Building Your Brand Digitally

We work with a lot of smaller companies who tell us straight up that they are too small or below the radar to have a brand.

We say hogwash!

Every single organization – for profit or non-profit – has a brand. Included in the brand are tangible and intangible things like:

  • Reputation
  • Logo
  • Standing of the leaders of the organization
  • Iconic images
  • Presence on the internet (web site)
  • Presence on social media
  • A song or ditty that represents your organization
  • What your customers think of you
  • A particular phrase or tag line that people associate with you

You can control a lot of these aspects of your brand digitally and those that you can’t control, you can still influence.

If you hear of a company or meet someone interesting at an event and immediately do an internet search for them or their website, you can understand the power of your digital brand. Sure it is easy for the big brands. I actually rewrote the first sentence of this paragraph, changing “google” to “do an internet search for”.  We get the big brands, from Nike’s swoosh to McDonald’s “I’m lovin’ it” to the theme song for “Game of Thrones”. But for “little brands” like you and I, what are we to do?

First thing is to do a search for your name. Don’t add a “.com” or “.org” on the end. Just your name. And look at the results. Check beyond Google. At least add Bing into the mix. Do you like what you see? Here are some things to look for:

  • Does your company or organization dominate all the listings? It should.
  • Have you claimed your location on each site you search on?
  • Are the images the location associates with you appropriate to your brand?
  • Are there reviews of your business? If so, are they favorable?
  • Do any of your competitors appear in the results?

If you don’t like any of the answers to these questions, we can help. Want to do it yourself? Here are key things to do:

  1. Claim your location in search engines like Google and Bing (and any others that pertain to you)
  2. Upload photos and other images that are related to you in your location profile
  3. Encourage happy customers to provide favorable reviews on sites like Google and Yelp
  4. Make sure you have a social media presence. If for no other reason, do it so that your search listings will have more links to your brand.
  5. Make sure your website is optimized for search engine indexing so that all of your pages will appear in search results.
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Managed Web Hosting

EduCyber offers something called managed web hosting but we have a unique way of handling it. Whereas other firms offering this service automate, automate, automate; we take the time to look at your site. We log in and make sure that your plugins are up-to-date.

We update plugins and core files to make sure your site is secure and has the latest features available. That alone is a huge comfort for our clients. We recently acquired a new hosting client who has a WordPress site and was scared to update the plugins in case something broke. We did the updates for him and verified that everything was working. We even discovered several plugins that weren’t being used. By uninstalling them we sped up the site and made it more efficient.

We provide several layers of security. Our web servers have a firewall that stops most of those with nefarious intent. For our WordPress customers we use a special plugin that stops hackers who try to get to the backend by guessing passwords for common user names like “admin”. With these and other tools not one of our sites has been hacked in years. We continue to follow and implement best practices when it comes to security to keep our customers sites up and secure.

We implement analytics. The tool of choice for several years has been Google Analytics. We make sure each site has analytics installed and functions. Then we even go through site performance every six months to help you understand what is happening on your site so you can make informed decisions about changes or proposed changes to your site.

We actively look for ways to help your site perform better. Since page speed is one of the things search engines look for, we make sure you are aware of what needs to be done to improve the speed or we will even go in and do it for you.

Since our tag line is “We partner with our customers to engage their visitors and convert them into clients” we work to make that partnering bit real. We want you to succeed. We do more than want though. We take concrete steps for you to help your site and your business be better with our managed web hosting service.

If you are already an EduCyber managed web hosting customer, who should you tell about us? If you are not yet a customer, give us a call today at 303-268-2245 ext 4 and we’ll get the process started.

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8 Awesome Internet Marketing Steps Our Customers Do to Grow Their Business

Internet marketing – marketing your business through digital channels like your web site, social media and other Internet venues – is not as difficult as it sounds. Try it

  • Continually add testimonials and positive feedback from customers. They don’t have to brag about how good they are. They let their customers do the bragging for them and now it doesn’t sound like bragging. It is simply another satisfied customer.
  • Post updates to their blog on a regular basis (multiple times a month). This helps establish them as thought leaders by posting new information regularly. It also tells search engines and visitors that they are current.
  • Post to social media – whether it be FB or LinkedIn or other venues – regularly with links back to their web site. This attracts visitors from social media that wouldn’t otherwise make it to their web site.
  • Use good SEO tactics when posting new content or updating existing content. There are plugins and tools that help you do this and make it much easier to do well.
  • Create specials whether it be products or services and integrate them into the website. Using time sensitive specials helps create the urgency that gets them to take action
  • Keep their code up-to-date – actually we do this for them but it keeps their customer info secure and helps protect them from hackers.
  • Use email marketing to stay in touch with their customers. Effective newsletters help you stay in touch with your customers and drive them back to your website where you can re-engage them and get more business.
  • Create hooks that engage web visitors and helps convert them to customers. Some use forms, others actually have us create applications that pull them in and give them value.
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Becoming a Customer (Part 3)

There should always be a next step! And if that step is up to you, you had better carry through! A well-known Hollywood director said “Showing up is 80 percent of life.” Successful businesses often take that one step further – showing up is 90% of success. Our first two articles on Becoming a Customer examined how a well thought out call to action is important and how good design should focus attention on that call to action. In this article we’re going to look at the next step.

You should ALWAYS have a next step

We all have heard or experienced the customer service story from hell – whether it be some kind of bait and switch story, a firm just completely dropping the ball, or endless promises of satisfaction that never materialize. But what about the delightful stories of promises not only kept but surpassed?

Probably the most important aspect of “becoming a customer” is to always, every time, without fail, provide a next step. That is the showing up part. And much of it can be automated or semi-automated. When a customer schedules an appointment online you can have an automated email thanking them and confirming the time. Or you can have a staff person actually confirm the scheduled appointment time works and then click to send the automated reply.

If you have people sign up for your newsletter. You kind of need to send out a newsletter. Otherwise you’ve just alienated folks. The idea situation is that, on confirmation of a subscription, the customer is sent the last newsletter automatically. But the other part of this is setting the proper expectation. How frequently will you be sending your newsletter? Adding that into the subscription process and sticking to it will make your subscribers happier.

We worked with a private school to build their website. After much discussion we set the call to action to be “Schedule a Tour” but we didn’t stop there. If you visit that school’s website and schedule a tour, you have just taken the first step in the enrollment process. And the follow up email lets you know that if you have already decided to enroll, you can click the link to continue the process. You always need to have a next step.

And if your site doesn’t have a next step, you should contact EduCyber today to remedy this situation! Call Brian at 303 268-2245 ext. 4.

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Privacy, Apps and You

What’s App?

That was a lame heading but this is not a lame topic.

Do you have a mobile phone? I think by now everyone (but the pastor at my church who still uses a flip phone) has a mobile phone with a data plan.

And you have apps on it.

Have you read the permissions you agree to when you install an app? It might actually be worth reviewing. Here are just a few that I have agreed to (without really paying attention):

Facebook can:

  • Read my calendar events plus confidential information (hmmm. Why does FB need access to confidential info about my events?)
  • Add or modify calendar events and send email to guests without owner’s knowledge (what?)
  • Modify my contacts
  • Read the contents of my usb storage

Why in the world does FB need to do any of these things? But if I say no, no Facebook.

That’s fine. FB is social. You might decide to do without. Not needed. But what about that map app you use? In getting great directions, what are you giving up?

Google Maps can:

  • Add or remove accounts on my device (why?)
  • Directly call phone numbers (without my knowledge?)
  • Modify or DELETE the contents of my USB storage (what happens if my pictures go missing?)
  • And then of course it always knows my precise location.

Pause and consider that for just a moment. I keep my phone in my breast pocket almost all the time. Google knows not only the address of where I work but the exact location of my desk in my building. That might not sound too bad. Are you one of those who tweets, facebooks and other mobile activities while in the bathroom? Google not only knows what you’re doing in the bathroom (if they know where my desk is, they know where your bathroom is), it also therefore knows how often you go there. It also knows how long you’re there. Creeped out yet?

These and other app makers are private companies and you have an agreement with them as to how they will handle your data.

But then there is our government demanding access to your data to these companies. And in some cases our government is actually demanding encryption that is below a level it should be so they can snoop. Which then makes our (your) data accessible not only to the company you agree to share it with, but probably with the government and even potentially with hackers that take advantage of this lower level of encryption.

Do I sound like a lunatic? Read the story about how our government insisted on a backdoor that caused problems last week for a lot of folks.

Normally I end these articles with a “Need help? Give us a call” plug but there really isn’t much that can be done unless you’re ready to unplug. If you do, let me know before you go – I’d like to learn if folks really are unplugging.

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Unanticipated Events and Internet Marketing

It is the middle of May and outside it is snowing. Like many here in Colorado I can only shrug and say “Colorado weather!” although I suspect many folks across this country could say “<insert_your_state> weather!”

But as I ponder this unanticipated weather event, it reminds me how so often, in Internet marketing, we face unanticipated events. It may be that a FaceBook update cancels out all of the marketing you have been doing on FB. It may be that a new Google search algorithm update pushes your site down in the rankings or removes you from their rankings altogether.  These events can and do happen.

You have no control over what decisions social media or search engine companies make. They have millions of customers and make decisions they believe are in their best interests. You need to make decisions that are in your best interest as well.

And that means that the centerpiece of your internet marketing should always be your website. You own it. You can control what appears on it. You control the content. The layout. In the Internet marketing realm, it is (or should be) the one thing you have complete control over.

So what should you do with your site? Two simple things:

  1. Make your site search-friendly. The number one thing search engines in general and Google in particular look for is content. Often I have been told by a client or potential client they want to be ranked number one for their key phrase – something like “Denver website design”. Basically the formula is <geographic_identifier> followed by <industry_keyword_or_keyword_phrase>. And I ask, “Where on your site do you use that phrase?”
    That is usually followed by an uncomfortable silence.
    Create content – lots of content and yes, it has to be original content – and make sure that your content uses your keyword phrases. Then post it regularly to your web site. Hate blogging? That is fine. Post news and industry updates to your site instead. Post case studies. Post testimonials from happy clients. There are lots of ways to get good, keyword-laden content on your site that the search engines will love.
  2. Make your site social-friendly. The easiest way to do this is to make sure you have some kind of social-sharing link on all or most of your pages.  If you have a content management system web site, you should be able to do this in a few minutes.  You can also connect your site into your chosen social platforms – Facebook and Twitter are the easiest as they’re the most well-known.
    Don’t be afraid to think outside the box a little though. If your business is very visual, consider how Pinterest and / or YouTube could bring value. In any case, make your site social-friendly so it is easier to plugin to your larger marketing plan.

If you haven’t already, I urge you to take control of your Internet Marketing by making your web site the core. Add social. Add search. They are great ways to enhance your image, attract customers, and get into new markets. But make sure you understand what your goals are and how you need to get there.

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Listening to Your Web Site

Have you every stopped to listen? Really listen? I have often experienced situations where someone has a question and the listener is so sure they know the question and the answer that they haven’t really heard the question and end up giving an answer to a different problem. And I’ll confess that more often than not, I’ve been the “listener” who didn’t hear.

So how does that apply to Internet marketing?

You ought to “listen” to your web site. You can listen in different ways:

1.       Talk to customers who have actually used your site. Ask them what they liked. What they didn’t like? What they noticed? What they passed by without a second thought? And then listen to their answers instead of making assumptions about what they’re about to say.

2.       Look at your site statistics. There are many different ways to do this – you know what you want people to do on your web site but you can listen to visitors by seeing what they actually do – what links they click on, what actions they perform, whether they actually do what you want them to. You can try free programs like Google Analytics and I also recommend looking at the statistics program on your web server – look for something called webalizer, awstats or logaholic (three of the most common stats programs).

3.       Run one or more tests on your web site. A/B testing is the easiest to perform and usually the easiest to understand the results of. Listening through testing can help you understand what the best message is “Buy now!” versus “Check out pricing”, which colors to make your buttons (sometimes a blue button gets more clicks than a red one, who knew?), how much information to ask for (do you really need a physical address to get a newsletter subscriber?) and other useful kinds of information. Google Website Optimizer is a good tool to get started with.

What other ways have you found to listen on your web site?

If you haven’t been listening but want to, let us know how we can help by filling out this form.

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Formed for Success

A pixel? A color? Or More?

For going too far we have the phrase “the straw that broke the camel’s back”.  In a similar vein, bridges often have a sign announcing their load limit which conjures up interesting mental images about what testing they performed to determine those limits.

But in a positive vein could it be that your web site is one pixel away from a break through? What if the color of your button was the barrier between you and a lot more customers? It sounds too easy to be real. But what if?

Look at these two forms:

First Name:

Email:

Garish Buttons Don't Help Conversions

First Name:

Email:

Button with Good Conversion Color

Which do you like better? Why?

Sometimes choosing the right color of button is the difference between no one ever signing up and getting lots of new subscribers. Users often report skipping over the bright red stuff as it simply is too bright or doesn’t fit with the color scheme. The important take away is that it should fit within your color scheme. A good example of this in action can be seen at www.gslcs.org where the Schedule your tour button clearly grabs your attention but the color fits within the scheme.

Now look at these two forms:

First Name:

Email:

Button with Good Conversion Color

First Name:

Email:

Button with Good Conversion Text

Which one do you like better? Why?

If you don’t think about it – and many folks don’t – submit either is very bland or some kind of kinky command, but neither really tells folks what is next. Sign up for Free on the other hand tells folks exactly what is going to happen if they click on the button. It is very important to help folks understand what happens when you click the button. One newsletter  provider users the same button “Proceed to Send” for the first two steps in preparing to send an email. The first time through this is a scary undertaking because the only way I can get to the next step is to click a button that suggests I’ll actually be sending the message instead of going to the next step. Then when I’m actually ready to send it, my choices are clear – Deliver Immediately or Schedule Delivery. If it were up to me, I would rename the first button “Choose Who to Send it To” and the second could be as simple as “Next” or “Proceed to Last Step” so I know I won’t be  actually sending the message yet.

And finally, look at these two forms:

First Name:

Email:

Button with Good Conversion Text

First Name:

Email:

Button Optimized for Conversion

Which of these are you most likely to fill out? Why?

Having a friendly button can make a big difference in whether folks will click the button so they can “click” with you. Using beveled edges and drop shadow, especially fitting it within the look of your web site, can make all the difference in the world.  If you’re experiencing problems getting folks to do what you want them to do on your site, give us a call (303 268-2245) to discuss it. You could be just a button away from success.

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Stay Secure with a Strong Password

Not too long ago hackers stole 32 million user passwords and exposed them on a web site. An enterprising security company, Imperva, did some analysis of all these passwords. Guess what they learned?

Your password probably isn’t strong enough. If you thought you were being clever by changing your super easy to guess password from “123456” (like 290,000 users had) to something more difficult like “123456789” you are in the same boat as the nearly 78,000 users who use that as their password. Oh, and “Password” was used by 62K users.

Some other not-so-clever passwords to avoid include:

  • 12345
  • iloveyou
  • princess
  • rockyou
  • 1234567
  • abc123
  • Nicole
  • Daniel
  • babygirl
  • monkey
  • Qwerty
  • 654321

What can you do to make your password more secure but not require a Ph.D. to remember? It needed be as difficult as you think:

  1. Make sure your password is 7 or more characters in length
  2. Change an easy to remember word by turning letters into numbers, e.g., password -> pa55word
  3. Use an upper case letter in a different spot, e.g., pa55wOrd
  4. Change a letter to a special character, e.g., p@55wOrd
  5. Use one or more spaces, e.g., This is my p@55wOrd
  6. Use really long sentences that are easy to remember and type, e.g., This will always be my p@55wOrd
  7. Change your password regularly. Did you know that February 1 is National Change Your Password Day? Or if that doesn’t work for you, change it twice a year when the time changes.

For most users, following 3 or more of the tips above will keep you safe on the Internet. But any system can be hacked. Once you develop a good password, don’t tape it to your monitor or beneath your keyboard.

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Giving Up

Over the weekend I saw an Internet Explorer 9 commercial. It caught my attention mostly because of the surprise I experienced. It has been clear for some time to me that Microsoft has given up on dominating the browser market.

In 2003 Microsoft OWNED the browser market. They had driven Netscape into the ground and had, according to www.w3schools.com, close to 90% of the browser market. But that year a forerunner of Firefox, Mozilla began. And they began to get users.

By the end of 2005 Firefox has nabbed nearly a quarter of the browser market and IE had fallen below 70%, never to return. By the end of 2008 Firefox had more than 44% of the browser market, IE had fallen to 46% and an upstart, Google Chrome had appeared on the scene.

Fast forward to the spring of 2011 and an amazing thing happened. Chrome zoomed past IE, grabbing 25.6% of the market to IE’s steadily dwindling 24.3%. And shortly after that Chrome began biting into Firefox’s dominance to the point where, as of the end of August 2012, Chrome has 43.7%, Firefox 32.8% and IE a measly 16.2%.

Which brings me back to the commercial I saw. Why, I wonder, is Microsoft investing in advertising a browser that is shrinking in its share of the market? I was on an “off” channel not one of the main networks’ main channels. If you’ve given up the market already, why would you invest in advertising?

While I may never know Microsoft’s reasoning, I can draw the following conclusions for how not to grow my business:

  1. If I want to get or keep market share, work it at the top of your market. It is easier to stay on top than it is to claw my way back to the top.
  2. If I want to advertise on traditional media, advertise something that is growing / coming.  For Microsoft that could be the Windows Phone or Windows 8 – a piece of the market that is ripe for conquering.
  3. Be clear on what you need to accomplish with your marketing dollars. It is good to find your niche and then advertise intentionally in that market. It is not good to find the portion of your market that you’re losing and not likely to regain and to market there.

But the positive take away from Microsoft continuing to advertise IE 9 is to never give up. I speak with a lot of competitors that give up after a couple of tries at something. I have found that some of our best clients come through persistence – especially in following up with someone who has expressed interest but hasn’t responded yet. More often than not that persistence is met with “Thank you for not giving up. I was so busy I didn’t respond but now I’m finally getting caught up.”

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