The Importance of ICE 50 – A Member’s Perspective

Disclaimer: In addition to being a Welsh ICE member, they’re also a client of mine – albeit they came on-board after I joined them. So I was a member – who benefitted from the funding – first and foremost.

ICE 50 logoEarlier this week, Welsh ICE (my co-working space) announced ICE 50, which you can apply to here. In short, they’re giving away 50(!) fully funded spaces in order for entrepreneurs, startups, freelancers, etc. to be able to grow their businesses in their business centre in Caerphilly (just outside Cardiff), South Wales. Membership is usually £250 (+ VAT) per month, and these bursaries are for the first year of membership, so you’d effectively be getting c. £3,000’s worth of business support, desk space, etc. for free.

It’s a fantastic opportunity. I should know – I was fortunate enough to be on a similar funding scheme when I started my SEO consulting business 2+ years ago. I thought that talking about it was worthy of a blog post, as there’s a few things people don’t realise about places like ICE, plus I wanted to give my perspective on it in the process.

Why this funding is a big deal

One of the biggest problems with starting a business is all of the upfront costs. When I started mine, I invested in a website, branding, contracts, software and much more, while still building up a clientbase and therefore not exactly earning a large amount of income in those early days in order to counteract it. Getting office space is important – whether it’s for professional perception, or striking a better work-life balance by getting out of the house, or both – but it is yet another expense, which is why you find so many business owners inevitably working from home, in order to keep costs down.

The beauty of the ICE 50 funding is that by the 12-month mark, most businesses are in a much stronger position financially, and therefore able to keep up with the costs from that point forward. So it’s great that so many businesses can receive the benefits of operating from such a space but in a low-risk (perhaps even no-risk) way.

Why it’s more than just a desk

Co-Lab at ICE image
The misconception of setting up shop in a co-working space is that… well… it’s just a co-working space. It’s just a desk, WiFi and coffee, right? No, it’s not. It’s more than that:

  • It’s a networking opportunity – fellow co-workers might refer clients to you, or even become clients themselves,
  • It’s also a collaboration opportunity – you’ll never know who you’ll meet and work with on projects (e.g. I hired an ICE-based comic book company to provide illustrations for a guest blog post, which you can read about here),
  • ICE in particular offers mentorship, by partnering its members with mentors who can help them in areas where they’re struggling (e.g. I met with an experienced sales consultant who passed on some cracking advice),
  • Funding is also available (location-depending) – as Caerphilly is considered a deprived and struggling area economically, various funding options are available that mightn’t be available otherwise.

Click to read more!

Penguin Sweepstakes! When Will Google Penguin v4 Land?

A harmless tweet from my friend and fellow SEO Andrew Isidoro gave me a great idea…

What if we did a sweepstake for when Penguin is going to land, and the winner can get prizes/freebies from various SEO people?

Google have announced that the very much long-awaited Google Penguin v4.0 algorithm update “will still happen in 2015,” meaning that (unless it’s delayed into 2016) sometime in the next two months, Penguin shall wreck its usual havoc on the SERPs.

The rules

Bling penguin imageWant to play? Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Tweet me your preferred date. Please do not email it to me or leave a comment below – for the sake of fairness and making sure that people can (publicly) see who entered when (just in case there’s any disputes), I’ll only accept one means of entry: via Twitter.
  2. If a date is already taken, you cannot claim it. In other words: only one person per date. This also means that only c. 60 people can enter – as soon as all applicable dates are taken (from now until 31st December) then that’s it I’m afraid…! Please check the calendar below to see what’s taken and what’s still available.
  3. I’ll update the calendar with your entry, then we’ll wait and see when Penguin strikes.

For full terms & conditions, please see the bottom of this post. Yes… I have gone to the effort of providing full-on T&Cs, because knowing my luck, someone will kick up a fuss if things go wrong, so I’m just doing it to cover my behind. Overkill much? Yes. But better to be safe than sorry.

The prizes

Prizes confirmed so far:

  • A free one-year licence (worth £99) for Screaming Frog (thanks Dan!)
  • A free three-month Pro plan for Moz, plus a prize pack that will include the Roger figurine and a few other things (worth c. £200+ – thanks guys!)
  • A free one-year Pro licence (worth c. £200) for URL Profiler (thanks Patrick!)
  • A free one-year Multi Business package (worth £2-300) for BrightLocal (thanks guys!)
  • Two free Whitespark accounts (worth c. £500 combined!): an SEO Specialist account for the Local Citation Finder & an SEO account for the Local Rank Tracker (thanks Darren!)
  • A free six-month Pro plan (worth £2-300) for SEMrush (thanks Olga & co.!)*
  • A free one-year licence (worth c. £230) for AccuRanker (thanks Krystian!)
  • An Übersuggest t-shirt (Large) kindly donated by Chris Dyson of Triple SEO (thanks Chris!)
  • A couple of BrightonSEO t-shirts (thanks Kelvin!)
  • [More prizes announced soon hopefully!]

* Unfortunately the SEMrush prize isn’t applicable to existing customers due to the complications that would arise around their payment system. If a current user wins the prize, they’re happy to offer alternative prizes instead, such as custom reports, additional keyword allowances, an upgrade… that type of thing.

All amounts above that are usually in dollars (e.g. Moz) are rough, based on the current exchange rate.

The calendar

There’s probably better ways to visualise it (answers on a postcard in the comments please!), but I’ve used this plugin (IBS Calendar) to do so. Behold:

 Event List


Click to read more!

5 SEO Tips for Online Sellers – an Online Seller UK Podcast

Online Seller UK logoI recently appeared on a podcast for Online Seller UK – run by my friend Prabhat Shah – where I gave 5 SEO tips for online sellers / Ecommerce websites. I’ve previously spoken at an Online Seller Wales event (where I gave a list of link building tactics suitable for Ecommerce websites), so it was a pleasure to be asked to do a podcast as well.

You can listen to the podcast here, or below:

Here are the 5 tips (in quick bullet-point form):

  1. Get your own website (instead of only relying on a profile on eBay or Amazon),
  2. Look into implementing structured data – such as – so that review/rating stars appear next to your listing in Google’s search results,
  3. Watch out for duplicate content issues (which can be notoriously bad for Ecommerce sites in particular),
  4. Try and write unique content and descriptions for all of your products,
  5. Get links from the websites of the brands that you sell, as many of them have Our Stockists or Where To Buy sections – I wrote about this in more detail for a recent State of Digital post.

MOM Shortlisted for 2 Awards in the UK Search Awards 2015

UK Search Awards 2015 shortlist bannerI’m delighted to announce that I’ve been shortlisted for two awards in the UK Search Awards 2015. The two categories are Best Low Budget Campaign and Best Use of Content Marketing, both of which were for my work with Computer Recruiter on their CR 25 campaign, which I’ve spoken about at BrightonSEO and for SEMrush.

CR 25 was a lot of hard work, so it’s great to get a bit of recognition for it. I’m chuffed simply to be shortlisted, but to win as well would be absolutely amazing. I guess we’ll have to see how it goes in 6 weeks’ time…!

EDIT: Thanks also to Welsh ICE for writing about it on their blog, too!

Spotify is Missing a Trick: UGC & the Gamification of Explicit Tracks

Expletive napkin imageI’m a big rock music fan, a daily Spotify user and a new dad… It’s an wild mix.

Before becoming a dad, it didn’t matter what I listened to around the house. But nowadays I have to be very careful what I listen to, especially as I listen to bands like Rocket From The Crypt and The Wildhearts, whose tracks (and even song titles!) contain swearwords. Spotify doesn’t censor music, but it does its best to tag offending tracks as “[EXPLICIT]”. However it’s certainly not foolproof: for example, “Get Down” by Rocket From The Crypt isn’t tagged as explicit yet it contains various swearwords; on the other hand, every track of Hidden World by Fucked Up has lazily been tagged as explicit (probably due to the band’s name), despite many of their songs not actually containing any expletives (example: “David Comes To Life”) – although admittedly I probably shouldn’t be listening to them in the presence of a 16-month-old anyway, so not the best example, heh…

It seems as though Spotify manage the process themselves – whether automated, semi-automated or entirely manually, I’m not sure. It seems likely that they would give precedence to more popular acts, so if Justin Bieber drops an f-bomb, it’s more likely to get tagged more quickly than an obsure hipster-friendly band you’ve probably never heard of. And there seems to be no way to report tracks as a user – whether by desktop…

Spotify example - desktop screenshot
(Click to enlarge)

Spotify example - mobile screenshot…or by mobile… (see right)

It doesn’t look possible to do it at an album or artist level, either. The functionality just doesn’t seem to be there at all.

But if you ask me, Spotify if missing a trick here. Why not give users the chance to report tracks as-and-when they listen to them in UGC (user generated content) style? So when I realise that the aforementioned “Get Down” contains the s-word and the f-word, I can tap/click it, report it as explicit, then someone at Spotify can check it and add the tag if I’m correct. They could keep it simple on a mobile, but the desktop version could ask for more info (e.g. roughly what time in the track the offending word appears). They could even semi-automate the process – they could cross-reference each track against lyrics websites and/or use transcription software to see if it can detect any swearwords, limiting the amount of time that some poor intern has to sit and listen through them all one-by-one.

Hell, they could even gamify it. What if someone who reports x number of tracks wins some sort of reward, e.g. a free month of Premium? It seems like a no-brainer to me. Encourage users to do it – the more they find and report, the more they stand to benefit from doing so.

For me, it would make the whole Spotify experience more trustworthy and more reliable. A more trustworthy and reliable service means that I’m going to remain a Premium user for longer; it means that a free user is going to listen more often, listening to more ads and therefore enabling more ad impressions – or decide to become a Premium user themselves, too. However if tracks continue to be tagged incorrectly, I might switch Spotify off (or cancel Premium altogether) and simply put Radio 2 on instead – and that’d be bad for Spotify.

In the meantime, I’ll try my best to rock out (minus the swears). Wish me luck, mofos.

[Expletive napkin image credit – Julie (sewitsforyou)]