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When thinking about the keywords that apply to your business, it might benefit you (and your budget) to take the “big fish in a little pond” versus the "little fish in a big pond” approach. What I mean by that is some keywords like “electric bike” are going to be more generic and generate a lot more results than a more specific version of the keyword, like “reliable electric bike.” Fine-tuning your keywords to include an adjective or a location may help reduce your competition in the search results pages. It creates a smaller pond of search results where you could end up getting noticed more easily – like that big fish.
Sticking with our “electric bike” example, what are some other ways to narrow the search term so we reduce the size of our pond? What are some good adjectives? I’ve already done a little research for you, and here are the search results:
electric bike- 23.5 million
best electric bike- 8.76 million
best electric bicycle- 6.35 million
cheap electric bike- 5.21 million
reliable electric bike- 2.17 million
affordable electric bike- 2.78 million
Now you see the drastic difference between searching “electric bike” and “reliable electric bike.” “What is the best electric bike brand” is a keyword phrase that gives 13.2 million results, showing up somewhere in the middle. But you can see even though the keyword itself is a several-word phrase, it’s popular enough to be searched by many people.
You can always research Google to figure out the best phrase combinations for your keywords, but you want to make sure those keywords fit your ideal customer base. As stated in my previous blog, if you choose the word “cheap electric bike,” you are not going to sell your bikes if they sell at a higher price than your competitors. People may click to your site, but they will bounce out just as fast if they were expecting another price point. You might leave them with an untrustworthy taste in their mouth too, which is never a good reputation to have in business.
Choose your keywords wisely – ones that are genuine and give an honest representation of who you are, what you sell, or what you do.
“Hanging out the proverbial shingle.” “Starting your own thing.”
Whatever you call it, a small business is one of the great American dreams. Who doesn’t love being their own boss, setting their own schedule and building something with your name on the door?
Sure, there’s risk involved, but let’s face it. Crossing the street is a risk. Venturing outside during flu season is a risk. Life is basically a never-ending game of risk-reward. And one of the biggest rewards of starting a company is the ability to turn your passion into your job. Why be an accountant with a passion for gardening, when you can start a landscaping business, right?
If only it was that simple. Building a business takes passion, but it also takes other things. Like web sites, web hosting, email marketing and that little thing called social media. And for a person who loves petunias but fears pixels, it can be well, paralyzing.
But fear not, great-American-small-business-dream-chaser. The best thing you can do for your company’s digital presence…is to not do it alone. Every hour you spend learning how to code a web site or dealing with domain registration is an hour you could be spending mastering your passion. Which is where your company’s potential truly lies. So focus on what you do best, and hand off the reigns of your digital presence to people who do it best. Even better, find a partner who sees the digital world as their passion. See how that works?
A true digital partner will not only get your business online, but they will help it thrive. So here are a few things to consider when picking a partner to manage your company’s digital ecosystem:
HOLISTIC DIGITAL SERVICES
A great web site is just the first step. After all, fancy design and a catchy URL won’t do much if it’s not seamlessly connected to your entire business, including billing, scheduling, customer retention and more. Make sure your partner has the capability to not only build and host your site, but to build in the connectivity your site will need to fuel your company’s growth.
If your site goes down, your business goes down with it. Make sure your site is built rock-solid for increased traffic, and hosted by reputable partners so that you never have to turn away customers. Because when customers have a bad experience, they usually become former customers.
Most importantly, look for a digital partner that will have your back when it counts. Who do you call when you need help? When are they available? If you have to call some other country only to deal with someone reading off a script who then shuffles you off into customer service no-man’s land, that’s not good enough. Your small business will be built on a foundation of personal connections and reputation, so demand the same from your digital partner. You need a digital concierge, not just an “IT guy.” They should know your name, and what keeps you up at night. If they don’t, find a partner who does.
If you are starting a small business, I applaud you, because you are truly the engine that drives this country. Of course, you will no doubt feel overwhelmed at times with all the hats you have to wear, so do yourself a favor. Hand off that big, shiny digital hat to a trusted partner who will look after your digital ecosystem. That way, you can focus on turning that passion into a thriving, rewarding business.
Mayumi Nakamura is President and CEO of Dreamersi, a full-service firm who builds and maintains stress-free digital ecosystems for small businesses.
image source: pixabay.com
It’s more and more obvious that search engines are trying to show the most useful and relevant information to us, according to our online behavior. As I stated in my last article
, when I searched “electric bike” on Google, I ended up getting 23.5 million results from it. But when I looked closely, I realized Google map displayed shops with reviews near my physical location, tailoring the search to me specifically.
Google can tell my location from an IP address (Internet Protocol address) – sort of like a telephone number for your computer’s internet connection. Every internet connection has an IP address consisting of four blocks of numbers ranging from 0 to 255. So, for example: 012.23.234.45.
The point is, it’s impossible for us to do a search that doesn’t take into account our location data – whether using your PC, smart phone or tablet. My search results will always be somewhat different than yours based on our IP address and past searches.
Now that you know how search engines work for individuals, let’s take a moment to figure out your potential customers. The combination of understanding both will help you pick out the right keywords for your online ads.
If you are an electric bike manufacturer, let’s start with your price point. If you have high-end bikes, your target audience must be able to afford your prices. On my own Google search, I see prices ranging from $300 to $7000! If you make and sell expensive bikes, most likely you don’t want to use the word “cheap” or “inexpensive” within your keywords because you won’t be attracting the right customers and you won’t see the return on your ad investment.
By this process of elimination, you’ve just begun “defining” your audience and “refining” your keywords. As we discussed in a previous article, knowing your target audience
will really help you refine those keywords yet to come. In the next article, we’ll dig deeper into getting more specific with your keywords.
image source: pixabay.com
Before you can go to work picking out your keywords, first you need to understand that a specific keyword search may produce different results for different people.
Search engines have gotten very smart. They know our location, interests based on previous searches, purchases, and a lot more about us based on our online behavior over time. What does that mean to us? It means the example I’m going to use may give you different search results than it gives me.
For this example, I’ll use the keyword “electric bike.” To make things a bit less bias, I’m going to log out of my Gmail account and type for you what I’m seeing in real time:
So here I am on google.com, typing the word “electric bike” and Google tries to autofill other possible popular keywords as I type, like “electric bike reviews.” I stick with “electric bike” and get about 23.5 million results from those two words. That is a huge number. How can a business expect to be found even once by someone in such a big pool of results!
The search result page before me shows sponsored online shops selling electric bikes (so paid-for ads), as well as the wikipedia.org definition of electric bicycle on the side. And just below some top story news, I finally reach some “organic” search results, along with the Google map of local shops that sell electric bikes. If you search for “electric bike” you may see something similar with slight variations to something very different.
Now, if you’re in the business of selling electric bikes, what can you do to be found among all those results? We’ll start discussing that in the following articles…
image source: pixabay.com
People search the internet for information almost every single day. Equally important is the fact that small business owners use the internet to get in front of potential clients on a daily basis. More than ever, consumers and companies are being connected over the internet through virtual searches. So how, as small business owners, can you get in front of potential clients successfully? We’ll explore some ideas in November.
First thing’s first: the assessment period. Before you go virtual and buy ad space using keyword terms, you need to figure out the audience to whom you want to market your business. Being found online is a good thing, but not if you’re being found by a demographic of people that don't fit your target customer base. That only costs you money. So, ask yourself these questions to help pinpoint your ideal customer base…
1) If you are a new business owner, what was your motivation to start your business?
2) Why should people choose you?
3) Where should people find you?
4) If you are an existing business owner, who are your satisfied customers?
5) What are the demographics of your customers and repeat buyers?
6) How did they find you the first time?
7) What is your competition doing?
With social media at your fingertips, you may also learn more about your customer base simply by looking at the type of people who like or follow your page(s). As you answer the questions above and try to understand your customer base, here are some characteristics to consider:
- Education level
- Marital status
You may have a broad range of customers within some of these characteristics and a very specific type of customer in others. Let's say you sell cosmetics --the gender of your customers is most likely women, but you may sell to a wide age range. If you sell high-end skin care products, the income level of your customers may reflect that. These are things to consider when pinning down your customer base. Once you have completed your target audience assessment, then you can move onto tuning up your keyword searches.
image source: pixabay.com
Happy Halloween, everyone! Today, I want to wrap up my month-long discussion on cyber security with a scary story about a cyber crime that happened in real life. Hopefully, it tunes you into the dangers of cyber thieves and helps you steer clear of their traps…
An acquaintance of mine received a call from Microsoft saying his computer was sending infected (with virus) files. Fearful that his computer was the source of the problem and infecting others, he agreed to work with the person on the line.
First, the agent told him to give her an email address so she could send him a link which would enable her to access his computer and see if his Windows program was being compromised. When he received the link, she asked him to click on it to grant her access to his computer so he wouldn’t need to do anything on his end. And he did.
Once she gained access to his computer, she looked around while he watched his mouse and Windows being remotely accessed and clicked on here and there. A few minutes later, the agent said his Windows program had a security breach and he needed to upgrade his version -- for a fee. She asked for his credit card information, and finally he started to get suspicious.
He checked the phone number which showed a New York area code. He realized he exposed himself (his information) and his computer to an unknown person, so he hung up the phone. He’s lucky he didn’t hand over his credit card information, but his computer needed to be cleaned up because who knows what she did or what malware she left behind.
This story is a prime example of social engineering where someone seemingly legitimate tries to hack your computer and steal your credit card information. They can be very deceiving.
If you ever notice your computer is running slowly, or your cursor is moving without you being in control, or if you receive any notices via email or by phone asking you to take action, DO NOT PANIC! The best remedy is to take your computer offline and consult with someone who can scan your computer to determine whether or not it’s infected. Don’t trust the person who calls you, hang up, and dial a trusted number.
We live in a very convenient and connected world, but the price we pay could be high because of it. Always be on high alert for cyber hackers and be prepared with a plan if you get targeted.
image source: pixabay.com
Most confidential data like your personal information is stored in a secure database when you submit it online, but the recent issue with Equifax shows even companies with multiple firewalls and security measures can be vulnerable at times. Hackers are becoming so sophisticated and technically savvy, that sometimes it’s out of your control and your information may be compromised not because you weren’t prepared, but rather because those in which you trusted your information were breached.
So what should we do? Like our health, we should periodically test and check our information for early detection and signs of something amiss. Also have a plan in case you are victimized.
Here are some points to consider:
1) Check your bank accounts or credit card. Many hackers start with a penny or small transaction to validate your information. If you see unrecognized small transactions, call the bank.
2) Make sure your employees are trained not to give information to someone without first confirming their identity, and test this process on a regular basis. If it’s very sensitive information, you should consider having two layers of approval before giving out the information. Have a procedure in place!
3) Stay current on updated software versions for your websites and devices. Many of these patches and updates are for security reasons.
4) Backup your important data in case you need to recover it. If your server is breached, sometimes it’s very hard to figure out where those programs are installed. You may need to take the server offline right away in order to avoid any further damage.
5) Scan every computer in your office for malware on a regular basis.
image source: pixabay.com
There are multiple points where a cyber security breach can take place – on your computer, through your email inbox, on your server, over email form submissions … no matter the technology, you must take extra precaution not to allow a security hack.
Many email programs, servers and websites are now secured with SSL (Secure Socket Layer) which encrypts your information and transactions between your device and servers. For your emails, you might need to change the settings to adapt the SSL transactions, so reach out to your service provider and make sure that’s set up for you. Many devices such as the iPhone, by default, will set up your mail servers via SSL.
Even if you do have SSL turned on for your emails and online forms, such as your online banking logins, etc., we still recommend you give some thought to your passwords and update them on regular basis.
Although requirements are different from site to site, or server to server, you should consider these basic Dos and Don’ts for creating secure passwords:
Don’t use “password” or “1234” as your password – it’s too easy to guess.
Don’t use your username as your password.
Don’t use confidential information like your social security number.
Don’t store these passwords on your desktops, or on a sticky note somewhere.
Don’t use the same password for all sites.
Don’t use any public information like your phone number.
Do combine words and numbers, if you want easy to remember.
Do select “do not save passwords" when using someone else’ computer.
Do combine uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and if allowed, special characters.
Even if you have a hard-to-crack password, you should still update it every 3 - 6 months. We recommend you update all your passwords at the same time so you don’t forget one or the other.
image source: pixabay.com
In our last blog, we discussed the harm of social engineering
and how hackers are getting the information they need for cyber crimes without programming a single line of code. As business owners, we have to be aware of this spoofed communication and create a practice to catch information thieves before you become a victim. Whether it’s to protect your internal company information, or your customer’s information, it’s time to put safe measures in place.
Here are some important steps to consider for your business:
Security Protocols and Policies
First of all, if you don’t have any protocols and polices in place to combat cyber attacks, you should ask a professional to come up with the framework ASAP. Depending on your business model and clients, your main goal is to protect your business from a data breach. So think through possibilities, and be prepared with a policy in place in case something happens.
Training and Testing
Once you have your security protocols and polices in place, you need to train your employees first, then test it to see if it works. Remember, social engineers are good at getting the answers from you instead of answering your questions. Practice withholding information until you’re able to verify someone’s authenticity.
Monitoring and Tracking Performance
Although we want a perfect track record of blocking cyber crimes, humans make mistakes and something could fall through the cracks. The best thing to do is have a way to track all interactions when it comes to outsiders’ requests for information. Ask multiple layers of questions to ensure you can authenticate a person’s real identity. Keep track of such interactions and time stamp them in activity logs so you can review them as needed.
Once you have protocols and policies in place along with activity logs, perform random, unannounced tests to make sure you get the results you wanted. Test more than once, on multiple occasions on a continuous basis.
No system is perfect and people forget, but awareness along with policies in place can help reduce social engineering crimes within your company significantly.
image source: pixabay.com
There wouldn’t be internet crimes without humans involved. The human component is the source of cyber crimes, unfortunately, and many of those criminals use a technique called “social engineering.”
According to wikipedia.org, “Social Engineering, in the context of information security, refers to psychological manipulation of people into performing actions or divulging confidential information. A type of confidence trick for the purpose of information gathering, fraud, or system access, it differs from a traditional "con" in that it is often one of many steps in a more complex fraud scheme.”
Some say 60% of cyber attacks use social engineering to gain access to important data within corporations. Famous social engineers you may have heard about are Kevin Mitnick and Stephen Wozniak. These master-mind hackers used a variety of means to trick people into giving out their sensitive information like passwords, access codes, and more. Their social engineering skills are not related to how well they can program, but rather how well they connect themselves to people.
Watch this short eye-opening (and shocking) YouTube video about how social engineers can cleverly and quickly work to get your sensitive information: https://youtu.be/lc7scxvKQOo
Another common scheme includes a social engineer posing as a grandchild over the phone and calling a grandparent to request money for bail or some other emergency. They don’t say their name, but Grandpa and Grandma will give it away, for example:
- Hey Grandma, it’s me, your grandson. I need your help!
- Oh, is this Joe?
It’s so important to make sure you’re in control of what information you give out at home or at the office. Make sure no one else is giving it out on your behalf. And unless you are absolutely sure about the person you are speaking with, don’t give any answers right away. Instead, call them back or email them to verify who they say they are.
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