Internet Marketing

What to Do When You Have No Internet – Set up Hotspots from Data Plans

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internet-downRecently at my place of work the internet went completely down just as soon as a prospective client was coming in for a business meeting. Being that I work for an online marketing agency, no internet practically means the end of the world. I’m dead serious. So, what was one to do?

After calling our internet service provider (ISP), I found out that the internet was down for the entire block temporarily as heavy construction was being done at the Bathurst and Eglinton area of Toronto, and all it takes is city workers snipping a wire without prior notice. This was a problem affecting everyone, and we were unhappy with our ISP for the iffy service provided over the last few years, but desperate times called for desperate measures. We needed the internet to at least show the client a few websites among other things. What was to be done?

A few years back I learned in theory that it was possible to turn your portable device into a wireless “hotspot.” While this never needed to be done before, now was the time to put it into practice. With the aid of a couple of coworkers’ mobile smartphones, we were able to set up two hotspots with password access, and have most of the computers in the office running off the data plans of these mobile phones. Ideally it should have gone through one phone, but I learned the hard way that a mobile phone (at least, the iPhone) only allows up to five (5) simultaneous connections. Who knew?

So, the next time you are in a bind, remember that you can always fall back on your mobile device for backup power, provided you have a computer/laptop with a wireless card to get signal.

4 Surefire Ways To Increase Your Online Presence

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Word on keyboardSixty-one percent of Internet users across the globe research products and services online before purchasing anything, according to an Ipsos study published in April 2012. Whether you sell gourmet coffee or offer website building services, the business will only be as successful as its Internet presence. Having a website, along with Facebook and Twitter accounts, are good starts. But if you want your business to stand out among the competition, it will take a little extra effort on your part.

Snail Mail Still Works

While the world has gone almost entirely digital when it comes to business, one thing that hasn’t changed is direct mail marketing. “Snail mail” marketing gets a 4.4 percent response rate from potential leads, compared to only a .12 percent rate from email campaigns, according to the Direct Marketing Association. The U.S. Postal Service offers bulk mail discounts that can fit the budget of just about any business. You can use contact information customers have already given you, or purchase relevant mailing lists from any number of businesses. Mailing should be short and to the point. Find a service that does business card printing and include those, along with some sort of incentive for customers who respond to the mailing.

Guest Blog Posts

Let’s say you sell wedding accessories online. When you search “wedding accessories” in Google, Bing or Yahoo, what comes up? The blogs that pop up first should be the target for you to offer a guest post. Most high-ranking blogs offer readers a way to contribute. Offer your point of view and expertise on an issue related to the blog and your business. Include links to your social media sites and link back to your own blog in the article you contribute. The exposure this will bring to your business is priceless.

Commenting In Forums

Most major news sites and large blogs allow commenters to include a link back to their websites. When news breaks that is relevant to your industry, offer your take in the forums. Any responses left in forums should be professional in nature and in no way personal. You will be representing your business and introducing yourself to an entirely new audience. The more information you offer, the more compelled readers will be to get further information about you by clicking through to your website.

Mobile Web Compatibility

Businesses that have had websites active for more than a decade are ahead of the game in many ways. But the platform you use may now be obsolete when it comes to displaying on mobile devices. Despite being geared for mobile use, 95 percent of tablet shoppers and 72 percent of smartphone shoppers make purchases at home on their mobile device, in lieu of using a desktop or laptop computer, according to Nielsen. You can always create a separate, simple .mobi website that customers can easily use to find your location, contact information and other pertinent information about your business. There are also several services online which you can easily make your regular website mobile compatible.

Valuable Matt Cutts Google Webmaster Tools Videos

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These are links to some of the best YouTube videos Google’s Matt Cutts has come out with. The information contained within is very valuable from an SEO and overall website optimization perspective.

  • Matt Cutts Facepalm – why there’s a need for Penguin – https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=dnyOduyZQl0
  • Why Article Marketing is Bad https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5xP-pTmlpY
  • Fun video on Webmaster Toolshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COcl6ax38IY
  • What to do with porn sites backlinking to your site: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znOqJu3le2g
  • Google Disavow tool: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/disavow-links-main?pli=1
  • Ideal keyword density: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rk4qgQdp2UA
  • Underscores vs. dashes in URLs – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQcSFsQyct8
    • Bottom-line, underscores are bad because Google’s computer programmers used to mistake those with coding variables!

Some more:

  • How Google treats hidden content (shouldn’t matter): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EsW8E4dOtRY
  • How important WordPress is to SEO – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3P-m2cBCJSk
  • The consequences of using/linking multiple domain names for the same purpose: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JzaimchdNpM
  • What are the top 3-5 SEO areas where webmasters make the most mistakes? – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=421aTJI2Nxc
  • Does linking my two sites together violate the quality guidelines? – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0-jw_PfwtY
  • If my site goes down for a day, does that affect my rankings? – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eYJuT0yGrI
  • What does Google think of single-page websites? – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mibrj2bOFCU
  • How can I get examples of bad links to my site? – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EtYBHgAl5EU
  • When are penalties lifted? – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ES01L4xjSXE
  • What are some misconceptions in the SEO industry? – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2mv1KSktLo
  • What’s the latest SEO misconception that you would like to put to rest? – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wDpTGRUtXwo
  • Matt Cutts from Google on WordPress & SEO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3P-m2cBCJSk

Many more here: https://www.youtube.com/user/GoogleWebmasterHelp/videos

Is Your Small Biz Place a Safe & Secure Space?

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Depositphotos_28228273_xsThe small business owner is challenged with creating a work environment that protects its employees as well as its assets. It faces the same security risks as the large corporations, but without the deep pockets to work with. Cyber security and physical security are often linked and a breakdown in one area makes the other area vulnerable. In fact, Parija Kavilanz from CNN Money reports that nearly one third of the cyber attacks reported in 2012 were in companies with fewer than 250 employees.

Start With the Building Access

Access to any areas beyond the front desk should be controlled by a badge or code. It can only take a moment while the receptionist is in the file room for someone to slip past into a sensitive office area. Once allowed inside, the visitor should be given a badge to be worn while they are in the building. Collect all badges when the person signs out to leave the building.

Do not give out vendor badges that they keep with them. After a year or so, you may have dozens of badges out that can allow anyone into the building. Vendors lose badges or lend them to other people, too.

Special Access Considerations

One item you may consider is a Handiramp wheelchair ramp for people challenged to get into the building through the conventional entryways. Make sure those doorways are as secure as the other doors into the building. Someone may spot the ramp and assume that doorway is an easy target.

Monitor Activity in the Building

When people are in the building, including both employees and visitors, prioritize the need to monitor their activity. Security cameras in strategic locations, such as a hallway to the computer room or into the warehouse, may be required. Cameras are often more of a deterrent than anything else. People see a camera and head the opposite direction.

Cameras can be an expensive option if they need to be monitored constantly by a service. A less expensive option is to use motion sensors that trigger the video recording to start once motion in a space is detected. Unfortunately, there is sometimes the need to protect the company and its employees from the actions of other employees. Security cameras won’t be of any help with this unless they are either monitored or recording continuously.

Establish Security Procedures

Another component of small business security is the behavioral change requirements, writes Shelley Frost in the Houston Small Business Chronicle. Technology alone doesn’t create a safe environment. The employees need to understand their responsibilities.

Create procedures describing what employees should do if they see someone without a badge wandering the hallways. Or what to do if they come upon a visitor in a sensitive workspace. Without explicit instructions, employees are likely to ignore intruders and will just continue to do their work.

Security is a Team Effort

Complete security within the workplace is a team effort between management, employees and the technology implemented. A failure in any one of these areas can cost the company time, money and perhaps its future. Keeping your physical premises secure is one step toward keeping your employees and data secure. Using a resource such as SecurityCompanies.com can connect you with many security experts who can work with you to define your company’s needs. As a small business with a finite security budget, you’ll want to prioritize your needs and implement changes as you can afford them.

Depositphotos_28228273_xsThe small business owner is challenged with creating a work environment that protects its employees as well as its assets. It faces the same security risks as the large corporations, but without the deep pockets to work with. Cyber security and physical security are often linked and a breakdown in one area makes the other area vulnerable. In fact, Parija Kavilanz from CNN Money reports that nearly one third of the cyber attacks reported in 2012 were in companies with fewer than 250 employees.

Start With the Building Access

Access to any areas beyond the front desk should be controlled by a badge or code. It can only take a moment while the receptionist is in the file room for someone to slip past into a sensitive office area. Once allowed inside, the visitor should be given a badge to be worn while they are in the building. Collect all badges when the person signs out to leave the building.

Do not give out vendor badges that they keep with them. After a year or so, you may have dozens of badges out that can allow anyone into the building. Vendors lose badges or lend them to other people, too.

Special Access Considerations

One item you may consider is a Handiramp wheelchair ramp for people challenged to get into the building through the conventional entryways. Make sure those doorways are as secure as the other doors into the building. Someone may spot the ramp and assume that doorway is an easy target.

Monitor Activity in the Building

When people are in the building, including both employees and visitors, prioritize the need to monitor their activity. Security cameras in strategic locations, such as a hallway to the computer room or into the warehouse, may be required. Cameras are often more of a deterrent than anything else. People see a camera and head the opposite direction.

Cameras can be an expensive option if they need to be monitored constantly by a service. A less expensive option is to use motion sensors that trigger the video recording to start once motion in a space is detected. Unfortunately, there is sometimes the need to protect the company and its employees from the actions of other employees. Security cameras won’t be of any help with this unless they are either monitored or recording continuously.

Establish Security Procedures

Another component of small business security is the behavioral change requirements, writes Shelley Frost in the Houston Small Business Chronicle. Technology alone doesn’t create a safe environment. The employees need to understand their responsibilities.

Create procedures describing what employees should do if they see someone without a badge wandering the hallways. Or what to do if they come upon a visitor in a sensitive workspace. Without explicit instructions, employees are likely to ignore intruders and will just continue to do their work.

Security is a Team Effort

Complete security within the workplace is a team effort between management, employees and the technology implemented. A failure in any one of these areas can cost the company time, money and perhaps its future. Keeping your physical premises secure is one step toward keeping your employees and data secure. Using a resource such as SecurityCompanies.com can connect you with many security experts who can work with you to define your company’s needs. As a small business with a finite security budget, you’ll want to prioritize your needs and implement changes as you can afford them.

Disconnected: My year without the Internet

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For those that rather watch or listen to the interview here is the link. Disconnected: My year without the Internet

Has Google Finally Grown Too Large and Evil? Could Google’s Greed Be the Beginning of the End for Their Mighty Empire?

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(Credit: Jae C. Hong/Associated Press)

(Credit: Jae C. Hong/Associated Press)

Note: This is possibly my most controversial, yet gutsy, post as of yet:

Google. The very name evokes the word search, and has been used as a substitute in sentences, such as “I Googled this” and “I Googled that.” Nothing can take that away from them – they earned their success for the most part. However, when conducting mergers and acquisitions of larger companies, it’s very easy to get so large that it’s no longer one unit, rather it’s a jumble of companies and partners mixed together. Also, when the number of partners increase, so do the number of opinions, which in turn mean longer time for decision-making. Also, “don’t be evil” ceases to exist when a company becomes more money-centric rather than simply a service that happens to also make money. That said, please don’t try to philosophize with me that “to be” is different than “to do;” I can tire the best of them with my philosophical rantings.

In any case, this I believe has happened with Google. I’ve been a huge fan of Google when it came to search, was one of their first GMail users way back when in 2005 (when you needed an invite and one could only email up to 6 people – total), widely embraced Google Docs/Wave integration/Drive, loved Google Maps and it’s API to connect to, and was seriously debating on whether or not to obtain a Samsung Galaxy S3 smartphone, which is widely accepted as Google Android’s flagship device.

That debating ended when a) I noticed flaws on the phone, and b) Google’s policy changes in the name of money. Look, I understand that a company needs to make money to survive, but there needs to be a line. I believe that Google has had it’s biggest success when it offered tons of free products in the name of the expansion of knowledge and innovation. It “just so happened to make money” by:

1. Adwords Ads,

2. Adwords certification exams ($50 a test, each of which changes every 2 weeks),

3. Google Apps for Business for anything over 10 users (minimum $5/user/month), and

4. Royalties based on the Android operating system which strongly promotes Google’s brand.

“Just so happening to make money” while running a service to improve the internet world was what caused me to be enthralled by what Google stood for, and to use their products over any other.

 Google Changes that Honestly Pissed Me Off

However, I noticed a few changes over the last little while that, in all honesty, has pissed off even a dedicated Google user like me. These are:

1. Google Apps for Business (and Business Emails) No Longer Being Free

Google possibly noticed that their Apps for Business model was possibly exploited by up-and-coming small businesses, especially some SEO companies registering hundreds of domain names along with free Google Apps Business accounts since one formerly could get up to 10 email accounts, and at one time up to 50. Google made a controversial decision to close down the free accounts and only leave the paid services up. This is a problem because this translates into a minimum of $5/user/month! While I maintain that Google has perhaps the best email servers in the world, this is a big problem for small businesses wanting to start out with the Google experience and simply cannot afford it. Also, this was made off-the-cuff by Google with only 2 days notice. On Thursday, December 8, 2012 the notice went up only on Google’s private blog, and the change was made on Saturday, December 10, 2012. For many, this took us completely by surprise. This annoyed me greatly as I had promised a couple of clients to move them over to Google Apps for Business that weekend. On a side note, Google’s new greedy angle had eased my decision into choosing purchasing the Apple iPhone 5 over a Google Android phone (which basically copied Apple’s patented iPhone idea).

2. Google Killed Search with Panda and Other Link-Killing Algorithms

Google in many ways killed search, in my honest opinion, for many companies with its Panda algorithm update last April, 2012. Their objective was simply to de-rank websites with spammy backlinks. While this makes sense for sites that illegitimately are getting onto Page 1, it doesn’t for many innocent businesses hiring white-hat SEO companies, that in some cases now need to restructure their entire on-line business model thanks to Panda. Google’s answer to businesses that have been wronged was for webmasters to submit spreadsheets of removed links through Google Webmaster Tools, and also to provide feedback using a form they created in Google Docs. In effect they multiplied their workload exponentially by now needing to fire-fight hundreds of millions of websites!

While I understand their objective, they should have tested it further and considered the repercussions. I don’t feel that they did that, and it makes Google look amateurish. So much so that it  makes one wonder if right now Google even knows what it’s doing, let alone the rest of us!

To add insult to injury, Google’s now furthered their link-killing campaign by penalizing advertorials. At the same time Google will give credit to itself, lending to the idea that there may be a double standard invoked by Google.

These are big strikes against Google when:

1. Facebook is boasting that their search engine is better than Google’s because while Google relies on artificial intelligence, Facebook can leverage real human intelligence to give users what they want, and

2. Yahoo is being successfully run (so far) by Marissa Mayer, one of Google’s original employees and the brains behind many of Google’s most innovative features, including GMail.

This is also a big problem for SEO companies when almost every linking strategy that’s thought of is being put down by Google. How are SEO companies to know what works/doesn’t work for Google/Panda when it seems like Google even doesn’t?

3. Google Places or Plus Business Pages – Which is It?

From the beginning I said that Google Places (formerly Local Business Listings) was operated with a Wild West mentality. Fast-forward 3 years later, I still maintain that stance. While Google has made a valiant effort to integrate all of their products into one unit, they have failed to do the same with Google Places, which is a shame as it ties in with Google Maps.

For example, some glaring problems with Google Places are:

1. Lack of multiple accounts.

One is unable to share a Google Places listing with multiple accounts. If an account is made with one email address, it cannot be moved. You need to re-create the listing, but that also means that reviews will need to be re-created from scratch.

2. Post-card Verification Only

The only type of verification today is through a post-card mailed in within 2-3 weeks of registering a “place.” This is surprising considering how everything around us is going paperless and all one needs is for a negligent mailman to drop the card somewhere in the street.

3. No way to claim an already-claimed listing

If one wants a listing showing ones own business changed or taken off but the listing is owned by a different email address, good luck in changing that.

4. No Phone Support

Google does not provide phone support for Places. This is a problem as Places is tied into everything including Adwords. However, Google will provide support for Adwords but not Places or any other service. Again, it’s all about money as Adwords is the primary money-maker for Google.

Meanwhile, Google Plus, a completely different script, has Business pages that also integrates with Google Maps. Google Plus pages is much more robust and allows for multi-account administration, no verification and more, so it’s easy to see that this is the direction that Google seems to be taking. However, the transition between these two still-very-different interfaces is a pain.

 

So what’s next for Google? Are they phasing out more products, or looking to restructure? All I can say is, if Google continues to annoy more people with their policies, people will gradually opt out of Google until there’s not much left.

People say that accusing people or places of being evil is the direct result of ignorance. With Google, I will admit that I like many other SEO’s are ignorant/unaware of what thinking is going on in Google’s GooglePlex. Somehow I believe that even Google doesn’t know what it’s thinking! It’s grown so large and confusing that finding it’s own brain would involve a treasure hunt.

Google Apps for Business No Longer Free – This Cruel, Mean Outrage “Puts a Wrench” in Small Businesses

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This post comes from the heart.

I recently checked my email which is currently hosted on the now-former Google Apps for Business Free account.  I received an email from a Google address with a message that I initially thought to be a prank. It read:

Hello from Google,
Here’s some important news about Google Apps—but don’t worry, there’s no need for you to take any action. We just want you to know that we’re making a change to the packages we offer.

Starting today, we’re no longer accepting new sign-ups for the free version of Google Apps (the version you’re currently using). Because you’re already a customer, this change has no impact on your service, and you can continue to use Google Apps for free.

Should you ever want to upgrade to Google Apps for Business, you’ll enjoy benefits such as 24/7 customer support, a 25 GB inbox, business controls, our 99.9% uptime guarantee, unlimited users and more for just $5 per user, per month.

You can learn more about this change in our Help Center or on the Enterprise Blog.

Thank you for using Google Apps.

Clay Bavor
Director, Google Apps”

But don’t worry, there’s no need for you to take any action. We just want you to know that we’re making a change to the packages we offer.” Yeah, right. Nice way to put the wrench in new small businesses with practically no prior notice!

In the past, I have recommended a sizeable amount of clients from utilizing emails that would tie you into domain companies like GoDaddy and even in some cases from private, 10-year old Exchange servers. The logic was simple: Google has some of the most powerful servers in the world and, while they sort of “own” your data, they are merely using it to improve Google search results, which is only a good thing. And, there are so many Google accounts that the chances of them zeroing into your account is like a needle in a haystack.

Also, the logic was that for Google, the very data they gather is money. This data would help them leverage with other revenue-generating services like Adwords. The paid accounts would be a bonus for Google’s large wad of pockets.

Until yesterday one could sign up for up to 10 free accounts, and as of 2007 one could sign up for 50 user accounts. It was an amazing way for Google to provide a service in exchange for data.

Apparently, they no longer seem to need the little guy. They clearly have all the data they need.

According to Techcrunch,

Mountain View says it’s making the change to simplify its offering to ensure a better fit for both groups of users, individuals and business, noting in its blog;

When we launched the premium business version we kept our free, basic version as well. Both businesses and individuals signed up for this version, but time has shown that in practice, the experience isn’t quite right for either group. Businesses quickly outgrow the basic version and want things like 24/7 customer support and larger inboxes. Similarly, consumers often have to wait to get new features while we make them business-ready.

Google is still offering a free product for schools and universities: Google Apps for Education. It will also be continuing to offer Google Apps for Government for $50 per user, per year.

Let’s see here: “…but time has shown that in practice, the experience isn’t quite right for either group. Businesses quickly outgrow the basic version.” Bull! Most businesses stay small business for at least 3-5 years, assuming they even survive that long. And many that last longer stay small businesses. I guess the term “quickly” is all relative in terms of time.

Think of it this way. Let’s say one wanted to create a 10-user account now and use up all 10 users. Before, it was great – you could get it for free. Now, for 10 accounts, at $5/user/month, that translates into $50/10 users/month or $500/10 users/year! A start-up now paying Google $500 a year for something that was free 24 hours ago is outrageous! What a mean, cruel joke on the little guy!

But this is not a joke. This is reality, sweetie.

Other Email Options

It will now take new start-ups new, creative ways for cheap email. Some existing solutions are:

1. Fusemail

URL: https://www.fusemail.com/solutions/small-business/

Pros:

  • The low cost is better than Google’s.
  • Mailboxes are 10 GB in size
  • Phone support exists.
  • You can actually consolidate your mailboxes.
  • Excelent spam/virus protection.
  • IMAP and SMTP services
  • A competitive Calendar service exists.

Cons: N/A

Cost: $2/user/month

2. Yahoo Business Email

URL: http://smallbusiness.yahoo.com/email/compare-plans

Pros: It comes out to $2/user/month akin to Fusemail.

Marissa Meyer’s appointment to Yahoo a few months ago still may hint at new life for Yahoo.

Cons: POP email only, no IMAP

Cost: $10/10 users/month + $25 setup fee

3. Hotmail/Windows Live Business Emails

URL: http://domains.live.com/

Pros: I haven’t tried it yet, but from what I see it’s free.

Microsoft is still Microsoft, love or hate it. From a business perspective they’re still amazing.

Cons: N/A

Instructions can be found on ceveni.com, which also says it best that “google is becoming too weird now days it has proceeding from “User Centric” to  “Business Centric” forcing small business and organizations to buy their email service which was once free.” I love it when someone speaks his mind!

Cost: Free*

The above having been said, I see this as an amazing opportunity for a young start-up to come out with free IMAP-based email that will make Google’s current business email data archaic. Perhaps then will they show some remorse and retrieve even part of the “free” plan back. Not that they care “at this time,” though.

Final Thoughts

I know that many are very angry about Google’s drastic move, complaining about the lack of notice (Google’s own blog only mentioned this 2 days ago). Some doom-and-gloom people said that this was only a matter of time before this happened. I for one am not happy and am open to other free or low-cost email suggestions moving forward.

Comments and suggestions below are more than welcome.

Infographic: Engineering the Internet

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This is an infographic on how the Internet works (Thanks to http://open-site.org/):

Engineering The Internet

Why You Shouldn’t Run Facebook Contests

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From http://www.Facebook.com/UnMarketing Both target issues and TOS should make you think twice about running Facebook contests.

IMHO this is brilliant.

Gotta give this guy a backlink: www.UnMarketing.com

Lifesaver: How to modify a URL to get a Google cached version of page?

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Recently somebody wrote a frantic email complaining that her website was hacked with certain content replaced. What I needed to do was find the most recent cached version to replace the hacked text with the original.

This was how I found how to do it (Courtesy: http://webapps.stackexchange.com/questions/15633/how-to-modify-a-url-to-get-a-google-cached-version-of-page):

“I want to look at a Google cached version of a webpage, but can’t find it through the usual mechanisms, as per this related question.

Is there a way to modify the URL in the address bar to take me to the last cached page for a specific URL?

You can access the cached version for any page that has been saved by Google with this:

http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://example.com/

Change http://example.com/ to any URL. You can also create a custom search engine to go to cached versions automatically by adding a keyword before the current URL address.”