The Web For Business.com Blog

Internet marketing observations, perspectives, tips and tricks for your education and enlightenment.


High Flying Spammers

Mark Kawabe - Tuesday, June 30, 2015

It's been nearly a year since the full implementation of CASL. Canadian companies have had a long time to get used to the new rules, and while they seem simple to follow, apparently they're not.

Porter Airlines is the latest company to face a hefty fine under CASL for violations of the Canadian Anti Spam Legislation. $150,000 is not a small amount of money. What were their transgressions?

  • Sending emails with no unsubscribe mechanism.
  • Sending emails with obscure unsubscribe mechanisms.
  • Not providing complete contact information in their emails.
  • Taking longer than 10 days to process unsubscribe requests.
  • Not being able to prove consent had been granted for each electronic address they sent email to.

Compliance with CASL is relatively easy, but also challenging. Entrepreneurs are especially vulnerable to falling afoul of CASL because they will not necessarily be able to prove consent was granted for every email address on their list. When you meet someone at a networking function and exchange business cards, if you want to add them to your CASL-compliant mailing list you are supposed to have some form of consent on record. Asking for consent is allowed, but technically, the response needs to be recorded. Ouch.

It is my opinion that larger companies will continue to be nailed for CASL violations while small businesses and entrepreneurs will likely continue to operate under the CASL radar for the forseeable future. That being said, CASL is the law of the land, so ensuring you've done what you can to be compliant is in your best interest.

Photo Credit: Porter Airlines.Dash-8.YUL.2009" by abdallahh - originally posted to Flickr as YUL - Montréal-P-E-Trudeau. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

It's not new, but it's worth repeating

Mark Kawabe - Friday, May 22, 2015

I recently came across a wonderful quote from Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, What the Dog Saw and David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.

"If my books appear to a reader to be oversimplified, then you shouldn't read them: you're not the audience!"

He knows who he's writing for. He understands who his target audience is. Do you do the same with your product and marketing?

It's easy to assume everyone's your target audience when you have something everyone could conceivably use. The reality though is that no two people are alike. Targeting "everyone" means you're wasting your efforts.

Take something as mundane as window cleaner. Mostly everyone in North America has a home or a car with windows, so everyone needs YOUR window cleaning solution, right?

Not so fast. There are many kinds of people, such as:

  • women,
  • men,
  • those who don't care if their windows are dirty,
  • those who would prefer a more environmentally-friendly alternative,
  • those who buy the stuff in bulk (and yours isn't sold in bulk),
  • those who only buy "the best stuff",
  • those who only buy the cheapest stuff,
  • those who prefer pretty scents,
  • those who prefer just the basic blue liquid,
  • and so on.

Not understanding who your product or service appeals to causes cascading problems for marketing. From design to content to context, you're flying blind. When you know who your ideal customer is, you're miles ahead of your competition who don't.

I know you've heard it before, but it's worth repeating. Know your audience. Create useful and informative stuff for them, and do it better than your competition. You'll come out ahead in the long run.

 

 

Where are you putting your efforts?

Mark Kawabe - Thursday, May 21, 2015

When you create good content, where should it go?

From my perspective, it should go on your website first. Once it's there, you can then work on marketing it further. This approach makes sense for many reasons.

CONTROL

Let's face it: you don't control Facebook. Google doesn't owe you anything. Putting your useful, pertinent, relevant content on your site is the easiest, surest way to build your online foundation. If Facebook shuts down your profile (either on purpose or by accident), your "satellite" content will take a hit, but your foundation will remain strong.

RELEVANCE & FRESHNESS

I'm sure you've heard that search engines value sites with good content. If you're putting your good content elsewhere, you're building someone else's website and not your own. Don't complain about your search engine positioning if you're not adding new, relevant content to your site.

EMPIRE BUILDING STARTS AT HOME

I've said it before but it's worth saying again: For most people, the value of social media is to amplify what you already have. There are companies that get the majority of their business on Facebook. That's great - for them. If you're not in that situation, I suggest it is more important to craft a compelling website that showcases your knowledge and builds your credibility. Your website should be the single source of all great information about you and your business so when people come calling from wherever they hail from online, they'll get a complete picture of what your company's all about and not a pale reflection of your social media presence.

It's really that "simple". Post useful content on your site as part of your blog. Then market the heck out of that content so lots of people learn about you. When they come to your site, have it be a good mix of design and content and calls to action. Keep at it consistently to generate leads and make sales.

If you have any questions or want to know more about any of the topics I've discussed here, please feel free to contact me. I promise to answer all pertinent questions!

 

 

Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam

Mark Kawabe - Friday, May 15, 2015

The Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL) was implemented on July 1, 2014. CASL is designed to reduce spam messages received by Canadians. It has been effective - in a surprising way.

Cloudmark is a San Franciso-based email security company. They released a Security Threat Report for the first quarter of 2015 and their numbers demonstrate that CASL's been effective. Canadian spam that was directed toward American recipients dropped by 37 percent post-CASL. Email to Canadians dropped by 29 percent overall. What was surprising though was that the change in the amount of spam email received by Canadians was not significant.

One explanation is that most spam that originates in Canada is sent to American recipients while most spam Canadians receive originates in the United States. While email Canadians receive has dropped by 29 percent, that seems to be due to a decline in legitimate email messages being sent. As an overall percentage, spam has increased for Canadians from 16.5 to 16.6 percent.

As expected, spammers from outside Canada are ignoring CASL. However, email senders who are within CASL's jurisdiction are paying attention. The first major fine against a Canadian company was against Compu-Finder, a Quebec company that received a $1.1 million penalty in March of 2015 for four violations of the act. The second fine was levied against the company that runs the Plenty Of Fish dating site. Their penalty was $48,000, largely surmised to be because they took immediate action to comply with CASL while Compu-Finder did not.

So for Canadians, we're still getting spammed under CASL. That's no surprise. At The Web For Business.com, we are constantly looking at ways to reduce the spam that reaches our servers. Our spam filtering services are updated daily with new filters but stuff still makes it though. Ensuring your own email software's spam filtering is turned on is still a good idea to reduce spam even further.

Hopefully the war on spam will eventually be won. In the meantime, please be vigilant. Here are a few tips on how to avoid getting "phished".

  • Avoid clicking on suspicious links in email messages.
  • It's generally safe to ignore email messages purportedly sent by your bank, PayPal or Apple.
  • Resist opening attachments you weren't expecting unless you know and trust the source - and even then, it's safer to ask.
  • Watch our video on how to avoid phishing scams

As always, if you have any questions on spam or suspicious emails, please contact me and I can help you spot the frauds that arrive in your inbox.

What does it take for great SEO?

Mark Kawabe - Thursday, April 30, 2015

Questions about SEO?Getting great results in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) is what everyone wants. Unfortunately, it's not as easy as it used to be. I've been around long enough to remember the pre-Google days, when you could submit a site to Yahoo and it would be #1 for your keyword search in less than a week. <sigh>

The Google algorithm never stops evolving. That's good, because the internet is still a new medium and everyone is still scrambling to figure out how it works. Even the big players don't always get things right. Just look at Google's social media stumbles.

A few years ago, you used to be able to do a few things well and be rewarded in the search engines. Things like carefully matching the keywords on a webpage to the actual searches done by potential visitors. Having lots of inbound links used to be a hot ticket. Posting fresh content regularly was a great approach. Those things are still important, but now, there are more "hoops" to jump through.

I call them hoops, but they're just additional factors that Google and other search engines use to determine the overall quality of your website. Take all of the above and now add in things like topical authority, site usage characteristics, the user experience on your website, whether your site is secure (using https) or is mobile friendly - and more. When you look at the bigger picture, there's so much more than keyword matching involved.

Business knowledge is generally a few years behind when it comes to advances in technology and marketing. In this case though, it's not such a bad thing. For years, I have gently reminded people that although the tools are changing, the underlying fundamentals of online marketing haven't changed. If you've paid attention to your fundamentals, you're probably still doing just fine in search engine rankings.

One of the websites I manage has been sitting very comfortably in the top 10 websites for a relatively competitive keyword search for more than a decade. Let thank sink in for a moment. MORE THAN 10 YEARS. The work I do on it is comparatively little when looking at the competition. So why does this website still rank highly? Fundamentals.

Some might argue that it's because this site is old that it's ranking well. That's part of it, to be sure. The domain's been registered since 2001 and it's built up some authority over that time as a result. Truthfully though, you can start a website tomorrow and with some discipline, build a site that is just as authoritative in one year. What is it going to take? Focusing on fundamentals.

Start sharing your knowledge. Tell your story. Connect with prospects and clients using the old and new tools available. Be useful enough on a regular basis and believe it or not, that will make you special. Why? Because most people lack the discipline needed to do the work required. Be special enough that people believe in your ability to help them. When you're special, people will look for you, talk about you, and trust you to take care of them. At that point, you might have done really well in the SERPs, but you'll also probably not need to worry about that because you'll be busy enough with the work you have coming in.

By all means, adapt and adjust to changing search engine requirements. Make your site responsive. It'll be better for you anyway. But don't let the trends that come and go take your attention away from your fundamentals. Responsive website or not, your online presence will work better for you when you're focused on what's most important.

Mobilegeddon is Here

Mark Kawabe - Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Mobile-f-ing-geddon!If you're like most people, you probably haven't heard of the so-called "Mobilegeddon" that's happening today. I'm not going to say it's a good or bad thing that you haven't. Just because Google says something in February doesn't mean that it makes the papers.

So, what's the big deal? Here's the story.

Google announced in February that sites that are not mobile-friendly will essentially be penalized in search results when a search is made from a smartphone. This does not affect searches made from tablets. Yes, I know, a tablet is a "mobile device", but Google treats tablets like desktops when it comes to searches.

What does "mobile friendly" mean? Fundamentally, Google's philosophy has now extended beyond getting people the best, most relevant search results. Now they want top ranking websites (on mobile) to have unique content, lots of social media and other relevance AS WELL AS a great user experience. These days, "great user experience" when viewing a website on a mobile phone means having a responsive website. The term "responsive" means your website has a layout that RESPONDS to fit various screens. Having a responsive website is now more important than before for many companies.

What this means for most businesses is . . . well, that depends.

If your business gets a significant portion of its web traffic from people using mobile devices, you could be in trouble. This depends largely on how people search for your business. If you run a coffee shop called "Higher Grounds Cafe" in Niagara Falls, for example, you may not be found as readily if someone does a search for "niagara falls coffee shop" or "niagara falls cafe". However, if people primarily search by your business name, you probably won't lose visitors searching on mobile devices.

Another perspective is that if your business operates in an industry where your clients aren't likely using mobile devices to search for a company like yours, you shouldn't be losing sleep over this change. Chances are that a person making a major purchasing decision will not be doing all of their research on a smartphone. If you sell office equipment or machinery or are generally a B2B type company, you may not notice any decline in your site visits.

I agree that "Mobilegeddon" may have a significant impact on many business' rankings in mobile search results. On the other hand, it's also true that MANY businesses already have poor rankings with their websites and are not getting great amounts of search engine traffic from non-brand (i.e. company name) searches. If a website is already ranked #25 for a search and it ranks #35 after Mobilegeddon, will it truly make any difference?

My suggestions for dealing with Mobilegeddon:

  1. Don't Panic. It was good advice when The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy came out and it's just as relevant today.

  2. Look at your website. Is it responsive already? If so, relax.
  3. Check your search engine rankings. Do you rank highly for a number of relevant searches? You might want to preserve that. Don't rank well at all? Well then, you might as well skip to #4.
  4. Check your website statistics. Do you have Google Analytics? Good. You can see how many searches came from mobile.
  5. Create a responsive website. I know - this is definitely easier said than done. I can help, so contact me.
  6. Act. The majority of business owners and entrepreneurs truly care about their search engine positioning. Most do nothing about it. If you're one of the ones who acts, you'll have an advantage over those who don't.

Another important point to consider is that according to Forrester research, between 2004 and 2011, the percentage of consumers who cited "search engines" as the way the found websites declined from 83% to 61%. One can see that while search is important, it's not the only factor involved in how you can draw attention to your brand and your website. Maybe your website is not mobile friendly. Perhaps you might be better off strengthening your brand on social media to get more visitors rather than investing in a mobile friendly website.

In short, Mobilegeddon may be a huge thing or nothing for your business to consider. If you want some advice, please contact me and I'll answer any question you may have about this topic.

 

New Website Launch for Joan Worthington, RSW

Mark Kawabe - Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Having been through counseling, I can attest to how valuable it can be. That's why when Joan Worthington, RSW, a gifted counsellor with decades of experience contacted us to update her website, we were happy to jump in.

Joan's original website was on an older hosted Content Management System (CMS). We developed her new website on the WordPress platform so she could retain her ability to update the website as needed on her own. WordPress is a very common platform for website development. Millions of websites have been developed using WordPress. An no, we're not exaggerating.

Another reason we chose to go with WordPress is because of the availability of responsive templates. With the upcoming change to Google's algorithm to focus more on mobile, having a responsive website is becoming a competitive advantage. Not all WordPress templates are responsive, so watch for that if you're thinking WordPress is the answer to your responsive website prayers.

With the new website, Joan took the opportunity to expand the content she has provided about the areas she counsels people in. There are many people suffering from anxiety, depression, PTSD, stress, or dealing with loss or grief, relationship and parenting issues. Of course, there are many other areas that Joan can provide counselling in, so it's good that the WordPress system can accommodate future expansions of content.

When it comes to managing her own updates, we created a custom video tutorial to help Joan work with some of the more advanced features available to her in WordPress. This is something we do for many of our WordPress clients. We have also created tutorial videos for other features like how to use our webmail system.

Joan provides counselling services in Niagara Falls and St. Catharines. If you know people who could use counselling, please refer them to Joan's website at http://www.consultworth.com.

 

Coming Back to Life

Mark Kawabe - Friday, April 17, 2015

Mark KawabeIt's a hard thing to admit, but sometimes life takes one on detours. I've been on one for the past several months, exploring new areas of society and parts of myself that I have rarely seen. It's been a good detour in many ways and I'm a better person for it.

My detour has meant I have not been as available to meet the many demands of my business. Some of my clients have been impacted by delays. I regret these impacts on my clients and am working to clear the backlog. I thank those most impacted for their patience and understanding.

I am honoured to work with really great people, which is why I wanted to write this post. You're great, and I thank you for your business and humanness. I'm great too, and now I'm back, with all the energy and vigour of spring.

Happy Friday!

Focus on the Fundamentals

Mark Kawabe - Monday, April 13, 2015

Your stories are the foundation of your online marketing program.The more I speak to people, the more I realize that in the past decade of helping clients market themselves online, much has stayed the same. Admittedly, the tools are different. Facebook launched in February 2004. YouTube started one year after that. Can you imagine the online world without social media?

Sure you can. It was dominated by search engines, portals and directories like Google, Yahoo and MSN. Blogging was also a relatively recent phenomenon. WordPress launched in May 2003. The tools and technology has changed but the stuff that matters hasn't.

This "stuff" is what I call "fundamentals". No matter the tools or tech, these fundamentals form the basis of successful marketing online. If you have it, you're starting from the right place. If you don't, you're starting off on the wrong foot. You might make a lot of noise, but you won't realize the success you want.

What are these mystery fundamentals? They're the stories you, your employees, your suppliers and your customers tell others about your business. Some people call it your "brand". Whatever you call it, these stories are the foundation for any online marketing campaign.

When talking to business owners, I find they have plenty of stories. There is always something going on in a business and in the industry and community the business operates in. In my opinion, there's always a story, but I often find people don't feel they have anything unique to talk about. That's a shame.

From my perspective, it is the stuff that happens "day in and day out" that is the foundation of a successful online marketing campaign for any business. The minutiae of one's work is interesting to people who don't do that work. Whether you make sausage or weld wind turbine blades, what you do is interesting and there are going to be people who want to know about it.

If you want to be successful online, you need to figure out what your stories are and then share them with the people who care. Who are those people? They're the ones who visit your website, sign up to your email newsletter, check out your social media profiles, belong to your networking groups. The people who celebrate your existence by paying attention to what you have to say are the people you need to connect with. They will, in turn, reward your efforts with more attention, in the form of comments, likes, shares, links, pins, retweets and more. Additional attention can in turn be rewarded with more opportunities to tell your story to people who make inquiries about your company, products and services.

Humans have always been storytellers. Giving us new tools to tell those stories is nice, but technology alone will never be the answer to your marketing challenges. Focus on sharing the stories in your business that reveal to the world your talents and your unique approach to solving their problems.

 

Home Office Router Security

Mark Kawabe - Saturday, January 17, 2015

If your home-based business uses a router on the network, you may have security issues. You can thank the folks at Sophos for bringing this to everyone's attention. Here's the original article: https://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2015/01/15/ouch-home-router-security-bypass-actually-means-no-security-at-all/

So, now that you know, what are you going to do about it?

Normally I'd be calling my computer guy. (Sorry, Glen. I'm costing you business.) Serendipitously, I found that my anti-virus software also scans for network vulnerabilities.

If you're using Avast free anti-virus, this is now part of the latest upgrade. If you're not using Avast, get it here.