Sony Vaio Pro 13 – Marginally Less Broken Than Sony’s Website

Long time since I posted here! It would be longer still, but I feel the need to take to the blog as Sony’s website (and it’s flagship Vaio Pro 13 Ultrabook) have let me down to the point where there is nowhere else online to turn.

Two weeks ago I took delivery of said Sony Vaio Pro 13, a lovely-looking 13″ Ultrabook made of carbon fibre. It took Sony two weeks to get it to me, but hey… Straight away, I noticed that the wifi connection kept dropping out, despite being close to the router, no walls in-between etc. Plenty of other devices in the same room were connected at good speeds. A quick search led me to this thread: http://community.sony.com/t5/VAIO-Hardware-Networking/New-Sony-Vaio-Pro-Wifi-Issue/td-p/143557/page/94

To save you reading all that thread, the geniuses at Sony chose to put the wireless antenna in the body of the laptop rather than the lid. So not only does it not have the “aerial” properties you’d hope for, but it’s right next to the noisy electronics that interfere with the signal. I have persevered for a couple of weeks, upgrading to Intel’s latest 7260 drivers and all the other updates you inevitably get when starting up a new Windows machine. It is now capable of at least holding a signal, but only if you are no more than a few metres from the router. Last week at a meeting, it kept dropping out whilst I was trying to demonstrate something to a client, and that was the last straw. I began trying to undertake the returns process. It looked easy, with a Returns option in the main menu of Sony.co.uk’s My Account section. Except when you submit the form, you get this less than helpful error message: “An error occured including /b2c/z_onlineReturnStep4.inc.jsp: <br/> Error in JSP..”

So I moved on to Sony’s Contact Us page. It asks for your device’s serial number, which despite repeated checks and re-entry, weren’t recognised for my device. No worry, you can persevere without it. So I completed the contact form, including the error produced by the Returns system and my original complaint. Submitting the form, I am greeted by a “Sorry, we can’t find the page you’re looking for…” message. At this point, I’m getting a bit irritated.

I go to the Sony.co.uk forum, which at least uses the same login as the My Account section, thinking that I will post my experience on there to get a response. Except you need to choose a username – no problem, stick in the usual suspect for such things, and then: a 403 Forbidden error. Not even dressed up, just the stock Apache Tomcat error page for access forbidden.

So after trying three different ways of interacting with Sony online to make my issues with their faulty product known, I have run out of options, hence this blog post. I will be tweeting Sony UK in the hope someone picks this up. Meanwhile, I strongly discourage anyone from buying a Vaio Pro 13 as they are fundamentally flawed and no patch can fix an antenna in the wrong place.

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Discount SEO Workshop In Nottingham – 1st November

eBusiness ClubI’m pleased to say that the eBusiness Club have given me a special discount price of £150 +VAT for the Search Engine Optimisation: Getting Started workshop that I’m delivering this Thursday 1st November in Nottingham. This applies to non-Chamber members, saving you £50 on the normal price.

For full details of the event, click here.

If you would like to book a place, please email sharon@ebusinessclub.biz and say that you would like to claim the Ian Lockwood discount for Thursday’s workshop. Please note that the discount only applies to the SEO workshop on 1st November 2012.

The workshop is a great introduction to the world of search engine optimisation, with practical tips to improve your website’s SEO and completely up to date information about what works and what doesn’t for SEO in 2012. Whether you’re planning on doing your own SEO, or thinking about paying for SEO services, this workshop will ensure that you make the right choices in who does it and how it is done.

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New eBusiness Club Events – What’s New In Search

eBusiness ClubI’m pleased to announce that the eBusiness Club has a new series of events lined up, starting with “What’s New In Search”, delivered by me! The first place that I’m delivering this new briefing is in Chesterfield at the b2Net Stadium on 4th May, followed by the Nottingham Belfry on 15th June and Derby Pride Park on 6th July.

I’ll be covering topics such as the ongoing Google Panda updates, the importance of social media in search results (particularly Google+), new features in search results such as Rich Snippets, Google’s recent attack on “unnatural links” and changes in the pay per click arena.

Places are only £25 +VAT, which includes breakfast and time for networking either side of the presentation. Note that the briefings have a new, earlier start time of 7:30am registration for an 8am start.

There is a small amount of funding for full-day workshops still available in Chesterfield, Derby City and Corby areas. Keep an eye on the full list of events at the eBusiness Club website, not least as there will be new events announced very soon, including “What’s New In Social Media” and an in-depth briefing on Google+. New full and half-day workshops for paying delegates (discounts for Derbyshire & Nottinghamshire Chamber members) will follow hot on their heals! :)

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DVLA Abuse of Domain Authority

I’ve just written a new post over at our company blog, Boom Online Marketing, about how the DVLA Registrations website has moved to a sub-domain of direct.gov.uk and is benefitting from its domain authority at the expense of competing companies.

If you haven’t already, I recommend subscribing to the Boom blog/newsletter as it’s kept far more up to date than my own blog here! :)

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Online Marketing Conference 2011

eBusiness ClubI’m pleased to say that the eBusiness Club will be running its fifth Online Marketing Conference. Some of you will know that I spoke at the last one, and if you visit the conference page here, you can book your place, as well as rather embarrassingly see me in action!

There are a couple of great keynote speakers this year and I will be doing my bit too delivering a “What’s New In Search” session along with website reviews and sitting on the Experts Panel, so I hope you can join the hundreds of other East Midlands businesses and take advantage of this great (free!) opportunity.

You can see some pictures of the previous conference on Flickr here. Here’s one of me in full flow that I quite like:

Ian Lockwood speaking at the Online Marketing Conference

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New Website For Video Production Company

Just a quick post as a favour to a friend: Andrew Clark of video production company Black Hawk Productions has launched a new website, with the novel idea of actually telling people what they might expect for their money. As well as showcasing Andrew and his team’s great work, there is a page showing what to expect at various levels of budget, which I think is a great idea – prospective customers know what to expect for their cash, whilst Andrew will be saved numerous hours on the phone having the same conversation about costs!

Best of luck to Andrew with the new site – you just need some links now mate! ;)

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Goo.gl URL Shortener: Possible SEO Effects

Goo.gl URL ShortenerI read a good post on Search Engine Watch today about the possible effects of Google’s new URL shortener, http://goo.gl – similar in essence to Bit.ly and all those other URL shorteners people use to post links on Twitter, Facebook etc.

The article suggests that Google has very good reason to promote this service – it offers Google another way of measuring what people “like” on the web, even when they don’t have a website of their own from which to make links. That means that whilst traditionally, links from websites have counted as “votes”, not many web users actually had their own websites from which to link. Being able to track what users of social media sites are linking to adds a significant amount of web users to those empowered to “vote”.

Not only that, but because you’ll be logged in to your Google account, Google may well have some demographic data to associate with the link you’re making. And of course, Google can aggregate all the links being made through Goo.gl and get a picture of “what’s hot”, enabling it to inform its search results better when people are searching for related topics.

Of course, Google has a habit of changing its mind about services (goodbye Google Wave, pages being tracked in Google Reader etc.), but as the functionality is essentially the same as other URL shorteners, it might make sense to start using Goo.gl when making short links to your own pages for Tweets etc., just in case you do get that extra bit of SEO juice…

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Selling Electronics Using Google Merchant Centre? New Guidelines

Google have just issued an email to Google Merchant Centre users (which powers Google Product Search), telling merchants who sell electronics that they need to start including at least two unique product identifiers from a choice of MPN, Brand and EAN.

The email reads as follows:

Starting in the first months of 2011, we are making some changes to how your products in the Electronics category may appear on the UK and German versions of Google Product Search. In order to provide as much information as possible to our users, we need your help in matching your products to our “product pages” where users are able to view useful data such as product specifications or reviews. If you are submitting products in the Electronics category, please start including at least two of the following three unique product identifiers: MPN, Brand, and EAN.

These attributes will not be required for your feed to process correctly, however, to avoid seeing a drop in traffic from Product Search, we urge you to start including these unique identifiers as soon as possible. You can find unique product identifier information on Product Search product pages, under the “technical specifications” section for Electronics items.

For more details, including what specific identifiers you should include for each category of item, please see our Help Center at http://www.google.com/support/merchants/bin/answer.py?hlrm=en&answer=160161

Clearly your product rankings are going to suffer if you don’t follow their suggestion, so if you don’t already put these identifiers into your Merchant Centre feed, now is the time to sort it out! :)

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Applegate Directory 30% Discount

I spoke to a nice chap called Sam at the Applegate Directory today, who very kindly offered to give all my blog readers, Twitter followers and anyone else who cares to ask a 30% discount off their new Mercury Listing.

The Mercury Listing gets you this little lot:

  • List your business in the top section of an UNLIMITED number of product/service headings
  • Create as many new categories for your company as you require
  • Include a flash animated colour picture of your products or logo on your entry
  • Encourage buyers with an UNLIMITED number of words of information about your company
  • Include as many deep links and linked images to your website as you require
  • Email Link for any enquiries
  • Modify at any time during the year

Clearly this is pretty handy for SEO, and you can see how it’s being used by some companies here and here. I have found Applegate to be quite handy for several of my clients, although I’m not guaranteeing it is the right thing for everybody – depends very much if you have the kind of business suited to that directory (primarily business-to-business), although the SEO benefit of lots of keyword-rich deep links to your site from a PageRank 6 domain can’t be denied for any type of website.

The cost? Usually £595 +VAT, but with the 30% discount, £416.50 +VAT. Note that you can’t get this online – you will have to call Sam on 01271 852 000 and quote reference IanLockwoodSR2.

Please feel free to Tweet, email and generally spread this discount code to anyone you think would benefit, it isn’t dependent on knowing me personally! ;)

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Figaro Digital Marketing Academy

Figaro DigitalI’m pleased to announce that along with my good friend Ann Stanley of Anicca Digital Solutions, we are delivering Figaro Digital magazine’s Digital Marketing Academy.

This is a series of training workshops, held at London’s rather swish Hospital Club, based on the Customer Acquisition, Conversion & Retention model. The workshops will provide a holistic view of how to use online marketing techniques to achieve each of the stages in the customer buying cycle, so you can expect to learn about SEO, PPC, Analytics, conversion rate optimisation, social media and email marketing. You can pick and mix from the days on offer at £495 per day, or take all four days at a discounted rate of £1485, giving you one day free!

Click over to the itinerary here to understand more about how the Digital Marketing Academy can help you. Warning: There is a mugshot of me further down that page!

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