Ellen Ellen Pickett

All articles by Ellen

 

Tricks of the travel trade: tackling three key digital marketing challenges

Read my recent take on the three most relevant challengers facing travel marketers online, published by The Drum: Tricks of the travel trade: tackling three key digital marketing challenges...
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The Need for Speed: Can Your Travel Website Keep Up?

There are many factors that make the usability of a website remarkable, but a crucial aspect that’s often overlooked is speed. A recent Google study showed that 40% of people will wait no more than 3 seconds before abandoning a travel website. That means you have 3 seconds to ensure your content appears before you lose 40% of your potential income. Unfortunately it is still common to see travel brands sacrifice page loading time in favour of adding fancy functionality,...
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8 Strategies to Help Your Fear of Flying

I love travelling but if you ever travel with me, you’ll learn I have a terrible fear of flying. This hasn’t always been the case – we would take flights frequently when I was a child and I never questioned it. However, in 2011 I suffered a bad case of PTSD from the Christchurch earthquakes and somehow this resulted in a lingering distrust with planes (yes it sounds odd, but apparently developing unrelated fears is not unusual). I have refused to...
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My Google Adwords Set Up Checklist

I’ve been loving getting my geek on and spending a lot more time with Adwords lately. As a Google Partner, our company gets regular one-on-one time with Google’s technical team and we have a great contact there called Scott who has been keeping me up-to-date with the countless changes.   If you devote the time to it, Adwords is actually not as bad as nerdy cat suggests. I love the more logical, data-driven nature of PPC when compared to SEO,...
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A Digital Day-off, Please?

I wish there was one day a week where society would have an agreed “time out” from social media. A day where I can go to brunch with my friends and not have to pause mid conversation whilst we all check in, Instagram our food, or pointlessly compare whether other people on Facebook are having a better morning. A marketing agency (Tecmark) found that the average person picks up their device 1,500 times a week, including checking email and Facebook...
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Having a ‘mare updating my iCloud credit card

Am I just going mad, or is this a total fail on Apple’s part? This morning I received this friendly email reminder that my iCloud credit card had expired: Thanks Apple. That looks easy enough? No. Upon following the 3-step instructions on your iPhone, you get to a screen showing your payment method, where you cannot do anything. Clicking, dragging, shouting does not bring up a way of editing this card. So, back to the email. Apple says, “You can...
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5 Basic Photoshop Skills You Need as a Digital Marketer

If you work in digital marketing, especially for a small business, sometimes you don’t want to waste time and money passing small jobs to a designer that you essentially could do yourself. The following are things in Photoshop that I use on a daily basis. NB. This article is written for those people with either no or very little experience with Adobe Photoshop. The videos included are not mine and are based on CS6 – if your version of Photoshop...
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Twitter Changes Its Profile Design (Again)

This evening I jumped onto Twitter on my laptop and got this: If you are reading this in the future, this is what the old Twitter version looked like. It’s almost responsive, in that the “Who To Follow” right-hand column disappears at a reduced window screen. With a sneaky nod to Instagram, a greater emphasis has been placed on Photos and Videos, which have a newly dedicated tab. There’s also a new “tweets and replies” filter, where you can see only...
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What are the top BYOs in Auckland?

Finding a decent BYO restaurant in Auckland seems to be a challenge for Google. As Concrete Playground’s handy article is nearing 2 years old, I made my own list and thought I’d share it for all those other slightly-broke, food-loving Aucklanders out there.   Thanya Thai (formerly Jungle Flavour) – Balmoral 2 Dunbar Rd, Balmoral / jungleflavour.co.nz Hidden away from the hustle of Dominion Rd and out the back of KFC, not many people realise Thanya Thai’s existence. It is perhaps for...
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Hello New Blog Design!

Kia Ora, As of today I’ve said goodbye to my old blog design and welcomed the responsive age. About time too. I’m currently fixing some bugs, but everything should be fully up and running in the next few days. Cheers!...
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An Enviromental Downside To Buying Online

I buy a lot of cosmetics and other products online, which, given our shopping options, is probably the same for most women in New Zealand. This morning I received two orders from two well-known online retailers, both of which steered towards the somewhat ridiculous in their extreme packaging efforts. So here’s a little name and shame. Once It Box arrived marked FRAGILE complete with red sticker. Upon opening, no less than three large sheets of thick brown paper were unwrapped...
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The TedxAuckland 2013 Experience

Yesterday the Aotea Centre hosted TedxAuckland, a day for people to step on stage and inspire us with their ideas and experiences. I was a last minute booker, torn between the chance of saving $90 and the unknown. I am very glad that I bought that ticket. Here are some of my favourite talks, with places online that I was inspired to check out. Lillian Grace Lillian expressed a need for us to understand more about our country in order...
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Preserving your Instragram Photos

We no longer print photographs and collate them lovingly in albums like our parents did. Now we upload them to Facebook, where they often end up in an album languidly named “iOS Uploads”. It was with this thought in mind that I went in search for a more physical way to preserve my growing Instagram collection, and Printstagr.am is what I found. Can’t get enough of these cute mini-books: 50 Instagram photos in a random order in a wee booklet....
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Lessons on web design from GOV.UK

Good morning New Zealand. Who else is trying to claim their tax refund and enjoys how the IRD website asks you to login 10 times? I love that screen. (May be a small lie.) Last week, the UK Government won “Design of the Year” by Design Museum for their new website GOV.UK. This is the homepage, above the fold: This award has prompted a mass debate in our office. Some people likened the site’s design to a pre-made template or...
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Nerdy Flight-Tracking Goodness

This week I have been captivated by an app my mum introduced me to. That’s right, my mum… not often I can say that. It’s called Flight Radar 24, and it shows commercial flights in realtime all over the globe. I would like to state that I am NOT a plane spotter, but this is a whole lot of cool. You can also see it on your browser at flightradar24.com. Right now I can hear a plane overhead. My app tells...
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“Caffe Sospeso” … Coffee as the new charity

Suspended coffee is a new concept arriving in cafes all over the world, and something I discovered last week whilst on holiday in Melbourne. Originating in Italy, the idea is that you can anonymously pre-pay for drinks that those in need can redeem later on. It is also a trend that has caught much attention online and has gone viral via social media. For a long time, society has been divided over whether it is appropriate to give money to beggars...
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Dictated Dinners: My Food Bag

Escaped work this evening and headed down to SMCAKL, where amongst other slightly geeky things we learnt about the latest in food delivery, My Food Bag. This new service takes weekly meal planning to the next step. You sign up to receive planned gourmet recipes and necessary groceries for 4 or 5 meals each week. These recipes are all endorsed by NZ Masterchef Nadia Lim. Perhaps I am not their target audience, but the service is slightly on the expensive...
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Floxy Lady

Tonight I went to Design Assembly down at Ironbank on K Road. They run the occasional evening where creatives come to talk about their worlds. On this occasion there was one particular speaker that inspired me. This was Hayley King, aka Flox, who is an incredible New Zealand artist known for canvas, stencils and spray paint. Much of her work focuses on birds, animals and nature. The colours are just beautiful. I hope she does not mind me borrowing her...
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Lorde, she’s good

Just can’t enough of Lorde this month. As proven by the recent series of New Zealand’s Got Talent, New Zealand rarely has any talent, so when someone does pop up we must all jump upon them and celebrate wildly. She’s been threatening to take this down recently, so apologies if you are looking at an empty SoundCloud box. Whenever someone like Lorde comes along we get a tad disgusted at our own weedy accomplishments when we realise just how young she...
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Why I’m not jumping from iTunes to Spotify just yet…

I’m perhaps a little late to jump onto this bandwagon, but this week I’ve been trying to decide where to place my money in the music stakes. Do I invest N$40 / year into iTunes Match, and access all my purchased music anywhere… or do I scrap iTunes and get a $15 monthly subscription to Spotify Premium, which allows me to access any music anywhere. At first, Spotify sounds like a good bet. I for one have a varied musical...
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How to track outbound links with Google Analytics

When setting up goals in Google Analytics, many people fall astray when it comes to tracking links that take the user to an external website. A common wrong assumption is to act as if the link is internal, i.e.: Unfortunately, you are only able to track internal links via a URL destination. Good news is that Google has a neat way of getting results another way – via what is known as Event Tracking. Geeky Code Stuff To do this...
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Teux Deux? Don’t Mind If I Deux…

Teux Deux (aka “to-do”) is currently my favourite online tool to help manage my work. Its success lies within its total simplicity and ease of use. Here’s a quick beginner’s top 10 guide to all the wonderfulness. www.teuxdeux.com Type in your To Do items under the respective day/date, and hit the enter key. Use the 5-column “Someday” section at the bottom for items that don’t have a specific day. I like to use one of these columns as “next week”...
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How to write a blog post: for small businesses with very little time

A challenge many small businesses face with social media is a lack of time to devote to it. Blogging is no different – lots of us don’t have a few hours spare each week to think of a topic, let alone write several hundred words. But it doesn’t have to be that hard. 1. Don’t stress about the “perfect” topic. Sometimes it is better to produce several blog posts on more obvious / simple topics than to spend the whole...
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Five reasons why QR codes don’t work

QR codes, aka “Quick Response”, were designed by the motor vehicle industry and somehow filtered their way into the digital world. But instead of making our lives easier, they have failed to take off. They have slowly become one of my own web pet peeves. Why? With a few small exceptions, businesses continue to predominantly use them in mundane, unimaginative ways that don’t provide value. Often this includes a non-mobile friendly webpage. … therefore we are always disappointed by what...
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Tools to help you choose the right keywords for your website’s SEO

The first step towards great Search Engine Optimisation is identifying and prioritising your keywords. These are the words and phrases that you want your target audience to enter into search engines in order to find your website. For the purpose of this post, I will use a fictional New Zealand hiking operator as an example case. Where to begin? There are a number of starting points. Firstly, common sense. Ask yourself the question, “What would I search for to find...
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Meet Eddie the SPCA kitten

Say hello to Eddie. I haven’t achieved a great deal over the Christmas holidays, but I have been helping out with this little one. At barely three weeks old, he needs the care of a newborn child: he consistently eats, pees and sleeps. Eddie is a climber – he has an apparent urge to reach the top of everything he encounters, particularly your face, using his tiny claws. Hence his name, after the great Sir Edmund Hillary. This time of...
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Bad online travel reviews: their effects and how to react

This week a small tourism business belonging to a friend of mine suffered its first inevitable bad review on a particular well-known travellers’ website (cough cough, Tripadvisor, cough). I say “inevitable” not because of any ongoing bad service—indeed they run a very good operation—but because ultimately 99.9% of tourism businesses are going to one day find themselves a victim of it, no matter how outstanding their behaviour. It’s just human nature. Online review sites have a notably different effect on...
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How to set up tethering in order to connect to the web via your iPhone 4

Although not every country and network supports it, Vodafone New Zealand allows you to connect to the internet on your laptop using your iPhone. This is usually known as tethering. Not many articles are on this online so here’s a quick step guide. 1. You can connect the two together either via a) USB cable, b) WiFi or c) Bluetooth. My iPhone 4’s bluetooth is absolute rubbish, and now with iCloud I don’t ever use USB, so I opted for...
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Not sure what your Facebook fans want from you? Ask them.

  There was an article this week by emarketer.com that discussed findings from an interesting survey by ExactTarget called “Subscribers, Fans and Followers: The Meaning of Like.” The survey asked Facebook users in the US why they might choose to not ‘like’ a brand’s fan page… but if they did ‘like’ it, the survey asked what they then expected from it. Read the article here: What Do Facebook Users Expect from Brands? To me, the most significant findings of the survey were: 54%...
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The art of surviving the long haul flight

On Tuesday I will make the 30+ hour journey from Manchester to Auckland. As something I have done countless times, you might say I’ve become quite the experienced long haul flyer. But it doesn’t seem to come any easier. In fact, once the novelty wears off it all becomes a lot harder – suddenly the inflight entertainment system isn’t interesting, you have seen all the movies, the food is overfamiliar and the duty free has been bought before. I am...
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Should I bid on my company name in Google Adwords?

It is a question often asked by Adwords beginners – should a company bid on its own business name if they are already showing in the top organic search results? Businesses can sometimes wonder why they should pay for clicks that otherwise would probably come free organically. I thought I’d throw my $0.08 cents in. The quick (and quite unsatisfying) answer to this question is that it depends on the circumstances. Which means some common sense and good judgement on...
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Should small businesses outsource their social media?

Thinking of outsourcing your social media? Please read this first. People in the digital marketing world have been debating back and forth over the last couple of years whether outsourcing SM is acceptable – but I find a strange lack of online information discussing the small business in particular. So here we go. Firstly, it is notable that there is a difference between Social Media Consulting and Social Media Outsourcing. SM Consulting Consulting is when someone like myself comes into your business and...
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How does Social Media Affect SEO in 2011?

In late 2010 Google (and Bing) made the inevitable announcement that Social Media was now part of their elusive search algorithm. Nevertheless, businesses all over the world are still failing to realise the true potential of Social Media presence and are losing out. Here is why it makes sense for the likes of Twitter, Facebook etc. to affect search results. As with all Search Engine Optimisation (the art of improving your ranking on Google), the principles are based on common...
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Why Social Media is good for your Small Business

This week I have learnt that part of consulting about Social Media is convincing people that it is worth their time. There are many non-believers who simply don’t understand the value of devoting time to the likes of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. However, this is usually down to certain misconceptions. The fact is, Social Media is proven to be good for small businesses. In many industries it is a great way to allow a company to stick their head up...
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Some quick design “doodles” via Gimp

Sure, they’re never going to win awards, but here are some quick and easy designs I’ve created when playing around with Gimp this week. Love in many languages: It’s a boy! Coffeee – (pretend coffee shop) menu:...
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Could your small business benefit from using a Daily Deals site?

“Daily Deals” – a recent term brought to us by a multitude of internet companies all looking to capitalise on the economic downturn and take advantage of our tighter wallets. E.g. Groupon, GrabOne, Spreets, LivingSocial etc. We all know how it works. Businesses sign up to sell one of their products or services, at a much cheapened price for a limited time period. The Daily Deal company take a percentage of this price. The businesses then (hopefully) receive lots of...
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Facebook Timeline: Do we want our lives on display?

Today I was allowed my first preview of Facebook’s new Timeline layout, about to replace our profiles next month. And after all the moanings of various people both on- and offline, I was pleasantly surprised by the new shiny format. However, there is one thing about Timeline that concerns me, and that is the sudden ease with which people will skip back and forth throughout my life. Suddenly they are able to see photos, status updates and such from my...
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Pinterest

This week Facebook has incensed users by making some changes to its newsfeed and friend categories. Indeed this always happens whenever it changes something… Give it a few weeks and everyone will be used to it. Just shows you how much people naturally do not like being shoved outside their comfort box. The Beeb also made a boob (surely someone else has used this word play by now?) with the release of their beta website, which looks fairly naff with unimaginative typography...
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Transparency Gradients using CSS

The latest site I’ve been working on has used gradients, but with one end resulting in transparency. Here’s a quick demonstration of how you get there with CSS. #canvas { background: #FFFFFF; /* Well hello, useless IE! */ background: -moz-linear-gradient( /* Firefox transparency gradient */ center top, rgba(255,255,252,1) 100%, /* Opaque White */ rgba(255,255,252,0.1) 5% /* Transparent White */ ); background: -webkit-gradient( /* Chrome and Safari transparency gradient */ linear, left top, left bottom, color-stop(1.00, rgba(255,255,252,1)), /* Opaque White */ color-stop(0.05,...
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Should we still be using Email Marketing?

Yesterday someone asked whether I thought email marketing was still valuable. Indeed, the question of whether the “e-newsletter” is dead continues to be a subject of debate – both off and online. However, most arguments – no matter what side – appear to be only made by marketing people or businesses because it suits their own methods. So I would suggest that, if you are reading this because you are wondering whether to use email marketing, be wary of such...
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Social Media for your business: no more excuses

The other day I read a blog article that spent several hundred words arguing that Social Media may not be a sensible option for certain businesses, for the reason that it might not bring in any income to them. Unfortunately this article failed to name examples, because I am still sitting here trying to think of some. I don’t believe you can make such a sweeping statement – because Social Media has potential for everyone. And to think that you...
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The Morals of SEO: Why not to play it dirty

As web developers, we have clear web standards that guide us to see what is right and wrong. In SEO, unfortunately the laws aren’t quite as clear. In fact, there are barely any laws at all – something that a morally competent practitioner can find incredibly frustrating. Because there are absolutely loads of so-called SEO “experts” out there all too willing to play it dirty to get what they want in the short term. One of the reasons for why...
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Sometimes it’s ok to design in Microsoft Word

Small businesses (particularly in the tourism industry) often have to be cautious not to take leaps and bounds to improve their marketing – because if they did they would risk cutting off their nose to spite their face. If your marketing material and branding suddenly goes from naff-looking flyer to fancy-pants brochure, your current clients might suddenly eye you with suspicion. And any new clients will ultimately be more high-maintenance. If you project an image of high quality, ridiculously good...
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My Social Media Top 5 Essential Guidelines

Five quick things that I believe to be essential to good social media. 1. Treat everyone online as you would offline. If you wouldn’t say something to their face, don’t write it. If you wouldn’t want your Mum to read it, don’t write it. 2. Stay away from anything remotely controversial. And preferably, political. 3. Don’t ever use Social Media to sell. People will turn off. Instead think of it as a branch of PR… your best foot forward. Bring...
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New Site Design

Have release a brand new design for this site – still based on WordPress but removing any reliance on Pagelines’ Platform Pro. Instead I created my own design and set it as a WP template. In doing so I have learnt to employ MAMP and lots of lovely WordPress-specific PHP. I re-designed because Platform Pro was imposing several nasty restrictions on the previous site, and I wanted something that was a lot more clean cut and hassle-free to update. Have...
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Myers-Briggs Testing

On a completely different tangent to my normal posts today! I am an INFJ according to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a psychometric test derived in order to categorise people using how they see the world and make decisions. It is a common assessment employed by HR departments to decide how people do best in the workplace. Normally I would scoff at such tests but the result was quite uncanny – so felt the need to share. There are 16 different...
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Hosting Web Sites on Dropbox

Been busy this week – hence the lack of blogging. I sometimes think that social media, although important in many ways, is a real indication of how busy someone is. If you are constantly tweeting and blogging, you can’t have that much on (except for those who do SM for a job, of course). Have shelved the photography site I started working on whilst my friend, the “client”, gathers together his main images (- and thoughts). Instead I have immediately...
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Using Hyphens in Domain Names, Good or Bad for SEO?

Doing a little research today for a new project for a photography website that I plan on doing via WordPress for a good friend. We’re at the early stages of planning so discussing all sorts of things including search engine optimisation, which led to the question – should the domain include hyphens? As with much SEO, people are divided in opinion over this. (By quickly Googling the topic this is easy to see.) However, I’m going to argue that you...
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The Website Redesign of HakaTours.com

It is with absolute joy that I point you in the direction of the brand new version of hakatours.com, released finally at the end of last month. The revealing of the website was highly anticipated by all of us involved (three major earthquakes had provided extensive set backs) and there are still a few small bugs being fixed, but I can say regardless that I am incredibly proud of the final product. I cannot write this post before mentioning the...
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Great Uses of Facebook Fan Pages by New Zealand Brands

Everyone knows the international bunch who can afford to invest plenty into designing and optimising their Facebook page – Coca-cola, Starbucks, Adidas and Victoria’s Secret just to name a handful. However, I wanted to look at some New Zealand-grown brands and companies that who have also used their Facebook fan pages well – despite the slightly lower budget. ASB – There seems to be a healthy dose of competition amongst banks within NZ, and ASB have really been ahead of...
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