Working and Living in Devon by Optix Solutions

From tranquil views to a wealth of British culture, Devon has been a favourite with holiday makers seeking traditional family vacations for decades, but who knew that Devon would become a hub for striving businesses and a county full of commercial potential.

With the introduction to the Invest Devon scheme which includes Work Hubs, business support and networking opportunities, Devon has never been more ‘on the map’. Plans from Devon County Council to improve Devon’s infrastructure, double the number of new jobs and increase the rate of house building by 50%, have made the county even more desirable. As Devon County Council’s newest Business Ambassadors, Optix Solutions has a look at the benefits and perks of living and working in the (nearly) deep south.

Devon has never really been viewed as a place with great opportunity for jet setters and go getters by the rest of the country, however recent statistics tell us that Devon is the place to be if you are looking for work or wanting to start up a business. The business survival rate is over 5% above the national average, as well as employment rates being 76.8% versus the UK average of 71.1%. Devon’s Exeter University is ranked 8th in the UK, which also has a number of enterprises and research hubs including an Innovation Centre which is home to over 53 knowledge based organisations carrying out essential research and development.

Having been named as the best county in England in 2009 by Country Life magazine and with 450miles of coastline the quality of life is known for being better than that of the rest of the country. There is always loads to do including lots of free and family orientated days out as well as the renowned Jurassic Coast which takes you on a breath taking journey through England’s first Natural World Heritage Site. Of course we must not forget the usual popular attractions Devon has to offer; zoos, aquariums, farms, theme parks, botanical gardens, and an excess of outdoor adventure activities to suit both the dare devils and the safety conscious. Excellent public transport links provide affordable travel for non-drivers.

For those night owls, Exeter and Plymouth offer a buzzing nightlife with clubs and bars with a range of different music and themes and for the more laid back party-goer there is the famous Topsham 10 to conquer as well as loads of great local brewery’s and vineyards to try out.

Restaurants are in abundance in Devon with a significance on supporting local produce. From fresh fish caught off the coast of Exmouth to locally reared Dartmoor beef and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s own veg you are never far from fantastic home-grown food.

Low crime rates and little noise and air pollution, Devon is the place to be, business owner or employee, life has never been so fruitful.

If you're interested in working for Optix, send an email to info@optixsolutions.co.uk

 

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Is Your Website Ready For Google’s Big Mobile Update?

Usually when Google announces an update it comes with little, if any, warning at all. However, Google recently announced, "Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results." Whilst Google have been telling Webmaster’s for years to prepare for Mobile, this is the most significant mobile-related announcement they have released to date, and it’s clear that this time, Google mean business.

It’s Time For Action…

If you don’t already have a Mobile-Friendly website then you need to get the ball-rolling, and quickly. You have probably heard the terms “Responsive Site” and “Mobile Site” repeatedly across the web, so we are going to start by briefly defining what each of these mean.

Responsive Site – A Responsive Site takes a standard website and instructs it to fit the display size that it is being viewed on. This allows your website to fit precisely on any device in any resolution. An example of a Responsive Site is the Porsche website http://www.porsche.com/uk/. You can see the change in website size if you slowly drag the bottom right hand corner of your browser inward to make it smaller.

Mobile Site – This is a completely separate site that has been designed and built purely for mobile users. It may sit on a sub domain such as m.domain.com. An example of a Mobile-Specific Site is the BBC Sports website http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/. You can see the difference by bringing up the website on a mobile and desktop device and comparing the two.

Responsive vs. Mobile Sites – What Is Better? Mobile Sites:

The Pros

  • Better mobile experience for users (may lead to higher conversions)
  • Cheaper upfront costs

The Cons

  • Recurring maintenance
  • High costs for updating multiple websites
  • May need to be upgraded in future to work on new browsers
  • Issues with optimal display on different resolutions

  Responsive Site:

The Pros

  • One website works on multiple devices
  • Only needs to be updated once as only one site
  • Recommended by Google
  • Better ROI in the long term as it won’t need much maintenance to work on future browsers

The Cons

  • More expensive upfront

A Quick Note On Search Engine Optimisation…

If Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) forms a core part of your business then this must also be taken into consideration at this point. When it comes to link building and spending time optimising a site, you need to consider the fact that updating multiple sites will be far more costly and time consuming, than updating and building links to just the one Responsive Site.

In Summary The bottom line is you need to think about why you are creating the site and what functionality you need it to have. Either way, a mobile website is a MUST if you want to stay within Google’s guidelines and within the same playing field as your competitors. If you need to discuss your website in more detail please give us a call on 01392 667766, where one of the team will be more than happy to help!

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Facebook Kills Off Organic Reach for 2015

The average post by a Brand on Facebook is only seen by 2% of that Brand's followers.

Anyone who reads about SEO will have heard the phrase "SEO is dead" numerous times despite the fact that SEO is alive and well (various methods and tactics are dead but that's a post for another day…). So I was skeptical when I heard that Facebook's organic reach was "dead" or at least greatly reduced until Facebook admitted it themselves. In this post I'll explain why Facebook Brand pages no longer achieve the reach they used to, what this means for you and how you can overcome this issue.

What's Changed?

In 2014 many marketers started to notice that posts by Brands on Facebook were starting to reach fewer people. Despite increasing the number of "likes" for their pages there was a significant drop in actual people seeing each post. In March Ogilvy analysed more than 100 Brand pages and found that their reach had dropped to the point where each post was being seen by only 2.11% of users for most Brands.

Facebook organic reach results from Ogilvy Facebook organic reach results from Ogilvy[/caption] In November 2014 Facebook announced that they were altering their algorithm in order to reduce the reach of "overly promotional page posts". Put simply if your post reads like an Ad then don't expect it to reach people for free.

What Does This Mean?

The days of being able to drive significant amounts of traffic to your site, engage with your audience and promote your business for free on Facebook are over. It was good while it lasted but it's time to face facts: Facebook have no obligation to help you achieve your business aims and if you're not paying your results will be limited. Officially this is about Facebook putting the interests of users over the interests of businesses (according to Mark Zuckerberg) but it's similar to what we've seen with Google in regards to unpaid traffic vs PPC Ads. Each company has made it more difficult to get good results from free services in order to encourage Brands to spend more on paid services. facebook-dollar

How Has This Affected Your Page?

The first thing to do it to look at the reach of your recent posts under "Insights". Here you'll be able to see the organic reach of your 5 most recent posts (how many people saw the post) as well as engagement metrics such as clicks and likes, comments and shares. You might find that your recent posts have had a good reach in which case there's no need to worry, just keep an eye on this figure. You might also find that very few people actually saw the post – this isn't necessarily an issue for you but you'll need to bear in mind how much time and resource you assign to Facebook and what you're looking to achieve from this.

What Can You Do About It?

If you still want to be able to get in front of Facebook users (and let's face it where else can you find 1.39 billion monthly active users?), there are two main types of advertising on Facebook: Boosted Posts and  Facebook Ads. Boosting a post is quite straight-forward even if you haven't created and Advertising Campaign before, you simply create a post as you normally would and then give it a budget and set an audience (for example those interested in Digital Marketing in Exeter) and let it do its stuff. The snapshot below shows the reach of two recent posts on the Optix Solutions Facebook page. The first was an organic post which reached 65 users and the second was boosted for about £20 and reached 12.7k users. facebook-boosted-post-stats

Digging into the engagement metrics would allow us to effectively measure the success of this Campaign but as you can see from the reach metrics it at least got in front of the right people.

Step By Step

Follow these steps to improve the effectiveness of your Facebook activity (you might have done the first few steps already):

1. Write down what you're looking to achieve e.g. increase brand awareness, drive sales, increase donations or generate enquiries.

2. Decide how you can measure this e.g. site visits, page "likes", sales, reach.

3. Measure the success of your recent posts (look in Facebook Insights).

4. Try boosting a post (you don't need much budget to give it a try) and see if this has a better result/gives you a suitable return on investment.

5. If you want to know more about Paid Advertising including Facebook Ads get in touch with us.

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Google Non-Profit Scheme

Al: Hello and welcome to this edition of Coffee Top Talks, I’m delighted to have Mr Thomas Haynes back again, so Thomas, we are going to talk about Google Non-Profit Scheme which not many people actually know about which is a real shame because it’s a free scheme and part of Google’s CSR Programme, and pretty much any charity can get access to it (which we will go into more detail in a minute) and it’s effectively free money. So, I know this is something that we’ve done for a number of our charity clients, what I wanted to do today was just to find out a little bit more about it and tell people how they can get involved in it really. So, first of all what is it?

Thomas: There are various different elements in the non-profit programme, some of which people may be aware of already: Google grants; which is where Google will give charities $10,000.

Al: Hang on, $10,000?! And what period?

Thomas: A month

Al: A month! Right, that’s a lot of free money.

Thomas: Well, free advertising spend.

Al: Ok, so they’re not actually giving you money but they are giving advertising, which is effectively the same thing.

Thomas: As well as that there are other things like the YouTube Non Profit and there’s also some things to do with Google Earth, but the most interesting one for us is the Google Grants.

Al: So, what we’re talking about here is the paid advertising where you and I as a company would have to pay to be in there. This is that section, often across the top of Google and down the right hand side, you can get in to that bit.

Thomas: Yeh, you can get free budget.

Al: There must be a catch?

Thomas: There is no catch, you just need to be a registered charity, there are some exceptions, there are some charities that can’t apply but most can and it’s a very easy process.

Al: When you say easy process what are you talking – there’s no hoops to jump through?

Thomas: You just need to fill in a form giving your registered charity number, head office address and website and that’s pretty much it.

Al: Do they manually go and get that?

Thomas: Yes, I think it is manually checked.

Al: And then if you are approved you literally get $10,000 in your account every month to spend on your advertising?

Thomas: Yep. Al: Brilliant, and as I said at the beginning, it’s a massive shame that more charities don’t know about it, because it’s effectively free advertising money. I’m aware that there are some nuances to the programme that makes it slightly different to if you were just buying, so I think there are maximum click charges and things like that that you need to be aware of.

Thomas: Yes, there is a maximum of a $2 max Pay per Click.

Al: So we can’t really go in expecting people to buy massive phrases that cost us £8 or £9 for example.

Thomas: Yeah you just have to be a bit cleverer about the key words you target. You can literally just go after the really high competition terms but if you’re a small charity or you’re doing local events for example you can target local search terms, geographical targeting, there’s lots of things you can do to make sure you use all of your budget.

Al: Okay and what’s the most important thing that the small charity you just mentioned (signs up, gets approved, gets the $10,000), what should they do while setting this up?

Thomas: The first thing you need to do is really think about what your aims are as a charity and what you want the traffic that you’re now able to pay for to do. So, do you want to spend all that money on driving people to your donation page? Or do you want to advertise local events? It depends very much on the charity.

Al: So, do we have specific advice for people or is it very much dependent on that charity’s goals and objectives?

Thomas: Yes, entirely.

Al: Ok, so it’s probably worth them thinking about it upfront, then, taking that to the programme. If you had to give one more piece of advice after they have done that what would it be?

Thomas: Probably to make sure you are measuring your goals that we spoke about, so if you are trying to get people to sign up for a newsletter, trying to get people to donate to your charity, or you are trying to drive people to your events, you need to find a way to track that on your site so that you can be sure that the traffic you are driving is useful.

Al: So we’re moving into the world of Google analytics here as well which you can put together with Google ad words can’t you, so reading the same data?

Thomas: Yes, you can connect your ad words account to analytics.

Al: And then set up your goals which you can then track through from the payments you’ve made. So that’s been brilliant and I’m hoping that if nothing else happens, at least a few people can go and sign up and benefit from that $10,000 a month, so I appreciate that Thomas, thank you. And that’s it from us, good day from Optix!

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Developing a Social Media Policy

Welcome to the first in the series of the Optix Solutions "Coffee Table Talks" videos. We will be releasing videos on a monthly basis that provide top advice on Digital Marketing that covers everything from tips on Email Marketing, to PPC Management, Video, Search, Social Media and much much more!

Olly: Hi there and welcome to this very special edition of Coffee Table Talks – I’m Olly Harrison. We have Alastair Banks with us today and Al, you are going to talk to us a little bit about developing a social media policy for your company.

Al: Yes I am, it’s weird to have things flipped on me today…So, what are the things you need to think about when creating a social media policy? I guess there’s a couple of things you need to consider, the first is whether the policy is being written for somebody in your business who’s running your social media on your behalf, so the company accounts, or whether this is just a member of your staff who will have social media policies, personal ones, that they’re running for themselves, so obviously you need to think about that. You probably need to think about platforms that they’re actually out there on, so covering off things like what they should be doing on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and again that will differ depending on whether they are running corporate accounts or personal accounts. I’d always advise taking legal advice on this kind of thing because we’re not legal eagles but we’ve got a lot of friends who are and who have helped us put ours together. For me it’s less about having a big stick to hit people with and saying “You should not do this”, it’s about making people aware that social media is brilliant for business but it needs to be treated carefully so just be aware of these things and if you go out and do this properly it’s going to help you both in your career development and also your business.

Olly: I guess there might be a few people out there watching this thinking “Do I really need a social media policy, you know, are you guys being serious?” Can you give any examples of where things have gone wrong or where people have been fortunate enough to have a policy in place and as a result have avoided any potential disasters?

Al: Yes, again, I’m not going to profess to be a legal eagle but I have sat in a number of presentations where solicitors especially, talk me through court cases that have come up and where a social media policy has actually saved them, or not saved them. A couple of examples that have sprung to mind (and I forget the court cases themselves, forgive me on that), but as owners of business you can be held precariously liable I think is the term, which basically means I could be held liable on your behalf if you say something on your social media platforms about another member of staff or about one of my competitors. So, if I haven’t put in place processes to: A) Give you a policy to say don’t do that and B) Give you sufficient training on social media so that you know the dos and the donts, I can be held liable. That could include fines against my company for defamatory comments but it could also be if you say something about another member of the team here, there could be actions brought against me just because I run the business. There are things we need to think very carefully about when it comes to social media. I personally think that’s one of the forgotten areas of social media, something that business owners need to think very carefully about.

Olly: So what we’re saying is, with a relatively small amount of effort it’s worth having these things in place?

Al: Absolutely and I know we are limited on time and this is a topic we could obviously go on about for hours, so I guess my advice is to make sure you take professional advice, get a decent quality social media policy in place but don’t make it a “big stick” one. The guys that are growing up these days, coming out of university, they’ve never known a world without the internet so they are so engrained with it, they use their phones for this sort of thing you can’t block this on your network nowadays. Embrace it, make sure it’s part of the policy, and then the most important thing is give them sufficient training to make sure they know about the policy properly and know what’s right and what’s wrong.

Olly: Thanks very much, that’s the end of Coffee Table Talks today, Al Banks, talking about social media policy as a business owner. Many thanks.

Al: Thank you. Keep an eye out for our next "Coffee Table Talks" video for more advice on the world of digital marketing.

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What is Inbound Marketing?

Not sure what all this Inbound Marketing stuff is all about?

Here's a great, concise explanation from Alastair and you can always contact us here if you'd like to find out more.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YntIH4IwyOE

For many years marketeers have focused on outbound marketing… 

Your message is pushed out attempting to buy people’s attention. Think Radio, Think Magazine Ads, Think TV. With Inbound Marketing the focus switches to ‘earnt’ attention. By providing your prospects with something of value they give you permission to keep marketing to them. For example, giving away advice in a blog article or whitepaper which your prospect finds via Google is a good form of Inbound Marketing. If you’re lucky, they subscribe to your blog feed and in turn give you permission to market to them in the future.

This is the first step.

True inbound companies work on converting these prospects into customers, taking them on a journey down a purchasing funnel. This is called lead nurturing. This consists of email auto-responders; automated emails which give your prospect useful information, help & advice through the buyer funnel, Conversion optimisation; offering up different formats of the same page on your website to find out which convert more regularly and even dynamic content; if I know you’ve downloaded a document from my site before, I might put a personal message for you next time you return – you’re now marketing to an audience of 1.

The first step to inbound marketing is to work out your buyer personas. In my business, one of our personas is Bob. Bob is the managing director of a successful business turning over more than a million pounds a year. He built the business from scratch and is fascinated by marketing because he recognises that it’s the route to take his business to the next level. He’s a passionate person who knows what he wants and looks to employ the best people for the job. He doesn’t try and drive people down on price because he appreciates quality.

Now, when we create our marketing material we think of Bob. Would this blog article be of interest to him, would this letter we’re sending out get through his PA? Is this whitepaper something he’s likely to print and take home to read?

With Inbound marketing, your focus becomes more defined and less time is wasted trying to appeal to all.  

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