Don’t Forget the Meta!


May 15th, 2014 by

A site without a Meta description is only halfway optimized. In fact, each page needs a Meta description, so don’t just focus on the homepage. The Meta descriptions are HTML tags that provide a short explanation of the contents on the web page.  Meta descriptions are used on search engine results pages, SERPs, to display a ‘teaser’ or preview of the page. You probably knew what a Meta description was and you didn’t even know it.

Here is an example:

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The arrow points to our Meta description. The reason why I am saying your site is only halfway optimized if you are not using Meta descriptions because that is what draws in the user.  It is important to spend quality time on developing the Meta descriptions. We need to shift from thinking about SEO and more about click throughs, related to the SEO industry. Let’s think more about what the user wants to see while searching.

At Upright Communications, we spend a great amount on forming the best Meta description for our clients. It is best to keep the description short and sweet following a 150 to 160 character count. Focus on keywords that are useful to the company but be careful to not keyword stuff or make it obvious. The description should be helpful for the user to better understand the page and to find what they are searching.

Email Marketing: Friend or Foe to Business?


May 8th, 2014 by

Email Marketing: Friend or Foe to Business?

I bought my mother a sweater this Christmas from a company which will remain nameless and I have thought of them every day since. Why, you may ask? Once a day I receive an email from this specific company among my other general daily emails. Every day I physically read the headline and then click to delete but even though I am deleting that company is still sending a visible daily reminder to me that I have to take action on to remove.

So the question is, why do people still sign up for these and how do they benefit the consumer and the business?

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Email is King

If you are a social media member of society, you know thatyou can see thousands of posts a day! If you also use email, you may receive a total of 100 emails in a day. The proof is in the pudding – having your content be one of 100 messages will give you a much better chance of being read and seen than being  one of 1000 scrolled through on a social media site. The majority of people own an email account and check it daily, making email an easy and FREE way to directly speak to your consumers and demographics.

Did you know you do NOT own any of your social media accounts?

If Facebook, Twitter and Google+ all closed their sites and platforms tomorrow, your photos, comments, advertisements and human connects would all be deleted without any chance of recovery. However, when you start to build an email list internally you grow an “address book” of consumers and friends of the business. Many people keep their email address for years and years where as they will often switch which social media site they frequent depending on trends and popularity.

When should I start?

Now. Last week. A YEAR AGO! You should have started yesterday, but if you haven’t jumped on the email list train then start right now! Every interaction with a customer without politely asking for an email address is a wasted opportunity for follow-up marketing. Your customer will not be offended that you would like to share tips, coupons, and offers and can always decline your invitation to join the email list.

How do I make sure I live up to the expectations?

The Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” should be the mindset when sending emails to your consumers. If you received a monthly email, what would you like to see? What would pique your interest, draw you into reading emailed content and make you believe that business has your best interest in mind? A few ideas:

  • Exclusive coupons to save money on goods and services
  • Articles of interest
    • I am a firm believer that these can have NOTHING to do directly with your business, a laugh is a laugh and if it is something you think a consumer would enjoy and remember then add it! Maybe they will pass it on to a friend!
    • Updates about your community or business
      • Community events
      • New additions to goods, services, staff, community involvement, business achievements and if you would like to share, personal achievements!

How do I begin?

If you are lucky enough to have someone or a service that offers to maintain this list and the emails for you then you should utilize that and PROMOTE IT! While your account manager can maintain a list, place signs in the right places to gain the most attention and help with ideas, only you personally know and interact with your customer. With this relationship you can suggest a funny article that made you smile, brag about the business achievements and hint that you will have a booth at the charity event. Ask your account manager to include these in your email. Make sure to work with your email manager and keep an open conversation about your topics! BE INVOLVED!

The best time to suggest an email is at your point of sale. For example:

“Thank you for your business, we appreciate it. Would you be willing to share your email for our monthly newsletter that has exclusive savings, tips and updates about our business and community?”

The benefit of an email list is that it provides many advantages and opportunities to increase your business on such a personalized level so make sure you are making the most of this opportunity today!

If you have any questions contact your account manager!

 

The Heartbleed Bug – What are the facts?


April 23rd, 2014 by

Code-named “The Heartbleed Bug”, news of this serious vulnerability has been spreading rapidly through your media outlets. It’s not unlikely that you’ve heard something about it recently, and at first glance it sounds to be an incredibly large loop-hole. Warnings of the vulnerability of sensitive data with your online accounts have run rampant to a point of near mass-hysteria. Is Heartbleed actually that dangerous? The simple answer is yes, but there are caveats that lessen haze of gloom and doom surrounding it. We’ll explore the facts below and touch on some utilities and other methods for making sure your information is safe.

First, let’s figure out exactly what Heartbleed is, and why it has had so much attention. The World Wide Web is a complex network of servers and clients interconnected to share and deliver information to anyone who requests it. Some of this information is considered sensitive, and such has a level of security to protect the privacy of the owner of that information. A simple example of this type of information is a username and password for some online account. It can extend to much more sensitive information however, like your address or even a credit card. To keep your information secure all of this data is encrypted using a service called SSL or TLS. Without going into great detail, this encryption makes it so that you and only you can retrieve your information as long as you can prove you are who you are. That sounds very abstract but it’s really straightforward. You login to your account using a username and password, once that combination is verified you are given a higher level of access to retrieve information pertaining to your account. Heartbleed is a vulnerability in one of the most popular cryptographic software libraries called OpenSSL. As a user you would notice this type of encryption on a site by the typical “https://” preceding a URL. OpenSSL is the default encryption engine for Apache and nginx. According to Netcraft [http://news.netcraft.com/archives/2014/04/02/april-2014-web-server-survey.html], Apache and nginx accounts for 66% of the websites on the internet. OpenSSL extends beyond just the internet as well, including instant messaging services and email.

Crucially, the level of access that is gained through the exploit gives access to up to 64 kilobytes of memory from the server running a vulnerable OpenSSL version. Depending on what is currently stored in the memory at the time of the attack, a hacker could gain access to usernames and passwords, other form data like addresses or credit cards, or even more crucially a certificate key that would allow the hacker to decrypt all of the encrypted information being sent to and from the server. The latter means the potential for full-access to encrypted data, no matter what it is, certainly an alarming prospect. The situation is worsened by the fact that this loophole has existed in this version of OpenSSL for nearly 2 years!

Dilbert Comics

(Image credit to Dilbert.com)

So what’s the good news? The Heartbleed Bug was discovered by a group of “White Hat Hackers”. A White Hat Hacker is an individual who as a hobby or as employment on behalf of a company, attempts to hack a system in order to expose security loopholes, so that those loopholes can be closed. At this point in time there is no evidence that this vulnerability has been used by any group with malicious intent. Luckily it was found by the “good guys” so to speak, and hosts who manage servers were alerted to update their OpenSSL software in order to patch the vulnerability. There also haven’t been any indications that this loophole has been exploited in the past 2 years. Essentially, the internet dodged a bullet.

Most of the companies who manage these servers have already performed their update to OpenSSL, closing the Heartbleed loophole. This prevents an attack now or in the future, but if your server was already attacked, it’s possible that your information has already been compromised. You should take that with a grain of salt though. This type of hack would target a website where the hacker can get the most bang for their buck, for example a large site like Facebook is much more likely to be a target than a typical business website. Facebook has lots of personal information stored, where a hacker could potentially gain access to other important accounts.

Ultimately, it is very unlikely that any of your information has been compromised from this bug. If you want to ensure your information is safe there are some simple steps you can follow. First, use one of the following test utilities to test the website you are concerned about and check whether it is still vulnerable to Heartbleed. If it is still vulnerable, don’t do anything until you see that it is secured. If you are concerned nothing is being done to secure the site the only thing you can do is contact the website to check on their progress concerning Heartbleed. If the website shows as secure from Heartbleed, all you have to do is change your password. You should of course follow typical strong password recommendations. Your password should always include 1 or more symbols, 1 or more numbers, 1 or more capital letters, and be as long as possible. They also shouldn’t be anything personal or easy to guess, for example, don’t use any numbers from your birth date in a password as these are easy for anyone to find on Facebook and guess.

Heartbleed Testing Tools

Heartbleed Test

In an abundance of caution, Upright has already verified the servers that our clients websites are hosted on were patched with the new OpenSSL and affected sites passwords have been changed.

Ben Franklin, Founding Father (of Reader Driven Content)


April 11th, 2014 by

ben_franklinI have a passion for history – especially U.S. history. I also really appreciate inspiration from great content marketing success stories. You can imagine my delight this week when I read Scott Aughtmon’s Content Marketing article, featuring an example of  effective content marketing straight from early American history.

As it turns out, Benjamin Franklin was not only a founding father of the United States, he was a founding father of content marketing.  Franklin is remembered as an inventor, statesman, political theorist, and the 1st U.S. Postmaster General, but he also ran a successful printing business. Serving to promote this printing business was Franklin’s immensely popular in-house publication, Poor Richard’s Almanack, published continually from 1732 to 1758.

Almanacs were very popular at the time, so in order to be competitive, Franklin needed to deliver a publication that was especially unique and appealing.  In developing his publication, Franklin demonstrated some astute marketing instincts, which the article discusses. It was Franklin’s fresh and original approach to content that made Poor Richard’s such a widely sought after almanac.

Delivering the kind of content that will be of interest to your readers should be among your main website objectives. This sounds simple and obvious enough, but it may not be what comes naturally as you develop your material. Your website offers the perfect platform to promote yourself, but try to remember that your readers will quickly lose interest if that is all you are doing. As you draft what will go on each page, try to include some of the following:

  • Content that entertains
  • Content that inspires
  • Content that educates
  • Content that is new & noteworthy
  • Content that is worth sharing
  • Content that leaves readers wanting more

Ready to brainstorm ideas for your reader driven content? Give us a call.

The Negative Review – Face It, Embrace It


March 24th, 2014 by

Negative comments are never fun to read or deal with, much less keep on a social media or blog page. However, the way you handle negative comments is very important to your social media image. With proper handling, you can turn around a negative, and possibly even make it a positive.

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What do you do when you see a negative comment on your social media or blog page?

  1. Do NOT delete it. This just makes the brand with the negative comment suspicious. The person who wrote the comment will take notice and may write another negative comment asking what happened to the one they previously posted. Deleting the comment is as bad as a ‘no comment’ to the media.
  2. Do NOT delay! Word travels fast and even faster on the web. It won’t take long for something to go viral. Waiting can hurt more than help! Rule of thumb – try to address negative comments within an hour.
  3. Acknowledge it! Taking the ‘bigger person’ approach, be sure to respond back to the comment. This lets the negative person know that it didn’t get overlooked. Also, it lets others who see the negative comment know that it has been addressed and that you care about your customers. In your response, be certain to take a respectful approach, do not take it personally, and offer a solution!
  4. Monitor! As mentioned in #2, word travels fast. To make certain that more negativity about your brand is not being spread on the web, be certain to set up a Google Alerts account or Mention account. This way, you can go about your day while getting updates to see if there is still talk about the brand.
  5. Address it! Explain how you will work on resolving the issue and then do everything you can to follow through.
  6. Document it!  It is important to make note of the negative comments, the response & and the solution. Primarily, this is done for reference, in case it the problem happens again. You can also add this information to your company’s crisis handbook so if it happens in the future, there is a clear path to take.

We hope you don’t get any negative reviews! It is always good practice to be prepared just in case, following the  strategy above will be a great way to overcome a negative situation and turn it into a positive one!

 

Content Strategy: Make Your Website a Resource


March 21st, 2014 by

No matter what your industry, building relationships with current and prospective clients is essential in keeping business and securing new sales. If users of your goods and services look to you as a trusted industry resource, the likelihood of them turning to you when they are ready to purchase is much higher.

Your online presence gives you an excellent opportunity to be a valuable resource in your marketplace. Whether it is an industrial purchasing agent or an individual who needs new tires for the family sedan, online researchers most often begin by gathering information that will help them make an informed purchase. As an expert in your field, you have something extremely valuable to offer these folks – knowledge and experience. Think of it as offering customer service before the sale. If you have a website, you can provide this service to prospective buyers in the form of good quality website content.

A Question of Opportunity

The Content Marketing Institute recently published an article with some great ideas for using Q&A content  in a content marketing strategy. It suggests finding ideas by researching online sources for popular consumer questions showing up in social media or blogs. When you find these, you can also use the opportunity to interact on these platforms by providing answers to the questions.

Answering your prospects’ questions on a relevant online forum will be helpful, but as the Content Marketing article notes, “you’ll probably achieve the best content marketing ROI by answering questions on your own website.” A Frequently Asked Questions page/section on your website provides the perfect opportunity to do this. In addition to researching commonly asked questions online, a highly valuable resource for FAQ material will be your own sales team. They know what customers ask, and will have an excellent perspective on questions relating to your specific product line.

Making Your Website a Resource

Your website’s FAQ page does not have to be, and probably should not be, a simple list of questions. It may be most advantageous to divide it into an FAQ section based on product lines, services, instructions, or technical topics. Some frequently ask questions could even be developed into new “about” or “resource” pages. More in depth questions may benefit from the addition of visual content such as photos, diagrams, or a video. When developing your FAQ section, consider getting input or feedback from some of your best customers, who may see opportunities you’ve missed or offer valuable suggestions for improvements.

The key to developing an effective FAQ section will be making it a valuable information tool for your customers and prospects. While you will want to include a call to action on these pages, keep the sales pitch to a minimum to promote a comfortable, educational environment for visitors.

The Bottom Line: If your website is a valuable resource for your prospects, it will also be a valuable resource for growing your business.

Ouch! 2013 Traffic Bleeds 22% for Internet Yellowpages (IYP) Websites


February 28th, 2014 by

Remember sites like Yellowpages.com and Mapquest, before you Googled everything?

Internet Yellowpages (IYPs) are “business search engines” that categorize businesses by type.  Users search by biz name or type, and then see basic results showing phone number, website URL and physical address.  In the Internet’s formative years, people turned to these websites as an alternative to search engines.  This consumer behavior was largely in the legacy of print Yellowpages books.

top-12-directoriesThe Top 12 IYPs; courtesy of the BrightLocal IYP report dated 2/14/14

After 2005, Google results pages began displaying crucial contact information for companies — without the need to click further into any website.  From that time, IYPs have faced an erosion in overall value to consumers.  Do you still use sites like Yellowpages.com instead of Google?  

Google’s search ranking algorithm still continues to rely on information from IYPs as confirmation of business location and contact details.  Many companies’ regional success online benefits from creating a network of “citations” in this way.  Yet the entire IYP industry is in panic mode, as traffic to IYPs continues to bleed across the board.

Industry thought-leader BrightLocal.com published a report this month noting a 22% decline in traffic across the Top 40 IYP websites in 2013 alone.  As a few sites such as (Google darling) Yelp.com hold strong, so many others are losing out.  Changes in Google’s algorithm are perhaps the core cause — and Google’s ability to actively compress the visibility of hundreds of IYPs — meanwhile elevating Yelp.com — further shows Google’s super-dominance in this space.  Google plays god with IYPs.

iyp-traffic-2013

Will Google continue to cross-reference info from IYPs in Google’s own display of business results?  Will business directory websites be obsolete in 5 years?  We predict that the faster consumers demand information, the faster we will transition away from IYPs for good.

 

Does Your E-mail Marketing Smell Like Spam?


February 10th, 2014 by

Here is the deal…spam can be compared to smelly, rotten trash. No one likes it and no one wants to deal with it. Marketers around the globe all face the same problem, to NOT be like or look like spam! All marketing wizards want to reach their target audience and doing so by one very common tactic – e-mail marketing. But, you’ve got to be careful that your e-mail marketing efforts don’t pop up as spam or look like spam!

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Let’s review what classifies as spam:

  1. False or misleading header information
  2. Using deceptive subject links
  3. Not identifying that your message is an ad
  4. Not telling recipients where you’re located
  5. Not allowing users to opt out
  6. Not honoring opt out requests
  7. Hiring another company doesn’t mean you don’t have to comply with the rights, both you and the 3rd party company are liable for

Now that we know what can be marked as spam, what can we do to increase our open rates and reduce opt outs?

Do not look like spam. Meaning, don’t have weird flashing text or crazy pop ups. This just looks like something ‘phishy’ is happening, literally. The user will instantly opt out or never open the e-mails again.

Keep it simple, informative and funny. Using the simple, informative and funny approach not only in the body of the e-mail but also in the subject line will help too.

Remind recipients they asked for what you are sending. Let users know that they’ve signed up for the e-mail / newsletter and that is how you’ve gotten their information. A lot of the time people forget that they’ve signed up, so just adding a small reminder in the footer of the e-mail will do wonders.

Promote some sort of savings! The main reason why they signed up for the newsletter in the first place is to save a buck or two. With that being said, promote a ‘newsletter exclusive’ 10% off!

Happy e-mail marketing & may your messages smell like roses!

For more information on what is classified as spam, please visit the Bureau of Consumer Protection Business Center’s site.

Lunch & Learn


January 27th, 2014 by

Upright Communications started the year 2014 off with a bang.  Mike Edge, our business development strategist was invited to Independence Bank’s ‘Lunch and Learn’.   The bank invited their local clients who were interested in learning more about how to use their website more effectively to develop new business opportunities and ultimately more sales.

Mike explained the sales process for online marketing and described that it is more than just getting potential customers to visit your website.  It’s about getting them to first find you online and then to convert them into customers.

Mike said he heard several times that, ‘Sure, we have a website, but no real strategy in place’.  We’ve heard this many times before and we’re confident in saying that we can create an online marketing strategy for you.

It was a pleasure to have had this opportunity and we would like to thank Independence Bank in Western, KY for their hospitality.

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Of Mojo and Mantra


January 15th, 2014 by

What an amazing book – Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo From Maslow.  It was written by Chip Conley, the founder of the Joie De Vivre Hospitality, the second largest boutique hotelier in the world.  The book describes how Conley used the principles of Maslow’s Hierarchy to overcome the storm that hit the travel industry after 9/11.

If you’re like me you’ve probably heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy but couldn’t explain exactly what it was or meant.  So as a quick refresher, Abraham Maslow developed one of the most famous theories of human motivation.  In his book, Chip Conley takes these theories and applies them to business in a very compelling way.

Maslow believed that each of us has base needs (i.e. food and money) and after those needs are met we move up the pyramid (shown below) to higher needs—like safety and shelter, belonging to a community, recognition and self-esteem and finally self-actualization, which is pursuing talent, creativity and achieving fulfillment.  We are always focusing on the lowest unmet need.

Maslow Hierarchy

So how does this translate to your business?  Your employees have base needs like money, but they also have higher needs too.  For today’s post, I’d like to focus on the Employee Pyramid as described in the book, which has 3 levels, shown below.

Employee Pyramid

Employees have basic compensation needs that must be met, which creates base motivation.  After those are met, employees look for recognition in the workplace and finally meaning.  Money and recognition I understand, but the top of the pyramid – meaning – is more challenging, at least for me.  You know the whole “man’s search for meaning” thing can be tough to get your arms around, right?  Trying to provide a work life that is meaningful for employees can be very challenging indeed.

Companies over the years have tried to foster a sense of meaning at work, connecting the employees with the company and its mission by creating mission statements.  Most of these were too long, not really meaningful and often employees didn’t relate to them.  So Conley decided to create a shorter mission statement, which became “creating opportunities to celebrate the joy of life”.  But even that shortened to just “create joy”.

Create Joy is a two-word mantra that describes the mission of Joie De Vivre Hospitality, while communicating who they are and what they are about.  The president, Jack Kenny, has a sign outside his door asking each employee that sees it “What did you do today to Create Joy?”   Create Joy is a great mantra for the hospitality business, and I think very inspirational.  And a short, meaningful mantra is one that can be easily remembered which is important when trying to get everyone on the same page.

What is your company mantra?  What 2 to 4 word phrase describes your company’s mission?  That’s a tough question.  I asked myself the same question…..what is Upright Communications’ mantra, what is our mission?  Often I’ve agonized over heady questions like these, but in this case, our mantra came to mind in 15 seconds:

Make A Difference

Our mission is to make a difference in our client’s business.  This can take a number of different directions— like helping them develop more sales leads, showing them how to enhance their reputations, saving them money, getting more visitors to their websites and building their brand.   We try to focus on activities that will make a difference in their business and hopefully their lives too.

During our weekly meetings we review what’s happening with each client and as we go down the list, the first question is “how are we making a difference for this client?”  I find it very inspirational, and it seems to give us a higher sense of meaning in our work.  You should give it a try for your business.  If you would like help to identify your mission mantra, give us a call!