to get fewer views than others, it may be best to run your experiment for quite a bit longer than 2 weeks.

When your experiment has ended, you will be provided with data on the level of improvement, the number of sessions, and the probability that each variant will perform better than your original page. As you can imagine, this information is incredibly useful as it enables you to make the best possible decision when it comes to testing the new features of your website.

If you like the sound of using Google Optimize but don't know where to start, we can help you to make the most of this tool's capabilities. Contact us now to request a website optimisation quote >

by Alana Spencer, Ridiculously Rich founder and BBC Apprentice winner 2016

Many inspirational business success stories start with humble beginnings, and my handmade cake business is a textbook example of how something small can grow into something huge.

Ridiculously Rich (or Narna's Cakes, as it was known in the early days) started in the kitchen of my parents' home in Aberystwyth. Inspired by a chocolate-making book given to me by my mum, I began whipping up my own sweet treats when I was still in my teens, and after some early success selling homemade cakes and chocolates to my friends I felt compelled to take things further. I would make all sorts of tray bakes - brownies, rocky road, that kind of thing - and sell them at local markets and other events in Ceredigion and the nearby area. This proved to be a good way of making money, and people seemed to like what I was offering - so much so, in fact, that I was eventually asked to supply a couple of local shops with goodies to sell!

From there, my business grew and grew. As you may be aware, Ridiculously Rich is now co-owned by Lord Sugar, who invested £250,000 to help grow the company into a nationwide success. When I became the latest BBC Apprentice winner, I think a lot of people were surprised by Lord Sugar's decision to invest in what began as a small homemade cake business, but his faith in me is already paying off, and with our regional ambassadors now representing the Ridiculously Rich brand all over the UK there are even bigger and better things still to come.

While Narna's Cakes started out as a grassroots, do-it-yourself sort of enterprise with little to no online visibility, the Internet has been crucial in getting the business to its current level, and our online efforts will continue to form a very important part of Ridiculously Rich's future success. Modern technology - the hyper-connectedness, via the Internet, of everyone and everything - makes it easier than ever to grow a small business into a big success; no matter where you live or what sort of niche you occupy, there are all kinds of opportunities now available to people who know how to seize them.

I hope that these tips will inspire you and help your business (whatever that might be) to reach new heights online.

1. Start with a winning website.

Your website is the foundation - the hub, if you like - for all your online marketing efforts, so it's important to get it properly spot-on before attempting to score big wins elsewhere. Things like Wordpress make it easy for IT novices to create nice-looking websites nowadays, but there's still a lot to be said for going to a bespoke web development agency and working with them to create a truly professional site for your business. An experienced pro will know how to:

  • Create a fast-loading, smooth-functioning website that users will love (and you'll find a doddle to manage)
  • Represent you and your brand in the best possible way online
  • Get your pages ranked highly on Google and other search engines

2. Think carefully about keywords.

The Internet runs on keywords.  If you want people to find your website on Google, Bing, and other search sites, you need to think very carefully about the words and phrases that you want to show up for. One good approach is to make a big list of all the search terms that you think are relevant to your business - my own version of that list, for example, might look something like this:

  • handmade cakes
  • salted caramel slice
  • buy chocolate brownies online
  • baked goods

And so on. Once you've got a list of keywords covering every aspect of your business (every product you sell, every service you provide, all the different words people might use, etc.), paste that list into a tool like Google's Keyword Planner to find out how popular each keyword is. Use the most searched-for phrases on appropriate pages of your website, ensuring that each keyword is represented on one page only - if done properly, this will get your site showing as a result for each of the terms you targeted.

This is another area where it's a good idea to consult a professional web developer - they will have a good grasp of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and know exactly how to fine-tune your website in order to maximise your chance of ranking highly within Google's results. Beware, however - many of the companies out there claiming to be optimisation experts are actually just salespeople looking to make easy money. Make sure you ask them for examples of times where they improved a client's traffic and sales, and don't be afraid to ask for a reference from the customers they name.

3. Be seen on social media!

Google isn't the only tool people use to find things on the Internet - social media, too, can be a huge driver of leads, purchases, and brand awareness. There are many different social media platforms to choose from (Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest...) and while some people manage to do well across all of them, it's generally a better idea to pick the handful of social platforms that best suit your business and focus your energy on them.

For instance, if you sell very aesthetically appealing products, it might be a good idea to promote them on Pinterest, whereas a less visual business may do better by joining conversations on Twitter and advertising their professional credentials on LinkedIn. Snapchat and Instagram are good for sharing photos/videos of the inner workings of your company, while Facebook pages are great for collecting customer reviews and interacting with your audience via messages and comments.

Whichever social site you choose, be sure to stay active once you've set your account up. If a potential customer searches for your business and finds a Twitter feed that hasn't been updated for months - or a Facebook page on which people's questions are going unanswered - this may damage that customer's perception of your organisation.

4. Think outside the box

But OK - all of your competitors have websites, all of them are on Twitter, and all of them are going after more or less the same Google keywords. What can you do to really distinguish yourself from the other businesses in your industry?

Once you've established your business online, there are all kinds of different ways to grow your business. All you need is an idea! This could be an unusual, attention-grabbing social media campaign that portrays your brand in a good light, or it could be a huge business initiative that leverages the Internet's ability to connect people across huge distances. Whatever you come up with, the infrastructure to do it almost certainly already exists online. You may need some help from your web developer to turn your ideas into realities, but don't worry - a good developer will always be up to the challenges you set them!

Here's one example. As mentioned above, Lord Sugar and I recently started selecting regional ambassadors to represent the Ridiculously Rich brand at food festivals, farmers' markets, and other local events across the UK. Would-be ambassadors apply online, and if they're selected, we send them everything they'll need to set up their very own Ridiculously Rich stall and sell our cakes in their area. By promoting this money-making opportunity online, we're able to reach eager cake lovers in every corner of the country, and each approved ambassador gets their own dashboard on the Ridiculously Rich website to help them manage everything. This initiative has already proved hugely popular, and it looks set to grow even more over the coming months!

5. Provide the best possible service at all times.

While it is possible for businesses to achieve massive growth via online marketing avenues, that growth is often accompanied by a decline in quality. When you've got a bricks-and-mortar shop that only serves people who walk through the door, it's relatively easy to ensure that each customer has a good experience; when you're serving thousands of people online and sending your products all over the world, it's far harder to maintain that high standard.

As your business gets bigger, you'll inevitably have to accept that some things are simply out of your hands. However, there are a few things you can do to ensure that your reputation doesn't suffer as everything else builds up:

  • Keep an eye on your website. If people are interacting with your website instead of an actual company representative, it's up to you to ensure that your site is doing a good job. Be sure to look at the site on a regular basis to make sure that nothing has gone wrong; you may also want to register your site with Google Search Console, as this will inform you if there are any issues that may affect user experience and/or Google rankings.

  • Choose your courier wisely. Do you send products to your customers through the post? If so, it's crucial to select a courier / delivery service that will do you proud. Above all, the two factors that will most affect the customer's lasting impression of your business are 1) whether their order arrived on time, and 2) whether it arrived in good condition. This is partially up to you, of course - you're responsible for ensuring that everything is packaged properly and posted promptly - but all your hard work may be spoiled if you leave the final stage of the ordering process in the hands of someone who's happy to let your customers down. Be sure to do your research - other companies will have left reviews online to help you avoid shoddy services.

  • Handle any complaints in a speedy, polite, and helpful manner. Just about every business gets the occasional complaint or bad review - it's not the end of the world. In fact, it's possible to turn a negative comment into something positive if you (or the person you've appointed to interact with customers) handle the situation properly. Be polite and apologetic and do your best to resolve the problem in any way you can. Your aim should be to make the unhappy person happy, but if you can't do that, you can at least demonstrate to other people who read the bad review that you take customer satisfaction seriously and don't take complaints lying down.

The team at Designer Websites, who I've been working with recently, gave me a lot of great insight into the world of doing business online and how to do it properly. If you're keen to grow your business online, I would definitely recommend them!

BBC Apprentice Winners

Ridiculously Rich website

If you followed the most recent series of the BBC Apprentice, you'll most likely know all about Alana Spencer and her business Ridiculously Rich by Alana. Last year, Alana triumphed over a number of other eager entrepreneurs to win the twelfth series of the hit show, resulting in a £250,000 investment from Lord Sugar and a dream opportunity to grow the business she started while she was still in school.  

Alana and Lord Sugar

Ridiculously Rich sells Alana's popular and deliciously luxurious cakes, and on her new website, you can now apply for the exciting opportunity to become an ambassador or wholesale distributor of her products.

One of the best features on the new Ridiculously Rich website is an interactive map that allows you to find out which food markets and events are happening near you. This feature is totally mobile-friendly, so you will be able to stay up to date wherever you go!

Alongside this exciting new feature, the new and improved Ridiculously Rich website also has a variety of new integrated and bespoke systems designed to make the website fully user-friendly. These include: 

  • A full ecommerce system with SagePay tokenised integration
  • Integrated Royal Mail Shipping v2 API (DMO) & custom dispatch manager
  • Integrated Wholesale Customer & Online Transactions System
  • A bespoke Ambassador System
  • A bespoke Subscription System
  • Integrated Bespoke Events/Map Features
  • Integrated Blog & Social Media
  • A bespoke Control Panel & Order Managment System

Alana is, in fact, the fourth BBC Apprentice winner we've developed a website for. Over the years, we at Designer Websites have also developed websites for 2012 winner Ricky Martin and his business Hyper Recruitment Solutions; 2013 winner Dr. Leah Totton and her business Dr. Leah Clinics; and 2015's winner Joseph Valente and his business ImpraGas.

Here's what Alana had to say about the new Ridiculously Rich website and working with Designer Websites: 

I'm really pleased to now have a fantastic new website where I can sell my Ridiculously Rich cakes. The best parts about the new website are that people can now apply to become ambassadors or wholesalers of my products, which I think will be an exciting adventure for everyone involved. There's even a feature for ambassadors to see who the other ambassadors are near them and when the next foodie events are, which will be great for keeping everyone in the loop!

Designer Websites was recommended to me by the previous BBC Apprentice winners they have worked with and I'm so glad to have been introduced to them. The new website looks lovely and has all of the great features I was looking for. Designer Websites were a delight to work with and I will be more than happy to recommend them to anyone one else seeking a web development company.

Thanks for the lovely review, Alana! The whole team here at Designer Websites would like to wish Alana and her business partner Lord Sugar the best of luck with Ridiculously Rich and these new ventures.

If you'd like to have your website designed or revamped by the Designer Websites team, we'd love to hear from you. Call us on 01446 339050 or request a quote here.