OK Google, get ready for Voice Search

Amazon Echo with Alexa voice control“OK Google”, “Siri”, “Alexa” “Cortana” and soon “Bixby” are all commands that wake your device up and prime them to expect a voice command.

The reality is that your Android Phone, Google Home, Windows 10/X-Box, Apple iDevice, Samsung Galaxy and Amazon Echo are always listening, it’s just the command that alerts them that an instruction is incoming.

And because phone keyboards are harder to use than those of their desktop/laptop cousins more and more people turning to voice control and voice search purely for ease and convenience.

As a consequence, it’s vitally important that you understand what you need to do to make sure that your site is easy to find – even when the search is through voice recognition.

Voice Search and Artificial Intelligence

Google Home with "OK Google"Google, in particular, is using artificial intelligence to better understand our spoken instructions and to encourage more conversational searches, such as “Where can I get my Jeep serviced” rather than a more traditional desktop search “Jeep servicing Bristol”

According to Google, 20% of searches on Android devices are now voice searches and the number of searches continues to increase as users realise that voice recognition accuracy is improving all the time. According to KPCB Internet trends 2016 Report, the accuracy of voice recognition now exceeds 92%

Searching for local businesses

A lot of people use voice to search for local businesses, “where’s the best Pizza restaurant in Bristol” for example so, if you sell pizza in Bristol you need to ensure that your pages are optimised for “Best pizza restaurant in Bristol” and written in “natural language” (written in a similar way to the way you’d speak) which really helps with voice search results.

Optimising for Voice Search

iPhone waiting for a "Siri" voice commandWith “traditional” SEO, you’d have researched the words that people were typing when looking for your products or services and built your site optimisation around those. Now you have to get your head around the types of question that they might ask, just as if they were asking their friends, family or colleagues, as demonstrated in the above example about Pizza restaurants.

One way to start addressing this issue is to consider a dedicated Q&A page where you can pose these questions and add your answers – remembering to keep them more conversational than you’d perhaps feature elsewhere.

The pages that you have optimised for voice in this way need to feature in your Site-Map so that Google and Bing can easily find, and index, them. You do have a sitemap (sitemap.xml) don’t you?

You should even look to include microdata, schema, rich snippets and so on because these little pieces of code give the search engines even more information about your business.

Hi, I'm Cortana, ask me a questionYou’ll also need to ensure that your listings on Google My Business and Bing Places for Business is up-to date and accurate because that’s where Google and Cortana will look for the  location-specific search results. You should also check out the other business directories that have your business listed, Yell, Thomson, Yelp etc and make sure that your address details are correct. This simply ensures that there’s no ambiguity about the right address for your business.

Responsive Website Design

Don’t forget that because most voice searches are conducted on a mobile device, you MUST have a mobile-friendly site because if your site isn’t mobile-friendly (Responsive) then Google won’t direct people to you. You can use this free Google tool to check the mobile friendliness of your website and if you need further help with your site, SEO for voice search, making your site mobile friendly or anything else related to your website then you should give me a call on 01793 238020 or drop me an email - andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk

And Finally

A bit of fun. If you use Google voice search and make an animal related enquiry, try adding “fun facts” to the end of your search to learn something about the animal you have been searching on.

How much did your last cup of coffee cost?

Cybercrime is everywhere these days, in 2016 the cost to the UK was over £1bn with more than 5.5m cyber offences taking place in the UK every year. That’s almost 50% of ALL UK crime.

There’s lots of advice on passwords, I regularly write about them, and other security measures that you can take but did you know that even a trip to your favourite coffee shop could end up being far more expensive than the price you pay for your Triple Grande Decaf Soy Latte Macchiato and blueberry muffin.

Cup of coffee and coffee beansImagine the scene, you’re between meetings and decide to drop into your favourite coffee shop for a cup of coffee, a cake and to tap into their Wi-Fi to read your emails, refresh your knowledge in time for your next meeting or simply to surf the web.

Spoof Wi-Fi Hotspot
Sign fro free wifi hotspot
When you sit down and try to log-on to the Wi-Fi there’s frequently a selection of hot-spots to choose from. How do you know which is the free service provided by the venue and which is a spoof.

It’s very easy to set up a Wi-Fi hot-spot using a mobile phone, Mi-Fi type of device or laptop and allow other users to connect through this free connection. This means that all of the traffic can then be intercepted by the person providing the spoof account – what sort of important information is passed from your laptop through this connection? It could be your details to access your online banking, the log-in to your company network or the necessary information required to access your corporate email account.

Time for a comfort break

Laptop and cup of coffeeThen the urge hits, you look around and see that everybody seems respectable enough so you head off to the toilet thinking that your laptop is safe on the table. After all, nobody would nick in sight of all those customers, staff and CCTV cameras would they?

You’d be wrong. Laptop tracking service provider, Prey, found that areas offering free Wi-Fi were the second most common target for opportunistic laptop thefts – the only riskier place being left in a visible place in your car.

If stolen, it’s not only the inconvenience of replacing the laptop, reinstalling your applications and copying back your data [you do back-up your data don’t you?] it’s the additional costs that aren’t covered by your insurance.

The Ponemon Institute, a US cyber crime consultancy, put the real cost of the loss of a laptop and it’s data at nearly £31,000. This was broken down into £4,000 for the loss of Intellectual Property, forensics and legal bills adding around £1,500 with a staggering £24,500 attributable to the loss of income, customers and competitive advantage associated with a data breach

So, the next time you stop off for a cup of coffee and decide to log-on using their free Wi-Fi, just make sure you know which network that you’re connecting to and that you don’t leave your laptop unattended.

Bluetooth Beacons

Belisha BeaconThe most well known type of beacon is probably the Belisha, the orange ball, containing a flashing light mounted on a striped pole and drawing attention to a zebra crossing.

Well, there’s a new type of beacon in town – the Bluetooth Beacon and businesses can use them in interesting and exciting ways.

What is a Bluetooth Beacon?

Basically, a Bluetooth Beacon is a low energy device (using button batteries that last for up to a year), that can be fixed almost anywhere and which transmits data and/or information to nearby “portable electronic devices” within 40-100 mtrs. Mobile phones and tablets in other words.

Major retail stores are starting to use Beacons to track customers as they move through the store. The Beacon can “push” marketing messages as customers get within range of relevant displays. Your iPhone may use a beacon to determine what section of a grocery store you’re in, see if anything on your shopping list is in that area, so you don’t forget it, and even push a discount voucher to encourage you to buy a particular brand.

Your Android phone could use a beacon to show on a map where you are and provide directions to where you want to go – in your language.

It’s not just for retail outlets though. If you are in business to business you could use a Beacon to push a message out to visitors offering a subscription to your newsletter or  encourage a visitor to install your App. Museums could use Beacons to trigger pictures, audio tracks or videos as you walk past particular displays and exhibits.

You can even use Beacons to provide keyless access, your phone could use a beacon in your car to know it’s your vehicle and send an unlock signal to it, for example.

How do you use a Bluetooth Beacon

The first thing you need to do is decide what you are looking to achieve. You could

  • Push deals and offers
  • Share news
  • Encourage Newsletter Subscriptions
  • Drive engagement at events and shows
  • Help blind people explore locations
  • Push visitor information
  • Unlock doors

Use is only limited by your imagination!

At a trade show, for example – simply place your Beacon on your stand and push your message to any attendee who comes within range of your Beacon.

What’s the likely cost

Avvel X BeaconBeacons can be pretty inexpensive – the Avvel X Beacon (left) for example –

  • runs off a CR2477 button cell which lasts for up to 30 months,
  • has a range up to 100m,
  • is waterproof,
  • is easily programmable
  • 42mm square and 13.4mm thick
  • From £20.00 + VAT


The Next Step

Well, I’ve just ordered one of the Avvel X Beacons to see how it works and what can be done and as soon as I’ve learned how to get the most from it, I’ll post an update here.

In the meantime, if you need any help – get in touch. Give me a call on 01793 238020 or drop me a line, andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk

And remember.

Beacons just send out information, they don’t know who you are, don’t connect to your device, can’t harvest mobile phone numbers and don’t steal any data

How clean is your phone?

iPhone waiting for a "Siri" voice commandIt’s with us up to 24 hours a day but have you ever given any thought to mobile phone hygiene?

Just think about everything you touch during the course of an average day, keys, door handles, keyboards, pens, credit/debit cards, cash and so on. How many other people have touched those things? How hygienic are they?

Have you ever checked your phone in a bathroom or public toilet? Don’t worry, you’re not alone if you have, apparently most people have checked their phone in a bathroom which goes some way towards explaining why 1 in 6 phones have faecal matter on them.

Green Bacteria possibly from a dirty mobile phoneAccording to research, the average mobile phone has 18x more harmful bacteria than the handle on the door of a public toilet.

Se we go to the loo and then use our phone and pop it into our pocket or handbag, somewhere that’s nice and warm, in other words an ideal breeding ground for bacteria.

A little later, we take our phone out of it’s bacterial breeding ground and hold it to our face to use it. Some of the bacteria transfer to our hands, some to our face where it can cause acne, some of the bacteria is now on our hands so we can transfer it to others when we shake hands, touch money or other door handles

Because few of us bother to really clean our phones (wiping the screen doesn’t count) the germs keep building up and they include E-Coli (great for upset tums), influenza and MRSA (causes rashes and skin infections)

So, the next time you have a spot or rash on your face or go down with an upset tummy or the flu, don’t look at who you’ve been in contact recently, take a long hard look at your mobile phone

So, what should we do? Well, you can buy anti-bacterial wipes specifically designed for electronic devices, or you could use standard rubbing alcohol and a soft cloth or paper towel. Use cotton buds to get in to those nooks and crannies and, finally, don’t forget to take your cover off and clean that too.

How to set expectations and fail to deliver

Old petrol pumpI don’t like filling my car with fuel, but not for the reason you might think!

It’s not the cost, that’s just an unchangeable part of life, no it’s the temptation when I go to pay. Chocolate bars, crisps, sweet drinks, gadgets and all those essential “must haves” strategically placed between the door and the till to tempt you.

That’s why I much prefer “pay at pump” options and can’t wait for the day when all garages offer this.

I need fuel recently so imagine my delight when I saw that Shell are partnering with PayPal to enable “pay at pump” simply by scanning a code on my phone, telling the App how much I wanted to spend and then just filling up without going in to the shop.

Shell call this “Fill up & Go” and it’s being rolled out across the UK later this year.

Shell Fill and GoI discovered this by reading a card attached to the pump that I was using, it had a picture attached to it, not unlike the one here with the added message that there was more information “in store”

When paying for my fuel, and successfully avoiding temptation, I picked up a leaflet that answered a lot of my questions and which told me “If you want to be one of the first to use it, visit our website to register your interest, www.shell.co.uk”

So, when I reached my destination, I went to www.shell.co.uk and was instantly, and automatically, sent to www.shellsmart.com where I learned I could get a Shell loyalty card, find out more information about Shell’s “Partners” and other information but NOTHING about paying at the pump via PayPal

So, I scrolled down the ShellSmart page and found a link to Shell.co.uk and finally managed to reach the Shell website.

I expected to see information about “Fill up & Go” front and centre, but it wasn’t.

Where was it? I still don’t know, I scrolled down the page, I clicked on some links, I read some text and finally gave up in frustration. What a waste of time.

Why couldn’t Shell have had info right in front of my eyes or used a dedicated URL on their leaflet, www.shell.co.uk/FillAndGo for example?

Not difficult, not even clever but it would certainly have saved me from frustration and meltdown with yet another corporate entity which has a good idea but fails in the execution.

 

RIP HTC One

HTC One M7About 3 weeks ago my phone, an 18 month old HTC One, just died. There were no hints, no clues it just died. The battery was nearly full, I’d not added any new apps or done anything different or unusual, it had just chosen that particular time to shuffle off this mortal coil.

I swore a little and went to Google for help and tried various arcane combinations of button presses but the phone was totally and irretrievably dead, deceased, it was no more, it was an ex-phone.

I called my mobile phone company to ”explore my options”. I knew it was out of 12 month warranty and I couldn’t use “un-merchantable quality” (which I have used for a variety of out of warranty items in the past) because I’d dropped the phone a couple of times and it was showing its age.

I was informed that I was eligible for an “early upgrade”. I got a little excited and asked what that meant. It meant that I could actually buy myself out of the remaining 6 months of my contract for ” just £240″, pay “just £20” for a new phone and another £2 per month on my, now new, 24 month contract. A quick calculation showed that I’d pay more than £300 more over the life of the contract.

So, I decided t go for Plan B but I didn’t have a Plan B so turned to eBay instead.

My thoughts were to find a cheaper phone and then go back to my carrier at the end of my contract and go for a free upgrade, as we all do when contract renewal comes around..

I quickly hit a speed bump – all the phones that did what I needed them too do cost pretty close to the £300 so there wasn’t anything to gain.

Blackview CrownHowever, I did spot a lot of relatively inexpensive non-branded phones from Chinese manufacturers. There were the direct iPhone clones, Samsung Galaxy clones and even phones from a brand called HDC – guess what they did? I steered away from these and focused on phones that had a spec that matched my needs and ended up paying just over £100 for a Blackview Crown.

And it’s worked out pretty well. It has no major drawbacks or performance issues. Battery life is shorter than I am used to but I have a car and portable charger so the reality is that its not an issue. Its not 4G, but my HTC wasn’t either. The screen isn’t as good as the HTC, if you look at the specs, but its good enough in the real world and that’s what counts.

It will do until my contract is up for renewal which is when I’ll probably switch back to a more recognised brand at zero cost. The big benefit to me is that I’ll be able to choose the time that I upgrade which means that I can wait until the 2015 models are released and take my pick from one of those.

If you are really interested, here’s a detailed comparison here is a side by side comparison table.
Blackview Crown HTC One M7 Comments
NFC No Yes Did not use
4G No No
Battery Life Lasts less than a day Last a day
Camera 13Mp 4Mp More pixels does not equate to better, but it’s good enough
Screen Size 5″ 4.7″
Resolution 1280 x 720 1920 x 1080
Screen Glass Toughened Gorilla Glass I just have to make sure I don’t drop it
Touch sensitivity OK Really good
Looks Looks average Looks good
Peripheral availability Very Poor Pretty Good
RAM 2Gb 2Gb
Storage 16Gb 32GB
Micro SD Yes – to 64Gb No
Android Version Stock 4.4 4.4 with HTC Sense It’s unlikely that the Crown will be upgraded to the latest version of Android
Processor ARM Cortex A7 1.7Ghz MT6592 Quad Core 1.7Ghz Krait 300 It’s not as good as the HTC but in the real world it’s more than fast enough
Sim Dual Sim, unlocked Single Sim, locked
Sound Average Excellent speakers
Headphones Realy poor Beats – Excellent
Weight 158gms 143gms
Feel OK Feels solid and well put together

Responsive Design – what is it and what’s all the fuss about.

When the internet was quite new, we were working on screens of 800×600 resolution – thats 800 tiny dots [pixels] wide and 600 highcomputer monitors. As screen technology improved we moved to 1024 x 768 and then wide screen monitors began to take over.

Web developers faced a bewildering range of screens and no solution was ideal.

If they designed sites for smaller screens then websites that were viewed on wide screen monitors had large expanses of empty space, if they focussed development on the wider screens then small screen users were left with two options, scoll across the page horizntally or go to a different site. The majority voted with a click and chose to go elsewhere..

Sony Ericson P990iSmartPhones are going through a similar metamorphosis. screens are getting larger and resolution is getting higher which means content [words and pictures] has a tendency to look smaller. One of my early Smartphones, a Sony P990 had a screen that was 2.7″ with a resolution of 320×240 whilst my current phone, an HTC One has a screen that’s 4.7″ across with a resolution of 1080 x 1920, the same as a full HD TV in other words.

This means that desktop sites designed for widescreen monitors do “fit” on the screen but the text is so tiny in most cases as to be unreadable. Yes, i know that I can use my fingers to zoom in and zoom out, but like many people, I find that’s just too much of a faff and websites that don’t make it easy for me to read and navigate simply get ignored.

So, how do you go about making sure that your website isn’t ignored by mobile users? 

There are three options, although one of them isn’t really an option, it’s simply to turn a blind eye to the problem and ignore everyone that uses a phone. They won’t like that, and will probably ignore you and Google will probably ignore you too – and neither of those are good for business.

Mobile version of www.enterprise-oms.co.ukThe second option is to have a mobile version of your website developed and hosted at http://m.yourwebsite.co.uk. This is not too expensive to achieve and can easily and quickly overcome many of the obstacles. www.dudamobile.com will even get you on your way for nothing, nada, zero. It took seconds to produce the simple version of this very site and, with a little more time spent on editing, it would become extremely user friendly and usable.

However, I have opted for the thrid, and for the moment, the best option, using something called Responsive Design.

website using responsive designSimply put, Responsive Design is built in to my site, it’s not a stand-alone mobile only version which makes it suitable for tablets as well as phones. Responsive Design is able to assess the resolution and size of the screen being used to access this website and automatically re-size the site to make the navigation easy and ensure that the content is easy to read.

You can see the result of one of the pages to the left. A word of caution though, it does mean that your website will have to be completely rebuilt and it could add to the cost so it might only be an option when you are ready to revamp your site.

However, don’t leave it too long. You’ll get left behind and your clients may very well choose to vote with their fingers so give me a call on 01793 238020 or email andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk if you want some help meeting this challenge.