Archive for category business tips
It has taken me 4 years, but I finally got to 100 posts on Curvine’s Blog! Here are some things that I have learned:
- It is hard to make time to Blog. You really have to schedule it in otherwise it will never get done. Or hire someone who’s job it is to do it. 16 of the last 100 posts were done in the past month, which roughly corresponds to when I decided to make time to write often.
- Coming up with topics is a bit easier than I thought. Once you schedule time to create a blog entry, you pick up on conversations or articles that are blog worthy.
- Blogging helps me focus my thoughts. It gives talking points to use with potential clients and links to send clients who ask frequently asked questions.
- LinkedIn is a surprisingly good free way to expose people to your blog for the 1st time. Over the years, we’ve used the groups section and the answers section to help expose more people to the blog.
Here’s to our first 100 posts!
Here are a few pieces we’ve come across that are worth a read:
- Marketing is Most Certainly Not Dead: “there’s a strong and vibrant army of marketers that have always learned and adapted to each impending change. These are the people that have long understood the value of blogging, have long understood the value of educational content, have long understood how to integrate social with email, have long understood how to segment and match leads, and have long understood it’s all about the community”
- Microsoft’s ‘Meh’ New Logo: TechCrunch interviews a graphic design expert who talks about “how much this particular graphic design job could have cost the tech giant (hint: Vit says that whatever price you think would be reasonable you should probably “add a zero” to).
- A simpler way to re-connect with your website visitors: “Remarketing with Google Analytics helps you create remarketing lists based on certain audiences who visit your website and show interest in your products” This is a great tool to target people who have been to your site once so that they can receive additional advertisements about your product or service.
Microsoft announced its new company logo today. That got me thinking: how important is a great company logo to the success of a business?
When my firm helps businesses with logos, we often spend as much time on the logo as we spend on the entire Web site. Clients are almost always interested in getting the color, font and symbol exactly right — and they will review multiple variations of the logo to accomplish that task. They will spend weeks or even months trying to find that great company logo.
For people who feel the logo is very important, they will say that the logo is the first thing many people see of the business. They will also say that once you have one it is hard to make changes to it. Others who don’t do much with logos will say that good customer service, relationship building, proper pricing and other factors more directly related to the product or service are much more important than a logo.
The fact is they are both right: people don’t buy products and services based on a logo. But, a logo can be one piece of building a cohesive brand that makes people more likely to purchase.
What do you think? How important is a great company logo?
A lot of businesses need help finding a vendor to help them get the word out about their services and products. Most don’t even know it.
The first thing many people think of is to find someone to do “SEO” (Search engine optimization). Without knowing what exactly that is, businesses spend thousands of dollars chasing specific keywords in search engines. SEO can be a great technique, but it isn’t the solution to all business marketing challenges.
The solution is to find a vendor who performs Strategic Internet Marketing Services (SIMS)? SIMS involves learning about the business and strategically selecting the right tools and services to achieve the businesses goals. A great analogy would be to select SEO is like the hammer, and SIMS is like the tool chest (which includes the SEO hammer, but many other tools). When all you have is a hammer, all of your problems are nails.
Strategic Internet Marketing Services goes by many different names and so do firms that only offer one service, so it is important to be able to distinguish one from the other. Strategic Internet Marketing Services Firms offer:
- More than one service
- Focus on providing a marketing service, as opposed to a product.
- Can name types of firms that wouldn’t benefit from their services (as opposed to saying: everyone could use SEO!
Have you come across these types of firms? Post in the comments.
Charging the correct sales tax in Magento for WA state customers (for vendors with a presence in Washington state) is a bit tricky. There are three options:
- Use a plugin: This would be the easiest approach, but it essentially isn’t an option. The only plugin that seems to fit the bill is apparently defunct. It is mentioned in this post, but the link to the software no longer works.
- Find a 3rd Part Vendor. There is a monthly cost associated with this approach, but using someone like Avalara is probably the only way to get sales tax exactly right in WA and many other states.
- Plug in your own tax rates. The way to do this is to go get the WA DOR sales tax tables, and modify it to match Magento import specification. Their are two major issues with this approach — some zip codes have multiple rates and you’ll have to filter out the lower of the two rates to avoid charging sales tax that is too low, and you’ll also have to maintain this over time, as the data changes every quarter.
I was helping a company today with a problem with their Web site and found it necessary to reset the client’s password. I couldn’t find the button to do it myself, so I chatted with the support staff online. They were more than willing to reset my password once I provide the client’s name and their mailing address.
Of course, their mailing address is on the Web site and the client’s name was easy to figure out with a Google search. The irony was I was resetting their password because their old password had been compromised! Little did I know how easy it would be to compromise an account.
I really can’t believe it is 2012 and security is still this lax. It isn’t just this one company (who I am intentionally not naming), it is everywhere, even at large companies like Amazon and Apple.
Here are some best practices for authenticating clients:
- Have them verify their identity with information that is non-public. The last 4 digits of the credit card number last used to make a payment, last 4 of a social, the answer to a security question or questions all sound like good options.
- Offer to call back the phone number used during sign up. This won’t work in all situations but is an easy way to make sure people are who they say they are without asking any questions.
- Send an email to a known good email address and await a reply.
And here’s a quick tip to Web hosting purchasers: try calling or chatting with support and seeing how easy it is to reset your password. If it is too easy, switch companies!
A few weeks ago, I wrote about hooking up your blog to Google’s Authorship program. Once you’ve done this, it is good to check in on your progress and see how Google is using the content you submitted.
Google’s Webmaster Tools Authorship Lab page has some great information. It allows you to see which URLs have shown up in search results, approximately how often then appear and how many clicks they get. You can easily chart your progress over time.
What can you do with this information?
The key is to review the data and learn which articles you are writing are generating the most interest, and try and add similar content to as to build on that. So if you article on the shipping strategies generated a lot of traffic, perhaps another article on a similar topic might do the same.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the importance of keeping WordPress up-to-date. It is also important to do the same with most other popular packages. Here’s why:
Let’s say you are a malicious user intent on putting your spam links or other malicious content on someone else’s site. Like anyone else, you like to do do the least amount of work and make the most amount of impact. If you could compromise 1 person’s site or 1,000 sites in 1 hour, which would you choose? Of course, you choose the 1,000 sites an hour approach.
With popular open source software packages like Magento, Joomla, Drupal and WordPress, the source code is available for public review and the organizations that put out the software disclose changes they make to their software packages. So all a malicious user needs to do is review the changes, see what was wrong with the old version, write a program to exploit that mistake, and go searching for old versions of the program. Since many people will have the old program installed, a malicious user can make a large impact with a minimal amount of work.
How do you avoid this? Keep up-to-date with software updates from these programs. Have someone technical help so as to make sure it is done and to make sure the updates don’t break something else.
Am I Up-To-Date?
With Drupal, in addition to annoying security notices in the admin screen, you can almost always determine what version you are on by visiting yourdomainname.com/CHANGELOG.txt. You can compare the version number at the top with the versions available at http://drupal.org/project/drupal.
With Joomla, the version number is either on the top or bottom of the screen after you login as an admin. Comparing that version with the version on http://www.joomla.org/download.html will keep you updated.
With Magento, the security notices are always at the top when you login as an admin.
I’ve had several conversations with folks recently about how SEO is just one of many tools to promote a Web site, even though it is the first and sometimes only item people think of. Here’s a more exhaustive list of tools you might use to promote a Web site.
- Social Media: such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Yelp and Google Plus
- Email Newsletters: opt-in only, without renting or buying lists.
- Videos: posted on YouTube, as a way of getting more people to see your product, linking to your site.
- Search Engine Optimization: trying to get listed higher in the Organic results of Google, Yahoo and Bing.
- Search Engine Advertising: posting an Ad on major search engines, usually charged per click on the ad.
- Advertising on Other sites: usually by an image ad or sometimes a text ad. Charged per click, per action or per impression.
- Blogs: starting a blog and adding content to it at least once per month.
- Guest Posting: getting the opportunity to write content for other people’s blogs or Web sites, with a link back to your blog or Web site.
- Postcards and other direct mail: Not all Web site promotion is online. Targeted Postcards can also be used to promote a site.
- Public Relations: getting a publication (offline or online) to write a story about you.
- Speaking opportunities: offline or online (via Skype or Google Hangout), speaking to your customer or clients can be a great way to tell them about you and your site.
I always get tons of questions about SEO. How to I optimize a site to get it on Page 1 of Google? What Meta Tags do I use (hint: they don’t work)? What are the secret tricks to getting on top?
My stock answer is that there are no tricks for SEO that consistently work. What does consistently work is to treat Search Engines like they are regular people. Why? Search engines always try to give results that regular people would want. So if you provide content that regular people want, search engines should pay attention. That will never change.
How do you apply this concept? When writing content, provide high quality content that speaks the language of your customers or clients. Provide links to relevant, high quality sites. Work with other high quality, relevant sites to get your link on their site. Provide ALT tags for visually impaired users, and make sure they describe what is in the image. Have Social Media presences so that regular users can easily follow your content. Etc.
It just so happens that all of those things help search engines too. But focusing on regular people is the way to success.