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Logs Suppliers Upgrade their Online Shop

Friday, 13 August 2010 23:19 by Ben

Invosoft client Logs Direct have recently undergone a number of improvements to their e-commerce system to compliment the company’s new and improved product range.  Logs Direct, based near Lancaster are already UK market leaders for seasoned firewood logs and kiln dried logs. They hope to expand their range with a number of chimineas,  summer offerings and wood coal. Their e-commerce system has been improved, to enhance usability, cope with demand for new forthcoming product ranges, and their ever increasing customer base. 

Further improvements to improve the usability of the website and to upgrade the payments system are to follow shortly.

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Invosoft Launch New Logs Direct E-commerce Site

Wednesday, 16 September 2009 19:14 by Ben

Invosoft have just completed construction of a new e-commerce website for national carbon-neutral fuel supplier, Logs Direct. The North Lancashire based company supply ethical fuel products to the likes of B&Q and the National Trust. They stock a range of softwood and hardwood fuel logs as well as kindlingfirelighters and wood pellet fuels. They are also the main distributors for Blazers, an ethical and effective alternative to wood logs.

Not having a wood burner or multi-fuel stove myself (yet!), it was an area on which I knew little. One thing I do know is that wood burners perform best when burning very dry, seasoned wood. After chatting to Andrew Foulds, Managing Director of Logs Direct, it seems the best wood in terms of performance (heat output, efficiency and value for money) is kiln dried woodKiln-dried logs have a 10% to 15% moisture level which ensures they burn hotter for longer. We spent an afternoon in Andrew’s purpose-built production facility getting to know the products and the one thing that stands out from that day is aroma from the kiln dried stuff – nothing beats the fragrance of a real log fire!

The website is based on the 'dashcommerce' codebase –  kudos to the team there for all thier hard work! We found the platform very easy to customise, in both design and functionality terms.  We, however, added lots of custom features not present in the standard platform, such as our video guides section and delivery calculator based on postcode. The system is feature packed, user-friendly and easy to manage and maintain. You can view the results for yourselves at:

http://www.logsdirect.co.uk

and here are a few tips on using wood burning stoves and selecting the the right firewood.

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SEO and the importance of choosing a domain name for your holiday home website

Sunday, 24 May 2009 20:05 by Ben

One thing that becomes obvious very quickly once you have done a little bit of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is that choosing the right domain name is very important. What is not so clear – to me at least – is how important subtle differences in domain names are and how should one offset a keyword rich name with other factors such as succinctness and brevity?

I have been working recently on a new holiday property website project for a site based in Brixham, Devon. I was unfamiliar with Brixham. It’s a lovely historic resort nestled between the ports of Dartmouth and Paignton on the south coast. We secured 2 great website names for the site. www.brixhamholidayhome.com has more keywords packed into the domain name but www.brixhamhome.co.uk has the advantage of being shorter (and therefore easier to remember and less susceptible to typos) and being a .co.uk, which I personally think for an English holiday home is an advantage.

Bixham harbour South Devon
Brixham harbour at Sunset

In the end, I opted for more keyword-packed www.brixhamholidayhome.com with Brixhamhome.co.uk using a 301 re-direct back to it. Overall, I think having a short name isn’t too important these days as people tend to use search engines exclusively when finding websites, even when they know the domain name. When you are clicking on a link from search results, having a long name isn’t such an issue.

A further point in this particular case is, there is also a very highly ranked popular site www.brixhamholidayhomes.com, and there is a chance we can garner some of their traffic due to a phenomena called ”traffic leakage”. Traffic leakage is where a popular site will loose traffic to a site with a similar name due to people miss-typing it or simply mistaking it for the original site.

To summarise, here are my personal recommendations when choosing a domain name for your holiday let:

  • 1. Generic is best: Convention says that you should choose a name based on your company or brand name. For holiday homes, this is not necessarily the case. Nobody really cares that your property is called “rose cottage” or that you trade under the name “Exclusive Lets ltd.”, what they care about is that you are located in the lake district (or wherever) and that you are a self-catering/holidaylet/holidayhome/vacation rental… In other words, stay generic and try and get your place name in and your property type, it will give you a great head-start in the search engines.

  • 2. Get your location name in: this may be stating the obvious, but when choosing a property, a holiday maker will have already chosen their location so it’s a case of getting noticed amongst your local competition.  And getting your location in the domain name will weight you more favourably in the search engines.

  • 3. Avoid hyphens: Again, this is more of a personal thing, but I believe non-hyphenated names are easier to remember, they are definitely shorter and no modern search engine will have difficulty picking out the relevant words. Just look at our main site www.propertyrentalsoftware.com as a case in point, we actually do very little active SEO on our own site and it has always been near the top for “property rental software” since its creation.

  • 4. Go for a .co.uk: I know I did not do this in the above example but brixhamholidayhome.co.uk was already taken. Where possible, try and get all the TLD’s (top level domains) available for your chosen domain. This will avoid others picking up the alternatives and loosing traffic to name leakage (see the begining of this article). For example, invosoft.co.uk, invosoft.cominvosoft.net…but if you are a based in the UK, make the .co.uk your main domain and use 301 re-directs on the others to point back to the .co.uk. As well as identifying yourself as a UK based company/property you will be weighted more highly in the UK specific search engines google.co.uk, yahoo.co.uk, etc. If your holiday lets are not in the UK, I would use the .com as it’s pretty much ubiquitous.

Again, this is a somewhat personal opinion and there are many differing views when it comes to SEO, so I would love to hear yours!

Employee time tracking

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2009 budget is a blow for holiday home owners

Saturday, 25 April 2009 15:33 by Ben

This week’s budget has left holiday home owners worst off than most.

In a week in which most people were left hurting financially, the government dealt holiday home owners an extra blow.

Currently, you can offset running expenses on your holiday property, but more importantly, if the property makes a paper loss, you can offset this against your overall income thus reducing your tax bill. From April 2010 onward, Rental Owners will no longer be able to offset loses from their holiday home against their general tax bill.


Cartoon by Dave Brown of the Independant

Capital gains tax relief has also been removed.  Currently, if you invest in a holiday home after selling assets, you can defer paying any capital gains tax on those assets, it is what’s know as 'business asset roll-over relief'.

Luckily, the changes to capital gains tax will not be retrospective, so anyone who deferred paying capital gains tax buy buying a holiday property will still be able to defer payment until the holiday home is sold.

There is also some consolation for those owning holiday properties outside the UK but within the EU. They will enjoy the tax-breaks enjoyed by those owning properties in the UK, but only but only until the end of the current tax year when, as described above, it will be abolished for everyone.

You can view the view the current tax breaks available to holiday let owners on the DirectGov website here.

Click here to view our other guides on letting your your holiday property.

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Invosoft FreeIndex Listing

Saturday, 14 March 2009 11:05 by Ben

Check out our listing on FreeIndex below:-

Visit our page on the FreeIndex Web Design Software directory

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Invosoft help launch Rehab4Life brain injury rehabilitation scheme

Friday, 27 February 2009 16:19 by Ben
rehab4life book by andrew lindsay

Invosoft do not exclusively build holiday home websites. Recently, we developed Rehab4Life.co.uk, a site dedicated to helping those suffering from traumatic brain injury.

Rehab4life are two Preston solicitors, Andrew Lindsay and David Smith, who have brain injured children themselves. They have launched this pioneering scheme to maximise the recovery chances of brain injured adult and child victims of no fault accidents. Andrew’s daughter Tracy, 26, has quadriplegic cerebral palsy and can only move her right arm. David’s son Peter, 20, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at four months and was later found to have autism.

Cerebral palsy was prominent in the news this week because of the very sad news of the death David Cameron’s son, Ivan.

Andrew and David have won millions for clients over the years, but were concerned that not enough was being done for traumatic brain injury patients between injury and final settlement and so launched this scheme to increase the access to quality rehabilitation.

We are very proud of this site, not only because it’s a great cause but because we have worked hard to include some great functionality. As well as using the Invosoft Content Management System, there is a custom-built document and case management system helping the referral process behind the scenes. Partner law firms who sign-up to the rehab4life scheme can login and submit new cases for review and then manage their cases throughout the rehabilitation process.

You can keep up to date on Rehab4Life by reading Andrew's blog here.

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DO I NEED AN EXCLUSIVE WEBSITE FOR MY HOLIDAY HOME BUSINESS?

Friday, 23 January 2009 16:14 by Ben

Having some sort of internet presence for your holiday home rental is a no-brainer! Even by the UK tourist board’s conservative figures, over 60% of people use the internet when booking a holiday. In reality, it is probably far more. The real question, therefore, is whether to create your own website or use a well known portal to drive the internet side of your holiday home business.

There are compelling arguments for both. Certainly, you are never going to get as much traffic on your own property website as the big property listing sites. Finding a suitable holiday home and booking online is huge business and the big players attract tens of thousands of daily users to their sites. However, therein lies the downside. The big property listing sites are just that, big! And your holiday home is hidden amongst the rest, just one property in the midst of an excess of others returned in the search results.

Conversely, if someone is browsing for a holiday rental has found your website, with just your property on then there’s no competition. Providing you be easily contacted, or better still, the user can book your property online and pay a deposit instantly then you’re ten steps ahead of the crowd!

Of course, the difficult part is attracting the surfing public to your holiday home site (and then keeping them interested). All too often, I have clients for whom we build a great property website and they instantly think it is going to start appearing in the search engines. We all know this is unrealistic, unless you’re one of only a handful holiday home website in your location (very unlikely these days unless you rent out your own island - not unheard of). To get anywhere near the top of the searches takes focus (on certain keywords), time and a lot of hard work.

The best strategy, in our opinion, is to use make intelligent use of the listing sites to drive custom to your own website and property booking system. This way you are getting the exposure of the big sites, you have your very own property showcase and online booking system, and you are not losing out on the booking commission that a listing site would take if you booked using them. We have a few guidelines on how you can effectively combine listings with your own site:

 

  • Choose – choose the listing sites you apply for very carefully. Investigate how many properties they have listed. If they boast 50,000+ properties then don’t list. If they will not give you a link back to your site, again, don’t list. If they demand booking exclusivity of your property or if they charge an exorbitant commission, once again, don’t list. Ask for website traffic statistics – you want sites that generate a lot of traffic but have manageable number of properties listed.

  • Location – Try and get listed on sites that serve your area. You are far more likely to get quality referrals on popular sites for your location than on general holiday home booking sites. Alternatively, target your property type; you could be an exclusive villa?

  • Track – install tracking code like Google Analytics and monitor closely the referrals and bookings you get from the property listing sites. If the sites are not generating bookings, do not renew your subscription.

  • Link – make sure you get a link from any sites you list with. Not only will this directly funnel visitors to your property booking site, it will improve your own position in the search engines.

  • Pay – don’t be put off if you have to pay for a listing. A year’s subscription is more than likely only a fraction of a week’s holiday home rental. But remember to follow the above guidelines: don’t go for a big listing site, try to specialise either by area or property type, or both.

  • Bookings – it’s all about bookings! Make sure you invest in quality reliable booking software and that it is fully integrated into your site. Having your own booking system with availability calendar is invaluable, the benefits are too numerous to mention.

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Adding extra days on to a booking

Monday, 19 January 2009 19:02 by Ben

I often get feature requests from customers. Just recently I had one such request regarding availability management. The client had an as yet unencountered availability requirement that doesn’t fit into the current system scope.

On the surface it was a standard setup with full week bookings going from Sunday to Sunday. But, they wanted the ability to add on extra nights to the full week booking and not have the extra nights available otherwise. So you can buy extra nights on the condition you have already booked at least one full week. This would have required a custom solution; the integration of an extra step giving the customer the option to add on extra days to the booking. I considered going down this route but decided there was no market for a feature such as this (I’ll explain why later on) so decided against adding it as a product feature. I thought I’d lost a customer until I considered the problem for a little while and realised there is a reasonable solution.

Availability already has an “Active” field (we are delving into the database here). If I expose this not active data in the administration panel but not on the customer facing side then (if I implement one small change) I can use the system as it currently stands. I do this by using the in-built products feature; I add the extra days on as products then block off any extra days as they come through on a booking.

Although this system will work, there are some shortcomings you have to work around. The obvious one is the extra work involved. It removes some of the automation from the booking process. Once a booking is made, you have to login into the administrator panel and block of the extra days manually - they would also have separate booking ID’s and a value of zero (which is not ideal). In addition, you would have to do this reasonably quickly.

Which brings me to my next point, if you don’t block-off the extra availability promptly, you run the risk of someone booking the following week and ending up with a double booking and the extra headache that comes with!

A final drawback is that as you can’t assign products to particular availability slots, only on a site-wide basis, you could not account for seasonal variations in pricing for the extra day. So if two bookings were made on 1st February one for a peak summer week the other for an off-peak February week, in both cases an extra night would cost (say) £100. Again, far from ideal!

I told the client, there wouldn’t be much need for this conditional extra days feature. Not only have i never been asked for this before, I have not heard of any rental properties that operate this way. It is too cumbersome from an administrative standpoint, but it also has some more compelling drawbacks.

That extra day or two added on to the booking eats into your next week meaning – if you are running on a week to week basis – you can’t book out the following week! This makes no business sense at all. If a system is setup this way, you could be losing the income on one full week just for the sake of booking an extra day on the previous week. It could also disrupt your regular changeover days. Are your cleaners and other staff on the ground flexible enough to accommodate?

More often than not, being really flexible on dates and offering many options is not effective from a cost/benefit standpoint. My advice is keep things simple and straightforward unless you have the resources to cope with the extra complexity. Do you have use conditional extra days or think it could be a valuable feature? I would love to hear your opinion.

www.propertyrentalsoftware.com

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New Hardware Investment for Invosoft

Tuesday, 6 January 2009 19:03 by Ben

Invosoft has continued it's investment in new equipment and technology purchising a new server from Rapidswitch.  We have other servers in the US, with the Planet and also host some services out of our offices here at Lancaster University.  But with the rising cost of the buyig US dollars and the falling cost of bandwidth in the UK, it doesn't make sense to by new equipment in the US.  Plus UK sites supposidly perform better in teh search engines when hosted in the 'UK.  Wether this is true or not, I don't know?

The server from Rapidswitch was outstanding.  The server is lightning fast and was configured and ready to go withn 2 hours of placing the order!  New customers have been amazed at teh speed of the new service. Hosting in the UK will help us improve our service and free us from flutuations in the currency market.

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