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A New Segmentation for Retail Financial Services

Courtesy of JM Guest Blogger Anne Boden of Starling Bank. This article first appeared on Anne Boden's Linkedin Blog which can be found herehttps://www.linkedin.com/pulse/new-segmentation-retail-financial-services-anne-boden We all know the context. Despite billions of pounds of investment in new propositions, brand "refreshes" and other marketing, trust in the UK banking sector is still at an all time low. There is very little actual differentiation between the main retail banking players, and almost no perceived distinction when you ask customers. If people bother to move at all, they are pushed out by bad service, unexpected fees or lack of product competitiveness, and are pulled to an alternative by little more than convenience of alternate branch or until recently joining cash incentive. But we believe the market is on the tipping point of major change. There is a new generation of players that have or are about to launch. Many will play in the traditional retail banking space, but differentiate by channel or customer experience. Some are taking one element of the services traditionally delivered by the banks, and either offering a best in class experience or serving previously under-served audiences. This is the sort of market disaggregation that has happened in the US, and we believe is inevitable in the UK as well. This article attempts to take this moment in time, and capture who's doing what, in order to help the uninitiated navigate this increasingly complex, brave new world of how the UK population can manage their money. Big banks and traditional challengers The players here are well known. Defined, and some would say hampered, by their history and, in most cases, their high street presence. Legacy systems restrict innovation, and large customer bases restrict the ability to expand quickly to meet evolving customer expectations. The likes of TSB and Williams & Glyn have been forced into existence by EC mandates to increase competition post financial crisis but are simply "a chip off the old block" encumbered with legacy without the scale of the originating big bank. I'm not sure this is where you would start if you really wanted to create a new and agile player likely to introduce some true competition. The exceptions to this are the new players of Metro and Virgin Money. That said, there was much expectation set at the launch of both players, but little delivery beyond making slightly better what was annoying customers - faster account opening, branch hours more reflective of a busy, urban audience, and some small product innovation. Savings and mortgages - building societies as was plus new entrants For some time yet, there will still be power in the savings and mortgage space, occupied by those that can offer increased value. This is mostly driven by their ability to price competitively in moments of key market demand. It will be interesting to see how this sub-category of brands retain relevance as the generations who remember the power of the building society model mature. Currently price is still their biggest draw to younger generations, but the lack of investment in defining their brands beyond this rational hook may result in further disaggregation in this space, as we've seen in other lending markets. The supermarkets and other retailers This sector saw large levels of investment between 2012 and 2014, but it feels like focus has returned (out of necessity) to their core business of grocery. Trust remains an issue - many people seem happy to take out insurance or a reward based credit card, but very few are moving their current account relationship. Why does a banking licence matter? So one of the key questions we get asked is why we are bothering to apply for a banking licence? And the answer is simple. For the time being, the word 'bank' is still the frame of reference that people look to in terms of where to securely keep and manage their money. Alongside this, there is still an element of trust that comes with the increased regulatory supervision imposed on the banks. Most importantly of course, it provides the maximum available protection for customers' money, with balances being underwritten by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme to the tune of £85,000 per customer, per bank. As we come on to some of the disaggregated products hitting the market, there is a common misconception that this means money is protected in the same way. And of course, whilst they are regulated, the same level of protection isn't offered. The next generation of banks The simplest way to think about the core of new market entrants is that they will effectively replicate the full set of products and services a traditional retail bank has, just through all or a subset of digital channels. Necessary branch based services (e.g. paying in cash or cheques) will still be offered, but via a third party arrangement. That's not to say this reference to the traditional product set is a bad thing in any way. Customers still frame their decision around the core set of products that have existed for many years. And the advantage all of these players have is in building the majority of their systems for current market requirements, enabling them to both avoid the sins of the past and hopefully deliver genuine innovation in customer experience. Some are specialising based on audience - OakNorth and Civilised are focusing more on the small business audience; Lintel believe there is untapped potential with foreign nationals, but the majority still see the advantage in servicing a broad base of customers. How will Starling be different from this? We believe there is an opportunity to go further than just replicating a full set of retail banking products, and focus on delivering an exceptional, mobile-first experience for the core customer need of money management, by building a single, best in class, current account. As highlighted in previous blogs, why do customers have multiple products that do slightly different shades of the same thing? The mental accounting piece aside (because that can be solved in other ways), it's because banks have spent years telling customers they need them. And why? Because selling (and it was selling) complex products, with opaque charging models made really good commercial sense! Of course, like all new players, we will be looking to right the many wrongs proliferated by the category. But in focusing on a single product build, all of our investment in the customer experience will be concentrated on the things customers need and use the most. Neo-banks If you look at the US and some of the European markets, you can see another area of growth that is likely to hit the UK market soon, in the form of so-called neo-banks. These brands claim to deliver the best in class digital experience, with none of the risk of a balance sheet - so they effectively put a layer of information management over another banks' product set. The challenge with this is that customers' funds and effectively the bulk of the relationship is held with the partner bank, and so in creating those hand-offs, such as in the on-boarding process, this can still be onerous. Simple and Moven are probably the most well known names in this space, with Number 26 starting to grow their reputation across Europe. Monese will be the first player to launch in the UK, currently schedule for summer 2015. Whilst full details on their proposition are yet to be revealed, current messaging features the ease and speed of account opening, as well as the lack of hidden fees - but transparency is easier when you don't allow customers to borrow any money at all. Pre-paid debit cards The grouping of brands that have the greatest potential to cause customer confusion have to be the pre-paid debit cards. Many are calling themselves a "bank", without needing or possessing a banking licence, and/or promoting their "current accounts", without offering the full spectrum of benefits customers have come to associate with this nomenclature. Or at least certainly not offering the same level of free banking as is currently offered by the retail banks. Now this may lead to a greater level of transparency for the sector overall. As one of the brands quite rightly claims, no banking is truly free in the UK, as all businesses need to make money somewhere. The danger though is that currently, many of the players in this space are a viable offer for those that can't pass the credit scoring required for a full current account with the banks, and would rather have the additional benefits offered (although at a cost) beyond historical "basic" bank accounts. Whilst transparent in terms of charging, I would argue that customers will pay a premium to go via this route. For some it is worth the monthly cost - for those without credit history or credentials, the security of an FSCS scheme and the absence of overdraft facilities is irrelevant. It is better to have a card than no card at all. However, it is sad that the people who least afford services sometimes pay the most and social inclusion in the financial system remains a challenge. Payments and digital wallets As payments and mobile technology evolves, some would argue whether you need a card at all. As NFC technology advances, secure mobile or wearables payments should become the norm. The two biggest barriers in the UK currently are the roll-out of technology at the merchant end, with many terminals still not taking contactless, let alone mobile, and there are still large populations of customers for whom security is a concern. Of course services such PayPal, and others like ApplePay, Google Wallet, and Amazon offering a digital wallet still ultimately need to be "funded" from somewhere or only currently house existing, traditional card details. But what are the barriers in the future to them to create their own cards and / or fully-fledged current accounts? When this happens, markets such as the pre-paid cards will cease to exist, forcing those brands to evolve or die. FX / international payments Whilst a much smaller market, international payments has not remained static either, with Transferwise leading the charge to take business away from what it says are the cost prohibitive bank services. I wouldn't rule out the old school Western Union and Money Gram however, who still benefit from large volumes of usage by foreign nationals, and are looking at their own innovation to stay relevant in a digital age. The lending market will continue to evolve Finally, it will be interesting to see what happens in the lending space after the flurry of new entrants, and market disaggregation in recent years. With much regulatory focus on the payday lenders, we may see some contraction here. What will be interesting is to see who in the peer-to-peer space is really set to weather any sort of storm (touch lots of wood that we won't see a financial crisis like the last anytime soon). The attractive rates are bringing in the savers, in an environment of rock bottom rates everywhere else. But as rates start to rise, how much of a return will customers be willing to trade off for their FSCS protection? So what? Ultimately, what's the desired outcome of all of this increased competition? Well of course, it should be to ensure customers will have more choice. And that is the agenda that should be driving what ever proposition the brands of the future create.

03 July 2015

Top Tips When Job Hunting

When it comes to job hunting, the smart money is on those candidates who manage to achieve maximum results with minimum effort. Increase your chances of getting the role that you want and take all the hassle out of the process, with out top tips for job hunting. Don't just wait for the work to come to you. It might sound like a lot of effort but actually you're saving yourself time to go proactively seeking jobs rather than applying at the same time as everyone else. You may be able to apply for a role before others get the chance to or you might simply benefit from demonstrating enthusiasm or being the first CV in the pile - search for opportunities via social media, the websites of the companies you want to work for, by contacting HR teams and looking for signs that a company might be recruiting, such as deal news, new partnerships or client announcements. Network heartily. This doesn't mean standing around in stuffy rooms clutching a glass of warm wine. Make sure your social media profiles are up to date and compelling and make contacts online. Don't waste your energy attending every event in your industry, research those that are likely to have the best attendees for connections and then go and perform at your networking best for a couple of hours and come home with all the connections you need without breaking a sweat. How can you stand out? Yes, most CVs need to tick certain boxes for certain jobs but you also need to make sure there is something that differentiates you from the rest. You might want to start your CV with a short, compelling personal statement, or you could even opt for a gimmick - send your CV with some Easter chocolate, for example. Focus on the company, not the job. If you know you want to work for a specific business then become their biggest fan. Interact with them via social media, be a brand ambassador and contribute to their digital marketing. Brands want employees to love their products and services as much as they do so this is a great way to get noticed. Create your own job. This is ambitious but if you think a company is lacking a certain position then tell them about it. You'll need to back this up by researching the business, and the market, stating what they're missing out on without it and what benefits you would bring. Make sure you communicate this to the right person too - it's usually better sent to a partner/manager level employee, rather than HR or recruitment.  

29 June 2015

Introducing the New JM Group Website

For the past 34 years, JM Group has been helping talented IT, Change and Digital professionals and leaders find their next career opportunity. In that time we have also witnessed the birth of the digital sector and its extraordinary development. As a result, we were able to extend our client base to include companies and individuals from across these fields. Having reached a point where we are representing the most cutting-edge people in the IT and digital sectors, it seemed only right that our website reflected this. Which is why we would like to announce the launch of our new and improved site - aimed at giving clients and candidates the best online experience, wherever they may be. With a mature client base which includes leading organisations within the financial industry and global corporates, Director Louise Smith said, "Over the last few years our focus has also extended to Digital professionals and we have updated our website to reflect this and also to allow interested clients and candidates to find out more about us whether sat in the office or on the move. Our new website allows us to communicate more effectively with our network of candidates. It incorporates responsive design with a carefully constructed layout, intended to make navigation as simple and hassle-free as possible. Its entire content has been completely overhauled with improvements made to its management and SEO capability. Access to useful blog material has been made easier than ever, and we were adamant that our candidates were the main focus for the new layout and functions. We also hope that the new website will help to increase the potential client attraction, driving clients and candidates towards it thus boosting the ROI. 2015 has so far been a very busy and productive year for JM Group. We have been working exclusively with a leading infrastructure organisation to build an in-house IT function of 40 people. We have also collaborated with a new bank and leading investment management firm to identify Senior Leaders. Our interim practice has grown too, with a particular focus on Change and Programme Management Skills. If you are a candidate looking to work in Business Change, IT or Digital, or a client wanting to hire new talent for your company, please contact us and we will be happy to help.

22 June 2015

What it Takes to Become a Solutions Architect

A Solutions Architect is in many ways a very easy job to define and in many ways rather more opaque. It's one of the raft of roles that have appeared with the new growth of the tech industry and is essentially one that involves interaction with customers using a piece of software or a service, listening to the issues that they have experienced and then designing solutions to those problems. It's an essential position for customer retention, product development and customer service, as well as being an exciting and varied role. So how do you become a Solutions Architect? The first step on the road to this role normally involves a degree in a related subject. So, a bachelor's degree in something such as computer science, software engineering or information technology - this may vary from employer to employer, some of whom may require a masters level degree and others of whom may have a specific final class of degree in mind. The kind of topics covered will include systems engineering, advanced maths, programming and database management. The flip side of the tech ability is the communications aspect of being a Solutions Architect and there are opportunities during the degree phase to work on this, such as taking courses in ethics and mass media analysis. Your next step might be to look into getting some sort of additional certification or qualification to set your CV apart from others with a similar degree. This might be network security, software programs or even specifically solutions architecture certification. Gaining experience is probably one of the most important stages in the process of becoming a Solutions Architect. Around five to ten years experience in a related field is normally required before the switch is made to the Solutions Architect role. Network administration and working with IT systems are the two principle areas from which Solutions Architects tend to be drawn and skills such as detxterity with business intelligence tools or complex database management systems are very valuable to have on your CV. If you want to boost the experience side of your CV then it might be worth taking on some independent contractor jobs, particularly as these sometimes require less experience in order to get started (two to three years). Make sure that you can demonstrate knowledge and experience of a wide variety of technology and software, particularly those that will be required for the positions you're interested in. If this sounds like the role for you, them JM Digital can help. Get in touch with our team today for more information.

21 May 2015

Your company is insane according to Albert (and who am I to argue?)

Article by JM Guest Blogger Neil Marshall of ChangeSchool.org This article first appeared on Neil Marshall's LinkedIn blog of 30 June 2014. The world is changing. Or at least mine is. Conversations in client organisations are going from "Why are we doing this?" to "Why haven't we done this yet?" All very encouraging. All of which means the ever present change programme cycle moves on again. There has been a lot of ink spilt down the years on how to do this well. Everyone from Kotter to Prosci to X to Y can tell you the '7 things that make your kettle boil NOW'. If you laid all the slide decks full of 2x2 matrices end on end you'd probably discover dark matter. And yet somehow we still manage not to do change very well. The stats have stayed the same. In the late 90's Harvard did surveys and they found that 65% of change initiatives had failed. McKinsey did a recent study and the figure is 70%. You can find lots of reasons in lots of articles and books for this - badly scoped, projects not implemented poorly, benefits not quantified etc etc - lots of 'What's done or not done'. 30 years talking about 'what to do', with no improvement. That would have Albert scratching his head. So out of respect for Albert, 'What to do' is not what this blog is about. Instead, I want to look at something different. I want to look at 'Who does it'. Here is my take on it. Whodunnit (up until now) Traditionally, companies have used one of three sets of people to implement change. These are the three things that fail 7 times out of 10. They are: They do it themselves This has advantages - you know your people, you know your industry, and you know your organisation. And the Finance Director likes it because it is cheap. However, change is a process and a competency like any other. It draws from strategy, problem solving, project management methodology, behavioural science, neuroscience, psychology and leadership, and you have to know what you are doing. What you save in lower cost, you will lose a hundred fold in benefits that never come to pass and plunging productivity in the meantime. Bring in contractors to help This costs a bit more, but at least you have the resource and (hopefully) some expertise. Someone skilled enough is hard to find. Even if you do, as a contractor they will be hamstrung because they lack a network in your organisation. The leader of your change is completely reliant on the political power of others. And once they're done, even if they do succeed where most fail, that expertise then walks out of the door and off to the next contract. In fact, usually well before your change has stuck, because again, they are expensive. Use consultants Professional, with a good level of expertise, the right consultants understand change. They also understand their value - this is an expensive route. The thing with consultants is, the process is one of being done to. Consultants are always outsiders, often resented by those in the organisation, which makes their task doubly hard. And, just like contractors, they will leave early and take their expertise with them. Looking at these options that people have, a 70% change failure rate is really no surprise. Without your own change capability, deployed strategically, the options aren't great. It's not about what you do, it is about who does it. So what to do? My answer, for what it is worth, is to build your own internal change capacity and capability in BAU to successfully deliver change. (And that's not just me saying it - IBM do to, in this report) That is not PMO, by the way (sorry PMs). Projects initiate change, but they are not the ones that need to carry it out. Project managers deliver new capabilities that have the promise of changing the way we do things. They do this really well, focussed on time, quality and cost. However, the actual change (and the positive outcomes) happen in operations - the sales, HR, manufacturing and finance teams who have to go through changes and make them endearing. These are the people who are either tasked with a change or find themselves at the business end of large transformation programmes. They are the ones that need to deal with people adapting to change. In other words, change happens in 'Business As Usual'. It is there that you need your change competency, not the PMO. Jack Welch in his letter to shareholders in 1992 famously said: Stimulate and relish change... [don't be] frightened or paralyzed by it. See change as opportunity, not just a threat. So next time you look at managing change (that would be tomorrow for many of us), use it as an opportunity. Us it to build personal and organisational change competency in BAU, competency you can keep, so you can deliver the benefits you promised. Get some expertise in (Hello! - just saying :-)) not to run the change for you, but to develop and mentor your leaders to be successful change agents. Give them a deep understanding and knowledge of change, complemented by practiced new skills. Over time, you can build a valuable internal competency, which is the best resource to deliver successful change. As you do it, you will develop your next generation of leaders. And you'll never have to rely on consultants or contractors again. Neil is Commercial Director of ChangeSchool Ltd, Contact him at neilm@changeschool.org  

24 April 2015

Tips to Improve Your Local SEO

Thanks to the developing intelligence of search engines and mobile technology, the power of local has seen something of a renaissance. Any business or organisation, large or small, can boost its SEO by following a few simple steps. Include an Address in All Online Platforms Without an address, you cannot rank in local search results, unless you work extra hard on your localised keywords. Not only should you have an accurate address on your site, but also on all relevant online platforms. The more pages you can list your address and local phone number, the better your local search ranking will be. Look at the layout of your website and see how you can include contact information at the top or bottom of every page. Add Your Business to Google+ Local Listing your business contact details on Google+ Local, or taking control of any that it already has, will put you at an immediate advantage. Simply go to www.google.co.uk/local/add and sign in with any existing Google account or create a new one. Follow the on-screen instructions to add your primary phone number and address, and any other details. Go Multimedia While keywords remain important, they become even stronger when linked to variety of media. People on the lookout for a particular product in their area are just as likely to check out the Images tab on Google, as they are the Web results. Use text, pictures and video to give your ranking an extra push and use all three on your Google+ Local page too. Use Google Maps Search for your business's location on Google Maps and click the Link button to get the embed code for the map. Add this map to your website, on the same page that is listed for your Google+ Local page. Separate Your Locations If you operate in different areas, give each one its own page on your website and then customise its optimisation with keywords specific to that area. Try to make the content of each page as original as possible to avoid getting penalised by Google. Check the Usability of Your Site Does your website work on different devices? Is it responsive? Is it simple to navigate? If not then it's time to invest in a web designer who can adjust the code to make it more user friendly. Things to look out for are horizontal scrolling and links and boxes too small to tap on a touchscreen device. If you work in User Experience Design, Visual Design, Web Design and Development and are looking for a new venture then please get in touch. JM Digital is a specialist recruitment agency, working closely with candidates in the digital field.

20 April 2015

How Event Tracking Can Improve the UX of Your Site

With more flash and Javascript functionality, user experience has moved far beyond simply reading text page by page. It has evolved into a fully interactive sphere with live updates and multimedia. But whilst the overall UX has improved, analysts can struggle to really see and measure what's going on within that experience. That's where Google Analytics comes in. Though widely regarded as a marketing tool, it can in fact be the saving grace for any UX researcher in need of immediate insights - without adding a new layer of tools. A basic Google Analytics account is free and offers more than enough data to give you what you need. It is also incredibly flexible with almost limitless options of answers that can be extracted: everything from usage trends and actions, to tracking errors. All this data can then be easily managed and represented pretty much however you want. Before you begin with any in depth analysis, it is important to understand the basic tracking structure. GA allows you to have multiple Accounts, Properties and Views. The top level is Account. This is used to separate individual websites or projects that you want to track. Properties offer a way to break down different concerns within those websites and projects, keeping user flow and metrics nicely isolated. View is another level of data separation. As with any data collection, you must first have a clear idea of what it is you want to discover. Once you know this you can select which data to collect and analyse so as to further improve and refine the user experience. Standard Pageview Tracking By default, GA provides standard tracking code that observes how your users are navigating, along with parallel data that reveals some further details about them. This allows you to see where they entered and left your site, and which paths they took through the site. It also shows you the type of device they used. Though this is more aimed at marketing, it can easily be modified to work for analysts by adding in some code - setting GA up manually and calling a tracking function every time a user performs a task you want to track. Behaviour Flow Behaviour flow is under the Behaviour section and is a GA report that tells you exactly how users are navigating your website. You can use this to analyse how users behave at a particular point of your flow, as well as isolating any unnecessary steps or returns to previous states. Perhaps most importantly, you can determine which steps are not being followed as you may have intended. Event Tracking Since it is the smaller details that really make for a smoother UX, Google Analytics enables you to track events separately from pageview to avoid interfering with the behaviour flow reports. These events represent standalone actions that your users are taking, such as opening different menus or altering list views. They are completely customisable and each event has four properties that you define yourself: Category, Action, Label and Value. To track an event you need to add a different line of code, similar to pageview tracking. Event reports can be viewed in the Behaviour -> Events section. The intensity of each action is also visually represented when you select table view by Performance. Why not start using Google Analytics Event Tracking today as a tool to help you answer questions and collect feedback on your website's user experience and see where you can improve.

07 April 2015

UX KPIs you should be tracking

Measurements have always been a way of keeping track of whether something is working. As human beings we have done this ever since we first developed numerical measurement systems (perhaps even before then) and since online experience became such an important tool for business this has become even more the case. Learning to measure user experience is not only key for working out how we can improve the overall experience and satisfaction but also for quantifying exactly what is working and what isn't. With that in mind, here are a few of the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs i.e. the quantifiable measurements) that you should be tracking. Task success is one of the most commonly used KPIs and basically measures the percentage of correctly completed tasks by users. This could be something such as signing up for a newsletter, buying a product or registering personal details. When the number of successful tasks is divided by the total number of attempts you'll be able to see how hard or difficult people find the task to complete. Navigation or search is another important metric that will show you how the website is being used i.e. how many people are getting around the site using the designed navigation and how many are opting for search. Normally navigation is the first choice and then if that fails people will resort to search so if the metrics show a higher number of uses of search than navigation then the site design might need a rethink. Error rates will show you have many times users are falling down while trying to complete a task, such as making a payment. You need to define here what will constitute a user's failure and whether you're going to include a partial failure in your calculations. You might want to measure the total number of errors against the total number of opportunities for errors or alternatively the total number of errors against the total number of task attempts. Conversion is of course the definitive metric when it comes to success and, although this is important, it's also worth remembering that the conversion metric misses out those people who are almost ready to commit or interested in committing but haven't quite got there yet. If you can, widen out your metrics from conversion to include those who might imminently convert or who might be thinking about it - for example, look at the likelihood of taking action on a micro conversion - then you will get a broader, better picture.

23 March 2015

Top skills needed to be Java Developer

Java is one of the most popular programming languages on the web and so a career as a Java developer can open an enormous number of doors. Given the way that the world is heading - i.e. with much of our lives now organised and developed online - it's also a career that holds an enormous amount of potential for progression, whether you're looking to work in the UK or all over the world. However, being a Java developer is not for everyone so what skills do you need in order to fit well within this role? Are you computer literate? This is obviously absolutely key to anyone who wants to go into this area. By computer literate, you need to be more familiar with the workings of computer programs than simply answering emails or being able to access social media sites. You will need to understand how to operate the computer in order to be able to use it as a tool. Do you know what Java is? Ok this might sound a bit simplistic but unless you have a thorough understanding of what Java is then you don't really know whether you're the right person for the role. If you can't answer questions such as 'do you know how to use Java files?' or 'do you know what Java file editors and compilers are?' Then it might be worth doing a little more research before making any applications. What kind of working environment are you looking for? While not a skill as such, being suited to the working conditions of being a Java developer will be an important step on the path towards making a successful career of it. If you're happy to work long hours tackling work alone, often with minimal social interaction then you'll do just fine. However, if you're looking for a team environment with constant supervision then this may not be for you. What are your practical skills? In order to be a talented Java developer you'll need to pick up skills such as learning how to solve development and programming issues. However, there are also some skills and abilities that really need to be innate - for example, you will need to be a patient worker and able to focus for long periods of time. You'll also need to enjoy the analysis of getting to the heart of any problems that arise. If this sounds like you then JM Digital can help. We have some fascinating roles for Java developers - get in touch with our team for more information today.  

09 March 2015

Tips to Streamline Your PPC Campaign

PPC campaigns can be laborious, frustrating and at times confusing - especially for managers with more than one campaign on their hands. Keeping them as efficient and streamlined as possible will increase productivity and help to preserve sanity. Here are a few simple suggestions for how this can be achieved. Use Negative Keywords Too often, PPC managers devote all their time to the keywords that generate traffic. But what about the traffic that has no intention of making a conversion on your site because you do not offer the specific type of product or service they are looking for? Negative keywords help to filter your traffic and can be an invaluable money-saving tool. Make Your Location Known It's incredible how many businesses neglect to include information on their location in the main body of their PPC advertising. It is a sure-fire way to improve your chances of appearing on a search, whilst making any traffic more relevant to you. Pause Low-Performing Ads and Keywords Keep an eye out for ads and keywords that are no longer doing their job. As soon as you spot them, pause and edit them. You can test it by conducting your own searches, as well as analysing the campaign data. Failing to act on this will only cause you to waste valuable time and money. Test It One great way to streamline your campaign is to allow for a testing period where you can pinpoint current and potential issues and address them instantly, rather than relying on costly trial and error. This will encourage your strategy to sustain itself. Automate Reports The thought of combing through the large volumes of data that come with PPC reports is unlikely to be an appealing one. Save the more frequent reports and set up an automated email to receive them. This will help you to stay on top of your campaign and monitor progress more efficiently. If you are looking for SEO vacancies, JM Digital can help. As specialist recruiters, we work with candidates experienced in UX and web design, software development and project management - amongst others. Please contact us to find out more.

23 February 2015

How to Become a Front-End Web Developer

Whether you're an experienced digital designer looking for career change, or completely new to the world of web developing, becoming a front-end web developer could be within your reach. You just need to be highly motivated and willing to teach yourself a few essential skills, as well as being the right person for the job of course. The best place to start is at the beginning - what exactly do front-end web developers do? Well, they are responsible for creating the user-facing side of websites. In other words they code all the interactive and visual elements of a website, as well as working to optimise web applications. As is the case with many coding jobs, a formal education may not be necessary; there is a wide range of free online courses available where you can pick up the basic skills of coding. However, you must be able to demonstrate ample knowledge and experience as well as offering transferable skills, such as working to deadlines and budgets. Web development is a rapidly evolving sphere so keeping on top of all the current best practices is essential. Get experience by building websites that use these practices and technologies. One of the greatest things about all things related to web design and development is the open source community, and the way it drives the highly collaborative Front-End world. Getting involved in this will prove useful in many ways. When it comes to learning the web languages, HTML and CSS are essential. They are the blueprints behind everything that you build, and how it looks. JavaScript has also become a prerequisite, thanks to smart devices and the demand for dynamic websites. It is worth starting with 'vanilla' JavaScript, before tackling jQuery. Getting to grips with web design techniques such as responsive design, modern design language and frameworks will deepen your understanding and make the overall process a lot more efficient. Becoming savvy with building web-apps will also put you at a significant advantage; why not start by working with templating engines. While front-end devs are primarily tech-minded types, they also need to be highly creative with an eye for design. It is after all, the user-facing side of websites, which need to look and work well enough to make people want to spend money and keep coming back. Which brings us to our final point: how to make a website nice and fast. For this you need to understand a few principles of browser rendering. If you are looking for jobs in the UX and web development sector, please contact JM Digital to book a consultation with one of our expert recruiters.

09 February 2015

How to Make a Good First Impression

You may think that preparing for a job interview means going over your answers to potential questions, and brushing up on the company background. Of course these are both important things to consider but making a good first impression depends on so much more. Everything you do from the moment you respond to the interview invitation you will be taken on board - consciously or not - by everyone you come into contact with. This means the receptionist, the PA, the people in the interview room and whomever you happen to bump into in the bathroom. It's always good to make sure your online profile is clean and up to date as it is likely that your interviewer will search for your profile and you don't want anything on Facebook to ruin your chances before the interview even begins! The first thing you need to think about is your appearance. Getting the look right is essential for communicating the right message. Smart is almost a given for any job interview, regardless of the office dress code, but discuss with your recruiter what dress code they feel would be appropriate. Being well presented is a mark of respect and will also make you carry yourself in a more professional manner. Punctuality is absolutely necessary and arriving a little early will also give you the chance to calm your nerves and get your bearings. Be nice to the receptionist and try not to sit glued to your phone while you wait to be called in. Which brings us to being organised in general. If you have a portfolio, or CV or any other documentation with you, make sure it is instantly accessible and well presented. Fumbling about in a bag for a stray piece of paper won't look too good. Making eye contact and smiling at people is an invaluable way to put them at ease and gain their trust. It will only work if it is genuine so try to overcome your nerves and let your inner light shine a little. Don't be afraid to make the first move in extending a hand and introducing yourself. If the opportunity arises, try to find a connection with the interviewer is a fantastic way to make a good impression. Initiate some light-hearted conversation and ask them things like how long they have been with the company. A good interview should consist of dialog, not just one-way questioning. So don't be afraid to show your enthusiasm and curiosity by asking your own questions about the company and the position. It will help you to make your mark. Just be careful not to come across as ignorant by asking things that you should already know, such as the job specification. The number one rule in all instances is to be professional and genuine. Even if you don't get the job, it is always worth being remembered for the right reasons and may pay off in the future.

26 January 2015

Top SEO Trends to Look Out for in 2015

  The world of SEO has continued to change and evolve for as long as it has existed. Every year we see new trends, new strategies and new regulations, keeping businesses forever on their toes. Here is our own outlook for the SEO trends of 2015. Less Text, More Visual Despite SEO being dictated by words, the rise and success of visual content is undeniable. Infographics, videos and memes have dominated our screens for months now and this looks set to continue. The result will be that Google adjusts its policies to accommodate this, being fully aware that users are sick of reading dry text. Semantic Search Whilst this concept is nothing new (Google's Hummingbird took into account the semantics of whole sentences typed into the search bar back in 2013) it is certainly influencing the advance of the human search. As technology develops, so does our relationship with it and conversational queries are on the rise. Keywords will need to include long tail and LSI (latent semantic indexing) if they are to be effective. Mobile Search Optimisation According to Google, half of all mobile searches have local intent: people looking to make an in-store purchase nearby. Likewise, there are also more and more people who only use their mobiles to go online. It is therefore predicted that mobile search optimisation will become a priority for businesses looking to up their rankings and tap into a growing market. Securing Link Profiles Negative SEO continues to plague businesses left, right and centre, despite the increased intelligence of search engines. This is why it is more important than ever for companies to secure their link profiles, keeping close eye on each and every link that appears on their sites. It is ruthless out there but a site that is clearly genuine is a lot less likely to be penalised for a couple of bad links. Social Media Ranking The debate on whether or not social signals influence search ranking has gone on for long enough. However, social media sites are where businesses should really be looking as they have the power to outrank actual websites. 2015 will see companies placing less emphasis on getting people to their website first and more on simply having consumers click on any link that takes them to a company page. If you are an SEO Account Manager looking for a new job, JM digital offers specialist recruitment services and advice. Just see our website for more details.  

12 January 2015

What web design trends will prevail in 2015?

Web design is an area that moves pretty quickly and when it comes to trends these can come and go at some speed. With the end of the year fast approaching, we're taking a look at a few of the web design trends we think are going to be big for 2015. More emphasis on typography. We all know that those web type kits that incorporate the most appealing fonts and typefaces tend to be the most expensive, which has meant that in the past the really aesthetic pleasing typography has been out of reach for budget businesses. In 2015 this won't be the case as type-kits are becoming more affordable and designers working with smaller budgets have much more freedom to apply their skills. Better visuals. Powerful backgrounds, the use of strong, beautiful images and videos will all begin to define web design trends next year. If you needed any confirmation of how much visuals are becoming important in the digital world then just look at the lengths Twitter has gone to in order to incorporate them. Responsive design. 2015 is the year that we will truly see more web browsing happening on smart phones and tablets so responsive website design is going to become crucial. Responsive design ensures that a website being browsed adjusts to the screen size in question. Websites without this inbuilt will find themselves quickly shedding shoppers/visitors. Scrolling vs. clicking. The trend for mobile browsing will also affect website layout, with information that can be accessed via scrolling becoming preferable to information that must be clicked through to reach. Scrolling lessens load times, it's easier to do, more intuitive and allows for a better user experience all round. Bye bye coding. The traditional division of labour between designers and coders is already being blown away as tools for web design become more comprehensive and more ambitious. It's now possible to create websites without touching any code at all and next year we will see this lowering barriers to entry for designers. Webgraphics. It's common knowledge that most of us tend to absorb information more effectively if it's presented visually. We have seen this trend for some time with infographics and now this has evolved into Webgraphics. This is a way of effectively presenting a large amount of information but also allows for a user to interact with the information - it's more effective in terms of communicating and will also help to increase retention.

22 December 2014

SEO and PPC tips for Christmas

Although you might be more focused on mince pies and gifts than SEO and PPC, with the festive season just around the corner it's time to make sure that your website is ready for the annual Christmas shopping rush. SEO and paid search are key to making sure that your online presence gets plenty of attention - generating lots of Christmas cheer for you in 2014/15 - so here are some easy tips on how to make sure that you're on the right track. SEO Are you optimised for mobile? Mobile is very much where it's at when it comes to Christmas shopping - these days we shop on tablets and smart phones wherever we are so if you want to make the most of shoppers who want convenience then you have to be multi platform. This is also, statistically, one of the best ways to pick up shoppers online on Christmas and Boxing Day, who are often watching the Queen's Speech and secretly browsing for bargains at the same time. Check your stats from last year. I.e. are there any changes that you need to make to ensure you don't repeat mistakes? Did the site crash, were there lots of failed searches and broken links, which landing pages performed the best and what were the most successful keywords? Site loading speeds can have a big impact on getting shoppers from browse to purchase so make sure that your site is functioning as quickly as possible. At the very least, make sure that images are compressed and optimised. Google shopping has become an online marketplace, similar to Amazon and it's a great way to makes sales and promote your business. However, in the run up to Christmas everyone has the same idea so make sure that you're ready for the increased competition - it's all about providing a positive customer experience. PPC Product listing ads are useful but make sure that you ensure the product feed is up to date. This particularly applies if you have any products that are likely to be 'on trend' for Christmas 2014. Search query reports will give you valuable insight into the seasonal keywords that are activating your ads so they are incredibly useful. If you don't want to add these to your campaigns then do so as negatives to ensure wastage is kept to a minimum. Adjust budgets to take account of the seasonal sales hikes that we see at this time of year. Make sure you have enough left to cover the spikes on Christmas and Boxing Day, as well as around the New Year. Sale ads are essential so that customers know there are offers to be had but the likelihood is that you won't be at work on Christmas and Boxing Day. Instead, set automated rules so that your pre-Christmas ads are temporarily replaced by the sales ads.  

08 December 2014

When is a Good Time to Resign?

Making a positive change is a great way to beat the winter blues, and what better place to start than with your career. Working with a specialist recruiter takes the pressure off you to do everything alone and they can help you find your dream role, ready for the new year. Many people wonder when the best time is to make that change, and the answer is simple: now. Yes there are peaks and troughs in the job market, and companies will often advertise new roles after their yearly review. But the truth is that the best vacancies are created when people leave, and this happens based on their individual circumstances - without any kind of seasonal pattern. So keep your finger on the button with your job search and something will come up. However, while the New Year may seem ideal for fresh starts, it might not be in your best interests to throw in the towel at a critical moment for your company. That is not to say you can't get everything in place for when you do leave however, and in this sense there really is no time like the present. When it comes to handing in your resignation, the most important things to remember are to remain professional and courteous at all times. This will stand you in good stead for those moments when your boss ends up at a party with your future employer, or you ask for a glowing reference for your application. There is no point in burning bridges right at the end, and you never know if and when you will need them again. The job market has become incredibly network-led and so you cannot afford to make unnecessary enemies. Read through your contract to clarify your obligations - how much notice do you have to give; do you need to work a hand-over period? If possible, it is worth exceeding those obligations out of respect if nothing else. The more helpful you are, the less stressful it will be. Avoid partaking in any gossip and be discreet with your resignation until it is the right time to make it formal. Whatever your reasons for leaving, you will need to write a letter of resignation. How you word it will depend on your relationship with your boss and your experience with the company. However, it should generally be concise, professional and polite. Save any of the personal parts for your meeting with them. When you are asked to explain why you are leaving, honesty is the best policy, so far as it does not offend anyone. Use your judgement to gauge the situation and work out how much you can confide in that person. Just remember to retain your professionalism at all times and do your best to leave on good terms. This will set you up nicely for your next venture.

24 November 2014

What Does Penguin 3.0 Mean for SEO?

Back in 2012, Google introduced Penguin - a new filter designed to police underhand search engine optimisation tactics that were becoming increasingly prevalent on many sites. Two years on and Google has launched yet another algorithm change - Penguin 3.0. In theory, Penguin 3.0 will reward sites that have managed to clean up their links since last year's indictment, with increased traffic and improvement in search ranking. However, the current consensus seems to be that the wait will go on a little longer as Penguin 3.0 has only just been birthed. Because of the way Penguin works, publishers are remaining tentative. When a site is flagged up, rigorous changes are required in order to meet Google's standards of SEO practice. Yet even if those changes are made, publishers are unable to see the results until the next update is released. Which makes this week particularly poignant for anyone who has been hanging in the balance since Penguin 2.1. For those a little late to the game, any changes that were made in the last three weeks will not be okayed until the next update. There is hope however, as Google has suggested that Penguin 3.0 will involve a new system that allows refreshes to happen more regularly. For all its good intentions, Penguin also poses as a double-edged sword. Some sites for example, will see a drop in ranking without actually being officially 'caught out' by the filter. This is because Penguin discounts a wide range of links - some of which are not necessarily bad - and will flag them up as fake votes, thus impeding on their ranking credibility. That said, the actual affects will be minimal unless a site is particularly spammy. The lesson then is to monitor all links on your site as closely as is possible, and hope that the legitimate ones don't fall foul of Penguin's expectations. Keep your SEO practices aboveboard and you shouldn't face a problem.

10 November 2014

Your Website - Halloween Tricks and Treats to Watch Out For

It's nearly Halloween again and if you want to make sure that your website isn't a horror show this year then there are a few things to bear in mind. We're looking at a few of the tricks to avoid and the treats to include, whether you're setting up a Halloween focused campaign or simply giving your site a seasonal overhaul. Trick - the invisibility cloak. One of the mistakes we all make is to put a huge amount of effort into a website and then just assume that people will automatically find it. In actual fact you need to invest in a range of strategies to ensure your website isn't hidden behind an invisibility cloak, including SEO, AdWords, social media, blogging and targeted digital marketing. Trick - the weird website. Some very simple errors that can turn your website from heavenly to horrible include a poor design and content that is badly written and/or full of errors. Don't get too techy with your website design but focus on the way it communicates instead and what the messages are. Writing effective web content that also works for SEO is an industry in itself so don't assume that you can just rattle this off whenever you want to. Investing in professional content can be the key to getting customers to engage with your site. Trick - the mobile trap. Web traffic is now seriously driven by mobile rather than PC or desktop and mobile has already overtaken desktop in some sectors. If your website isn't optimised for mobile and you haven't even considered incorporating apps into your digital marketing strategy then you're cutting off a major artery for your business. Treat - link up your website. Once you have a stunning website, a great range of products and some fantastic content then you need to start creating the links to give it organic reach to your audience. Developing links with other similar businesses, guest blogging, increasing your social media following and reciprocal posting and tweeting is the cherry on the Halloween cupcake as you'll be able to increase the traffic to your website and consequently boost conversions too. Treat - use occasions like Halloween to draw attention to your business. Most organisations can link their products and services to an annual event Halloween in some way, so why not develop a campaign for this year to draw attention to your offering and mark the occasion at the same time. Running a promotion, giveaway or contest with a Halloween theme is a great idea and with some appealing visuals and original content you can sell it easily via social media channels.

24 October 2014

Job Seeking is it Affected by the Change in Season?

The seasons are changing and we're once again moving into the colder months and there are many reasons why this can affect the lives of job seekers. With the kids going back to school, the distractions of summer far behind us and the expensive Christmas season on the horizon there's plenty of motivation to start searching for that perfect new role so that you can be sitting pretty when the new year arrives. So, if you're currently looking for UX Jobs, here are a few tips on how to give yourself the best chance of getting the role that you want. There's no time like now - many people spend too long trying to calculate when the best time of year is likely to be to start the process of applying for a new job. While you can waste hours on calculations like this, the reality is that there's no time like now. Practically speaking, recruitment tends to pick up anyway around September after the summer slowdown but whenever you're looking to make a change is the time that you need to take action. Don't sit around losing motivation and confidence, act now! Networking means making contact - one of the best ways to present yourself as a great potential candidate is via actively networking. This doesn't necessarily mean blustering in and pretending you know everything about UI web design and ecommerce - it's actually far more effective to start by finding those whose work you admire, sharing that admiration and asking for advice. Bring yourself onto the radar of those you want to work with early and you'll be first on the list when an opportunity arises. It's not just about passion - the conventional wisdom is to do something that you love to be happy in your job but this doesn't always bear fruit. For many people, choosing a role in UX design, for example, can become a vocation even though initially it may have appeared a more practical decision. Passion can burn out so choose a role that is still going to challenge and excite you in the years to come. If that means broadening out your job search now then be opened minded to all the potential possibilities. Create your own role - if the UX jobs out there aren't exactly where you want then why not try to create that dream job yourself. This may sound ambitious but it is possible to do. Study your dream company and identify some unsolved problems or challenges, come up with a solution and offer it up for free. You're bringing yourself to the attention of the business this way and even if there isn't a role available, you're demonstrating the kind of talent that an employer might be willing to step outside the box to retain.  

08 October 2014

Stop your organisation killing your talent

Article by JM Guest Blogger Neil Marshall of ChangeSchool.org This article first appeared on Neil Marshall's LinkedIn blog of 5 October 2014. There is a conflict at the heart of talent management. On the one hand, we are told company culture is key. You should hire for cultural fit. You should define and promote your culture and internal brand. On the other, diversity is the new Holy Grail. The wisdom of your crowd becomes its stupidity. Groupthink occurs when the whole group has a bias, not tempered by independent thinkers - just like a strong corporate culture that assimilates diversity instead of listening to it. Confused? You are not alone. Here is Richard Branson on the same issue just last year: Personality is the key.... The first thing to look for when searching for a great employee is somebody with a personality that fits with your company culture. You can learn most jobs extremely quickly once you are thrown in the deep end. Within three months you can usually know the ins and outs of a role Don't be afraid of hiring mavericks. Somebody who thinks a little differently can help to see problems as opportunities and inspire creative energy within a group. Some of the best people we've ever hired didn't seem to fit in at first, but proved to be indispensable over time. Groupthink vs Wisdom of the Crowd. How to square that circle? According to a new study it is independent thinkers that make a crowd wise. It turns out that if a crowd offers a wide range of independent estimates, then it is more likely to be wise. But if members of the crowd are influenced in the same way, for example by each other or by some external factor, then they tend to converge on a biased estimate. In this case, the crowd is likely to be stupid. Take that idea and apply it to the organisation. You have a corporate culture and 'cultural fit'. It means that the more you hire in your own image, the better 'fit' you get. You also get a higher and higher chance of a collective blind spot. Groupthink. But temper that with independent thinkers - Branson's 'mavericks' - and your culture becomes wise. This is why diversity works. The thing about diversity is that it is a very hard thing to pull off. An incumbent culture assimilates differences. People who are different either 'get with the programme' and make sure they are not different for very long, or they face a much harder time succeeding (see my blog 'Diversity for business isn't about what people look like' for more on this). Why should this be? What is it that makes adults merge their opinions into an unquestioning 'hive mind'? The answer is that work is experienced socially. The brain equates social needs with survival; for example, being hungry and being ostracised activate similar neural responses. The feeling of being excluded provokes the same sort of reaction in the brain that physical pain might cause. We 'Groupthink' because different is a threat. This is pretty fundamental stuff. Stick close to Mama. Don't leave the group, or the nasty thing over there with the big teeth is going to get you. Yike. The message is clear. If you want diversity to succeed, you have to make it safe for difference to thrive. Talent development is not just about the individual. It is about the whole organisation.     Neil is Commercial Director at ChangeSchool, www.changeschool.org. Contact him at neilm@changeschool.org

06 October 2014
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