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July 2011

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Another new boy at Focus..

I’ve been told it’s a mandatory requirement of a new Focus employee to write a goes....

An introduction to me would probably be the best place to start I suppose....I’m Kyle, the new Account Manager here at Focus; I was previously working at a large PLC in the marketing department.

I was looking forward to getting started at Focus since the job offer came through, even from my initial meeting about the role with Simon; I knew the role and company would be the right choice for me.

So the first week......I had been commuting to Birmingham every week for the last 6 months to my previous job and was not only looking forward to not having the 100 mile drive to and from work, but also meeting everyone at Focus and being involved in all things digital on a daily basis!

My first impressions of Focus are very positive; we are a very forward thinking agency with a real hunger to develop....something which was a big appeal to me when considering the move!

The first week was spent on introductions, getting to know the Focus team; I ventured to my first client meeting with Emily and was mainly getting up to speed on everything and gaining an understanding of our current clients and how Focus approaches the world of digital.

I’m really looking forward to the new and exciting challenges ahead with the new role and glad I made the move to join Focus. 

Created on Monday July 25 2011 03:14 PM


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Knee deep in keyword research

During our recent office move I found an old checklist that we used to provide clients in the late 90's that covered submitting web sites to search engines. At the top of the sheet in big, bold text was the first instruction: "Put yourself in the position of the user". Many years later and that statement remains the important fundamental step when thinking about keyword research.

Keywords are the building blocks of search engine marketing - whether it's natural, organic optimisation or pay-per-click campaigns using AdWords and alike. Keywords are thoughts - they are transferred from the brains of users and translated into words and phrases that a search engine has to decipher before deciding which web sites to present as relevant, in an organised and ranked list. Keywords are also often questions - from users looking for solutions, and you hope that it's your web site that can provide answers through your products and services.

Users tend to create keywords in one of a few general ways:

 - they can be explicit or exact: a description of what the user is looking for. If they are looking for more RAM for a computer, they may search for 'computer memory'.

 - they can describe the problem they're having or symptom being experienced: 'cannot run photoshop', or 'computer running slowly'. Both these might be solved with more computer memory, but the searcher doesn't know that yet, they're merely describing the issues they face.

 - they can also search for precise brand or product names: 'DDR3 1333MHz PC3-10600'. Keywords like this might be the easiest to monitise towards, but they're also likely to be the most competitive.

Immediately you can see that picking keywords from your brochure or your marketing department might not be the best way to start your research. Users don't think like you or your organisation does, they may not use jargon familiar to you. It's crucial to look beyond the keywords themselves - and examine the scenarios and situations that may be causing someone to need your product or service.

Simon Newing

Created on Wednesday July 20 2011 11:35 AM

Tags: seo

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My first week...and 6 days at Focus

After managing to hide away from writing my first ever blog post for 6 days here it is! So first I'll introduce myself a little bit, my name is Steve! I have just graduated from UWE where I studied web design and  have lived here in Bristol for 4 or so years. However as my mother told me three times a day after my last exam, "You can't be a student forever"...however fun it is. 


So it was time to find a job, and a great one I did! After finding out more about the Focus team and doing some research into Rails I was a little bit giddy when the email came through with a job offer. After a weekend of celebrations, moving into a house with no furniture and my earliest alarm call for months I was ready for my first day at work.


After meeting or re-meeting all of the Focus team that I had just become a part of and doing some paper work I began to get introduced into the world of Ruby on Rails. I'll admit at first it was a lot to take in, trying to attach the concepts to previous experience but after sitting down, looking at some code and having a look through my first rails app I had a feeling I was going to really enjoy it.


So, a week on... The team have made me feel really at home, I have just about got used to getting up for nine and I am really enjoying learning Rails and developing for real clients. I am really looking forward to getting better at ruby coding, I really need to thank at this point Neil and Paul for the huge amount of help and patience in guiding me through my first week and six days. 

Steve Fenn

Created on Tuesday July 19 2011 11:43 AM


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Google+, plus one, equals?

Google+, plus one, equals?

So, at Focus we've been trying out the new Google+ system from Google to try to figure out if it's going to change our digital lives.


First things first -- it is very much like Facebook. At its core, it performs much of the same functionality as Facebook - you befriend people (add them to your "Circles", in Google+ parlance), and can then exchange messages, photos, videos and links.


Second, it even looks like Facebook - you still get the central feed of all your friends' activity, and the site design is even fairly similar at first glance.


So, what differentiates Google+ from Facebook?


Well, let's start with the bad: right now, the odds are that none of your friends are on there. Of course, this is reasonably obvious, as the service has only just launched and they're limiting invites right now, but it's still likely to present a significant hurdle to adoption, especially for casual users - Auntie Mabel isn't likely to sign up to "a site like Facebook, but with none of your friends or family on there."


So what's there functionally to convince you into making the jump?


First, you organise your contacts into Circles, which is a very nice implementation and superior to Facebook. I can organise people into friends, colleagues, family -- and create my own circles, such as the local poker club.


Then, when I post a message, I can choose what circle or circles are going to receive this message.


It sounds like a simple idea - it is! - but it's a very powerful one. Now I can post videos of the kids to friends and family, comments on technology to my colleagues, and jokes to my friends.


In Facebook, it's rather more that everything goes to everyone, which may not be what I want - either from a privacy standpoint or a "boring family members with technical stuff" standpoint.


Next, there's "Hangouts", where contacts in any of your circles can join in a virtual chat room, and chat via text, voice or video. Up to 10 people can video chat simultaneously for free, which is quite impressive, and may (incidentally) worry Skype, who require you to pay to video chat with more than one person.


I'm going to skip over "Sparks", which is supposed to feed me information I'd find interesting (like "when your Grandpa used to cut articles out of the paper and send them to you", according to Google), but in my testing, it seems to be a poor version of Google search, giving me a random mish-mash of barely-interesting results. Hopefully that'll get better, as Google clearly should have the search knowledge to pull this feature off well. Or perhaps it'll return great results for the content that you're interested in.


Finally, there's the increasing integration with other Google services.


For example, there's the "+1" integration -- if you share a link on Google+ about a great pet shop, say, I can "+1" it, which is giving the site my personal recommendation - a feature you may well have seen rolling out over Google's search results recently.


Now, if my one of my friends searches on Google search for pet shops, the site I recommended will come up with my recommendation noted - giving them some reassurance that it's something their friends approve of. It also seems likely that "+1"'d sites may rank higher for you in the search results.


Also, the new black Google navigation bar is going to be standard amongst all your Google services - Search, GMail, YouTube, Docs, Reader - so Google+ is going to have the advantage of being "right there at the top of your page" when you're using any of those sites.


So: is Google+ an improvement on Facebook? Probably, yes, at least on paper. Is it going to gain any widespread use? That's a lot harder to answer, and it's certainly going to be challenging for it to make gains into Facebook's massive dominance, but when it launches fully it will clearly be right there in front of a huge amount of existing Google users.


Facebook, of course, aren't sitting idle in response to this new competition - there are new announcments abounding of Skype integration so you can video chat with your friends, but we'll have to see what pans out there.


We will keep you posted!

Neil Smith

Created on Thursday July 07 2011 12:58 PM

Tags: google

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