What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the relatively new and very useful tool that has the internet advertisers and marketers excited.
What is SEO? The definition for SEO (as per Wikipedia) is, “the process of increasing the quality and quantity of website traffic by increasing the visibility of a website or a web page to users of a web search engine”.

That’s a bit of a mouth full!! In essence, it means how to get your web page as high up the search list as possible, preferably the first page without paying for it. This can be an extremely valuable tool to have if one wants to advertise a service, venue or product. 

How can one use SEO? SEO can use pictures, text or video to rank pages so there is a myriad of ways to use SEO. The way a search engine ranks a page depends on how many keywords there are, their positions on the page and links to other pages and from other pages. These are found by “Spiders” (computer program) which “crawl” through the net and try and find pages according to their keywords (or images), pictures and/or links. There are, of course, computer algorithms that calculate this and rank the page in terms of relevance.

This is the valuable part of SEO because if one understands how SEO works then one can then tailor web pages to maximise exposure and rank and can then use this for marketing purposes. Of course, there is money to be made here either by writing web pages/sites for eCommerce or just to advertise goods, services or products. 

Here are some ways to improve SEO:
1. have useful, high-quality and relevant content
2. optimise images
3. use header tags
4. have outbound links
5. use different media formats
6. have clear readability and formatting
7. use a contact page
8. have clear site architecture and navigation
9. optimise for mobile usage
10. use social sharing

In summary, SEO is very dynamic and as more people use mobile phones SEO needs to be optimised for its use. Happy SEOing!!!

Tips for starting a blog

A blog is short for ‘web-log’ and is exactly what the name implies ie a descriptive piece of text written on an electronic social media platform rather like a high tech diary/journal entry.

The power of the blog is infinite. It’s a carte blanche to write anything one likes about their goods, products, services at any time and without having to go through gate keepers, like one would need to do if using traditional media.

With that in mind it is very clear that this is an excellent medium to disseminate information.

The biggest hurdle for me was to decide:

  1. That I would start a blog
  2. The name and web address
  3. The content
  4. The frequency

I was always into food and decided in December 2013 that I would start. I brainstormed some names on paper and settled for belfastfoodman and then registered my web site and all my social media accounts. I decided I was going to write about food and in particular local produce and restaurants. I decided I would post at least once a week. I’ve been tweaking ever since!!

The important points to note if one is thinking of blogging is who will write the content, who will post it, who will monitor it and how often and how much time to devote.

I would suggest to personally set it all up, it’s a great learning experience!! Then dedicate a time per week to pick a title, research, write and post.

There are so many different topics to write about. One could blog about food, drink, service, business, people, recipes, specials the list is endless. It’s a great way to advertise what one has to offer and is a great way to connect with potential customers.

The best advice is to decide to start and then take action. There is a lot to learn on the journey…..

How to overcome Writers Block.

It strikes everyone at some time in their writing careers. It can happen often for some whilst some may not suffer for long periods of time. I’m talking about the dreaded “Writers Block” and yes it has even afflicted yours truly!!

In my experience, there are many ways to mitigate this wee problem and I say wee as it really is a small issue but if left untreated will grow, so nip it in the bud! The first thing to do is to admit that it can and does happen and will affect ones writing life.

Secondly to avoid the block pick an exciting topic, one that you are passionate about and have some kind of expertise/experience with. An example would be like the piece I wrote in my blog about Chilli chicken pieces (https://belfastfoodman.com/2020/02/20/carolina-reaper-chicken-chunk). I love chillis and I wrote about the product, how I cooked it and what it tasted like. I could also talk about chilli heat and its measurement and could have gone into depth about the biochemistry and physiology but tailored my article appropriately.

The third way to prevent the Block would be to research the topic in detail. Read books, newspapers, other blogs, talk to people in the field you are researching in person or email or by phone. When all the information is gathered then sift through and summarise and put into a plan. Then start to pad it out.

The next way to reduce the Block is to have a dedicated time slot to write and a writing station. I like to do my writing on a Friday and I would usually do so in my living room whilst watching a movie. Others may like to do so with a glass of wine or in their study etc. Sometimes a change of scenery is required and I would often take myself off to a coffee shop or the library. Even on the job. 

In summary admit that a Block may happen, have a plan and stick to it, research it well and if there is a Block then try a different approach. Happy writing people!!

Carolina Reaper Chicken Chunk

I was at the newly opened Food Warehouse by Iceland, on Wednesday and came across these bad boys!!

Carolina Reaper Chicken Chunks

500g of chicken breast chunks, coated in a Carolina Reaper chilli breadcrumb coating. Yummy chicken and Chillies, can’t get better than that!!

I cooked the 15 pieces, as per the cooking instructions in my Halogen and 25 minutes seemed like an eternity……I was drooling like a baby, well not quite, suffice to say my saliva was flowing!!

When the bell went the result looked like the above….now to taste. For all you chilli aficionados out there the Carolina Reaper is the hottest chilli pepper there is, according to pepperhead.com.

Chilli heat is measured in Scoville Heat Units (SHU). Jalapeños have a SHU value of 4,000 and the reaper blows it to oblivion with a gargantuan 2,200,000 SHU!!!

I knew I was in for a real treat. When I took my first bite the breadcrumb coating was slightly crunchy, chicken was hot (temperature) and moist and then……the heat started to build. Now I’ve had dried Reapers before and they start with a bang and the intensity increases….eyes, nose, sweat pores all get a good going over!! Then there is the lingering burn. That rush is stunning!!

The heat level quickly plateaued and I didn’t experience the intense heat. The heat level was very manageable-I didn’t need sauce or a drink!! So I was a bit disappointed. But hey I used my own Ghost Chilli sauce and experienced the burn!!!!

Not a bad product and a good value, novel frozen product at £3 a bag. I would get again and let my F&F have a go……now will you be brave enough to try it!?!?

Five challenges I find when writing articles

There are many challenges that I experience as a writer. Sometimes there is never enough time in the day!! That would be my first big challenge. How do I actually fit in the time to actually do my writing? With the advent of the laptop (my goto writing tool), tablets and phones as well as the pen and paper, there are many different ways of actually getting the written word down. I always set aside time to spend researching and writing my articles.

Choosing a topic can be a challenge. I would always tend to write about things directly related to me especially if I have had personal experience with it. An example would be hospitality professionals never sleep. I can remember in the days of running our family Indian Restaurant the chef would have asked me to order chickens on his way out and next morning chickens did not arrive as I forgot….I still get flashbacks and cold sweats!! This illustrates that communication and systems are key and that really we never switch off!
Where to publish can also be a quandary. With the advent of the internet and especially social media (an umbrella term for all digital online mediums ie Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc) it has become a lot easier to publish work. There are no double spaced paper copies to be submitted physically to an editor rather all is done quickly, efficiently and with more accuracy with the computer therefore ensuring work is submitted speedily.
When to publish is also an important challenge. Should I publish something on a daily, bi or tri-weekly, weekly or monthly basis? These all depend on your own personal commitments, schedules, contractual obligations. I would usually publish work at least weekly and sometimes more so depending on what is happening.

The most important step, for me, is auditing my work. I listen to comments from my readers, other professionals, and my wife!! I constantly strive to improve my writing style and content. It’s a very dynamic process and a challenging one.

With video becoming an ever more popular tool in marketing, why do you think restaurants should look to writers?

A picture tells a thousand words. Just imagine how much information can be sent in a running video. In old money,the number of frames per second was standardised at 24, ie 24 pictures per second. In digital 
terms this can be 50 or 60 (aka Hertz Hz). Imagine now that you could have 60 pictures per second or 60 times 1000 or 60,000 words per second!!! That’s absolutely mind blowing and really opens up so much more in terms
of information dissemination.

In other words its like saying a photo in an article is a snapshot in time, whereas a video is having lots of pictures in sequence and all together one after the other, with no time lag and it can be as long as you wish and therefore much more information can be portrayed. There is also the added advantage of having sound. This can be voice and/or music so can be very powerful and useful for getting information across and setting the scene.

This brings in so many opportunities to make films, whether short, medium or long and advertisements, which would be something that the hospitality industry could utilise very well. Writers can therefore play a big part in providing tailor made, snappy punch lines and content. Restaurants should definitely consider having writers compose their content for still or motion material, whether its for an advertisement, an editorial or just to add scripts for cookery demos.
Writers can also compose well constructed, thought out and grammatically correct content, which takes time and effort and which restaurants may not have time for or have the skill sets for. There is therefore a potential big market for writers to provide content for videos providing there is a clear and precise brief from the establishment. The content can then be tweaked as necessary.

Belfast Holiday World Show is in Full Swing!!

The Holiday World Show is now up and running at the Titanic Exhibition Centre.

It was opened by the, well travelled and gorgeous, Debbie Magee yesterday.

This show has grown from strength to strength and being in January it sure gives us all dreams of our next holiday. Whether it’s a weekend break in one of the beautiful hotels around Ireland or caravans or motor homes or the classic package holidays to the Med or to far flung places like China, the USA, Canada to name but a few.

Places like Tunisia, Cyprus and Malta intrigued me as well as Jordan. There is a lot of exciting history, tradition, culture and cuisine on offer!!

There are holidays to lots of destinations, for different time periods and for every budget. The caravan market is huge here and growing and some of the luxury static caravans on sale are definitely worth considering especially if one has a young family and wants a bolt hole during holidays and weekends!!

The cruise market is also growing from strength to strength with the big players showing off their deals. Belfast is now firmly on the cruise circuit and had over 140 ships docked last year and that will increase this year.

The Orient was well represented by China and Thailand and these destinations are growing year on year. Jamaica and Mauritius anyone? Well find out all about them at the show.

Closer to home there was luxury garden furniture on display from Euro Gardens and stands selling all sorts of things like cleaning products, phone cables, sweets and tooth whitening!!

The show is on today and tomorrow before heading to Dublin next……..get down to the show and choose your next holiday!!!!!

A taste of Spain in Belfast

This afternoon, I was honoured and thrilled to be one of twenty five or so lucky guests, to be wined and dined courtesy of the Spanish Tourist Board . The venue was COCO Restaurant and Bar in Belfast.

The weather was miserable, cold, wet and windy and what better way to while away the afternoon than dreaming about the heat, sand and sea of Spain!!

I’m a huge fan of Spain and of Coco the restaurant and was so thrilled to be invited. After mingling for half an hour or so we were seated and welcomed by Ana from Tour Spain and then we were given a short presentation on the region of Murcia and the Costa Calida by Kristian.

Then it was lunch…. which naturally had a Spanish theme and highlighted the region of Murcia, for being a top gastronomic destination in 2020.

I started with the potted rabbit with toast and chutney. There was plenty of rabbit and the crunchiness of the toast, sweet chutney and buttery rabbit were excellent.

For mains I had the Barbary duck (well done, top left), artichoke purée and potato gratin. This was a fine dish and the creaminess of the potato was sublime. 

To finish I had Creme brûlée washed down with a coffee. The service was polite and unobtrusive and the setting just brilliant-loved the art!! A delightful afternoon!!!!

The Spanish Tourist Board will be showcasing the best of Spain at the Holiday World Show (17-19th Jan) at the Titanic Exhibition Centre.

Thank you Paco for your kind invitation.

‘Veganuary’ a good thing or a fad?

I think Veganuary is a fab idea but reckon it’s just a fad. I guess it will take time to see if it catches on and remains a permanent calender fixture in the future.

It’s good that we all reduce our reliance on meat and meat based products due to ethical, moral, environmental or religious reasons. Am I ready to go Veganuary, the answer is no but the clever folk at Burger King might just be able to tempt me…….

Burger King have launched their new, non meat patty, Rebel Whopper today in the UK.

It looks like the picture, has lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, mayo, ketchup and soya protein patty, flame grilled all in a seeded bun.

But it’s not suitable for pure veggies/vegans because it’s cooked on the same grill as the beef patties!! A big of an own goal!!!!

I would have loved to try it but don’t eat beef (for religious reasons) hence won’t be able to try it…..will you?