John Flynn is a business developer specializing in optimizing a business to their market, then converting casual website visitors into customers, using a variety of methods including Mobile Marketing, Social Media (Facebook), SEO, Video and Email.

New Year’s Resolution Fail

New Year’s Resolutions? Whatever…

How about a Ten Day Resolution? Once you have a basic idea of what you need from your business in the way of cashflow, and a method of how you’re getting there (generating leads, making your site visible on mobile devices, creating a higher converting website design, etc.), you have your strategic plan in place.

new-years-resolutions-seinfeld

At that point, shift to your operational planning. What can you do in the next TEN DAYS that will move your business forward? Those 10 days are powerful, hyper-focused and measurable.

It’s a shift in thinking that forces your mind to work in short bursts of creative problem solving.

Telling your brain it has a year to solve a problem is like sending it on vacation for 11 months. You will likely *not* hit your targets.

Ten Days to Business Success. Try it — if it doesn’t work for you, then you can always dust off your new year’s resolution on January 11. Lol

Do You Own Your Business Website?

Who owns your business website? The anwer may surprise you.

Your branded website is (or should be) your anchor point of your entire online presence. It’s a foundation of everything else and directly tied to your business identity.

First a distinction about what I mean by “branded website.” This is the website domain with your name in it, the website you have your name in the header graphic.

It’s not a keyword-based website built exclusively for search ranking, or a generic non-branded website that your leads generation company owns and uses to send leads to your business. (A lead-gen website is a landing page and an optin box.) In other words, your branded site is your business identity, it’s not a sole purpose page.

webhosting-horror-2You should own your branded website. Many companies will sell you on the idea that they will create your site super-cheap, register the domain for you and build it on their server. Sounds fantastic, right? They just removed all the obstacles and fears you may have had in having to deal with all those things you’re not familiar with.

Besides, you have a business to run, right?

Wrong. Major disaster just waiting to happen.

With your branded website, you need to own every part of it. The domain registration should be in your name, you should have control panel access to the files on the server and you should have admin access to the contents on the website so you can edit and change as you wish. Otherwise, you don’t control your business property, someone else does.

Domain Ownership

The two most common mistakes I see business owners making with their domain registration are as follows:

  1. Allowing an employee to register your domain in his or her name. This employee will inevitably be a former employee when you discover this mistake, and then you’ll be wrestling with a former employee and a domain registration service who never heard of you to prove that you are the rightful owner of a domain you have no control over.
  2. Allowing your website developer or “IT guy” to register your domain name in his or her name. Sometimes this happens out of innocent convenience, sometimes it is an intentional way to force you into buying future services.

I have actually registered a domain for a client but it was a RARE occurrence where they have directly asked me to take care of it for them. It’s not something I recommend, and in fact, encourage those business owners to transfer the domain to their account at their earliest convenience.

Aside from any malicious possibilities, what if something befalls your trusted employee or web guy and suddenly you find yourself without your business domain? It’s just not the way to run a business; it’s like a shop owner leaving open the possibility that someone can come in and take over their business one day.

Let’s say you’ve established your business website and you have quite a lot of content on it, links built, it ranks in the search engines… Can you imagine all the time and money invested, and then have to start over from scratch with a new domain?

Web Hosting

Your web hosting company should provide you with complete control over your files. If you have to submit a support ticket to do something simple like change a nameserver or add an email account, find a different webhost. Your webhost should provide a ‘control panel’ at a minmum and allow direct uploads of files via the File Manager in cPanel or via FTP. If they hem and haw about this, it may be that you’re on a “shared hosting” with other sites that are bundled under one parent domain. This is not only dangerous but stupid; you want to make sure your account is the only one on your cPanel, and that you are not an “add-on domain” for someone else.

I realize I’m throwing some jargon at you here — but feel free to copy and paste the above paragraph into a support ticket to your webhost. Webhosts who follow industry standards and best practices will have the right answers for you and will happily provide you with the answers you need.

Your webhosting by itself with an above average quality webhost company should cost less than $10/month. If you’re paying more, it’s possible that you have a bundled service; for example, regular website and database backups, or updates to your WordPress software or plugins on the site… It’s also possible that you don’t have a “normal” webhost but that you’re on a super-fast server like a SSD server or cloud hosting. These are all upgrades, and it’s not uncommon for webhosting to be $39 monthly or more under these circumstances. (TruBlu offers SSD webhosting to existing clients with all of these bundled features, but a fraction of the cost. The other cool thing about TruBlu is that our server is a dedicated server, so the only websites on the server are our clients’ sites. Far better to have a server with several hundred websites vs. a server with over 100,000 — and this is common with the discount webhosts and mega-providers!)

Most webhosting companies that are in the sole business of hosting websites have 24/7 support. This is not really necessary for local business websites but it’s a nice feature to have.

Your webhost should give you unlimited email accounts and very generous bandwidth & storage allotment. A word to the wise about discount webhosts like Hostgator: their “unlimited” bandwidth is not really unlimited. And you may be contracted with HostGator without even knowing it because they are one of the largest multimillion-dollar webhosting companies in the world who have bought up dozens of small webhosts over the years. Those webhosting companies continue to trade under their original brand but are really a HostGator company with HostGator support, servers and more.

EIG actually acquired HostGator this year, so now they are even more “super-sized.” Like fatty fries, they’re not good for you. If you’re wondering if your company is EIG-owned, see this list here. And you can see a list of the 10 Worst Webhosts here http://webdesign.about.com/od/findahost/tp/worst_web_hosts.htm

Summary

In a world of Facebook, Pinterest, Youtube, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram and others, they are in control of the content we post and the channel we publish. These properties are part of the essential authority-building and brand-building resources you have for your business online. But at the end of the day, you are giving up your intellectual property in order to participate in their licensed platforms. They are a means to an end for your business, but we know that those accounts could be shut down at a moment’s notice and we could lose those branding portals overnight.

Your branded businesses website is the only web property where you have ownership. Make sure you do, in fact, own it.

If you’d like more information about website ownership or quality web hosting, please contact me to discuss your present circumstances and how to make improvements.

Web Design Scams: Episode 92

I admit my title is a bit tongue-in-cheek. This is not part of an official ongoing series of articles, but it really could be. There are SO many web design scams out there… What do I mean exactly by “scams”? Well take today’s story as an example.

A new client hired us today for a re-design of their website, which is awesome and we’re delighted to be working with them. We’re especially delighted because another firm underbid us by quite a bit. Now most people would have just grabbed the lowest price they could find, but to this gentleman’s credit, he took the time to analyze their numbers and he learned a few things… the bottom line is that, over the course of a year, he would have paid nearly double the amount of OUR quote!

web designer santa claritaThe quote was a slick multi-page PDF that hit a lot of emotional hot buttons and played on people’s suspicions and fears. They talked about how each of their web designs was “custom” (more on that in a moment) but they “keep their prices low” because they work in volume. Indeed, they professed to have had 5,000 clients in the past 5 years alone. Yes, I’d say that’s a volume operation… Lol Take a  ticket and wait in line till your number is called, eh?

Of course, the company also involved a pushy sales person to drive the closing tactics. We had already sold our client on the benefits of using WordPress for his particular business because he needed something he could readily customize and grow with, and he needed the interactivity with search engines and social media. Mr. Pushy told our client that their proprietary platform was “just as good” as WordPress. That’s not even true for the reasons I just mentioned. But here’s why it’s REALLY not true —

It’s proprietary. Their contract locks their clients in to a monthly recurring fee ($97 per month!) just to use their CMS (content management system) — in other words, you can’t actually log into your own website if you don’t pay the monthly fee, and that does NOT include webhosting.  Here’s the other gotcha — let’s say you want to change companies and take your site with you. Can’t do that. It’s proprietary, only works on their system. And they charge you for every new page you want to add to your website. And there are charges for any additional features that would be very easy to add (and free) on WordPress.

Now about that ‘custom’ design… they mix & match enough to just barely avoid it being called a “template” but it’s pretty darn close. In fairness, their designs were not the worst (or most template-like) designs we’ve ever seen, but considering they were “custom” there sure were a lot of add-ons for things like feature sliders, content boxes, floating contact forms and so on. Those are all “upgrades.”

The most surprising thing about this quote was their claim that 5,000 business owners (if true) have fallen victim to this and pay every month just to use their own website… ;(

I’m not trying to nitpick a competitor. But business owners need to be astute in analyzing the features of any project quote and then try to find an honest consultant who will give them the straight skinny on what makes sense for their particular business.

I’ve been successful online since 1999 and developed hundreds of websites. Everything we do is with the particular business’ needs in mind — NOT some blanket solution for every business owner who I meet. While the needs of a restaurant owner are different from a roofer, even two roofers in the same town will have very different goals with their website. It’s important to start with the end goal, then look at your market, and arrive at a solution that connects the two.

HealthCare.gov Fail

Not to pile on, but seriously…??? With that much money, the only thing we can figure is they did not WANT it to work!

healthcare_gov-rainbow-wheel

 

Rest assured, if you were to pay TruBlu $630 million to build your small business website, we would get the job done and we guarantee at least six users at a time would be able to log in…

Do you need a contact form on your website? No problem. We handle contact forms of all sizes, including conditional options, redirection,  multiple choice, drop down, radio buttons… We’ll even integrate the form to our payment provider or email autoresponder.

If you’re looking for a website that offers a spinning rainbow wheel, we can’t help you… but we know a Canadian company who specializes in that.

We develop customized website design for local business, building business websites that actually work to convert your traffic into calls and leads for your business. And we deliver your project 100% stress-free… so you won’t need to visit healthcare.gov.

Call us today at (661) 347-0888 to discuss the needs of your business and how we may be able to help you. Some of our marketing programs are market-exclusive, meaning that we only work with one business in your area. Maybe that is you…

Monitoring and Managing Your Online Brand Reputation

What is your online reputation saying about you? Your online reputation is how people perceive you and the reason why they dobusiness with you. Therefore, having it go down the drain because you allowed a few bad comments to slip through the cracks will not just hurt your business, but will affect the buying decision of future prospective customers. To avoid this, you need to effectively monitor and manage your social following. Managing your online brand reputation involves monitoring and identifying online activity that could ruin your reputation while at the same time, being authentic and honest as you listen and address the situation.

reputation marketing onlineWith social media, consumers and users come together and interact. They are easily persuaded by others opinions and the reputation of a business can easily be ruined through dishonest remarks and opinions of others. In fact, the Global CEO of the brand value agency Interbrand stated, “There is lots of evidence which shows that you’re more likely to be persuaded into an opinion when you’re discussing it with a friend or someone who is perceived to be independent.” (Tim Anderson, guardian.co.uk, 2013).

First, being dishonest can seriously damage your online reputation. As you are monitoring online activity, you will come across mentions about you or negative comments that need to be addressed.  Being honest and authentic is the way to go. Consider this; you have the business on one side and the customer on the other. The business can control its communication through advertising, press releases and events. The customers control their communication through social media, blogs and more. There needs to be a happy medium where both can come together and work in unison such as in the case with Toyota and the way they effectively handled the 2009-11 safety issue with their car recalls.

Second, in order for you to effectively monitor social activity, you need certain tools. Remember, your online brand reputation can easily be ruined if bad posts or comments are left out there unanswered. In some cases, you might even want to remove them altogether, especially if there is no truth to them. If you are a local business in the U.S. or Australia, TruBlu will provide a free evaluation of your online reputation.

Another social media tool is Whos Talkin which allows you to see how other members of social sites are talking about you or your brand. You will not be able to manage the results that come up, but you can get fast results. Combine this tool with the Reputation.com service and you have a winning match to effectively monitor and manage your online brand reputation.

To sum it up, you have a responsibility to your business growth and to keep your online reputation and brand in check. Sure, negative comments are going to happen; however, it is how you respond and the actions you take that will determine if your reputation soars or plummets to its death. By utilizingspecialized tools and services and combine them with honest and authentic interaction to address your online followers’ activities, you can keep your online reputation nourished.

To learn more about controlling your online reputation, click here for our free report.

Building a Consumer Following with Social Proof

Whether you’re a small business or entrepreneur, having an Internet presence is key to gaining popularity and increased sales. In the past, simply having a great SEO strategy was enough to make this happen, but today, consumers are becoming wiser in the way they shop and buy items and services online. A lot of people are turning to social media web sites to find out what others are buying and uncover their views are of a specific product or service. In order to get in the mix with your Internet marketing, you will need to add social proof to your strategy.

 

What is Social Proof?

Social Proof Online

Social proof is a growing concept where consumers are turning to social media in order to learn what their peers are buying. Social media is playing a big role in helping people find out about products they are interested in. Some experts will even call social proof a form of peer pressure, where consumers are trying to fit in with friends and others within their age group. The three major social media sites where this is happening is on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

How Big an Impact Does Social Proof Have on Internet Marketing?

If you have tried every other method of internet marketing, you will find social proof to be the one that could double or triple your sales or customer loyalty. In the United States, over 15 million people do research on social media web sites before making a purchase. It also shows that people who are referred via social media venues are 71% more likely to make the purchase. CEOs who communicate via social media web sites have buyers who are 77% more likely to make a purchase from their company. This says a lot about the importance of using social proof as a way to increase revenue.

Ways to Incorporate Social Proof Into Your Internet Marketing Strategy

There are a variety of ways that you can make social proof strategies work for your business. Whether you have a brick and mortar company, blog, or e-commerce Web site, social proof is something that you can use to improve your online marketing results. Let’s take a look at why social proof is an effective tool to use:

  • Giving Your Business Personality: Making your business transparent with your personal life is one of the best ways to connect with your customers. You should select stories that somewhat relate to your business and that your customers can relate to. Sharing a personal story will make your business feel more human and give it some personality. It can be about virtually anything, from an event that you attended to a funny story.
  • Becoming an Authoritative Figure: Gaining authority in your field can help get you increased conversions in the future. Consumers listen to businesses that are authoritative about a niche. It earns their trust and they believe in the recommendations and reviews that you provide. Make sure to provide valuable information through your viral content versus always advertising a product or service.
  • Dealing with Negative Press Faster: Since you will be in the loop of the social media world, you will be able to quickly find negative posts that have been made about your company. You can then counter the comments or even correct the problem. For instance, if someone had a bad customer service experience with your business, you can publicly offer a coupon for a future purchase, along with an apology for the bad experience. You can even offer to investigate the problem and discipline the individual in your company who is making you look bad.
  • Positive Social Proof Boosts Sales: The best thing about social proof is that it helps to convince the masses that your product or service is worth buying. The more people consumers see purchasing from you and having a positive result, the more likely they will buy from you as well. Social media sites like Facebook can boast for you, by showing an exact number of likes that your business has and showcasing posts of other people who have mentioned you in their comments.

Using social proof is a smart idea if you are looking to increase traffic, boost sales, and enhance customer loyalty. Try incorporating it into your business to see how well it works for you.

WordPress Security Issues: 8 Steps to Avoid Common WP Problems

Contact Form Shortcode Error: Form 7 does not exist

WordPress Security Issues are a common problem that many business owners are not aware of; the common misconception is that once a website is built, it is impervious to attack. Especially with database-driven websites like WordPress, this is simply not the case.

Another popular misconception is that WordPress websites are not secure and by their nature are high risk for business owners. This is a very misguided perception that usually is spoken by individuals who suffered an attack, due to the fact that they did not follow simple recommended security guidelines for their website.

WordPress is perhaps the most popular platform for web development, and for good reason; it is extremely flexible in design, can be customized for a high degree of functionality, easy for the business owner to administer and add content, able to be highly optimized which makes it a clear favorite for search engine rankings.

Because WordPress is so popular, it is a bit like Windows… hackers get the ‘most bang fo their buck’ by writing infectious code that targets the millions of WordPress websites. For that reason, a WordPress site that is not protected is nearly certain to be hacked at some point. It’s not a matter of “if” but “when.”

wordpress-securityMalicious hacking of WordPress websites is on the rise. A recent survey found that 90% percent of businesses suffer some level of attack every 12 months. These attacks vary from infecting websites with malware to complete corruption.

What do you think would happen to your business if your website was hacked?
ABC news ran a story and said that in one year alone $1 trillion dollars worth of intellectual property was stolen due to malicious attacks. Small businesses are the primary target.

Here are the key tests a business must do to establish their WordPress security.

WordPress Version Test:
Keeping the WordPress core up to date is one of the most important aspects of keeping your site secure. If vulnerabilities are discovered in WordPress and a new version is released to address the issue, the information required to exploit the vulnerability is almost certainly in the public domain. This makes old versions more open to attacks

WordPress Config File Test:
Keeping the website wp-config file hidden from outside of your network makes it harder for hackers to compromise your database.

WordPress Username Test:
Its important to change the wordpress username from its default setting of Admin. Leaving it as Admin means that potential hackers have only to guess the password.

WordPress Install File Test:
There have been several cases where attackers have used the install file to create access to the database. Its important to remove or move this file.

WordPress Upgrade Script Test:
There have been several cases where attackers have used the Upgrade file to create access to the database. Its important to remove or move this file.

WordPress Readme File Test:
The readme.html file reveals to a potential attacker the exact version name of wordpress you are using. This means it would be easy for them to identify weaknesses in your version and use them to compromise your website.

Uploads Directory Test:
The Uploads folder contains images and files that are maintained using the media section within wordpress. Leaving this open to the outside means that attackers could steal access to hidden files. This would also be a copyright risk.

SafeBrowsing Test:
Google maintains a directory of sites that may have been hacked or compromised and are hosting malware or dangerous code used in phishing attacks. Its important to ensure that your site is listed as safe, or it may be removed from Google’s search engine.

Of course, analyzing your present security holes is halfway toward actually modifying your site to solve the various problems.

TruBlu Web Consulting values the security of your business. It’s important if you have a WordPress website that you solve these critical problems today; the vast majority of WordPress sites we analyze are not protected and are at risk of catastrophic loss. Avoid this costly data recovery and loss of business.

For more information on how TruBlu can help your WordPress security needs, watch this short video detailing how you can fix two of the most common security threats yourself for free –

Click Here – Solve Your WordPress Security Issues

If you want us to analyze your website for wordpress security issues, please complete the form below:

Google Panda Update – Episode 82

Today Google has begun to roll in a new ‘algorithm update’ and will affect the way local businesses market online. These updates are affectionately known by illegitimate spammy marketers as “google slaps” because oftentimes their site drops in ranking after Google updates their standards.

Google never fully announces what their updates cover, and for good reason (see spammy marketer reference above). But Matt Cutts, the face of Google updates, hinted at SMX West (a search engine optimization trade event) that it would be a major revision of the Panda update.

I’m going to give you the real skinny today on today’s Google update and any future Google udpate so you’ll never need to worry about this, ever again.

social-proofAnd – this will cover 90% of any information products (or software or snake oil salesman) being hyped to you as “The Solution” so you can save your money there as well.

Google was founded on relevance. In 2013, they continue to build their advertising platform on relevance and their income of billions goes up or down depending on how relevant they are.

In other words, relevance is important to their bottom line.

Yes I know they feature Matt Cutts as the spokesman about creating a better internet, blah blah… And that’s true – they may want a better internet that is more… RELEVANT… because that allows them to target visitors better and make more money in their advertising.

See how smart Google is?

Here’s how this helps you.

Google has given us the keys to the kingdom. They have shown us and told us over many years what they want to see in a website. It hasn’t changed.

Sorry what I meant to say was –

IT HASN’T CHANGED.

It’s always been about relevance, it always will be about relevance.

In practical terms, here’s what you need to focus on —

  1. quality, relevant content. Not thousands of pages of it and not just written articles. A variety of content being published in a variety of places and referenced from your website. Quality, not quantity.
  2. say something resembling anything. It’s okay to copy & paste (sorry I mean “curate”) but put your own spin (commentary) on it. Recycling online is just trashy; add something to “the conversation,” don’t just repeat what every other party guest is saying. In real life, that would be absurdly boring. Same online.
  3. incorporate as many Google properties as you can in your online efforts with your quality content – Google+, Youtube, Google Images, Google Earth, etc. – and again, reference this content from your own site where you have (of course) set up RelAuthor and Snippets
  4. with your quality content, be a person or business who elicits positive feedback on your quality content from real people using Social Proof
  5. #4 will naturally create links to your quality content, but in the event you want to create some more, keep it real. Google’s word is “natural” — diversity of anchor text (some ‘junk’ links like “click here” are actually very good), diversity of Page Rank (not all EDU or GOV sites!!), diversity of sources (articles, blog comments, social bookmarks, PDF directories, software directories, social media, web 2.0, the guy next door, etc.)

These 5 points will put you 90% ahead of most of your competitors in your market, no matter what market or niche you are in.

Here is a good discussion about what we should place our focus on as business owners — it’s not “getting links” but rather (as I mentioned above), “social signals” —

Weird how this is straight from the mouth of Google… LOL

That’s what we do here at TruBlu – we engage strategies that work in your business today and a year from now. Contact us today for more information or to answer any questions you may have about how to get more customers and sales using search.

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