Thursday, 15 January 2015

SEO in a Nutshell




Thought I’d take five minutes out to re-look at what SEO is all about.  We talk about it all of the time but what does it REALLY mean.


SEO stands for “search engine optimisation.” It is the process of getting traffic from the “free,” “organic,” “editorial” or “natural” search results on search engines.


In a nutshell it means getting your website showing on the first pages of search results (and ideally number one).  Forget about being at the top of page two or page three.  Page one is where you need to be placed to really be beneficial.


Fundamentally, commercial organisations optimise their websites to attract new business. It’s as simple as that.  By optimising their websites for search engines, companies can ensure that people will be able to find them easily online.


Choosing your keywords you want to target is the first part of optimising your website for search engines. It’s also the most important thing of SEO and sometimes the hardest part.

So what determines what’s shown on the first page or search results?


Search engines all have their own ranking algorithms that are secret and not known publicly. However there are some techniques we can employ using those keyword phrases to optimise your website (or a particular page) to help that you show on the first page of search results.  


Here’s a useful SEO keyword checklist:


  • Make sure they are not goo generic - try to be as specific as possible.  For example, if you’re a hotel, you wouldn’t just target ‘hotel’ but perhaps add in the location name or if you’re a budget hotel, add ‘budget’ or ‘cheap’ in the mix.
  • Consider another phase – Instead of hotel, you may want consider an alternative for example ‘accommodation
  • Don’t have too many – Having too many keywords in your phrase can dilute they strength – aim for about 3 to 5
  • Make sure they are relevant to your business – the more closely the keywords relate to your website, the better they will perform.
  • Don’t use superfluous words such as ‘great’ ‘amazing’ etc.

Hope this helps!

Click here for more.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Spin Up A Cloud BI System for Free



Gartner-rated business intelligence provider Yellowfin has made an agreement with Amazon Web Services enabling organisations to create their own cloud BI environment, for one year for free. The size options are limited but certainly enough for to get started.

Whether you just want to see for yourself how a best of breed BI tool works, run a proof of concept or even a small project. Read the user reviews here.

The Yellowfin platform includes reporting, analytics, collaboration, mapping and mobile features,100% web-based. 

Launch Yellowfin directly from the AWS marketplace and get started in minutes with your free trial that enables 3 users to create and share unlimited reports and dashboards for 12 months. Then upgrade at any time to scale up the system.

It’s really easy to set up, you follow these steps: http://wiki.yellowfin.com.au/display/USER71/Yellowfin+on+AWS

If you need a hand give us a call on 0800 652 4050.

DSCallards

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Big Data - not just for Big Companies



In the last week, have you made journeys with a switched on mobile phone, posted, liked or uploaded a photo on Facebook? Have you searched the internet? Watched videos on Youtube?

Then you are data, a small part of big data in fact.

Does your company have a website? Does it do any marketing or sales?

Then it’s generating big data, the hundreds or thousands of data points that define any one journey through a website quickly accumulate.

What data exists about your company outside of your firewall, and how this could correlate to your internal business operations? For example product reviews, discussions, web articles… do they discuss concepts that are also contained within your production & CRM systems?

And what can we do with this goldmine of information? Well it’s different for every company, and on first thoughts you may think big data means big budgets and big projects and therefore restricted to big companies, but this really isn’t the case.

To quote the Cambridge Institute of Manufacturing, “If you are an established SME and not thinking about these issues, it's time to jump on the Big Data train, for if you don’t the danger is you’ll be left sitting in the sidings while newer start-ups and bigger players pull out of the station and power ahead.”

Businesses are understanding how they are perceived by their customers, sensing demand in time to fulfil it, tracking performance of their products through sensors and detecting fraud through transaction correlation, whether it’s a vehicle rental company being aware of and addressing a Facebook storm among its customers, an online retailer tracking spikes in sales for unexpected products due to current global events and proactive pushing similar products, or a tractor manufacturer notifying its customers of potential mechanical problems before they happen

It’s a new age of communication we’re living in. Individuals are starting to understand that their thoughts, movements and behaviours are being stored as a collection of ones and zeros. Machines need to get used to being monitored more carefully and maintained before they break down. And of organisations need to understand both the opportunity and responsibility this big data presents. Enjoy responsibly!

Written by Angus Menter, BI Practice Manager, DSCallards

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Case Insensitive Lookups with SSIS

Whilst recently compiling a reasonably complex transformation to bring in some data from an Excel spreadsheet I was left in the situation where I had a some look ups that were failing to resolve due to case sensitivity. This was a failure on my part really as I should have understood from the outset that this could have been the case and I should have factored this in from the start but I didn’t. No problem usually, You can just change the case at the source and and in the look-up component and you’re there. However… In my situation this was not feasible without me throwing myself out of the nearest window and making finger paintings with my own blood in my dying moments. The reason for this is that I had about 50 separate sources which is an onerous task in itself. In addition to this as I was ‘unioning’ all of this data together using the union component and then going through several more complex transformations with additional unions along the way it was getting very messy, The union components do not refresh with new fields when the source changes and so the only way to correct this is to drag new union components on in place of the old ones! This in turn means that all of the adjoining components also need to be refreshed and even talking about it I can feel the end approaching.

Read the full blog here



Written by Conrad Rowlands, Team Leader and Developer, DSCallards 

Happy to do Superficial ...

So…. Sometimes the very simplest of things can take gargantuan efforts to work out and you find out that the detail really is just too much detail.  

Just such a  situation happened with me this week when working on a site I am developing. I needed to implement the sending of an email once a post had been received from an MVC page to indicate that a booking had been made. The mail would be sent both to the establishment where the booking was made as well as a copy being sent to the person making the booking. I elected to use the inbuilt System.Net.Mail class, how hard can it be right?…… Well A damn sight harder than I thought that’s for sure! This week there will be no code sample as code was in this instance not at fault or has no bearing on what was happening. To cut a very long and very boring story short it did not matter what I did I could not get the mail class to send the mail; upon sending, the operation would timeout or the server would disconnect etc etc. It made no sense so I took a step back. I had been utilising my Yahoo account using the smtp.mail.yahoo.com server and of course as this was secure and requires authentication I used port 465. 

So I thought maybe the issue is with Yahoo and I changed to my Google account instead using the smtp.googlemail.com SMTP server again with port 465. Still no dice…..Odd. Much headbanging later and I stumbled across this StackOverflow article which led me on to this blog

Now I’m not going to lie and say that it all makes sense to me. It has at least allowed me to at least find a workaround by in this instance using port 587 on my Google SMTP server. If I sat down and thought about it I’m sure I could understand in finite detail what exactly Explicit SSL is and why the .NET mail client only supports this type of SSL, the point is…. I just don’t want to! I feel like I’ve already wasted enough time dealing with this bug (I’m sorry, Its not a feature its a bug whatever they say and one they seem reticent to fix). 

Normally I’m a man who likes to get the detail, a superficial overview is never normally enough as it leads to design mistakes. However in this instance I now know in enough detail for me that the .NET mail class does not support all SSL SMTP conversations and I’ll continue to bask in my own ignorance.

Written by Conrad Rowlands, Team Leader and Developer, DSCallards 

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Supporting PHP in Visual Studio

I was very recently asked to lend my support for maintaining a website we have which is written in PHP. Now normally I’d run straight off to my trusty little 2010 macbook (which, by the way, has NOT degraded in speed in all that time nor does it require constant reboots..do you hear that windows? I digress) and use any one of the free or cheap plethora of tools to help with this task. Personally I tend to use Aptana Studio. Just for once I thought I would try and leverage my normal windows work machine for this task and so I turned straight to Visual Studio. It turns out that there is an add-on for studio made by the guys at Devsense. So using the Visual Studio Extensions and Updates manager I installed the add in called ‘PHP Tools for VS 2013′ (which is on a 30 day trial) and awaiting the amazingness…..

Time passed and true amazingness did not happen and so I decided that I would just get on with my work instead.

I downloaded the source for the website put it onto my machine and then started the process. As the project is an already existing site i needed to run the ‘Project From Existing Code’ menu item available from the File/New menu item. This takes you through a simple wizard and at the end of this process you have a visual studio project with all of your PHP code. Great, so now down to it…. Unfortunately what I did not realise was that this site made use of PEAR extensions, thus everytime i tried to run a page with email capabilities it would just break unable to resolve the necessary libraries.

Click here to read full blog.

Written by Conrad Rowlands, Team Leader and Developer, DSCallards

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Augmented Reality



So, IBeacon…. You may or may not have heard of this technology, Indeed up until a year or so ago I must confess that I had not. These funny little items then ended up on my desk, 3 in all, and I wondered what to do with them. As with most things that cross my desk eating them was an option but they looked pretty inedible so after an interval of some months I instead opted to find out what I was supposed to do with them. So i headed over to the Estimote website who are the manufacturers.

 “Estimote Beacons and Stickers are small wireless sensors that you can attach to any location or object. They broadcast tiny radio signals which your smartphone can receive and interpret, unlocking micro-location and contextual awareness.” Instantly I can imagine that sales and marketing teams are practically wetting themselves at yet another opportunity to push their unwanted wares upon us in yet more insidious ways. I know that the first and every other subsequent app that tries to promote their wares to me in this way will be removed from my life for ever. I do not need any help in spending money. However looking beyond the more obvious tired use case for these beacons and examining the phrase ‘contextual awareness’ raises some real and positive use cases that I as an individual would actually subscribe to. ‘Contextual awareness’ or ‘Augmented Reality’  is the process of providing supplemental information about an environment or area that would further help the user to understand or interact with his/her surroundings; that is, enriching the real world with appropriate digital information ensuring that that ‘viewer’ has access to a fuller understanding of the environment which they find themselves in. So real world examples…. Well mostly people are trying to sell you stuff.. sigh, you know the drill, you walk into a department store and as you approach the perfume department the stores app will sense your proximity (and odour!?!) and will tell you what special offers are available today.

Click here to read the full blog.

Written by Conrad Rowlands, Team Leader and Developer, DSCallards