Kick start your marketing with government support

Take advantage of a Bounce Back Loan

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Covent Garden, London in lockdown
Covent Garden, London in lockdown

It looks as if we are looking not at the beginning of the end but at least at the end of the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK. The government has slightly relaxed lock-down and hopefully will further relax things as the infection rate and number of deaths continues to fall.

There is no doubt that the UK government has thrown a vast sum of money at supporting businesses with the aim of helping them survive corona virus and ensure that they are able to restart and ramp up.

A graph representing and economic crash

However, nobody knows how the economy will recover. There’s been talk of a quick return to business normality in a V shaped recovery.

Other wise minds think it could be a U shape return with the economy bobbing along the bottom until things pick up, a W shaped return might be the outcome should there be another peak of infection and even an L shaped recovery is possible, which would be no recovery at all.

A graph representing an increasing economy

With over 20 years of supporting small businesses I have been through a number of recessions and know that businesses that really WANT to trade, and even increase their market, can do so provided their business is fit and well and ready to return to the fray.

And I also know that there will a lot of companies hunting for new business but a lot of them will just re-open and hope that what worked before lock-down will work post lock-down.

Pull ahead of your competition

Use this as a golden opportunity to pull ahead of your competition

And it’s not difficult. You can take advantage of one of the government support packages to give your marketing activity a boost. The coronavirus Bounce Back loan is perfect for this.

If you are a small to medium sized business that has been affected by the pandemic then it is highly likely that you will be eligible. You must be

  • is based in the UK
  • established before 1 March 2020
  • adversely impacted by the coronavirus

And that’s it. The loan is 100% backed by the government and so the ultimate risk to lenders is negligible.*

You can borrow between £2,000 and 25% of your turnover, to a maximum loan of £50,000

And here come the best bits

There is nothing to pay for 12 months, and during the fist year the loan attracts no interest either.

Then you pay the balance back over up to 5 years at an extremely attractive interest rate of just 2.5%

You could use the loan

  • to fund a completely new website
  • to fund some training
  • to pay for professional support and consultancy
  • to pay for your SEO
  • to fund a Pay per Click campaign such as Google Ads, Facebook Ads, LinkedIn Ads etc
  • to fund a complete rebrand
  • for printing of marketing collateral
  • for running a mail shot campaign
  • etc.

You could could mix and match any from the above – as the following example demonstrates

  • New website – £3,000
  • 12 months SEO support – £2,160
  • Google Ads campaign – £500/month -£6,000 for a year
  • 12 months Social Media management – £2,880
  • 12 months email marketing support – £2,160
  • Total £16,200 + VAT

You would pay nothing for the first 12 months

Then just £303.75 per month for 60 months bringing your total borrowing in at £17,229.38 – a loan cost of just £1,029.38*

That’s just £14.30 in interest per month, over the lifetime of the loan

If you wanted/needed less, here’s what £10,000 and £5,000 loans look like

£10,000 loan

  • Monthly Cost – £187.50
  • Total Cost – £10,635.42
  • Total Interest – £635.42
  • Monthly interest equivalent – £8.83

£5,000 loan

  • Monthly Cost – £93.75
  • Total Cost £5,317.71
  • Total Interest £317.71
  • Monthly interest equivalent £4.41

Don’t delay, start today

But I wouldn’t put it off. Only the government knows when the loans will end and your competitors may already be seizing this opportunity. And as more companies take advantage the waiting list for your chosen professionals will be growing

Note that you are only eligible for one Bounce Back Loan so please make sure you have every eventuality covered.

Shameless Self-Promotion

I am yet to hit peak capacity but I’ve already had a couple of client take advantage of the Bounce Back Loan and have asked me to ramp up the marketing and coaching work that I do for them

So, don’t miss out – plan what you want to do. Get in touch for a quote, apply for your loan and then we can get started

Get in touch for an informal chat by email (andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk) by phone (01793 238020) or ask me on Social Media – Linkedin or Twitter and I’ll be only too happy to talk. Thanks for reading and I hope you stay well

*I am not a financial adviser and you should take expert advice from your accountant, business adviser or other professional before proceeding. My figures come from the Lloyds Bank Bounce Back Loan Calculator

Enterprise Online Marketing Solutions accept no responsibility for any action that you might take after reading this post.

Can Twitter help your SEO?

SEO, Email and Social Media marketing banner image

I am frequently asked whether Twitter can help with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and my answer is usually a pretty vague “it depends”.

Your Twitter account DOES NOT have an impact on your ranking (the position your website comes up in the Google Search Engine Results Pages – SERPS) but it DOES have an impact on your visibility. Although this sounds contradictory, I hope the following adds a little clarity

Try this – carry out a Google search for your brand, for your key competitor brands as well, and see what shows up. For this example we’ll assume that my brand is my name simply because @AndyPoulton is my Twitter handle and this is what Google shows – my 3 most recent posts

Google’s Twitter Carousel

Back in 2015 Google did a deal with Twitter which gave Google access to the whole Twitter news-feed. The result is that where an account is active, and regularly posts content, Google will find this and display it as part of their search results.

By frequently sharing relevant, interesting content, Google will be keeping an eye on your Twitter account. Share little and Google will quickly lose interest.

Influencing Google’s Twitter Carousel

Grab the attention of new audiences by regularly posting (I post at least 4 times a day although I do use some tools and automation to manage this and make it a less time consuming task). And this is NEW posts, not replies or re-Tweets. Have a look at my “6 Steps to Social Media Success” to learn how I manage to do this,

Find interesting, relevant and timely topics to discuss, try to make them engaging to encourage people to “Like”, “Comment” and Retweet. Where possible you should reference your sources – they might Like and Retweet your content too – making sure that it reaches a wider audience. Use relevant #HashTags – TrendsMap shows you #Tags from around the world.

Promoting or over sharing

Twitter is like a waterfall. If a boat goes over a waterfall whilst you are looking, you get to see it. However, if the boat went over before you arrived, you’ll only find out about it if you go hunting for information about it (searching), or if you overhear someone talking about it (retweet) or if someone has filmed it. This means that the more times you share your news the more people will actually see it.

So, if you have created some great content, don’t share it just the once, share and share again. This is where tools such as Hootsuite and Buffer make things easier.

Make your Twitter Bio interesting

When someone is searching, it’s probable that your Twitter Bio will come up on Page one of Google. For maximum engagement make sure that your profile is descriptive, accurate, interesting, relevant and engaging.

Andy Poulton's Twitter profile
Andy Poulton’s Twitter profile

In Summary

Google uses more than 200 different “signals” when reviewing your website and where it deserves to appear in their search results. We’ll NEVER know what they all are so we can only work with those that Google tell us about and those which have been discovered through empirical research.

Your job, as a website owner, Search Engine Optimiser or Digital Marketing Professional is to understand everything you can and leverage every single opportunity that comes your way.

Remember, just like the two hunters faced with a hungry bear*, you don’t have to be perfect, just better than your competitions

If you want any help with your digital marketing please don’t hesitate to get in touch for an informal chat by email (andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk) by phone (01793 238020) or ask me on Social Media – Linkedin or Twitter and I’ll be only too happy to talk.Thanks for reading and I hope you stay well

*Two hunters were in the woods when they saw an angry bear rushing towards them. One of the hunters said that the bear was running faster than either of them could run.

The other hunter said that it wasn’t a problem, he only had to run faster than his mate to get away

A day in the life of a search engine optimiser

In these corona virus times I thought I would share a typical day with you. Because of the nature of my work, I am able to continue providing search engine optimisation and other digital marketing services which means that I continue to support to my clients – those who are still trading anyway.

My day typically starts at 8am which is when I get to my desk, boot the PC, switch on the radio (Nick Ferrari’s morning show on LBC) and go and make that essential first coffee of the day.

The first task of the day

Paper pad and pen - a To Do list

The 1st task of the day is to open my dairy to see what appointments are upcoming, what preparations are required and how any meetings are taking place – a physical meeting, a phone catch-up, a video meeting etc.

Next, it’s a look at my To-Do list to see what’s on the agenda for the day.

The hunt for content

Then it’s time for a look at the news to see whether there are any IT/Marketing/SEO/IT Security stories worth sharing and then I start my proper hunt for content for Social Media.

Tools that I use include Drumup.io, Google Alerts, Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Land.

  • Drumup is like a search engine for articles. I save some keywords and it finds relevant news articles for me to share. I only use the free account
  • Google Alerts, another free tool, carries out the same process on Google. I save some keywords and Google emails me a list of new content that includes my saved terms.
  • Search Engine Watch is a website dedicated to search engines and search engine optimisation. It was where I learned a lot of my craft in the early days. It was started by Danny Sullivan who went on to found
  • Search Engine Land and now has a pretty high flying job with Google. With both sites, I look for interesting/helpful articles to share

I open each story or article from all sources in a new browser tab. I’ll simply hold the CTRL key down as I click – which forces my browser to open the clicked link in a fresh tab. Then I scan thorough each article to check quality and relevance before using another free tool, Buffer, to add the stories to my social media posting queue. This means that I can easily and quickly build a content list that will be shared by Buffer at a time of my setting.

I may also look at one of my pre-written “Top 10” hints and tips lists. Update the publishing dates, ensure the content is up to date and then upload the spreadsheet to Hootsuite where the platform will share the tips to the platforms of my choice at the times I have set.

Then I’ll repeat the exercise for those clients for whom I manage their Social Media activity.

Email Time

Now it’s Email time. I open Outlook and work through my emails. Spam gets deleted, urgent mail is responded to, acted on or added to my “To-Do” list – which is on paper. Even though I love my technology, and have tried numerous digital To-Do applications I still find that pen and paper works the best for me.

The To-Do list

To Do list and pen

Now it’s time for me to look at the top items on my To-Do list and start working through the day’s tasks.

Number one task every day is to log in to ManageWP where I have registered all the WordPress sites that I am responsible for. ManageWP has them all stored in a dashboard and reports which sites have plug-ins that need updating or whether any particular site needs attention.

Once any updates have been applied it’s now time for my second coffee and logging on to a site to start on the required search engine optimisation activity.

This could include a fresh scan of competitor websites to see whether there’s anything different that I should be targeting, another round of keyword research to make sure that I am targeting key words and phrases used by prospects and making sure that all the elements of the site are well optimised, particularly where the client has access to the site and may have added fresh content or swapped out images and a hunt for opportunities to build more backlinks

Second look at Emails

Before lunch I’ll take another look at my emails, delete all the junk, act on urgent ones and “To Do list” those that need action but which are less urgent.

It’s probably about 1pm by now and time for lunch. A poached egg on toast, a two egg omelette, a sandwich perhaps another coffee or glass of water, and a walk in the fields, weather permitting

After that I may turn to content creation, writing a blog post or an email or finding topics for my clients to write about that i can then provide an SEO “polish” to for optimum search engine responses.

I’ll look at the Google Ads, and other PPC accounts that I’m managing on behalf of clients. Making sure that the Ads are performing, that the key words are relevant and that the campaign is as well optimised as possible.

If I’ve written a marketing email I’ll get it approved by the client, upload it to MailChimp (my email platform of choice), make sure the address lists are up to date, create an email and send a draft to my client for approval.

Once signed off, I’ll schedule the sending, Early afternoon, middle of the week, for business clients and early evening, possible on a weekend, for retail clients. Timings determined by the optimum open rates.

The hunt for content continues

Time for an afternoon coffee and a swing back through various news sites, this time tech platforms such as

For tech related articles and Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Land again, just to see if anything new has been posted

Back to the Search Engine Optimisation

As we enter the middle part of the afternoon I’ll look another client website and look to repeat the SEO activities for them.

If I’ve received any enquiries for quotations or new proposals I’ll look to pull my thoughts together and send my proposal for consideration.

As the working day draws to a close I’ll take a 3rd look at my emails and respond to anything that can’t wait until the following morning.

I might email clients with ideas to improve their websites, carry out some more SEO on a site, perhaps register a client website with some web based directories and see whether there’s anything I can do to my own website to improve performance

Finally, I’ll update my To-Do list in preparation for the coming day, shut down my PC and have a quick tidy-round.

If you want any help with your digital marketing please don’t hesitate to get in touch for an informal chat by email (andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk) by phone (01793 238020) or ask me on Social Media – Linkedin or Twitter and I’ll be only too happy to talk.Thanks for reading and I hope you stay well

Corona Virus & Marketing

SEO, Email, Blog, Social Media page header

Don’t make knee jerk decisions with your marketing budget.

Remember, In the middle of the storm it can be difficult to see anything but chaos but the storm will pass. Your best defence is to do everything that you can to still be standing when the storm passes.

The purpose of this post is to give you some marketing things that you can be thinking about during these troubled times and to make an offer that will save you £50.00 on one of my services so that your website can come fighting fit on the other side of the Corona Virus pandemic.

When I was working as a business consultant during the 2008 recession I heard of many businesses who chopped their marketing budgets as a reaction to the turn-down. They then wondered why they weren’t attracting any new business and as their competitors recovered they were left behind.

Businesses that I was working with at the time recognised that there was an opportunity to step in to the gap left by companies which appeared to have disappeared. They took more considered action, reduced their marketing budget and put plans in place to ramp marketing back up once it was clear that the recession was coming to an end.

This put these clients in a prime position and they went on to prosper.

In these troubled times this is the action that you should consider. I know that times are dark, and likely to get darker, but if we don’t think positively and plan to still be here when the Covid-19 pandemic recedes then I know that some of us won’t be in business when that time comes around. 

The role technology plays in business continuation

Working from home, and in self-isolation, will be new to many people. Technology will have provided you with an opportunity to work from wherever you, and your staff, are with the only requirements being a device (desktop/laptop, phone or tablet) and an internet connection.

Cloud based audio and video conference solutions help maintain teams and enable client communications. SkypeMicrosoft TeamsZoomWebexSlackWhatsApp and more prove both free and subscription options to communicate, train, make presentations and simply remain in touch.

As more of us work form home it’s likely that online search behaviour will change as more people mix business searches with personal during their working day.

How will your business cope? 

As with any crisis, how your company responds is key, are you calm and taking action or are you panicking?

Either way, here are a number of things that you can be working on when faced with the current situation

Stay ahead of your competition

If you pause your marketing activities and your competitors don’t who do you think will be in a prime position when things begin to improve? Stay in touch with your clients using eMail, Video and Social Media, Keep an eye on search trends, are there any opportunities that you can make use of.

Remember that SEO is a long term strategy

I know that SEO is one of the services that I provide but it is worth remembering that it IS a long term strategy, taking weeks or months to have a proper impact so give your Search Engine Optimisation due consideration when reviewing your marketing budget. Google’s servers and algorithms won’t be taking a break.

Don’t buy cheap SEO

I know that it might be tempting to take up one of those “all you can eat” SEO offers at £75.00 per month but the risk to your business could be a lot greater than the small amount of money that you’d save. As the marketplace improves you could find yourself left with no rankings, no traffic to your website and possibly penalties from Google from trying to game the system.

Move offline marketing spend online

If people aren’t going out and about they are not going to be looking at advertising hoardings and billboards. They’re not going to be seeing “in-store” marketing either so think about whether you could shift some of your offline budget online to make up for this.

Understand search trends

By understanding trends in search you’ll be in an ideal position to leap on any opportunities and’or changes in direction. By keeping an eye on how people are searching you’ll be able to create content that meets the needs of those searchers. Google Trends is a really great way to stay on top of this

Produce more digital content

Consider using this as an opportunity to create those webinars you’ve been thinking of. By 2025 research is estimating that online learning will be worth about $158 Bn. Lessons learned now will be incredibly valuable going forward. Think about adding video conferencing and video calling to your communication options to reduce face-to-face meeting but stay in touch with key contacts, potential clients and your market. 

Free 40 minute Website and SEO Consultancy

I’m still offering my Free Consultancy sessions and am more than happy to conduct them over the phone or by video link

Detailed Website and SEO Review – Special Offer

Save £50.00 on an in-depth website and SEO review

And if you want something to listen too, have a listen to some of my Podcasts, you can find them on SpotifyApple Podcasts and my website.

If you want any help with your digital marketing please don’t hesitate to get in touch for an informal chat by email (andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk) by phone (01793 238020) or ask me on Social Media – Linkedin or Twitter and I’ll be only too happy to talk.Thanks for reading and I hope you stay well

Find me:         https://seo.enterprise-oms.uk/  |  andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk
Follow me:     Twitter ¦ Linkedin
Phone me:      01793 238020 ¦ 07966 547146

What’s your Digital Footprint and what is Reputation Management

What do people see when they search for you and your business? What can they find without looking too hard? What does it say about your business and you?

Are you easy to find, as a business and perhaps as an individual. If not, you might need some help.

Carry out a search on your favourite search and see what comes up.

If the results are not what you were expecting then some work is required.

I couldn’t find anything on the first page

If neither you, nor your business, come up on the first page of Google search then you need some Search Engine Optimisation. Either learn how to do your own or bring in a specialist who will be able to go over your website with a fine toothed comb, identify opportunities for improvement and then implement them. But don’t expect miracles – it takes weeks (at the best) and many months (at the worst) for SEO to take effect.(insert shameless plug for Andy Poulton and Enterprise Online Marketing Solutions here).

If your search results look something like these then you are off to a good start. Google has found a lot of references to the search and you can investigate them to make sure that you can see the type of content you would hope for, and expect.

Reputation Management

If the results are not what you hoped for, perhaps a  negative review appeared or somebody had made a negative comment on Social Media then you need to do some Reputation Management. This will involve mitigating the negative content in some way.

If it’s a negative review then you should

  1. post a rebuttal – if possible and without sounding mealy mouthed or catty
  2. encourage more positive reviews to push the negative comments out of the headlines

If it’s a negative blog post, or similar, then you should start to write similar looking posts, but with a positive spin. The goal being to, again, swamp the search results with fresh, positive content, with the aim of pushing the negativity off page one.

What to do next

If you need help with your visibility or your reputation needs some management then give me a call (01793 238020) or email me, for a no cost, obligation free, chat about your challenge and I’ll see how I can help

How to optimise your YouTube videos

You can watch the video, listen to the podcast or read on


YouTube, great isn’t it – more cat videos than you can watch in a lifetime!

However, it’s also a great source of information AND a really powerful way to reach web users who prefer to watch videos rather than read stuff. Imagine you want to learn how to fly fish. Just go to google and search “learn how to fly fish” for example, and Google shows you that there are 135 million results and the top is dominated by YouTube videos .

Google search results for Fly Fishing

Getting Started

Making videos has never been easier with great quality cameras in our phones, our tablets, our digital cameras – the list of devices goes on.

Before you start recording, however, you need to make sure that your video has a purpose. Then you need to make a short list of keywords that are relevant.

As you record your video and add your commentary you need to make sure that you use these words and phrases from your list.

For the video accompanying this blog I’ve concentrated on “optimising your video”, “making your video easy to find” and “SEO for YouTube”

Watch your video, does it look OK? Does it sound OK? If you are happy then you’re ready to move to the next step.

Uploading your video to YouTube

Once you’ve recorded your video and checked to make sure that you are happy with it the next step is to upload it to YouTube. Now you need to make the video easy to find and and make it easy for Google to understand what it’s about so that your video stands a chance of appearing in Google results, not just in YouTube search.

Next on the “to-do list” is to do is give your video a name that includes the types of words that people might be using when searching – so for the video that goes with this blog I’ve called the video “How to optimise your YouTube video”

Then you need a description so that YouTube can understand what the video is about.

Finally you need to add captions, in other words translate your speech in to text so that watchers don’t have to turn their speakers up or plug their headphones in. YouTube will automatically create the captions but you need to check that their speech t text translation has translated accurately and if there are errors you can go in and correct them.

Vimeo.com

Although powerful, YouTube has a number of annoying traits – not least
1/ The ability to show “People who watched this video also watched……”
2/ The ability to place annoying adverts on your video – ads which might come from your competition if you’re not careful.

So, before you embed your video in your website or share through your Social Media channels and email campaigns get on over to https://vimeo.com and set up a free account.

Vimeo is a “YouTube for professionals” and doesn’t take Ads and won’t recommend similar videos so your viewers wont get dragged away down the YouTube rabbit warren and forget where they started.

As a professional video platform it is mainly funded by subscription accounts but the free account should be more than adequate for your use.

Use the Vimeo embedding tools to add your video to your website, your blog, any email marketing that you conduct and your social media

And that’s it. If you have any problems with recording your video, optimising your video or anything else to do with your digital marketing then just give me a call on 01793 238020 for a free, obligation free, chat or drop me an email to andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk

What the FA is 2FA and do I need it?

Let’s answer the easy question first, “do I need 2FA”? The simple answer is “yes”, you do need Two Factor Authentication (2FA). Now read on to learn more about what it is, how it works and how it can secure your data and online activity

I’ve written in previous posts about passwords, hacking, identity theft and the threat to our privacy, data and businesses from cyber criminals. As you might imagine, the number of attacks is increasing, as is the sophistication.

Why are Cyber Attacks increasing

Simple! The number of websites that we log-in to continues to increase and
many people use one password across many websites. As you can see from the list on the right a lot of people use passwords that are less than ideal. The cyber criminals know this which makes it a gift for them.

Some people think they are safe because they have 3 passwords. A simple one for common sites where they don’t see a threat (posting comments to newspaper websites for example), a medium one that they use for on-line shopping and Cloud storage sites (DropBox for example) and a really complicated one for their “secure” sites, such as bank access etc.

After all, just trying to remember pWa#eeAS7uNggK49 is a challenge but if you have to remember a different one for every single website it becomes a real challenge. You might jot them down in a notebook or diary but what happens if you loose your book, or just leave it on a train. Not only have you been frozen out of your accounts (until you work your way through all those “forgotten password” routines) but your security has been seriously compromised.

Some people, like me for example, use password manager. These apps create a secure password for ever site that you log in to and make it available across desk-tops, lap-tops, phones and tablets and don’t cost very much at all. But even if you use one how secure are you, actually?

chocolate teapot

If a site that you use your super strong password on is penetrated and data stolen, your strong password is about as much use (from a security perspective) as the infamous chocolate teapot. And if you have used this super-strong password on more than one site you are at an even greater risk of becoming a victim of data theft. With more than 6,474m email addresses in the wild for cyber criminals to use and 551m passwords stolen in security hacks the criminals job gets ever easier.

Use the Have I been Pwned website to see whether your passwords have been stolen by cyber criminals or nabbed in a data breach and read more about the risk, and how the criminals use this stolen data in a previous post.

What’s the Solution

It’s actually fairly simple. It’s called two factor authentication [2FA] or multi-factor authentication. This is where another layer of authentication is required, beyond your user name and password.

In the early days of 2FA sites would send you a text with an access code so you could only log-in if you had your phone with you [and had a mobile signal]. This extra layer of security hit the cyber-criminals hard, until they realised that intercepting text messages was not particularly difficult if you were tech-savvy so something else was required.

Image result for hsbc internet banking device

The banks solved this problem by providing you with a device like the one to the right, this one’s from HSBC. At the website you enter your user-name and pass-code as normal, enter a PIN in the device and then enter the displayed number from the device in to your banks website. It may feel like a pain but it really does have a positive effect on the security of your on-line banking. A criminal needs a your user name/password, access to a device as well as your device PIN

Microsoft Authenticator

Having a device for every website is pretty clunky so Microsoft and Google released authentication apps for Android and iPhones. The way they work is they generate a six digit code, as can be seen in the image on the right, and the website that you are looking to access requests this code after you have entered your user-name and password – as demonstrated in this screen-shot of my LastPass password manager.

Two Factor Authentiaction

All I have to do is launch my Authenticator App and enter the six digit password. For additional security, the code changes every 30 seconds or so

Hardware Security

Hardware 2FA security solution

The final security solution is the physical “Key” such as this one from Yubikey. This is a USB device that simply plugs in to a USB port on your computer and allows you access to secured sites – or even your computer itself.

If you are worried by your security, or need any help with your internet activity, from a new website through social media and on to other online marketing opportunities then just send me an email – andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk or give me a call on 01793 238020

The Deep Web and Dark Web. What are they?

The Deep Dark Web

The “Dark Web” has been in the press frequently over the past couple of years, associated with tales of hacking, the sale of personal information, credit card data, drugs, weapons and other illicit items. However,  there’s been very little by way of explanation as to what the dark web is and how you go there and this item looks to answer that, purely for research purposes of course.

A number of news stories have also referred to the “Deep Web” which has lead to a degree of confusion, as if the media consider the two to be interchangeable.

So, just to clear up any confusion here’s an explanation of the differences between the Deep and the Dark Web.

Let’s start at the top

The “Surface Web” is the web we all know and love, the websites we visit and the sites/pages that we find using Google/Bing/Yahoo and other search engines. And there’s the key, it’s only the parts of the internet that the search engines know about.

Just visit any website and click a few links, you’ll be doing the same thing that the search engines do, visiting websites and following links to find pages that they can present to you when you’re looking for things.

What is The Deep Web

Simply put, the Deep Web is just the area of the internet that is beyond the reach of the major search engines.

As an example, just go to www.britishairways.com and try to find a holiday to the Nautic Hotel between 7th and 14th October in Mallorca without using the search facilities.

It’s not that easy, in fact it you might find it confusing/difficult/impossible. You’re not alone, the search engines do to because they can’t get much further down than the first 3-4 layers. At least this is getting better because Google, Bing and the like are always looking to improve the way they manage such challenges but it’s still a struggle for them.

Websites can use code, called robots.txt, to actually block the search engines from certain pages so that they are difficult to find, deliberately. Websites with members only pages may choose to do this, for example.

As you can see, the Deep Web is neither illicit nor scary, it’s just out of reach of the major search engines.

What is the Dark Web

This is where things get really interesting. The Dark Web is a small portion of the web that is intentionally hidden and encrypted and which cannot be accessed through your typical web browser.

To access the Dark Web you need a specialised web browser that enables you to tap into the the TOR network. TOR, short for ‘The Onion Router’, so called because it uses many layers to both encrypt the data that moves around and to make it almost impossible for the authorities to trace internet activity back to a particular user and location. Great for security and anonymity which is why TOR was originally designed by US Intelligence agencies to enable American spies to securely communicate with their parent organisation and not reveal their location and identity.

The code was officially released to the public in 2004, and it’s still used by human rights groups and the like in repressive and unsafe countries to communicate with the outside world, but like almost everything it has also been subverted by those with criminal tendencies and put to a darker use.

You might recall that a couple of years ago the media was full of stories about a Dark Web website called Silk Road. This was like an eBay for criminals, a place where you could buy illegal items such as drugs & weapons and engage criminals to carry out illegal activities on your behalf, hacking for example.

The Silk Road was eventually closed down by the authorities but similar sites still exist if you know where to look and how to access them.

The first step is to download the TOR software, it’s free and pretty easy to find. However there’s no Dark Web version of Google – you have to know your way around if you want to find the illegal stuff – I don’t and wouldn’t broadcast it even if I did know.

I may not be able to help with your journey to the Dark Web but if your Surface Web needs improving or your Deep Web needs surfacing to make it easy to find, then get in touch, andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk or give me a call- 01793 238020 and I’ll dive in and see what I can do.

WannaCry, Ransomware and Bitcoin

The recent “WannaCry” Ransomware attack that hit the NHS (and more than 200,000 other victims across 150 countries) has focused attention on the CryptoCurrency called Bitcoin.

There have been numerous calls to outlaw Bitcoin and other CryptoCurrencies but there’s a lot of mis-understanding and a belief that they are only used to fund criminal activities.

In fact, over the last couple of years there have been numerous articles in the mainstream media about Bitcoin. Most have focused on their use by the criminal fraternity, whether for the payment of Ransomware ransoms to decrypt company data through to the purchasing of illegal weapons and drugs on the Dark Web, including The Silk Road, a dark web site where drugs, weapons and illegal services were traded online – before the site was taken down by the FBI in 2014.

However, Bitcoin, and other digital currencies, are now experiencing a significant uplift in their use for legitimate purposes and we thought that this is an ideal time to send out an explanatory email so that you can be better informed.

We’ll be looking at

    • What is a digital/virtual currency?
    • What is a Bitcoin?What is Distributed Ledger Technology / Blockchain?
    • How do I get digital money?
    • How can I spend digital money?
    • Where do I keep my Bitcoin?
    • How safe/secure is my digital money bank?

What is a digital/virtual currency?

A virtual currency is simply a digital form of money for online transactions. Virtual currencies only exist electronically, there’s no bank notes or coins and no bank deposits, hence their description as a Virtual Currency.

Virtual Currencies bring innovation and benefits to more traditional forms of banking and financial systems. Transactions are much cheaper and faster with international payments being much simplified due to freedom from exchange rate worries and bank transfer fees.

This means there are no currency exchange barriers, digital currencies are genuinely international, unaffected by national boundaries and traditional currency issues and associated exchange rate issues – until you want to exchange them for traditional cash.

The most well known Virtual Currency is Bitcoin although other examples include Dogecoin, Ether, Dash, Litecoin and Stellar.

In the early days, Virtual Currencies were seen as a way to pay for online transactions but these days you can use them as a form of payment in physical stores. There are even Bitcoin ATMs where you can buy and sell Bitcoins from your account – there are 20 in London alone and a total of 60 across the UK

What is a Bitcoin

All digital currencies only exist in the virtual form, being recorded in a public Distributed Ledger which is basically a secure database of digital currencies and which holds a record of every Bitcoin transaction

Bitcoins were one of the earliest forms of virtual currency, first introduced in 2008. In 2013 Bloomberg effectively endorsed the legitimacy of Bitcoin by testing Bitcoin on its trading terminals and later that year the US Federal Reserve gave their apparent blessing, stating that Bitcoin “may hold long-term promise, particularly if the innovations promote a faster, more secure and more efficient payment system” and is the most well known form of Digital Currency. In 2014 our own HMRC classifies Bitcoin as assets or private money which means that no VAT will be charged on the mining of, or exchange of Bitcoin. Later that year, Microsoft started accepting payment made by Bitcoin and a 2015 HMRC report on digital currencies further marked the acceptance of Virtual Currencies by mainstream financial services.

What is the Blockchain

The Blockchain is a database that records all Bitcoin transactions. It’s basically a distributed database, is totally separate from the banking industry and free from central interference.

Transactions are recorded in the form of payer x sends y bitcoins to payee z and payments are verified and validated and added to the Blockchain

How do I get digital money

Bitcoin Mining in IcelandBelieve it or not, it’s possible to make your own, legitimate, Bitcoin through a technique called “mining” which uses high performance computers to carry out sophisticated cryptological processing to effectively make new currency that’s then added to the Blockchain.

However, it’s not as easy at it sounds and most people simply buy their Bitcoins, and other virtual currencies, through more traditional routes – including the Bitcoin ATMs mentioned earlier in this article

How can I spend digital money

You can use Bitcoins to purchase traditional currencies, products and services and you can acquire Bitcoins in a similar manner.

Small amounts of Bitcoin can be traded. They are the millibitcoin (0.001 bitcoin), microbitcoin (0.0000001 bitcoin) and the satoshi which is the smallest amount and named after the inventor (0.00000001 bitcoin)

As noted earlier, transactions follow payer x sends y bitcoins to payee z format. Although transactions on the Blockchain are open to inspection, the reason why Bitcoin is so attractive to criminals is that transactions are pseudonymous. This means that “payer x” is only identified by his or her Bitcoin address.

In 2014, Bitcoin Payment Service Provider (A PayPal for Bitcoin) started accepting Bitcoin payments for tickets and concession sales at the St. Petersburg Bowl in the USA and in 2015 Barclays started to accept Bitcoin, the first UK high street bank to do so. Over 100,000 establishments were accepting payment by Bitcoin by the end of 2015.

You can buy technology from Aria and Dell, pre-owned technology, media and games from CeX around the UK, you can sign up for language courses, buy a beer and a meal in a pub, book theatre tickets, accommodation, home and garden furniture, new windows and much more – full list of UK companies accepting Bitcoin here.

In 2013 a Bitcoin was worth $13 and at the time of writing a Bitcoin would cost $1,033.43 ( £830.81) having peaked in 2017 at $1216.73.

The downside is the lack of protection because virtual currencies lien outside of the established banking regulations, Bitcoin users are not protected by refund rights or chargebacks and transactions are non-reversible.

Where do I keep my Bitcoin?

Your Digital Wallet stores all the information required to transact bitcoins. Although they’re frequently described as a place to hold, or store your Bitcoins, the reality is that Bitcoins ONLY exist in the Blockchain and your Digital Wallet simply stores your credentials to access your Bitcoin holdings. It’s similar to the way your debit card doesn’t store your money but allows you to access your account and arrange for the transfer for funds from your account to that of the seller.

How safe/secure is my digital money bank

Because your Virtual Currency is held centrally, there’s actually nothing to steal, in the conventional sense.

However, your Wallet needs to be secured. You need to use a strong password – and don’t forget it because there’s no password recovery routine. Lose your password and you lose your Bitcoin.You should keep your Wallet backed up, preferably in a number of locations, online, USB etc. Just as you would for your other computer data

So, is traditional money dead?

Far from it, and it’s probably a long way from dying simply because each country likes to have it’s own currency regulations in place and the fear associated with the disruption that Virtual Currencies will cause.

As a result, banks are making it easier for customers to spend their traditional money. We say the introduction of cheques – now on the decline. Credit and payment cards that facilitate the easy transfer of money. Internet banking, making it easier to manage our own funds. Contactless payments speeding up transactions, Apple and Android Pay., facilitating payment by simply tapping your phone on a payment terminal and the migration of these services to Smart Watches. Soon, you’ll have contactless payment capability added to pieces of jewellery (A payment wedding ring anyone?) followed by the embedding of a suitable chip under the skin of a fingertip.
However, as world governments become more centralised, the benefits of Virtual Currencies may begin to outweigh the pressures (and costs involved) to maintain more traditional Fiat based monetary systems and all we can suggest is that you watch this space.

Microsoft and Linkedin, a purchase made in heaven – or the Cloud at least

Linkedin Logo Microsoft LogoI’ve been a Linkedin member since August 2005, apparently was one of the first million subscribers and have found it an invaluable tool for network building, staying up to date with, and in contact with, my Connections and even generating enquiries.

Linkedin History
Linkedin was started in 2002 by Reid Hoffman with money his stake in PayPal when it was sold to eBay. From that small beginning Linkedin has become the No.1 business networking site, a Facebook for business if you like and now has more than 440m subscribers.

In 2011, Linkedin went public (IPO) at $45 per share, raising $350m and valuing the company at $9bn, making it one of the most successful public offerings since Google in 2004.

Linkedin’s share price very quickly doubled and continued to rise, peaking at $269 in early 2015. After that it’s been a bit up and down and fears of a downturn earlier this year saw share prices falling to $101 in February after which there was a recovery to $135 in May

Then, to everyone’s surprise, in June 2016 Linkedin was bought by Microsoft for $26.2 billion (a significant $61 premium on the share price), in an all cash deal, making it Microsoft’s largest acquisition by a long way

Why did Microsoft buy Linkedin, where did it see the value and what will it do with this highly respected business networking site?~
Although Microsoft and LinkedIn don’t, at first glance, appear natural partners, they are closer than you might think. Under Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, there has been a strong move away from consumer software and operating systems (Windows) to business and cloud subscription services such as Office 365, enterprise solutions like Microsoft Dynamics and cloud storage – Onedrive and it’s possible that this, allied to the fact that Linkedin has over 440m active users, helped in the decision making process, that’s just over $59.54 per user.

The addition of Skype (Microsoft owned) to LinkedIn could make the platform even more attractive, allowing voice and video conversations to take place within Linkedin (possibly limited to Linkedin subscribers).

Potential Benefits
Linkedin already has some really basic Customer Relationship Management tools built in to “My Network” which enables you to add Tags to your Connections so that you can search by your own custom categories as well as directly Message groups of contacts.

Now, imagine how much more powerful this would be if there were full CRM functionality.

  • Send emails to your Connections with a click with the contents held in the Client account
  • Have incoming emails automatically added to client records rather than a simple folder in Outlook.
  • Grouping sent and received emails together, in your Contact records
  • Click to call via Skype
  • Click to Video call via Skype
  • Click to open pre-templated documents through Office 365 and have them stored in Contact records

The reality is that the world is their oyster – with a little thought, good programming and over 430m pre-existing accounts there’s a great deal for Microsoft to leverage..

Lynda.com an “Outstanding Resource for Learning”
It’s also easy to forget that Linkedin owns lynda.com. An online education provider with more than 3,000 online learning video courses, created by industry experts and covering topics across business and leadership, creative and technology.

A service that was described as “an outstanding resource for video based learning” by PCmag

What happens Now
Although the deal has been approved by both boards and is expected to be finalised by the end of this year it still needs approval from a number of regulatory bodies

Microsoft have said that “Linkedin will retain its distinct brand, culture and independence” which is good news for fans and users, although analysts at Credit Suisse have said “We recognise that Microsoft will be able to realise several strategic synergies”

A side effect of the sale has pushed Twitter shares 5.5% higher on speculation that it will be next to go, perhaps to Google – which has expressed interest on several occasions in the previous 4 years.

What actually happens is still to be decided but I’ll keep you up to date as, and when more news becomes available.

In the meantime, if you need help with Linkedin and want to learn how it can really help you grow your business just get in touch for a free chat, give me a call on 01793 238020 or drop me an email at andy@enterprise-oms.co.uk