Category Archives: General

traffic lights

Search engine optimisation? Four questions answered.

As part of our sister design business Create Services we often get asked about search engine optimisation. Here are some answers to the most frequently asked questions.

What is it?

In simple terms it means setting up your website in such a way that the internet search engines are more likely to display it early in their results when relevant search terms are used – and by search engines we largely mean Google since they handle around 70% of all searches (Yahoo does around 15%, Microsoft Bing about 10% and others 5%). Search engine optimisation is not the same thing as Adwords, which is Google’s brand name for paid advertisements on their search results pages.

Do I need it?

It really depends how you expect the majority of your visitors to find your website. It may be that the most of your clients will be directed to it via other media, such as having your website address on letterheads, business cards, etcetera. Of course if someone searches specifically for your company name you would expect any search results to include your site in the first few entries, but that should happen with any well designed site provided your name is not very common. It’s the people who search for words associated with the type of business you do, or your general location or a product you sell, people who might never have heard of your business before, that optimisation is aimed at. So, does your website need to capture the attention of those type of people?

How do I do it?

Ah… if only there was a simple answer to this one! Google is notoriously secretive about the methods they use to order search results. One thing that is known is that the number of references (links) to a website on other websites not associated to it, is used as a measure of how popular a site is. So well known sites, which are referenced all over the internet, will tend to feature higher in the results. But it’s also something that is largely out of your control. You can encourage or pay other sites (especially any professional bodies you might be a member of) to publish a link to your site which might help a little, but really it’s only by being around and established for a while that you’ll accumulate enough links to have any impact.

Providing original content which does not simply advertise your business but is a useful resource for people can help in getting links. For example a care home website might provide a page ‘five things to think about when choosing a care home’ which would be a guide for people making the difficult decision to have an elderly relative looked after. Use social media and link to your site regularly from your accounts there.

Besides having the site well-designed and standards-conformant (which is a given for any site we build), the most important thing you can do is make sure that the text on your pages reflects accurately your business. In addition to the text that any visitor sees, you can also add some hidden information (meta-tags) to the pages which search engines will pick up.

I’ve heard there are tricks you can use to get Google to rank my site higher?

People are continually trying to find new ways to ‘beat’ Google’s system. There are two problems with this approach. Firstly it’s difficult to assess how well any of these ideas actually work. You need several months of data and even then you can’t be sure that some other factor hasn’t changed in the meantime. But more importantly, if Google decide you are artificially trying to boost your place in the search results they may blacklist your site completely, meaning you end up achieving exactly the opposite of what you set out to do.

You have to laugh

An outrage took place at the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris on Wednesday. ‘Islamic terrorists’ dressed up in the costume of war and well-armed with the weapons of war took the fight to their sworn enemy and killed… a bunch of cartoonists??? A great victory for caustic reviewers of comedy everywhere.

Prophet Muhammad sent down a special message from paradise with his apologies “I’ve tried to get them to lighten up but no, they keep going on about how no-one should make fun of me as if I was the one with no sense of humour! Get it straight, I thought a lot of that stuff was fucking hilarious, especially the ones with the Pope”.

So, our brave satirists paid with their lives and we mourn their loss and grieve with their families. But in their passing we now see the jihadists for what they truly are.

An absurdly silly bunch of people who can’t take a joke.

Je suis Charlie!

Have a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

It’s that time of year again, but this time, rather than dwell upon the meaning of the festivities I’d just like to offer a little perspective and I can think of no better way to do that than with the lyrics of Monty Python’s Galaxy Song

Whenever life gets you down, Mrs Brown
And things seem hard or tough
And people are stupid, obnoxious or daft
And you feel that you’ve had quite enough

Just remember that you’re standing on a planet that’s evolving
And revolving at nine hundred miles an hour
That’s orbiting at nineteen miles a second, so it’s reckoned
A sun that is the source of all our power

The sun and you and me and all the stars that we can see
Are moving at a million miles a day
In an outer spiral arm, at forty thousand miles an hour
Of the galaxy we call the milky way

Galaxies

Our galaxy itself contains a hundred billion stars
It’s a hundred thousand light years side to side
It bulges in the middle, sixteen thousand light years thick
But out by us, it’s just three thousand light years wide

We’re thirty thousand light years from galactic central point
We go round every two hundred million years
And our galaxy is only one of millions of billions
In this amazing and expanding universe

The universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding
In all of the directions it can whizz
As fast as it can go, the speed of light, you know
Twelve million miles a minute and that’s the fastest speed there is

So remember, when you’re feeling very small and insecure
How amazingly unlikely is your birth
And pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere up in space
Cause there’s bugger all down here on Earth

Credits: Eric Idle & John du Prez

If you’d like to watch the song as originally performed by Eric Idle, here’s the video:

From everyone at Careimages, enjoy the holidays.

Harvester restaurants: food for the thoughtless

If you want to know what kind of society we live in today, read this link http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/severely-disabled-teenager-turfed-out-4550908 and weep. So here is the situation; a cretin among the diners complains about the noise coming from the table and a manager who should know better but does not (mainly because he has not been trained properly by the company he works for) asks the profoundly disabled person to leave the premises.

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Not so sweet: Harvester’s treatment of customer
This is not just about HR or PR (although the £100 gift voucher offered by owners Mitchells & Butlers as compensation is as humiliating as the order to vacate the restaurant). No, this kind of incident is all too common in a society where glamour replaces substance. Drivel like The only way is Essex and I’m a celebrity bombard us with sounds and images that confirm a warped message which tells us ‘we are how we look’. The restaurant manager like many ignorant folk before him, presumably felt he was ‘only doing his job’ in protecting the said cretin who complained from the zombies who were not only ion the space, but also the face of proper humans.

And here is the moral of this story. We cleared the long stay subnormality hospitals 40 years ago in order to give people with profound disabilities a chance in life. Those dismal workhouses for imbeciles, spastics and crazy people gave way to small units where people were supposed to live as independently as their abilities would enable. The rows of lavatories without doors gave way to ensuite bathrooms. And yet, 40 years on, how many cinemas, theatres, football stadia, pubs and clubs are really wheelchair friendly? How many cab drivers can be bothered to stop for a disabled person? And how many capable people with challenging behaviour and learning disabilities do we encounter in work situations? How many more disabled people are turfed out of restaurants?

So in the interests of equality for all Mitchells & Butlers’ customers we challenge the company’s external relations manager Sally Ellison to go onto the company blog and write a full and frank apology to Megan and her family. No, not one of those media course apologies with a humiliating £100 voucher, but one that recognises that the company have failed one of its customers and what they propose to do about this failure. And more importantly, explain why the restaurant manager was programmed to take sides with the cretin who complained and humiliate a disabled woman.

shadowy world

For whom the bell trolls

There is something deeply unsettling about the news concerning Barbara Leyland, the so-called Internet troll who had allegedly posted hundreds of abusive Tweets about Kate and Gerry McCann, parents of the missing girl Madeleine – a full report is here.

shadowy world
Logging on: The murky underworld of poachers and gamekeepers
Ms Leyland was found dead in a Leicestershire hotel bedroom on Saturday, having herself been hounded by representatives of the British media during the week. Quite by chance I happened to see the Sky TV news broadcast on Thursday 2 October which left an unpleasant taste in the mouth as the reporter pounced on Ms Leyland outside her home. Thankfully, that piece of ‘investigative journalism’ is not available online presumably in deference to the tragedy that ensued after its broadcast. I don’t condone Ms Leyland’s defamatory comments about the McCanns – but she did not deserve such a tragic end to her life.

The night before the Sky News story Channel 4 aired its controversial documentary The Paedophile Hunter following the exploits of self-styled ‘undercover reporter’ Stinson Hunter who lures and entraps men looking for sex with underage girls. The documentary was deeply disturbing, showing how these men were ruthless in grooming and exploiting the [fake] teenagers for their own ends before being exposed by Hunter and his associates who filmed their reactions during and after each sting. One of the men caught killed himself a few days later.

Mr Hunter has had overwhelming support of his actions online with 250,000 followers on Facebook and thousands of pounds being donated through a Kickstarter fund he set up. The message of the programme was clear; Hunter is filling a vacuum left by an exasperated police service which, because of a lack of funding and being dragged down by red tape, do not have the resources to keep up with, let alone intervene, to address this growing problem.

There is a lot of debate in cyberspace about the impact of the Internet on society. These two troubling incidents reflect the power the ‘person on the street’ wields with his or her keyboard. Mr Hunter, a former drug abuser who served time in prison in his early 20s, has found a niche in showing his immense talent of making abusive men think he is a vulnerable young girl. And I cannot deny that he has succeeded in doing what the judiciary, accountable to an elected government, could not do. But at what cost? Are we so afraid of Internet trolls that we need to drive them to suicide? Do we sleep better at night knowing that vigilantes are doing the work of the police. The whole thing is becoming depressingly similar to an online video game, available at £39.99 from the usual stockists.

Change of address

With effect from Monday 20th January 2014, Care Images has a new office address:

qrcode
Ground Floor,
94 Leonard Street
London
EC2A 4RH

Our telephone number – 020 7254 1500 – remains the same, as do all our email addresses.

You can put our details straight into your smartphone with the qrcode alongside.

A very merry Christmas and happy New Year

Christmas tree

Seasons greetings to all!

Christmas is here once again and as the frenzy of last-minute shopping reaches its peak, one could be forgiven for forgetting that it is a religious festival as opposed to a retail one – or is it?

For Christian religions it is a celebration of Christ’s birth. However, the date itself is only symbolic and was simply piggybacked by early Roman believers onto the existing week-long midwinter festival of Saturnalia, which itself was a pagan carnival of excess. Even that though has deeper roots, since it marks the winter solstice, the shortest day. What could be more natural than celebrating the start of the retreat of darkness? Something that is common across many religions.

Sadly, darkness or depression is something that afflicts a lot of people, not only now, but throughout the year. But at a time when the majority are celebrating, the feeling of isolation can be particularly strong.

So, from all here at Careimages, enjoy the festivities, try to bring a little light into other peoples’ darkness and in the words of the late, great Dave Allen, “May your God go with you”.

Get your message across without breaking the bank

When we set up Care images all those years ago (when a camera was under a curtain with a puff of smoke coming up behind the photographer) our aim was to provide affordable and realistic images of care to the sector and its suppliers. And we like to think we have succeeded with a raft of local authorities, charities and design agencies subscribing.

Gin and tonic
Gin and tonic: A realistic view of communicating in the sector
Care Images grew out of our other company, Create Services, which produces publicity and marketing materials for the care and charity sectors. Due to a dearth of UK-based images of care and community in the generic image bank market, we thought the only way to resolve that problem was to set up our own bank of images. Basically we were getting tired of representing UK adults with physical disabilities through the ubiquitous American man in a wheelchair throwing a basketball through a hoop. The way I put it then was something like this: “Istock and co have an seventy year-old woman in the Florida sunshine looking like she is fifty, we have a lonely seventy-year-old woman in a cold room in London reaching for a bottle of gin”.

It’s interesting to reflect the reality of how local authorities, charities and the care sector get their message across. Create Services continues to work in these sectors (as well as with clients outside them) and in our work we come across vast differentials in how communications are approached. There are hundreds of thousands of charities in the UK ranging from huge multi-million pounds turnover to one person in a back room putting hours of work into a cause he or she believes in. And of course there are thousands of visual communications agencies serving the sectors. But I do wonder if going to one of the ‘cool’ Soho-based branding agencies is the right way for the bigger charities to spend their money. Add to that the amounts that are regularly spent on high print and web projects and it is easy to see how the minus columns can grow out of proportion. Is a charity really getting added value by

What the blue-chip companies do with their money is between them and their shareholders but what charities and local authorities do is another matter entirely. And with so much free communications available on social media it is more important than ever not to waste resources. It seems to me that the sector is disproportionately representing at the top and bottom ends of the communications spectrum, from a poorly constructed and designed website for a small care home at the bottom to lavish TV, film and print ads for the big charities at the top. We serve the middle of the market and we have a very loyal client base to prove our worth to their brands.

I worked 15 years in social work and understand the funding constraints of the sector. But it is entirely possible to get really good communications materials without breaking the bank. So if you think you might not be getting the kind of value you deserve, come to the experts in promoting care for design, print and web..just as you have been doing for images. For really good free advice please contact us through enquiries@careimages.com or hello@createservices.co.uk

Security camera

All along the watchtower

Better be careful what I say here, someone is snooping on my every move if we are to believe Edward Snowden’s revelations.

Security camera
Candid camera: Watching your every move
I gave up on ‘but we live in a democracy’ a long time ago. In your car you are hounded by cameras which mug you for having half a wheel in a yellow box; the House of Lords is packed with unelected friends of elected politicians; the media agenda and content is determined by PR agencies run by friends of elected and unelected politicians; mega-size conglomerates fix prices and mug us under the eyes of elected and unelected politicians; newspapers, websites, online stores collect a wealth of intelligence about us; local authorities check the faeces you throw away in your bins. And if you haven’t been accosted online or in the middle of a hefty bite into your evening meal by a person sitting at a desk on Mars informing you that there is a claim to be made against your parents who didn’t ask your permission ahead of conceiving you, then you should definitely buy a lottery ticket asap.

The only thing that surprised me about Mr Snowden’s alleged revelations was the scale of it; I assumed it would be much greater. We are completely controlled, always have been and always will be, whether it be by right, left or centre. The Internet has simply made it a lot easier for Big Brother to snoop. In the days of the Stasi, it was the man standing behind you at the bus stop, now it’s an 11-year-old’s latest app that the government have bought into that has blurred evidence of you picking your nose at traffic lights.

Freedom is relative and we have a lot more of it in the UK than other places. But I certainly do not buy into the nonsense spouted by Foreign Secretary William Hague: “You have nothing to worry about if you do nothing wrong.” Clearly, as Mr Snowden has pointed out, you have a lot to worry about. The question in point is, how do we live with that fact.

My message is to chill out folks, we have the Ashes coming up and the football season is back in August but don’t watch them ‘illegally’ online or you may find someone knocking on your door. And it won’t be a Jehova’s Witness.

Disabled woman at home

Divide and rule; the disgraceful Cameron-Osborne cutting machine

When I was younger (yes I can remember when I was) I had a healthy interest in politics. Without going overboard towards the excesses of the ‘far left’ I was firmly entrenched in the Labour camp. And while my views have mellowed over the years I’m still a Labour voter and expect I will always be so inclined. I’m not one of those people who ‘hate Conservatives’ and I doubt I would ever find my collar felt by Mr Plod while demonstrating against any one of a number of issues. But this week’s savage cuts by a government managed and run by mega-wealthy public schoolboys is enough to make me grow my hair, roll a few joints and get real angry.

Disabled woman at home
Kindly leave the spare room; coming to social housing near you
The actor Ricky Tomlinson (aka Jim Royle of the Royle Family series) sums up the idiocy of the government’s scything of benefits here. His article summarises the issue far better than I could but there is an important further point that I feel needs making. And that is the ethics of this round of cuts which Messrs Cameron, Osborne and Co are desperately trying to shy away from. By rooting out disabled people and families in social housing where there is a spare room to stand before the Conservatives’ axing squad, they are neatly dividing and ruling over the most vulnerable people in our society. It has not escaped our notice that the elderly are exempt from the axe (as indeed they should be anyway in a country as wealthy as ours), presumably because they would have the audacity to go out and vote against cuts targeted at them.

But the most despicable thing about this legalised thieving of our government is the quasi generalisation put out by Conservative spin doctors that some people on benefits are lazy slobs watching daytime TV while robbing the country of all its money. This view is propagated by nasty apparatchiks with frothing mouths who clog the airwaves on phone-ins telling us how they have seen their so-called disabled neighbour walking to the off licence to buy cigarettes and cheap lager ‘with our money’.

So, to redress the balance, here is my take on the real scroungers; those who should be facing the biggest cuts. How about the hundreds of thousands of people living off unearned income, whose only ‘work’ is to log on and find out how much interest they have ‘made’ in the last week; or how about the scum who run ourbanks and who lost billions of our money and who still pay themselves obscene bonuses with our money.

As if it’s not bad enough for disabled people and some families on social housing to live off a few scraps the government throw at them. Now the humiliation of having to live off even less as another apparatchik comes round to assess if the empty spare room justifies their evacuation. Of course, Messrs Osborne and Cameron will sleep very soundly in the knowledge that if the said family are out on the street, they will be able to choose from the wide range of loan sharks like the one exposed here and one of whose lobbysits is a an adviser to a certain David Cameron MP.

Pass the sick bag.