What brands need to know about NFTs – non-fungible tokens

NFTs- non-fungible tokens are the latest buzzwords to emerge from the cryptocurrency space. Chances are you’ve heard about NFT auctions generating millions of pounds for seemingly worthless pixels. Maybe the whole thing just makes no sense. Or perhaps you’re thinking of how you could use NFTs as a brand? Here is what brands need to know about NFTs or non-fungible tokens:

  1. NFTs are digital coupons that entitle you ownership of a digital thing.
  2. If it’s vintage, it’s gold. Nostalgia generates revenue.
  3. Digital land grabs are happening.
  4. Celebs are selling out and cashing up

nfts are one of a kind

One of a kind

According to Forbes, “Although they’ve been around since 2014, NFTs are gaining notoriety now because they are becoming an increasingly popular way to buy and sell digital artwork. A staggering £123 million has been spent on NFTs since November 2017.” It’s essentially a coupon that entitles the buyer to own a digital good. That could be a piece of art or something more abstract like a dancing cat video. Because it’s one of a kind, it creates the same scarcity that posthumous artworks do. It’s made up of snippets of code that can’t be reproduced and are stored using the same tech that enables crypto. In fact, most NFTs are bought with cryptocurrency.

nfts thrive on nostalgia

Nostalgia reigns

Maybe it’s just because so many crypto-investors are millennials but 80s, 90s and 00s nostalgia is fetching a hefty price. From beloved YouTube videos like ‘Charlie Bit My Finger” to bespoke collections from Atari for Centipede and Pog; if it’s retro it’s selling like hotcakes. Buyers are snapping up NGTs for digital nostalgia at an alarming rate. Want to own digital Dunkaroos biscuits? It’s possible. For brands with a history in the recent past, this presents an opportunity to monetise old assets in new and exciting ways.

nfts can include virtual land

Acres of bits

A digital land grab is happening too. From parcelling up the real world into fake lots or selling off bits of the ‘digitalverse’; people are buying and selling digital real estate. Why should brands care? Well, it’s expected to boom in the next decade. According to Republic, “Humans now conduct much of their lives through a screen, and virtual worlds that exist only on computers have cropped up. These are places where people can “congregate” by using avatars and have interactive social experiences–entirely virtually. These online communities are called metaverses.” And you can buy them. Is there an opportunity to advertise your product or service in the hubs? Maybe you want to own the metaverse around your actual offices? The possibilities are still unfolding.

NFTs- non-fungible tokens are popular with celebs

Celebrity payday

From selling the rights to unreleased tracks to making digital doodles, celebs are cashing in. And that’s good for their relationship with fans. But is there a way for brands to participate? Think about famous ad collaborations that would make a great NFT. Do you own “Where’s the Beef?” or “Got Milk?” – those clips could net you millions. Consider your back catalogue of popular ads and highlight any that could see new life as an NFT. And if you need to learn how to sell them, this guide is helpful.

 

Want to talk about NFTs- non-fungible tokens, websites or anything else on the internet? Our expert team is clued in.

5 signs you’ve outgrown your web hosting

Web hosting is a modern commodity. You need to have the right abound of storage, bandwidth and speed to enable your customers to buy. Fall down at any of those hurdles and you’re leaving cash on the table. So, you probably know not to simply go with the lowest quote you can get. Chances are, when you make your hosting selection, you carefully compared the packages to make the right fit. But now you may be feeling something is off. The arrangement isn’t as comfortable as it was before. Here are 5 signs you’ve outgrown your web hosting:

  1. Hungry neighbours taking more than their fair share.
  2. Show load times are costing you money.
  3. Poor IP reputation is getting you flagged.
  4. Bad performance at peak times.
  5. Non-standard software is banned.

5 signs you’ve outgrown your web hosting

Hungry Neighbours

With any shared service agreement, resources are pooled and used across all subscribers. But not everyone has the same needs. You can bet that for every few low-bandwidth users, there’s a super consumer who is pushing that load to its limits. If your host doesn’t have limiters in place, you probably have noticed a drop in service levels as your host has gained popularity.

Slow Loading

If you notice that your site’s page loading time has taken a nosedive, it’s time to consider a switch. You can monitor that here. And don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by good desktop loading times. Mobile traffic is fast overtaking desktop browsing as the primary medium. If your mobile load times are slow, you’re missing out on custom.

Bad Reputation

You must monitor your IP too. If they’re getting flagged for spam and malware, that’s going to affect your business. There are several tools available to keep track of your host’s reputation. If there are any warnings, it’s possible another client of your web host has been exploited. This can happen if they’ve not kept their website up to date or failed to enact good security. But it will hurt you, so it’s best to look at making a change.

Peak Time Struggle

Shared server resources share demand too. So, during busy periods, the RAM and CPU may struggle to keep up. As a result, you’ll see a temporary reduction in loading speed and hang time on processing functions. The downside is that this may cost you consumer trust. If a payment screen hangs, a client is unlikely to attempt the purchase twice for fear of being double charged.

Standard Only

Out of the box tools will rarely suit a growing business. When you began, basic software like MySQL was just fine. But now you need better, non-standard software like Percona. If your web host won’t allow you to integrate the systems you need, it may be time to move on. You don’t need to settle for basic programs.

 

We’d love to help you evaluate your web host. Let’s talk about what our hosting packages can offer if you have noticed any of these five signs you’ve outgrown your web hosting.

How to Choose Good Images for Website Sales Conversions

The type of images you choose could be reducing your sales figures. Yes, that’s right! People respond to images in different ways and picking the wrong ones could put customers off your product. And it’s not just that. You could be reducing your overall web traffic if you don’t have any images. According to Jeff Bullas, “Articles with images get 94% more total views.” That’s a huge difference in traffic. But having good quality images will make a huge positive impact. So, if you’re wondering how to choose good images for website sales conversions, consider the following:

 

  1. Skip the cheezy, staged stock photos.
  2. Show real people having an emotion.
  3. Don’t just go with what you like, test it!
  4. Use the best quality and clarity image you can.
  5. Make it relevant to the content and true to the brand.

 

Ban cheesy stock

You know the ones. A comedically overstressed worker pulling at his hair, a frazzled housewife surrounded by messy toys or a smiling ethnically ambiguous woman clutching a shopping bag; these don’t really say anything new. Think about communicating a unique message. Look for photos that jump off the page at you. Scroll past any you feel you’ve seen before. There are loads of options for great free stock photos like Unsplash and Pixabay.

Show real emotion

People buy from people. Try to use human faces or human body parts wherever you can. This will help your visitor imagine themselves using your product or service. Try to show them what they’ll feel when you solve their problem. Oh and it never hurts if the people in your images resemble your target audience too.

Test, test, test

Often, people just pick an image they like and go with it. They never actually stop to think if this image will resonate with the customer. One way to test this is to have multiple versions of the same landing page with different images. Keep the one that performs the best. Do this with every page on your site for the best results.

Clear, high quality

Even if you find the ‘perfect’ image, don’t bother with it if the resolution and quality are low. Today’s modern consumers are used to crisp, crystal imagery. Think of all the perfectly filtered Instagram images they scroll past each day. A poor quality image will do more harm than good. Just don’t chance it. Source another image.

Totally relevant

Not only should the image be relevant to the topic discussed within that element or article, but the brand should factor too. Think about your brand colours and values. If you’re a bright and fun brand you shouldn’t select dark-background imagery for example. There’s a visual disconnect there between the image and the overall page. They need to marry up.

 

Images are very important to design and sales performance. But if you want more tips on how to improve your website SEO overall, check out our previous article.

Ways to Speed Up Website Loading Times

Website loading times have a huge impact on your ranking in search. So, it’s one of the most important issues to address for SEO. There are quite a few quick wins that will make your website faster. And a lot of them are free or incredibly cheap to implement. We’ll discuss ways to speed up website loading times including:

  1. Using image compression to reduce file sizes.
  2. Employing lazy loading to reduce the bandwidth burden.
  3. Applying minify to streamline code on your website.
  4. Using browser caching to make repeat visits faster.

Image Compression

Images are some of the most bandwidth-heavy elements on any website. So, you’ll gain a lot of benefit from making these files as small as you can without losing detail. WordPress has a host of free or cheap image compression options available. You simply install and activate the plugin, then chose the level of compression and let it run. Remember that the number of pictures you have makes a difference too, so try to group images together if you can for fewer requests. That way, it is trying to load only one large image instead of 6 small images.

Lazy Loading

Lazy loading does what it says on the tin. When you install a lazy loader, your images and text will only appear for the viewable screen. That means, if someone hasn’t started scrolling down the page, the content isn’t being retrieved. Because nothing is loading unless it’s needed, site speed goes way up. Enabling lazy load is easy for WordPress and most other platforms since it’s core to modern design. If you have an older website, it’s a great idea to check that it’s activated for better load times. Your website administrator can help you with this.

Minify

When you minify code, what you’re actually doing is getting rid of any unnecessary comments, punctuation or pointless characters within the script. Similar to lazy load and image compression, some WordPress plugins offer this with an all-in-one tool. You’ll need to minify all the code on your site including Java, CSS and HTML to see the most benefit. Once the erroneous characters are removed, your site will perform better and load faster. That’s because it’s not having to read as much data to deliver the page. In this case, less is more.

Caching

Caching is like memory. Your visitor’s browser can store all the info it needs about your website and save it for later. That way, on repeat visits, they don’t need to load everything from scratch. You can set the limits on how long you want the data stored. And best practice suggests a year is a great refresh period. If you need more info about how to implement caching, check out Google’s advice.

 

As we said before, page loading times are extremely important to your search engine ranking, so improving it is critical. We hope these tips helped and if you need more, check out our previous article on SEO.

SEO Plugins for WordPress – What to look out for in 2020 Gallery

Getting traffic to your website is an ongoing battle faced by ever small and large

Getting traffic to your website is an ongoing battle faced by every small and large business owner. SEO – Search Engine Optimisation – is a major tool in organically driving visitors to your website. But improving your SEO can be difficult when you’re not employing the expertise of dedicated SEO experts. However, SEO Plugins for WordPress can help!

The value of SEO starts with search results, as without a decent SEO strategy it is highly unlikely that your website will ever appear as a recommended search result. Our first tip, and one that has inspired much of this blog’s content, is to invest in WordPress. WordPress is a blogging website hosting provider which allows a number of Plugins to make your life easier. All you have to do is determine which Plugin is the most compatible with your vision.

So, as we strive towards 2020, we’ve pulled together a list of some of the best SEO Plugins for WordPress.

Yoast

Yoast SEO is one of the most valuable Plugins on the market, with over 5 million downloads on a global scale. Simply by looking at this one figure you should already be recognising the popularity of Yoast SEO – and for good reason. Yoast handles a wide range of aspects across your WordPress site’s SEO. This includes metadata for both homepage content and individual articles, a detailed sitemap that is automatically shared with different search engines, SEO and readability.

And best of all, the basic Yoast SEO plugin is a free download for WordPress users. It has been built in a way that is perfectly user friendly for anyone – even complete beginners. Of course, there is a paid-for upgrade version as well which includes a few additional features, but the basic plugin does more than enough to help you see results. So, what are you waiting for?

Schema

Schema is what we call a rich snippet plugin. A rich snippet is an additional content that pops up as being immediately interactive, for example, user reviews. Generally, rich snippet content is visually presented and highly compelling, not only enticing potential customers but also enabling search engines to see exactly what your website is about.

Of course, adding rich snippets is only one part of improving your online presence. In order for that additional content to be viewed, you still have to have a solid SEO strategy. But with Schema – All In One Rich Snippets, you have the freedom to create a number of different types of content. Including reviews, events and videos. Schema supports the creation and use of rich snippets and is a goldmine of great content once you’ve got your head around how to use it.

Broken Link Checker

Managing a frequent series of blog posts can throw up unprecedented problems with links. As your site grows, the number of links your site is managing grows. Including both internal and external links in line with all those SEO tips that advocate the use of external links within your blogs. Well, that’s all very well, but what happens when things start to go wrong?

The Broken Link Checker Plugin does just that – it checks your content and flags up any broken links or missing images. It also tracks any broken comment boxes or edited URL’s that can damage your own links. Why is this important? Search engines can tell if your site is full of broken content and links, and this can impact on your SEO negatively. WordPress’s Broken Link Checker makes sure that doesn’t happen – so you can just sit back and enjoy creating content.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics for WordPress has millions of installations, with the Monster Insights version attracting the most popularity in recent years. This is because all of your Analytics content can be viewed from inside your WordPress dashboard. This makes the process very user friendly and streamlined – connecting the GA plugin with your WordPress site automatically.

There is both a free and a premium option for the Google Analytics plugin, with the free version providing you with the bare minimum of data you may find useful. The paid option delves a lot deeper into your website activity and as a result, becomes a lot more valuable in tracking site visits.

AMP

AMP deals mainly with mobile optimisation and the problems that arose when sites began to create content, especially for mobile. Though mobile optimisation seemed like the most important thing at the time, by creating great visual content for mobile the site creators began to impact on their response time. The more content is on the mobile page, the longer it takes to load – and the bounce rate went through the roof. The answer? Accelerated Mobile Pages.

AMP was created to optimise the loading of mobile pages, using specially created HTML code to make the page load faster. By downloading the AMP plugin for WordPress, you can rest assured that your website content will become quicker. And this makes it more user friendly for those visiting your site on a mobile device. And with its user-friendly interface designed for website owners as well, using the AMP plugin will improve the experience for you as well as your customers.

EWWW Image Optimiser

If your content relies on text, adding images and infographics is a must-do to liven it up. Not only do these reflect well on your SEO, but they also help your website to retain the attention of readers. The trick is to make sure that visually engaging content isn’t impacting on your web page load time.

The EWWW Image Optimiser was designed to optimise images whenever you upload a new one.  Ensuring it only takes up the amount of space it needs to across your site – with no limit on how many images it will upload. When you choose to download Image Optimiser, it will also give you the option to optimise all your existing images across your website. An added bonus that means you don’t have to go through and manually edit every image.

Jetpack by WordPress

This one was made by WordPress themselves. It’s a culmination of a number of other plugins you may have downloaded throughout your time as a WordPress user. Able to complete several tasks simultaneously, Jetpack covers SEO tools, analytics, site management and performance optimisation, image loading, site backup, security, and much more.

It’s a bit like an umbrella that sits atop all the other plugin experiences. Jetpack updates itself on a regular basis to ensure you always have the up to date new features and bug fixes.

All in One WP Security and Firewall

Added security is something we recommend investing in wherever possible, and All in one WP is one of the best. By guiding you and sitting across everything from password strength to Google reCaptcha, this plugin gives you live updates on the security strength of your website. Plus, it takes ownership across a number of important areas that could otherwise be vulnerable.

W3 Total Cache

In 2020 users are growing increasingly busy, with little to no time to wait for your website to load. Google and other search engines are also evolving to recognise site speed. It is fast becoming the element of your site that you simply cannot ignore. W3 Total Cache serves as a page store for each individual user. It ensures each time they open a page, there is no need for the page to reload completely.

For this reason, enabling page caching is probably the most important feature to note when you set up this plugin. In short, a cache is a form of memory that stores the pages visited. It ensures quick load time for all devices, delivers all the content to high quality, and is compatible with different types of hosting.

Ultimate Nofollow

For every link you include on your website, Google will backtrack to find out exactly where it came from and why you have linked it on your own site. And when you add in a link, selecting the Nofollow button will make clear to Google that your webpage ranking should not impact that of the link’s target. In short, you are telling Google that the link destination should not benefit from your site’s SEO.

Doing this in WordPress is a little more challenging than on any other site as there is no automated option, but the Ultimate Nofollow plugin provides an extra checkbox to your profile when adding new links.

Of course, all of the above Plugins cover very different areas of your WordPress site, and depending on your market and target audience, it is likely only a couple of these will be relevant to you. The thing to remember is that plugins actually can make your life a lot easier – and the millions who already use them serve as great advocates for their value. Trust the masses and start delving further into understanding your WordPress site and the options available to you.

Need help with your WordPress site?? Talk to us.

Domain Name Fame – 10 of the most expensive domain names

For those who aren’t sure what we mean by domain name, this refers to the

For those who aren’t sure what we mean by domain name, this refers to the URL that appears in the search bar when you land on a certain website. Like Google.com, Facebook.com, and BBC.co.uk, this is what people need to remember to type into the URL bar when they want to find your website. So ensuring the domain name is short and punchy is fundamental to a successful website. Punchier URL’s tend to be more expensive domain names.

The problem is the number of websites out there. Finding a unique domain name is tough, particularly when you are in a sector with lots of competition. You can forget the generic URL’s that you might have wanted – to find something unique as we approach 2020, you have to think outside the box.

But this article isn’t here to tell you what to do. This article is to inspire you – so without further ado, here are 25 of the most successful, and most expensive, domain names ever.

Introduction

It is worth noting that many of the organisations involved in purchasing and selling the most expensive domain names, do not want actual figures revealed. From wanting to keep their competition at arm’s length, to wanting to retain their financial anonymity in the public sphere, there are many reasons to keep these numbers quiet.

But their want is not enough, and for the last few years, the health of the domain name market has become public knowledge.

Cars.com

Cars.com is the most expensive domain name that has ever been sold – coming in at just under £700 million. Of course, if you think about it, something as simple as “cars.com” could refer to any number of things, leaving the clever people behind this domain name with the users looking for rental cars, new cars, used cars, taxi cars, and everything in between.

If you’re looking to earn that top spot and invest in a great domain name, GoDaddy’s domain appraisal tool enables you to test the value of each domain name related to your business – using old search history and location to test the effectiveness.

CarInsurance.com

Another car one – slightly more targeted perhaps, but still worth a hefty £40 million on the market!

Insurance.com

Closely following its car-specific counterpart is the more general “Insurance.com”, referring to everything from home insurance to car insurance, life insurance and more. Insurance is something everyone has to deal with at some point and so this generic domain name serves as an umbrella over a massive chunk of the market. That’s probably why this domain name is worth just under £30 million.

VacationRentals.com

As we approach 2020, jobs are getting busier and annual leave is becoming more and more valuable – or at least that’s how it seems; particularly when we look at how much the domain name for Vacation Rentals fetched in. At a whopping £28 million, “VacationRentals.com” solidifies our love of a holiday home.

And the rest…

Counting down from the number 4 spot it is easy to spot a common trend in the most expensive domain names – and that is their generic nature. Perusing the list, it is easy to identify why these domain names have sold for the most – simply because the sheer volume of traffic they will be receiving from generic search terms must be huge. After all, for someone who doesn’t know exactly what they’re looking for, a generic search term is the easiest option.

  1. PrivateJet.com
  2. Voice.com
  3. Internet.com
  4. 360.com
  5. Insure.com
  6. Fund.com

You can check out your own domain name’s worth by entering it into NameBio.com, or using the dedicated GoDaddy tool to evaluate your domain name.

Need help with domains? Get in touch!

Fishing for Phishing Emails & How to Spot Them

Phishing emails are often so ridiculous that you naturally pass the by without a moments

Phishing emails are often so ridiculous that you naturally pass them by without a moments’ though – probably on a daily basis. Unfortunately, however, there are many unsuspecting victims who can fall for these fraudulent messages; opening the phishing emails and sometimes even following the actions recommended within the message.

Though there is no “one size fits all” response to dealing with these phishing emails, there are a few different ways in which we can identify them – and help others as well.

Check the URL

If the message contains links to websites or other sources, spend a minute hovering over them to check the validity. Often a phishing email will contain mismatched URL’s, so the hyperlink will appear differently to the address displayed. If this is the case, the message isn’t real.

Misleading Domain Names

To understand this one, there is one simple trick you need to remember. If a domain name is linked to a legitimate site, the page you’re looking for will appear before the owner site. For example, info.domainname.com is perfectly legitimate, while domainname.maliciousinfo.com is not.

Please do note that these are dots and not forward slashes, as the forward-slash should rightly be at the end of a web link as a page from the original site. If it’s a forward slash you’re safe, but a dot should always be checked.

Silly spelling and grammar errors

Phishing emails are often created by robots or simply by people who don’t have the competency to check their spelling and grammar thoroughly. If it contains silly errors, it’s probably not legit.

Be careful about personal information

In May 2018, every company was forced to become GDPR compliant. As such, any email you receive that asks you for personal information needs to be checked – because it most likely isn’t what it says it is, and if it was then that company would be in serious trouble.

Is it realistic?

This could well be a matter of opinion, but if the offer seems too good to be true then perhaps it is. If the message makes some wild and big promises and doesn’t appear to be from someone you recognise, it’s probably not real. Add that email to spam right away.

Are you expecting it?

If you get an email saying you’ve won the lottery, despite never having brought a lottery ticket in your life? Common sense points us towards this being a scam. This goes for any sort of prize draw you didn’t enter. Time to block them!

Are they asking for any sort of money?

It might not be today or even next month, but eventually, a phishing email is likely to try its luck and ask you for money. If all the other tell-tale signs haven’t thrown up a red flag yet, this one is sure to make you think twice.

Do they threaten you?

One of the most common kinds of phishing email makes claims against you and then tries to blackmail you into giving over personal information or even money. If the threats are unrealistic and you are being accused of something you haven’t done or aren’t in any way linked to, it’s a phishing email and should be blocked.

Does it look on the surface like it could be from the government?

If they’re pretending to be a government agency, they’re not. These kinds of organisations don’t just email you out of the blue, so you can rest assured that if they claim to be from the FBI or other law enforcement agencies, they’re trying to trick you.

It doesn’t feel right

The last one relies on your gut instinct more than anything – and that is this, does it feel right? If not, trust your instinct and ignore the message. The worst that can happen is a legit message has to contact you again because you ignored the first one. But that’s better that than falling for a phishing email.

Need help with your data security? Get in touch!

Best Web Design Trends for 2020

As we approach 2020, we are starting to see some obvious trends appearing across various sectors

As we approach 2020, we are starting to see some obvious trends appearing across various sectors – not least the online world. Website design is one of the areas that has inevitably seen the most change in recent years. Web design trends change as we take technological leaps towards the future of online.

In response to the threat of a new year and predictions coming in from all angles, this article deals with some of the most obvious trends we can expect to see in 2020.

Adaptive Design

Adaptive design refers to the ability to enjoy a website – from any device. Being adaptive quite literally means adapting to suit all manner of devices. The content has to alter its format in line with the size of a screen. For example, a black of photos on a laptop screen may become a single file line of photos down the page of a mobile device – increasing user readability.

One of the most important things to look for in an adaptive design is an edited Menu design. This includes an obvious menu button and an easy-to-use menu list.

Notifications

When you sign up for something, it’s likely that your phone will pop up with an automated message to allow push notifications. If you’re anything like us, you typically say no. (If only to avoid the constant stream of notifications that apps and games can send to you every single day.) However, in 2020 the notification trend is set to rise. Users are acknowledging the value of knowing when something is about to happen or when an important news story hits the headlines.

Motion Design

Motion design refers to short videos – known as GIF’s – which allow users to interactively engage and explore something they may be interested in. GIF’s are especially useful when compared with more standard videos as they take up less space on the webpage and result in much quicker load times, keeping the user engaged and preventing them from clicking away in frustration. However, it is also worth noting that GIF’s are typically small bits of video content and will not provide an in-depth exploration of your product – for that you may well need a video.

Video

On to the more standard videos now, and despite the rise of GIF’s, video content is still set to increase in value as 2020 approaches. After all, if a video interests us then we are likely to watch to the end – just look at the sheer number of views on Facebook videos all over social media. The content is nothing special, yet the interest is peaked and users tend to watch to the end.

Users like relevant, simple and minimalistic videos that provide the information they need without extreme explanations or lengthy introductions.

Robo-Chat

This one comes back to AI – something we all know is coming! Artificial Intelligence sounds quite frankly terrifying, but the chances are that the invention of AI will make life easier for many of us, if for no other purpose than they can screen user questions and provide an engaging FAQ feature. ChatBots are created to mimic a real conversation, using built-in responses that are pre-determined by real humans. These responses are instant for users, with 24/7 service and an ability to help with basic issues regarding the website.

While they won’t replace human interaction; because some users will want to talk to a real person, their value is set to skyrocket.

Interactivity

People like to interact with tech. To feel like they are getting real value from a site, the more interactivity present, the better. This could cover everything from videos to animations and much more!

Minimalism

This might seem pretty contradictory considering we just covered interactivity, but minimalism is often as effective. Minimalism involves a simple user experience in a number of ways. This includes the design, colour scheme, volume of buttons and graphic details. It’s easier to understand and it will convert better.

What’s on the Out?

There are a few things we are likely to say goodbye to in 2020. First, one of these is in line with our final trend, and that is a complex design. The more complex the design, the harder the site is to navigate – and that’s simply not good enough anymore.

Lastly, a feature we can wave goodbye to is background scrolling. This means longer load times and an annoying pause as the background took a few seconds to catch up. This is unacceptable as we enter 2020.

The Rise of Chatbots in 2020

When you enter into a chat room on the business website to ask a question or request further information

When you enter into a chat room on the business website to ask a question or request further information, you will face one of two results: a 2-hour wait for the next available human agent, or a chatbot. Similarly, when you call a helpline, you’ll soon find yourself humming along with the hold music until you finally get connected – unless you seek help with the automated chatbots.

In truth, at present, we see chatbots as more of an obstacle than a solution, as we try our hardest to get past them and through to a real human who might actually be able to help us. However, with 2019 coming to an end, experts are starting to predict a real rise in the number of chatbot-led interactions we can expect with businesses. And while we may see them as annoying robotic and unhelpful, the truth is that chatbots are not only consistent but also provide round the clock service and can store endless information.

So, with that being said, how will chatbots be used in 2020 and what should we look out for?

“Chat” bots

A very literal application of the term “chatbots” – we are likely to see a rise in voice-activated assistance, much like the popular Alexa application. This will enable you to speak to the bot and have it talk back.

Conversational bots

Conversational bots take the above one step further and will allow bots to not only answer basic queries but also engage in opinionated conversation.

Improved messaging

Despite the anticipated rise in speech-activated interaction, messages will still be the best way to communicate with bots and will be improved and extended to include text messaging as well as emails and online chats.

Business setting

Used to seal and deal and monitor business deals around the clock, bots are the future of 24/7 business as they provide a service that never stops. 2020 is sure to see business bots increase in activity and prominence as the business world engages chatbots across the sector.

AI meets Chatbots

Chatbots driven by artificial intelligence is the closest thing we have to a real human-robot. These chatbots analyse data to predict or anticipate what a customer may need. They lead them to the right solution before they have even fully articulated the problem.

Mimicking real talk

Chatbots are programmed to understand certain forms of communication. This can cause issues with accents and unrecognisable languages. However, businesses are becoming ever more global and expectations for global optimisation is at an all-time high. So, it is going to become increasingly important that chatbots understand natural language.

Customer Insights

Customers will enjoy chatbot interaction far more in 2020. This is mainly due to the rise in customer insight data presented to chatbots. Bots will be able to trace the path a customer took to land with them. This personalisation and customer insight can increase conversions.

Increasingly human

The problem remains that we, as humans, prefer to interact with other humans – particularly when we have a problem. In 2020 however, the increase in AI-driven chatbots will enable the bots to become increasingly human. Both in their interaction and activity, they can offer customers the level of humanity they desire.

Adaptive Chatbots

An adaptive chatbot takes the data it’s given and presents valuable solutions. They are built to match the setting and sector it is working within. This currently requires a lot of manual updates, taking up valuable employee time and resource. As we approach 2020, however, optimised and adaptive chatbots will start to take over – reducing the need for human input.

Call Centres

In 2020, automated call centres are finally set to become a reality – and it’s all thanks to AI-driven chatbots who can work 24/7 and acquire enough intelligence to assist customers towards their end goal.

Chatbots are on the rise. With the changes that will be coming in 2020,  every business should consider investing in one.

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Harnessing The Power Of Online – The Side Hustle

The foundations of a successful side hustle are built in your spare time; working around the

The foundations of a successful side hustle are built in your spare time; working around the daily demands that life throws at you. As such, a truly successful side hustle requires time management and commitment – and some helpful online hints. That’s what we’re here for (among other things).

Project Management Tools

First up, organising your demands and ensuring you have a handle on what you need to be doing. Keeping track of clients is all very well when you have a small business and a targeted client base, but as your side hustle grows it can be easy to lose track of promises you’ve made and workflows you’ve taken on.

There are a number of online project management tools that you can use to your benefit, ensuring your time is planned out to ensure maximum productivity.

One of the most popular is Trello – a one-page planner of sorts which allows you to create as many Job Streams as you like. Splitting your commitments into smaller chunks can help it seem more manageable, and Trello’s addition of useful tags allows you to easily highlight which jobs are Urgent, which are Ongoing and which are New Business. Trello is a visual way of presenting your tasks, and each individual entry is moveable. Another great feature of Trello is the ability to add multiple team members to each card, and even assign responsibility to individual people.

The other project management tool that’s worth a look is Asana – an online cloud software system that enables users to schedule tasks, plan how different project demands fit together, and – perhaps more usefully of all – quickly identify overlaps in your schedule.

Invoice Tracking Tools

Creating invoices is fairly straightforward if you have access to simple software such as Microsoft Word, but that doesn’t make it any easier to keep track of which invoices have been sent out, paid, and are still outstanding. That’s where online Invoicing Tools come in.

There are several free tools that you can find online to keep your finances in order, allowing you to keep client information safely stored in one location and presenting summaries around how much you’ve earned.

Invoicely is the first of these free tools. You can personalise your profile with company logos, personal information and an area to store your client details. The homepage dashboard enables you to see pending and paid invoices all in one place, and the quick and easy invoice creation feature sends out invoices automatically – with clients able to pay via Stripe, PayPal, BACS and more.

Payment Processors

Working hard to create a successful side hustle is all very well, but ensuring you get paid is one of the most important parts of success. Collecting payment can be a challenge, and that’s why presenting as many convenient options as possible is always preferable to, for example, only accepting cheques or cash.

There are a few payment processors out there that can link to your mobile device for payment on the go, linking seamlessly to your side hustle website – making direct payment quick and easy.

Stripe is one of the most popular as it allows you to accept payment online or through a face-to-face transfer. There are of course fees included with each payment, and Stripe tends to take an average of 3% per transaction – but without hidden fees, you can rest assured that the rest of your money really is yours.

Stripe also sends out receipts to your clients. And it includes features that show you how much money is coming in.

The Power of Apps

If you’re a side hustler who’s constantly on the go, time management apps are probably a good idea for you. (Particularly if you work and are paid by the hour.) Hubstaff has both a free and a paid version of the app. But even just using the free version will allow you to track your time effectively for invoicing. If a client puts you on a budget, Hubstaff will help you keep track of that. It will tell you the amount of time to spent on that specific project to ensure you don’t go over.

The extra features such as payroll software and team scheduling come with the paid package. They are an excellent investment if your business looks set to grow.

Another good app for time tracking is Toggl. Toggl focuses on watching how you spend your time. It features one-click timers and tracking reminders to monitor your allotted schedule for each job.

With an overview summary board available as well, Toggl encourages users to view reports. This can help you establish where you can save time and make more money.

In short, planning your time around a growing side hustle requires some dedication – there’s no escaping it. But you don’t have to go it alone, and it doesn’t have to be entirely manual. With so many apps and websites available to support you, keeping on top of your workload has never been easier.