EduNotes Blog

The End of Cookies: Good Internet Marketing?

Are Browser Cookies A Privacy Compromise Or The Best Part Of Internet Marketing?

Pretty much everyone has heard of cookies. They are those (nasty?) things that track you on the internet, right? It’s just a part of internet marketing, yes?

Well kind of. But they are also those nifty things that once you’ve logged in to a site mean that you don’t have to keep logging in. They are the cool things that mean you are less likely to see ads completely unrelated to who you are and what you like to buy.

A cookie is a small file that can help a website remember who you are – great for online shopping when you put something in your cart and then leave. When you come back, your stuff is still right there in your cart. It can also be used to track you across other web sites or even across all the sites you visit.

Privacy Concern or Just Internet Marketing?

And that is where the trouble lies. Privacy is becoming an ever-increasing concern for folks as they surf the web – it isn’t anyone else’s business what sites I visit.

Now browser developers (like Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Mozilla, Safari, Brave, etc.) are ending their support for 3rd party cookies to help protect consumer privacy.

What does this mean exactly? No one is sure just yet. As tracking 3rd party cookies goes away, you can be pretty sure advertisers will find new ways to target their market appropriately. And Google certainly won’t lose out as they will still be able to track searches on their search engine and track users who use the ubiquitous Google Analytics tracking for websites.

Does this mean that your privacy is better protected? Not necessarily. The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) in targeting and delivering ads simply moves the protections to a different level. But this is a step intended to protect consumers.

How it will all play out is yet to be determined but if you are not sure if your site will be affected, contact us.

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Five Hidden Reports in Google Analytics that Every Business Owner Should See

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Every website should be using an analytics package that tracks what is happening on the website so you can make intelligent business decisions about how web visitors experience your website. Google Analytics is probably the most popular, in part because it is free. But it can be intimidating finding the data from reports in Google Analytics that you need to understand what is happening in your business.

Because there is so much data and because Google is continually updating the package themselves, it is important to know where the hidden reports are so you can get to them. Below are the five reports in Google Analytics every business owner or website manager should be paying attention to.

Before you start looking at reports in Google Analytics though, you need to have enough data to understand what is happening. We normally start with a year to date report – in the top right corner you can select the start date and end date for your reports. If you’ve been using GA long enough, you can even do a comparison to the previous year so you can detect trends that way.

The obvious reports of Audience Overview and Acquisition Overview are not the topic for today – but they are important reports you should review. We’re going to look at the five hidden reports that can unlock the secrets of how people are using your website.

Reports in Google Analytics:

  1. Events Overview. Found under the Behavior tab, this report reveals specific actions that users take on your site including if they clicked a “mailto” link which is typically used to send you or someone at your organization an email. If you have pdfs or other downloadable files you can also see how many (and what) they downloaded. If your site is coded properly for clickable phone numbers, you can also see how many people clicked to call. And you can also see how many people clicked a link on your site that took them elsewhere.
  2. Outbound-link Report. Closely related to the first report, the Outbound-link Report can reveal where people go when they leave your site. This report is found under Behavior -> Events -> Top Events -> Outbound-link. From here you need to look for Primary Dimension (between the chart at the top and the data below) and click on Event Action. Lots of sites, for example, have their social media icons on their site. This report can show you how many people actually click those links. Or if you have referral partners or members and there are links to their sites, you can show them how much traffic you are sending their way.
  3. Mobile Overview. This report can be found under Audience -> Mobile. It is critical to know from a design or usage perspective, what device visitors are using when they visit your site. Is it a computer? A tablet? A phone? What is the breakdown on these? If you look at your website a lot on a computer, you might think it is working pretty well but then find out that your users are mostly on their phones. Don’t make the mistake of focusing on the wrong medium. This mobile overview report can save you from making that mistake.
  4. Queries Overview – this report and the next require that you have connected your analytics to the search console but if you have, ooo boy do you get some good data. The Queries report is found under Acquisition ->  Search Console -> Queries. This delightful report shows you not just what is happening on your site but what Google understands about your website. You see the terms that people have actually searched for when Google thought that a page on your site is what people are looking for – this is called Impressions. This doesn’t mean someone clicked to your site, just the number of times the site showed up somewhere in Google results. You can also see the number of clicks – from Google to your site – which leads to a click through rate. This report also shows you the average position of your site for that search – hint: if you aren’t in the top 10, you probably aren’t going to get many clicks.
  5. Landing Pages Overview. This is the juiciest report you will find. Much like the Queries overview, it shows the number of impressions, the clicks, and the average position. In most instances, your home page is the top page signified by “/”.  You will be able to see how many impressions the home page received and how many of those turned into clicks. The interesting part is you can then click through to see what terms people were searching for when your homepage appeared. This report, in particular, can reveal a lot about how both Google and visitors see your site. If the terms don’t match what you do or what you offer, you might need to rethink and rework your page or site.

Don’t get lost in the data. There is a lot and Google has recently released version 4 of their analytics which will likely change how to access these reports in Google Analytics. But do pay attention to the data. If you don’t you might find your site is not helping you grow. To get a complete understanding of your digital marketing, you need this data.

And if your site isn’t helping your grow or you are troubled by the results you see in any of these hidden reports, we’re only a phone call away at 303-268-2245.

Because we are the power behind your website.

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What Every Business Owner Needs to Know about Web Hosting

Recently, a friend looking for cheap hosting reached out to me and said the important things to know about web hosting seem to be disk usage and inodes and could I help him understand that?

I replied that in most cases inodes are not nearly important as several other factors. Here are the things I shared with him that every business owner should be aware of regarding their hosting.

What you need to know about web hosting:

Backups – Every site should be kept up to date. Every once in a while, an update will crash your site. If you have good backups, it is simple to restore the last backup and get the site up and running. Sometimes, for a variety of reasons, you may need to go back several days or weeks. So make sure you know how long your backups are in place for.

Uptime – There are still some web hosts that struggle to keep their servers up – especially the kind that are in your friend’s basement – but even larger, more reputable firms can have problems. Our servers by contrast, were up five 9’s last year: 99.9992% of the time. You should look for a firm that is AT LEAST four 9’s: 99.99% of the time up.

Security – Hackers and others with ill-intent are constantly probing just about every website out there, looking for security holes and other ways to attack. I’ve heard business owners say things like “Well that isn’t important for us, there is nothing private or important on our site.” After a discussion about the ways that hackers can hijack a site to serve porn or other illegal or illicit content, these same business owners begin to ask me questions about enhanced security for their site. There are several things to consider for security. Among these are:

  1. Does your site have an SSL certificate that shows it is secure (does the url start with https://? If so you are good. If it starts with just http://, you need help!)?
  2. Do only the people who need elevated access to the site, have it? If there are accounts for former employees or vendors you no longer use, the accounts should be removed lest they be compromised.
  3. What kinds of security scans are performed routinely? As new vulnerabilities are discovered regularly, your website should be scanned daily or at the very least weekly.

PCI Compliance – If you conduct any kind of ecommerce directly on your website, you need to make sure your site meets the “Payment Card Industry” compliance standards. The standards here also change regularly as the industry matures and as the bad guys become more sophisticated. So you need to make sure your web host has your back.

Hidden Charges – Does your web host provide a low low price for hosting and then nickel and dime you for every little thing? That can get annoying really fast. “oh, you want an ssl certificate? We can certainly do that for $25. Oh, you another email account? $10 / month. Oh, need more bandwidth, $20 / 100 MB / month.” And so on. The key is to be prepared if you go the low end route to know how much each item will cost and is the host inexpensive or simply cheap?

Support – How does support work? Can you only open an email ticket or an online chat or can you talk to a real human being about your real issue?

For each of these items, there is not necessarily a right or wrong answer – it is just important that you, as a business owner or website maintainer, knows about each of these so that when determining your hosting you can make informed choices.

And, as always, if you have questions about this, please give Brian a call at 303-268-2245

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Web Hosting Unraveled

There are lots of different web hosting levels. You can pick the web hosting company that most fits your needs and budget.

If you are a do-it-yourselfer that likes to geek out on all-things-technology, you can use an inexpensive host like GoDaddy or BlueHost. If you are focused on growing your business, you will want to find a managed hosting solution that will work with you, taking on all the parts you either don’t know about or don’t have the time to deal with.

At its most basic level, web hosting is simply reserving space on an Internet-connected server where the files and data that make up your website are. These files are then served up whenever someone visits your site. Here are some of the key terms you should know:

Choosing The Right Web Host

DNS: Domain Name Servers. This is where your domain name is managed. If you have, for example, mail through G Suite, there will be records that tell the internet where to send any messages going to that domain to find the G Suite account. If you have a VPN into your office, there might be records that tell the Internet where to find that location. And there will be records telling the internet where to find your website.

IP Address: There are now two types of IP addresses – IPv4 and IPv6. The v4 address is probably something you have seen before. It looks something like this: 211.39.43.12. As these numbers began to run out, v6 was created and has a combination of letters and numbers to expand the range that can be used. But in both cases, a Domain Name Server is used to translate an IP address into a domain name. For example, our website IP address is 69.16.227.153. DNS is used so that you don’t have to remember the address but can instead just use educyber.com to get there.

MX Records: These Mail Exchanger records are used to tell the internet how and where your email is handled. They might tell folks to go to Google if you use G Suite, to Microsoft if you use Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365).  And it is important to get all your mail records set correctly so you can send and receive messages.

Firewall: A well-configured firewall will go a long way towards blocking hackers and others with ill intent from even getting close to your site. It also picks up / records all kinds of information that business owners like – what IP addresses are accessing the site (understanding the geographic location of users) as well as being able, in some cases, to identify the specific user

Email: There are lots of possibilities for 3rd party email handlers like G Suite, Microsoft 365, and others but you can also have your email hosted through your web host. While not as full featured as the 3rd party services, it is usually included or much less than the 3rd party options. With email you can Track Deliverability (to see whether a message was received or not), set settings needed for email like SPF and DKIM as well as create and remove accounts, reset passwords, etc.

So how do you choose the right web host? If you are a startup on a shoestring budget, you may want to go the DIY route with a HostGator or BlueHost solution. If you are growing and want to free up your time to focus on growth and connecting with customers or training staff, then a managed solution is probably a better fit.

EduCyber is pleased to offer a managed webhosting solution. When it comes to websites, many business owners struggle with keeping their website current or just making simple changes. We have the staff and the resources to keep your site at its best, taking all the pain out of managing your website.

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Remaining Relevant

There is a lot of news noise right now. Rioting around the world. Recovering from a virus. Murder hornets. How to reopen. Will there be a second wave causing another shutdown? Oh, and the US has now returned to space!

How do you remain relevant with your customers and potential customers amidst all the calamity sucking up everyone’s attention?

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Here are five keys to remaining relevant and continuing to flourish:

  1. Do not panic. If you make important decisions while panicking, you will regret it. Stay calm. Reach out to key vendors, customers and staff if you are in a difficult spot. But do not panic.
  2. Following closely on the previous point, stay the course. On March 9th, our outlook was rosy. The pipeline was filling up nicely and existing customers were ready to add new services. There was a two week period after that when things looked bleak as the pipeline emptied out and uncertainty ruled. But the spirit of free enterprise is strong in this country and our pipeline of new and existing customers began to fill again. You are not alone. Even businesses that are busier than ever understand that others are suffering. Stay the course.
  3. Communicate. Communicate to your customers what steps you have taken and are taking to ensure the safety of your customers and your staff. Communicate what is different. Our Church shot a series of short videos showing how things would work before, during, and after the service so folks can understand before they even go in the door.
  4. Leverage. You are not isolated and you have not been operating in a vacuum. Look through your contacts. Email or call people. I have received several very nice messages from my connections – messages just to connect and show concern. These are delightful and stick with you. Think about ALL of your contacts. Reach out to your LinkedIn connections. Try your Facebook friends. Of course go through your “rolodex” of contacts. Ask if you can help or if they need help that you might be able to do an introduction for.
  5. Get creative. My friend Mike Larkin started making videos. In a recent video he “introduced” his friends. He had printed off, for example, my picture from LinkedIn and my logo and had put them on a paddle board – showing my picture on one side and my business on the other. He proceeded to introduce several of his vendors and colleagues in the same way.  It is a delightful video that both shows he cares about folks and endears those of us mentioned to him.  Think about how you can do something similar – to both help others and draw your network closer to you.
  6. And of course there is a sixth key – use your website for each of these keys. Set it as the hub so that as the business climate, your people and your network know to come to your site for the latest and greatest.

You can remain relevant. It takes a bit of focus. Don’t be distracted by whatever the news is pushing as the latest thing to fear. Keeping your eye on your goals will help and of course, if there is anything EduCyber can do to help, let us know.

Between Maki and Brian, we know a lot of people. And we want to help. So whether it is something for your website or some other business need, let me know. Hiring? We know people. Downsizing? We know people. Need help with a local government? We know people. We want to help so let Maki or Brian know if there is anything we can do for you.

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The Road Ahead: Reopening

It doesn’t matter whether you are chomping at the bit to reopen or wish the government would keep things shut down until it is deemed safe, people are getting anxious. Even those wanting to stay in are getting cabin fever.

It is spring. The weather is getting nicer. People ARE going out. And every day more people are wanting to go out.

And that means that more and more businesses will be opening. How are you preparing, both personally and professionally for getting to what many are calling the new normal?

It is prudent, none of us wants people to die, it is just that some of us see the risks differently, to be prepared for the new normal. I’m not a fan of masks – the science, where it exists suggests that anything less than an N95 mask is more for show than for actual protection. But there ARE steps you can take to minimize the risk as you venture out:

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  1. Wash your hands frequently. (I can’t believe that has to be mentioned but, as it turns out, washing your hands protects you from bad germs.)
  2. When you’ve been near or in contact with others, avoid touching your face until you have washed your hands.
  3. Wash your hands frequently (see a trend here?) and when soap is not available, use hand sanitizer.
  4. Be extra sensitive to the senior population. Most of the deaths are in this population – protect your Mom and Dad – or grandparents, or whomever you have in your life that is older.

And for your business there are also several steps you should take to prepare to reopen:

  1. Move your communications, data, and email into the cloud. This will help for any work-from-home people you have as well as distributing your touch points – you don’t have to have multiple sets of hands touching your inhouse server if you don’t have an inhouse server.
  2. Update your policies – whether you interface with the public or just have staff that you want to provide a safe environment for, update your policies – in writing and make sure your staff and employees all understand them.
  3. Celebrate Your Uniqueness – Take the updated policy from step two and consider what is different from your old normal. Highlight the differences. Consider if there are steps you are taking that might be different or better than the competition.
  4. Tell the World – Now that you have a clear policy and understand what sets you apart, tell the world! One of the first things people are looking for right now, is what is your COVID-19 policy – are you open and what steps are you taking so tell the world. Post it on your website. Link to your post in your social media, update your profiles in social media and in search engines.
  5. Turn a negative into a positive. What  do we think about the current pandemic? It sucks. But instead of dwelling on the negative aspects, look at the positives. First of all, listen to your self-talk. If it is negative, shout it down. You got this. We can make it through. And we can get back to prosperity, where we were just a few short months ago.

Before you know it, we will be looking back on the beginning of 2020 as an aberration. But, much like the oxygen masks on planes, we have to first take care of ourselves before we can help others. So take care of yourself. And of your business.

And if EduCyber can be of any assistance, give us a call at 303-268-2245.

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FIVE (Digital) Steps to Reopening Your Business

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Join EduCyber as we walk through the FIVE (Digital) steps you’ll need to go through as you re-open your business. You’ll see how you can take the next steps with more confidence and figure out how to integrate the New Normal into your business routine.

You will learn:
• How to prepare your business as you re-open your door for your customers
• What risks should you consider and how to avoid it
• New-normal – Why ‘We’ve always done it this way’ doesn’t work anymore

Join us on Wednesday, May 7 at 3:30 – Register at https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZcvde6sqTgjHNP1L70p4JCP7IAdjJqZFBXb

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