Website Design

12 websites digital marketers should be reading

Photo by Ewan Robertson on UnsplashThe Internet is awash with blogs, news sites, and social media outlets but which websites can give you new insights and help to steal a lead over your competitors? We have compiled a list of 12 sites which we think will give you the competitive advantage. Bookmark them, follow them, Flip them or just visit them!


Wired has been around since the early 1990's and continues to offer cutting-edge articles on a range of subjects from business to culture. It is well-known for articles on the latest developments in technology. Gotta be one of my favourites!

Sample article: The Blockchain Explained

Harvard Business Review

An excellent read especially if you're looking for articles on strategy, working effectively and HR, to name but a few. Many of the articles are free though sometimes, for more in-depth articles, you will need to subscribe.

Sample article: Why a Gen-X CEO Hired a Millennial to Help Him Keep a Learning Mindset


There was a time when Fortune had a pure focus on "C-suite" business news. Like many other publications/websites it now seems to offering wider reading options, though many of its articles are aimed at chief executives, chief financial officers, etc.

Sample article: Here's Why Twitter Won't Suspend or Delete Donald Trump's Account

MIT Sloan Review

Fascinating articles on a range of subjects aimed at "academic researchers, business executives and other influential thought leaders about advances in management practice, particularly those shaped by technology, that are transforming how people lead and innovate." A very good read for those doing level 4 and level 6 CIM qualifications, along with marketing and business under/post graduates.

Sample article: Are You Taking the Wrong Approach to Digital Transformation?

Bloomberg BusinessWeek

Bloomberg produces titles on subject like markets, tech and business. Though quite a lot of the articles are US focused, often on US politics/business, there are still interesting reads to be found here.

Sample article: Facebook Is Still In Denial About Fake News


This magazine seems to have a focus on start-ups, franchisees and would-be entrepreneurs. You will find the usual "get rich" and investment articles but you'll also find interesting articles on digital marketing and interview tips, networking and tips on growing your business.

Sample article:  The Face of Intelligent Marketing? Your Customer


A quick look at the sections of this American website/magazine will give you an idea of the primary focus of its articles: Startup, Lead, Grow, Innovate and Technology. Articles are often varied, relatively easy and short to read.

Sample Article5 Productivity Tips to Get Your Work Done (Now That It's Dark at 4 P.M.)


Guess what? It's about advertising! Anything and everything to do with advertising. It also has a healthy mix of articles relating to digital marketing which is always of interest to our clients. Stats and case studies make it of interest to students.

Sample articleThese Digital Billboards From McDonald’s Change Depending on How Bad the Traffic Is

Fast Company

This is one of my favourite magazines (alongside Wired) and, as their site says, "Fast Company is the world’s leading progressive business media brand, with a unique editorial focus on innovation in technology, leadership, world changing ideas, and design". So, there you have it!

Sample article: For Amazon, The Future Of Alexa Is About The End Of The Smartphone Era

Entrepreneurship - NY Times

Entrepreneurs, start-ups, innovation, funding and small business - these are the topics you will find on this website. Like its parent site, the Entrepreneur section offers meaty and interesting articles which are also well-written. Not as frequent as others but worth a read.

Sample articleA Paintbrush in One Hand, and a Drink in the Other


If Big data, Cloud, Deals, Dev, Enterprise, Entrepreneur, Gaming, Mobile, Security, Small Biz, and Social float your boat then Venture Beat may be the place for you to check out. Definitely worth a read.

Sample article: AI Weekly: Digital assistants are changing business, but they still need human help


TechCrunch covers the business side of technology. When news breaks about the latest digital innovations/disruptions TechCrunch is often the first to break it. Its Crunchbase offers great insights into people, investments and companies in the tech industry. Another "must-read" publication.

Sample articleTwitter fixes another important problem with support for 50-character usernames

New Academic Year, New Website!

For those who have visited the site before, you will have noticed that the site has changed a little. The previous website was designed (and moved over to in 2010. It has performed very well and brought a decent amount of traffic in from Google searches. The original platform was developed using WordPress and featured the blog on the home page; in fact the blog categories could be accessed from every page. As many of you who use WordPress know, there are two key areas for many users: posts and pages. In our case, the same as for many companies, pages were used to flag up services and the blog was used to discuss topics related to the company, industry trends and to offer insights into new trends - especially relating to SEO, Analytics and Social Media.


However, one key factor has made change inevitable. Back in April 2015 Google announced that it would be "expanding its use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal" and sites which were not mobile friendly could see themselves being penalised. Coupled with the fact that mobile overtook desktop a few months prior to this it was inevitable that our site would have to bite the bullet and move over to a responsive theme. And bite the bullet we have!

The new site now features our core business services on the front page and the blog has been moved to a section heading in the main navigation, though the top 3 blog posts can be seen further down the page. A key consideration was to get visitors to the services they required as quickly as possible - whether it's through the 4 services or our forthcoming courses. Facebook feeds have been taken off the home page and feature now as a channel link in the header and tweets now appear in the footer. We have added 2 new menus to the site to aid navigation from the home page and from underlying pages and, unlike many sites, we have retained the original blog categories within the blog section.

For those using mobile devices they will notice that the site automatically resizes according to the resolution of your screen and the main navigation collapses to the standard 'menu' for mobile devices. We hope you like the new site and welcome your thoughts on what you think we could improve on.


9 Things An SME Should Do BEFORE Using Social Media

I run Social Media workshops and have done for the past 6 years and in this time I have trained hundreds of people. Yet it never cesases to amaze me how many people want to start using Social Media applications when plainly they need haven't put the digital marketing building blocks in place. B2C companies want to create a Facebook page but haven't sorted out their primary web presence, B2B's want to set up a Twitter account when they have no idea who is looking on their website or where they came from. I decided to come up with a checklist of 9 Things an SME Should Do Before Using Social Media and encourage you to read them and, if you can, add some more ideas in the comments section.

Build a Decent Website - it goes without saying that you should employ a designer/developer who knows how to build websites - that are attractive, easily navigable and can be picked up by the search engines. On the Digital Marketing Planning module we teach, we discuss the idea of customer acquisition and conversion objectives and look at how you should be focused on targeting the RIGHT audience (through Search Engines, Social Media, Directories, Online PR, etc) and sending them to the RIGHT website.

Your website should tell people who you are and what you do. Navigation to products, services and company profile should be clearly visible and easily reached. Don't forget the mantra of Steve Krug, website usability expert: Don't Make Me Think. To a certain degree you should design your website like others as quite possibly customers may be searching sites of the same genre. Don't forget that powerful solutions can be built yourselves by using tools like WordPress, which are designed to be spidered easily by the search engines.

Consider Calls To Action (CTA's) - let's assume that you have managed to get the right customers to your web page, what next? What do you want these Highly Valuable Visitors to do? As a business you should know what you want customers to do on your site and you may also consider where people may be in the buying process - viewing, researching, evaluating, buying or post-buying. CTA's may include contact forms, phone numbers, email sign-up forms, downloadable pdf''s, buy buttons, reserve buttons, call-back facilities, product evaluators or even calculators. They may include Social Media share buttons and widgets, product videos, press packs, images and much more. Their inclusion should signify that you have carefully considered your target audience and thought about their needs and expectations on arriving to your site.

Do your on-site SEO - have you thought about the content that you will display on your website? Do you actually know what keywords people are using to find your site?  Have you used online tools like Google Suggestion Tool or Google Trends to discover words? You will need to think about creating high quality page titles, using keywords that your target audience may type in to Google, headlines which match and content which follow the theme. You will need to pay attention to the use of keywords in anchor text (though not for the page you're on), image alt attributes, meta description and the URL. And make sure to keep away from keyword stuffing!

Do your off-site SEO - this is primarily achieved by people linking to you. Through company websites, blogs, news sites, directories, associations, even Wikipedia. You also have to add in to the mix social media and online PR. Ideally, people will want to link to you for the quality content and relevance of your site. They will, hopefully, link to you using anchor text, which looks like this: Social Media Course London. You may want to use tools like MOZ's Open Site Explorer to discover what your competitors are searching for and start speaking to those who rank highly for your targeted keywords. Here are some top tips from MOZ on the subject:

Get your customers to link to you.
Build a company blog. Make it a valuable informative and entertaining resource
Create content that inspires viral sharing and natural linking
Be newsworthy.
Find directories or listings of relevant resources.

Add your site to Google Webmaster Tools - tell Google that you're the owner of your site. All you do is add a html page to your site, a html tag or connect your analytics and your site will be verified by Google Webmaster Tools. This resource allows you to upload sitemaps to Google, view 404 errors, find out who links to you and a whole lot more. It also allows you to control which sitelinks you DON'T want to appear in Google searches for your website. Webmaster Tools also allows you to add sitemaps of your website.

Google Places for Business - if people use a Keyword + Local Search word, e.g. "Cardiff Hotels", they will probably be served up with a SERPS page that has a few organic listings at the top (under the Google AdWords) followed by around 60 7 Google Places listings and then more organic listings underneath. People are increasingly clicking on these listings to get to website content. Make sure that you have claimed your Google Places listing and added descriptions and content. You may also want to encourage your clients to leave reviews on Google reviews, too - these will display when you type in your local searches.

Google AdWords - OK, we've completed all of the above and we still want more traffic. Well, Google AdWords could be the tool which will help you get to those customers who your SEO and Google Places can't reach. It can also help you target people in different countries and help you entice customers away from your competitors. But beware! You have to carefully plan and structure a Google AdWord campaign and think carefully about what you want to achieve. AdWords are triggered by keyword searches, in much the same way that organic listings are, and work on the principle that the advertiser only pays when their ads are clicked - the cost of each click can range from a few pence to upwards of £20 or more for high value words.

Set up Google Analytics - if you're driving traffic to your site, you will want to know that it is the right traffic and to find out what people are doing on your site. Google Analytics is an application that allows you to see where people are coming from, what keywords they used, what countries they're from, and what they're doing on the website. It lets you know which keywords resulted in which sales, where people came out of your website and which online activity works best for you (Google Organic, PPC, Email or Social Media). Every digital marketer needs to have as much information as possible to tell them how their online presence is working and Google Analytics does this - for FREE!

Email Marketing - we mentioned customer acquisition and conversion before, well Email marketing is one of the key tools for customer retention and extension. With your website presence you should be able to develop a quality database of contacts - from people purchasing, downloading documents, trialling your products, enquiring or just adding their name to your email list. These are people who ave taken the time to learn/buy/understand your business and its offerings and they are also people who will listen to you. Email marketing is one of the great tools of digital marketing and, when used correctly, can deliver huge rewards to your business.

Do You Think of Your Products & Services in Terms of Problems and Solutions?

Two week's ago I delivered a presentation to the CIM Digital Bootcamp at UWIC in Cardiff on Google AdWords. I shared the platform with Gareth Morgan of Liberty Marketing and I spoke about what AdWords were, where you'd find them , what they were used for and calls to action. On one of the slides I asked people to consider their products and services in terms of problems and solutions (this is a copy of that slide).

As marketers, sales people, business owners we often feel that we have a good grasp of what our target market want and the keywords they may use to find us. However, I think that more often than not we are too close to the action to see the real picture. The words and phrases that we use may, and more often than not are, be completely different to what our target audience uses.

Sometimes we see solutions in terms of products and services. And this is where problems often lie. We know how to find our products and services on the web because we are surrounded by them and talk about them day-in-day-out. However, what we need to do is think outside the box and ask what the product or service means to our target audience.

Here's a good exercise. Ask yourselves the following questions and come up with the answers.

Why do people buy aspirin? (there should be a few reasons)

Why do people buy weedkiller?

Why do people buy a bluetooth headset?

Why do people want to join the gym?

Why do people buy Harry Potter books?

By asking ourselves these questions we may approach the buying and selling of our products online in a different way and even be more receptive to the needs of our target audience. Adopting this approach could (should?) also result in information being displayed differently on your website, the creation of newer and better user journeys on your website and even the creation of better AdWords and Social Media campaigns.

Related Courses
Google AdWords Masterclass (London and Cardiff)

The Wayback Machine – For Those Who Have Wondered How Websites Used To Look

Have you ever wondered what websites used to look like? How have they evolved over time? Or how long have they been about? Unless a company or organisation has kept a record of old website designs or a web developer has maintained an archive of client work it can be difficult, if not impossible to find this out.  Well, there is a resource out there called the Wayback Machine (and it has been around for many years) that allows you to type your URL into its search box and discover what the web pages from this site used to look like in the past.

I must say that I often use it to check the date of a website or to see how a website has evolved over time.

This is what Google used to look like in 1998:

In 2000 the BBC website looked like this:

The Wayback Machine also visually shows you not just how far a site goes but also how often it has been crawled by the Wayback engine:

Your Business Is More Important Than A Web Developer’s

This is a theme that I have revisited a couple of times before and am sure I will return to it in the future. I have had a few meetings and telephone discussions with clients over the past month with regards their web developers and, in quite a few cases, have even observed the 'handiwork' of these developers by visiting client sites. One in particular has spurred me on to write this article.

Let's start by saying that there are thousands of web developers out there who are doing superb work and I am fortunate enough to work with a few of them. They listen to their clients, excel at what they do and have a real appreciation for what is required by their clients. However, there are also quite a few out there who are the opposite and they are the ones who can and will damage your business.

It may help if I give some examples of what really irks me:

Web developers who thrust solutions on clients.

I have one client who rarely hears from their web developer throughout the year. When they ask the developer to implement something new - sometimes an SEO improvement that I have identified - the web developer questions the reasons or even dismisses it. However, they will often get calls by the developer saying that the they have come acros the 'next big thing on the Internet' and the site must have it!

Web developers making modifications to websites without client approval.

Yes, you did read that correctly! I have a client whose web developer makes modifications to the website - sometimes aesthetically, once or twice to do with structure and then lets the client know. This should never happen.

Web design companies who seem hell bent on screwing clients for as much money as possible.

This is another chestnut. You don't hear from a web developer for months and then have a courtesy meeting to see how things are going. The upshot of the meeting is that you need some brand new system (which probably you don't actually need!) and it will cost you a grand or two. And I know that it will only take the developer a couple of hours to rehash and plug this element into the client's site. Come on, now!

Web developers who don't understand the basics of SEO

Pretty websites that your wife and mother may like, don't necessarily generate business. The number of attractive websites, sometimes flash often not, that I have seen which don't have the basics of SEO in place, will go into 3 or 4 figures. We are talking here no page titles, no headers, iframes and poorly constructed html. It can be quite distressing for companies to learn that their shiny, new website that they paid thousands for is worthless on Google.

The neighbour or student who builds a website.

This happens so often. Your neighbour's son or a student will build a website for you for next-to-nothing. Be very careful, this person may understand html, java, flash and photoshop but they probably do not understand business. It will almost certainly cost you little but the flip side is that it could cost you (in terms of brand damage and revenue) a LOT.

Web developers who do half a job.

The other day I spoke to one of my clients and they told me that their developer had instigated some work for them to make their URL's more attractive. They had converted the URL which was something like "" to "". OK, I thought and then looked at the site. On checking I noticed that yes they had done this but they had also turned all page titles (and these were good, descriptive ones) to ones which only had "Company Name - Your Results". Not only that but they had managed to add somehow add new sub-headings above the main page H1 headings. This error was replicated across thousands of pages of the site.

This list could go on (please feel free to add your own observations) but it needn't be like this. I really do wish that web developers would up their game. I would like them to be better at their work, to not see customers as opportunities to make a fast buck and to understand the bascis of SEO. I would like them to have more dialogue with customers and to better understand their needs. I would hope that they wouldn't get seduced by the latest technology and see clients as guinea pigs who will help them test it out.

So, what can a client do to overcome these problems?

  • Make sure that you clearly understand what you require your business site to do and let the developer know this.
  • Become more knowledgeable about the basics of site design and SEO. Once a developer knows that you have a grasp of some of this, they may well be less inclined to bullshit you.
  • Check out other web developers. How good do they appear? What do they client sites look like? If you like the client sites, telephone them and ask them how good the developer is. You may want to be direct and ask what is your Google ranking like, how much traffic do you get and how much money do you make.
  • Know your web design costs. Find out what is a reasonable cost for adding an email button, news module, blog or Twitter feed to a website (hint: probably not too much for a standard site).

There are a number of objectives that a website can fulfil from brand building to cost saving but one of the key metrics of a successful business website is how much money it makes you. One final point, if you're not happy with the service you're getting, with the fact the company may be fleecing you or the time it takes to fix the mess that they may have created, consider moving your site away from them. It's probably a lot less painless than you can imagine!

Beware Web Developers Who Know Nada!

Over the past few weeks I have had the misfortune to come across web developers who frankly should be working in some other industry - and do you what, I don't know which industry deserves them. In practically all of these cases I have been asked by a client to look at their websites and identify what could be done to improve them. In most cases the word "Redesign" has come straight to mind.

It is quite incredible that in 2009 the knowledge of some web developers seems rooted either in 1999 or worse, in print design! Also, I have been shocked by the staggering amounts of money that clients have parted with for amateur websites, which will generate no money, awareness or enquiries for them.

So, how can clients stop being duped by sub-standard web developers? Here's a brief guide as to what to look out for.

  • Identify web developers who have created websites that appeal to you? Take a look at their portfolio and have a look at their sites. Have they created websites for people in your industry?
  • Click on the websites and have a good look around. Are the links working? Does the site load quickly? Is it easy to find what you are looking for? If it's a website on generators, can you find the products you want?
  • What about the calls to action? Are they crystal clear? Do you know what you have to do on each and every page?
  • Right, you've found the contact us form, why not pick up the phone and dial the number of the web developer's client:

"I am thinking of going with the web developer who built your site. Would you mind if I asked you some questions?"
1. Has this website been successful for your business?
2. Are you ranked highly on the search engines?
3. Was the developer professional
4. Did they complete the website to plan?
5. Were they expensive or reasonable?

  • With regards the above you may also want to factor in any advertising they may do off or online - is this going to naturally drive traffic to the site and so skew the results?
  • You may also want to ask friends or business colleagues about people they have worked with. However, you need to weigh this information carefully. I once spoke to a company and had the following conversation:

ME: How is your website going?
Client: Very good. It's been up for a year now and we really like it.
ME: How many orders or enquiries has it generated?
Client: None so far but people do say they like it.
ME: Then it's not working for you. It is clearly not doing anything for you.
Client: I suppose so. I didn't think of it like that.

  • Check out whether the web developer understands basic SEO. Do they create individual page titles for each and every page? These are page titles from my website (notice how they change for each page):
  • What about meta descriptions? These are useful for accurately describing what your company/organization does in the organic listings. Can you add them yourselves?
  • Do they know what H1 tags are?
  • Ask them how much they will charge for adding Google Analytics? Free is good, anything north of £150 you should question why.
  • What about a Google Sitemap and verification of your site? Do they know what it is and how much do they charge? What about Google Webmaster Central?
  • How do they work? What about creating templates or kick-off meetings? Who is going to be in charge of project management - one person or many?
  • Are they going to create a new website for you under a brand new domain name? If so, beware! Your old site may be crap but it may have a bit of Google history" behind it.
  • If they're building you a content management system (CMS), make sure YOU no them try it out beforehand. Ask yourself, will it be difficult to update when the site goes live.
  • Domain names - if it's a new site, consider carefully where the Top Level Domain (or TLD) will reside. If you're targeting UK, best to stick with If it's international, then .com. Country-specific? Consider the TLD of that country.
  • Make sure that you have everything written down as to what you expect the web developers to do. Find out what the maintenance fees and ongoing hosting charges will be.
  • We are in economic crisis. What happens if the web developer goes bust? Have you got a copy of the website? What happens if it is a CMS or Word Press site?
  • Make sure that your domain name is registered to you and not the developer.

And don't forget you know your business better than any web developer. DO NOT give the web developer some basic information and expect them to build a site for you. This is a recipe for disaster. You need to put a lot of work in yourself, working out the products you have, what you want people to do, the issues people have with buying from you and how you will overcome them.

If any of this is too daunting, I would recommend you hire a middleman to work with you and the web developer!

First Impressions On the Web Do Count

I was in a meeting yesterday with a client and prospective Web developer and we were discussing how the way that people searched for information had changed. The client was convinced that the Internet was the way forward for their high-value purchase, B2B products. They also said something very interesting and relevant, “first impressions count as much today as they have always done”.

We were sat in a room where the key, "traditional" tools for competitor and/or B2B search/research could be found – Yellow Pages and Kelly’s. Even though these are increasingly being seen as tools of the past, along with local libraries, I still speak to clients who view the Internet with reluctance/cynicism and still use these methods (if I don't have my machine in front of me, I use them as a last resort). Common phrases from these clients include: “that’s not the way that people in my industry find out about companies”, “people haven’t got time to use the Internet” or “our clients tend to speak to others in the industry for recommendations”.

All of these are perfectly good arguments but, let’s not beat about the bush, the Internet has changed everything – and especially so if you’re living in the UK, USA and other countries that have fully embraced the technology. When people are looking for company information they tend to use the Internet, when they receive a business card from you they check out your Web address and when someone recommends your business they will check out your company on-line. So many B2B companies develop websites which so badly reflect their product and service offerings and often leave potential clients bewildered, underwhelmed and convinced they will not work with that organization.

The bottom line is this – your clients are going to check you out on the Internet, Google is the favoured tool for doing background and market research  and first impressions do count.

When Web Developers Should Get Back To Basics

I have two objectives in writing this article: the first is to have a
small rant about web developers and the second is to prove that by
writing relevant content this article will leapfrog ahead of at least one of the sites that these web developers created.

Earlier this week I was trying to find information about two events: the first I will be attending in Swansea and the second was an event where one of my client's had one a prize. Let's take a look at both events.

Lead On 2007 - Liberty Stadium, Swansea
This is an event that is being held in Swansea's Liberty Stadium. It is being organised by the Institute of Directors, Chartered Management Institute, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, Wales Management Council and the Chartered Institute of Marketing company called Cazbah. According to the website (more later) the event is geared towards leaders and managers. Speakers include Richard Scase, David Magliano, Dina Matta and Ian Williams, amongst others. It is billed to be one of Wales' top business events of 2007.

Showcase Wales and National Tourism Awards 2007
This Visit Wales (Wales Tourist Board) event was held at Bodelwyddan Castle, North Wales between the 2nd-4th October and according to their website:

The National Tourism Awards for Wales are all about showcasing the very best that Wales has to offer. Turning the spotlight on the stars of Welsh tourism and showing what can be achieved through, hard work,
ingenuity and commitment.

At the 3-day event the Showcase Wales and National Tourism Awards 2007 website said that around 250 international travel agents and buyers would be there to do business with Wales' tourism companies.The Awards Ceremony was hosted by the BBC's Huw Edwards and Rob Brydon supplied the comedy.

What are the problems with these site?

Lead On 2007 - the website for this event is almost entirely made up of Jpeg images. We are not talking about standard images here but graphic images of text. The only part of the Lead On 2007 site which is not made up of images is the navigation. Further SEO faux pas include not using keywords like "Swansea" or "Liberty Stadium" in the page titles and no meta descriptions.

I am sure that there will be many people like myself will use Google to get information about the Lead On event in the coming weeks and will be unable to find the site. If you're reading this the web address is: Good SEO practice would  dictate that  I include a link to their site but this would probably give them a small boost on Google - forget that!

Showcase Wales and National Tourism Awards 2007 - I must admit that over the past week the SEO ranking for this event has climbed up and the site does feature number 1 on Google for the search terms "Showcase Wales" and "tourism awards wales". However, I would say that this has more to do with links from those sites who won awards, press releases and news sites than good SEO on their part.

The big problem I had with this site had to do with its design and content. I felt that for a major Wales Tourism event the Showcase Wales website was, and is, a major disappointment. It had no WOW! factor, lack of good images and information was generally very old. Let's take an example - I was interested to find out who the finalists for awards were and instead of the names was offered an application form (entires closed in June!).  I won't discuss some of the issues that potential buyers may have had.

As for trying to find press releases on the site I have given up and now am relying on my client's own.

One of the problems with sites such as this is that PR and Marketing companies try to create web sites either in-house or get graphic designers to design sites for them. And invariably, these people are usually ill-equipped to do projects like this - they don't have the necessary web design, usability or SEO skills to do projects much justice.

The Solution

Le Web 3
If you're looking for ways to create good event sites, take a peek at the Future of Web Apps site. The Le Web 3 website and the Search Marketing Expo site offer straightforward, easy-to-use examples of how to build event sites. The French site was actually built using the same technology as this site and aside from design the cost of the site (except booking) was probably under £79 per year!

For the terms "Lead on 2007 Swansea" this site is number 1.