Yorkshire Warrior 2014

The Run from Hell

You should have all known a blog post about this would be coming.

Last Saturday 12th April, my good friend Dr. Cumbor and I took part in Yorkshire Warrior 2014, a 10 mile obstacle run from hell. I’m not quite sure how to describe it, except there was a LOT of mud!


We started off at registration, where we had to pin our numbers on our chests and write them on our foreheads – I also opted to add some face camo, which didn’t really have the desired effect, I ended up looking like I was taking part in some festival rather than a warrior…

Once that was done we waited for our wave time, and at about 10 minutes before our start time the warmup began…

The Run

The run started off with some gentle fields, a quick crawl under a cargo net and over a few hay bales, at this point I was kind of thinking “this is pretty easy”. Then came a few hundred metre wade along a river, a bog, a very steep hill and then some fire to jump over – so it quickly got harder. Running when you are soaked through and your covered in mud is a bit harder as it weighs you down.

Some of the later obstacles included an electric fence, a crawl under barbed wire and a 1km run through a pitch black tunnel – I can’t remember much else (I must have blocked it out because it was so horrible!)

Dr C’s GoPro

Dave actually was wearing a chest mounted GoPro camera, and he uploaded this 2 hour footage (sped up):

All For A Good Cause

I managed to raise just over £220 for Epilepsy Action, which was nice. At the time of writing you can still sponsor me, so head on over if you still want to!


Dr C and myself got a time of 3 hours 9 minutes, to be fair though we did spend a long time queuing, which was a shame.

Dr. C and I after finishing the Yorkshire Warrior 2014

If you haven’t done anything like this before, I’d highly recommend it.

Why A Spanking New Website And A Bit Of SEO Doesn’t Cut It Anymore

In the early days of ecommerce you could build a website, slap some products on, ensure it looks ok for the search engines with a bit of SEO and hey presto, you would have yourself a business. Rinse and repeat.

The Formula Is Broken

2 + 2 = 3
Now that same old tried and tested formula doesn’t work anymore. Why? Because things have evolved, those companies with marketeers that actually know what they are doing are kicking ass. It used to be that the guy in charge of online marketing was basically the technical guy who can use a computer and put 2 and 2 together. This led to an emphasis on building a pretty website, slapping some stock photos and some clever corporate sounding text on – because that’s what the folks in marketing do, right? Monkey see, monkey do.

Ignorance Is Bliss

Now I can’t speak for all marketers, but learning on my course I have realised that the people online claiming to be Internet marketing experts (I myself am one of these people, I’ll admit – but I’ve opened my eyes and I’m making an effort to improve for the sake of the people I help) have largely no idea about marketing. Yes they can do SEO, yes they can make a website that converts well, but as for in depth marketing strategy, integrating marketing, segmenting customers effectively and all that malarkey, they (we/me) fall a bit short.

Eye Opener

I’ve been studying my course with the IDM and I cannot tell you how much my eyes have been opened – marketing knowledge and techniques has been built up over the past 100 years (or more). Every single time I begin to study a new topic I find better ways of doing things, new ideas and often a sudden “aha!” moment. I really can’t tell you how amazed I am at the stuff I’m being taught.

Things You Can Learn From Direct Marketing

Anyways, although online is a different animal altogether, here are some of the things I think we could take from direct marketing and apply a bit better online:

1. A Marketing Plan

Let’s face it, you can’t make a half decent website without some kind of spec, and guess what? The same applies to running a business, not only do you need a business plan, but an indepth marketing plan is essential, some of the benefits include:

  • 1. It forces “big picture” thinking
  • 2. Ensures a thorough analysis of your existing customers
  • 3. Creates internal collaboration
  • 4. Generates enthusiasm and creativity
  • 5. Allocates your resources which will maximise profit
  • 6. Allows you to connect with your customers creating an “outside-in” focus
  • 7. Enables faster front line decisions on a day to day basis
  • 8. Saves time and stress

2. Realise you are paying to acquire a customer – not to sell one product

You can only afford 50 pence a click to sell a pair of jeans I hear you say? Well what if that customer buys more clothes over the next 3 years? What if during this time he tells a few friends and they do the same? This is the kind of thing you need to know to value your customers, so you can justify that stupidly large CPC budget the highstreet shop gone Internet at number 1 is bidding. Guess what, these companies with big budgets, they realised a long time ago that they will most likely have to wait longer than a year to recoup the cost of acquiring each customer.

3. Concentrate on developing existing customers – not attracting new ones

According to some scientific study done god knows when, it is 5 times more expensive to acquire a customer than it is to retain one. How many big customers do you let slip through your finger tips due to poor service?

4. Not all customers are equal

You’ve probably got the same landing page set for all types of customers. Does the buyer from Top Shop have the same needs as my sister? No. Is someone looking to insure a fleet of cars the same as me wanting to insure my 2000 Ford Focus? No. What if that fleet of cars is for a big company or organisation, like the police! How many times more is that worth? 100 times? 1000 times? I’d say more like 100,000 times or more! The Pareto Principle has been applied many times over and it normally works out the same, 80% of your company’s profits come from 20% of your customers – don’t treat them the same as your bottom 10% (that probably lose you money).

5. Use more than one method of promotion

There is a thing known as the media multiplier effect, this means that you gain synergy from using different media to promote your business. For example you may get a response rate of 0.1% with Direct Mail and a response rate of 1% with AdWords separately, but if you run them both together you may get something like a 0.15% response rate with Direct Mail and a 1.5% response rate with AdWords – so you get a boost just for using them at the same time.

That’s all I can think of off the top of my head (I’m still learning) – I’m hoping to cement some of this knowledge when I do my assignment I’ve just been issued. I’m also going to be practicing on friends and family (when I’ve got time!) over the coming months.

I may be wrong in what I’ve said above, perhaps lots of people are doing this stuff, I know the big boys are, but I’m not so sure about the companies focused on SEO and Search Marketing PPC.

I hope this sparks something in someone somewhere, if it does, please comment below. If it infuriates you, comment anyway 🙂

Duplicate Content, The Ultimate Guide

Not ranking high in Google? Chances are its duplicate content…
SEO Moz - SEO tools to help you rank higher
Contrary to what most people think, I think the most common cause of websites not ranking is duplicate content. Nearly every single website I ever have to do SEO for has some kind of duplicate content problem. It is so common that nearly all SEO’s have difficulties with it sometime, whether it is missing something such as a duplicated website on a development server, or the client copy and pasting text. I should also admit, I come up against this problem nearly every time and sometimes I do miss it, I’ve yet to find a super tool for detecting duplicate content – if anyone knows of one, then please let me know in the comments.

Removing duplicate content is so important as the effect can be huge, I see countless web pages being link built to all the time, but remaining stuck on page 3 or 4 – many people think that if they just get more links it will go up, but this usually isn’t the case.

The Most Common Causes Of Duplicate Content

This isn’t a complete list, I’ll no doubt add to it as time goes on, if you think of any other examples then please add them in the comments.

1. www vs non-www

Probably the most common problem is websites resolving with and without the “www” at the start. For example www.david-whitehouse.org and david-whitehouse.org showing the same website – this would likely cause a duplicate content problem. Instead one should 301 redirect to the other.

2. Multiple TLD’s

Another common cause is the two TLD’s showing the same website, for example www.duplicatecontent.com and www.duplicatecontent.co.uk – instead one should 301 redirect to the other, this problem can be made even worse when combined with the “www” problem above.

3. Multiple Domain Names

Two separate domains both showing the same website, a great example of this would be www.theolddeanery.co.uk and www.theoldeanery.co.uk, if both websites show the same website then you have problems, again this can be made worse combined with the “www” problem above. Instead one domain should be chosen and all other domains should 301 redirect to that one.

4. Copy and Pasting

Copy and pasting – this is a real bug bear of mine, and it is hard to track down. One of the biggest reasons you should be careful when outsourcing content writing. If someone copies a phrase around 8 words long or more from another website and puts it on your website, you’re going to get penalised. If you copy content that isn’t part of the template design from one part of your website to another, again you are going to get penalised. Don’t copy and paste anything, always write stuff from scratch.

5. Copy and Pasting… and Rewriting!

Copy and pasting, but rewriting – Ah yes, you thought you could get round the duplicate content problem by copy and pasting what someone else put and then re-writing it. Genius. Google can determine synonyms, so if you have the exact same sentence structure but with synonyms replaced, guess what. That’s right, duplicate content penalty. As I said above, don’t copy and paste anything, write everything from scratch, no rewriting.

6. Poor Categorisation By Software

This is quite comment, an example is on WordPress, by default the blog posts you write are displayed on the blog’s front page, the category page, the tag page the archive page and the blog post itself! This naturally causes problems, the best solution for this is to follow Yoast’s WordPress SEO guide.
Another example is on Magento, I created a website in Magento last year for a friend of mine, the problem arose when I noticed that an identical category could be displayed under a number of different URLS. Look at these two (Philips 4300k bulb, duplicate) for example. It has the REL canonical tag, but I’m not sure if this solves the problem – I’ve made recommendations to get this adjusted.

7. Poorly Implemented Search Engine Friendly URLs

Sometimes you get websites that implement search engine friendly URLs, but they do it so you can access the same page with multiple URLs. The problem with this is that you can end up changing the search engine friendly part to anything, as long as you keep part of it the same – this naturally causes a duplicate content problem. Instead you should include a default URL for each ID and if it’s not the correct one then it should 301 redirect to the original.

Incorrect Implementation
Original: http://www.electricfirestore.co.uk/mall/productpage.cfm/TheElectricFireStore/_WALLMO002/369091
Modified: http://www.electricfirestore.co.uk/mall/productpage.cfm/TheElectricFireStore/_WALLMO002/anyoldrubbish

See the difference in the URLs?

Correct Implementation
Original: http://www.wineguppy.com/rcroft-crystal-wine-decanter-s/64.htm
Modified: http://www.wineguppy.com/anyoldrubbish/64.htm

I still wouldn’t recommend setting up search engine friendly URLs this way, but if you have to this is the correct way of doing it. As you can see, this method allows manipulation of the URLs but redirects to the correct one.

8. Development / Staging Servers

Development servers – often when your website is built there is a development server that can also be seen by the public, this is a common case of duplicate content. Instead the server should only be accessible via certain IP addresses or should be password protected to prevent this problem or you can disallow all robots access by using this piece of code in the robots.txt file:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

9. Scraping & Feed Syndication

If you have a blog and it has an RSS feed, often people can take that and use it to populate a website, creating duplicate content. This can really cause problems. One way round this is by only showing a partial feed or perhaps having a footer on each post with a link back to your site in the RSS feed. A great WordPress plugin for this is called RSS Footer (again by Yoast).

How To Prevent Duplicate Content

1. 301 Redirects

Got one page accessible from two URLs? Simply redirect one of the URL’s by adding a 301 redirect, usually done by adding it to your .htaccess file (if you’re using Apache).

Here is the syntax for redirecting http://www.example.com/duplicate-page to http://www.example.com/original-page:

redirect 301 /duplicate-page http://www.example.com/original-page

Or for the more advanced user, you can do a .htaccess redirect with a regular expression (usually for moving your blog about).

2. REL Canonical Tag

Realistically all pages should have a REL canonical tag on, the best place to learn about this is the Google help topic itself

Basically its a way of saying that this page isn’t the original and pointing to where the original is – it helps prevent some duplicate content problems, particularly in situations where you can’t 301 redirect something.


Tag On http://www.example.com/original-page

<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.example.com/original-page”/>

Tag On http://www.example.com/duplicate-page

<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.example.com/original-page”/>

As you can see this would ensure Google knows that the duplicate page is actually the same as the original page and so it should not be considered as duplicate content.

Listen to this video by Matt Cutts to get a better understanding of how it works:

3. Robots Noindex Tag

Basically this is a way of telling Google not to index the current page. You can tell Google to do this in two ways.

A) Robots.txt
For example, if you don’t want Google to index your duplicate page, you would put the following in your robots.txt if you duplicate page is located at www.example.com/duplicate-page:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /duplicate-page

B) Meta Robots Meta Tag

<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex”>

This should go in between the <head></head> tags on the relevant page.

4. Unique Content

I shouldn’t really need to spell this out for you, don’t copy anything! Two things you can use to identify duplicate content, first one is Google itself, simply by copy and pasting a small sentence and seeing how many results come up. The other way is by using Copyscape (I typically use Google, I’m not sure how much you can rely on Copyscape, so do so at your own risk)!

5. Choose A Half Decent Platform

To be honest this is easier said than done, otherwise duplicate content wouldn’t be such a major issue for a lot of websites. A lot of these problems can’t be fixed on many software packages, or if they can be fixed it is normally a big pain in the ass, Magento springs to mind in particular. But it isn’t just the open source free ecommerce packages that are bad, lots of blog software is and also a lot of smaller web development companies that sell an ecommerce package out of the box also cause duplicate content. This is why the problem is so widespread and why so many websites suffer from duplicate content penalties.

Well I hope you found this guide useful, if I’ve missed anything or you want to add suggestions please be sure to a comment, also if you find some good examples of content please feel free to add them here.

FreeAgent – The Best Online Accounting Software For Small Business In The UK

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I’ve been using FreeAgent for just over a year now, and I must admit I am very impressed. I originally got it as I didn’t have a decent system for recording all my business transactions (not that there is many, I’m making a loss this year!) Fortunately it solved the problem of having everything neatly recorded, with an option to upload PDF copies of receipts and invoices – which is great as it reduces clutter.

The great thing is, is that FreeAgent allows me to setup re-occurring invoices, with an automated reminder (you can set how many days) and finally a thank you note once payment is made.

Signup with the code “35bgfwmd” and get 10% off!

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Free Agent is one of the few HMRC accredited companies for the online submission of VAT returns in the UK – which I imagine would be pretty handy for larger businesses, they also integrate with a whole host of online software including Google Apps, Basecamp, Capsule CRM and more.

If you are in the UK and you need to get your tax return in this month and you can’t afford an accountant then I highly recommend FreeAgent (it’s free to try).

(Disclosure: I do not get paid if you sign up with the links above, but you get a 10% discount I do get a discount, as do you, if you sign up with my FreeAgent referral code).

Plans For 2011 And Looking Back On 2010

Roughly this time last year I had a list of things I wanted to achieve in 2010, I managed to do 3 out of the 4, I got married, I stopped playing games (entirely in fact) and my wife and I saved up a deposit for a house.

Sadly I didn’t manage to completely sort out any of my health problems, but I have made a lot of progress, particularly with my knee.

Last year I got better at SEO and I also learned how to monetise a website, my SEO page I redirected to Dave was getting a very high conversion rate (over 10%). I got the chance to work with Stephen Pavlovich last year, working with Stephen I realised how important market research is – it was a real eye opener for me and I decided that I wanted to fill in any gaps in my marketing knowledge, so I have invested just short of £3k on doing a diploma in Digital and Direct Marketing with the Institute of Direct Marketing – I’m now on Module 3 and I’m very impressed with what I have learned so far (it’s clever stuff)!

So the plan this year is:
1. Get my diploma (pass it, I don’t care if I get a distinction or not, but it’d be nice)
2. Buy a house
3. Get an additional monthly income of £1,000 outside of work through various means (albeit all requiring very little ongoing work).
4. Start playing basketball again
5. Start a martial art
6. Fix my knee
7. Fix my arm
8. Fix my neck (I’m going for all three this year)
9. Be able to run 5km without stopping
10. Lose a stone (am currently 12 stone and a half)

11 Ways To Take Advantage Of Personalised Search

I did a post on personalised search on David Naylor’s blog some time ago, but sadly it didn’t seem to get much of a reception (I think thats because when the title is a bit confusing “search david naylor online”). I still think it is something many SEO’s are probably neglecting, so I thought it was worth brainstorming a few more ideas on how to take advantage of it. I’ve not test or tried all of these, but I have had people thinking I’m ranking better than I am in the past.

1. Build your brand – by building a brand your visitors are more likely to remember you and re-visit your website by typing in the brand name. This is one of the reasons why generic keyword domains are probably going to lose some of their competitiveness over the coming years.

2. Make sure you rank number one for your brand name.

3. If you do rank number one for your brand name, don’t put your web address on business stationery – let people find it through Google.

4. If you do a TV/radio advertisement/display ad/print ad encourage people to search a key phrase online to track the campaign, but make sure you rank number 1 (and number 2 if possible) for it and you have a few anchor text links going into it before hand.

5. If you successfully identify your demographic try targeting high volume keywords they might type in. A good example of this is Becky Naylor, who is getting thousands of visits per day for when do the clocks go back 2010 (probably of every demographic)!

6. Try and rank for related keywords that may preceed the buying process for your potential customer, so with SEO instead of perhaps pushing for UK SEO, for example, instead you go for keywords such as What is SEO? or promoting a website.

7. Use business cards with a special keyword to search with a password to a page created just for those people you meet personally – perhaps provide something free. Don’t put your web address (or even any contact details?) – this creates intrigue and ensures that they are opted in to seeing your results more in the SERPs.

8. A method used by Aim Clear was to create ebooks/guides including links to search engine results on Google that they ranked #1 for.

9. Obviously you want to encourage people to bookmark your website, you can do so by using the following Google Bookmark.

10. If you are a local business, it is worth talking about local landmarks and events, if people happen to click on your listing and read about it they are more likely to use you in future. My friend Rory at work has a few of these type of posts, including Ripon Train Station

11. Don’t PPC your brand name – if you do this people are likely to click on the paid ads, this means you don’t get to personalise their search results. Besides, if you don’t PPC your brand name you will save money – sure you may have the competitors PPCing it, but you’re competitors are always a click away anyway.

Think Visibility September 2010 – Verdict: Awesome

I just wanted to quickly thank Dom for a superbly organised event, which I enjoyed a lot. I saw quite a few presentations whilst I was there, but the ones that really stood out were…

Karyn Fleeting from Tinderbox Media did a great presentation on PR, something which I think is done badly in the SEO world, so I thought I would take note. She basically went through the do’s and don’ts and gave us an insight into what happens when a press release reaches a journalist. A very useful presentation if you have a great story and want to get it a lot of coverage (and links). Here’s the presentation:

Dr Karl Blanks from Conversion Rate Experts did a very good presentation which had loads of hints and tips on how to maximise your conversion rate. This was particularly interesting for me as I am currently working as part of a project team for one of Bronco’s clients, headed up by Stephen Pavlovich (who I briefly met at Think Vis) from Conversion Factory.

Sadly I couldn’t stay much later and socialise as I managed to only get 1 hours sleep the night before – so if I looked like I was nodding off in your presentation (which I was), apologies! Apologies also to Jaamit – I had to rush off as Dave Naylor was giving me a lift home.

I look forward to hopefully coming to the next Think Visibility!

Marketing The Old Deanery

I first made the website for The Old Deanery back in 2006, it didn’t look very pretty, but it did pull in a fair amount of traffic, sadly not much of it converted.

That all changed in 2008, when Bronco re-designed the website, and it really gave the website a new lease of life! From there Dave Naylor coached me through increasing the rankings on Google, and it now ranks number 1 for most of the search terms it needs to.

Last month, my mother finally signed up to an online booking service (after a lot of nagging) – sadly its not quite perfect, but it has had a phenomenal effect on the website, the goal conversion rate for the website has increased and the % of visits that are checking availability is now 18.42% of all visitors (bearing in mind, some people come to the site to book a wedding or a table, so its a much higher percentage of hotel visitors). Also the number of visits has increased 32.62% in the last month, I believe this is something to do with the booking facility.

So today, the next stage commences, for starters I’ve added a Kiss Insights popup feedback form, which I am hoping will give us some great insights. I’ve also adding a wedding quotes form – this is going to enable us to track how many wedding enquiries we get. Working back from this, and with the right data from my Dad, we should be able to max out the number of weddings The Old Deanery does, as it really is the perfect wedding venue and it is the best way of filling up the restaurant/hotel.

Anyways, I’ll keep you all informed about what is happening, no doubt a lot of changes to the site will need making and I have a hunch that we’ll be doing a lot more advertising for weddings shortly.

Modern Warfare Site Sold – $500!

Yep, sold my site on Flippa, crazy thing is it went for $500! I think I may have been able to get more for it too.

Sadly they charged a lot in fees: $19 listing, $25 escrow and I think it was $12.50 for the final sale fee. On top of that I had to renew the domains which cost around £25.

All in all I think I made $400, which isn’t bad considering it took me 4 hours to setup the site and probably a further 6 hours to write content, plus the research was playing Modern Warfare 2 🙂