• 0 The Push for Secure Sites

    Starting in July 2018, Google Chrome will start warning users if a site is not secure. Up to this point Chrome would display a neutral icon.  It will now have a very clear statement that an http site is not secure.  This will coincide with the rollout of Chrome 68, the latest version of the Chrome browser. What does this mean for your site? Google has been making the push to secure websites for quite some time.  They have even given incentives to https sites in rankings over http sites.  It isn’t a significant push, but one none-the-less.  Google hasn’t come out and stated they will ‘punish’ http websites but, they are giving preference to https sites, so one can argue they are ‘punishing’ http websites.In my opinion, the biggest concern is user perception. If a user is surfing with Chrome, lands on your site, sees “Not secure”, panic is likely to set in and the user will debate if he/she wishes to stay on your site.  Data security is the hottest issue right now as new stories break about data breaches and data mining of our personal data.   In my opinion (I do have a lot of them) it is worth the effort and money to ensure your users your website is secure.  The amount of effort and the cost is dependent upon the size and complexity of your website, and whether you can do this in-house or depend upon an outside company or firm to perform your IT functions.  Either way, it is a good investment to protect your site traffic and your users.How do you make your site HTTPS compliant?The process to make your site secure is through the use or purchase of an SSL.  SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is a standard security protocol for establishing encrypted links between a web server and a browser in an online communication.  HTTPS encryption protects the channel between the browser and the website, ensuring no one in the middle can tamper with the traffic or spy on what the user is doing. Without that encryption, someone with access to your router or ISP could intercept information sent to websites or inject malware into otherwise legitimate pages.An SSL can be purchased through your host provider and installed by your IT department or provider.  There are some sites that offer free SSLs, however, not all host providers can accommodate them.  Others cost as little as $25 annually.  ResourcesThe best way to navigate through these changes is to understand the process.  The following articles provide in-depth reviews and information on the process of securing your website:A Comprehensive Guide to SSL Certificates HTTP to HTTPS: An SEO's Guide to Securing a WebsiteUsing the Mixed Content Audit Tool in Lighthouse Do NOT PanicIf this article has created panic, please allow me to assure you the process is not as daunting as it may seem.  When my neighbor explains how to repair my lawn mower by replacing the spark plug, I get that frozen-deer-in-headlights look.  While I may understand the words, I have no clue how to do what is required.  That doesn’t mean the task is impossible, expensive, or requires the planet to stop rotating … it only means I need to acquire the assistance of those who have the knowledge and understanding to

  • 0 Is WordPress the Right Solution?

    WordPress has become a popular website building tool for small businesses and the web development community.  While we understand the appeal of WordPress, it is not our ‘go-to’ for web site development within our firm and it is not a solution that we recommend for every business. There are a few factors to consider when deciding to use this platform in building your website. Many in our industry boast of its ease of use in not having to know coding or have technical training to implement a WordPress website.  Those statements are misleading and somewhat untrue. Customization WordPress’s original design was for blogs.  Additional customization will require what is referred to as plug-ins.  These are add-on components for your site to incorporate a certain layout, calendar, online catalogs, e-commerce, event listings, and so forth.  The more you want on your site, the more plugins will be required.  You will then need to configure these plug-ins to flow within your website. Configuring basic functionality is not an issue.  However, not all basic customization will meet your needs.  If you desire more customization such as font styles, colors, sizes, etc, you will need to understand web file structures and coding to customize the plug-ins. If you do not have anyone to assist you with customizing your website, then the only other place to look for answers would be with online tutorials and YouTube because there is no official support team to turn to for help. Chances are that as a beginner you will have to learn yourself. There are thousands of tutorials online made by other users of WordPress; however, those tutorials may be outdated or incorrect due to WordPress changing so frequently. Database Functions As stated previously, WordPress was created for blog sites.  This system was not originally intended to house database functions such as catalogs, e-commerce, listings, etc.  While smaller databases are not an issue, the more your database grows the more you risk how well your site functions when queries are made on your site. Site visitors could experience a slow response or receive errors on your page. In today’s mobile environment the speed in which your site loads and functions is important.  Google has recently released their new speed test tool to rate your site’s loading time.  This was not done completely out of good will.  Google will now be using speed in determining search engine result placement. Frequent Updates Being that it is an open-source project, with lots of developers working on it, WordPress releases updates frequently to ‘plug in’ some of the holes. These updates can include theme or plugin updates. When these updates roll out, all your plugins or themes need to be updated. Otherwise they will break on your site, which is why you must always make a backup and test all the new features before updating the live site. Small business owners may not have the time, money, or knowledge to deal with these situations. Security and Vulnerability to Hacking Because WordPress is the most used CMS platform, it is regularly a target for hackers and spammers. Even downloading the most reliable security plugins will not protect your website from hackers and spammers completely. If your website is a web platform with thousands of users, security is of vital importance, because any vulnerability can affect the users and bring negative credibility to your website.      Conclusion WordPress is a very popular platform due to its simplicity and is a great solution for blogs; however, if you want to develop a powerful, secure and functional website, WordPress is not the optimal solution. Instead of spending extra time and money fixing the WordPress based website, hire a professional team of developers who will make your dream website.      Sources: https://jpwdesignstudio.com/blog/heres-7-reasons-why-you-should-not-use-wordpress-for-your-small-business-website https://www.beunanimous.com/unanimous-blog/you-deserve-better-wordpress https://www.nikpixels.co.uk/blog/why-you-maybe-shouldnt-have-a-wordpress-site-built https://ministrywebsitedesigns.com/no-wordpress-for-church-websites/ https://jpwdesignstudio.com/blog/heres-7-reasons-why-you-should-not-use-wordpress-for-your-small-business-website  

  • 0 Why You Should Diversify Your Digital Marketing

    I’m sure many people have heard of the popular idiom “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”. The concept is easy to understand. For stocks as an example, you wouldn’t put all your money into one stock because it would take just one turn of event for all your money to be gone. That’s why you learn to diversify. Digital marketing is the same thing. To be effective with digital marketing, you need to diversify and not put all your eggs in one basket. That way you reduce your risk and extend your reach at the same time. Think about it. If you were dependent on Facebook for 80 percent of your leads, what would happen if Facebook suddenly decided to tweak its platform? You would lose control over your brand and business. If your single platform goes through major changes, it can impact your digital marketing success. This is happening to Facebook right now. Not only is Facebook dealing with the backlash of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and many of its users protesting or leaving, but Facebook is also changing its News Feed. Mark Zuckerberg said “you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard—it should encourage meaningful interactions between people”. This means that Facebook users will expect to see more content from their friends and family instead of businesses, brands, and media. Businesses that heavily relied on Facebook as a tool to market themselves will likely have to double down on buying ads since it will be more difficult to ensure a post gets seen outside of paying for it. Outside from changes to the News Feed, Facebook is also anticipating people spending less time on its site. Zuckerberg said that people are devoting 50 million fewer hours a day to the social network, which comes out to two minutes per person on average out of the 1.4 billion daily users. According to AdAge, Facebook could be suffering from fatigue among users, who have been put off by the daily political conversations. An argument could be made that a handful of companies ruined this powerful digital marketing tool for everyone else; however, you can’t argue that businesses that diversified are less hurt by Facebook’s changes. Many businesses did not anticipate these changes for Facebook; however, this could happen to any platform. Digital marketing platforms such as email marketing, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and many more are all susceptible to changes. The best practice for marketers is to utilize multiple platforms to minimize risks to your marketing. With so many other marketing platforms, it would be a missed opportunity to not branch out to other options. Email marketing for example is a great tool to use to market your business. When you post on social media there is no way of knowing if your target customer is even seeing your content; however, sending the target customer an email ensures they will see it the next time they check their email. Using multiple digital marketing channels simultaneously will generate more success than just funneling content through one. Using only one digital marketing platform to market your business is like playing Russian roulette. Diversify your digital marketing and have less risks.      Sources: http://adage.com/article/digital/facebook-reveals-plans-change-news-feed/312184/https://www.facebook.com/zuck/posts/10104413015393571https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/12/technology/facebook-news-feed-changes.html

  • 0 Mobile Marketing Tips

    • by Pam Mitchell
    • 03-26-2018

    Now that mobile usage accounts for the majority of time consumers spend online, not having a mobile marketing strategy is no longer an option.Many struggle to get along with, and manage, their own smartphones.  Now they are expected to figure out how to reach a market that can scroll screens, download apps, and text message faster than Quick Draw McGraw.  (Half of you know who Quick Draw McGraw is, the other half will Google him)Mobile can be intimidating to some.  It doesn’t need to be, and it isn’t as difficult as you think.  Here are some basic tips by the Mobile & Digital Community that can help you reach your customers and prospects across mobile.Optimize for Mobile: Speed, Agility, Functionality, Fun, and AddictiveThe first step is recognizing the capabilities of a mobile device: screen size, operating system, scroll time, dwell time and latency issues. You want speedy load times, minimal scrolling, and as few click throughs as possible required from capture to conversion. Fun and addictive are the entertainment and social media sharing or viral components. It is wonderful that you provide a smooth mobile experience, but don’t forget to engage your customers with the fun and addictive content.Social Media Advertising to Mobile Users Can Earn Quick Wins80% of social media time is spent on a mobile device.  Social networks offer robust advertising options, and marketers can quickly test new channels to reach consumers. Businesses looking to advertise on social media need to understand which platform(s) are the most popular for their target audience for the greatest chance of success.Make Mobile a Part of Your Offline MarketingThe combination of a strong and targeted mobile campaign with any offline campaign can yield incredible results. You might consider adding a mobile call-to-action on one of your print pieces, encouraging consumers to join your email, promote a mobile loyalty club, or download your app with a discount.  Consumers who interact with your brand across multiple channels are known to be more loyal. Text Messaging: Essential Strategy to Engage the “Mobile-First Consumer”It is predicted that by 2020, 48.7 million consumers will opt-in to receive business SMS. At the end of 2016, that number had reached 37.2 million. "These numbers make SMS the fastest growing marketing channel." (textlocal)SMS & MMS provide marketers with a preferred channel to reaching a mobile-first or, more appropriately, mobile-only consumer by pushing content directly to their phone’s native inbox, thereby maximizing engagement. And the level of engagement with messaging remains unparalleled, achieving 98% open-rates often within the first several minutes a message arrives.No apps, no downloads. Just built-in functionality.  Be Mindful of Mobile Messaging Rules & RegulationsMobile messaging (SMS / MMS) provides marketers with the broadest reach and the highest level of engagement compared to all other channels within the mobile ecosystem. This is because nearly 100% of all wireless devices have SMS & MMS functionality as a native capability (no download required). The industry is highly regulated by the FCC through a set of rules found within the “Telephone Consumer Protection Act.” These rules have been further interpreted by the CTIA and the MMA, who have outlined best practices for the industry to follow. While the rules are specific, they are not complicated.  A good resource for understanding the TCPA can be found and downloaded from the Mobile Marketing Association. Mobile Commerce Shows No Sign of Stopping62% of smartphone users have made a purchase online using their mobile device in the last 6 months. Conversions for mobile can be a challenge due to consumer trust and ease of use when completing a purchase on a mobile device. The biggest challenge will be understanding consumer behavior across devices to provide a secure and confident purchase by the consumer.Mobile is About Reaching and Understanding the On-the-Go ConsumerLocation-based advertising is the fastest growing mobile strategy. There are multiple tools to reach the on-the-go-consumer.  These tools include local SEO strategies for top placement in local searches, in-app geo fencing, and text messaging. More people are performing local searches on their smartphones than on desktop computers, and this number is growing.  In-app geo fencing allows businesses to push notifications to consumers within a certain distance from their business location with timely offers and promotions.  Text messaging doesn’t require a search or an app and allows you to reach your clients directly, with higher open rates.Don’t Underestimate the Power of Mobile Email MarketingAbout 3 in 5 consumers check their email on the go (mobile) and 75% of say they use their smartphones most often to check email. Due to this trend, marketers need to be conscious of the behaviors of mobile users and ensure that their emails fit the mobile experience. More than ever, it’s important that email content is more personalized to the receiver in both the offer and design. Don’t Be Afraid to FailAs you start to work on your mobile marketing program – whether you’re starting from scratch or making enhancements – don’t be afraid to fail. In fact, expect that you will fail… more than once. Remember that any digital interaction is much more elastic than a traditional customer engagement. Mobile is just one facet of the brand relationship you have with your customers, and it is constantly improving. Actively listen to the feedback you receive from your customers and learn from your mistakes.   Want to receive articles and tips like this in your inbox?  Sign up here   Sources:https://thedma.org/membership/member-groups-communities/mobile-and-digital-community/mobile-and-digital-community-relevant-resources/top-10-mobile-tips-for-marketers/https://www.outerboxdesign.com/web-design-articles/mobile-ecommerce-statisticshttps://www.emailmonday.com/mobile-email-usage-statistics/https://www.impactbnd.com/blog/mobile-marketing-statisticshttps://www.mobilexco.com/blog/18-stats-to-help-you-plan-your-mobile-marketing-strategy-in-2018

  • 0 Local SEO, The Most Overlooked and Ignored Marketing Strategy

    In my humble opinion, based on the years I have been in business and working with businesses, I have found the most ignored and overlooked marketing strategy in today’s digital world to be … drum roll …. Local SEO (search engine optimization).The mindset appears to be that SEO is for businesses that can offer products or services nationwide or globally.  Many businesses that depend upon a local market for survival, such as hair salons, mom & pop bakeries, coffee shops, attorneys, mechanics, etc. still focus on the word of mouth or traditional local marketing resources such as radio, newspaper, etc.  While these have their place for certain demographics, there is a whole generation of new customers that are not being marketed to.The new generation of consumers are mobile.  That means they use their mobile devices to listen to music, read news, check social media and search for information.  In fact, 4 out of 5 consumers use search engines to find information.  These consumers are less likely to hear an ad on the radio, in the newspaper, or on TV.  So how do you reach this new generation of consumers?  You go digital.  Locally.Here are 16 helpful statistics to convince you how important local SEO is.  We all love bullet statistics. The Google 3-pack appears in the top spot in 93% of searches with local intent 50% of consumer who conducted a local search on their smartphone visited a store within day, and 34% who searched on a computer/tablet did the same 18% of local mobile searches lead to a sale within one day 87% of smartphone owners use a search engine at least once a day 60% of American adults use smartphones and tablets to search for local product and service information 50% of local mobile searches are looking for business information like a local address 78% of local mobile searches result in offline purchases 71% of people surveyed say they look up and confirm the location of a business before going to it for the first time For local listings, 68% of searches were found to have used 'get directions' or 'click to call' in a mobile ad 1 in 3 smartphone searches were made right before a store visit 89% of participants admitted to searching for a local business on their smarthphone once a week or more with 58% searching at least daily 46% of all searches on Google are local 86% look up the location of a business on Google Maps 76% local searches result in a phone call Are you curious about your local visibility?  Click to get a FREE report. Want to receive articles like this in your inbox?  Sign up here

  • 0 Email Marketing Statistics You Can't Ignore

    Believe it or not some businesses are not tapping into the wealth that email marketing offers.  There are many objections by businesses for using email marketing but the biggest objection I receive is: I hate getting all that spam.  I don’t want my customers to be annoyed with me. Palm plant to face!It isn’t spam if your customers are signing up to receive your emails!  Businesses don’t grasp what a consumer is stating when they sign up for their email campaigns.  What a consumer is saying is:I love you!I love your product or service!I want to hear from you!I enjoy your company!Please contact me!I can’t wait to hear from you!I want a relationship with you!Owning a business can be lonely.  Who doesn’t want to hear that daily?!It might sound silly, but this is what your customers are telling you when they sign up to receive your email campaigns.  If that isn’t enough to convince you, here are some handy statistics by really smart people in the industry.  FYI, email marketing isn’t just for B2C businesses … read on …   Email is the third most influential source of information for B2B audiences, behind only colleague recommendations and industry-specific thought leaders. 86% of business professionals prefer to use email when communicating for business purposes. CTRs are 47% higher for B2B email campaigns than B2C email campaigns. 59% of B2B marketers say email is their most effective channel in terms of revenue generation. Tuesday is the best day of the week to send email (according to 10 email marketing studies). Welcome emails are incredibly effective: on average, 320% more revenue is attributed to them on a per email basis than other promotional emails. Consumers who purchase products through email spend 138% more than those that don’t receive email offers. Email subscribers are 3x more likely to share content on social media than leads who came through another channel, according to QuickSprout. 80% of retail professionals indicate that email marketing is their greatest driver of customer retention (the next closest channel? Social media, identified by just 44% of those same professionals). 77% of people prefer to get permission-based promotional messages via email (versus direct mail, text, phone, or social media). 72.9% of 18-24 year olds use their phones to check email. (We didn’t think they were paying attention) Segmented email campaigns have an open rate that is 14.32% higher than non-segmented campaigns. Click-throughs are 100.95% higher in segmented email campaigns than non-segmented campaigns. The number of email users worldwide is forecasted to rise to 2.9 billion by 2019. The number of email users in the US was projected to grow to 254.7 million by 2020. Checking email is a complementary activity. People do it while watching TV (69 percent), in bed (57 percent), and on vacation (79 percent). Can we say borderline addiction? For every $1 spent on email marketing $44 is made in return, according to a study by Campaign Monitor. 28% of consumers would like to receive promotional emails more than once per week. Pretty impressive, right?  Have you implemented email marketing into your business marketing strategy?Are you struggling to develop content and create effective campaigns that drive results?We know someone who can help with that.  Check out our Email Marketing page for details on our services. Want to receive articles like this in your inbox?  Sign up here

  • 0 Facebook Algorithm Changes - What it Means for You

    Facebook has rolled out another algorithm change in December.  This may not be news to some, but unfortunately this is news to many and they don’t understand what it means.How will these changes affect your posts on Facebook?To answer that question, you first need to understand why.  Facebook’s desire is to return to their roots.  The whole reason they became into existence.  They want to create meaningful connections between humans.  Warm, fuzzy, joyful, heartfelt, and bonding connections.  They will assist in this endeavor by determining which types of posts are creating those warm and fuzzy feelings and which are not.  This has come down to 3 things you want to STOP doing on Facebook. Stop “engagement baiting”. Facebook wants authentic engagement.  They do not want you to ask for your customers to engage in a post.  This includes asking people to like, share, comment, tag, vote, etc.  Facebook wants the content of the post to fend for itself.  They theory is this:  If the content is good, you don’t need to ask for engagement.  Those who use baiting will begin to see a decrease in their post views.  Those who continue this practice will be punished by decreased exposure to their Facebook page.Don’t share content that only gets passive engagement.As I stated above, Facebook wants positive interactions that create meaningful relationships.  What does passive engagement mean to Facebook?  They measure this by the interaction that is generated by the content.  This could equal comments and tagging friends. You want to share content that sparks a conversation.  How do you spark a conversation? Or encourage people to tag their friends without asking for it?  No one said you couldn’t ask for it …. Wait.  What?  But I said earlier … what I said was you can’t request a specific action like “comment below …”  You CAN ask people for their reaction to your post.  See the difference?  No?  Ok.  See these examples:Don’t: “Comment on this post if you like bunnies.”Do: “Think bunnies are cute or scary?”See.  It is in the WAY you are encouraging engagement.  The don’t method doesn’t encourage a conversation.  The Do method does.  Naturally humans are going to want to provide details for their answer which sparks more conversation.  Simple.Don’t share untrustworthy, uninformative, or sensational links, videos, or news.This last no-no is two-fold.  The first is to address ‘untrustworthy’ posts.  It is no secret that Facebook is taking the initiative to combat what may be considered fake news.  There is no insight as to what the criteria is in determining what Facebook considers as an untrustworthy source.  You will have to use your judgement on this, but a simple solution is if you are not familiar with the source or can’t collaborate the information, don’t share it.The second part addresses the uninformative and sensational aspects.  These types of post typically generate one of 2 responses:  none or argumentative.  Neither of these create a meaningful conversation or connection.   However, there is good news in all of this for small businesses that depend upon a local customer base.  Facebook will put more of an emphasis on information that is local.  So, if you are sharing March Madness game results vs. local high school basketball results, your local basketball team will get better exposure locally.  In conclusion the moral of the story is to start conversations.  Help create meaningful connections.BONUS TIP:One great way to get people talking about your product or service is to start a Facebook group.  I bet many of you belong to at least one group on your Facebook page.  How would you rank participation within the group compared to outside the group?  Something to think about. Want to receive articles and tips like this in your inbox?  Sign up here.