Today is the 19th anniversary of DVH Design. We started in a tiny box room in Black Notley as a part-time business. Initially as a sideline to my administration job and then evolved to keep me sane when I had little children.
During that time we have evolved from a Microsoft FrontPage whizz(?) to learning the web code and scripting. We have also taught ourselves various Ecommerce and CMS packages, particularly Joomla, ZenCart and more recently WordPress.
In addition, DVH Design have also added Search Engine Optimisation (the story of how that came to be can be read here). We have also included Responsive website design, AdWords advertising. More recently, we specialise in helping website owners regain control of their own website. For example when their spouse or former web designer break communication. Sadly this has become commonplace over the last few years.
For that reason alone, we have changed our slogan depending on what fitted the company ethos at the time: We have gone from “Web Design Across Essex”, briefly experimented with “Sites not Sights”. Our now more fitting slogan, “Your Online Superheroes” (which is honestly nothing to do with my love of Marvel/DC films!)
But we could not have done any of this without our customers: These have varied from all works of life and backgrounds and from the novice website owner to serial business owners. Some I’ve worked with for a few months and a good few I have worked with for 15 years. I like to hope I have helped them achieve what they set out to achieve to begin with.
The last 19 years has been a big learning curve, and I know that learning curve will continue for years to come. DVH Design now have an AdWords expert on Board and will shortly include logo design to our services. There are other services that we are looking to include, so watch this space.
Just in case you were thinking: Yes! This website has a new look to it (at long flipping last!). It also sits on a new and more reliable server. As a result I have had to go through the whole migration procedure.
The last time I had to migrate servers was back in 2005 and I believe this was a task during my maternity leave (my son is now 15).
A website migration for a web developer is pretty straightforward, but 15 years worth of emails is anything but. In the days of POP mail accounts, where mail was received from the server for you to keep forever, it was easy but a majority of email is now set up as IMAP which syncs to your PC, tablet and/or snartphone. This means that once you move servers, the emails sitting on that server are lost forever. So it makes sense to back up everything you value.
I have read a lot of how to guides over the years and even directed a few of my customers to use these guides, all with mixed results, but I found this method the easiest (and less stressful) to backup and restore my emails across servers. It will be a bit time consuming, but for argument’s sake, so is any website migration.
So let’s delve into what I have found to be to be the best way to seamlessly migrate your emails between servers.
By this I mean make sure that both your old and new servers are active for about 7 days. This allows you enough time for the migration process (which takes up to 72 hours) and also allows for checking and double checking for anomalies.
You do, of course have to set up your email addresses on the new server. Make a note of the password and the new mail settings (these can normally be found under email and client configuration on your new server or your web/I T person can provide you with this). Add these new accounts to your email browser.
I tested this method using Outlook 2016 and I was alerted that I was setting up a duplicate email address. I got around this by adding the suffix ‘(1)’ which was accepted. This apparently also works in Mozilla Thunderbird and other popular email browsers. But I can say from experience that this doesn’t work on Windows Live Mail.
So now you have both your current email address and your new email address, sitting side by side. So lets get onto the third stage:
And what do I mean by that? Two things really: First of all create new folders in your new email account for everything that you would like to keep. So for example, you might create a folder to keep all your new customer enquiries together; or a folder to collate all emails from your accountant, and so on.
Now would also be a good time to remove all the emails that you do not want to keep. This just makes things easier, as does Shift and click or Ctrl and click.
This is the fun part: basically select the emails that you want to move and then drag and drop them onto the folder on your new account.
This will take time, depending on how many emails you have, but keep vigilant, for example when you drop the email into the wrong folder.
Ideally you should be left with no emails in the old account and everything you need in the new.
So now we have all the new emails ready to view in your email browser. But just to be sure, test a few random emails to ensure that they appear and haven’t been mislaid or deleted.
When you are ready, change the nameserver (DNS) address. Your hosting provider will be able to give you the necessary information. And then sit tight for 3 days while the new server details update across the globe.
A word to the wise on that last bit: For up to 72 hours, your website will look weird:
you may see both the old and new versions of it; so will other people (who won’t hesitate to inform you about it); Email will struggle to verify; you may not receive email straight away or you may get a constant alert that your server identity cannot be identified.
If any of this happens to you, the best advice I can give to you is either sit it out or pick the migration over a long weekend or a time where you are away from your PC.
So there we have it! Migrations are unavoidable and also advisable if your current hosting provider has gone downhill or if you are upgrading or moving to a more affordable or better managed hosting provider. This guide is a more user-friendly and non technical way to retain your vital emails when you do have to make the change.
I do welcome any feedback as I would like to perfect this guide and use it as a resource, especially for my customers.
This week has been my favourite time of the year. It’s nothing to do with Christmas: It was the interview episode of The Apprentice where the 5 remaining candidates get the pleasure of having every aspect of their progress businesses past and present, business plan and general characteristics by 4 of Lord Sugar’s key aides.
I watch this every year, not because I’m mean, but because nothing gets past these 4 musketeers. They analyse everything from how accurate the candidate’s market research is to how realistic their figures are. And they always look at the candidate’s current business website and for about 80% of the time, there are flaws.
Last year, out of the 2 finalists that went on to become Lord Sugar’s business partners, one hadn’t updated her website for about 5 years and the other one had an accreditation displayed on his website which shouldn’t have been there. ironically both of these budding business owners, went on to become Lord Sugar’s business partners.
This year was no exception: There was the hangover cure guy who boldly claimed on his Amazon page that he’d sold over 1 million sachets, when realistically he’d only sold 47,000 and the Tennis events organiser that had listed half her events on her website as cancelled. And my personal favourite: Camilla, the nut milk entrepreneur whose original online branding was so provocative that it bordered on soft-core porn.
My son, who was also watching this with me, was looking up their websites on his iPad and we both had a good look. And indeed there are flaws. There were superficial flaws such as a logo that had been cropped to the extent that you couldn’t read the company name, a website that was clearly designed just for desktop users and my critical eye found that one of the slogans was “Just another WordPress site.”
I’m not saying Claude Littner, Linda Plant, et al are looking at your website right now, but like it or not, humans are naturally curious species beings. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that after meeting someone either in person or interacting with them online, I’m straight onto Google or Linkedin to find out more about that person and their business. Making it all the more important to keep your website and social media profiles updated.
Even after 18 years of working in the web industry, it kills me when someone dismisses updating their site saying “no one is looking me up online” Wrong. So wrong. People are looking you up whether you want them to or not. If your website or online profile aren’t up to scratch, it is going to reflect badly on you, whether you are #1 in Google #1000.
So take half an hour on a regular basis and look objectively at your website and social media profiles: Are they up to date? Is there anything new you can add? Are you emphasising your achievements? And more importantly, is it truthful? Can you back up your achievements (with accreditations, testimonials and media coverage)? Even better ask a friend or colleague to take a look. What do they think? Sometimes a fresh set of eyes makes all the difference.
it is the final tonight and I wish the final 2 candidates the best of luck. It is hard to tell who is going to win this year. I have looked at both of their websites this morning (Sunday) they have both been updated since Wednesday night, so its anyone’s guess.
My blog has remained abused this year. My last entry was announcing my interview with Switch radio, which has been and gone. Sadly it wasn’t recorded by the station so I have no evidence. On the bright side I have been invited back so watch this space.
I haven’t used my blog to my advantage this year for two reasons: The first reason is just pure workload, which is a good thing. Secondly(and not so great) has been for personal reasons. In a nutshell I am in the middle of a divorce, so most of this year has been spent either in mediation or between solicitors. The hardest part is over but this does mean that we will have to relocate premises next year but hopefully still in either Braintree or Notley.
So for sure this has drained me and I have felt down. But I am not out.
I have plans for 2018 and this is where I need your participation in a little product research: I am asked so many times by people I meet at networking and exhibitions to look at websites that are under-performing and offer my advice and recommendations. I am just throwing out ideas but if you could get a detailed analysis report about your web’s responsiveness, performance and ranking (to name a few), would you be prepared to pay for that privilege?
For an extra measure of cheekiness, could you leave a comment with how much you would be prepared to pay for such a detailed analysis.
I greatly appreciate any feedback.
It’s true! Deb Harrison from DVH Design will be speaking on the Zel-AfriQ show on Switch Radio on Wednesday 18 January 2016.
Along with 3 tracks of my choice, Deb will be talking to Zelma Holt about DVH Design: how we got here, and where we’re going.
The podcast will be published on our blog after the event but do feel free to have a listen live at Switch Dunmow Online at 7.30pm on Wednesday.
So we are at the end of 2016 and a lot has been going on behind the scenes at DVH Design. This year has seen us contribute to our Social Media Channels. Now during the week you can see our regular updates on:
But this week, we have also set up a YouTube channel. From the new year, we will be posting interactive how to’s on subjects from setting up Email to simple ways to make your website work for you. Please do subscribe to our channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7GIwu_euemSTHYmcC3GDbw
We are also studying to become a certified Google Partner. We have completed one exam, we just have one more to go. But although our main focus is Search, we would also like to become certified in Display Network, Video and Shopping. These are the best Channels for our current client base.
There are more exciting things planned for DVH Design: on Wednesday 17th January, Deb Harrison will be interviewed on Switch Radio in Dunmow on Zelma Holt’s Zel-AfriQ show.
Also DVH Design will be exhibiting at the Business Expo Essex at Chelmsford City Racecourse on Wednesday 22nd February. Please do come and meet us for a chat and a coffee and see how we can help you with your website woes.
We haven’t featured much on our blog this year, but we ae also in the process of revamping our website. This will reflect our current services, portfolio and our new slogan. So please do stay tuned.
So 2017 is going to be an exciting year and we hope you can join us. In the meantime, have a very Merry Christmas and prosperity for 2017.
Once upon a time, website owners were constantly bombarded with wannabe SEO “experts” namely from another country that could promise to rank them number one in Google. A lot of people took it for what it was: a steaming pile of bull; while some went along with this expert and may have got some rankings but only for a very short term. After which, Google had wised up that yet another fool was gaming the system and dropped the offending website from its listings.
You don’t really get that nowadays, do you? There is a reason for that: The natural listings for Google now start halfway down the page.
It was an ideal world when you could rank your website with little or no effort without having to pay a penny, but since then Google (et al) came up with Cost-per-click where adverts were made for specific keyphrases and you just pay when someone clicks onto your ad.
To make things more difficult, the search engines other branches including, videos, images and business search. Great news for the searcher, not so great for the website owner.
Let me give you an example: We have recently had our patio laid so the trade is still quite fresh in my mind, so let’s do a Google search for “Landscape Gardeners in Colchester”
Ok, the top 4 positions are all paid adverts. All well tailored to match my query and to help me make an informed choice. Google have also identified that I am looking for a trade in a specific area so they’ve also included a map showing some of the local businesses in that specific area, couresy of Google MyBusiness. But this is the first page, above the fold and so far there is no sign of any natural search listings yet. So lets come down the page.
So Google My Business (Used to be Google Places) list the top 3 landscapers in Colchester and provides a link to their website and directions. Below that begins the first top 10 listing of the organic listings followed by 3 more paid adverts at the bottom of the first page. I might add, that the number one listing in hese results is a directory of tradesmen in that local area.
Lets try another example: I do a lot of work for an office furniture supplier. My son could do with a snazzy new student desk, so let’s try with “student desk uk”.
A slightly different format as I am searching for an object not a company but Google assumes that I might be looking to buy a desk so other than the top 2 listings being paid adverts once again Google have also provided a little box listing the top products for Student desks for the UK from their shopping channel. These are also paid ads also known as PLA’s (Product Listing Ads).
the number 3 position in this case (circled above) is now the top natural listing which is Amazon, followed by Argos, Ikea and then Desk Warehouse.
Ok one last try, another company fresh in my mind, Videographers in Colchester once again. Zap.
Now this is interesting. A videographer in Colchester is named again courtesy of Google My Business (this is a full profile). Below they list similar companies that people have listed for. But the top 4 adverts are (you guessed it) paid adverts.
I should add that when I did the same search yesterday there were only 2 adverts listed,mainly because by early evening, most people’s daily budgets have been reached. Even so, top of the natural listings is by no means top.
So why would you now pay to be top of the Google search results when in effect the top is halfway down? Simple answer: you wouldn’t.
If you really are advertising your company on a tight budget, then Google My Business is your best bet. If done correctly this will get you on the first page for your trade and area, but if top is your sole aim, then contact an AdWords specialist (preferably a certified one) and heed everything they tell you.
Hopefully by the time you read this, I’ll be listed on there as well.
I have a customer who sells Guides to Driving Abroad mainly via Amazon. Much to his angst this week, he received a 2 star review from a disgruntled client, who had clearly bought his guide and knew a bit about the local area. To say he was devastated was an understatement!
But the way he handled it was professional: He researched the issue straight away, got the correct information and came to me (who helped compile the guide) and together we rectified the problem and had the revised copy ready for download that day.
Which is all great, but now there is still a 2 star review on his product page, that won’t go away. He toyed with the idea of contacting Amazon to have it removed, but unless its abusive or spammy, then why would they?
There will always be people who leave negative reviews: Some have a point, others just need to get a good hobby (preferably away from computers), but how you deal with their criticism can make the difference between a future customer hitting buy now or hitting the back button.
Reply to the feedback: Thank the person for their feedback. Acknowledge there was an issue, but now the error has been corrected and ask them to download the modified version. Even if the person was very brusque with their language and the review was quite damning, this demonstrates to everyone else reading that you took the criticism professionally and used it to improve your product rather than turning it into a full blown slanging match.
Get some good reviews: Reviews are tallied and your average rating is given. So despite the 2 stars, now might be a good time to contact the people that have downloaded the book and liked it. Ask them first what they thought of it. If the feedback is negative then get an insight what was wrong and act on that advice. If the feedback is positive then ask if they would be willing to leave a 5 star review on Amazon. This in turn will bump up your average.
I have just realised that my last Blog post was back in February. In my defence, since my last post I have moved into a new office, had the new half of the house decorated, and run a half marathon. But this 60 second SEO tip is simply this: regularly contribute to your SEO campaign.
Writing a tweet about your latest products, tweaking your Adwords campaign in anticipation for Easter or just take a good old-fashioned analysis session, schedule a small amount of time (preferably at the same time each day) to focus on your SEO efforts.
No one has the time to focus all day solely on SEO. Just like my 15+ miles per week half-marathon training is set out over 3 sessions of 5 miles. Doing one session of 15 miles, wouldn’t be practical and would leave me feeling very exhausted and less likely to do anything for the rest of the week.
Some things may require more time and energy, but getting into a regular pattern of doing regular SEO can make the difference of being up there or down here.
And yes, I do practice what I preach. 🙂
This is one in a series of SEO Shorts. For more short-term tips. Please subscribe to our weekly newsletter or RSS Feed
In the past I have written about image copyright and how you should read any small print to ensure that you don’t leave yourself vulnerable to a nice big fat royalty bill from a disgruntled photographer. But your website content can also be vulnerable to plagiarists.
Just before I start, the actual definition of Plagarism according to The Oxford Dictionary is this:
The practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own
From the Latin plagiarius ‘kidnapper’ (from plagium ‘a kidnapping’, from Greek plagion) + -ism.
Yes, basically someone who kidnaps your content and passes it as their own. You don’t really need me to tell you how unethical a practice that is?
You can check for duplicate content by going to Copyscape.com. You simply add your page URL and they search for websites that have similar content. It then gives you a percentage of how similar the page’s content is to yours.
The free service allows you 10 searches per day, which is adequate for a small website. For larger websites, it might be easier to subscribe to their premium service.
I originally performed a search about 10 years ago, before web copyright was being taken seriously . I noticed my web rankings had gone down. I used Copyscape and found to my horror that a web design company up north had swiped my content and shamelessly added it to their website.
I rang up their company and had to leave a message. I went out for a moment and on my return had quite a snotty message left back on my website. The guy in charge basically thought it was socially acceptable to swipe content from other websites and then palm it off as their own content.
So I rang back this little Herbert to set him straight, but in the time between leaving his answerphone message and the phone ringing again, he either realised that the Essex girl wasn’t backing down or (more than likely) he didn’t actually have a leg to stand on. So he turned from snotty MD to noble and apologetic MD.
Naturally it was one of his employees was responsible for the content and would be “having words” with him and asking him to change it that day. It did get changed that day.
Fast forward 10 years later, and online copyright infringement is quite rightfully taken very seriously. Also action is taken more quickly, even to the extent of the hosting company taking action or, even worse Google.
So, when I came to writing this guide, I ran a check on my website. My content is about 3 years old so I checked my pages and this time I find that not only one but two websites have copied my content: One had copied a section about e-commerce on my services page, but another had blatantly swiped my content from the ecommerce page.
It is very tempting to rip chunks out of the website owner, but that could just get messy. So instead I looked up their contact details and dropped them a polite, but firm email.
I did indeed check both sites after a few days: The website that copied the small section from my services page had taken the offending content down and either copied someone else’s or wrote it themselves.
But after one week the duplicate page was still there. Nothing had changed and this little twerp wasn’t taking my email seriously (he hadn’t even told me to get lost!). So it was time for the next stage.
So if the web owner wasn’t going to take their content down, then maybe a polite word to their hosting provider would do the trick. So a quick look on http://who.is for the domain name and I can find out the hosting company. In this case one in the Netherlands.
The hosting people not only need to know the whole story but also need evidence that one of the websites they allocate space for is doing anything wrong. It is also worthwhile to prove that you were the originator of the content. https://web.archive.org/ takes regular captures of your website. It doesn’t take regular updates, but in this case it proves that my web content has been on my site for a couple of years.
I sent them a polite email explaining the situation and that they should take down the page (or even better the site) as they are infringing copyright. Again I have given them a deadline to do something about it.
In this case I didn’t have to wait very long. Within a few hours I had a reply. Short but polite.
And on that same afternoon, their website (and at the point of writing this) the website is still down.
So it was resolved with slightly less stress than the case 10 years ago. But if the hosting company hadn’t responded, then there is a step 3.
This is a last resort: Get onto Google Webmaster Tools and file a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act)
Big ‘G’ provide a lot of support and information about this process and guide you through the entire process. Take the time to read the support on offer and answer the questions and provide as much info as possible. Google will then in turn review your DMCA and decide which action to take. For a straightforward act of plagarism, that should resolve it.
No not really. Online, you are always going to get hackers, spammers, scammers, cheapskates and general weirdos, and there will always be some imbecile with minimum brain activity, that thinks they just might get away with swiping someone else’s content for use on their own website. The key is to check your content regularly and to take appropriate action.
There are a few workarounds, especially for blogs, but I will cover that in a separate article.
New websites are an issue with search engines. They’ve found your new website, but for the first few months, they’ve got their eye on you to see what type of a website have they found.
Like any new relationship, trust is key. Trust determines if your website is:
Sites pop up all the time, and some disappear as soon as they reappear, so in a nutshell: Are you going to be a good little website that’s around for the long-term, or are you going to mess us about, and then disappear?
When building a new website (or any website for that matter), it makes sense to implement SEO from the very early stages. So use this time wisely: read the search engine guidelines, get your good content out there and share it with the world. And keep doing this regularly.
Sure, you probably won’t rank for any of your major keyphrases to begin with: A couple of months, a few, 6 months, a year, but the sooner you show Google (et al) that your website can be trusted and not there to play either them or your visitors, the sooner you will start seeing results.
If you own or are responsible for a business website, it makes good sense to perform an audit at least every 6-12 months to ensure that your web pages are still alluring and your content is still up to date. A lot of advances have been made online, so even if your website has been revamped in the last couple of years, your good intentions already look dated.
Tend to your website like you would tend a garden: Sure you don’t have to be in it every single day, but regular tending to keep it fit for purpose. For example, remove the weeds and the plants that didn’t take. Maybe once a month add something fresh.
So many times I have seen unattended websites that are the garden equivalent of overgrown grass, thriving weeds and the rusting remains of an old car!
But before contacting any web designer, with a long list of what needs to be done, have a look at what you currently have online and perform an audit on your website. Here’s a quick how to guide:
You know something is amiss with your website when you (or your sales team) stop referring people to the website for further details. You may instead be using Twitter or Facebook to keep your client base updated on the latest buzz. That is fair enough, but don’t forget they will out of curiosity look at your website as well. And what’s to say you cannot include social media updates on your actual website? You can.
Every business has a quiet time: For business to business companies, this could be in the time between after Christmas and before new year; around March and before the financial year or during the 6 week Summer holidays. For online shops, this could be after both Christmas and the January sales. Whenever your quiet period where there are few distractions, this is when you should focus on this task and take the time to assess your website.
This is where you need to roll your sleeves up and look at your website objectively. Start at the home page: Does this still look stunning? More importantly does it still reflect your business?
From here, go through the other pages of your website: Do you still offer these products/services? Is the content still persuasive?
Also is your news page, portfolio and/or blog updated on a regular basis? How long ago was it updated? If they are not already, your social networks can be set to automatically update every time you post on your blog.
If your website performs an online function, (for example, completing a form, making a purchase, etc), does this still work ok?
In general, is your website easy to navigate? What is the general feel of the site? Is it still good? Try to put yourself in your customer’s position when going through your website: Would they be impressed or disappointed?
Any serious website owner should be set up on Google Analytics, as this can reveal a lot more about your website, how visitors find your website and how they behave on your website.
NB: If you are not on Google Analytics yet, then every hosting provider does provide basic analysis data from the control panel (but take this quiet time instead to get registered and setup on Google Analytics).
I could dedicate an entire article (even a few) to the various functions and filters of Google Analytics, but for now, The main areas to focus on should be:
Another area you should analyse on Google Analytics, is how people are viewing your website. There may only be about 30 people per month viewing your website using a tablet or smart phone, but this figure is anticipated to get bigger. Also these could be the visitors that want to buy from you or find out more information, so make sure that your website can accommodate the mobile user.
View your website on both a tablet and a mobile: How does your site look? Is it still easy to read and to navigate? Can you perform everything on a handheld device that you can from a desktop? You should.
If your website is set up using sophisticated software (for example WordPress, Joomla, etc), one final word about security: 2014 has been known for online security breaches from vulnerabilities in software to brute force attacks (link to 2014 hack list). Brute force attacks are automated but target your administration panel using simple passwords, and have been rife since the start of 2014 (ask your hosting provider, they may already have security measure in place to eliminate this).
So can your login be easily guessed? Now might be the time to create a more secure password.
Even better is your website software up to date? Software companies regularly revise the software to include all the latest security patches which keeps the nasties out. You can check the latest version of software by logging into your admin panel. Most software providers post a message on your admin panel when there is a new revision available.
These points alone should give you a clear idea on what needs to be improved on your website. Updates to the pages could easily be made by you or a members of staff, but the more involved areas, such as updating the software or re-development to accommodate mobile devices can simply be handed to your web developer or IT department.
This is a brief guide to get you started. DVH Design will shortly be compiling a more in-depth step by step analysis checklist for you to use on your website every year. Please contact or comment below if you would like this document when it goes live.
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