Is UK energy consumption getting greener?

The charts below show UK energy consumption segmented by Sector and also Fuel Type. Have we made significant progress away from dirty fuel sources and towards cleaner solutions? And which sectors have made the most progress? Have a play with the filters:

Stark trends pop out immediately, such as:

  • Industry consumption has more than halved…
  • …but Transport consumption has nearly doubled.
  • No growth of Electricity usage in Transport sector.
  • Decline in Petroleum usage in non-transport sectors.
  • Also a decline in Solid Fuel usage in all sectors.
  • Increase in Gas consumption up to 2005, but now declining.
  • Shift away from Petroleum towards Gas in Services sector.
  • Bioenergy still only represents a tiny percentage of total.
  • Overall Transport consumption more than doubled since 1970.

Can you spot any more?

This viz was created using Tableau 10 , using data from Department for
Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy

Google Grant for Charities: sweet, free money.

cash stackers

Are you eligible for $120k free ad spend every year?

Did you know UK-registered charities are highly likely to be eligible for $120,000 free Adwords spend per-year, through Google’s non-profit programme? There are other benefits to the programme, including free use of the Google Apps suite – but this post focuses solely on the Adwords grant.

Applying for the grant is quick and easy, with no major strings attached…

…except that actually running the account requires a specific approach, due to rules imposed on Grant accounts:

  • You can’t spend more than $329 in a day (yes, Grants operate in dollars)
  • You can’t set bids higher than $2 (a relatively low amount).
  • You can only run standard, keyword-based activity: no fancy remarketing for you.
  • You can only show standard text ads: no image ads, video ads or other formats.
  • There are certain limitations regarding the tone of the ad copy.
    You can only show ads on Google search results pages: no other websites or search engines.

None of these limitations apply to a normal, non-grant Adwords account, so you have to change your mindset for Grant success if you’re used to running non-Grant accounts. We outline some of the main differences below, but the first task is to…

…Get your Google Grant
Check the UK eligibility guidelines, and if you meet them, fill out the short application form. Wait for a bit. Receive grant.

Bidding strategy
With non-Grant Adwords, perhaps the biggest Golden Rule is to avoid overbidding – i.e. going for super-high ad positions which only result in a fraction of the clicks & conversions. With Grant accounts, this rule is turned on its head:

As Grant media spend is free, and you are limited to a relatively low $2 bid level, you may as well max everything out at $2: as long as you are not hitting your $329 daily spend cap. At that point, you may want to start lowering bids to generate more clicks for your $329 (unless you’re going for GrantsPro: see below).

Keyword strategy
As with bidding, Grant keyword strategies differ fundamentally from non-Grant accounts. With non-Grant, branching out into new themes should be done with utmost caution, as the more tenuously-related the theme is to your business, the greater the risk of money down the drain.

With Grant accounts, It’s open season. Because media spend is free, you may as well branch out into as many related or half-related themes. They’re not all guaranteed to work (probably due to a low Quality Score) but they are all worth testing.

Ad creative strategy
Because Grant bids are limited to $2, optimising ad copy in a Grant account is even more important than for a paid account. Without getting into the granular details of Google’s ad ranking mechanism, just know that bid amount and clickthrough rate are two of the biggest components when calculating ad position.

Grant accounts don’t have the luxury of bidding higher than $2, and they compete in the same auction as non-Grant ads – So are at a disadvantage. For this reason, optimising your ad copy (to increase clickthrough rate) becomes even more pertinent. Sweep your accounts at least bi-monthly, inserting fresh ad variants and pausing low-performing ones, to help push your CTR up and up. Better ad copy = higher ad positions for the same $2 bid level.

Landing page strategy
Landing page quality is another major factor in the ranking mechanism. So for the same reason as above (Grant bids capped at $2) optimising your landing pages is even more important for Grant accounts then paid accounts. Better landing pages = higher ad positions for the same $2 bid level.

Run a paid Adwords account too
As great as $10k/month free media spend is, there are times when the limitations feel restrictive. For example, do you want to run Remarketing activity? Sorry, that’s paid account-only. Want to maximise exposure during a really important campaign? Sorry again, when you’ve spent $329 your ads go offline until tomorrow.

For these and many other reasons, we recommend creating a paid Adwords account to work in parallel. It doesn’t have to be always-on – but it’s great to have it set up ready for use. After all, we don’t usually choose when our content suddenly goes viral.

Originally published on Sift Digital’s site on 06/11/2015.

Election 2015: the fight for Social

A widely-accepted major contributor to Obama’s 1st and 2nd term wins was his team’s dominance of the social space – which served as a lesson for our own parties. They’ve had years to gear themselves up: so how are they doing?

The initial slap-in-the-face insight is that the social rankings below differ hugely from the polls. But this is misleading for more than one reason.

First, let’s take a look at Facebook Likes over the last 2 weeks:

Are the parties (and leaders) managing to grow their collection of Facebook Likes in the run-up to May 7th?

In the leaders race, Webcameron seems to be trouncing the competition. But there’s a catch: the Tories have been spending over £100k a month on Facebook paid ads, a big focus of which has been generating paid Likes for their leader and party (you’ve probably noticed Dave on your feed over the last few months). In comparison, Labour have been spending about one tenth on the channel, and UKIP even less.

It could be argued that a paid Like is less ‘committal’ by nature than an organic one, so that big Tory lead may be less meaningful than initial impressions suggest.

Another standout is the strong result for UKIP and also Farage himself. These results certainly outclass UKIP’s own performance in the polls, and are even more impressive when factoring in their tiny paid ad spend. Why is this? One major contributor is the Facebook user’s mindset: it’s not called ‘Showoffbook’ for no reason.

By nature, UKIP is more a lifestyle choice, compared to the Big Three parties. Rightly or wrongly, UKIPers tend to be passionate about their beliefs – and so perhaps more likely to shout about them on the big self-branding exercise that is Facebook.

This self-branding effect also goes a long way to explaining the Green’s joint 3rd spot – although the rock-bottom tally for Natalie Bennet’s personal page will surely be a worry for Green Party HQ.

Now let’s compare Facebook and Twitter, first for parties…

How many Twitter followers and Facebook Likes do the parties have?

and then for party leaders:

How many Twitter followers and Facebook Likes do the party leaders have?

It’s interesting that the rankings differ so much between Facebook and Twitter. Again, a likely main factor is the user’s differing mindsets when ‘Liking’ on Facebook (self-promotion-centric) and ‘Following’ on Twitter (info gathering).

UKIP may be disheartened by the Twitter figures, which suggest that although many people want to portray themselves as proud UKIPers on Facebook, not so many want a live Twitter feed of party info. Does this suggest a loyal fanbase with clear voting intentions?

Lastly, a sobering Facebook chart for all career politicians out there. When comparing party and leader popularity with ‘general interest’ themes (aka normal stuff), even Dave’s huge lead in the race for Likes looks laughable:

On Facebook, how popular are the parties and leaders compared to mainstream topics?

So, erm, Phil Mitchell for P.M. then – in a coalition with Innocent Smoothies.

New Year’s Resolutions comparison: 1947 vs. 2014

Happy New Year everyone!

As my New Year’s resolution this year is to write blogs more often, I thought I’d start off the New Year with a blog about New Year’s resolutions.

I came across this Huffington Post article by Anna Almendrala. The theme: how have our resolutions changed since the forties, and what does it reveal about us? I decided to attempt an upgrade to the simple ‘Top 10 List’ format contained within the original article, so created the data viz below using Tableau.

Click on the circles to the right, to view the position of each item in the original top 10 lists:

What are my dubiously-scientific takeouts here?
– Not many people were concerned about losing weight in the ration-tastic forties, but it ranked a supersized #1 in 2014.
– Religion has taken a back seat these days. I guess people have iPhones now.
– People were just as concerned about saving money then as now.
– A surprising trend away from quitting smoking / drinking. I thought everyone loved cigarettes back then?
– A trend away from wholesome improvements to your personality / character, towards just ‘getting more’ out of life. It’s all about us, after all.