How to know when you’re being fleeced by an SEO salesman

If you’ve managed to get hold of a copy of the Internet and web designer’s bible, .Net Magazine, this month you may have noticed my cheery mug staring at you from with its wisdom laden pages. That’s because yours truly provided a column on how to spot when someone is talking through their proverbial in their efforts to sell you SEO.

It’s a common problem with business owners, website managers and even new start-ups as search engine optimisation, despite the efforts of some companies to bring transparency to the industry, is still steeped in the mire of underhand tricks and perceived dark arts because of the actions of many. Therefore, when people look for SEO services for their website they’re often confronted with someone spouting techno babble, half-truths and out right porkies in an attempt to get their business.

Anyhow, have a look at the article and be sure to pick up .Net this month if you get the chance. It’s not just great because I’m in it – although that is a solid enough reason!

dot NET-Magazine December issue

Getting British Business Online offers free websites

Getting British Business Online (GBBO) offers free websites and domain names for businesses in the UK – but are they any good?

I remember when I first discovered the possibility of owning a website. It was, I believe, back in 1997 and someone at university suggested that I should get a website for a film that I was working on. His idea intrigued me, as I would be able to create a ‘website’ for this film, showing photographs and screening dates, and host it on the World Wide Web for anyone to see.

However, my initial excitement was tempered when I realised that I would have to pay for this new privilege. I would have to pay for a domain name (which back then was a lot of money for a student), I would have to pay for a hosting account and I would have to, most likely, pay one of the interactive arts students to show me how to use a web authoring program – and who knows what it would have been back then, probably MS FrontPage or some equally tripe rubbish.

So the idea sort of died a death, which was a shame. I eventually did create the website for the film, but it was about a year or so later – too late for the film’s big screening. Now, if I’d had the opportunity that the GBBO offers now I would have snapped their hand off, as a free domain name and free website would have gone down a treat for me back then.

The trouble is of course – the type of websites offered by the ‘Getting British Business Online’ initiative are actually circa 1997 anyway, if the designs I’ve seen are anything to go by. You see, while getting a free website back in 1997 would have been a big boost to my then business efforts, the web has evolved a long way since then. Now, in 2010, you need more than a basic template with some free images to make a website successful – and I’m not talking about a professional design here either.

No, for a website to be successful these days you need a sterling SEO campaign, one utilising the latest techniques in terms of link building and content – and the sorts of websites offered by the GBBO simply don’t allow for that level of on-page SEO work. Plus, when you consider the sorts of prices you can pay for hosting these days, the ‘offer’ of a free domain and free website isn’t exactly the huge boost it would have been 13 years ago.

With a registrar such as 123-Reg (who I would in no way recommend using by the way) you can pay around £5 for a domain name for two years. That’s peanuts in the grand scheme of things. Then there are hosting companies offering hosting for just a few quid each month. That is again nothing, comparatively speaking.

Of course creating the website could be tricky – but when you consider the fact that CMS systems (content management system – systems) such as WordPress and Drupal are free, and each has thousands upon thousands of free templates, you can easily create your own website, without any knowledge of coding, in a few minutes – a website with cleaner code, and a far better starting point from an SEO point of view, than anything offered by the GBBO.

The worst part is perhaps the fact that when people register their ‘free’ domain name with GBBO, and decide that the website they’ve been given isn’t suitable, they then can’t transfer the domain away from GBBO for at least 60 days!

Getting British Business Online is a good idea, but one that is probably a decade too late and one that has been implemented very poorly. Any business that relies on one of their free websites for its business site is going to find it very hard to compete in the marketplace – especially as that marketplace gets even more crowded as a result of new business start-ups brought about by the recession. Complaints

A while back I posted about two Michael Jackson dolls that arrived from in the sort of condition you’d expect to find if they were involved in an earthquake. I telephoned after receiving little joy from their online help due to some idiot just sending stock responses and not actually reading the emails.

I had only slightly more success from the telephone helpline though as the woman on the other end claimed that had no control over how items were packaged. She didn’t seem to understand that a plastic bag was insufficient protection for two collectible figures and couldn’t guarantee that any replacements wouldn’t be sent out in much the same way.

Anyway, have a watch and see what you think.

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

I’ve yet to receive a replacement, though HDNL did turn up and collect the battered items as expected last week. It’s three weeks since my initial order, and more than two weeks since I notified of the damaged delivery. I wonder how long this will take.

SEO Ellesmere Port

Using geographical keywords in search engine optimisation is one of the most difficult to things to make natural, and something that many inexperienced SEOs fail to do quite spectacularly.

The use of geographical keywords is help your website rank for searches on specific services in conjunction with locations, so if someone is searching for ‘SEO’ and they’re located in Ellesmere Port, they would most likely search for ‘SEO Ellesmere Port’. Of course, in order to rank for a phrase such as this you need to use the phrase in your content, but ‘SEO Ellesmere Port’ is not grammatically correct – you would have to use a stop word such as ‘in’, making the phrase ‘SEO in Ellesmere Port’.

However, if you want an exact match on your SEO keywords, you’ll want to try to get the phrase into your content without the stop word – but doing that while maintaining the integrity of your content can be difficult. There are ways to do it though, as you can use punctuation instead of stop words. For example:

One of the most important marketing services is SEO. Ellesmere Port companies often look for…

You can use the Internet to look for local companies offering SEO; Ellesmere Port for example has several of these companies.

By using punctuation such as this, you are able to use geographical keywords and make them read naturally.

Home Delivery Network complaints on BBC Watchdog

Home Delivery Network appeared on BBC Watchdog tonight, with a number of people complaining about their lack of service. Incredibly though, not one of the customers complaining about HDNL mentioned anything about the sort of stuff we’ve seen here on this website, such as the abuse from drivers, threats of physical violence, racist comments or the magical disappearance of parcels… except maybe for the woman who’s boyfriend ordered the laptop that vanished without trace. Tesco even said to the BBC, and is printed on their website:

Tesco customers rightly expect the very best service. We deliver to millions of happy customers every week so we were very sorry to hear about Ms Treacy’s experience and inconvenience. We sent the laptop out just a few hours after she ordered it so we are investigating with YODEL why it wasn’t delivered.

Well Tesco, if the thousands of comments left by angry customers on are anything to go by, I think the location of that laptop is probably fairly easy to determine. I would indeed investigate with YODEL, formerly HDNL, as to where it ended up.

As most of the complaints aired on Watchdog tonight were fairly mild by comparison, you can read a more forthright and colourful collection of Home Delivery Network’s indiscretions right here on

HDNL driver wants comment removed

Ever since I first posted a solitary blog about the idiot at Home Delivery Network, now called Yodel, who launched a parcel over my gate on that fateful cold, wet Manchester evening this website has been bombarded with quite literally thousands of comments from dissatisfied customers and unsavoury delivery drivers.

Some of the drivers have been abusive, sinking to the depths of racism against customers who’s names appear to be of ethnic origin, and some have even been open and honest about the poor infrastructure at HDNL, blaming their impossible workloads for the poor service.

One such driver recently emailed asking for comments to be removed, even though what he had said was, in my opinion, fair comment. He asked:

Please can you delete my comment i made on 23rd october as i have been in trouble at work for making a comment. Thanks.

Of course, he hadn’t actually said what his comment was, or on what post it was made, so it took a while to find it – there have been many HDNL posts and thousands of comments about them. Anyhow, find it I did, and this is what he had said here.

All i can say is – Ive worked for HDN for several weeks now. Every morning at 6am it is madness, at the Wrexham depot we have 70 vans where only 16 fit in the depot so you can imagine the cue outside of all the vans waiting to load! They do their upmost to get every parcel out and delivered. The company has just invested £11m on a new system called Quinteg which tells the company where every parcel is and where the exactly the property is and what parcel is to be posted / collected on time and most importantly making sure the drivers do their job properly! They have also bought the other courier company DHL so together they will become one big company called YODEL. The Wrexham depot is also increasing in size to fit all vans on and they have just won contracts with M&S, Tesco and Argos. So…before you go knocking the this space….a massive improvement 🙂

Now what’s wrong with that? His comment is almost intelligent when compared to comments from other drivers, such as ‘Redman Nottm’ who threatened to knock off someone’s ‘wrag head’ for complaining about a delivery.

Good on Welshlloydy for his comments – it’s a shame more weren’t as honest as him.

Now, while I’m on about HDNL, listen up because I’ll only say this once. I have something to say in their defence… I know, make sure you’re sitting down. While there’s no excuse for the language and offensive nature of their drivers on this website, you can excuse the level of frustration they must feel dealing with ‘some’ customers if a recent email I received was anything to go by. I actually received an email, to, from someone complaining about the fact they kept getting parcels meant for another address.

And no, they weren’t trying to enlist the help of a blogger to expose the mistake… they believed this website WAS Home Delivery Network.


The email read:

Mr Daz Enquiry: Wrong Delivery Address

I seem to be getting a delivery always for Thomson of 48 ******** Street Helensburgh. The delivery van on two occasion this week left at card at my door which my house clearly states “Arden” which is part of my address of 46 ********* Street no house number shows because of a Ivy tree that grows around the pillar. Your delivery person has broken this tree down in order to look at the house number. I am extremely angry as this tree is part of my feature to the entrance of the house. Please make sure that the delivery address for the Thompson’s should have all the appropriate delivery instructions. I will also in turn speak the the Tompsons of 48 ********* Street, they should also be using their house name. I will also send you on your reply a photo of the damage tree. I can be contacted on ***********. I would appreciate a reply soon. Yours Truly, Maria ****** ****

Please do send the photo Maria; I’d love to see it out of curiosity.

Pilates classes? Me? In Lancashire?

Those that have only known me in the last few years may be surprised to know, but I used to be relatively fit. I would attend the gym at least three times each week (sometimes as many as five times) and would also take twice weekly Wing-Tchun classes in Newport.

Alas, due to a lack of interest in Newport the kung fu classes were moved to Cardiff (and I didn’t drive at the time) and life decisions best left alone here resulted in me moving away to Reading and beginning the next chapter of my life, a professional career in Internet marketing.

Me in Cannes, a 'while' ago

As with most people working online, my daily exercise began and ended with the twice daily trip to the vending machine for some Frazzles, or a packet of ‘Snowflakes’ (which ruined Jon’s figure, but that’s another story). My days of going to the gym and lifting weights ‘I really I shouldn’t have been allowed to unsupervised’ were well behind me, and the middle aged paunch began to set it – aged 24.

Anyhow, ten years on and now living in Manchester, or Lancashire (depending on your understanding of the every changing counties in England) I’m finding myself yearning for the days when I used to be fairly healthy and I could take my shirt off near a swimming pool without feeling as though I had something to hide (18 inch scar on my back notwithstanding).

So, I’m looking at possibly joining a gym again, maybe doing some other form of exercise such as pilates, or even taking up Wing-Tchun once more. The only thing worrying me about the gym is that my last attempt to rejoin, while initially successful in terms of buffness (if that’s a word) it also affected my back and caused me to seriously injure myself on a rowing machine… I know, I was probably doing wrong. I’ve looked at the different types of pilates classes in Lancashire and I’ve found it, on first glance, to be a more serene form of exercise without the impact to the bones and muscles that you’d get from the gym.

Then of course there’s kung fu. While I’d love to get back into that I think I may have to get fit in order to do it, rather than do it to get fit.

Then again, is this a desperate attempt to recapture youth rather than an informed and well educated decision to regain some much needed fitness?

Michael Jackson dolls damaged in transit

Well this is a turn up for the books – I have a complaint about the delivery of some items and it doesn’t involve Home Delivery Network… will wonders never cease? This delivery was in fact down to Royal Mail, but alas they’re not actually to blame either. No, the fault lies with and the amateurish way in which they’ve packaged two ‘collectible’ (as it says on their website) Michael Jackson dolls.

The dolls, one with the Thriller outfit and one with the Billie Jean outfit, have just been released as a more affordable alternative to the £250 Sideshow Collectibles figures. Even so, they’re still £30 each (so £60 on two dolls is a sizable chunk).

You would expect something branded as a collectible, and coming in a presentation box, would be dispatched in a carefully packaged box, filled with either bubble wrap or polystyrene chips – however you would be wrong. Instead decided that these dolls would be perfectly fine sent through the post wrapped in nothing more than a plastic postage bag. No protection, no padding, nothing.

I missed the delivery on Monday so collected them from the Post Office today, only to find they were somewhat worse for ware. The Thriller doll in particular had been crushed on the bottom section, and isn’t exactly in the condition I would describe as collectible. The Billie Jean was slightly better, but both have damage to the tops of the boxes as well.

Now I have complained to and I’m awaiting their response – so I’ll update with their comments here. I am hoping however that they’ll admit some sort of mistake in the way they’ve posted these as you cannot expect to sell collectible figures and post them in plastic bags. You wouldn’t accept that from an eBay seller, never mind a retail website with almost a decade’s worth of experience in selling online.