Tag Archives: Marketing

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  • outdated, unpatched websites are a security risk… and sometimes, even the most diligent site owners neglect updates (or even forget about a site.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actually, the attack I mentioned earlier came through an old, abandoned, plugin—although the WordPress core was badly out of date as well)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.

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…

Why You Don’t Need to Worry About Google’s Hummingbird Update

Ever since Google announced the “Hummingbird” update on its 15th birthday, the web marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) community has been all aflutter (pardon the pun) with speculation about what this massive overhaul to Google’s search engine really means.

Google's Latest Search Overhaul: Hummingbird

Google’s Latest Search Overhaul: Hummingbird (Photo: Mdf via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

As with Panda, Penguin and the other changes to Google’s algorithms over the last few years, my recommendation to our clients and those who we’ve trained in our small business marketing training courses is to carry on as before.
Why would I recommend doing what you’ve been doing?

Because if you’ve been part of our training, you’ve had a very simple philosophy when it comes to search engine rankings:

Create Fresh, Original Content on a Regular Basis

By writing new articles (specifically: blog posts using WordPress) and publishing them to your website (or perhaps a blog site separate from your main website), you create the one thing Google needs most in order to evaluate your site: text.

Let’s not forget that at the end of the day, Google is a text machine.

Google and the other search engines devour text like a pack of lions on a fresh kill.

Write About the Problems Your Customers Have

A common thread running throughout our content strategies is that people have (historically) run Google searches based upon the problems they have rather than the solutions. There are many exceptions to this “rule,” and search has been changing dramatically in the last few years (more on this in a moment), but overall it’s a fairly safe bet that people will try to use Google to solve their problems.

The great thing about writing about your customers’ problems is that it gives you an excuse to write about the solutions you provide. Writing about solutions serves the business objective behind this whole idea, of course, but in fact is secondary to the main point.

The main point is to provide value to future customers (and maybe existing ones, too!) via this content.

Write About the Questions Your Customers & Prospects Ask

Every business has this. You may or may not have documented it in a training manual, but your business answers a certain set of questions all the time. Your new employees have to learn these answers to become fully effective, and perhaps the list evolves frequently, but nevertheless there is a set of FAQs.

Of course many websites include a section just for FAQs, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m actually talking about taking each question, writing it out, and producing a blog post just to answer it.

A great example that’s fresh on my mind involves how to get rid of love bugs, which became the substance of two separate blog posts for our client, Good News Pest Solutions. If you don’t live in Florida (or another southern state as far away as Texas), you may have no clue what a nuisance these little critters can be… for about one month twice each year (usually in May and September). If you haven’t dealt with them, then you get to miss out on the pile-up on your vehicle, the damage to its paint job, and the swarming around your house. Overall, they’re fairly harmless critters (they don’t bite), but they’re a major annoyance.

Now… the pest control company in Sarasota, Florida that published these posts doesn’t actually treat for love bugs per se, but they are the leader in dealing with pest problems of all kinds that Florida residents face. So… while the love bugs post may not have directly related to their business, it did directly relate to a problem that their customers (and future customers!) face twice each year. So the content delivered value without being directly self-serving.

The beauty is that content like this attracted a huge  bump in traffic to the company’s website. Doubtless, many of these visitors were even outside the service area for this regional company. However, for those visitors who came to their website from within the service area, this post scored major points for the company in terms of brand equity, building trust and credibility, and demonstrating their overall high-quality service approach to business.

And… the content was great for social media sharing. It also perpetuated a hard-won “reputation” with Google for the kind of original, high-quality content that we’re talking about here.

Even more importantly: it’s great for Hummingbird.

Hummingbird is About Questions

At the risk of oversimplifying, Google’s new Hummingbird update is about answering questions for Google’s customers: the people who run searches.

In a way, this overhaul of Google’s search engine is focused on delivering better value to searchers based upon the major ways that mobile devices have changed how we search. Today, we “ask Siri” or use Google’s “voice search” features that are baked in to Android devices. We ask Google’s search engine for directions, we look for what’s nearby, and we ask Google to define words and provide all sorts of random information.

Because of voice interaction which has been made so easy by our mobile devices, Google’s search query box is more often filled with a conversational question than ever before. Google speaks of its response to this trend in terms of what it calls the “knowledge graph.”

But if you’ve been following our recommendations all this time, then chances are your site is performing very well with Hummingbird, because your content is now part of the knowledge graph.

So… carry on.

Keep creating fresh, original content. Keep writing about your customers’ problems (even ones you may not solve). Keep answering their questions. Keep delivering value. This is exactly the sort of text  Google is looking for so it can deliver great value to its searchers.

Why Mobile Matters for Small Business Marketing [Infographic]

For the last 2 years or so, we’ve been pounding the drum to anyone who will listen—which mainly means small businesses we train, our clients, and audiences I speak to—that you must be ready for mobile visitors.

How can your small business website be ready for mobile visitors?

Two words: responsive design.

Your website should be responsive.

What Is Responsive Design?

Very simply: the “look & feel” of your website is built in such a way that it automatically accommodates different browsers.

Certainly, I’m talking  about desktop browsers like Chrome, Firefox and (God forbid!) Internet Explorer. But more importantly, we’re talking about the browsers that come with mobile devices like iPhones, iPads, and Android phones & tablets.

With a responsive design, your site will look good (or at least be usable) no matter what mobile device a visitor might be using when they access your site. Also, the site should automatically adjust when the orientation of the device changes (think about when you rotate your phone or tablet).

But People Don’t Visit My Site from Mobile Devices!

It’s not uncommon for a small business owner to throw this objection our way. I can’t tell you how many small business owners are convinced that somehow their website is different!

Our users are technical!

Buyers of our products sit at their desks all day long!

Our clients haven’t purchased iPads!

I’ve heard it all. But the data says something completely different!

Think about this: there are 1.2 billion people accessing the web from mobile devices. (Folks: that’s more than are using Facebook!)

Neil Patel from QuickSprout compiled some relevant tidbits about mobile device usage and assembled them into a nice infographic (see below). I will warn you that much of this is geared toward shopping from mobile devices, which may or may not be relevant to your particular small business website. Regardless: your visitors are coming from iPhones, iPads, Android phones and… yes… even Android tablets.

And if you haven’t already done so, now is the time to deploy a responsive design on your website.

Responsive Sites on WordPress: Inexpensive & Relatively Simple

Now… for those who have been following our advice, you’ve heard from me since 2006 that you should be using WordPress for your small business website. And if for any reason that isn’t possible, you should use it for your small business blog.

But we’ve also spent a considerable amount of effort in the last 2 years converting e-commerce sites over to use WordPress as well.

Why bring WordPress up? Well… it’s simple: if you use WordPress, there’s no excuse for you to not have a responsive site. Responsive WordPress themes abound!

Converting your WordPress site over from an older desktop-focused theme to a responsive one is one of the least expensive modifications you’ll make. And the low cost and relative ease of the process will remind you about why you went with WordPress to begin with!

Now get to it! Convert your site to a responsive design today!

Why All Marketers Should Be Thinking Mobile
Courtesy of: Quick Sprout

 

How Much is a Facebook “Like” Worth to Your Business?

There’s an enormous caveat to what I’m about to tell you. In the work we’re doing with clients for whom we manage social media, as well as in the training we do for business owners and their teams to manage their own social media, there’s one fact that we emphasize constantly:

In social media, the level of engagement is far more important than the number of fans or followers.

That said, a recent research study by Syncapse and Hostpex places an average value of $174 for each Facebook “fan” a business gathers. (Note: although term “fan” is outdated jargon in the world of Facebook, it’s being used as shorthand for “someone who has liked your page” here.)

How do they arrive at this number, you ask?

Syncapse: Value of a Facebook Fan 2013

Value of a Facebook Fan in 2013 Source: Syncapse

Well, the $174 figure is an average across a number of different brands and industries, and it’s calculated based upon a number of comparisons between fans and non-fans (those who have not liked a business’s Facebook page). After looking at spending, loyalty, likelihood that they would recommend the brand, satisfaction levels, acquisition cost and “affinity,” the research determined and placed a value on fans for each brand compared in the study.

It’s worth checking out the study itself (download it here) to review the metrics and get some idea about where your business would compare based upon the value of a fan for the brand/industry that most closely matches yours.

Regardless of where you land in terms of the value you place on each person who has “liked” your Facebook page, the most important takeaway from this study is this: the research proves that when you communicate regularly via social media, you influence the opinions and behaviors of your prospects and customers.

The key, as I mentioned at the top of this post, is that you treat your social media marketing/outreach as a method of engaging with people rather than broadcasting or advertising to them.

Do you want to learn more? Need help building engagement? Contact us here.

How SEO Hasn’t Changed [Infographic]

From the very moment we began providing training to business owners and marketing executives to help them understand how search engines work, we have preached a very simple message:

Create content that delivers value to people in your target market. And do it often.

I’m constantly amused by the SEO (search engine optimization) industry—when not infuriated by stories of ripoffs, that is. Everyone was in an uproar when Google’s Panda update came on the scene. When Penguin arrived, it was another round of insanity as SEO firms and marketing consultants began realizing that many of the gimmicky tricks they had used to artificially boost clients’ search rankings began to fall off. And then there’s the endless speculation about which black and white animal Google will name their next update after… <sigh>.

Ironically, nobody who was following our training was negatively affected by Google’s algorithm changes. Quite the opposite, many of our clients found themselves inexplicably rising in rankings for keywords they hadn’t targeted (more on that in a moment) and receiving even more traffic!

And while keywords and keyword research are important, our clients and students have always heard from me that keyword research is only the beginning of your effort. You will never imagine all the keywords that people will use to find your content, but if you create valuable content in a conversational style, you will accidentally use more of the terms that people will search on than you could ever do on purpose.

Our clients and students get some valuable coaching from us that helps them accomplish this, of course, but the foundation of the strategy is disarmingly simple.

As social media has become more and more important, we’ve gained all sorts of new metrics about what content is and isn’t valuable to our audiences. But aside from making adjustments based upon that new feedback loop, the advent of social media has only served to prove the merits of our strategy.

Meanwhile, SEO experts all over the world are discovering that they must now scramble to figure out how to deliver value and engage audience members since Google’s ability to measure those factors has improved. Today, I spotted a beautiful infographic put together by Fuzz One: The New Face of SEO: How SEO Has Changed. If you’ve been through our training, you’ll be amused as I was at how much energy they’re now recommending everyone to put into delivering value. Enjoy!

[Infographic] The New Face of SEO: How SEO Has Changed

The bottom line? While “SEO experts” scramble to adapt… everyone who has been delivering value by creating unique content that’s targeted to their desired audience can rest assured that your efforts will continue to be rewarded.

Need better performance from your marketing? Contact us to learn more about our strategic marketing assessment.

Reason #237 for Marketing Strategy: the Elevator Pitch

Elevator Pitch

Is this where you want to buy something?

Seth Godin’s post from today reinforces yet again the need for you to strategically and intentionally design your business’s “message”:

If your elevator pitch is a hyper-compressed two-minute overview of your hopes, dreams and the thing you’ve been building for the last three years, you’re doing everyone a disservice. I’ll never be able to see the future through your eyes this quickly, and worse, if you’ve told me what I need to know to be able to easily say no, I’ll say no.

As usual, he manages to say an enormous amount in just a few sentences. And although the Girl Scouts may disagree, the bottom line from Seth is:

“No one ever bought anything on an elevator.”

What are you trying to accomplish with your message?

 

Time to Update Those Copyright Notices!

Out with the Old!

Out with the Old!

Have you changed the copyright notice at the bottom of your website? Now’s the time to do it! After all… nothing says, “we aren’t paying attention” like last year’s date (or worse: an even earlier year!) being displayed on a website through mid-June (or whenever it is we happen to catch it).

So… in addition to all the other calendar-changing exercises — remembering to write 2012 on your checks, ditching last year’s desk blotter, swapping the wall calendar, etc — make sure you check out your websites. And no fair looking at ours… we haven’t finished getting to them all yet! (What do you think reminded me to write this?!)

Also… if you have multiple Content Management Systems (CMSs), don’t forget to look at those. Check your shopping cart, blog, membership website, etc. to see if they have their own footers.

How to Always Have a Current Copyright Notice on Your WordPress Site

If you’re running WordPress, your footer content is controlled by your theme. Some theme designers provide a place in an “Options” panel for you to manually update the text displayed in your footer and/or copyright notice. That’s nice & handy, but you still have to remember to fix it.

Here’s a quick & dirty way to “set it and forget it” so you don’t have to remember to check again next year at this time.

    1. Go to Appearance » Editor from the left-hand menus in your WordPress admin
    2. Find the file that controls your footer in the list of files on the right-hand side of your screen. 99% of the time it will be a file called footer.php (if not, check your theme’s support site)
    3. Click on the file’s name  to open it in the editor.
    4. Do yourself a favor: highlight the entire file and copy/paste it into a text editor (think Notepad here, not Word). This gives you a backup of the code in case you bump something and break it.
    5. Find the code that outputs your copyright notice. It should be easy to recognize. Here’s a hint: the HTML code for the copyright symbol is usually displayed like this:  &amp;
    6. Replace it with something like this: Copyright &copy; 2006 - <?php echo date('Y') ?>
    7. Click the “Update file” button to save it.
    8. Go check out your site!

Obviously, you can adjust as needed. The code I showed above is the actual code we’re using on our Nourish The Dream site, which we founded in 2006. You may want to use a different date structure, but that PHP code is what causes your theme to always show the current year (assuming your web hosting provider has the server configured correctly!)

Questions? Ask ‘em in the comments area below!

Happy New Year!