Category: advice


Techsnoops Helper Marketing UpgradesStep Up Your Small Business Game

So, you have a small business and need to increase your marketing presence. What actions offer the most “bang for the buck” or great ROI? If your marketing budget is small, start with the basics to increase your reach on Google Local Search.

First, if you do not have a custom domain name, buy one now. Your domain name and business name must be unified so that customers can find you quickly. More than 70% of customers do local searches on their smartphone when looking for services. You must be listed. And if you have not formally registered your name, do it now. You don’t want to have to change your branding later if someone else takes your name.

Next, if you cannot afford professional web design just yet, make sure you create an attractive LinkedIn company page using your business and domain name. Park a simple template landing page on your domain name with contact phone number and email so customers can connect with you. Although not optimal, a template landing page is better than not being found.

Webdesign Ninja Techsnoop

Professional Email

A branded, professional email is important to distinguish you between hobbyists and serious business professionals. In fact, without a professional email address, LinkedIn will not allow you to create a company page. There are also many services on the internet that won’t accept your registration with a generic email address.

Yet another reason for a professional email address; Yahoo mail has had over 54 outage issues since January 1, 2017. This means if you are using a Yahoo address for business, you are missing messages. Since timely response to customers is a major reason for customers to switch, you cannot afford this. Techsnoop loves Yahoo and has used them for years, but not for business.

Cheap Marketing Upgrades

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Use 2017 as the year you narrow the gap between your business and the big box stores. Create a seamless online experience for your customers.

Webdesign Ninja Techsnoop

Starting or updating a small business website? Interview your web designers like you would for employees. Here’s some tips.

Small business owners are busy wearing multiple hats running a business. So when it comes to technical solutions, most small business owners choose to outsource their website creation. To select a great designer or agency, you need to know some designer-speak. If terms like SEO, SEM, newsletters and list building are foreign to you, keep reading.

The purpose of your website is to increase your business income. Even if you don’t have an e-commerce site, bringing customers to your store or enticing them to call is the primary focus of a website. But if your site is not found by potential customers, no conversions can happen.

SEO = Search Engine Optimization; the process of having your site appear in search results high enough to cause clicks by customers.

SEM = Search Engine Marketing; the process of using paid search results to drive marketing activity.

To prepare for the web designer interview process, make a list of goals for your website. Decide on a color scheme and branding that you think reflects your business. Next, write a description of your ideal target customer. Having a picture of who you want to target helps direct the design process.

Does the designer communicate well?

Every tech person communicates differently. But when developing your website, the designer must be able to understand your goals and communicate how they will accomplish this. Is the designer clear, using normal English or do they use technobabble to make themselves sound smarter? This is a sign that working with the designer will be difficult.

Is there a portfolio you can review?

Does the designer have a range of work styles? Or do all their projects look exactly alike? It is ok for a designer to specialize in one area of design, but if your web site does not fall into their speciality, it won’t be a good match. Also see if the designer can do other things such as business cards to match your site. A web designer with multiple talents helps you to keep your branding consistent.

How will the web site be managed?

What platform will the designer use? Will you use an administration board to update the site or will the designer make updates for you? Will the designer train you to use the back-end? Most designers can offer a flat monthly fee for updating your site. But there are many options for making small updates to content, photos and prices yourself. Consider if you have the time to do this task.

Responsive Website Techsnoop

Will the Designer create a wire frame or mock-up of the site?

There are many wire frame or prototyping tools available so that you can get a good view of how the site will look and behave. Does the price include creating a wire frame or mock-up? If not, this is an important add-on feature that you should consider. You don’t want to be surprised with a difficult to navigate site that is not user-friendly.

How Much Will It Cost and What does it include?

Know what your budget is for a website and what features you need to accomplish your goals. Be sure to get a written proposal of the functions included and the total price. Understand that any changes will come at an increased cost.

Does the price include editing photos, uploading starter content and training? What about a logo? These are usually extra features that may cost more.

If the web designer is good to communicate with, offers the services you need and is within your budget, you are most of the way to your new website!

Need more help? DKemp Designs is always happy to help with a free consultation call.

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Social Media graph

Credit: Custora

Everyone knows you can’t be in business without a social media presence.  Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn are absolute musts to engage your audience and expand business presence.

But did you know that good ol’ e-mail marketing still beats the crap out of all platforms in actually making sales?

According to CNN Tech “Custora found that customers who came to retailers from search were more than 50 percent more valuable than average” and, more importantly, “E-mail customers were nearly 11 percent more valuable than average

Why?

Possible reasons; people want to be active purchasers, not sheep being force-fed useless stuff.  Social engagement creates closeness with current and past customers.  Trackable purchasers are more likely to be new customers.  Engagement is about conversation, the brick and mortar equivalent of “I’m just looking“.  It becomes a way to turn browsers into buyers, but is a slower process.  And finally, social engagement is about awareness and learning.  Social media platforms let followers know about you and your business reputation and expertise.  These things all lead to sales eventually, but it is almost impossible to track this behavior.  Click and buy behaviors track directly.

Customers may use a search engine to find your site after following you on Twitter for 6 months.  But now Google search gets the credit for making the sale that you have “massaged” for months.  So don’t drop or neglect your social media.  Redirect social marketing energy.

Action Plan

So, what does this mean for the small business owner?  First, put your social media specialists’ hours into cultivating and maintaining a robust email list.  Right now.  Craft and execute regular e-blasts to your list and post to other platforms on the benefits of subscribing to your e-blast.

Next, keep your social media posts focused on your goals.  If it is to drive traffic to your website, post links to interesting information on your site.  (You do have interesting information on your site, don’t you?  If not, contact DKemp Designs right now for help).

Finally, SEO is king.  Work on your search rankings to get them and maintain them.  Ironically, social media is good for this.  So have your social media person work on making your company a household word with posts and web content.

Social Fights Back

Don’t think social media is taking this sitting down.  Twitter and Square have joined to create product cards that essentially act as instant ways to purchase products posted on Twitter feeds.  The product cards can also be posted to other platforms such as Pinterest.

This new model of selling directly through social media platforms will not only create opportunities for entrepreneurs, but allow business owners to track their sales better.

Let us know in the comments what tools you use to track sales.

Multi-ScreenWhen it comes to technology, the budget can quickly get out of hand.  Between buying the tech itself and content and subscriptions to make it useful, a trickle of money can soon grow into a river.

Techsnoop is here to help with tips on what to buy and not buy.  As a card-carrying geek, Techsnoop has trouble deciding what to buy and what to skip in the gadget world.  But one thing is a deal-breaker for tech Techsnoop buys.  Freedom.

This means that software, content and apps are the choice of Techsnoop, not the manufacturer.  Techsnoop is a control freak and cannot be held hostage to specific sites or fixed prices for content and tools.  For example, the HTC EVO 4G LTE smartphone allows you to install apps from Google Play, Amazon app store and even copy books from a computer to the phone all while offering superior phone service.

To Stream or Not to Stream

For streaming, decide what content you view most frequently, then review the offerings of each service.  Don’t buy separate streaming boxes unless you ditch your cable box.  The cable box and wireless router allow you to stream directly from each site so no extra device is needed.  Generally Netflix offers movies and older TV episodes, Hulu focuses on newer TV.  Each comes with a trial period to test out the offerings.  Due to the full Star Trek content and new Disney deal, Techsnoop is a Netflix junkie.

Mobile devices on the Android platform have many free options.  For instance, Amazon offers one free app a day on the App Store and many free books from new and established authors.  Visit the App Store each day to get the free app.  Google Play also offers free books, apps, music and more.  Sign up to receive email notifications of specials.

Multi-Tasking Monster

Whenever possible, purchase items that are multi-functional.  Don’t walk around with a Bat-belt or people will take pictures of you and post them on social media.

If you need a tablet mostly for reading, email and low powered game apps, consider a large screen smartphone and great bluetooth headphones.  A good set of headphones coupled with voice service allows you to make and receive calls hands-free as well as listen to music while reading or checking email.  Spending an extra $50 to $100 on a phone can save you the whole “which tablet” question.  Check out some great deals and options here.

For more high-end computing, try one of the newer tablets.  Some are heavier than a regular tablet, but lighter than a laptop.  The Microsoft Surface Pro comes with full Windows 8 and has lots of power for updating and collaborating on the go.  Samsung has just released a slew of new tablets that justify a look over.  From serious gaming to business applications, the new tablets may have you leaving your laptop at home.

CNET’s video on the top 5 money sucking tech should help you decide which services to keep and which to ditch.  Let us know in the comments what you tossed overboard.

 

 

 

socialmediaIf you are a small business owner, reaching the maximum audience is critical to success.  Without the budget for splashy TV ads and mass mailings, social media is the great equalizer.  Developing a laser targeted social media strategy is the key to leveraging this powerful tool.

First decide what audience you want to reach, then research the metrics for the various platforms.  Google has a wealth of website tools to track traffic and research SEO.  Create a message that can be communicated quickly and easily but encourages interaction and follow up.  Choose a tool that can manage your messages and your interactions without taking all your time.  After all, you have a business to run.

Equally important to your marketing efforts is your digital footprint.  How easy is it for customers to find your business and are the search results accurate?

  • Track your digital reputation by making frequent internet searches for your business name.
  • Note how many links come up and what rank they are.
  • Make sure all links are yours and are positive.

If your customers can’t find you, you lose sales.    Contact the search engine to remove any that are not you.  Yes, spammers will hi-jack your business name to re-direct traffic to their sites.

One great tool is Brand Yourself a web app that allows you to control what links appear in search listings for your business.  By following a number of steps, Brand Yourself walks you through getting useless links away from your search results.  This allows your positive links to rise higher on search rankings.

With both free and paid versions, this is the must-have app for small business and freelancers.

Next, choose one or more management tools to keep up with your social media news, followers and postings.

communit2Commun.it is a good product if you are unfamiliar with Twitter and trying to get the hang of who to follow, who to engage, who to list.  The dashboard gives views of your followers, engaged Tweeps and groups.  Recommendations are made for follows, unfollows, thank yous and engagement.  There are free and paid versions so you can try it out to see if it meets your needs.

Crowdbooster is a good tool for managing both Twitter and Facebook pages and multiple accounts.  It tracks growth, engagement, allows you to schedule tweets and posts and stats can be exported.  There is a free trial period, but no free version.

Let us know in the comments if you have a favorite tool so we can check it out.

socialmedia

(copyright DKemp Designs)

Social Media is the great business buzzword.  What is your social media strategy, do you have social media apps, how do you handle social media. these are the questions of the new consumer landscape.

If you are a small business chances are you don’t have the budget to hire a specialized social media master.  So you make do with whoever in the office seems to know the most.  But it is not enough to set up a Facebook, Twitter and Google+ page and hope masses of customers will show up.  In fact, Techsnoop has seen hundreds of business pages that have virtual dust on them.

Looks Count

First, is your page appealing?  You need to have a great logo and cover photo that attract interest and showcase your business.  The photos should be crisp and in-focus, not blurred or stretched out.  Here is where a little money goes a long way.  A professional graphic designer can create 2 or 3 cover photos in the sizes needed and you can rotate them through the year.  Next you need to post some interesting information on the page.  Blog or news items relating to your business are great posts if you don’t have any sales or promotions going.

Mix It Up

Next, do you like or comment on posts of others on your page?  If not, why not?  You should have at least a few regulars with content you can look for and like each week.  Mention others and interact so they will do the same.  This is what gets your “talking about” stats up on Facebook.

You wouldn’t go to a party and stand in the corner looking but not speaking to anyone.  The social part of social media is interaction.  Make honest connections with others who have something in common and keep conversations going.  Thank others and when asking for likes and follows use the word “please”.  Manners count.

To keep your time manageable on the platforms, search for specific content that relates to your business or interests you like technology or football.  This will help you choose your top engagers and keep the time spent to about 3 total hours per week.  Ideally, time should be spent one hour a day for 3 days each week.  This keeps you looking active.

Let us know in the comments if this helps you focus your social media efforts for 2013.

twitterwinnerSocial Media is by nature a quick, off the cuff means of communicating. But in business, especially small business,  it is important to know that cyberwords are never forgotten and never go away.  Even so-called private texts and e-mails can become public.  One upset critic can decide to upload every embarrassing message you ever sent.

For 2013 commit to not making assumptions or disparaging others in writing and to not re-posting unchecked information as “fact”.  Being certain of your information gives you credibility and increases your personal presence.

The best way to screen your online communication is to create a social media strategy that reflects the image you want to project.  Use technology tools such as BufferApp to help you choose and schedule posts.  Pre-type your tweets and posts in Word or another text program and hold for 15 to 30 minutes, then read again and make sure it conveys your message accurately.

Techsnoop and DKemp Designs wish you a great and prosperous New Year!

social mediaIf Social Media has your head spinning, Techsnoop is here to help sort out some of the mystery with a list of what to use to keep up.  Social Media strategy depends on your small business goals and niche.  Review here and on the previous post to determine what will work for you.  And all apps are FREE!

Google+ is gaining in popularity, but still finding it’s social media footing.  While used by bloggers, news sites and small business is gaining, widespread audience is not as compelling as most forums.  It is however, important to be found on this site as having a Google+ presence guarantees rankings in the search engines.  Think of Google+ as a posting board to get information out and share stories.  Don’t devote excessive time to it unless you are a blogger.

LinkedIn is the choice social media site for businesses and professionals.  The site and its groups have little tolerance for spammers and fakers.  If identified as one of these, you will be ousted quickly.  Join groups and make sure you like and post on topics of interest.  You can make connections with group members, but have a follow-up or thank you note policy in place when they accept you.  Manners are KING in this group.  Don’t spam, use poor grammar and spelling or make negative comments.

LinkedIn has recently added new features and functionality that allow small businesses to post fan pages that look remarkably like the FB timeline pages.

Businesses and recruiters check this site for you above all others.  Keep your reputation clean and make sure you have a company page.  Post updates of informative articles or company milestones every week to keep current.

Techsnoop’s latest favorite Social Media tool is BufferApp.  This little plug in for browsers allows you to instantly tweet content as you browse the web, but schedules it so you are not spamming followers.  For example, you can tweet this article and use the buffer button to have it automatically listed in a que you set up.  You set the times of day for your tweets and BufferApp sends them out at the next available slot.  There is also a chance to add hashtags and notes to the tweet and it works with Facebook.

A little simpler than TweetDeck, you don’t have to leave your current page or specify times, they are preset and can be updated by logging into your online account.  Nothing to download or install.

If you are a small business person or freelancer, you may want to re-think Instagram.  They have changed their privacy policy to allow them to use and sell your photos to advertisers without compensating you.  This is a copyright violation for small business owners.  You may want to switch to Flickr.

If you have other useful tools to keep your social media organized, please share it in the comments.  Happy surfing!

Hacker“Aw, Crap”.  You may find yourself using this phrase or something stronger if your website or blog gets popular, and you find yourself hacked. Hacking can take many forms from phishing (spoofing your URL), to redirects where the hacker uses your site to direct traffic to their own, or spamming where the hacker inserts their own keywords on your site to boost their own Google rankings.
Google is aware of these tatics and will flag your site in search results if you are hacked.

DO NOT ignore these flags. Click the instructions and check your site for malware. If there is no malware, you may have one of the hacks mentioned above.

Since most bloggers are not web developers, Techsnoop has a quick and simple fix.
Find out when your site was hacked and restore all files from a date prior to the hack. Then change all passwords. Your blog and web host passwords. Make them completely different and stronger.  It is OK to write down your website passwords as long as you keep them offline and somewhere secure.

Techsnoop was recently hacked with a “Pharma” attack.  This code was placed in my site, invisible, but searchable by Google and making my blog look like spam (links & inappropriate words removed);

One italian study looking at the Levitra Online.. diagnoses of wall street. Representation appellant represented order to give Insight Into The Payday Loan Process .. them major pill viagra. As noted the size locations presence or by Generic Cialis Online .. dewayne weiss psychiatric pill communications. Service connection on and are addressed cash loan .. in treating erectile mechanism. Eja ..medicine of disagreement nod Viagra .. in adu ..problem? Isr med assoc j montorsi giuliana meuleman e ….Unsurprisingly a long ..in place by Cialis .. an ..devices have obesity. Effective medications it can be attributable to Viagra .. change your doctor may change. Thus by tulane university researchers published in july the secondary condition the two matters the arteries.

WTH?  My blog is on technology, design and movies.  But spammers use your search rankings to get their own increased.  Since Google is on to them, it doesn’t work long, but it makes your rankings suffer.

If you catch this right away, you can preserve your standings.  So,

  1. Search your sites every week and check your Google Analytics to make sure your site is not going down in the standings.
  2. Use the “remember your password” function of your browser so you are not typing in your password every time.  This makes them accessible to keylogger viruses.
  3. Scan your computer frequently to clean out any malware or viruses that may be dormant but sending out your information to hackers.

Because Techsnoop checks search rankings and Analytics every week and so only had this for one week.  Imagine if you are hacked and don’t find out for months?  The damage to your rankings would take months to repair.

So, as Techsnoop blogged earlier this week, Security is critical for small business.

Happy Holidays from Techsnoop.  If you are a freelancer or small business owner, you probably have an extensive online presence.  Take the holidays as an opportunity to review your security procedures.

Many small business owners treat their business security like their individual security.  This can be risky because the business has more online exposure than individuals and there are more people accessing records and clicking links.  If you sell online, my friends at Garage Sale Academy.com can give you great tips on selling safely.

We live in the age of the Cloud and most business is conducted at least partly through cloud-based services or applications.  These transactions generally happen smoothly with no issues.  But, one tiny mistake can cost you your business or online life.

According to Wired.com,

“Hackers are increasingly going after small businesses,” says Jeremy Grant, who runs the Department of Commerce’s National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace. Essentially, he’s the guy in charge of figuring out how to get us past the current password regime. “They have more money than individuals and less protection than large corporations.”

This puts small business owners in the hacker sweet-spot for targeting.

Staying Safe

First, passwords.  Use a combination of uppercase, lowercase, numeric and special (if allowed) characters in all passwords.  Make sure they are a minimum of 8 characters long and use a different one for each site.  Yes, it is a lot of work, but isn’t keeping your business worth it?

Set up password reset information or questions with answers that are not published anywhere online.  If the information is published online, chances are hackers can look it up and use it to guess your password or have it reset.

Links are the gold standard for “phishers”, those emails sent from businesses you know (or seem like it) and have a link to click to log in to your account.  Get around this by NEVER clicking links in the emails unless you requested a reset or other information.  Always go into your browser address bar or your bookmarks to get to a site that requires sign in.

Delete employees or partners who have left the company right away.  They may not mean any harm, but having an unused profile with access to your records opens the door for hackers.

Change passwords frequently.  This may seem a no-brainer, but most small companies do not have a password reset system in place.  Also, have common passwords blocked from your system.  In the year 2012 the word “password” is the most used password online.

Finally, get and use the strongest firewall, antivirus and security software you can afford.  This is not the place to skimp in your business.  If someone gets into your accounts, they can completely destroy your data and your life.

Have a safe and prosperous year.