On the 26th May 2012, the EU Cookie Law will start to be actively enforced. Despite being made law in May 2011, the UK Government will not actively enforce or police sites until after the 26th.
The EU Cookie Law primarily about getting consent from visitors to your site for placing cookie’s onto their computer. Cookies are small files that websites will use to store information about their users. Their use ranges far and wide; however, you will typically find that many login or shopping cart systems will have features that depend on cookies.
Cookies can also be used for other purposes, which can include tracking users. A typical application of this might to be monitor what pages a user visits so you can serve targeted adverts unique to that particular user, based on their history.
Many users will be unaware that cookies are responsible for this – and this is what the law is for; to inform and more specifically, gain consent from the user to set cookies on their computer.
The law is aimed at anybody who owns or operates a website. If you’re running a website within the EU; then regardless of whether or not is personal or business related, the law applies to you.
You need to find out if your website sets cookies. In most cases, it’s very likely that your website sets at least a few. Therefore, you need to find out what cookies are being set and what they’re responsible for.
There are plenty of cookie detection tools out there which you can use. A quick browse around your site with these tools will give you a list of every cookie that is set. These lists are often complicated though, and if you’re not a web developer it can be a nightmare trying to figure out exactly what each one does.
There are many different types of cookies that are responsible for a wide range of uses. But what type of cookies do you need consent from your visitors to set?
As you can see, not only do you need identify which cookies are being used by your site; but also exactly what they’re used for.
We’ve mentioned that cookies which affect fundamental functionality of the site are exempted from needing consent. But, what is really considered fundamental functionality?
Unfortunately, the law as it stands is full of grey areas on this particular issue. When the law was first announced, it was speculated that cookies set by tracking programs (for example, Google Analytics) would require consent as technically, these aren’t critical to a site’s operation.
However, the Government Digital Service takes the view that these cookies are in fact essential to a website’s operation and are therefore exempt. If we’re following their example (which no doubt, many sites will do) then we don’t need to get consent for cookies set by your analytics software.
As you can imagine, there will be a lots of areas where someone can justify all types of cookies as being critical. It will likely be some time before we have the full picture of the type of cookies which are exempt and those that are not.
It will be important to review your cookie use and compliance with the law on a regular basis to determine if your site is still adhering to the law.
Website owners are rightly worried that forcing users to consent to cookies as soon as they enter their site will affect conversion rates, sales and usage. This is close to the reality of this law and therefore it will be a big issue for sites that set and use lots of cookies; how do you get consent without diminishing the user experience?
No body knows the answer to this yet. Understandably, many sites do not want to start putting roadblocks up unnecessarily and once again we’re back to a ‘wait and see’ approach that many businesses are taking.
One example that is live now though is the BT site. Clicking the cookie settings link at the bottom right opens a panel for you to choose your level of consent. This is suitable for a company like BT, but is not for a small business site.
The first thing you need to do is to determine what cookies are being set by your website. From this list, you’ll then need to find out which cookies are essential and which are not.
For many small businesses with typical websites (including small eCommerce sites) you won’t be setting a lot of cookies outside of the checkout, your analytics and possibly login pages.
As you’d expect, there will be a lot of businesses that are playing a ‘wait and see’ approach with this law. But, ensuring these two pages are in place won’t cost much and will go a long way towards compliance for smaller businesses.
If you would like an expert opinion on the cookies being set by your site, please contact us on 0800 081 1688. We can provide you with a full list of cookies and their use, so you can determine the best course of action for your site.
Google have been extremely aggressive lately with trying to tackle the issue of quality links. They have shut down blog networks that exchange links and de-valued hundreds of other linking network sites. This has led to a surge of unnatural link notices being sent through Webmaster Tools to sites that participated in this kind of link building.
We do not and have never built links in this manner, which is why we were extremely surprised to see that one of our clients was served with an unnatural links notice from Google. Immediately, panic occurred as this can be extremely serious for a business that relies on traffic from Google – we had to fix this, and fast!
Immediately, we checked to see what kind of links we had been building for our client. It turned out, that with this particular client, a link campaign hadn’t started yet. In fact, we were still optimising and working developing the site, which meant that these links must already have been established.
At this point, we decided to run the site through some link analysis tools, including SEO Spyglass, Majestic and Open Site Explorer. All three turned up a slightly different set of results, which was also different to the links reported in Webmaster Tools.
We started by looking through our link analysis tools and seeing what kind of back links were reported. We didn’t notice anything strange. All the links seemed to be from fairly legitimate sites and directories which are typical of a small business site’s link profile.
It was at this point we decided to cross check our link tools with the links that Webmaster Tools reported. On comparison, the two lists looked very, very different. It turns out that Webmaster Tools was reporting on lots of links that were missed by our other analysis.
Could it be that Google had identified – and placed value on – a wider range of links? Well, no. After checking the domains thoroughly we found no trace of links to our client’s site. So, why was Google reporting these as linking to our client’s site?
It’s almost guaranteed that at some point these sites did link to our client – most likely built from their previous SEO company. It’s our suspicion that this was a link strategy used by them and when our client changed SEO providers, the links were removed.
On the surface, these additional links from Webmaster Tools didn’t look too suspicious. They were from a wide range of different domains that covered different subjects. However, some digging around on these sites revealed that:
A picture was starting to form. However, we still weren’t 100% sure that these sites were the cause; although they definitely weren’t valuable sites so are not helping.
We did some additional checks:
It was clear now that these are the infringing sites. It would be fairly trivial for Google to identify that these sites are similar in nature and that the outbound links are purely for SEO purposes. They then removed all these sites from their index, eliminating any link value and then probably sent all out bound linked sites unnatural link notices.
There was still the problem of our client’s site being identified for unnatural links. We checked all the domains and pages that we identified above, but not a single one was linking to our site at this point. Somehow, Google either thinks these sites are still linking to us, or (more likely) the client site has been targeted because at some point these bad sites did.
This was last week and we have still not seen any penalty for our site in the SERPs. On the contrary, our organic traffic has only continued to increase:
So where do we go from here? We’ve decided to wait it out, rather than apply for a reconsolidation request. Our strategy will be to build some good, beneficial links into the site and wait and see what happens.
We confident that Google won’t penalise the site and that eventually these links will be removed from Webmaster Tools and replaced by the more stable, better quality links we’re building now.
This will vary for every site. If you know you’ve been building links in this manner, then the above won’t apply – you just need to get rid of the bad links and get some good ones! Otherwise, if you’re like us and there is no obvious bad links, this is a good method to begin with and worked for us.
If you’ve been served with a notice of unnatural links, then contact us today on 0800 081 1688. We can you identify which links are causing problems and help get your site back on track.
Selling on eBay opens your business up to a huge market of potential buyers and can be an extremely quick and effective way of increasing sales and exposure. There are many ways to sell on eBay with a myriad of tools available; but what about eBay shops?
eBay shops are your store front on eBay. Buying on eBay can be impersonal at times and bland, which can make it difficult for your brand or products to stick out. eBay shops are an effective way of distinguishing yourself from the competition and bringing your brand to eBay.
Your store front on eBay can be personalised, branded and made unique when you join the shop programme. It’s easy to then apply this branding throughout to your product listings and then deliver a completely unique shopping experience through eBay. Visitors will instantly be able to recognise your products simply by seeing your brand above the normal eBay templates.
This gives sellers using shops a unique advantage over their competition. In addition, eBay shops will also include a wide range of benefits to help you sell:
Opening an eBay shop will take your sales to the next level. 75% of sellers have said that opening a shop improved their sales. It’s simple. A shop gives you a more professional image, enhances your brand and makes your products stick out – all of which will encourage and build trust in the buyer; resulting in more sales.
One of the most unique elements of opening an eBay shop is the ability to create and use your own design on pages and listings. Don’t waste this! This is your chance to stick out from the competition and professionalise your products.
Recently, we have worked hard to design new shop layouts for our customers. The design on the right is a recent build for The Stopwatch Shop.
We have been designing and building eBay shops for a wide range of customers. Our expertise in this area has led to the transformation of many eBay sellers; turning them into truly professional shops.
Likewise, we have opened new sales channels for established eCommerce sites by bringing their brand to eBay. With our easy integration tools, it’s simple to start professionally selling on eBay and double your sales.
The simple answer is yes. If you’re serious about selling on eBay, opening a shop is the way to go and will expand your sales. You can deliver a more professional, branded experience that will really improve your sales.
Contact us today on 0800 081 1688 to discuss your requirements and see how we can help you.
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