EduNotes Blog

The Problem with Content

On the Internet, content is king.  If you want to be ranked in the search engines, the best thing you can do is put original content on your website.

We often have existing or potential customers get very enthusiastic about generating content for their site as we extoll the virtues of doing so. And they often follow their content generation plan very religiously . . .  for at least a week or two. But then other bright shiny objects grab their attention and they wander away from their schedule. Sometimes they never return.

Everyone can write, right? Sure we aren’t all the best spellers or best grammaticians. But who knows your business better than you? So it can’t be that hard to write a few lines of content. Or maybe you love to write. You can easily fill page after page about what you do.

But is your content web-ready? Is it optimized for search? Have you considered the placement of key words and key word phrases? There are a myriad of web specific things to understand and implement into your web site content.

  • Is it in a web-friendly font?
  • Is it broken up into digestible chunks?
  • Do longer paragraphs have visual cues to help readers quickly grasp the main points?
  • Have you used headings?
  • Have you used subheadings?
  • What is the call to action in your text?
  • How much information is too much?
  • Will your content look good on mobile devices?
  • How much information should you include so search engines can properly index your page?
  • Are there any visuals you can use along with your text to illustrate key points?
  • Did you actually use any of your key words or keyword phrases?
  • Does your keyword phrase appear in the first paragraph of content?
  • And the list goes on . . .

And what happens if you don’t consider any of these questions?

Most likely your site will be lower in the search rankings than you would like. Most likely you will attract fewer visitors. Most likely the visitors that you do attract will not be as meaningfully engaged as you would like. Most likely your site won’t perform for you. It won’t help you grow and attract new business. It won’t help you engage existing customers. And then you’ll blame your web design team for building a poor site.

Don’t get in trouble with your content. Instead, turn to someone who gets content and understands how the web works. If you choose not to have us do it, choose someone who is well-qualified. If you do choose to work with us, contact us today to get started.

 

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Privacy, Social Media and Mobile Devices

The original title of this was “What did you think social media meant?” But the issues we face today go beyond social media and enter into many private aspects of our lives. When, in the early 2000’s social media began to blossom, most of us were excited to be able to connect with and reconnect with family and friends both near and far. We didn’t give privacy much of a thought.

Even fairly recently a relationship initiated via a Facebook comment turned into marriage for a family member. How cool is that?

How personal is your personal data? Is privacy important to you?

So let’s be clear, because our goal today is to make things more transparent, every EULA (End User License Agreement) you accept – upon joining FB, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc. or upon setting up a new device like your iPhone or Droid – has ramifications. Ever read any of these? Nope, me neither.

So what did you agree to?

Some of the scary stuff that FB knows about you:

Open / login to your FB on a computer. Then click on settings (currently under the down arrow at the top right). Then along the left click on ads. There are a variety of things you can view here that Facebook knows about you. You can even ask FB to remove or turn off some of the items. But to get to the most personal items, click on Your Information and then on Your Categories.  Facebook knows what devices I access FB from and with what browser(s). They know my political stance. . . a whole bunch of other things I don’t think I’ll share here.

What about other social media sites? Are you on Twitter? If so, login and click on your profile photo in the top right and then click on Settings and Privacy.  On the left click on Your Twitter Data.  Some key things to review include Interests from Twitter, Apps on your devices, and Tailored audiences. One of the nifty things you can do is request an archive of every tweet you’ve ever tweeted.

Are you on Instagram? Probably the most interesting (and scary) item about Instagram is that it accesses the microphone on your mobile device by default. Whether you use a Droid or an iPhone you should be able to access the permissions in your settings. I went in to see what had access to my microphone and sure enough, Instagram was turned on. I had given Instagram permission to eavesdrop and they undoubtedly were.

So since we’re looking at devices, take out your mobile device – or devices as many have more than one. Open the settings.  On my Google Pixel (that FB knows I have), I click on Apps & Notifications then on App Permissions.  From here I can see which apps can access my camera, my contacts, my location, my microphone, my texts and more.

But to see everything that Google knows about you is probably the most alarming. Log in to your Google account and visit https://myactivity.google.com/myactivity. I log in to Chrome on my work computer. I have two Droid devices. Google tracks every app I use every time. It logs every website I visit. It knows every place I go and every place I have been stretching back to 2011. It knows where my home is.  I often speak texts instead of typing them. It knows everything I’ve said with these. It – or perhaps I should say THEY – have recordings of everything I have said to my phone. Under ad settings they list dozens of topics you like.

Some of these sites and companies allow you to remove or turn off settings to give you more privacy. Some, like Facebook, boldly tell you that turning them off might not mean you won’t get those ads anymore.

In any case we all can and should review these settings. It is your life. Take control.

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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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Privacy vs. Business Intelligence

Here are some things any web site can find out about the visitor:

Data points I can know about you:

Privacy on the Internet
  • Your IP address
  • Your physical location
  • Your computer name
  • Your operating system
  • Your browser
  • Your screen size
  • Your device (if mobile)
  • Potentially your phone number (if mobile)
  • How you got to my site (from search? From social? Referral? Typing the address directly in?)

Data points Google can tell me about you

  • What language you speak (or surf in)
  • Your location
  • Your interests
  • Your education level
  • Your age
  • Your gender

There are a number of things you can to protect yourself and to better control what information you share and with whom it gets shared.

The first and most obvious thing is to set privacy for social media sites. You should also set security on your mobile device(s) so that no one can access it if they find it. One of the biggest things you can do to protect your privacy is turn off all the convenient features on your mobile device like location awareness. You do lose the convenience but you do gain a degree of privacy – though keep in mind that as long as your cell phone is on, you are trackable.

Consumer reports has a list of 66 things you can do to protect your privacy. Try several of these to begin protecting your privacy.

One of the conundrums we face is who to let in to our “circle” and who to keep out. When I got my new phone with fingerprint unlocking technology, I was excited. But my son pointed out that Google now has my fingerprint.

As a business / web site owner, it is important to recognize that your visitors all want and expect some level of privacy. But we all want to understand the details of WHO is visiting the site, WHY they are there and WHAT they want to accomplish. Google, with its Analtyics tool, hides demographic and other data from you if there is so little of it that you could begin to identify actual people. Their idea if to give you broad information to understand the demographic groups that come to your site. But wow, wouldn’t it be cool to know that right now, Jim Adams, aged 39, with a wife, Naomi and two children in 1st and 3rd grade just clicked on a link in your web site – oh and by the way his phone number is ***. That info sounds great to business owners until they realize they don’t want the sites they visit to know that information about them.

If you are struggling to determine how much data to collect, how to interpret it, or how to organize the data, give us a call. We’d be glad to help. Reach Brian at 303-268-2245 ext. 4

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Little Data

In the Internet world, Big Data is a big buzz word. With the right tools huge volumes of data can be digested, analyzed, and summarized with amazing speed. Technology like this is what is driving technical inroads in an array of industries from understanding the human genome to making digital currency like Bitcoin to understanding shopping patterns of given demographic segments.

But what about Little Data? Your little website. It may not be as big as Facebook or have as many visitors as Amazon or Walmart but there is still an incredible amount of data that is available from your slice of the Internet. So how can you turn little data into a big benefit?

  • Email tracking
    Every mass emailer (aWeber, iContact, MailChimp, Robly , etc) has a variety of tools that can help you track the effectiveness of your email campaigns. Some of the key metrics you should look for include Total Opens, Unique Opens, Unique Clicks, Click to Open Rate, and Device type (responsive)
  • Social Media tracking
    You can track just about everything with social media. Some of the key things that will be of value to you though include: how many visitors to your website you got from social media, how many friends, followers or fans you have on your profile or your company profile, how many shares or views your posts or articles got and so much more
  • Site analytics (Google Analytics or some other analytics package)
    What started off as a way to track the number of visitors has now become a very sophisticated way to track any number of activities both on your website and prior to arriving – and even after leaving for that matter. You can learn what your visitors do, what devices they use, how fast your site is, create funnels and track actions
  • Call Tracking
    There are a variety of services that you can set up that will help you to track where your calls are coming from – from a specific landing page for a specific campaign, from a social media campaign or even from a print campaign
  • Campaign tracking (with specific landing pages or domains)
    You can create custom urls or even custom domains to run and track specific campaigns. Running an end of the year campaign to boost sales? You could have a special url (sometimes called a purl for personalized url) like http:// <your-domain>/christmas and track all the clicks to that link.

So even with Little Data (the data that you have available to you on your little slice of the internet) you can harness the power of Big Data and get a much clearer picture of what is actually happening. You can then design a specific plan to get that traffic to take the action(s) that you want them to – whether it be make a purchase, fill out a form, make a phone call, sign up for a seminar or some other factor that is part of your conversion process.

Need help figuring out how to do this for your site? Call us at 303-268-2245 ext 4.

 

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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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Is Page Speed Important?

Not long ago I wrote an article on Page Speed. Since then, page speed has continued to climb in importance.  How Google’s algorithm for ranking pages works is the secret sauce that makes them who they are. But we do know that pages that load fast are moving up in importance in the algorithm.

So what can be done?

There are a few things you can do that can have a dramatic impact on your web page loading time.

  • Optimize your images. Nearly every site we test has images that can be better optimized for display on the web. Remember, more and more people are using mobile devices as their sole connection to the internet. So having big images will slow them down and often not display as well as images that are optimized for mobile.
  • Tell your site to use browser caching. While there are different ways of doing this from the technical – like manually editing your .htaccess file – to much simpler – like installing  a caching plugin, this one change can score you points with page speed and ultimately provide a better user experience.
  • Make sure you are displaying the proper size of images. Together with point # 1, you can become the ace of images by making sure that you are displaying an image at 300 pixels wide by 400 pixels tall, that your image is 300 pixels X 400 pixels. If you’re loading an image that is 600 X 800 and then displaying it at 300 X 400, you can get a 50% reduction by resizing that image. This is pretty easy to do. I sometimes do this in Windows using the Paint program and it can be done in seconds, not minutes.
  • Deliver your files with compression. Windows users will be familiar with zipped files. That is pretty much the same concept here. Telling your web server to deliver files using gzip usually improves your page speed a bit.

Why do you want to have a fast site? There are two main reasons. First comes the user experience. If people visiting your site are met with spinning icons as your page slowly loads, they’ll likely feel like they’re spinning their wheels and go elsewhere.  Second is search engines. Having a fast-loading web page is one of the “search signals”. A search signal is a factor that Google or other search engine uses to determine how to rank a page for different key words.  While it is but one of many signals, since it also fits with a better user experience, we HIGHLY recommend optimizing your site for speed using one of the tools in the previous article

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Four Reasons Why You Won’t Want to Work with EduCyber

Yes, we’re telling you why you would choose NOT to work with us. Here we go:

  1. You want a website that looks just like your brochure

    If you see no difference between print collateral and
    your digital presence, then you probably don’t want to work with us. Your brochure is a great tool to hand out and leave behind after a meeting. Your web site though should be engaging and should always have a next step in order to deepen the relationship. If that isn’t what you are looking for, then you won’t want to work with EduCyber.

  2. You are not interested in measuring or considering ROI

    If you see your website as an expense and not an investment, you won’t want to work with EduCyber. Understanding how your web site fits into your marketing and sales is an integral part of our web design process. You can and should have an expectation of a return on that investment and we help our customers set and measure the return on investment. But if you just have a budget line that needs to be spent, you won’t want to work with EduCyber

  3. You want to hire a firm to do what you want, instead of wanting to partner with a firm that has strategic expertise in web design

    If your goal is having a firm that will place your pictures and your words right where you want them, regardless of how it translates in digital marketing, then we aren’t the firm you want to work with. With two decades of experience in helping customers craft messages and researching what does and does not work in user experience and design, EduCyber brings a wealth of information and insight to each project we undertake.

  4. You haven’t gotten new customers from your site so far so you don’t believe you can even with a redesign

    If your current site hasn’t generated a single new customer for you so you firmly believe that a web site can’t convert visitors into customers either, then you won’t want to work with EduCyber. When we hear that – and believe me, we hear it a lot – I like to add “so far” to the end of each sentence. “We’ve never gotten a customer from our site so far.” “Customers in our industry don’t come through the website so far.” “With our business model, we don’t get customers through our website so far”. And on and on.

Those who do choose to work with EduCyber become believers when their phone rings or the email, comes in and suddenly a connection from their website becomes a customer.

If the reasons above don’t apply to you, you might want to Work With Us.

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Social Media: Is it Worth it?

A decade ago, social media was fun. It was new. It was fresh. Perhaps even exhilarating. But now we live in a strange new world of social media where jumping to conclusions, imputing opinions falsely and disparaging anyone who disagrees with your politics or religion or race, or even gender is the norm.

With the recent disturbance in Charlotteville, Virgina, the mob (on social media) incorrectly identified one of the participants in a picture as being from Arkansas. And they unleashed on him, publishing his home address and calling him all kinds of vile things. Only they had the wrong person. When his employer – the University of Arkansas – pointed out they had the wrong man, many still refused to back down.

We have a client in the Denver area who received a bad review from someone in Seattle. It turns out the someone in Seattle had a bad experience with a similarly-named company in the Seattle area. We actually helped them reach out to the individual so they could correct it. Guess what the response was? That person was so enraged at that other company and too busy to be bothered to find the right place to complain so they refused to take it down. Yes, they understood they were complaining about the wrong company but they wouldn’t take it back. That would be like going to McDonald’s and picketing because your Whopper wasn’t prepared correctly. And refusing to stop picketing even after it is pointed out that Burger King is a couple of blocks away.

But what to do? Your marketing team is telling you the company needs a strong social media presence. Can you navigate social media and survive? There is no cure for stupidity as the examples above show. But there are many things you can do depending on your brand, your audience, and your message.

Don’t be afraid to be sassy if it fits with your image AND if the medium is right. Wendy’s made their mark on Twitter by being (for the most part) funny but also pretty sassy:

But beware – you have to finesse this just right or you will get roasted.

But that is probably a bit too aggressive, amusing though it may be, for most of us. In a B2B (Business to Business) environment, establishing your company or your brand as the thought leader can move the needle in your direction. Two ways you can do this are

  1. Post original content and
  2. Share other good content.

Number 1 is the sexy answer. And a lot of folks seize on it – “Yeah, we’ll post one a week, maybe even every day!” and follow that regime religiously for a week or two. It takes more than a week or two to establish yourself as a thoughtful thought leader.  The easiest, by far, way to proceed, is to put into writing one or two of the conversations you find yourself having with clients or prospects each week.  That is, in fact, why I’m writing this right now. Had “the social media” talk several times over the last few days. By sharing, and sharing consistently, people know who to turn to for help and more importantly, you stay in front of them so they don’t forget who you are!

In a B2C (business to consumer) business, the obvious medium is Facebook. And it can be a great tool to get the word out.  The good news is that Facebook is working to stop clickbait (headlines that entice you to click the link only to be spammed with something other than what you clicked on or simply stupid stories) which is very annoying for users.

How can you use FB in a good way? Several quick tips:

  • Create (or review) your FB company page. It is still changing. Fill out as much of your profile as makes sense – the more the better
  • Get some happy customers to write reviews on FB for you
  • Add pictures and, if at all possible, videos
  • Post regularly. Some can be specials or products or events but some should just be fun. “Here is what we are doing the office today” along with a picture of a fun staff or customer event.

Social media is a great tool to connect with people in ways that weren’t available a few years ago. Instead of having the communication be one way – from the company to the target audience, there is an opportunity for that audience to respond.  So be prepared for the responses, keep your sense of humor, and keep it real by showing the human side of what you do.

 

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Designing with a Focus

Do you feel like you’re trying to do everything to keep all your customers happy?

I have definitely seen that before. In the early days of the Internet there was a web site called Yahoo. Its purpose was to help you find stuff. But it tried to do a little bit of everything in order to keep everybody happy and the web site became such a hodge podge of stuff you couldn’t focus on finding stuff, which what it was supposed to be.

Then along came a new site, Google. Have you gone to google.com lately? While their logo has changed and they often have some kind of Doodle instead of their logo, there is pretty much still just one thing to do at Google.com. Search for stuff. Plain and simple.

Yet which company is doing better? Which company has far more offerings and far deeper reach? The one that has a simple focus. Google is all about search. But in focusing just on search they’ve developed Google Analytics, Google AdWords and Google AdSense, all great products that have a positive impact on their bottom line, provide tons of data to better improve search and of course provide great value to their customers.  Which leaves them wanting more . . .

How can you turn this ability to focus on what you do best into something you can leverage in all your messaging and in all that you do on your site?

As far as EduCyber goes, we have distilled it down to “We create amazing websites for passionate people to get real results.” Amazing . . . passionate . . .. real.  We love building sites. Whether we’re designing something cool or developing software that helps run your business, we love digging into the details to get the right fit for you.

So if you or someone you know is in need of a website, let’s talk.

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