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Google Panda Goes Kung-Fu On Your Website

Google Panda Goes Kung-Fu On Your Website

Google Panda Goes Kung-Fu On Your Website

The big news in the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) world is the recent release of Google Panda 4.0. If you're looking for this new app in your Google+ account, don't bother, Google Panda is one of Google's many algorithms that determine their search result rankings.

While done in the name of fairness, Panda 4.0, like many of Google's modifications, has resulted in wide-ranging change to positioning within Google search results. It even caught some of our clients in the net.

For the uninitiated, Google is now targeting websites publishing copied content or poor quality content more aggressively than ever. Panda 4.0 encourages publication of fresh, unique, user-friendly content.

The primary target: websites that 'scrape' content from other websites for publication on their own. 

This will challenge operators engaging in questionable content practices, however, it seems at the same time legitimate operators are also being penalised.

For example, consider accommodation portals such as Wotif and Expedia. Individual Accommodation providers using these platforms provide the content themselves, which in our experience is typically fed directly from their own website.

Should parties engaging in this type of practice be penalised by Google? Does Google expect the Accommodation provider to write a unique description for every Accommodation portal it advertises with?  

Only Google can answer these questions.

So what do the new changes mean for your website, and what can you do if you've been "hit"?

Google's own suggestion is "If you believe you've been impacted by this change you should evaluate all the content on your site and do your best to improve the overall quality of the pages on your domain. Removing low quality pages or moving them to a different domain could help your rankings for the higher quality content."

HCD Tactic: Go through your content and give it a good spring clean. Rewrite your old content, remove duplicate content, and add new content that brings life back to your website.

Considering that SEO tactics at the moment consider the entire user experience, such as website navigation and having an intuitive website structure, mobile optimisation, and user-friendly content and metadata, it might also be time for a redesign or rebuild of your website.

No doubt, Google is being inundated with enquiries from businesses and website owners who have been penalised over the last fortnight, asking why they have dropped down the search results and what they can do to fix it.

If you think your website has been penalised unfairly, you can contact Google and ask them to restore your rankings.

We've compiled 5 useful sources for more information about the latest Google Panda release, and advice about what you can do to recover:

  1. Google Panda Update
  2. Google Panda Tips
  3. Google Panda Update Survival Guide
  4. High Quality Web Sites - The New Google Ranking Factor
  5. How to run blogs that inspire

10 Top Words of Wisdom from Successful e-Commerce Businesses

10 Top Words of Wisdom from Successful e-Commerce Businesses

10 Top Words of Wisdom from Successful e-Commerce Businesses

The phrase e-Commerce was first coined in 1998, but by then conducting commerce on the Web was already well established.

HCD Trivia: In 1998 HCD's founding partners Chris and Tony were Directors in Canberra based Internet Service Provider ACTweb - which was acquired by WebOne, which was then acquired by IINET. The ACTweb domain name www.actweb.net still resolves to the IINET website..

As the Web turns 21 this year, while surprisingly some still consider it a new science, last year e-commerce in Australia grew to almost 40 Billion dollars. 

At HCD, we believe if you are involved in certain industries such as consumer based retail and if e-commerce is not a core part of your competitive strategy your mid to long term survival is in jeopardy.

Successful entry into e-Commerce can be daunting, but the rewards and potential returns are high.

We are proud of the fact that many HCD clients are using the technologies and strategies we provide to deliver a great online experience to their customers and grow their business, but it's also true to say that we see some businesses struggle with their approach to e-Commerce.

HCD Tactic: The same fundamentals of "real-world" retail apply online. You need to attract new customers, give them a great experience and incentive to return.

Leading online shopping cart provider #Shopify put together a list of advice and observations from successful online entrepreneurs. 

Here's our top 10 from that list:

  1. Define your desired customers by what their interests are, what motivates them to purchase, what they like and who they want to be. If you design your storefront and products to meet all of their needs and stay true to that brand, your company will be the first thing they think of when they are ready to make a purchase. - Caydi and Alex Zerega, Fit Little Bride.
  2. When engaging with customers, do things early on that don't scale. Write little personal notes on packages. Say hi to them on Twitter. Invite local customers to come check out your shop. - Bill Trammel, Catan Boards.
  3. As a general rule, we only work with nice people. We try to treat our customers the way we want to be treated and make every interaction a positive one. - Mariquel Waingarten, Hickies.
  4. It's not an essential key to a successful business but it does help that you are immersed in the lifestyle of it. - Steve Watts, Slyde Handboards.
  5. Find a way to be genuine. There is so much noise out there and consumers are savvier than ever - you have to really believe in your product and have an honest commitment to your customers to find a message that resonates. - Kishore Hiranand, Lookmatic Eyeware.
  6. If you try to make everything as perfect as you can it's really going to show in your end product. - Chris Tsang, Mindzai.
  7. Make sure you have something awesome that your friends want. If your friends don't want it, then somebody else better want it, otherwise, it's not worth doing. - Mike Krilivsky, Rage On.
  8. We have found that an online store is not so different from our physical boutiques and that there is now a blending of service. - Gail Elliott, Little Joe Women.
  9. By using high-class photography, we are able to evoke the color and texture of our fudge so that we can invite online shoppers into our kitchen, the heart of our business. - Giancarlo Di Sotto, The Fudge House.
  10. People hate to wait for their purchases and they want to know where their items are, all the time. Pay a little more for a good shipping partner, because it will pay off in the future. - Diogo Cruz, Vertty.
If you're publishing an e-commerce website and have anything to add, please let us know or to discuss getting your business online  or improving your current e-commerce performance Get in Touch.

QR Codes Explained - 8 Do's and Don'ts

QR Codes Explained - 8 Do's and Don'ts

QR Codes Explained - 8 Do's and Don'ts

There have been many articles recently that suggest the only time to use a QR Code is Never. 

When used correctly (read appropriately), QR Codes can be an highly effective method of linking offline with on-line.

QR Codes (Quick Response Codes), are a 2-D barcode invented in Japan in 1994 to provide a means of storing more information in barcodes than the standard 1-D vertical lined barcode. Originally used in vehicle manufacturing plants as a method of tracking parts from delivery to installation, thanks to the fact SmartPhones can be used to scan QR Codes, they quickly spread into other industries, particularly marketing and advertising.

A fantastic example of QR Codes being used effectively is by a wildlife refuge in the US displaying QR Codes on posts along a walking trail to instantly direct visitors to a website with information about local flora and fauna along the trail. Perfect! The codes deliver convenience and something of value.

HCD Tactic: Be selective about where you place a QR Code, and what the destination will deliver.

So here's our 8 Do's and Don'ts for using QR Codes:

  1. Placement : Don't put a QR Code on a billboard. It's way too hard scan!
  2. Placement : Do put a QR Code on a poster in a bus shelter. You have a captive audience in easy reach.
  3. Content : Don't put a QR Code on a poster relating to personal or sensitive issues such as health disorders. No one wants to be seen accessing that information in public. In this case it's much better to include a website address or phone number that can be actioned without having to scan the message for all the world to see.
  4. Content : Do use QR Codes on a poster advertising your non personal or sensitive products and services. Customer sees product, likes product, gets taken directly to buying the product.
  5. Placement : Don't put a QR Code on a poster in a toilet. Hands are too busy with other things (or they should be!)
  6. Placement : Do put a QR Code in a press advertisement linking directly to the page on your website where customers can buy the product you are advertising. Customer gets an instant result. Their original activity (reading the paper) isn't interrupted.
  7. Incentive : Don't just link a QR Code to the same information they can already see alongside the Code. Give the visitor a reward for their effort - like a "QR Code Discount or Bonus". 
  8. Incentive : Do use a QR Code to enter visitors into your latest competition.  

Remember, QR Codes have practically unlimited uses, but the majority of them just don't fit with audience's habits and expectations. Use them wisely, and you can create positive associations with your audience and build positive results.

You can find several free and subscription (which provide tracking services) based QR Code creation tools on the Internet with a simple search for 'QR Code generator'. Free generators allow you to create static QR Codes quickly, while the subscription based providers include additional features such as customisation and dynamic QR Codes (allowing you to change the information in the code without needing to update/reprint the code) and code tracking data.

For more information about the QR Code, visit the Denso Wave QR Code website.


Our 8 Point Guide to Your Website T's & C's

Our 8 Point Guide to Your Website T's & C's

Our 8 Point Guide to Your Website T's & C's

When it comes to producing your website Terms and Conditions the best (and some would say only) approach is to seek professional legal assistance.

However, providing your lawyer with a draft for proofing should be more economical than having them prepare the contents from scratch. But then we are dealing with Lawyers.

HCD Tactic: When dealing with any service provider - Lawyers included - always get a clear indication of time / cost estimates before approving any engagement.
Lawlive.com.au is an Australian website that sells personalised templates of legal contracts and documents, including many relating to website terms and conditions for around $100.00 per document.

If your website is published in Australia you need to comply with current Australian Consumer Laws, and there may also be other industry specific requirements that could cause serious problems if overlooked.

If you're selling products or services online and accepting credit card payments, your merchant facility provider may also have specific requirements relating to the legal information you publish.

So if you're ready to tackle composition of your T's & C's, here's our 8 Point Guide outlining some of the key areas you need to cover...remembering of course that we're not lawyers, and the following is not in any way intended to be legal advice.

  1. Copyright - Australian Law automatically applies copyright to your website and content, but adding a copyright notice confirms this. Apply the statement to everything from the website design, your products, your images and your text content.
  2. Use of Information - Include a disclaimer that protects you against the use (or misuse) of the information or advice that you provide on your website. What you say may not work for everyone, and you can't predict how people may use it.
  3. Customer Returns - If you sell products or services on-line, it is essential that your Terms and Conditions comply with the latest consumer laws. You must include the following:
    • A statement that you comply with the latest Australian Consumer Law
    • The terms under which you will provide a refund, repair or replacement on faulty items or undelivered service.
    • Details of your guarantees.
    • Details of your warranties (if you provide any).
  4. Shipping Policy - If you sell products, and send them to customers by courier or mail, provide a clear outline of the terms of sending goods. Include expected costs and delivery times, your policy for late or undelivered goods, and any responsibilities of the customer.
  5. Industry/Product Specialist Risks - If you are in certain industries, or sell products that have a higher set of risks (like health advise or products for example), you should seek professional legal advice in relation to inclusion of special terms and conditions, such as for example disclaimers that limit claims for possible injuries or losses that may be caused by using any of your products or services.
  6. Amount of Liability - Most importantly, include a clause that limits the amount of your liability from any claims made against you or your business, including a maximum claim amount for damages (the amount paid for the product or service for example).
  7. Terms for International Customers - If you sell your products or services to customers overseas, include separate terms that cover international customers and their consumer laws.
  8. Privacy - Australian Privacy Laws changed in March 2014. Australian Private Sector Organisations are required to have a "clearly expressed and up-to-date privacy policy describing how they manage personal information". While not every Australian website is legally obligated to publish a privacy policy, if you are engaging your audience via interactive functions such as newsletter subscriptions, online shopping systems or even just simple online forms such as a contact form, you'll need to disclose how you manage the personal information you're collecting.

Publishing current, clear, business specific Terms and Conditions that have been approved by professional legal counsel provides peace of mind for your customers while serving to mitigate the risk of legal action and costly penalties and fines for non compliance with your obligations.

For the latest consumer law information, visit the Australian Consumer Law website and for more information about the new Australian Privacy Laws visit the Privacy section of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, or select the link below to download the plain English factsheet.


5 Alternatives to the CAPTCHA test

5 Alternatives to the CAPTCHA test

5 Alternatives to the CAPTCHA test

CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) tests in on-line forms are a frustration, but seemingly necessary to prevent spam and malicious activities. Often it is difficult to read the characters that are displayed, and sometimes require a number of attempts.

Is there a better way to determine if a form is being submitted by a human?

We've put together a short list of some alternative methods to determine if the user is a Bot or a real person:

  1. Hidden form fields - Hidden from the human user using CSS or JavaScript, a Bot will "see" this field and fill it in. One downside is it can create a problem for screen readers.
  2. Confirmation Check-boxes - Like the hidden field, a human can distinguish between "Is a human" and "Is a robot", only selecting one option. Bots aren't able to tell between the two questions and fill both check-boxes, allowing you to reject the submission.
  3. Timestamps on forms - A human takes time to read the form, and fill in their information. A Bot will fill in all the fields much faster. If a form is submitted in under a certain amount of time, you can almost determine that it is from a bot.
  4. Verified Sign In - Require your users to sign into your website beforehand. This allows you to remove the need for any testing as the human user has already been verified.
  5. The logic test - Create a simple logic test like match the colour displayed, or complete a simple puzzle or game that a human could easily solve but a Bot can't determine. This one could also create problems for screen-readers however.