Friday, 14 December 2012

Oh the Irony... SEO

Someone called this morning to tell me that search results for our web site were not good (we know this). She continued to say that what we needed was some SEO then launched into an explanation of the benefits of SEO.

In the original post on this blog, in 2010, I mentioned that our website had been in need of redevelopment for four years (make that six now!). This is particularly embarrassing because we develop websites for clients and have started work on a new website design more than once, in fact, whenever there's a dull moment - but there's always another client requirement to fulfil. Obviously, I'm not complaining about that!

Our main source of revenue is SEO! So, yes, I actually know what it means and why it's important but there are two reasons it's not currently applied to our website: our website needs a total revamp and most of our business is by referral.

Surely, if the caller had bothered to look at our website, she would at least have had a clue that we know a bit about about SEO? Well, actually, no... the site was created around 2002 and last revamped (cough) more than seven years ago when terminology was different - we used words such as 'optimisation' and 'e-marketing'.

So, ironically, as the cobbler's children needed shoes, the design and marketing company needs to put its website in order. The one thing we don't need is a caller from an unknown agency who won't stop talking long enough for a polite refusal. I had to talk over her to say goodbye as I hung up.

(Note to self: New Year's Resolution - website revamp!)

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Business Adviser or Business Advisor?

This advisor/adviser explanation makes sense but how can you trust someone's English when they write alternate instead of alternative?
"Advisor" is usually listed as an alternate spelling of "adviser"

(Oh well, OK in the USA, I suppose.)

However, if you want to make up your own mind from a wealth of opinions and references, read this 'English rules writing guide' including the comments about different ways of spelling certain words.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Soapbox: Written English

I'm a little pedantic about written English.

Spelling, finger trouble and proof reading aside, some very common grammatical mistakes (which I'll try to ignore if spoken) irritate me immensely when written by 'professional' writers.

First of all, when the subject of a sentence is a company (singular), why do so many people refer to it as 'they'?

Even BBC news readers/writers don't seem to know when to use 'fewer' rather than 'less'. Generally, less refers to a single noun and fewer relates to plurals, e.g.
     There is less money (is...less);
     There are fewer people (are...fewer).

'Compared to' is over-used and wrongly used instead of  'compared with'. The differences are explained well on the Daily Writing Tips website. (If in doubt, use 'compared with'.)

Use 'similar to' and 'different from' (or 'different than' in the USA) but never 'different to'! The word 'alternate' is often wrongly used in place of 'alternative' when describing an option. A full explanation with examples can be read at

The use of who/whom doesn't bother me (if in doubt, use who) as 'whom' is generally considered to be one of those words confined to history, another example being 'unto'. As a guide, however, try associating the word 'whom' with 'him' and 'who' with 'he', either as a substitute in a statement or in the imagined answer to a question.

Some people are confused about when to use 'me' or 'I' in a list but this is a really easy one to work out. Just consider which word you would use if you were alone. It's polite to place yourself at the end of a list but there is no grammatical reason to do that. Here are some examples:
     The dog and I walked (you wouldn't say 'me walked');
     It was too far for the dog and me to run (you wouldn't say 'it was too far for I to run').

The importance of punctuation was famously illustrated in "Eats Shoots and Leaves" - oops, sorry - "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" by Lynne Truss.

The most common error seems to be the use of an apostrophe in plurals, particularly when using numbers or initials, such as: PCs or 1900s. Notice that I've also dropped the full stops between letters, which has become the norm now, as it makes it much simpler. You can write PCs but if you write P.C.s it becomes very tempting to use an apostrophe to clarify that the 's' isn't part of the mnemonic.

An apostrophe is generally required in place of missing letters (e.g. isn't, don't, can't) or to signify possession. Here are some examples:
     Music from the 1960s (no apostrophe; 1960s is plural);
     Listen to 1960s' music (plural possessive!)
However, it could be argued that 1960s refers to a decade, singular:
     Listen to 1960's music
which can probably be justified (I realise that I've used it this way on several occasions) but it's ambiguous because it could also mean music from the year 1960. I think, in trying to make it clearer, I've just stirred up some muddy waters!

Apostrophe: if in doubt, leave it out! That way, it just seems like you've missed it, which is less embarrassing and less noticeable than erroneous grammar.

The word 'its' is an anomaly because it seems to contradict the general rule. Use it with an apostrophe only to represent 'it is'. Think of 'its' in the same way as 'his' (e.g. his hair is red, its leaves are green).

Of course, there are always exceptions that prove the rules and I make a lot of glaring errors in blogs and on Twitter (often lazily) but I'm willing to improve!

Friday, 11 May 2012

The UK Property Market

The UK property market is stagnant. Earlier this year, there was a glimmer of hope when the low end of the market saw an increase in first time buyers trying to complete in time to save some Stamp Duty but, since then, properties are languishing on estate agents books and many home owners have become reluctant landlords.

At the other end of the age scale, retirement housing is plentiful and, therefore, reasonably priced. People can't move in because they are unable to sell their current property; people who have moved to care homes need to sell to pay for care. This is not traditionally a rental market but, even so, one month's rent approximates to one week's care home fees.

If you are preparing to sell or rent a property, a splash of neutral paint is an inexpensive investment. It would also be a good idea to thoroughly clean carpets, not just to remove stains and make them look better but to freshen the smell for potential buyers or renters.

There is another option. If you need to sell a property, there are companies who will buy at a reduced price, about 25%-30% below market value. It's a good risk for them if they have long-term financial backing, as they can sell cheaply or rent it out until the market becomes buoyant again, currently estimated at around 5 years.

Friday, 3 February 2012

keeping track of time: working vs interruptions

The type of work undertaken at The BPc falls into two main categories:

  • website creation for an agreed fixed fee 
  • optimisation / link building for a set number of hours per client per month

In a small office with limited resources, there are a number of interruptions during any period and an accurate record needs to be kept of how much chargeable time has been spent on working for each client.

Various methods were tried, from paper-based worksheets to spreadsheets but what was needed was a simple start-stop stopwatch that could be operated with a single click.

There are free downloads, simple to install, that enable a semi-transparent box to reside 'always on top' in the bottom right of the computer screen (or bottom-left for left-handed mouse users); click to start the time, click to pause, whenever necessary. A reset button sets the stopwatch to zero so that the next project can be timed.

It is also possible to work with more than one stopwatch, in case the interruption results in you switching to another project (suggestion: set the boxes to different background colours).

This method of keeping track of actual time spent per project has resulted in regaining valuable minutes that used to be wasted each working day, locating the time sheet, typing in numbers, etc., making for a calmer environment.