https soon to become obligatory

- September 9, 2016

It looks like Chrome will start showing warnings for http pages with forms on them from the start of 2017 and eventually extend this to all http pages. If your website is still only available in http, it is time now to start making the switch.

The cost of SSL certificates used to be a factor, but there is now a free service available: Let's Encrypt

There are a number of things you need to be careful of when making a migration to https (this is not an exhaustive list):
  1. Every resource used on every page needs to be https or browsers will show a warning (this also includes external resources such as social buttons, ads or other widgets you might have built into your page).
  2. You will need to check your internal linking and transition to https links.
  3. It will help if you also change external links into your page to https, although this is only usually feasible for links you control directly, such as social media profiles, etc. 
  4. Using redirects to force https should be the last step. 
It is easy to make mistakes in a transition process, so make sure that there is a clear plan and checking for each step. We would typically recommend a two-step approach where the site is prepared for https and then tested in a live environment. Once this is confirmed as working, users can then be redirected. If you need help with this, get in touch. 

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Ouch, my Wordpress site got hacked...

- April 28, 2015

For not the first time, we have recently been working with a customer whose site got hacked. Searching on their name got back results like this from their own site.

When someone searches for you and they see results which have various medications in the titles in between your real results, it can do real damage. In this case the estimate from the customer was a 33% drop in sales in the 30 days after the hack. Quite astonishing, even for a business which relies on a constant stream of new customers.

So what happened? 

Simple answer is that the site is based on Wordpress and hadn't been kept up to date. However, there have been quite a few situations in the last couple of years where even an up-to-date Wordpress install has been compromised through a plugin or other exploit. And a new one yesterday.

This all sounds a bit scary. Should I stop using Wordpress?

The real answer to that is: "it depends on your budget and how much you have to lose". Wordpress is a great way to deliver a relatively complex (and extensible) set of functionality onto the web on a low budget. Its popularity makes it a big target for the bad guys. Its extensibility with plugins is amazing for adding functionality, but for each plugin you add you (normally for free) you open up your site to a potential security hole. Should you stop using it? There is no real answer to this question: especially as there are some very big and popular sites using Wordpress...

That's not an answer!

Nope. Stopping something means doing something else. In many cases the cost of putting in place another solution will be more than running a Wordpress site properly. As far as I know, there isn't another solution out there for most 'small business' situations which will be cheaper to implement than fixing and running properly a Wordpress site. When I say 'small business', I actually mean simple online business: showing information, taking in forms. If you are doing something more complicated, there are probably better paths forward, but again it does depend on the budget.

What to do with a hacked Wordpress site?

This is not an exhaustive list, you can find those elsewhere (not least, here), but a results-driven one:
  1. Find someone you can trust to get it fixed. If your current web-shop/designer/IT guy can't give a straight answer to why you are calling them about a hack (ie why they haven't seen it) and tell you what they will do within 12 hours, look elsewhere.
  2. Time is essential. Google (et al.) don't reindex every day, so each day you are showing 'v i a g r a' in the results counts. Sooner it it fixed, the sooner those results will disappear. 
  3. Analytics and Webmaster Tools - If you weren't looking at them before, do so now. Even if you have an external company managing your site, you need to own these and get the alerts.
  4. Remove all users who are not needed. Change all user passwords and make it clear people need to use new safe unique passwords. Change all passwords on hosting, servers and admin accounts. Assume all of them are public and compromised.
  5. Remove all unused plugins. Look at all used plugins to make sure they are being updated - replace if not.
  6. A simple clean-up on a hacked site might not be enough. Any compromised install of Wordpress may be at future risk. There are hundreds or thousands of files in there. All it takes is one bit of bad code and the bad guys may be able to get back in.

Moving on, what to do?

Even if you have an external provider, make sure you have someone in your organisation who is looking out for problems on the website. That means they are looking at the search results, Google Analytics (traffic, referrals), Webmaster Tools and generally what is happening to the site.

Get someone internally or externally to be responsible for the website. This is not just looking for hacks, but also making sure indexation is happening, performance is there and there are not broken links all over the place (among 100 other things).

For most businesses, a website is there to generate business. In some cases - like the one at the start of this post - the red light only starts flashing when something goes seriously wrong. In others, they just wonder why they don't generate more new business from their site (until they realise that 30% of their visitors can't use the site on a phone).

A working, attractive web presence is hard to get right. It's not impossible and doesn't always have to be stupidly expensive.

If you need a hand - Expat Audience can help ;)  - contact us

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Get the Edge: tips to get noticed

- December 15, 2014

Many brands use tricks in order to gain points in EdgeRank.

EdgeRank is the Facebook algorithm that decides which stories appear in each user's newsfeed. To guarantee your fans will be seeing your post, it should score high on three main factors: affinity, weight and time decay.

  • Affinity is related to how much your fan interacts with you as a brand
  • Weight is measured by the general engagement with the actual content
  • Time decay is essentially related to how old your post is

One of the “tricks” is simply to post continuously to catch up on the Time Decay factor, many times with lower quality content. How does this affect users' perception?

A recent survey by Facebook has shown that people are getting annoyed by too many promotional posts. This has pushed Facebook to announce that new restrictions will be imposed on posts which are proving to be too promotional and less creative based on how many people engage with or hide these posts.

So unless you come up with good enough content that boosts affinity and engages your fans, you will lower your chances of them seeing your posts, not to mention how “annoying” posts could also affect your brand image in general…

Here are a few tips you can use to keep your EdgeRank high without falling into the over-promotional or low quality content trap:

  • Post photos and videos, these initially get more weight in EdgeRank than links, followed by plain text. Nevertheless, interesting content which generates users’ engagement can still catch up.
  • Call to action or call to like! Post a thought and ask people to assess it by pressing the “like” button.
  • Interact: Ask open questions to trigger replies, actively moderate and respond to these replies creating interactions (It it worth knowing that comments have a higher worth with Edgerank than “likes”).
  • Know your fans: Identify the most engaged, the thought leaders and tag them in your posts to strengthen loyalty.
  • Post at strategic times, when your fans are more likely to engage.
In short, as long as you keep your fans keen on your content, Facebook will detect their reactions and rank you accordingly.

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Localise! Don't translate.

- June 17, 2014

The Internet has made the world a smaller place. In many ways the 'online experience' is becoming more homogenous as well. These facts mean that many businesses don't perceive geographical or language barriers as being as high as in the past. This is a false sense of security that can lead to catastrophic mistakes. Coming back from a team hike in the mountains near Madrid, we saw this shocker:


If you don't get why this is funny, then it's a perfect example of how challenging language and social differences can be. A non-native English speaker - even one with a high level of proficiency - will not necessarily get the sexual double-meaning. A native speaker would have trouble reading it any other way.

Language is only one part of the equation. Adapting messaging to different markets is just as necessary. There are significant differences between the approaches needed to effectively market to different nationalities. This is evident even between countries which speak the same language and share a lot of cultural history.

Running ads in different languages is hard (well, actually it's hard to do well in one language). The most common approach is to translate the words, something which often ends up with very weak copy. A cerebral tag-line may work well for a French-speaker, but die a death with an American used to a more direct approach.

The most important thing you can do when thinking about other markets is to never think about it as a translation job. If you don't take a top-down approach to ensuring your whole message is right, you run the risk of failing; you know how important it is to get your text right on your website and ads in your own language. Don't forget, it is just an important in every other language.

Localise! Don't translate.

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Meet the CurrencyFairy!

- March 10, 2014

We love working with clients who really have something to shout about . CurrencyFair have developed an innovative platform for currency exchange which we think will make a big impact in the marketplace. We think their marketing team has made a good call not to try and focus on the nitty-gritty of the mechanics of FX, but instead wrapped a core 'save money' message in a truly off-the-wall ad.

Simple messaging, brand memorable and funny. We're not sure how they convinced one of the most recognisable faces in rugby to do this (or if the person who first talked to him had the guts to suggest it face-to-face in the first place!) The ad is running on TV in Ireland and the UK and we are working with CurrencyFair to market their service to specific target groups of expats in various countries.

The initial idea was to go with some very simple ad units with strong branding and short message. When we saw their new campaign, we made something a lot more fun which should provide much higher impact for the brand and drive more attention to the online ad.

Project outline: Creatives include all sizes in standard universal ad package. Will be in three languages, which will include localisation of messaging specific to each language. Creatives have several initial variants (speed, message, layout) and will be A/B tested to select optimal performance units.

James Kielty from CurrencyFair commented;
It's been great working with Expat Audience, everyone here was impressed how they quickly came up with an online campaign which fits well with the brand. We're excited about taking our message out to a wider market in more countries.

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Not born here

- December 13, 2013

Sometimes we struggle with labels like: immigrant, emigrant, expat, tourist, student or even 'transient'.

This is another way of thinking about this:

If you are are a marketeer, understand this 'other' part of your market.

220 million 'not born here' in the world, the 5th largest nation in the world. This is not a niche...

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Game of Zones: display mutating again?

- November 27, 2013

Cost Per Mille (mille Lat.: thousand) was originally used in the newspaper industry. Comparing the relative cost of reaching readers in between a national newspaper with a circulation of 1.2m and a local one of 75,000 is impossible without calculating the CPM.

(Cost of insertion / Number of readers) / 1,000
This model was transposed to the Internet with the substitution of 'readers' with 'impressions'; the number of times a banner is shown to a user.

Can you see the one at the bottom?
Display banners principally do two things:
  1. Deliver an advertiser's brand and message
  2. Provoke an interaction, normally a click
Neither of these things happen (or can happen) if the user does not actually see the banner. When it comes to a web page, the 'impression' happens on the load and rendering of the page. If a site has very long (and not very interesting) pages, the fact that an 'impression' happens at the bottom of the page doesn't help.

This has led some marketers to obsess about 'above-the-fold' placements. This is another newspaper term co-opted to the Internet world; coming from the days of large papers which folded in half. A few years ago, there was some consensus as to where the 'fold' was on a webpage, but the addition of mobiles, tablets and other devices to the mix means this is a moving target now (which means advertising needs to adapt depending on the device). Smaller screens also means more impressions may be lost; for example, on an article-type page the most common behaviour is to zoom to the column width of the article, which hides the right-column which is a common place to run ads.

There is some sense to worrying about placement, but I think a focus on engagement measurement is a more useful approach in most cases. Clicks (2 above) can be tracked reasonably accurately, but how do we approach the 'branding effect'. There are various ways to follow users around and infer effectiveness from post-impression actions or use CTR on different channels as a proxy for the effectiveness, but no simple metric to follow. Things would be a lot easier if we knew that an ad had actually been seen... Looks like things are moving that way as Google just got certified by the MRC for its 'Active View' product. Short version is that this will now be an option for CPM bids on the Google Display Network and will probably force itself cross-industry as a standard for the future. Get a more detailed run down on this development here.

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The Total Expat Experience

- November 12, 2013

A fashionable concept at the moment is Total Customer Experience (TCE). It might sound like the kind of business jargon which will induce a coma within 2 minutes, but bear with me! TCE is linked in with the idea of running Customer Experience Management (CEM) programs. Sorry, that's the last of the acronyms.

The main idea is to extract a bunch of key metrics from as many customer interaction points as possible and then use this to experiment and innovate on tactics to keep customers happier, for longer. Sounds a little like common sense and traditional best practice?
The interesting bit is the focus on metrics and experimentation – there are frequently many useful insights sat lurking undiscovered in the data. Taking a more analytical approach is a helpful compliment to the anecdotal, story-based way we, as humans, typically try to understand things.

So, how could your current or future TCE efforts work with the segment of your customers which are expats? The good news is that they should help. The bad news is you will probably need to look at the data another way. Specific factors such as the following may skew the figures:

  • Language barriers may favor one channel over others
  • Attrition in online processes may differ massively from native populations
  • Customer retention strategies may have different effects on this segment
  • Customer churn is likely to be above average as expats are internationally more mobile
Don’t make the mistake of assuming the benchmarks will be the same as they can be very different. Correct interpretation of the figures will help better address this segment. Not sure we need Total Expat Experience (TEE) to enter the business lexicon, but companies do need to pay attention to how they look at figures as the % of non-natives in customer bases continues to rise and rise.

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Who ate all the cookies?

- October 11, 2013

A few years ago, online marketeers thought they had online measurement all figured out. Cookies and more powerful analytical tools were helping to produce very accurate reporting of the impacts of online spend in different channels. Measuring conversions and performance is key when it comes to deciding where to allocate your budget. It is important to understand the two main trends which make tracking with cookies increasingly problematic: People have many more devices and they are a lot more concerned about privacy. 

From one to many
Previously, an individual would normally have access to a maximum of 2 connected devices: home and work. Today, the average has more than doubled as people have smartphones, tablets and Internet-enabled TVs and games consoles. Cookies are device-specific, so this provides many more opportunities for tracking ‘leakage’.

Online privacy
In the past, it was mostly the geeky or the paranoid who worried about online tracking and their personal privacy when it came to websites and cookies. This has changed for two reasons:

  • The misguided ‘Cookie directive’ in the European Union means people are getting warnings about cookies in their browser every day (even if they have very little idea about what they are, do or how they can be abused).
  • The Snowden leaks of information about governmental spying have made us all a lot more concerned about the privacy of our data and our activities online.

This means people that previously preferred to just eat their cookies are now worrying about what they are and what others are saying about them… This means an increasing number of users are deleting cookies, installing browser plugins to shred them or are enabling blocking. All of this makes advertising effectiveness much harder to track.

How to survive?
  • Model: If you have properly configured campaigns where you can track a proportion of your audience, it is possible to build models which can estimate and attribute effectiveness. This type of modelling is hard to get right and sometimes harder to use properly when its purpose is for decision-making. Unfortunately, there is no other choice if you want to optimise budget allocation across different media.
  • Engage: Try to engage earlier with the customer and get them identified as soon as possible. Get creative with offers, competitions, interaction with apps and social media - they can all offer potential touch points to get a unique identifier for an individual.

Picture: Casey Fleser

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