Favourite blogs for Rob McGonigle on Internet Search & SMEs

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May 13, 2022

DDAV Audio Visual sub–site launched on ddaerials.com

Writing about web page https://ddaerials.com/ddav-audio-visual-installers/

Is is better to create a completely new separate website or to create a subdomain?

I have helped clients to create more than one website but this approach can take some time to be effective. Web Designers can create some attractive designs that can guide the visitors into and through the site, however additional SEO work, links and posts will be required to get this into the indices.

Digital Direct Aerials have acquired https://ddac.co.uk to supplement their https://ddaerials.com main site.

In this case I have optimised the existing Audio Visual tab and pages for the new domain.

When findable on search this can, in the future be spun off as a separate website or be left as a part of the main product portfolio.


March 10, 2019

Delaying an Energy switch by a week plus 4 week switching time costs £32 extra over previous tarrif!

I was happy with Scottish Power after my switch over three price fix contracts.
Each time the offer of a new fix was pretty near the best on the MoneySavingExperts’s Cheep Energy Club.

Cheap Energy Club

This January there was not a tempting offer but a confusing comparison to their default variable tariff, both a lot more than the old deal as I was about to find out.

I got around to searching for a new Energy Provider and made signed up for a switch on the 7th February. One problem that the whizzy graphical energy used displays were useless for getting an accurate comparison. I had login in and check the last 4 bills to get the data.
AVRO Energy

I went for Avro Energy, based in Hinkley, so pretty local.
Their electricity tariffs were particularly competitive and as I have just switched from an old brute of a Canon Powerflue Gas Fire in the lounge for occasional additional heating to a pretty new electric this tipped my decision.

Avro seemed to kick the switch off promptly however it took exactly 4 weeks to complete.

When I was asked to upload the initial meter readings to Avro I also went onto Scottish Power and loaded their final figures. This was when I got out my calculator and compared the 2 weeks before the switch to the standard tariff to the 5 weeks and found it cost an extra £32 for the 5 weeks.

The 28 day switching time was 10 days over the latest Ofgem average for the highest of the Gas and Electricity switching times.

Clearly, we should be kicking off a switch a month before the end of the last contract, detailing the fix end date. The other problem is that the customer’s data can be deliberately obscured. Ofgem should regulate for simple complete annual summaries with data in the form that the switching sites need.


September 06, 2017

Colgate Total Proof — Of Marketing Madness?

When shopping we failed to get our usual Colgate Total toothpaste so my wife picked up the new Colgate Total Proof.

The blurb went: “TURNS BLUE AS YOU BRUSH SO YOU CAN SEE AND FEEL IT CLEANING”.
This was followed by 9 bullet points, 8 of which have been true for the whole Total range.

It then went on to warn that this blue foam could dye your clothes.
They were not kidding! After a full 2 minutes using an electric toothbrush I was left with small dark blue dots on the washbasin that took some washing off.

This is clearly a marketing gimmick to add to the options you can have without moving to another brand.

Their range now includes at least 11 different ‘Total’ variants:Supermarket shelf confusopoly
Colgate Total Advanced Clean
Colgate Total Original Care
Colgate Total Whitening

Colgate Total Advanced Travel
Colgate Total Proof
Colgate Total Daily Repair
Colgate Total Deep Clean
Colgate Total Pro Gum Health
Colgate Total Sensitive
Colgate Total Freshening
Colgate Total Healthy Clean

Advanced Clean, Deep Clean, Healthy Clean? I cannot be bothered to select from all of these. Combined with the absence of my usual variant this is no way to maintain brand loyalty!

I find myself trying the Sensodyne daily care used by 2 others in the household. It works and does not leave blue dots around. I may also check out some own brands.


May 16, 2017

Two meanings for 'closed' confirms that the 'losers' in tech battles often win elsewhere.

Writing about web page https://ddaerials.com/googles-5-gold-stars/

Google+ listing for Aqua Restaurant, CoventryAnd the Winners are:*
Facebook over Myspace
Google over Yahoo
Trustpilot in paid testimonial management over Checkatrade
Facebook over Google+
TripAdvisor for travel & restaurants.
Twitter & Sina Weibo in micro blogging.
etc.

When the modern tech giants get a lead and find the way to monetise it they are difficult to knock off their perch.

Last week a report on paid testimonial management found that Trustpilot had an impact on search visibility that was up to 300% better than their direct competitors. I advise small businesses to think carefully before committing to send out invites for independently verified reviews. To stay on the treadmill of inviting customers to give feedback, promptly managing the real complaints and the fake, whilst keeping up the 150 reviews per year to please Google.

There is one other, free, option; Google+ the loser to Facebook. As the Google Executive who was tasked with challenging Facebook learned when his young daughter asked “Why, daddy? Everyone’s already on Facebook!” He quit for Microsoft.

To get Google’s 5 Gold Stars on your Ad or organic search listing requires over 150 reviews in a year, see below. Google will withdraw these stars immediately if they detect that invites are no longer being sent out. Reviews are best fresh.Five Gold Stars on Google Adwords

Yet on Google’s local business listings you can get the 5 Gold Stars with far fewer reviews as you can see from the local result from the same search. So I do recommend that my clients also send out invites with links to their Google Local pages. They just ask if they have a gmail address or Google account login. Another loser who continue to serve businesses differently is Checkatrade. They never even made it onto the Google list of recommended review sites; supporting postal and phone verification and the less connected. Checkatrade also allowed me to find a good local electrician to help my mother in law in Sandbach. You cannot search for good businesses on Trustpilot except by searching down a list from Yell or Google.

When planning my trip to Prague last month I used guidebooks and TripAdvisor to get up-to-date reports. Closer to the date I used Google maps.

Google Local Listing with Stars based on Google+ reviews

Google has supplemented their logged in community of Adword experts with YouTube and then Android phone users. So this is how they can report when a business is open and when it is most busy, see the restaurant listing, above, right. I was recently taken back to a review of an excellent café in a Copenhagen park that I had added to TripAdvisor only to see the status ‘Closed’. Unfortunately, this was not about their opening hours!

My first experience was of the microprocessor battle between the 2 architectures RISC v CISC, Motorola v Intel. Then the first loser was Texas Instruments who turned to the smaller 4-bit processor for washing machines, TVs, microwaves etc. We courageously used both the x86 and 6800 on the same project as alternate sources. We found that initially that the network performance of the Intel was 5 times faster when our architecture experts were betting on Motorola. The difference was a better driver code or software. We got both working but Intel won long term and Motorola moved on to Apple and elsewhere.

New players can still set up new niches but more and more these will be bought up a great expense by one of the giants filling out the gaps in their platforms.


February 25, 2017

Supermarkets, Data–mining to In–store Locations & how it can go wrong!

Tesco’s have been the trailblazers in gathering loads of data with their Clubcards and in terms of offers, coupons and promotions have over the years matched up their promotions pretty well for our household.

Morrisons is a late entry to big data with their More card.

Morrisons have also been growing their free-from, gluten free, etc. ranges.

Some time back I was looking for some ready meals for lunches when I was alone in the house. The other 2 cooks in the house produce home-cooked veggie, fish and seafood meals so I was looking for traditional meat meals whilst trying to avoid carbs that are too high GI as I have diabetes.

Kirstys Classic Adult Meals

I spotted the Kirsty’s range that looked tasty, in Morrisons, on offer, with long fridge dates. I tried these and liked them but they were not on the ready meals section of the chilled isle when I went back to Morrisons. I did occasionally find them in Asda.

I returned to Morrisons this week and went around a different way to spot the fridges in their ‘free-from’ isle. And there I found the missing Kirstys range.

I paid, also useing my More card, and by the time I got home, I found an email expounding the growth of their ‘free-from’ range. Their algorithm assumed wrongly that the purchase was to avoid gluten etc. This ignored the stronger signal that every time we shopped in Morrisons we bought their wheat, spelt and rye bread.

They are also missing the point that this range are also ‘an interesting alternative’ and potential sales to folk who do not routinely need to go down the ‘free-from’ isle.

In fact supermarkets, including Morrisons, are placing the same products in more than one location to suggest combinations and to increase sales. Waitrose are the most enthusiastic at this. However, in their small Sandbach store I was frustrated when failing to find their garlic prawn kebabs after looking in 3 places where fresh prawns were displayed. I eventually found them in the fourth!


February 15, 2017

Blocked drains? Finding the underlying problem using CCTV Drain Cameras

Writing about web page https://www.ace-drains.co.uk/cctv-surveys/

yellow gas pipe cuts through sewerOur neighbours a few doors up in Hillfray Drive moved in over 20 years ago. Since then they have had several minor drain blockages that were easily sorted by rodding. Recently, they had a more serious blockage so they looked to bring out one of the more serious, better-equipped drains specialist.

We all saw as he jetted the drain, recovered the culprit ‘wipes’ but he wondered how so little could cause such a bad blockage? So he got out his CCTV drain camera and showed us a live colour TV picture of a natural gas yellow pipe that had been punched through their drain pipe.
My image, right is not as good as I witnessed on the screen as this is a scan of a print from the report the drains company supplied.

They got the evidence sent and have since got their gas supply separated from their drains! The lesson learned was to go for an established drains specialist such a Ace Environmental Services that I have been working with. We could soon be needing their new gutter cleaning service around here too. They use carbon fibre vacuum poles with CCTV to inspect the gutter & guide cleaning. CCTV gets everywhere these days, birdboxes, the baby’s nursery, you name it!


February 14, 2017

Gutter Cleaning, a better, safer, cleaner way.

Writing about web page https://www.ace-drains.co.uk/gutter-cleaning/

gutter cleaning aided by CCTVLiving next to a wood leaves and moss in our gutters are a constant problem. I have been approached by a couple of guys with a ladder offering to clear gutters but I declined then observed them quickly do the front gutter of a house across the street then ask for payment. What kind of job did they do?
Without getting the ladder out you cannot tell.

My next conversation was with the local window cleaner. We talked about his web presence as he planning to expand into gutter cleaning. Starting off by going back to ladders for domestic gutters, they had switched to long-reach window cleaning some years back, he was thinking of investing in gutter cleaning kit.

I mentioned the site www.ace-drains.co.uk of a client that was doing great business using the Sky Vac professional kit with CCTV. He agreed this was the best way as he had hired the Sky Vac to clear the gutters of a commercial client over on the Warwick Business Park.

They were keen on a safe, clean, fast and verifiable service, The site manager even came out to take the opportunity to make a quick visual inspection of some downpipes he had concerns about.

I would have loved to have seen the Sky Vac in action but hired the window cleaner as he was able to clear the gutters immediately.

gutters on an old churchFor more complex buildings the Ace Environmental Services service is a no brainer. A church in Selly Oak, pictured below, used to hire a cherry-picker for £750 to still have to do the messy job with volunteers!
cleaning inaccessible guttersJoe Brooks cleaned their gutters, quicker, safer and cleaner for £250 !!
See this church gutter cleaning case study for more details and pictures from Selly Oak.
CCTV display for gutter cleaning


August 19, 2015

Selecting Bananas via online shopping, green or yellow?

Writing about web page http://www.tesco.com/groceries/help/default.aspx?name=howToShop&rel=help#Q11

bananas and buckets for fruitfly collection
I was in the Coventry Arena Tesco hyperstore early Monday morning to buy bulk bananas for my son’s fruit fly banana bucket traps. As I was picking the ripest and softest bananas the only other people were ‘personal shoppers’, the staff who were filling the special trollies for the online supermarket orders for delivery or to click-and-collect.

Almost all of them came to the banana section as it is the most popular fruit.
I observed a couple of ladies carefully selecting bananas by twos and threes when two older male colleagues discussed their instructions.
“Two yellow bananas and 4 green bananas!” one said, “How am I going to do that? They will get a bunch of 6. The other commented, “Oh those picker notes, I never look at those.”

The business news story that day was again the rise of the discount stores. A market expert said that nobody is loyal to a supermarket these days except maybe to the delivery services. It takes a quite few orders to build up the lists that makes web grocery shopping easy.

The 2 yellow bananas and 4 green bananas order was typical of an elderly person who cannot get to the shops easily and it is a shame that this reasonable request was ignored.

We always use Ocado since we were hit by a delivery with up to 25% substitutions from a Sainsbury’s delivery. Coming from the one huge centre there is rarely any changes with Ocado. They also have been trying to improve the packing where every box is photographed as it leaves the warehouse. However, since the drivers can just grab the bags, and they used to pack the bananas with heavy items, the one thing we never order online is bananas!


April 02, 2015

Greater Spotted Woodpecker & Sparrow Hawk in the back garden!

Writing about web page http://www.mcgonigle.co.uk/2015/03/bird-of-prey-in-our-back-garden.html

We had seen a black & white woodpecker on a tree beyond the bottom of the garden.
We are surrounded by loud bird songs at the moment so to solve my ignorance I had downloaded the Bird Song Id App for British Birds by Isoperla . Bird Song ID App by Isoperla
Just playing the recordings and the excellent photos has helped us get up to 4 tit species and to confirm that the distinct beat on the hollow trees all around in the woods were by the greater spotted woodpecker.

This morning in the bedroom I heard the loudest woodpecker hammering. I looked out to see a great spotted woodpecker having a go at one of the 4×4” fence posts I had built as an extreme pergola that could take swings in the past. I failed to get a photo but it was the closest view I have ever seen.

This is the second non-garden bird that has visited our garden. The visit by a sparrow hawk was recorded, below. The full story of the visit of the raptor and the pigeon it tackled can be found on my family blog, follow the link.

Again, the Bird Song ID app confirmed that we had been hearing sparrowhawks regularly. Knowing these things by ear is how Gary and other birders are always so quick to spot so many birds when we are volunteering in the woods with the ‘Friends of the Sowe Valley’ here in Coventry.

Female Sparrowhawk

March 20, 2015

Solar Eclipse viewed in Trug of Water.

Total Eclipse, France, 1999The simplest safe way to look at the sun is reflected in water. For the 1999 total eclipse of the sun I took the family to France for a holiday around the event.

We went to a dark ages recreated village park in the Somme valley with large peaty pools and got a great view. Actually some ducks looking to be fed ruined our perfect mirror till the strange colourless dusk set in and they returned to their resting places. During totality we could look directly for a couple of minutes.

My best photo from the time, right, was pointing direct with an early digital camera. You can get the correct settings easier these days with DSLRs as some of today’s wonderful photos on the web have already demonstrated, especially when coupled with telescopes.

Today, I just set up a large trug of water in the street.

Solar Eclipse reflected in Trug of Water

Richard caught this more ‘arty’ shot through the thin branches.

Solar Eclipse through Branches

March 18, 2015

Trust, Ad Positions and Conversions Rates

Writing about web page DDAerials.com/Redditch

What is the Best Ad Positions for Conversions?

I noticed a change in the conversion performance of one of my best clients, Digital Direct Aerials, where their ads are now converting at the same rate in all the three top positions.

This is exactly as Google has claimed for over 10 years now. That the overall conversion rate is about the same for positions 1 through 10.

Over those same 10 years I have always known and seen that, for small companies, the conversion rates were significantly higher down at positions 2 and 3.

The reason for this divergence could be understood by asking the question; why should I go back up to the first listing?

If the number one Ad was for a company you had an account with, or trusted better than you might go back. Wider industry data confirms that the likes of Amazon, Apple & John Lewis convert better at position one.

Redditch Ad with Gold Stars advertisor reviewsMy aerials company caused me to check a number of clients to see if my old rule was no longer true. Yet, the great majority would still be throwing their money away bidding for position one. Paying more for every click and getting fewer conversions.

Only one other company was also converting just as well at Ad position one.
When I looked for the common factor, I found that you were both getting Advertiser Reviews gold stars next to their Ads. In fact both were using Trustpilot, one of the main sources of reviews that Google uses. The Ad on the right also benefits from geographic targeting as the search was for ‘aerial installation redditch’.

An experiment of increasing the bids for some Keywords, produced two-times the clicks at position 1 than at position 2 only resulted in the conversion rates at position 1 falling behind again. Clearly still a waste of cash. There was still a sweet spot for the average position, it was just a little higher.

Trust and convenience are the 2 factors that can cause searchers
to make the 2 clicks back to the position 1 Ad even after they have found
another very similar offer.

Trust is a strong factor in conversions. Customers of Digital Direct Aerials now regularly cite the genuine, unfiltered, independent reviews as the reason they made their call.


Will Google's next search update boost mobile–friendly sites beyond Mobile devices?

The new Google Mobile-Friendly Ranking Algorithm is due on April 21st.

Google have briefed that the new upcoming search change will have a greater impact that the Panda changes.

Some have assumed that this will only impact mobile search results, see this searchengineland post but I am not so sure.

Two years ago when Google were stopping us running completely isolated mobile and desktop Ad campaigns they explained that searchers were continuing sessions over multiple platforms.

Starting at lunchtime on the office PC, follow up on the phone on the train home before sealing the deal on the tablet during the Ad break of a TV soap.

Google were seeing this impact back then but I have seen the growing evidence in the Analytics of my client’s websites. Mobile device session shares are growing with some sites beating 30%. Up to 44% of visitors on an ecommerce site will return 2, 3 or more times before buying using a range of channels; search, direct, referral sites and social media. People are regularly using at least 2 of the 3 platform categories: computer, tablet & mobile.
Growing Mobile Share of web sessions

I believe that a poor mobile usability score will soon start to hurt a website’s SEO on all platforms as visitors will be disappointed when they increasingly return using their mobile.


January 01, 2015

End of the World Predictions, a safer approach?

There have been many attempts to predict the end of the world. Many prophets interpreted the Book of Revelations such as William Alexander Miller. Many of the 100,000 ‘Millerites’ made his final date, 22-11-1844 personally true by ending their own life but thankfully most lived to be a little wiser. The Great Pyramid of Cleops became an inspiration as experts measured its dimensions to predict the end in 1881, then 1936 and finally 1953.

The wisest prophets selected a date far in the future way beyond their own life expectancy so as to avoid being proved wrong.

Another approach produced a better refinement to the first prediction.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses founder Charles Taze Russell was certain about the timing of the second coming. In 1910 he stated in Studies in Scripture that “The deliverance of the saints must take place sometime before 1914”.
In the 1923 edition of his book the they changed but one word from before to “sometime after 1914”!

They could safely update this again, this New Year’s Day afternoon, 2015 to “sometime after 2014”.


November 05, 2014

Photo Frame wall–mounting problems solved at a glaziers!

Writing about web page http://www.northfieldglass.co.uk/contact-us/

Laura & John on the StaircaseI have been searching Coventry’s DIY, and picture framing shops for photo frames that can be screwed to the wall as I want to put-up some large graduation prints under the stairs. The problem has got worse after Laura & John’s wedding. See their grand re-entrance down the spiral staircase on the right.

I solved the problem when I went to visit a client, Fred Atkinson at his Northfield Glass Centre just off the A38 Bristol Road South in Birmingham. They also had the widest range of framed mirrors in their showroom that I have seen.


September 08, 2014

CCM helps win funding with verifiable open tenders

Writing about web page http://www.wmccm.co.uk/WMCCM/DesktopDefault.aspx?tabid=12

CoMech Metrology Ltd is looking to expand their UKAS Accredited Laboratory
based in Derby, Derbyshire, UK. They won some funding to help expand their services and were advised to post the procurement onto the CCM tender feed as a way to provide a verifiable open tender process.

After their responses came in and their supplier selected CoMech were asked for evidence that the tender was on the Collaborative Commerce Marketplace.
They searched but could not find it! Even a CCM expert was struggling due to the vast number of tenders that have passed through the system.

So he just Googled torque testing comech tender to see the Tender at position no. 1.

The important thing to remember is that every day the WMCCM feed is checked by Google making it easy to find the EC’s Tender Electronic Daily and other tender feeds for free. Simply log in to get the detailed contact information.


August 22, 2014

Alligning Aerial Installation and other Local Services on the web.

Writing about web page http://ddaerials.com/birmingham/

I have blogged before about the difficulty of targeting Adwords campaigns to local areas in the UK. Overall this has improved as the proportion of web visitors using mobile phones has increased. However BT’s broadband and new fibre network still cannot provide accurate location information. I have moved from the BT wholesale customer and subsidiary PlusNet to BT Infinity and apparently moved from London to outside Oxford. The line is still a Coventry number which you would think could give them a clue.

replacement-car-keysCreating good content that will attract free search visitors can also be a problem. Nathan Chan wondered why he was getting enquiries about his Midlands Car Locksmith service from the North East. These were from free Google impressions for his site. Despite many words describing his support area his good content was a better match for many search queries than the car locksmiths that were closer. He solved this with a simple map to make it clear that his drivers did not go that far north.

His brother Nik’s business had a different problem. His local pages covering each city are working well and being added to as Digital Direct Aerials has grown the team this year. Now they can support their commercial aerials customers England wide and have now ventured into Wales too!

Supporting the Shaylor Group as they refurbish student accommodation for Aberystwyth University and build a new block. The guys get in and install the multi-point aerial system during the site-access windows as they occur to help keep this complex project stay on time and the site safe.

It has come to a point where they are starting to turn new commercial business away as Nik understands the level of responsiveness these larger clients must have. When he is ready to take on more business again, bidding on the Google AdWord’s ‘province’ (sic) of England will be easy.

Aberwystwyth University Accomodation Refurbishment by Shaylor Group

June 12, 2014

Nexus 5 v Galaxy S5, Usability v Specs and software's impact

Writing about web page http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/review/2343745/galaxy-s5-vs-nexus-5-video-review

Researching some hardware questions on ‘the Inquirer’ website, I spotted their video update of their Samsung Galaxy S5 v Nexus 5 specification comparison.

Power report from KitKat SettingsThey rated the S5 better for power and camera auto-focus and the Nexus 5 better for the un-skinned KitKat, Android 4.4.2 OS.

I have seen the clearest advantage of this over the last week or so as one by one the household’s 3 Nexus devices, 2 LG Nexus 5s and an Asus Nexus 7, asked permission to be upgraded to Android 4.4.3. With all the security updates resulting from the heartbleed testing, I upgraded immediately.

The larger battery in the S5 was confirmed to do better in the Inquirer’s video-loop power test. Experience with the Nexus 5 has seen me getting 3 days between charges, with quite heavy Wi-Fi use. I use a couple of mobiles to test websites and have been testing 3 responsive sites recently.
The good power performance was helped by the excellent battery reporting settings screen that came with KitKat. It was easy to spot where power was wasted on features that I did not use.

My son’s Galaxy 4 also has proved to deliver excellent battery life under heavy usage, until, that is Samsung rolled out their TouchWiz Nature skinned variant of 4.4.2 when the battery life tanked. All the usual suspects were verified as turned off. The Nexus 5 is not immune to these software update induced problems. My wife’s phone started to need daily charging. Now she is a really heavy user on 4G and phone especially on the train but was still getting 2 days between charges. On inspection of the power report I spotted that the Google+ App had become the biggest power hog. This was easier to fix that all the cache clearing on the S4 forums.
KitKat Models

I seems that 4.4.3 is also triggering power problems on roll-out and Sony among others are blaming Google. Yet the native Nexus platforms have fewer problems as these can be tested right from the start.

Years ago I upgraded Windows 3.1 on an ex-demo HP server. I ran a dream including drivers for the rare EISA bus and other HP specials. HP had donated their whole server range to Microsoft’s bunker of tethered test machines, so all the hardware options were expected.

In those days we were using both Intel x86 and Motorola 68000 processors in 2 variants of embedded single board computers. These ran a remote archive and load facility on the System X telephone exchanges. The benchmarks has the RISC 68000 way ahead for real-time software with a better cache architecture. The applications ran 5 times faster on the Intel initially. The bottleneck was in the Ethernet LAN driver code.

Hardware performance can be as dependent on the software as on the underlying hardware.


June 02, 2014

Going Home by Kenny G, Sax to Clear Malls, Schools & Gyms in China!

Writing about web page http://youtu.be/TGIw60UKiKw

Kenny G, Saxaphone playerKenny G’s soprano saxophone tune ‘Going Home’ is being played in a loop for the last half hour to 90 minutes in shopping centres, schools, markets, gyms and workplaces across China.

No-one knows when this started but all over China this mellow sax tune now means ‘go home’.

Some workers in a finance company noted that when the tune started in their workplace there is almost a Pavlovian response to work faster. Perhaps our Masterchef watching workers might respond to messages like “thirty minutes to go”?

Some employers might be wary of the going home message when they are getting all the extra hours that we habitually work in the UK. However, our productivity levels are still way behind Germany where they go home and have a life.


February 03, 2014

Lloyds Bank still giving bad advice, to their advantage.

Writing about web page http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/feb/03/lloyds-ppi-compensation-bill-10-billion-pounds

cash“How much do you think it will cost make an electronic transfer from a Lloyds Instant Access Savings Account?” I was asked on Friday.
How much then? Thirty pounds! They charged more than for a bankers draft (cheque), at £20!

A couple of weeks ago a recent widow went into the Lloyds branch to organise an account to hold the main savings from her late husband’s estate and for a bond that is to mature shortly, both from Lloyds accounts.

The bank staff recommended an instant access savings account with the benefit of a Cashpoint card allowing withdrawals of up to £200.

Having taken advice on savings products, balancing interest return that is better by tying up the capital with the potential, finally, for an increase in rates, she decided to split the funds 3 ways.
Organising this by the safest way, an inter-bank funds transfer, would have cost £90 when the charges were made clear or £60 with 3 cheques.
At the time the account was opened, no paperwork was provided to her. Over the phone I guessed correctly that it was their Easy Saver account. I also spotted online that she would need to go to the bank and use a form, and photo id for larger transfers.

Chaps logo This is not a surprise given the money-laundering rules. There were restrictions for non-Lloyds current account holders but the charges for a CHAPS payment were only found in their general charges list, available online. Why is BACS not an option?

So they recommended her capital went into an account where the only free transfers available were to another Lloyds account. Miss-selling again?

Luckily, the next time she was accompanied by a relative who is legally qualified. They offered to make the transfer, for free, if it were all done with a single cheque. So they agreed to wait for the bond to mature to transfer all the money. Meanwhile Lloyds keep her capital for 0.5% aer.

All this becomes clear to me on the day the Lloyds Group’s provision for PPI compensation approached £10bn. It seems that the banks repayment of these PPI premiums is probably been the most effective cash-injection into the UK economy as it is to people who can spend it on the high street. How much have PPI repayments contributed to our consumer-led recovery? Given the total £20bn for all the banks so far, it is not trivial.


December 12, 2013

A Virtual Location Move with my ISP Switch

Follow-up to Locations provided for DSL visitors are much better but still flawed. from Rob McGonigle on Internet Search & SMEs

virtual location of by IP addressSearching for a local service with blocked drains Solihull I noted that I saw some Oxford company Ads and local listings.

I had just changed my Internet Service Provider from PlusNet to BT. For years my fixed IP address resolved to London. When I repeated the trace my virtual location had moved west up the M40 / A40 to Cowley, outside Oxford.

I have blogged before about how the fixed wire UK broadband services were catching up slowly in their ability to detect location information from a very poor base. Many may say this is a good thing in the light of Edward Snowden’s revelations and today’s announcement that the NSA used Google’s search preferences cookies to track people.

On the other hand it can be easier to search for local services when the search engine knows where you are. I saw a student using a bleeding-edge gaming PC turn to his android phone to search for ‘taxi’. It produced the best results.
So location-based search in the UK has moved to moblies. A restaurant search in a new city is the classic application as well as location-triggered vouchers and offers.

Its surprising that BT can’t resolve my IP address to the new box in a green in Whitley, Coventry, after rollout of their new fibre-based network!


December 08, 2013

Broadband Switching Comparison Sites. Can you trust their deals or data ?

Writing about web page http://www.uswitch.com/broadband/speedtest/#filters=merchants%255B%255D%3D12179%26merchants%255B%255D%3D12165%26merchants%255B%255D%3D12175%26merchants%255B%255D%3D12153%26merchants%255B%255D%3D12185%26merchants%255B%255D%3D12161%26merchants%255B%255D%3D12197%26merchants%255B%255D%3D12195%26merchants%255B%255D%3D12155%26postcode%3DCV3%2B4FW&speedtestID=28189601

Uswitch speed-test at 4pmI had been a frequent visitor to the speedtest pages, including the Uswitch one, when I was experiencing intermittent problems with my broadband. This was nothing to do with my Internet Service Provider, PlusNet so I continued to check when fibre-based broadband came to my area?

When it was confirmed that this was available I confirmed that I could get the upgrade with PlusNet, BT Infinity and a choice of providers.
Two weeks later the Uswitch site still only records the 2 BT Infinity offers at the ‘super fast’ levels. This contradicts their test results that shows EE with an average speed of over 50 Mb.

The failure of these ‘averaged’ test results is they are comparing two totally different services using different infrastructure. Fibre and copper or copper all the way. In my street you can expect 12 Mb download speeds on the old ADSL and over 60 MB using the new Fibre To the Cabinet service. The cabinet in this case is about half way to the exchange from my street showing how critical that second kilometre is. To average the results of these services together just measures the proportion on customers who have been upgraded.

The StreetStats can provide an interesting view of speed tests in the area overlaid on Google maps. Today I see that a PlusNet customer further up the hill has recorded 30 Mb. Is this due to their extra distance from the exchange? NO, it is likely that they have gone for the cheaper “Up to 38Mb” offer not the “Up to 76Mb” option.

So how can you judge these things?
The simplest way is to go onto 1 or more provider’s site and find out what they estimate speed you can expect for the service level options they provide.

With PlusNet costing £16 pcm for Up to 38Mb and £20 pcm for Up to 76Mb after their introductory offers I thought it was a no-brainer. I have TV reception problems too so wanted BT Vision immediately so I switched to BT Infinity for £26 pcm. I am very pleased with the service especially the 12 Mb upload speeds. My test, right, was at 4pm and is as slow as I have measured since upgrading.


Switch Energy Provider then wait but for how long? 46 days

Writing about web page https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/helping-households-to-cut-their-energy-bills

!Simple to switch
When I saw my SSE estimate for next year’s Gas & electric bills it prompted me to put the numbers into a switching site to see that I could save £300.
Reading the advice, I got my old data and plugged in the actual energy usage numbers and economy 7 percentages to increase the savings to £330 per year.

So I set up the switch to Scottish Power. How long would I have to wait?
One answers site says 28 to 40 days on average.
Scottish Power said “at least 28 days because of the cooling off period.
As I had initiated the transfer not been sold it I was notified that my cancellation period was only 7 days.

In fact the first email to say I was Scottish Power customer came 46 days after I logged onto their website to apply to switch.

This was to notify my old provider and arrange to send me bills.
They sent me 2 emails asking me to read each meter and then I logged into their switching site to record the readings so I did the work.

At the same time I switched to BT for fibre broadband.
My old ISP provided the switching code that would EXPIRE after 28 days. BT Openreach, for any of the ISPs, had to make changes. In my case; at the exchange, in 2 cabinets and get up a ladder to re-run my line from the drop cable to a new master socket. It took only 2 weeks start to finish! The engineer spent a full half day on the job though.

Scottish Power have set me up an online account so I could not initiate this myself. They still have not sent instructions about how to access this, change passwords etc., so to my mind the switch still has a way to go but the important billing point has officially switched.
The coalition raised aspirational goal to have a 1 day switching service. Dream on!.


October 09, 2013

4G Rollout arrives in Coventry along with possible TV interference.

Writing about web page http://ddaerials.com/4g-freeview-interference

A resident nearby in Whitley Village reports the upgrade of a mobile phone mast to 4G. These services are being rolled out city by city so we should expect coverage in Coventry for 1 or more providers.

This brings with it the possibility of interference on your Freeview channels close to the new 800 MHz 4G band. This could affect up to 2.3 million homes close to these 4G masts.

LET’S BE CLEAR at800

at800 Logo on filterDisruption to Freeview services can be resolved for many homes with an at800 filter.
You can get one free from www.at800.tv and this can cover all TVs connected to a single aerial when placed in the right place. You can buy additional filters where you are advised to ensure they have the at800 branding, see right.

Nik Chan, who sorted out my aerial problems, has more west midlands details on his 4G Freeview Interference page .


September 10, 2013

DDAerials.com goes Responsive using Wordpress

Writing about web page http://ddaerials.com/

DDAerials.com on Responsive Wordpress siteNik & Sarah Chan wanted to re-launch their website using responsive content that will work on smartphones, tablets & computers. They are also moving to a new dot-com domain, ddaerials.com .

Andy of Exposure247.com recommended using a responsive Wordpress theme and the content has scaled well pretty much out of the box. See the Responsinator iPhone simulation right. This is also how it looks on the spare family HTC Desire left lying around that I test on.

Typical of many default webpage templates the SEO needed improving from the Menu_Text | Site_Title default so we went for the FV Simpler SEO that works well. For a Blog based system a lot of files were set so they did not exploit browser caching to speed up page loading times. Andy sorted this and we are pleased with the new site. This is just as well as this is the first of 3 of my clients who are launching their new sites on Wordpress, one with over 100 pages!


June 06, 2013

Camping Twin–Tub Washing Machines are Big Sellers as more old washers are scrappped.

Writing about web page http://www.mgdonline.co.uk/products/royal-twin-tub-washing-machine.php

My leisure goods client, MGD Online, has noted a greatly increased demand for their Royal Camping Twin Tub Washing Machines.

Royal Camping Twin-Tub Washing Machine.These inexpensive washers were highlighted to searchers by Google Shopping Ads that take their website product feed to feature products that are in stock. This can promote many long-tail items, where there are enough competitors that also sell it for Google’s little row of picture thumbnail ads.

MGD ordered more stock and sold out. Royal nationally also sold out.
These sales were out-of-season, from late winter through our coldest, wettest, spring for many years.

We discussed who was buying these?
These can only take a 2kg dry load, so are they for one-person homes with limited space? Or is it the low £70 price point?
I considered the dwindling role of the second-hand market to the extent that more are free-cycled.
But second-hand washing machines are worth over £20 as scrap metal these days I was told!

The housing crisis and tough jobs market are seeing more people living in accommodation that is more akin to camping. So these low-cost, economical and environmental twin-tubs have become popular. You can use both tubs at the same time to process the small 2kg batches.

So what about the second-hand market?
A brief search shows that there are many good machines available. Most are in the £70-£200 price range and all must be picked up.
So portability could also be a factor where people move with the work, together with a price new that matches the second-hand price.

With access to a van and internet then free-cycling a real option.
But for those actively looking for these twin-tubs, MGD have good stock levels, ready to ship.