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the village websmith - what's new?

18/09/2019: another text scam spotted by an eagle eyed customer

This item came from Peter at Loughborough Student Lets. It purports to be from HMRC offering a tax refund.

The number shown looks like a London one, but when rolled over, reveals it to be an 0845 number, so obviously someone has something to hide.

Once again, it seems that the idea is for busy people to accidentlly hit the link when scrolling through, so once again, we urge the utmost vigilence, even when you know it is a scam and are heading for the delete button.

Click here to request Information on blog item 207
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08/09/2019: another scam attempt purportedly coming from paypal

This attempt at scamming the general public purports to be from PayPal, stating that the recipient's account has been compromised and that it has been suspended pending reactivation.

The message displays a number that they want you to ring. My guess is that this is an offshore premium rate number that will cost a small fortune to connect to.

The scam is easy to spot as the from address is nothing to do with PayPal and when you roll over the number, the real target is revealed as being not the same as the displayed number.

However, even easy to spot can carry dangers. If you are in the habit of managing mail on a mobile phone, there is always the possibility of accidentally tapping the number and getting connected. If you see such a message, the safest bet is to delete it immediately.

Click here to request Information on blog item 206
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24/06/2019: regular visitors are always welcome

This little chap is a frequent visitor to the mobile websmithy, so when it is a nice day, I work out there instead of in the office.

That way, I get lots of nice fresh air and am treated to the song of the swallow chirruping away at the top of his voice.

Human visitors are always welcome too. Even more so if they want to talk about their web sites. For all the technology at our disposal today with emails, conference calls and a plethora of mobile phone applications, we still believe that face to face meetings are the best way to learn about our customers' businesses and to interpret what they wish to promote.

Oh yes, and the coffee here is pretty darned good too, so drop in any time you would like to talk over your web site. We will be happy to see you and singing is optional.

Click here to request Information on blog item 205
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28/01/2019: spam messages still getting through despite your filter?

In recent conversations I have often been asked why setting spam filters to block messages containing specific words or phrases in customers' email clients has not been effective.

In short, and to save having the same conversation over and over again, here is a summary of my response…

To prevent deletion of their junk mail by mail filters and spam traps, spammers go to great lengths to obfuscate the phrases or words in their message that would give away their true purpose. The image in this article compares the text that is displayed in a message window with the underlying code used to create it. Compare that to the user and code views of a genuine email in the additional images. Apart from the fact that I have mis-spelled Barney Rubble's name, this message shows no signs of being illegible to humans or spam filters.

Another way that spammers try to make sure their messages get delivered include 'spoofing' the recipient's own address as the sender. This is ridiculously easy to do and almost impossible to prevent. There is so much written about this online that it is not worth repeating here, simply searching for the topic will reveal a wealth of information. The thinking behind this is most likely that all of us at some time or another will 'whitelist' our own address so that we can make sure we receive emails from ourselves.

As the online spam filter in Apache SpamAssassin is based on a numeric evaluation of contributing factors, some spammers have evolved techniques of falsifying the spam score to a ludicrously low negative number. For example, Apache SpamAssassin by default quarantines every message with a score of 5 or more, whereas most of the messages in one particular category of scam have faked scores of -800 or more.

So, what can we do to cut down the torrent of spam? Taking the common sense precautions that have been outlined here in previous articles is going to help, as is installing and maintaining a rigorous spam filter on your local machine. However, if you are still being plagued by these messages using obfuscation techniques, we can implement a number of measures at server level for you. This will protect all the devices you use for managing emails and should last for some time before the next technological breakthrough on the part of the spammers, hackers and malware distributors makes an update necessary.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to call or click in the header of any page to send an email.

Click here to request Information on blog item 204
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24/01/2019: sextortion scam emails - disgusting and distressing

Recently, scam emails purporting to be from someone who has hacked the recipient's computer, gaining evidence of criminal behaviour have been increasing exponentially. The messages crudely attempt to blackmail recipients, implying that their contact list will receive this fictitious material. They even have their own name now, 'sextortion'. There are two kinds; one includes a password that may well have been used by the recipient at some point, the other merely implies that this information is held.

The teeny bit of good news if there is a password, is that it gives the possibility of identifying the source of the data that the scammer stole to get email addresses in the first place.

The advice that I have been offering to recipients of this disgusting torrent of abuse is as follows:

I would advise closing any online accounts that you no longer use. Yes, this may seem like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted, but these people are stealing information from somewhere, so at least you may stop it falling into any new sets of wrong hands. For online accounts that you need to keep, change the passwords. These should be different for each account and should consist of at least 8 characters, mixed upper case, lower case, number and punctuation. Why different for each one? Then, if another mail gets through with a password in it, the source of the leak can be identified. I know it is hard work, but using a different password for every online account is the only way that we can pinpoint those who are not taking adequate care of your personal data.

Next, get the contact details for your local police cyber crime unit, they should have one. Forward the email to them.

After that, go to and copy/paste the bitcoin account number into the search field. You will then get the opportunity to use the 'report scam' link. Choose 'sextortion' from the drop-down list and submit the form.

Finally, go to The Information Commissisoner's Office and use the online form to report this email.

With the volume of spam daily approaching 100 billion items, it is a huge task to cut down, but every little helps as they say.

If you don't have the time or inclination to make the reports, we can set up filters on an individual basis, targeting this kind of abusive email. Give me a call or send an email if you have concerns and would like to increase selective spam filtration.

Click here to request Information on blog item 203
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28/12/2018: hopefully the last email scam attempt of 2018

In an attempt to round out the year, the scammers' effort for today involves impersonating Amazon. The message in question purports to warn you of an unauthorised login to your account, telling you to log in and update your passwords etc.. To put it another way, to give them all your vital personal information.

There are two major giveaways in this, despite the convincing look they have managed to achieve with the Amazon logos and layout. The first is the sending address, in which the sender has tried to spoof, but didn't manage to hide the Indian address from which it really came.

Further down, if you roll over the graphic button that carries the link, an Indian web site shows up as the real destination of any clicks. See the supplementary image for more detail.

Not hard to spot, but at this time of year, there is often a backlog of emails to deal with and on occasion, busy people can get hoodwinked in this way. I am not sure whether I am more incensed by the sender's clumsy attempts, implying I may be stupid enough to fall for it, or by the implication that I am using a W*nd*ws system!

Have a happy and safe online new year one and all.

Click here to request Information on blog item 202
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08/12/2018: desk back in one piece - eat your heart out ikea!

Just 57 years and 14 days after leaving the factory of Morris of Glasgow, my desk is lovely and shiny again. Still bearing the marks of elbows and coffee cups that have been a part of its past, now preserved by several coats of varnish, it is once again a thing of beauty and a joy to work at.

My aim with the varnish was to make the surface so glossy that if anyone puts a piece of paper on it, it will glide off again. The desk will be back in service again next month, so will let you know how that works!

Click here to request Information on blog item 201
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24/11/2018: happy birthday to my desk!

I was lucky to find my desk on eBay, just ten miles from home a few years ago. I am very fond of it, and have been since I first set eyes on it then. All I knew was that it was "about 50 years old". It was in a decidedly lived in condition and has been used day in, day out ever since, getting more lived in by the hour. So, the time has come to give it some TLC. In taking out the drawers to sand and re-varnish the nice looking, striated veneer, it was great to see the maker's name in the top drawers, along with an ancient ink-stain to give atmosphere.

I was thrilled when I turned over one of the drawers and found an assembly ticket still there, showing that it was built on November 24th, 1961. Exactly 57 years from today. It was also great to find the initials of one of the workers who made it under the desktop. Needless to say, I am not going to touch that part, in order to preserve this lovely piece of history.

t was also great to find that Morris of Glasgow is still going as a furniture maker. It seems that their products have been well thought of for some 300 years. The company fitted out the Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth and QE11 liners as well as producing huge amounts of office furniture for Britain in wartimes and for British Embassies all over the world.

Today has been full of lovely surprises.

Click here to request Information on blog item 199
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24/11/2018: and for a birthday present?

Well, what else? The first coat of fresh varnish. After a thorough sanding with 120 grain AlO2 paper on an electric sander, the sanding was finished by hand using 240 grain paper on a rubber block.

The first coat of varnish has gone on now and will be followed by another in the morning. This isn't aimed at being a characterless, pristine restoration, just a new lease of life for a piece of furniture that is used and enjoyed every day. With almost as many scars as me, it should be allowed to wear them with pride.

Click here to request Information on blog item 200
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21/11/2018: cider appreciation day

The locals gathered at the websmithy to take the short journey to Highbridge's West Croft Farm.

Fifteen people visited two cider farms

Iin striking contrast, the morning was spent at a huge international producer while the afternoon was with a one man band.

Click here to request Information on blog item 198
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29/10/2018: we will remember them

The nice lady who had been beautifying the websmithy window boxes hasn't been well for a while, so since the last season's plants died down, they have been looking a bit barren.

So, in the spirit of Rememberance Sunday, marking a century since the end of WW1, I have replaced them with some poppies. I just grabbed 20 to start things off but they do look a bit sparse. So if anyone is passing the websmithy here in Tintern and would like to plant their own poppy there, I will count up after Armistice Day and donate an additional quid for every one that has been added.

Click here to request Information on blog item 197
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25/10/2018: another fairly obvious attempted email scam

This minor variation on the scam emails theme is worthy of mention only in that the subject line implies that it is a response from someone to an email of yours.

Very clumsily executed, there are several dead giveaways in the addresses of both sender and recipient, indicating that this was sent to a stolen list as blind carbon copies, which is not what you would expect if it was a genuine reply.

There is an image file attached, which is almost certain to be host to malware in its headers, so the only response to this is deletion.

Click here to request Information on blog item 196
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24/10/2018: bitcoin scammer information

More and more customers are getting emails attempting to extort money that the would be scammer wishes to be paid into a bitcoin account.

The picture shows the current account statement of one of these scumbags that I traced through BitCoin WhosWho. As you can see from the balance, he is not a very successful extortionist.

While our own police undoubtedly have the technology to trace this to the next level, sadly they are too bone idle and intent on persecuting motorists, their traditional soft target. Bitter? Me? Never!

Anyway, the important thing that all of us can do is to use the BitCoin WhosWho site https://www.bitcoinwhoswho to report the wannabe scammers. Just copy the bitcoin walled id out of the offending email. Go to that web site, enter the wallet id and search. You will then see the details like this screenshot and click on the yellow 'report scam' box in the top right corner of the page.

If enough people are aware of this and report the scams, the less likely we are to get more of these disgusting emails.

Click here to request Information on blog item 195
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18/10/2018: another scam to keep an eye out for

I got this one today. It claims in the email that I have purchased tickets through Tesco Clubcard to Thorpe Park, which can be downloaded by following the link.

Obviously this is a scam, as hovering over the link reveals an address that is nothing to do with Thorpe Park, Tesco, or anyone else that you may recognise.

Also the sender is a spurious looking email address, probably the inadvertent tool of the scammers by having poor security and getting embroiled in a botnet.

One interesting thing is that the email contained my correct name and business email address, so obviously this hacker has stolen a fairly high quality database, and is attempting to make it look authentic.

Click here to request Information on blog item 194
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16/10/2018: regular updating pays dividends

This isn't a league table as such because it only includes customers whose business class has enough members that I can find one who updates weekly, one monthly and one not at all. You may find the comparison of response rates interesting. Figures are from April to October 2018.
Business TypeResponseCycle
Motorcycle online spares shop167Enquiries inc 119 online salesweekly
Pub with restaurant and B&B in quiet rural location71Enquiriesweekly
Builder with an average ticket value between £10K and £0.5M61Enquiriesweekly
Motorcycle specialist parts online shop - average value £300 - £1K52Enquiries inc 27 online salesquarterly
Pub with restaurant and B&B in quiet rural location47Enquiriesmonthly
Motorcycle shop with an average ticket value between £30 and £5K41Enquiriesbiannually
B&B in quiet town location41Enquiriesmonthly
Pub with restaurant in busy town38Enquiriesnever
Plumber with an average ticket value between £100 and £10K35Enquiriesmonthly
Motorcycle shop with an average ticket value between £30 and £5K30Enquiriesnever
B&B in quiet village location19Enquiriesnever
Builder with an average ticket value between £10K and half a million15Enquiriesnever
Pub with restaurant in small town13Enquiriesnever
Plumber with an average ticket value between £100 and £10K12Enquiriesnever
Fitness coach12Enquiriesnever

Put in more effort, get out more business, it's simple

The figures shown only reflect site visitors who have used the online form to make an enquiry. Telephone contact, direct emails and personal callers are additional to the figures shown.

If you would like to elevate your response level, regular updating is by far the best way. Talk to us about the options from 100% DIY to 100% done for you.

Click here to request Information on blog item 193
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16/10/2018: happiness comes in many forms at the websmithy

This month, a couple of the new sites produced here are strongly linked to making people happy.

For anyone with a family occasion, wedding or celebration coming up, you can make all sorts of people happy with the lovely floral arrangements from White Hart Flowers in Tiptree, Essex. Visit their new site.

And what cider enthusiast wouldn't be happy with some of West Croft Farm's award winning Janet's Jungle Juice? Like all West Croft ciders, this is made using only apples grown in the farm's own orchards and the most traditional methods. Visit the online shop.

Click here to request Information on blog item 192
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12/10/2018: customised look for 'cookies law' panel

Since introducing the cookies policy splash panel as a no-cost upgrade for all our GDPR compliant customers, a number have asked for custom colours.

The original panel was made to stand out in accordance with the ePrivacy Directive (Cookies Law), using neutral colours that would show clearly regardless of the site background colour. That way it was possible to add the required panel to all sites with just one set of files, enabling the cost to be kept to zero.

However, as the demand for a more 'corporate' looking item to satisfy this law has become so strong, there is now a customisation service available to all our customers.

The option involves setting up the background colours and font colour to those used on the site in question, reducing the font size and the panel's opacity and changing the location to the bottom of the viewer window rather than the top.

For just £30 with order, you can customise this aspect of your web site and look more corporate within hours.

Click here to request Information on blog item 191
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30/09/2018: facelift for sussex artist's web site

Sussex artist, Patsy Moore hadn't had time to update her web site for a couple of years while life took her in different professional directions.

However, now all is calm again and Patsy can return to her first love, painting on a more full time basis.

To showcase her original work and to sell limited edition giclée prints, we gave the web site a top to bottom facelift, with new layouts and pages to display Patsy's work in a fitting way, geared up to the wider aspect ratio of modern screens, and working better with mobile phones.

Visit Patsy's site to buy original or limited edition art. Best of all, rather than installing an impersonal online shop, all transactions are made directly with the artist responsible for the works you will be buying. I think that adds something rather nice to the experience myself.

Click here to request Information on blog item 190
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27/06/2018: and today's attempted scam is another easy to spot one.

Going back to basics coule be the watchword for today's scammer. With a minimalist approach, purporting to have some payslips attached from somebody called Amanda Right from the domain This feeble attempt at spoofing a government department obviously relies again on people being too busy to check it out and opening the attached document, which is naturally full of malware.

The spelling of the name is a fairly straightforward giveaway, I have met very few people with the surname Right, so that is suspicious. Looking up the domain on Nominet's whois service reveals that it is again, surprise, surprise registered through GoDaddy to an individual who couldn't be verified through third party sources. Heigh ho, since starting to write this, another version of the same message has plopped into my inbox...

Click here to request Information on blog item 189
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19/06/2018: scammer's school report: must try harder!

Today's would-be scammer made a number of fundamental mistakes, which are fairly obvious, as are their clumsy attempts at making the message look genuine.

Firstly, the address isn't, i am guessing, one that Fedex would use to send mail from. The attempt to cover this was to use a publicly visible Fedex address in the reply-to field. Likewise, a fictitious, but possibly real address in the signature is an easy thing for anyone in the world to type in.

Also, specifying multiple recipients for what purports to be a unique message gives the game away big time.

Finally, rolling over the link reveals the uri to belong to, and that it is a link to a Windows executable (.exe) file.

All in all, this is definitely a 'close but no cigar' attempt to distribute malware, or phish for information, but my guess is that they rely on people being too busy to take due care. Not all attempts are this shabby or easy to spot, so again, suspect everything and trust no-one. It is a jungle out there!

Click here to request Information on blog item 186
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19/06/2018: another easy to spot scam

I had about four of these today. It seems that the scammers have gone all minimalist on the wording, preferring now to pretend to be any company you may or may not have heard of. The mail purports to contain an invoice, which of course is linked to some spurious site.

The give-away in this one is easy again, it is the from address that bears no resemblance to any domains that may be owned by the company they wish us to believe is sending us invoices.

A variation on this theme offers to open a world of new information from a household name company through following a link. Again, the 'from' addresses are the tell-tale sign and have nothing to do with the company being spoofed.

Click here to request Information on blog item 188
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19/06/2018: hear what you want to hear, and disregard the rest, la la la...

You can now choose what kind of information you receive from the Village Websmith. The Information Comissioner's Office wants us all to have 'granular' contact lists, which allow members to choose what they do or don't receive in terms of publicity and information broadcasts. To make sure you only get the most appropriate, we have segmented our mailing list into four sections, of which you can choose one, some or all.

Online Security. Routinely, when there is a security concern online, or a new angle of scamming is spotted, members of our online safety mailing list get to hear about it as soon as we become aware. We hope that this helps to keep people safe onlline.

News Snippets. When we have snippets of news that will help to improve the performance of, or reponse to web sites, our newsletter mailing list members get to hear about it first. The factors that can have an effect on web site return on investment are widespread and varied, so it pays to keep up to date.

Special Offers. Like all businesses, every now and then, we strike lucky on a deal and like to pass on the savings to make our own offerings even more attractive. If you've an eye for a bargain, sign up to our 'special offers' mailing list.

Invitation List. Going somewhat against the grain of the web industry, the key to getting on with our customers is spending face to face time with them, hearing about their business, what they want to achieve online and what they want to promote. To make this possible, everywhere is local for someone. You will be more than welcome aboard our mobile office, or at one of our coffee shop surgeries. For detailed timetable information in advance, subscribing to our 'invite to local events' list will make sure you are among the first to know when and where you can talk over your web presence with a real, live human being.

To opt in to any or all of our mailing list segments, visit our contact page and take your pick.

Click here to request Information on blog item 187
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11/06/2018: forget pay per click - pay only for real enquiries

That is right. Your bespoke web site is built just for you, you pay nothing for its creation or hosting. We maintain, promote and update the site for you, posting items regularly to your blog, calendar and other pages for SEO. We promote through social media and all other outlets at our disposal, then filter out spam, leaving only valid enquiries to come through from your site.

We agree a value per enquiry with you at the outset and invoice you monthly for that rate multiplied by the number of enquiries generated. All you have to do is convert them to sales.

Call us now for more information or click in the header of any page to send us an email, then we can get together and create a package just right for your business.

Click here to request Information on blog item 185
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07/06/2018: new, brighter surroundings for mobile office

To make visiting the Village Websmith mobile office a more pleasurable experience, there's been a change of colour scheme. From the dark colours of its party bus origins, the change has made the interior much lighter and brighter, so you can look at your web site on the large screen in greater comfort.

The aim is to make a trip to Essex later on this month, so if you would like to find out if your web site is " Just the Ticket" give us a call or click in the header of any page to email for details of the timetable.

Here's hoping to welcome you aboard!

Click here to request Information on blog item 183
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06/06/2018: more variations on the phishing theme to help you keep safe online

Another variation on the phishing theme came in today, there were two, one purporting to be from Santander and the other from Bank of Scotland. In the Bank of Scotland version, the sender has got a long name and job title that push the obviously spurious originating domain out of the field of view in most email clients.

The safest way to check such an email address is to highlight it by right clicking, then copy and paste it into a text editor. Then you can check the domain via the appropriate whois links (see the recent blog item on this subject).

Again, there is a Word document attached that you are exhorted to open. Of course, under no circumstances should you do this until you have verified the authenticity of the message. In this case, the originating domain was, which, unsurprisingly was registered through GoDaddy by a person whose identity could not be verified. Luckily, GoDaddy has spotted this one and it has been suspended for abuse. However, this is no cause for complacency as the malware will be in the document attached, rather than through a link to the domain.

The second variation, shown below in the image, was supposedly sent by However, rolling over the links that the message asks you to follow to reset your unspecified password, show that the domain is This is clearly an attempt to harvest addresses for unsolicited mail, probably including malware distribution.

As always, vigilance and a healthy degree of scepticism are the best allies in keeping safe on line, so the advice is to take nothing at face value and never be in too much of a hurry to give suspect messages a thorough investigation.

A third variation is purporting to come from HMRC, stating that you owe a large sum of money in tax arrears. The tactic I believe is to make recipients follow the link in a moment of anger with the response " I most certainly do not!", which is an understandable gut reaction. Unfortunately, as soon as you do, it is a lifetime too late to go back and take a more cautious approach. In fairness to HMRC, they are publishing guidelines as to how you can recognise genuine communications from them. Worthwhile advice from HMRC can be seen here, and the page makes interesting reading.

Stay safe out there and as always, if you have any concerns, questions or problems please don't hesitate to call or email.

Click here to request Information on blog item 182
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31/05/2018: customers all over the world? of course we have!

OK, they've tried the banks where you may have an account. How about the ones where that is unlikely but somebody may want to pay you from there?

I got this today, purportedly from Danske Bank. OK, I have friends in Denmark, but there is no reason for any of them to be sending me money. Customers there? No. Instant alarm bells then.

Comme d'habitude as our cousins across the channel might say, I researched the domains of any suspicious emails. As usual, the domain was registered for a year, the minimum term, by an individual whose details couldn't be verified through publicly available sources. As usual again, GoDaddy was the registrar. They seem to have fallen in with a bad crowd.

In this case, the email address was the only sign of a domain name. Very often, such phishing attempts will have links in the body of the message too. Rolling over these, but not clicking them should reveal the target in your mail client's info panel. Make a note and check them too.

Here are some useful links for verifying domain names:

There are many more owing to the massive proliferation of domain types but those should handle most common spam sources. After all, even they can work out that you are not going to believe that HMRC is going to have a domain name registered in Russia!

Click here to request Information on blog item 181
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31/05/2018: big brother is watching us all - except for the culprits...

So here we stand, six days into the Brave New World of GDPR. Has a lot changed? Not really. My mailbox is still full of the same old promotional emails from the same old people. I still get the same types of spam messages, emanating from Russia, Vietnam, China and anywhere else.

What the bureaucrats never seem to get into their thick skulls is that when people are breaking existing laws, the introduction of new ones is not going to make a blind bit of difference to the culprits. All it will do, has done and is doing, is to make it more difficult for the law-abiding to comply.

I am sure that the ICO will proudly go about blowing its own trumpet, citing the number of decent, honest business people it has criminalised in recent time, while the giant corporations who squander our details willy-nilly via the cloud will sail majestically on, untroubled by little John Bull and his sabre-waving.

Criminal elements will continue to capitalise on this laxity by gleefully hoovering up all the spilt data and putting it to their own use. Thiefbots will continue to scour the internet looking for innocent security oversights and stealing personal information for identity theft activities while the authorities turn a blind eye to those big enough to defend themselves legally, or devious enough to make their detection difficult.

In short, we have been told a pack of lies as usual by those who cling desperately to power, who feel that holding a post is more important than performing its duties. We have been sold a pup in the form of ill conceived, badly thought through, hastily cobbled together legislation that does nothing to address the real issues, just gives the government another licence to print money, wrested from the hands of decent people whose shoes they are not fit to clean.

IN the last eleven months of working on this aspect, I thank all our customers who took the initiative and upgraded their sites to show policies that comply with the new legislation, and look forward to meeting the new ones, whose sites will comply from day one. For those not yet compliant, it is still not too late, and could save a good deal of time, trouble and cost in future, so if you would like to talk it over, feel free to call at any time or send an email.

Click here to request Information on blog item 180
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30/05/2018: treat all messages with suspicion - a tale of two emails

Having received an email from people purporting to be Companies House, I was naturally suspicious. Firstly, I have seen such phishing attempts before, and was correctly suspicious then for similar reasons. Take a look at the screenshots below to see what has been attempted.

The first thing that made me stop and think was the email address that this came from. The real companies house has an address that is In this address, the dot before 'gov' has been replaced by a hyphen. My guess is that the scammers rely on people being too busy to notice small details like that.

Having formed suspicions over the email address, it takes only a moment to go to, click on the whois link and find out more about the domain. As it turned out, this email was sent on its first day of registration, the domain was only registered for a year, through GoDaddy by an organisation that could not be verified through publicly available data sources. Now, I know that our government is nothing more than a collection of crooks, but even they aren't that shabby. This is obviously a spurious domain set up just for the purpose of pretneding to be someone else.

As a matter of routine, I recommend rolling over every link and address in an email that asks you to confirm details, update your account or open a document. If there is even a flicker of doubt from one of them, then delete the message immediately.

Shortly after receiving the spurious Companies House email, I got a message from PayPal asking me to take part in their survey. There were striking similarities in that the emaiul address was attached to a domain with a hyphen in its name,, which was enough to raise suspicion. This time, being an international top level domain (.com), it was ICANN who I turned to for whois information ( On this occasion, PayPal showed up as the registrant of the domain, so it looks like this one is legitimate. I still didn't take part in the survey though, as if PayPal or anyone else wants my marketing advice, they can sign a contract and pay the going rate like everyone else, but it is always interesting to have a genuine email that looks like spam rather than vice versa.

Take a look at our Contact Page where you can sign up to receive priority notifications of the security issues that we find, as well as general news and information about how to make the most of your web presence.

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24/05/2018: gdpr becomes law in the uk tomorrow. final checklist time.

It is now the last day before GDPR comes into effect. Over the last weeks we have been looking at the ways you can make it easy for your business to comply. Mostly, this is about good housekeeping and common sense security measures that most businesses will employ anyway. The only difference is that these have to be formalised in statements and policies.

As we stand on the brink of this brave new world, today, let's have one last look around the room before locking the door and going on holiday. OK, that was a cheap shot at an analogy, but it works for me.

By now, everything should be in place to protect the information of anyone who deals with your business from prying eyes and cyber criminals. Have you:

  • Established the legal bases upon which you hold records?
  • Contacted all existing mailing list members to confirm their consent to contact?
  • De-duplicated your database to ensure that a single deletion is enough to remove any given person?
  • Set up a single, central data source, so that personal data are available to, but not stored on, your mobile and portable devices?
  • Got all the necessary policies and statements showing on your web site?
  • Implemented similar policies in your office, covering devices at home and in vehicles?
  • Nominated a Data Protection Officer/Responsible Person to handle enquiries?
  • Made sure that your backup regime is sufficient for business continuity without storing personal data beyond its delete by date?
  • Checked the physical security of all devices that hold personal data?
  • Made contingency plans to erase devices remotely in case of theft or loss?
  • Ensured that all paper records are held in a secure environment?
  • Put in place a programme of secure destruction for all paperwork records once their purpose has been served?
  • Set up a password change and creation policy to protect the information in your care?
  • Scheduled automatic review and removal/obfuscation routines for expired data?
  • Trawled through your email boxes to remove all out of date personal information?
As always, we are happy to help if you have any questions or concerns at this late stage. Just pick up the phone or click in the header of any page to send us an email.

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14/05/2018: time for an initial clean up of the database

It is now week 7 of our ten week run up to GDPR compliance and time to start making sure that our databases contain only the information that we have consent, or a solid legal basis for keeping or using.

Just in case there is any doubt that the Information Commissioner's Office is targeting businesses of all sizes and in all sectors, take a look at the list of recent actions taken under existing data protection laws on the ICO web site. All it takes is one complaint to start an investigation, then regardless of whether any blame attaches or not, a lot of time is used in the process.

The only way to make sure you don't suffer such disruptions is by being like Caesar's wife, beyond reproach. Thus any information in your database which is not there for a very good reason must be deleted or obfuscated. This applies to all data sources used in a business, not just the web site. In earlier news items, we looked at the benefit of cutting down the number of places in which data are kept, and this is one very good reason to do just that. The less data sources you have in use, the less likely it will be to overlook something that has no place there.

The first contacts to be removed must be the ones who didn't tick the box to sign up for your mailing list in the first place, when they enquired or bought from your site. For those that bought, there is a solid legal basis for keeping their information as we all have a legal obligation to the tax man to keep records of sales. What must not happen is for this group to receive promotional information. Flagging them in the database allows the records to be held while any broadcast email function in use can be programmed to miss out those contacts who have not opted in.

For all Village Websmith customers with GDPR compliant sites, that process will be handled automatically. Customers are labeled in the database separately to acceptance of GDPR policies and opting in to mailing list. Other data sources will need to be examined carefully to make sure that the records for the tax man don't get mixed up with mailing list members.

The final clean up should be scheduled for the eve of GDPR implementation, when anyone who hasn't taken the positive action to opt in must be obfuscated or deleted. Again, for Village Websmith customers, this will be taken care of automatically to ensure cleanliness of the database of enquiries from their web sites. There is still time for one more broadcast email asking current mailing list members to reaffirm their consent to contact. The ICO website has very clear and specific information about what constitutes consent and the ways in which it may be obtained, so is worth a read if you haven't already asked the people in your database.

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05/05/2018: a flower called eric...

I don't know much about flowers, not what they are called nor how to grow them. Don't ever ask me to look after your garden while you go away, you would probably come home to a small desert!

However, I can appreciate the appearance of flowers and here in Tintern, we are spoilt for choice as spring bursts forth everywhere. A short walk along the river bank and peering into the gardens opposite is all it takes to see a kaleidoscope of colours and varied shapes.

Luckily, I am not entirely without skills at making things grow. Take business for example. With over 40 years of experience in sales, promotion and marketing roles, I can bring that extra something to small business web sites in terms of content that helps them get found and helps them get the attention of their audience. Pop in to the websmithy, smell the flowers, drink the coffee and do your business a power of good in the process.

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05/05/2018: things don't have to be new to be beautiful

I went out this morning to get some photographs of spring flowers to brighten up a few blog stories. However, walking through Tintern, one is constantly reminded that this place has been here a very long time. Old stone walls abound, the Abbey itself is over a thousand years old in parts, and there is industrial history all around.

This old vine against a weathered fence struck me as an example of contrasting textures, ancient and not so ancient, surrounded by new growth of nature's most vibrant season.

The spring flowers are lovely here, but there is beauty all around in Tintern. Pop down and have a chat about your web site by all means, but how about staying a while to smell the flowers and feel the weathered stone and wood?

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01/05/2018: getting your contacts to opt-in. don't get lost in a sea of emails.

As it is now just under a month until implementation of GDPR, it may be a good time to think about sending out a broadcast email to get reaffirmation of consent to contact from as many people in the mailing list as possible. This has the added bonus of helping to identify any entries that are beyond their usefulness, such as when customers have moved away, retired, or even died...

Why now? Well, it is never too early to start asking people to opt in, and many businesses started the process back in the autumn. As all businesses have to go through a similar exercise, starting early before everyone else gets their emails sent out, can help yours get a more sympathetic reception, and can prevent it being deleted along with the avalanche of others asking for a similar response. It is easy to see that the time for action is upon us as even banks, local MPs, Facebook and Instagram are starting to take the impending implementation seriously.

Acting early also means that you can get a second 'bite at the cherry' and follow the first email up with another one close to the eve of the new legislation.

As a Village Websmith customer, your Webinthebox® site has the capability to send broadcast emails very simply built into the admin pages. Response and opting in or out is also very simple through the data protection policy statement pages.

As always, we are happy to help plan, organise and execute a campaign, whether it is for a special purpose like this database cleansing exercise, or for regular newsletter mailshots to keep your customers interested. As the old saying goes "Never forget a customer, never let a customer forget you".

If you have any questions about organising a broadcast email campaign, just call us on the number shown or click in the header of any page to send us an email.

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21/04/2018: countdown to compliance - week 5, time to audit your backups

By now, you should have received sample emails from me requesting your permission to keep in touch via email with news and other items of interest to anyone with a web site to promote their business.

In an ideal world, you will also have approved the wording and sent me an email saying either "Yes, send a similar mail on my behalf to the contacts in my site enquiries database" or "No, I would rather change the wording to...". If you haven't yet done so, now may be a good time to think about getting such an email sent to purge your enquiries database and make sure all the contacts remaining, do so at their request.

Enough of mailings though, that is so last week! This week, my message is about backups. Of course we all back up religiously, don't we? In the interest of business continuity, a reliable backup regimen is vital. Losing the main data repository can spell the end of trading for some businesses who have failed to keep a backup copy.

So, now may be a good time to think about what kind of backup policy we put in place. These generally fall into two categories; incremental and snapshot. In many built in backup applications, incremental backups are favoured as they generally run faster and take up less disk space. In an incremental system, the subject drive and its backup files are compared, then only those that show some change are stored. This means that everything from the first ever backup is kept and can be restored if necessary.

However, if any personally identifiable data are included in that backup, you may be falling foul of the regulations by keeping absolutely everything in this way. Like many others, I have now changed over entirely to a 'snapshot' type of backup where the entire contents of the disk are backed up as they are at that instant. This means that any data that have been deleted since the last backup no longer appear in the backed up version. Thus, when the last backup file is deleted, there is no possibility of inadvertantly storing any information that we should not. Or is there?

Well, the answer is probably yes, but it is unlikely. It is also going to be for a very limited time. Say for example, you back up weekly in the small hours of Sunday morning. Then on Monday, a contact exercises their right to be forgotten and removes themselves from your database. On tuesday, disaster streikes and your master hard drive needs to be replaced. No problem of course, as you have a backup copy, which you can restore and bingo! you are seamlessly back in business. The only minor fly scudding across the surface of this otherwise perfect pot of ointment is that in restoring the entire contents, the person whose data were removed on Monday has now been replaced.

To avoid this, I recommend keeping a record of all contacts who have been removed for a further seven days so that if there is a disaster and the latest backup is restored, you can manually remove the offending content permanently.

Don't forget to mention this buffer period in your data protection policies, so that nobody has any right to complain if they find you have held onto their information for an additional seven days.

As i say, the likelihood is small, but in a world where we must all be like Caesar's wife, beyond reproach, little things mean a lot.

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14/04/2018: countdown to compliance - week 4

The physical security of data storage devices is for most of us a matter of good housekeeping and normal security measures that are in place to protect all the need in our day to day lives.

Going back a couple of weeks, one of the best security steps is cutting down on the number of places in which data are kept. It is much easier to protect one room than several, plus briefcases, rucksacks, pockets and any number of other places where modern technology has enabled us to store data.

Even better, off site data storage in a secure facility places the onus of looking after the hardware containing your information onto someone else. Having a central information repository and accessing that through whatever devices you use makes for a lower level of worry, leaving you more capacity to think about what you are doing, rather than wondering if everything is safe.

Cloud options obviously look very appealing, but there is just one teeny word of caution here, in that the policies required to comply with GDPR need to state where personally identifiable data are kept, as well as who is responsible for the safety and security of said data. Many 'free' cloud offers don't meet this criterion, so paying for storage off site will be very much the order of the day. Asking the questions of potential suppliers of storage space is essential to ensure compliance. The nice thing again is that when you get the right answers, it does mean that security is to a degree, someone else's problem.

So, your data is stored off site, so you can relax then? Well, very nearly. The question arises of backup copies now. It has always been promoted as good practice to hold a backup copy of your most important data in a different location to the working copy, to protect against disaster, power failures and hardward loss. It would seem sensible therefore, to back up your remote data to a storage device held lo cally. Security of that device is your own responsibility. An external or network drive in an obscure location within your office, protected by the alarms and CCTV systems that protect everything else is a better option than the built in hard drive of your laptop for example.

What we may or may not include in backups will be looked at next week. For the meanwhile, it may be worth just taking a step back to get a long, hard look at your physical security so that you can write your policies with confidence.

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11/04/2018: only two weeks to go to the whitebrook windup

We are thrilled to be sponsoring the event this year, and you know it is getting real when the teeshirt design arrives in your mailbox. I think these are a great job and anyone would be proud to have earned one.

All you have to do is run either one lap (10K) or two laps (half marathon) of a rugged course, covered in cloying mud with an elevation change of 526 metres per lap.

If only I wasn't racing myself that weekend (motorcycles at Cadwell Park), I would love to have been there. Maybe taking part would be a bit beyond me, but I can still cheer and clap with the best of them.

You can still enter online here or on the day. The organisers are doing a great job of laying on parking and refreshments at what is going to be another great sporting event.

With all good wishes to competitors, spectators and organisers for a dry, successful and fun weekend, I will look forward to seeing the photographs. Good luck one and all!

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06/04/2018: ten weeks to compliance, week 3

In the first two articles of this series, we have been looing at the how and why of creating secure passwords, and cutting down the number of data storage media so that there are fewer potential causes of worry. Following on in that security theme, this week then, it is appropriate to look at how to keep the security secure. That may sound like an oxymoron, but it is surprisingly simple to overlook this aspect of making sure the data with which we are entrusted is kept safe from prying eyes, identity thieves, malware distributors, spammers, hackers and casual observers.

For example:

  • How do you remember the passwords that you have carefully set up?
  • What are the consequences of a number of failed login attempts?
  • Are the measures as strong for every device through which data could be accessed?
  • How many people need access to data?
  • How many people actually have the potential to access data?
When it comes to remembering passwords, there is nothing more secure than keeping them in your head. This way, there is no physical or electronic record for others to obtain by fair means or foul. However, with the growing number of passwords each of us must manage, and their necessarily increasingly arcane nature, this may not be possible. Many of us write them down, often in a book specially for the purpose. How often does that book find itself in the case with the laptop? How about on the desk next to the office computer? If written down they must be, then there are steps all of us can take to keep them safe. The first of these is to deny access by using a book small enough to fit in a pocket or luggage other than a laptop case. That way only a violent assault will separate the record from you. Or, of course, the loss of luggage containing the book…

Here's a simple method of encryption for passwords written in a book or contained in an electronic document, that can help keep your passwords to yourself, even if the document is in somebody else's hands: Let's use a hypothetical password of Ko9QLp£T. It is not very long but reasonably secure. Note the use of the GBPound symbol, which may make it harder for foreign hackers who don't have that symbol readily available.

Now let's take an encryption key that is only known to you or those very close to you. I will take my own birthdate as an example; 10/02/1954, but you could use the date you passed your driving test, or graduated from college, or anything private to you. Only the day and the month count. The day gives you the position in a text string from which you start counting, so I generate nine random characters Gf8&v3Po2, and start counting at the tenth. Then, as the second number is 02, every other character is counted as part of the password, we know the number of characters is 8, so we get Kuo797Q^L!p$£+T. Naturally, the bold characters are purely for the purpose of this illustration, so would not be used in practice.

Finally, to complete the masking, add a random string of characters, as many or as few as you like. Let's say 'AuntieDoris99', just to get them thinking. That way, the representation of our password would look like this: Gf8&v3Po2Kuo797Q^L!p$£+TAuntieDoris99. Even if you lose your document or book, that should make guessing your password at least difficult enough to put the miscreant off trying to rob you and send them along to the next, easier target.

So, let's assume that your passwords are all being generated from random characters including upper case, lower case, numbers and symbols/punctuation, and being stored in a way that protects them. What if someone does try to guess? How many chances do they have before the system takes action? Depending on where your main data storage is, this can vary. For example, failed attempts to log in to any of our web servers are limited to three before the IP Address of the computer attempting to log in is blocked permanently. Where the information concerned is held on a local computer, laptop or mobile device, the consequences of failed logins should at least result in the system going into lockdown mode, so that only the rightful owner can wake it. For example, on Apple mobile devices there are different stages of lockout, with a few minutes lock for three failed attempts, an hour for five and complete lockout, or data erasure for ten failed attempts. Once this stage is reached, only synchronising with the owner's iTunes account can revive the device. That's just an example, and all operating systems for computers, phones and tablets offer similar options that can be set to suit individual needs. Check with your hardware manufacturer or OS provider for information. The vital thing to remember is that with all these options available, nobody should get unlimited attempts to log in.

So, who else knows your passwords? Friends? fFamily members? Colleagues, Ex-colleagues (that one is always a worry). The key here is that if anyone knows your passwords without a cast-iron reason to need them, the passwords must be changed immediately. But what if you get run over by a bus tomorrow and your business needs to continue, even though you are gone? With a master repository for passwords, that has its own security, preferably a password and Multi Factor Authentication, Access details can be lodged with your solicitor, along with your last will and testament, so that in the event of your unexpected demise, your business can be carried on by those left behind. There are services available online, including a function in your web site admin pages, that will do just this for you. Business continuity is vital and security measures need to facilitate this, not prevent it.

Lastly, how many people have access to your information? This is not just about the people who have access to the passwords either. How often have you seen a laptop left unattended on a train with a screen full of information just inviting the curious or the dishonest? The potential is for there to be thousands of people who can see what is on the screen. It's a long shot that anyone will make use of such a moment, but it only takes one complaint relating to personal data being potentially visible, to get an investigation under way from the Information Commissioner's Office, which could result in hefty fines and even personal actions for distress (a precedent in a British court recently valued this at £2840 per person) over data leakage. If your device is left unattended for even a moment, please remember to put it to sleep with password required to wake it, if only for your own peace of mind. Even people who should be more security conscious get slack sometimes, I recently heard of a Navy Admiral who lost his laptop, containing personal details of over 400 men in his command by leaving it vulnerable for a moment.

That, however is another story. Next week, we will take a look at physical security and how to keep what is private, really private. I hope you find this useful. As always, if you have any questions relating to password security, please don't hesitate to call or click in the header of any page to send me an email.

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23/03/2018: ten weeks to compliance - week2

This week, let's think about the number of places in which our data are stored. It stands to reason that the fewer places this can be, the easier it is to make sure they are secure. It is also good for our business as the fewer intances of any record that need to be kept up to date, the more likely we are to have good quality, up to date information in our database.

Stop and have a quick count up. In many cases, persobnal information may be held in an office database, the enquiries log for our web site, one or more mobile phones, an ipad or tablet, a laptop, an iCloud account and on paper. Then there are the backups of any or all of these. It starts to become clear after a while that the loss of any one of quite a few devices could represent a data leak.

On the surface, a cloud account would seem to be the answer. You can cut the number of data repositories right down to one, which is accessed from any or all of your devices. That way, losing the device itself doesn't present a problem; just change the password on your cloud account and you are secure again.

However, not all things are as simple as just that. GDPR requires businesses to state where, and on what devices personally identifiable data are stored. With many cloud accounts, particularly 'free' ones, thnis information simply isn't available to us. This is going to mean the end of 'free' cloud accounts for many and draw people into paid for cloud accounts, where the required information is available.

So, how about alternatives? There are many.For example, you could create a Virtual Private Network, where your office computer acts as server for a single data source. This gives you control and you have all the information you need to satisfy GDPR requirements, but you have the security burden as well as additional costs for using a fixed IP Address, which is necessary to make connections to your VPN. There are also considerations of physical security, for example to prevent data theft through office burglary, hacking or embezzlement.

You could take the route of holding all personal data on removable hard drives that travel with you everywhere you go. This is OK if you work entirely alone, or want to access your data through different types of device. Again, there is the physical security aspect to be considered, as well as the potential for damage to devices through increased handling.

Choosing any of the above methods also requires a sound backup policy for disaster recovery and prevneiton of data loss. Don't forget though, that backups are not for ever. Backed up copies are also subject to GDPR constraints. For example, you mustn't keep backed up data for longer than the retention period stated in your compliance policies and statements. Also, the backup host has to be just as secure as the main data source. To make sure that data storage doesn't extend beyond the stated retention period, we recommend a 'snapshot' backup regimen, where a single backup copy is overwritten each time, rather than the incremental type, which is added to, therefore increasing your risk of holding overage data.

Not everyone knows this, but your web site offers an alternative that may be more satisfactory than any of the above. Every Village Websmith site, created since 2003, using Webinthebox has incorporated a contact management system, based on the database used for collecting web enquiries. It is held off site on a server that is known to us, is backed up every week as a snapshot, and has a team of engineers on site 24 hours a day. You have a named individual to use in your GDPR policies (me), and the option of Multi Factor Authentication. The data security is under constant review and should the worst case occur, data loss is covered by £20M professional indemnity insurance. In short, using the resource that is there will:

  • Give you sufficient space for your data
  • Incur no additional hardware costs
  • Be as secure as any data centre
  • Be backed up weekly as a snapshot, ensuring no overage data are kept
  • Be restored to a new server immediately in case of hardware failure
  • Be available to all your devices
  • Allow the sending of personal, individual broadcast emails
  • Be covered by professional indemnity insurance against data loss
  • Offer the option of Multi Factor Authentication
  • Represent the best possible value
Give us a call, or click in the header of any page to email us for more information.

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16/03/2018: ten weeks to compliance - get ready

In this first of ten, weekly articles leading up to the implementation of GDPR, I will be looking at the neglected art of password management.

When I issue new passwords for email or site admin pages, I am often asked "Can't I have something more memorable?". The answer is always "No", and here is why: Memorable = guessable. The figures most recently quoted to me indicate that the latest hackers' algorithms can crack a password that is any recognisable word in some seven milliseconds. Even including random capitalisation barely slows this process down.

Using random letters, adding numbers and symbols is the only way to make a password that is resistant to current hacking technology. Losing other people's data through having insufficiently secure passwords is not the best way to encourage confidence in your customer base, so it is worth taking a little time and trouble to get this right.

Here's another question: When did you last change your password? A security advisor once told me that you should treat passwords like toothbrushes; never let anyone else use yours and never keep one for more than six weeks.

With a world full of places to put passwords, it is easy to become confused I know, but the management of those passwords is getting more important every day with every shoulder being watched over in some way or another.

Also, it is worth considering the consequences of getting your password wrong? What happens if someone steals your laptop, tablet or phone? Do they get infinite chances to guess at your password? Or is there a limit to failed attempts before the machine is locked down or even deleted? It is worth considering such security measures. With more and more personal dependence on mobile devices, where you can pay for goods and services with your phone, store thousands of people's contact data, and your email history going back as long as you like. The potential for criminals to access valuable information makes the effort worthwhile. Security measures are simply installed and well sorth the time taken.

Once you have decided upon a regimen for changing, creating and securing your passwords, write it into your data protection policy. Remember though, having a policy is easy. Sticking to it is less so, but immensely important in any modern organisation.

To help you with generating new passwords, you can opt-in to our new password generator page that gives you a personal link to set up new, high security passwords for any application, simply copy and paste them from the page. If you want them applied to your email account or site admin pages, put the address in the box and submit the form. Changes will be applied the same working day. Call or email for more information on how to get started with password management.

Click here to request Information on blog item 168
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10/09/2017: every time of change is a time of opportunity

GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) becomes law on May 25th 2018. The Regulation demands that all web sites clearly display policies and statements relating to what happens to personal information submitted in enquiries. Even if you don't do anything with such data, you still need to have a policy stating that.

This could be seen as an administrational burden. However, more enlightened businesses are already beginning to see it as an opportunity to increase the volume of enquiries generated by their web sites.

How can more bureaucracy help us sell?

The simple answer is that it can't as such. What it can do is present you with an opportunity to demonstrate that your web site is compliant ahead of time and that because you care so much for their privacy, they can be more confident in placing enquiries with you than with your competitors.

Depending on how you manage the information submitted in enquiries, there are a range of standard packages available to make sure that you stay on the right side of the law, and promote your site as a beacon of good practice.

For a more detailed outline of the requirements of GDPR, see our summary document. We all use data in different ways to promote business, so give us a call, click in the header of any page to send an email or drop in to our mobile office so that we can tailor a package of measures to fit your needs.

Click here to request Information on blog item 167
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24/05/2017: the "just the ticket" tour is nearly ready to launch

With so many factors affecting the performance of a web site, you have to tick all the boxes to create an effective presence that will get you the response you need to turn into business.

It is no good focusing on just one aspect of the site. A common example being "Search Engine Optimisation", the favourite of the 21st century alchemists who profess to be "experts" in the field.

No, your site must first of all get found, of course, but then it must also carry a powerful message that is easy for the visitor to find, as well as being cogent enough to spur them to action. Once that stage is reached, it must be easy for them to get in touch.

Not only must your web presence do all of that, but it must also be secure from spammers, hackers and malware distributors whose robots are scouring the web 24/7 in search of targets from which they can steal data or ruin reputations by creating spam 'beacons'.

Oh yes, and then there's legislation. Does your site carry all the necessary contact information to qualify as a 'business letter' in the eyes of the law? Does all your advertising on the site conform to the codes of the Advertising Standards Agency? Is it decent, legal, truthful and honest in other words? Can you prove that? How secure is the information entered by people making enquiries from your site? The penalties for leaving even seemingly innocent personal data at risk can be devastating for any business.

Now, does your site tick all the boxes? Are you sure? One quick way to find out is to visit our mobile office at one of the venues that we will be attending throughout the summer and autumn of this year. The "Just the Ticket" tour kicks off at the Monmouthshire Show on July 1st and we will keep you posted of dates as they are confirmed.

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04/01/2017: speeding? me?

Another shabby scam email attempt has come to light. This one involves sending out fake fixed penalty notices taking the name of the Greater Manchester Police in vain. Vigilance is vital in keeping out of the clutches of the scumbags that send out this kind of thing, so I checked the link in the message by hovering over it. It turned out to be a Florida Holiday rental domain, so not really likely to tell me anything about my driving habits. Also, the email address was a fake from a domain owned by a machinery moving company, which had presumably been cloned or stolen in some way. Keep your eyes open... Evenin' all!

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22/10/2016: 12 months of christmas because 12 days is not enough!

Christmas is the season for Giving of course. So why shouldn't this last all year long? At the Websmithy, we have a series of special offers that spread over the 12 days running up to Christmas this year, the 12 weeks prior to Christmas and for the full 12 months following.

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09/09/2016: autumn is coming and our thoughts turn to business

The changing of the leaves, the longer nights and shorter days can mean only one thing - opportunity! As one season's market dies away, it leaves the way clear for the birth of a new one. Autumn is a cathartic time, both in nature and in business.

If you experience seasonal peaks in business, now is a great time to make sure that your web site is performing as well as it possibly can. Updates made now should get indexed twice by the search engines before the end of the year. This is great news for the Christmas market.

It is also great news for next year's tourist season market. All over the country, families will be taking their minds off the gloom and winter chill by looking forward to their next summer's activities. Your website can and should be a part of this planning process, so updating and making the best possible impact on this market should pay dividends in the coming year.

To get an expert view of how your site is performing in the three key areas of getting found, getting the message across and getting a response, along with free advice on performance improvements, come along to our next website surgery at the Shire Hall in Monmouth.

Village Websmith surgeries are completely free to attend and the next one takes place on September 20th between 9am and 4pm. There is no charge, but it is advisable to book so that we can make sure everyone gets the individual attention they need. Simply follow the enquiry link below, or call us on 01291 680187.

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06/09/2016: gain up to 40 times as many enquiries with regular, professional content updates

Enquiry & Traffic analysis for businesses with high, med and low average order value.

Traffic & enquiries with weekly updates
Business groupHigh £Med £Low £
Traffic & enquiries with monthly updates
Business groupHigh £Med £Low £
Traffic & enquiries with no updates
Business groupHigh £Med £Low £

Regular updates to your website content can really pay dividends in your business. To illustrate just how big a difference this service can make, we analysed the last six months' results for businesses representing three categories; large, with order values in the tens of thousands, medium, with average order values of hundreds to thousands and small with order values in tens to hundreds of pounds. The results speak for themselves in the tables above.

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20/08/2016: hassle free online sales for bespoke and one-off items

What do you do if you are an artist, jeweller or crafter making one off pieces and bespoke items, but want to sell online? Most shopping carts come with a hefty administrational burden and don't lend themselves to selling truly customised items.

And there's more!

By taking a place in our online shop window, you become the only representative of your particular craft there. The search engines see you as part of a greater overall site, so you are likely to gain more attention, but your work is exclusively showcased to people who are looking for what you do.

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30/01/2016: we're looking for a future superhero

If you:

  • Are aged 16-24
  • Want excitement and a challenge
  • Live near Tintern
  • Have a good command of English
  • Have heaps of common sense
  • Get on well with people
  • Find small businesses exciting

You could be the person for us. The Village Websmith in Tintern is looking for someone with those qualities to learn the art of Websmithery through an apprenticeship.

Websmithery is an exciting role, helping to get the sales message from business owners to potential customers quickly and efficiently.

While working as an apprentice, you will also be attending college, working towards the City & Guilds Diploma in Digital and Marketing. The ultimate goal of the apprenticeship is to prepare you to either run your own business, or take a leading role in this one.

So what are you waiting for? Let's get your career on the move!
Contact Neil Hesman at The Village Websmith on 0203 239 0350, or click in the header of any page to send an email.

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16/11/2015: phishing attempt spotted by a customer

This phishing email was forwarded to me by one of our observant customers who felt that it looked genuine enough to ask the question but suspicious enough to make asking worthwhile.

No matter how hard spammers try to make their emails look genuine, there is always something that lets them down. In this case it was the domain that the message was mailed from; googleaccountaudit dot com, which was registered yesterday to a gentleman in Kingston upon Thames.

His details have all been passed to Google now, along with a copy of the message. It is unlikely that these are the details of the actual perpetrator, but it can't hurt to alert Google to misuse of their name.

Rolling over the link that they want you to follow will show its true target in the tool tip that pops up. This will also bear no resemblance to the text.

Needless to say, that awareness and suspicion are two great tools for keeping your computer and your business safe from malware, so regarding every email that asks you to follow a link is a good policy, and checking the domains associated with the sending emails can confirm your suspicions.

As always, we are here to help, so by all means forward any suspicious emails to me and ask the question. That way, we can alert all the people we know to the potential threat.

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06/11/2015: spreading the word about your business has never been easier

With a major upgrade to the newsletter function, Webintheboxsite users can now get even more exposure for their latest information.

Information is now freely shared between the 'blog page, a newsletter page and a broadcast email template. The mailing function offers highly selective list management, with a final veto to remove individuals from recipient groups if you don't want to send them that particular newsletter. You can also send different parts of your newsletter to different groups to make sure that you get the most impact, with potential customers seeing only the most relevant items.

As an optional extra to the standard admin pages, this facility can be set up in a day, including importation of your existing database. After an hour's training, you will be sending out unique, personalised broadcast emails on your own stationery like a pro.

Call us on 0203 239 0350 or 07703 290243, or email for more details.

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14/08/2015: holidays were great, back to business!

With a number of members being away on holiday or enjoying the dubious delights of the NHS, last month's meeting was cancelled. Enough of such idleness, it is time to start laying the foundations for next year in business now, so many of us are rushing back to work. Networking now can send out feelers for the new prospects all businesses need to thrive and profit through autumn and into the new year.

The next meeting at the Haywain is scheduled for Wedensday, August 26th at 7am. As always, the meetings are free to attend, and there is no annual membership fee. Just turn up with a story to tell, some business cards to hand out and join in. All it costs is your choice from the Haywain menu.

The address is: The Haywain, High Rd, Stanford-le-Hope, Basildon, Essex SS17 9NR. See you there!

There will be a Village Websmith Website Analysis & Report Surgery immediately after the meeting, free to all attendees. If you would like to know how your website performs against the latest measures for getting found, getting your message across and getting a response, stay on for a while and find out.

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08/02/2015: message from google: go mobile or go home!

With half the traffic on the Internet now being delivered to mobile devices, the search engines are placing increasing importance on making websites mobile friendly.

I am getting increasing numbers of emails like the one shown to highlight the fact that some sites are in danger of being ranked lower than they would normally be, because there are issues for mobile users with the full page layout.

Automatically presenting a different layout to devices with small screens is now an integral part of Webinthebox®, but if your site has been established for a while, it needs a small update to bring it in line with current practice.

Take a look at your site. How long is it since it had a facelift? A simple, inexpensive update now can make sure that all the hard work that has gone into your website's search engine performance will continue to reap rewards in terms of site traffic.

Call us now or click in the header of any page to send an email and get the ball rolling.

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06/02/2015: you have to move with the times to keep the business coming in

How long is it since your website had a facelift? The computers and devices that potential customers use to view your site are changing on an almost daily basis. Tastes change and search engines evolve, so must your website to keep your business in people's minds.

Particularly important now is to make sure that your site is mobile friendly. The search engines are aggressively marking down any sites that do not deliver content correctly to the smaller screens of mobile phones and tablets.

These sites are examples of facelifts and mobile capability that have been carried out for our customers this week. Evolution rather than revolution is the key to making sure your site continues to get found and keeps looking fresh when the visitors go there.

Call us today or click in the header of any page to send us an email to get a free, no obligation assessment of your site's current potential.

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06/02/2015: spammers emulate the pot calling the kettle black it seems

This email was forwarded to me by a customer today who was very concerned that her email account had been hijacked.

This phishing attempt uses the name of Spam Assassin to try and convince recipients to follow a link to 'protect themselves'. Under no circumstances should this happen.

I traced the url that the link leads to and it is a doormat and mop rental company in California, whose account presumably has been hacked for this purpose.

Suffice it so say that if you also receive this scam email, it should be deleted immediately, not opened and definitely not acted upon.

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31/12/2014: new year, new look for your webinthebox® admin pages

There are some big changes afoot for 2015 here at The Village Websmith. Firstly, you will notice that the colour scheme of your admin pages has changed. This is to make sure that the pages are uniformly legible and easier to use. Originally, the admin pages followed the colour scheme of each site, which was fine in 90% of cases. However, some schemes that work well on the public sites didn't work so well on the admin pages, so to make sure they are simple for everyone, they have been revamped completely.

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10/10/2014: webinthebox® mobile version updated

Launched in February this year, the mobile version of Webinthebox® has been very popular among our customers. According to recent statistics, nearly 50% of web traffic is now delivered to mobile devices like tablets and smart phones.

With such small screens, the information on a normal site looks a bit cramped on a phone, so this special version displays your key information clearly with easy navigation on a 480px display, so phone users can find out about your business easily and without too much zooming and scrolling, encouraging them to stay on your site rather than moving on.

The latest updates make it easier for them to contact you now. The main phone number appears just below the masthead so that tapping it puts people straight through to you, and emailing you is even easier with a single click in the site header opening up their mobile mail client.

Your latest news is even more accessible with the 'blog layout having been updated to present news and images more clearly.

if you haven't already added mobile capability to your website, now may be a great time to do so as the 25% discount offer from February is still on. Call us on the number above or click the header of any page to send us an email and get your online presence mobilised now!

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20/08/2014: the multi-purpose office bears fruit!

Our office has been shared between websmithery and race bike maintenance for some time now, but since April has also been a greenhouse, where there have been chilli plants steadily growing on the window sills.

This is the first chilli of our harvest, and is headed for my dinner tonight. The plan is to use some fresh and make chilli jam out of the remainder, so visitors to the office will be invited to sample the same with cheese and crackers. All business people are welcome, and you can walk in with an idea, walk out with a web site as well, making your visit as multi-purpose as our office.

Call us on the number shown above or click in the header of any page to send us an email and let us know when you are coming.

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22/07/2014: congratulations to rsc photography - ten years in business and moving forward

I was privileged to be invited to the relaunch and celebration of the first ten years of RSC Photography. Celebrating because to do anything for ten years in the UK's financial climate, you have to be doing something right. Relaunching because RSC is now focusing (apologies for the pun) on sports and event photography.

The venue for the event was one of the fabulous Thames Barges moored at Maldon Marina, where the next day, RSC Photography were heading to photograph the regatta, which is a great and very colourful event involving a wide variety of boats.

The photograph shows Rob, Sarah and their daughter, Chloe getting the barge ready for visitors.

The other reason for relaunching was to publicise the new relationship between RSC Photography and the Village Websmith. Rob and Sarah are now helping small businesses in north Essex and Cambridgeshire to expose themselves more effectively on the Internet.

With Rob's extensive commercial experience, Sarah's prowess with words and their shared photographic skills, the team is ideally placed to create and maintain web presences with real impact. Call us to talk over your business goals, or click in the header of any page to send an email and get the ball rolling for you.

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05/06/2014: officially promoting monmouthshire

Being lucky enough to live and work in one of the most beautiful places you can imagine is a privilege that few can aspire to. As I never tire of telling people, this is a great place to visit, whatever your interests.

Now, having completed the Monmouthshire Ambassadors training course, I can officially tell people that this is a great place to visit. More than that, I have access to all the information you could need about places to see and things to do in the surrounding area. Visitors to Tintern are more than welcome to pop into my office for a chat, directions or details of local attractions. The kettle is very often on around here and you can be sure of a warm welcome.

Here I am after the training course with other delegates, pictured outside the venue, Caldicot Castle.

I have also been elected to the board of the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean Tourism Association, so get a chance to feed information from local businesses into the promotional and marketing mix. Please feel free to drop in if you are involved in tourism activities locally and tell me what you want the world to know. I will do my level best to represent local interests in the Association and its publications.

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11/04/2014: i've got a pen (and i'm not afraid to use it) book launch

Yesterday, I was privileged to be invited to the launch of the latest book by Essex author, Sarah Banham. The venue was stunning, being a 19th century sailing barge in Maldon Marina. Dozens of local writers and book fans came to take part in this beautifully organised launch.

Even the mayor was there, and in stark contrast to any mayoral visit I have witnessed before, joined in the party with gusto, staying right the way through to the end of the evening and chatting enthusiastically to the assemblage.

The Thames Barge, Thistle is the oldest iron hulled barge still operating and is the only Thames Barge to have been built in Scotland, leaving Glasgow for the first time in 1895.

Sarah's latest book was very well received by all the attendees at the launch. It deals with the thorny issues of finding the confidence, the time and the discipline needed to write and publish your own books. They say that there is a story inside all of us, and with the help of Sarah's book , we can get it out from its hiding place and down onto paper where it belongs.

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14/02/2014: webinthebox® goes mobile

Modern smartphones are wonderful things. There is no end to what you can do with one, including browsing the web. However, with such a small screen, much of the feature-rich content that our customers put on their websites, just doesn't show up as well as on a tablet or computer with higher resolution.

The answer is a new version of Webinthebox®, which automatically detects the smaller screen and presents a trimmed down version of the site that packs your most important information into a smaller space, yet with a simpler layout that maintains legibility.

This can quickly be added to any Webinthebox® website to keep your information in front of potential customers wherever they are. The even better news is that there is an introductory offer of 25% discount on all orders placed and paid for throughout February.

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18/12/2013: welcome to winning wednesday

Wednesday is derived from the Norse god, Odin who was their supreme god and god of victory.

Read me my story! That is not such a trivial request in any business. Getting a beta reader for your web content and brochure information can help to make your message much more effective.

Having been privileged to beta read a novel and a non-fiction book for Sarah Banham recently, the principal is one that can be applied to business copy to make sure it is working as hard as it can work.

What's the difference between a beta reader and a proof reader? This lies in the scope of tha activity. Proof reading is a vital stage before publishing anything about your business to make sure that the grammar, spelling and language are correct and overall, the document makes sense. Beta reading goes one step further in regarding the quality of the message as well.

Particularly with copy writing for your business, everything has to be perfect. The information content must be accurate, but at the same time, attractive and stimulating. The narrative must lead the reader to the only logical conclusion; that they need you to supply the products and services in question.

With a trusted beta reader or two, you can ask them to judge whether your story works or not. If they don't confirm that they would respond favourably, rewrite until it has the desired effect.

Over the years, hundreds of small businesses have trusted the Village Websmith to get their message across clearly and powerfully, so if you don't have the time or the tools to write your web copy and get it beta read, talk to us about how cost-effective a Webinthebox® site can be. For more information, just call us on 0203 239 0350 or click in the header of any page to send an email.

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17/12/2013: welcome to terrific tuesday

Named from the Germanic god, Tiw, and associated with Mars. Mars is known as the 'Red Planet' so make it a red letter day for your business.

Nobody cares about your business as much as you do. In fact, nobody cares about your business. They don't care how long you have been trading, how many vehicles you have or how many people work for you.

The only time that a customer will care about your business is when they care what beneficial effect it can have on their life.

That is why the wording of websites and advertising material needs to focus on the 'start reading' words such as 'you' and 'your' rather than the 'stop reading' words lke 'we' and 'our'.

The Village Websmith has helped hundreds of small businesses to present their message, changing the language of 'We' into the language of 'Oui'. To find out more, call us on 0203 239 0350 or click in the header of any page to send an email.

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13/12/2013: welcome to fabtastic friday - "tap and filter questions"

If you want to get the right answer, first you must ask the right question.

I see open questions as filters and closed questions as taps to take a plumbing analogy. Working out which question to ask to which potential customer is the real art of getting to the order as efficiently as possible.

Anyone who has been exposed to any amount of sales training has probably heard coaches banging on endlessly about the value of open questions versus closed questions. The Rudyard Kipling rhyme "I have six honest serving men, they taught me all I know, their names are What and Why and When and Where and How and Who" will be indelibly impressed through over-use.

That has a value, open questions are great for eliciting information. However, at some point in the sales process, a decision must be made, which by its nature demands a closed question. It is never too early to ask for the order, then based on the answer, you can either get the signature, or open another line of open questions to get at the reasons behind a negative response.

How does this relate to the web? In the information content of your site, a series of closed questions can guide visitors to choose the most appropriate links to the sections of the content that are most relevant to them. Questions like "Have you ever wanted to writs a book?", "Are your energy bills too high?" or "Do you have relatives abroad?", linked to pages within the site can steer people quickly to the right place.

It is when designing the response form for the site that open questions come into their own. Questions like "What is your budget?", "When is your wedding?" or "How many rooms in your house?" all help to provide you with the information you need to prepare an accurate proposal. All Webinthebox sites from the Village Websmith come with copy writing support to help you get the message across and a fully customisable enquiry form to make sure you get the right answers by asking the right questions. To find out more, call us on 0203 239 0350 or click in the header of any page to send us an email.

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12/12/2013: welcome to thrilling thursday

Thursday draws its name from the old English for thunder, a translation of a Latin name for Jupiter's Day.

What happened to Terrific Tuesday and Winnin Wednesday this week? Well, the day began, the phone rang and then it ended. That's what it seemed like anyway. The truth of the matter is that I forgot one of the most important lessons that I have ever learned. I didn't concentrate on what is important rather than what is urgent.

Every day has the same number of hours and when you are running a business, you have to get the best possible value out of each one of them. That is something that Gina Gardiner rightly drummed into me. The only way to get value from each hour is to decide what goes into it, rather than letting other people fill it for you.

The massed forces of modern communication can be culprits in taking away control of our time. Phone calls, text messages and emails arrive ceaselessly and can shift our focus if we let them. How often have you gone to your email application to send out a message to find that the inbox is full so rather than the planned sending, you deal with the incoming, only to be distracted half way through by a phone call, then completely forgotten the original aim?

This doesn't have to happen. There is hardly a phone you can buy without some form of answering service attached. Email clients can be set to download incoming mail on demand rather than automatically every five minutes.

Using this technology can put time firmly back in our own control. By switching the phone to silent and collecting messages at convenient times and choosing to manually download emails, our focus stays where we put it until we choose to move it.

If you have a group of customers that you want to hear from regardless of time, then setting up a separate mailbox and making that the only one that is polled regularly is the way forward. Only the people that you want to hear from get to know what that address is and you will know that whenever an email arrives in that box it is important.

Every Webinthebox site includes up to five email addresses to help you do just this, as well as making your business message stand out, so to find out more, just call us on 0203 239 0350 or click in the header of any page to email us. Tread boldly today!

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09/12/2013: welcome to magnificent monday - mojo day!

Monday is MOJO Day here. The day that we suggest ways to focus on what is truly great about your business and yourself, then make sure that everyone knows about it.

Have you sung 'Happy Birthday' to your mouse today? Perhaps you should as its billions of relatives worldwide can help to bring you new business. Forty five years ago today, Douglas Engelbert gave the world's first public demonstration of the computer mouse, hypertext and graphical user interface. Since that day in 1968, these three landmark inventions have revolutionised the way that we all do business, and made possible an entire new industry.

In the great scheme of things, this amount of time is hardly the blink of an eye, yet every one of us is affected by the opening of communications channels to a 24/7 computerised market place.

Even though our work is largely dependent on this technological miracle, The Village Websmith sees the Internet as an additional means of getting people to do business with our customers, not an alternative. Promoting your business MOJO through as many channels as possible is the aim at all times. To get your message in front of as many people as possible, try our joined-up thinking approach to marketing and promotion.

Over the years, hundreds of Village Websmith customers have been helped to identify their MOJO, put it into a powerful message, then get it seen by potential new customers. Call us today on 0203 239 0350 or click in the header of any page to email us and get your MOJO working.

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07/12/2013: welcome to stunning saturday - keep it local

The day of Saturn, Roman god of agriculture, a day for growing your business. As in agriculture, sometimes growing something different can bring better results. The success of arable agriculture is influenced by planting the right seeds in the right ground. The same applies to all businesses.

In Japanese business circles, there is a phrase commonly used: "If you want to be truly global, first you must be truly local". But what if you only want to be local? Exactly the same applies.

The key is to define exactly what 'local' means in your business, then target your promotional activity in that area. There is little enough time in any small business, so the last thing that anybody wants it to use this precious resource fending off enquiries from customers that are too far away to serve profitably.

In many businesses, the deifinition of 'local' can very according to the value of a particular job. For example, if you are a plumber, it is not worthwhile travelling 30 miles to change a leaky washer, but that distance is well within profitable range for fitting a new boiler or refurbishing a bathroom.

So, how to go about managing the area in which you promote? In some cases, such as press advertising or mail campaigns, this is easy. You simply choose a publication that goes out to the area in question, or use a mailing list for chosen postcode areas. As the web is a global resourcem, anybody, anywhere can see your information.

Pinpointing the right areas is easy with Webinthebox from the Village Websmith. The areas served function strongly ties what you do to where you wish to do it and for whom, with different information available to different geographical areas and market sectors. Targeting your promotion via the web this way is a very cost effective method of making sure you don't have to climb down a ladder to explain to someone hundreds of miles away that you can't just 'pop round' and give them an estimate. Call us on 0203 239 0350 or click in the header of any page to send an email.

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06/12/2013: welcome to fabtastic friday

Friday is derived from a translation of the Latin 'Veneris Dies', the day of the planet Venus. Venus was the goddess of love and today is a great day to love your business.

Going back to Tuesday's theme of repeating a message to make it stick, I am going to do just that today and repeat myself. Current marketing wisdom would have us believe that in order for a message to stick in the mind, people have to see it seven times.

That is all very well, but how to get your message in front of people that often, particularly if it is on your website. Giving people a reason to come back time and time again is the only way. That is where an effective 'blog plays its part in your website. By constantly posting items of news and interest, you can give something fresh to visitors each time they see your website.

Just putting the information there is not quite enough though, potential customers have to be encouraged to read it and get them into your site. That is where the broadcast email newsletter comes in. By mailing out a tempting excerpt from your 'blog item with a link back to the fuil story, you can bring customers back on a regular basis to see what is new, and make it easy for them to get the repetition of your main message that you need in order to make it stick in their minds.

Both the 'blog page and the broadcast email function are popular options in Webinthebox websites. They are affordable and easy to use, so show your business a little love today. Even if you don't have the time or inclination to do this yourself, we can help. To find out more, call us on 0203 239 0350 or click in the header of any page to send us an email.

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05/12/2013: welcome to thrilling thursday - look at what i have created!

Thursday draws its name from the old English for thunder, a translation of a Latin name for Jupiter's Day.

What a great day for enjoying the excitement of being in business! OK, sometimes it may not seem so exciting, but considering the alternative of working for someone else, it is positively charged with fun and frolics every day.

The trick is to give yourself little rewards along the way by saving fun jobs to do immediately after the dull, boring and stressful parts that we all have to deal with. Admin never goes away, but it breeds and grows darn it!

The fun parts, like promotional activities can make you feel so much better than the dull, repetitive stuff. Jobs like keeping your website up to date with the latest news on jobs and projects that you have been involved in can be the most rewarding of all, it is great to look back at successes and tell the world.

While you are at it, why not contact the customers involved and get an up to date testimonial from them. Even better, ask them for a referral as well and get them promoting you among their friends, family and colleagues. There are few finer salesmen than a happy customer.

No time to do this? Don't worry, with the Village Websmith, it is all part of the kit. We do the work like getting testimonials and putting them onto your site along with your most exciting business stories, while you get the real fun part of reading about how good you are. It doesn't cost a fortune either. You will get all the help you need to bring people together to do more business, so to find out more, just call us on 0203 239 0350 or click in the header of any page to email us. Tread boldly today!

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04/12/2013: welcome to winning wednesday - who's who and who's you?

Wednesday is derived from the Norse god, Odin who was their supreme god and god of victory.

Perhaps today's theme could more appropriately be 'avoiding loss' rather than 'winning'. Any small business that has a website will have a domain registered. Do you know whose contact details are held by the registration authorities? Yours or your web designer's?

Why does this matter? Well, for much of the time it won't. While things are running smoothly, there will be little noticable effect from the registration details. However, things don't always run smoothly and when they don't, it can have a major impact on any business.

For a couple of examples, we have been trying to rescue domain names for a number of customers in cases where their domains were registered for them by a company that is no longer trading. However, as far as Nominet (.uk domains) and ICANN (.com and many other domain names) are concerned, the original registrant still owns the rights to use that name.

If you are still in contact, then getting the originator to transfer should be no problem. If you are not still in contact, there is a lot of admin work ahead to get ownership to something that should have already been yours in the first place.

Recently, The Village Websmith was victim of a similar abuse, so nobody is immune. In our case, a potential customer to whom we had sent a quote used our address without permission to register a domain. They then proceeded to send out a huge amount of spam email to contacts in a database to which they had no rights. This brought the owners of the database to my doorstep, wanting to know why I had stolen their information, which I had not.

You can protect yourself from this additional workload and cost by checking your 'whois' information now. If the contact details that appear aren't yours, it is a good time to alter them before it becomes a necessity. Your good name and your address are valuable assets and in these modern times they can be too easily abused by the unscrupulous.

If you would like peace of mind over your own domain, we will be happy to look it up for you, it only takes a minute and there is no charge for doing it. For more information, just call us on 0203 239 0350 or click in the header of any page to send an email.

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03/12/2013: welcome to terrific tuesday

Named from the Germanic god, Tiw, and associated with Mars. Mars is known as the 'Red Planet' so make it a red letter day for your business.

If a thing is worth saying, it is worth repeating. I said that if a thing is worth saying, it is worth saying more than once. This is even more true when you are considering the content of your website. The key is to say the same thing in different ways.

Why should we do this? Quite simply because not everyone who is looking for what you do is going to search for exactly the same thing online. The search engines are very sophisticated now and index site content looking for the required phrases in context. Thus words used in sentences, headers, image file names, alternate and title text are all evaluated in relation to other items and content.

For example, if you manufacture widgets, phrases like 'widget maker', 'manufacturer of widgets', 'widget manufacturer', 'widget producer', 'widget production' and 'widget factory' all have a value. Take a look through your website today and see where you have opportunities to vary the description of what you do to take in more possible variations that potential customers may search for.

Naturally, this should not detract from the sense that your site content makes. It is a very fine balance to strike when trying to please both the search engines and the human visitors to your site. You can probably call to mind many examples of websites that you have seen where the meaning has been entirely lost through trying to cram too much search engine friendly material into the content. Skilfully written web content can make an impact on the machines and the humans, so if you have any questions, we would be pleased to talk over your content with you.

Over the years, hundreds of small businesses have entrusted the Village Websmith to get their message across succinctly and attractively. To find out more, call us on 0203 239 0350 or click in the header of any page to send an email.

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02/12/2013: welcome to magnificent monday - mojo day!

Monday is MOJO Day here. The day that we suggest ways to focus on what is truly great about your business and yourself, then make sure that everyone knows about it.

When someone asks you what you do for a living, how do you answer? Is it just a plain statement of fact? How about using that opportunity to sell? Having a 'stock answer' that encapsulates not only what you do but also what you bring to other peoples' lives by doing it can turn even the most casual question into an opportunity to sell.

This is not necessarily meaning to sell to the person asking the question, but by enthusing them with your MOJO, you can sell through them to all the people that they know.

By having a memorable introductory statement to use face to face, you can make an imoression every time. Don't be afraid of sounding trite by delivering the same message either. It may be the thousandth time that you have said the words, but it is the first time that the person you are speaking to has heard them. Practice makes perfect, so trying out different ways of putting your MOJO into words can help make your message stick too.

So where do the words come from? Well, if your website content is well written, the 'joined-up thinking' approach is to use a distillation of that messsage, cut down into the fewest possible words and adjusted to make it comfortable in use. This is a great skill to develop for business networking meetings to make meeting you the stand-out handshake of the day.

As an example, the Viilage Websmith's standard first time introduction is "We help small business people expose themseleves more effectively". What's yours?

Over the years, hundreds of Village Websmith customers have been helped to identify their MOJO, put it into a powerful message, then get it seen by potential new customers. Call us today on 0203 239 0350 or click in the header of any page to email us and get your MOJO working.

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30/11/2013: welcome to stunning saturday

The day of Saturn, Roman god of agriculture, a day for growing your business. As in agriculture, sometimes growing something different can bring better results.

Obviously, November 30th is a day when some people consider big to be beautiful. On this day in 1999, British Aerospace merged with Marooni to create BAE Systems, Europe's largest defence contractor. Also on this day the year before, Exxon and Mobil merged to become the world's largest company of any kind.

In stark contrast, and entirely at the other end of the scale, The Village Websmith is ten years old tomorrow. Rather than growing larger to handle more work, our way to offer personal, local service is to create new Village Websmiths to meet demand.

The Village Websmith franchise requires very little technical knowledge, is easy to set up with low incoming costs, and offers sales-oriented individuals a highhlyu satisfying way to earn by helpding local small businesses to sell themselves.

If you love selling and love business, talk to the Village Websmith about a franchise in your area. Call us on 0203 239 0350 or click in the header of any page to send an email.

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29/11/2013: welcome to fabtastic friday

Friday is derived from a translation of the Latin 'Veneris Dies', the day of the planet Venus. Venus was the goddess of love and today is a great day to love your business.

On this day in 1972, 'Pong', the first commercially successful video game was launched by Atari. Looking back this may seem like a very small step, looking at the sophistication of computers and games now, but in context is comparable to Louis Blé flying across the English Channel, leaving the words "Après moi, le déluge" echoing in his wake.

How about breaking some new ground today? Love your business by making a change. It doesn't have to be huge or earth-shattering, evolution being better than revolution in most cases. However, something new is always an opportunity to make new sales.

Perhaps presenting yourself in a new way would be a good start? Take a look at your website. How long has it remained unchanged? What great news have you amassed since the last update? It is time that everyone knew about what you have been up to.

For a fresh look at your business and how it is presented to the public, talk to the Village Websmith for ideas. This is not about technology, it is about sales and human to human communication. There is always a way to freshen up your public face without spending a fortune, so show your business a little love today. To find out more, call us on 0203 239 0350 or click in the header of any page to send us an email.

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28/11/2013: welcome to thrilling thursday

Thursday draws its name from the old English for thunder, a translation of a Latin name for Jupiter's Day.

On November 28th in 1964, NASA launched the Mariner 4 probe towards Mars. It was a Saturday rather than a Thursday. Personally I am surprised they didn't choose a Tuesday but that's just me being a sentimental old sausage.

The point is that this was the biggest step into the unknown ever taken by man. Nobody knew for definite that the probe would even get to its destination. The thrill of the unknown and the excitement of potential new knowledge were just irresistible to the scientists, so off it went. After nearly eight months of waiting, the reward was the first ever deep space photograph transmission of the surface of another planet. How good must that have felt?

On a smaller scale, the thrill of learning new things is one of the major benefits of being in business. Every day we can pick up something new and exciting. Promotion of a business is one area where you can always find something new, and it is the businesses that keep evolving and trying new angles that will prosper while others stagnate.

Today is a great day for looking somewhere new for customers. What about joining a new networking group? Word of mouth marketing is still the most powerful tool of all for spreading the word. At the Village Websmith, we foster the IN8 Networking groups. These differ greatly from most other business networking organisations in that there is no annual fee, no fixed meeting fee and no silly rules. Nobody puts any pressure on members to pass meaningless pieces of paper, members simply give and receive referrals when they are real and valuable.

Fancy giving it a try? To get information on your nearest group, call us on 0203 239 0350 or click in the header of any page to send an email. If there isn't one in your area, how about starting one? You will get all the help you need to bring people together to do more business. Tread boldly today!

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27/11/2013: welcome to winning wednesday - being old's cool or being old school, you choose

Wednesday is derived from the Norse god, Odin who was their supreme god and god of victory. Winning is what today is about, particularly about developing a winning culture and attitude in your business. This item came out of a conversation in a hospital waiting room yesterday.

Two companies, BB and WB for the sake of naming no names are household names in food production. BB is a household name in Wales and WB throughout the United Kingdom. Both advertise on television, stressing the traditional nature of their products and values of their company. Doubtless much has been spent by both on the campaigns and on market research beforehand to identify this as a desirable characteristic.

Chatting away to a fellow patient, we got round to asking what each other did for a living. She works for BB, the household name in Wales. I was impressed and told her so. It then surprised me to hear that she didn't like the company or the products, finding them too 'old school', and that she was looking for another job. She compared BB with WB where she had worked in the past. For me, being described as 'old school' is a compliment; I take it to mean embracing values of good service, fair pricing, straightforward communication and common decency. Obviously in the case of BB, it seemed to mean rigid, confrontational management tinged with a degreee of autocracy and reluctance to listen.

It struck me that BB's management had missed an opportunity here to engage and involve their staff in forming the corporate culture. If the people that work for you don't like what you do, it is likely that other people won't like it either, and things won't improve if the management style doesn't facilitate harvesting such feedback.

How can this help us? Well, if you have more than one person in your business, it is vital that they all share your love of what you do. Does everyone involved truly believe that what you do is the best option for all the people that buy from you? How about running an opinion poll to look for areas of change and improvement? By engaging customers and staff regularly, the products and services we offer, as well as the corporate culture can be adjusted to make sure of the widest appeal.

An easy way of doing this is to run an online survey attached to your website. Luckily, this is a standard element in Webinthebox® from the Village Websmith, through which staff and customers can be encouraged to give you their ideas anonymously, keeping your competitive edge sharp. For more information, just call us on 0203 239 0350 or click in the header of any page to send an email.

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26/11/2013: welcome to terrific tuesday

Named from the Germanic god, Tiw, and associated with Mars. Mars is known as the 'Red Planet' so make it a red letter day for your business.

I'm on a bit of a tight schedule today as I will be at the hospital all afternoon getting my nearly repaired leg poked and prodded, so will be brief.

May I suggest that 'brief' could be the watchword of the day. How many words appear on the main page of your website? Could the number be reduced to increase impace while preserving the meaning? One of the most common causes of 'back-buttonitis' is the number of words on the landing page. People can't be bothered to read through a great body of text to find the information they need.

Lists are a great way of cutting down content so have a think about how your business MOJO can be put simply into a series of bullet points that give enough information for people to want to stay on your website, but give it at a glance.

Once a visitor has clicked through onto one of the linked pages, then you can allow yourself the luxury of expanding the information, but giving too much initially can rob you of that vital chance. Take a moment today to look at your site content and edit savagely.

Over the years, hundreds of small businesses have entrusted the Village Websmith to get their message across succinctly and attractively. To find out more, call us on 0203 239 0350 or click in the header of any page to send an email.

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Monday is MOJO Day here. The day that we suggest ways to focus on what is truly great about your business and yourself, then make sure that everyone knows about it.

On this day in 1984, Band Aid recorded "Do They Know it's Christmas" and released it just four days later. For 12 years it held the record as the biggest selling record in British chart history. The band's MOJO was that they cared very strongly about a crisis in Ethiopia, where the famine was killing people at an nprecedented rate.

The band comprised 36 musicians from widely varying backgrounds and musical styles, drawn together by a desire to help and the charismatic appeal of Bob Geldof and Midge Ure. A truly amazing achievement.

I'm not suggesting that anyone should go out and record a single, merely using this as an example of getting people to recognise your MOJO and become enthused.

In a smaller scale, enthusiasm for your business is infectious, so today, have a think about how you present what you do. The language that you use when talking about business, is it easily accessible for those not necessarily in the know? Does it convey the joy that what you do can bring to customers? Does it touch their 'Hot Button'?

So many websites have content that is a series of statements that don't add up to a differentiator. What can people get from you that they can't get elsewhere? Why should they pick up the phone and call you first? Take a good look and put yourself in their shoes then make a positive change to your message. Make your MOJO shine through, not only on your website, but in every piece of paperwork, signage and every conversation. Enthuse yourself first and others will follow.

Over the years, hundreds of Village Websmith customers have been helped to identify their MOJO, put it into a powerful message, then get it seen by potential new customers. Call us today on 0203 239 0350 or click in the header of any page to email us and get your MOJO working.

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23/11/2013: welcome to stunning saturday

The day of Saturn, Roman god of agriculture, a day for growing your business.

Knowing where business comes from is always a great help in finding more. We talked a while back about evaluating the sources of enquiries from your website and press advertising, so today let's look at a simple way of understanding what enquiry comes from where.

Your email address says a lot about you, and we always recommend to customers that an address attached to their own domain, e.g. always looks more professional and substantial than one of the freebie accounts.

Taking this one step further, how about having a different address for each of your advertising media? That way, you will know who has emailed from your website, who from press advertising, or who saw your vehicle signage etc..

This doesn't have to be complex and require many email accounts, you can have all the mail delivered to one mailbox by aliases, but each will show the address entered so you will know at a glance where the enquiry originated from.

Multiple email addresses are part of the kit with Webinthebox® from the Village Websmith and can provide valuable marketing information, call us on 0203 239 0350 or click in the header of any page to send an email.

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22/11/2013: welcome to fabtastic friday

Friday is derived from a translation of the Latin 'Veneris Dies', the day of the planet Venus. Venus was the goddess of love and today is a great day to love your business.

On the subject of love, most of the small business people that we come into contact with on a daily basis love their business. They love what they do and as I have mentioned before, being in business in Britain is not easy, so most wouldn't bother were it not for that love and enthusiasm.

How about customers? Of course we all love them too. Without them we would have nothing. Do you show that love though? I don't mean just in the way of doing a great job, but how about saying "Thank you"?

This can take many forms from a simple phone call to follow up their purchase, through sending a bunch of flowers to publicly thanking the people that keep your business going. One customer, a motorcycle dealer, takes photographs of each customer with their new bike and publishes this on their website with a short story and a thank you. There is no end of choice in the matter of how you thank customers, the important thing is to make sure you do it.

From a purely business point of view, this simple act can do much more than create a nice warm feeling. The point of contact where you say "Thank you" is a great opportunity to ask for a business referral. A simple question tacked on to the end of the conversation can help bring additional business.

Show some love today on Venus' day and make someone feel good about referring you to their friends, colleagues or relations. Publishing to your website is a great way to recognise the contribution of customers and using Webinthebox to upload the information and create links back. It is easy to do yourself, or very affordable to get the Village Websmith to do it for you.

To find out more, call us on 0203 239 0350 or click in the header of any page to send us an email.

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21/11/2013: welcome to thrilling thursday

Thursday draws its name from the old English for thunder, a translation of a Latin name for Jupiter's Day. Few things make impact on people like thunder. Impact is vital to make sales. Today let's look at a face to face sales technique that I have introduced to many of the sales people I have worked with over the years.

I named this 'Future Success History' when working for Olympus as every aspect of sales training in the corporate world is incomplete without a catchy name and a decent three letter acronym. More seriously though, this is a way of making the sales process work in your favour by 'remembering' that the meeting has already happened with a favourable outcome. Once something has happened it can't un-happen.

It works like this. Before every meeting, spend time envisioning the person you are going to talk to. Imagine every statement, every question and every gesture. See yourself presenting the aspects of your business that the customer concerned relates positively to. See yourself presenting the proposal and the customer being delighted to sign the order, write a deposit cheque or take whatever step you use in your business to oonfirn the go-ahead. Do this over and over again until it becomes a memory.

Run through the memory again on the way to the meeting and take a few minutes outisde to go over it again before entering the building. This order has been placed as far as you are concerned, and there can be only one outcome; a positive result for your business.

It is as simple as that.

Don't just take my word for it though. Muhammad Ali, arguably the world's greatest heavyweight boxer used exactly this technique before every fight (Ali called it 'Future History').

Where does your website come in? With skillfully written content, you can pre-inform potential customers and shape the questions that will be asked when you meet them face to face. Presenting the different facets of your business MOJO in an easy to navigate way allows people to find the relevant information and start to form a positive opinion, which you merely have to reinforce when in front of them.

With the Village Websmith's managed content services it is easy. Sinde 1976, we have been delivering sales messages for all kinds of businesses; face to face, in print, through advertising and for the last ten years over the Internet. To talk over delivery of your own sales message, call us on 0203 239 0350 or click in the header of any page to send an email.

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19/11/2013: welcome to terrific tuesday

Named from the Germanic god, Tiw, and associated with Mars. Mars is known as the 'Red Planet' so make it a red letter day for your business. Public speaking is as alien to many business people as a being from Mars. However, it is one of the most important skills that anyone in business can learn. Becoming adept in addressing new people in groups of all sizes from one upwards is simpler than many people think and there is help at hand.

Last week, I talked about making an unusual introduction to new prospective customers. Since then, many have said that it is all very well to talk about such introductinos but this area of their work bothers them.

That is no real surprise as many people cite public speaking as their biggest fear, even greater than death itself. In this context 'public' can mean any number of people tha you don't necessarily know, from one upwards.

How to overcome the reticence that so many people feel to open up and talk about their business then? The most reliable method that I have found in 37 years of addressing new people, either individually or in groups, is preparation. You may be familiar with the 'Five Ps' rule which states that Preparation and Practice Prevent Poor Performance. Addressing groups of people is all about confidence and the best way to be confident is to know exactly what you are going to say.

By having a series of ready made presentations at your disposal, you can be confident in what you are saying and present your business in a much better light. This arsenal of presentations can cover a wide range of common situations such as

  • A few seconds introduction to a stranger
  • A succinct sales oriented answer to the question "What do you do?"
  • A short intro presnetation up to a minute for networking meetings
  • A more detailed presentation of several minutes to address groups
  • A full, detailed sales presentation including visual aids to present your business
These should be dynamic and reflect what is happening in your business today, but correctly structured in the first place, they can be made flexible and adaptable for new information.

If you feel less than comfortable with presenting your business either face to face or to a group, then the Village Websmith's "Let's Talk about Business" workshop may nold tha answers. There are two levels, with an introductory half day workshop, outlining many of the skills and techniques, leading to an advanced level full day which is desined to enhance your presentation and bring out the showman in you.

To find out more, call us on 0203 239 0350 or click in the header of any page to send an email.

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19/11/2013: welcome to winning wednesday

Wednesday is derived from the Norse god, Odin who was their supreme god and god of victory. Winning is what today is about, winning new business, winning the right price for every job we do and winning ore referrals from happy customers.

Today in 1820, the whaling ship Essex sank 2000 nautical miles of South America after being attacked by a sperm whale. Not a very positive thing you may think. However, Herman Melville was so inspired by this that he wrote Moby Dick, one of the best known books of all time.

Now, I am not saying that you have to have a disaster of any kind, just that inspiration can come from unexpected sources. All times of change are times of opportunity and conversation starters don't have to be about business.

How about taking a look at an item of world news today, using it to start a conversation and then turning that round to business. Think about how the connections and mental synapses may work. See the conversation unfold in your mind. Rehearse it from statement to statement so that the connection between opening and business is clear in your mind. Conversation is wonderful, ending it with some new business opportunity is even more so.

The 'left field' message, starting off with a seemingly unrelated topic can work just as well for your web presence. For ideas, just call us on 0203 239 0350 or click in the header of any page to send an email.

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18/11/2013: welcome to magnificent monday - mojo day!

Monday is MOJO Day here. The day that we suggest ways to focus on what is truly great about your business and yourself, then make sure that everyone knows about it.

One of the earliest opportunities to tell potential customers about your MOJO is your business strapline or slogan. This is your chance in ten words or less to let the world know, not only what you do, but why you do it better than anyone else and why they should call you first.

I have been thinking about straplines since seeing one on an electronic advertising banner while watching the Autumn International series of rugby matches on television over the weekend. Despite belonging to a household name comapny, which obviously has immense amounts of money to throw at creating and displaying their information, one simple step had been missed. They had not applied the 'So What?' test.

The slogan in question simply read "Better than water". This scores highly in the brevity stakes, but says nothing to anyone who hasn't read their long-form advertising. It is precisely that group that should have been the target for this form of advertising.

Try it for yourself. The 'So What?' test is just to imagine yourself selling that product to someone else. You offer that statement as a justification to purchase and imagine them saying "So what?" in response. You explain the statement briefly and then compare your answer to the original statement. Which is better? It will always be your answer.

Now look at your own business strapline and carry out the same exercise. If tha answer is too long, reduce the wording but keep the meaning. Your strapline is a vital first taste of your business and should go everywhere people see your name, your website, letterhead, business cards, vehicle and office signage; everywhere.

Over the years, hundreds of Village Websmith customers have been helped to identify their MOJO, put it into a powerful message, then get it seen by potential new customers. Call us today on 0203 239 0350 or click in the header of any page to email us and get your MOJO working.

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16/11/2013: welcome to stunning saturday

The day of Saturn, Roman god of agriculture, a day for growing your business.

Stunning could well be today's watchword. Good photographs are a great way of bringing impact to your message. The phrase "a picture is worth a thousand words" is as true today as when Fox-Talbot and Dageurre first stunned the world by 'painting with light'.

What has changed is the availability of equipment and resources that make it possible for anyone to take acceptable representative images anywhere and at any time. OK, you may not capture 'the moment' like Cartier-Bresson or the spirit of a movement like Man Ray but producing photographs for your business has never been simpler.

Take a look at your website for a start. This is the easiest place to promote your work in pictures. Are the images used:

  • Up to date?
  • Representative of what you do?
  • Clear and well focused?
  • Quick to load?
  • Your own?
How about making it a Saturday project to review these images and at least plan to replace any that don't come up to snuff. If your business is about products, manufacturers can often supply the images that you need. More often than not, all you have to do is ask for the latest marketing CD.

If your business is service based, how about taking someone along to get photographs of you in action, or if it relies on people taking part in activities, perhaps a group of friends could be persuaded (beer often helps) to come along and have a go so that you can get some pictures.

Don't forget though, even if they are friends, get all the people in your pictures to sign a photographic release form, just to make sure that everyone knows that their image is going to be used to promote your business and via what media.

Do the images on your website do your business proud? Do they help tell the story, or leave visitors wondering what it is exactly that you do. For an unbiased evaluation and advice on sources of good, relevant images, call us on 0203 239 0350 or click in the header of any page to send an email.

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15/11/2013: welcome to fabtastic friday

At tonight's meeting of the Tintern Pravda Editorial Politbureau, the proposed visit of world president Bollick O'Bomber was welcomed as a great boost to local culture and economy. Since the Tintern People's Tractor Plant (TeePeeTeePee) closed with devastating effects on local economy, residents have been having to push shit uphill in barrows and there have been no jobs to be found.

With the proximity of so many potential military targets, it was agreed that a real deterrent was needed in order for the area to survive and prosper. World Leader O'Bomber brings with him the possibility of local manufacture for parts of the warplane named after him, the O'Bomber Bollick.

It is anticipated that the impressive undercarriage will be built partly in Tintern, modeled on local landmarks. A number of volunteers for this challenging work have already stepped forward and a shortlist is expected to be ready in time for the next issue of Tintern Pravda. You will hear it here first.

Other local news concerns a rash of vandalism that has broken out between here and Catbrook. Several flowers have had their heads broken off and a wheel, complete with tyre was seen floating down the river Wye last week. A specialist from London has been called in to investigate these mysterious occurences. Chief Inspector Corner of the Yard is expected to arrive next week and we anticipate that the cuiprits will soon be brought to book.

Talking of books, don't forget that you can get all the reading you are needing from Annie's Print, Paperbacks and Limited Editions (APPLE) right here in Tintern. This people's message is sponsored by Annie herself who pays the entire print costs of the Tintern Pravda newspaper. Available only online, look out for our next edition.

Well, if you can't have a bit of fun on a Friday, when can you?

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14/11/2013: welcome to thrilling thursday

Thursday draws its name from the old English for thunder, a translation of a Latin name for Jupiter's Day. What a great day to make a thunderous noise about your business!

Well OK, a thunderous roar may not be appropriate but making a bit of a noise to remind potential customers that you are there and that they should be making the most of that fact can never hurt.

Updating information on your website for example is best done little and often. Small changes and items of news as they come along all play their part in keeping the information for human visitors fresh and engaging while also giving the search engines something new to index.

So where do the stories come from? In most businesses, that is easy, stories come from business activities, products and services. What happens when the interesting job you want to write about is not yet at a newsworthy stage? How about if the new products you have been waiting for have been delayed for a month?

There are stories all around that can be turned to business use. A little digging and thought is usually all that is needed to make them relevant. A few examples:

  • Seasonal; why people should be thinking about you at this time of year
  • Academic; requirements of families change as offspring go away to university, or come back. School holidays are times to promote activities
  • Weather; if it's too hot/too cold to do anything else, time to consider...
  • People; has anyone in your business run a marathon, caught a record fish, juggled fire extinguishers etd.?
  • Charity events; do you support a local charity that is topical?
  • Local news; have you scoured local press for a story that has impact on need for your products and services?
Ths list is endless. All you have to do is get excited about what you do and convey that in a different context.

With the Village Websmith's managed content services it is easy. You choose the frequency of updates and we call you on the appointed day to talk over potential stories and make suggestions before writing the copy, posting it to your site and promoting through social media. This can be monthly, weekly or even daily. The service is highly affordable, starting at just £40 a month. To keep your business looking fresh call us on 0203 239 0350 or click in the header of any page to send an email.

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13/11/2013: welcome to winning wednesday

Wednesday is derived from the Norse god, Odin who was their supreme god and god of victory. Winning is what today is about, winning new business, winning the right price for every job we do and winning ore referrals from happy customers.

Wednesday is a day for great enthusiasm, half way through the week and energy levels are way up there. Let's face it, in Britain today, you have to be a real enthusiast to keep going in a small business with so much bureacracy to deal with and every time you turn around you see a line of people in suits with their hands out for your money.

Enthusiasm, or over-enthusiasm can bring its own problem though. Take a look at some websites or brochures today. Who is trying to tell the whole story at once? How many words are crammed into the space?

Hesman's first law of copy states: "The number of people likely to read any text is inversely proportional to tbe number of words it contains".

In summary, if you want people to read your message, cut it into bite-sized pieces. No matter how great you think the message is, keep it short.

To get your message into the most easily digested form, talk to the Village Websmith about copy writing. If you have time to do it yourself but want to sharpen up your technique, come along to one of our workshops and pick up the secrets. If not, help is at hand, just call us on 0203 239 0350 or click in the header of any page to send an email.

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12/11/2013: welcome to terrific tuesday

Named from the Germanic god, Tiw, and associated with Mars. Mars is known as the 'Red Planet' so make it a red letter day for your business. The phrase "He looked at me like I was from Mars" is often used when we have done something strange or out of the ordinary.

Do something out of the ordinary today! The unexpected is always a great ground-breaker. How about thinking about your opening statement when approaching a new potential customer. Has it become formulaic and hackneyed? Would something new be like putting on a new suit for the first time?

How many times have you been in a shop and an obsequious assistant asks "Can I help you?" and you want to say something like "Yes, you could pay my mortgage". How many times have you used such a response? I have many times.

Opening questions are great but need to take people by surprise sometimes to get the conversation going your way. Face to face in retail situations, it is easier to come up with a new opening as people give clues in the way they dress, what they are looking at and their demeanour. Online you don't have those luxuries so you have to come up with something engaging yet general enough to intrigue any potential customer for your products or services.

Take a look at the opening statement of your website today. Does it ask a question that draws people to look more closely? How would you react to what you see if you were a customer looking for what you do? Applying the 'So What?' test that we talked about yesterday is a great idea here. Put yourself in the other person's shoes for a moment.

The Village Websmith's work isn't just about the nuts and bolts of websites. Over the years, hundreds of small businesses have turned to us to add that certain something in terms of content that differentiates them from their competitors and turns browsers into buyers.

To find out more, call us on 0203 239 0350 or click in the header of any page to send an email.

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11/11/2013: magnificent monday - mojo day

Monday is MOJO Day here. The day that we suggest ways to focus on what is truly great about your business and yourself, then make sure that everyone knows about it.

Once you have this clearly in your mind, the real trick is to understand how different customers will be influenced by your MOJO. A standard test that we apply at the Village Websmith to any statement that goes into promotional material is the 'So What?' test. It works like this:

Simply imagine that you are a customer sitting opposite you and you make a statement about your business. Say "So What?" to yourself and come up with an answer. This answer then becomes the statement in place of the first one. For example "We have the biggest fleet of vehicles locally" becomes "You can rely on efficient, on-time deliveries", or "We deal with more widget manufacturers than any other local supplier" becomes "You can choose exactly the widget that fits your needs and budget". The examples are endless, but the point is that nobody cares about your business. What they care about is the effect that your business can have on their life or work.

So today, if you are thinking about promoting your business, spend a little time in the other person's shoes. One of the additional services available from the Village Websmith is creative business copy writing workshops where this and many other techniques are passed on from four decades of sales and marketing experience.
Over the years, hundreds of Village Websmith customers have been helped to identify their MOJO, put it into a powerful message, then get it seen by potential new customers. Call us today on 0203 239 0350 or click in the header of any page to email us and get your MOJO working.

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09/11/2013: welcome to stunning saturday; or should that be strategic saturday>

The day of Saturn, Roman god of agriculture, a day for growing your business.

Perhaps it should be 'Strategic Saturday'. To continue the analogy with agriculture, success begins with planting the right kind of seeds in the right kind of soil. Today, how about analysing where your new customers and enquiries come from? We all have limited resources in terms of time and money to put into business promotion, so it is vital to make sure that the investment is put into the places that bring the best results.

Once you have that information you can compare the effectiveness of all your promotional channels. If you don't routinely ask new contacts where they found you, today may be a great time to adopt the habit.

The first thing is to list all the places where people may hear about your business it might look like this:

  • Word of mouth
  • Website enquiries
  • Exhibition or show attendance
  • Vehicle signage
  • Local newspaper
  • Charity event sponsorship
  • Mailshot or leaflet drop
  • Outgoing telesales campaign
Once you have a list, you can put them in order of the number of new sales that they have generated. How does that look? Are the results surprising? What do we do with the information?

Well, there are two ways of looking at everything as we mentioned on Thrilling Thursday this week. However, these two ways ars a little different. Promotional channels may take a surprisingly low place in the league table because the message that is being put there is not as effective as it might be. For example, are you still running the same advertisement in your local paper that you were two years ago? Has your website been updated this year? Are your leaflets visually attractive and powerfully worded?

Once you are happy that the message delivered via each medium is as good as it can be, then the under-performing media can be ignored in favour of investing more resources in the better performing media.

To take this one step further, the people that come to you via your website have a wide range of sources available to them from which they can come up with your address. This can modify our view of the first league table. For example, an enquiry may have come through your website because the address was noted from a newspaper advertisement, a business card passed on or seeing your signwritten vehicle somewhere. It is therefore important to analyse website visitor figures in their own right. This will help you get a truer understanding of your enquiry levels and can totally change the conclusions arrived at from the first analysis.

Does your website give you the information that you need to make those value calculations? If not, talk to the Village Websmith. To start accurately evaluating prospect and customer sources, call us on 0203 239 0350 or click in the header of any page to send an email.