TheTeaCentre.com.au awarded Google Trusted Stores badge

On a quest for continually improving the customer experience our client The Tea Centre is now winning the trust of new customers even faster with the backing of Google.

The tea-lover’s one-stop has just been awarded a badge of honour by Google’s Trusted Stores program. Entry into the program is coveted in the e-commerce space as not only must the store be making a minimum number of sales per month but they must deliver exceptional customer service to enter and remain in the program.

The Tea Centre Trusted by Google
The Badge in action

The badge floats to the bottom right of each page of the site and offers visitors a window into previous customer experiences with a rating out of 5 and a link to read reviews. At the time of writing The Tea Centre had received 39 reviews (mostly during the qualification period) and was holding a 4.9 star rating!

While it’s too early to identify if sales are up we’ve got a hunch that it can only help convert the first time visitor and so look forward to monitoring it’s progress and particularly working with other clients to also secure this badge.

If you’d like to learn a little more about the program, we wrote about this last month.

Google Trusted Stores, can it benefit my store?

What is Google Trusted Stores?

Google Trusted Stores is a free program that sends a positive signal to consumers that your store is a reputable one to deal with. Merchants benefit from a boost in credibility which hopefully leads to increased sales. Indeed, anecdotal reports claim conversion rates lifting 10-15% after being approved for the program.

How does it work?

Google Trusted stores is an opt-in program whereby both store owner and customer must actively choose to participate.

Store participation is not without effort although the requirements for approval were recently reduced making the whole thing much simpler than at launch of the program. After registering for Google Trusted Stores and defining policies for delivery, returns and customer service we place some code throughout the site to send transactional data back to Google. Once these codes have been verified by Googles automated workflow the store enters a 30-90 day qualification period whereby customers are invited to partake in the program at the completion of their order. This is purely opt-in and customers are incentivised to join by guarantee of up to $1000 refund in the event a dispute cannot be resolved. By opting in customers will be invited to leave a review to feedback to the store on customer service and delivery experiences.

On qualifying for the program the store will be awarded the trusted stores badge which sits discreetly at the bottom of each page on the store’s website. Here customers are able to click to read previous customer reviews, thereby developing a deeper sense of whether they should trust the store or not. Our observations are that most stores accepted into the program end up with a rating of 4 or more stars, thereby winning trust of new users quickly.

In the event of a dispute or issue, customers are encouraged to resolve directly with the the store. Given the incentive of the store owner to remain in the program you’d expect most issues to be resolved quickly and with minimal fuss. If for some reason not, customers can at a click, escalate the dispute with Google.

When in doubt, watch the video.

Like to implement this for your store? Reach out and start the conversation.

 

Your website at LiteSpeed

Rarely are performance gains as significant as this even possible

In our eternal quest to make the websites we host run ever faster, we recently discovered the blazingly fast web-server by Litespeed Technologies. Remarkably our testing of the server improved page load times of between 40% and 60%, so whereby a page may have taken 4 seconds to load was now taking on average just 2 seconds, truly astonishing. Particularly improved were pages running over HTTPS, which as you know we’re a fan of using.

Not without additional cost we were so blown away by the results of our testing that the relatively small cost was quickly justified. And so as of March 1, all websites hosted on our Linux platform are now running at LiteSpeed.

Naturally we’re still in search of further mechanisms to make your site run even faster, but for now we trust this is a solid step forward.

 

Is your blog configured correctly?

Ever wondered if your blog is really helping your search ranking?

Wonder no more, SEO master Rand Fishkin at Moz has recently posted their findings on a bunch of SEO techniques. Most interesting is that should you have a blog running on a subdomain, for example http://blog.yourdomain.com.au there is likely to be zero benefit to your primary http:///www.yourdomain.com.au website.

This is a hugely common scenario because the blog is often an afterthought and thus banged up in the quickest fashion on a subdomain. In addition it is possible that technology conflicts may prohibit a blog running on the primary domain but in the most part these can be worked around with modern infrastructure. Is it time to rethink your blog strategy?

Take 10 and learn more with Rand’s nerdy yet entertaining video.

Improve search ranking and conversion rates with HTTPS

It has been tagged as the final 1% on the SEO journey but there are other advantages to running your entire website over HTTPS. Are you running the green address bar?

After years of cowboy style tactics such as link exchanges, keyword stuffing (or spamming) and doorway pages to trick search engines into believing a site has real value we’re finally at a point where the search engines are outsmarting such trickery.

Thankfully, this means we can get on with legitimate SEO practices that benefit both the users and search engines, with the confidence these black-hat techniques won’t negate this good work.

What is HTTPS?

HTTPS uses an SSL certificate to secure transmission of data between a website and your computer’s web browser. It offers a trusted connection that validates a website so that you can be confident they are who they claim. Once a connection is established the website encrypts data that only your browser is able to decrypt, and vice versa with your private data you share with the website. The green address bar in your browser indicates that your connection is secure.The Green SSL bar

Traditionally SSL has only been essential for commerce related sites where you might share your credit card and even then the only secure pages were those with forms asking for private details. More recently however there’s a trend towards using SSL on any site and all of the site.

While not without complexity, costs and risk, the benefits of running HTTPS encryption can be compelling. Read more…

Code4 is now a Google Partner

We’re super pleased to announce our new status as a Google Partner.

Having been an advocate and client of Google Adwords for many years, we’ve now had the opportunity to study up on the latest features, optimise some clients accounts and earn our Google Partner badge status. With this you can be assured of certified expertise when reviewing your Adwords and be confident that we can increase returns on your Pay per Click (PPC) budget.

Get in touch to discuss starting or optimising your PPC campaign.

Code4 Google Partner Badge

How safe is your digital life?

As we place more of our life and business in the cloud, we need to be sure our data is secure and safe.

A strong, long and cryptic password is a great start but how can be you sure that someone hasn’t intercepted it and is accessing your information without your knowledge? The answer is two-step verification, banks have had this for years with those code-generating key tags but now the technology available with hundreds of online services.

Google, Apple, Dropbox, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon offer similar services and we highly recommend activating them to avoid getting hacked.

Still not clear on how it all works? Google made a short video explaining far more succinctly and I will.

Google Apps for Business – more than just email

Having previously been through the the pain of managing our own email servers and having hosted many of our client’s email we know too well the problems of such arrangements.

Fundamentally we found the problems boil down to redundancy, or lack there of. While hosting your own server provided many configuration options it was dependant on a single connection to the Internet and of course a stable operating environment – free of interference from other services also installed on the server. Ultimately it was a liability and ticking time bomb that we needed to get rid of.

The Solution

Google Apps for Business is our tried and trusted alternative to running our own email servers. For anyone who has a Gmail account this is simply just Gmail for business users where you have yourname@yourdomain.com pointing to Googles servers. While initially this may seem like a huge leap of faith we’ve all been running a Hotmail or Gmail account personally for years – so when it came down to it was just a matter of trust which quite frankly wasn’t hard to win given our experiences running Exchange Small Business Server.

Specifically we like:

Security.

Gmail was a pioneer in encrypting users email using the SSL protocol, this meant that all transmission between you and their servers was safe from prying eyes, while this might seem like an essential pre-requisite to any email solution it was exorbitantly expensive when we first started using Google Apps in 2006.

Even more useful is Googles spam filter – they suggest that over 75% of email they receive is marked as spam – which if true offers a huge time saver. Our experience with Exchange server was that it’s spam filter worked on some rather primitive heuristics and often got things wrong, causing more headaches than it was worth. Perhaps not obvious but this the Gmail’s filter also scanned attachments for viruses and other nasties before allowing you to save them to your computer – yet again another tick on the security stack.

More than just email.

In addition to the worlds best email solution, the “Apps” component brings immense value to our business by way of super effective collaboration in real-time with colleagues and clients. Our biggest time and sanity saver is using Google Drive with Docs and Spreadsheets to work on a single document with others at the same time but instant messaging and video with Hangouts also proves itself time and time again.

Google Apps - more than just email

Accessibility.

One of the pet hates of running our email systems was the lack of access when we needed it most. Typically this was while out of the office. Sure we had mobile access configured but it was slow and often just didn’t work. Google Apps provides technology agnostic access whether you’re on iPhone, Windows Phone, Blackberry or the native Google Android platform you’ve got secure and fast access.

Don’t just take our word for it.

Of course we could keep listing features (they are almost endless) – but these are our favourite.

Watch the ‘working in the future’ video to get a better idea.

If you’re interested in getting your organisation using Google Apps, talk to us. While not our core offering we have taken the time to qualify for the Google Apps reseller program, as ultimately if our clients email is solid we can do better business. The reseller status enables us to set you up quickly with the highest levels of support available from Google.

 

Cloud SQL for the win

After several months of trialling Google’s new Cloud SQL service we’re hugely pleased to have recently taken Do Something Near You out of beta with the addition of enhanced geo-spatial searches (find listings near to my entered location) and a new search by keyword feature.

Originally leveraging Google App Engine’s awesomely scalable (but not without limits) traditional NoSQL data-store, geo-spatial queries had restrictions that meant we had to implement work-arounds to achieve the results we needed from the volumes of data that were quickly amassing. Whilst these work-arounds (namely GeoModel, but also some  complex custom caching mechanisms) delivered results, we still weren’t able to search by keyword and performance could have been better, especially considering the expectation we had having chosen Google (the fastest search engine ever) as our infrastructure provider.

Implementation was a little tedious at first, as Cloud SQL was in “Experimental” (and didn’t it feel that way) release when we first developed the prototype, but once it was released commercially it has been smooth sailing even under load. Performance improvements were dramatic, shaving response times by more than 50% on most local search requests.

For the technical amongst you, this video below, filmed at Google I/O, debates Cloud SQL vs traditional data-store, where inequality operators on multiple fields is simply not possible. The critical component of both solutions is the cloud nature which offers two primary advantages. Database maintenance becomes a thing of the past while at the same time it allows scaling to huge volumes of data and usage without needing the ridiculous capital expense of  traditional servers and networking hardware.