I get about three different sales calls everyday. These are of varying quality with the majority offering products that claim to be revolutionary for social monitoring. However, where I struggle with this approach is that the solution is being offered before the problems have been identified. In the past I've used a number of different types of monitoring software but have found that they are only as good as the questions I want answered before logging in - or the people operating them!

One area where it has been a challenge to find a decent piece of monitoring software is one that reports on website speed. The importance of this is often overlooked, but in my experience (and especially at my old place of work), I have found it to be vital for a number of reasons:
  1. If you're spending a lot of money on paid advertising the first impression of a website matters - if it takes 6+secs to load it may as well not be live at all
  2. With more websites being accessed on a 3G/4G network it's good manners to not make the file sizes of images too big thus using up people's data allowance
  3. Google will penalise you for have a slow website by putting you lower in the search rankings and even increasing the cost per click
One excellent free too which I have used extensively in the past is Pingdom. Although Firefox also has some great add ons and Google offer PageSpeed tools. Too often have I had anecdotal complaints that a website is slow when in fact it's a number of other factors (network speed, location etc.) What Pingdom does is test a website from various locations around the globe and then offers a breakdown of what is causing speed issues. Some of the most common steps I have taken in the past to trim off those vital few seconds of loading time which have been identified are:
  1. Use GZIP compression – This can reduce file size by as much as 70% without degrading the quality of the images, video or the site at all. There's a simple online tool for testing this
  2. Outsource javascript and stylesheets – Have your scripts and CSS load in external files instead of cramping up each and every page. This way, the browser only has to load the files once, rather than every time someone visits each page of the site
  3. Optimise images – In Photoshop, you can use the “Save for Web” option to drastically reduce image size. This allows a trade-off between graphic file size and crispness
  4. Don’t use HTML to resize images – HTML (and WordPress blogs), make it easy to create a smaller version of a larger graphic. The issue here is that the browser still has to load the ENTIRE image, THEN check the width and height you want and THEN resize it accordingly
  5. Cache when possible – Content management systems like WordPress have plugins that will cache the latest version of your pages and display it to your users so that the browser isn’t forced to go dynamically generate that page every single time. Plugins like WP Super Cache can sewriously decrease page load times
  6. Go easy on redirects – A 301 Redirect is the preferred way to change your site structure without losing any of that valuable search engine juice, but lots of 301 redirects piled together just confuse the browser and slow it down as it wades through the old destinations to get to the new one
  7. Get up in the clouds – Over the last few years, this has become THE solution for websites which need to be globally accessible and serve pages depending on where the user is located. Faster access to a server near their geographical area means they get the site to load sooner
Remember that for every second you shave off of load time, you’ll tend to boost customer confidence and trust in your site, and sow the seeds that will make them way to tell others about you. In those cases, a few seconds can make all the difference - especially in this increasingly fast paced modern world!
Working at a FTSE250 company has definitely meant a I've needed to re-focus my priorities and learn the importance of the legal side of the job. Thankfully, legislation is not completely alien to me within digital marketing as in the past I've had to acquaint myself with the likes of cookie law, copyright and email/data security. However, in the past few weeks it's been a whole new board game as Kier publicly shared the news that we plan to acquire the highways business Mouchel:
Without going into too much detail, this has meant a vast amount of work for the team and I to ensure the likes of live webcasts, landing pages, and disclaimers (only accessible from certain IP addresses) were up and running in a timely manner. That we are a FTSE250 company means the importance of getting this right first time and to an agreed standard is absolutely essential. It's a good job I love a bit of pressure and problem solving (although not so much the early mornings!)

This is just the beginning too, as we look to integrate our businesses in a seamless way, with the respective teams already working well together to look at the best strategies for doing so online.

In a related story we also received some truly excellent news in that the global insight agency FTI Consulting independently voted us the top performing FTSE250 company on social media:
This is a staggering achievement given that our new strategy has only been in place a few months. Despite, us being very pleased with the much increased level of engagement internally it's always great to see this recognised externally and then benchmarked against our peers.

Key to this strategy has been the launch of our new company blog which has hit the ground running in a bigger way than we could have ever hoped. Our latest post on the highways academy has received a brilliant amount of coverage and comments and I even took to writing a guest post myself (I couldn't resist!) We have now increased our weekly traffic to the main company website by 12% with the majority of these being referrals from the blog. Here are some of the key reasons why we know it has worked:
  • Internal buy in - Initially we needed to do quite a hard sell internally to get this launched. However, it's clear that by having this tool we can give those people in the business a voice who previously had been sidelined. This demonstrates to them that their contribution is taken seriously
  • Being agile - By blogging regularly we can quickly publish content on a subject which is either getting traction nationally (thus increasing our exposure) or highlight something which it particularly pertinent. It's no coincidence that last week's post focused on highways!
  • Return visitors - Although admittedly not by much, we have noticed an uplift in people coming back regularly. I know the websites I visit most are the ones that are updated most regularly so this is a no-brainer
  • Industry authority - The comments we have received on our posts thus far have been 100% positive. Not bad going at all for our aim to be thought leaders in the sector
  • Social Media - our blog also provides an extra talking point on our social channels with our first post on 'Women in Construction' proving a particularly well shared one
  • SEO - I couldn't let this one slip by (as it's my boss's favourite!) but by providing regular, unique content we've also noticed Google raking us that little bit higher for certain topics (which makes all the difference against our competitors)
For all of the above objectives we've been very careful to ensure there are measurable outcomes. That way we now have the internal proof it's working as well as the external proof - we love you FTI Consulting!

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