The Web For Business.com Blog

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


You Know Enough. Start Doing.

Mark Kawabe - Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Shovels in ground will trump knowledgeI'm going to take a leap of faith and assume that you know lots about marketing. How many articles have you read on the subject over the years? How many seminars and conferences have you attended listening to speaker after speaker giving you great advice? I don't think there's a lack of knowledge out there that's causing marketing challenges.

Do the Work

Perhaps I'm wrong, but I think the biggest marketing challenge for a lot of businesses is the process of doing the work. This is especially true for small businesses and entrepreneurs. I might be making an assumption, but I don't think I'm off here based on the number of people I've spoken to. Going by the Pareto principle, my estimate is that 20 percent of companies do the work while 80 percent don't, or do it ineffectively.

Implementation is Key

Part of my business is getting paid to make online marketing plans for companies. I enjoy the process greatly but I'm often let down at the end. There's a lot of business generation potential lost because of a lack of implementation. Imagine designing a car only to find out that the builders left out the engine and transmission. It looks great, but it doesn't go anywhere. That's what a lot of companies have when it comes to their online presence: a great looking website with no performance.

It's a Process

My suggestions are based on principles of inbound marketing. This approach focuses on creating exceptional content that earns the attention of qualified prospects and brings them into your sphere of influence. Your content is what attracts visitors and gives you the chance to convert them to leads. Once you have leads, you can create customers. With delighted customers, you create brand ambassadors who in turn introduce you to new qualified prospects. For the inbound marketing cycle to be effective, all the systems within need to be in place. When you don't implement one or more parts, the cycle doesn't function. This isn't because of a lack of knowledge. It's because of a lack of implementation.

If you need some help implementing or if you still feel you have some knowledge gaps when it comes to marketing effectively online, please feel free to give us a call.

Help me improve my online marketing

SEO is Never Complete

Mark Kawabe - Monday, June 18, 2018

Search Engine Optimization NotesSearch engine optimization (SEO) is by necessity a never-ending process. The actions you take today may get you top rankings in the SERPs (search engine results pages), but what happens when things change? Will the approach you've taken still be appropriate?

Google Changes?

Google is pretty much the only search engine most people pay any attention to when they talk about SEO. I haven't spoken to anyone lately who said they want to achieve top rankings in Bing or Yahoo. So, let's focus on Google.

Do a quick search online and you'll find a common statistic that says Google updates their search algorithm between 500~600 times per year. Not all of those will be major updates, but every year there are updates that seem to cause major rankings shifts for a large number of websites. Some sites night not be affected at all, while others might find themselves wiped out of the top positions.

Google's always changing, so if you're going to invest in search engine optimization, you should be investing in monitoring as well.

Your Competition Never Sleeps

Well, maybe they do, but if you've got competitors, chances are they're also working on their SEO. If you bump a competitor out of the #1 spot, they're probably going to do something about it once they notice. What will happen to your site's rankings when your competition improves their SEO? Keep monitoring and find out. You'll probably need to respond.

consequences

If your business depends on having good rankings in the SERPs, then a drop in rankings will result in a drop in revenue, assuming the same conversion rate. If you have 500 people per week visiting your website with a 3% conversion rate, you'll have 15 customers. If your rankings drop and you only have 100 visitors per week, you'll have 3 customers. For most businesses, more is better.

SEO is never complete. SEO professionals will never tell you it is. Do the work - get the results - monitor for changes - take remedial action when necessary. For the health of your business, avoid the mistake of thinking you're ever "done" with search engine optimization.

If you need some SEO advice or assistance, please give us a call!

Help me improve my SEO

For the Love of Pete - Update!

Mark Kawabe - Wednesday, June 13, 2018

UpdateWordPress websites are now the norm. As with most content management systems (CMS), there are lots of moving parts, and these are constantly being updated. Failure to update a WordPress website can lead to your site being hacked, which is a generally unpleasant experience for everyone, and could be costly for you.

What Moving Parts?

When you use WordPress, you're using an open source piece of software. The core WordPress installation is updated fairly regularly to fix security and functionality issues. In addition, your site probably uses a theme, which is an add-on to the core WordPress installation. Themes add functionality, and they are also updated regularly to keep up with WordPress changes. Then there are plugins, which are small bits of software that add more functions that WordPress and your theme don't include themselves. These plugins are also updated on a regular basis.

Ignoring Updates

I've been told by website managers that they're afraid to update WordPress because they're afraid things might break. I'll be the first to admit that sometimes, updates do cause problems. However, that's relatively rare, and you can get around breakage by making sure you back up your website files and database first. If we built your website, there's a backup plugin installed that runs daily database and weekly full backups, and you can always call us if something goes awry on an update.

consequences

What happens when your site gets hacked? Stress. Panic. Fear. Unnecessary spending. Avoid it all by keeping your WordPress website updated, backed up, and secured.

With all the technology at your fingertips, there's no excuse not to keep your WordPress website's components up to date. Actually, there's only one: lack of knowledge. It's not hard to learn, and if you need some help, we'll be happy to teach you. I strongly encourage you to get educated, and if you need some help, just click the big green button and we'll take care of you, so you can take care of yourself going forward :)

Help me understand how to keep my WordPress site up to date

The Right Tools for the Job

Mark Kawabe - Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Right Tools For The Job.In the online marketing world, there are dozens of tools that you can use to "make your job easier". The problem is, sometimes you don't know what the tools are best used for. You can waste a lot of time using a tool that's not right for the job, or using the right tool but using it improperly.

Your Website

My view on websites is that they should be central to your online presence. Almost everything you post on social media should be referencing what is available on your site. Think of it this way: if it's worth saying on social media, it's worth having on your site as a more "permanent" resource.

Making a website like this creates authority, which is what Google's looking for in a site. Want your SEO efforts to pay off? Then make your website better. Pushing all your good content out via social media may get you likes and shares, but it won't do any good for your site. You're investing money in your site through design and hosting at the very least. Maximize your investment and build an awesome asset!

Email Marketing

Yes, I know. Email is for "old people". "Millennials prefer texting." Yada yada yada. The majority of working people use email daily for work and personal use. Email reaches people across all demographics. Don't buy into the BS that a certain segment of society doesn't use it, because it's not true. HOW people use email is different. Older generations may be more used to checking email on a desktop or laptop. Younger people may check using smartphones. Regardless, they're checking email, so learn how they're checking and respond accordingly. Email on a smartphone? Your template had better be responsive. Personalize your messages and tailor your lists to adapt to changing usage patterns. You can use "old" technology in new and better ways.

Social Media Marketing

Personally, I see people giving up on social far too soon. Why? Because it takes work. Reposting will only take you so far. If you have nothing to say that your audience will find valuable, then don't say anything. Cat photos? Unless you can relate it to your business, please don't. If you're in business and you don't have a lot of time, look at using automation to help with your social media duties. You can set up scheduled posts days, weeks or months in advance. Those same automation tools can help keep you informed about responses etc., so you won't drop the ball when a scheduled post inspires a ton of interest. Again, you still need to put in the work when it comes to content generation, but there are ways to make things go easier.

Search Engine Optimization

Unless you're in the top 10 results for every conceivable keyword search your audience might use to find you, SEO is never complete. There's always more you can do to stay on top and ahead of your competitors, who if they're smart, are trying to get to be in the #1 position themselves. At the very least, you should be monitoring your positions on a monthly basis. Anyone who tells you SEO is dead simply doesn't understand how search engines work. Google (and the others) are constantly evolving and innovating as they strive to bring the best possible user experience to their users. Sites that don't evolve will be left behind.

Conversion Rates

This is the most important statistic most people ignore. Whatever you do on your website, email marketing, social media platforms or SEO can be measured in terms of lead generation. If you're not generating leads, you're not getting anywhere. Period. If you have 100 visitors to your website and you don't have any calls, emails, subscriptions to newsletters or your blog, something needs to change. Otherwise, your investment is producing zero ROI, and nobody likes getting nothing for their money.

When you have so many tools to choose from, it can be tempting to use all of them at once. That's a great way to cut off a finger! Focus on one. Make sure you're using it properly. Figure out your strategy, your processes, and make sure it's integrated into everything else. Only then should you introduce a new tool. Demonstrate mastery, then repeat.

Demonstrate mastery. You do it in your business. You can do it with your online marketing. We can help :)

Relax: It's a Solicitation

Mark Kawabe - Friday, May 04, 2018

Junk email coming in.If you're a business owner, you've probably received one of these before.

I wrote about this last year, but I thought it was worth talking about again.

If you don't read the contents carefully, you might think you're going to lose your domain.

Relax. It's a solicitation. It's designed to evoke fear of losing your domain. If you toss it into the recycling bin the world will not end and your website will remain online.

May the 4th be with you!

Looking for Gold in the Junk Folder

Mark Kawabe - Monday, April 23, 2018

Junk email coming in.Technology's supposed to make our lives easier. I think by now, most people will have noticed that while tech is good, it's not flawless. A case in point: the junk mail folder.

As spam detection technology has improved over the years, most people have seen a noticeable decline in the amount of junk mail that hits their inbox. Spammers know this and they do their best to get around spam filters. It's a bit of an arms race, and it's not victimless. Myriad legitimate emails still get filtered every day because the technology in use varies from recipient to recipient. Between mail server filters and then one's own computer's email filters, there are myriad ways for messages to get sucked into the vortex of the junk email folder.

I bet most people don't check their junk message folders often. Certainly not daily. I currently have 322 messages in my junk mail folder. While most of them are definitely junk, there were 30+ messages that were legitimate, including one with an invoice attached. (Sorry Jennifer - payment is forthcoming!) Some messages were from a regional Chamber of Commerce and a software company I'm a customer of. Others were from community organizations and some administrative type emails auto-generated by WordPress websites I manage. All legitimate, yet all filtered by my local email software (Microsoft Outlook).

As a sender of email, you probably have a reasonable expectation that your email will make it to your intended recipient. After all, you're a legitimate business person with a perfectly valid reason to be contacting someone. Yet Gmail doesn't know that. Neither does Yahoo, Microsoft, or the thousands of other email providers out there. What they see is only on a technical level, and sometimes those systems flag legitimate messages. These are referred to as "false positives".

Mail server filtering can mean your message never even makes it to the desktop of your intended recipient. They'll never know they missed something from you, unless you get in touch with them in some other way to ask. It seems silly to have to do that, but if you don't hear back from someone regarding an email you sent, it's a reasonable thing to do. Don't assume they're just ignoring you. They might not even know you're trying to reach them.

Of course, it's possible for messages to be diverted to a person's junk folder as well, which means they'll probably not see it for days at best unless they're one of those rare people who checks regularly. Unfortunately, I think it will always be necessary to have a look in the junk mail folder on a daily basis to make sure our technology didn't flag something as a false positive. Here's a positive thought though. When you find a false positive, you can train your email software to not treat future mailings from that sender as junk. You can create a rule to filter the message into a specific folder, or if your email software has a junk mail setting, you can tell it to always trust messages from that sender.

When you do this, you're essentially creating a "whitelist" of trusted email addresses or domains that you want to receive email messages from. If junk messages make it to your inbox, you can also flag them as spam, creating a "blacklist" of email addresses and domains to filter out or delete. You can also talk to your IT department to do the same with the mail server filters so legitimate messages from customers don't get blocked. 

In short, I don't think technology is yet at the point where we can completely trust it to never filter a legitimate email message into the junk folder. As my supplier will note, her email and invoice to me hasn't yet been paid, so being blocked can be costly. There's also a potential cost to customer relationships when email transmissions aren't flowing smoothly. Most of the spam is spam, but there could be gold in your junk folder so it pays to check it regularly.

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.