If a simple car battery replacement becomes a full-blown mechanical problem that requires an expensive air-conditioning fix, it would be safe to assume you are getting ripped off by your auto mechanic. The same can be said for your General Contractor if a seemingly harmless leak in the ceiling has sprung into a rooftop replacement scenario. But how would you know that you are getting ripped off by a Digital Marketing agency?

As the Internet continues to grow in influence and accessibility and as technology evolves to give us the latest in digital innovations, it becomes more important for businesses to incorporate Digital Marketing into their brand development strategy.

Put simply, if you’re not part of the digital landscape, you will be left behind by competitors who have invested time and resources to enhance their online presence.

With Digital Marketing, you leverage the power of the Internet by using its different tools and processes to connect with your target audience. We discussed the various strategies and techniques that comprise a Digital Marketing campaign in our article “How to Drive Traffic to Your Website”.

Ways to Get Digital Marketing Done for Your Business

Entrepreneurs are risk takers by nature. They like to be in the driver’s seat; take charge of the wheel and be in control of all aspects of the journey toward entrepreneurial success. It is not uncommon to find entrepreneurs manage their businesses’ own Digital Marketing campaign.

But even if you have an extensive background and experience in Digital Marketing, it is not advisable to do it on your own. Digital Marketing is a process that takes time to manifest results. As the business owner, your available hours in the day are best dedicated to activities that directly contribute dollars and cents to your bottomline.

That leaves you with two other options for Digital Marketing: Hire a freelancer or contract the services of a Digital Marketing agency.

A freelancer is an individual contractor who specializes in Digital Marketing. He/she will be the cheaper option but keep in mind two things:

  1. The freelance Digital Marketer will need to hire other contracted talent;
  2. The freelance Digital Marketer will also have other clients to manage.

With these 2 factors to consider, it will be difficult for the freelance Digital Marketer to devote 100% full attention on your campaign because he/she cannot guarantee the schedule of the other contracted talent and available time might be constrained by deadlines to other clients.

Contracting the services of a Digital Marketing agency would be your best option as it provides you with the following advantages:

  1. A ready team of experts in every area of Digital Marketing.
  2. Experience and track record for providing excellent service.
  3. Availability of backup services; if your content writer is indisposed, another one can be recommended and assigned to your campaign.
  4. More professional approach; built-in workflows and processes for reporting, record-keeping and client collaboration.
  5. Centralized system of management makes it easier to organize and oversee progress and track performance.
  6. While generally more expensive than freelancers, agencies are open to negotiate their payment structures.

More companies are outsourcing their Digital Marketing needs to third party service providers/ agencies because it is not their core competence. They prefer to leave Digital Marketing to the experts.

Plus, as a contracted service, the company does not incur additional expenses for payroll, benefits, rent and other operations-related items as they would have if they had chosen to do Digital Marketing in-house.

Over the years, more agencies have entered the Digital Marketing industry which has resulted in the dilution of the quality of work rendered.

How to Avoid Getting Ripped Off by Digital Marketing Agencies

No doubt, some of you may have heard horror stories from well-meaning entrepreneurs who fell victim to the “Digital Marketing Agency from Hell”. Perhaps some of you have been victims themselves.

As with competitors within an industry; no two service providers are ever the same. One will always provide better service and performance than the other. In some cases, the quantity of substandard service providers may outnumber the good ones and the Digital Marketing industry is no exception.

There will always be principled proprietors of Digital Marketing and there will always be scammers out to stiff you of your hard earned money.

Here are our tips on how to avoid being ripped off by Digital Marketing agencies:

1. Learn All You Can about Digital Marketing

Digital Marketing is a dynamic approach; it is always in a state of evolution because markets never remain passive.

Through the Internet, consumers have greater access to information. Tastes and preferences are much more sensitive to change than ever before. Digital Marketing has developed different terminologies and jargon that agencies may use to impress or throw you off.

Arm yourself with knowledge; learn what you can about Digital Marketing and its various processes. You don’t have to be an expert but get your proficiency up to a level that you can make heads or tails of the conversation thread.

Another option is to bring a friend or an associate with experience in Digital Marketing during your meeting with the agency.

2. Look at The Agency’s Previous Work

Before you schedule the meeting, ask all prospective Digital Marketing agencies to provide you with client references or a link to a website that shows their body of work.

Take a look at the websites they have built and designed for clients. Do they all look the same with similar content and images? Are the websites functioning well? Are they mobile responsive?

How about the social media pages they set up for clients? Is the level of engagement impressive?

If they gave you a list of clients as references, make it a point to establish contact with them and find out all you can about their experience working with the agency.

3. They Push One-Size-Fits-All Campaigns

Be wary of Digital Marketing agencies that offer you set packages. Digital Marketing campaigns do not follow a blueprint because the goals and objectives of clients will vary.

Marketing strategies must be customized to fit the needs of the client. A big part of the process is market research. A reputable agency will conduct extensive research even at the preliminary stage to learn as much as it can about your business, the industry and your target audience.

Research will be the basis of the Creative Brief or the campaign strategy for your business.

And don’t get fooled by basement bottom pricing tactics! These agencies know pricing is an important consideration for businesses trying out Digital Marketing for the first time because you want to manage risk exposure.

They will get you hook, line and sinker with an attractively priced package. Once your account is in their grasp, they’ll slowly add on to the original contract price with more charges and “unforeseen” fees.

The best Digital Marketing agencies are willing to negotiate their fees or work with you on your budget.

4. Ask as Many Questions as Possible

You don’t want to become the client that sees hard earned dollars flushed down the toilet simply because the agency could not deliver results.

Some agencies will insist on using online marketing tools or specific software programs where the subscriptions could cost you thousands of dollars every year.

What they won’t tell you is that they are earning a commission from the supplier for the continued use of the program even though you are not seeing results.

It all sounds good at the start. You can be dazzled by an amazing PowerPoint presentation. But don’t let the bright colors, fine graphics and enticing numbers on the screen fool you.

Push, prod and probe as hard as you can. Don’t hesitate to ask as many questions as possible. Again it comes down to learning what you can about Digital Marketing.

Lastly, don’t commit to anything until you have given the proposal enough thought.

5. The Agency Guarantees Immediate Results

If an Agency guarantees you top billing on the first page of the Search Engine Results Page after a few months, head for the door and run away as fast as you can without looking back.

The Agency is getting ready to scam you of your hard earned money. The same goes for agencies that assure you of more than 1,000 followers every week or 100% guaranteed sales conversions. There are no guarantees in Digital Marketing.

You cannot establish a time-table and identify when results will be realized. It is a process that requires consistency, constant review and frequent upgrades. As markets change, so will your campaign specifics.

To get to the top section of the first page of the SERP requires consistent production of high quality and keyword-rich content, a strategic distribution schedule, high level engagement and a consistently high performing website.

This will not be an easy task and you will be competing with other websites that may be using similar strategies.

6. They Are Not Involved in the Process

Does the agency email you with charts that you can’t make heads or tails with? Is the explanation on the report vague and inundated with terms that read Greek to you?

Agencies that flood you with reports that don’t make sense want you to think they are doing their job. Another serious red flag is if the agency does not set meetings with you to discuss web analytics or to give you a more comprehensive idea on how your campaign is doing.

It should never be enough just to send reports. A respectable agency should take the time to sit down with you and explain how the campaign is performing. They expose themselves to being questioned and are fine with it.

7. They Don’t Respond Within an Appreciable Time Frame

In business, correspondence should merit a response within 24 hours. That is enough time for the recipient to formulate a well-thought out reply.

Agencies should conduct themselves as professionals and respond to all communication from you within an appreciable time frame.

It does not matter if the agency’s days are busier than usual. It will not take more than a few minutes to craft an email or to schedule a phone call.

Conclusion

Digital Marketing is a proven way to effectively promote your business on the Internet. But its growth as a process has opened up the industry to opportunistic agencies that overpromise and underdeliver results.

Always take the time to prepare before committing yourself to a venture. Conduct research on the industry, uncover its best practices and perform due diligence on all Digital Marketing service providers who want you to sign up with them.

Time spent on preparation will save you thousands of dollars on unfulfilled objectives and expectations.

If you want to learn more about Digital Marketing, give us a call or drop us an email. We would love to help you take your business to the next level!

Bill Gates was a true visionary when he wrote the essay, “Content is King” in 1996. Gates believed the Internet would provide consumers a low cost medium to publish and access information. He even foreshadowed the coming of video content as a key component for online marketing.

With more than half of the world’s population online everyday, the Internet has become the premiere battleground for businesses to vie for the consumer’s attention.

For businesses, the challenge is to come up with the most efficient way to reach their target audience and consistently deliver quantifiable results.

Does such a low cost, high reward marketing technique exist?

Yes and that is why you need to include video content in your marketing tool box.

5 Benefits of Video Content for Your Business

Video content or video marketing is simply the process or strategy of using videos to promote your brand, product or service.

Text content remains a powerful vehicle for delivering your branded value proposition but it will not match the efficiency of video content.

Put it this way, would you rather spend seven minutes reading a 2,400 word article on the 10 best smartphones in the market or 2 minutes watching a video on the same topic?

In 2015, Microsoft came up with a groundbreaking study that showed people have a shorter attention span than a goldfish. The marketing takeaway being if you don’t capture the attention or interest of the consumer within 6 seconds, you may lose him or her at that moment.

One of the best tips we give our clients at Mountaintop is to add an explainer video on their homepage.

An explainer video is a great way to hook a potential customer because everything they would need to know to convince them to explore your site further can be done in 1 or 2 minutes.

And studies show, videos extend the attention span of the consumer by another 10 to 20 seconds.

Here are 5 other benefits of video content for your business:

1. Video is an excellent medium for delivery.

Video engages with at least two of your senses: sight and sound plus the added bonus of empathy if it is a well-executed production. A study by HubSpot showed that 80% of consumers remember the content of a video they saw one month earlier.

2. Video content can significantly boost your website’s SEO.

In the same Hubspot study, it revealed that 65% of decision makers will visit a website after viewing its video content. Also, vendors of products report 39% of inquiries come from businesses that have seen their marketing videos.

3. Video content delivers on all devices.

Responsive design has become the norm in website development since 2014. Videos will perform well on mobile devices. Whether you are using a tablet or a smartphone, videos will continue to enhance and influence User Experience or UX.

4. Video content enhances your branding efforts.

As we mentioned earlier, video has the advantage of appealing to your senses of sight and hearing. The smart use of color, voice, music and imagery can strongly influence the perspectives and opinions of your viewers and enhance your branding efforts.

5. Video content has a higher probability of going viral.

Another interesting statistic from the HubSpot study is that 92% of mobile users who watch videos will share them with others. Another study by Single Grain showed that video is shared 1,200% more than links and text content combined.

Believe us when we say there are still more benefits of video content for your business. Adding video content as part of your Digital Marketing strategy is not just because “Everybody’s doing it”.

Below is a chart from HubSpot which shows the type of content Internet users most want to see from brands and businesses. You can clearly see the wide, significant gap video content has over other types of content:

If you want to reach out to your target audience in the fastest, most effective and cost efficient way, you should invest in video content marketing.

12 Types of Video Content to Consider for Your Business

Before you start filming, you should know what type of video content would be most beneficial for your business. There are 12 types to consider and each one will have its own set of advantages depending on your goals:

1. Demo Videos –

Show your audience how your product works. This will be effective for businesses that have products which need assembly or have several features. Examples would include kitchen appliances and smartphones.

2. Brand Videos –

The purpose of brand videos is to introduce yourself, the business, products and services to a target audience. This is a great way to build relationships with your target audience.  

3. Event Videos –

If your business is hosting an event, business forum, trade show or roundtable discussion an event video is the way to go. Take video snippets of the most important and relevant activities such as keynote speakers, product shots and audience turnout.

4. Expert Interviews –

One of the best ways to gain credibility and trust with your audience is to have a video interview with a respected and acknowledged expert in your industry.

5. How-to Videos –

This is a type of video that will help the audience find the answer to the question, “Why do you need my product or service?” For example, at Mountaintop we could produce a video on this article.

6. Explainer Videos –

We discussed this type of video in the previous section but we should also note that it can be done similar to a How-To video by simply shooting it from the perspective of the end user.

7. Animated Videos –

Do you want to show your audience how bitcoin miners calculate complex mathematical formulas in the blockchain? Animated videos can greatly simplify information that would otherwise be too complicated to explain.

8. Testimonial Videos –

Client testimonials are one of the most powerful ways to build trust for your product and service. This is often the final push to get your audience to patronize your business. A testimonial video is perceived as honest and sincere because it discloses actual results and the genuine response of an end user.

9. Live Videos –

Streaming live videos are a great way of getting your audience involved in your business. Show them what a day is like in the office. If you’re into product manufacturing, stream a live feed on how your merchandise is made. People in the fitness industry often stream live workouts to their followers.

10. 360 Degree and Virtual Reality Videos –

360 degree and VR videos give your audience a bird’s eye view of your business. These are particularly effective for hotels, resorts and restaurants. These types of videos are also entertaining for the audience because they allow them to control their own experience.

11. Augmented Reality Videos –

Augmented reality videos add another digital layer to your content. This is great for those in the interior design and architectural business.

For example, a viewer can point his or her camera phone to a chair and see how it would fit in your video layout.

12. Personalized Messages –

You can customize your content by producing a personal message in video format.

For example, if you are selling a fitness tracker, you can make a video message to a follower whom you have previously communicated and send him/her an update on the latest models.

Personalized message videos are effective in pushing a prospect further down the sales funnel.

How to Create Your First Video Content

When you finally decide to include video content as part of your marketing strategy, it doesn’t mean you should take out a loan from the bank and buy the latest and most advanced film equipment.

In the first place, your smartphone camera may be enough to film a high quality video. Smartphones like the iPhone 7 have amazing filmmaking features that are comparable with top-of-the line cameras.

Secondly, the video alone won’t cut it. You need a message to deliver to your audience. The content of your message will determine how your video will be shot.

If you haven’t done video content before or have but with little success, here are four simple steps on how to create one that will enhance your overall marketing campaign:

1. Revisit and Update Your Content Marketing Strategy.

Before producing your first video, review your current content marketing strategy. Whenever you introduce a new element to your campaign, its entire dynamic will change.

You may have to revise your content marketing strategy to open up a section that can be addressed more effectively through video content.

The marketing budget may have to be adjusted in case your revised strategy will require investing in production equipment, renting a studio, acquiring talent, scriptwriters or the assistance of film professionals.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • “Why did I decide to create video content?”
  • “What is the primary objective of my video content?”
  • “How would my audience benefit from my video?”
  • “How would I go about producing the video?”
  • “What would be my distribution strategy for the video?”

It will be difficult to maximize the effectiveness of video content unless you can get it to fit into your content marketing strategy.

2. Prepare a Profile of Your Audience.

If revisiting and reviewing your content marketing strategy provides the “Why” to your video content, then preparing a profile of your audience is the “Who”. Unless you develop a keen understanding of who your target audience is, then your video content may not be seen by the people expected to get the most value from it.

Where to begin?

Look back at your past content and analyze which ones generated the highest levels of “likes”, “shares” and levels of engagement.

Which distribution channel accounted for the largest viewership? Where do the bulk of your followers come from? What issues were commonly raised or commented on by your audience?

Once you’ve come up with a profile of your audience, you will be able to fine-tune the content of your video and identify the most effective channels for distribution.

3. Produce Videos According to Scale.

The advice “start out small” applies to producing your first video. Don’t pull out all the stops and come up with a Hollywood production number when you are testing the marketing waters for the first time with video content.

Again the best place to start would be your past content. Pick out high performing blog posts and create a short video which would further augment its content. For example, we at Mountaintop could produce a video for our blog post “Why Your Website Needs Responsive Design”.

You could also start out by producing an explainer video like one on your products and services and embed it on your Home Page or Services page.

If your video content generates higher returns, slowly scale up the production schedule. You may have to expand your budget but at least you will be more reassured of your investment.

4. Subject Your Videos to Frequent Testing.

Even if you’ve done your homework and followed your content marketing strategy to the letter, do not get complacent and allow yourself to believe your video content will deliver positive results.

Video content like all forms of content should be subjected to testing before getting published or distributed. Content seen through the eyes of another will give you filters you won’t have because of personal biases.

Take note of their comments and assess which ones should be considered as a basis for revising content.

And even once you’ve uploaded the videos, the evaluation should not stop.

Establish benchmarks to measure how your videos are performing and be prepared to introduce  improvements in content whenever necessary.

Conclusion

Numbers don’t lie. If you want your marketing campaign to meet or surpass its goals, you must invest in video content production.

It is a proven and time-tested approach to successfully delivering content to your audience. And demand for video content will only increase as mobile technology continues to evolve and the Internet becomes accessible to more people around the world.

It does not matter if you are a large-scale corporation or a small business owner. Video content will help your current marketing strategy gain more traction.

Are you interested in creating your first video content? Give us a call or send us an email and we will help you get started!

 

 

Cybercriminals are becoming increasingly aggressive. In the first 6 months of 2017, we’ve seen mounting evidence of state-sponsored ransomware, leaks of spy tools from U.S. intelligence agencies, campaign hacking and more daring attempts at stealing confidential information from private corporations and small businesses.

Google has mandated that websites (especially those engaged in ecommerce) should get SSL Certificates not only for security purposes but also to improve their SEO rankings. The search engine giant has included SSL as a factor in its search algorithm since 2014 but it has become more important with the updated version of Google Chrome.

But these cybercriminals will never stop because hacking has become a lucrative profession. They work round-the-clock to stay ahead of the latest security protocols including SSL Certificates.

Yes, cybercriminals have found ways to circumvent the filters provided by SSL Certificates. Still, SSL remains a vital component in your data protection and security checklist.

If your website procures confidential information or stores valuable data such as a subscriber or user base, you should get SSL certificates. But it is not enough to simply have the certificates. You must manage them responsibly.

SSL Encrypted Malicious Attacks are Rising in Frequency

Cybersecurity firm Zscaler reports that from January to August of 2017, it encountered 8.4 Million malicious attacks through SSL encrypted traffic. 7% of the malicious software or 600,000 were categorized by the company as “advanced threats”.

Zscaler also identified an average of 12,000 phishing attempts per day that bypassed the encrypted protocol. This number represents an alarming 400% increase from 2016.

According to Zscaler’s Senior Director of Security Research and Operations, Deepen Desai, hackers are using SSL as a way to conceal device infections, data exfiltration and to control communications.

SSL works to ensure the security of network traffic within an enterprise. It sits between the users and the Internet; inspecting every byte that traverses online traffic including those that have encryption. This way potential threats are intercepted before they can do damage to your network.

If you want to learn more about SSL Certificates, you can refer to our article “SSL: What It Is And Why Your Business Needs It”.

What has caused the increase in SSL- encrypted cyber crime? It is basically the natural process of adaptation.

SSL Certificates had become highly effective in stopping website infiltrations and malicious attacks. This means that the cybercriminals simply had to develop new technologies that would enable them to sidestep the security filters.

Another cyber security firm, Venafi reported that over the past year alone, 90% of IT firms in the United Kingdom saw a higher than 25% increase in the use of encryption solutions.

Venafi surveyed more than 500 companies that had employed at least 1,000 personnel. The survey covered companies located in the United Kingdom, Germany, France and the United States so Venafi could better understand the different ways encryption certificates are being used.

The interesting statistic uncovered by the study was that 90% of the CIO’s of the companies surveyed revealed that they were already attacked or at the very least under threat by malware concealed within the certificates.

Venafi concluded that the rise in malicious attacks through encryption had a direct relationship with the increase in the use of certificates. The reason?

Companies that acquired the SSL did not manage the keys and certificates responsibly.

Basically these companies lost track of how many certificates and keys they owned leaving many sites vulnerable. They unwittingly opened doors for hackers to sneak in and manipulate the certificates to suit their own selfish needs.

 The SSL Process

Let’s take a look at how the SSL process works in order to have a better understanding on why it is important to manage your SSL Certificates responsibly and make sure they are updated.

The SSL process involves authentication and data encryption. Given the volume of activity on the Internet, encryption is very important to ensure all data packets are protected during transmission.

The problem in the SSL process usually lies in authentication which covers the digital certificates.

What is a digital certificate?

It is essentially a data file which contains key information about the website’s certificate holder. The digital certificate is used to verify the authenticity of the website. Among the information indicated in the certificate are:

  • Web server’s host name
  • Issue and expire time
  • Public key for the web server

This is what a digital certificate looks like:

Image from https://www.techrepublic.com/blog/data-center/ssl-tls-certificates-what-you-need-to-know/

There are 2 types of certificates: trusted and untrusted.

Trusted certificates reside on the web browser and are signed by a recognized Certificate Authority (CA) which is an entity that is authorized to sell certificates. Untrusted certificates are self-signed and require manual installation on the web browser.

For purposes of this article, we will only focus on the process covering trusted certificates.

These are the steps involved during a web server/ web browser certificate exchange:

  1. Open your browser and type in a URL.
  2. The web server of the URL will receive the request for the website or web  page.
  3. The web server will respond by returning the certificates to your web browser.
  4. Your web browser will conduct a number of inspections such as expiration of the certificate and hostname on the certificate.
  5. Your web browser will notice the certificate from the website was signed with the CA’s private key.
  6. Your web browser will immediately check its certificate database if it has the CA’s certificate information.
  7. Once the certification information is found, your web browser will use the public key to validate the signature on the certificate sent by the website.
  8. If the certificate signature has been validated, your web browser will know the CA can be trusted. It will now also trust the web server of the website.

From this process summary, you can see why it is important to have your certificates updated. In step number 4, the expiration date on the certification will be checked and validated.

If your SSL Certificates are expired, your site is vulnerable to infiltration and other forms of malicious attacks.

As we mentioned in our previous article “SSL Basics: Why You Need It to Protect Your Website from Hackers”, the most common mode of attack is for hackers to upload a listening program on the web server. Once you type in your confidential information, the program will capture it and send it back to the hacker.

Getting SSL Certificates for your website is a definite step in the right direction. But acquiring protection is one thing; making sure it is implemented and running 24/7 is another.

If your website provides your bread and butter, you should do everything within your power to protect it from anyone with bad intentions. The Internet is rife with opportunities and opportunists. One act of carelessness or irresponsibility may be all it takes to destroy everything that you have worked hard for.

Would you spend a fortune on a home then disregard the value of a comprehensive insurance plan? Acquiring SSL Certificates is your insurance plan for your website. But it will have no value once it is expired.

What You Can Do

At this point; and after 3 articles, we hope we have made our position very clear:

If your website requires users to disclose confidential or personal information, you should secure it with SSL Certificates.

Then take the time to make sure these certificates are managed effectively.

Is there a way to ensure the integrity and effectiveness of the certificates? Yes by acquiring them from a reputable CA and have it managed by a third party service provider you can trust.

Mountaintop Web Design can offer you both! We are authorized to sell SSL Certificates and we can manage these for you so that you can dedicate all your time and energies squarely on your business.

We’ve installed and kept the certificates updated for our clients. Never lose sleep at night thinking cybercriminals are hatching diabolical plans to steal your data.

If you want to know more about the SSL Certificates we offer, please give us a call or drop an email. We will get back to you as soon as possible because we understand that every second your website remains exposed, the risk of long term and large scale damage becomes greater.

The word “brand” gets thrown around a lot in marketing discussions. Marketers will advise you to build your brand even before you launch your business. Many entrepreneurs will probably assume they need to have a logo designed and marketing copy made. But is a brand merely a logo with a catchy tagline?

What Exactly Does Having a Brand Mean?

A brand is a promise; you know exactly what you are going to get. When you see the logo or hear the name, it triggers emotional cues in your subconscious. Coming across the famous Golden Arches of McDonald’s gives you the feeling of comfort; enjoying its burgers and French fries with  family or friends.

The iconic red and white logo of Coca Cola with the scripted font design makes you want to be refreshed even when you are not thirsty. It doesn’t matter that soft drinks contain refined sugars, high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavoring and coloring, “I want my Coke!”

The case for having a strong brand is best exemplified by Nike which was accused in 1991 for hiring child labor in its Asia-based factories.

The company did not deny the accusations of child labor. In fact in 1998, Nike CEO Phil Knight publicly admonished his own company, accepted full responsibility for the situation and immediately instituted measures to improve working conditions in their factories.

In his speech, Knight said, “I truly believe the American consumer does not want to buy products made under abusive conditions.”

However, It is interesting to note that Nike’s sales during these turbulent period from 1995 to 2005 remained solid. Annual sales revenue in 1995 was $4.76 Billion and hit $13.74 Billion in 2005; an increase of 189% over a 10 year period.

Nike survived years of economic and social turmoil because it had built a very strong brand.

It takes years to build a brand. Your initial blueprint will undergo revisions in logo, text format, color, marketing copy and personality as your company likewise goes through changes.

A good example is Apple.

From its initial convoluted design of Sir Isaac Newton sitting under an apple tree, the logo has gone through a number of changes. The iconic bitten apple design with rainbow colors by graphic designer Rob Janoff coincided with its introduction of the Apple II, the first PC with color display.

The company dropped the rainbow colors and went with a metallic look for the release of the iMac. As the company put out more products in the market, the logo assumed a glass themed design. Eventually, Apple founder Steve Jobs went with a monochromatic look explaining:

“Simple can be harder than complex; you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.”

The late Jobs was also known for his monochromatic taste in fashion; always seen wearing a black sweater.

So what is a brand? It is everything about your business; what it represents, its purpose, values, principles and other attributes that define its personality. If a business is defined as a living, breathing entity then that personality is you.

Therefore your brand is you.

5 Benefits of Having a Strong Brand

Brand building is one of the most important, yet overlooked aspects of starting a business. Many fledgling entrepreneurs believe that you should only work on your brand when business starts gaining traction.

In other words, get the cash register ringing first before you worry about building a strong brand.

But here’s the reality of consumer behavior: People don’t patronize products. They patronize brands.

Your product or service is not a brand. It is just a commodity and in the absence of a good, effective branding strategy, it will be lost in the sea of commodities that flood the market.

Here are 5 benefits of having a strong brand:

1. Differentiates Your Product From Everyone Else’s

One of the biggest misconceptions about consumer behavior is that buyers only care about price. Of course, everyone wants to save money but as Steve Jobs once said:

“Pricing does not equate to value.”

Buying the most expensive brand does not mean acquiring the best product in the market as buying the cheapest does not translate to getting a good deal on the purchase.

According to Nobel Prize winning Psychiatrist Daniel Kahneman, consumers base their decisions to purchase on aligned purpose. They couldn’t care less about the price or the ingredients on the label. Instead they care about what your product represents.

This pertains to the “why” of your product; it’s purpose.

Look at Starbucks. It’s been widely criticized for selling expensive coffee but people still flock to their stores for their daily brew. Why? Because the company has been a staunch advocate of the Green Movement.

It donates a percentage of its profits to charitable causes and a number of foundations that work for a cleaner environment. So even if you spend a few more dollars on coffee you could brew at home, you know it is for a good cause.

2. Creates Consumer Recall

Effective branding is a successful marriage between science and psychology. Marketers conduct extensive studies before conceptualizing brand building strategies. They analyze data on your business and target market.

Brand building is not specific to a product or service. It’s purpose is to package your entire value proposition in the most effective way and create an indelible impact on a potential end user.

Keep this in mind: Brands outlive products and services.

Products have life cycles; brands don’t. Take a look at apparel. Companies like Levi’s have gone through flared bottoms, tapered pants, acid wash, engineered jeans, button-fly and slim fit. The brand remains unchanged.

You could overhaul your entire product line within a few years but if your brand remains firmly entrenched in the consumer’s consciousness, you will always have a market.

3. Acts as a Hedge Versus Risk

We discussed the case of Nike and how it survived and actually thrived during a turbulent period in the company’s history.

Another example is Pepsi and that woeful Kendall Jenner advertisement. It was “inspired” by the Black Lives Matter movement and tried to create social awareness. But it was so poorly conceptualized and executed that it turned Pepsi into a laughing stock and trivialized the significance of the movement.

Fortunately, it had built such a strong brand that it was able to shrug off advertising missteps. Pepsi continues to wage a close battle with Coca Cola for supremacy in the soft drinks industry.

A strong brand acts as a hedge versus risk because marketing is hit and miss. There are so many uncertainties and factors you cannot control when conceptualizing ideas.

Sometimes you’ll hit a homerun. Sometimes you’ll strike out on the plate. It will be easier for consumers to forgive if your brand has been associated with quality and good value for a long time.

 4. Establishes Trust

When you go to a grocery store, why do you find yourself reaching out for specific brands even though others would be cheaper?

When you are inside a mall, why do you patronize certain restaurants over others even ones that just opened and were heavily publicized?

The answer is because you trust them.

As we mentioned in our definition of a brand, you know what you are getting. The risk of not enjoying the experience is very small. In fact the only risk is the foregone opportunity of trying a new brand that could potentially be better.

Going back to Daniel Kahneman’s work on consumer behavior, he theorized that our decision making process is influenced by two distinct processes: the emotional side and the rational side.  

Kahneman believes consumers are emotional decision- makers. They patronize products that they share an alignment or emotional connection with. It is only after the purchase was made that the rational mind takes over and asks, “Why did you buy that diet beverage when it is loaded with unhealthy substances?”

You may validate your decision by stating, “This company has been successful for so many years, they would not put anything in their products that would cause me harm.”

You should invest in building a strong brand because it will help you establish  loyalty from your customers.

5. Enhances Your Marketing and Advertising Campaigns

Who doesn’t love Budweiser’s Superbowl commercials? The advertisements use animals like dogs and Clydesdale horses as the central characters. Beer drinking humans only play supporting roles.

In fact, you don’t even get to see the product in the ads. Perhaps you’ll see a box for a 6-pack but for the most part, only the company’s logo is featured. When you watch a Budweiser commercial, you get the “feels”, it is comforting and refreshing just like a tall, cool glass of beer.

Here’s a piece of trivia: Superbowl ads do not translate to brisk sales.

So why do companies like Budweiser spend millions of dollars for these ads? Other than the large audience the Superbowl brings, favorable recall carries over to the company’s long term marketing and advertising campaigns.

For Budweiser, it was the perfect platform to hold a stand against the onslaught of the growing craft beer market.

The payoff will be felt over the next few months or years as the company continues to build on its brand.

Conclusion: How to Build a Strong Brand

The popularity of the Internet has become a double- edged sword for marketers. On one side, it has given us different avenues to deliver content. Most businesses utilize up to five social media platforms to distribute content. And that is just via social media.

A typical digital marketing campaign would include other tools such as web design and development, SEO, SEM, content writing, link building and PPC or Pay-Per-Click advertising.

But on the flip side of things, having all of these tools and processes at our disposal can be confusing. If you don’t know what you’re doing, it would be like trying to hit a target 7 yards away with a shotgun. You’ll just splatter ammo all over the place.

Without strategy, thought and purpose your marketing efforts to build your brand will not pay out as expected. All the hard work you put in your content will just go under the radar.

If you want to build a strong brand, you must first determine its strength potential.

1. Run a Brand Audit

A brand audit seeks to uncover the factors that drive growth and determine how the product or service is viewed by the market.

You have to undertake an in-depth analysis of your competition:

  • Review and analyze their websites
  • Study their current online marketing programs
  • Pinpoint the advertising channels they are using
  • Assess the types of content they are publishing and distributing
  • Determine their market share in the industry

Cross reference the information with data on your own business and its current level of performance. This will give you a better idea of how to improve your brand building strategy.

2. Determine Your Brand Value Proposition

Your Brand Value Proposition (BVP) is your key business differentiator. It answers the question, “Why should you choose my brand over others?”

Please take note: BVP does not pertain to a specific product. Instead it encompasses everything you want your target market or audience to know about your business. Specifically, this refers to your purpose.

Determining your business purpose isn’t an empty exercise. You don’t just come up with a string of words that you believe will resonate with your end users. Trust us, customers will know because the BVP will seem contrived and will not resonate with them.

If you want to know your BVP, ask yourself this simple question:

“What 5 non-negotiable values do I adhere to?”

Your core values act as guidelines in how you make decisions. Everything that you do for your business will pass through these values without fail: How you recruit, who you hire, its pricing points, customer service, your product mix and promotions.

Non-negotiable means exactly that. You cannot under any circumstances compromise your core values when making decisions.

Adhering to your core values will shape how your target market perceives you and your business. In time and with consistency, your end users will come to understand and acknowledge who you are and what your brand represents.

Remember what we stated earlier in this article:

Your brand is you.

If you enjoyed reading this and would like to know more about the power of having a strong brand, please give us a call or drop an email.

We would be more than happy to help you through the process of establishing your brand in the market place.

In the world of inbound marketing, two concepts stand out in terms of driving traffic to your website: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Pay-Per-Click or PPC advertising. One of the most frequently asked questions we get from clients is whether they should opt for SEO or PPC advertising.

At Mountaintop, we want to be firm with our answers. Many inbound marketing agencies play it safe by giving the default response: “It depends”. Our clients deserve a definitive course of action.

Before we give our position on the SEO versus PPC debate, let us do a quick overview on both concepts.

What is SEO?

We have written extensive articles on SEO. You can go back to our previous blogs, “5 Reasons Why Your Business Needs SEO Now”, “The Basics of SEO” and “How to Drive Traffic to Your Website” for comprehensive information on SEO.

But we’ll do a summary of the salient points of SEO so you will have a better understanding of how it stacks up versus PPC.

SEO works to have your website found on the Internet by using a variety of tools, techniques and processes that will move it up the first page of the SERP or Search Engine Results Page.

Organic or natural search remains the number one approach by Internet users for finding websites. Studies by research firm, Forrester has confirmed this statistic over the last six years.

Here are three other noteworthy statistics on the power of organic search:

  • Google generates 100 Billion searches every month.
  • 61% of marketers say improving SEO and organic search as the main drivers for their inbound marketing campaign.
  • 71% of B2B researchers start their study with an organic search.

SEO is a proven way of driving traffic to your website. It has evolved from a process into a system that brings together other online tools like social media marketing, link building and yes, even PPC advertising, to create a dynamic and holistic approach to inbound marketing.

Advantages of SEO

SEO is a process whereby the benefits are realized with consistency. Competing for the first page of the SERP is no easy task.

The market must regard your website as a valuable resource. Therefore, you should be able to identify your market’s needs and wants and consistently provide actionable solutions.

If you want overnight results, SEO will not get it done. The best analogy would be to compare SEO as a marathon not a sprint.

You start out from the back of the field then slowly work your way to the head of the pack with persistence, determination and steely, unwavering focus. As you pass one runner after another, people will start to take notice.

So let us expand our definition of SEO as a long-term investment that works to have your website found on the Internet by using a variety of tools, techniques and processes for the purpose of moving it up the first page of the SERP or Search Engine Results Page.

As an investment, SEO can immediately pay out high value dividends:

  • Enhance your reputation as a valuable resource in the field of expertise.
  • With organic search, your audience comes to you willingly. It is easier to build trust and therefore gain quality leads.
  • The ability to run “long tail” searches, opens up the parameters for being found by your target audience.

For example, instead of searching “Best running shoes”, a long tail search would appear as “Best running shoes for flat feet” can bring a more distinct audience to your website.

If you have a website, you must absolutely invest in SEO. With the amount of competition on the Internet, you have to optimize content for it to be found by your target audience.

Disadvantages of SEO

We have already described SEO as an investment. As such, it requires time, money and effort.

Don’t believe anyone who tells you the biggest advantage of SEO over PPC advertising is that it will not cost you a cent. We are often surprised when we hear clients tell us they heard SEO was for free.

SEO is not a skill that you can master to a level of proficiency by watching videos or reading books. Is it possible? Yes, but the question is, should you do SEO yourself?

And it takes time to gain expert-level proficiency. Time is an asset that is best dedicated to functions that contribute to your business’ bottom-line.

As a business owner, your time should be allocated to handling matters that demand your experience and expertise. That is why many companies hire agencies or third party service providers to manage their SEO campaign.

SEO is also sensitive to changes in algorithm and search engines like to make periodic changes in the way they rank websites.

This is another reason why you need a professional to oversee your website’s SEO strategy. An experienced and proven agency can keep track of all updates, trends and practices on search engine algorithms.

What is PPC Advertising?

Pay-Per-Click Advertising is exactly as advertised. It follows the same principle as traditional advertising where you pay to get your product or service in front of an audience.

Search engines like Google and Yahoo have PPC advertising programs that you can use to generate traffic for your website. Google has Google Adwords and Yahoo promotes Yahoo Search Marketing.

With PPC, the search engine allows you to display ads in the sponsored results section of their respective SERP. You pay a fee whenever a viewer clicks on your ad and lands on your website.

How much do you pay? Each keyword has been assigned a fee which is based on its level of competitiveness.

If SEO works to build your presence, with PPC you pay for your presence.

While traditional advertising takes the machine gun approach in giving a product or service visibility, with PPC advertising your ad will find its way to your target market. The person who clicked on your ad is someone who is looking for a similar product or service.

Here are three interesting statistics on PPC advertising:

  • 64.6% of consumers click through a Google ad if they are planning to purchase online.
  • Google Adwords has an average conversion rate of 2.7% on the search network and 0.89% via the display network.
  • Google Adwords has an average clickthrough rate of 1.91% in search and 0.35% for display.

Just to clarify the statistics, Google Adwords has two avenues for running your PPC ad: the Search Network and the Display Network.

The search network targets users who are searching the Internet. For example, if you are searching for “fitness trackers”, Google will serve you ads that are directly related to your search query.

The display network reaches out to users who are surfing the web; they do not have any specific query in mind. Ads are displayed based on the user’s online behavioral pattern and the advertiser’s targeting parameters.

An advertiser may require a specific demographic, contextual/ keyword search or interest category.

Advantages of PPC Advertising

One of the reasons Google became a multi-billion dollar company is because of revenues from paid search. Businesses want results in the shortest time possible. PPC advertising can fast track the process of building traction for your products and services.

Thus if SEO is a marathon, PPC advertising is a sprint. It has the potential to generate traffic to your website immediately. PPC advertising is an effective way to jumpstart the inbound marketing campaign of your website.

It also allows you to manage your advertising budget effectively by bidding for keywords that you can afford and paying only when someone clicks through your ad.

The benefit of having the search and display networks as options increases the chances of your ad being seen by Internet users.

You could place your ad in websites such as YouTube which consistently brings in a high volume of traffic. If you can position your website in a situation where there is a larger-than-expected flow of traffic, you will be able to run tests on different website variables.

With higher traffic, you will have more accurate data on your website’s level of mobile responsiveness, download speed and built-in functions and features. Higher traffic also increases the probability of sales conversions.

Finally, with PPC you do not have to worry about changes in the search engine’s algorithm.

Disadvantages of PPC Advertising

When preparing an advertising budget, you have to find out how much your competitors are spending for PPC. Keyword choices will have discrepancies in pricing and competitive ones could take you off your budget.

You can use Google External Keyword Research Tool to determine the level of competitiveness as well as the cost per click (CPC) of a particular keyword. The problem with competitive keywords is that these are usually the domain of authority sites which are very difficult to dislodge unless you have the resources.

PPC advertising will not enhance your site’s reputation as an expert. Therefore, it will do very little in driving high quality leads to your website unlike SEO.

You could be the highest bidder for a keyword but if the user sees no relevance or value to your ad, he or she will simply disregard the pole position of your ad and run another search.

With PPC, you could also fall victim to “Click Fraud”. This is an unscrupulous act done by some competitors where they will keep clicking on your ad for the sole purpose of draining your wallet.

Although the search engines have instituted safeguards to click fraud, it goes to show the very real threat your ads face being out in the open on the Internet.

Lastly, PPC advertising is similar to SEO in that it is not a skill where you can build expert-level proficiency overnight. It takes years of experience to become adept at PPC. This is a function that is best outsourced to a qualified third party service provider.

Our Recommendation

Before starting a business, you should be committed to investing in it. We don’t mean just the monetary kind but also time and effort.

It takes time to grow a business. A website, SEO, PPC, social media and other components of inbound marketing do not guarantee success. These are tools that will help your website become more competitive in your industry.

How they contribute to your success will depend on its planning, strategy design and overall implementation. There are absolutely no shortcuts when it comes to building and developing a business.

This is why you must prioritize SEO because of its long-term benefits of enhancing your reputation as a valuable resource and its ability of driving natural, qualified leads to your website.

Remember that when a user conducts a query, the search engine will always present the best results on the Internet, not the company which paid the most expensive ads.

As we stated earlier, SEO has evolved from a process into a system. You can harness the full power of SEO by incorporating its principles with social media marketing, content writing, link building and even PPC.

SEO is used to manage an online paid ad campaign. If you look at any PPC ad, you can see the search results displayed in the main area of the SERP.

There is also the matter of cost to consider.

A recent study published by iProspect showed that CPC is at its all-time highest levels. This was largely because CPC for mobile devices increased by 52% from the previous year.

60% of click throughs come from mobile devices compared to only 32% for desktop PC’s and 8% from tablets. The increase in cost further confirms the need for websites to be mobile responsive.

However, click through rates (CTR) declined by 17% over a one-year period. Coincidentally the fall in CTR was attributed to the underwhelming performance of PPC via mobile devices.

But this does not mean PPC has no place in your inbound marketing campaign. If your budget should allow, you can incorporate PPC at the start up or pre-launch stages. As mentioned, it will help create a higher volume of traffic for your website faster than SEO.

This will present opportunities not just for greater traction, but to test the functionality of your website.

Are you thinking of having SEO and PPC for your website? Done correctly, both approaches can do wonders for traffic generation. If you are interested to learn more about SEO and PPC, please do not hesitate to give us a call or an email.

We can do both for your website. If you wish, we can take you through the process of having SEO and PPC integrated into a digital marketing campaign.

We hope to hear from you soon!

Your website represents your business on the Internet. It only makes sense for your website to undergo a redesign that corresponds to changes in your market, business status, objectives and goals. Business should never remain passive. In order to be competitive, business should always remain dynamic; ever evolving to accommodate changes in demand, tastes and preferences. Therefore, your website should likewise remain dynamic and ever evolving.

So yes, your website should undergo a redesign. The question is when?

There is no clear cut rule on determining the need to change your website’s design and functionality. A web designer manipulates design elements to arrive at a look and feel that best captures your business purpose while presenting beautiful aesthetics and user-friendly functionality.

The initial design of your website was based on the information that was provided at the time. Over the course of your business, conditions may have changed.

Perhaps you adopted new strategies, presented additional products and services or experienced a shift in market demographics. Online analytics will help you determine how these changes have collectively asserted their influence on the flow of business.

Or you could subscribe to the Amazon.com and Apple.com school of thought which applies an iterative approach to website redesign. These highly successful technology companies continue to follow a process of consistently getting feedback from customers on their experience using their respective sites.

A combination of online analytics, customer feedback and a frequent review of company financials, should give you an accurate evaluation of the decisions that you need to make regarding your business.

And that should include redesigning your website.

3 Questions You Need to Answer Before You Redesign Your Website

A website redesign could be a minor undertaking. You may only want changes in the color combination, the type of content or add another web page for your portfolio.

But it could also mean a major overhaul. The extent of the redesign will impact your budget for the project.

When clients ask us to redesign their website, we ask them a few questions so we can have a better idea of where they are coming from and what they hope to accomplish with their decision.

1. Why Do You Want to Redesign Your Website?

This seems like an obvious question but we always prefer to hear from the client first.

We view the client as the expert; no one knows the business and the market better than you. No doubt there are very real factors or reasons on why you believe it is time to redesign your website.

  • Does your website look outdated or behind-the-times?
  • Are your competitors redesigning their websites as well?
  • Are you planning to improve your search rankings?

As the web design company, we are here to listen to you. Our job is to offer solutions to your problems or concerns. We will translate your needs into design elements that will help you achieve your goals and objectives.

2. What Problems Are You Currently Experiencing With Your Website?

In the same way that no one likes poor service in a brick-and-mortar establishment, poor user experience is unacceptable in website design.

  • Is your website taking too long to load?
  • Is your bounce rate high?
  • Are the social sharing buttons functioning well?

Part of our web management service package includes a website audit for our clients to identify potential pain points. The audit can be an eye-opener; it gives them a clearer perspective on how the website affects their bottom-line. It becomes a valuable reference tool in managing their business.

3. Have You Changed Your Brand Image?

It is normal for businesses to change its brand or company image. This is done to accommodate changes in the market demographic. You want a brand that your target market can relate to.

Changes in brand image should be incorporated in web design. Your brand represents how you want your business to be perceived in the market. It must be consistent throughout your marketing channels.

In an online marketing campaign, your website is the destination point where all inbound avenues converge and drive generated leads. Its redesign should be in line with any change in your brand or company image.

Checklist: 8 Signs Your Website Needs a Redesign

The best way to determine if your website needs a redesign is to get a professional opinion. An experienced web designer can review analytics and run tests to give you solid bases on the extent of work that needs to be done.

Of course, you can always get a second or third opinion before deciding on the course of action to take. It is very important to be comfortable with the redesign recommendations and at the same time be confident with the ability of the web designer to get the job done.

At Mountaintop, after we meet with the client, we go through a standard checklist covering eight signs your website might need a redesign.

The checklist is a great way to confirm all of the information and details given by the client during the meeting. We will use online analytics plus a thorough site audit to validate their concerns and spot potential problems that may have been overlooked.

It is not necessary to have all the items checked in the list. Our job is to identify the pain points and offer solutions for you to consider.

1. Poor Mobile Loading Capability

You may have commissioned your web designer to create a mobile responsive website for your business. But when you tried to view it from a smartphone, the site’s text did not appear legible and the images seemed distorted.

At a time when 65% of online traffic comes from mobile devices, you can’t risk visitors having poor user experience on your site. This is especially true if you are running an ECommerce website.

Your website must be accessible to various mobile devices. Laptops, notebooks, tablets and smartphones come in different screen sizes. How your website sets up in these mobile devices will determine whether the user will further explore or abandon the search.

2. Slow Loading Website

Research conducted by Akamai and Gomez.com showed that Internet users expect websites to load in 2 seconds or less.

One second more will make 79% of visitors abandon the site and never return. Another 44% will relay the poor experience with a friend. You would not want your website to be representative of these statistics.

If from your own experience, your website is not loading fast enough on desktop and mobile devices, you definitely should have this looked into by a web designer.

 3. Social Media Shares Don’t Look Enticing

Social media is a powerful driver of traffic. But if your links and thumbnail don’t look good when you share on social media, people who come across it may not be enticed to click on your content.

Not only should your link and thumbnail grab attention, its title and description should give readers an immediate idea of what to expect from your content.

If your link doesn’t look enticing in social media, give it an update. Keep in mind that social media accounts for 31% of all referral traffic.

4. Content Does Not Display Properly

Don’t you get frustrated when you click on a URL and the website comes out like an unfinished template?

Images are not displayed properly and content is nowhere to be found. You refresh the page and the results are the same. Your next course of action would be to click out and look for a similar website.

You would probably never click on that link every time you see it.

The same thing could happen to your website if its content does not display properly.

It’s possible your website is using obsolete software. If it’s been around for some time, it may no longer be compatible with newer devices and browsers. This is a problem that is best handled by a professional web designer.

5. Unsatisfactory Business Results

As we discussed in our article “0 Benefits of a Website for a Small Business”, it is absolutely important to have a website in this day and age of the Internet and social media.

It will be difficult to capitalize on opportunities if you have no destination point for all the inbound traffic that you plan to generate with an online marketing campaign.

But having a website is never a guarantee for business success. Like all ventures, there will be hits and misses. You should never look at a website as a “magic potion” that will cure all business ills or the veritable “lightning in a bottle”.

The advantage of having a website is that the availability of online and offline analytics allows you to identify strengths and weaknesses:

  • Are you having problems generating leads?
  • Is there an increase in the rate of shopping cart abandonment?
  • Is your conversion rate decreasing?
  • Is the level of engagement declining?

Once the problem areas have been threshed out, the web designer can come up with a redesign that might provide remedy to your current situation.

6. Visitors Leave Your Site Right Away

In retail, the longer you keep visitors inside your store the higher the probability of making a sale. The rule also applies to websites.

If you have a blog page, you would love for people to hang around, read content while nursing a cup of coffee. The more they read, the more likely they would share your content with social media.

If you are managing an ECommerce site, you would want your visitors to take their time, browse your site, zoom in your product offerings and place merchandise on the shopping cart. In time, they might follow through with the purchase.

Visitors leaving your site early is never a good sign.

A web designer will use the following metrics to check the online behavior of your site visitors:

  • Bounce Rate – Measures the rate by which visitors leave your page. It is not a good sign if your bounce rate is high.
  • Pages/ Session – Measures the average number of pages a user views per session. A high number means the average user views more pages whenever he or she is in your site.
  • Behavior Flow – This is a Google generated report which gives you details on the most popular path site users take to visit your website. Knowing where your visitors come from will improve productivity and help fine tune your online marketing campaign.

7. Visitors Can’t Find What They Need

Navigability should always be an important consideration in website design because it is a big part of User Experience. If a site user can’t find what he or she is looking for within a few seconds, frustration could mount.

When you receive emails or comments from users narrating their difficulty navigating through your website, take it seriously and act upon it right away.

A professional web designer could help come up with a cleaner and more efficient navigation plan that will keep users happy.

8. Initial Design Does Not Capture Current Changes

It could be that the previous year represented a time of sweeping change for your business.

If you have an online consultancy business, perhaps some services are no longer available. Did you replace some products with new offerings? Were there changes in management?

All of these changes should be reflected in your website. In business, communication is very important. If you distribute marketing collateral its content must correspond to what is presented in your website.

Conclusion

If you have a website, accept the fact that a redesign is inevitable. Digital technology will always be in a progressive state. Programs are expected to run faster and process more data. Users will crave a better experience and if you want to compete, you will have to keep your website updated, current and compatible.

The programs and plugins running your website now could be rendered obsolete within a few months. Without a redesign, it may not be responsive to the needs and demands of your market.

Keep in mind that your website is an investment that will yield potentially high returns for your business. With the help of an experienced web designer, you will get more out of every resource that you put back into your website.

Did we get you to re-think the design of your current website? Give us a call or drop us an email to clear your mind. We can simplify the process for you and help you get your business back on track.

If you are on Facebook; and who isn’t nowadays, you may notice some ads popping up in your newsfeed promoting products and services. Some of your friends may be posting pictures of merchandise they are selling. Above it, you will find text that reads more like marketing copy. Most, if not all of the proprietors selling items on social media do not have a website.

They believe that Social Media Marketing (SMM) is all they need to sell their products and services. After all, when you post in social media:

  • You have an immediate audience for your content.
  • There is probability of your content being shared by someone who knows someone who is interested in your product or service.
  • Social media gives you the medium to directly engage with people who post comments on your thread.
  • It’s free! Other than perhaps having professionally-done product shots taken or having your ads sponsored, posting in social media will not cost you a cent.

Given these benefits, these entrepreneurs believe they don’t need a website to help them run their respective businesses.

But are they really better off without a website? Or are they undermining their ability to succeed?

Social Media Marketing – Is it Enough?

We decided to find out why many of these entrepreneurs chose not to have a website that would have professionally represented their business.

Here are the 3 most popular reasons we gathered. We also included our professional opinion on each reason to give you our perspective as a web design company:

1. Building a website is costly; not only do they have to pay for the domain, website design and programming but it has to be maintained regularly.

The cost of a website will depend on its purpose, function and features. You can see the different types of websites you can consider for your business in our article, “What Type of Website Does Your Business Need?

Personal websites, company websites and blogging websites are comparatively inexpensive. On the other hand, e-commerce sites, work collaboration websites, search engine directories and information websites will cost more because it will entail a greater degree of work and present the user with advanced features.

As far as maintenance is concerned, many web design companies such as Mountaintop Web Design offer site management services that are reasonably priced. We are also flexible and willing to customize options to meet a company’s needs if necessary.

Always keep in mind that the website is your online business address. Having it professionally managed is no different than paying for the regular upkeep and maintenance of your brick-and-mortar office.

2. SMM offers a more convenient way to market products and services. You don’t have to worry about hacking, updating plug-ins and having your account infected by viruses.

This observation is far from the truth. In 2013, more than 2 million passwords from popular social media sites including Facebook and Twitter were stolen and posted online.

Once your social media account has been hacked, you can have private information, content and images stolen or distributed for sale.

Some hackers have malicious intent. They will post unauthorized, inappropriate content that could ruin your good reputation and substantially damage the credibility of your company.

Social media sites are websites. They are susceptible to the same risks as a business website or an e-commerce website.

Facebook has been working overtime to fortify its security because it has been under attack from cyber criminals that want to use the platform for their phishing operations.

Because of their sheer volume of users, cyber criminals love to target social media. They can use it to upload malware, virus programs and other diabolical software that could compromise your privacy, your business and the safety of your computer.

3. People prefer to visit social media over websites.

As mentioned in the preceding section, social media sites are websites. So technically this point is not valid.

However, statistics show that of the 3.5 Billion people who scour the Internet daily, 2 Billion go to social media. This makes social media seem like the Pacific Ocean; the largest ocean in the world. You can cast a net anywhere and you are assured of a large haul.

Or are you?

The truth is, people go on social media for different reasons. Not everyone goes to social media to find products to buy or services to hire. A 2013 survey cited the following reasons why people use social media:

  • Social interaction
  • Passing time
  • Entertainment
  • Share or express opinions
  • Relax
  • Connect with old family and friends
  • Build networks

The benefits of including an SMM strategy in your business development agenda cannot be overlooked. Statistics have validated the importance of SMM in a digital marketing campaign. We’ve also discussed the value of SMM in our articles “How to Drive Traffic to Your Website” and “The Basics of SEO”.

But if you believe SMM is all you need to build your business, you could be undermining its maximum potential to capitalize on the opportunities available on the Internet.

Instead of casting your net in the Pacific Ocean, you may find yourself climbing Mount Everest.

We were not surprised with the results of our research. We have clients who initially put all their eggs in the SMM basket.

Eventually they realized there were limitations to SMM. Even though their efforts generated results, these were not sustainable. Their stream of income became inconsistent and they could not grow their business.

 The Website – Harnessing the Power of Organic Search

According to the principle called “The Virality Coefficient”, your primary contact list will not help you gain traction. Momentum will be gained only from those who belong in your primary contact’s network.

So assuming you have 1,500 Facebook contacts and 20% of them like or share your post, you’re hoping their respective networks will likewise spread the word on your products and services.

But what if they don’t? What if upon initial posting only 5% share your post? As you can see there is a limit as to how far social media can take you.

While we cannot question the influence of social media on consumers, the fact of the matter is your exposure is limited only to your contacts. And not everyone will be interested in what your business has to offer.

Thus, SMM is better off as a component within a digital marketing campaign than the primary strategy in a business development agenda.

The fact is, despite the pull of social media, organic search remains the number one driver of traffic to business. In a study conducted by BrightEdge, organic search accounted for 51% of all traffic generated.

Social media? 5%.

And you need a place to drive all of that traffic. If you were selling physical products on Facebook, how will your buyer finalize the transaction? In an e-commerce website, you have a shopping cart where a buyer can complete a sales transaction via PayPal or credit card.

Also, how can a prospective buyer trust you when you are selling your goods in social media? Would you buy a smartphone from someone who operates his business from a laundromat? What is their assurance that you are a legitimate proprietor and not a scammer?

If you want to run your business online, you should have a business address. Your Facebook company page is not your business address because it carries Facebook’s domain name.

A website provides you a business address. It will give you a domain name just like ours is www.mountaintopwebdesign.com. When followers see your post and they want to know more about your business, they will know where to go.

Once they click to your website address, they will find all the information they need to make a decision on whether to patronize your business or not:

  • Home Page – Your overall branded value proposition; what you are about.
  • About Us – Your purpose; who you are and why you decided to start this business.
  • Services – Your products and services; what you offer, your strengths and main differentiators in the industry.
  • Blog Page – Your expertise; what your opinions are on the industry, users’ needs and wants.
  • Portfolio – Your work; what you have done so far for your clients.
  • Contact Us – Your whereabouts; how people who are interested in your services can contact you.

A website is designed and programmed for one thing: to optimize growth opportunities for your business.

You can read up on the benefits of having a website in our article “0 Benefits of Having a Website for a Small Business”.  Our focus in this article is to show you why social media is more effective when used as a key process in a digital marketing campaign.

Let’s look at these 2 scenarios:

Scenario No. 1 – Restaurant Business Owner

You’ve worked hard posting images of your food and happy diners in Facebook, Instagram and Google Plus. People are actively engaging with you; majority of the comments are positive although there have been a few sparse complaints.

Those who have not tried your food are curious to know more about your restaurant. They decide to click on the URL that is posted in your business page.

They land in your Home Page and are treated to a 360 degree view of your restaurant! Your main menu items were photographed by a professional and are presented in vanishing slide format.

They click on your “Our Menu” page and they see an interactive menu where they can scroll for choices and prices. Below it are the testimonials from customers and the reviews your restaurant has so far received from reputable food critics.

They’re sold on the idea of trying your restaurant. So they visit your “Our Location” page and find an embedded Google Map. It will show them how far they are from the restaurant and the time it will take to get there based on the hour of day or night.

Scenario No. 2 – Interior Designer

You’ve been posting images of your designs on Facebook and Instagram. You also share tips on how to set up your one-bedroom apartment on a budget and why high ceiling homes are here to stay via Twitter.

People love your content and some have earmarked you as a prospective architect for their upcoming projects. They want to know more about you so they click on the URL posted on your business page.

When they land on your website, they are treated to a Home Page that is minimalist in design; simple yet elegant, black and white images with clear lines and open spaces. It is a reflection of your design sensibilities.

Your branded value proposition is stated in understated Helvetica font, “Beauty Lies in Simplicity, Form Lives in Functionality”.

In your “Who Am I?” page, visitors get to read a short bio. It comes with a professionally taken photo of you smiling in a white, long sleeved shirt that is folded ¼ up from the wrist.

Then they visit “My Portfolio”. In there, they can see all the homes and offices you have designed in slide format. Right below it are testimonials from all of your happy clients.

If they are interested in hiring your services, they can send you an email through the address indicated in your “Let’s Meet” web page. Or they can automatically send an inquiry by filling out the entries in the form provided.

Conclusion

Social media has been proven to be an effective tool for marketing and promoting your business. But on its own, it will be limited by its shortcomings. In a sense, by relying only on SMM, you are undermining the growth potential of your business by basically shutting it out from the rest of the World Wide Web.

A website allows you to consolidate all of your online marketing efforts so you can capitalize on every available opportunity. Most importantly, it will give your business a professional presence on the Internet.

We hope you enjoyed what you just read and were able to take away some valuable information.

If you want to learn more about how a website can help your business, please give us a call or drop us a quick e-mail. We will get back to you right away!

The widespread availability of broadband technology in 2004 changed the face of the website from an online brochure into a profit-generating machine. It allowed businesses to communicate directly with its market, run transactions, build networks, capture and store data. It wasn’t long before websites became targets of hacker and spam attacks that scheme to steal valuable data and monetize them to meet their selfish agenda.

The Dangers of Hacker and Spam Attacks

Over the last few years, we have been inundated by media reports of large companies falling prey to hacking and spamming attacks.

US Retail giant Target was a victim of a massive hack job in 2013 where the cyber-thieves stole 45.7 million credit card numbers. The breach affected Target’s sales the following year.

Last 2014, JPMorgan revealed that cybercriminals were able to steal valuable information from its more than 80 million account holders. In the same year, Home Depot disclosed that hackers stole 56 million payment cards and 53 million email accounts.

Media coverage might have made it seem that only large companies are the targets of hackers and spammers. But in reality, even small businesses are not spared by these ruthless cybercriminals.

According to a 2013 survey by the National Small Business Association (NSBA), an estimated 44% of small businesses have fallen victim to hacking and spamming operations. On average, the attacks cost these small businesses $8,700.

The costs of hacking to your website go far beyond just the monetary considerations. Your reputation and all the time invested in building your brand can be seriously jeopardized.

Although consumers can accept the fact that you were a victim of unscrupulous individuals, some may view you as being “irresponsible”, “complacent” or “lackadaisical” in ensuring the protection of your customers’ information.

When a customer decides to patronize you over a competitor, he or she is not just giving you business. The customer has also entrusted you with his or her private information. It is expected that as the proprietor, you would do everything in your power to ensure its protection.

But how does your website get hacked? In a home robbery, a thief will carry out his despicable deed when you are away or asleep.

In the case of a cybercriminal, he knows your website is operational 24/7. He will look for an entry point to your website where he can come in unnoticed. If a thief will try to break in through a window, the cybercriminal will find his way through your front door.

This is why sometimes a hack job may start out as an innocent-looking email.

How Your Website Gets Hacked or Spammed

Has this scenario happened to you or someone you know?

When checking your email one morning, you come across a message with the following subject matter “Urgent! Please Respond Immediately”. You note that the email came from someone in your contact list; a good friend as a matter of fact, one whom you regularly correspond with.

You decide to click open the email and there is no content except for a link. You slowly move your mouse over to the link all the while believing it must be authentic because it came from your friend. By blindly trusting the email, you inadvertently opened the gateway to Internet hell for your website.

Your website has just been hacked. Depending on the severity of the attack, the next few hours or days will be memorable for all the wrong reasons.

The link that you just clicked on could unleash a virus that may lead to a number of worst case scenarios:

  • Valuable customer information such as credit card and social security numbers are stolen.
  • Your passwords are stolen.
  • Your server will be “hijacked” and used as a launching stage for illegal activity.
  • Your website will be defaced and used to promote undesirable propaganda.
  • You become a victim of ransomware.
  • Your email address will be used as a relay channel for inappropriate activities.

Email that is unwanted is called spam. Hackers are aware that consumers have gotten wise over the years and do not open email from people who are not part of their contacts list.

But so great is their greed that eventually hackers found ways to get the names and email addresses of your network. They call this “Email Harvesting”.

Here are some of the methods they will use to harvest your email addresses:

  • They hacked into a legitimate website you gave your email address to.
  • You signed up for a mailing list that was hacked.
  • You sent an email to someone who forwarded it to a 3rd party who decided to harvest your address.
  • A recipient distributed an email where your address was indicated as cc instead of bcc making it visible to everyone on the thread.
  • You gave up your email address to a focus or discussion group. Anyone from the group could have harvested your email address.
  • Someone saw your email address on your business card and harvested it without you knowing.

Cybercriminals can be creative when it comes to getting you to open their emails. They will come up with interesting ways to grab your attention and entice you to open their emails without hesitation.

We’re sure you’ve come across some of the following lures summarized below:

  • Personal Fraud – Potential fraudulent activity warning on your credit card or bank account.
  • Account Hacking – An email advise that states your account has been disabled because it was hacked.
  • Package Delivery – Notification that you have a special package waiting to be delivered.
  • Order Confirmations – A request confirming your order for an item; usually a popular branded merchandise.
  • Social Networking – An invitation to connect with someone influential in the industry.
  • Job Offers – Still very popular after all these years; and remains an effective way of infiltrating your defenses.

Remember all they need is for you to click on the link. It may release malware that could steal all of your information including email addresses.

7 Tips to Protect Your Website from Hacker and Spam Attacks

Oftentimes it could be a challenge to decide on whether to click on the email or not especially if it appears to be someone you know. You may have to take a more proactive approach to defend your website from hacking and spamming activities.

1. Regularly Update Software

Hackers use automated crawlers or bots to scour the Internet; constantly looking for websites with openings to which they can deliver malware-infested content. These openings are outdated software and programs that you hardly use.

Here are 3 things you should have on your software update checklist:

  • Make sure your web host service provider regularly updates the security features on its operating system.
  • If you subscribe to third-party software, sign up for their mailing list so you can be immediately advised of program updates.
  • Ask your website designer to conduct a frequent audit on your site. The purpose of the audit is to identify outdated, hardly used and corrupted software programs that put your website at risk.

2. Use Strong Passwords

If you find recalling passwords cumbersome, then so would your site users. But the fact is having a strong password is a necessity given the brazen nature and frequency of hacking and spamming activities.

The usual guidelines for a strong password are to have at least eight characters with at least one capitalized letter and one number.

Never use your birth date and even if you have poor short-term memory, don’t use passwords like 12345678 or worse, password.

3. Get SSL Certificates

SSL or Secure Sockets Layer certificates is a program that assures the recipient of the file or message is from a verified sender by encrypting communication between networks as data passes through the Internet.

You can read more about the benefits of having SSL certificates in our article, “SSL: What is It and Why Your Business Needs It”. Getting SSL certificates is very important especially if you have an online business that requires users to provide sensitive information such as credit card numbers.

You know if a website has SSL certificates when you read the URL and it leads off with “https” instead of “http”.

4. Manage File Uploads

If your website allows users to upload files, you should remain vigilant and view all content with suspicion. There is always the risk that the uploaded file may contain a script that will be activated once the server opens up your website.

The best solution would be to restrict access to your web server. There are 2 ways to do this:

  • Prevent users to have direct access to all uploaded files. Under this set up, all files will be uploaded to a folder located outside the webroot of your site. The web designer can create a script that will allow the files to be fetched from the folder for delivery to the browser.
  • Set up your database on a different server.

5. Install Human Verification Programs

You’ve probably had your fair share dealing with “Captcha” images. It may seem frustrating at times but that is exactly the point.

The purpose of these captcha images is to assure the site it is dealing with a human being and not a program that is devoid of emotion.

Captcha is an example of human verification program. Captchas are popularly presented as jumbled up characters.

But hackers have found ways to bypass this so you need to up your game and use versions that require greater human interaction. Some versions utilize puzzles and games.

6. Fortify Your Defenses Versus SQL Injections and XSS Attacks

SQL injections are a web form field used by a hacker to access and manipulate your database. Web designers can use parameterized queries which are standard feature for most languages to prevent SQL injections.

XSS attacks corrupt your web pages by using malicious JavaScript. This can have many devastating consequences to your website.

  • It can contaminate your users’ browsers.
  • It can alter your page content.
  • It can steal valuable data.

Web designers may use Content Security Policy (CSP) which creates restrictions on the type of JavaScript that can be used on your page.

7. Follow Standard Safety Guidelines

Last but certainly not the least is to make sure you have safety guidelines in place when it comes to managing your website activities. These measures are pretty much basic but often overlooked:

  • Exercise caution when giving out your email address whether to connections or to websites.
  • Create backup email addresses if you plan to transact with websites you are somewhat uncertain with.
  • If you are suspicious about the subject matter in an email sent from a contact’s address, give him a call or a message and confirm if the communication came from his side.
  • Make sure all anti-virus, malware and firewall programs are updated and running all the time.
  • In addition to using strong passwords, it is advisable to change it from time-to-time.
  • Do not click open websites that ask you to provide access to your social media account information.
  • Ask your web designer to test your defense systems frequently.
  • Frequently conduct moderation procedures on your website. You can check your admin page for messages or content that your automated spam filter program may have missed.

Conclusion

The Internet is a beautiful thing. It gives us access to information anywhere in the world with just a click of a mouse or a tap of the keyboard. But just like in the real world, there is the constant battle of good versus evil.

Protect your website as you would your own home. Do not let suspicious characters in and make sure all entry points are tightly secured.

The bad guys are always trying to stay one step ahead of the good guys. As a business owner, your time is best spent focusing on tasks that will help you stay ahead of the competition not worry about what these cyber criminals are plotting to do.

As long as you follow our guidelines, you should be able to sleep soundly every night knowing your website is secure from hacker and spam attacks.

Would you like to know more about fortifying your website defense systems? Please don’t hesitate to give us a call or drop us an email. Your website’s safety is also our concern!

Putting up a website isn’t as simple as setting up a coffee shop, opening the doors and expecting customers to file right in. Almost everyone in the world drinks coffee but just because you’ve set up shop, doesn’t mean you will be guaranteed business. It definitely is a step in the right direction, but you have to put in time, work and resources to gain business. It’s the same with driving traffic to your website. The good news is generating traffic to your website is not as difficult or costly as you might think.

If your business was located inside a mall, you can scope out your competition and approximate foot traffic by assigning staff at the entrances to conduct a click count. From there, you can come up with marketing strategies, design collaterals and draw up promos to attract interest from the mall’s daily visitors.

But things are different in the World Wide Web. If a mall has 200 tenants, the Internet has over 1 Billion websites. If a mall attracts 10,000 visitors daily, the Internet draws over 3.6 Billion users every single day. Once your website is launched, your challenge is to get Internet users to click on your URL as often as possible.

When flyers are distributed randomly inside a mall, many end up in trash bins. You cannot apply the same tactics in a place as vast as the Internet. The marketing approach must be more strategic, well thought-out and focused.

It’s not a matter of casting a larger net into an ocean filled with fish. What ends up in your net might be inedible or unusable. Instead you should figure out the right kind of bait that draws fish to your line. But different bait attracts different fish. Before you know it, you have a multitude of lines with a variety of bait that consistently fills up your boat with tons of fish!

If you want to drive traffic to your website, you must utilize strategies that will attract or compel potential end users to view your products and services. This approach is popularly referred to as Inbound Marketing; the process of using online marketing techniques, tools and tactics for the purpose of generating inbound traffic to a website.

7 Effective Ways to Drive Traffic to Your Website

1. Optimize Your Website

SEO or Search Engine Optimization helps to get your content found online. It gives your website a fighting chance to stand out and get noticed even if there are billions of websites proliferating on the Internet. Remember this key stat: 91% of all Internet users prefer to use organic search to find information.

Keyword research is a big component of an effective SEO strategy. All of your inbound marketing efforts should be focused on landing the top 3 positions of the search rankings for your keywords. The SEO expert should provide you a keywords report which categorizes keywords according to volume and level of competition.

The keywords report will be used to optimize your web pages, particularly the title, meta and descriptive tags. It will also be used to optimize text, image and video content.

2. Consistently Create Great Content

Content is the cornerstone of a successful inbound marketing campaign. People go online to find usable and relevant information. You should give your audience content that addresses their interests or concerns.

If you are able to produce consistently great content, you will enhance your reputation as a valuable resource and attract more followers to your website.

Here are a few tips on how to come up with great content:

  • Write in a conversational manner; don’t attempt to impress your readers by using technical terms.
  • Make sure your data is accurate and sourced from reputable sources.
  • Write with the audience in mind; they should find your content usable, relevant and informative.
  • Always come up with original content; do not plagiarize someone else’s work.
  • Do not abuse keywords; it is important to have the main keyword in the title, the opening paragraph, throughout the body and in the concluding section. But use keywords judiciously. It should never affect the quality of the content.

If you are not sure what to write about, review your website analytics. Find out which blogs or articles generated the highest levels of engagement and had the lowest bounce rates. You could also do surveys or engage your followers in social media to find out what topics interest them.

3. Utilize Social Media

Social media is great for sharing content which could help drive traffic to your website. But there are other ways you can use social media to create inbound avenues to your website.

  • Search.twitter.com – This is one of the lesser known features of Twitter but it is an effective tool for engaging your market. For example, we could type in “mobile responsive design” and see how people in the community are interacting with this topic. We could then engage them by providing a link to an article we published some time ago, “Why Your Business Needs Responsive Design”.
  • Set up Company Pages – Identify 3 social media networks that are appropriate for your business then set up company pages in each of them. Try to stay active by posting regularly and engaging with your followers whenever possible.
  • Remarketing – Facebook and Twitter can provide you with tracking pixels which you can use to continue marketing to Internet users who have visited your site. Facebook will grant you a tracking pixel once you have achieved 100 visitors. Twitter’s minimum requirement is much higher at 500 visitors.
  • Twitter Cards – This is another special feature of Twitter which allows you to send out tweets that are large enough to include an image and a functional button to support a call- to- action. Twitter Cards have been shown to generate 18% more clicks than plain text tweets.
  • Community and Focus Groups – You can also join community and focus groups that are involved in the same industry as you are. Members in these communities often engage one another in discussion threads. Join some of these threads and openly share your expertise and experience. Write blogs and distribute them to your various communities.

These are just the tip of the mountaintop when it comes to all the possibilities with social media. A digital marketing company can help you conceptualize a social media strategy that is customized for your business.

4. Build Links

Link building is such an effective technique for driving traffic to your website that it is often abused by unethical marketers. Google penalizes websites that implement overly aggressive link building strategies. These practices include using irrelevant links for the sake of increasing site exposure.

Done properly, link building is a great way of finding a new audience for your website. Get in touch with the webmaster of a reputable website in your industry and ask if they could include a link to your website. Offer reciprocity so that everyone benefits from the arrangement.

Another way of building links is to engage in industry and business forums. These sites give you the platform to showcase your expertise, knowledge and build up your reputation as a credible resource. Wait for the right moment to provide the link to your website. It should be relevant to the discussion and the content must have information that has value to the community.  

5. Contribute to Other Websites

A big part of driving traffic to your website involves enhancing your online presence as an expert in the industry. The more platforms you have to share your knowledge, the better your reach in finding a new audience for your content. One of the best ways to achieve this is to become a contributor to other websites such as content aggregators.

Content aggregators are websites that gather content from various online sources for reuse or resale. Anyone who visits your page from an aggregator and likes what they read will send a link to your site from their feed. Among the most popular content aggregators are the following:

Becoming a contributor isn’t as simple as sending content and having it published right away. These content aggregators have standards and guidelines for writing. If you are not confident about your writing skills, do not hesitate to hire a professional content writer.

6. Host a Podcast

A podcast is a great way to deliver content because it creates a more personalized, informal and intimate connection with your market. It is also a convenient medium for your audience to digest your content. All they have to do is subscribe and they can listen to your podcast anytime. A podcast puts you in a forum where you can actively engage with other experts in your field.

During the period of 2015 to 2016, the audience for podcasts in the United States grew by 23%. To put this in context, in the same period, Spotify and Twitter grew by 13% and 21% respectively. Hosting podcasts has also been shown to increase website traffic significantly.

7. Use Web Analytics

Web Analytics allows you to have data- driven basis to assess the performance of your website and your inbound marketing strategies. One of the most effective tools you can use is Google Analytics, but it is easy to get lost in the sheer volume of data available for your review.

We have simplified the 4 key reports you should look into when using Google Analytics:

  • Acquisition Keywords- Find out which keywords are driving more visitors to your website.
  • Acquisition Referring Sites – By discovering which websites are delivering more traffic to your website, you can focus more resources to them and less toward those that are underperforming.
  • Visitors Overview – Determine the proportion of new visitors to old visitors so you can customize your content to a specific audience.
  • Content Overview Top Pages – Find out which published content is responsible for driving the most traffic to your website and focus more time and resources on the topic.  

Conclusions

Inbound marketing will not generate significant traffic overnight. It is a process; and as such needs time to produce quantifiable results. Because the Internet and social media have made information accessible, market forces can shift or change without warning.

Thus if you want to drive more traffic to your website, the first step is to hire a professional digital marketing services company. You have to regularly track the progress of your campaign and implement the necessary revisions to strategy. As a business owner, your time is best dedicated to running your enterprise.

You should also apply these inbound marketing techniques with strategy, thought and purpose. A digital marketing company has the experience and knowledge to design a campaign strategy customized for your business and implement it according to schedule.

What you need to keep in mind is that an inbound marketing campaign is not an expense. It is an investment because you expect a return within a period of time. The great thing about investing in an inbound marketing campaign is that the strategies are more focused, sustainable and reusable.

You’re not distributing flyers to random people inside a mall. With inbound marketing, you identify your target market and focus your strategies to influence his or her preference toward your products and services instead of your competitor.

You are not pushing content to your audience. You are creating content that will pull your audience or compel them to follow you.  

The content you create will not end up in the trash bin. You can re-cycle it; edit its content and ideas to fit changes in your market’s behavioral profile. You can also reuse it by publishing it in other websites so you can attract a new audience.

When it comes to driving traffic to your website, the keyword is patience. It will take time to develop the avenues that will consistently bring users to your website.

Building a website is one thing. Committing to develop it is another. But as long as you put in the time, effort and resources, your investment should eventually yield dividends.

If you’re interested in learning more about inbound marketing and how to put together a campaign to drive more traffic to your website, drop us an e-mail or give us a call.

The Internet opens up an ocean of opportunities for business. Every day more than 3.5 Billion people are online; searching for information, looking for best value products and services or building their network. A website becomes a 24/7 store window to a global community of consumers. Unfortunately, the vast expanse of the Internet has also opened up opportunities for unsavory characters. The ones who unscrupulously break into your store window and steal your data. You can never have enough security in the Internet and that is why you need SSL.

What is SSL?

SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. This is a method of encrypting communication between computer networks as data travels through the Internet. SSL will assure the recipient that the data came from a verified sender.

When you want to buy products from an e-commerce site, you will be asked to provide information to the retailer. The information you send to the retailer may go through a number of servers and networks before finally reaching its destination.

It is during this process of transfer that your information is at risk of being intercepted by the bad guys unless it is encrypted.

E-commerce sites such as Amazon and a payment processor like PayPal have SSL certification. When you interact with companies that have SSL certificates, you are guaranteed of dealing with legitimate businesses.

How Does SSL Protect Your Site’s Users?

The year 2016 was a banner year for data hackers. In that year alone, more than 2 Billion records were stolen. Blogging site Tumblr reported that 65 Million accounts were hacked. MySpace became relevant for the wrong reason as it reported 427 Million accounts were stolen. Search engine Yahoo confirmed that more than 500 million accounts were compromised.

The threat of hacking has made people more wary of patronizing Internet- based businesses. Personal information such as Social Security Number (SSN), bank account and credit card numbers once illegally obtained can place the consumer at serious risk. Credit card fraud is estimated to hit $14 Billion in 2020.  

SSL facilitates communication between the user’s browser and the website it is trying to access. When a website has an SSL Certificate from a trusted source, the browser will recognize it. If the user has to send sensitive information, the SSL will encrypt it before it is sent. SSL will also be used to decrypt the information once it has been received.

If your online business requires site users to provide valuable or confidential information, it is highly advised that you get SSL certification.

SSL certificates protect your site users in the following ways:

  1. Enables encryption of sensitive data when an online transaction is performed. Thus, the information remains protected during the transfer.
  2. An SSL certificate is a unique credential; it authenticates and verifies the sender of information.
  3. Your site users would feel more secure because the identity of the certificate holder is verified before the certificate is released.

Think of an SSL certificate as having a seal of trust on your website. Getting an SSL certificate will give you a definite edge over a competitor that does not have it.

What Types of Information Must Be Protected?

Generally you should protect all types of information that could result in monetary loss or legal entanglements for your site users once there is a serious breach in data security.

Here is a short list of types of information that you must absolutely protect:

  1. User Authentication; this includes usernames and passwords to access an account. According to reports, hackers attempt to break into Facebook accounts 600,000 times every day.
  2. Financial Information; among the most sought after figures are credit card numbers, bank accounts and online order numbers.
  3. Sensitive Personal Information; some websites, especially those engaged in consumer services such as telecommunications require users to provide SSN, passport and driver’s license numbers and birth dates. These bits of information once stolen will open the user to risk of identity theft.
  4. Medical Information and Reports on Health Condition; these types of information should be tightly guarded as the consequences on the patient can be severe.
  5. Proprietary Information; highly important if you work with clients or people that require security and protection for legal documents, technology transfers, classified software and customer databases.

If you want extended coverage, you may also wish to include Customer Account areas and signup forms that require site users to provide personal information.

How Will a User Know Your Website Has SSL Certificates?

A user will know that your website has SSL Certificate in 4 ways:

  • A padlock appears on the website’s browser screen.
  • The website’s address in their browser reads https://. Please take note of the extra “s” that appears after http.
  • The address bar’s background will have a green color which indicates the level of security it has in place.
  • You might find an SSL image at the bottom of the web page.

A website that has SSL certificates assures the user of the protection and integrity of any confidential information that has to be submitted.

5 Benefits of SSL

The online business is fast becoming the preferred model of budding entrepreneurs and startups. It’s set up costs are lower than traditional brick- and- mortar establishments, comparatively easier to manage and it presents more benefits to the consumer.

The trend toward patronizing Internet- based businesses can be seen with the number of retail stores shutting down the previous years. As competition increases in the online business industry, you have to constantly find ways to win customers over to your website.

SSL Certificates can give your website the following benefits:

  1. Professionalize Your Business –  Part of the process of getting SSL Certificates is having your website checked by the issuing authority. Having SSL Certificates tells users your website has passed quality assurance and safety tests.
  2. Enhance Customer Loyalty – If users know it is safe to use your site, they will come back and continue to patronize your services. They could even generate referrals for your business.
  3. Bring in More Shoppers – With concerns on identity theft increasing, consumers will choose websites that offer more protection and security. If asked to pick between 2 e-commerce stores; “A” which has SSL and “B” which does not, consumers will almost always choose “A”.
  4. Generate More Paying Customers – Many e-commerce websites are confounded by site users abandoning the purchase at the checkout counter. The reason is consumers get “cold feet” when they are asked to provide their credit card number. SSL Certificates can help push the shopper to complete the sale. A reputable checkout system will offer SSL to your user but having your own SSL will further encourage the user to become a customer.
  5. Protect Information – With SSL, protection goes both ways. It will also protect the information you send out to customers and site visitors. For example, as part of your marketing campaign, you might decide to send out discount coupons or promo vouchers to your customers. With SSL Certificates in place, these marketing materials will be protected with encryption when you send them out to the recipients.

Conclusion

The reality is there is no such thing as a 100% completely infallible security system. If you send confidential information to a website that does not require a password, having SSL Certificates will not be enough to prevent unauthorized viewing.

You should also know that the process of encrypting and decrypting data takes time, uses up computer resources and works the server harder. It will slow down the loading time of your website. If your application does not require the transfer of sensitive information, then SSL certification may not be necessary.

However for those who run e-commerce websites and online businesses that ask users to provide confidential data, there is no doubt you should get SSL Certificates. It will assure users their transaction will be safe and enhance the reputation of your website as a business they can trust.

If you want to get SSL for your website, this can be done for you by your website developer or web host service provider.

You will need to purchase an SSL certificate from an authorized vendor. Your web designer or web host should be able to make recommendations. The vendor will verify your identity before issuing the certificates. Be aware that an annual fee may be charged by the vendor.

Once you have the certificate, it has to be installed on your server so you can activate the “https://” connection.

The web developer will then move to configure your website to make sure all the security connections are properly in place and functioning. If you have an e-commerce business, the web developer has to ensure the certificates can do its job when a user logs in or is about to complete a transaction in the shopping cart.

If our article has encouraged you to pursue an online business that needs SSL certificates, please feel free to give us a call or an e-mail. We have successfully installed SSL certificates on a good number of websites that we have created.

Let us know if you’re interested to learn more about SSL Certificates. We’ll be more than happy to answer questions you may have on whether your online business needs it or not.