Small Business and Email Privacy

Most small business owners go to great lengths to protect their client communications from outsiders while also making sure those communications are kept so that they have something to refer back to. What would happen though if your Internet Service Provider (ISP) shared those records?

You’d go crazy, right? Well what would you say if they shared your email with the government, unbeknownst to you? Since your ISP ensures that your email gets to  you, and since you’d be mad at them if it didn’t get to you, did you know they had a copy of my email?

What am I getting at? Well today, June 19, 2007, a federal appeals court affirmed that as business owners we have an expectation of privacy of emails, even emails stored on your ISP’s server. The ruling says that the government has to get a warrant to get those emails. This is definitely a win for small business owners (large businesses typically have all their emails stored on their own servers).

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3 Technologies for Small Businesses

Technologies that every Small Business Should Know About:

1.       Blogs. Having a blog or using other blogs correctly can help you increase targeted traffic to your web site. Writing your own blog can help create the kind of community that every web site owner covets.

2.       Pay Per Click. Just about every business can benefit from a Pay Per Click campaign to get prospective buyers to your web site.  For some businesses this would be a year-round campaign and for others it might just be a seasonal campaign based on enhancing your boom season or mitigating slow times by offering special offers.

3.       XHTML. Most people that html is the language of the web. So is XHTML some racy version of HTML? Not hardly. It is actually a stricter web language that follows XML guidelines. OK, that probably didn’t clear up much so let me try again. HTML is a very forgiving language. You can screw it up pretty bad and a web browser will still show “what you intended”. XHTML is much stricter and requires the programmer to not leave out important pieces like something called closing tags. As all kinds of devices are now becoming web-enabled, having a stricter language like XHTML will ensure that all devices from handhelds to laptops to desktops (and even refrigerators) will be able to correctly read and display the web pages.

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Are You an Expert?

Everyone is an expert at something. You might be the expert on shoes. You know all about fixing shoes, trends in shoes, how to protect shoes in different climates or seasons, etc. If you’re in the shoe business, then you should be sharing your expertise.

Perhaps you are the ultimate hair care specialist. You know what styles will be popular in the season ahead. You know what the latest hair care products, from shampoos and conditioners to color products are. You should be sharing your expertise.

Perhaps you are the premier storage specialist. You provide onsite and offsite storage. You help families reclaim their garages and help businesses add storage without having to build. You know all kinds of details about how your customers can maximize the use of their storage. You should be sharing your expertise.

Why should you share your expertise? And why am I asking you to share that expertise for free? Because your customers will love you and you’ll get more of them. The easiest way to share your expertise is with a blog. This newsletter can be found on our blog at http://blog.educyber.com. I share what I know about technology.

While the newsletter has been around since 1998, we’ve only been blogging for a short time but already we are getting more traffic to our site and more interest in our services. Taking 15 to 30 minutes two to three times a week to put your expertise into writing for your blog can pay off big as a marketing tool.

If you try to write just ad copy, it probably won’t work. What does work is sharing information that helps to inform consumers. Tell your hair care clients how to keep their hair looking its best between visits. Tell your shoe buying clients how to protect their shoes in our four season climate. Tell your storage clients how to figure out how much storage they need. Tell your clients about whatever your expertise is in. And they’ll love you for it.

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Online Marketing

We’ve been getting a lot of calls lately about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and CPC (Cost Per Click) campaigns. Just today I had a gentleman ask about our rates for a CPC campaign. After I told him he said “I see that you also provide training, how much would it cost to train me to do the click campaign?” I told him and he changed the subject. A lot of businesses are spending big bucks are their web sites and then not going the extra mile to make the site successful. It doesn’t have to break the bank. THE single most important thing you can do on your web site is make sure that you actually use the terms you want to be ranked for.

I can’t tell you how often I have evaluated someone’s web site, we’ve discussed their key words and phrases and then I’ve asked, “Where did you incorporate these terms on your site?” and been met with a blank stare. I’m not talking about just posting a list of the key words. I’m talking about weaving the phrases into the content of your web site. I’m talking about wordsmithing your content so that it both reflects what goods and or services you offer AND uses your key phrases in such a way that visitors to your site can see that you do indeed offer what they were searching for.

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5 Tips for Businesses this holiday season

  1. Employees will likely want to shop online – let them know it’s OK (if it is) to use work computers as long they use them outside of their normal work hours.
  2. Spam has an incredibly huge upsurge at this time. Just be aware of this as there is little that your email provider can do.
  3. If your business traditionally slows at this time of year, this might be a good time to do some extra computer training. Keep you and your staff abreast of your technology.
  4. Try not to succumb to the urge to get the cheap computers available this shopping season. The big makers are trying to get rid of excess inventory which means the clunkers that no one wanted to pay full price for are now cheap.
  5. Budget now for your technology for next year. If you’ve got computers purchased before 2003, they will likely need to be upgraded or traded out for newer models. Do you need to upgrade your Operating Systems (is you’re not using Windows XP SP2, you do [sorry Mac users, Microsoft still rules in business])? Are you getting the most of the tools you already own or do you need to invest in more training?
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Plan for Success

Web sites don’t grow on trees. But they are organic. You are putting real money into your web site and you should expect real results. What kind of results you can expect depends to a large degree on why you created your site.

Do you have an e-commerce web site? That is a great start for setting expectations. Beyond “selling stuff” though, you should set numerical targets. Depending on your product it might make more sense to set percentages (increase sales by 30%) or number of sales (5 more sales a week) or a dollar figure (increase sales $2000 / month). With clearly defined numerical targets, you can begin to track whether the site is effective or not.

But there are other plans you should set for your site. Are you planning to develop long term relationships with visitors? Create ways for your visitors to interact with each other or with you. Blogs, discussion forums, and voting are great ways to provide interaction with your clients.

Is your site strictly informational? Determine, on each and every page, what you want the visitor to do. Do you want them to call you? Email you? Fill out an online form? Download something? No commercial web site is “strictly” informational. You want your visitors to become your customers. Plan how that can happen and then measure the results.

Once you’ve got a plan and have started measuring, evaluate on a regular basis. If the results are not what you’ve planned for, determine what your next steps are. Do you need to change what you’re measuring? Do you need to change the design or layout? Are visitors not able to do what you want them to do?

If you would like assistance in planning for success for your web site, call EduCyber at 720-275-4646 and we will help you determine what your next step is. (See – we planned this article out to help you realize the questions and then to call us for help.)

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