Grateful

Recently, I was thinking about a photo I once saw of Zig Ziglar. In it, he was seated in front of his “Wall of Gratitude,” a collection of twenty-seven photographs of people who significantly impacted his life in some way.

I can’t find the photo this morning—I don’t even recall where I saw it now. But it was a powerful lesson for me. There sat one of the most renowned and arguably most influential people in the 20th Century, and he had a habit of sitting down and reflecting on the people that got him to where he was at the time.

Let’s face it, running a business can be really hard sometimes. You have seasons where you feel like you can do no wrong, and other times where you’re digging your way out of a major mistake that you made… or maybe a series of mistakes.

We’re preparing to announce some really big changes around here, and in the process of thinking about the impact of those changes on our business, I’ve taken some time to reflect on some of the people I’m grateful for in our business.

Tom Ziglar & David G. Johnson

Tom Ziglar bravely posing for a pic with Yours Truly
Photo: Mavella

One of those people is Tom Ziglar. It was my privilege to be connected to Tom 6 or 7 years ago through a mutual business relationship. He did me the great honor of allowing me to have the opportunity to work with his team in late 2008 to think through some marketing strategy with them. What’s more, he has honored me on more than one occasion since then to speak to their audience via webinars and a webcast.

Tom has taught me more lessons than I can count. Every time I speak with him, he teaches me more—often without realizing it, much less trying. My team will tell you that when I hang up from a call with Tom, my first remark is usually something like, “When I grow up, I want to be Tom Ziglar.”

I’m grateful to Tom most of all for his friendship. But the lessons he has taught me continue to impact me. He’s brought so much value to our Nourish The Dream events, with his quick wit, unique insights, and his genuine heart for people.

These are elements of who Tom is that have directly impacted (and benefited) me. But Tom has my gratitude and my respect for something far bigger: his commitment to stewarding the legacy of his late father. As CEO of Ziglar, Inc., Tom is accustomed to carrying the responsibility for the Ziglar name. But as I’ve witnessed him handle the passing (or “promotion,” as Zig would’ve thought of it) of his Dad and the steps Tom has taken since then to ensure that the life work of his Dad is carried on, my appreciation has grown.

Tom… you’ll never know how much I appreciate you. It is an honor to know you, and even more of an honor to call you friend.

There are plenty of others who deserve acknowledgment, and while I’m not prepared to take the time to do it justice at the moment, I’d like to at least mention a few of our clients and friends who are actively teaching me something and supporting what we do. (I plan to take the time to do this “right” in the days and weeks ahead.)

Dean Burnside chatting me up at his company's 25th Anniversary Celebration

Dean Burnside chatting me up at his company’s 25th Anniversary Celebration

One of our clients who I’d like to mention has also become a good friend. That man is Dean Burnside, owner of Good News Pest Solutions in Sarasota. I met Dean just over 2 years ago, and right away he took the opportunity—and the risk—of speaking into my life about some things related to our business and our mission.

I have to respect Dean’s willingness to do that.

Dean is also a great example of Godly leadership within Good News Pest Solutions. Years ago, he made the commitment that God owned the business. His story of how God spoke to his heart about the impact he would have for the Kingdom of God outside the 4 walls of the church is inspiring and moving.

He’s also given generously of his time as c0-host of the Nourish The Dream podcast, where he offers unique insights and colorful commentary to the topics we discuss. He’s made no small investment in me personally, and it’s been an honor to me and to my team to be able to serve him by providing services to his company.

Dean… I’m grateful for your friendship, for your input in my life, and for the opportunity to work alongside you. Congratulations on the 25th Anniversary of Good News Pest Solutions!

As I mentioned before, this is going to have to turn into a series. But I want to take a moment and congratulate Steve Rinehart on launching his new luxury home brand: Rinehart Elite Homes.

Big kudos as well to my friend, Tom Oechslin (and thank you to Dean Burnside for making that introduction!) on winning the Tube of the Year award in the Consumer Packaged Goods industry for his company’s tongue cleaning gel. Tom’s entrepreneurial spirit and friendship has created one of those “iron sharpening iron” situations that has stretched, challenged, and encouraged me. Thank you, Tom.

Another long-time client and friend that I want to say “thank you” to is Becki Creighton. She’s one of the hardest working, most creative people I know. Her clients adore her and her work. If you need Mother’s Day Flowers, or wedding flowers, or a nice gift or acknowledgment for virtually anyone, you know who to call!

I’ll pick this up another day. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t wrap up with the most important piece of gratitude I could ever express… and that is the One we celebrate this week on Good Friday and, most significantly, Resurrection Day. He gave His life for me. How could I begin to say “thank you” for that?

Here’s Zig Ziglar sharing better than I ever could.

WordPress Automatic Updates: Pros and Cons

Yesterday the WordPress dev team announced the 3.8.2 Security Release.

Previously, when a WordPress update became available, I’d see the notification when I visited the dashboard of one of our websites. Sometimes, I might spot the announcement post (like the one I linked to above) in the RSS feed.

But all that has changed. For the first time, I found out about the availability of release because one of our sites automatically upgraded itself and emailed me a notice like this:

WordPress Automatic Upgrade Notification Email

WordPress Automatic Upgrade Notification Email

WordPress Automatically Upgraded Itself: Good News or Bad News?

I’ll admit, I’m somewhat on the fence about this. I love the fact that the WordPress devs have created this feature. Ultimately, the entire WordPress ecosystem will benefit from it in the long run. But for now, we’re probably going to have some hiccups.

The “Pros” for automatic upgrades are fairly obvious:

  • outdated, unpatched websites are a security risk… and sometimes, even the most diligent site owners neglect updates (or even forget about a site. Sheesh.)
  • even thoroughly updated sites can be attacked if an insecure site on the same server is exploited (the attack I linked to above affected 40-ish sites, most of which were completely up to date)
  • sometimes a WordPress security release is fast-tracked to fix to a particularly nasty vulnerability, and if you don’t get to the update quickly enough, you can end up with a problem on your hands

…and so on.

Having WordPress update itself so that any vulnerabilities that exist in the core software are removed rectifies some (if not most) of the above situations.

But there can be a downside. Here are some “cons”:

  • Often, the most serious vulnerabilities aren’t even in the WordPress core (TimThumb comes to mind… and actually, the attack I mentioned earlier came through an old, abandoned, plugin—although the WordPress core was badly out of date as well)
  • In “live” (“production”) environments, updates to the WordPress core may break you site’s design or functionality because themes or plugins may not have been updated in preparation for the changes. (This is a little like pulling the foundation out from underneath your house and then setting the house back on a new one. Might work. Might not. Depends on how different the new foundation is.)
  • Some site owners may not take action to update themes and plugins in which vulnerabilities and security risks are discovered, because they think the updates are happening automatically. The vast majority of plugins and themes currently do not automatically update themselves.

The Biggest Issue: Backups

By far, the most significant concern I have involves the availability of current backups.

In other words: what happens when something critical breaks as the result of an automatic upgrade? Do you, as the site owner, have a current backup to restore?

If it’s a simple cosmetic issue related to design, perhaps it’s no big deal. But if it’s a mission-critical function that affects your business, then a loss of functionality could have serious consequences.

Perhaps the worst-case scenario here is if something goes awry with the upgrade script itself. It hasn’t happened often, but once in a while something happens with upgrade scripts (yes, even with WordPress) where an anomaly will cause the upgrade to fail. This could leave your site completely down—perhaps non-responsive, stuck in “maintenance mode” or otherwise inaccessible.

Our Current Approach: Backup to Dropbox

There are multiple solutions to automated backups. Most reputable web hosting providers offer some sort of paid solution. Even Automattic (the parent company of the for-profit side of WordPress) offers VaultPress.

Depending upon your specific situation (the number of sites you’re maintaining, budget, hosting setup, etc.) one or more of those solutions may be a good fit.

But for many small businesses, a more cost-effective solution may be a better fit. That’s where the WordPress Backup to Dropbox plugin comes in.

It’s pretty simple. Once you install & activate the plugin, you connect it to your Dropbox account (on a one-time basis), and configure it. You can set it to backup your site automatically on a routine basis. It will get both the database and the files for your site—everything you need to restore, in other words.

Since it stores the backup in your Dropbox account, the backups are completely separate from the hosting account. That way, if your hosting provider has a massive failure, you don’t have to worry about your backup dying with it. And if you already have a paid Dropbox account (or if you don’t use much of the storage on your free account), chances are you’ll have plenty of room so that this doesn’t create any additional cost.

Right now, most of our sites are backing up on a weekly basis. If you update your site on a daily basis, you might consider something more frequent than that.

If there’s enough interest in it, we’ll put together a comprehensive set of instructions about how to implement the backup solution.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, automated WordPress updates are a positive new feature for the world’s best content management system. However, we recommend that you put automated backups in place in order to protect your site against any of the potential pitfalls.

How Your SEO Might Actually Be Hurting You

Is Your SEO Actually Hurting You?

Is Your SEO Actually Hurting You?
Photo © stuartmiles via BigStock

The topic of how bad SEO can be for your business’s website is so broad, we could probably start a regular recurring feature here about it.

Come to think of it, we’ve written about businesses being Suckered by an SEO Company, why SEO should be a much lower priority than a Marketing Strategy for Your Business, and How SEO Hasn’t Changed for businesses who have one (a content marketing strategy, that is) and (if that’s you), Why You Don’t Need to Worry About Google’s Hummingbird Update.

So, I guess it is something of a recurring feature around here.

What Do I Mean by SEO?

Let’s first be clear about something. I have a love/hate relationship with the term “SEO”. You’ll run across 2 major usages :

  • SEO can refer to the process of optimizing a website so that it ranks well in search engines for target terms, or
  • SEO can refer to the individual (“Mike is an SEO”) or company (“Dewey, Cheatem & Howe is an SEO”) you might hire to elevate your search rankings.

So, with your business website, you might use SEO strategies to help improve your rankings and traffic, or you might hire an SEO. Either way, it could be a mistake.

Wait, Don’t You TEACH SEO to Business Owners & Marketing People?

Yes and no.

Since approximately 2006, we’ve trained business owners and small business teams to leverage the web to deliver valuable content and thereby achieve better results when it comes to search engine rankings and strategies. So… if that’s what you mean, then yes we do.

On the other hand, I’ve personally long believed that most of the techniques I’m about to mention were a bad idea. And most SEOs sell these services as their bread and butter. So, in our training, we’ve consistently taught (and demonstrated) strategies and techniques that will get you long-term winning search results with a completely different (safe) approach.

Thus the “love/hate relationship” I mentioned earlier.

Yes, you need to have a plan that gets you good solid search engine rankings on terms that your future customers may use in search. (There’s an important key, right there!)

But no, you don’t need to try to “game” Google into showing your site above your competitor’s site.

Today, Neil Patel published a post called “5 SEO Techniques You Should Stop Using Immediately.” It’s solid content (as usual) from Neil, and it got me thinking about why we’ve consistently advised our clients against tactics that even felt like they were aimed at “gaming” Google’s results.

More on that in a sec. First, here are the 5 techniques Neil mentioned:

  1. Spammy Guest Blogging
  2. Optimized Anchors
  3. Quantity of Links Over Quality <– he’s referring to inbound links here.
  4. Keyword Heavy Content
  5. Relying on Link-Backs Instead of Content (see #3 above)

It’s worth taking your time to read his post, but I’ll just add a couple of comments here based upon our own experience helping hundreds of small businesses get better results online.

With respect to “Spammy Guest Blogging,” we actually tested this early on. We built a website especially for people who went through our training so that they could learn WordPress (the tool every small business needs to be using on the web) and publish some of their best content on it.

Since we taught them how to use “anchor text links” in our training, we encouraged them to create links back to their own sites using “Optimized Anchors.”

We took that site down a long time ago.

Here’s why we took it down. First of all, we realized that it had absolutely no rhyme or reason to it. You might have seen a post about a jewelry store right below one about an optometrist, which was below one about different types of stanchions, which was below one about wholesale picture frames. The only thing remotely cohesive about the site was that I knew all of the authors.

So… the site had no “theme” that Google could identify. At first, this wasn’t a problem. In fact, the posts (and the links) were really helpful—both because they gave our students and clients a chance to showcase their work to one another and because the site itself passed some benefit to their individual websites via the links.

However, over time, Google has gotten better and better about identifying efforts like this when they seem to be aimed at manipulating their search results. So we took it down. The training benefit can be achieved other ways.

If you’re interested in learning just how serious Google has gotten about identifying “guest posts” that are actually spammy in nature, check out what Rand Fishkin rightly called “One of the Scariest Google Penalties I’ve Seen”:

There’s plenty of discussion on the site he linked to there, but you can find more in his Google+ post on this same topic.

Secondly, while I’m still a fan of both “guest blogging” and “anchor text links,” there’s an important piece of the puzzle that all of our students and clients have heard me talk about ad nauseum:

Every effort at publishing content and “getting links” must be passed through this simple filter: Does it deliver value to our target audience? If not, don’t do it. Period.

Ultimately, the posts about stanchions and picture frames and optometry didn’t serve our market. The experience gained was valuable, yes. But as I mentioned, that can be done other ways. Ultimately, the content and links only benefited our students (at least at first) and us—not the target audience. So down came the site.

Which brings me to the other techniques that Neil mentioned…

The Value & Importance of Inbound Links

Creating links has long been the “low hanging fruit” for SEOs. Some of them literally did nothing else for clients other than place links to their websites.

And we have always advised against doing this, except in very narrow cases.

(And since I know you’re going to ask:  in every one of those cases, the most important component every small business needs online already existed. What is that component? Freshly updated, valuable content being published via WordPress on a regular basis.)

Links have always been important for websites. My hunch is that they always will be… as long as Google rules the world, anyway. Larry and Sergey built their business, its early patents, and the world’s most valuable search engine around their doctoral thesis… which introduced the idea of “PageRank”… which used links as its primary signal for determining relevance and quality.

But of course, as Google grew to take over the search market, this launched the game that I often compare to the radar/radar detector business. The cops use radar to catch speeders. Speeders get better radar detectors. And so on.

Spammers & SEOs learned how Google’s algorithm worked. Google got better at detecting them. Then the cycle repeated.

It still repeats today, but one thing has not changed.

Google (and every other search engine) has one simple goal: provide the searcher with the most relevant, highest quality search results possible.

Thus, every search engine will reward sites that provide valuable, relevant content to the right audiences.

I have long insisted that ranking for rankings sake does not ultimately server a business’s purposes well. Rankings that put their websites in front of their best customers do serve their purposes well. After all, why get a ton of traffic from people who never should or never will buy from you?

Most small businesses can’t accommodate more than a few high quality prospects every day anyway. Some can. And sure… e-commerce websites can theoretically check out as many buyers as want to whip out their credit cards on a given day. But as we proved with one of our biggest clients, if you increase sales rapidly enough, you can break every system in the business… and ultimately bury it. It’s called “the success you never want.”

So…. we’ve trained our students (and helped our clients) obtain valuable links. But we’ve done this organically. And often, the links came because our clients created valuable content that other sites wanted to link to… which means that they are exactly the kinds of sites (and links) that Google has always wanted to reward.

Can you overdo the links? Yep. And you can overdo the anchor text. Some links should have anchor text. Brand anchor text is virtually always good. But ultimately anchor text should “look right” to the reader when they see it. Google hasn’t always been able to detect it when this wasn’t the case. They still can’t nail it every time. But they’ve been getting better and better at it all along.

The same thing is true with “keywords” in your content. The keywords need to be there. But they need to be there because they make sense to a reader. And sure—writers can improve the way that they make use of keywords (most need some training along these lines), but at the end of the day, if keywords are used too often, the content doesn’t “feel” right to the reader.

So… if you’re doing any of these things too much (and if you have to stop and ask yourself, you actually just might be!), stop it.

And certainly, if you’re paying someone to do these things for you, quit! (For the record, there are still plenty of conscientious, high quality SEOs who are ethical and valuable. Those people have already stopped doing this stuff. And you should pay them if you can find one and can afford it.)

Instead, invest that money (or time & energy) in creating content that delivers value. You’ll win every time.

Why Running a Contest to Grow Likes on Facebook Could Backfire

Is It a Good Idea to Use a Facebook Contest to Grow Likes on Your Page?

Is It a Good Idea to Use a Facebook Contest to Grow Likes on Your Page?

First of all: kudos to you for even thinking about doing this. The way I look at it, this means that you’re exploring your options to improve your visibility on Facebook, which is a very good idea.

Using a contest, giveaway or other mechanism that encourages people to like your Facebook page in exchange for something has a lot of appeal. It leverages the power of something free (or the prospect of being a big prize winner) to get people to take an action that they might not otherwise have taken. It also gives your existing audience something fun to participate in—especially if you invite them to share the opportunity with their friends. This all seems like a very good idea.

Unfortunately, however, given the current dynamics of Facebook, using this method to “build likes” on your page  could end up really hurting your page’s visibility in the end.

How Could Having More “Likes” Actually Reduce the Visibility of Your Facebook Page?

I’ll admit, this seems counter intuitive at first… maybe even downright crazy. I mean, the idea of having more “Likes” on your page is pretty much like having more “subscribers” to your content, right?

Right.

Well… except for one thing: engagement.

You see, as Facebook’s user community has grown, more and more businesses like yours who are all hoping to get the eyeballs of Facebook’s users on their content have jumped in. And herein lies the rub: Facebook can’t show everything to everyone all the time. And like I always tell our clients and the businesses we train: we would all quit using Facebook if it became less interesting to us.

So… in order to properly show each and every Facebook user the content that is most likely to be interesting to them each and every time they visit the site or open the mobile app, Facebook has to make an educated guess.

That’s why engagement is critical.

In order to guess what John Doe will like, Facebook has only Mr. Doe’s previous activity to rely upon. Yes, Mr. Doe may have “Liked” your page. But if he hasn’t taken one of these 4 actions recently, Facebook’s algorithm must assume he’s not interested in your stuff. Here are the 4 actions Facebook can measure:

  • A comment
  • A “like” (on a particular piece of content)
  • A “share”
  • A click other than on the “Like,” “Comment,” or “Share” links (e.g. on a link to your website, on your picture/graphic to expand it, on your video to play it, etc.)

Facebook is measuring this activity all the time… for every single user. And if your page’s content is shown to John Doe without him taking one of those 4 actions, Facebook will eventually stop showing it to him. Thus… your content must get engagement from users in order for Facebook to continue to show it.

Here’s Where You Might Get Bitten

Many page managers have begun to realize the importance of engagement. And this is where we can sometimes chase new users in search of higher engagement numbers. But think about this for a moment. When you give something away like a prize package that has little to do with the day-to-day content you’re posting on your page, then the reason why people “Like” your page is disconnected from your real content. When that disconnect occurs (and it can sometimes be very subtle), these people will not engage with your content going forward.

Here’s an example for clarity:

Let’s say you own a dog obedience school. (If you’ve been through our one of our training programs, you know how much I enjoy using the dog obedience school as an example.)

Your Facebook page is humming along at 500 “Likes.” You decide you want to increase this number. So, you put together a nifty prize package and set up a Facebook contest so people can enter it. Your prize includes: dinner for 2 at a nice restaurant nearby, a Starbucks gift card, and 2 movie passes.

Sounds like a great prize package, right? Who wouldn’t want to win that?

Exactly.

The prize is interesting to almost everyone. After all, who doesn’t like to eat out and catch a movie with their signficiant other or even a good friend?

Since the prize package is universally interesting, you imagine that more people will “Like” your Facebook page in order to win.

This is a reasonable assumption. With some good copywriting, some nice graphics, and maybe even a little paid promotion, you should get a lot of traction on this.

And herein lies the rub: for all the people who might want your prize package, what percentage of them even own a pet? How many of those people own a dog? How many of the people who own dogs are having a training problem they need to correct?

If you’re like me, you’re watching those percentages get smaller and smaller and smaller.

Therefore… once these people “Like” your page, how often do you think they’re going to “like” your posts? Or comment on them? Or share them? Or even click on them?

Thus… your engagement is very, very low for these newcomers.

And… when the percentage of people who engage with your content on Facebook goes down, the visibility of your content goes down.

Suddenly all the people who were interested in a date night—but not in training their new puppies—become an anchor that weighs your page down.

And there’s no way to get rid of them.

Unlike the “Friends” you have in your personal Facebook profile, which you can unfriend at any time, there’s no way to kick out the disengaged people who at one time “Liked” your page.

As engagement becomes more and more important on Facebook—and this is happening every single month right now—your ability to keep your followers interested in your content becomes more and more critical.

So… with that in mind, what do you think? Should you run a Facebook contest to grow you page’s likes?

How to Edit the Text on a Facebook Image Post

We’ve all done it.

You find (or create) the perfect image… you upload it to Facebook… you write the perfect text to go along with it… and boom!, you publish it on your page.

Sometimes it’s instant. Sometimes it’s hours later. But somewhere along the line, you spot the typo. Or you realize you forgot the link you intended to add.

But it’s too late. The post already has “Likes” or “Comments.” You can’t take it down because you don’t want to lose the engagement you’ve gained. What to do?!

Good news: you can edit the text you wrote when you posted your image.

So far… this only works for image posts. If you uploaded an image at the time you created the post, this is available to you. (If you only wrote text, you’re out of luck for now.)

Step 1: Locate the Image on Your Page’s Timeline

Visit your page, find the image, and click on it… like this:

How to Edit Facebook Image Description Text: Part 1

Step 2: When Viewing the Image in “Theater” Mode, Click the “Edit” Button

You’ll find it here:

How to Edit Facebook Image Description Text: Part 2

Step 3: Click in the Text Box and Edit Away

You’ll see that the description text becomes editable, like this:

How to Edit Facebook Image Description Text: Part 3

This box is a little tricky. If you have multiple lines of text, it’s hard to “scroll” inside the box, so I recommend that you click once to put your cursor in the box and then use your arrow keys to navigate around.

Once you’ve made the changes you wanted to make, click the “Done Editing” box… and voila!… your changes are made!

Questions? Fire away in the comments below…