Monday, November 30, 2009

Half Price Christmas Sale

50% of all Web Hosting PackagesWith the festive season fast approaching we thought it the right time to offer a great Christmas sale.

We are now offering 50% off all of our hosting packages! That means that you can now get a year of web hosting with us for just £7.49!

To view our hosting packages visit our website.

To claim your 50% off, enter the following code during the checkout: bApPwg

This offer ends on Christmas Eve, so hurry to bag your Christmas bargain.

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Facebook

facebook The world's most popular website has reached another milestone, it now has 175 million active users worldwide.

This is an amazing achievement for a website that was started just four years ago, and it has made it's founder a billionaire, even though he's not yet 25. 

Harvard

Mark Zuckerberg set up Facebook (then known as thefacebook) whilst studying at Harvard in 2004. The original site was only open to students at the University, but this was soon expanded and grew into the multi-million pound business that it is today.

So, you may ask, how did Mark Zuckerberg come up with such an amazing idea it made him a billionaire before his 25th birthday?

The origins of Zuckerberg's billion dollar idea are somewhat clouded. Several former classmates took legal action against him claiming that he had stolen their idea.

His classmates, the owners of ConnectU.com, claimed that they had hired Zuckerberg to make them a dating website for Harvard students whilst they were all studying at Harvard with Zuckerberg and that Zuckerberg used this idea and their source code to create Facebook.

Whether this was the case or not, an out of court settlement this month gave his former classmates $65 million in cash and shares, meaning that Zuckerberg isn't the only Facebook millionaire.

Privacy

Along with the lawsuit, something else had dogged Facebook throughout its development - privacy.

Two MIT students managed to download 70,000 Facebook profiles using a simple script in 2005 and as recently as last year the BBC demonstrated that a simple data mining application was able to gather information on profiles and the profiles of friends.

The more information that is placed in the user profiles and the more accessible it is (i.e. public) the more likely it is that the information could be stolen. Sure, with 175 million users on Facebook the odds may be in the users favour, but security by obscurity is not the wisest option.

Other concerns are highlighted in Channel 4's The IT Crowd's parody of Facebook - friendface.

Sure it's funny, but some of the points raised in the joke advert are very real. Facebook does, for example, state in their terms and conditions:

"We may share your information with third parties, including responsible companies with which we have a relationship."

Your information literally means anything that is uploaded to the website, from profile information and messages through to pictures and video. Like the in the spoof advert, Facebook promises not to hand over information to third parties, at least according to a spokesman:

"Simply put, we have never provided our users' information to third party companies, nor do we intend to."

The very fact that such a clause is in the terms and conditions would seem to imply otherwise.

What's more Facebook altered their terms and conditions on 4th February 2009 to make clear that they wish to keep your information, permanently, even after an account had been cancelled!

This caused something of an uproar when spotted by and pointed out by a consumer rights blog and a few weeks later Facebook was forced to back down and revert to its previous terms and conditions.

Beacon

In November 2007 Facebook launched an advertising programme called Beacon, which again raised serious privacy concerns. Privacy advocates main concern with Beacon was that it sent information back to Facebook from partner sites, so that Facebook can better target adverts, all without the users permission.

Even when Facebook made this an opt in only service, it was still discovered that information was being sent to Facebook, even when users had opted out, or were not logged in.

A lawsuit was filed against Facebook and its partners in the Beacon program in 2008, alleging that the system broke several laws.

Income

The concerns about Facebook are likely to be well founded, after all it is a business and businesses are there to make money. At the moment and despite the massive user base and the apparent worth of the business, it doesn't have a clear way of making money.

Facebook had an estimated turnover of $300 million in 2008, but this doesn't tell the full story. Those servers, bandwidth, staff and other facilities do not come cheap, estimated expenditure in 2008 was $200 million, so they are not getting much change from that $300 million.

It is believed that Facebook generates most of its revenue from advertising but with the click through rate apparently at around 0.02-0.04%, its no Google search.

Google itself is having similar problems with Youtube, the site is popular, it has millions of users but it just isn't making enough from advertising, especially when it spends so much on servers, bandwidth and so forth. It isn't enough just to have lots of visitors to a website, you need some way to convert these hits into cash.

Google is also looking at other ways to make money from Youtube. We can expect the same from Facebook, after all they are not running their respective websites for charity. There are only a few ways of making money from a website, even popular ones, so it will be interesting to see what direction both of these huge websites take in order to monetize their user base.

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Why Flash isn't always good

Many people ask for flash based websites, believing them to be the best way of impressing visitors, having a professional and modern looking website and also giving visitors an interactive, and easy to use, browsing experience.

Whilst some of the above may be true, there are two areas in which Flash based websites lose out - accessibility and rankings.

Search engines

The importance of search engine rankings should not be understated, after all, what use is a website if no one can find it.

This extract from an email from Google explains:

"While our spidering practices may change in the future, we find that Flash is not a very user-friendly experience in a lot of ways. It is wholly inaccessible to the sight-impaired, not renderable on many devices (such as phones, PDAs), and so on. In particular, we hugely frown upon navigation done exclusively in Flash."

I have seen many sites fall into the trap of using flash completely, some do have a HTML site too, most do not. Using flash for the site navigation not only means that Google may not like your website as much non-Flash sites, but it may also mean that Google is unable to find and index anything other than your homepage.

It also means that those using mobile phones, PDAs and screen readers will be unable to view your website, let alone navigate through it. This wasn't much of a concern in the past, but with most mobile phones been web enabled, you could be cutting out a large portion of visitors.

While things have improved regarding search engines, notably Google, since this email was sent, the fact remains that if two exact sites were made, one in flash, the other in CSS and HTML, the CSS and HTML site would be ranked higher.

Small businesses

This is an important point to consider, particularly for small and medium sized businesses. These businesses don't have the kind of income to spend on teams of SEO specialists to get the best rankings, unlike the big companies that they may be competing with.

SMBs are going to be paying quite a bit of money just to get decent rankings, so anything that could count against them should be avoided, and whilst non-Flash website may not look as attractive or as flashy; SMBs need to get the best possible rankings from their content.

The bigger picture

It is probably best to think of Flash like pictures, they may look great but you really wouldn't want a site made up entirely of pictures, unless you're comedian Jerry Sadowitz.

Apart from taking far longer than text to load, even if a picture contains text, it can't be read by the search engines. Jerry Sadowitz's site for instance has only these words associated with it: Jerry Sadowitz - Comedy, Magic and More, and only those words as they are the title to every page. The search engines don't see pictures, they only see text, so an all picture site such as that of Jerry Sadowitz is virtually blank.

Pictures should be used to complement the site content (text), not replace it. The same goes for Flash, it should have a place on a website but should be used sparingly and not as a replacement to a website.

It is possible to get a great looking site through CSS and HTML alone, and then of course any amount of pictures and Flash can be added to complement that.

Although it may change in the future, CSS and HTML is still the best way to tick all the relevant boxes when it comes to your website.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

How to get the best from Google Adwords

Many websites today utilise what has to be one of the most cost effective methods of advertising, Google Adwords. Adwords is simple to set up and gives the user complete control over everything, allowing them to change their keywords and adverts almost instantly and quickly and easily respond to visitor trends.

Sadly the area where many users fall down, is right at the start with the keywords, and this area can be tricky to understand. Many users of Adwords assume that simply adding every conceivable word that someone will search for, such as price or sale, will get the best response, but as any SEO specialist will tell you, this isn't the case. This just leads to visitors finding you by mistake, and of course you pay for every click to your website, mistake or not.

We offer a full Google Adwords Consultation service to optimise your campaign for you, but we've also placed some pointers below to help you get the best from Google Adwords.  

Be Specific

The best way to get potential customers to your website is through specific keywords. If you sell nodding dogs on your website, you may assume that your best keyword is dogs, but you really don't want to use dogs as a keyword. If you do your adverts will be shown to anyone searching for the word dogs, and if you your advert says something along the lines of 'Cute dogs, take one home today..' and doesn't make it clear what the product is, you'll get thousands of clicks from people looking for something completely different. Plenty of clicks and no sales means money down the drain.

The owner of the above site would be much better served with keywords such as nodding dogs or bobbing dogs.

For the same reasons avoid other generic terms like price, sale, or cheap, unless you use them to form part of a phrase, i.e. cheap nodding dogs 

Be Relevant

Google constantly monitors your adverts and marks your adverts down for irrelevance. If your adverts or keywords have been disabled it's because Google decided that they weren't relevant enough for you, i.e. not enough people were clicking on your adverts for that term.

Which means you may have to pay more for a keyword, and this can get expensive if it keeps happening, I have seen people paying £5 per click for some keywords!

Tempting as it may be to go for one of the most searched for terms, you should avoid this, remember it isn't about getting thousands of people to your website in the hope that one of them will buy, but rather getting people who are searching for the product you sell to your website to purchase it.

Having your adverts appear when someone searches for Nintendo Wii, might seem like a good idea as it is searched for 10,000 times a day, but Google will soon realise that your keywords are not relevant to your adverts and you'll either have your ad disabled, your keywords disabled or end up paying more and more to have Nintendo Wii as a keyword.

Narrow your keywords down to make them more relevant to the product that you are selling. Put yourself in the position of someone looking for your product and think carefully about the words that they would use to search for your product.

Using Brackets

Another way of focusing your keywords is to use some of the options available in the keywords tool within Adwords itself. For example for the site mentioned above it is probably not a good idea to have the keyword simply as nodding dog as that will trigger the adverts whether nodding is mentioned or dog. So someone searching for cheap dog food may see your ad and click it before realising their mistake.

A better option would be to have the keyword as "nodding dog" in quotes. This means that only that phrase will trigger your adverts, but it can have words before or after. For example nodding dog toy and brown nodding dog will trigger your adverts but brown dog will not.

Brackets around your keyword, e.g. [nodding dog] means that only that exact phrase with no other words will trigger your adverts. This is useful as you'll know that the people seeing your adverts are definitely looking for that term, however if they add any other words, such as nodding dog car toy, it won't trigger your adverts and they won't see your advert at all, so the brackets must be used wisely.

Another option is the minus sign (-), this can be used to denote a word that you do not want to trigger your adverts, known as a negative keyword. For example if your site sold nodding dogs of every colour but black you would add -black as a keyword, ensuring that your advert doesn't appear when someone searches for black nodding dog.

Use Many Adverts

It is also important to have quite a few adverts to try different things and see what works and what doesn't, you should check your account regularly and see what adverts are getting clicks and which ones are not and work out why, the same goes for keywords. If certain keywords aren't working out, stop paying for them.

Don't be afraid to experiment, if something doesn't work, you can always change it. 

The Landing Page

The landing page is often overlooked, it is vital that this page not only makes a good impression but that contains the product that the person was searching for.

Visitors make their minds up quickly, if they don't see the product that they were looking for, they'll hit their back button and be off to your competitors site.

Remember, the aim is not to get as many people to your website as possible but to get a good return on your investment. You may get thousands of people visiting your website, but if they weren't looking to purchase your product, they are unlikely to do so because you've a nice website.

Target your keywords, make them relevant, you'll get less hits but the people visiting will be the ones looking for your product and therefore far more likely to buy from you.

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Web Hosting and Domains

We've made some changes to our website here at Horizon Web Development, our hosting packages have been revamped and we now have an automated set up in place meaning you can buy your domain and hosting at once and set up your website immediately.

Domains

If you are looking for a domain name look no further than our new domain name look up feature of our website.

Here simply enter the name you would like to register, all available domains will appear on the following page along with prices and registration periods. Simply tick the box to add the domain name to your basket.

If you already have a domain name registered with another company but are interested in our hosting packages, simply enter your domain in the second box on our hosting package page here. You do not need to transfer your domain over to us to use our hosting packages.

Hosting

We offer some great web hosting packages, with our Starter Package at just £14.99 a year (£1.25 per month) and with more features than many of our rivals business or professional packages.

Simply visit our hosting page to view what we have on offer. If you see a better like for like hosting offer elsewhere in the UK, let us know and we'll match it for you.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

End of an Era

This past week has been a sad week for web users, with the final death knell for Netscape. For some it is a sad day and the end of an era, others would say a well flogged old horse has been finally put out of its misery.

When I first starting browsing the web there was really only ever Netscape, it was launched in 1994 and dominated the browser market for most of the nineties, offering better features, faster browsing and generally being more advanced than any of its competitors.

For most internet users today that probably seems pretty hard to believe, but there was an internet before Microsoft Internet Explorer, which itself wasn't launched until 1995 and didn't really start to compete with Netscape until version 3 (IE3), released in 1996. At its peak in 1996 Netscape accounted for 90% of the browser market (at the same time IE had about a 4% market share).

Netscape just had more to offer back then, it was a full internet suite with a built in mail reader, very similar to Mozilla Thunderbird of today, a WYSIWIG HTML editor, that surprisingly at the time was a pretty good match for Microsoft's paid for, Frontpage.

For me Netscape Communicator 4.7, released 1999, was the one that remember most, chiefly because it was the one that I used the longest and also because it was just about the last version of Netscape that I used as my main browser.

This was the peak of the so called 'First Browser War' and unfortunately Netscape dropped the ball. Netscape 5 was in development for a long time, before finally being scrapped. By the time Netscape was purchased by AOL and work began on Netscape 6, Internet Explorer 5 was out (1998) and it pretty much signalled the end of Netscape. By version 5.5 in 2000, I too was using Microsoft Internet Explorer.

To be fair to Netscape, Microsoft always had the advantage, not only were they a huge company, they accounted for around 90% of the operating system market and so included IE with the operating system. Few people felt the need to download a new browser when one was already included with the OS, particularly during the days of dial up.

By the end of 1998 IE had a 50% market share, Netscape had dipped below 50% for the first time. Netscape 6 arrived in 2000, I used it but unfortunately it was a bug ridden flop and so IE5.5 became my browser of choice, as it did for most people. By 2001 Netscape had just 10% of the market share and the browser war was over.

Personally I was glad to see the end of the browser war, not just because it meant that I had just one browser to choose from but because it made website design easier. During the browser wars, website design became a nightmare. Netscape and IE followed their own, mostly incompatible rules, meaning that it was extremely difficult to get a website to display properly in both browsers. This was of the course the days of the 'Best Viewed In' banners. Things were able to move on once again in website design, after the several years of stagnation during the browser wars.

I did download Netscape 7 in 2002 and even Netscape 9 in 2007, but just for nostalgia really. They were unimpressive and so seldom used. By then I had been using Mozilla Firefox for 3 years as my primary browser. With Firefox, Mozilla had done what Netscape had failed to do since the mid nineties, produce a ground breaking and advanced browser, which revitalised the browser market. At the time of my switch to Firefox, Netscape accounted for less than 1% of the browser market and to all intents and purposes, was dead in the water.

Whilst I agree that perhaps the end of Netscape is long overdue, it is sad that the only browser that truly matched IE, is no longer with us. Although a far better browser, Firefox only accounts for about 18% of the browser market share, and will take years to chip away at Internet Explorer's huge lead.



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