The Web For Business.com Blog

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


Silence is NOT Golden

Mark Kawabe - Friday, September 19, 2014

Here's what silence sounds like online.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If your goal is to market yourself online, you're not going to get far being silent

What does silence "look" like online?

No recent website updates. When nothing's changed in over a year on your website (including your blog), what message does that send your clients and prospects?

No recent social media updates. Nothing new in a month or more on social media? Even a month is a long time in this era.

The online marketing world started with static websites, bulletin boards and email. With technology's advances, we added blogs and CMS systems that gave companies and individuals more opportunities to provide information to their customers on a regular basis. The development of social media has given companies hundreds of platforms on which to share their knowledge.

This is the blessing and curse of the online marketing world. Silence is measured by activity. A lack of activity says you have nothing to say or are inattentive. It may not be true. Many entrepreneurs and small organizations are quite busy running their businesses and taking care of their customers in the real world.

Even this real world activity can have some bearing on your online presence. Consider the various review sites that people can share their great experiences with your company. Those sites make up part of your organization's online presence.

I'm not suggesting that if your organization doesn't exist online that it will cease to exist. Thousands of businesses have virtually no online presence and yet, they're still in business. I am however suggesting your business will be enhanced by having a robust, well thought out and executed online strategy.

That means talking about what you do, sharing your knowledge and demonstrating your authority in your field of expertise. You can choose to be silent online, but I believe even a whisper is better than nothing in today's connected world.

Posting is Like Flossing

Mark Kawabe - Thursday, September 04, 2014

Floss - I mean post - for the long-term health of your businessThe quest to create new and unique content is a challenge for most people who have a website. We're all knowledgeable people, but sometimes knowing what to write about is confusing. My suggestion: read the news.

Every day, there is likely something in the news that you can share your perspective on. Why you agree or disagree. Share your knowledge and expertise. Let people know where you stand.

People do business with people who they trust. That trust is developed online one post at a time. Those pieces of information tell the story about who you are and what you stand for.

Working in the marketing field, there are always plenty of things to comment on. Sometimes I come across items through the mainstream media that are worth discussing. Other times an interesting article will be making the rounds on social media. If I'm really strapped, I look at what other marketers are talking about and share my own perspective on the topic.

I think of posting as something akin to flossing. It's beneficial to do, but because the benefits come over the long-term, most people don't do it. Regularly posting meaningful, self-generated content is a good practice. It shows people who you are, demonstrates your expertise and builds credibility. It can also benefit your search engine positioning, especially in long-tail search terms.

As with flossing, the payoff for posting is likely in the future. It's the kind of thing you would benefit from starting now if you want to realize the benefits down the road. An added bonus: if you post AND floss, you'll have a great smile to show your new clients.

Better Rankings in Google because of HTTPS/SSL - What You Need to Know

Mark Kawabe - Friday, August 08, 2014

A lockAn announcement from Google about issues that can affect search engine rankings has the power to keep people awake at night.

Google announced that they now include whether a site uses HTTPS/SSL in their ranking algorithm. There are probably thousands of webmasters scurrying to purchase SSL certificates for their clients' websites. In the near future, I expect a lot of spammy messages from domain registrars suggesting that their clients purchase SSL certificates so they can improve their rankings in Google.

This announcement means little to the vast majority of website owners.

Here's why:

  1. It will have low impact. Google said it is "only a very lightweight signal". There are more important things you can do to boost your search engine positioning than purchasing an SSL certificate for your site.

  2. It has a narrow focus. Google also says this change will have an impact on "fewer than 1% of global queries".

  3. Improper SSL application can hurt your site. Properly implementing HTTPS on your whole site will require testing, testing and more testing to get it right. Images, videos and content hosted by other sites may be blocked or will otherwise trigger a security warning to be displayed to your site visitors.

In my opinion, the vast majority of website owners do little to get better rankings in Google on a regular basis. The fact that Google is now factoring in HTTPS/SSL in their algorithm is interesting, but not interesting enough that I think site owners should be investing in security certificates in droves. There are many more important and effective things site owners could be doing to get more traffic to their websites.

For those wondering what some of those things are, here's a short list of items webmasters should be doing regularly if they care about their search engine rankings and/or getting more traffic to their websites.

  1. Add quality content to your website.
  2. Attract quality inbound links.
  3. Marketing the heck out of the content you've worked so hard to create.

If you're not doing at least one of those three things regularly, you don't need to worry about this latest change at Google. Simply put, you have more pressing things to concern yourself with. Covering the basics well before worrying about the more esoteric changes at Google will bring you more results than rushing out and installing an SSL certificate tomorrow.

Sir Richard Branson's Advice is Sound - So Why are You Still Struggling?

Mark Kawabe - Friday, August 08, 2014

Richard Branson's advice on how to market your business cheaply is currently making the rounds on social media. It's great advice. My distillation:

1) Know your core values - the reason why you do what you do -  and communicate them.

2) As an entrepreneur or business owner, you should be the one driving - and be the face of - your company's marketing.

3) Use social media to engage with your customers in an authentic and fun way and listen to feedback to understand how you can do things better.

4) Enjoy what you do and share that enthusiasm.

Wonderful advice. Very inspirational. I am momentarily uplifted.

Reality Check

I would add some items to Sir Richard's list. My suggestions are:

  1. Improve your communication skills. All of them. Practice speaking in groups. Enhance your writing ability. Focus on listening and understanding. Richard Branson would not have been effective if he were not a good communicator. He was a poor student academically and has dyslexia but has a great ability to connect with people. The ability to connect with others in a variety of contexts is a must for entrepreneurs.

  2. Be creative. We are all born creative beings. Our innate creativity often becomes suppressed by our parents, peers, educational system and sadly, by our own selves. Embrace creativity and open your mind to new perspectives. When you limit your thinking, you limit your growth.

  3. Persist. We may not have the resources or the natural talent or the charisma of Sir Richard, but we can choose to persist. If you truly believe that what you're doing is reflective of your core values and you want to make your own personal dream come true, then persist.

  4. Accept that you can't (or shouldn't) do everything. Branson didn't build his business empire on his own. He has had help all along the way. His mother re-mortgaged the family home to pay for unpaid taxes and fines that Sir Richard's record company racked up in 1971. Even though Branson is a visionary, there are many other people who have contributed to his current success.

    Building a team of people you can rely on for your business is crucial to your success. Chances are you can't do everything well. Focus on what you're good at and let your team help you with the rest.

Everyone knows the path of entrepreneurship is not easy. It's a special person who chooses this path. It's great to be uplifted by the many great thinkers of our time, but when reality strikes, it's you who is going to have to put in the countless hours of work to make your dream come true.

The Digital Disconnect

Mark Kawabe - Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Yesterday I sat for several hours in a coffee shop waiting for my trailer hitch to be installed. How I came to be there is interesting. I think it was because of a digital disconnect between the company's website and its staff.

The online order system for this store allows a customer to set a date for their hitch installation and says a store representative will call to set a time. Nobody had called, so I called instead. The representative I spoke to said she was surprised I hadn't received a call but that there was still time to have the installation done that day.

When I arrived, the representative at the store who checked me in told me I was supposed to be there at 7:00 a.m. Upon hearing that the online instructions said someone from the store would call to set a time, she said that wasn't how the process works in her understanding. Two different staff, two different perspectives on how the system worked.

It's important to ensure your real-world practices and policies match the policies you state online. We all intend to do what we say. Making sure your online and real-world identities match helps create the confidence customers need to buy from you again and to refer your business to their friends and families.

 

The first business day under CASL

Mark Kawabe - Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Welcome to life under CASL!

Has it changed much for you? I'm betting not.

CASL went into effect July 1st and on that very same day, I received several CEM from local businesses that were not compliant.

Perhaps it's just me, but I have heard about CASL so much in the previous two months that I am a tad surprised there are still those who haven't. It's a reminder that just because a new law is introduced doesn't mean there will be those who don't know a thing about it. So, what to do?

From my perspective, it means you'll still be seeing the occasional notice about CASL in my blog, social media feeds and newsletter. I spend much of my time educating people about what can be done online and how to do it. In that regard, nothing has changed.

Here is what you need to know now that CASL is in place.

  1. If you have not obtained express consent for your lists, life is not over. You can still send under "implied consent" for the next couple of years although you probably want to obtain express consent from your subscribers ASAP.

  2. All CEM must identify the sender, contain a physical address that is valid for 60 days after the CEM is sent as well as an unsubscribe mechanism. This applies to email messages and all other forms of CEM including texts and social media.

  3. Unsubscribe requests must be processed within 10 days.

  4. From my perspective, messages you send should also have a mechanism for your recipient to indicate they provide express consent to continue to receive your messages. This can be as simple as asking the recipient to respond with "Agree" or "Yes" in the subject line of an email. I checked that method with a lawyer knowledgeable about CASL and she said this would be sufficient.

The sky hasn't fallen, but we're now in new legal territory when it comes to sending CEM. While there's a transition period, it will be over before you know it. Work on gaining express consent now and spare the future headache.

To App or Not to App

Mark Kawabe - Monday, June 30, 2014

When I get asked the same question a few times in a week, I figure I should post the question and answer to my blog.

Thank you to all who asked this week's question: "Should my business have an app?"

In short, my answer is: It depends.

What do you want your app to do for you?

An app that is its own product (think Angry Birds) has a purpose. An app for your business is probably not a product in and of itself. It will more likely be an extension of your business that will make it more efficient in some way to deliver your existing products or services.

This means it will be more beneficial to ask yourself a question different than "do I need an app". The better question is "what information do I want to display and/or collect through a mobile device?" The follow-up question to this is "am I already displaying and/or collecting the information I want through mobile devices?"

From my perspective, those are the basic questions you should ask.

Some additional questions you may want to consider:

  • Do I have a budget to create an app?
  • Can I truly create value for my clients through an app?
  • Will my customers actually care enough to install and use my app?
  • Will I be able to keep my app updated?

Your customers probably aren't clamoring for a new icon for their smartphone. Your app has to matter to them by creating value. Whether you can translate that value into increased goodwill or sales is another question entirely.

The old adage of "Just because you can doesn't mean you should" comes to mind. An app (like a website, a blog, your social media presence etc.) is not a one-time investment of time and energy. My suggestion is to use the tools you have to the best of your ability first before venturing off into new territory. Unless there's a strong business case to be made that says the app is more important than other fundamentals, you'll probably be better served by sticking to the (mostly underutilized) basics of online and mobile marketing.

What does a lawyer have to say about @ss backwards CASL requests?

Mark Kawabe - Thursday, June 26, 2014

CASL Anti Spam LawCASL compliance season is upon us!

There has been a flurry of email activity as companies rush to be compliant with the new Canadian Anti Spam Law (CASL) which comes into effect July 1, 2014.

Some companies are apparently in such a rush that they're not paying attention to what the law says about getting express consent.

I've received a number of emails telling me that if I don't unsubscribe right then and there that I will be deemed to have provided express consent to receive more mailings.

This is backwards and it is specifically what CASL is designed to avoid.

COMPANIES CAN NOT USE NEGATIVE OPT-IN METHODS TO GAIN OR RETAIN SUBSCRIBERS TO THEIR LISTS.

I had a chat with a lawyer at Mills & Mills, LLP in Toronto who has fielded a flood of inquiries prompted by the introduction of CASL. She confirmed that companies who use negative opt-in methods are not getting express consent.

For those who are doing it "right" (which means by requiring your potential recipients to take a positive action like a click to confirm they are opting-in), my congratulations to you.

To the rest of you, please read this or our very own CASL presentation.

CASL - Implied Consent

Mark Kawabe - Friday, June 13, 2014

CASL Anti Spam LawThe sky may or may not fall on July 1, 2014 when CASL (the Canadian Anti Spam Law) comes into effect. Personally, I don't think there will be many changes with respect to B2B communications right away. Here's why.

CASL requires businesses to demonstrate they have either express or implied consent when sending Commercial Electronic Messages (CEM). Few businesses have obtained express consent to send CEM to everyone on their list, so it's likely your business will be sending to your list based on implied consent.

I'd like to talk about the notion of implied consent because I think there's a major exception in CASL that will allow most businesses the ability to continue operating "as is" without running afoul of the law. This major exception revolves around whether a recipient has "conspicuously published" or "disclosed" his or her electronic address. For the purpose of this discussion, we'll use an email address as the example electronic address.

What does it mean to have "conspicuously published" an email address? I think there are several possibilities.

  1. It's visible on your company website
  2. It's visible on social media sites
  3. It's visible on newspaper ads, billboards, flyers, brochures or vehicle advertising

If you have "disclosed" your email address, you may have done one of the following things:

  1. Printed it on your business cards,
  2. Included it as part of an email signature,
  3. Told someone your address verbally or over the phone.

If you have "conspicuously published" or "disclosed" your email address, you may be giving implied consent that you wish to be contacted for business purposes via email. If you did not indicate in any way that you do not wish to receive unsolicited CEMs via your email address, this may be enough to establish you are providing implied consent to received CEMs.

This has been referred to as the "business card exception". At networking events, you will often give people your business card which may have your email address on it. Unless you tell the recipient of your card not to send you CEMs, they can assume you have provided implied consent to receive messages from them. When that person's email newsletter hits your inbox the next day, you don't really have grounds for complaining. Thankfully, under CASL, you can simply unsubscribe from a mailing and the sender has to remove you from their list within 10 days.

Of course, the CEM you were sent had to have been relevant to your business, role, functions or duties in a business or official capacity and met the contact information requirements for it not to have been considered spam.

Many people I've spoken to are working on becoming compliant with CASL. I encourage everyone to do so. You will still be able to send relevant CEMs after July 1, 2014. You have three years to become fully compliant, so while you're sending messages based on implied consent, do your best to gain express consent from the recipients of your messages so you'll be in a good place come July 1, 2017.

Disabling Right Click of Images

Mark Kawabe - Thursday, May 01, 2014

Disabling right-clicks is a potential deterrent for amateurs, but truthfully, there is no way of protecting the photos from people copying them by doing the following:

  • Taking a screen capture.
  • Saving the entire page, including images.
  • Finding it on Google images.
  • Disabling Javascript in their browser which would render the protection script useless.

If you don't want something taken, don't put it online.