Gardening ideas – May 2019

Echium spires?

Citrus

When you see new shoots & flowers on citrus, feed them – water and liquid seaweed – 30:1 – half a jamjar in a watering can.

If in doubt, basic tomato feed one time a month over winter, easter 10 days to 2 weeks, summer once a week.

Grayswood Ghost – Silver Birch – Betula utilis var. jaquemontii – Himalayan birch – Plant 3 together to stunt growth and create a nice effect.

Shade

Bleeding Heart Dicentra – Perfect for shade.  Needs moisture.  Cut back after flowering.

Dilys Geranium – plant with the above.

Polygonatum x hybridum ‘Betberg’ – Solomon’s seal.

Speirantha convallarioides – needs acid shade

Sorbaria sorbifolia ‘sem’ – what we’ve got by the office – bush – red and green.

 

Hostas

Clifford’s Forest Fire – very large hosta.

Hostas can be divided – either just as they start to grow, or whenever really.

 

Erythronium Jeanette Brickell – Dog’s tooth violet – in shade with Frittery

Acer in shade.  They hate wind.  Acer palmatum Osakazuki – Japanese Maple.  Add compost to soil, plus extra drainage – composted bracken (acidic) plus a load of grit.  This one is green in summer and goes bright red.  Acers are grafted – make sure graft is above the ground.  Heal it in – quite gently, don’t crush the drainage and compact it down.  Mulch thoroughly with pine bark – erricacious mulch.

 

Navelwort – Omphalodes Cappadocica – ideal under shrubs and trees

Trillium rivale – seed

Lathyrus Vernus “Alboroseus” – spring pea – from seed easily – dappled shade.

Imperial Frittery – for the woodland bit – big flowers in spring – yellow.

 

Pea Alderman – 6′ traditional – fill the gaps with radish and lettuce

 

Easter – cuttings of dahlias – cut a shoot off the tuba and pot up.

 

Spring flowering shrubs – cut back after flowering – honeysuckle – new wood carries next year’s flowers.

Woodland – primulas

Sept – Tulips in front garden – “Oranjezon” – Deep – 8” is not too deep.  Plant in December.  Take off the flowering stem after flowering stem after flowering – don’t let go to seed.

Tulipa acuminata – Horned tulip.  About £2.50 each.  Sept-Nov planting.

Tulipa “Wendy Akers” – nice

 

Euphorbia Fireglow – for woodland bit.

Polymonium Bressingham Purple – Jacob’s Ladder.  With Tangerine Geum – dappled shade.

Kohl Rabi Azure Star

Allium Atropurpureum

Oxalis Triangularis – Houseplant

Amelanchier Lamarckii – blossom, fruit, autumn colour – great tree in small garden.  In sun.

Cercis Canadensis – Forest Pansy.

 

Garden is 6.2 wide.  12.5m from house to office

Path from office to Shed is 8m.  Office is 3.3m  Office front to Garage is 4.4m

 

Rosemary – drainage – lots of horticultural grit.  Miss Jessopp’s upright – for hedging.  Pot, window sill.  Plant slightly proud of the surface of the soil in a mound.  Needs sun.

May – 2nd week – pinch out dahlias if they are growing strongly but you’re not ready to pot out.

Forgetmenots and Apricot Beauty Tulip – very nice combination.

 

V dry, poor soil:

Euforbia

Verbascum Christoes Yellow Lightning – 3-4′ tall

Cephalaria Gigantia – Giant Scabious – 6′ tall – v pale yellpw

Acanthus Mollis – Bear’s breaches.

 

Cactai

Twin spined cactur – mommillaria geminispiha

Euphorbia canariensis

 

Feed: lush growth – nitrogen

Flowering – potasium – general purpose tomato feed – liquid seaweed

 

Plants I want – lemongrass

kafir lime leaves – citrus hystrix

Lemons – prune hard in spring

high nitrogen furtalizer

water when the leaves curl and the pot is bone dry.

Calamondin Orange Citrus X microcarpa

Four seasons lemon

Tahiti lime

The citrus centre – pullborough, west sussex

Put chocks under pot so they don’t sit in water.

 

Cold frames?

Greenhouse?

Pond? 

Water feature?

BBQ

 

Daphne – shrub – smells nice.

Amalancia – beautiful flower, lovely berry, autumn colour

Carnus – bright stems, bit like dogwood

 

April 26th – sow parsnips, put radishes in to grow and harvest before the parsnips come up.  Sew sunflowers – one seed per plug, plant out towards the end of June.

Upside Down Marketing

Does your marketing actually make sense?

As someone who helps people with getting more leads from their marketing channels and campaigns, I do get to see more marketing setups than most. And I honestly empathise with my clients, who are trying to get their head around a bewildering array of tools, technologies and platforms, often when marketing is not even their main job function.

But if I could provide only one piece of advice to someone who has to put some marketing or technology in place for their business, I would say this.

Does what they are suggesting actually make sense?

What I mean by this is that it should make sense to you – a normal business owner or manager. If the marketer/techie/designer/author cannot articulate how what they are suggesting will work, it’s actually not your fault. It’s theirs. And it’s a really good signal to you to step back, not forward.

Let me give you three examples.

1. “You do lots of social media. Why don’t we put your twitter feed onto your website?”

This must have happened for a lot of people, because you see it all over the place. Typically this suggestion comes from a techie, because they’ve found a nifty plugin that will do it, and it’s a quick and easy way of padding out a website build proposal. In fact it’s so easy to do – you just go to publish.twitter.com and enter your feed, and they’ll give you the code.

And what’s wrong with that? It shows that the website’s got some life after all.

But let me phrase it a different way. What is right with it? As in, what is the point?

Ask them. What is the point?

Because the goal of every social media platform is to keep its users addicted to its platform. There are so many amazing distractions there. You can go from one person’s content to the next, to the next, all in a couple of clicks.

Before you know it, you’re buying a tee-shirt of a funny rabbit for your nephew. What were you looking at before?

The links from a Twitter feed on your website go one way – from your website to Twitter. Twitter will not help them back again.

So you somehow, amazingly, managed to get a visitor to your website. You probably paid for that – either in terms of paid advertising or organic traffic optimisation. And then you gave them an escape route. They are gone.

2. “Are you doing Pinterest? You should do Pinterest. We can help you do Pinterest.”

Why should you “do” Pinterest?

There is a very good reason.

Because that’s where your customers are!

But a lot of businesses participate in social media not for leads from customers, but because they hear that they should, and they don’t quite know or understand what they should be doing and why. So they do a little of everything, badly.

Back to the primary point – if the marketing doesn’t make sense, don’t do it until it does.

In this case it’s back to the 3 Ms that underpin marketing:

Market, Message, Media

Understand your market. Deeply understand your customers. Know what they like, what they are worried about, what they aspire to, and where they hang out!

Once you understand where your market hangs out, if the answer is Pinterest, then the answer to the question of whether Pinterest is a good idea is obvious. If you’re not sure that your market is on a particular platform, find out. Then everything else is clear. And then you can do one or two platforms really well, rather than 5-10 badly.

3. “We‘ve got your monthly report. You have 10% more visitors on your website. Your Twitter feed has 23 more followers. Your Facebook page has 17 likes and your post on funny rabbits was shared 3 times.”

But how many times did your phone ring as a result of your Google Ads campaigns? And how many calls converted to bookings?

How many more people went from Facebook to your mailing list? And how many new leads do you get per email?

How much profit did you get from your organic search traffic? Your PPC advertising? Your postcard in your newsagent shop window?

Reports are amazing. You can blind clients with pretty pictures, graphs, and tables full of columns that sound impressive but that most people don’t understand.

When I was working for a well known bank on a huge outsourced contract, the outsource partner used to produce a 90 page report each month. The day rate was £1000 a day. It took about 2 people about 2 weeks to produce the report each month. Simple maths.

Who was paying for it? Yes. You. The customer.

Every report you read is produced. It all has a cost. Do you know what that cost is?

No one understood the report. No one had the time to read 90 pages a month. The only people who read it fully were the two who wrote it. And even they probably didn’t fully understand why they were writing it.

Do you have the right numbers for your business? Do people tell you what you ask them to tell you? Or blind you with pretty pictures? Remember, it is actually their job to help you understand what’s going on – does it sometimes feel like they are trying to do the opposite?

“We believe what we want to believe, and once we believe something, it becomes a self-fulfilling truth.”

Seth Godin said this, in his book “All Marketers Are Liars”. Be careful of complacency. Do you understand what your marketers are doing for you and why? If not, ask them.

If you don’t have the SSL padlock, things are finally starting to crumble…

As business owners, we’ve all probably heard by now that it’s a good idea to install what’s known as an SSL Certificate into your website, with scaremongering techies like me telling you that:

  • It’s a good idea.
  • Google might one day penalise you.
  • No, really, it’s a good idea!

It’s not that we are wrong.

Yes, from a trust perspective, a padlock is going to reassure users, and more and more users care, as they become aware that there might be an issue.

Yes, there are good technical reasons why if everyone gets an SSL certificate, the web is generally a lot safer for users, as cyber-criminals have a much harder time of intercepting your activity.

Yes, it’s even a requirement for GDPR! Although no one really shouted about it. If you have a form on your site, GDPR will tell you that the name, telephone number, email and message that is transmitted is actually personal information. Install a SSL certificate and that info is encrypted. Don’t bother, and it’s plain text all the way from where they are to where your server is.

But up until now, there’s not been anything that you can’t do if you don’t install a certificate. And very little down side if you ignored it – at least downside that you’d be aware of.

This is changing

Effective this July (2018) Google will mark all sites without an SSL certificate as “Not Secure” in Chrome. If you want to read more about it, type “July Google SSL” into your browser, but needless to say, this will send a message out to your customers. Your site is “Not Secure”. What will they think about that?

This has changed

Of course, you already get a slight search advantage for having an SSL certificate installed. So you already had a good reason to do it. But this is a little more obvious.

But if you would like another reason to get this sorted out, it comes from Facebook.

Facebook has always been a great tool for businesses, and one of the most requested features we install on our client’s WordPress websites is the ability to allow the site to post any news articles put on the site straight up to Facebook too. In order to do this, you have to create a Facebook app that allows the connection between the site and your Facebook page.

It’s easy to do.

But it’s actually impossible now, without an SSL certificate. Facebook are no longer allowing you to transmit unencrypted data from your site to theirs. They will argue that there’s a risk it could be tampered with on the way. But whatever the likelihood, there’s no changing them. No SSL, no auto posting.

What’s next?

When you follow this to its natural conclusion, you’re going to see a whole load of other services who will start to take a stronger line when it comes to unsecured sites. What if Facebook stops you driving advertising traffic without an SSL certificate? What if Google Analytics stops working? What if that really important plugin you use for your podcast, your CRM, your online order form, etc etc, stop working?

Really, if there was a time to do it, it’s now. This is not going away.

How to do it?

Costs? These days a basic certificate is free. There are more premium certificates, but you don’t need one for simple sites. And administering the on-going certificate (they need renewing like domain names) will cost no more than a few tens of quid a year.

The big cost is the on-boarding, as this can get pretty hairy.

For a simple site, it’s usually not too bad. You install the certificate and test it. You create a staging site running through the certificate so you can see if the site still works. You put in place redirects to make sure all traffic is being routed to the secure version of the site, and you do a scan of your database to make sure there are no hard-coded non-secure resources. You then put the site live on the secure channel.

Clearly that’s all Greek for a non-techie, but it’s not an impossible job. It would normally take an hour or two if everything goes well, and a day if it doesn’t!

For a big site, it could be a right pain in the… But then bigger sites probably already have a techie on board thinking about these things.

I believe this is a good step for the web. So I am prepared to offer any new client who comes on board with WP Aid and quotes “SSL” during sign-up, a free SSL onboarding task as part of your site on-boarding.

And because I hate offers that exclude current customers, I’ll offer an SSL implementation project as a standard monthly task for any of our current customers too!

(Both of these offers are subject to the ongoing payment of the SSL certificate admin fee mentioned above as part of your package – the implementation project is the offer. And this offer can’t be used in conjunction with other offers. Here ends the T&Cs!)

If neither of these options suits you, drop me a message, and I’m happy to try to answer any questions you might have about your own situation. Just don’t leave it too long – things are crumbling around us, and there’s a point where the buildings will start falling into the sea…

What is a DNS and why should I care?

Most business owners have only vaguely heard of the letters DNS. Techno-geeks might have mentioned them when the website was being put together, but we didn’t understand then, and we’ve forgotten now.

Yet a DNS provider is critical to how the web works. And not making a conscious decision on your provider means you’ll be left with the default. And usually the default sucks.

If you would like to jump straight to the answer, here it is:

In most cases a business should switch their DNS provider to Cloudflare. It’s what we use, and there’s a good case for you doing the same.

There we go! That was a short article, wasn’t it? But if you’d like a bit more of an explanation as to why the answer is what it is, read on.

How the internet works

Ok, a big ask, but I’m going to try to explain how the internet works in a matter of a couple of sentences.

When you’re on your computer (or any other internety thing) and you browse for a website, 999 times out of 1000 your computer has no idea where the thing you’ve asked for lives. For example, you want to look at your favourite gardening website – TulipWorld.com. And why not!

So, given your computer doesn’t know where the web-server is that could serve up these dutch beauties, it goes to its Internet Service Provider (which could be Virgin, BT or Sky if you’re at home, or whoever is providing your mobile or wifi services if you’re out and about). Your computer asks “I want the homepage of tulipworld.com – can you get it for me?”.

Your ISP knows something about the domain name tulipworld.com. It doesn’t know where the website is, but it does have information about the domain, including the Domain Name-Servers. This information is stored as part of the standard info every time you register a domain name.

The ISP goes to the server listed as the domain name server, and asks “Any idea where the website tulipworld.com is being hosted?”. The job of the DNS is to reply with the location of the server that hosts the site. This is the IP Address of the website server, or web server.

Now the ISP knows where the web server is, it can just ask the server for the page of content, and pass it back to your computer.

And that’s how it works!

This raises a few questions…

The observant among you might already be jumping to a few conclusions, and maybe have a few questions…

  • Firstly, does this then happen for pretty much every website page request? The simple answer is that it happens a lot. It may be that your ISP remembers the answer to the question (by storing it in a cache – a temporary memory that will be deleted later), so subsequent page requests might not need it. But it will definitely be required for every visitor to your site, and more importantly it will be required for the first page request – the one that we don’t want users bouncing from.
  • Secondly, what about other things? Does it happen a bit like this for email? For VOIP calls? Yes, it does. Each thing that hangs off your domain name has records that are provided by your DNS.
  • Thirdly, what happens if I don’t explicitly choose my DNS provider when I register my domain name? In 999 cases out of 1000, the company you buy the domain from (your domain name registrar) bundles in DNS provider functionality as part of the £10 a year or whatever it charges for the domain name.

So what are the chances that your particular domain name registrar is also the best provider of fast, cheap DNS services? Slim to zero!

Fastest DNS provider for UK websites

So how do we get to the answer of what DNS provider to use? Firstly, let’s go to the data. DNSPerf tests a lot of this stuff. You can look at the answers for resolver simulation in Europe here:  http://www.dnsperf.com/#!dns-providers,Europe,resolver_simulation

 

Do you see your domain name registrar in the list? At time of writing, GoDaddy is at 20, and Namecheap is at 18. Lots of the other biggies aren’t there at all. No Fasthosts, no 123-Reg… etc, etc.

Right at the top of the pile is Cloudflare. Cloudflare’s predicted resolve time is 6.87ms at time of writing. GoDaddy’s is 22.15ms. So Cloudflare is 3 times faster.

Cloudflare basic is free.

Hence, our suggestion is to change DNS providers from yours to Cloudflare. If you come on board with WP Aid they will manage the whole thing for you so nothing breaks during the transition. Just drop me a message.

How to track changes to your AdWords Quality Score

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Everyone knows how important Quality Scores are to an AdWords campaign that delivers decent ROI. Or at least I think they do! If you don’t, give me a shout and I’ll write an article that explains it.

But how do you go about tracking whether you’re actually making improvements to those Quality Scores? Let’s face it, on all but the most basic of campaigns you’re going to have multiple ad groups, and multiple keywords within those ad groups, and each keyword has its own individual quality score. This means that if you don’t look into the detail, you could find yourself thinking that an ad campaign is not delivering, when in fact some of the key phrases within the campaign are delivering solid ROI.

The most annoying thing is that Google doesn’t keep historical Quality Scores in accounts.  What we need is some sort of tracker that will show us changes on a keyword, ad group and campaign level, over time. I decided to have a look to see how this could be achieved, and this is what I found.

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PPC Ephiphany Script

You can find the post with the link to the script here:  https://www.ppc-epiphany.com/2016/03/11/introducing-the-quality-score-tracker-v3-0/

This is a great free script that gets uploaded into your AdWords account, and extracts the QS values into your Google Drive in the form of a dashboard and a detailed spreadsheet.

I found the setup to be easy and quick following their instructions, and the resulting spreadsheets are clear.  I’ve set up the script to run daily, so it should build up a nice profile of performance over time.

Basic, but great, and free.

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Adalysis

Go here for their tool: https://adalysis.com/quality-score/

Adalysis have an interesting breakdown of the 3 factors that affect the Quality Score, and the weightings that are given to them depending on your current performance, in terms of being above average, average or below average.

You sign in with your Google account for a 14 day free trial.  Once you’ve linked everything, their system extracts the data from AdWords, and then they send you an email to tell you everything’s set up.

The basic package is $99.

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Supermetrics

Try it here:  http://try.supermetrics.com/adwords-historical-quality-score/

This is a plugin to Google Sheets that gives you the ability to pull all sorts of information out of all sorts of systems.  It looks like a really powerful tool, but we’re interested in Quality Score here, so that’s what I’ve tried.

It’s a bit more techie than the previous script.  You have to build up the query that you want to run yourself, which isn’t immediately obvious.  I ended up with just getting three rows of data the first time I tried, but with a bit of fiddling I could get it working.  But it was all a bit painful.

At the bottom of the sidebar is a template gallery, and this was a lot more impressive.  There are some useful templates straight out of the box, which worked perfectly.

However, I can’t see how I can track specific keywords and ad group performance over time.  It seems to be more of a snapshot view rather than helping me prove we’re doing badly or well over time.  I just can’t see that it’s showing me the data I want to see.

I expect I could build what I need over time, and the other integrations are interesting, but ultimately it doesn’t quite do what I’m after, and it’s also $45 or so per month after the trial, so it needs to be hitting the spot.

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Optmyzr.com

Go here:  http://www.optmyzr.com/info/quality_score_tracker

Optmyzr’s toolset gives you all sorts of information about your campaigns over time, but again we’re only really interested in Quality Score for the purposes of this post.

The visualisations you get are nice.  An overview for example:

You can drill into the campaign, to show changes to keywords over time, which is what we’re after.  At the moment there’s no data, so I’ll come back and update this in a few days.

This is a comprehensive suite of tools, and it’s priced to match.  The regular is $249 per month, and the pro is $499 per month.  So it’s only going to be worth it if you’re after a lot more than just the historical Quality Score tracking.  But it’s a nice solution.  They do have a lite plan, but you have to contact them for information.

 

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How to move your WordPress website from HTTP to HTTPS

So, caveat first. This is not the suggested approach if you are running a transactional website. If you’re going to be losing money for every second your site isn’t working, you ought to do this as a proper planned and tested project.

But if it doesn’t really matter if things don’t work out, and you know how to revert to a previous version of your site, you can just go for it.

Firstly, take a backup using something like ManageWP, which is really easy to use to revert the site in the event of a disaster.

Then install a Lets Encrypt SSL. This is completely host-specific, but most big hosts will have this option for you. It is usually free. Often it’s a self-service option in CPanel.

Once you’ve done that, log into WordPress, and under settings change the URL of the site from http:// to https://

This will probably get you part of the way there, but you still won’t have the green padlock, as you’ll have odd files like CSS, javascript, linked images, hardcoded links etc that will be http, and your browser doesn’t like mixed content – i.e. loading http stuff from within an https page.

Now you can either install a plugin (like Search and Replace) or use PHPMyAdmin to do a global search and replace of your old URL to your new one.  Code will be something like this:

UPDATE wp_posts SET post_content = REPLACE (
post_content,
'Item to replace here',
'Replacement text here');
You’ll need to do this for any tables that have the old web address.
Finally, set up redirects to redirect any http:// request to https:// as a 301 redirect and you’re done!
Note: this nearly always has an impact on your SEO rankings, but that impact is nearly always temporary, and in the long term Google’s going to reward you (although not a lot) for https.
If you’re interested in watching a video of this process in action, you can sign up for my mini-course teaching you how to do this step by step.  The course is available for several different well-known hosts, and is free.
If this all sounds like more fun than you can handle, we do a done-for-you service for £300 plus VAT.

Jake Liddell

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