Is Your Business Ready for 2021 – 8 Simple Steps to Take to Make 2021 Your Best Year Yet

Is Your Business Ready for 2021 - 8 Simple Steps to Take to Make 2021 Your Best Year Yet

Are you a small business owner ready to say “Bye Felicia” to 2020?

I think that we all are!

However, if there was one thing that 2020 taught us, it was that your online presence is now more important than ever…and this doesn’t just mean your website.  Your online presence consists of many pieces, like your website, your Google My Business Profile, your social media spaces and so much more.

Want 2021 to be your best year yet?  In this article, we are going to cover 8 simple steps that you can take in January (2 per week) to help your business get ahead of the game!

Week One will cover choosing the best keywords for your business and improving your onsite SEO.

Week Two will take you through everything that you need to do in order to improve your Google My Business profile and start getting leads through Google Local Search.

Week Three covers EVERYTHING that you need to do to create content for the whole year and how to save time and money while doing it.

Finally, Week Four forces you to up your video game and start using the second largest search engine in the world.

Are you ready?  Let’s get started!

Week One – Up Your Onsite SEO Game and Be Found More Easily In the Search Results

STEP 1 – Figure Out What Keywords Are Best For You

Is your website working for you as well as it should be?  Are people finding your business online?  If not, your search engine optimization, or SEO, may be to blame.

To improve your SEO, the first step is to create a list of popular keywords or phrases that you want to rank for.  To create this list, I recommend a combination of brainstorming, asking your current clients what they typed in to find you and an online keyword research tool called SEMrush.  You can use the free version to find the information that you need.

Take thirty minutes and brainstorm the keywords that you think your ideal clients would type into Google or Bing.  When this is done, send an email to a few of your best clients and ask what they would type in to find you.  It’s always great to get into their minds.

As an example, one of our clients is a personal injury firm in Greensburg, PA.  Their brainstorming list included the following:

  • Personal injury law firm in Greensburg PA
  • Personal injury attorneys Westmoreland County
  • Greensburg Personal Injury Attorneys
  • Personal Injury Attorneys

However, when they asked a few of their clients what they typed in Google to find them, they received a slightly different list:

  • Personal injury lawyer
  • Personal injury lawyer near me
  • Personal injury lawyer Greensburg
  • Greensburg lawyer personal injury

They found out that while they were calling themselves attorneys on their website, more of their clients were typing in lawyer!  They also discovered that none of their clients even thought to use the county that they were located in.

Want to know what keywords you are currently ranking for as well?  Be sure to add them to your list!  IFTS can send you a free report with that information.  Enter your information below.  You should receive your report within 10-15 minutes.

Once you have your list, you are ready to use SEMrush!  This tool will help you figure out what the most popular phrases are on your list.

First, sign up for your free account here: https://www.semrush.com/signup/?src=header

Then, after you have created your account and are signed in, you are ready to start using this tool.  Enter the first keyword phrase from your list into the search bar.

In this example, we will use the phrase “Personal injury lawyer Greensburg”.  The following results are returned to us:

This tells us that the number of times that this phrase is searched monthly on Google in the United States is 30 times (the VOLUME).  The keyword difficulty (or how hard it is to rank organically for this phrase) is 54%.  Anything under 60% is normally a great keyword to rank for quickly.

The other important results to look at are the “Keyword Variations” and the “Related Keywords”.  The keyword variations will show you common variations on your searched phrase.  The related keywords list shows you phrases similar to the one that you searched.  This is a great way to find phrases that you may not have thought about.

Repeat this process with all of your keywords from your list.  If the “Related Keywords” list has any good suggestions, add them to your list as well.  We recommend creating a spreadsheet that looks like the one below:

Once you have the data for your whole list, go through and highlight the keywords that are searched often and have a lower keyword difficulty.  These will be perfect keywords to target across your online presence.

Keep this list for the rest of the steps in this process.  It is the basis of everything else!

STEP 2 – Incorporate Popular Keywords and Locations into Your Page Titles and Headers

Now that you have your list of popular keyword phrases, you will need to use them in your website.  You will want to choose one or two keyword phrases to be the main focus for each page of your website.

The first important place to use keywords is your page title. The page title is the text in the browser tab.  It is also the text that shows as the title in the Google search results.

A good rule of thumb for a page title is to use the following convention:

“Keyword 1 – keyword 2 | Name_of_Company Location_of_Company”

So, for our example, a good homepage title for our law firm may be “Personal Injury Lawyers – Accident Attorneys | Law Firm Name Greensburg, PA”.  This lets Google know exactly what your page is about and who your company is.

Create new page titles for each page of your website.  In WordPress, you can do this using the Yoast plugin.  If your website is in SquareSpace, you can change this in the general page settings.  If you have a website developer, just let them know the text that you want to use.

After you have changed your page titles, you will want to be sure that each page of your website has one <h1> header on it and that it contains one of your important keywords in it.  This header is the most important and it is another sign to Google that tells them what your page is about.

 

Week Two – Quickly Improve Your Google Local Presence

STEP 3 – Perfect Your Google My Business Profile

If your business depends on people finding you locally, your Google My Business profile is a great advertisement.  If you have not claimed your business profile yet, go through that process described here by Google: https://support.google.com/business/answer/2911778?co=GENIE.Platform%3DDesktop&hl=en

Once your profile is claimed, there are 11 things to complete to make sure that your profile is optimized.  We have listed them below in an easy to use checklist:

For more in depth information on filling out your profile, check out this article: https://blog.iftsdesign.com/introducing-google-my-business/

STEP 4 – Get More Reviews (and Answer Them)

When Google is deciding whose business to show in the Google Local area (also known as the map pack or 3 pack), they look at a multitude of factors.  One main factor is the proximity of the person to your business location.  Unfortunately, you can’t do anything to affect this.  Another factor that Google will look at is the number of reviews and your overall rating, which is where you can shine!

Google’s number one priority is to be helpful to their end user (the searcher).  So, they want to show people the best option for their query.  It is up to you to prove that you are that option!

Create a system for requesting reviews from your satisfied clients.  If you have one-time clients, ask them for a review via email or text at the end of their purchase cycle.  This also gives you an opportunity to have one last touch point.

If you have clients that have a renewal cycle, ask them for a review at the end of that process.  This is a nice way to end the renewal and get you credit for doing a great job!

A common objection that we hear is that people don’t know what to say.  Make it easy on your clients! Send them an email with a direct link to leave a review on Google as well as a suggested list of questions to answer for the review.  This also allows you to “sneak” keywords into your questions…and hopefully, they will repeat those keywords in their answers!

The most important thing to remember about reviews – when you receive a review, reply to it!

This works in a positive manner for your business in multiple ways.  First of all, the person that left the review feels appreciated because you took the time to thank them.  Prospects who are looking at your profile will see that you read/reply reviews and care about your clients.  Finally, it helps with your local SEO because you and your clients are using keywords and phrases in the review and reply.

Need help getting more reviews?  Check out our article on “10 Proven Ways to Get More Online Reviews for Your Business.”

Week Three – Make Posting to Social Media A Breeze

It’s hard to have a consistent social media presence without a plan and the right tools to do it!  Week 3 is where this is addressed.  You should be able to spend less than 4 hours per month to create and post all of your content!

STEP 5 – Sign up for a OneUpApp Account

There are multiple social media scheduling apps available.  The one that we recommend is OneUpApp.  One of the main reasons is because it connects and posts to LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and most importantly, Google My Business.

Google has said that starting in 2021, they will be looking to see who is utilizing their GMB profile updates.  These updates will start to be shown on Google Maps.  So, if you have recent, consistent updates, your profile is sure to stand out!

To sign up for an account, go here: https://www.oneupapp.io/register

There is a small cost associated with OneUpApp, but because it connects to all of the profiles that you need, it’s worth it!  Most free scheduling apps do not connect to Google My Business.

Take a few minutes and connect your social media profiles to finish the account set up. You will now be able to schedule posts to all of your social media accounts at one time!  This will save you a huge amount of time and make your business look professional while doing so.

STEP 6 – Create a Schedule for the First Half of the Year (and repeat for the second half) 

Now that your social media scheduler is set up, you need to create some content to post.  To create this content, start with another list.

Write down every question that you receive from your clients on a regular basis.  Most companies can come up with at least 10 or 20.  Make sure to include questions, even if you think that the answer is obvious because it may not be obvious to your client.

Aim for 24 questions, which allows you to address one question every week for 6 months.

Why questions, you may ask?  As we mentioned before, Google wants to be as helpful as possible for their end users.  They want to answer their questions, which is what your content will be doing.

Can’t think of 24 questions?  Again, we will turn to SEMrush and your keyword list!

Let’s use the term “Personal Injury Attorneys” as an example.  The results for the term are below:

Look at the section titled “Questions”.  This gives you frequently searched phrases that pertain to your keyword phrase.  So, one question that an attorney should put on their list is:

“Is it worth hiring a personal injury attorney?”

Once you have your list of 24 questions, put them in an order that makes sense.  Typically, I suggest putting them into main categories if possible and addressing one main category per month.

As an example, let’s say that the personal injury firm mainly handles cases that revolve around auto accidents, medical device defects, trucking accidents and workplace injuries.  These would be great main categories and each one could have 6 questions associated with it.

Assign a week to each question in your list.

There are 2 ways to create the actual content itself.  The one that you pick depends on your personality.

Option 1 – Write down the answer to the question.  Then, once you have your answer written, record yourself reading the answer as a video.

Option 2 – Record yourself answering the question in video format.  Try to keep your answers within 60 seconds.  Then, use a free transcription service like otter.ai to create the text.

Once you have the text, post it to your blog and schedule it to release the Monday of the week that it is assigned.  Make sure that the page title contains the main keyword in the question.  Be sure that your <h1> is the question itself.

Next, edit the video if you want.  There are multiple video editing software apps out there that make editing a breeze.  

Upload the finished product to YouTube and schedule it to release the Tuesday of the week that it is assigned.  Again, be sure to make the title of the video the question itself.  The description should have the question repeated in it plus a small summary of the answer.  Bonus points if you have incorporated keywords into your answer!

Now, here is a posting schedule to get a week’s worth of content from one question:

Monday: Post the link to your blog

Tuesday: Post the link to the YouTube video

Wednesday: Pull out one helpful sentence from the text and create a quick “quote” post.  This can be done using the free version of Canva in less than 2 minutes.

Thursday: Post an additional fact that goes along with the question.  You can do this with plain text or you can create another “quote” post. 

Friday: Post a link to the video from the week before with the label “In case you missed it” (Obviously, this cannot be done the first week, but it works for every other week)

You get bonus points for using hashtags!

Once you know what you want to post, sign into OneUpApp and schedule the posts.  To learn how to schedule posts, check out their video here: https://www.oneupapp.io

I’d recommend scheduling at least one month at a time.  This way, you can take a small amount of time from your day and get all of your social media for the month done in less than 2 hours!

Once you get through the first 6 months, you can just repeat your content. The average life of an online post is less than one month, so don’t worry about people seeing repeats.  I promise, they will not remember.

Week Four – Take Advantage of Offsite SEO Opportunities

 

STEP 7 – Optimize (and Create if Needed) Your YouTube Channel

If you don’t already have a YouTube channel, you are missing out on a traffic opportunity.  YouTube is the second most popular search engine and it’s owned by Google!

Create your YouTube channel for your business if it doesn’t exist already.  Need help with this task?  Follow these instructions from YouTube: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/1646861?hl=en

Once you have signed in, you can start optimizing your company’s channel!  Try using the following tricks:

  1. If you can, use a keyword in your channel’s name.  This can help your channel show up for organic searches.  For example, an easy way to do this for a law firm would be to name the channel “[COMPANY NAME] – Your Personal Injury Law Firm in Greensburg, PA”.
  2. Make sure to completely fill out the “About Us” section.  Be sure to include relevant keywords.
  3. Include a link back to your website.  If people want to learn more about your company, make it easy for them to do so.  It also helps with your SEO rankings.
  4. Fill out your channel keyword tags.  This tells the search engines what your channel is about and who you are.
  5. Create a “trailer” video for your channel, if one does not already exist.  Typically, this should be a 30-60 video that introduces you, your business and lets people know what they should expect to learn about in your videos.  
  6. People typically decide whether to watch a video within the first 15 seconds, so make that time count!  Try to grab your audience’s attention with a big motion, a relevant prop or a question that makes them say “I want to learn more about that!”  Bonus points if you can include a major keyword phrase in this time as well.
  7. Do you have videos that would group well together?  Create a playlist with them and send your viewers on a journey through your material.  Try to create at least 2 playlists.

STEP 8 – Check Out Your Current Backlinks (and Create a Plan to Get More)

A backlink is a link from another website to your own site.  Most businesses will have backlinks from a multitude of places, such as:

  • Local chamber of commerce
  • BBB
  • Social Media Profiles
  • Local News Story
  • Company that you collaborated with
  • etc

One major factor that Google looks at when it comes to deciding who shows up first in search results is the number of backlinks that a page has.  Now, when the Google algorithm was first invented, it would only look at the volume of links.  This paved the way for link farms and other dishonest means of creating backlinks.  However, this is no longer the case.

Google now looks at the number of links that you have along with the authority score of those sites.  Authority score is basically a measure of trustworthiness.  So, more links is not necessarily a good thing.  They have to be links from a reputable source.

To see the backlinks that you currently have, go back to SEMrush.  Enter your domain name into the search.

The results will show you the number of backlinks that you have as well as the number of referring domains.  The referring domains are the websites that contain links to your website.

In the example below, you can see that there are 498 backlinks from 35 domains.

If you click on the backlink number, it will show you some of the links and referring domains.  With a paid plan, you can actually see all of the links and the referring domains.

Now that you have your baseline, you are ready to start building links.

One way to build links is to make sure that you are in all of the top local business directories.  IFTS offers a list of the top 25 places to get a free business citation here: https://blog.iftsdesign.com/local-citation-pdf/

Another way to build links is to look at your competitors.  Make a list of your top ten competitors and enter their domains into SEMrush.  How many backlinks do they have?  You should have a goal to have more backlinks than them.

You can also look to see who is linking to them by clicking on their backlink number.  Check out the referring domains.  Go down the list and look at each backlink.  Is it a niche directory that you hadn’t heard of?  Submit your listing there.  Is it a local business group?  Enter your name as well.  Is it an organization that accepts articles from people in your area?  Send them a link to yours!

Backlink building is tough and requires you to stay on top of the task.  Choose a ten minute time period each week and start working on this.  Aim to gain 1-3 new backlinks per month.

Congratulations!  You Made It Through All 8 Tasks!

This is just the beginning, but by jumpstarting January 2021, you’ll be setting yourself and your business up for success in the new year.

Have any questions or need help with any of the tasks listed above?  Send me (Stacey Ivol) an email at si@iftsdesign.com or give IFTS, Inc. a call 412.715.6266 for a FREE consultation.




Technical Series: Why Can’t I Send Email to Hotmail (and Other Email Providers)?!

For those of us actively running and maintaining email servers, we understand all too well that clients sending emails to Hotmail, Outlook, Yahoo!, Verizon.net and other email service providers can sometimes end with the dreaded 550 error message bounceback.  What seems to be a very trivial matter can quickly devolve into a limitless black hole of time spent trying to determine why certain email accounts cannot be delivered to from your mail server.  As with most things in life, it is often a combination of the following factors:

  • Open Relay. This is far and away the most egregious of mail server sins.  If not properly configured, a mail server can be allowed to permit spammers to route email through the server.  There are many ways to check for an open relay on a mail server, including free online utilities such as mxtoolbox.com.
  • Lack of Reputation for Mail Server. Several things can affect the reputation of an email server, including IP reputation, spam complaint rate, email bounce-back rate and blacklist status.  In short, having a good reputation for a mail server requires a good associated IP address reputation, a low spam complaint rate, a low email bounce-back rate and not being listed on any spam blacklists.  There are more factors involved with the determination of mail server reputation, but these are some of the more common ones discussed.
  • No Reverse DNS Record (PTR). Also known as “pointer records”, PTRs are typically used for reverse DNS.  In other words, a PTR is used to map an IP address to a hostname.  Many email servers look for a PTR when an email is attempted to be delivered.  If a PTR is not present from the sending email server, oftentimes the email will not be allowed to be delivered.  This creates a bounce-back email, which can negatively affect the sending email server’s reputation.
  • No SPF Record. An SPF record identifies which mail servers are allowed to send email on behalf of your domain.  Similarly to the presence of a PTR, the lack of an SPF record can negatively affect the sending email server’s reputation due to the creation of a bounce-back email.
  • Blacklisted IP Address. Blacklists are a means of compiling IP addresses for mail servers that have been reported to be sending spam.  There are many such lists, including Spamhaus, Spamcop and Barracuda Reputation Block List just to name a few.  Mail servers check the origin of email messages against blacklists and will typically reject email coming from listed offenders.  Multiple free, online tools can be used for investigating your mail server blacklist status (such as mxtoolbox.com) for checking your mail server’s spam blacklist status.
  • SMTP TLS. SMTP TLS (Transport Layer Security) is a method used where two email servers that are transmitting a message between them automatically negotiate an encrypted channel so that the emails transmitted are secure.  Most mail servers have the ability to ONLY accept emails from mail servers that support TLS SMTP.
  • Configure DKIM for Local Domains. DKIM provides a means for verifying the integrity of a message. A mail server enabled with DKIM adds a signature to email messages sent from it that can be used to verify the contents of said email by the receiving mail server.  Again, some mail servers are configured to only accept email messages from mail servers enabled with DKIM.

There are many factors that can prevent an email message from being delivered.  Fortunately, most mail servers send bounce-back emails when an email message is not delivered that include error messages and failure codes.  These codes are a good place to start when your email messages are not getting to their desired destination.  If the error codes are not providing much insight into the overlying issue, try contacting the email provider you are trying to send email to (e.g. Google for Gmail, Microsoft for Outlook.com and Hotmail, Yahoo!, etc.).  While the larger email providers are not forthcoming with what exact blacklists they use or other metrics used to determine if an email is delivered, they often have means of remediation where you can get your email server removed from their “do not accept” lists.

With a few internet search engine queries, a chat or email with the email provider you are trying to send emails to, and a little luck, your email messages will be on their way!

 

References:

https://www.mailenable.com/kb/content/article.asp?ID=ME020003

http://forum.mailenable.com/viewtopic.php?t=17208

https://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/outlook_com/forum/oemail-osend/unable-to-send-emails-to-microsoft-email-accounts/1c502639-120a-4d19-9dd2-2d6534ca4e55

Server rep: https://fulcrumtech.net/resources/improve-email-delivery-rate/

PTR: http://help.dnsmadeeasy.com/managed-dns/dns-record-types/ptr-record/

SPF: https://support.google.com/a/answer/33786?hl=en

Blacklist: http://www.inmotionhosting.com/support/email/email-troubleshooting/why-do-mail-servers-get-blacklisted

https://sendgrid.com/blog/blacklisted-check-7-popular-blacklists-keep-reputation-intact/

SMTP TLS: https://luxsci.com/blog/how-to-tell-who-supports-tls-for-email-transmission.html

DKIM: http://www.mailenable.com/documentation/8.0/Enterprise/Domain_-_DKIM_(DomainKeys).html

 

Is your website ready for the next Google SSL update and how will it impact your business?

Does your website start with “http://” or “https://”?

If it is the former rather than the latter, your website visitors (and your business) may have a large surprise starting October 1, 2017!

According to Google, “Starting October 2017, Chrome (version 62) will show a “NOT SECURE” warning when users enter text in a form on an HTTP page, and for all HTTP pages in Incognito mode.”

More simply put, if your site does not have an SSL certificate on October 1, 2017, Google Chrome will mark it as “NOT SECURE” if there are any text fields.

What does an SSL do for me?

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) Certificates encrypt the connection between the web browser and the server where the website resides. This makes it much harder for someone to intercept the traffic and steal the information, which in turn leads to a safer browsing experience for the average web user.

This is the second step in Google’s plan to force users to employ an SSL certificate. Step one was implemented in January of this year. It marked sites as “NOT SECURE” if they did not have an SSL certificate and accepted personal data, like credit cards or PayPal. This step, implemented October 1, will mark any site with text fields as “NOT SECURE” without an SSL. The final step, planned to roll out soon, is to mark any site as “NOT SECURE” that does not have an SSL certificate.

Because it is so much more secure, Google would prefer to have all websites protected by an SSL certificate. They have reinforced this notion in their ranking algorithm as well, with SSL protected websites ranking more highly.

What does this mean for you?

Your business and your website traffic are at risk with no SSL certificate!

What should I do to avoid this situation?

Talk to your webmaster or the person that handles your website hosting about adding an SSL.

Don’t have an SSL or not sure where to start?

Contact Integrity First Technology Solutions, Inc. (412.559.7177 or si@iftsdesign.com) and let them take care of it for you.

Don’t miss this opportunity to upgrade your website. Protect your clients and your website’s reputation!

Why Do I Need an Email Address With My Domain Name?

Have you ever noticed an email address on a business card or website like “greatlakes16@verizon.net” that just screams “unprofessional”?

Chances are that the answer is yes.

While the email address is not offensive, it does not convey a sense of professionalism (or branding), either.  All businesses today should have email addresses using their website domain name (e.g. jane.doe@mybusinessdomain.tld).  It is a relatively inexpensive bit of marketing you can do to lend your company’s online presence more credence.

What about individuals that are used to checking just their personal email account, and worry that creating a new email address using their domain name will disrupt their workday flow?

Most email services (Gmail, Outlook, Hotmail, Yahoo!, etc) provide email forwarding to overcome this obstacle.  One can easily forward all email from their professional email address to another email address (e.g. their personal email address).  This prevents the need for checking a separate email address.

So how do you get a professional-looking email address?  It is a very simple process, and only requires two steps:

  1. You must have a domain name registered:  For example, if you have a website at mybusiness.tld, you most likely already have your domain name registered.  If you do not have a domain name, typical TLD’s (Top Level Domains such as .com, .net and .biz) can be registered though IFTS for $19.99 per year.
  2. You must subscribe to an email service: There are several email service providers that offer a number of useful features for business users, including extensive address book tools and spam protection.  Expect to pay at least $5 per user per month for an email service.  IFTS can facilitate setting up an email service to utilize your domain name.

Alternatively, most hosting providers offer a limited email solution free with a hosting plan that will make use of your domain name.  These email services tend to not be as full-featured as the paid email options from Google, Microsoft and Yahoo!, and are less reliable due to being dependent on your hosting provider’s server availability.  In other words, when their server goes down, so does your email!

Which email service is right for you?  IFTS exclusively recommends using G Suite by Google Cloud email service (https://gsuite.google.com).  This is Google’s business email offering, and offers a very robust webmail experience, as well as included cloud storage and integration with their business productivity web applications.

IFTS can easily route your email to G Suite.  The cost is $5 per user per month, and you can have multiple aliases associated with each user.

References:

http://www.productivity501.com/setup-your-email-to-look-professional/262/

https://iwantmyname.com/blog/the-guide-to-getting-your-own-custom-email-address

https://clickwp.com/blog/professional-email-address/

https://problogger.com/how-to-set-up-an-email-account-that-uses-your-domain-name/

Google wants YOUR website to be mobile friendly right NOW…Is it?

Is your website mobile friendly?

According to Google’s Webmaster Blog, “To improve the mobile search experience, after January 10, 2017, pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly.”

What does this mean for your business?  

If you want to rank highly on Google’s search results, your website has to be considered mobile friendly.

 

What does mobile friendly even mean?

When you open a business’s website on your phone and you have to pinch the screen to zoom in so that you can read it, that is indicative of a non-mobile friendly site.  The website does not distinguish how it shows up based upon the device on which it is being viewed.  If you make it more difficult for someone on your website to access information, they are much more likely to leave.

 

Why did Google do this?

According to Marketing Land, 60% of consumers time is spent browsing the internet on their mobile devices.  Additionally, 75% of people will search on their phone for a business that they want to connect with  (Google Partners).

Google wants to make browsing the internet as easy and as safe as possible for the average web user.  Therefore, they are going to return websites in the search results that they believe exhibit these traits.  If you are not one of these websites, your ranking position is likely to drop.

Even worse, if your competition IS one of those mobile friendly websites, their position is likely to rise.

 

What do I need to know about Google’s mobile friendly algorithm?

Important updates to be aware of are (Search Engine Land):

  • The new mobile friendly algorithm was rolled out in January 2017
  • It is an on or off algorithm, which means that you are 100% mobile friendly or you are not
  • It will be on a page-by-page basis

 

How do I know if my site is mobile friendly?

Google has released a tool where you can check your site for mobile friendliness: https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly

 

If you have employed one of the following techniques, your website will be considered mobile friendly:

  1. Adaptive Design: Your website changes the content served based on the viewing device.
  2. Responsive Design: Your website has a fluid layout that changes based on the viewing device.
  3. Mobile-Only site: You have a separate mobile site that shows only on mobile devices.  This is no longer recommended because Google indexes your mobile site only.

 

What should I do if my website is not mobile friendly?  I want to be returned highly in the search results!

If you do not have a mobile friendly website, there are four options to explore.

  1. Additions to Existing Website:  You can make responsive additions to your existing website that will allow the site to account for the viewing device.
  2. Website Redesign:  You can redesign your website as a responsive website, which will ensure that it shows properly on all devices.  Additionally, you can add in other changes for other Google updates, such as the new SSL requirement.
  3. Create a Separate Mobile Site:  You can keep your site as is and have a mobile site that is served only to mobile users.  Again, this is not recommended because Google now indexes your mobile site only.
  4. Do Nothing: If you do not want to rank highly on Google’s search algorithm, then you can leave your site as is.

 

Need help implementing options one, two or three?  Contact IFTS, Inc. for more details.

 

Why You Should Care About Net Neutrality

The Net Neutrality principle was originally coined and defined by Columbia Law school professor, Tim Wu in 2003.  The principle is based on the concept that the Internet should be ‘open’, permitting data to flow freely without special consideration of the endpoints, namely the sender and receiver, and without consideration of the endpoints’ platforms, applications or equipment.

Without Net Neutrality, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can filter content or throttle speed from ‘not-in-network’ content providers and competitors.  For businesses, abusers steer consumers away from their content or compel them to pay-to-play.  For consumers, abusers limit access and induce providers, such as Netflix to, increase pass-along costs.

In recent years, the Net Neutrality principle has been linked to Net Neutrality rules as the Executive branch in Washington attempted to ensure a level playing field for all.  The linkage and subsequent rules have become highly politicized and present yet another potent source of disagreement in Washington.  The new Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Ajit Pai, has signaled he intends to reverse and/or not enforce protection rules enacted during the Obama presidency.  The FCC is overreaching its authority regardless of which party controls the Executive branch.

Consumers, small businesses, and large businesses alike should take notice.  Net Neutrality as a guiding principle is congruent with the principles of an open and equality-based democracy.   Note also however; as opponents of Net Neutrality rules counter, a heavy-laden set of regulations stifles business innovation, investment, and economic growth.

Neither the pure approach of Net Neutrality regulations favored by the Democrats nor the pure dismantlement of regulations approach favored by the Republicans are tenable in the modern age.  The core problem stems from the fact that in the absence of a bipartisan atmosphere, the FCC and other forces are attempting to force the needle left and right to cope with an outdated Telecommunications Act of 1996.  Lean too far left and we end up with stifling regulation which impede business investment and US economic growth. Lean too far right and we end up with a deeply concerning loss of consumer privacy where your data is owned, not by you, but by the public and private sector.  Additionally, move too far right and hasten the growth of monolithic too-big-to-fail business entities which crowd out smaller business competition.

My basic tenets include:

  • The Net Neutrality principle is central to a free and open democracy in the modern age
  • The American people deserve considerable more control over their personal data; and restrictions for how data may be used by the public and private sectors
  • Businesses, big and small, deserve an environment which promotes investment, growth, and fair-play
  • Our federal government must work collaboratively to help our society nimbly adapt to an ever-changing digital world in the 21st century
  • A bipartisan, light-touch, non-onerous set of commonsense rules need to be included within an overhaul of the outdated Telecommunications Act of 1996

What can you do? Contact your elected officials in Washington to encourage them to work together to craft and enact moderate, forward-thinking telecommunications legislation which, in turn, will help our country remain strong and committed to our core democratic principles.

Guest Post Written by Hunter H. Hopkins, IT Consultant, and Owner of Triple H Solutions.  Interested in hearing more? Join our newsletter at www.triplehsolutions.com/newsletter

Get More Clients – A 7-Point Checklist to Increase Your Website Inquiries for Law Firms (or any other small business)

 

Have you ever wondered if your website is any good?  Better yet, have you ever wondered if Google thinks that your website is any good?  If no one visits your website, you won’t get any social shares or traffic.  Even worse, you won’t increase your Google ranking and get your website on that elusive first page with the amazing click-rates.

Follow the tips below, and you will increase the likelihood of your website ranking higher and generating more traffic.  Here is a 7-point checklist that will help you get started:

  1. Make sure that your website has an SSL certificate

Starting at the end of January 2017, Google Chrome will now alert users that a site is not secure if there is no SSL certificate and the site collects credit card or password information.  They intend to expand this rule to all websites.  Be proactive and protect your online presence with an SSL certificate.  Additionally, Google looks favorably upon websites that have certificates currently.

  1. Put your phone number in large font in the header of your website.

According to Google Mobile Movement, 88% of consumers who search for a type of local business on a mobile device call or go to that business within 24 hours.  You want it to be as easy as possible for that prospect or client to get in touch with you.  The easier it is, the more likely they are to send that email, pick up the phone or visit your business.  60% of local businesses don’t have their phone number on their website (according to BIA Kelsey).  Make sure that you aren’t one of them!

  1. Include compelling H1 or H2 headlines on your homepage

When it comes to writing headlines, it’s important that you include at least one keyword and format them properly using H1, H2, & H3 tags to tell Google what your page is about.  This should result in Google sending proper traffic to your site.

  1. Make sure that your content is keyword rich and describes exactly what your business does

By having at least 500 words of benefi­t-driven, keyword-rich content to tell Google what your website is all about, you will have a lot better chance of attracting the right visitors.  Remember, content is king so make sure that you have copy that is unique to YOU!

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  1. Include your top 3 practice areas with benefi­t-driven, keyword-rich copy

Try to minimize the legal jargon and speak to the average individual.  Let your site visitors know that you understand their problem and that you are the person to ­fix their problem. A simple trick is to minimize the times that you say “we” and instead use “you” or “your”. Try it!

  1. Professional branding is a must

Your website is your online face to the world and you only have 8 seconds to make a lasting impression.  Make sure that you have a professional logo, strong brand messaging and great looking aesthetics.  Try to build your personal brand into your business.  People trust individuals and like to put a face to a company.

  1. Be impossible to resist

Create a lead magnet (ebook, guide, checklist, etc.) to offer to your website visitors.  Make sure that it will be of great value to them, so that they want to provide their email address to download it.  When you email it to them, surprise them with a special offer available only to those who download it.  Keep the lead magnet short and easy to read.  Avoid industry jargon.

 

To recap, 7 quick wins that you can implement for your homepage are:

1. Make sure that your website has an SSL certificate
2. Put your phone number in large font in the header of your website
3. Include compelling H1 or H2 headlines on your homepage
4. Make sure that your content is keyword rich and describes exactly what your business does
5. Include your top 3 practice areas with benefi­t-driven, keyword-rich copy
6. Professional branding is a must
7. Be impossible to resist

If you found these 7 tips helpful, download the entire 47-point guide from Integrity First Technology Solutions.

 

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Does my Business Need a Website?

Example website for a company

If you are asking yourself, “Does my business need a website?” the answer is unequivocally “YES!”  Over 2.6 billion local searches are performed monthly (Small Business Community – https://smallbusinesscommunity.org/2013/03/15/online-marketing-for-local-business-introduction/).  Having a website isn’t just for e-commerce anymore; it’s a must for any legitimate business.  Your website should be the hub to your marketing plan.

You should implement a website for a number of reasons:

  1. Websites provide your contact information and location easily: 43% of searches use a local keyword.  86% of those convert to a phone call or visit to your physical location, according to SE Leads (http://localvox.com/resources/marketing-statistics/).  People aren’t just relying on the Yellow Pages or other print directories anymore. Instead, they’re trusting Google to list local businesses based on their search terms and location.
  1. Websites provide information about your business: Businesses spend thousands of dollars creating paper brochures and fliers that end up being thrown away or misplaced on desks.  Having a website allows you to change information real-time without having to pay printing costs. Customers and prospects will always receive the latest information when they visit your site.
  1. Websites allow you to attract new customers: Over 2.4 billion people use the internet daily.  By not having a website, you miss out on these potential customers.  Have you ever heard a business owner say, “No thanks, I have enough business”?
  1. Websites can establish trust and credibility: What your website looks like affects the perceived value of your business.  If it looks unappealing, is rife grammar mistakes and has broken functionality, people are going to assume that your business is exactly the same: dysfunctional.  Your website is a reflection of you and your business.  By having one that is grammatically correct and well structured, your business will gain instant credibility and represent the true nature of your expertise.  One important thing to remember is that it is BETTER TO HAVE NO WEBSITE THAN A BAD ONE.
  1. Websites can provide reviews, testimonials and your completed projects: People like to see that you are capable of doing the work that they want to hire you to do.  They also like to know that other people enjoyed working with you.  Therefore, providing customer testimonials or allowing reviews of your company online help to showcase your expertise and the qualities that make working with you unique.  You can also provide details of completed projects, showing the quality of your work.
  1. Websites provide the opportunity for a Vanity Email: Along with your site comes the ability to have an email address that is you@yourwebsite.com.  You may think that the Gmail, Yahoo! or Hotmail account that you currently have is fine, but it lacks professionalism.  A vanity email is much easier to remember and will resonate with your clients.  A 2015 Verisign study concluded that 65% of consumers consider a vanity domain to be more credible than a generic email account.
  1. Websites allow you to have a company blog or event page: A blog or event page on your site allows you to provide your clients with your latest promotions, events, discounts and more.  The blog also allows you to establish your expertise with your customers by writing high quality content that is relevant to them and your field.
  1. A website allows YOU to save time and money: Your website provides your clients with 24/7 access to your company and any information that you provide.  If you add a customer portal, ticketing system or even an FAQ section, you will streamline your process and decrease YOUR cost of customer support.
  1. A website allows you to keep up with your competition: I can guarantee that at least one of your competitors is online and if you are not, the additional people that they can reach will not even know about you.  Why make it easy for another company to beat you?  A good site can help level the playing field between big and small companies.

If you want to establish rapport with a broader set of customers, provide up to date information about your company, easily answer questions from clients, reach a new set of prospects and compete with your largest competitors, then a website is for you.  Integrity First Technology Solutions can help you create a successful website and more.  Contact us today!

 

Hosting a Site on Plesk without Providing the Email Service

Recently, IFTS had a situation where we were asked to host a website for an organization, but they would be using Microsoft365 for their email.  This was a new situation for us, as we provide the email service for every other website that we host.  The organization’s web host is MidPhase, so this is where we created an “A” record for their domain pointing to our server.  On our server, we set up the domain on Plesk as usual.  Additionally, we copied the Microsoft365 email DNS settings from MidPhase into Plesk as a precaution.

The organization’s new website was published and working well.  Additionally, sending a test email to the Microsoft365 account from Gmail worked fine.  However, sending an email from any email account on our server to the Microsoft365 account resulted in the email immediately being bounced back.  The bounce back contained the error code 17099 and a message that claimed that the mailbox did not exist on the target server.

Just establishing the DNS settings point to Microsoft365 in Plesk was not enough.  When you create a domain in Plesk, it evidently automatically creates a postoffice for that domain in mailEnable.  Therefore, despite the fact that the DNS settings pointed to Microsoft365, the mailboxes on our server just attempted to automatically deliver the email to the domain’s newly created postoffice that was not being used.  Hence, the bounce back.

The solution is to turn off the mail service for this domain.  To do this, go to Home > Subscriptions > Your domain.  Click on the “Mail” tab next to “Websites and Domains”, then click on the “Mail Settings” tab.  Select the domain and click on the “Activate/Deactivate Services” button to deactivate the postoffice/mail domain.

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After we did this, we sent a test email from our server and it went through fine with no bounce back.

 

 

 

What do I Need in Order to have a Website for my Company?

In order to have a website for your company, you typically need to have three things:

  1. A domain
  2. A web host
  3. Your coded website files

Domain

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As soon as you know the name of your company, you will want to start looking into a domain name, or what a user will type into their web browser to get to your site.  Generally, your domain name should be short and to the point.  There are two reasons for this:

  1. You want people to easily get to your site and short names are the easiest to remember
  2. This will most likely be your email address, so it should be easy to say and spell for others

For example, if your company name is “Betty Brown’s Cupcakes”, you may want to look into purchasing the domain “BBCupcakes.com”.  Some companies purchase multiple domain names and have them all forward to the main domain.  Using the cupcake company as an example, they may purchase “bettybrownscupcakes.com” as well as “bbcupcakes.com”.  Then they could have “bettybrownscupcakes.com” forward automatically to “bbcupcakes.com”.  This way, their customers are able to type the company name into the address bar and still arrive at the company’s main site.

A domain is normally purchased by year through a domain provider, but multiple years can be purchased as well, sometimes with a small per year discount.  The domain provider should provide a control panel that will allow you to configure your web host and email settings.

Web Host

3-Blog-Article-Image---webhostforwebsiteOnce you have a domain, you will need a space upon which to put your website.  This is where a web host comes in.  A web host will provide space on a server for you to put your site files.  They should assign you an IP address or server address, which you will need to enter in your domain settings.  This way, when your domain name is typed in a browser, the browser looks to the domain provider, who provides the server where your website sits.  The browser then looks at that server and is able to display your web page.

Website files

Once you have your structure in place for hosting your site, you will need an actual website to go on it.  To create your site, you will want to speak with a web design company about the best options for you.  They should go over site structure, content and framing as well as many other things that go into the creation of a website.

Bonus: SSL Certificate

It is highly recommended that an SSL certificate be purchased for your site to protect your site visitors.  For more information on SSL certificates, please see IFTS’ blog entry on SSLs.

Please see our blog entry next time on “My Site is Up and Running, so Now What?”