Soon, It’s Likely All Your Browsing Will Be HTTPS Encrypted

Let the surfing begin

Google sets the tone for how the internet works. One of its visions that hasn’t had as much publicity is its desire to make all browsing encrypted.

These days, Chrome uses now have at least 50% of the content they view delivered by HTTPS. That number jumps to 66% when you look at it in terms of time spent browsing by HTTPS. For now, Google expects both of these to increase.

Why Does Google Get So Gung-Ho About HTTPS?

HTTPS exponentially increases your security on the web. For example, you may have noticed the address for your credit card company is https:// instead of http://. When personally identifiable information is used, HTTPS comes into play.

HTTPS only encrypts information in transit. So, if hackers attempt to steal the information, they can get it. But it’s next-to-impossible for them to decrypt it into the original information they want (your credit card number, for example).

However, it’s important to note that it doesn’t secure any other aspect of your website design. And there’s a lot more to web-site security than implementing HTTPS.

Google May Mark HTTP Websites as Non-Secure

Now, as a fair warning, we’re not sure if Google definitively plans to do this. However, in a 2014 proposal, Google said it may start displaying websites using only HTTP in its Chrome browser as “non-secure.”

This Forbes article has this to say about Google and HTTPS:

“Google is getting ready for another push. They’re going to start subtly shaming sites that aren’t using HTTPS. In January when a new version of the browser is pushed to users, Chrome will start labeling pages served via HTTP as insecure.”

Now, we can’t find any factual basis for the first part about “shaming sites that aren’t using HTTPS.” And we don’t have anything on the second part, either.

However, both changes make sense for the future security of the web. It’s no secret that online security is a major concern for consumers and companies.

Google sincerely wants to make the web a better place for its searchers. So, requiring HTTPS totally makes sense.

That’s just our opinion, though. And we don’t actually know when or if this will happen.

But, you might as well prepare for it because it’s totally consistent with Google. By the way, adding HTTPS to your website design isn’t a huge, time-consuming deal. So keep it on your radar, but don’t panic.

…And make sure you stay tuned to our blog for further updates!

 

Want More Online Customers Walking into Your Store? Do This!

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Many sales are online these days. And customers so often come to your store just to use it as a “showroom” for the physical product they eventually want to buy online.

But that’s not what you want to happen.

Instead, you want customers highly interested in buying, and who actually purchase. And you want the customers who become raving fans and happily tell others about your business, products, and services.

In an age where people love to shop by smartphone and computer, how do you get more to physically walk around in your store?

These tactics will help your cause:

  1. Make Your Company Website Worthy Of Getting Links

Part of marketing is getting exposure to your audience. That means driving your website pages up the search rankings. And right now, and for the foreseeable future, links will remain the most powerful method of doing that.

How do you get links? Today, you need content people want to link to. content that challenges their assumptions, is useful, and is new and different wins the attention war online.

  1. Get Your Google Reviews Rating as High as Possible

Those 5 gold stars stick out bigtime in Google search. They’re more of an indirect way of getting people into your store.

But, when they see an excellent rating of 4 stars or more, that’s awfully powerful in influencing people to choose you. And, it’s also highly influential as to what they say.

Plus, you can use the reviews for insights as to what your company does that makes customers happy and what you can do to improve.

  1. Tell People to Come into Your Store

Every website page featuring your products or services needs to have a call-to-action at the end. That’s where you tell website visitors what you want them to do: order, call, try a demo, view a video, and so on.

We don’t see many websites that do it, but if you want more customers in your store, tell them to come visit. You could maybe even incentivize them to do so by enticing them with a free gift or free samples.

Regardless of how you choose to approach it, simply telling customers there’s more for them to see in your store will result in more foot traffic.

If you work those three tactics into your marketing mix more often, you’ll get more customers in your store while your competitors struggle to keep up.

Top 3 Engagement Metrics, and What They Mean

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Does your website do what it needs to rank well and generate you more business? You can tell that by looking at the right metrics, and understanding what they mean.

If you sell a service, you probably have a more content-heavy website. And it can be tricky to interpret precisely what metrics mean for such websites.

Check out some of the top metrics to know in Google Analytics, or any other analytics tool you might use:

  1. Bounce Rate

For service-based companies with lots of content, this is a key metric. A “bounce” is a person who visits just a single page on your website and leaves.

Also called “pogo-sticking,” a high bounce rate means your website visitors aren’t getting what they need. That could be for two reasons:

  1. You’re not giving them the right content
  2. You’re writing content that attracts the wrong audience

A typical bounce rate is 40-60%. With e-commerce sites, a higher bounce rate may not be a bad thing. It could mean people are buying right away.

So, to understand the metric, you need to know the context of your situation.

  1. Average Session Duration

The higher, the better. For a content-heavy website selling a service, you should see at least 1-2 minutes or so. If you’re e-commerce, again, you will probably see less than that.

In fact, you’ll want to see a lower time because that likely means people are buying. However, e-commerce sites should have blogs too, which may get you close to the lower end of the 1-2 minute range.

  1. Return Visitor Rate (RVR)

Neil Patel actually discusses this one on his blog. And the thing about this metric is Google Analytics doesn’t actually calculate it.

However, it is valuable. What could be better than someone who comes to your website…again? Out of the millions of websites out there, they chose to actually come back and visit yours.

That’s hard to make happen.

RVR is simple to calculate. Just go to Google Analytics (Behavior à New vs Returning), and add up all your visitors. Divide the total by your number of “returning” visitors.

Contently, a content-heavy website for freelancers, boasts a RVR of about 40%. Neil Patel says anything above 30% is good. We say if you’re anywhere around 30%, you’re doing spectacular.

In a digital marketing world of vanity metrics, that’s what you should care about in 2016 and beyond.

What’s the Right Integrated Digital Marketing Approach for Your SMB?

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Have you been totally “through the ringer” on this whole digital marketing thing? It gets frustrating at times because there’s so many things you can do. And you might have gotten burned by a not-so-honest company in the past.

Here’s just a short list of tactics you can try:

  1. SEO
  2. Blogging
  3. PPC
  4. Banner advertising
  5. Content marketing
  6. Video marketing
  7. E-mail marketing
  8. Social media marketing
  9. Text/SMS marketing
  10. Podcasts
  11. Webinars
  12. Influencer marketing
  13. Writing press releases

And then new social networks like Instagram, Peach, and Periscope pop up. Which ones make sense? Which should you use? When? And why?

Digital marketing is here to stay. Both consumers and business decision makers turn to it first to do their research before they buy. Not every single one of them, but the overwhelming majority:

This whole “digital marketing” thing works because it gives consumers and business decision makers power to compare. In the past, you had to walk all over the place or drive around to find the best product or service.

That’s hard work. So, you didn’t do as much comparison back in the early 1990s. Now, you can compare 5-8 companies and services in just 30 minutes online.

What Digital Marketing Mix Makes the Most Sense for Your Company?

The answer to this question changes over time. That’s why you hire an agency or have an in-house digital marketing team. It’s too much and changes too fast for one person to deal with.

For most companies, and especially for ones that sell commodity products and services, organic SEO makes sense (think of it as “ranking higher in Google”). Increasingly, it makes sense for niche products and services too because even those buyers are turning online to do research.

After that, you have all kinds of questions and options to consider. There isn’t necessarily a “right” or “perfect.” Only “your” mix. If you have a unique product or service, a video on your home page may make good sense to show it in action. On your about page, you might create a video introducing you and your team in person. That builds relationships much more powerfully than words and images.

If you need revenue fast, PPC makes sense. You can get the ads up and going and start getting contacts within the month. However, PPC’s expensive long-term, so you might add in offline referral marketing to keep those customers coming in.

In almost all cases, e-mail marketing makes sense. In fact, the Direct Marketing Association says it has an ROI of $38 for every $1 spent, or 3800%. However, its returns take time (usually months) to compound because you have to build the relationship slowly over time.

Will You Make Mistakes?

Absolutely. Every company tries things that don’t work. But, as long as you remember there is a successful digital marketing mix that will work for you out there, you’ll find it and do just fine.

How to Frustrate, Confuse, and Scare Away Your Website’s Visitors

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“Customer experience” or “user experience” (“CX” and “UX” as us web geeks call them) is just as important for your digital storefront as your physical one. As a small business owner, you’re used to the traditional physical storefront. So you know how it’s important to have a clean, organized appearance and friendly staff.

With your “digital storefront,” the same ideas apply. It’s just that it works differently. Here’s some common mistakes SMBs make that scare away website visitors – and what you can do to earn their business instead:

  1. Hiding Your Contact Information

You should have a “Contact” page in your main navigation on the upper right of your website. Every user expects that. You should also have your phone number there too, as that’s where most people look first when they visit.

Also, include your phone number and/or e-mail address at the end of the words written on every page. Include both so your visitors can use their preferred contact method.

  1. Focusing Too Much on SEO

Yes, your keywords do need to appear on your website pages. But, today it’s more important that they make sense.

So, nearly incomprehensible language like “Southlake, Texas HVAC Services from Southlake’s Leading AC Repair Company” shouldn’t appear on your page. Get that keyword in the title and a time or two in the body copy.

Google actually prefers that these days.

  1. Slow Page Load Times

Users can’t stand all the bells and whistles of super-fancy websites (in most cases). For some specialty niche businesses, cool effects are appropriate. For example, if you run a website design company. But for commodity services SMBs like you offer, this frustrates and annoys.

You don’t need a repeating video background or sliders. Users simply want to get to know your company and see if you’re the best option to solve their problem.

An image, some text, a nice menu, and maybe a video or two to build the relationship makes sense.

Your web pages should load in less than 3 seconds, and ideally less than 1 on the typical internet connection.

  1. Confusing Navigation

Most websites are laid out similar to this:

  • Home
  • Services
    • Subpages
  • Blog
  • FAQ
  • About
  • Contact

You might have a few other unique ones, such as if you donate to a charity and want to talk about that. Or, you may write different pages to the various market segments you serve (homeowners and businesses for example).

But for the most part that’s what users see at most sites. So, go way “outside the box” and do something different, and you confuse them and lose their business to someone else.

Keep it simple and predictable. And follow the rule of not requiring any more than 3 clicks to get to any single page on your website.

Those rules are simple, easy, and straightforward. But, so many SMBs break them. Follow them yourself, and you’ll more, and happier, customers.

4 Apps to Boost Your SMB’s ROI in 2016

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Regardless of the scale at which you work in your business, whether local, statewide, national, or global, apps have changed how small businesses work. What’s the difference between an “app” and “software?”

Theoretically, apps have a narrower functional focus. For example, they only focus on videoconferencing. Software, on the other hand, comes with many more features and a wider range of functionality. Think of QuickBooks.

While many apps add value to your business by saving time or money or organizing things, it takes a lot of time to find the ones worth using. You have so many competitors and clones that it can take more hours than you have in the day just to use your apps.

That doesn’t make any sense. But reading this list of suggestions takes a lot of the effort out of the search. Check these apps out, and see if they don’t save you time or money, or at least inspire you to find other apps that do:

  1. Keep All Your Messages in One Place with Pushover

If you’re the well-connected type who loves to network, you need Pushover. It sends you push messages any time you get a message on any of your devices. And it’s low-cost too.

After a 7-day trial, you pay a one-time purchase fee of $4.99 for lifetime use.

  1. Have a Lot of Business Travel Expenses?

Expensify may be just the solution you’ve been looking for. You can track your expenses either of two ways:

  1. By linking your credit or debit card to your Expensify account
  2. Take pictures of your receipts while Expensify automatically takes the relevant info out

Best of all, Expensify is inexpensive – just $5 to $10 per active account.

  1. Take Care of Payroll, Benefits, Time, and Compliance with Zenefits

Okay, so we lied a little. This isn’t an app. But this software’s so stinkin’ good that it’s a crime not to mention it.

Zenefits lets you track and streamline all the HR functions mentioned above – free. You can also administer paystubs, employee handbooks, contracts, job offer letters, and tax withholding forms. And it’ll likely stay free forever. The benefits providers that use Zenefits pay for the right to do so.

And you don’t have to pay anything at all!

  1. Lots of Employees to Manage? Try KanbanFlow

With this slick app, you can assign tasks to your colleagues, upload documents, and schedule due dates. You’ll get a visual representation of your workflow and simplified communication too.

You can get the basic version free on iPhone and Android. And the premium version costs just $5 per month.

“There’s an App for That!”

If you’ve heard this cliché before, it’s true. Whatever business problem takes most of your time, you can reduce that with an app. Just start searching for your problem and you will find the solution.

And hopefully, you’ll get a ton of value out of these free and low-cost apps.