Harry S Dent — Demographics, Debt and Deflation

Harry S Dent gave an incredible performance that was loaded with economic forecast information of a very different kind to that we hear from various politicians. The Dent Method is a long term economic forecasting technique based on the study of and changes in demographic trends and the impact of these on the US economy.

It is apparently the only documented record of success at forecasting long term economic trends, The Dent Method works by showing how predictable consumer spending patterns combined with demographic trends allow us to forecast the economy years or even decades in advance.

The Dent Method is a common sense approach that states that economics is tied to demographics. And that spending habits are a logical result of people making predictable spending decisions as they move through life.

During the presentation, Harry Dent talked about potato chips (crisps in UK speak). It turns out that the highest demand for potato chips is at age 42. But it isn’t because lots of 42 year olds suddenly start eating eating potato chips. They’re buying the chips for their children. When the parent is 42, the average aged child is by then, 14.

Harry made some remarkable predictions based on his study of demographics. He talked about the seasons of economic cycles, and it turns out that we are in depth of winter right now. It’s got nothing to do with government, and nothing much to do with climate change. It’s about demographics.

The Dent Method tells us that economic booms and busts are determined by demographics. Individual spending tends to peak in the mid 40s. Spending should correlate with the size of the mid-40s population. If we plot the estimated size of those in their mid 40s with the projected year, we obtain a generally rising trend that shows a number of peaks and troughs due to past variations in birth and immigration rates.

For example fewer babies were born during the Depression than before or afterward. So, we would expect that 45 years later (during the 1970’s and early 1980’s) there would be a corresponding drop in the number of middle age people. Economic boom times are associated with an increasing size of the mid-40s population and bust times are associated with a decreasing size of this population. The oscillation in the number of middle-agers at their peak-spending years is called the spending wave.

According to Harry, even inflation is driven by demographics, not by government policy. Since the 1960s the baby boom caused rising inflation rates. But after 1980 we have seen falling and low inflation as these new workers and their new technologies have increased productivity rates. After that inflation falls because the larger baby boom will start to retire and offset the workforce growth of the younger generation and the economy will be slowing because of the Spending Wave.

For more on this go get your free gift from Harry’s site at www.hsdent.com/5concepts-lp

Dr Lisa Lang – The Theory of Constraints – Breakout Session

Dr Lisa Lang is a leading authority when it comes to The Theory of Constraints. She has PhD in engineering and has authored three books. Her presentation was held in a break out room where she covered an overview of The Theory of Contraints (TOC).

Dr Lisa confronted the multi-tasking problem that every entrepreneur faces. Out of a list of many projects, which to tackle first?

According to Dr Lisa, “the notion that the sooner you start a project the sooner it’s done” is a fallacy. It is more efficient by miles to figure out which project will bring in the most money fastest, and then do that project, in its entirety first.

Dr Lisa also talked about the best way to calculate your hourly worth. This helps you to work out which parts of your business to outsource. After all she says, that it’s key to determine what drives your profitability and to make management decisions that are aligned with your profitability goals.

Dr Lisa is now a member of the faculty at Stompernet.

Kayako Support Suite

I don’t like Kayako’s support ticket system. We looked into using it for supporting our clients, but decided not to after the trial period. We settled for something with far less functionality but much easier for the customer to use.

Kayako Support Suite

One Way to Keep Support Issues to a Mininum

My confidence in an an online support service once I realise support tickets are handled by Kayako. I think it keeps support issues to a minimum because it’s often an annoying an experience to log a ticket. If I ever log a ticket via Kayako, I have to be very motivated to do it. Why?

Styling

First of all, you get the impression that the support system it’s difficult to style because people rarely do it. Most of the Kayako support sites I see are the default blue.

When we were on the trial period I contacted Kayako and asked if they provided a styling service. They said no. Further they told me it was easy so why didn’t I just read the style guide. I didn’t read the style guide because I had about a billion other things to do.

Multiple Logins

Next is that in most cases you have to sign up to a service with one username and password, and then when they run into a problem, sign up again with Kayako. Having to register again with a company you have already registered with is nuts.

Once you’ve registered with the service provider again, you’re kind of doubly annoyed – once for whatever it is that has gone wrong, and once more because you had to think up more usernames and passwords.

Once inside, assuming you get there, Kayako it isn’t intuitive. I imagine a lot of people just give up on getting an answer at this point.

Kayako Can Make Your Company Seem Uncaring

I recently signed up for SimpleCDN. Then I had a problem, and found I couldn’t get support. My tickets were ignored.

Turned out that their Kayako ticketing system broke down in such a away that it failed to send through a high proportion of support tickets. When I emailed the company direct after several days of waiting they came back to me saying that Kayako was broken and that they were working with them to try and get the system running again. Many days later – over a week a think it took, the support system was restored.

Another way to keep support tickets to a minimum

Today I hear, Kayako has failed on another site that I belong to. And again, it’s taken the company concerned a few days to work out that the support issues hadn’t gone away, customers were not suddenly a lot happier, no. It’s just that Kayako seemingly has no system to alert users of it’s service to catastrophic failure. Or is it that most Kayako customers just don’t try hard enough to customise the product and double check what it’s telling them?

A Truly Rotten Website Review – A Brochure Site

Starting with an apology

I’m sorry for that rather emotive title. I was asked about a site owned by a UK based businessman called Steve. I don’t want to reveal his site nor state the exact nature of his business. If I did, everyone reading this would know he’d been sold a sub-standard product. And that might embarrass him.

Steve hasn’t had his site long and he just got a feeling something wasn’t right. Steve’s business is a highly specialised consultancy service. He needs to present a professional face on the web to reflect his knowledge and experience, but his current site doesn’t achieve this.

Steve’s site is a brochure site. I don’t think he expected it to work wonders for his business. He said,

The website is not about selling, but more to give my business visibility and credibility.

Steve’s main question was

Is my site being indexed properly by Google?

The short answer is no. What follows is the long answer.

I wonder what he meant by visibility. It’s just that this requirement (and his question about Google) aren’t generally compatible with brochure sites because from a visibility and search engine point of view brochure sites are practically useless.

First Impressions Count Online

If I were interested in Steve’s service, I’d visit his site to ensure that the quality I’d expect was evidenced there. Given that Steve’s business is information based and deals in complexity, knowledge and current legislation, a site that fails to reinforce Steve’s competency in these areas will prevent visitors from making further enquiries.

A site that fails to reinforce Steve’s competency in these areas will prevent visitors from making further enquiries.

A website for a services business, is to a potential client, like a CV is to an employer. A university looking to employ a research scientist would look at the pile of 200 CVs and immediately bin the ones with spelling mistakes, bad grammar or a cryptic layout. The same thing tends to apply to business websites. Unless of course the business has no competition . . .

Domain Name

Starting at the top, I checked the ownership of Steve’s domain name using this domain ownership checking page.

It turns out that Steve doesn’t own his domain. His web designers do! I don’t know if Steve is aware of this or if he agreed to it (why would he?). Either way, not owning your domain name is bad news.

The danger is that if you fall out with your web designers they can just decide not to give your domain back. It means that you could work for years to build a successful site and then not be able to sell it. It means you don’t own your content. It’s just bad.

Site Design

Steve’s site has a minimalist design with large areas of white space. In this case there’re also areas of text which aren’t broken up by pulled quotes, images, graphs or any other visual interest. If he ever wanted to expand the site and fill it with lots of content, the design won’t lend itself to expansion. Rather like a woman in a tight corset, it’s restricted.

Small sites don’t make much of an impression on Google’s index.

In a way it doesn’t matter how much Google does or doesn’t index a brochure site. Because they’re too small and too infertile to count in the Google index anyway. Small sites don’t impress Google. Small sites don’t do much for their owners.

For Steve’s business, I would have preferred to see a rich, informative, searchable site offering advice online via articles, FAQs and tutorials. This achieves the following, it:

  • builds credibility
  • offers the opportunity to demonstrate he can organise material in an easily digestible format
  • shows he can speak to his audience and
  • encourages the habit of regular writing which in turn, provides a sustainable growth strategy

Size of Site

Steve’s site won’t figure well in the search engines until it has a lot more content. This is because there are millions of pages indexed by Google already.

If you want your web page to show up in a search your site has to contain the words people are searching for. You can’t show up for the search term “seo consultant” if the term “seo consultant” hasn’t been used in correct and various ways on your page.

Usually brochure sites don’t measure up.

What’s more, you can’t show up for the term “seo consultant” if the page you’ve got on your web site isn’t so interesting to other site owners that they haven’t linked to your page using the term “seo consultant” in their link text.

Basically showing up in Google is a culmination of a number of internet events coming together. Some are up to you and some are a result of your influence online. Usually brochure sites don’t measure up.

Although Steve’s adding an article each month it isn’t enough. The site needs three to four articles per week to provide the required growth to kick start the process of being found in Google by people who don’t already know who he is.

From a human perspective the site isn’t big enough (because it doesn’t have enough content) to give credence to Steve’s knowledge and expertise.

Small sites also suffer from a lack of internal link opportunity. There’s nowhere to link to internally, which re-emphasises the shallowness of the content. They are self-limiting.

External Links

The site is quite new (created April 2009), and as already stated, it’s light on content. What content there is is not enriched by links out to other sites and pages. Links out suggest to the reader that the writer has something to say and has the generosity to freely pass the reader to external resources for his further edification. There are some issues with linking out too much, but that’s a topic for another discussion.

External links to relevant related sites also indicate to Google that the site is attempting to help the reader and this adds to a site’s search engine credibility.

Internal Links

Strangely in some places on the site, where visitors are urged to “contact” Steve – there is no active link (except on the home page) to the contact page.

In fact the majority of outgoing links on Steve’s site go straight to his website designer’s home page. There are two of these rogue links on every page. This will leak what little page rank Steve has (granted none at the moment and if the site isn’t rectified, none for the foreseeable future) to them.

A Basic Useability Issue

So highlighted text is orange and links are orange. How are we supposed to find the links?

The colour of the in-text links (the few that there are) is also very annoying to the user.

Links need to stand out somewhat, but the links on Steve’s site are indistinguishable from the copious amounts of highlighted orange text that also appears on every page.

So highlighted text is orange and links are orange. How are we supposed to find the links? Is it a game? If the links were also underlined they’d be indentifiable. Currently the user has to run his cursor all over the place to see if the site has more depth.

The poor user not only discovers the site is practically link-free, but that it’s pointlessly concealed the few it has. It has been shown that underlining links improves a visitor’s length of stay on your site.

Page Not Found Errors – No 404 File

Page Not Found - no 404If you try to visit a page that doesn’t exist on Steve’s site, you get a page cannot be found error and you get a page like the one on the left.

Having a custom 404 page that kindly guides users back to a working page can improve a user’s experience.

A 404 page should at least have a link back to the site’s home page and could also provide links to popular or related content on the site. As it is, a 404 error will just make people leave the site before they get there.

No Sitemap (.xml)

There doesn’t appear to be a sitemap.xml (at least I couldn’t find it) for Google to use as a guide to the pages on Steve’s site. Search engine spiders usually discover pages from links within the site and from other sites. Sitemaps supplement this data to allow spiders that support Sitemaps to pick up all URLs in the sitemap.

Not having a sitemap is like inviting Google to a party in the middle of nowhere, and then not giving him directions.

No Favicon

Liz Jamieson FavIconA favicon brands a site and is also saved alongside a bookmark so that users can easily identify pages from a website. Steve’s site has no favicon. A small omission but these are beginning to add up.

Navigation

All site menu links – even to pages like the contact page don’t employ nofollow tags. This, if the site was growing – it would matter long-term to the site’s visibility to have a more sophisticated navigation structure.

Contact Page

There are a couple of things wrong with the contact us page. First, it’s possible to send empty email messages via the contact page. Code for validating the form (i.e checking that people filled it in) is included in the site but has no effect because it’s not being called. Even if it were called, it wouldn’t work that well as the validation code is pretty basic.

Once the search engines actually find the site, the contact form will be bombarded by spam bots, because the contact form makes no attempt to protect Steve from them.

Worse, the email address is visible on the site which again means it is open to spam attacks. Malicious spiders love this type of thing as they’ll collect email addresses and then use them to send masses of pharmaceutical and porn laden spam.

Companies Act

The site has no proper company details. All UK company sites (I assume Steve’s business is a registered company) are supposed to display certain information. The omission looks especially poor in this case as Steve’s business is one that is strictly rules based and regulated by stacks of legislation.

The fact that the site does not comply with the Companies Act doesn’t reflect well and suggests a lack of attention to detail. Not good for someone in the details business.

Internal Structure

This site has probably been created by a package because internally the whole thing is arranged in HTML tables. This is very 1990s and makes (amongst other things) the search engine’s work harder than they need to and it will hamper Steve’s SEO efforts.

Title Tags

This isn’t an achievement. If you’re not number one in Google for your company name, who’s going to be??

These are the easiest SEO item to get right and Steve’s worst offenders. One of the problems with getting a site set up cheaply is that there’s no budget for SEO. The site’s title tags are all the same (each page’s title tag is supposed to be different). In this case they all contain the company name.

As an aside, I’ve always been amazed at how excited some people are that they show upon page one in Google for their own company name. It isn’t an achievement. If you’re not number one for your company name, who’s going to be??

The internet is choc-o-bloc full of free articles that explain how to do title tags. The only keyphrase this site is going to rank for is it’s own name. Which when you think about it, isn’t much use.

Heading Tags

These are not used enough throughout text to break it up and lend hireacrhy to the document. Heading tags are used by Google to help rank a page for relevant keywords. The most important tag on the page for this is the title tag, whose contents should be reinfornced by heading tags. This isn’t happening on Steve’s site.

Other Meta Tags

On each page tags are supposed to be setup to reflect that unique page’s content and keywords. Every page in the site has the same keywords and description tags. Without title tags though, the effort of putting even those in, was pretty much wasted.

Google’s Index

Steve’s site is indexed in Google without the www. In other words page.html is in the index, but www.page.html is not. That isn’t great as it means that if the site ever did get indexed with the www versions of the pages, it’d suffer from duplicate content issues.

This is the because Steve’s designers (check the HTML code on the site) have set the site up to be referenced without the www prefix. However this problem can be addressed in Webmaster Tools. But Steve, if you are listening – get someone else to re-write your site and you won’t have to deal with any of these problems again. The problems on your site cannot be fixed by tweaks to Webmaster Tools alone.

Google Analytics

Google analytics is a free and comprehensive web site stats package that helps site owners understand their visitors. It tells you how many visitors you’re getting, where they come from, what they typed to find your pages, and much more. Google Analytics is missing from Steve’s site which keeps him further in the dark about the site’s performance.

Is Steve’s Failing Site, Steve’s Fault?

After all this, I think we can conclude Steve doesn’t have a great website. Is this Steve’s fault? I can’t answer that. Is it my fault my kitchen extension is so bad it has to be demolished? I’m not a master builder of kitchen extensions and Steve isn’t a web design and SEO expert. I guess it’s called civilisation – we are all specialists now and rely on others to do the right thing.

There are so many errors here that the only justification the web designers could possibly have is that the customer wanted it cheap and cheerful. Well, he may have got it cheap (I don’t know), but if this was my site I wouldn’t feel particuarly cheerful.

A Remedy? Start Using WordPress at The Power Bog Service

Power Blog ServiceThe advice I’d offer Steve is to get a new site elsewhere. He really needs a site built in WordPress as this lends itself perfectly to building a good looking, usable, rich information site over time.

WordPress also gives site visitors the opportunity to subscribe to the site, comment on articles ask questions and engage. WordPress used properly is the fastest way to build an interested audience.

If you recognise the sorts of problems Steve has check out our web design offering – it’s new, it’s different and it works.

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