Latest Publications

Your facebook fan page and the revolution

Kick out the old facebook regime and march in the new

Crowd demonstrates under Facebook fan page flagOn February 10th facebook revolutionised your facebook fan page and gave you the choice of running with the changes immediately or waiting until March 11 when they will become compulsory.

May as well take the plunge with the rest of us.

What’s new on facebook fan pages you administer?

  • Use facebook as if it was Your Page: You can now receive notifications for a fan Page that you have admin rights to, view the News Feed of the Page, and ‘like’ and post on other facebook Pages as if you were this Page.
  • A Photo gallery along the Top: Thumbnails of the five latest photos you have posted to your Fan Page Wall, or photos you tag your Page in are displayed at the top of the page. Don’t want one of those featured? mouse-over and click the cross. You have no control over the order however.
  • Profile image dimensions: Your facebook Fan Page profile picture size is now 180×540. Mouse over the image and click the “change picture” link to update it.
  • Navigation changes: The tabs at the top of your old Fan Page have been moved the left sidebar. Where did the text underneath your Page profile picture go? It’s in the Info tab, adjust this by selecting the ‘edit info’ link at the top of the Info tab.
  • Featured Pages and Admins: Display Pages your Fan Page ‘likes’ or admins of your Page, in the new “Likes” and “Page Owners” area on the left column of your Fan Page.
  • Useful email notifications: Want to receive emails when people post or comment on your Fan Page? Make sure your email notifications settings are correct using the ‘edit page’ button.
  • Common Connections:
    Web Success facebook pageVisitors to your Fan Page can view friends who also ‘like’ your Page as well as Pages that you both like.
  • Publicly visible Wall Filters: Your Fan Page now has two Wall filters, namely ‘Posts by Page’ and ‘Everyone’.  As the Page admin you can also view additional filters, ‘Most Recent’ and ‘Hidden Posts’.

It’s good to see facebook responding to our protestations, long may it last.

Alistair McAlpine is a long-time broadcaster and the resident writer/web strategist for internet marketing company Web Success in Wellington, New Zealand.
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Nothing sells like Whitespace

The website owner detested it – her web customers loved it

On a web page the space between messages is:

  • sometimes called “wasted space”
  • technically called “whitespace” or negative space.
  • often anything but white

Whitespace” in web design refers to empty areas between text, images and other elements of design. It is often white but could just as easily be black or any colour.

Whitespace and the beach

‘Negative’ space is the web equivalent to the ocean’s invigorating ‘negative’ ions. You can’t see the stuff but you know it’s there because you feel so good when it’s around.

Whitespace used astutely is not wasted space. It improves readability and makes your website’s messages more palatable to your visitors.

A picture frame with "White Space Sells" inside

When customers scan a webpage where everything is jammed in with no clear space around elements, they know reading and navigating is going to be unpleasant.

Perservere with your website? Likely as not they won’t bother

And why would they? If a company’s website is unpleasant to use why should they expect anything different from the rest of their service.

So if  your web page seems wastefully spacious don’t see it as wasted space necessarily, think of the user’s relief upon opening it. Imagine them breathing deeply of the negative ions surrounding your content, text, buttons, boxes and lists… and smiling.

Creative sculpture demonstrating web design whitespace

Creative sculpture by leadpencil.com

A webpage with ample whitespace is easily scanned, and will be


Chaperro, Shaikh, and Baker
had this to say about web page design back in 2005.

Layout on a Web page (white space and advanced layout of headers, indentation, and figures) may not measurably influence performance, but it does influence satisfaction.

Understandably, as the owner of a website who has paid good money for your real estate you want your to make the most of it to promote your services or products. You probably have many important messages you want to get across to customers but it’s important you ‘spend’ your customer’s limited attention wisely.

Whitespace when used astutely will make your website more readable, as the examples in Mark Boulton’s article on whitespace demonstrate.website text with little whitespace

website text with whitespace

Whitespace lets the message sink in

According to Dr. Eric Schaffer’s research in 2004 whitespace between paragraphs and around web page text actually helps customers understand your message.

Sometimes whitespace is overun by content.  Messages are crammed into the top of the page when there is concern that web users won’t scroll down the page. However Jacob Nielsen’s research team back in 1997 proved this concern to be unfounded and according to Clicktale Research nothing has changed.

Used wisely whitespace will sell your message and sell you to your online customers.

Alistair McAlpine is an experienced broadcaster and the resident writer/web strategist for internet marketing company Web Success in Wellington, New Zealand.
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Dialup – lest we forget

Web page loading speed – still worth considering during web page design? The day we switched to broadband I sang the “Dial-up Blues” for the last time and danced a little jig around my router.

“Now THAT is an impressive website! Isn’t it?”
“Try it on dialup.”
“Who still uses dialup?”
“Me. When my Telecom broadband quota for the month runs out.”
“True”

I overheard that exchange a couple of weeks ago at a friend’s place. It reminded me that although about 12% (www.stats.govt.nz) of NZ households still haven’t managed the switch to broadband, that figure is boosted by those who struggle on low monthly data quotas and end up defaulting to the frustrating  bad-old-days.

Slow download speeds are hell

Forgive me for inserting a data-consuming joke into my post but hey... it's hell for Dial-upperers.

Graphic-heavy web design might go down well in the office where download speeds are lightning quick but are you willing to dismiss as irrelevant a solid slice of your customer base?

Dial up for gumboots

Rural customers make up a large proportion of dial-up die-hards and they often have discretionary income (though many are unwilling to admit it).

It’s easy for web designers (urban-dwellers as they predominantly are) to forget the comparative isolation of their country dwelling audience for whom purchasing or at least purchase decision-making is often an online activity.

So, yes, web page loading speed should still factor in decisions around web page design.

Toot TOOOT! It’s broadband for all!

As the government presses forward with it’s Rural Broadband Initiative and even less of us rely on screaming dial-up down copper wire it’ll be interesting to watch how web designers breathe out and page graphics expand.

In the meantime if a SIGNIFICANT segment of your customers DO currently use dial up to access your website, then it should be optimised for them. If, however, only a small proportion use dial up, then the benefits of slower loading widgets, banners, images, etc… may outweigh the disadvantages.

Alistair McAlpine is an experienced broadcaster and the resident writer/web strategist for internet marketing company Web Success in Wellington, New Zealand.
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5 reasons to be top of Google

1. More customers through the door

This literally the number 1 reason – it will get you more sales.

Here are a couple of quotes from customers who have #1 positions on Google for their services:

Since optimisation, I have patients / clients who say that they located me and chose my business as a direct result of keyword internet search. This did not happen before.

Another customer story – she used Google to find “picture framers in Wellington”, and we were the first on the list, so she came to us.
So, you can get some customers simply by virtue of your position in search results – if the customer gets a match to what they’re looking for on the first entry on Google why look further?

2. More customers to your website

Obviously the step before getting them through the door, but you’re more likely to get traffic to your website – and then it’s up to your website to complete the conversion.

Caution: If your website is poor at converting visits into enquiries or sales then getting more traffic isn’t going to help you a lot. Work on creating a more persuasive site first, then optimise.

3. Deny the competition

If you’re not high in search engine results you’re pretty much giving away web traffic (and foot traffic, see #1 above) to your competition who are better positioned.

Where you come up on Google is an indicator of your competitive advantage – or lack of.

4. Brand recognition

Visibility is a key element of brand recognition. When your name keeps popping up in front of people, sooner or later they will take a closer look. If they’ve already heard of you and now your name appears near the top of Google you have a high chance of getting a site visit.

5. You may not need to get a website visit to get a phone call or visit

If you have a physical address, then ensure that you have a complete entry in Google Places. When these show up (if properly done) they contain your address and phone number. You can get a physical visit or phone call without the person actually looking at your website.

List of Google results showing Google Places entries that display address and phone number.

To make the most of your website and web presence, you need to be as high up on Google as possible.

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They want to want you so give them cause

Alistair McAlpine’s 4×4 tips for tipping the balance online

Your customers are in a hole. They’re looking for reasons to chose you over your online competitors. Don’t be mean, help them out.

As you read this a frustrated prospective customer is comparing your web offering with your competitor’s. On the internet this comparison stage is where many of your sales fall over.

Your prospects will love you if you make it easy

Customers are desperate to find someone to solve their problem whether that be finding a new car or a driving instructor. At the same time they want to be treated as intelligent people, not sales targets.

As Web expert Jakob Neilsen pointed out:

Out there on the Internet, what we’re attracted to is content that gets us to where we want to go.

Strange as it may seem, the way to capture hearts online is to simply level with people.

4 tips to magnetise your website and stay on the level

  1. Immediately address your customer’s needs
  2. Connect on a human level
  3. Present an effective description of your offerings
  4. Attract them back if they proceed to your competitor’s web sites

Keep it simple – keep it sweet

All the Java gimmicks and cute design in the world can’t replace compelling arguments that show how you can satisfy your customer’s needs better than your opposition.

Many web sites present visitors with information that does not address their specific needs nor their need to draw comparisons between competitors but addresses the desire of a business to chest-beat.

Treat your people as you want to be treated.

4 tips to attract online sales

  1. Directly address the reason your customer has come to your web site
  2. Accent areas where you enjoy an apparent competitive advantage
  3. Freely present useful information
  4. Speak to your customer in their language

Credibility, as always, is the key to your success on the web

Blatant marketing is the cold shower to warming online customer relationships. Demonstrate your competitive advantages but don’t go overboard or you’ll be perceived as blowing your marketing trumpet and your credibility will gurgle down the drain with your sales revenue.

To be understatedly attractive and clinch the sale study your competition.

4 tips for subtle success

  1. Identify your competition
  2. Analyze their strengths and weaknesses
  3. Identify your point of difference (experience, professionalism, choice, etc.)
  4. Swing the spotlight to where you enjoy the most advantages

If comparisons are going to be made you want them to be made where you shine, not where your competitors have the upper hand.

OK. They’ve visited the competition, they’ve squeezed the fruit, it’s decision time…

4 Tips to subtly strut your stuff

  1. Display examples of your previous achievements
  2. Present real content about your business and people that will connect with your audience
  3. Include testimonials from satisfied customers
  4. Showcase product reviews or comparisons that emphasise your competitive advantages

Your customers really do want to find a reason to chose you over your competition, so give it to them and help them out of a hole.

Alistair McAlpine is an experienced broadcaster and the resident writer/web strategist for internet marketing company Web Success in Wellington, New Zealand.
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Facebook: the ultimate customer-centred website?

How does one explain Facebook’s phenomenal growth?

Maybe it’s because Facebook’s content is people’s favourite subject – themselves.

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173 rules to improve your Google search results

This article, “Rules for beating Google at SEO” lists 173 “rules” or perhaps factors that Google uses to determine your site and page ranking in search results. Of course, the trick is in knowing (guessing?) which of these are more or less important and what returns the best improvement for least effort.

Rule 158 is an interesting one -

158) Over-optimization. If you match what Google is looking for too well, Google will assume you did it just to get better listings and you’ll be penalized. Google considers tuning your site for better listings unethical

This happened to me and some colleagues a few years ago. We spent six weeks going through a website and optimised every possible factor: we were dead set on being number one on Google. We pored over titles, headings, keywords, body text, links etc etc. Result: the site got dropped – disappeared from Google results completely, searching on the domain name showed nothing. Emails to Google fruitless. It was months before the site eventually came back.

In the somewhat arcane world of search engine optimising you need to hire an SEO expert who’s good – but not too good.

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Business opportunity seldom knocks on the door of self-centred people

Too many people think only of their own profit. But business opportunity seldom knocks on the door of self-centred people. No customer ever goes to a store merely to please the storekeeper.
- Kazuo Inamori

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If a website’s the solution – what’s the problem?

It’s easy to forget that a website is actually a solution to one or more business (or organisational) problems.

Despite the fact that it’s pretty much mandatory to have a website if you’re in business – it’s still critical to understand that a website is a solution – and it’s up to you the business owner (or your delegate) to clearly articulate that problem.

You wouldn’t get a builder to start building you a house until you had some plans and those plans would reflect a mix of things:  how many people to house, sun angles, size/slope of section, views, vehicles, gardens and so on. Ideally, you would have clearly stated your needs (your problem/s) to your architect and then the appropriate solution is created.

John Tukey, an American statistician, had this to say, and it’s one of my favourite quotes:

An approximate solution to an exact problem is better than an exact solution to an approximate problem.

The more information you can provide to your website provider about what are the  problems you want solved (not “how” that’s the designer’s job) the better the chances of them producing an effective website. If your website provider isn’t asking those questions you’d need to be wondering whether you’re going to get an exact solution to some sort of approximate problem.

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Comment Spam – a blogging inevitability

Website owners in the hope of getting better ranking through backlinks (links that go to their website) and possibly the stray click on their name regularly add comments to any blog they can access.

This is often done using automation. Set up a standard message and then the program goes and finds blog posts on the web and adds a comment automatically. Pretty easy to do when so many bloggers use the same blogging software – like this blog using WordPress.

Blog authors use various tools for flagging comment spam and trashing it automatically. It’s just one of those things that comes with the territory. The spam comments are usually some form of generic compliment “interesting topic” or similar.

However, I did quite like this one (but it’s in the spam bucket regardless).

If you could e-mail me with a few suggestions on just how you made your blog look this excellent, I would be grateful.

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