The Web For Business.com Blog

Internet marketing observations, perspectives, tips and tricks for your education and enlightenment.


Back to Basics

Mark Kawabe - Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Computer basics of security and backups.If you use a computer as part of your business, this post is for you.

What would happen to your business if your computer(s) were unavailable to you for a day, or two, or twenty?

This morning, I received a document from a customer by email. I clicked on it, then realized that it probably wasn't legitimate. That was not wise. It was a bad decision. I knew better, and I didn't apply my knowledge appropriately. Human error - happens all the time.

Upon this realization, I stopped everything. I shut down all running programs, made sure my anti-virus was up to date, set it to run a boot-level scan and restarted my computer. It's been running all morning so far, which means my primary computer is unavailable.

Fingers crossed, I'm hoping I didn't unleash some technical monster on my computer. However, anything's possible, and that got me thinking about my system's security and backups. Here are a few thoughts we can all ponder and a few actions we can take.

Have Up To Date and Always On Antivirus Software

I run Avast Pro anti-virus. It's always on, as it should be. My computer's on 24/7, so the anti-virus should be going as well. There are lots of anti-virus software vendors out there and I'm no expert on all of them but I bring this point up because you SHOULD be running anti-virus software on your system. Period. No excuses. I'm pretty sure Avast scanned the document attached to the email I received from my customer, but I'm doing an additional scan just in case. Really, I should know this stuff better, so let my lack of attention be a reminder to you: if you don't know if you have anti-virus software running on your computer, find out. Install it if necessary. Run it manually on any attachment you receive if you're not sure it did the scan automatically.

Have a Working, Off-site Backup

Where are your business-critical files stored? How about the software you need to run your business? What would the consequences be if nothing was available? Every business that uses computers needs a reliable and safe backup. If all your important data files are on one computer, you're incredibly vulnerable should something go awry. Do you have backups that are stored locally? Same problem - you're still vulnerable. A fire, flood, act of nature like a hurricane or tornado means you can still lose everything. Your best bet is to have a backup stored off-site. If you're not a fan of "the cloud", then have a physical backup of some sort that is stored securely away from your place of business. A hard drive or backup tape stored in a bank's safety deposit box might be a solution that can work for you. If your business is larger and has multiple locations, then having backups at different locations is an option for you as well. Oh, and if you're using specialized software for your backups, make sure you have a working copy of that software somewhere so you can recover your data.

Where Are Your Passwords?

Do you have a list of passwords stored on your computer? What happens if that file is inaccessible? Using an online password management software (I use LastPass), is a convenient and safe way to manage a lot of passwords. It's off-site, encrypted, and secure. There's only one password I need to remember to access all my passwords, and that master password is also physically held securely elsewhere in case I am seriously injured or killed. 

My Computer Industry Friends Are Rolling Their Eyes

Every time I get together with computer technicians I am treated to their horror stories. Often, the problems could have easily been avoided or the effects mitigated by taking care of security, backups, and password management. For a small business owner, the cost of setting up proper backups and security is probably going to cost less than $1000. It's a pittance when you compare it to the cost and stress of dealing with a data loss.

The Same Applies to Your Website

Think your website's immune to problems? Think again. There's always the potential for your host to have a server failure, or for a hacker to ruin your site, or for a regular update to break functionality. You should always have a backup of your website. Period. When you have a backup, you can always restore your site, or move it to another host if the issues are really serious. It is YOUR responsibility to have a backup of your site. Sure, you can go running to your host or your developer if something goes awry, but you should always make sure you maintain your own backups.

Reduce Human Error

Hacks usually happen because of human error. Opening an infected file can lead to all sorts of problems. Sometimes bad emails get through the best technical filters, leaving the final filter - the human mind - to deal with the situation. Educate yourself, your staff, your customers, friends and family about how to respond when faced with questionable emails. Read up on "social engineering" as it pertains to security. It's fascinating stuff.

I've spent all morning watching my computer run an anti-virus scan. Everything will probably be fine. Fingers crossed. However, since I made a mistake, I thought I'd use this event as a "teachable moment" and take the opportunity to remind you of some of the basics of computer security. If even one person takes action as a result of this post, it'll be worth it.

Content Atomization: Working Smarter!

Mark Kawabe - Monday, January 15, 2018

Content Atomization For The Win!For all you folks out there creating content, this post is for you.

Today I'm talking about how to get more attention by using a technique called Content Atomization. I can't take credit for coining this term as it's been used widely by other online marketers. However, if the concept is new to you, content atomization refers to taking one piece of content and repurposing it so you can use it on various online marketing platforms.

I'm using today's video (below) as an example. This video launched on YouTube. Next, it will go on Facebook. I've also made this blog post based on the video's content. Next, I'll give the content a re-write for a LinkedIn and a Google Plus post. There are probably a few bits and bites that I can use as Tweets and with an appropriate photo, I can put a link to this blog post or to the video directly on Pinterest.

Content atomization puts your content to work for you. Working smarter means repurposing and distributing your content as extensively as you can. In today's fractured online marketplace, your audience is going to be on multiple platforms. By atomizing your content, you have a greater chance of reaching your audience. You've worked very hard to create good content. It would be shame if it was't noticed.

Atomizing your content isn't a difficult concept to understand. Implementation is the hardest part. That being said, if you're going to create content, it's worth the time to atomize.

A couple of tips on how to start.

  • Start With Video Content - You can break up a video into multiple components to use on different platforms. This video is going to be on YouTube and Facebook. You can break the audio out by itself and use it for a podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud. You can't do that with a blog.
  • Use a Transcription Service - You'll note the video below has captions. I used the video captioning service provided by Rev.com. I don't have any stake in recommending them, but they're the company I used for this video. The cost to caption a video is $1 US / minute. For four dollars, I was able to get a transcription of my audio, which I used as the base of this blog post and will be used as the starting point for other written posts.
  • Cross Reference Your Content - Today's video will also be posted on Facebook, and there will also be a link to this blog post. I'll also cross-link from YouTube to the blog, Facebook, LinkedIn and other places in the video description.

The video below is the basis of my content marketing for the week. Essentially, you'll see variations of the content on this video on our other social media channels. If that sounds repetitive to you, well, in my opinion, it's not. Your Facebook followers aren't necessarily following you on LinkedIn AND Twitter AND Google Plus. You're reaching different segments of your audience with each online marketing platform you use. It might seem repetitive to you, but it won't seem that way to many other people.

If you have any questions on how you can make content atomization work for you, please let me know. Like, comment, share and subscribe!

A Month of Online Marketing Tips

Mark Kawabe - Friday, January 12, 2018

Happy 2018!

Yes, I know, we're almost half way through the month, but I'd still like to wish you a happy, healthy, safe and prosperous 2018!

In my social media streams, I've been posting tips to help make it easier for you to create, distribute and distribute your content online, and measure how you content is being consumed. This blog post is really a synopsis of our social media posts to date for the past couple of weeks.

Why am I doing this? A few reasons.

  1. It's possible you you may not be following any of our social media streams.
  2. Even if you're following, you may not have read anything.
  3. This blog article plays into the theme of today's social media postings.

So, there you have it. Without further ado, here are our tips for the month - so far. I hope you enjoy! If you did, please feel free to comment, like or share!

  • Did you know: for videos, a "view" on YouTube means the video played 30 seconds or longer. A video on AUTOPLAY on Facebook for 3 seconds is counted as a "view". Video view counts are often higher on FB than YouTube. Go figure. Dig deeper to measure engagement.
  • Video views on FB tend to peak within 24~72 hours as the video disappears from newsfeeds unless it's viral content. On YouTube you have more potential for long-term views (i.e. years). Both YT and FB videos are indexed by search engines, but YT videos seem to rank better IMO.
  • Whether you blog, vlog, send bulk email, or do any other form of online marketing, do it regularly. Create content your audience will like and then get it out there. Your online marketing activities should be as regular and necessary as breathing.
  • Weekends are a time to relax, recharge, and . . . WTF! Entrepreneurs are supposed to be living their passion and changing the world! Go forth and rock your online marketing today! BTW, you know you can schedule your posts, so it looks like you're online, right? ;)
  • A challenge of automating online marketing is the potential to develop a "set it and forget it" mindset. Inattention can lead to missed opportunities to respond and engage, defeating the purpose of your marketing. Engagement leads to results, and you can't automate that :)
  • How's that body of work coming along? With an archive of content, you can cross-reference your previous work. Mention it in your videos. Link back to it in your blog. Your "old" content is still new to millions of people. Long-tail content FTW!
  • If people don't miss your content, you have a problem. A VALUE problem. When your audience sees your content as valuable, they will miss it. Whatever your post frequency, provide VALUE.
  • Upping the frequency of your online marketing activity will never make up for weak content. If you're going to blog / vlog / pin / tweet / post every day, or many times a day, you'd better be delivering content your target audience finds valuable.
  • A helpful content development tip from my friend Carrie. When looking for topics of interest to your target audience, do some R&D. Research & Development? No. Rob and Duplicate ;) Unique topics are hard to find. YOUR perspective & added value is what your audience wants.
  • Work smarter, not harder. Find ways to atomize your content. One piece of content can be used on multiple platforms and spawn multiple "sound bites". Video gives you the most opportunities, but even a blog post can give you two or three solid bits for tweets and follow up posts.
What do you think? Did you learn something new? Did you like what you read? Is it all old hat? Do you have any questions? Please leave a comment and let me know!

Is this domain registrar being deceptive?

Mark Kawabe - Monday, November 20, 2017

Notice from iDNS Canada for domain renewalI think every domain owner in Canada must have received at least one of these notices from iDNS Canada. We manage a lot of domains so we get dozens of them every year. For the average domain owner who doesn't see these every day, let me tell you what they are.

First off, if you want to read along, click on the image to the right so you can see a larger version in a new window.

At first glance, when you read the headline, it looks like a domain name expiration notice. That's enough to scare a lot of people. Nobody wants their domain to expire. Now the reader is afraid. This is good for iDNS Canada and bad for the reader. When we get scared, rational thoughts are suppressed and our "fight or flight" mode is activated.

What most people do now is skim for pertinent details. The big boxes are a natural draw to the eye. Seeing your domain name in big bold letters, flagged for expiry, reinforces the fear. The date below (December 25, 2017) creates a sense of urgency. This letter is designed to create fear and solicit action.

If you asked domain owners to name their registrar, I'm betting a good number of them couldn't do it. So is iDNS Canada. Knowing this basic bit of information about your domain is key to not falling for this . . . this what?

Scam or Solicitation?

I did a quick Google search for "iDNS Canada" and the top 10 search results say these notices from iDNS are a scam. I disagree. What does scam mean? It's defined as "a dishonest scheme; a fraud". By that definition, iDNS isn't scamming anyone. I don't like what they're doing, but they're not lying or being dishonest.

The Truth Revealed by Reading

We're all busy, and stuff like this can sometimes fly under the bullshit radar. However, reading the first paragraph of this letter tells you right away what the letter is about. It's a solicitation.

"As a courtesy to domain name holders, we are sending you this notification of the domain name registration that is due to expire in the next few months. When you switch today to Internet Domain Name Services, you can take advantage of our best savings. Your registration for . . . Act today!"

The bold is my own emphasis, but it's clear that this is a soliciation. The third paragraph makes things even more clear.

"Privatization of Domain Registrations and Renewals now allows the consumer the choice of Registrars when initially registering and also when renewing a domain name. Domain name holders are not obligated to renew their domain name with their current Registrar or with Internet Domain Name Services. Review our prices and decide for yourself. You are under no obligation to pay the amounts stated below, unless you accept this offer. This notice is not a bill, it is rather an easy means of payment should you decide to switch your domain name registration to Internet Domain Name Services."

The bolding is part of the original text.

It would be easy to "go with the flow" and call this letter from iDNS Canada a scam. However, it's not. There's nothing untrue in this letter. Why it feels like a scam is because of how it makes people FEEL. They FEEL like it's a notice from their registrar telling them their domain name is going to expire soon. The layout elicits the "fight or flight" response and the result is that a lot of people transfer their domain registrations to Internet Domain Name Services. It's not a scam. It's not a bait-and-switch. There's nothing illegal about what they're doing.

And, that sucks, because it would be better if there were something illegal going on. That way, the police could shut them down. Instead, domain owners will receive this solicitation every year until they no longer have domains. Hopefully, after reading this article, you'll feel empowered to simply recycle notices you get from iDNS Canada in future.

If you found value in this article, please share it widely! If everyone does that, these solicitations won't work. That will hurt Internet Domain Name Services more than anything else you can do.

Keys to Content - Survive and Thrive

Mark Kawabe - Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Growing plantsComing up with ideas for new, relevant content that will appeal to your customers is one of the ongoing challenges of content marketing. My business coach Dennis O'Neill shared an idea with me that I thought worth passing along. It distills the essence of what your content should be geared towards.

Simply put, your content should be information that helps your customers and prospects survive, then thrive.

Survive and thrive. Clear. Concise. Simple, yet sophisticated.

What does your target audience need to know, right now, that will help them solve their immediate problems?

Once their immediate problems are resolved, what knowledge will help them grow and prosper?

You've probably heard this said a bunch of different ways. "Be relevant". "Give people what they want." "Be timely." "Be useful." These are all good ways to say essentially the same thing, but I think survive and thrive is clearer and provides more guidance. Ultimately, you can say the same thing a dozen ways, but sometimes it will be the way you say it the thirteenth time that is the Eureka! moment for your reader.

For every piece of content you think about creating, see how well your idea stacks up against the survive and thrive principle. If it doesn't measure up, work on it until it does. If you're going to take the time to write, really try to help your reader get to where they want to go.

 

Cryptocurrency Mining, Your Website, and Hackers

Mark Kawabe - Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Cryptocurrency Mining and Website SecurityJust when you thought there wasn't anything to steal from your website, those darn hackers are a step ahead of you - again. This time, it's your computing power, and that of your site visitors.

Why Computing Power?

Cryptocurrencies can be "mined". I won't get into detail on what this entails, but fundamentally, cryptocurrency mining requires a lot of computing power. That's where your website comes in. With a little piece of code, hackers can exploit not only the computing power of your hosting company's network, but also the computing power of your website's visitors. This kind of malware has been found on approximately 1.65 million users of the Kapersky Labs's security software.

This problem isn't just limited to small business websites. Enterprise networks that aren't secure are also a prime target. It's easy to see why. A large botnet of compromised computers engaged in cryptocurrency mining can make tens of thousands of dollars every month with little to no effort on the part of the hackers. Clearly, when one can make this kind of money anonymously, doing mostly nothing, there's a significant incentive for hackers to get hacking.

What's the Problem?

If your website gets hacked, you can expect to see significant performance hits as your host's server CPU resources get diverted to mining activities. Additionally, you'll be responsible for potentially distributing the mining malware further to your site visitors. In short, the only benefit to this is to the hackers.

Pay attention to your website security. There are plenty of resources available to help secure your website, most of them available for less than $1 a day. It's easy to do and can help protect you against existing and emerging threats to your online presence.

Don't Discard the Old Stuff

Mark Kawabe - Thursday, October 05, 2017

QuestionsRemember MySpace? Yeah, it's sort of lost the social media spotlight to Facebook, but it's not dead. 28 million users still use it. That's more than Pinterest (at 25 million users). Is it dead? Not quite. It's just not "cool" any longer.

The same can be said for other online marketing channels that a lot of people are writing off. However, there are still lots of businesses making lots of money using "old" techniques, so don't discard them yet. Here are a couple of thoughts to consider.

Email Marketing

With the rise of CASL and other anti-spam legislation around the world, marketers have to be more careful when it comes to marketing via email. While it's not new and shiny, email is still one of the most cost-effective ways marketers have to reach their prospects and customers. It's highly targeted, customizable, personalizable, and the tools to measure its success are easily available and understandable. You can also scale it up as needed. Email marketing's not dead. If you think it is, you should probably be asking yourself how you can use it more effectively.

Blogging

Content will always rule online. While social media is being used to get wider distribution, the content often still comes from blogs. It's just been re-posted to a social media channel. If you're going to participate at all in content marketing, you need to have content on your website. Guess what? It's probably going to wind up on your blog instead of on a static page of your website. Blogging is far from dead. If it hasn't worked for you, start asking yourself what you can do to improve your results.

Everyone has the potential to their own independent media company. Video blogs (vlogs), podcasts (audio blogging, so to speak) and other technologies are giving creators more choice on how to deliver their message. The challenge for you now is to create useful content that your audience will find helpful. That's the cornerstone of any online marketing campaign. Don't get seduced by the latest sexy technology when the old workhorses are still doing a great job. If they're not, then it behooves you to figure out how to do things better. Or, call a professional.


When Was Your Last Website Update?

Mark Kawabe - Wednesday, October 04, 2017

QuestionsFor small business owners, updating your website's probably not your first priority. I get it. I'm the same way. However, I'm here to remind you that updates are your friend for a number of reasons.

SEO

Let's face it. Google's the main game in town when it comes to being found in search. What does Google like? Current information, among other things. If there's no new information on your site, it may slide in the SERPS until one day you wake up and realize you're not on the first page anymore. If you want to have a better chance of top rankings, update your site regularly.

Humans

How do you feel when you visit a site that's advertising a sale from 3 months ago? Does it give you the warm-fuzzies about that business? Chances are it doesn't. If you've created a website with no dates, that's fine. It probably won't hurt you, but it may not help you either. If you want to stand out from the crowd, update your site regularly with useful information and perspectives. Chances are you'll be one of the few in your industry who does.

Creating Content

Don't worry so much about being a creator. Most of the topics you can think of have already been talked about elsewhere. Fortunately, your customers and prospects probably haven't done much reading on those topics yet, so your information will still be new to them. Another thing you have going for you is your experience and perspective. You will likely convey the same information in a different way than your competition, and it might just strike a chord with your reader in a way that someone else's article on the same topic didn't. Being creative often just means being you.

Frequency

So many people want to know what the "right" frequency is for posting new material. The short answer is it depends on who your target audience is. If you're in the wine business, posting every 30 minutes about a different bottle of wine is going to overwhelm your audience. Similarly, posting once a week when you're running an entertainment website isn't going to be enough. Professionals can probably get away with once a month, or even once a quarter, as long as the information is solid and useful. Of course, keep in mind that if you're going for some SEO frequency benefits, you'll want to post more often than quarterly.

Your website is your digital storefront. Keeping it updated shouldn't be considered a chore, but rather, a necessity. Be engaged with your website to be considered more relevant to the robots and humans who visit you online. If you're not relevant, what are you?

Ripples

Mark Kawabe - Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Ripples In the SandYour actions online matter. Every post, tweet, share, every opinion you express leaves a lasting impression about you and your business. As a business owner, your goal is to ensure the consequences of your actions are positive, or at least aren't going to harm your business.

This is more important for small business owners. In general, a small business' fortunes are tied to the relationships they've built in their community. Those relationships are your business' assets, so when you damage those relationships, you can potentially damage your business.

If you're a restaurant owner with very liberal political views that you share frequently and passionately online, you run the risk of alienating your conservative customers. If 40 percent of your customers are conservative and you annoy 50 percent of them enough that they never come back, that's a 20 percent drop in your customer base. It probably won't happen all at once. Worse, it will happen over time and you'll probably miss it. They have the right not to patronize you, of course, and they won't if they've been offended by what you've said about conservatives online. What does a 20 percent decrease in your customer base look like to you, or your accountant?

Thanks to the internet, we can dig up years of information on businesses and people. What you say now can come back to be used against you a year, two years or even five years from now. With every word you type online you're creating a legacy. My suggestion to all small business owners is that they carefully shape their online presence to be leave a positive impression upon everyone. 

I'm not suggesting that you don't express support for the things you believe online. Just do it in a civil, respectful way. This takes more work, but you're creating a legacy so I think it's worth it. When it comes to what you say online, your words don't just fade away, like ripples in a pond. Your digital footprint isn't permanent, but it's effects are long lasting, so choose your words wisely.

Calling Bullshit on Bullshit

Mark Kawabe - Monday, October 02, 2017

Manure spreaders onlineYou don't see large brands sabotaging their online marketing efforts. Messages are carefully vetted in order to preserve the brand image. Small business owners aren't nearly as careful about this, but it might be in their best interests do pay more attention to what they post online. Here are some thoughts.

Credibility

Posting information that is demonstrably false or, at the very least can't be proven true will lead some people to question your judgement. After all, if you're not aware you're spreading lies, what else don't you know? Your credibility is one of your most valuable personal and business assets. You should be jealously protecting it.

Connection

Business is built on connections and a perception of shared values and trust. Posting information that's not true will lead people to trust you less. Every message you post has the potential to weaken or break the connections you've made with the people who choose to spend their time and money interacting with your business.

Small business owners are more connected with their customers and communities than big brand stores. If your personal social media presence is available to your customers and prospects, you may want to keep in mind the potential downsides posting erroneous information can bring. While nobody expects perfection, a simple fact-check before posting / re-posting / sharing a meme / infographic / statistic can be a serious credibility saver.

As a small business owner, you have enough issues to worry about. Lazy posting on social media can have unintended consequences for you when the information you're sharing is wrong, either by accident or design. Just remember: whatever you post is a reflection of you, which is in turn a reflection of your business. Accuracy matters.