How to Evaluate a New Logo Design

Your logo is one of the most important elements of your brand communication. Choosing the right logo that best represents your brand can be confusing and frustrating. It’s always sad when I meet business owners who are having difficulty because their logos weren’t created well.

Poorly designed logos can be the result of two things: 1) the graphic designer didn’t have the knowledge to design a professional logo, or 2) the business owners insisted on a concept without fully understanding the impact. This article is for the business owner who hopefully has hired a professional logo designer.

    1. Start with a well-defined brand. Your logo must represent your core brand values but if you haven’t clearly defined your brand it’s like asking your logo designer to work blindfolded.
    2. Design in black & white first. Color can mask problems with design and composition, so always start with black & white. Additionally, your logo will inevitably be seen in black & white at some point (copy prints, applications, etc.). If you love it in black & white, you’ll love it in color.
    3. A logo must be simple. Your primary goal is quick, easy recognition of your brand. Don’t try to say everything you do or stand for with your logo. You’re only looking for an easily identifiable symbol. Subtract as much as possible. If in doubt, leave it out.
    4. Memorable. A simple, yet appropriate logo makes it easier for your customers and prospects to remember and identify your brand.
    5. Avoid trends. It’s okay to be aware of them, but you want to avoid having a logo that will look dated in 3-5 years.
    6. Make it future-proof. Avoid references to specific technology or other literal aspects that may become irrelevant.
    7. Avoid clichés. Your brand should show originality.
    8. Do not use stock or clip art. It may make designing faster but you can quickly run into copyright issues. I’ve known multiple companies who had to get a new logo because they were using stock or clip art that is approved for commercial use but not logo use. It’s an expensive lesson. You also do not want to confuse your prospects with a logo that uses art that could easily be used by others. Again, your brand should show originality. If you’re just like everyone else, then why should they choose you?
    9. Do not steal, copy, or borrow other designs. I’ve had clients literally tell me to “copy that logo”. (I refused, of course.) Besides missing the entire point of an original brand, you’ll open yourself up to trademark or copyright infringement.
    10. Include something unexpected, original or unique. Use negative space, double entendres. If your logo is interesting, people are more inclined to try your brand.
    11. Make graphic icon active, not passive. A sense of energy and movement shows you’re alive and moving forward.
    12. Consider cultural differences. Some graphic designs or icons — or even color — may be interpreted differently in other cultures.
    13. Choose typeface carefully. Avoid gimmicky fonts. The type should match the brand.
    14. Don’t use more than 2 fonts. Clean and simple. Too many fonts looks cluttered and unprofessional.
    15. Make it legible. How will it look in newsprint, online, mobile devices, engraved, embroidered on apparel?
    16. A logo is not the same as a tagline. Each should be able to stand independently.
    17. Create a graphic icon and a wordmark. Sometimes you’ll only have a few pixels to communicate your brand. If using a type-only logo, make sure there is an element of the logo that can be used as the graphic icon.
    18. Use color appropriately. Use color to help convey meaning and reinforce your brand culture. Make sure it looks good in grayscale, too.
    19. Create a reversible concept. Your logo should have versions that can be reversed out to present equally as well on light and dark backgrounds.
    20. Create both horizontal and vertical layouts. Sometimes you’ll have plenty of horizontal space but limited vertical space (think website logo) whereas other times you’ll have to fit your logo into a skinny space (think print column). Be prepared for both.
    21. Make the logo scalable and versatile. It must present well in a variety of mediums and may need to appeal to different audiences. Consider how the logo will be used. Will it be on a storefront? Does it need to be seen across a highway? Will it be printed on small tags?
    22. Create a logo style guide. Define how the logo can be used, color options, size restraints, positioning (with an exclusion zone to preserve space around the logo so it won’t look crowded or cluttered), how to use the logo on different backgrounds, etc.
    23. Consider how the logo should be used if viewed over the top of photography. If you anticipate problems, define appropriate use with photography in your logo style guide.
    24. For redesigns, be prepared for negative feedback. People don’t like change and often react strongly to it. If you’ve made a logo change for the right reasons using the criteria listed here, you’ve most likely made a sound business decision. Eventually, people will adjust to the new logo and love it, too.

Iconic logos are created over time. It ultimately depends on your success as a business and how consistently you deliver on your brand promise.

 

What You Need to Know About Hosts

In the past twenty years, I’ve seen good web hosts and bad web hosts. At some point, even the best of web hosts can have problems. After all, they are computers (problem #1) being managed by humans (problem #2). The key difference between a good and a bad web host boils down to two main issues: ease of use and customer support.

Some interfaces may seem obvious to geeks, but the rest of us are fumbling around trying to understand the vocabulary and find the right button to click. In addition, if I do need help because a website is having issues or I can’t figure out how to do “X”, I want support to be available quickly. Maybe I have high standards, but I also want my support to be friendly, easy-to-understand, and extra helpful. Oh, and honest. Yes, I’ve had hosting company support staff actually lie to me. More than once, sadly.

It also disturbs me that the web industry is one of the biggest polluters in the world. Think about it—those machines are running non-stop (hopefully), 24/7, and consume a lot of energy. Some web hosting companies try to offset their carbon emissions through using EnergyStar servers and renewable energy sources. Other web hosts choose to disregard their environmental impact.  I recommend looking for the prospective host’s environmental policy to help you with your selection.

Hosted vs proprietary platform

Some websites can be easily built using proprietary platforms like Squarespace, Wix, or Weebly. This platforms create extremely user-friendly interfaces so you never have to deal with code or anything that looks remotely “techie”. Squarespace even provides a decent level of Search Engine Optimization and has good customer support. I admit I like the platform and understand why it’s so popular.

The main problem with proprietary platforms is ownership. You don’t actually own your website—the platform company owns it. If they decide to make changes, you can’t do anything about it. If they get sold, merge, or make executive decisions to change their offerings, you’re stuck. Worse yet, if they go out of business or you decide you want to use another host, your website is gone. Period. You can’t move your files to another web host because your website was built on their proprietary system.

Primarily for this reason, I recommend using a traditional web host. Even if you have to pay a little bit extra to a developer to get it set up, it may save you money and prevent headaches in the long run.

What You Need to Know About Domains

Many people have questions about domain names and web hosts. Today I start a series of posts to answer the questions most often asked.

Domains

Your domain name is what people type into their browser to find your website. It is not your actual website but rather points people to the location where your website files are stored. Your domain name can also be used for your email accounts.

Because domain names are so important, you must register your domain name through an approved domain name registrar, like GoDaddy. Each year, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) will ask you to confirm the contact information in your domain registration is accurate and up-to-date.

Although many web hosting companies offer free or discounted domain name registration, you may want to think twice before accepting their offer. If for any reason you become dissatisfied with that host, it will make it more complicated to move your website to another host if your domain name is registered through your hosting company. In addition, some domain registrars intentionally make it difficult to transfer.

What do you need to know about domain name registrars?

Domain Registrars

When you order a domain name, you authorize the registrar to be your designated registrar. Only the designated registrar make changes to the registry database. If you choose to switch registrars, you must go through a domain transfer process that is governed by various policies. Some registrars make this process easier than others.

While domain name prices vary, when you order your domain name, the registrar must pay an annual fee to Verisign and ICANN. GoDaddy is probably one of the most well-known domain name registrars due to their massive amount of advertising, but they are not your only option. Many of the commercial domain registrars are actually resellers for larger companies.

In 2014, Google began offering domain name registration to better help small businesses and non-tech people quickly and easily establish their domain names. It’s not the cheapest registrar, but it’s easier than some others to use.

I’ve used GoDaddy for years, despite their annoying ads, because they are fairly easy to work with if you need to make changes quickly and offer good customer support.  Still, I’m excited to see Google enter the game.

Whether you decide to use GoDaddy, Google, or any of the other abundant domain registrars out there, the hardest part of the process may actually be choosing your domain name.

Choosing Your Domain

In the early days, it was fairly easy to get your domain name of choice. Now that there are a bazillion websites out there, it’s much harder to find an available domain name. At least, a domain name that uses real words. This is why so many new startups are inventing words to name their company—nonsense words may still be available as a domain name!

When I meet with entrepreneurs or early stage startups, I generally recommend they don’t name their business until they see what domains are still available. Finding relevant words for your domain will require creativity. It needs to be easy for your audience to remember and use as well as reinforce your overall brand experience. I like how some businesses build their brand through specific domain names like millercares.com and callbowman.com. If you see a domain name you’re considering is available, snap it up. Next time you look, it may be gone.

So, now that you have your domain name, how do you point it to your web host?

Nameservers

Every computer has an IP address. (Not sure what your IP address is? You can find out here.)

A nameserver is a computer that is permanently connect to the internet and translates domain names into its corresponding IP address. That’s why you can type in www.mydomain.com instead of a 10-digit number.

When a domain name is first registered, it is said to be “parked”. It uses a default set of name servers from the registrar. Your web host will have it’s own IP address, so you will need to login to your domain account and “point the nameservers”, replacing the default or parked nameservers with the correct nameservers for your web host.

It’s not difficult, though some registrars make it easier to do than others. This is a good example of how Google’s user-friendly interface makes it easy.

You’ll need your domain name before you set up a hosting account, but you can’t point the domain’s nameservers until you have a hosting account set up.

 

Do you have a great domain and are ready to start working on your new website? Contact me today for a free, helpful Website Pre-Planning Guide: pam@bigvisiondesign.com

How to Use E-Signatures

While the concept of using technology for a legal signature isn’t new (morse code was the first), a growing number of businesses and organizations are looking for a way to quickly obtain a legal signature without requiring you to be physically present.

Electronic Signatures Overview

Regulations for digital signatures may vary by location, but essentially the requirements are:

  • The signatory can be uniquely identified and linked to the signature
  • The signatory must have sole control of the private key that was used to create the electronic signature
  • The signature must be capable of identifying if its accompanying data has been tampered with after the message was signed
  • In the event that the accompanying data has been changed, the signature must be invalidated.

Finding Your Best Solution to Digital Signatures

I’ve done several electronic signatures, some which used a scanned graphic of my written signature and others which used typed text for my name. The main criteria is method to obtain and use of my signature complied with the U.S. laws.

Here’s a diagram of how the process works.

My personal experience with electronic signatures has been through using Adobe Acrobat DC. I use Adobe Creative Cloud products every day, so Acrobat DC comes bundled with it and I don’t have to pay extra.

Nitro allows unlimited signatures and documents for free, and works with cloud storage like Google Drive and Dropbox.

After looking at several paid solutions for electronic signature, Hello Sign seems like a winner. It’s free if you only need 3 or less documents per month, and $13/month for unlimited.

RightSignature looks like another good option, though there is no free version. Still, at only $11/month for unlimited, it’s pretty reasonable.

All of the above methods allow you to get started right away. Whichever solution you choose, electronic signatures help you to get important documents signed quickly regardless of geographic location.

Hacked! Prevention & Recovery

If you own a website, the chances of being hacked are real. It happens to big companies as well as small, and most likely you’ve already been affected by a hack. As they say, there are two types of consumers: those who’ve been hacked and those who don’t know they’ve been hacked.

As a website owner, a hacked website means lost revenue and even worse, loss of customer trust. This article will help you know how to protect your site from hackers and if you do get hacked, critical steps you’ll need to take to recover.

How To Protect Your Site

  1. Keep your site updated. If you’ve read Proper Care & Feeding of your WordPress Website, you already know that many if not most updates are security related. Platforms (like WordPress), themes, and plugins all require continual updates in order to address newly discovered vulnerabilities and technical changes. Leaving outdated files on your computer is like leaving the door wide open to eager hack attempts.
  2. Install security plugins, when possible. Free or low cost plugins like iThemes Security and Bulletproof Security offer affordable ways to tighten security on your website. There are several technical processes a senior level developer can implement to reduce your chances of a hack, but for many small businesses the cost of the developer may be prohibitive. Using a security plugin may help reduce the need for custom security work. Many hosting providers also offer additional security. It might seem pricey at first but most likely it’s a bargain compared to the costs of having your site down, content destroyed, customer information compromised, and repair services.
  3. Don’t use “admin” or other common usernames. Hackers look for common usernames as keys to directory paths. Using a common username like “admin” is like putting a neon arrow that says “Look Here!” to key entry points in your website.
  4. Rename the wp-content folder on WordPress sites. You’ll want to do this when the site is new, before you’ve uploaded any images that appear on posts or pages, otherwise it could break linked images stored inside the wp-content/uploads/ folder. Like the “admin” username, hackers look for common paths so changing the name of this folder will make access more difficult.
  5. Use strong passwords. I’ve lost track of how many sites we’ve worked on that were hacked due to simple passwords. Here are the rules to a complex, secure password:
    1. 8 digits or more
    2. use both lower and upper case letters
    3. use both numbers and special characters
    4. don’t use the same password for multiple sites
    5. don’t use words that can be found in a dictionary
  6. Remove unused plugins and inactive users. There’s really no point in leaving unnecessary paths into your website by keeping unused extensions or plugins installed or keeping users who no longer need to login to your website. Clutter is rarely a good idea and this applies to your website as well.
  7. Backup your site regularly. If you site does get hacked, restoration will be easier if you have an un-hacked version of your site on hand.

What To Do If You’ve Been Hacked

Your next steps:

  1. Don’t panic. You’re not the first and you won’t be the last. Keep calm and start work on recovery.
  2. Call in your professional support team. Strong technical expertise as well as someone who is familiar with your site—most likely your web developer or hosting provider. Web designers may not have the technical skills required to find and repair the problem however an experience web developer should be able to help you. You’ll need to provide:
    1. WordPress (or other CMS) login
    2. web hosting login
    3. FTP/sFTP access credentials
    4. any backups you have
  3. Take your website offline. Your web host may have already done this but if not, you’ll want to remove it to a secure folder while you assess and fix the website.
  4. Make sure the hack is limited to your site and not the entire web server. Your web host should be able to provide this information.
  5. Scan your local computer(s) for viruses and malware. Sometimes trojans or other infections can come from your local computer to your website. Be sure your anti-virus software is up-to-date, then run the scan.

Your web developer’s steps:

  1. Change your passwords for website logins, databases, FTP, etc.
  2. Download and inspect all of the hacked site files to determine how and when the website was hacked. This information is important to properly clean the site and fix it to prevent future hacks from the same hacker.
  3. Check all plugins or extensions to make sure they are up-to-date and do not have known vulnerabilities. If you’re using a plugin that no longer has updating and support, consider ditching it for a better, supported plugin.
  4. Check any custom code for security flaws or vulnerabilities.
  5. Clean up the issues and put the site back online.
  6. Update your site to the newest version of your platform (WordPress), theme and plugins.
  7. Test that everything is working.
  8. Backup your new, clean website.

Taking the steps mentioned in the first part of this article will definitely reduce your chances of being hacked. While there is never a guarantee you cannot be hacked, you can certainly take steps to make sure you’re not easy prey. With regular monitoring and backups, if you do get hacked, the repair work will be easier and faster.

Who *Really* Owns Your Website?

You’re way too busy running your business and in a rush to get your website up. Since you’re not very tech savvy and you’re preoccupied with your own work, you trust your developer to get your domain registered and get your site set up on a good host. It’s a very normal to leave it to your web tech to handle these tasks. I’ve done it myself for many of my clients. Perhaps I even did it for you.

In the early days of the web (I remember them well), it might have made sense. The internet was as ethereal as space exploration and only a few people knew how to navigate. I remember creating websites for business owners who had never used email. I even helped a couple people learn how to use a mouse.

These days, we’re much more comfortable with computers and most have at least a fair idea of how the internet works. Still, many still don’t understand the basics of website ownership. If you’re one of them, I’m about to enlighten you. Why is it important that you learn a bit of geek? Because you may be in a highly vulnerable position and not actually own your website.

The “Title & Deed” to Your Website

  • Your domain. No one really owns domains. We just register them from an accredited registrar like GoDaddy or eNom. Your domain gets associated with an IP address on a web server so when someone types in your domain name, server computers will know to send that person to your website on that server. Whoever registers the domain essentially owns it. If you hire me or anyone else to register your domain, the registration technically belongs to us.
  • Your web host. Whoever sets up the account on the web host is the one with the power.  They’ll have the “credentials” or login info and most likely, the account will be billed to their credit card. Web hosting companies work hard to maintain tight security for their web clients. They will absolutely refuse to talk with you if you can’t provide authorization of credit card info, password and/or PIN access.

As personnel changes occur in companies and organizations, the domain and host login info (credentials) may get lost. I’ve seen it happen a lot. Of course, if we built your website we’ll have the original info in our records. I recommend that clients keep a hard copy of all their web credentials in a secure but easy-to-locate file.

But what happens if your developer never gave you the login credentials? What if you never knew to ask for them? In a perfect world, that might be okay. Last I checked…it’s not a perfect world. Stuff happens.

Your developer might move and never tell you nor provide updated contact info, or get hit by a bus, or have sudden health issues, or get arrested, or hit sudden fame and fortune, or forget to pay the electric bill, or get angry at you for any number of reasons. You get the idea. When only one person has such vital information, you’ve created a single point of failure that could have devastating results. I’ve had new clients (yes, plural) who came to me, begging for help because they didn’t have their website credentials and their website was held “hostage”. They didn’t understand the power of owning those credentials.

Eliminate Unnecessary Risk

How can you prevent losing control of your website from happening to you?

  1. Register your own domain and purchase your own web hosting service. If you’re unsure where or how, your developer can advise you and even give you the links to click through. You’ll have the confidence of knowing you have the rights to your own website. You will need to share the login info with your developer, of course, but you can rest assured that should you no longer choose to work with that developer (even in best scenarios), you’ll have access to your domain and web host.
  2. If you have a trusted relationship, allow your web tech to setup your domain and hosting service but insist on having all login credentials in your records, too. That way, if you choose to part ways or something tragic happened, you have the necessary information to talk with customer support or hire someone else.

What if your developer can’t share the domain registration login info because of other clients in the management account? You can request the domain be transferred to you or at least insist the domain registration include your name and contact info as the registrant.

It’s not really a matter of trust (or lack of) to insist you have access to your domain and website. It’s good business stewardship. Share the credentials when you need to but don’t keep yourself purposefully in the dark.

The vulnerability is huge and the fix is simple. Keep a record of your login credentials. 

 

Top 10 Email Marketing Platforms

Email marketing continues to be one of the most effective tactics in digital marketing. There are a number of platforms to select from (and new ones popping up every day), making it difficult to figure out which platform is best for you.  While all platforms have pre-made templates so you won’t need to hire a developer to create a custom HTML template, but beyond that, their features can widely differ. Some of these options include free accounts, drip campaigns, integration with CRMs, drag and drop, etc. We’ve curated the top ten email marketing platforms for you to help you find the best fit for your needs and strategy.

  1. http://mailchimp.com. For years, MailChimp has been my favorite due to ease of use and number of features. It’s free to use if your subscriber list is less than 2000. Features include: subscriber profiles, built-in segmentation, in-depth reporting, advanced analytics, send time optimization, mobile optimized, integrates with hundreds of apps and services, RSS-to-Email, A/B testing, geolocation.
  2. https://madmimi.com/. Mad Mimi is a serious contender for the top of my list. They are working hard to become the best platform and have made great progress. Features include: good list management tools, attractive reporting & tracking tools, webforms including newsletter signup form for your Facebook page, drip campaigns, social links, RSS-to-Email, Google analytics, free under 2500 subscribers.
  3. http://myemma.com.  As a company, they have several community and social initiatives which makes them super cool in my book. Features include: mobile optimized, subject line split testing, analytics, segmentation, easy interface, social media integration.
  4. http://www.getresponse.com. Features include: landing page capabilities, A/B testing, list segments.
  5. http://www.verticalresponse.com. Features include: social media integration, mobile optimized, free under 1000 subscribers.
  6. http://www.aweber.com. Features include: scheduled drip campaigns, helpful 3000+ image library, tracking.
  7. http://www.constantcontact.com/index.jsp. Definitely the biggest name out there but not the easiest to use. They’ll also charge you for image storage if you have more than 5 images uploaded. Tons of features but nothing that other platforms don’t offer for less cost and friendlier interface.
  8. http://www.icontact.com/. Features include: Basic tracking, sign-up forms (including Facebook), autoresponders, split testing.
  9. http://content.zoho.com Free if your mail list is under 2000 subscribers. ZOHO email marketing can be used as part of the ZOHO product line which has business, CRM, and productivity apps. If you’re looking for a more comprehensive toolset, ZOHO seems to cover the spectrum of small business needs or you can choose to only use their email marketing tool.
  10. http://www.exacttarget.com/ (now called Salesforce Marketing Cloud). Salesforce is one of the big boys when it comes to CRM and business platforms. If you’re already using Salesforce, it makes sense to use their email marketing. It may not be the most user-friendly, but the ability to fine tune your target and analyze the results is pretty cool.

Proper Care & Feeding of Your WordPress Website

Your website is like your pet—it needs continued care and maintenance. Website content updates (the new posts, text, photos, events, etc, that you do regularly) will help keep site visitors and search engines happy. Yet content updates aren’t the same as technical care and updates. Technical updates are essential for a healthy, fully functioning website. Your website is built on thousands (and thousands and thousands) of lines of code. Even with regular maintenance and updates, you may still experience glitches.

Even if you’re a technophobe, I beg you not to glaze over the following information. If you own a website, you need to be a responsible website owner.

 

Your WordPress Website Basics

There are four main layers that make up your WordPress website: the web server, the WordPress platform, the theme and optional plugins. Here’s a brief description of each of these layers and how they work together:

  • Web servers. These are the computers that host your website files. Your hosting company has the vault of web servers that keep your website files safe, in a temperature controlled, secure environment. The web servers are machines that require servicing, repairs and upgrades for the sake of function and security. These changes typically run in the background but on occasion can affect your website by conflicting with scripts on your site or forcing you to make site updates.
  • WordPress. WordPress is a pre-made platform that started years ago as a blogging platform and has evolved into a wonderful Content Management System (CMS). It has a Dashboard that allows non-techs to locate pages and posts on their site and make changes to the content. WordPress belongs to an open source community and allows you to freely use it’s products. WordPress also releases updates. These may be new features, bug fixes, or security related. These changes may create conflicts in the theme or plugins you are using.
  • Theme. The theme is what gives your website design and functions that aren’t a part of the rather sparse, default WordPress platform. Themes help determine the color and layout of your site and often provide extra features that help your website shine. Themes also require updates for new features, bug fixes and security. These changes may create conflicts with plugins. Not all themes have ongoing author support which means your theme may have conflicts with other system updates (web servers, WordPress, etc.) It’s nearly impossible to know which themes will have ongoing support however over time, nearly all themes will be discontinued as new themes emerge that are designed for more up-to-date user expectations.
  • Plugins. Plugins allow you to really amp up the capabilities of your website. Each plugin also has updates for features, bug fixes and security. Plugins are wonderful but they are also one of the easiest entry points for hacks and most common cause for bug issues or script conflicts. Free plugins should be used with care, because they often don’t have ongoing support. In general, don’t keep any plugins in your Dashboard that you aren’t actively using. Some common uses for plugins include:
    • Enhanced SEO capabilities
    • Site caching for faster page loads
    • Form editors that allow non-tech people to create and edit forms
    • Membership forums
    • Directories
    • Site analytics
    • Backups
    • Security
    • Special slider or portfolio effects
    • Shopping carts
    • Polls / Surveys
    • Social media feeds, etc.

If you don’t keep up with the tech updates, your site may become vulnerable to hacks or conflicts with any of the advancing tech layers that support them. Certain features may quit working, including the ability to edit your site at all!

 

But first, backup!

Before you do any updates, it’s strongly advised that you create a backup of your site in the event that the updates create a conflict with other scripts on your site and “break” the site, thus requiring a developer’s repair. You should be running backups of your site regularly anyway, because “stuff” happens (server failures, hacks, etc.)

There are plugins that you can use for backups. Most web hosts also offer backup services, too. Some are free, some aren’t. While it’s easier to backup your website to the same server that hosts your website, you need to be aware that if the server fails, you’ve lost your backup copy as well. It’s best to save your backup to your own computer. If that’s not a possibility, then save it to a location on your web host that’s different from the place you keep your regular website files.

Most backup services allow you to schedule backups. This is very helpful but be sure to check every now and then to be sure backups are indeed happening.

When Your Site Breaks

If an update causes a script conflict, you then have a choice to:

  • revert back to the previous version of whatever was updated (if you have been saving your backups)
  • have the developer find the conflict and write a custom repair
  • work with the author of the theme/plugin to issue a repair (if they’re still offering support for what you’re using)
  • find another theme or plugin and convert your content over to it

Your choice will depend on the severity of the issue, of course. While WordPress, themes, and plugins make amazing websites tangible (both financially and feature-wise) for the average person, each layer comes with its own vulnerabilities. On the tech side, responsible website ownership requires three things: website maintenance, backups and security. In order to avoid as many problems as possible, you need an experienced web technologist that’s up to date with WordPress and (best case scenario) your website.

Speaking of Security

When it comes to security, you have a few options. You may wish to use a plugin to amp up security within WordPress. Your web host may also offer extra security (for an additional cost, naturally). Many web hosts are setting up servers especially designed for WordPress websites which includes security to address issues common to WordPress. Keep in mind, there is no such thing as an un-hackable website.  Big budgets can use mirrored hosts and a plethora of security layers. As a small business, you may simply need to make your choices based on the level of budget and effort you want to contribute.

Web Vets: For the Health of Your Website

Be sure to keep a good relationship with your web technologist. Quite often, staff changes overlook passing on website information. I can’t count how many clients we’ve helped over the years by keeping records of their website credentials and other key details related to their websites. If you change any web-related passwords, let your technologist know as well. Familiarity with your website and current credentials will save time and stress if an “event” happens.

SEO & Integrity

First rule for effective SEO: Don’t panic!

Many small business owners, upon learning of the importance of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), immediately leap into a frenzied state for which they’ll fork over money to anyone who promises to handle this mysterious, internet success and online life-threatening mandate for them. If you’re freaking out, trust me—someone out there is eagerly waiting to sell you some snake oil.

Breathe…breathe…

Since SEO is important to those businesses who rely on search engines to direct traffic to their site and the owners of those businesses are busy, well, doing business, they become easy prey for the SEO marketing predators. This article will help you better understand what you need to do to improve your search engine results. But be forewarned, because Big Vision Media Group is committed to integrity, we’ll tell you the truth: good SEO is not an easy fix.

You already know that the internet evolves and continues to do so even as you read this. That means the SEO tactics also evolve. Google and Bing don’t really want you to use tactics at all because tactics can distort authentic results when trying to connect the web user with the information they need. Big companies who have more resources can outpower you. Shady marketers can use “black hat” tactics. Yet the web is supposed to be a place of equal access, right? For that reason (among others), the search engines don’t want you to know their constantly changing algorithms for determining search engine results. The secrecy and frequent changes means internet marketers must watch patterns and test results to discern how to best be found.

Unfortunately, much of the information you find for SEO is outdated. Additionally, most of the automated SEO programs (used by those marketers who promise you the moon if you’ll let them handle your SEO) use this outdated info or worse, can be shifty in their tactics and end up causing you more harm than good. Learn more about Black Hat SEO.

Here are the facts you need to know:

  1. Know your keywords and themes. What search terms will people use to find your site? What is unique about your products and services? Don’t forget to include local, geographic terms.
  2. Proper links. Develop a sound URL structure with an XML sitemap and smart use of internal linking.
  3. Quality content. Use keywords and themes in your website content. Alter existing content and continue to develop new content wisely. Optimize graphics and videos with these keywords and themes, too.
  4. Competitive analysis.  Find the opportunities to maximize keywords and themes in your content that your competitors have overlooked.
  5. Analytics. Know how much traffic you’re getting, how your site visitors are finding you, what pages they view, what actions they take. Optimize your content accordingly.
  6. Build legitimate incoming links. A bit more work, this requires building relationships with other websites. BoostSuite is a helpful tool as well as taking opportunities from HARO.
  7. Social media marketing. You can amplify your efforts through backlinks, social shares and campaigns. Quality blogging is also a vital part of social media. If you create the right content, your followers will want to share it.
  8. PPC. If you have the budget, AdWords, Facebook Ads, Post Boosts, Page Boosts and other PPC efforts will also increase your SEO results.

As you can see, these tactics are not easily automated. If it seems overwhelming, start at the top and work your way down the list. The result will help your website to be found by those who are earnestly looking for you. Feel free to contact Big Vision Media Group for help with your Search Engine Optimization.

 

 

Don’t Try to Reason with your Customers

As a small business owner, you need to accept what sales and marketing professionals have always known: people make decisions based on emotions. In today’s world, we have the studies in neuroscience and consumer behavior to prove it. Big corporations use this knowledge to lure customers away from you but if selling is a game, you have home field advantage. You can provide vital, emotional connections that big chains can only dream about.

We like to think of ourselves as rational, intelligent beings but when it comes to making buying decisions, the reasoning mind simply can’t perform. In Antonio Damasio’s book Descartes Error, he shares his studies on measuring the connections between thinking and emotions. When presented all the facts necessary for making a decision, people were unable to make a choice when they couldn’t access how they felt about the options. In short, your marketing should engage your customers’ dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.

So You’re Not A Neuroscientist?

No worries, you can create effective marketing materials without taking a single brain scan. Your goal is to remember that your customers need emotional engagement in order to make a purchasing decision. How do you do this? Meet the customers on their level. What do they care about? What moves them? There are unlimited ways of presenting your products and services in a way that taps into the emotions of your customers and assures them you are a great choice. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  1. Stand for something. If you operate from deeply held convictions and are consistent in communicating those values throughout your product line, suppliers, services, etc, you will provide a clear, compelling lightning rod of attraction for those customers who are longing to see those values genuinely expressed in the marketplace.
  2. Relieve their pain. What problems can you solve for your customers? Are they hassled with overly occupied lives? Offer bundles or ready-made packages that save them time. Are they insecure about how to purchase your goods or services? Offer simple guides and examples they can follow or create pre-selected combinations that boost their confidence.
  3. Affirm them. Most people struggle with “looking good” or feeling like deep inside they’re not good enough. How can you market your products in a way that affirms these deeply held issues and increases their sense of personal worth.
  4. Use color strategically. Colors directly affect emotions and evoke a personal connection. Use colors wisely in creating displays, marketing pieces, and an overall environment that connects with your target audience.
  5. Create appeal. Your use of imagery and writing can inspire people, make them laugh with joy or cry for a cause. Well chosen photos tell a story that will affect emotions. What are the characters in your imagery? What emotions are evoked? Humor? Joy? Love? Mystery? Intimacy?

Loyalty Beyond Reason

If you truly love your customer and are able to create genuine emotion connections, the research is on your side. Love equates significantly into loyalty.  In a survey of 60,000 shoppers across 50 markets, they found that if a brand can increase its loyal shopper base by only 5%, it can expect an increase of sales of 10%. In today’s world of social media, each one of those loyal customers becomes your evangelist, spreading the good word about how you make life better.

No one said creating loyalty and authentic emotional ties in business is easy. Furthermore, just as in our personal lives, customer relationships need consistent, supportive nurturing. But worth it? Absolutely!