Your Business Can Weather the COVID-19 Storm

small business weathering covid-19

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has impacted nearly every business with mandated shutdowns, quarantines and the often-resulting revenue losses. Customers and employees feel as though they’re in perpetual work-from-home mode, and all the uncertainty and inactivity can really take a toll. However, there is a silver lining: All this unexpected downtime can actually be viewed as an opportunity to delve into myriad activities business owners don’t routinely have time for.

Now is the time to rethink, revitalize and even reinvent your business to best position yourself for success when the COVID-19 dust settles. To that end, here are ten things companies can do to maximize slack periods and prime their businesses for better times.

1. Amp up (or enter) the email game

Email is one of the most cost effective marketing channels available and boasts a formidable 122% ROI (more than four times that of social media and direct mail). For businesses that haven’t had time to establish an email marketing program, now is an excellent time to learn how. Mailchimp is an excellent email marketing service. They are free if you are just starting out and your database is under 2,000 contacts.

 

Businesses that haven’t invested in email marketing can use the quarantine to:

  • Craft valuable email content that helps customers solve problems now, and post-quarantine
  • Develop lead magnets such as whitepapers, eBooks and reports that drive email subscriptions
  • Create strategic drip and lead nurturing email campaigns that foster trust, establish authority and ultimately lead to sales once the economy recovers

Companies that already invest in email marketing can use downtime to evaluate their strategies and identify opportunities for improvement, including:

  • Review open rates, clicks and conversions to gain a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t
  • Set up A/B split testing and compare results, which can maximize ROI
  • Segment email lists based on customer interests and behaviors for more efficient email marketing

The daily hustle and bustle often make it difficult for businesses to focus on long-term email strategy. Now, companies have time to not only develop winning email campaigns, but also to plan them out several months into the future, so you’re poised to capitalize on the economic rebound.

2. Develop a new product or service

Many businesses maintain lists of potential opportunities, including new products and services they’ve identified to fill unique niches, boost revenue and increase market share. That makes now the perfect time to develop a new product or service to hit the post-quarantine market, even if sales are currently slumping.

Businesses should ask themselves:

  • What opportunities have we identified but haven’t had time to implement?
  • What new products and services can we add to beat our competitors?
  • How can we improve existing products and services to better serve our customers?
  • Are there any product or service tiers we can add to upsell or cross-sell?
  • What will customers need once the quarantine has lifted? What problems will they have, and what problems are we uniquely positioned to solve?
  • What will it take to bring a new product or service to market? What are our costs, unique selling propositions, price points, marketing strategies and projected ROIs?
  • How can we prove business concepts before investing?

Whether a business is considering adding a service to keep up with competitors or inventing a new product that’s never hit the market, the quarantine could afford it the time it needs to develop a new, profitable revenue stream.

3. Improve business efficiency

Many businesses have been forced to take a deep dive into the numbers to maintain continuity and solvency. Unfortunately, that means businesses have also had to make tough decisions regarding employees, benefits and budgets – but it also presents an opportunity to improve business efficiency.

Businesses can take a hard look at the numbers to:

Financial efficiency isn’t the only thing businesses can tackle during slack periods. Opportunities also exist to:

  • Clean up to-do lists: From implementing a new POS system to investigating different accounting firms, now is the time to check off long overdue tasks
  • Organize everything: From reorganizing the floor plan to shaping up office files, businesses can prep for enhanced efficiency once the quarantine lifts
  • Revisit process efficiencies: Identify current operational inefficiencies and develop improvement plans; investigate software that can streamline accounting, employee management, invoicing, sales and other business processes

Businesses that take the time to improve efficiency now will be prepared to hit the ground running and enhance profitability when the market rebounds.

4. Evaluate marketing strategy

Under normal circumstances, businesses operate full speed ahead. Even though they recognize the value of marketing analytics, it can be difficult to find the time to take a deep dive into marketing strategy.

Afforded that time, businesses should:

  • Evaluate marketing metrics and identify what’s working and what isn’t
  • Consider how marketing strategies will change post-quarantine
  • Investigate new marketing channels that could yield significant sales: email, social media, on-site content, direct-mail and more
  • Develop lead generation and nurturing campaigns designed to establish authority, foster trust and inspire customer confidence
  • Audit websites and identify opportunities for improvement: strategic calls to action, email subscription forms, overall design and presentation, search engine optimization, mobile responsiveness and more
  • Plan, develop and schedule social media posts for now and after the quarantine is lifted
  • Examine online sales funnels to identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies; in other words, discover where leads are dropping out of the funnel and craft strategies to recapture them
  • Explore alternative benefits, audience segments and unique selling propositions to tailor messaging to a post-pandemic customer base

It’s important to consider not only how a shift in marketing strategy can benefit businesses today, but also how businesses can cater to customers once the pandemic ends.

5. Communicate with customers

Marketing isn’t the only type of communication businesses should focus on. Downtime presents an opportunity to participate in customer communities, ingrain companies in the conversation, and build relationships that will benefit businesses once things turn around.

Businesses can:

  • Join Facebook and other social media groups customers frequent
  • Post on relevant forums and help customers solve problems (minus the marketing pitch)
  • Reach out to current customers via personalized emails and phone calls to check on their well being and see if there is anything the business can do to help

It’s well established that outstanding customer service and helpful, customer-centric communications lead to word-of-mouth marketing; however, businesses do not always have the time and resources to commit to audience-driven communities and personalized communication. Slack periods grant businesses an opportunity to show customers how much they care. The effort will be appreciated and could pay huge dividends once the market normalizes.

6. Create content

Content marketing is one of the most powerful strategies for long-term success, yet many businesses struggle to find the time to craft invigorating, valuable content that inspires customers to act. Now, companies can get ahead by planning, developing and scheduling content for the post-quarantine months.

Businesses can:

  • Develop unique, insightful and optimized blog posts packed with information their customers yearn for and that help boost search rankings
  • Create social media posts, photos and videos designed to earn likes, follows and messages
  • Host online workshops that help customers solve their most pressing problems, participate in their favorite hobbies or learn new skills
  • Generate lead magnets such as whitepapers, infographics, reports and eBooks that boost email subscriptions; then, follow up with lead nurturing email content

In addition to creating new content, businesses can work on optimizing their existing content. For example, they can:

  • Identify opportunities to implement calls to action, lead magnets and email subscription forms in top performing blog posts
  • Optimize blog posts that reside just off the first page of search results to help them make the leap to page one
  • Consider ways to enhance existing content with updated information, quality resources, videos and other elements that add value and increase engagement

Content is king, and the current downtime presents an excellent opportunity for businesses to improve, enhance and optimize content for better long-term ROI.

 7. Seek partnerships

Partnerships can be powerful business building tools. They introduce companies to new audiences, foster sales via trusted recommendations and boost revenues through special multi-product or service discounts.

Businesses that have downtime would be wise to investigate partnership opportunities, including:

  • Joint venture discounts (for example, a florist could partner with a confectioner)
  • Referral commission programs (for example, a siding company could get a referral fee if it refers customers to a trusted roofing company)
  • Affiliate programs (for example, a blogger could get a commission if readers purchase a product they review)
  • Influencer partnerships (for example, a company could compensate an influencer for mentioning their products)

Before committing to a partnership, businesses should take measures to ensure they:

  • Partner with noncompeting companies that share the same audiences
  • Thoroughly vet potential partners and their reputations
  • Construct fair arrangements that benefit all partners as well as customers

A good partnership can rapidly introduce businesses to new audiences, establish instant credibility and increase sales – and slack periods present excellent opportunities to explore potential partnerships that can yield dividends once the quarantine is lifted.

8. Review documents

Businesses deal with a lot of documents, from employment applications and employee handbooks to legal documents such as contracts and insurance policies. Now is a good time to review documents for accuracy and to identify improvements.

Business can review:

  • Employment applications to make sure they’re asking the most pertinent questions and collecting information needed to comply with regulations
  • Employee handbooks to ensure all policies are up to date (and avoid common HR mistakes)
  • Customer, contractor and employee contracts to ensure the terms are appropriate, acceptable and fall within company guidelines
  • Tax documents to ensure proper business organization, filing procedures and accuracy
  • Insurance documents to make sure policy changes haven’t left the business exposed to liabilities or unexpected costs
  • Mandated documentation, such as labor law compliance posters, to satisfy legal obligations

It’s a good idea for businesses to consult experts when reviewing some documents. For example, contract reviews require the help of an attorney and an accountant can be invaluable for tax document reviews.

9. Audit providers

Now is also a good time for businesses to audit their providers to make sure they’re getting what they’re paying for as well as getting the best deal. Doing so can help companies shave unnecessary costs, enhance business efficiency and ultimately maximize ROI – especially if there are lingering issues with any providers.

Businesses can audit providers to identify whether they’re getting the best:

  • Service and quality
  • Price points and deals
  • Delivery fees and schedules
  • Accuracy and compliance
  • Customer service and experience
  • Technology capabilities
  • ROI
  • Options for their needs

Focus areas include:

  • Product vendors and suppliers
  • Business and liability insurers
  • Health insurance and benefits providers
  • Attorneys and business consultants
  • Accounting, payroll and HR management vendors
  • Marketing and advertising partners
  • Logistics partners (fulfillment, warehousing and shipping)
  • IT service providers
  • Ecommerce providers
  • Receivables management, remote deposit capture and bill pay vendors

The goal is to determine whether business needs are being met or if better alternatives exist, then to see if favorable terms and pricing can be negotiated. Businesses that take the time to audit providers can identify overspends and inefficiencies as well as discover new options that can help them achieve greater success and boost ROI once the market rebounds.

10. Rebrand

This could be the right time to evolve for businesses that have been putting off a rebrand. Extra downtime allows businesses to devote resources to rebranding efforts, and it could also allow them to supply remote employees with productive work. Rebranding can take many shapes, from a complete top-to-bottom makeover to a packaging redesign for an under performing product.

Refresh and rebrand ideas include:

  • Logo design
  • Brand colors
  • Retail packaging
  • Website design
  • App design
  • Promotional products
  • Unique selling proposition
  • Customer focus
  • Branded marketing collateral
  • Mission statement and company values

A strategic rebrand can help companies reconnect with customers and reach new audience segments that bolster profitability. Rebranding at this time carries additional meaning, too, since it can coincide with the sense of rebirth many will feel post-pandemic.

Downtime doesn’t have to be dead time: Savvy businesses will identify ways to make the quarantine work to their advantage. Now is the time for businesses to rethink, revitalize and reinvent themselves so they’re positioned for success on the other side of the coronavirus pandemic.

Source: Deluxe.com

Video Conferencing During Quarantine

best videoconferencing app

Video Conferencing During Quarantine

None of us could have anticipated the radical unsettling and uncertain impacts of COVID-19. Business needs are shifting rapidly. Over the coming weeks, there will be challenges to businesses of all sizes, to the economy, and to our lives. For those needing to stay connected with colleagues during these challenging times, UberConference stepped up to help.

Effective immediately, and for the next two months, Dialpad Talk and UberConference are available FREE to any new individual, business or community that needs a better way to stay connected. You can literally have your business phone system, conferencing, and even your contact center up and running from anywhere in minutes. If you continue to use us after this crisis, that’s great. If not, that’s great too. There’s no obligation to continue, and they are happy knowing they could help you continue to be productive from anywhere during this COVID-19 outbreak.

Free Video Conferencing
No PINs. No Downloads. Talk, Video and Screenshare Immediately

#WorkFromAnywhere

BONUS: To ease disruption from COVID-19, UberConference Free now allows longer call duration and up to 50 participants.

 

Sign up for UberConference >>

Social Media Netiquette

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The way you conduct yourself through your social media accounts is a direct reflection on your business. If you are a consultant and you are your business, it’s so critical to follow social media netiquette (internet etiquette). Here are 9 golden social media communication rules.

  1. Always proofread, check for grammar, misspellings and use proper punctuation.
  2. DON’T USE ALL CAPS or multiple exclamation points. This is construed as yelling.
  3. Avoid abbreviations unless you @ hyperlink them so everyone knows what you mean.
  4. Avoid sarcasm. This can lead to misinterpretation and come off as non-professional.
  5. Be courteous and generate a polite tone.
  6. Check your words carefully. Like any written message on an online platform, your words are not private. If you aren’t alright with everyone seeing it, you shouldn’t post it.
  7. Don’t get into arguments. Social media is a great source not only for news, but also exchanging views. Even if you don’t agree with others, don’t let it turn into a nasty argument.
  8. Interact with people. If someone replies to your, say thanks or start a conversation. Social media, like the name suggests, is a social activity and no one likes to be ignored.
  9. Credit your sources. It’s proper to credit the original source by linking the news, photo, video, article or joke to the original source.

Most of this is common sense, but you would be surprised how many people representing their brand fail at following these simple guidelines. One thing I always suggest to clients is that before sending or posting any communication, read over it multiple times, especially if you are communicating out of anger. Your final version, once you’ve had an opportunity to forge your words better, will represent you and your business in a more professional and positive light. Trust me.

Protect Yourself Against Cybercrime

cyber security

Cybercrime is an ongoing threat.

You might think that the only form of cybercrime to worry about is cybercriminals stealing your financial information. But it may not be so simple. There are far more concerns than just basic financial ones. Cybercrime continues to evolve, with new threats surfacing.

My niece works for a large firm in Atlanta whose employer was victim to a cybercrime where they hijacked all of their computer data demanding a ransom. It virtually shut their business down. They could not access any of their data. This went on for weeks as the authorities got involved. It had a happy ending, but it crippled their production.

Stories like this may make people and businesses leery of using the Internet. Instead of letting the cybercriminal deter your ability to operate, it’s a better idea to know how to recognize cyberthreats in the first place. This is the first step to helping protect yourself and your data. Taking some basic precautions and knowing who to contact when you see others engaged in criminal activities online are also important steps.

You might want to learn how to prevent cyberthreats, but here’s the thing: You can’t. You can, however, take precautions to help protect against it.

What is cybercrime?

Cybercrime is any crime that takes place online or primarily online. Cybercriminals often commit crimes by targeting computer networks or devices. Cybercrime can range from security breaches to personal information theft.

Other cybercrimes include things like “revenge porn,” cyber-stalking, harassment, bullying, and child sexual exploitation. Terrorists can also collaborate on the internet, moving terrorist activities and crimes into cyberspace.

How to protect yourself against cyberthreats.

Anyone using the internet should exercise some basic precautions. Here are 8 tips you can use to help protect yourself against cyberthreats out there.

1. Use a full-service internet security suite
For instance, Norton Security provides real-time protection against existing and emerging malware including ransomware and viruses, and helps protect your private and financial information when you go online.

2. Use strong passwords
Don’t repeat your passwords on different sites and change your passwords regularly and always create strong passwords using a combination of at least 10 letters, numbers, and symbols.

3. Keep your software updated
This is especially important with your operating systems and internet security software. Cybercriminals frequently use known exploits, or flaws, in your software to gain access to your system. Patching those exploits and flaws can make it less likely that you’ll become a cyberthreat target.

4. Manage your social media settings
Keep your personal and private information secure on social media. Cybercriminals can often get your personal information with just a few data points, so the less you share publicly, the better. For instance, if you post your pet’s name or reveal your mother’s maiden name, you might expose the answers to two common security questions.

5. Strengthen your security on Wi-Fi
It’s a good idea to start with a strong encryption password as well as a virtual private network when using public Wi-Fi. A VPN (short for virtual private network) will encrypt all traffic leaving your devices until it arrives at its destination. If cybercriminals do manage to hack your communication line, they won’t intercept anything but encrypted data. It’s a good idea to use a VPN whenever you a public Wi-Fi network, whether it’s in a library, café, hotel, or airport.

6. Have ongoing dialogue with your children
You can teach your kids about acceptable use of the internet without shutting down communication channels. Make sure they know that they can come to you if they’re experiencing any kind of online harassment, stalking, or bullying.

7. Keep up to date on major security breaches
If you do business with an online retailer or have an account on a website that’s been impacted by a security breach, find out what information the cybercriminals accessed and change your password immediately.

8. Take measures to help protect yourself against personal information theft
Personal information theft can occur when someone wrongfully obtains your personal data in a way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain. How? You might be tricked into giving personal information over the internet, for instance, or a cybercriminal might steal your post to access account information mailed to you. That’s why it’s important to guard your personal data by using a reputable security suite to help protect your sensitive information

In a way, fighting cybercrime is everybody’s business. Think of it as an obligation to do your part in the fight against cybercrime. For most people, that means following a few simple, common-sense steps to help keep yourself and your family safer. Be aware and be vigilant.

How To Effectively Use Hashtags

effective hashtag use

Watch your Facebook hashtags.

If you choose irrelevant hashtags or add too many hashtags, it can distract your audience and disrupt your messaging.

I warn clients all of the time that on Facebook posts specifically, adding more than three hashtags is actually hurting the visibility of that post. They are creating a traffic jam of sorts if you will. And it’s surprising how many big marketing agencies do not know this.

 

“From a user standpoint, hashtags are used to categorize content, making the discovery of new or related articles and insights easy to do […] When hashtags are used incorrectly, people looking for new content have to dig through irrelevant, miscategorized content in order to get to what they’re actually looking for.” –Sprout Social

 

Amen to Sprout Social on that observation!

 

Now then, let’s talk about using hashtags on other social media outlets because the use is a bit different on say Instagram and Twitter.

 

Q: Should you use hashtags in your social media content?
A: Yes. Using hashtags is an effective way to enter new conversations and get your content in front of new eyes.

 

Q: Are there certain platforms where I should use hashtags?
A: Yes. Consumers tend to use hashtags more on Twitter and Instagram.

 

Q: Do social media users actually use hashtags?
A: Yes. When users are looking at social media, they click on hashtags to discover more relevant content and learn more about topics that relate to what they just looked at or read about.

 

Q: Are hashtags really an effective way to increase reach and engagement?
A: Yes. Think about it: if you post a photo on Instagram or Twitter without any hashtags, only your current followers will see it. However, if you post a photo on Instagram or Twitter and use effective hashtags, you have the potential to reach thousands of new potential followers and customers with that post.

 

Thanks for hashing out hashtags with us. Now that we’re all on the same page, we’d like to dive into the best ways to use hashtags in your content to bring potential new fans and followers to your social pages, and ultimately, your business. Go Daddy Social did some very cool research on the effective use of hashtags on Instagram and Twitter that we love. Click here to read on!

Small Business Marketing Tips

Have you noticed that your marketing efforts have plateaued and growth hasn’t been where you hoped? It’s not that you’re doing anything wrong. It’s just that tactics you’ve relied on may no longer resonate with your audience. So why not spice it up a bit? Here are eight fresh and exciting marketing tactics perfect for small businesses.

1. Offer rewards for referrals. 

Did you know that 82 percent of Americans seek recommendations from friends and family before making a purchase? For those between the ages of 18 and 34, that figure jumps to 92 percent 

Simply put, word-of-mouth recommendations can greatly influence purchases. But how can you encourage referrals and recommendations? 

One of the easiest ways is to simply offer discounts and deals to current customers who refer your business to friends and family.   

2. Experiment with different social channels.

Chances are you’re at least using Facebook, but why not experiment with some other social channels like LinkedIn and Twitter? Instagram and Pinterest are ideal for sharing visual content. This may not work for every business, but they could be used to share images of your products, behind-the-scenes pictures, or even for user-generated content where you ask your audience to share pics of them enjoying your product or service.  And there’s Snapchat. It’s extremely popular with millennials, and brands like Taco Bell have figured out how to tap into that popularity. 

There’s also the microblogging platform Tumblr that comes with multimedia functionality. Want to learn more about how Tumblr can help your business? 

Before committing to a new social channel, weigh the pros and cons to make sure it’s a good fit with your business and audience.  I’ve found that most clients do best with one or a combination of social channels. You just need to figure out what works best for your company.  

3. Combine email and social.

Email marketing remains your most powerful tool for gaining and retaining customers. Because social media platforms make algorithm tweaks that can limit the visibility of your content, email marketing gives you the chance to reach your customers directly. 

Combining your email marketing and social media activities using simple social sharing tools can help you find new customers as you reach out to existing ones. 

For starters, you can include a simple “share” button in your email content so your subscribers can post your message on social media. You can also convert your social media followers into email subscribers just by sharing a link to your email signup form on your various social media channels.  

And thanks to Facebook’s Custom Audience, you can target customers via their email addresses. This allows you to stay engaged with customers who have abandoned old email addresses. For example, you can retarget customers with ads for the products that they either viewed on your site or left in their shopping cart.  

4. Interact with other businesses online or build friendly rivalries. 

This can get tricky, but when done correctly, it’s definitely a unique and effective marketing idea. For instance Old Spice. The brand’s sassy tweets have engaged brands like Oreo. It’s not vicious, nor does it cross any lines. It’s lighthearted and amusing banter that keeps their audiences engaged. 

For small businesses, engaging in friendly rivalry may not work in close-knit communities. But giving them a shout-out on social media or linking their pages is an excellent way to build a mutual and beneficial online relationship. Eventually, you may even decide to team up together for contests and deals.  

5. Run contests.

Contests are an easy way to encourage your audience to engage with your brand. 

For example, you could organize a photo contest or raffle for which customers could win a prize. Just make sure the prize is something your audience actually cares about or is somewhat relevant to your brand. 

Remember, too, that you’ll need to have a clearly defined goal that benefits your business on top of that awesome prize you’ve put up for grabs. This goal could be anything from getting more visitors to your websites to building your email list or increasing your social media followers. 

And don’t forget to announce your contest or raffle on your social media channels and send out an email blast as well.  

6. Participate in small business sites and forums.

Participating in small business sites is a learning experience, as well as a viable marketing strategy. Sites like Startup Nation and /r/Entrepreneur subs can be used for business owners and marketers to discuss and exchange ideas on marketing strategies and campaigns. 

For instance, you can create a case study for one of your business projects or marketing campaigns. Because entrepreneurs are constantly on the lookout for tips and tactics they can use for their business, it’s an easy way to generate some buzz for your business. 

As an added bonus, you can include some links to previous blog or social posts that are relevant to the discussion to gain some traffic back to your site. That will probably help optimize your site for SEO too.  

7. Publish other content besides blog posts.

Publishing blog posts that contain valuable content for your audience is always a smart move — as long as it’s consistent and provides your audience with value.  

However, you can’t just rely on blog posts.  

Most of us are visual learners. That’s why content like inspiring pictures, infographics, or videos are so effective. They’re easy to digest and can be shared online with just a click of a button. Other content, such as case studies or white papers, prove that you’re an authority figure, while podcasts and webinars give your audience a chance to become part of the discussion.  

8. Share your community and social efforts. 

Customers are now paying attention to the social, economic, and environmental impact that businesses have. And it’s a prevalent mindset among the largest age demographic: millennials.  

One study found that “81% of millennials expect companies to make a public commitment to good corporate citizenship.” Another discovered that “more than nine in 10 millennials would switch brands to one associated with a cause (91% vs. 85% U.S. average).” 

But don’t give back just for a photo op. Giving back needs to be integrated into your brand’s identity.  

You can give back to your community by: 

  • Leading a fundraising mission for a local nonprofit. 
  • Hosting a community volunteer day. 
  • Sponsoring a Little League or high school sports program. 
  • Donating unsold items. For example, if you run a bakery, you could give food products to a local food bank. 
  • Hosting an informational service around your products or services. For instance, if you were an accountant, you could provide free tax preparation for seniors or your fellow small business owners.  

Why Your Website Needs an SSL Certificate

install ssl certificate

What is an SSL Certificate?

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is the standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. This link ensures that all data passed between the web server and browsers remain private and integral.

If you don’t have an SSL certificate, a secure connection cannot be established, that means, your company information will not be digitally connected to a cryptographic key.

An SSL Certificate has the following information:

  1. Name of the holder
  2. Serial number and expiration date
  3. Copy of the certificate holder’s public key
  4. Digital Signature of the certificate-issuing authority

Why do you need an SSL Certificate?

If your website does not have a trusted SSL certificate, Google Chrome will tag your site as ‘Not Secure’.

Any computer in between you and the server can see any credit card numbers, usernames and passwords, and other sensitive information if it is not encrypted with an SSL certificate. When an SSL certificate is used, the information becomes unreadable to everyone except for the server you are sending the information to.

What does an SSL Certificate do?

Encrypts Sensitive Information
The information you send on the Internet is passed from computer to computer to get to the destination server. Any computer in between you and the server can see your usernames and passwords, credit card numbers, and other sensitive information if it is not encrypted. When an SSL certificate is used, the information becomes unreadable to everyone except for the server you are sending the information to.

Protects You From Cybercriminals
Along with advanced technology comes advances in hacking and malicious website intervention techniques. It is impossible to escape cybercrime if your website doesn’t have an SSL certificate. Installing an SSL certificate offers a vital means of defending your website against hacks. Google wants every single site to be immune to hackers and identity thieves so that consumers are better protected. This is the main drive behind their October 2017 movement to tag sites that are not secure.

Builds Trust & Brand Power
With a website secured by an SSL certificate, your site visitors will see visuals like the security lock icon in a green address bar that assures well-trusted encryption is in place.

Before Google flags your website, secure it today with an SSL Certificate. The certificate is not expensive. For instance, Go Daddy is a trusted SSL Certificate provider and you can obtain one for under $99 per year. If you need help installing your SSL Certificate, call Kristi Eakin Design at 214-769-5461. This is a 15 minute process!

Secrets to a Successful SEO Program

seo consultant okc
Many clients ask me exactly what are the secrets to a successful SEO program. My answer is always the same. There is no magical methodology and most SEO consultants employ the same tactics. What is key in obtaining good online visibility is staying on top of the ever changing Google search engine ranking criteria.

I don’t know about you, but anytime we need something in our home or business life, we Google it. If I need a residential plumber, I Google “best plumber” in my city. If my business needs a new heavy duty iCloud storage, we Google “best iCloud storage”.

Rule #1 is without at least some presence on Google, your business is unlikely to survive.

Rule #2 is if your business isn’t taking advantage of using SEO strategies then you are likely losing out to your competition. You need SEO on your website and social media pages in order to rank your business in internet searches. SEO is one of the most effective ways to ensure your business is found when customers are searching for someone like you.

Rule #3 You must constantly pay attention to the Google algorithm update history and adapt to each new Google algorithm. If you are avid about doing this, you can keep your page at the top and ensure success in all your digital marketing endeavors.

As simple as SEO can be to deploy, it is a constantly evolving technique. You need a good understanding and a knowledge base of what is new or on the horizon for ranking schemes.

2018 is no different from any other year. There are many SEO trends that can help your organization achieve a top result in a Google search, giving your business an edge over your competition.

So what are the best practices for SEO right now?

Secure Links (SSL)

A couple of years ago, Google announced that secured website certificates (SSL) were starting to impact the ranking of websites. Recently, we noticed that browsers such as Chrome are flagging sites that don’t begin with HTTPS as being potentially unsafe. Adding an SSL certificate to your website is one of the least expensive and easiest ways to boost SEO ranking in 2018. If you don’t have an SSL, it’s likely that your page rankings will begin to drop.

Link-worthy User-driven Content

Creating link-worthy, user-driven content that answers relevant questions and provides useful information to prospects is key. Using a blog and frequent posting with cross links to your social media is a great way to stay in the forefront of searches.

Schema is another area that will continue to be a focal point in achieving measurable results within organic search online. This new form of optimization is one of the most powerful, but least-utilized forms of SEO available today. Once you grasp the concept and method of schema markup, you can boost your website in the search engine result pages (SERPs).

The schema markup tells the search engine what that content means. For example, let’s say the word “Kristi Eakin Design” appears on one of my blog articles. The search engine sees this, and produces a SERP entry with “Kristi Eakin Design.” However, if I put the right schema markup around the name “Kristi Eakin Design,” I’ve just told that search engine that “Kristi Eakin Design” is the author of the article and perhaps details about the article. The search engine then provides results that display better information for the user who was searching for “Kristi Eakin Design.”

You don’t need to learn any special coding skills to utilize schema. You will simply add bits of schema.org vocabulary to HTML Microdata.

Content and markups may sound like the same old, same old, but the better you match your keywords, titles, and metadata to user intent, the better you will perform. The central goal of Google’s core algorithm update is to make results more closely match users’ intentions. So you might ask yourself, “If I were a customer of my business, what would I search for on the Internet to find my business.” versus words related to your business as we’ve done in the past.

Searcher Intent

Google’s focus on matching search results to the unique intent of a searcher’s query will impact SEO this year. We now must look beyond keywords and traditional ranking factors to understand the types of content the search engines deem relevant for priority terms.

In order to build brand awareness, SEO is key in connecting customers to your business. Consider what issues your potential customers are likely to be struggling with and write content aimed at resolving those issues. Use keywords and metadata that call attention to your ability to do that. And remember if your online activity is stagnant, so will your online visibility become.

If you are looking for an SEO consultant to manage your SEO strategies, contact us today at 214-769-5461 for an affordable month-to-month program that can be short-term or long-term. You can use our expertise as long as you need to get your SEO boosted.

Has Your Facebook Really Been Hacked or Cloned?

facebook cloning
Two different viral warnings are spreading on Facebook in the past week. One is about a rash of “cloned” accounts and bogus friend requests. It is mostly fake, say security experts, who ask people to stop forwarding it. The other is about a security breach resulting in 50 million Facebook users accounts being hacked. Let’s look at both below and see if your Facebook has really been cloned or hacked.

FACEBOOK CLONING WARNING


I have received a few Facebook messages from friends warning me that my account has been hacked or cloned. A couple of examples are:

“Hi….I actually got another friend request from you which I ignored so you may want to check your account. Hold your finger on the message until the forward button appears…then hit forward and all the people you want to forward too….I had to do the people individually. PLEASE DO NOT ACCEPT A NEW friendship FROM ME AT THIS TIME.”

“Almost every account is being cloned. Your picture and your name are used to create a new face book account (they don’t need your password to do this this). They want your friends to add them to their Facebook account. Your friends will think that it’s you and accept your request. From that point on they can write what they want under your name. I have NO plans to open a new account. Please DO NOT accept a 2nd friend request from “me”. please forward to all your contacts.”

Now my account wasn’t really cloned or hacked, but this was the end result of someone sending the canned message to all friends.

Warning people that you’ve received a second friend request from their account is only helpful IF you’ve actually received one. And encouraging people to forward the message to their entire friends list, well that’s just pointless.

HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOUR FACEBOOK HAS REALLY BEEN CLONED

One easy way to check to see whether your account has really been cloned is to search your name on Facebook. If more than one account with your photo and details shows up, your account may have been cloned.

Simply contact Facebook using the “report this profile” link on the bogus account, and it will be removed. Most of the time, this is resolved within 24 hours, but could take longer to be removed.

FACEBOOK SECURITY BREACH


The reality is that Facebook announced last week that about 50 million users were recently hacked. The hacking was the result of a flaw in Facebook’s “View As” feature. The “View As” allows you to see your profile as others do. Users can type in a person’s name to get an understanding of what can be seen when a particular person is viewing their page.

Affected access tokens, which are like digital keys that allow a person to access their account without having to log in each time, were reset, forcing millions of users to manually log back into their accounts. So if you were automatically logged out on all of your devices on the morning of Friday, September 28th, then there’s reason to believe your account was susceptible to the vulnerability.

Currently, the “View As” feature is not available while Facebook works to rectify the problem, those who try to use this feature should see an error message.

HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOUR FACEBOOK ACCOUNT WAS ONE THAT WAS BREACHED?
When Facebook announced the attack on its blog last Friday, it said affected users would receive a notification at the top of their News Feed when logging back into their account explaining what happened and what steps to take moving forward.

If you received this notification, you can select “Learn More” to get an understanding of how this breach will affect you. If you did not receive a notification at the top of your News Feed, your account was probably not affected by this security issue.

If you want to be extra safe, go to Settings– Security and Login– Where You’re Logged In to see if there are any unfamiliar devices attached to your account.