31 August 2011

How can I get people to revisit my website?

To get people to keep coming back to your website, you need to give plenty of reasons why they should.  If you think about it, it's just common sense.  You wouldn't keep going to a shop every day if nothing had changed each time that you went.  You need to continually add to your site in a variety of different ways.  Add new blog posts/articles, tutorials, videos, pictures, interviews, competitions, news, events, etc.  Doing this regularly gives people an excuse to click on your site and catch up with what's new.  Not only that, but it shows to new visitors that your site is not dead, there is an active presence online. 

When just starting out with a brand new website, you should have an almost endless list of things that you need to add, so you have got more than enough to get you started.  A lot of people think that they need to add everything at once before publishing their site, when actually a single blog post is a great way of starting.  As long as you build upon that on a regular basis, then that is enough reason for people to revisit your website.

Techniques to bring traffic back to your website

Apart from regularly adding content, there are a number of other ways to encourage people to come back to your site.

Email Marketing!
This is a great way of getting people back to your website.  The key is to build a large email list of your customers/visitors.  When people register to become a member, you get their email address.  When people sign up to your weekly newsletter, you get their email address.  The more ways there are to get someone's email address the better.
With an email list, you can build a brand, recommend products, promote any events/workshops that you may be holding and more importantly to can encourage people to keep returning to your website. 

Just don't go overboard with emails so that they are viewed as spam!  Nobody likes spam! 

These are a great way to encourage people to return to your website.  Within your newsletter you can keep referring people back to your website.  You can automate the whole process as well, letting it run on auto pilot. 
RSS Feeds!
These are great for informing people about your latest updates.  Feeds update themselves automatically when you add to your blog.  People that have chosen to subscribe to your RSS Feed are automatically told about your new content, giving them incentive to check it out. 
These are so easy to set up and do everything automatically for you.  Google Feedburner is a great tool to use to do this.  This is something that you should definitely include on your website.
Be Friendly!
If someone takes the time to email you with a question, then put the effort into replying.  Even if you don't know the answer to the question asked, perhaps you could refer them to somebody that does, or be honest and say I don't know!  The fact that you have shown to actively respond to a visitors question can go along way.
If you are getting lots of emails about the same question, then that might be a good subject to write about in an upcoming blog post.  You could send emails back thanking the individual for the question and stating that you will be writing an in depth post outlining the answer for him.

Post comments on your own posts answering peoples questions, refer to people that have asked questions in videos, etc.  This all helps to build a community around your website.  Doing this sort of thing shows to your visitors that you aren't a faceless website that doesn't interact with its viewers, that you are willing to help if you can.

Get in contact with other people that are involved in your field of interest.  You may not get too many replies if you still have a small reputation, but that will change as you grow your online status.  You could offer to link to their website in return that they similarly link back to you. This can help your credibility and increase your reputation.
As the saying goes, "It's not what you know, it's who you know that matters!" 


These are just some ways to get people to come back to your website.  Again, this is something that you have to continually work on, it won't just happen over night.  Get in the habit of adding articles/blog posts every few days, regularly tweeting, posting things on your social media sites, running competitions, making videos, etc. If you continually produce reasons for people to return to your site, then they will.

23 August 2011

When algorithms control the world

Globe with binary code Algorithms are spreading their influence around the globe

If you were expecting some kind warning when computers finally get smarter than us, then think again.

There will be no soothing HAL 9000-type voice informing us that our human services are now surplus to requirements.

In reality, our electronic overlords are already taking control, and they are doing it in a far more subtle way than science fiction would have us believe.

Their weapon of choice - the algorithm.

Behind every smart web service is some even smarter web code. From the web retailers - calculating what books and films we might be interested in, to Facebook's friend finding and imaging tagging services, to the search engines that guide us around the net.

It is these invisible computations that increasingly control how we interact with our electronic world.

At last month's TEDGlobal conference, algorithm expert Kevin Slavin delivered one of the tech show's most "sit up and take notice" speeches where he warned that the "maths that computers use to decide stuff" was infiltrating every aspect of our lives.

Among the examples he cited were a robo-cleaner that maps out the best way to do housework, and the online trading algorithms that are increasingly controlling Wall Street.

"We are writing these things that we can no longer read," warned Mr Slavin.

"We've rendered something illegible. And we've lost the sense of what's actually happening in this world we've made."
Million-dollar book
Cover of the Making of a Fly The book was briefly one of the world's most expensive

Algorithms may be cleverer than humans but they don't necessarily have our sense of perspective - a failing that became evident when Amazon's price-setting code went to war with itself earlier this year.

"The Making of a Fly" - a book about the molecular biology of a fly from egg to fully-fledged insect - may have been a riveting read but it almost certainly didn't deserve a price tag of $23.6m (£14.3m).

It hit that figure briefly on the site after the algorithms used by Amazon to set and update prices started outbidding each other.

It is a small taste of the chaos that can be caused when code gets smart enough to operate without human intervention, thinks Mr Slavin.

"This is algorithms in conflict without any adult supervision," he said.

As code gets ever more sophisticated it is reaching its tentacles into all aspects of our lives, including our cultural preferences.

The algorithms used by movie rental site Netflix are now responsible for 60% of rentals from the site, as we rely less and less on our own critical faculties and word of mouth and more on what Mr Slavin calls the "physics of culture".
Leading role
Hollywood sign Code is playing its own lead role in Hollywood

British firm Epagogix is taking this concept to its logical conclusion, using algorithms to predict what makes a hit movie.

It takes a bunch of metrics - the script, plot, stars, location - and crunches them all together with the box office takings of similar films to work out how much money it will make.

The system has, according to chief executive Nick Meaney, "helped studios to make decisions about whether to make a movie or not".

In the case of one project - which had been assigned a £180m production cost - the algorithm worked out that it would only take £30m at the box office, meaning it simply wasn't worth making.

For another movie, it worked out that the expensive female lead the studio had earmarked for a film would not yield any more of a return than using a less expensive star.

This rather clinical approach to film-making has irked some who believe it to be at odds with a more creative, organic way that they assume their favourite movies were made.

Mr Meaney is keen to play down the role of algorithms in Hollywood.

"Movies get made for many reasons and it credits us with more influence than we have to say we dictate what films are made.

"We don't tell them what the plot should be. The studio uses this as valuable business information. We help people make tough decisions, and why not?" he said.

Despite this, the studio Epagogix has worked with for the last five years does not want to be named. It is, says Mr Meaney, a "sensitive" subject.

If algorithms had a Hollywood-style walk of fame, the first star would have to go to Google.

Its famously secret code has propelled the search giant to its current position as one of the most powerful companies in the world.

No-one would doubt that its system has made searching a whole lot easier, but critics have long asked at what price?

In his book, The Filter Bubble, Eli Pariser questions how far Google's data-crunching algorithm go in harvesting our personal data and shaping the web we see accordingly.

Meanwhile, a recent study by psychologists at Columbia University found that reliance on search engines for answers is actually changing the way humans think.

"Since the advent of search engines, we are reorganising the way we remember things. Our brains rely on the internet for memory in much the same way they rely on the memory of a friend, family member or co-worker," said report author Betsy Sparrow.

Increasingly, she argues, we are knowing where information can be found rather than retaining knowledge itself.

Flash crash
Traders at the New York stock exchange Move over traders, there's a new code in town

In the financial markets, code is increasingly becoming king as complex number-crunching algorithms work out what to buy and what to sell.

Up to 70% of Wall Street trading is now run by so-called black box or algo-trading.

That means, along with the wise guy city traders, banks and brokers now employ thousands of smart guy physicists and mathematicians.

But even machine precision, supported by the human code wizards, doesn't guarantee things will run smoothly.

In the so-called Flash Crash of 2.45 on May 6 2010, a five minute dip in the markets caused momentary chaos.

    "We are running through the United States with dynamite and rocksaws so an algorithm can close the deal three microseconds faster.”

Kevin Slavin Algorithm expert

A rogue trader was blamed for the 10% Dow Jones index fall but in reality, it was the computer program that the unnamed trader was using that was really to blame.

The algorithm sold 75,000 stocks with a value of £2.6bn in just 20 minutes, causing other super-fast trading algorithms to follow suit.

Just as a bionic limb can extend a human's capability for strength and stamina, the electronic market showed its capacity to exaggerate and accelerate minor blips.

No-one has ever managed to pinpoint exactly what happened, and the market recovered minutes later.

The chaos forced regulators to introduce circuit breakers to halt trades if the machines start misbehaving.

The algorithms of Wall Street may be the cyber-equivalent of the 80s yuppie, but unlike their human counterparts, they don't demand red braces, cigars and champagne. What they want is fast pipes.

Spread Networks has been building one such fibre-optic connection, shaving three microseconds off the 825-mile (1327km) trading journey between Chicago and New York.

Meanwhile, a transatlantic fibre optic link between Nova Scotia in Canada and Somerset in the UK is being built primarily to serve the needs of algorithmic traders and will send shares from London to New York and back in 60 milliseconds.

"We are running through the United States with dynamite and rock saws so an algorithm can close the deal three microseconds faster, all for a communications system that no humans will ever see," said Mr Slavin.

As algorithms spread their influence beyond machines to shape the raw landscape around them, it might be time to work out exactly how much they know and whether we still have time to tame them.

Exerts for the BBC

15 August 2011

Social Media - New Age Marketing

In the good old days customers would communicate with you via letter, phone or in person. Today things are very different. Now they can send you a tweet, post a comment on your blog or leave you a message on Facebook.

In the past if someone was unhappy with your service the 'bad press' was usually limited to a few of their friends and family (unless it was seriously bad service and the wrote to the Editor of your local paper). Now a single tweet or Facebook message could potentially be seen by millions.

Now, more than ever, you must have procedures in place to deal with social media communications. You have to think about how you will monitor them, how you will respond to both positive and negative comments and how you'll interact with your audience.

Enhancing your online reputation is essential in todays transparent culture. Here are 3 easy things you can do to make sure your company holds its head up high and shines.

1. Thank you

Manners cost nothing and a simple 'thank you' can be a very powerful tool.

When a follower retweets you, leaves a comment on your blog or sends a referral to you, thank them. It doesn't take a lot of effort and shows that you are listening and that you care about your customers. And in the eyes of your customers, that translates into the image of a company they want to do business with.

But you don't just have to keep an eye on your social media platforms. There are many other ways you can be talked about online so it's important to monitor the internet to find out what's being said. There are a number of tools out there such as Google Alerts which will email Google results based on your query or topic:


Using these tools will help you keep track of what people are saying about you online so you can see how your brand is perceived and, as a customer service tool, enables you to solve issues quickly before they get out of hand.

2. Blogging

Loads of people blog so that should tell you its a valuable tool to use within your business.

Not only does it allow you to own more of the web, it also is a great way to add value to your customer relationships because you can offer them tips and advice that will make their lives easier. Plus it will help position you as an expert in your field which is always good.

But the trick is to ensure you write stuff your readers want to learn about. If you are a building firm and blog about holidays, you're not going to be adding value. But if you wrote about important issues in your trade, design ideas etc., you would create a connection with your readers and inspire them to make the most of their homes.

Take this blog for example, as an online marketing manager I not only write about marketing but also general marketing issues, social media, seo etc., which are all topics business owners find useful. Therefore not only do I get traffic to my website, the people that come also find the experience useful.

3. Focus on benefits

Whenever you write about your products or services, always focus on your customer; why they will benefit from it. By writing for them you are showing that you understand what's important to them and want to help them achieve that.

Showing that kind of connection will identify you as a company that cares about its customers and not just its profits. And let's face it, you tend to buy from people you like and trust. So if you come across as arrogant people aren't going to buy from you.

When marketing your business it's all too easy to get wrapped up in it and lose sight of what's really important – your customers.

Make sure they are at the forefront of everything you do because without them you don't have a business.

Interact with them, thank them and go out of your way to make sure they are happy. Use social media to your advantage.

02 August 2011

The importance of website loading times

You always hear webmasters talking about how fast their site is and how they can speed it up even more. But why is that so important?
Why Speed Matters
If you've ever visited a website that takes forever to load, you know the answer to this. Visitors leave before you've even had a chance to convince them you have what they're looking for. Google has taken this one step further by including it in their list of ranking factors.

So, how fast a page loads does really sort of matter. Not that 1/100ths of a second will make that big of a deal, but if you can improve your load time and your code, there's no reason not to spend some time on it.

Tricks for Speeding Up Load Times

You can do tons of little things to speed up a page's load time:

Caching -- Plugins and tools such as WP Super Cache turn PHP into quick HTML, to ease the burden of heavy files and display pages faster. It's effortless and only takes a few seconds to set up.

CSS Sprites -- If you're a little more familiar with code, or have someone available to help tweak your code, you can consider using CSS sprites. Basically, this trick combines all of your graphics into one file and positions them correctly using CSS. You can find out more about CSS sprites on Spiced2.

JavaScript -- While pretty, JavaScript can eat a lot of resources and require a lot of time to load. By eliminating as much of it as you can, and minimizing the scripts on the page, you can quickly cut down load times. Also, because CSS can load at the same time as the rest of your site, move your JavaScript files after your CSS files. Rusty Brick also suggests delaying the loading of resources until after the visitor mouses over them. You can find out more at BetterExplained and JavaScript Guides Advanced.

Redirects -- While often necessary, redirects can really inflate page load times. Save yourself and the visitors the time by eliminating them where possible. As an added benefit, you'll also find you can deter people from linking to the wrong URL.

Images and Videos -- These things can eat up a lot of resources too. Get rid of any that aren't necessary (If your site is slow, a ton of ads in the sidebar is often the culprit). Then, compress and shrink them to the right size.

Analytics Programs -- While extremely helpful and useful, analytics can take a long time to load up. Save yourself some headaches by eliminating the code for any analytics programs you're not using. You also may want to switch to an asynchronous tracking code to speed things up.

Hardcode -- While all the gidgets, widgets, and doodads can be really nice, they can also require a fair bit of time to load. By hardcoding things like the header, footer, and sidebars, you can eliminate this time by causing it to load with the rest of your site.

Databases -- Just like trying to find something in a messy room, a messy database takes a lot of extra time to use. Clean it up, fix it, and optimize it regularly. You'll find plugins that do this, as well as an option to do this in phpMyAdmin.

Hosting -- If your host is slow, optimizing your website isn't going to help you any. And chances are if you went cheap on your hosting, it's slow. You may even consider setting up and using a proxy server to act as a go between your host server and your site visitors.

For a FREE SEO scan of you website, including speed test, contact Scream Media today on 021 559 0800 or sue@scream-media.co.za

01 August 2011

The importance of recruiting the right person

The direct and indirect costs associated with hiring the wrong employee is seldom calculated, yet severely felt by organisations, says Jenny Venter, an Organisational Development Specialist at Softline VIP, part of the Sage Group plc. “A growing trend in the industry sees both large organisations and SME’s, placing proper job profiles and performance practices in place in an effort to attract the correct candidate in addition to retaining and developing the talent once the person is employed,” says Venter.

Recruitment practices are influenced by the supply and demand of the labour market, economic conditions, competitor practices and technology. It is a dynamic process that differs from industry to industry. This has never been more relevant then in the space which Scream Media occupies

The urgency to recruit more cost effectively and more accurately measure the output of employees after appointment can, in part, be attributed to the economic downturn. “Although South Africa was somewhat shielded from the global economic crisis, the SA National Treasury reported that near to a million jobs were lost as a result of the economic downturn. Despite the over-supply of applicants in the job market, talent remains limited and many industries still experience skills shortages,” explains Venter.

A survival syndrome has however become evident amongst the labour workforce. “Most employees are less likely to job hop and many retrenched employees are willing to accept positions where they earn less than in their previous position. Due to a need for security and a decrease in vacancies, employees are willing to put up with more frustration depending on the scarcity of their skills. Organisations should however still endeavour to be an employer of choice and actively engage employees, or they may find their top talent exiting as job recovery starts to set in,” Venter warns.

Another trend that is prevailing in the Recruitment industry is the increasing number of organisations that have taken their recruitment function in-house. “The majority of recruitment policies adopted by organisations state that they must first recruit using internal resources. This does not only refer to sourcing talented employees within the organisation, but also extends to using formal and informal professional networks, employee referral programs and social media such as Facebook to source skilled employees. Some larger organisations are headhunting recruitment consultants from agencies that allowed them to secure specialised in-house recruitment expertise,” says Venter.

HR Information Systems have also become increasingly sophisticated, says Venter. “It enables recruiters to process large amounts of applications by using HR technology to screen candidates that do not comply with the minimum job requirements. It also manages the different phases during the recruitment process and provides valuable recruitment metrics.”

Does that spell doom for the formal recruitment industry? “External recruitment services are still utilised, but we do find that more and more organisations are using this avenue as a last resort. For this reason many recruitment agencies have begun to diversify their service offerings to include other HR Services. External recruitment agencies that specialise in sourcing scarce skills, especially in the finance, engineering and building and construction industry still remain popular,” concludes Venter. - Curtsey of Gauteng Business News

Scream Media is currently looking for an intern to join our marketing department,  contact us on 021 559 0800 for more details.